Disclaimer: I own very little.
"What's wrong with Eiji-senpai?" Echizen asked, adjusting his cap. "He seems kind of out of sorts."
"Huh?" Momo seemed puzzled, glancing at the red-haired player. "I didn't notice anything out of the ordinary."
"It seems your intuition doesn't work for such things," Fuji said behind them. "Eiji is indeed quite preoccupied."
"Why's that?" Echizen asked. "It takes a lot to upset him."
"I'd say there's a 97 probability it's because of one of the matches against Shitenhouji," Inui stated, joining them with Kaidoh not far behind. They were apparently also done with their practice match for now.
"Why?" Kaidoh asked, apparently just as puzzled as Momoshiro and Echizen. "Because Fuji-senpai lost? Or because Kawamura-senpai got hurt while playing?"
"No, that's not it," Fuji said seriously. "In fact, I think it was your match that bothers him, Momo and Kaidoh."
"Ours?" Momo's eyes widened. "But why? We won!"
"It's neither your playing nor the result of the match that upset Eiji," Fuji told him. "It's your attitude during the match that did it."
"So that's it," Echizen said suddenly, apparently realizing something while the second years were still confused. "I thought it was just my imagination, but he has also been avoiding Oishi-senpai."
"Oishi-senpai upset him?" Kaidoh asked, only for Inui to shake his head. "Then why is that?"
"Think about it, Kaidoh-senpai," Echizen said. "Aside from the masks, what was the part of your match that attracted most attention?"
"Those two idiots," Momo snorted. "From the moment they first came into sight, they didn't stop their idiotic act for a moment. They were purposefully trying to make us awkward with their gay –" Suddenly, Momo froze, staring at Echizen. "Wait – you don't mean –"
"Exactly," Fuji said. "After seeing your homophobic attitude, Eiji is convinced you will hate him."
"But then – Eiji-senpai and Oishi-senpai –" Kaidoh seemed unable to finish his sentence. As both Fuji and Inui nodded solemnly, his eyes widened. "Oh."
"But – but –" It seemed Momo's brain was unable to process the information. "But they aren't freaks!" he finally blurted out in protest, glaring at the others.
"Of course not," Inui replied. "Although Eiji's frequent eccentrics make for a 57 chance an outsider will consider him a freak – the other 43 will think he's merely cute – the chances of another Seigaku regular actually thinking so, teasing aside, are about 12."
"It seems Momo has received some mistaken information," Fuji mused. "Look, Momo, liking boys does not make you a freak. If you are born that way, you can't help it. Just look at Oishi and Eiji. You've never found anything wrong with them before, so why should that change upon this revelation in any way?"
"It's – it's not that!" Momo exclaimed. "Oishi-senpai and Eiji-senpai – I have nothing against them! Those two we played with, though, were just freaky!"
"Of course they were. That is their tactic," Fuji pointed out. "However, not all gay people are freaky perverts. Eiji and Oishi are a prime example of this."
Kaidoh hissed. "Whatever. I still don't understand why Eiji-senpai is so upset. He can be as gay as he wants for all I care. Why'd he think otherwise?"
"Well, you seemed pretty freaked out during the match," Echizen said. "Now Kikumaru-senpai probably thinks that if you figure out his relationship with Oishi-senpai, you'll freak out again."
"I didn't freak out because they were gay!" Kaidoh spat. "I just don't want random perverts pawing my ass!"
"Mamushi's right for once," Momo admitted grudgingly. "The fact they were gay wasn't the problem, but rather how they acted about it!"
"Well, if there's no problem," Fuji's smile was considerably less threatening now, "all that is left to do is to somehow prove to Eiji you won't hate him. Simply telling him probably wouldn't be enough; he'd just think we put you up to it or something."
"How do we do that?" asked Momo. "The only way to prove that would be to be clearly accepting of some openly gay people, but there aren't many of those around. There aren't many of those at all."
"I may have a solution." Everybody turned to look at Inui. "If we manage to pull it off, the chances of succeeding in our mission are 97."
"Really?" Momo looked curious. "What is it, Inui-senpai?"
"I've been thinking of this for a while now, and I believe the odds are currently as much in my favour as they are ever going to get," the data player said seriously. Turning towards Kaidoh, he said, very seriously, "Kaidoh Kaoru, I like you. Would you consider going out with me on a date, perhaps even today if we can fit it into your practice schedule?"
There was a moment of absolute silence during which Inui stared at Kaidoh and everybody else stared at Inui. Then, wide-eyed, Kaidoh hissed a bit before spinning around and running away as fast as he could.
