Threesome: Seiran x Shuurei x Ensei
'Verse: Modern Uni/College AU
Disclaimer: Saiunkoku Monogatari is copyrights its owners (not me!). Also, a bit OOC, and pretty AU. ;) I vigorously applied creative license in this one. You've been warned!
Summary: A little side-story for Nikolita's Modern University / College AU. A national-level, inter-collegiate martial arts competition has everyone's spirits—and emotions—running high. As Shuurei steps onto the floor to help organize the team, a rivalry between Kiyou U's top seats, Ensei and Seiran, with Sa College's front-running, Sakujun, explodes in violent proportions. All's fair and everyone's fighting dirty—and Shuurei is wondering how she is supposed to keep the peace between them when they've made it clear they won't share what's most important to them: her.
Seiran paused outside his coach's office door, hand outstretched mid-knock, and listened to the one-sided conversation taking place inside.
"… And accusing us of such cowardice, Is that really necessary…"
There were a few moments of silence before Shuei's voice turned even smoother and amused, and he answered whatever question had been asked by the individual on the other end of the call.
"Our team manager's indisposition is no reason to offer condolences to us, though I will pass along your kind regards. We have no intention to withdraw from the competition. It would only seem like we were taking pity on your own team, what with us having thoroughly trounced you for the past 5 years consecutively. Which reminds me, I should let you go since do you need all the practice time available to you, so thank you again for your courtesy call, Sa Chusho."
A delicate beep sounded as Shuei disconnected the loud, angry caller; followed by a light sigh.
"Come in, Seiran."
Seiran wasn't sure whether to be relieved or suspicious that Shuei had already known he was there, when he walked through and announced, obviously too late, "It's started."
The martial arts club's coach quirked an eyebrow at him, and with a wry smirk, agreed.
The university athletic complex echoed with noise as the martial arts club practiced in their training hall. A blend of the traditional and modern, there were walls of mirrors adjacent to stands of weaponry and equipment on one side, while a tatami-lined, shrouded off section reserved for meditation was partitioned off to the far side. All areas were occupied that busy afternoon.
Seiran ignored the nuisance that popped his shaggy head through the partition that was supposed to isolate the 'quiet meditation' area, and maintained his seated position, breathing in and out evenly.
Breathe in. He was not thinking of long dark hair.
Breathe out. He was not thinking of cognac eyes.
Breathe in. He was not interested in his best friend's girl.
Breathe out. He was not avoiding them intentionally.
"I said, 'oyyyyy'!"
Breathe in. He would not commit murder in front of a club full of witnesses…
"Oy! Seiran, there's a meeting. You're co-captain, you need to be there."
Breathe out. But that didn't mean he couldn't imagine it in his free time and channel it into more productive ventures.
Opening his eyes and glaring at his self-proclaimed best friend, Seiran felt his jaw clenching. "I already know what it's about."
Ensei frowned, and folded his arms. "You still need to show up & support the coach and team. At least put in an effort to make it look like you care. The junior members look up to you, you know; lead by example and all that."
Seiran's eyes narrowed, even as Ensei's grin widened (knowing he'd gotten his way).
"It shouldn't take too long," the brown-haired man offered a hand to Seiran to help him up; which Seiran promptly ignored, rolling to his feet in an easy movement of athletic grace.
They made their way to the group assembled in front of the hallway that led to the coach's office, and took their places, standing, to the side (and some distance) from Shuei as he looked out over the soft murmurings of his students. Like Shuei, Ensei and Seiran faced the students in front of them. Some were excited, others unsure, but all curious.
Shuei straightened his back, indicating he was ready to address them, and Seiran called out to the students.
Immediately the group snapped to attention, and the room went silent enough to hear a pin drop. No one dared object when Seiran called them to order.
Inclined perfectly, they bowed, eyes lowered, towards their sensei to pay their respects.
They lowered quietly to the floor in seiza, bowed once more to their sensei, and to each of Seiran and Ensei, and sat back, the picture of discipline.
"You may relax," smiled Shuei faintly, impressed as always with how attentive to detail Seiran had trained his students to be (in spite of Ensei's distractions).
(Despite Shuei's assurance they could relax, a quick glance from the corner of their eyes assured the students that their upperclassmen sempai would drive them soundly into the ground during their next sparring practice if they dared lose focus during the next few minutes.)
This made Shuei's grin widen just a tad.
"Well, some of you know that next week is one of our most important competitions. It is the nation-wide collegiate invitational, and we have been graciously extended an invitation by the organizers. This is a great tribute to Saiunkoku University, Kiyou campus, and we accept it with honour and faith in good sportsmanship."
The students smiled, some were in awe, and others tittered excitedly. Mild chattering arose, and Shuei let it continue for a moment before he raised a hand to gather their attention again.
"Now, our women's team will be joining us when they return from their match tomorrow. Your sempai, Kouchou-neesan,-"
Shuei was interrupted by wild cheering.
Shuei swallowed a smirk.
"Your sempai, Kouchou-neesan," he began again, "Has been looking forward to a re-match since last year and has offered to supervise the dojo for extended evening hours if anyone would like to come and practice. I suggest you take full advantage of this precious resource to improve yourselves, and thank your sempai for her generous offer."
Some of the more grateful students bowed forward, while others inclined their heads.
"There will also be evenings, and the occasional early morning, which will also be supervised by your own sempai, Ensei and Seiran, however they have another task to complete first; that of finding a new, temporary, team manager. You have noticed that your usual manager is not here today; he will be unable to join us this coming week at the competition. We wish him all the best in his safe recovery, however this does leave us with an opening in an essential function. Ensei and Seiran will be accepting applications for team manager until tomorrow afternoon if you know of anyone who may be interested in the position. Their accommodations, meals, and travel expenses will be covered for the trip to the competition, and a small salary, in the understanding that they will fulfill all the duties of the normal team manager. This is a very demanding role, and we recommend you consider this fully before applying. Because we have so little time, someone who is already familiar with the club and its runnings, or who has management experience, and who has a reference from one of you, will be at an advantage."
