I really didn't want my last chapter to be late, but teachers have the tendency to assign homework right when I need to write. D; *shakes fist at them* It's like they knew I had an important chapter to write so they purposely gave me loads of work. Therefore, I apologize for my tardiness.
Disclaimer: I do not and will never own Prince of Tennis. Ever.
Sanada had never taken such a long shower after tennis practice before. He made sure to scrub every inch of his skin clean, lavishing his body with huge amounts of soap. His hair was subject to extreme cleansing as he rubbed his scalp tenaciously, determined to wipe every last bit of dirt off of him. He certainly didn't want to appear dirty or smell sweaty on his date with Yukimura.
He mourned at the fact that he had forgotten his toothbrush at home. The vice-captain hoped he didn't have sudden bad breath in case things became a little… heated later on. He couldn't really ask one of his teammates for some mouthwash at the risk of being totally obvious. Sanada liked to be prepared, but he wasn't that desperate.
Once the water began losing its heat, Sanada deemed himself clean enough and exited the showers. He began dressing himself once he reached his locker, paying extra care to each article of clothing, smoothing out the wrinkles on his plain shirt and black pants when he found some. He had never really cared about his appearance before now, but he wanted everything to be perfect today.
Yukimura was apparently at his own locker, talking to several regulars from what the vice-captain could hear. Sanada hoped they would be done their conversation soon. He was nearly ready to leave.
"Hurry up, vice-captain! We're all waiting for you!" called out Akaya.
"Yeah, you're worse than my mom at getting ready, Sanada." said Niou.
Sanada finished buttoning up the top of his shirt, raising an eyebrow at what he heard. Why on earth were Niou and Akaya waiting for him? What were they still doing here anyways? Sanada shut his locker door and walked on to the next aisle, where Yukimura's locker was.
The whole team was there with Yukimura, staring at Sanada and looking ready to leave.
"Okay, he's done. Let's all go now." said Marui.
"Let's all go to the arcade. Is that okay with you, captain?" said Akaya.
Yukimura laughed lightly and somewhat awkwardly. His cerulean eyes met Sanada's questioning gaze. Yukimura approached the vice-captain.
"Sanada, it seems we're going to be a bit more people on our date than we had originally planned." said Yukimura, seeming tense at the thought. It had obviously not been his idea.
And then Niou came out of nowhere, wrapping his arm around Yukimura.
"Yeah, the whole team's hanging out together today. You don't mind, right?" said Niou, grinning a predator's smile that made Sanada want to slap him. Sanada was ready to bet his cap, which was still in Yukimura's possession, that Niou had been the one to decide that interrupting their date was a good idea.
Sanada frowned, slapping Niou's arm off the bluenette. "There's no way in hell you are coming along. We didn't invite you." Sanada said. "Yukimura, let's go."
"My, you are starting to take charge now, Sanada." said Niou. "Pretty soon you'll be a stereotypical seme."
"You're right, Sanada. Let's go." said Yukimura, pushing Sanada forward towards the door and shooting a dark look at Niou. The trickster merely grinned and gave him the thumbs up. Yukimura rolled his eyes and continued on until they were outside.
Unfortunately, simply walking outside did nothing to discourage the rest of the team from doing the same. All the regulars followed suit and walked alongside Yukimura and Sanada. They left the school grounds, wandering aimlessly around the semi-crowded streets. Even if Yukimura had promised no shopping, Sanada still held his breath when they walked beside a clothing store, relieved when they passed it without even looking in its direction. Yukimura had slowed down when they approached the gardening store, but he had then resumed a normal pace and continued walking.
It would have been a good thing for Sanada and might even have counted as the start of a good date... except for the fact that he was surrounded by obnoxious teammates.
"But I feel like eating yakiniku! We never went to go eat some after the Nationals." said Akaya.
"That's because we lost the Nationals." said Marui. "Nah, let's go eat ramen. Jackal will pay."
"I will?" said Jackal, looking wearily in Marui's direction. "I don't think I have enough money."
"I second the yakiniku!" said Niou.
"Soba would be good…" said Yagyuu.
Sanada let out an aggravated growl. They were so noisy. His date was supposed to be quiet and sweet. Yukimura looked slightly peeved as well, but they both knew that trying to run away wouldn't do any good. The team would probably only follow them if they tried running.
"We're eating grilled fish." announced Sanada, his tone final despite Niou, Marui and Akaya's groans of protest.
"Noooo, I don't feel like eating fish! I want meat! Meat!" said Akaya, whining.
"I didn't know you liked grilled fish, Sanada-kun." said Yagyuu, pushing up his glasses.
