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FIC: Love Sucks, Play Hard
inukai hands
prillalar wrote in inukai_exchange
Title: Love Sucks, Play Hard
Author: kestrelsan
Recipient: espial
Rating: PG
Wordcount: 3500
Summary: Inui tries yoga. Kaidoh goes underwear shopping.

Author's notes: Espial, thanks for such a fun request to work with! I hope you enjoy the story. Much love to prillalar for beta.



Six of Wakato's change-overs into the match, Kaidoh decides he needs to kick his ass. There are some lines that shouldn't be crossed, and Wakato has the look of someone who needs his ass kicked.

"About time," Momoshiro says, when Kaidoh walks off the court. "Thought you were going to lose to yourself, snake."

"Shut up," Kaidoh says. As if he was ever going to lose to that idiot. He wipes sweat off the back of his neck. His bandana's soaked through and is starting to itch. His face keeps wanting to smile at the win so he glares at Momoshiro instead.

"Kaidoh," Oishi calls over to him. "You should cool down and stretch."

Kaidoh ducks his head. He knows that. "Yes, senpai."

He jogs down to the practice wall. Echizen's using it to warm up, and Kaidoh watches him for a while before finding a spot on the grass next to the wall to stretch out his hamstrings. When he looks up, he sees the bottom of Inui's track pants, then Inui sits down next to him.

"You're perfecting the Boomerang Snake," Inui says. He holds Kaidoh's feet in place so Kaidoh can stretch over them.

Kaidoh doesn't know about perfect, but the ball goes where he wants it to go and his muscles ache in the right places. Just thinking about that sends a buzz through his skin.

"I took some notes," Inui says. "We can go through them tomorrow if you want."

"Okay," Kaidoh says, then the loudspeaker comes on announcing Echizen's match.

****

Meeting Inui at the park has become routine: two miles jogging on the park path, ten sets of windsprints, stretches under the big leafy tree near the playground. The kids on the playground are too noisy, but the sun's out and Kaidoh decides he doesn't mind.

"What do you think about yoga?" Inui asks. A hole is starting to wear in the right knee of his track pants. Kaidoh has the urge to put his finger through it to see if it would fit.

"Er," Kaidoh says.

"It's good for flexibility and balance. I read that it's becoming popular with a lot of tennis players. I bought a book." He pulls the book out from his jacket pocket and hands it to Kaidoh. There's a picture of a woman in blue pants sitting in front of a sunrise on the cover.

"Senpai," Kaidoh asks, looking up. "Why are you helping me?"

Kaidoh can tell Inui's taking his question seriously, which is one of the things he likes about Inui. Kaidoh waits for him to say what he expects: it's for the good of the team, Inui wants to make sure Kaidoh will be a good doubles partner if the opportunity comes up again, he wants to collect all of Kaidoh's data before the next ranking matches.

"I don't know," Inui says. He seems interested in the question, as if he never thought about it before. Maybe he'll go home and open up a new green notebook listing out all the reasons he's helping Kaidoh with his tennis. "Does it matter? Do you want to stop training together?"

Kaidoh ducks his head. "No," he says, to the second question. He's not sure what he feels about the first one. "I was just wondering."

"Oh," Inui says. He pushes up his glasses. There's a long enough pause that Kaidoh starts to worry that he's offended him, then Inui says, "I thought we could try some yoga positions with the team after practice. The book has diagrams."

"Sure," Kaidoh says.

****

It's worth it to see Momoshiro's face. "I'm not doing that!" he says, when Inui shows him the picture.

"Momo," Oishi reprimands. "Everyone is participating." He's surprisingly on board with the whole thing, even when Inui measures the angle of everyone's knee to make sure they're the same as in the diagram. Perhaps he's just happy that it's yoga and not blue juice.

Kaidoh feels like an idiot, but since everyone else except Fuji looks like one, he doesn't mind.

"Are we done now?" Echizen says, eyes narrowed under the brim of his cap.

"Ten more seconds," Inui says, eyeing his stopwatch. Kaidoh can actually feel some burn in his legs. Maybe there's something to yoga after all. Not that he'd ever let Momoshiro hear him say it.
"I thought that was successful," Inui says, when they're walking to the bus stop. He looks pleased.

