Thump. Thump. Thump.

The tennis ball whacked against the wall, bounding back and forth as legs fled accordingly. Echizen Ryoma could feel the sweat on his face. He panted heavily. A good workout was rare – and stress release was even rarer – and without a good challenge, the only thing he could do was play against a wall. At least he hadn't missed a single ball.

The target spot on the wall had sunk in from continuous pressure.

With a pounding heart, muscles sore from playing for an hour, Ryoma continued to push himself to the limit. The thwack of the ball at the wall was like music to his ears – and despite the midday heat and the exertion of pressure, he wasn't going to stop any time soon.

"Hey…you're Echizen Ryoma, right?"

Ryoma swung his racket out, and sliced the ball as hard as he could. It whizzed back towards him, and in one swift motion, he caught it.

"Yeah," he turned his cap. Gold eyes slanted. The voice was oddly familiar.

"Wow! You're the one who creamed Wakashi, right? I was sleeping, of course, but if you could so easily beat a Hyotei member, you must be good!"

Ryoma tilted his head to look. His brows furrowed at who stood in front of him. Akutagawa Jiroh, a reigning member of Hyotei with full brown eyes and a mop of matching hair. He hadn't been much of a challenge for Fuji, and Ryoma wouldn't have taken interest in him if it weren't for his likeable habit.

He loved to nap. It gained a degree of respect in Ryoma's eyes.

"I don't know," Ryoma bounced the vibrant yellow ball against the strings of his racket. He kind of smirked. "Want to play?"

Jiroh stared, and blinked. His lips broke into a grin.

"Really? Right now? Yes, of course!"

He looked so excited at the challenge that Ryoma was embarrassed for him. He liked a challenge too – especially with Tezuka-buchou – but that didn't mean he went around wildly announcing it to every innocent passerby. He watched as Jiroh startled a young mother with a baby, causing the baby to start crying.

"Ch'," Ryoma tugged his cap down. At least it was better than playing with a wall.

It was entirely too hot, and Jiroh hadn't planned on playing a match. Without clothes to change into, he had thrown off his top unconcerned. Ryoma frowned as lean muscles gleamed against the sunlight, bearing a certain glow that wouldn't allow him to rip his gaze away. Jiroh ran his fingers through his hair, and cracked a smile.

"It's hot, ya know," he explained.

Ryoma just stared at him. "You're not sleepy, right?" He wanted a good match.

"No, no, " Jiroh sheepishly ruffled his hair again. "I fell asleep during practice today, and buchou decided that the only way for me to stay awake was to hype me on sugar. I've been drinking soda all afternoon."

"The Monkey King?"

"Uh…well, yeah, he does kind of look like a Monkey…"

Ryoma smiled too smugly, and turned on his heel towards the service box. "Whatever. You're buchou sent mine to Germany." He bent his knees, ball comfortable in his grip. The burning eyes narrowed. "You've got to be something."

Jiroh blinked. Slowly, a familiar fire erupted in his chest.

"Don't underestimate me, Echizen Ryoma."

"Did you see that? Did you see that? The ball curved right towards my face!"

Ryoma sighed. Jiroh leapt up and down, and ran towards the net with unexplainable energy. The twelve-year was starting believe he really was hyped up on pop. He watched as the brunette did some miraculous spin of excitement, and decided the flexibility could rival that of Kikumaru-senpai. The game had only just begun.

"It's called the Twist Serve," Ryoma calmly served again.

Jiroh didn't even try to hit the ball. "It's a pretty awesome serve, then!"

"…I thought this game was supposed to be serious."

"But that serve!"

This was getting annoying far too quickly. Ryoma got into his position, and let the Twist Serve fly sharply cross the net. His eyes widened when Jiroh suddenly straightened up, bent backwards the slightest, and returned it. The ball streaked across the net, and Ryoma reacted too late. The fence clattered behind him.

"It was good serve," Jiroh said, and sweat trailed down his sculpted body. "Too bad it was way too easy to return."

"Not bad," Ryoma decided. "But you're going to have to be better than that to beat me."

Jiroh just bobbed his head up and down.

"I was actually going to tell you the same thing."

Jiroh wasn't all talk.

Ryoma pumped his legs harder as he raced towards the other side of the court, barely returning the ball. The ground rolled in heat waves, and his body felt like it was baking in a stove. Fuji's game had been nothing. Jiroh had improved. Despite that Ryoma was winning three-games-to-one, the pressure he was feeling didn't match the score.

"You're good, Echizen," Jiroh called breathlessly.

"You're not too bad either," Ryoma acknowledged.

The game was different than most games he played. It was not focused, like with Tezuka-buchou. There wasn't unconceivable thrill, like with Fuji-senpai. The way Jiroh played his matches was a miracle itself. Ryoma would have to pause every time he introduced a new shot, because his opponent would start to fanboy over it.

The entire game was fragmented – but somehow, it was still enjoyable. Jiroh knew how to pressure his opponents. Unfortunately, it was also kind of annoying.

"That Drive B thing was amazing," Jiroh promptly announced in the middle of nowhere.

