The Data Date
"Why did you call me out?" Kaidoh shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other, looking up at the marquee, which read, "Killer Ghosts Attack!"
"You were running, weren't you?" Inui asked.
"There was a forty-eight percent chance that you were running, even though I told you not to. You've trained enough this week, and to do more would be to strain yourself and increase the risk of injury."
Kaidoh shrugged a little, not looking Inui in the eye. He had to run. He had to run because he was—
"And my calculations show that there's a sixty percent chance that you are nervous about your match tomorrow. My data also shows that you always run when you are nervous."
Kaidoh blinked. Being subjected to Inui's insidious calculations did little to decrease his nervousness. Really, Inui seemed able to get right into his head! Instead of answering, Kaidoh grunted.
Inui adjusted his glasses. Kaidoh's gut feeling—since he didn't have any data—was that Inui sometimes did that when he himself was nervous. That made Kaidoh feel a little bit better.
"And according to my data, it is probable you would run almost all night until you were tired, and then you wouldn't have enough energy for the match tomorrow."
This didn't seem likely to Kaidoh. He wasn't prone to running until he dropped. On the other hand, it was Inui's data, and that was pretty hard to argue with. "So what do you want me to do?"
Inui smiled a little. "Studies show that after you've done all the training you can, it's better to relax for a while and get your mind off of things. By participating in an activity unrelated to the one you will be tested in, your mind and body will have a chance to recharge."
Inui pointed to the marquee. "I meant the movie, of course. Let's go."
Kaidoh followed him reluctantly. Being on a pseudo-date with Inui seeing a scary ghost movie didn't seem like a good way to calm his nerves, but he couldn't say that. Instead he muttered, "I'm not scared."
Inui didn't say anything, but the way he raised an eyebrow, his glasses reflecting the streetlights as he glanced over his shoulder, said a lot.
Kaidoh spent most of the movie tense in his seat, waiting for the next scream or for Inui to try to hold his hand.
It's not a date, he told himself severely. Inui is your sempai, and he's just looking out for you. Yeah. It's not a date at all.
By the time the big scene with the main ghost chasing the heroine came around, Kaidoh was trembling, his muscles tight with nerves.
He froze when one of Inui's arms slipped around the back of his seat, and the data collector leaned close. It was a date, after all! Inui was going to kiss him! What should he do? He couldn't punch a sempai!
"I should explain that what the ghost just said is a reference to a story from ancient Greece by Pliny the Younger," Inui whispered.
"What?" Kaidoh yelped, jumping just a little, trying to keep both Inui and now-hovering ghost in sight.
Inui frowned. "It seems that you are not reacting as anticipated. You were meant to achieve a certain tranquillity. Instead you seem to be suffering from a heightened state of anxiety."
Kaidoh couldn't force out the admission that his anxiety was mostly being caused by Inui's warm arm around his shoulders and Inui's soft murmurs in his ear. Instead, the viper made a low, unhappy noise.
On the movie screen, the ghost popped up suddenly, its empty eye sockets staring. Someone screamed, maybe the heroine, but for a moment Kaidoh worried that it was him.
A light dawned in Inui's eyes—or maybe it was just the way the movie light glinted off his glasses. "I see," he said. "Ghost movies are not conducive to relaxation, at least not when the subject is Kaoru Kaidoh. I'll make a note of it in your data."
"Don't you put that in my data!" Kaidoh shouted. "I'm not scared!"
"Shhhhh!" Someone behind them hissed. "We're trying to enjoy the movie!"
Kaidoh slumped in his seat, and blowing a "pshhhhu," of his own.
He shivered as Inui leaned in again, but the data collector merely said, "I think I have enough data. There is a ninety-nine percent chance that the ghost will be defeated when the woman traps it in the grave, sealing it with her father's sword."
Behind them, someone groaned. "Thanks for spoiling the ending!"
Inui raised an eyebrow at them in the darkened theatre while Kaidoh rubbed his face. "There is a seventy-eight percent chance she will have to face the ghost again in a sequel," Inui offered. This didn't seem to make anyone any happier with him.
"Will you please be quiet?"
Kaidoh leapt to his feet, grabbed Inui's hand and tugged as the ghost made one last reach from the grave, its fingers dripping with blood. Kaidoh'd had enough.
"Kaidoh?" Inui said.
"Let's just go," Kaidoh grunted.
There were more mutterings of protest as the two slipped out; even ducking down, Inui was tall and blocked the view. "Sorry," he said.
"Let's hurry," Kaidoh suggested. By the time they were back outside, he let out another "pshhhhu," of relief. What a pain! Now if he could only get rid of Inui-sempai. He looked longingly at the sidewalk running into the night, lit by the streetlamps and fringed with dark, fragrant vegetation.
"I see you still want to run," Inui noted.
