Disclaimer: I don't own Prince of Tennis. Written for Gottis-chan for Santa Smex 2007.

-

Kirihara was in the midst of enjoying the most pleasant dream. He was painting the tennis court red with his opponent's blood, making him crumple to his knees, eyes wide open and unfocused, unseeing. It was culminating at the best part -- bloodstained victory -- when a hand began to shake his shoulder, jerking him awake. His eyes were bleary as they opened, then closed. He murmured a grumpy "Go away, Mom!" at the perpetrator.

"End of the line, kid," said an unfamiliar voice.

"Buh?" Kirihara asked intelligently, eyes still squinting at the afternoon light. Where was he?

"End of the line, I said."

End of the line? What--

Kirihara jerked to attention, dream forgotten, eyes snapping open and searching out his surroundings. "Shit, I missed my stop!" Kirihara found himself and a tall, thin man dressed in the garb of a bus driver to be the only ones inside the bus. A glance out the windows only lent to remind the Rikkai third year captain that he was in unfamiliar territory.

Tokyo.

Kirihara brought a fist against the window and scowled, cursing under his breath. He'd meant to be early. Now who knew how late he'd be? "Mister, hey mister," he began, putting on a sheepish act. A flash of irritation crossed the driver's face. "Ahahaha, er, which way to... uh..." He pulled out a scrap of paper and handed it over. Several street intersections were scribbled across it, a makeshift map with labels, barely legible chickenscratch. One intersection was circled in red. "I'm going here." Kirihara pointed.

The driver took a glance and hooked his thumb over his shoulder. "That way a few kilometers."

Kirihara scowled. "Fuck."

He swore again when he pulled out his cell phone to check the time, but grudgingly grabbed his tennis bag as he stood.

Time to run.

Twenty minutes later the tennis courts came into view, and with them, a small cluster of three people off to the side.

"Three luncheons is barely worth this, Tezuka," drawled a lofty voice that Kirihara instantly recognized as he jogged closer. Kirihara stopped and squinted for a moment, his body wavering between sprinting or slowing down. In the end it chose the former. Off he ran, legs pumping like pistons.

A week earlier Fuji had called him, asking for a rematch. It was sudden, unanticipated. The sound of his soft voice was enough to make him twitch. However, Kirihara wasn't stupid enough to turn down a chance for payback for Kantou last year. Nevermind that he didn't know why the hell those two were with Fuji today. Perhaps that damn Seigaku "genius", in his overconfidence, invited them to come watch. Well. Kirihara would have to play his cards right and get matches out of them too. Maybe right after wasting Fuji on the court. The thought put a wild grin on his face that remained even as he reached the trio, two thirds of which he promptly decided were utter grumps who'd had something long and hard rammed up their asses for too long.

"Who told the child that being late is fashionable? Who, I ask!" Atobe rolled his eyes, arms crossed. "This is a waste of Ore-sama's time. Tezuka?" Tezuka eyed him, annoyance apparent, but remained silent. He flitted his gaze over to Fuji at his other side. Fuji was resting his racket on his shoulder. He was smiling.

"Child?" Kirihara's eyes narrowed and focused on Fuji, then Atobe. "So how big of a rat crawled up your ass and died, eh?" he snarled. "Must be huge."

Atobe glared. "Tezuka. Make that four luncheons."

With a sigh Tezuka shut his eyes and took a deep breath. "Fuji."

"Yes, Tezuka," replied Fuji pleasantly. To Kirihara he said, just as pleasantly, "Don't worry about being late. We entertained ourselves quite nicely."

Confused but still scowling, Kirihara snapped, "The hell are these two doing here?" Their presence was starting to unnerve him to the point of overriding any thoughts of playing any of them. It was too weird.

A long, exasperated sigh escaped Atobe as he pinched the bridge of his nose. "I've lost most of my respect for Rikkai for choosing a captain this brainless and uncouth."

"Excuse me but what the fuck--" Kirihara snapped. He cut himself off when he felt Fuji's hand on his shoulder.

"By the way, Kirihara-kun, I forgot to tell you earlier."

Two seconds away from biting Fuji's head off, Kirihara leveled a stony glare at Fuji. He shrugged the guy's hand off his shoulder. He had no interest in contracting rabies. "Forgot to tell me what?" A game was a game. Right?

Fuji's smile widened. "We're playing doubles against these two."

It took a moment or two to process. When it finally hit him, Kirihara's outrage echoed across the courts.

The match was over in twenty-five minutes

("Game and set won by Atobe-Tezuka, six games to three.")

Kirihara spent half the match bitching, and threatened no less than five times to lop Fuji's head off with his racket. Fuji had only laughed and told him to pretend the tennis ball was his head, if it would improve his concentration.