"He doesn't." said Yanagi. "Grilled fish is Yukimura's favourite."
Sanada's face burned when Niou and Marui began laughing at him, hooting with glee. Yanagi was probably upset that he wouldn't get to eat sushi or yakiniku or something, so he was getting back at Sanada by saying embarrassing things about him.
"Aww, you're so sweet, Sanada." said Niou, still snickering.
Sanada shook in anger, his hands ready to slap someone. "S-Shut up."
Yukimura shushed the team, looking at Sanada with a half-happy and half-apologetic gaze. "Thank you, Sanada. It's very kind of you. But you don't have to do that. I'm fine with eating anything."
Marui shrugged. "Whatever, all foods are good." They had been walking towards a popular seafood restaurant anyways and were nearly there.
"I guess…" said Niou, still looking rather peeved. "I'm sure they have some meat there too."
"We're nearly there anyways so we might as well eat there." said Jackal, sighing. He had apparently been in the mood for yakiniku as well.
They continued going, only a few more minutes of walking left until they got there. Sanada sneaked a look in Yukimura's direction. At least the bluenette now had a small smile on. It made Sanada feel like he had done something right.
However, looking at the others, Sanada could only feel a little left out… or like he was doing something wrong.
Yagyuu and Niou were practically walking hip to hip. Niou's hand was in Yagyuu's back pocket. Oddly, the gentleman didn't seem to mind it one bit. Akaya in turn was clinging to Yanagi's arm, looking delighted as he did so. Sanada took another look in Yukimura's direction, his own hand now tingling for a different reason.
Sanada wasn't the type to turn cowardly halfway through something. He told himself he liked Yukimura and now they were on a date. He had to do this properly and he very much did want to, no matter if Niou was going to laugh at him again.
Sanada gathered up his courage and grabbed Yukimura's hand suddenly. The bluenette appeared startled for a second. Sanada looked away, a little embarrassed, but squeezed Yukimura's hand reassuringly. After a second, Yukimura smiled and squeezed back, almost like a silent thanks. Sanada's chest swelled in accomplishment.
They reached the restaurant. It wasn't too crowded and they got a large table to themselves in a far off corner, next to a window. Sanada let go of Yukimura's hand briefly so they could sit down. But once seated, Sanada found his hand inching back in Yukimura's direction, their fingers meeting under the table.
Yukimura showed Sanada a hidden smile as if they were sharing some deep secret that no one else knew.
The waiter appeared. He was a young man who looked annoyed at having to serve a table full of middle-schoolers. He didn't smile, probably imagining the disaster the table would be when they left, or thinking of how noisy his evening would be and how small a tip he would get. Sanada didn't blame the irritated-looking waiter; he wouldn't want to serve a tennis team either.
But even so, Yukimura showed the waiter a dazzling smile as he gave his order of grilled fish. The waiter looked stunned for a moment at the pretty and sparkling face before writing down the order. Akaya bounced up and down in his seat, dropping the salt shakers on the floor. Niou winked at the waiter and attempted to flirt only to burst out laughing when the waiter began looking scared. Marui snickered at the waiter's face. Apparently the redhead had been the one to dare Niou into it.
Just giving food orders was a huge ordeal and it took a long while before they had all told the waiter what they wanted. Sanada was sure the evening would be a disaster.
"Why don't you recommend me something? You seem like the type who would know what I like." purred Niou, winking again and causing a shudder of apparent disgust to roll through the waiter. Niou was the last one who hadn't ordered yet.
Yagyuu huffed, pulling at Niou's rattail. "He'll have the salmon." said the gentleman.
The waiter picked up their menus in a hurry and practically dashed off like he was running a marathon.
"Aww, Yeahgyuu, you know I hate salmon." said Niou, pouting.
"Well flirting with another man in front of me is rude." stated Yagyuu.
Niou laughed. "It was just a dare. Plus it was fun. Did you see the look on his face? It was priceless." he said. Yagyuu still did not look amused. "Hiroshi, you know it's just a joke. You are a million times better, smarter and sexier than all the guys in here."
Then, out of nowhere, Niou and Yagyuu began kissing at the table, tongues fully visible between their open mouths. Akaya looked away in disgust. Sanada yelled at Niou and Yagyuu to mind their table manners and go outside if they were going to start eating each other's faces off.
