TITLE: Like You Mean It
FANDOM: Prince of Tennis
CHARACTERS/PAIRING: Yanagi Renji and Kikumaru Eiji, implied Inui/Eiji
GENRE: gen, friendship, romance
SUMMARY: In which two would-be friends have a conversation of sorts and Yanagi reaffirms what he already knows. (700+ words)
NOTES: Inspired by a prompt from prompt_in_a_box Round 12, "I do desire we may be better strangers." (William Shakespeare, As You Like It 3.2) – Submitted for Round 21 (November Round).
Pulling his bobble hat down, bangs touching lower across his forehead, Eiji chanced a peek to his right, once again, marveling at the man seated next to him, his very presence, all ethereal grace and poignant silence, as if he thrived in the obvious tension, welcomed it perhaps. Yanagi Renji was a formidable opponent indeed.
“Is there something wrong, Kikumaru-kun?” Frozen in place at having been caught, eyes darting to the other’s – what could best be described as a pair of narrowed slits, most unsettling, Eiji quickly shook his head, back ramrod straight. He did not want to look like a frightened rabbit, not in front of this person. Not when he had called Yanagi out to begin with. The brunette was, no doubt, waiting on his cue. And then he would swoop down and say something like, “Give Sadaharu back to me” – an idea Eiji was fully prepared to thwart, set straight, of that much he was certain.
“I… I’m going to be honest, nya. I know you don’t like me and I understand why,” he started, trying not to care that he was probably digging his own grave, cheeks a slight pinkish shade, eyes still on Yanagi, that small bit of confidence – no, rather determination, what he was holding on to.
“Oh? And why wouldn’t I like you?” Yanagi replied, tone decidedly light, floating just below the surface, a predator playing with his next meal. Eiji’s brows furrowed, not at all amused that he was being teased. He drew a deep breath and counted silently to himself, before exhaling and following through, letting his heart speak, saying all the things he wanted to say to try and make his boyfriend’s best friend understand.
“I love him.” It was probably a case of verbal constipation. He nearly groaned aloud, wishing that a hole would open up somewhere close by and promptly swallow him. No matter how true and how right it felt to say those words, they were not what he’d had in mind. It wasn’t like Yanagi would believe that they could justify everything… right? And he had a speech prepared. Well, not so much a speech, rather than a set of lines he knew he could just as well have said in the heat of the moment.
“And Sadaharu loves you.”
“That’s not what I’m talking about. I want us to get along, nya! I know Inui doesn’t say much about this,” Eiji clenched his fists, unclenched them, “but I also know that he’d like it much better if we could be friends. We both want him to be happy, and I understand there are just some things you’ll know about him that I can’t. But in that same sense, I want you to understand that there are also things only I can know and that’s because—”
“Kikumaru-kun, it’s all right.” Momentarily startled that there was a slim finger poised against his lips, his mind blank almost like he wasn’t completely certain where he was, Eiji stared, blinked, closed his eyes, and then swallowed. As his eyelids fluttered open again, he looked to Yanagi, visibly embarrassed beyond all reason, though nevertheless ready to keep on going, resolute. It was such a sight that made the data specialist chuckle, a soft lifting sound, which then grew into a hearty laugh. Even in such a situation, Eiji could admit that he liked it.
“I feel so stupid.”
“Don’t,” Yanagi shook his head, “I appreciate it – I appreciate you, Kikumaru-kun, for being honest and true. And I meant it.”
“Meant what?” Eiji asked, confused. The brunette chuckled again. Oh, this could be so much fun. He took a perverse kind of pleasure in knowing that this was something that couldn’t necessarily ever be replicated, and therefore was something only he would witness, like a snapshot of the sky, of the clouds that never looked the same twice. It was something he could easily tease his Seigaku counterpart with the next time they saw each other.
“What I said, that Sadaharu loves you and I can see why. I was 99.63% sure, of course, but it did help to hear it from you.”
And with Eiji bristling as he was, going on about how he had jumped to the wrong conclusions and had taken his frustrations out on Yanagi, the latter could only settle with reaching out and giving the redhead a firm pat. Thus, a friendship had been sealed.