For Once

Prince of Tennis is owned by Konomi Takeshi. This fan fiction is post-anime and takes place in the "Evidentual" setting/universe. Post-anime. Warning for OOC. XD;

Chapter One; Relationship

Sometimes I wonder how the world would revolve if people had no intention to change. Would my brother still be a tennis player? Would everything stayed the way it was forever? Would I still be little Tachibana An, the little sister of the captain of Fudoumine. Would Kamio-kun and I have stayed together after that simple brief moment of romance?

Supposedly, it was wrong to lead someone as nice as Kamio-kun on, and we broke up after awhile. I found out that our friendship somehow strengthened after that, so maybe we were never supposed to be together. It's the thought of knowing that even though we tried, we weren't meant to be with each other that drove us on. Maybe we were both waiting for The Right One to come.

After college, my question got answered in the most unlikely way. Kamio-kun, unwillingly, joined The Atobe Corporation as a low level office worker. Everything had been fine until Atobe himself noticed Kamio-kun, and then he took it upon himself to annoy Kamio-kun.

I suppose even if Kamio-kun wanted change, he was too afraid of it. His grades were average and his tennis skills –as he painfully admitted after a few years- were also average. In some sadistic part of my mind, I had been waiting for him to admit it to me and to himself.

At first, we used to sit down for coffee every week. He'd complain to me about how much he hates his job, and I'd try to convince him to find another job. He'd shrug me off, muttering something about the pay. I used to find advertisements in the newspaper and cut them off, put them into the second drawer of my desk and save it for when Kamio-kun finally looked for another job. A year later, I found the drawer overflowed with newspaper cropping. Kamio-kun was still miserable, and I knew by then that he'd never change. I threw everything in the drawer away, and made a note to send coffee to Kamio-kun's office every morning. He'd need it.

Throughout the years, the only one I've managed to keep up with, besides Kamio-kun, is probably Shinji-kun. I still remember when he called me once during my last year of high school. He blabbed on from the topic of whale fat to something involving trees when my brother found me falling asleep by the phone. It was then that he finally admitted that he actually called for my brother.

Nowadays, I have no clue about Shinji-kun's job. He'd show up once or twice for coffee, then he'd leave town. Kamio-kun and I had no clue about his job. One day he'd declare that he was a professional plumber, and the next time we saw him, he'd be selling kids ice cream. Sometimes, I wondered if my brother knew what Shinji-kun's real job was. He probably did know, but I never bothered to ask him. It was more fun that way.

I think its things like this that scare me the most. I'm afraid of change, probably even more than Kamio-kun. I don't want to see old friends of mine become something else. I didn't want the old memories of them to fade away. I didn't want the old memories of the tennis court to fade away, and I suppose that's why I watch as many tennis matches as I can. In all honestly, my interest of tennis died away years ago, but I watch it because I didn't want to forget those memories that were locked inside those plain green courts.

But, alas, things never go my way. People change. I changed. It was for that reason I found myself sitting in Fuji Syusuke's office, staring at the plain white walls framed with photos of playing tennis.

"Ah, An-san."

I turn around in my chair, casting a small grin towards Fuji's direction. "Fuji-kun."

"How are you?" He smiles at me, taking time to examine the frames on his wall.

"I'm fine." Pausing, I decid to test my luck a little. "You know, Fuji-kun, it's funny. I've been seeing a lot of old faces from the past these past few days."

"Oh?"

"Yeah. Just last month I interviewed Kirihara, and afterwards Osakada Tomoko applied for a position at my work place. One of these days, I'm expecting Echizen Ryoma himself to show up."

Fuji turns around, staring at me.

I smile pleasantly at him. "How's Aelita-chan?"

"She's doing great." Fuji loosens up at the mention of his adopted daughter.

"How's Sky-kun?" I smirk knowingly at him.

Fuji freezes up at the mention of his godchild. "Kai-kun is doing fine, An-san. As is his mother and the rest of his family."

"Isn't he around the age of attending grade school?" I go on. "Which school is he attending?"

"I don't know." Fuji smiles at me. "Now, An-san. You didn't come all the way from Tokyo to visit me just to ask about my godson, did you?"

"No." Knowing that my luck was gone, I sat up. "I'm actually here regarding your photography school."

"Oh?" Now the ball was in his court, and Fuji defiantly isn't going to let me win easily. I suppose I deserved it for mentioning Ruyzaki and Echizen's son. "What do you need me for?"

"Well." I pause, trying to start my reply in a professional tone and failing horribly. "I'm working for the sports department of The Tokyo Post, and I wanted to see if you-"

"Had any photographers to recommend to you." He smiles at me. "Right?"

