The title comes from one of my favourite ending songs.


~ kittykittyhunter ~

A whim. That was what Rinko said afterwards, when she was standing on the baseline, focusing on her serve...

It had begun that morning, with Rinko telling Nanjiroh that there was no way, absolutely no way at all (somehow, she was picking up on Ryoma's speaking habits) that she was going to spend the day buying groceries. Nanjiroh had grumbled that FINE, if the only way to get a meal would be to go and buy the raw ingredients then ALRIGHT – he would take care of the shopping, just not right then. And so, hours later (once Nanjiroh had passed the morning rifling through old magazines, flicking through TV channels, teasing Karupin and wondering loudly when the boy would get home), the pseudo-monk strolled from the house, wearing his robe and sandals.

For perhaps five minutes Rinko had enjoyed the peace and quiet. She had gone upstairs and begun tidying up her son's room. There were clothes everywhere, and one of Ryoma's medals had slipped from his trophy cabinet, somehow becoming tangled in a jersey. With a small laugh, Rinko had picked up the prize…

Then, a tugging restlessness began ticking in her fingers. She stood still.

It took another two minutes to identify the feeling.

She wanted to play tennis.

Absurd. Tennis was her husband's forté – her son's obsession. Rinko couldn't recall when she had last picked up a racquet. Of course, she still loved the sport, but the fact remained – she was out of practice, and probably unfit.

Then... wasn't it best to get some exercise?

Rinko reasoned her way into a pair of jeans and a polo shirt; she borrowed one of Ryoma's racquets – Nanjiroh would insist on using those wooden frames – and soon, she was at the deserted temple. Wondering whether there would be more visitors if her husband bothered to sweep up once in a while, Rinko finished her warm-up then readied herself, left hand preparing to launch the ball.

"Here we go," she murmured, swinging.

The ball soared over the net – there was a decent spin on the sphere –

It landed in the doubles zone.

Rinko cursed. She hadn't expected her first serve to be perfect, but back in the day – when she had frequented athletics facilities and enjoyed a good rally or two under the Californian sun – she had been proud of her accuracy. Still, all was not lost. The ball had landed in the court. That, at least, was a good sign.

Her enthusiasm kept growing. Her serves landed precisely, and her speed increased – though it was tiring, retrieving the tennis balls. She promised herself that she would stop soon: she needed to start dinner; Nanjiroh didn't know where she was; Ryoma would be home soon and if she overworked herself there would be terrible consequences… she winced, imagining turning up to work the next day with aching shoulders and arms.

"Last one," Rinko declared, holding the ball aloft. "This time, I'll go for... a Twist Serve!"

She bounced the ball on the baseline, caught it, her fingers closed around the yellow fuzz –


Rinko dropped the ball. Ryoma was standing three metres away, dressed in the Seishun Gakuen tennis uniform. Surprise was scribbled on all his features. His hand was closed around the strap of his bag and his mouth was slightly open.

"Hello sweetheart," Rinko answered. She dropped the racquet and wiped her hands. She crossed over to her son and leant down towards him. "How was your day?"

"The usual." He glanced at the discarded equipment. "Nobody was home so I thought the old man would be here."

Her son didn't often thread long sentences together: he favoured one-word answers, slight shrugs and most of all, to scowl by way of reply.

"Well," Rinko checked the time. "You must be getting quite hungry."

"Not really," he shook his head, turning his eyes from the net to his mother's gaze. "Mom..."

She waited.

Ryoma unzipped his tennis bag, drawing a racquet. "Can we rally?"

Rinko smiled. "I would love to."