Extra – Rematch

Kirihara finally gets that serious match he wanted out of Tachibana. Drama, I-2

Akaya flipped restlessly through the pages of his book, cursing the English language and the educators who thought it was a good idea to make Japanese schoolchildren learn it. The voice that interrupted him wasn’t one he especially wanted to hear, most times, but at the moment even Seigaku’s terrifying old lady coach would have been welcome.

“Kirihara?” Tachibana stopped beside him, eyeing the stack of books on the park bench. “You’ve come a long way to find someplace to study.” He sounded amused, and Akaya growled, totally out of patience with everyone who had already gotten past the high school entrance exams.

And this was just the start of the study season, he reflected glumly.

Nevertheless, he had a sufficient fingernail-grip on his manners to answer without actually spitting. “If I’m doomed to study, I might as well do it in the sun.”

“Ah. I find a study partner often helps, too,” Tachibana offered with mild sympathy.

That made Akaya snort a little with laughter. “Yeah, well. My study partner threatened to nail my feet to the floor and tape my hands to the book if I didn’t stop fidgeting. A break seemed like a good idea for both of us.” School work tended to flatten out Hiiyama’s always subtle sense of humor completely.

That got a brief laugh out of Tachibana, too. “That bad, hm?” Akaya could tell the moment Tachibana’s eye lit on the tennis bag Akaya had taken along out of habit, because his smile suddenly turned considering and far less impersonal. “How about a game, to work off the jitters, then? Since we’re both here.”

Akaya shut his book with a clap and shoved the whole stack back into his bag. “That would be fantastic,” he agreed with enthusiasm.

Four games later, he was getting annoyed again.

He stood in the middle of the court with his hands on his hips, giving Tachibana a very displeased look. “I thought you said you would play for real the next time we played, Tachibana-san.”

He got a cool once-over in return. “Are you saying I’m not, Kirihara?”

“Yes that’s what I’m saying!” Akaya snapped. He stalked to the net, glaring. “I saw you play at Nationals. This,” he waved a hand, “is you holding back!”

Tachibana stood still, considering him for a long moment. “You’re restraining yourself as well,” he pointed out at last, quietly.

Akaya was now thoroughly aggravated. “I can’t do anything else while you’re playing like this! It wouldn’t…” he broke off, chewing on his lip. “It wouldn’t be right,” he mumbled finally, looking aside. Tachibana broke into a brilliant smile, and Akaya glared again. “Yeah, yeah, fine, I get it, all right? Now can we play for real?” It must be some kind of disease captains caught, wanting to reform players, he decided grumpily. At least he restrained himself to only picking on his own players.

“For real,” Tachibana agreed. “Your serve, Kirihara.”

This time the return nearly took the racquet out of Akaya’s hands, and he smiled. That was more like it. Still concientiously trying to remember Suzuoki’s advice, he edged toward greater intensity instead of diving headlong. Every step he took, though, every increase in strength, in speed, in ferocity, Tachibana met and passed, daring him to keep going. By the time the last point slammed home, Akaya was shivering with the effort of not matching the taunting undercurrent of violence in Tachibana’s game, too. That, he hadn’t expected.

“Are you all right?” Tachibana asked, voice concerned, as they met at the net.

“Yes.” Akaya breathed in and out, carefully. “Can we do that again?”

Tachibana blinked at him. Akaya knew it wasn’t exactly approved of, to train with someone from another team, but… how else could he really learn to deal with that part of his game? Instead of just supressing it.

And for that matter, how else could Tachibana learn to do it?

… all right, so maybe Akaya didn’t confine himself to his own players.

“It’s the time of year for studying,” he offered, obliquely.

One corner of Tachibana’s mouth curled up wryly. “I suppose it is.” He gazed at Akaya for a long moment before nodding. “All right. Give me a call the next time you have a study date around here.”

Akaya grinned at the sardonic note in Tachibana’s tone. “I will.”

This might be fun.