Wow, my first ever Tango Pair! Okay…that's kind of a lie, but it is the first Tango Pair fic I've ever posted. It's probably the first ever fic I thought of that focused solely on them two though. Hope you all like it!
Disclaimer: Prince of Tennis belongs to Takeshi Konomi.
Summary: Sanada Genichirou had always been fascinated with time. When he is given the opportunity of a life-time to travel into the past, he jumps in enthusiastically, not realising that his actions could very well change his entire future.
Don't Play with Time
Chapter 1: Fascination with Time
"Kei-chan!" Sanada watched as the baker's daughter ran down the street, a tray of homemade muffins in her arms. "Kei-chan!"
"Slow down, Tohru-kun," a kind voice admonished, "or you'll drop those muffins your mother worked so hard to make."
The young girl blushed but slowed down none the less. Carefully placing the disposable tray upon the ground, she quickly shuffled back so that Kei-chan can receive her gifts. It was imperative that she was not too close to him; one should always keep their distance from a beggar because they were inevitably unhygienic.
"Do…do you like them," Tohru asked shyly as she played with her hair, "mother let me help this time."
Kei-chan's smile was warmer than sunlight and Tohru felt herself blush to the roots of her hair.
"Mou! Eat those later, Kei-chan!" a tiny boy protested from his place on the grass, "I want to hear the story!" His complaint was supported by many others who all sat in an arc precisely five feet away from an old man wrapped in rags.
"Patience, Akira-kun, there is still one more person we must wait for."
"Waaiiittt?" Akira moaned, "but I wanna hear the story noow!"
The ancient beggar ignored him and Sanada suddenly found himself staring into deep blue eyes.
Eep! He quickly ducked behind the wall, but he had already been spotted.
"Are you not coming to join us, Genichirou-kun?"
Sanada didn't reply, choosing to stay behind the wall instead. He was of a high-class family; he couldn't really be seen amongst normal children surrounding a beggar, even if the aforementioned beggar did tell wonderful stories.
"Sanada never joins anyone," Akira announced superiorly, "he thinks he's better than the rest of us."
Sanada frowned, it wasn't his fault that his father was a very successful manager in the Inventory. How would that stupid, stuck-up, spoilt brat feel if-
"Now now, Akira-kun, I'm sure he has his reasons," Kei-chan's clear voice cut through Sanada's musings. "Come and join us whenever you're ready, Genichirou-kun," the old man called before settling into a comfortable position in his tattered blanket.
Sanada didn't move from his place, even though it was a little difficult to balance on such slippery metal beams when he was in a crouch. He was hiding behind the twenty-something feet tall partition that surrounded his house, nearly sitting on the giant metal structures that acted as emergency fire escapes. It was at times like these that Sanada wished walls were
still built with bricks and plaster like they did fifty years ago, that way he could have just drilled a hole instead of climbing up slippery bars so he could look over the top.
"Now, has anyone heard about how I got kicked out of my father's house?"
There was a mixture of answers though it was clear everyone wanted to hear it, whether it be the first or sixth time it had been told. Sanada himself certainly remembers it as it was one of his favourites. The great thing about Kei-chan is that all of his stories were real, had occurred during Kei-chan's childhood. And the reason he became a beggar was one of the longest and most detailed.
Strangely, Kei-chan never spoke of his life after getting kicked out, though Sanada would not notice this until he was in his mid-teens. When he finally asked, his mother had replied that being a beggar was too boring to hold anyone's attention and thus Kei-chan didn't bother to reiterate it. Sanada wasn't so sure; Kei-chan had an amazing ability to turn the most mundane actions into riveting and entrancing tales. But he had never dared approach the old man, let alone ask him such an obviously personal question. Therefore, the reasons Kei-chan never expanded on his life's tales remained unknown.
"Well, a fair number of you have. Can anyone remember the reason?" This was another thing about Kei-chan Sanada loved, he never forgot his audience and always included them in the story telling in some way. What Sanada would give to be able to sit amongst them, showing off how much he remembered.
"Because you dropped the prized diamond in the pond," she said confidently. Sanada nearly snorted at how incorrect the answer was, but that would reveal that he was still listening and so he refrained.