Seiran's blank, composed face scanned the faces of his students at the more significant details of Shuei's lecture to see who showed interest in the position, to gauge who to approach and who to anticipate questions from. Beside him, however, Ensei was practically bouncing with nervous energy.
"Are there any questions?" Shuei asked after a few more minutes of general club announcements.
When none came forward, Seiran called out, "Rei!", the students bowed again in kneeling position, before standing and returning to their practice.
His stomach sinking into his toes, Seiran turned slowly to look at Ensei.
"I know the perfect person!" exclaimed the wound-up man.
That was exactly what Seiran had been worried about.
It was a terribly telling bad habit, and Shuurei knew she had to find a way to curb it soon before it got her into trouble, but she couldn't help it when her eyebrow began twitching at the giddy expression on Ensei's face when he met her at the tutoring center that evening as her last session wound down.
"Give me your resume, and I'll make you the happiest woman alive!"
Doing her best to clench her teeth and not beat him with her tiny fists at his loud interruption, she struggled to keep her voice even as she chewed him out (as politely as she could—she had students to mind). But she shoved the spare copy of her resume at him anyway. She didn't have time to waste uncovering his sneaky motivations at the moment.
"We'll talk when I've finished my class. Now go wait for me out in the hall. Shoo!"
She stomped her petite foot with as much authority as she could muster (with her beloved paycheques—er, students—cat -calling her from her classroom, much to her chagrin), and pointed to the door.
He grinned and winked saucily, and waved to the students as he spun on his heel.
With a huff, Shuurei turned back to her class and narrowed her eyes further.
"There is to be no swooning in the classroom, is that clear? You! Over there, half-off your chair—pick yourself up now and finish the exercises I assigned earlier!"
It didn't help when the low rumble of Ensei's chuckling filtered through the open doorway.
It was very late and Ensei roused himself from his half-doze to cuddle Shuurei closer to him on his worn, second-hand-or-more couch.
"So, about that thing I mentioned," Ensei began casually.
From under the warm curve of his arm, Shuurei blinked slowly.
"Hmm?" she stretched more comfortably against his side on his couch, rubbing sleepily at her eyes.
His grin softened at her pinked cheeks. In the months they'd been together, he'd completely fallen for Shuurei; he had even started wondering if she was The One, much to his own surprise. Never one to settle down, Ensei had enjoyed his unattached and carefree existence… until he'd met Shuurei. Now he found himself making plans and actually following through with them; and even the Really Big decisions that ran through his mind had her present and accounted for at every turn. And he was more than willing to admit he liked it that way, now that it no longer terrified him.
With that realization he'd started looking for ways to involve her in his life whenever possible, and vice versa. He couldn't remember the last time he'd been so content and… well, happy.
"Next week; you were supposed to be taking the week off to go visit the campuses you'd applied to," he swept a lock of silky hair behind her ear, leaning down to kiss her forehead. His low voice sent low rumbles through his chest against her side. Normally Shuurei appreciated such small signs of affection; however her mood that night had been distant.
She groaned and winced at his words, and Ensei gave her an encouraging squeeze.
"Oy, what's wrong?"
Giving a half-whine, half-huff, Shuurei woke more fully.
"I was supposed to."
"And then the fridge went on the fritz, again. Someone's coming next week to replace it, finally… but I can't afford to go on a trip right now. Sorry, Ensei. My money's going towards keeping our groceries from spoiling," she sighed. Pushing herself back up into sitting, she joked lightly, "The poor house strikes again!"
Brow furrowing, Ensei's grip loosened.
"Do you have enough?" he asked after a moment. Fridges weren't cheap, after all.
Ensei noticed her face pinch ever so slightly, and if he hadn't been looking for it he would have missed it. But her careful tone was what gave away how grim her finances were.
"Almost. I just need to find work next week to cover the last of it. I'd arranged to have all my contracts end by now, so I'd be free this coming week…"
Meaning this was cutting into her tuition savings.
Ensei felt his heart pull in sympathy. "Do you have anything lined up yet?"
"I have a few leads," she hedged.
"Would you like a fully-paid, week-long position currently being offered by the University of Saiunkoku, the esteemed Kiyou U campus, where you would get to interact with the head of the department of Political Science, Economics & Policy Research?"
Really, the hungry look in her eyes as her jaw dropped were payment enough, Ensei grinned to himself
But that didn't mean he refused the very generous show of appreciation she gave him next, throwing herself at him and nearly strangling him as she wrapped her arms tightly enough around his neck to risk crushing his windpipe.
"What? No questioning the rates or accommodations?" he teased, his fingers threading through her beautiful hair to stroke her, holding her closer as he chuckled. The vibrations rumbled deep in his chest and firmly against hers, and he felt her shaking her head quickly from side to side.
"I'm not questioning anything. Leave me my ignorance this time. When do I start?" she replied breathlessly.
Ensei's grin was wide enough to bridge the oceans.
"Pack your bags tomorrow morning and be ready to go by 11:30am; I'll pick you up."
Excited now, Shuurei grinned back at him. "What do I need to bring?"
Ensei tilted his head thoughtfully at her. "Whatever a martial arts team manager going to a national level, televised competition would wear."
Suddenly she froze.
"… A what?"
He gave her a quick peck on the cheek before relaxing back again. "Clean, comfortable sneakers would be a good start."
AN: Happy Birthday, Nikolita! (August 11, 2011) -mm