Kaidoh briefly shut his eyes. It was great that Inui was so observant—but only when he used it against Seigaku's opponents. Right now, it was just irritating.
"I made your training run twice as long yesterday to help you get it out of your system. It looks as though I made a miscalculation. But really Kaidoh, you shouldn't run any more tonight. Your legs will be very sore tomorrow."
The path called to Kaidoh in a siren's song. He itched to go, to run, to move. He glanced at Inui. "Pshhhhhu."
Inui shook his head, smiling. "You are frustrated, aren't you?" He took out a small notebook and jotted something down.
"Are you...putting that in my data?"
"Yes. Of course, this isn't the main notebook. That one's gotten rather big, so I didn't think I should take it into the movie theatre."
Kaidoh's jaw dropped. "You have a big notebook on me? What's in it?" he demanded.
"Your data, of course. If you would like to accompany me back to my house, I'll let you look through it," he offered. "We could even jog. It's a short way, so I don't think it will be too hard on your legs, and might allow you to release some nervous energy."
Kaidoh gave this some consideration. Inui was being too nosy tonight; Kaidoh probably wouldn't be able to make an escape. This way, at least he'd get some running in. Besides, he really was curious to see what Inui had written about him.
"All right," the viper said with a sigh.
The run was longer than Kaidoh anticipated, and even with his great conditioning, he was starting to tire.
"You can go on to my room; I'll get us drinks," Inui suggested, flipping on a light. No one else seemed to be home.
Kaidoh was about to protest when he realized this meant he'd be able to look through Inui's data without Inui there. "All right," he grunted, and ran.
"I guess you're not that tired, after all," Inui said with a smile, heading into the kitchen.
Books. Inui's room was full of them. And there was a computer as well, but it would be rude to turn on a sempai's computer and start browsing his files. Instead, Kaidoh looked around for his own notebook, which was left on the bed. Inui must have gone straight to the movie theatre after calling him, Kaidoh realized, and had failed to put the book away.
Scowling, Kaidoh grabbed the book and began flipping through. Each page was filled with Inui's meticulous notes. All of Kaidoh's stats were there, weight, height, eye-color and the usual, as well as notable habits of tennis play and details of matches. Kaidoh's head spun. His moves were all laid out in order, complete with the speed of each type of shot and on whom it was used.
"You have many excellent moves," Inui's voice said, and Kaidoh jumped, nearly fumbling the book. "I'm sorry I startled you."
"I wasn't startled!" Kaidoh snapped.
Inui smiled blandly, an expert at letting the viper's testiness roll off his back. Kaidoh hated to admit it, but he admired that. Inui-sempai never lost his cool. "Would you like some juice?" Inui offered.
Kaidoh stared at the frothing orange concoction in terror. His stomach roiled just looking at it. "No! Thank you," he added quickly. "I'm not thirsty."
"It has beneficial vitamin C in it," Inui said hopefully.
"No." Kaidoh twitched.
Inui's shoulders slumped. "Too bad."
Kaidoh shifted from one foot to the other. Inui was right; his legs were sore. Kaidoh frowned a little as he realized it.
Inui noticed right away. "Your left calf twitched. Did you remember to stretch earlier?"
"Of course I did!"
"Then I was right; I should not have allowed you to run from the theatre."
Kaidoh rose up on his tiptoes and sank back down. His calves were beginning to burn. Inui had put him on a very tough training schedule yesterday, and though it had felt really good at the time, he was paying for it now. "Will I be all right by tomorrow?" he mumbled.
Inui looked at Kaidoh's legs speculatively. "Lie down on my bed."
Kaidoh glared at Inui. "I don't want to."
"I know what I'm doing," Inui assured him.
Still not happy with the situation, Kaidoh hissed as he lay down.
"Roll onto your stomach."
Every hair on Kaidoh's head seemed to stand on end at the terrifying instruction. "No!" He was nearly out the door when Inui cleared his throat.
"If you don't do this, perhaps some juice will help. It would balance your electrolytes."
Kaidoh froze. "I'm not drinking any juice!"
"It's that or the bed," Inui told him.
Kaidoh turned and looked at him, his eyes wild. "Fine, then. Give me the juice."
Inui sighed. "I'm not going to hurt you. I'm only going to experiment with a deep muscle massage on your calves. It has a seventy-five percent chance of working," he added helpfully.
Kaidoh could see that he wasn't going to get out of this, so he reluctantly returned to the bed and lay down. One of Inui's hands curled around his ankle, and Kaidoh stiffened. "It shouldn't hurt," Inui told him. He began to massage Kaidoh's legs.
And then, Kaoru Kaidoh, master of the Boomerang Snake and the intimidating viper of Seigaku, was melting like butter.
That felt good. That felt great. Inui's hands were carefully and persistently working out all the knots in Kaidoh's legs. Each circular rub of his thumbs was a symphony of pleasure, each gentle finger movement a rolling wave of relief, lapping up against a shore of pain.