("This game was full of shit, Fuji-san, you hear me?"

"It was nice doubles practice."

"Fuck you!")

After Atobe and Tezuka quickly excused themselves from the courts post-match, Kirihara poked an angry finger in Fuji's chest and demanded an explanation for the stunt he'd pulled. Smiling a honeyed smile, Fuji stepped back away from him and waved over his shoulder as he turned to head off.

"Thanks for the game."

"You owe me a singles match!" Kirihara snarled.

"Ask nicely." Fuji's quip was met with a growl. Fuji ignored it.

"No. I will not ask 'nicely'--"

"Then no."

"Oh Fuji-kun!" A different voice.

Blinking, Kirihara stopped following after Fuji and turned in the direction of the voice, just in time to see Tachibana An come running up to them. She was waving, and looked frazzled, perhaps on a time constraint. The hell was she doing here? He seemed to be wondering that a lot today, he noted silently.

"Ah, you made it, An-san," said Fuji as she drew close. His arms wrapped around her waist and he bent down to plant a kiss on her forehead.

"But I'm late, aren't I? I missed the match and I so wanted to see you play and..." An trailed off, a light blush staining her cheeks.

"It's fine," Fuji asserted. "You had other things to attend to first, and we do have plans."

"How'd it go?" An gave a silly grin.

Kirihara twitched, annoyed at being ignored. "Hey!"

Finally, some acknowledgment, as An turned her head and smiled. "Oh hi, Kirihara-kun." Arms around Fuji, she gave a small wave. "How was the match?"

"Went just as planned." Fuji gave a soft laugh. Kirihara narrowed his eyes ferally.

It was at this point that Kirihara swore he'd make Fuji's life hell. The first step toward that: obtaining Tachibana An's phone number.

Obtaining Tachibana An's phone number seemed easy enough at first glance. Look up Tachibana in the phone directory, call each one up till he hit the right home, and boom. There we go. Seemed easy enough, until Kirihara pulled out the phone directory and discovered how many listings he'd have to go through.

Tachibana was a more popular family name than he anticipated. Three full pages of phone numbers suddenly seemed more daunting and tiresome than his attention span could handle.

But not all hope was lost. He had a beacon of hope in the form of another number.

"Yanagi-senpai?"

"Yes, Akaya?"

"I need a favor."

"...Yes, Akaya?"

"Do you keep rivals' phone numbers in your data stuff?"

"Akaya."

"Yeah, Yanagi-senpai?"

"Why."

"Uh. Because?"

"Akaya. That is not an acceptable answer."

"But it's an answer? Aha ha ha..."

"But not an acceptable one."

"But senpai..."

A sigh. "Whose number do you need and why?"

Several minutes later, after much debate that included, among other things, promising that it would be used for something more mature than prank calls, Kirihara finished writing the last digit of the Tachibana residence's phone number and set his pen down.

"Thanks, Yanagi-senpai. You're the greatest."

"You're welcome, Akaya," said Yanagi, sounding suspiciously amused.

"Oof," said An dismally, plopping onto Fuji's bed and lying back. Her eyes were shut, her arms were spread out, and she felt positively exhausted. A deep breath, followed by a groan. "Practice was such a bitch today. Asakura-san and Nishimoto-san, they're my doubles two pair, remember?"

Fuji took a seat next to her, legs crossed. "Yes, I remember. They're the ones who both like Ishida-san."

"Yeah." An turned her head and stuck out her tongue. "When they're not ogling him they usually get along. But not today. Ugh. Today they were at each other's throats and not even laps helped." A pause. "Grrrr."

A small smile played upon Fuji's lips. He laughed softly. "I see. Catfight, sounds like."

"Understatement. And then that one teacher? The music teacher, Rokudo-sensei..." She gave an unladylike snort.

"Was he watching the girls' practices again?" Fuji frowned.

"Yeah. Creep keeps trying to look up the girls' skirts, I swear." She rolled onto her side and tucked her legs up.

"Only you can never catch him in the act," Fuji filled in for her.

"Bingo."

"Hmm." Fuji's gaze drifted around his room until it fell on the box containing his new camera. The corners of his mouth quirked up into a smile. "Never say never."

Now that Kirihara had Tachibana An's number, the next step in his plan was obvious.

It took him just as long to get the number as it did to make the call. That is, between flipping open his cell phone and pressing the number buttons, and actually pressing 'Send'. For several minutes the number sat dialed but never sent. The screen was unlit. The digits were hard to read due to the backlight shutting off automatically.

