Title: Wrong Place, Right Time
Rating: PG at very most.
Warnings: lots of making fun of Sanada. It's not bashing, it's more like mocking with love.
Prompt: - Prince of Tennis (Yanagi Renji/Kirihara Akaya): in the wrong place at the right time (claimed
Summary: Through shared lunches, practices and after-school lessons and Lao Tzu, Akaya tries to figure out Yanagi-senpai
A/N: Vague hints of other Rikkaidai pairings, (Yukimura/Sanada, Jackal/Bunta) though they can just as easily be read as being non-romantic/friendship. In fact they all came off as kind of friendshippy. Oh well
Great acts are made up of small deeds.
The first time he felt the hard edge of Sanada-fukubuchou's slap it was on his very first day as a regular. He'd been goofing off with Marui a little too much. Yukimura-buchou was off for tests, and for once Sanada-fukubucou couldn't be there to spend time with him. Maybe it'd been because he was feeling sore about that, or maybe because he was locking down on every little thing so he could go up and tell Yukimura-buchou what a good little boy he'd been. Either way, one minute Akaya had been laughing and the next he was being backhanded.
And there was that stupid robot, just jotting down details like it was nothing. His expression didn't even change.
Akaya kicked at the dust.
"What?" he said.
Yanagi leaned down and got something from his things. Akaya squinted. An ice pack.
"He hit you rather hard. Here."
Instead of giving it to him, he pressed it to his cheek, held it there. There was a contrast between the warmth of his hands and the coolness of the ice. It was wrapped in plastic and faintly wet, and the stupid fact that ice isn't supposed to be put to bare skin flits to his mind before Yanagi said it ad verbatum in that calm monotone of his.
All this time Yanagi's eyes were shuttered low, and Akaya couldn't read him at all. He hated when that happened and he had to keep guessing.
After that, he started tagging a 'senpai' to Yanagi's name instead of ignoring him entirely. Akaya figured he'd earned it.
Akaya leaned back and laughed, comfortable. So what if they were all older, he could take them. He could fight them all day long. He was glad it was lunch, though. English class always took so much out of him. He hated losing at anything, even stupid languages he didn't even use.
"I'm so hungry I could eat a cow. Whole. And raw," Marui moaned.
"Fff, yeah right. But what you really want is ice cream," Akaya said.
Marui's eyes grew sparkly at the mention.
"Ice cream..."he said dreamily.
"Dammit. I forgot my lunch."
"Don't even look at my share," Marui groused.
"Go hit up Jackal. That's what I always do. Look cute."
Akaya gave his best pouty face.
Marui turned his nose up in disgust and gave a pouting face that would make a kitten look uncute by comparison. Looking across, Jackal looked definitely moved, and not so moved by his pouting. In fact, he was so moved that he sidled over and Akaya knew it would be Doubles Time where Jackal would probably let Marui eat from his plate, if not feed it to him himself.
Akaya sighed and slumped off. If Yukimura-buchou were away from Sanada-fukubuchou he might've been able to beg something off him. As it was, Sanada-fukubuchou would probably make him run laps for even daring to look at his buchou's tray, with him healing and all. Sanada-fukubuchou was there, frowning at every bite Yukikura-buchou took in concern.
If Yukimura-buchou even stumbled a little, then Sanada-fukubuchou would be carrying him about all day, even if he protested. Sometimes Sanada-fukubuchou took that loyalty thing waay too far.
And trying to get something from Niou and Yagyuu wasn't such a great idea either. Who knew what those two could do? Make him beg like a dog? Put laxatives in the food they gave him? Or sneak Wasabi sauce into the Onigiri?
Akaya wasn't about to take a chance like that.
Yanagi-senpai sat all serene, like some Zen Garden or something. Akaya almost expected to hear the thunk of a bamboo water thing. What were those called anyways? And what was the used other than to be highly contemplative or something? His grandfather had one and he'd never liked the dumb thing. Akaya ran his hand through his curls in irritation.
He sat next to Yanagi-senpai. He wasn't going to slap, or poison him, at least. Yanagi-senpai might be a little weird with his calculations and constantly-closed eyes, but he wasn't dangerous. Not that Akaya ever feared anything, but even he had enough sense to know to not mock Sanada-fukubuchou to his face, to not get between Marui and his cake, to never play around with Niou or ever, ever underestimate Yukimura-buchou.
Yanagi-senpai brought out another Bento box. It was utterly plain. Cobolt blue with no particular design other than a faint lighter blue stripe at the sides. This put a damper on Niou's bet that somewhere Yanagi-senpai had a cutesy Bento box with pink butterflies, though it was possible that Marui was the one who owned said box.
"What, are you psychic or something?" Akaya said. Was that why his eyes were always closed, like he was sleepwalking through life? He was secretly reading all their thoughts?