There was a very specific reason as to why the story of Kei-chan's disownment became Sanada's favourite; it involved a man from the future.
The one existence that cannot be controlled. The workings behind time have eluded scientists for decades yet it was one of the world's first measurements.
No one can change time, until now.
Sanada waited nervously with all the others of the department, today was the day they announced the candidate for the trip, as well as the captain. For two years now they have managed to send inanimate objects and non-human animals back and forth through time and the generals have finally deemed it safe enough for humans to travel back.
About time, Sanada thought, it's only been a 100 per cent success rate so far.
"Oi, Sanada!" a clear, sincere voice cut through the air and Sanada nearly groaned out loud. Matsui, honest, open and lives his life out of a rulebook. Also one of those people who made sure that the department didn't send someone back into the past until they carried out the very last procedure as stated in their employment manuals.
Nevertheless, Matsui was a valued colleague, and it wouldn't do to aggravate him now, especially if he could very well be the captain of this mission. Because this was to be such a dangerous and complicated mission, the captain was to personally choose the team in order to avoid internal conflict. The captain himself was to be chosen from a probability machine that will statistically work out, according to abilities, who was the best person for the job.
"What do you think your chances are of getting captain, Sanada-san?" Matsui asked in his annoyingly polite voice when he reached him. Another thing that annoyed him about Matsui was that he knew if Matsui became captain, his own chances of being in the team will drop to zero.
"I don't know, the same as everyone else's I guess," Sanada replied noncommittally. In actual fact, he felt he had a very good chance. His leadership and field abilities were some of
the highest of the department, there were many people he was better than. However, Matsui was not one of those he knew he could defeat without effort. In fact, Matsui was probably as likely a candidate as himself.
"I think you'll get it to be honest," Matsui said as they walked along the corridor to the meeting hall where the announcement was to be made. "You've got the highest MC scores out of all of us."
"That's not the only thing they take into account," Sanada said, a slight frown marring his features. It wasn't like Matsui to be reserved. "You've got as good a chance as anybody."
"Oh they won't pick me," Matsui said with a smile, "I'm too clear-cut; they don't think I'll be able to make spontaneous decisions if an emergency came up."
Sanada wanted to agree, but something about Matsui's demeanour told him Matsui was disappointed that his reputation had blocked his chances. Matsui may be very textbook-like, but he was also verbally opinionated and so if he didn't get captain there was very little chance of him being in the crew. Besides, Sanada wasn't so sure that Matsui would not be able to think spontaneously when placed in such a situation.
The two were forced to end their conversation as they reached the meeting hall. Many hopefuls stood around wishing each other good luck, Sanada felt himself nodding his thanks to various people he passed. Matsui, having found his own friends, had headed off in a different direction, much to Sanada's relief, and Sanada was free to find a seat to hear the announcement.
Sanada chose a seat at the back, hidden beneath heavy shadows in hopes that no one would notice him. It wasn't that he was exactly anti-social, he was just feeling a tad bit too excited to be able to hold any decent conversation right now.
Not that any conversation would have lasted long; the director of their project stood up almost as soon as Sanada sat down. "Eh hem," the director said, tapping the thin microphone for attention, "eh hem!" The crowd quietened down and Sanada tried not to hold his breath as the director began the announcement.
"As you all know, the board of directors have finally come to a decision regarding the time travel team." A loud cheer ripped through the hall; it had been a long wait. "After endless analysis of each and every single one of you, the computer system has decided the following person to be the most likely candidate for a successful mission."
It was absolutely silent as everyone waited with baited breaths and jumpy hearts. Sanada felt himself tense up, this was it, this was what he's been working towards for so long.
Cheers and catcalls erupted from the hall as everyone clapped and cheered. Even though there were many people who had wanted the title of 'captain', none of them felt there was any bias in the judging. Sanada was, after all, one of the most reliable and resilient worker they have ever known and many of them would be honoured if they were chosen by him as part of the team.
Sanada, himself, could not remember ever feeling so relieved and elevated. One of his life's dreams was finally coming true. He was going to go into the past. He was going to travel through time.
The team was scheduled to leave in one week. Sanada took this time to visit his family. The journey itself should take no longer than a millisecond, and if all goes well the entire team will be back in exactly six months and a day. Provided everything goes well of course, there was also the possibility of them not returning for two or more years.
