Disclaimer: I own very little.


Meddling


"Don't you think it's a bit quiet around here?"

As Oishi made his question the people nearby turned to look at him in confusion. They were in the middle of practice, and the courts were full of noise. Such a question was definitely out of place.

"Er… are you all right, Oishi?" Eiji asked cautiously. "Since, you know, it's really not quiet…"

"No, it is." Oishi stayed stubborn. "Something's missing here."

"Could it be Momo-senpai and Kaidou-senpai?" Echizen suggested, glancing towards the two second-years, both out of hearing range – and well away from each other. "They haven't fought even once today."

"Nyaa, that's right," Eiji said, frowning a bit. "What's wrong with Momo-chan and Kaidou?"

"You appear to be correct," Inui said, looking at his notebook. "This kind of behaviour is most peculiar. All day they have simply ignored each other."

"You have data on it?" Oishi asked. "Do you have any idea what might be the reason? Not that I want them to fight, of course," he hurried to say, "but… it just feels… wrong."

"Indeed." Inui adjusted his glasses. "Considering the way they look whenever they happen to see each other, their general mood and reactions… Taking into account… And this variable…" There was some busy mumbling and scribbling in the notebook. Finally, Inui raised his gaze at the other regulars. "I'd say there is an 83 percent chance they have broken up," he said.

"Ehhh?" Eiji's eyes flew wide. "Broken up?"

"Um… Inui-senpai?" Echizen said. "Wouldn't that mean they have been together at some point?"

Inui looked puzzled. "You mean you didn't know?" he asked, sounding honestly confused. "The likelihood that those two are dating has been over 90 percent for a while now. This incident only further confirms my suspicions."

"That is awful!" Oishi exclaimed, apparently already recovered from his shock. "Just think of what kind of emotional damage must have been done to the one who got left! And whatever reasons led the other to such a decision can't have been easy to handle, either – oh, we have to do something!"

"Oishi's at it already, nyaa," Eiji said, his eyes sparkling. "It's almost cute, the way he mothers everybody!"

"'Almost?'" Inui echoed. "You mean you do not find it cute?" He was already scribbling in his notebook again.

"I never said that, nyaa!" Eiji stuck his tongue out at Inui. "It's not Oishi and I that are the problem here, though. Momo and Kaidou are, so get data on them!"

"Ah, you are correct." Inui adjusted his glasses again. "Would you mind helping me a bit in this investigation, Kikumaru?"

"Sure!" Eiji exclaimed happily. "Just tell me what to do!"

"That is quite simple. I would like you to talk with Momoshiro and try to make him tell you what exactly happened. After that, if your attempt does not succeed or his response is lacking in vital details, I will question Kaidou in turn. Between the two of us we should be able to get the whole story out of them."

"Is it really that important?" muttered Echizen. "You really don't have a life of your own, Inui-senpai, to be spying on others like that."

"It is definitely important," Inui said seriously. "This means at least an approximately 37 percent decrease in both of their playing level. Such a loss is simply unacceptable. We have to find a solution to the situation, one way or another."

"Inui is definitely right," Oishi said. "We can't let this go on! They must both be hurting so badly…"

"Whatever." Echizen sighed, tugging at his cap. "I'm going back to practice." With this, he walked off.

"Nyaa, Ochibi's so cold!" Eiji exclaimed, pouting. "Isn't he, Oishi?"

"Perhaps a bit," the vice-captain replied with a slight smile, "but he's also right. We should all be getting back to practice." With this, he, too, turned to go.

Inui glanced at his watch. "Approximately 27 seconds," he said. As Eiji gave him a questioning gaze, he smirked. "Just wait and see."

Approximately 27 seconds later, they heard Oishi's voice. "Eiji! Momo! Go and get some practice cones from the equipment shed!"

Inui grinned. "It is fortunate, isn't it, that aside from being able to read the game our vice-captain is also quick to find excuses."

Even without Inui's prompting Eiji was, as usual, well aware of his doubles partner's train of thought. Therefore, he wasn't about to waste this perfect opportunity to get information from Momo.

"Hey, Momo?" Eiji grinned at the spiky-haired second-year as they headed towards the shed where extra equipment was stored. "Can I ask you a question?"

"Huh? Sure." Momo smiled at Eiji – not as enthusiastically as usually, the redhead noted. "What's it about?"

"Have you and Kaidou broken up?" Instead of answering, Momo flushed a bit. Eiji, correctly interpreting this as a yes, grinned. "Nyaa, I knew it! When? How? Why?"