It's scary how he can tell from these things. "We're in dire need of some good photographers. Unfortunately, our department needs a lot of work aside from just lacking writers with any actual knowledge on sports." Over the years, I've learned something with talking to Fuji. He knows everything, so there's no point in hiding it. Yet, he takes pleasure in me admitting it myself, so he pretends as if he has no clue what you're talking about.

"Ah." He frowns at me. "Really?"

"Yes."

"Unfortunately." He smiles at me. "My students are more nature-orientated. Sports are not their forte, and I'm afraid that most of them are not interested in it. Can you name one reason why any photographer would be interesting in taking pictures of people playing sports?"

I pause. Of course, I had planned a speech to counter his question days ago. "I think sports, like nature, are so fleetingly. It's impossible to catch the course of action as it happens, but if a photographer can capture the determination and passion from the players, then that photographer is impressive indeed."

Fuji smiles at me. "I'll send a few of my photographers over next week."

I won.


I look up at Osakada, frowning. "Why not?"

"Well." She shifts in her seat, looking extremely uncomfortable. "See, tomorrow is my friend's birthday. And I promised I'd baby-sit for her. I just really can't go."

I eye her slowly. "You're refusing your first assignment as an intern?"

Tomoka bites her lips. "Yes." She's got spunk, and I suppose that's what I like the most about her.

"Alright. I'll get someone else to cover the game for you." I shrug. "Just don't do this again, okay?"

"Thank you so much!" She bows at me, standing up to grab her bag as she exited my office.

It wasn't as if I didn't know that Kirihara's match would be on the same day as Ryuzaki Sakuno's birthday. I just wasn't sure if I was only assigning it to Osakada because I knew she'd refuse the job, or because I wanted to see Kirihara myself.

The next day, I grab a taxi and headed off for the tennis stadium in Shinjuku. It wasn't as if I'm a very puncture person, because I'm not, but Kamio-kun had asked me to get him some take-out from a restaurant near Harajuku when he heard that I was heading there. I'm not sure if he knew I was only going there for Kirihara's match.

I blink as the cashier returns my change. Muttering a small thanks, I stuff the take-out box in my bag and head into the streets. Pulling out a ruffled map, I head in the direction of the stadium.

Or not.

Pausing at the small tug on the end of my shirt, I look down. It wasn't as if I'd forget those eyes anywhere, but I manage to do a double-take and made sure that, yes, Kirihara Ketsuya was grinning up at me.

"Hi!" He chips happily.

"Eh, hi." I look around. "Where's your dad?"

"Oh." The kid grins up at me. "He's getting ready for the game. Miya-chan was on the phone with her boyfriend again, so I got the ice cream by myself." He holds a strawberry cone up at me.

I smile, wondering how much Kirihara would freak out when he realize that his babysitter had lost his kid. "Lucky for you, I'm heading to the stadium too."

"Oh." Ketsuya takes a bite out of his cone. "Well, see you later." He turnes around, walking away before I pulls on the hood of his shirt. Jerking back, he turns around, rubbing his head and frowning at me. "Heeey! Why did you do that?"

"Aren't you heading back?" I pause. "You know, to find you dad?"

"No." He stares at me as if I had just suggested the stupidest idea in the world. "Why would I do that? I finally lost Miya-chan. They won't notice I'm gone until the game's over!"

I give him a look. "They'd be worried."

He giggles, licking off his ice cream. "No he won't!"

"Don't be stupid, come with me." I tug on his arm, pulling him along the streets.

"NOOOO!" –And the kid manages to prove himself to be more annoying than his father as he screeches on the top of his lungs. The people on the street began staring at me, and I immediately let go of the kid.

Frowning, I kneel down. "Okay, fine. Where do you want to go?"

He grins. "Let's go to the beach!"

I pause, not bothering to point out that there's no beach nearby. "Don't you want to go watch your dad play tennis?"

"No." The kid shakes his head at me. "I want to go to the beach!"

Despite my strong dislike towards Kirihara, I'm not about to let his kid wander around Shinjuku by himself. Sighing, I pat him on the head. "Do you mind if I come with you?"

"Nope!" Ketsuya stuffs the rest of his ice cream cone into his mouth, whipping the mess off with the back of hand.

I call for a taxi.

"Hey!" The kid frowns at me. "We're back at the stadium. You said we were going to the beach!"

I shrug. "I lied."

Ketsuya giggles. "I like you!"

"Good for you." I grab him by the hand, making sure he wouldn't run off as we head into the seats. The ticket-collectors grin at the kid, and it was then I notice the ticket hanging across his neck in a little plastic chain.

"Do I have to sit with you?" He frowns.

"Don't you like me?" I grin at him.