Kaidoh couldn't help himself. He groaned softly, and Inui made an amused noise. Kaidoh buried his head in Inui's blankets, hiding his furiously red face. That was not the sound of a viper! That was the sound of a kitten! He should be more stoic!
Inui traced a finger over the swell of Kaidoh's calf and Kaidoh gulped, trying hard not to make any more embarrassing sounds. One escaped despite his very best efforts when Inui continued to caress him. Inui quickly grabbed up his notebook and jotted something down in it.
"What did you just do?"
"Data," Inui said shortly.
Kaidoh could only imagine. 'Weakness: Purrs when you stroke his calf.'He tried to sit up. "What kind of data is that?"
Inui pushed him back down. "Never mind. I'll take it out if it upsets you that much. It isn't any use on the tennis court, anyway."
Kaidoh sighed with relief. He sighed again as Inui's hands resumed their ministrations. Seigaku had many fine points and was a great school, but it was seriously lacking in deep massage funding. It was too bad. He could get used to this. Then one of Inui's hands drifted up.
"What the—?" Kaidoh scrambled away.
Inui's face was a bit red. "Ah...after the workout I put you through the other day, I thought maybe your back would be sore as well."
"That wasn't my back!"
"Sorry. An accident, I assure you."
Kaidoh let himself be pushed back onto the bed, his heart racing. As Inui resumed the massage, Kaidoh's breath and heartbeat slowed. "Inui-sempai, your house is so quiet," he noted.
"Yes. My parents are gone tonight. It gets very quiet when I'm alone."
"And you don't get...scared?"
"What is there to be afraid of? Ghosts?"
Kaidoh stiffened. "I'm not afraid of ghosts!" he growled. "To be afraid of something so silly...that would be unreasonable."
"Don't worry, Kaidoh," Inui murmured. "Everyone has something they're unreasonable about. Sometimes even silly things."
Kaidoh shifted his shoulders, working out the tension. Inui-sempai understood.
"Well, this is the best I can do," Inui told him, finishing up. "Do you feel better?"
Kaidoh smiled. "Yes."
"Really?" Kaidoh wasn't sure if it was the 'yes' Inui was questioning, or if it was the smile, since Kaidoh did it so rarely.
"One hundred percent," he assured Inui wryly.
Inui smiled back. "I'm going to go pour these drinks out," he said. "I'll be right back."
Kaidoh relaxed. Inui hadn't been hitting on him, after all. Not that it would have been that bad. At least Kaidoh respected Inui-sempai. It would have been a lot worse to have some idiot like Momoshiro mooning over him. But it made no difference; no one was mooning over anyone. It wasn't like that. Kaidoh had just read the situation wrong.
He tried to tell himself he wasn't a little disappointed.
Stretching, Kaidoh's fingertips brushed something under the bed. He felt his finger run down the spine of a notebook and curiously pulled it out. The cover read, "Super Secret Kaoru Kaidoh Notes!"
So it hadn't been his real notebook! No wonder Inui was so relaxed about sharing his hard-won data! Burning with indignation, Kaidoh yanked open the book.
There were pictures this time. Of Kaidoh. With hearts around some of them. One was a close-up of Kaidoh glowering at whoever was holding the camera—probably that reporter woman who was always hanging around the courts. A note under it read, 'This is Kaidoh's scary face, but I think it's at least forty percent cute.'
It was in Inui's handwriting, too. Definitely Inui's precise handwriting. Kaidoh couldn't believe his sempai would do something so silly! Inui's earlier comment returned to him; Everyone has something they're unreasonable about. Sometimes even silly things. Was he really Inui's 'silly thing?' It couldn't be possible.
Footsteps sounded on the stairs, and Kaidoh thrust the book back under the bed. By the time Inui appeared in the doorway, Kaidoh was on his feet, blushing.
"I should go!"
"All right," Inui said. "Next time I give you that hard a work out, I'll be sure to set aside time for a massage as well," he told Kaidoh as he walked him to the front door.
It was the perfect opportunity for the viper to show his fangs and say no way, but somehow what came out of Kaidoh's mouth was a terse, "Sounds good."
Inui rewarded him with a smile. Kaidoh reflected that it was a much better prize than any kind of Inui Juice. Really, maybe Inui having a crush on him wasn't such a bad thing, after all.
"We should see another movie sometime. Maybe the sequel, which has a ninety-two percent chance of coming out this fall."
Kaidoh swallowed. "Maybe."
Inui's glasses gleamed in their special, mad scientist sort of way. As Kaidoh turned away, he could swear he heard Inui mutter, "A second date with Kaidoh...ninety percent chance of success!"
Maybe Inui having a crush on him wasn't such a bad thing, after all. But that still didn't stop Kaidoh from running all the way home, sore legs or no sore legs.