TITLE: Solitude

PART: Sequenced Three-Part (One of Three)

PAIRING: Sanada Genichirou x Kajimoto Takahisa

GENRE: Yaoi (Humour/ Continuation/ Angst / Romance)

DISCLAIMERS: The series I'm referring to does not belong to me… only this weird story does.

NOTES: Blah or Blah is for emphasis. /Blah/ is for conversations over the phone or flashbacks (if any). /Blah/ is for the conscience or whatever inner voice there is talking. Blah is for thoughts or random Japanese words. Some of these words are footnoted at the end of every page (I'm beginning to understand the need for footnotes in fiction. Thank you dear friend, you know who you are. XD).

ADDITIONAL BLAHS: This is a response to Hanabi Reeza's challenge. I had a lot of fun making this, though when you look at the plotline, well, it doesn't really sow, since it's very depressing. XD This takes place in their senior high and university days. I was having trouble integrating the major characters as junior high kids, since they absolutely have no interaction whatsoever. Sanada is still the vice captain of the team and still under Yukimura. Why? There are a lot of complications, and it will bundle the story up. Kajimoto has some issues as well. This is in assumption that they went to the senior high departments of their respective schools... except for, perhaps... nah, I'm not telling. Just find out on your own. XD Enjoy!


SOLITUDE

Part One: Alpha


Catharsis (Noun)

Purging of emotional tensions

The act of giving expression to deep emotions often associated with events in the individuals past which have never before been adequately expressed.


SEQUENCE ONE: CATHARSIS

Sanada Genichirou was someone who hated taking the normal route back to his home. Not only was it boring, it was also tiring. Well, it was not as if he was actually tired physically... it was the emotional aspect he was wary about. After all, apart from all the regular tennis club activities, and since the Nationals was already through, he still had to deal with their new line-up next tournament, explaining strategies to the new leaders of the club, examining effective alternative practice workloads, demanding efficiency and all that jazz.

And then, there was his headache – Kirihara Akaya. The reformed renegade was altogether mellower now, but he still was a handful. Probably because only the captain could fully incapacitate him of his obnoxiousness and delinquency issues.

Yukimura Seiichi was lucky he didn't have to put up with such display of irritating behaviour every single day, and he would graduate without the need to carry such heavy workload. Seriously now, if Sanada had his way, he would've smacked Kirihara on the face as many times as he could just to see the younger boy fold under him. But then, he would have the captain to deal with, and even in such delicate state, he knew Yukimura could still pack him a wallop – going straight like a bullet through his brain. It wasn't as if he hated mind games, he just hated the fact that he was being lectured by someone, much more, a guy his own age... even more – his best friend.

That would be ugly.

Yukimura indeed was his only true best friend. They had known each other since they were young and fighting in such a crucial time would only kill them both. He sighed dejectedly.

"Maybe I should lighten up for a short while... I definitely need a rest." He muttered to himself as he walked through one of his favoured shortcuts home. "Seiichi is so right sometimes that it scares me." The conversation they had that afternoon in the hospital only catered to his present state of jangled nerves. Now if only that's simple. He thought, defeated. Renji is a good manager, but he can't hold Masaharu well. Heck, even Hiroshi can't control that guy. But then all that wouldn't matter since they're also graduating this school year. And then there's the Akaya Phenomenon...

On and on, the litany lengthened, eyes fixed almost unseeingly as his troubled thoughts ran deep. It was only when he bumped into something that he was jolted away from his deliberations.

CRACK!

At first, he thought something broke, and briefly, flashes of what were stuffed in his duffel bag entered his mind. When he realised he did not have anything fragile on hand, he focused on what was before him – and what he bumped into.

He frowned.

Okay, so it wasn't exactly something – it was more of someone.

And not just someone – an injured someone.

It was the injury that registered first in his mind, and quickly, he picked the fallen crutches up from the cold asphalt road, transferring both in one capable hand before holding out another in an offer of assistance. The pain that crossed Tezuka's features back in the junior high Kantou Tournament was still a fresh memory, and he did not want anyone suffering because of him. He did not want anyone to look like that ever again. He shook his head inwardly and focused more at the task on hand.

The hand that grasped his was cold.

Strange... it's summer, why is his hand so cold? "Are you alright?" He asked as gently as he could. Unfortunately, the only response he received was a curt nod.

There was something familiar about him, but Sanada could not pinpoint what it was – or who he was and why there was a sense of déjà vu overtaking his senses at mere touch of skin. Maybe they crossed paths before – but where?

Great. Another problem. Now I'm not going to be able to sleep. He thought crossly. There seemed to be a conspiracy against him, and it was not funny at all. Whatever did he do to deserve such punishment? I'm being too melodramatic all of a sudden. He shuddered inwardly. Seiichi's rubbing off on me.