The waiter returned a while later with their plates. Actually eating their food managed to be an even messier affair than ordering it. Akaya and Marui were mixing five different sauces together with some ginger and other ingrediants from their plates, making a pile of the worst tasting stuff in existence. Niou began picking food off of Yagyuu's plate, hating the salmon Yagyuu had ordered for him. The gentleman tried pushing the trickster away, resulting in food flying through the air and much more landing on the floor. Yukimura was snarfing down his fish at an alarming pace, stopping to cough and drink water to actually push it down his throat. Sanada picked at his own food. It wasn't bad, but not what he usually liked to eat. There were too many spices on it.
The waiter did not stop by even once to ask them whether everything was to their liking or not. Apparently Niou had scared the waiter off permanently.
"Is your plate any good, Sanada?" asked Yukimura. He had finished his own dish, but still looked hungry. Grilled fish was apparently something the bluenette really liked.
"It's fine. I'm not much of a fish person." said Sanada. He said nothing but he would have preferred yakiniku as well.
"Next time, you'll pick the place." promised Yukimura. "Can I try some?" He pointed his chopsticks at Sanada's plate.
Yukimura leaned in and took a piece with the chopstick, putting it in his mouth and chewing. "It's good too… but mine was better." said the captain.
Together, the two of them worked on finishing Sanada's plate, not wasting a single bite of food. Yukimura leaned back on his chair when he was done, patting his stomach and saying he was full.
The team didn't seem to be calming down at all. They were mixing even more foods together now, making strange colors and inedible looking things. Sanada snapped and told them to stop wasting food. They then started arguing about who would eat the gross concoction they had made.
Then Yukimura leaned towards Sanada, a sudden action in the middle of all the noise and chaos caused by the rest of the team. The vice-captain's heart thumped when Yukimura whispered in his ear.
"Meet me in the washroom in five minutes." whispered Yukimura. Sanada nodded once in comprehension, shivering at the implications of what Yukimura had said. Only a few seconds later, Yukimura stood up and announced he was going to the washroom. The rest of the team barely even looked at him, too focused on the twitching food mixture they had made.
The five minutes Sanada had to wait felt like the longest five minutes of his life. It was an eternity of him scorning his teammates and an eternity of his mind wondering what Yukimura wanted to do in the washroom. His mind wandered in strange places, imagining them alone in the washroom... with Yukimura dragging him into a stall and kissing him... then Yukimura's lips would move lower and Sanada would have to bite his lips to stop himself from making any noise and getting caught...
Sanada shook his head, his whole body feeling hot. Tarundoru. No. Doing such things in public washrooms was just asking for trouble. He could only hope that wasn't what Yukimura was really planning. Otherwise Sanada knew he would have a hard time saying no. Stupid hormones.
Four minutes and fifty seconds had passed when a bored looking Niou vanished under the table and Yagyuu jolted in his seat. Sanada then decided that it really was time for him to go meet Yukimura.
"Washroom." Sanada muttered, getting up from his seat. Yanagi shot him a knowing look but said nothing.
The walk to the washroom seemed to be purposely long. Sanada swallowed nervously, hearing nothing but his heart thumping in his head. The men's washroom was all the way at other end of the restaurant, near the door leading to the kitchens.
Sanada slowly and hesitantly opened the door to the washroom, hoping no other clients were using it at the moment.
The brightly lit room had toilet stalls and urinals along one wall. Sinks with a long dirty mirror were along the opposite wall. But most importantly, there was not a single person in sight and every stall was empty.
"Yukimura?" Sanada called out, his voice sounding loud in the empty room.
He jumped when arms wrapped around his waist from behind. A familiar giggle resounded from behind him.
"Took you long enough." said Yukimura. Sanada could feel the bluenette's warmth seeping through his clothes and warming his skin.
"You told me five minutes." said Sanada. He hoped Yukimura's hands couldn't feel his rapidly thumping heart.
"Oh, was that only five minutes? It felt like much longer."
Sanada agreed to that. However, he was slightly concerned with the fact that they were standing in the middle of a public washroom, hugging right where anyone could walk in on them.
"Yukimura, maybe we should change our setting before we..." said Sanada.
"I'm comfortable." said Yukimura, tightening his grip.
Sanada sighed. This was exactly like the cap situation from yesterday when Yukimura had not wanted to move. Speaking of his cap, it was still in Yukimura's possession.
"In a second, someone's going to walk in on you hugging me and you will be mortified. We'll see if you're comfortable then." said Sanada.
Yukimura scoffed, but understood Sanada's point. He detached himself and grabbed Sanada's arm.
"Actually, I called you here because I want to go somewhere with you, but I don't want to team to come." said Yukimura, smiling slyly.
Sanada raised an eyebrow. "You mean you want to walk out without telling them."
"And the bill?"