"Hm," Kaidoh says. He's pretty sure Kikumaru snapped some pictures with his phone when Oishi wasn't looking. He wonders if he got one of Momoshiro, then wonders if there's one of him. Maybe it's better not to know.

"Are you free this weekend?" Inui asks. "There's a movie out about dogs surviving in Antarctica against all odds. I thought it would be a good mental exercise for us to watch. I hear it's very uplifting."

Kaidoh glances at him, surprised. He didn't think Inui was into uplifting movies about dogs, but he realizes he's not sure what Inui's into other than tennis and data and training.

"Okay," he says. "Uh, what time?"

"I'll call you," Inui says. "I have to find out what times it's playing."

Kikumaru comes up behind them and curls his arm around Kaidoh's neck. "What are we talking about?"

"Nothing," Inui says.

"Let's get something to eat," Kikumaru says, so they all end up at the place with the sundaes, even though Kaidoh would rather be at home practicing his swing or doing pushups or pretty much anything else. Inui's sitting on the other side of Momoshiro, who's squishing Kaidoh in the corner of the booth with his big dumb body, so that the leaves of the fake plant on top of the booth divider keep getting in Kaidoh's face.

He doesn't get to talk to Inui again until they're leaving. "I'll call you," Inui says, before he runs to catch his bus.

"What's that about?" Momoshiro asks, unlocking his bike.

"Nothing, idiot," Kaidoh says, and steps aside when Momoshiro tries to ram him with his bike wheel.

Inui calls him later that night. Kaidoh's watching TV in his room with Hazue. "Get out," Kaidoh says to Hazue.

"Whatever," Hazue says, but he closes the door behind him.

Inui's voice sounds weirdly loud in Kaidoh's ear. Kaidoh turns the volume down on his phone. "I checked the movie times. There's one at five on Saturday."

"Okay," Kaidoh says. There's a long silence after. Kaidoh stares at the TV. He finds the remote and turns it off. The silence is even louder now.

"I have those notes from your match against Wakato," Inui says. "I can bring them with me."

"Oh," Kaidoh says. He's used to Inui's data by now, but it still feels weird knowing that Inui's watching and analyzing and mentally noting all of it. "Okay." There's more silence. "Uh, I'll see you then."

"Bye, Kaidoh," Inui says.

Kaidoh closes his phone and goes to find Hazue. "You can finish watching in my room," he says.

"Thought you were still talking to your boyfriend," Hazue says, but he follows Kaidoh back to his room.

"He's not my boyfriend," Kaidoh says.

****

"I didn't realize all the dogs died," Inui says, when he finds Kaidoh leaning against the wall outside the theater.

Kaidoh hunches into his jacket. He's still feeling a bit traumatized. Also, embarrassed that he ran out in the middle of the movie. Inui probably thinks he's an idiot or a baby or just really lame.

"I'm sorry," Inui says, and Kaidoh glances over at him. He does look sorry. "Are you hungry? We can get something to eat."

Kaidoh's not really hungry, but he would feel stupid going home. "Sure," he says.

They walk down the street to the place with the really good burgers. It's still early so it's just old people and junior high students like them.

Inui pulls out a notebook and leafs through it. Kaidoh sees snatches of writing and math formulas and poorly drawn sketches of tennis moves before Inui finds the page he's looking for. "The angle of your snake increased ten percent when you returned Wakato's heavy top spin. You should think about exploiting that more."

"Really?" Kaidoh didn't notice at the time. He remembers how it felt to hit that top spin, though, like his arm was going to explode. Maybe he needs to increase his weight training.

"I have more data if you want to go through them."

"Sure," Kaidoh says, and Inui goes through each of Wakato's copies and Kaidoh's reactions to them. Kaidoh eats his burger and thinks about everything he still needs to work on. It feels like a lot, but that's what trying to be the best is all about.
Their bus stop is the same, so they walk down to it together. "What are you doing tomorrow?" Inui asks.

"I don't know yet," Kaidoh says, because other than clean his room and help his dad with a few things around the house, he doesn't have any plans.

"I was thinking of trying a new juice recipe," Inui says. "Cucumbers and ginger root. Cucumbers are good for ulcers and ginger helps with muscle pain. It could be an interesting combination."

Kaidoh's not sure interesting is the right description. "That, uh, sounds good."

"Do you want to come over?"

Kaidoh freezes. He's pretty sure his life would be over if the rest of the team found out he was helping Inui's juice experimentation, however indirectly. And he really hates cucumbers.