Theoretically, they could return in the blink of an eye, spending 6 months in the past and then returning the future with only a minute difference between their leaving and arriving.
However, because they were to give regular report, this suggestion was rejected. Not to mention it could create extremely hazardous health and safety risks.
Of course, the biggest problem in an experiment like this was obviously how they were going to affect their present by appearing in the past. Though they had promised their correspondent access to many items of the future, it was unanimously decided that they should try to keep as much information about future technology as possible a secret. Though if they somehow fail in that aspect it shouldn't have too much of an effect. Theywere only going back 60 years.
The week passed by in a blur; from being congratulated in every direction to preparing for the journey, Sanada barely found time to visit his favourite neighbour on the street. It was on the day of his departure, barely an hour before he was due to return to the Inventory, that he managed to escape from his loved ones and headed to the little alcove where an old beggar sat.
"Genichirou-kun," Kei-chan greeted with a gentle smile, exactly the way Sanada remembered him. "How have you been?"
"It's going great, thank you," Sanada nodded in return. He had been waiting for the opportunity to tell Kei-chan the news all week. "I'm due to leave on a 6-months assignment."
"Oh?" a gentle inquiry, Kei-chan was always so gentle and his voice so smooth. Watching Kei-chan speak was like looking at a feather flying in the breeze, dreading its fall when the wind slows down and becoming secretly elated as the breeze picks up, swirling the feather around and preventing it from hitting the ground.
"Yes," Sanada tugged out a few notes, he would be the strong wind that will push the feather higher than it had ever gone in the hope that it will not drop before his return. Kei-chan has long since passed the age where his health would start diminishing. "There is a chance that I won't be back for a year though." He drops the credit into the beggar's tin three feet away from its owner.
"Where are you going, Genichirou-kun?" the slow, melodic sound carried itself to Sanada's ears.
Kei-chan rose an eyebrow, "Back?"
One monosyllabic inquiry and Sanada couldn't hold it in anymore, he had always been fascinated with time. "Back, we're going back to the past. The Inventory's finally made a time machine." He struggled to hide the grin, it wouldn't do for his reputation to be grinning like an idiot, however long he's been hoping to see this day.
Kei-chan, on the other hand, had no qualms with smiling as he leaned back against the metallic structure he resided beside. "Genichirou-kun," Kei-chan said, looking up at him with beautiful blue eyes. As Sanada looked into them, he couldn't help notice the aged face that accompanied the twin jewels.
Time had not been kind to Kei-chan, his face was heavily wrinkled and he was abnormally thin. Despite the life with which he tells his story, it was truly a wonder that Kei-chan had lasted this long, even with such blatant health deteriorations.
Yet there was one thing Kei-chan managed to retain and that was his inner beauty, which shone through his eyes like starlight. Every time Sanada saw them he would almost forget to breathe and it was with this sensation that he waited for Kei-chan to continue. "Do you remember the reason I was kicked out of my father's house?"
"Of course," this time Sanada did smile, it was his favourite story after all. "You fell in love with the man from the future and ran after him when he was due to return to his own time."
Kei-chan nodded approvingly, and if it wasn't for the self-control that came with adulthood, Sanada would have preened with pride.
"I burst through the door just in time to see the ship disappear."
Something inside Sanada twisted, though he was not sure whether it was due to anger or sympathy…or perhaps a mixture of both. It had always irritated him; that the man who had managed to win Kei-chan's love abandoned him at such a critical moment in his life.
That little detail always managed to leave Sanada near speechless, what does one say to revelations like that?
Thankfully, Sanada was spared the need to respond by the beeping alarm on his belt. 20 minutes. He had to go.
Turning to Kei-chan, Sanada found the old man smile at him, bright eyes sparkled with the excitement Sanada himself was feeling. It was nearly time.
"I hope you have a pleasant journey, Genichirou-kun."
Sanada nodded in reply and rushed off, he had really only meant to stay for half an hour. The alarm was a caution signal.
In his hurried state, Sanada failed to notice Kei-chan's eyes following him until he had gone around the corner and out of sight.