"I left enough money on the table to cover for both our plates. Besides, Yagyuu, Jackal and Yanagi are mature enough to handle the others. They are big boys. They can take care of themselves." said Yukimura. "And you can't tell me you haven't been dying to get rid of them. Your face has been show nothing but irritation ever since we got here."
Sanada couldn't very well argue that. He left himself be dragged along, out the washroom and out of the restaurant, walking fast in case someone had spotted them. Both were relieved when no one followed them out. They would have to explain tomorrow and make it up to Yanagi for looking out for the team, but right now they were both just happy to finally have alone time together away from their team and strange food mixtures.
Yukimura and Sanada had to take the train to get to their next destination. At first Sanada had no idea where Yukimura was taking him, but once he saw with station they got off at, it became very evident.
They were walking in the direction of Yukimura's house.
On the way, Yukimura received several texts from Niou, demanding to know where he was and why he had abandoned them and saying something about how they threw their weird food mixture at the waiter. Yukimura just closed his phone at that point.
"I'm guessing we're heading to your house." said Sanada, breaking the silence between them.
"Good eye." said Yukimura. "Yes. I've been to your house a few times and it's only fair that I invite you over as well."
When they arrived at the familiar-looking house, Yukimura didn't walk right to the front door. Instead, he walked along the side path, one that led to the back yard. Sanada remembered walking along this very same path while Yukimura was in the hospital, at the time when he had checked up on Yukimura's garden for him.
"My parents are out on their own date today." said Yukimura. "My sister is at a friend's house to work on a project. She was sad about not getting to meet you, but she hopes you'll come back some other time too."
"I don't see why not." said Sanada. He had the image of a small girl that looked a lot like Yukimura fangirling over him. He cringed, knowing he wasn't good with neither girls nor kids.
They reached the high fence. Yukimura took out a key from his pocket and worked on the lock. He opened the door wide, letting Sanada enter.
Sanada's breath caught the moment he walked through that gate. He thought he had seen the magnificence of Yukimura's garden before, while Yukimura's mother had been occupying it. But it was nothing compared to now.
The garden was enormous. All the flowers were in full bloom, dozens of different colors and sizes all around him. Everything around him seemed to be made of plants; it was all he could see. Sanada didn't know much about flowers, but taking care of all that must take a lot of devotion and time. There seemed to be every single type of flower out there; everything from dark red roses, to tall and yellow sunflowers. The whole place seemed to glow, just like Yukimura was shining at the moment, surrounded by his pride and joy.
"Welcome to my haven." said Yukimura, looking around fondly.
Sanada was momentarily speechless. "It's… wow. Everything is so beautiful, Yukimura." It radiated with hard-work and sweat, hours spent in the scorching sun to maintain such a wide and spectacular garden.
"Thank you." said Yukimura.
They went towards the patio, a small flower-less spot that Sanada had not noticed at first. There was a wooden bench laid out, perfect for relaxing and admiring the garden in all its glory. They sat close to each other, Sanada's eyes still glued to the surroundings.
"It must take you quite some time to grow all this." said Sanada. "It's a shame…"
Yukimura's head perked up, his knee brushing Sanada's. "A shame?"
Sanada nodded. "It's a shame it's not everlasting. It must take ages to grow, yet it doesn't last." Sanada himself did not have much patience for such art forms. Flowers wilted and died, rendering all the effort pointless and wasted. Sanada preferred painting out calligraphy as it was something solid that could last forever.
"Yes… they are beautiful… and soon winter will come and my garden will be empty again." said Yukimura, admitting that Sanada was right to some degree. "But every spring has a new beginning. Some flowers will sprout again and some won't come back. Every year, I get the chance to grow a different garden, one even better than the last, with some familiar faces and some new ones. That's what I like about it. Even if the flowers wilt, they'll bloom again after going through a harsh winter. The strongest flowers will emerge more beautiful than ever."
"Ah... beautiful." was all Sanada said before angling his face downwards and planting a chaste kiss to Yukimura's barely open mouth, giving in to his urges. Yukimura smelled just like his garden and tasted like sweet nectar with a hint of fish, probably from the supper they just had.
Yukimura's eyes were closed when Sanada pulled back. He blinked. "What was that for?" he asked.
"For making such a beautiful garden." replied Sanada. "You did well. You helped each individual flower bloom despite the harsh path they faced."
"I'm flattered." Yukimura said, his voice husky as he brought their heads close together again. "I was glad earlier today… when you held my hand. It made me very happy." he muttered, every word brushing his lips against Sanada's mouth.
"I only did it because I felt like it." said Sanada, indulging himself in another lip-lock.
"Mm…" Yukimura hummed contently, His arms finding their way around Sanada's neck, holding him there.