"Um," he says, then Inui's bus comes.

"Well, call me," Inui says.

****

Inui's not avoiding him, exactly, but somehow it feels that way. Kaidoh doesn't get a chance to talk to him until after practice. Almost everyone has left the clubhouse before Inui comes out.

"Kaidoh," Inui says; he sounds surprised.

Kaidoh says in a rush: "Do you want to come to dinner at my house?"

Inui doesn't answer right away. Kaidoh's staring at a point just above Inui's head. He hopes he's not turning red.

"Okay," Inui says. "What day?"

Kaidoh realizes he hasn't gotten that far yet in his planning. "Um, I have to ask my mom. Can I let you know?"

"Sure," Inui says.

His mom says Thursday. Kaidoh's not sure what to expect. His family doesn't talk much, and Inui talks a lot. But his father just looks amused when Inui talks about the volcanic reaction he's working on for chemistry class, and Hazue actually seems interested.

"So what happens if you use too much baking soda?" Hazue asks.

"It explodes," says Inui. "It took me a few tries to find the right amount."
They go up to Kaidoh's room after. "Your room is very neat," Inui says, then scans Kaidoh's bookshelf. He pulls out a book on sports psychology that Kaidoh's aunt bought him for his last birthday. "I have this one, too. His theories are all wrong." Inui puts the book back and picks out the last issue of a manga Kaidoh's been picking up. "Oh, I've been reading this. What did you think of the last issue?"

Kaidoh thinks it was a cheat, but Inui has this convoluted theory about it, which he outlines for Kaidoh in detail. Kaidoh still thinks it was a cheat, but Inui's theory is interesting, at least.

They end up sitting on the floor leaning back against Kaidoh's couch. Kaidoh realizes Inui's been quiet for a while, then Inui turns and says, "Kaidoh," just like that, and Kaidoh's not sure what that means. Then Inui kisses him.

Kaidoh stares at him. He's not sure that was even a kiss. Maybe Inui was just leaning over to get something and their mouths accidentally knocked together.

"Thanks for inviting me to dinner," Inui says. He's not looking at Kaidoh. "I should probably go."

"Oh," Kaidoh says. He walks Inui to the door and he thinks they say something about practice tomorrow, but he's not sure.

"Your friend is very nice," his mom says, when Kaidoh goes into the kitchen to get a glass of water.

"Yeah," Kaidoh says.

****

Kaidoh's hitting balls with Momoshiro, which just makes his sucky tennis worse, because he'd like to be able to hit Momoshiro's smirking face but he can't even hit the ball inside the court. Momoshiro says something stupid and Kaidoh points that out, then somehow they're yelling at each other across the net. Oishi comes up to them, genuinely angry in a way Kaidoh's never seen him, and tells them to pick up all the balls outside the court that have been hit over the fence.

So instead of practicing tennis, he has to search for balls in the bushes and leaves outside the courts like a freshman. Kaidoh suspects most of them are from Ikeda trying to hit slices.

Kaidoh finds one covered in wet leaves and wipes all the gunk from it. Momoshiro's looking behind a tree. "Hey," Kaidoh says, and he can't believe he's asking Momoshiro this, except he's not mad anymore and Momoshiro's the only one here. "Have you ever liked anyone?"

Momoshiro looks at him like he can't believe Kaidoh's asking him that, either. Kaidoh sees all the various responses Momoshiro could make pass over his face, then Momoshiro just says, "Maybe. Why, do you?"

"Maybe," Kaidoh says. He's not even sure. "How do you know?"

Then Momoshiro does laugh, the moron. "That's a stupid question even from you," he says, then ducks when Kaidoh throws the ball he's holding at him, so now Kaidoh has to search in the bushes for it.

Everyone's gone by the time they find all the balls, even Inui. When Kaidoh gets home he pulls out the last issue of that manga and tries to apply Inui's theory to it, but it doesn't make sense to him at all. He still thinks it's a cheat. Maybe he'll just give the whole series to Hazue.

****

His mom corners him on Saturday. "All of your socks have holes in them," she says. "And you need new underwear."

Kaidoh would rather lose six-love to Momoshiro than go underwear shopping, but his mother is adamant. She waits for him at the foot of the stairs. "You don't need your tennis racquets to go shopping," she frowns, then sighs when Kaidoh clutches his bag protectively.