"Well, there went that plan," Inui sighed, looking after Kaidoh. "Then again, the chances of him accepting were about 7. The chances of freaking out were about 67, the last 26 being that he would get mad at me."
"Didn't you say the odds were in your favour?" Fuji asked as nobody else seemed about to speak. "Or are you saying you wanted him to freak out?"
"The odds were indeed favourable," Inui said. "Most of the time, the chances of acceptance are about 4."
"Um… Inui-senpai?" Momo asked, finally recovering from his shock. "Just now… Did you mean what you said?"
"Of course," Inui replied. "I would never joke about something like that. Why do you ask?"
"If that's so," Momo said seriously, "go and run after him or you'll regret it. You can't let him go with just that. You just can't!"
"Listen to him, Inui," Fuji advised gently as Inui seemed startled at the sudden suggestion. "Sometimes a rival sees things better than a doubles partner."
Inui hesitated another moment, then nodded with a determined expression. A moment later, he was already chasing after Kaidoh.
"Interesting," Echizen said with a bored tone. "Apparently even Inui-senpai can be surprising sometimes."
"Momo?" Fuji asked with a smile. "What do you think Inui's chances of success are if he catches up with Kaidoh?" He wasn't the least bit bored.
"I'm not a data man like Inui-senpai," Momo replied, grinning, "but guessing by what I know of my rival… I'd say about 95."
Fuji nodded in agreement. "Ah, young love…"
Kaidoh finally paused, looking behind him. It seemed nobody had followed him. This was a relief, if not the tiniest bit disappointing. Inui-senpai didn't usually give up so easily – one of the reasons Kaidoh respected him so much. He should have chased him.
Then again, why bother just for a joke?
A joke. That's what it had to be. After all, there was no way Inui-senpai could be interested in him like that. The data player had simply played off the given situation to satisfy his twisted sense of humour. By freaking out and running away Kaidoh had only managed to ensure his senpai's amusement, the fool he was.
He couldn't help but feel a little disappointed, though. Well, not even a little. Although he knew it had been foolish to actually believe Inui-senpai for a moment, well… it had been nice to hope, if only for a little while. Too bad the hope was over now.
He was a fool indeed to be hopeful about a twisted joke.
Kaidoh tensed, sensing somebody's eyes on him. Not daring to hope for Inui-senpai, he called out, "Who's there?"
"Kaidoh." Well, apparently it was a day of wonders. Not only had Inui-senpai actually followed him, but for some reason the taller boy didn't even look amused at the success of his own joke.
"Inui-senpai," Kaidoh said. He didn't trust himself to say anything else without making an even greater fool of himself in front of the other boy.
"Kaidoh," Inui-senpai repeated, walking closer to him. "Kaidoh, why did you run away from me?"
Hissing, Kaidoh frowned. As though it wasn't obvious enough! "I don't like such jokes, Inui-senpai, especially not when they are directed at me."
"Jokes?" Inui looked almost shocked. "Did you – did you think it was a joke?"
"What else could it be?" asked Kaidoh sharply. "Suddenly asking something like that after the conversation we had just had; it was quite obviously a joke!"
"It was not." Inui was perfectly serious. "Do you really think I would joke about such a matter?"
"I don't know, Inui-senpai," the younger boy replied. "Your sense of humour is certainly twisted enough, and you seem to enjoy embarrassing me."
"That I do," Inui admitted. "However, I would not play with anyone's feelings in such a way, and definitely not yours." He looked very seriously at the other boy. "Kaidoh, I really like you. This isn't a lie, a joke, or some strange scheme. It's simply how I feel about you."
Kaidoh looked closely at the older boy, trying to find some kind of a hint as to whether this was true. As far as he could tell without removing the glasses – and Kaidoh was, quite probably, the best at reading Inui out of all the people he knew – Inui-senpai was indeed being honest. And, apparently, rather anxious as well.
After a long moment of silence, Inui spoke again. "Kaidoh? Why aren't you saying anything?"
"I – I don't know what to say, senpai." Kaidoh turned his gaze away from the data player's face.
"An answer would be nice," was the response. "And – and I'd like to know whether you hate me now."
"I could never hate you, Inui-senpai!" Kaidoh blurted out before he could even think of a response, turning his gaze back towards Inui out of pure shock. Then he asked, "An answer to what?"
"You already gave me the most important one, I believe," Inui replied, smiling. The anxiety he had shown earlier did not disappear, but it did fade significantly. "You could, though, also answer my earlier question as of whether you would go out with me on a date."
