DISCLAIMER: Hahaha. No.
A/N: My friend told me to post this. I didn't want to.
I wrote this mostly for me, trying to get into the head of a potential OC for TCAFS. Yes, this is an OC story. OC gen, not OC romance.
Fukuda Hanae did not like Yukimura Seiichi.
Actually, she didn't like anyone on the boys' team.
Sanada was mostly respectful, but he constantly hogged the tennis equipment and got into disputes with Hanae's hot-headed vice-captain. Sometimes she considered locking them in a room until they worked out their issues, but Sanada did kendo.
(Hanae had no desire to be sliced into two. It would make winning Nationals so much harder.)
Yanagi was creepy and annoying. It was fine at first – the constant streams of predictions, the analysis of her players' routines, (while she found it creepy, she had to admit that knowing about Yoshima's bad backhand was useful), but when he started predicting her bento boxes and the three sizes of some of the new freshmen in her club, well, that's where she drew the line.
Marui was just annoying. Hanae felt a muscle in her face twitch every time he smacked his gum. He also wouldn't stop eating. Not in class, not during break, not even when he was gearing up for a match. It didn't help that every time he pulled out one of his bakery-like creations, Hanae's stomach would give a traitorous growl.
Niou – don't even get Hanae started on that kid. The tennis club was no stranger to his pranks, and the girls' team was no exception. Tennis balls dyed hot pink? Niou. Ball machines filled with paint balls? Niou. Girls' uniforms replaced with lingerie? Niou. Hanae had half a mind to report him to the school board, but because it was Niou, there was never any evidence.
Yagyuu seemed okay on the outside, but don't let that fool you. Hanae had heard his quiet murmurings and seen his furtive glances and she knew – underneath that 'gentlemanly' image was a sarcastic bastard with a mean streak. No wonder he partnered so well with Niou.
(Although, Hanae wondered if she could make friends with Yagyuu, and then convince him to swap Niou's tennis uniform with lacy lingerie and see how he liked that.)
Akaya might be the worst of the lot. Not only was that kid a downright brat, but he was also a cheeky son-of-a-bitch who charmed his way out of everything. The worst part of it was that he was a damn good tennis player. So technically, he was allowed to be as cocky as he wanted, because he could live up to it. Hanae hated that.
Jackal was all right. In fact, she pitied him. For as far as she could see, he seemed to be the only sane person in the group. She understood, actually. That job wasn't easy.
Her own team was just as crazy, if not crazier. What was it about tennis that attracted eccentric people?
('Eccentric' was putting it very, very mildly.)
But, back to the point. Yukimura Seiichi. God – childofgod – Goddammit.
He couldn't just be good at tennis. Oh no, he had to be good at tennis, school, art, socializing, and everything the world had to offer. Nothing got in the way of Yukimura Seiichi.
(He was also prettier than her, but that was completely irrelevant.)
And you'd think, you'd think with that kind of perfection, most of the student body would resent him. But no, life was just that unfair; all of them seemed to worship the guy. He had the whole tennis team, wild personalities and all, wrapped around his little finger. Girls, (and some guys too, Hanae heard, though she'd never been privy to school gossip), fell head over heels in love with him. Half of the girls in her club had only joined in hopes of incurring his attention.
(Hanae decided to retract her statement about Jackal being sane. Jackal followed Yukimura like a puppy, so he couldn't be that sane.)
That was what she disliked most, his absolute authority. She had no doubt that he ruled his team with fear and mind games. He could quell his vice-captain with a single word; send Akaya scurrying with a single smile. The only person he didn't have complete control over was Niou, but knowing him, that was probably his intention. He always seemed amused at Niou's pranks, she recalled.
She didn't like him. She really, really didn't. And she would've taken measures to avoid him at all times if the boys' team didn't have the adjacent courts.
That's how she found herself standing next to him, watching the tennis tryouts.
"Fukuda-san, right? Congratulations on your captaincy. I'm looking forward to working with you."
Hanae decided not to mention that they would be working together, um, never.
"So, do you see any potential talent in your new members?"
No way to get out of responding this time. She lifted and lowered one shoulder, but turned her gaze towards the red headed girl with freckles.
"Hmm, she's got a sharp forehand," Yukimura commented. "You've got a good eye."
She raised an eyebrow. 'You're not going to charm me into liking you, so might as well stop trying.'