It was the slight wince as he let go that made Sanada realise that the crutches were still in his hand. He carefully handed them to him and steadied him as he applied pressure on the wooden stilts and away from the injured foot.

He was quite certain now that the guy would thank him properly this time – and yet he was still silent as ever, giving him another curt nod and swerving away from him, continuing on his way as if nothing happened.

What's wrong with him? He thought crossly, rearranging his bag on his shoulder. So rude. He reminds me of that Oshitari guy from Hyoutei though... Shaking his head, he continued his way as well, stopping for nothing, mind occupied once again by thoughts of his team, his captain and his much-needed rest.

Now where was I...

OxxxOxxxO

He had never seen the setting summer sun so haunting in his entire life.

Ruefully, he stared, eyes fixed longingly upon some distant point where the tops of the huge buildings kissed the formidable shape of the Sun God. It was quite demoralising, the way he was following its path down the horizon like some legendary sunflower deity in Greek Mythology, and yet, here he was, fixated... unable to move but ever-so-slowly as if careful not to disturb the atmosphere enveloping him.

Yet, even in his awe, his heart constricted. Before, when the first few days of summer arrived, he always had someone to share such feeling with. Wakato Hiroshi, the guy whom he had shared a lot with was now off to train with Hanamura-sensei for the duration of summer.

He was supposed to be there as well, training for college tennis, if not for the fact that he failed three out of ten of his final examinations, and, with the Gods laughing down at him, injured his lower back as well. Maybe he should've listened more to his good friend Mizuki rather than his coach. Maybe he should've just entered St. Rudolph in senior high. The way he was arching and bending his back truly did not do him any long-term good. There were pains there, and he was anxious, making him lack complete focus and spraining himself as he struggled to hit back one of Shinjou's completely modernized "Deep Impulse".

In a single snap, Kajimoto Takahisa was a masterpiece no more.

Dropped like a hot potato.

Gingerly, he sat on one of the outdoor tennis court benches, wincing as his foot protested angrily, followed by his lower back, pain searing through him. Great. Now he was not going to get better any time soon. He had his fall earlier to thank for that.

He recognised the one he bumped into instantly. After all, who wouldn't know someone as infamous as Sanada Genichirou, fukubuchou of the senior high tennis team of Rikkai-dai Fuzoku? Why he was loitering around mumbling to himself, Kajimoto did not know, all he knew was the fact that he bumped into someone not worthy of such stupid accident. It was probably his fault, as everything else going on in his life was.

He wanted to challenge the guy before, with an absolute assurance that he would win all matches with, as Mizuki phrased it, "accurate clarity, given any scenario". Now, he was thankful he did not have to face him... him, the player who got injured so easily and couldn't even return a teammate's rally without injuring himself in the process.

He felt deflated... defeated... lost.

What was his purpose then? His parents were indeed rich, but they were never around anyway. And now that they learned he was demoted in the tennis club of his school, he was being given the cold shoulder the few times he saw them in the hallway of his residence. What loving parents they were!

Kajimoto frowned as the last vestiges of orange light winked to black. The lampposts were now lighted, like little fireflies in spring. It was beautiful. And he was happy that he saw such contemporary beauty in all its glory.

He just wished someone was beside him, gazing at the display with equal awe...

Then, he wouldn't feel so alone.


Sanctuary (Noun)

Safe haven

Place for rest and relaxation

Peaceful refuge


SEQUENCE TWO: SANCTUARY

It was the package that worried him most of all.

It was polka-dotted red and green. Weird thing was... it was not even Christmas yet.

"Whatever possessed you to buy this for me?" And whatever possessed you to wrap it up in such monstrosity? Kajimoto asked warily, still examining the small package. Suspiciously, he shook it beside his ear, listening to whatever it might be rolling around inside. Maybe it was a bomb, custom-made so that he could just blow himself to Siberia in an effort to lessen his frustrations in life.

"Well, it is summer, and I thought, when you go out training by yourself, you'd need it." Wakato answered, fidgeting anxiously. Yeah right, as if I could train now, with my foot and back sore like this. It was funny seeing him like this, all wobbly and edgy, as if he was desperate for him to like what he gave. To ease his mind, Kajimoto decided to just bite the bullet and open the Christmas-sy package.

Tearing the tape off carefully, he unfolded the wrapping, careful to preserve it after such thoughtful gesture, and opened the small box. At first sight, he froze, eyes wide in disbelief.

A mini fan?

Oh no... not a fan, fan... a battery-operated one. He stared at his friend, eyes narrowing in suspicion. "This is a handheld electric fan." He pronounced slowly.