The kid giggles, stretching himself across my lap. "I'll sleep!"

The game, interestingly enough, was amusing to watch. I managed to take some notes as the kid slept on my lap. It wasn't that I like kids –because I think they're annoying and loud-, but Kirihara's on was almost as insane as himself.

I shake Ketsuya lightly as people began getting off their seats, heading out the exits after the game.

The kid stirs, rubbing his eyes. "Mmm?"

"Ketsuya, wake up."

"Mommy?"

I pause. "No. It's me, An. Remember?"

"Oh." He sits up, frowning. "You're not Mommy."

I pause. "I'm sorry."

The kid blinks at me. "Why are you sorry?"

I'm not exactly sure myself. "Come on; let's go get something to drink, and then we can go find your dad."

"Poo." He sticks his tongue out. "I don't want to."

"That's too bad, but you know, you can't always get what you want." I declare semi-jokingly as I grab his hand, heading out into the half-full aisles.

"… You look like my mommy, you know."

I froze, looking down at him. "Do I really?"

"Yes… But you don't act like her at all." Ketsuya lookes down at his feet, laded in Nike shoes. "My mommy never talked to me. I don't remember what she looks like; I just remember that her hair was pretty like yours."

I pause, twirling my finger into my messy strawberry blonde hair. "Eh, thank you." Unconsciously, I tighten my hold on his hand as we headed into the halls.

The kid keeps quite as he walks by my side, speaking up after a moment of awkward silence. "His room his that one." He points to the door on the right.

I reach at the doorknob, frowning at the yelling coming from the inside. The door opens, and a tear-struck teenage girl steps out, blinking at us. "Ketsuya-kun!"

The kid looks up guiltily. "Hi Miya-chan!"

"Miya, go get Ketsuya something to eat." Kirihara speaks up from inside the room. I frown at him as the girl nods. "You, come in."

I pause, closing the door behind me. It wasn't that Kirihara was particularly attractive with his sweaty or eyes red. "Do you need something?"

"Where did you find him?" He runs a hand through his hair.

"On the streets." I shrug, leaning against the door. "He wanted to go to the beach."

Kirihara takes the towel off from his neck, throwing it aside. "I'm a bad father, aren't I? He doesn't even want to be with me."

"Moaning about it isn't going to change anything." I pause. "But, yes. You're a horrible father. How could you let him out of your sight? You should've at least hired a more responsible babysitter. If I hadn't found him, he knows what would've happened to hi-"

"Shut up!" Eyes blood-shot, Kirihara snaps at me.

I flinch. "You shut up!"

He stares at me. I reminded myself that his eyes were bloodshot again, like the many times when he felt like hurting someone. I consider walking out on him before he does something stupid.

"You don't know anything about me!" Kirihara snaps at me. "Why didn't you call me to tell me about Ketsuya or something!"

"Oh, please!" I growl. "It's not like didn't just notice that he was gone."

He stops.

"Che." I head for the door. "It's like you care more about tennis than you do about him."

"You wouldn't understand."

"You're still a bastard."

"Of course I'm still a bastard. I'll always be." He stares me. "Did you think anything would change that?"

"Your eyes are red again." I take a seat, crossing my legs.

"It happens when I'm mad."

"You're not suited to be a father, you know." I declare causally, waiting for his reply. "I've been wondering all along why the two of you didn't just give him up when you had the chance."

"She never told me she was pregnant." He sits down. "She was the one that didn't want to give him up. I the end, she couldn't take the responsibility of being a parent." He takes out a box of cigarette as he runs a hand through his hair. "She's one of those girls that just go with the flow. She was never one of those people that stayed in the past. When I think about it, that's stupid because I'm not ready either."

He's been with you for six years, I want to say. "You shouldn't smoke."

He ignores me, of course. "Some days I don't know what to do with him. He's growing up to be exactly like me."

"You're a mess, Kirihara." I declare.

He laughs, taking a puff out of his cigarette. "I know I am." He pause. "Tachibana?"

"What?"

"What would you have done if you were me?"

"If I had been her?" I pause. "He misses her, you know."

"There's nothing I can do about that." Kirihara replies, looking out the window. For a moment, and just a brief moment in time, he looks sad.

I take a breath, calming down. This job so isn't worth the crap I put through. Being a journalist only reminded me of the things I wished I could forget: tennis, pressure, and Kirihara.

"So how do I make this up to you?"

"What?"

"How do I thank you for getting Ketsuya back?" He replies, turning around. I notice that his eyes were back to its normal green-blue color. He stuffs the end of his cigarette in the ash tray.

"There's nothing you can do to thank me." I stand up, heading out the door.

"You know, I remember why I liked you so much." He speaks up as I opened the door. "You remind me so much of myself."