He chuckled. "You don't like to talk much, do you?"
She gave him a glare. He was unfazed, however. Of course he would be. He was the king of killer glares. She resented him even more for that.
"You'll want to keep an eye on Court D," Yukimura said. "Sugimoto's going to give Kurosawa a run for her money."
She glanced at the court he was referring to, then back at him, the arch of her brow now tinged with skepticism. Kurosawa was a regular on her team last year. There was no way this short little girl —Sugimoto?— was going to beat her.
His smile was as secretive as it was confident.
She wondered if the rest of his team felt this irritated when he was being enigmatic.
Of course, the rest of his team arrived then, giving Hanae oh-so-very delightful first impressions.
"Buchou, who is that? Is that your new girlfriend?" Marui asked, popping his gum way too smugly.
"She's pretty cute. Not as cute as Kuma-chan, but not bad at all," Niou commented. He leaned a little closer. "Hey girlie, what's your name?"
Hanae stared him down silently.
"What are you, a mute or something?"
Yukimura chuckled again. "Fukuda-san is the new captain of the girls' team."
"A captain who should be going back to her job," she finally interjected, motioning to the regulars that were blocking her line of vision and ignoring Marui's proclamation of, "Hallelujah! She can speak!"
And that was the end of her conversation with Yukimura Seiichi.
In the end, she got herself a nice group of starters, including the red-headed freckled girl, and Sugimoto. While Kurosawa angrily proclaimed that the short girl had won on luck alone (the game went into a long tiebreaker), Hanae suspected otherwise and grudgingly welcomed Sugimoto onto the team.
(She didn't like Yukimura, but damn did that kid have an eye for sourcing talent.)
Things changed when Yukimura got sick.
Hanae didn't like to listen to school gossip, but it was hard to ignore the rumors when everyone was talking about it. Yukimura was a hot topic among her classmates, as always. She just wished that people would go talk about him elsewhere, not in the classroom when she had a test next period.
"Yeah, it has to do with the nervous system…"
"I heard that he could die from surgery."
Hanae's pencil stopped on the paper. She wondered (hoped) the rumors were exaggerated, as usual. It was only last week when there was a rumor that Yukimura was a vampire, and had to be hospitalized due to too much sun exposure.
(A rumor most likely started by Niou, she thought.)
"No way… Yukimura-san will get better! He's too hot not to!"
"The tennis team is doing really good without him, anyways. They don't need him."
"It's a good chance for us pre-regulars to take his spot!"
Her head jerked up, and she sent the third year that just spoke one of her famous glares.
The deadliness in her eyes almost sent him reeling backwards. "Uh… that is… I didn't mean that," he stammered in response.
Slightly satisfied, she went back to writing her notes.
"The tennis team doesn't need him."
It was partially true, she thought. Rikkai's boys' team had such a solid lineup, that even without their almighty captain, they were going to dominate the competition.
But in the weeks that followed, she noticed a difference in the team.
Yanagi stopped trying to predict what was in her bento boxes. Actually, he left her and her team alone entirely. The silence was a relief, but at the same time, she'd come to depend on his insights on her team's weaknesses.
Marui stopped bringing cakes to class. Either he finally realized that he was on a hot track to diabetes, or something was very wrong. (Plus, without the aroma of his baked goods to mask it, she could clearly smell Ichikawa's body odor and it was a great deal more unpleasant than chocolate cake.)
Yagyuu stopped making snide comments under his breath. In fact, he was every inch a gentleman, so much that Hanae felt uneasy whenever he opened the door for her or helped her carry tennis equipment. It was like waiting for a punch line that never came.
Niou pulled off more pranks than ever, but got sloppier at them too. There was that water bucket that missed her head by at least six inches, the buttered floor that was not buttered enough to trip anyone... Finally, when he decided to fill the shampoo bottles with blue hair dye, he slipped up and accidently left his wristband in the girl's changing room.
It was the evidence she needed. But instead of turning it into the school board, she sighed and dropped it in his school locker. Then she went home and washed her hair seven times, watching the blue streaks run down the drain, blue like Yukimura's hair.
(Of course, she regretted her decision of not reporting him when he went and filled their soap with green henna ink.)
Akaya became extremely tennis driven. Whenever Hanae locked up the clubroom after hours (paperwork was a bitch), she would see him alone on the courts, relentlessly practicing. It was impressive, this drive, this willpower, this urge to please.