"Well, duh!" Wakato rolled his eyes in frustration. "Of course it is, stupid! It's summer already and I thought you could use it after your training, you know, to cool down." He said enthusiastically. "And it's the craze these days! I bought that for you using some of the money I've been saving up to buy myself a laptop, so you'd better be grateful for it!"

"I am grateful, but..."

"And it's just not an ordinary fan, but a branded one, so it costs a lot!" He rambled on, pushing back his hair away from his eyes. "So, do you like it?"

"I do... but..."

"Ah!" Wakato suddenly crowed, remembering something important, reflexes making a fist of his right hand and slapping it once on the palm of the other. "I forgot the batteries! Well, since it's yours now, you'll have to get them yourself!"

Kajimoto was not sure if he wanted to laugh at the peculiarity of it all or just pound his friend with his crutches in irritation.

Maybe the second choice isn't too bad...

OxxxOxxxO

"Genichirou, you really should take a rest."

Sanada glared at his best friend. "I have thought about it. Bad idea."

Yukimura laughed. "Ah, you can't exhaust yourself too much, the Nationals just finished and we already got our respective place in it. Besides, the university entrance exams will be up soon, and I think you haven't studied enough yet."

"Don't worry, I won't be a ronin, if that's what you're worrying about." He said reassuringly, continuing to peel the apple they were supposed to share. Yukimura had never been a fan of apples, and since some idiot gave him a basket-full, it was inevitable that he consumed it. Luckily, Sanada was indifferent to such fruit, and he had a feeling that he would be eating a lot of them in the near future – preferably the next few days.

"Well, I'm worried about you, you know." He said softly. "You're my friend after all."

Sanada handed him half of the peeled apple and smiled. "Stop worrying over trivial things." He chastised. "You shouldn't worry about anything, or you'll get worry lines on your forehead."

"Ha, ha." Yukimura said laughingly. "Humour me. If I didn't know better, I'd say it would be you having the worry lines and not me. You'll look old and gnarly at the age of twenty!"

He shook his head, taking a huge bite of apple thoughtfully. "I can't take a rest now... there are lots of things to do." He mumbled almost inaudibly. "I'm tired of it already, but it's my duty... and privilege as well. No one can handle Akaya but you and me, and since you're indisposed at the moment, I have to deal with it myself. Renji cooked up a lot of weird stuff again. He and Seigaku's Inui are friends again, it seems, and I would hate it if the club members get food poisoned if he passes the stuff he concocted to the next manager. Masaharu-kun is wreaking havoc as usual, with his insistent mimicry, and it's been grating on Hiroshi's nerves recently that they always end up fighting..."

"It should've been me." Yukimura said softly.

"Hmm?"

"It should've been me dealing with all those things and not you."

The forlorn quality in his voice was what perked Sanada up. Playfully, he chucked his arm playfully and smiled. "Stop saying that. It's kind of fun in a way, I could harass them with the excuse of being the fukubuchou again after all. Besides, with or without you present every practice day, I'll still be doing all those things. We're partners, remember?"

Yukimura's eyes smiled straight at him as he nodded in agreement.

"Yes, partners."


Unearth (Verb)

Lay bare through digging

Bring to light


SEQUENCE THREE: UNEARTH

Kendo practice was tough, although gratifying. His long-standing rival, the illustrious Saeki Kojirou, lost to him for the second time this week. One more and they would call it quits. Such was the fate of challenged champions.

It wasn't necessarily true that rivals have to be enemies after all. It was just a challenge between the two of them, Sanada thought with a certain degree of amusement. Like Keigo and Kunimitsu. The thought alone made him chuckle. It was just fortunate that his private shortcut home was deserted, or else people would definitely look at him strangely. No one in his right mind would ever laugh alone, right? Shaking his head, he looked up, eyes meeting the towering fences that were wrapped around the tennis courts.

As per usual, there was not a soul playing. He had to wonder why the government put it up when it was just going to rot away, unused, anyway. They should've known that this neighbourhood and the neighbourhoods nearby are all from the elite class, and most of them either play golf or play tennis in their private tennis courts.

For Sanada, it was sacrilege even thinking of such weird thing. It was best to play in a private court than a public one – not to mention safer. But, at the rate everything was going for the poor fallow tennis area... he shook his head. The government sure is spending a lot of money on useless stuff. He thought with a small measure of irritation. He was about to let his eyes slip away when a sudden distant movement caught his eye. In the dim light of the setting summer sun, he strained, trying to make out what it was. He was sure something moved... Ah, there... He mused cryptically. I wonder what that is?

