Author: Stormy1x2 (travelingstorm)
Recipient: Written for draconnmalfoy
Title: Hashing it Out
Rating: PG
Notes: I tried to do a switch fic but I couldn't get a plot working right for me. I'm sorry. I hope you find this acceptable. ;; D1 is still a mystery pairing for me (I haven't had much experience with it) and so I hope my characterizations aren't too far off-base. Also, the original word count came to 2187, and so I had to do some chopping to make it almost fit. Sorry if this makes parts of it sound a bit...well, choppy. ;;;

o0o...o0o...o0o

Yagyuu prided himself on knowing his doubles partner well. After playing together for so long, training, practicing, using their skills and acting abilities to fool their opponents, he felt quite confident that there was very little he did not know regarding Niou Masaharu.

...Which was why Niou's current attitude was driving him 'round the bend.

Careful observances of Niou revealed a shift in his normally exuberant, arrogant, prank-playing nature. Paying attention to detail with such skill that it would have had Yanagi singing his praises, showed him that if he didn't know better, he'd actually start to wonder if Niou might be...depressed.

That couldn't be the problem, though. Could it? Yagyuu watched covertly as Niou returned a backhand to Jackal without comment, his eyes distant. It's almost as if he's playing on autopilot, Yagyuu thought. Even as he reached for a shot of his own against Marui, his mind continued to work through possible reasons for such a lackluster performance by such a naturally flamboyant personality.

He couldn't think of anything.

Even after the match and later, practice, had ended, Niou gave them all a brief smile and a quick, 'See ya,' before he disappeared. Without rigging the shower hot water faucets to cold, or covering the inner toilet lids with cling wrap. He just...left.

"That was Niou, right?" Kirihara muttered, shaking his head in amazement before beating on his locker to get it unstuck (again).

"I think so," Marui said, shrugging. "Hey, Yagyuu – any idea what's up?"

Yagyuu concentrated on folding his clothes neatly, setting them inside his bag to take home. This wasn't right. Niou should be standing over his shoulder, complaining about how long he was taking, and why on earth was he folding his clothes when he was just taking them home to throw them in the washer anyway?

"Guess that's a 'no'," Kirihara snickered. "I thought you two were glued to the hip, kinda like Buchou and his wi--"

"Finish that sentence, Akaya, and you will be running laps from now until practice begins tomorrow morning," Sanada said coldly, as he entered the locker room. Akaya eeped, eyes wide, and mimed zipping his mouth shut, even as Marui and Jackal hid their grins.

Yagyuu ignored them and closed his bag, reaching for his jacket. He paused as it was handed to him. "Fukou-buchou?"

"Handle Niou," Sanada told him curtly. "I do not want to see such distracted behavior tomorrow."

"...of course."

-----

Yagyuu strode briskly down the sidewalk, heading for Niou's house. He wasn't entirely certain what he was going to do or say when he got there, but he figured such things would work themselves out in time. He and Niou had never before lacked for something to say. They were able to talk to each other about everything.

...at least, they were. Yagyuu's pace slowed a bit as he rethought the general statement he'd always applied to their friendship. Whatever was going on with Niou was something he obviously felt he couldn't talk to Yagyuu about. What right did he have in going to Niou's house and demanding answers from him?

He came to a halt outside of the Niou residence and just stood there, looking up. Masaharu's bedroom window faced the street, and the light was on. Which didn't necessarily mean anything – he had a habit of forgetting to turn his lights off. Yagyuu squinted upwards, and was rewarded with the sight of Niou appearing in his window, reaching up to close the blinds.

Niou caught sight of him, and instead of the smirk Yagyuu had come to expect from his sarcastic partner, he gave him a frown, and quickly twitched the blinds shut.

Suddenly both angry and concerned, Yagyuu strode forward up the walkway, firmly knocking on the door, ringing the doorbell for good measure. Niou lived with his uncle, who rarely made it home before midnight, so he knew there was no one there to distract or keep from being involved.

Three minutes passed. Yagyuu's anger and concern were slowly turning into hurt. What had he done wrong? He cast his mind back over the last few days as he stood there, trying to pinpoint the source of this...whatever it was. Anger? Disappointment? Not for the first time, Yagyuu cursed his atrocious vision that kept him from seeing the finer details of Niou's face in the window. He rang the doorbell again.

Finally, he heard the sounds of Masaharu's stomping footsteps heading for the door, and he took a step back, bracing himself for a bout of the famous Niou temper. Niou had never turned it on him before, but after such a puzzling day, Yagyuu wasn't leaving anything to chance.

To his surprise though, the door opened partway, and Niou peered outward with a blank expression. "Whaddaya want, Yagyuu? It's late."

It's six-thirty, Yagyuu didn't say. "I want to know what's going on," he said, rather bluntly. Perhaps he and Niou had been switching too often – his normal sense of tact seemed to have abandoned him for the time-being. "What have I done to offend you so much?"

The look of complete stupefaction on Niou's face almost made him feel better. "What the hell are you talking about?"

Yagyuu gave him a mild glare. "I'm talking about the way you've been behaving today. You're playing abysmally, ignoring me, and Kirihara and Marui are probably asking Yanagi to calculate what the odds are that you've been replaced by a pod person!" He folded his arms, peering through thick lenses at his so-called best friend. "Even Sanada is concerned about you."

Niou raised an eyebrow.

"In his own way," Yagyuu amended.

"Uh-huh."

And that seemed to be all Niou had to say on the matter. Yagyuu waited, watching his friend carefully, waiting for him to say something, anything. Niou did nothing, save for staring him down casually. As though his words had meant nothing at all.