Kaidoh looked at the taller boy. "It's not a joke?"
"I don't joke about such things, Kaidoh."
Still suspicious, Kaidoh continued despite the earlier assurances, "Not a scheme? A lie? A new way to gather data about me?"
"There are many things I would do to gather data," Inui replied. "Risking our friendship and toying with your feelings are not among those."
For yet another while Kaidoh looked intently at Inui. Finally, though, he nodded. "I accept, Inui-senpai."
"Great." Inui smiled, then asked, "Do you like me, too, or are you only doing this to convince Kikumaru you don't hate him? Either way is fine with me, but I'd rather know in advance so as not to get disappointed."
"Inui-senpai," Kaidoh said seriously, "I'd never treat your feelings so lightly. I'm agreeing to go on a date –" as he said this, he blushed a bit, but amazingly enough didn't stagger on his words, "—with you because I want to, not to use your affection as a means to an end."
"I was 97 sure a positive answer would be due to that, given your personality," Inui said, nodding in satisfaction. "It's one of the reasons I like you, Kaidoh – you don't use other people."
"Senpai?" Kaidoh asked quietly. "When you asked me… What were, by your calculations, the odds for a positive answer?"
"Not being sure of your feelings, I had estimated the chance to be around 7," came the calm response.
Kaidoh's eyes widened. "So little?" he breathed. "And to think I assumed you knew about my feelings and were using them as a base for your joke!"
"Once again, Kaidoh – I would never make a joke out of your genuine feelings," Inui reassured him. "There are limits even to my cruelty, after all. Now, come on. If we hurry, we'll make it before the practice ends for today and we are in even greater trouble."
Blinking, Kaidoh realized just what they had run away from. With a startled hiss, he turned to run back to the school.
Inui was not really surprised as a hand gently tugged at him to come along as Kaidoh ran passed him.
"Where are Inui and Kaidoh?" Oishi asked, glancing around. "They didn't have any running scheduled for today, did they?"
"I believe I can explain," Fuji said smoothly. "You see, Inui happened to, well, ask Kaidoh out. On a date, that is. Kaidoh probably thought he was joking and ran away, so Inui chased after him."
"On a date, nya?" Eiji echoed. "Do you mean Inui…"
"Likes Mamushi? Yep," Momo replied with a grin. "And if I'm correct, Kaidoh likes him right back. Too bad for Inui-senpai the bastard will probably never admit it."
"Nyaa, that's great!" Eiji exclaimed. "Yay for Inui and Kaidoh!" Without a moment's hesitation he leapt forward to hug Oishi. "Isn't that just great, Oishi? Let's hope they get together!"
"Um, right," Oishi replied, a bit embarrassed. "Yes, it's great."
"It's nice to see you being so energetic, Eiji," Fuji said with a genuine smile. "You've seemed kind of down lately."
"Ah, that's right, that's right," Momo said excitedly. "What changed your mood so much, Eiji-senpai? You can't be that happy just because somebody actually likes Mamushi!"
"It's not that, nya," Eiji giggled. "I've just realized again just how great guys we have here in Seigaku!" Hugging his doubles partner a bit tighter, he added, "Like my very own Oishi, nyaaa!"
"Eiji, stop that," Oishi pleaded with an embarrassed flush while the others just laughed. "I feel like a teddy bear."
"Well, you are like one," Eiji replied cheerfully. "Nice, huggable, and never says a bad word about anyone – isn't that my Oishi-bear?"
"I recommend you give up, Oishi," Fuji said at the embarrassed vice-captain. "It's a losing battle, if not already lost."
"Fortunately," Oishi chuckled, "this is one battle I really don't mind losing." He then flushed a bit more, Eiji's delighted purr just making the others laugh more.
"Now, I'm used to things going weird whenever I leave for half a day," Tezuka said with a slightly pained voice. "However, would anybody care to explain exactly why Oishi is apparently permanently blushing, Kikumaru is trying to get Inui to wear a 'Gay Pride' t-shirt, and Kaidoh seems about to murder both Kikumaru and Momoshiro once he can decide which one to kill first – if Momoshiro doesn't die of laughter first?"
"That, my dear Tezuka," Fuji said with a brilliant smile, "is something you are probably better off not knowing."
The captain glanced to where Oishi, still blushing, had proceeded to dragging Eiji away from Inui while the data player tried to talk the flushed Kaidoh out of homicide, Momoshiro's continuous laughter apparently not helping the case. "Yes," he said, "I think that might be the case."