Positional Play Chapter 1: Standing

Disclaimer: Prince of Tennis belongs to Konomi Takeshi. I'm just borrowing for a little while.

Rating: PG

Summary: MomoAn "Call me when you want to talk to your girlfriend, not your tennis buddy."

"Nice shot, Tachibana-imouto," Momoshiro grinned at his girlfriend as he easily returned her serve.

An glared at him, before smacking the ball back to him with a bit more force than necessary. They rallied like that for several minutes, though Momoshiro began to worry when An's shots became increasingly erratic. He was even complimenting her!

Momoshiro was confused.

Like so many of their dates, Momoshiro Takeshi and Tachibana An had eventually ended up at Fudoumine Middle School's beloved street tennis court involved in a game of tennis. It was where they had first met, after all, and many of their best memories took place in or around the courts. Their first kiss, for instance, had been at the base of the stairs leading up to the courts.

Today, however, didn't look like it was going to shape up to be one of those shining memories.

In fact, it looked like it might become one of those days he might want to forget.

"Hey, are you okay?" he asked worriedly as he put his racket down. An was usually so easy-going. It was one of the reasons they got along so well with each other. To see her so upset…

"Tachibana-imouto, Tachibana-imouto… How many times do I have to remind you my name is An! It's only one tiny syllable. Is it really that hard to remember, Momoshiro-kun?!" she yelled at him. It had been months since she had last brought the subject up, and he had thought she didn't mind what he called her. Well, guess that assumption had been wrong.

"Of course I know you're name is An…" he began in a placating tone.

"Then why don't you call me that?" An demanded.

Momoshiro really didn't have a good answer. He tried to think of one, honestly he did, but he honestly couldn't come up with anything. Somehow he didn't think she'd accept that.

"Uh…" he began, trying to stall for time. Unluckily for him, An wasn't in a mood to wait.

"Call me when you want to talk to your girlfriend, not your tennis buddy," An grabbed her stuff and started walking down the stairs, leaving a mystified Momoshiro in her wake.

Why was An so angry? It was just a nickname…

Momoshiro went through a number of emotional states after the fight with An sunk in. First he was angry at her for just blowing at him like that. Then he decided that he was better off without an irrational girl like that. (That stage lasted about 3 hours.) Finally, he was just confused.

He really didn't understand what had set her off. The only time he had seen any similar behavior was the time Fuji-senpai's younger brother went all psycho for being compared to his older brother. Momoshiro didn't blame him for that, he'd probably go crazy too if Fuji Shuusuke was his brother. Besides, that situation was different, wasn't it? Fuji what's-his-name (Yuuta, a quick question to Inui-senpai later supplied) lived in his brother's shadow. An had plenty of friends and her own identity.

It was the truth, too. An really was Tachibana Kippei's younger sister. So why would it upset her? It wasn't like he didn't know her name.

So, it was while he was pondering these mysteries and generally moping around that he managed to find himself in a more secluded part of school, and the recipient of a tennis ball to the face. He let out a startled grunt of pain.

Momoshiro Takeshi had managed to find Ryuuzaki Sakuno's private practice area.

"Oh my gosh, Momoshiro-senpai! Are you alright? I'm so sorry!!" Sakuno had turned when she heard the sound of pain, and hurried to apologize frantically. She looked on the verge of tears. Her lack of control was one of the reasons she practiced so far away from anyone else.

"Momo-chan," he corrected. Sakuno was the only first year who refused to call him by his nickname, though he wasn't sure why. He absently rubbed the spot the ball had impacted his face. It hurt, but he'd taken worse hits before. He smiled crookedly at the frantic girl. "Don't worry about it, Ryuuzaki. It doesn't hurt that bad."

"Are you sure you don't want me to get some ice or something for it…?" Sakuno asked, nervousness and apology still clear in her voice.

Momoshiro really looked at Sakuno, and in that moment a plan began to hazily take shape in his mind. He had never claimed to be one of the brightest crayons in the box, but he could be downright devious when he needed to be. If he predicted right, Sakuno could help him solve his problem with An and give him a tool to tease Echizen unmercifully with. He resisted the impulse to chortle maniacally.

"It was my fault; I should've been looking where I was going. Like I said, don't worry about it." If his instincts were right, she'd insist that she do something for him no matter how insignificant.

"But still…" Sakuno was an open book, even to someone like him.

"Well…" he began. She perked up immediately. "There was something that's been bothering me lately, and I thought maybe you could help me Ryuuzaki."

"Really?" Sakuno was clearly surprised that he thought she could be of any use to him. It was probably because she was so used to being ignored by everyone. But, showing surprising strength of character, Sakuno straightened up and regarded him gravely.

He nodded. "If Echizen started calling you Ryuuzaki-mago, would you be upset?" Sakuno started and blushed slightly at the mention of Ryoma's name, but seemed to consider the question carefully for several moments before answering.

"Yes… I think I would, probably…" she finally said, softly.

"Why?" he asked bluntly. Her blush intensified.

"I'm very proud of Obaa-chan, I'm glad I'm her granddaughter, but…it's not very personal?" She paused. "I am Ryuuzaki-mago, but I don't think I'd want to be called that because…because I'm Ryuuzaki Sakuno first. I guess." She nervously hugged her racket. "And we're friends, sort of."

Momoshiro considered her words. They were a bit clumsy, but sincere, and her last comment reminded him of An in a way. What she said hadn't really surprised him. A part of him had known from the beginning that was the issue, but it helped to have another person say it. He smiled again, as he reached out and ruffled her hair a bit. She really was cute, and Momoshiro knew he'd enjoy teasing Ryoma later.

"Thanks, Sakuno-chan." She reminded him of his little sister.

"Oh, it was noth—" she stopped as processed what Momoshiro had just called her. "Eh?"

"How about I come by during our break next week and give you some extra lessons?" Operation: Annoy Echizen was almost ready.

"Momoshiro-senpai?" Sakuno was clearly confused.

"You gave me some really good advice," he grinned.

"But I was the one who hit you with the ball…!"

Momoshiro pretended to pout. "Well, if you're going to refuse the offer of your poor, injured, senpai then…"

"No, no!" Sakuno hastily corrected. "I'd be happy to have you teach me. But it's just so much of an imposition…"

"I made the offer, Sakuno-chan," he reminded her gently. She nodded.

"Thank you very much, Momoshiro-senpai," she said softly, still confused but willing to go along with what Momoshiro wanted.

"I'll see you next week then. Bye" He waved as Sakuno dropped into a polite bow. Next week was probably the earliest he would have completed all of the laps Tezuka would assign him for missing the first part of practice.

At least he had the street courts to look forward to later.

Thirty agonizing laps and one side trip to Wacdonald's, where he was forced to treat both Kikumaru and Ryoma, later, he was on his way to the street courts.

The climb up the stairs was tortuous, but as he cleared the top he was greeted with the sight of An and Kamio involved in a friendly match.

An executed a particularly nice smash, and he felt compelled to comment.

"Nice shot, An!"

Mago – Grandchild (in this case, granddaughter)