Now, the smile was entirely away. "Mamushi left me yesterday."

"Why'd he do that, nyaa?" Eiji asked, cocking his head to the side. "What did you do, Momo?"

"How should I know? He never told me at the first place!" Momoshiro exclaimed. "He just said he'd got enough of me and it's over. I never expected him to do something like that, I never expected that of him!" He sounded genuinely hurt.

"Nyaa, maybe you can find out," the acrobat said, grinning. "Inui said he's going to talk with Kaidou. Maybe he can get Kaidou to tell what was wrong!"

Hope lit up Momo's eyes. Eiji couldn't blame him.

If anyone could find something out, it was Inui.


Cornering Kaidou alone was, for Inui, rather easy. The non-regulars tended to avoid the bandana-clad boy as much as possible and the regulars, who had learnt not to be afraid of him, knew better than to interfere with Inui. Besides, nobody suspected anything if Inui wanted to talk alone with Kaidou, what with the way they trained together.

Now, to the work.

"Kaidou? Would you mind telling me something?" As the younger boy made an agreeing sound, he asked, "Why exactly did you break up with Momoshiro?"

Kaidou's eyes flew wide. "What – how – who –"

"Just answer the question, if you would, Kaidou." Inui looked at him seriously.

"Why shouldn't I have?" Kaidou asked after a momentary pause, a light flush on his cheeks. "It's obvious the idiot was just toying with me, fsshuuu. I'm not about to accept that."

"How did you come to such a conclusion?" Inui asked, writing furiously in his notebook. "Did Momoshiro say something to indicate that, or are you simply interpreting his actions thus?"

"I'd think it's obvious, fsshuuu," came the response. "He only ever behaves when he wants something out of me. Otherwise it's all Mamushi, Mamushi until I lose my temper."

Inui nodded. "And have you considered this might be his way of attracting your attention?" he then asked. "After all, you don't much interact with him aside from fighting, yourself."

Kaidou glared at him. "If he can't find any other way, he's an idiot and deserves to be left alone," he muttered.

"Then, have you considered the fact that after your break-up, Momoshiro has no more tried to goad you into a fight?" Inui tapped his pen against the notebook. "I have the data right here. Not only has he been avoiding you, he also hasn't said anything about you to anyone else. If he truly did dislike or at least not care about you, there would be no logical reason for him to alter his behaviour."

"I don't care!" spat Kaidou. "I've got enough of Mamushi this and Mamushi that. If he truly cared like he claimed to do, he'd realise that it only annoys me."

Inui nodded slowly. "Ii data," he muttered.

After this, he asked nothing else.


"Huh?" Momo's eyes were very wide. "Mamushi thinks I don't care about him?"

"That pretty much sums it up, yes," Inui said, nodding. "According to my theory, you annoy him to get his attention, as it feels more natural to you than trying more positive methods to achieve the same goal." As Momo nodded a bit, looking somewhat embarrassed, the data player wrote something in his notebook. "Just as I expected. Now, Kaidou does not see your behaviour as such. The way he sees it, you try to pick fights simply to make him angry and hurt him as you don't really care about him or the way he feels. Only when you want something from him do you 'behave yourself', as Kaidou put it."

"That's not true, that's not true at all!" Momo said, shocked. "I'd never do that to anyone, least of all Mamushi! Why'd I want to hurt him? I like him, I really like him!"

"Kaidou, however, does not seem to understand that." Inui looked serious. "Most likely he expected your behaviour to change when you got together, whenever that was. As no immediate change was to be seen, he decided to give you some time. Now, however, his patience has worn out, and he's convinced you were never serious about liking him at the first place."

"Can't say I blame him, nyaaa," Eiji said, his hands linked behind his head. "If Oishi told me every day I look bad enough to scare little kids away and my tennis is stupid and I'm an idiot, I wouldn't want anything to do with him, either!"

"Eiji!" Oishi looked horrified. "I'd never say anything like that!"

"I know that," the redhead replied, sticking his tongue out. "Which is exactly why I like Oishi and not Momo, nyaa!"

"But I don't mean any of those things!" Momoshiro protested. "I never have!"

"And have you told that to Kaidou?" Oishi asked seriously.

Now, Momo fell silent.


Kaidou wiped sweat from his forehead. The practice was hard today. He tried his best not to think of whether it would be any easier or harder if he had not been avoiding Momoshiro.

