The Losers' Pact

Summary: Kotoko was just like him, both of them pining after someone who would probably never want them. They decide enough is enough and acknowledgement is far better than being ignored, so they join forces in helping each other get over their crushes. Reiko is not impressed and Naoki is unpleased when they find it's their turn to do the chasing.

The dialogue at beginning of this chapter up to the bit where Kotoko helps Sudou is taken from the manga.

Chapter One

The Pact

Kotoko sat next to Reiko, wincing as she witnessed the brutal tennis match between Irie-kun and Sudou-sempai. Well, it was brutal for Sudou-sempai anyway. He was getting absolutely pummelled by Irie-kun.

""Kya! That smash is terrific!" Reiko squealed. "My Irie is really something."

Kotoko glared at her sideways. "Hey," she huffed. "You should cheer for Sudou-sempai instead you know! Really!"

Reiko just looked back at her slyly. "Oh, I totally forgot about you trying to get over Irie-kun, Aihara-san. But it's ok if you cheer for Sudou, I'll be fine just cheering for Irie," Reiko told her in a sickly sweet voice.

"That's not fine at all!" Kotoko huffed. "You should shout, 'Sudou! Work hard.' You're really stubborn!" Why couldn't Reiko see that Sudou was doing this for her?

"I see," Reiko replied, turning back to the match. Suddenly she brought a hand to her mouth and called out, "Sudou, Aihara hopes that you'll buck up!"

"Wah!" Kotoko cried out. "What're you talking about!?" She looked at the court in horror and cringed as Irie-kun turned to give her a fierce glare. He looked really mad...Sudou on the other hand just looked confused at Kotoko's apparent sudden support for him.

Kotoko slid down in her seat. Why is everything going against my wishes?

"40- 0 Irie!" called out the umpire.

There was a resounding smack and cries of "Amazing!" and "He's really good!" from the audience.

"30 -0 Irie!" the umpire announced.

Sudou was starting to look a little rugged and worn out. He was panting harshly in comparison to Irie-kun, who hadn't even broken a sweat.

"Look! Sudou is all worn out!" one of the girls in the tennis club murmured to a fellow bystander.

The boy next to her agreed. "Irie is really insensitive...since he already knew he'd win for sure, he should go easy on him!"

Another guy just sighed in admiration. "No matter what, the Irie today is really great!"

Irie-kun's serves were hard, fast and brutal; Sudou-sempai really struggled to keep up. Kotoko watched the proceedings worriedly. She knew how first-hand how brutal Irie-kun could be, she still had injuries from their doubles match practices.

"Good shot!" Reiko called as Irie-kun hit the ball particularly hard. Kotoko followed the ball's trajectory with horror as it landed with a sickening thud onto Sudou-sempai's face.

The crowd gasped as they watched but none of them did anything. "Sudou-sempai!" Kotoko called out. She got up from her seat. "Sudou, are you alright?" She rushed over to him.

"Damn it Irie!" Sudou cursed.

"Ah!" Kotoko cried out as she got close to him. "Sudou-sempai, your nose is bleeding!"

"Eh?" Sudou cried out in surprise. "Blood...blood...I'm starting to feel dizzy."

"Hand on there, Sempai!" Kotoko said encouragingly as she reached out to him. She handed him some tissues which he took gratefully, muttering underneath his breath but she still caught what he said.

"Look at you..." Kotoko said, shaking her head in disbelief. "You're still saying you want to show off in front of Matsumoto!?"

"Those two really," someone giggled, and Kotoko suddenly realised she was being watched by the entire tennis club. "This is surprising!"

"So it's true!" somebody else whispered excitedly. Kotoko went rigid. Surely they didn't think... "Aihara-san really does like him!" Yep, it turns out they really did think that. Sigh. Why her?

"No, no you guys!" Kotoko protested. "How can you... You guys made a mistake!" She wondered why Sudou-sempai wasn't saying anything and when she looked at him, she found him staring at Naoki and Reiko, who were standing in front of them.

"It seems like you won't be able to carry on now," Naoki said coolly. "Let's stop today. I'm going off now." Without even waiting for Sudou's answer, Naoki spun around and started walking away slowly. Reiko followed, not even sparing a glance at the two on the ground.

Reiko clutched his arm flirtatiously. "Irie is really great, you were splendid today!" she said with a giggle. Kotoko had the strong urge to throw something at her.

"Thank you," Naoki replied, acknowledging her compliment. Kotoko watched them go forlornly.

"By the way, Matsumoto," Naoki began. Kotoko watched him carefully and was slightly disconcerted when he turned his head slightly, looking right at her, his mouth formed into a smirk. "The movie you mentioned last time, I'll be free this Sunday so let's go together."

Kotoko was too stunned to move. No way. Irie-kun...had he just asked Reiko for a date?

"Eh, for real?" Reiko said in delight. "I'm so happy. Ok, we'll meet at one in front of JR."

Naoki agreed, "Ok then."

