and just like this, we're falling, our only wish to reunite
When Seiichi takes the #1 men's title, Renji is in a classroom, teaching literature. He doesn't even know until the next day, when he flips a page of the newspaper and Seiichi's face is staring up at him, smile still sharp and dangerous.
Renji had always imagined that he'd be there when Seiichi finally won it all, and this is one of the few things he regrets.
Genichirou calls him the day after he receives his invitation and asks if he is going to the class reunion. I don't know, Renji honestly answers. It's a long trip. Will you be there?
There is a pause, and then, Genichirou says, yes. Akaya e-mailed me. He's contacted the rest of the old regulars, and they're all stopping by this year. Renji recalls the surprise he felt when he saw the name Kirihara Akaya in his inbox almost a month ago, the many drafts of a reply he had written and subsequently erased, the indecision and turmoil that had plagued him for days and threatened to filter into his job.
Renji knows he is trapped. He can say no now, and Genichirou won't pressure him, and if he's lucky, Genichirou won't even tell Akaya. But Renji cannot handle walking into his office (or his home, even) months from now to find Akaya waiting for him, wanting to know why he was not at the reunion. He is too old to deal with Akaya, and Renji has no answers he can give to Akaya when Akaya asks why.
Genichirou insists for Renji to stay with him, and Renji obliges. Genichirou has not changed, fundamentally. Still those same broad shoulders, that same strong face, and Renji can still see the power flowing underneath his skin. He's kept up with Genichirou, even managed to catch a few of Genichirou's matches on tv, and Genichirou owns the ring the same way he once owned the tennis court.
Seiichi had wanted both of them to go with him into the pros. Genichirou had declined regretfully, saying he could not abandon his family, and Renji had declined because he was afraid. He was, fundamentally, a doubles player, always had been, and there was no room for doubles in professional tennis. He had given tennis up when he could no longer play doubles with Sadaharu, and Renji had only continued after he moved because he wanted the opportunity to see Sadaharu again, now that he had ruined their friendship and could no longer just go. Then, he had met Seiichi, and Seiichi had been his reason to continue in tennis.
But there is no place for Renji in the world of professional tennis, and Renji would not ask Seiichi to make room for him. He knows he is not good enough to remain by Seiichi's side in tennis, and Renji has dreamed of scrolls and classrooms for years.
After graduation, Genichirou stayed at Rikkai, Renji went to Toudai, and Seiichi left for the world.
Akaya spots them when they finish registering, and he yells, Sanada-san! Yanagi-san!, waving at them frantically. They are not the first there. Jackal is sitting with a woman who is introduced as his wife, and Marui comes in from the refreshment table a few moments later, plate laden with food. Niou and Yagyuu show up together soon enough, and Renji still knows them well enough to know that they've switched. The whole experience is terribly nostalgic already, and Renji is afraid to see Seiichi.
Everyone falls silent when Seiichi arrives. He's been everywhere lately, on billboards and tv and in magazines, and everyone still remembers him from their high school days, the boy who led his tennis team to six straight national victories. Akaya yells Buchou!, and Seiichi looks over at them and smiles. The silence is broken, and Seiichi walks over to them amidst fervent whispers and glances.
The first thing that strikes Renji is how good Seiichi still looks. He is still that same boy Renji fell in love with, wavy dark hair, unspeakably intense eyes, lethality cloaked in velvet, and Renji has forgotten all of this. When Seiichi turns his gaze onto him, Renji wants to turn away, because he has never been able to withstand Seiichi's gaze.
Renji, Seiichi says, soft silk of a voice, and Renji remembers the feeling of it in his fingers, Seiichi's lips over his, the strength of Seiichi's hands on his back, and he has forgotten. It has been a long time, and now that Renji remembers, he wants it again.
It is late when the events for the night end. Renji follows Seiichi up to the bar, and Seiichi waits for him to get his drink. There is an uneasy truce between them. As they walk back, Renji says, quietly, I'm really happy for you.
Seiichi turns to look at him, eyes dark, and he says, are you really?, and it hurts Renji that Seiichi even asks that. He doesn't answer that question, just replies, not being there when you won is one of the few things I regret.
Seiichi is quiet, and then he asks, what else do you regret? Renji knows what Seiichi does not ask, and he says, what happened then. Seiichi is silent again, and finally, he says, you aren't the only one.
He looks at Renji and says, but I'm not ready, not right now. Come visit me at the U.S. Open. We'll figure it out then.
Renji knows Seiichi well enough to know that even though this isn't a guarantee of anything, it's a promise, and that's okay. That's enough. Renji knows Seiichi, knows the taste of his skin at midnight, the glitter of his smile in the sunlight, the sharp arch of his back in the moonlight, and it will be okay.