Summary: A proper rival's worth is greater than that of rubies or pearls; Kasamatsu doesn't intend to let a mere change in his and Imayoshi's circumstances get in the way of what is really important.
Notes: A not-porny fill for Porn Battle XIV, prompts drawl, flirting, university, and reunion. 2112 words.
"Oh, damn it," Kasamatsu said when he got to the initial basketball practice of his university career and met Imayoshi there, first thing.
Imayoshi brought his hands together, clasping them against his chest, and pinned a look on him that was probably supposed to be soulful or something. "I am hurt," Imayoshi announced. "Hurt by that greeting. How can you be so cold-hearted when I've been looking forward to our touching reunion so very much?"
Kasamatsu had been playing against the guy for six years and was not taken in by this in the slightest. "I should have gone somewhere else," he muttered. "Why didn't I go somewhere else instead?" Why hadn't he at least done a little bit of discreet snooping to find out which universities people were choosing? Where had Ootsubo ended up, anyway? That was probably a good school; was it too late to transfer?
Imayoshi, who was an utter bastard, didn't even bother to pretend he wasn't laughing. "What, and miss out on the chance to be teammates after all these years of being rivals?"
Kasamatsu grimaced at him. "If you think being on the same team is gonna change that, you're not the guy I know you are," he said, disgusted, and went to get dressed out while Imayoshi was still chortling.
Not that it was anything like as straightforward as that, of course. For one thing, nothing Imayoshi Shouichi chose to involve himself in ever stayed straightforward for very long; the guy delighted in the complicated and the unexpected. It was a pain in the butt to deal with whether on the court or off it. Three weeks into the new school year, Imayoshi had already embedded himself into the basketball team's social landscape and made himself a prominent fixture there despite the fact that it was a good-sized club and he was only a lowly first-year. Six weeks in and he was up to his neck in all the quiet (and not-so-quiet) arguments, rivalries, schemes, and gossip that ran rife through the club.
Unlike Imayoshi, Kasamatsu preferred to keep his head down as much as he could. He redoubled his attention to his training and ignored Imayoshi insofar as it was possible to do so. When that failed, he told him off instead: "You're worse than an old woman, I hope you know that," he said when Imayoshi tried to tell him all about the latest development in Shin-senpai's on-again off-again relationship with the team manager. (Kasamatsu hated that he knew anything about the affair. For pity's sake, they were supposed to be here to play basketball, but sometimes a person would be hard-pressed to guess as much.)
Imayoshi shrugged, apparently unbothered by this. "Reckon my granny would be pretty proud if she could see me now," he agreed before drifting away to share his gossip with an audience that actually cared. Kasamatsu, conscious of the coaches' eyes upon him, manfully restrained the urge to hurry him on his way with a boot to the ass.
For another thing, they were both first-years again, back at the bottom of the club hierarchy. The same club's hierarchy, in fact, and neither the coaches nor the senpai seemed to care all that much about how their respective teams had fared during the high school tournaments. He and Imayoshi started out in the reserves, just like everyone else, and spent more time in drills and practice matches against the first- and second-string players than anything else. The first time he and Imayoshi ended up on the same team, Kasamatsu sort of hated himself for it when he caught himself laughing as Imayoshi sank one of his buzzer beaters and followed it up with his customary mock surprise. It didn't matter if it was a nice change to be on the side delivering such an unpleasant shock to the other team. There was still no reason to encourage Imayoshi, he told himself firmly, and ignored all of Imayoshi's attempts to enlist him in his ongoing headgames against the first-string for the rest of the game.
And then there was the fact that Imayoshi refused to acknowledge that they were rivals. (Rivals! For six years! Had the man no respect for a tradition?) He insisted on helping Kasamatsu stretch at the start of practice and telling him the latest gossip at the same time, no matter how many times Kasamatsu yelled at him for it—Imayoshi just told him that he was adorable when he started kicking up a fuss. He laughed when Kasamatsu gave him a literal kicking and dragged him out for dinner after practices. Kasamatsu didn't even know how he managed to do that—the heavens knew that he told himself that he would never eat with Imayoshi again each time it happened—and could only assume it was because Imayoshi possessed a serpent's cunning. He even turned up in Kasamatsu's study group, who even knew how—they didn't have that many overlapping classes. That he chalked up to fundamental nosiness on Imayoshi's part. Or possibly some kind of black magic. He wouldn't have put it past the guy.
Sometimes Kasamatsu entertained a dark suspicion that Imayoshi thought they were friends rather than rivals.
He made the mistake of confiding this to Imayoshi in September, mostly because it was the weekend and they were in a bar despite Kasamatsu's protestations that they weren't even of age. There had been a considerable amount of beer and Imayoshi saying, in that slow thoughtful way of his, that it was nice to be a first-year and not have any kouhai, and Kasamatsu agreeing that yeah, it was pretty restful, before realizing (to his horror) that they were having a moment. He immediately leapt to correct that. "I mean it," he told Imayoshi, leaning across the table to poke his chest and underscore the point. "I would swear that you think we're friends! But we're not!"
Imayoshi caught his hand and pushed him back to his side of the table, wearing one of those infuriating grins of his. "No," he drawled. "No, I think I can honestly say that that is not how I think of you at all."
Kasamatsu glared at him, sensing that there had been an omission in there but not able to guess what it was that Imayoshi was concealing this time—sometimes he could, sometimes he couldn't, and this appeared to be one of the latter occasions—and settled back into his seat. "Well, as long as we've got that clear."