Ryoma glanced up, and missed the ball when he swung. Jiroh fell over laughing. Ryoma glared and shut him up.

"Stop it."

"Stop what?" Jiroh asked.

"Being so excited." Ryoma pulled his cap down. "It's just tennis."

Jiroh propped his racket up against his chin, eyes half-lidded in a relaxed manner. Ryoma wondered if they were even playing a game anymore.

"But you love tennis, don't you?" Jiroh looked thoughtful. "I can tell."

The ball thudded against the ground as Ryoma bumped it with his racket. Apparantly Jiroh was a mind-reader too – not to mention the most distracted person on earth. It was a wonder he made the team. Ryoma praised Fuji for lasting the match without throwing his tennis racket at Jiroh's face. He was certainely on the verge of doing so.

"Can we just play?"

"We are playing, aren't we?"

Ryoma looked like he was going to blow a fuse. "I'm going to leave," he threatened.

Jiroh just laughed. "Sorry. I don't usually go this far. It's just funny to see you get pissed."

"Great," Ryoma replied. Sarcasm drenched his voice.

Jiroh grinned. "Want to finish it?"


They ended the game 5-2 when Ryoma introduced the split step. Jiroh had lost it, and had been entirely too excited to play. He looked so overly excited that Ryoma was suspicious that he was doing all of this on purpose. After all, he himself had stated that it was funny watching the twelve-year old get riled up.

"This was stupid," Ryoma said, back turned away. He started to walk towards the distance. Despite playing such an incredulous match, he was surprised to find his heart racing against his chest. His legs felt unsteady, and shaky from the heat and play. Jiroh was definitely a good player.

"…Echizen, you're not mad at me, are you?"

"Why are you following me?"

"You're mad."

Ryoma glanced behind him, and was irritated to find Jiroh still hadn't put his shirt back on. What was it these days, with boys flaunting their muscle? Not that Jiroh even had that much muscle. He was just fit, and lean, and incredibly- Ryoma shook his head brusquely. All tennis players fit that description, himself included. There was nothing special about Jiroh.

A yawn interrupted his thoughts. "Can we settle down somewhere?"

"I'm going home."

"But I'm sleepy."

A glance backwards. "You can leave, then."

Jiroh looked reluctant, and shook his head. His steps fell alongside Ryoma's. It was unusual, but this made Ryoma feel somewhat uneasy. Jiroh's intoxicating body was even closer than before. Silently, they passed the frayed courts and Ryoma found himself walking towards a tree. He really needed a nap, and the shade was tempting.

"Where ya heading?"

"The tree," Ryoma turned his direction abruptly. The large tree weighed heavily with cherry blossoms.

Jiroh looked amused for a moment, as if he knew what was going on in Ryoma's head. With quickened steps, he caught up to the fast-paced freshman and they reached the tree together. It was old and thick, with plush pink leaves floating towards the ground. The shade was abundant.

Perfect for a nap.

"Aw, man," Jiroh stretched, and promptly plopped down onto the grass. He spread his arms. "So hot."

Ryoma just frowned, and cautiously settled beside him. He shimmied backward so he was pressed against the tree bark. With an exhausted sigh, he took off his cap and shook the sweat out of his hair, eyes closed in the relief of shade. When he reopened them, he found Jiroh still awake, propped on an elbow with a smile on his face.

"Aren't you supposed to be asleep?"

Jiroh's grin stretched. "Aren't you?"

"In a second," Ryoma huffed. To prove his point, he crossed his arms and leant back with closed eyes. Cool sweat trickled down the side of his head, and he exhaled through his lips as wind caressed his face. Falling asleep sounded absolutely brilliant at the moment – and yet, he couldn't because the burn of Jiroh's gaze wouldn't let him.

Ryoma snapped. His eyes flung open. "Stop that!"

Jiroh had his face buried in his arms, snoring softly.

"Huh?" Ryoma blinked. He swore Jiroh had been eyeing him. The twelve-year old frowned, and rolled away from Jiroh. He found a comfortable position and shut his eyes, willing himself not to be paranoid. The moment he did that, Jiroh peeked up from under his arms, thanked his ability to fake snore, and stared a little longer.

It was rare to catch an innocent Ryoma.

Dark emerald hair caught in the sunlight as full lips breathed in and out. It was a nice sight for Jiroh to behold, and with a lazy smile, he stared.

"Heh. So this is Echizen Ryoma from Seigaku," Jiroh shuffled his position on the grass. "Definitely a monster at tennis."

By late afternoon, Jiroh had somehow (accidentally, of course) shifted so that he was lying side by side with Ryoma. An arm hung to the side and casually laid against Ryoma's stomach, while his close proximity ensured that he was only inches away from the flesh and muscle of Seigaku's prideful freshman.

Two tennis rackets and scattered balls surrounded them as they slept peacefully unaware until evening.

Author's Notes: My muse has been outta whack lately, which is why a Jiroh and Ryoma fic suddenly popped up and demanded to be written. I have no idea how to write Jiroh's character, but I hope it was somewhat in-character.

I tried a different writing style in this one (just a little different, I don't know if you can even tell) but I think it turned out too stiff and mechanical. Siggghs. Oh well.