Staring at those numbers, he took a good solid moment to clear his head. After last year, in spite of Senbatsu, this might be easier said than done. There was also her brother to consider. But being a persistent little bastard, all he had to do was not fuck up too much. He'd keep at it till...

Kirihara grinned and pressed 'Send'.

Time to worm his way in.

The room was dim.

Kirihara stood clutching a beating heart in his hand. He was laughing. Fuji had his hands over his chest, eyes clenched shut in pain. He looked like he couldn't breathe. A dark stain showed through beneath his fingers.

Kirihara gave a long, throaty cackle. His eyes were red as the blood covering his fingers.

The fingers gave the heart an experimental squeeze. Fuji jerked in phantom response.

Kirihara's eyes snapped open and he groaned, slapping his arm out to turn off that goddamn alarm clock. Damn, what a headache. But what a nice dream...

"Are you sure?" Fuji asked against An's neck. His lips were making an upward trail of kisses, their destination that sensitive spot just behind her ear.

Her nails dug a little deeper into the back of his shirt. She suppressed a sigh of pleasure at the feel of teeth on her earlobe. He couldn't see it, but she was blushing. Hesitant, as if warring with herself whether to tell him about her upcoming date with Kirihara, she finally allowed a small smile to play upon her lips.

"I'm sure."

"I'm telling you, An..." Kirihara drawled her name out, face stuck in a grin. "Arcade, then movie." Selective memory made him conveniently forget that the last two times they lost track of time and the lines took forever and... Nevermind. Who cared as long as they had fun.

"Buy tickets, then arcade, then movie," she countered. "This one's popular. We don't want our showtime to sell out."

"It won't." With a roll of his eyes he proceeded to drag her toward the arcade entrance. Or tried. An firmly stood her ground.

"It did last time, and it wasn't as popular a title as this one," she reasoned.

"That's still more walking," came his pouty grumble.

"Who's buying?" Her retort held a sing-song tone to it.

Scowling, Kirihara swore under his breath. This time it was her turn. They'd decided whoever paid would have the last say. "Fine!" Testy of his patience as it was, letting her have her way often proved beneficial for him in the end.

An immediately cheered up and planted a kiss on his cheek. "You're so cute sometimes."

"I'm not cute!" he cried, hand coming up to cover the offended cheek.

"Yes, you are." Taking him by the arm, she started leading the way. "Your denial says so. Did no one ever tell you not to argue with girls?"

Kirihara went tense and indignant. "Yeah and I ignored 'em!"

An had a disarming smile as she glanced back at him. "Too bad. You should have listened."

After five dates An invited him over. To put it more accurately, she snuck him in. Her brother was out with some friends, she promised. Less importantly, the parental units wouldn't be back till late. This would allow them an ample time slot of several hours, during which they could get up to who knows how much mischief.

Kirihara immediately agreed. He'd be fine so long as her stupid brother wasn't around.

He couldn't have been more wrong.

Upon his arrival An immediately led him into the den. She had a DVD in one hand and a bowl of hot popcorn in the other, fresh from the microwave in the kitchen. "Have a seat on the couch," she designated with a smile. She took a moment to set down the popcorn on the quaint little coffee table situated between the couch and the TV set before turning and heading for the latter. Taking advantage of the view as she crouched down to place the DVD in the player, Kirihara sat without so much as a smirk and began snacking on popcorn. An had nice legs and definite wiggle factor.

Occupying the seat next to him, she crossed her legs, held up the remote, and adjusted the volume. He slung his arm around her shoulders. Though she shifted her arm so his hand didn't hang directly in front of her bust, she otherwise seemed to have no objections.

"So what is it we're watching?" he asked skeptically, just in time for the menu screen to pop up.

"Shaun of the Dead." An kissed him on the cheek.

"...Never heard of it." His eyes narrowed at the screen. Whatever it was, thank goodness it gave off no vibes of the girly romantic shit his sister adored.

"It's a romantic comedy." He gave her a look that said, You must be on drugs. An laughed. "With zombies," she added. "Oh, you should have seen the look on your face when... when..." Unable to enunciate the remainder of her statement, she gave up and broke into a fit of giggles. "Sorry, sorry."

"You better be," he muttered, grinning. Zombies. Things were looking up.

The next hour and a half passed quickly. Though it left him mildly surprised that An didn't get all scared and clingy, Kirihara couldn't find that worthy of complaint. She laughed at the best parts. She felt warm in his arms. The occasional kisses during slow spots were also a nice touch.

Heh. Wait till Fuji found out his girlfriend was a cheater. The thought made Kirihara slither his tongue over his lips and give a silent cackle of premature satisfaction.

