FANDOM: Prince of Tennis
CHARACTERS: Akazawa and Kaneda, with appearances from the rest of the SeiRu ensemble
SUMMARY: In which Kaneda goes on his first date, sort of. (2500+ words)
NOTES: Originally submitted to the strudy_exchange.
Kaneda’s never liked girls, has never thought of liking them that way (or one in particular) and pursuing said train of thought, seeing as he’s always had other, more pressing things on his mind like fitting in, exams, tennis, video games, and more tennis. So it comes as quite a shock when he realizes that he’s actually thinking of asking that nice girl who sits next to him in Geometry out on a date. Now, if only he could remember her name.
Provided, he wouldn’t be having all this trouble had Mizuki-senpai not convinced him to. Not that he was completely convinced just yet either.
“I think we both know it’s high time you had a bit of experience in this area,” their manager had started, coming up to him after practice, looking for all the world like they were about to discuss a possible secret weapon for the Prefecturals. Kaneda had easily allowed his consent, since – let’s face it – Mizuki-senpai never discussed this stuff with him, never solely with him at least, team meetings aside. And because he’s always wanted his teammates to depend on him more.
Kaneda figures he could add a fresh perspective. ‘Fresh’ in the sense that he was a St. Rudolph boy through and through, and he liked to believe there were some things only he could do as a St. Rudolph boy. Maybe this was his big moment, his heart whispers, scattered beats too loud in his ears. Maybe this one is his, and afterwards Mizuki-senpai will say, “I couldn’t have done it without you.” And then Akazawa-buchou, hearing about his big moment, will add, “I knew you could do it.” Maybe he’d even pat Kaneda on the back, too.
He’d nodded along, trying to piece together the information he was being flooded with, as Mizuki went on and on about each member’s preferences and imaginary pie charts and how he’s never been sure with Kaneda so starting with the opposite gender was a proposed conclusion. Kaneda had nodded along, until it all started to make sense in the way that it didn’t.
He’d nodded, raised his hand awkwardly, and when Mizuki had paused, arching a brow, he’d swallowed that lump in his throat and tried to be brave, “EHHH?”
It’s not his fault. That’s the first thing his senpai surmises. Kaneda’s always been a mystery in this area and he isn’t surprised even Kaneda doesn’t know which he prefers. By this time, Yuuta has ventured over and is asking Mizuki what on earth they’re talking about. To which the latter waves him off, “You needn’t concern yourself with it, Yuuta-kun. I don’t want you to have anything else to worry about.”
Yuuta gives him a funny look, before shrugging, “If you say so.” Kaneda swears he sees Yuuta make a grab for the other boy’s waist as he retreats, but decides not to ask. It’s probably the lack of oxygen in his brain, probably due to Mizuki-senpai’s conclusion that he needs to find a suitable partner for himself. Because what does that even mean?
“You need the excitement,” Mizuki-senpai explains, even if he still doesn’t get it, “so that your senses will grow. And you need the experience for the future.” And that’s that. Somehow, he even manages to solicit a promise that Kaneda will tell him all about it come the weekend. Somehow, Kaneda slumps against the wall, it feels like he’s lost an important tennis match.
“Satome-san,” he says in a brave-little-soldier voice, chest puffed out.
The girl takes her time in turning to face him, tucking strands of hair behind her ear. In a way, Kaneda thinks to himself, she’s kinda cute. Cute in the way that puppies and kittens are. She also looks a lot smaller and easier to break, like how a porcelain vase would shatter if he didn’t do this the right way. In his defense, of course, if Kaneda knew how to do this the right way, he’d feel a lot bigger himself.
“I… was wondering,” he tries, scratching at his chin, “if you would like to go out with me this Friday.” He meets her eyes and catches the look of surprise on her face. She’s never expected him to ask. He’s never dreamed that one day he would need to. He averts his gaze, “I mean, if you’re free. I just… I just wanted to get to know you better.”
Kaneda smiles because he means every word this time, and it’s not in his nature to lie. Even if, in the back of his mind, he doesn’t yet know why he’s resolved to do this, and knows it isn’t only because Mizuki-senpai suggested he try to. Maybe there was something to allowing his senses to grow, maybe it was all for tennis in a twisted only-Mizuki-could-understand way. He would only know if he saw this through to the end.