But what happened to that cheeky, laid-back kid that spent all his free time at the arcade? Practice was good and all, but every kid needed to have fun. Or else he'd end up like Sanada.
Yukimura's illness didn't seem to affect Jackal much. He still smiled, still took care of Akaya, and still stayed… sane. It was nice to see that someone managed to carry on normally, she thought.
Until she saw how tired he was after running just ten laps. This was the man with the Iron Lung, a boy that could make ease of cross-country marathons. Jackal was exhausted, but it wasn't from the laps. Hanae wondered if he took it upon himself to be strong for the rest of the team, to be the solid one like he always was.
He was breaking too, he was just better at hiding it.
Hanae realized the severity of the situation one day when her vice-captain tried to pick another fight with Sanada. Her fukubuchou had claimed the tennis machines, despite fully knowing that it was Sanada's turn to use them. The capped youth finally snapped and shouted, "FINE. TAKE WHATEVER YOU WANT AND GET OUT," in a loud voice that threatened to crack.
Hanae was stunned. Even her vice-captain was shocked speechless.
Sanada backing down?
Something was very, very wrong.
It was Yukimura's fault. His lack of presence was just as influential as he was, if not more so.
"The tennis team doesn't need him."
Oh, but they did. Maybe not in the lineup, but they needed Yukimura more than anything else.
After a couple more weeks, she realized that the uneasy quietness of the boys' team was even more annoying than the chaos that they usually were.
She finally decided to go visit him at the hospital.
"Yukimura-kun? I think he's on the roof. You should check there."
She murmured her thanks to the nurse, before hiking up the stairs to the roof.
(She hated stairs. Damn Yukimura Seiichi, making her climb them.)
He was sitting on the bench, and turned his head when the door opened. "Fukuda-san? This is a surprise." He smiled. "What brings you here?"
Pointing out she was here to see him was probably unnecessary, so she just held out the bouquet in her arms.
He accepted it graciously. "Thank you. Gardenias are some of my favorite flowers."
He raised an eyebrow at her response curiously. "Oh?"
"You planted them in the rooftop garden at school."
He chuckled slightly. "So I did. I wasn't aware that you noticed."
She shrugged. Truth be told, she noticed a lot of things. When other people were talking, she was listening.
"So, how's your team looking?"
"We won the district tournament without dropping a game."
He nodded in acknowledgement, not appreciation. This was Rikkai. Dropping a game in the district tournament was unheard of. After a moment, he murmured, "And how's my team looking?"
She stared at him. 'And… why are you asking me?'
He laughed. "Yes, Sanada updates me regularly but he tends to be biased. Plus, with your knack of noticing things… I'd like to hear it from your point of view. How are they doing?"
"You are a very good liar, Fukuda-san."
'If that were true, you wouldn't be able to tell I was lying,' she thought irritably.
She thought of Sanada's outburst, Yanagi's withdrawal, Jackal's weariness. She remembered Niou's carelessness and Akaya's solemnity. Every one of them was trying to fill in an empty hole within them, but somehow they were just making it bigger.
Yukimura waited patiently for her answer.
She exhaled and finally said, "It's hard… without you."
Something flashed across his face, something like pain or vulnerability, but it was gone in an instant. "Well, this has been fun, but I should go back to my room." He rose to his feet a little unsteadily.
Hanae automatically extended her hand.
He smiled again, but this time there was a tightness behind it, a tightness that formed a knot in her stomach and twisted her intestines into sections. His voice was even and neutral, not sharp at all, but somehow deadly all the same. "I am perfectly capable of walking."
Venomous. That was it.
She couldn't breathe. What kind of person had a stare that could burn and chill at the same time, had a smile that made her feel like she just committed a terrible sin?
He walked by her, his posture purposefully straight, his stride deliberately languid and graceful.
What makes you think the Child of God needs your sympathy?
She felt horribly guilty for thinking that he needed her help. She felt horrible for trying to help him, for undermining him. But most of all, she felt horrible for knowing he could make her feel this way.
It was almost a month before she visited him again.
She certainly didn't like him. The way he made her feel last time… like she was inferior and small and insignificant. She hated that feeling.
But she went back.
She went because she understood why he did it.