They end up in the boy's section, Kaidoh keeping enough racks of clothing between him and his mother to separate them without hurting her feelings. When his phone rings, Kaidoh almost drops it he pulls it out so fast.

"What are you doing?" Fuji asks.

"Um," Kaidoh says. His mother's leafing through packets of underwear looking for ones on sale. "Nothing."

"Come to the street courts," Fuji says, just as his mother says, "Kaoru, I'm going to get you a bigger size. You're growing so fast!"

There's a long pause. Kaidoh's sure his face will explode any second. He wonders if there's the smallest chance Fuji didn't hear.

"Is that your mom?" Fuji says. "She sounds nice."

"I'll be there in a few minutes," Kaidoh says, and jams his thumb on the disconnect button.

"Was that your friend who came to dinner?" his mom asks.
"No," he says. "A different one. Is it okay—"

She looks cross at first, then her face smooths into a smile. "Fine," she says. "But be home before dark."

It's more than fifteen minutes from the department store to the street courts, but Fuji is still there. His brother from St. Rudolph is there, too, with a small scowl on his face. And Inui. Kaidoh stops in surprise. He's never seen Inui at the street courts before.

"Kaidoh," Inui says in greeting, like everything is normal and unchanged, like Inui never kissed him, and it just makes Kaidoh more confused.

"We should play doubles," Fuji says. "Yuuta, be my doubles partner."

Yuuta's scowl deepens. "I don't want to play doubles with you. You didn't tell me that's why you wanted to meet here."

"Come on, it'll be fun," Fuji says.

"Did you make your new recipe?" Kaidoh asks Inui, when they line up on the other side of the court.

"Not yet," Inui says, then Yuuta's serving.

Kaidoh hasn't played doubles with Inui since the Hyoutei match. He thinks Inui's stepped up his game even since then. It doesn't hurt that Fuji and his brother are a terrible combination. Yuuta yells whenever he thinks Fuji's poaching one of his shots, and Fuji smiles back. Kaidoh really doesn't understand their issues.

But he and Inui are in synch. Kaidoh remembers how easy it felt to play doubles with Inui, how satisfying it was even beyond finally getting the Boomerang in the singles court. He doesn't care that they lost, though it feels even better that they're winning now. Inui takes a couple winners off his serve for the match, and when Kaidoh looks over Inui's expression is just how Kaidoh feels, like satisfaction and triumph and everything going right. Then Inui's face closes up and Kaidoh can't read him anymore.

"You play interesting doubles," Inui says to Fuji and Yuuta, up at the net.

"I'm going back to school," Yuuta says, glaring at Fuji.

"You said you'd come home for dinner," Fuji says. "Yumiko's making pie."

"Whatever," Yuuta mutters, but he waits for Fuji to get his tennis bag, and they leave the courts together.

Then it's just Kaidoh and Inui. "Do you want to—" Kaidoh says, just as Inui says, "I have to go home."

"Oh," Kaidoh says. He wants to ask Inui if they're going to meet at the park tomorrow like they always do. He hates that he doesn't know. "I'll see you later, then," he says.

****

Two hours before they usually meet, Kaidoh calls him. He figures it's better to call and make sure than wait around the park for Inui to never show up. But when Inui answers the phone, instead of just asking him, Kaidoh says, "Can I come over?"

"Okay," Inui says, after only a short pause.

Kaidoh's never been to Inui's apartment before, so it takes him a while to find the right one. When Inui opens the door, he's covered in green juice. There's a piece of cucumber skin in his hair.

"I think I broke the blender," Inui says.

Kaidoh follows him into the apartment. There's a strong smell of ginger everywhere. On the kitchen counter is the blender covered in chunks of cucumber dripping green juice.

"Maybe you should have taken the skin off first," Kaidoh says.

"The skin is where all the nutrients are," Inui says. "But I think the ginger root is what broke it. I probably should have boiled it first, but I wanted to make it in time to bring to the park today."

So he was going to meet Kaidoh after all. "I hate cucumber," Kaidoh says, but he keeps wanting to grin. Inui's staring at him. Kaidoh wonders if his face looks as weird as it feels, all twisted up and happy. He doesn't even care that he puts his hand in a pool of green juice by accident.

"Is your mom going to be mad about the blender?" Kaidoh asks.

