Palm to Palm

Mizuki comes across Yuuta practicing and they have words; and a match; and maybe another epiphany. Drama with Pre-Romance, I-3

Character(s): Fuji Yuuta, Mizuki Hajime

Evening brought cooler air and fewer people, which suited Hajime just fine at the moment. He wanted to get his practice in without being questioned about why a third year was so concerned with such things. Only a few lights were on around the courts, not quite drowning out the clear, deep indigo of the sky. It was a lovely evening and he was in a good mood.

At least he was in a good mood up until the moment he saw that Yuuta was on the court before him, and lined up for the Twist Spin shot.

The ball sang off Yuuta’s racquet, tore past an invisible opponent and climbed the fence. It was an excellent shot, and it made Hajime grit his teeth.

Using a shot that wore so hard on his body, Yuuta would never last three more years at this rate! What was the boy thinking? How was Hajime supposed to draw Yuuta back, year after next, if he went on like this?

Hajime stalked onto the court and snapped. “Yuuta-kun!”

Yuuta tried to stand up and spin around at the same time, and wobbled. “Mizuki-san!”

“What are you doing, using that shot during practice?” Hajime lectured. “There’s more than just this season to think about, now. And why are you out here, anyway, you should be training weights at this hour.”

“I was hoping to see you.”

Hajime’s brows rose. “… why?” Surely Yuuta had enough to keep him busy, taking over the club. And, unlike Hajime, Yuuta was the sort to throw himself headlong and absolutely into everything he did.

All right, maybe it wasn’t so surprising he was still using that shot.

Yuuta scuffed a toe against the clay. “The coaches are good; their suggestions for exercises help a lot, with the club. But I feel like my personal training is really falling off.” He looked up, eyes clear. “I was hoping you’d be willing to help me.”

The corner of Hajime’s mind that hadn’t been entirely sure Yuuta wouldn’t hold a grudge breathed out a sigh of relief. He buried that under his week-old sense of annoyance, though, and folded his arms, raking Yuuta up and down with a long look. “And how am I supposed to train someone who won’t do as I say?”

“I do!” Yuuta protested. “Well, I mean… it wasn’t…”

Hajime sighed and waved a hand to quiet him, mouth quirking. “Yes, yes, all right.” Honestly, he knew perfectly well there was a difference between disobeying a tactical order and not sticking to a training regimen. Yuuta had never once slacked on his training.

He also knew it would take Yuuta several more minutes to articulate that. If Hajime’s weapon was forethought, Yuuta’s was intensity, and subtlety was generally a bonus for him.

This was a good opportunity to set his hand on Yuuta’s training again, though. “Come along, then.” He pulled out his racquet. “Play a set with me so I can see how it’s affected your game.”

He watched, as they played. Yuuta had judged correctly; there was a starting spring missing from his footwork, an edge of power missing from his shots. He was still magnificent—the best Hajime had ever trained. But he could be better, and, knowing that, Fuji Yuuta would never rest.

They’d agreed on that from the beginning.

He nodded to himself, at the last point, and came to extend his hand over the net, as usual. “All right. Double your running time to start with.” He paused, less for real thought than to get more of his breath back; even off his peak, Yuuta was strong. “I’ll stop by tomorrow evening to adjust your weights.”

Yuuta nodded, still sharp despite the sweat sticking his shirt to him, and shook Hajime’s hand once, quick and firm. “Yes, Mizuki-san.” He tucked his chin down for a moment before glancing up and adding. “Thank you.”

“Just focus on getting stronger,” Hajime directed. And then he frowned, remembering. “And stop using the Twist Spin during practice. Really, you shouldn’t use it even in official matches until after your next growth spurt.”

Yuuta looked down, and Hajime felt the hand in his tense. “I know,” Yuuta said, quietly. “I was listening to everything, last weekend. Tonight I was testing to make sure I’d recognize that kind of strain.” He opened his mouth to add something and then closed it again, chewing on his lip.

In the back of his mind, where the truth lived, Hajime thought that he really didn’t understand Yuuta. Yuuta’s forthright passion was something he didn’t think he’d ever felt. He didn’t understand why it wasn’t driving Yuuta away from him, now that the harshness of Hajime’s calculation was out in the open.

And yet, he was glad it wasn’t. For one thing, it was surely good for Yuuta to temper that enthusiasm with at least a little considered judgment, which he was clearly starting to do. For another…

Well, never mind that.

“I have longer term plans in mind, now, than I have this past year,” he said at last.

Yuuta’s hand relaxed and he looked up with a faint smile. “Okay.”

The clarity of those grey eyes stole Hajime’s thoughts for a moment, before he shook himself and fished out another ball. “Well, come on, then. One more set, since you’re out here.”

As Yuuta fell back to the baseline, Hajime told himself not to think foolish things. Personal interest, even in someone with Yuuta’s brightness, had absolutely no place in his search for perfection. None at all.

Surely not.