Disclaimer: I own very little.

A/N: This fic is 40.5-AU. Much though I love the new details, this was written before the book came out, so they obviously weren't included, and I'm not going to rewrite entire chapters due to new facts about ten percent of the fanbase ever bother to find out.

Nothing in Tennis

"Love means nothing in tennis, but in life, it is everything."

- Anonymous



It was with no little surprise that Akutsu found himself in high school.

Sure, he wasn't stupid. If he had been, he wouldn't have passed middle school in the first place, not with the amount of time he spent playing hooky instead of listening to the idiotic teachers. He was thus not surprised he had passed the entrance exams – what he didn't know, however, was exactly what had made him take the exams in the first place.

It couldn't be his mother, however much she had nagged – he wasn't exactly in the habit of listening to her, after all. He could not understand why she seemed so excited about it, either. Stupid woman. She certainly had better uses for her hard-earned money than his schooling, yet she seemed happy at the chance to waste more money on him. Well, fuck.

It certainly wasn't the fault of his teachers, either. They all seemed even more shocked than he was. After all, they'd spent years telling him he'd never amount to anything. He was a waste of space in the classroom according to them; to think that such a useless delinquent would be attending school voluntarily was unbelievable.

Well, fuck them. They were teachers, right? They were supposed to think of their students' future. Weren't they supposed to be happy that he was volunteering to sit through more mind-numbing torture also called classes? Even if he didn't know why, himself.

Fuck it, he'd show them all. No matter what they thought, he wasn't completely useless. He'd go to high school and pass his courses even if it was only to flip one at the stupid old geezers. Show he was smarter than them. Even if it would make Dan squeal.

Dan. Maybe there was his reason. Suddenly he recalled big brown eyes and a bright smile and an excited voice asking him which high schools he'd apply for desu, like there was never any doubt he would. And then the endless nagging when he had told he hadn't thought about it.

Fuck if he ever told the kid that, though. Gods knew the brat would never shut up.

He was going to get quite enough squeals as it was, just for starting the stupid school.

In the end he could have been more surprised, really. After all, he'd always been attracted to practically all girls. Of course, he preferred the pretty ones, but any who didn't make little kids have nightmares were good for flirting. It wasn't that much of a stretch to think that he would like pretty people who weren't even female.

Of course, at first he'd been somewhat confused. The ones he first found attractive all were of the "pretty boy" type, and for some time he thought it was their nigh-androgynous beauty that fascinated him. Then, however, he woke up to find his sheets sticky after a dream of Akutsu. If Akutsu could make him excited, Sengoku concluded, he was attracted to males without a doubt. There was nothing androgynous and definitely nothing even remotely feminine about Akutsu.

Thus, it was Akutsu in the end who made Sengoku come to the conclusion he was actually bisexual instead of completely straight. Not that he'd ever tell the other boy that, of course. Akutsu'd probably freak out and kill him or something.

He almost wanted to thank Akutsu for appearing in his dream, though. After all, this realization meant he had twice as many targets now.

Look out, both boys and girls. Your dreams are about to come true.

"Game, set, and match. Won by Yamabuki's Dan Taichi, 6 games to 3!"

Dan listened almost impassively as his victory was announced. It wasn't that he was uninterested in winning; even though it was but a small tournament, he took pride in his victory. However, at the moment his attention was elsewhere due to some… disturbing occurrences.

During the match he had, a couple of times, noticed something peculiar about the way the opponent returned his shots – or tried to return them, and failed. If he could figure out the reason, he might be able to utilize it and corporate it into a move. Also, given that he had data on all the most powerful special shots in the middle school tennis world, he was fairly sure such a move did not exist already. If he managed to analyze the pattern, he'd be the one to create it.

And this was exactly what bothered him about the possibility.

If he didn't imitate anyone else's moves, instead making up his own, there would be not data to base everything on. Instead, he would have to come up with his own data, experimenting and confirming and upgrading. It was somewhat fairer, he supposed, to work hard for your own moves instead of reaping the fruits of others' work, but still…

Dan wasn't used to it, quite simply. He wasn't used to leading, even if it was only himself who would follow. Retracing paths others had already opened was much easier, much more logical. If he ventured out on his own he'd have no idea of the outcome, no guarantee of success. Where before he'd always known he'd reach his goal if only he tried hard enough, if he started foolishly rethinking his tennis, the only result might be waste of his time and potential.

But if he only kept imitating others, he could never surpass those he imitated.

Perhaps it was indeed time to stop gathering data and start creating it.