The Morning After

Yagyuu fell in step with Masaharu’s slouch to school without saying a word; they
walked for five minutes before Masaharu spoke. "So," he said. "That
sealing thing."

"It wasn’t what I was expecting," Yagyuu said, and anyone who didn’t
know him wouldn’t have recognized that tone for what it was.

Masaharu stretched. "Wild," he said, and prodded Yagyuu. "So, where’s

Yagyuu gestured, discreetly, towards his hip. "Yours?"

"The same," Masaharu said. "I wonder if that means something?"

"It involves Hatter," Yagyuu said, after a moment, "and you have
to ask?"

"Good grief, Niou, I know I’m good-looking, but didn’t your mother ever teach
you it’s not polite to stare?" Marui demanded, catching Niou staring again.
"You’re creeping me out."

"That’s because Niou-sempai is, by nature, a creep," Kirihara declared,
and dodged the swipe aimed at his head. "Although he is being creepier than

"He’s just trying to figure out where your seals are," Yagyuu murmured,
bent over his shoes.

"Is that all?" Marui rolled his eyes, and popped a bubble in disgust.
"It’s right here." He pulled down the waistband of his shorts and displayed
Belial’s mark. "Happy now?"

"Mm," Niou said, non-committal, and turned to Kirihara. "What about

"Same," Kirihara said, "but don’t expect me to go showing it off."

"Prude," Marui said, good-naturedly. He grinned at Jackal, who’d kept
quiet so far. "So, since we’re playing show and tell…"

Jackal rolled his eyes. "Same as the rest of you," he said. "Now
are you happy, Niou?"

"Mostly," he said, and shrugged..

"Mostly?" Jackal echoed, and Marui felt he was right to sound worried.

"If you’re planning on asking the three of them where their seals are, let
me know when you’re doing it," Kirihara said. "I want to make sure I’m
nowhere in sight when Sanada-san goes off."

Niou grinned. "I’m not that crazy," he said, and everyone seemed to
relax after that declaration, only to tense up when he added, "Doesn’t mean
I can’t draw my own conclusions, though," and strolled out of the clubhouse.

Genichirou, Renji noted, seemed unwilling to look anybody in the face—no, that
wasn’t strictly accurate. There were specific people he wasn’t looking in the
face, and all of them had just signed the same contract. So. Post-commitment jitters,
or something else? Renji pondered the question as Seiichi sent the doubles pairs
out to the far tennis courts to practice, which was an excellent decision, given
the gleam in Niou’s eyes.

If he wasn’t looking anybody in the face, Genichirou was definitely avoiding looking
at Seiichi at all. Considering what had just changed… Renji sidled over to Seiichi
while Genichirou was assigning drills to the non-Regulars. "I take it you
didn’t warn him about Hatter’s seal, either?" he asked, quietly.

"No," Seiichi said. He gave a little shrug. "I thought the two
of you wouldn’t need warning," he added, "since you’d already seen one
of hir seals."

"I don’t believe it was the seal so much as the sealing," Renji said.
"The process was…" He stopped, and shrugged. "Intense."

"Yes, it was," Seiichi agreed, but stopped before adding anything else,
looking to Genichirou. "This could be a problem."

Renji was about to ask what he meant when Belial slid out of Genichirou’s own
shadow and spoke.

Renji and Seiichi were discussing him; he didn’t have to turn around and check
to know that much. Genichirou growled and the freshmen he’d been lecturing trembled
and scattered to practice.

"One is curious as to why you are so irritable today," Hatter purred
into his ear.

Genichirou couldn’t quite keep from starting, but he did manage to stop the yelp.
"Hatter-san," he said, and it wasn’t retreating to move away in an effort
to reclaim his personal space.

"Are you perhaps afraid that one will no longer respect you?" Belial
continued in that light, mocking tone that set his teeth on edge, still entirely
too close.

"Belial." There was steel in Seiichi’s voice, and Genichirou’s spine
straightened of its own as he whipped around to see what it was that Seiichi wanted.
Beside him, Belial had responded in much the same fashion, which was oddly reassuring.

Seiichi was—yes, stalking, there was no other way to describe that prowl or that
particular glint in his eyes—toward them, Renji trailing behind. "We’ve
discussed this habit of yours before," he said.