Once the credits began to roll, Kirihara set about nuzzling her neck, intent on seeing how far she'd let him take this. An's laugh was soft as she responded, smiling easily at the affectionate gesture. "Hold on, move a little."

He blinked. "Huh. Like how."

"Like this." She shifted in place and directed him likewise, taking the opportunity to take her seat in his lap, arms around his neck.

Kirihara grinned and slid his arm around her waist, tugging her close. An's kisses were slow, soft and experimental. She nibbled at his lip playfully, fusing her mouth to his when he moaned in response. Short, sweet kisses soon turned into longer, more drawn out kisses that quickly left both of them breathless. The kissing almost completely muffled the squeal she emitted upon feeling his hand clutch her breast, perhaps a bit too harshly or roughly from the way her frame tensed up.

She shifted in his lap -- a terrible idea, really, seeing as the underside of her thigh was situated directly over his growing erection. The resulting friction loosed a groan from him. Instinctively, he kissed her harder.

Palms pressing into his shoulders, waiting for the opportune moment to break for air, An straightened and leant back as far as possible, eyes wide. Her breathing was ragged, panting. "Get your hand off my boobs. Now."

Kirihara froze and stared, stunned at the order, not having the faintest what he'd done wrong. "But it was just--"

"Now." Her nostrils flared and An was now directing at him a monumental glare. When his hand remained clamped to her chest with no sign of movement, she hissed, "Move it or you get one cup crushed nuts."

A shiver shuddered through him at the threat, causing him to nearly choke on his breath. "Er, uh... damn, uh, aha ha ha... shit..."

It was then that Kirihara thought he heard the scraping of a lock coming from somewhere behind them, on the other side of the house. He blinked rapidly, flitting his gaze around frantically. The ferocity in An's expression slipped away to be replaced by sheer horror.

"Kippei..." Her brother's name came out like a high-pitched croak.

"Oh shit." Dread began to pool in his gut.

Sighing, An shut her eyes and bowed her head. "That's an understatement."

They were doomed.

The room was dim.

Kirihara stood clutching a beating heart in his hand. He was laughing. Fuji had his hands over his chest, eyes clenched shut in seeming pain. He looked like he couldn't breathe.

Kirihara gave a long, throaty cackle. His eyes were red as the blood covering his fingers.

The fingers were about to give the heart an experimental squeeze when Kirihara noticed that in actuality, Fuji was smiling. Laughing. Open-eyed.

Kirihara noted a strange, sucking pain lancing through his chest. He couldn't breathe. Rigid, he first took in Fuji's chest and the hands covering it, then glanced down to see the missing bloodstain slowly soaking up his own shirt.

"It's a smidge difficult to steal my girlfriend," Fuji's soft, silken voice teased, "when I never had one in the first place."

Kirihara coughed up blood in answer.

Kirihara's eyes snapped open and he groaned, slapping his arm out to turn off that goddamn alarm clock. Damn, what a headache. What a shitty dream.

Fuji reached over to adjust the position of his newest potted cactus on his windowsill before turning to An, seated on the edge of his bed. "Now, you were saying?"

She kicked her legs absently, and gave a small smile. "Week three with no Creep-sensei in sight," she offered, referring to the teacher they'd caught on camera leering inappropriately at the Fudomine girls' tennis club practices.

"Has it been that long already?" Fuji's voice feigned an incredulous tone that bordered on amusement. He hummed thoughtfully. "What about...?"

"Kirihara-kun?" she filled in, noting his hesitation in stating it outright. Fuji had waited so patiently for weeks and it was about time she give him her answer. Few would have been kind enough to bother. "That ended in a big, big mess. Um."

An thought back to that day weeks ago. She and Fuji had spent the day trying out some of his sister's recipes. Their baking escapades these days were grand, for lack of a better term. That particular day the Tachibana kitchen was quickly permeated by the delicious scent of Yumiko's trademark raspberry pie. Then the phone rang just as Fuji was removing the pie from the oven.

Fuji was a saint, she thought, now that she'd truly reflected on the ordeal.

"A mess, you say?" he asked, sitting down next to her. Once more, he remained vague. An intended to keep it vague.

"The details aren't important." She smiled, waving it off. "But I finally decided."

"Did you."

"Oh don't make me state the obvious."

"Then I will."

"Come on!" An laughed. "You're so--"

An never finished her statement, for Fuji chose then and there to press a firm, insistent kiss to her lips.

Meanwhile, in the Inui household, Inui smiled and scribbled something into a notebook.

First note to self: make an extra batch of juice for Fuji, as promised, thanking him for his cooperation with his bugged cactus.

Second note to self: notify Yanagi Renji that he lost the bet, and now owed him three thousand yen.