"Guess we're getting there," Imayoshi agreed, topping up his glass from the pitcher. "So tell me what your thoughts on apartment living happen to be."
They were twenty minutes into an impassioned discussion on the relative merits of apartments, dorms, and living with one's parents before Kasamatsu realized that Imayoshi was suggesting that they get an apartment together, which—"No," he said, appalled. "No, no, no, absolutely not, what are you, crazy?"
Imayoshi pulled a mournful face. "I don't know why people keep on asking me that."
"Maybe it's because you are," Kasamatsu told him. "Absolutely not, I am not going to live with you. Never in a million years."
He moved into the apartment Imayoshi had found them three weeks later, because it cut his commute by two-thirds, the rent was super cheap, and the neighborhood was a good one. And also because Imayoshi was crazy—crazy like a fox.
In late November, Imayoshi said, meditative, "You know, I'm starting to wonder whether you might actually be completely immune to flirtation."
It had nothing at all to do with the subject at hand, which was the physics homework they were supposed to be reviewing. Kasamatsu made a face at him. "Now what are you talking about?" He tried to figure out the chain of Imayoshi's logic, how he had gotten from vectors to flirting and Kasamatsu's susceptibility to such things, then gave it up as a bad job all around. "Also, go put a shirt on. You're making me cold just looking at you."
Imayoshi picked himself up from where he was sprawled on the other side of the kotatsu and hitched his sweatpants up when they threatened to slide right off his hips. "My granny always did say that perseverance builds character," he remarked, and refused to explain what that was supposed to mean.
"You are the weirdest person I know, and I am acquainted with most of the Generation of Miracles and the Uncrowned Generals," Kasamatsu informed him, getting back to his physics textbook while Imayoshi sighed and dug a clean shirt out of the laundry basket.
After the turn of the year, Kasamatsu fell asleep right at the kotatsu after he dragged himself in from the last of his exams. He hadn't meant to—he'd meant to sit down for just a minute, eat, and then drag himself the rest of the way to his futon—but he passed out right there at the kotatsu, right next to the half-eaten cup of instant ramen.
He woke up in his own futon with no memory of how he'd gotten there. It was only after he'd scraped himself out of bed and staggered over to the coffeemaker in search of life-giving caffeine that he realized that Imayoshi must have put him to bed. Imayoshi was draped over the kotatsu, watching television with the sound turned off, and gave him an exhausted, wry smile of solidarity while Kasamatsu blinked at him.
He didn't quite know what to make of that, so Kasamatsu poured himself a cup of coffee and promptly spit the first mouthful into the sink. "Is this decaf?"
"Time for a detox," Imayoshi told him, flipping through the channels aimlessly. He settled on one showing cartoons. "Suck it up."
"You're a bastard," Kasamatsu informed him, even though he could admit to the general wisdom of the idea. He'd only gotten through his last exams by adding instant coffee to his brewed coffee, after all, and even he could see that way lay madness.
"That's me, yep," Imayoshi agreed, smiling at him, something weird and soft and—and—affectionate about it.
Kasamatsu looked at the relaxed, half-dressed sprawl of him at their kotatsu, glanced down at his mug of decaf, reviewed the past several months, and had a horrifying epiphany. "What the fuck," he said, mind gone staticky with shock. "When did we become boyfriends?"
Imayoshi pursed his lips and counted back on his fingers. "'Bout six months ago," he said. "Give or take." He heaved a sigh, looking wistful. "Good times, really, though I do wish you weren't saving yourself for our wedding night."
"Oh, fuck me," Kasamatsu said, appalled and not quite sure whether it was at Imayoshi's sneaky ways or his own obliviousness.
It was only when Imayoshi perked up and said, "Well, all right, if you insist," that he realized how infelicitous a turn of phrase that had been.
"Um," he said as Imayoshi prowled to his feet and padded into the kitchen nook with him. "Wait a minute—"
Imayoshi plucked the coffee mug out of his hands and set it on the counter next to him. "One thing, before you retract that charming offer," he said, pushing his way right up against Kasamatsu and grinning at him from bare centimeters away. That close, his grin was lethal, and Kasamatsu was even more appalled to catch himself thinking so. "Hold still for me."
"Imayoshi—" Kasamatsu said, or rather tried to say, but Imayoshi reached up to cradle his face between broad palms and leaned in to kiss him, lazy and slow as all the flirtatious things that he'd drawled to Kasamatsu over the past six months—or should that be the past six years? Kasamatsu's protests died a muffled death beneath the leisurely, coaxing movement of Imayoshi's lips against his own and the slick curl of Imayoshi's tongue against his.
When Imayoshi finally drew back, Kasamatsu stared at him for several dizzy seconds, at a loss until Imayoshi raised his eyebrows. "So is this gonna be a yea or a nay?"
His hands were warm against Kasamatsu's jaw. Really, there was only one possible choice to make, wasn't there?
"We're still rivals, damn it. This doesn't change anything," Kasamatsu told him, hooking his hand around Imayoshi's nape and hauling him in for another kiss.
Imayoshi didn't stop laughing until well after Kasamatsu had dragged him to bed and gotten him all the way naked, and even then, it was probably only because he couldn't laugh with his mouth full. But what the hell—it wasn't like Kasamatsu hadn't already learned how to live with that, was it?
Hey, look, it's a thing that isn't too porny to post over here and is also more substantial than a drabble! Been a while since I finished something that fit both of those criteria.
Comments are always lovely!