He had to be strong for his team. He had to be strong for Rikkai. He didn't tolerate weakness in anyone, much less himself.
He was still leading them. It didn't matter that it was from a hospital bed rather than the courts. He was the captain, and that said it all.
This time, she found him in his room, perched on the bed. They made small talk for a while, (or rather, he made small talk and she listened.)
Suddenly he asked, "Fukuda-san, do you like art?"
Not really. "It's okay."
He smiled. "You can say no. I won't be offended."
(She didn't like how he could read her so easily. She'd worked very hard at being mysterious.)
She shrugged. "I feel like I'd like it more if I understood it."
He was silent for a moment, before picking up something on his drawer. "I have a ticket to this art exhibit, but I can't go. Will you go for me?"
She took the ticket, scanning it over. The exhibit was only a block away from the hospital, and the ticket was good for a whole month. She looked at him strangely. "But this…"
"It would be a shame to waste it." He smiled again.
The smile was tight, but it was a different tightness this time – one that spoke of forced cheer and lost hope. She saw the way his knees were curved, and how he leaned onto his hands ever so slightly.
Something inside her plummeted.
He can't walk anymore.
Hanae gripped the ticket and left, for once wishing that she didn't notice so much.
Hanae went to see him one more time before his surgery.
She was just about to knock on his door, when she heard voices coming from inside. She quietly pushed the door open just a crack.
Yukimura was sitting on the bed, smiling and laughing as his teammates argued with one another and threw things at each other.
Akaya bragged about how quickly he crushed a senior from this no-name school.
Sanada said he could've done it quicker.
Niou and Yagyuu took turns throwing in snide remarks like tossing oil onto fire.
Yanagi gave specific reports on all their conditions.
Marui pulled out a cake and ate it.
Jackal smoothed everything over before it got out of hand.
It was just like old times.
No one mentioned the struggles they were going through without their captain. No one mentioned how with every practice, the team was falling apart at the seams.
The support system was mutual, she realized.
The team had to support Yukimura, because he could barely support himself.
She still disliked his leadership methods. He used his charisma and charm to control them; he took advantage of their emotions and manipulated them mercilessly. He could make them feel so goddamn awful with a single look.
Yet day by day, his team pushed harder and harder, vowing to win for Rikkai, for Yukimura.
(Above all, she disliked how goddamn effective his methods were.)
Maybe it didn't matter how he led the team.
Rikkai believed in him, and he believed in Rikkai.
She closed her eyes. The burden of a team must be so heavy when your legs couldn't even support your own weight.
The whole school was in shock. Rikkai had lost at the Kantou Regionals.
Hanae wasn't completely surprised. They didn't lose because Seigaku was strong. No, they lost because this whole time, the team has been playing with something dark and heavy weighing them down.
For those who were so high up, it was such a long way to fall.
She hoped Yukimura got better soon.
A month later, she walked to tennis practice only to find a huge commotion at the courts.
Yukimura has returned.
The boys are all gathered around him. Some of the sub-regulars (and Akaya) were crying.
With him, they were reassured. Rikkai was complete again. There was no more emptiness, no more darkness.
They would win.
His presence caused a renewed energy to ignite in their eyes, like a phoenix ready to rise from the ashes. They hung onto his every word eagerly.
If there was anything to be said about Yukimura Seiichi, it was that he was inspirational.
She ran her laps, purposefully slowing to a jog when she passed the boys' courts in order to hear what he was saying.
"I know we've had a few setbacks at regionals, but Nationals will be nothing like that. There will be no failures, like losing to a first year…"
" …or losing to a blind person…"
Akaya flushed bright red.
Hanae had to turn away to hide the smile that was threatening to appear.
"I'm here now." He smiled benevolently. "And nothing will stop us from taking a third National title!"'
She resisted the urge to smack her hand against her forehead. Clearly, the disease had not changed him at all. He was the same as always, a charismatically cruel captain.
Good, she thought. Now things could go back to the way they used to be.
He noticed her looking over, and gave her a small wave, smiling.
She responded with a nod. 'Welcome back.'
She still didn't like Yukimura.
But he was okay.
A/N: I'll probably edit the crap out of this later. I just can't be bothered to today.
I originally wrote this for my eyes only, trying to explore Hanae. She will probably appear in TCAFS. She will probably be different.
BTW: It's my birthday. No joke.