“I…” He unconsciously steps back as Satome-san nods her head. “I would love to, Kaneda-kun.”
He watches the way her cheeks grow pinkish, dusting at the corners, spreading to the bridge of her nose, up to her forehead. Kaneda finds himself laughing, blushing himself when he realizes that she’s laughing with him.
“Murosaki says that you asked Satome Miyu out on a date,” Yuuta crosses his arms as he takes a sip of water from the fountain. Kaneda jerks his head, feeling the cold splash on his cheek. The water trails down his collar, seeping through his shirt. He wipes his chin.
“Word gets around,” Yuuta continues, frowning. He looks like he wants to say more but doesn’t. And Kaneda himself isn’t sure where he wants to go with the conversation. It feels like he’s being confronted about something he did wrong. And he doesn’t know what it is.
“I thought I’d try something different,” he hears himself reply, doesn’t know where it came from. Yuuta nods, pushing himself away from the wall he’d been leaning on, but he doesn’t look satisfied. Not one bit. Kaneda is about to ask, until he finds a towel dumped on his head.
“You trying to catch a cold?” Akazawa-buchou grins. They both watch as Yuuta walks off, finding his way to Mizuki’s side. They fit like the pieces of a puzzle, sliding into place. And it’s kinda cute, in the way puppies and kittens and Satome-san are. Kaneda’s eyes widen. He’s never really noticed before.
“I tried asking a girl out today,” he says before he can stop himself. Akazawa-buchou looks at him for a moment, with dark eyes he can’t read. He pulls the towel to his cheeks and tries to wipe off something that isn’t there because what he feels instead is his face heating up, like he really might be about to catch a cold.
“Mizuki-senpai suggested I try,” Kaneda mumbles a second later. Still, his captain says nothing. Maybe he hasn’t given Akazawa reason to. What could he possibly respond with?
Kaneda shifts his feet, looks everywhere but at his doubles partner’s face. Hears a soft, “Good luck,” before he finds that Akazawa-buchou is already jogging away, and wonders why he didn’t just keep his mouth shut. Wonders again why it should even matter.
He doesn’t know what to do, what he’s supposed to wear, what he’s supposed to say or how to act. He’s never actually gone on a date before, and the inevitable limits of his knowledge on this sort of thing frustrates Kaneda to no end. He paces in his room before heading to class, only to return during break to pace again. And again.
“Kaneda, you aren’t thirty and your wife isn’t about to have a baby,” Atsushi hums, peeking in, just as he is about to shut the door. He jumps back at the look on his senpai’s face, like he knows something everyone else doesn’t. Atsushi pouts, letting himself in, “You’re supposed to say, ‘Thank you for worrying about me, senpai!’”
Kaneda considers doing that but Atsushi’s already seated himself on his bed, reaching up to remove his red headband. There’s a lull, static silence, like he’s supposed to say something; only, he doesn’t know where to start.
“Do you need help?” He turns to regard Atsushi suspiciously. He knows that his senpai, for most part, means well. But Atsushi’s advice often ranges from hopelessly vague to downright ridiculous – a part of him he’d retained from his years in Chiba, Mizuki often warned. It wasn’t the part about Chiba which terrified him, in any case. It was the fact that, like Mizuki (though their manager didn’t realize it himself), Atsushi had a way with knowing what was going on and being just as wily about it.
“I know where I’m not wanted,” Atsushi sighs, as if reading his thoughts, pulling himself up and passing him to reach for the doorknob.
He knows he probably shouldn’t, but pushes the door shut again.
“I’ve never been on a date,” he mumbles, spying the way his senpai’s expression switches from disappointment to utmost glee. (Offhandedly, Kaneda wonders where Shinya is. Atsushi is always a bit easier to handle whenever Shinya is around, mostly because Shinya is arguably Atsushi’s favorite victim.)
“You need advice then?” Atsushi smiles, leaning against an open palm.
Kaneda nods, slowly. There’s something about the way his senpai smiles which sends shivers up his spine. While Atsushi, acting like there is absolutely nothing to fear, reaches into his pocket, withdrawing his phone. He flips it open, sends a message (or two), then settles against the sheets.