It was getting dark outside, the sun lowering into a sunset in the distance and emerging them in orange light. The colors of the garden seemed to shift and change before their very eyes.
"We'll be starting high school soon." said Yukimura.
"Ah…" said Sanada. Studying for high school entrance exams will be their priority once summer vacation is over. "We'll have to study hard… and maintain our good position if we want Rikkai's high school division to accept us."
"With Yanagi and Yagyuu around to help, I don't think it will be an issue." said Yukimura. "High school will be a new beginning for us as well. Not just in academics, but in tennis too." His eyes were bright. "Will you follow me forward and aim for the top in the high school division?"
"Of course." said Sanada. There was absolutely no question about it. "Not just me. The whole team will take the high school team by storm next year."
Yukimura expected nothing less. His head settled down on Sanada's shoulder and his eyes found the patch of lilies, next to the daisies. He would have to weed them tomorrow. Yukimura made a mental note to himself. Weed the plants. Then take over the high school tennis team. It sounded like a great plan.
Sanada spent time in peaceful silence observing the bluenette beside him. Yukimura seemed to fit in the garden, like he belonged and was part of it; a rare little flower hidden among all the colors.
"You know, every flower has its own meaning, Sanada." said Yukimura, breaking the taller male out of his thoughts.
"Yeah?" Sanada knew that red roses meant love, but that was it.
"Yes. Remember the cactus you gave me while I was in the hospital?" asked Yukimura.
Sanada nodded, remembering it too well. He hadn't liked Yukimura at all back then. Now, he couldn't imagine feeling any sort of hatred towards the lithe figure leaning against him. Especially not when Yukimura was making such delightful movements of lips against his throat.
"Cacti mean endurance." muttered Yukimura. "It's quite fitting since it is a plant that lasts for a very long time. I think it suits you too, Sanada. If you were a plant, you'd be a cactus."
"I am not a cactus." said Sanada, grumbling.
Yukimura sat back and looked at him in a rather observant manner. "Hmm… maybe not a cactus. But I certainly don't think you'd be a flower either. You'd be some big tree. Or maybe a root?"
Apparently being a root was an upgrade from being a cactus.
"What would I be, Sanada?" asked Yukimura, looking eager to hear an answer.
Sanada shrugged. "A flower."
"I don't know…" said Sanada. Yukimura was pretty and fitted well with the garden, therefore he was a flower and that was the vice-captain's logic. Sanada knew nothing about the types of flowers out there.
Yukimura chuckled. "Well… all this to say that I still love my cactus. It's kept me company for so long. Even in the hospital, it kept reminding me that I had to keep holding on and endure."
Sanada said nothing. No need to mention that the cactus had originally been both a 'get well soon' gift as well as meaning 'I hate your guts'. Yukimura could just be happy not knowing about that and never finding out.
"You know, Sanada… I wouldn't have said this before… but I am glad I had that sickness. It might have been hell and painful, but it changed me and made me realize what really was important. I think it strengthened me... well, strengthened me mentally at least." said Yukimura. "Plus…" His hands stroked down Sanada's arm. "If that illness hadn't happened, we'd still be going at each other's throats." He kissed Sanada's throat for special emphasis.
"Ah… that's true."
"Maybe we would have won the Nationals if I hadn't been sick… or maybe we would have lost anyways. But either way, I'm glad for all that's happened." said Yukimura. Sanada gave his own rare smile, agreeing.
They sat there in the peaceful silence of the garden. The weather was just perfect, only mildy warm but not stiflingly so. The sun was low, not beating down on them like during tennis practice or blinding their eyes. It was a gentle, soothing light that was just enough. The sweet flowery scent of the garden wrapped around them like a veil, making it all seem like a dream.
Yukimura was content, snuggling closer to Sanada's side and Sanada was happy to let him. His arm wrapped around Yukimura's shoulders in a warm embrace as they sat in the center of Yukimura's haven. Yukimura sighed happily, wanting to stay right there and remain in this perfect moment forever.
"By the way, where's my cap?" asked Sanada.
THE END! FIN!
Thank you everyone who read this story. I admire your patience. o_o So to all the readers, new and old, thank you super very much for all the great feedback you gave me that made it so much fun to write and inspired me to finish this.
And yes, since I did have such fun writing it, the sequel is next up and I hope it will be just as fantastic to write and to read.
The sequel, 'Foes within Friends' will start sometime next week so be on the lookout!
Once again, thank you all from the bottom of my heart and I would lovelovelove any last comments or overall reviews/criticisms/letdowns/questions/suggestions for what you want to happen in the sequel. Give me all your thoughts!