He surveyed the silhouette, eyes detecting hints of what it was instantaneously that he was even surprised by his own ability. It was a person, although it seemed as if the person had four legs... but then, he couldn't be too sure unless he was up close.

It was when it collapsed that his feet starting in their own volition, hurrying straight towards where the figure was.

He miscalculated the distance somehow, and the courts ended up farther than he originally thought, thus, he arrived huffing slightly, heavy duffel bag an added burden. He was right after all. It was not a something but a someone. A guy. He wasn't becoming senile after all, not like what Renji said the other day. It was a joke, then. Honestly now, coming from that guy, he would never know.

He immediately dropped his bag and rushed to the guy's aid, hands firmly grasping both arms and hauling carefully up. The wooden crutches were quite familiar though...

Then, realisation hit him as the guy gave another curt bow in a gesture of thanks.

He was the one he bumped into last week.

OxxxOxxxO

It's him again. Kajimoto thought crossly. This is the worst.

First, he slipped on a wet patch of marble in the cafeteria and went crashing down. Wakato helped him up quickly, straining to keep him from falling again. Worse, his foot ached again after that incident, and he was helped into the infirmary where he met Hanamura-sensei.

His former coach just stared at him and went off. Apparently, he was useless until his foot recovered, but after what happened, he was sure he wouldn't make it soon. So he would be wallpaper for a while, very much a different experience since he was still in junior high. Maybe he should just act like it, then he would really have to be driven furiously out of his misery, and then, he would feel nothing... nothing at all.

And now this.

Some spoiled top-notch kid from the best tennis school in the prefecture was helping him up. Sanada Genichirou, Fukubuchou Extraordinaire.

Was everyone ganging up on him on purpose? Was he supposed to live with such humiliation until the Gods finally give up toying with him and start pitying him?

"Stop doing that."

There was irritation in Sanada's voice, and he instinctively looked up, only to see his brows furrowed and eyes boring holes into his own. "Excuse me?" He asked, bewildered. Was I muttering to myself again? He thought in horror. Was I –

"So, you can talk. Well, you never thank people properly." Sanada said, pushing him gently to sit on one of the benches. Last time we bumped into each other, you just did what you did a while ago. You just bowed, and then went off. To others, it wouldn't seem rude, but please, just consider the fact that not all people you meet demand the same type of respect."

There was something about the way he talked that made Kajimoto fall silent. He felt like a kid again, being scolded by the oldest of the family servants. It added more to the humiliation, but he couldn't seem to take offence.

He thought about what happened last time. Well, maybe it bordered on being rude... but he did not know what to do then... and he did not want to deal with another angry face over his stupidity – or clumsiness. He stared down at the cast encasing his right foot and sighed. "Sorry." He murmured almost inaudibly. It seemed as if things were piling up – mostly unpleasant ones – and he hated it. He didn't want to make an enemy of this guy. He had been watching his games for a long time now and had become an instantaneous fan, so much so that he wanted to beat the crap out of him in tennis one day. However, at the state he was in, or even if he practiced hard enough, he would still suck. He knew that his abilities were not exactly up to par, no matter what Mizuki said.

There was a momentary stillness in the air, and he looked up just in time to see the softening of Sanada's eyes as he stared down at him, crutches in hand. He looked imposing in a... friendly sort of way. It was hard to explain, really.

And they stared at each other in complete silence, each regarding the other almost thoughtfully, until Sanada placed the crutches beside Kajimoto and sat down next to them. "You sound like someone I know." He said contemplatively.

"Eh?"

Sanada shook his head and sighed softly before turning to him. "He has matured a great deal since we were young, and frankly, I miss the type of shyness he has... like yours right now."

Kajimoto stared open-mouthed, eyes glassy. There was something surreal about it all. Someone who didn't even know him was sharing important memories. He had never been on the receiving side of such, and it gave him a warm feeling inside. Yes, this was truly the infamous Sanada Genichirou, but no matter how much he looked at it, he didn't seem to be out of the ordinary at all. In skill maybe... but it was all too obvious that he was still human... and a young one at that. He was no different than he was. They both shared a deep emotion not one of them wanted.

They were both lonely.

They were both alone.

"He must've been really special huh?" Kajimoto responded, wringing the hem of his shirt lightly, eyes shying away, off to stare at the last vestiges of light the sun gave.

"He still is." Came the rueful reply. "It's just that, sometimes, I wish to see him acting like he was when we were still children... then, I can protect him again without being told off... and then... I can say we really are partners without feeling like I'm lying."

Kajimoto did not know what to say after such heartfelt confession, so he kept silent. Letting his presence provide some sort of comfort at least.

The silence was thick... but strangely, Kajimoto revelled in it.


TSUZUKU