Suddenly, there was a hand on his shoulder. He didn't even have to look at whoever it was. There were very few people who would have dared to do such a thing and only one who wouldn't announce himself first. "Don't touch me," he snapped, taking a step away from Momoshiro.

"Look, Kaidou, listen to me," the other second-year said, sounding determined. "I've got something to say."

Kaidou hissed. "I'm not interested," he spat, taking another step and then a third one, starting to walk away from Momoshiro.

"Kaidou!" exclaimed Momo after him. "Stop and listen to me for a while, Kaidou!"

Kaidou continued walking. "Give me one good reason to," he spat, not even looking back at Momoshiro. The other boy's exclamation had gained the others' attention but he didn't care. He was not interested in anything he idiot had to say, period.

"I love you, Kaoru."

These words, voiced loud and clear over the courts, made Kaidou freeze. Very, very slowly, the bandana-clad boy turned around to face Momoshiro in perfect silence. Momoshiro's words had made everyone fall quiet as though afraid to disturb the spell of the moment.

"You don't mean that," Kaidou said flatly. "That's just another one of your sick jokes."

"This is no joke." Momoshiro's voice and expression were both perfectly sincere. "I love you, Kaidou Kaoru. I'd never just play around with you. I respect you more than that, I respect you much more."

"Well, you don't fucking act like it." Kaidou was still glaring at him. "You're always trying to pick a fight with me, fsshuuu."

"Yes, because you're cute when you are angry." Momo grinned momentarily, then added, "Besides, you know I don't mean those things I say, you know I don't mean them at all!"

"How the Hell should I know that?" spat Kaidou. "It's all you've been telling me ever since we first met!"

"Yes, because I've liked you ever since we first met, you idiot Mamushi!" Momo snapped in return. "Why do you think I always paid so much attention to how much you trained and such? I liked you, and I hated you because it felt weird to like you, and now I no more hate you but I don't know how else to behave around you!"

"Well, the way you behave around everybody else would be a damn good start, fsshuuu," Kaidou said. "I'm sick and tired of everybody thinking the person who's supposed to be my boyfriend hates me most in the world!"

"Well, I just told you in front of the whole club I love you!" replied Momoshiro. "And just so everybody understands, I mean it, I really mean it. There, you happy now?"

Kaidou hissed. "You idiot," he said. "You just don't understand, do you?"

"Apologize!" Eiji shouted as Momo seemed somewhat confused. "Tell him you're sorry, nyaa! You're supposed to do that after you've made him angry!"

"Oh, right." Momoshiro grinned a bit, then turned serious again, taking a couple of steps towards Kaidou. Kaidou didn't back away. "I'm really, really sorry, Kaoru. I'll try my best to change my behaviour from now on. Will you please forgive me?"

Kaidou hissed, then glanced around at the expecting faces of the entire tennis club, and sighed. "I guess I have no choice, fsshuuu," he said. "Fine. You're an insufferable idiot, Momoshiro, but I guess that if somebody has to deal with your idiocy it could just as well be me."

"Great!" Now, Momo's grin was back to its usual brightness. "So, we're okay now, we're totally okay now?"

"I guess so." There was something vaguely resembling a smile on Kaidou's face. Horio could be heard screaming.

The entire club felt some invisible tension leaving them. There were grins all around, some amused, some teasing, some just genuinely happy that the problem had been solved. Soon, however, a loud voice alerted them all to the fact that they were, in fact, still in tennis practice.

"Kaidou! Momoshiro!" Tezuka shouted, frowning. "50 laps for unnecessary drama! This is a tennis club, not somewhere to clear out your love life!" Glaring at the others, he added, "And 20 laps to everybody else to remind you what you're supposed to be doing instead of watching their lover's spat!"

"At least Tezuka never changes, nyaa," Eiji chuckled as he started running along with the others. "What do you say, Oishi?"

"I say," Oishi replied, "that it's not the only thing that never changes." He nodded in front of them, where Momo and Kaidou were both trying to get past each other, at the same time fighting about whose fault the laps were. "I never thought I'd say this, but I'm sort of glad to hear them fighting again."

"As long as they don't break up again, nyaa." Eiji made a face. "It was sort of fun to watch them, but I don't want any more extra laps."

"Eiji," sighed Oishi. "It's not like that's our main reason to worry if they do break up!"

From ahead they heard Kaidou yelling, "I hate you, you idiot!"

"Feelings mutual, Mamushi!" replied Momoshiro.

"No, it isn't," Eiji said, shaking his head. "Our main worry should be whether they actually manage to be together for long enough that it can be counted as breaking up, nyaa…"