"I know." I close the door. "That's why I hate you so much."


I stare. "What exactly are you telling me?"

Tanaka shrugs. "Due to the sudden increase in fans from your last article, we've asked for another interview with Kirihara."

I twitch inwardly. "Why didn't you tell me this until now?"

Tanaka raises an eyebrow. "I thought you knew. He agreed to it last week."

"No, I didn't know." This is exactly why I'm foaming at the mouth right now. "Why would you assume that I'd know just because he agreed?"

"You two aren't friends?"

I groan, rubbing my temples. "No. We're not exactly friends, per se. But since he's already coming over, what I say doesn't really matter, does it?"

"Sorry." Tanaka shrugs as he turned to the coffee machine.

I want to point out the fact that he didn't sound like he was sorry, but, then again, nobody ever mean what they say anymore. "Where's the photo shoot?"

"Downstairs. The photographers are setting up." He pause. "I don't know why you're freaking out about this. It really has nothing to do with the sports department. Ren gave the job to the people down in celebrity news."

I stare at him.

"Your coffee mug's overflowing."

I blink. "Huh, what? Sorry."

"If you're so interested, why don't you go down to look?" He smirked at me. "That photographer from Fuji came as well. Aren't you interested to see who he sent over, at least?"

"Do you want me to go and look or something?"

"Yes, I do. I want you to dig up some stuff from the other departments. I still haven't forgiven them for stealing our lead, because that's just the selfish man I am." He replies, sarcasm dripping in his voice.

"Why, then you should've said this beforehand." Make my life more complicated, why don't you? "I'll go and take a look."

My obsessions with Kirihara never really had anything to do with admiration. It was more on the rivaling factor. He's easily despicable, but annoying fun. I never approved of his style of tennis; it was a poor craft to true sportsmanship. He lacked that, and in my mind, he lacked everything else.

Perhaps it was unfair of me to judge someone on such a trivial factor, but without Kirihara, the world would have been a much better place.

To me, at least.

The main reason of my loathing comes from the fact that, although I'm told to be a naturally affable person, I never felt the need to change my opinion of Kirihara. He wasn't someone I needed to come in close contact with until now.

"Let's take a five minute break!"

"Are you Tachibana-san?"

Kansai accent, how fortunate. "Yes, I am. Are you Oshitari?"

"Eh." Tall, dark and beautiful replied. "Yes."

"Oi, I see you met our resident violent journalist." Kirihara decided to join our conversion. "Oshitari, don't tell me that you don't remember her."

"Well, Tachibana is a rather familiar name." Clad in trench-coat, Oshitari scans me over. Of course the main interest of my amusement currently resided on his pedophilic stalker coat while is due to be the topic of many conversations to come. "Oh, I see. You're Tachibana's little sister."

"Fuji sent me this guy?" I turned towards Ren, pointing towards the two tennis players.

"I am the best in the league."

Yes, and I am the prime minister of Japan. "If you say so."

"It seems that you all know each other." Ren patted me on the shoulder, grinning. I'm not sure if this is mainly for the benefit of his magazine that his employees are on a name-calling basis with random celebrities or not. "Reunions are so interesting and all, but shouldn't you be heading back to? I don't pay you to stand around in photo shoots."

"Yes, I'm taking great pleasure in frolicking with them." Turning around, I gave my boss a small waving before heading for the stairs.


An hour later, I'm greeted with the sight of Kirihara talking with Tanaka as I head out into the halls.

"An, come over here."

I eye the coffee machine miserably, doing so.

"Kirihara-san just informed me of your previous relationship." Tanaka grins. "Why didn't you inform me of this beforehand?"

"What previous relationship?" I blink, sending a glare towards Kirihara. "If you're talking about the fact that I nearly traumatized him in junior high, then that's about all of it."

"It would've been a shame if I had been traumatized." Kirihara smirks at me.

"You wouldn't have been able to play tennis again, that's all." I shrug aimlessly at him. "You can still survive without playing tennis. After all, he didn't get to play tennis again."

Kirihara flinches at me.

Tanaka smirks. There's no doubt in my mind that Tanaka, the sneak, had already research the old articles on the junior America tournament beforehand. "That's very interesting. I have a proposal to make for the two of you."

"I refuse." Both of us declare.

"I haven't even said anything yet." Tanaka waves us off. "How would the two of you like to be featured in an article about the different opinions of the male and female population? It'll be like a he-said-she-said column."

"Then why don't you ask some other girl to do it?" I turn around, heading back to my old-faithful coffee machine.

"Then it wouldn't be fun anymore, right, An-chan?"

I turn around. "Kirihara, you are going down."

TBC