“I know just the person,” Atsushi grins then, waving him off. He blinks, but before he has time to ask, his senpai beats him to it, “Akazawa-buchou would be delighted to help you. I’ve already sent word that you’re going to drop by.”
He doesn’t know how it happens, but somehow, Kaneda finds himself locked out of his own room.
Akazawa closes the door behind him, but still doesn’t say anything. Well, other than a muttered greeting, he hasn’t said much either. They sit across each other, with Akazawa on his bed and Kaneda by the desk.
And he knows that he should probably start, maybe apologize, but he doesn’t know how to or what for. Tentatively, he chances a glance in his buchou’s direction and freezes, catching the way Akazawa is staring right back at him. It’s another heavy gaze he still can’t read, which makes it that much harder.
“Atsushi said you needed help preparing for your date,” Akazawa finally concedes, looking away first and sliding a hand through his hair. He nods, feeling himself begin to relax ever so slightly. Akazawa isn’t smiling, but he isn’t frowning, not quite, and that’s a vast improvement.
“What would you do, buchou?” He asks, leaning forward.
Akazawa seems to consider it for a moment, before he leans forward as well. The way their eyes meet this time isn’t as uncomfortable, certainly not as foreboding, and, on the contrary, is quite nice. As if they’re standing on the court, lining up to serve and they’ve got all the time in the world. Kaneda doesn’t know why but he trusts this feeling, irrevocably so.
“First,” Akazawa says, “I’d ask her about her day.” It sounds simple enough, his buchou even provides examples of questions he could ask. He wishes he had a pad and pen to take it all down. Kaneda smiles. Akazawa-buchou mentions the importance of knowing what she likes to eat or if she’s allergic to anything. How there’s something decidedly wonderful about jogging up this hill nearby where you can see the stars at night clearer. And how the most important, most vital thing is that he should be himself. Just be honest with her.
Somehow, Kaneda knows all this. He knows how simple an actual date can be, figures it’s all just common sense since talking to Satome-san is easy enough. She isn’t an alien or anything, and he’s known her since they were in middle school. But hearing it come from a trusted friend makes it that much more significant.
“I think I just needed to be reassured,” he laughs. Yes, he probably just needed to know that some things wouldn’t change. “Mizuki-senpai caught me by surprise and I didn’t know what I wanted, but it’s a lot clearer now.”
There’s a pause before Akazawa replies, bangs falling over his eyes, “Kaneda, I forgot to mention that there’s something else you definitely have to do before your date is over.”
He watches as Akazawa stands, follows the way he closes the distance between them, and somehow also knows what’s coming before it happens. What surprises Kaneda is that he allows it without a second thought, allows the brush against his lips, allows his eyelids to slide shut, and allows himself to tip over the edge.
He’s never thought of liking girls that way, he decides, because there’s already a lot going on for him down here. On the floor. With Akazawa’s fingers trailing up his torso and his hands in his buchou’s hair. There’s already a lot going on for him. And he knows he promised Mizuki-senpai, but maybe this can be their little secret for just a while longer.
Kaneda thinks it was probably a blessing in disguise. He leans against the fence, Akazawa’s shoulder lightly touching his, as they watch Satome approach their vice-captain.
The truth is, the date wasn’t half as bad as he thought it’d be, only because he had spent half the time wondering how on earth he’d explain that it wasn’t really a date anymore. Not when Kaneda was returning to his buchou’s room after he brought Satome to hers. (Atsushi had refused to give him back his key until the whole thing was over. Kaneda suspects it’s also because he and Shinya had stayed the night, and they’d done unspeakable things in there – on his bed – he’d rather not have to think about.)
In the end, Satome had surprised them both by admitting that she’d always had a bit of a crush on one of his other teammates. And that was probably why everything worked out. Kaneda had promised to at least get her some time alone with Nomura, and Akazawa had been all too eager to help out.
“Now, the only problem is that Mizuki-san wanted to set Nomura-senpai up himself,” Yuuta shrugs, coming up next to them, “He’s going to throw a fit.”
Kaneda makes a face, “I’m sure you can find a way to keep him from mauling us.” He sees the way Yuuta glances towards the gates, waiting for the moment Mizuki will walk in, and thinks that maybe he’s just a bit cuter than puppies and kittens and Satome combined.