"It's finally time, ah--n?"
The past was, to put it plainly, not really that different. They had landed just less than a decade before hover cars were invented but aside from that and the brick houses, most things were the same, or similar. The biggest difference was probably the use of fossil fuels. Sanada, along with the rest of his team, found it rather disorientating to see gas cookers being lit and fumes of smoke trailing behind buses. Not to mention the spacious and dangerous petrol stations.
"We will be there in ten minutes," their correspondent said from further up this giant length of a car. Sanada could barely remember its name when he first saw it; limousines had pretty much vanished with the appearance of drawn-carriages and the captain could easily see why. It was strange that people of the past found limousines, with their low seats and shallow ceilings, comfortable. Especially when compared to drawn-carriages which could rival the size of an old-fashioned caravan.
It was fortunate that the correspondent they found was so rich, Sanada was sure things would have been a lot more complicated and difficult otherwise. Though there had been a couple drastic changes between the 60 years of the past and the present, some things - such as the advantage of money - will never change.
"I do apologise for such short notice, by the way," their correspondent, an intelligent man of a rather short stature, said. "It was originally going to be next week but a contract between two very prestigious companies have just fallen through and that messed up a lot of my friends' schedules."
'It' referred to the party their correspondent, a Mr. J. Hatfield, was throwing that evening. And though the team did not run into any problems during the time travel, Sanada knew they were all tired from the journey.
"I hope you will all concede to join me though," Mr. Hatfield continued, "it will be an excellent opportunity for you to experience the life of your past first hand."
"I would be delighted to attended, Mr Hatfield, however, I believe my team is in need of rest." It would be rude to outright reject their host so easily, and it was true that the party would be a good opportunity for refined observation. Yet his team were truly drained and Sanada was sure no good will come from them all attending. The appearance of their captain should be enough to suffice for the first evening though.
"Of course, of course," Hatfield was nodding enthusiastically. "Though I daresay I may need to lend you a tuxedo. The formal wear of your time is going to set off every one of my security programs."
"That would be very much appreciated." With the way Hatfield was talking, one would think their team came from a different planet. Sanada wondered how they would all fare during their six months here.
The limousine soon stopped in front of a giant mansion the width of at least twenty tennis courts, Sanada was almost embarrassed with the way his team were all staring wide-eyed at the brick building.
By the time they all settled into their rooms, the first of the party guests had arrived.
Mr. Hatfield came bustling in about fifteen minutes later, ushering Sanada to another room in which contained a stylist and over twenty different tuxedos all in his size. In no time at all, he was dressed and ready, quietly following a maid towards the main ballroom which served as the centre of the party.
As he descended the giant staircase that adorned the entrance hall, Sanada desperately searched for Mr. Hatfield amongst the crowd. Being the host of the party, Mr. Hatfield had rushed off to tend to his other guests before Sanada had a chance to ask about the team's alias whilst they lived in the house. Thankfully, Hatfield found him before he had even stepped off the bottom of the staircase.
"Ah Sanada, there you are," Hatfield said, grabbing his arm and steering him towards the ballroom. "Come come, there's someone I'd like you to meet."
"Mr. Hatfield," the problem of their identity needed to be addressed before he was introduced to anyone. "About my purpose in this house…"
Hatfield turned to him, momentarily puzzled, until he understood the question being asked. "Ah yes, of course. Don't worry, as long as they know you are all my friends, no questions will be asked." Hatfield smiled reassuringly at him even as he pulled him towards a young man wearing a classic, form fitting, black tuxedo. "Now Sanada, come and meet Keigo Atobe."
At the mention of his name, Atobe turned around, bright blue eyes sparkling like icicles. Sanada felt his breath hitch and lodged in his throat. There, standing before him…was a younger version of Kei-chan.
--To be continued…
Wai! It's finished!! XD Tango Pair needs some love.
I actually wrote one of the scenes twice without realising (I thought the original one was meant to happen much further down the timeline for some reason). So there was a long tiring and difficult job of trying to incorporate both versions into one. -.-U
Edit: Thank you lupuslupin for pointing out my mistake. I thought I had deleted it but obviously didn't; this is what I get for only proofreading it once. Thanks again, and also thanks for reviewing.