"Have we?" Belial asked, recovering his equanimity and batting his eyes.
"One must have forgotten."

"There’s no need to provoke him so much," Seiichi continued, still with
that inflexible tone. "We are yours now."

"One hasn’t forgotten," Belial murmured, his eyes hooded.

"Hurt yourself on someone else, then," Seiichi said, unmistakably commanding.
He waited a beat, and then relented somewhat. "Why go to so much work to
earn us, only to push us away?"

Seiichi had just spread the rest of the pieces out so neatly that Genichirou felt
a bit of a fool for not having seen them sooner. From the way Belial had just
gone still beside him, he did not care for this exposure. Genichirou considered
what was needful, and chose his response carefully. "Seiichi," he said,
keeping Belial in the corner of his eye, "if I can endure Akaya at his most
insufferable, surely I can handle Hatter-san." It was just as well that their
prickly kouhai was out of earshot; he would not have appreciated the comparison.

"Are you so sure you can handle one?" Belial asked, and trailed a hand
down the side of Genichirou’s neck, over the pulse that was beating fast enough
to betray that Genichirou knew that as teasing as he had intended his comment
to sound, and as detached as Belial sounded, this was serious. His hand came to
rest over the other mark he’d left, pressing into sensitive skin.

Genichirou turned his head to look Belial in the eye. "Are you so sure I
would have agreed to anything this important without being completely certain
of myself?" he asked, and reached up to cover Belial’s hand with his own.

Belial held his gaze for a long moment before stepping back, drawing his hand
away from Genichirou’s shoulder. "One finds oneself inclined to take you
at your word." It must have cost him a great deal to say, because he stepped
immediately into the shadow of a bench and disappeared.

"What do you suppose that is?" Bunta asked, with a nod in the direction
of the Trio and Belial.

Yagyuu looked. After a moment, he said, "Settling frazzled nerves, I expect."

Jackal blinked. "What, Sanada’s?"

Yagyuu pushed his glasses a little further up the bridge of his nose. "Possibly."

"Huh." Masaharu thought this over, and nodded. "I suppose I’ll
have to hold off on teasing him, then."

"How remarkably benevolent of you," Jackal murmured.

Masaharu grinned at him. "Is it? I was just thinking that I’ll have all of
eternity to play with, so a few days now won’t make any difference in the long

Yagyuu huffed in amusement. "That’s one way to look at it," he said,
as Belial stepped away from Sanada and disappeared, whatever confrontation it
was they had been having at an end. He looked at the other four. "Come on,
let’s play."

Seiichi moved up to stand beside Genichirou. "Thank you," he said,
as Renji joined them.

"For what?" Genichirou asked. "Telling the truth?"

Seiichi smiled. "No, for being you."

Genichirou snorted. "If you like," he said. A thought occurred to him.
"Did you even think about warning us?" he asked.

Seiichi’s smile was a touch too innocent. "What, and spoil my fun? Don’t
be silly."

"I thought so." Genichirou couldn’t manage to put any heat into the
glare. "Is there anything else you’ve forgotten to mention?"

Seiichi shrugged. "Nothing that you don’t already know by now."

"Is Hatter-san likely to need special handling?" Renji asked. "More
so than usual?"

"For a bit, possibly," Seiichi said. "Until se gets used to the
thought of having hir own tennis team." Upon reflection, he added, "We’re
getting there, I think."

"Good," Genichirou grunted. "Because enduring it doesn’t mean I
have to like being provoked."

"Don’t worry," Seiichi said. "It shouldn’t take Hatter more than
a decade to work this out of hir system." He kept a straight face for as
long as it took Genichirou to choke, and then chuckled. "Got you."

Genichirou sighed. "I’m doomed, aren’t I?"

"Probably you are," Akaya informed him, "but can we have practice
now and talk about our immortal souls later?" He shifted from foot to foot,
swinging his racquet. "I’ve tried to be patient, but really…"

"Then come play a set with me," Genichirou invited him.

"Glad to," Akaya said, with a dark look. "I heard that insufferable
thing, you know."

Genichirou just laughed, and headed for the court.

Last Modified: May 15, 12
Posted: Jan 06, 05
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