"I always bring an extra lunch," Yanagi-senpai said. Stated, really, like it was the most normal thing in the world to bring another lunch just in case.
"But Jackal always makes sure Marui doesn't die of hunger and no one's ever going to let Yukimura-buchou down. Yagyuu always brings his and Niou would just filch someone else's."
"Yes, that's true," Yanagi-senpai said.
"So that only leaves me?"
Yanagi-senpai's face almost softened , but it wasn't really a true smile, per se.
"Yes, Kirihara, that leaves only you."
"Akaya," he said. "Only strangers call me by my surname."
"Akaya," Yanagi-senpai amended.
Akaya opened up with a bit of consternation. He bet Yanagi-senpai ate old people things like prune juice.
Inside was typical Onigiri with Umeboshi. It wasn't cutesy like some of the girl's stuff he'd seen, but plain. It didn't taste bad, though. Akaya snuck a glance at Yanagi-senpai. He ate with just as much order as he lived. There wasn't any spilled on his clothes or any rice at the corner of his mouth.
There was never anything out of order with Yanagi-senpai.
When Yanagi-senpai lost that first time, he just sat there and waited for the punishment. Akaya couldn't help but think that it felt wrong, like Yukimura-buchou getting slapped. They were this top triad, and he'd never seen Yanagi-senpai step out of line before. He was always early, always perfect in his shots and volleys. He never mocked Sanada-fukubuchou in the bathrooms which somehow got back to him which was probably was either Yagyuu or Niou's doing. Never called Sanada-fukubuchou a giant dork with a Yukimura-buchou obsession or muttered Tarundoru!! when he wasn't in earshot to make Marui laugh so hard that milk came out of his nose. He didn't draw dweeby mustaches on all the team photos either (though Niou helped with that one.)
So when Sanada-fukubuchou raised his hand, Akaya got up and raised his racket.
He smirked, like it was nothing and walked out with all the assurance that he'd win. Yanagi-senpai only lost because he was nostalgic, he'd never lose otherwise. His opponent was Fuji, who would prove an interesting match. He wanted to see if Fuji's genius reputation was as overrated as he thought it was.
Later on, still groggy from sleep, he woke up to Marui's face gaping down at him. He popped a pink bubble and poked Akaya's head.
"You fell asleep right on Fuji right on the court," he said.
"Whaaa." Akaya rubbed at his eyes. The light hurt.
"Right there on the court! Right in Fuji's arms!" Marui said again.
"That's enough, Marui," Yukimura-buchou said. "Go finish up with Jackal."
"Yes, buchou!" Marui said. He ran off, bubble popping as he went.
Yukimura nodded, smiled. He was really graceful.
"Renji wished to speak to you."
Yukimura-buchou stepped away, and Yanagi-senpai filled the place where he'd been. It was really fluid, like a perfect doubles move.
"Thank you for earlier."
Akaya looked down, he wasn't used to being thanked like that. It felt embarrassing.
"I did you a good turn so help me out here. I'm failing English."
Akaya wondered if this would set Yanagi-senpai off. He'd never actually seen Yanagi-senpai angry before, or even out of that surreally calm way of his. But it had to be there somewhere. If Akaya had learned anything, it was that everyone had a temper. And often, the seemingly calm ones were the ones who were the scariest when set off.
But Yanagi-senpai didn't even show the slightest irritation, not even a frown.
"Fair enough. Tomorrow after school."
He almost expected to see Yanagi-senpai to don something traditional, like a Yukata and maybe pull out an inkbrush and a abacus. In fact he had the whole anecdote to be told to Marui prepared he came out in traditional garb and looked like something from the history textbook. It was all I could do not to laugh.
But outside of his uniform, Yanagi-senpai dressed in a way that wasn't really noteworthy. It was classier than Akaya's jeans and t-shirt with a grass stain on the back, but it wasn't a three-piece suit or Yukata either.
Hello, Akaya Yanagi-senpai said in English. His accent was barely even noticeable.
Akaya's hello came out more like "Hero". He wrinkled his nose and substituted it for Japanese instead.
"You have a lot to learn."
"Yeah well, speak for yourself," Akaya said. He dragged his foot across the floor, anger stewing up in him.
"It isn't an insult. All it means is you have lots of potential."
"What, a 'journey of a thousand steps starts with a single step'?"
"I never expected to hear you quoting Lao Tzu."
Akaya shrugged. "My grandfather says things like that."
Yanagi-senpai nodded. "He sounds admirable."
"I guess. He's always going on with these weird sayings like'To lead, walk behind someone.' How are you going to lead if you're behind someone? It makes no sense."
"Doesn't Seiichi walk behind us, yet lead?"