"No, it's mine," Inui says. "She won't let me use hers." He gives Kaidoh a towel for his hand, and Kaidoh helps Inui clean up the mess. The blender's not actually broken, just jammed with ginger root, so he helps Inui with that, too. Inui still has that piece of cucumber in his hair. Kaidoh stares at it, not sure what he's even planning to do, then he leans in and kisses Inui.

"Kaidoh," Inui says, when Kaidoh pulls back. Kaidoh doesn't know if it was a good kiss or not; he doesn't know anything about kissing. But Inui doesn't look unhappy with it.

"We could go down to the river to train," Kaidoh says. The river's pretty secluded in spots.

"Sure," Inui says.

****

Kaidoh watches Echizen take another point from Kawamura. It's just a practice game and neither of them are going all out, but if Kaidoh was out there he'd push him more than Kawamura's doing. His racquet hand itches. If he trained and watched and figured out how to shut down Echizen's finishing shots, Kaidoh could beat him. He's pretty sure.

"Hey, mamushi," Momoshiro calls from the far court. "We're supposed to be playing a game, remember?"

Instead he's stuck playing stupid Momoshiro. Kaidoh grabs his racquet from the bench. He wins three straight points and it's almost enough to make having to play him worth it, particularly when Momoshiro misses a volley and then yells when Kaidoh tells him he's not working hard enough.

"I've calculated that you currently have a sixteen percent chance of beating Echizen," Inui says, as they're walking to the bus stop.

"Hm," Kaidoh says. That's a pretty sucky percentage. His shoulder brushes Inui's, and Inui's shoulder brushes him back. "Uh, my parents are visiting my aunt this weekend," Kaidoh says, not looking at Inui.

Inui clears his throat. After a moment, he says, "We could work on your plan to beat Echizen. It's quite an undertaking. But with some specialized training, I think you could increase your chances to twenty-nine percent."

Kaidoh can live with those odds. He can live with a lot of things.

"Cool," Kaidoh says.


END

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It's no big deal, it's so natural. Cool breeze.

That's what this story is.

I liked it.

Thank you! I'm very happy it came across that way. And I'm glad you enjoyed it :).

*flails* Thank you! (this is espial, I'm just too lazy to log into that account. ;) ) I absolutely love this. *flails around some more* I was trying to figure out which parts I liked best, except I'd end up copying and pasting the whole thing into the comments.

:) Thank you! It's such a fun read.

Yay! I'm so pleased you liked it :D. It really was a fun request to work with, so thank you for that :).

I know I told you this already, but I love how understated this is. The sweetness just creeps up on you, the way they're both a little awkward and unsure. The yoga and the underwear shopping and the doubles -- it was all so much fun! ♥

(Also, the Momo-Kaidoh Sekrit BFFs stuff was so great! And the Sekrit FujiKai.)

Thank you for your hand holding throughout - I'm still not sure I've figured them out, but it was fun to try :).

Aw, I love how believable this story is, like it could happen in canon (even the yoga XD). Of course, some things will have to be behind the scenes. *hee* I love it.

I'm glad to hear that! Thank you. Too bad we couldn't get the behind the scenes stuff, too :).

Aww, this is quiet and adorable. And I can totally see Inui making the team do yoga!

Thank you! I would actually love to see the team do yoga *g*. Especially Momo.

Things I love:

* "I didn't realize all the dogs died," Inui says,
* "Come to the street courts," Fuji says, just as his mother says, "Kaoru, I'm going to get you a bigger size. You're growing so fast!"
* Momo.
* The secret plan to beat Echizen.
* Yoga.
* "The skin is where all the nutrients are"
* this story.


You picked out my favorite parts :D. I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

Awwww, this was so cute! I think my favorite part was Kaidoh kind of sort of asking Momo for advice, heeheehee. :)

Thank you! I have a bit of a thing for MomoKai, but I also like thinking of them as secret BFFs :). I'm glad you enjoyed it!

I loved the natural and angst-free evolution of their relationship, plus: the yoga experiment, Kaidoh asking Momo about feelings, the cucumber-ginger failed experiment with the blender, the "improvised" doubles match, and Kaidoh expelling Hazue from his room and summoning him back later after "his boyfriend"'s call. A very, very nice story!

Thank you so much! I'm glad all of those things worked for you, and that you enjoyed it. :D

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