Naoki and Reiko reached the tennis court gate. "Then, why don't we have lunch together?" Kotoko could hear her say.

Irie-kun would never agree, Kotoko thought hopefully. She had declared that she would give up on Irie-kun but part of her still hoped that he would prove she shouldn't have to.

"Ah, okay." Her hopes were dashed.

"Wow, the tennis club sure has a great atmosphere," one of the members remarked. "First Sudou and Aihara, now Irie and Matsumoto."

"The prodigy team," someone sighed dreamily. "They go so good together."

Kotoko was miserable but she spared a thought for Sudou-sempai. She thought he would be angry with her for all the rumours that the tennis club had spun about them but when she looked at him, she was startled to see his eyes were suspiciously moist. His gaze still locked onto the gate where Reiko and Irie-kun had walked away from.

"She just walked away," Sudou whispered. "She didn't even care..."

Kotoko felt some of her own despair dissipate as she listened to Sudou as she tried to comfort him. She could understand how he was feeling, to see the one you like not even spare you a glance or a shred of concern. And Reiko hadn't cared at all that Sudou-sempai was lying on the floor bleeding and bruised. Kotoko felt angry towards the other girl and angry at Irie-kun too.

"Come on, let's get you to the nurse's office," Kotoko said softly. His noise was still bleeding but not so much now. There were several bruises on his arms which were starting to turn a purple colour. Irie-kun really had been viscous with him. Poor Sudou-sempai.

He gave a small bitter laugh. "She didn't even spare me a glance." He really did look as if he would cry then.

Kotoko didn't know what to say that would make him feel better. He allowed her to help him up and they quietly made their way to the nurse's office. There were people pointing and whispering about them and how it must be true about them being a couple. Kotoko was annoyed with this but ignored them, more concerned with the wellbeing of her friend. Sudou-sempai seemed to be in a daze.

She sat with him in the office. They were both quiet and the nurse soon left to tend to something else.

"We're both really pitiful huh?" Kotoko said, breaking the gloomy silence. "Both of us like people who look down on us and treat us like trash. Yet we keep going after them and setting ourselves up for disappointment."

Sudou-sempai stirred at this, looking at her blankly. He nodded slowly. "I don't know why I bother sometimes." He said quietly. "Matsumoto-san is such a talented, intelligent woman; I don't know why I think I could even stand a chance with her. I just...I just wanted her to pay attention to me."

Kotoko inclined her head slightly. "That's how I feel about Irie-kun." She was still feeling distraught at what had happened at the end of the match. She could comprehend that Irie-kun had asked Reiko on a date but her mind was still stuck replaying one moment. She remembered hearing his question, looking at him in shock and Irie-kun just smirked at her. Smirked! Like he knew what she was feeling and thinking and enjoyed it. How could he? Kotoko said as much to Sudou-sempai and then brooded about it some more.

"We should give up on them." Sudou-sempai spoke suddenly.

"Huh?" Kotoko looked at him in surprise. "What are you saying? You want to forget about Matsumoto?"

He exhaled sharply. "We should get over them. Why should we stand to be treated like this? We deserve much better?"

Kotoko grumbled a bit. "I'm already supposed to be giving up on Irie-kun. It just isn't working. It's actually quite hard you know."

Sudou-sempai looked at her brightly and she was startled by his sudden mood swing. "That's why we get over them together!" he announced. Seeing her look, he went to hastily to say, "Not like that! I think dating someone else so soon is a bad idea. What I mean is that we can be support buddies!"

"Support...buddies?" Kotoko echoed slowly.

"Yes!" he nodded enthusiastically. "So we can support each other in getting over Matsumoto and Irie. Whenever we lapse we can just encourage each other and remind ourselves why we're doing it."

A look of enlightenment dawned on Kotoko's face. "That...that sounds like a good idea!" She exclaimed, inspired. "That might actually work!"

Sudou-sempai nodded, regaining his usual vigour. "Now, here's what we need to do..."

Sometime later:

Kotoko and Sudou's List to get over Irie and Matsumoto

What not to do:

1) We will absolutely not follow them on their date on Sunday

2) In fact, we just won't follow them altogether as in hindsight this may be considered stalking

3) No more trips to the engineering department by both of us. We don't have classes there so we have no reason to be there.

4) We will not try and do things just because Matsumoto and Irie and doing them.

5) We will not think of them as being perfect. They (surely must) have some faults too

6) We will not fall in love with them again

"Ok so that's the list." Kotoko announced as she read the finished article she had hastily written on her notepad.

Sudou-sempai nodded in approval. "Looks good. It's best to have a few goals to start off with. The last one will be the hardest but if we get through the others then we shall surely prevail!"

She agreed. "I'll write the list up at home and make you a copy. I'll give it to you tomorrow."

"Thanks." Sudou-sempai smiled, holding out a hand for her to shake. She took it with a grin.

"Aihara-san, here's to the start of a beautiful friendship."