Hurt had completely taken over anger. Yagyuu lifted his chin, hoping the light refracting across his glasses would obscure the pain he knew had to be evident in his eyes. "Very well, Niou-san. I'll go."

With that, he turned to leave, his mind whirling. Had he just dissolved their partnership? So quickly? Hadn't it been only yesterday that they had been switching identities and playing pranks on the English department at school? Yagyuu couldn't think properly as he started to walk down the path. How could a friendship, the likes of which he thought he and Niou had shared, shatter so quickly? What on earth had gone wrong?

"Yagyuu!"

Niou's voice cut through the thoughts in his head. Yagyuu froze. He didn't turn around, but he did tilt his head to the side, indicating that he was listening.

"...come back here." Niou's voice was resigned, almost tired.

Yagyuu took a deep breath, and then let it out, forcing himself to relax. Obviously Niou had seen this was a bad idea. He turned around to face him, and saw the boy holding the door open, gesturing for him to come inside. With just a hint of trepidation, Yagyuu obeyed. Niou closed the door behind him.

Seating himself on the warn sofa in the family room, Yagyuu looked up at his partner. "Well?"

Niou looked...weary. Drawn, a bit hunched over, nothing like the Trickster he knew so well. Protective instincts seemed to surge through him, and Yagyuu half reached out to the other, wondering if..."Niou, did...is everyone all right?"

"Huh?" Apparently Yagyuu's guess wasn't accurate; Niou looked surprised. "Everyone's fine, Yagyuu. More or less."

"Well, then?" This was beginning to get frustrating.

Niou slumped in the recliner, propping his elbow on the armrest and cupping his chin in his hands. His eyes focused on Yagyuu almost fiercely. Yagyuu fought back the urge to shiver.

"Niou?"

"It'd be worth it," Niou said cryptically.

Yagyuu blinked, and then scowled. "What on earth is that supposed to mean?" He blamed the forcefulness of his words on Niou entirely. "For a minute you made me think you no longer wanted to be friends, much less doubles partners, and now you're making statements that make absolutely no sense! What's wrong with you?"

"Funny," Niou said vaguely. "That's exactly what he said."

That pulled Yagyuu up short. "Excuse me?"

"My uncle." Niou gave Yagyuu a thin, biting smile. "He kinda discovered a few things about me the other day. Unintentionally, I might add." Niou rubbed his face. "Did you know I like you?"

Yagyuu opened his mouth – and then shut it again. Liked him? "Er...how exactly do you mean?"

Niou barked out a sharp laugh, leaning his head back and staring at the ceiling. "Take a wild guess."

Oh dear. Yagyuu blinked as his mind raced, putting together all of the clues. Still reeling a bit from Niou's rather forward remarks, Yagyuu leaned forward a bit, trying to catch Niou's gaze. "I assume...your uncle does not, ah, approve?"

Niou rubbed his arm absently, still glaring up at the drywall. "I always said you were the clever one," he drawled.

Yagyuu took his glasses off and rubbed the bridge of his nose, trying to think. When he put his glasses back on, he saw Niou gazing at him with narrowed eyes.

"Well?"

"...well?"

Niou's eyes narrowed even further. "Don't even," he hissed.

Acting oblivious would probably not get them very far. "I...don't object to... well," Yagyuu hedged, and then gave up. "You really like me?"

"No, I just ask every golf-geek to be my partner." Niou scowled, sinking deeper into the recliner. "Look, if you wanna leave, you know where the fucking door is, yeah?"

"I'm not leaving," Yagyuu said calmly. "I admit, you caught me by surprise, but I'm hardly going to get angry over someone admitting they like me." A thought occurred to him. "How did your uncle find out?"

To his surprise, a faint blush stole across Niou's face. "Not important."

Okay. Apparently Yagyuu could wait to hear about that. "And today's...behaviour?"

Niou sighed. "My uncle...didn't take it well. He thinks I'm sick. I thought... maybe I am." His eyes darted back and forth before settling on Yagyuu again. "You're the brains of this tag team we have going on – you tell me."

"You certainly are not sick," Yagyuu said promptly. "Deranged, at times. Sarcastic to a fault. Intelligent, sometimes. But you are not sick."

Niou smiled faintly. "Can I get that in writing?" For a split second his guard dropped completely, and Yagyuu was taken aback at his friends intensity. "Yagyuu...tell me. I can take it."

Yagyuu was silent, gathering his words, trying to sort through his immediate feelings. "I...this comes as quite a surprise," he said finally. Niou nodded fractionally. "As I said, I do not object...but as for my personal feelings regarding you...well, I've never thought about it."

"Never?"

"Girls too," Yagyuu hastened to add. "Tennis – and before that, golf – has always been my primary focus." He cocked his head, considering. "I don't even know which gender I prefer, actually. I have always assumed girls."

"Maybe I can help with that," Niou said calmly, and Yagyuu looked up to see Niou swoop down and plant a gentle - yet firm – kiss on his lips, before backing off. "Well?"

I've just been drive-by kissed, Yagyuu thought numbly. A jumble of emotions warred within him, fighting to be heard, but one thing above all stood out in his mind: I didn't entirely dislike that.

"Yagyuu?"

"...I think perhaps further testing is required," Yagyuu said finally. "I can't make a final conclusion with only a single experience to draw on."

Niou cracked a grin. "I have to agree," he drawled.

Yagyuu blinked. "But, your uncle--"

"--is gone for the night, and I don't give a damn what he – or anyone - thinks." Niou stared hard at him. "Do you?"

"...Not as such, no," Yagyuu admitted dazedly. "But still--"

"Too much talking," Niou decided, and pressed his lips to Yagyuu's again.

Yagyuu decided further discussion could wait until later.

-----

End

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