Akaya thought a moment about this. People often misread Yukimura-buchou because he was ill and seemed fragile, because Sanada-fukubuchou was the imposing one. But Yukimura-buchou was amazing, with grace and elegance and the kind of skills that would beat down anyone who let his guard down for even a second.
"I guess," Akaya said.
"See?" Yanagi-senpai said.
"Maybe," Akaya grumbled.
"Now, about your homework...."
Akaya laid on his bed, his feet propped up against the wall. His textbooks were beside him, unopened. It wasn't the same without Yanagi-senpai there, it didn't make sense.
He flipped through the book of Lao Tzu quotations his grandfather had given him. To mend his wild ways. Yeah right.
He who conquers others is strong; He who conquers himself is mighty.
So what if he conquered himself? Akaya didn't see the point of this. What was there to conquer? He'd already made it where others had failed, wasn't winning at any cost all that mattered by Rikkaidai standards?
His mind went back to Yanagi-senpai's words.
You have a lot to learn. You have a lot of potential.
Was he saying that Akaya wasn't good enough now? He'd gotten to be a regular way earlier than most would even dream of being. Wasn't that good enough? Akaya wanted to kick something. A few more verses and he'd go train until his muscles hurt. Maybe he'd even get bruises, now there'd be a badge of honor.
He who knows, does not speak. He who speaks, does not know.
Silence is a source of great strength.
His thumb rested at that point. He thought of Yanagi-senpai, as quiet and serene as water. Yanagi-senpai never said much, but when he did it was always meaningful, like he'd measured it and thought out each syllable. He never said foolish things or put his foot in his mouth.
He rested his fingers over another.
When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.
Akaya shut the book and threw it aside. The pages sprawled, bent. He shut the door behind him, careless and grabbed his racket. He wanted to not think and lose himself in the game for a while.
Still, as much as he didn't want Yanagi-senpai to affect him, as much as he wanted to focus on the raw energy of tennis, he heard them. Lao Tsu quotes, all in Yanagi-senpai's voice. He kept hearing those niggling words You have lots to learn. You have lots of potential.
He hit the balls even harder, but it didn't let it pass that Yanagi-senpai might as well be calling him a failure.
Oolong tea steeped as Yanagi-senpai looked over his test. It was hard to tell anything he was thinking, but Akaya was getting better at it.
"So why didn't you ask me if I wanted tea? Isn't that polite?" Akaya said, casual, reading for Yanagi-senpai's response.
"I know that you don't like tea unless it's Bubble Tea."
"Well, yeah. Everything else is bitter. I didn't think you knew, though."
"It is my job to know," Yanagi-senpai said.
Akaya looked down at the textbook without really reading it. He couldn't get Yanagi-senpai's words out of his head, they'd been there all night long.
"Yanagi-senpai, when you said I had a lot of 'potential', what did you mean?"
Yanagi-senpai regarded him, he didn't break eye contact. His eyes weren't even shuttered now.
"It means you have a long ways to go before you reach what you can become. Right now you're chaotic, unbridled but once you can control that, nothing will stand in your way."
When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.
And Akaya thought he was beginning to understand.
"Hey Yanagi-senpai...can you train with me sometime?"
"Of course, Akaya."
Akaya sat back. It was nice to sit back and not have someone always blathering one, someone who listened. He could rage at Yanagi-senpai and he'd just fix his posture, tell him how to hit better. It was hard to stay made at someone who seemed impervious to him, even if that should've made him angrier. His calm was catching, and even Akaya felt more collected about him.
"You're not half as weird as you come off as," Akaya said.
"That's the closest thing you've ever come to a compliment to anyone other than Seiichi," Yanagi-senpai said.
"Yeah, well. You don't have to make a big deal about it."
Earlier when cleaning up Marui had said that Yanagi-senpai was weird and Akaya had leapt to his defense. Sure Yanagi-senpai was different, but it wasn't a bad thing. Now that Akaya knew, he found that he was comfortable to be around in his own way. He even made Lao Tzu make sense, and it took someone really smart to do that.
"So, Yanagi-senpai. When we're not training, can you play doubles with me sometime on practice?"
"If you think you can be a doubles player. It does involve giving as much as taking.
"'If you would take, you must first give, this is the beginning of intelligence.' That obviously means the more doubles we play, the closer I get to passing English."
And for the first time, he heard Yanagi-senpai laugh. It was just a chuckle, really, nothing really out of his order, but Akaya felt proud of himself. He'd made Yanagi-senpai budge almost as much as Yanagi-senpai was changing him. Maybe next Akaya would get him drinking Bubble Tea and playing DDR, though that was a stretch.
He took a look at Yanagi-senpai's tea and grabbed it still hot, and drank it right down. It wasn't sweet, it was even bitter, but he took it anyways. He wiped his mouth and put it down.
Before Yanagi-senpai even asked, he answered the question on his lips.
"I'm trying new things."