This Is Our Year

By Mizu | mail | www

Hiyoshi doesn't like him much, Ohtori thinks on the third day of tennis practice as he chases after a ball that the other first year has shot just out of his reach, and he hasn't figured out why yet. But Hiyoshi always takes particular pleasure in trying to pound Ohtori into the ground during their matches; all of their matches, not just the ones where the senpai are loitering on the other side of the fence. Atobe, the second-year star of the regulars, and his best friend Shishido - not a regular yet, but in the top tier of the pre-regulars - are both watching even though they seem to be engrossed in their conversation. He could hear them laughing when the match was going, but now he can see Atobe's sharp blue eyes skimming over both he and Hiyoshi. Shishido's sprawled out on the bleachers, his legs stretched in front of him and long dark hair falling out of his ponytail, but his eyes are intense on the two first years, and his head's tipped to the side like he's considering something.

Atobe's going to be captain next year, everyone knows that, Ohtori thinks. Hyoutei never has vice-captains - Sakaki declares it unneccessary - but he figures that Shishido will probably be the next thing to it. This match, he muses as he straightens up, is starting to look like a tryout for the regulars. If that's the case, Hiyoshi will definitely be getting the spot first.

"I won," Hiyoshi says simply, coolly. He hooks his racket over his shoulder and approaches the net. "You need to work on your control."

"Yeah. It's a weak point." Ohtori's lips curve into a warm smile. "You don't seem to have any."

Hiyoshi snorts and turns on his heel.

Later, they're the last ones in the locker room, still there even after all the other pre-regulars have gone home. But then, Ohtori thinks as he drops a towel carelessly on the bench and shrugs into his uniform shirt again, he and Hiyoshi know the score - if they ever want to play in matches, they have to make it into the top tier of the pre-regulars by the end of their first year or they'll be relegated to the cheer squad. He glances over at Hiyoshi; the other boy stares forward as he knots his tie with quick practiced movements.

"You don't like me, do you?" Ohtori says mildly.

Hiyoshi's hands pause on his tie and he spares Ohtori one glance. "No," he says finally. "But it's not personal."

Ohtori raises an eyebrow as he fastens the buttons on his shirt, working his way down. "Well," he says with amusement, "that's good to know," and his teeth flash in a grin as Hiyoshi flashes him a sharp look.

"I don't make friends with the competition," he says shortly as he shrugs into his jacket. "That's all."

"That's a shame," Ohtori murmurs, tipping his head to the side. He and Hiyoshi share the same home room, and Hiyoshi's as ruthless academically as he is in tennis. "Is anyone not a competitor?"

Hiyoshi's nostrils flare, and his eyes narrow, but that's the only sign Ohtori has that he's pissed the other boy off. Hiyoshi shoulders his bag and stalks towards the door. "I'll see you tomorrow" he says gruffly, then turns in the doorway, a smirk curling his lips. "If you're in the mood, I can kick your ass again."

Ohtori lifts both eyebrows. "That might be fun."

*

When the end of the year arrives, the club members clamor around the bulletin board where the new rankings are posted; the regulars are up, and no one's surprised at the name at the top - who else would it be but Atobe? - but there are a couple of...unexpected additions, Hiyoshi thinks, his face expressionless as he skims the list. Kabaji Munehiro, another first year, he's up there, and in retrospect it doesn't surprise him much. Kabaji's got power in a way that no other member of the Hyoutei club does, and they face enough schools with good power players to make that important. Plus, Hiyoshi thinks, he's got a photographic memory, one that keeps him at the head of their class and makes it impossible for an opponent to outmaneuver him. Kabaji's got some things the Hyoutei club needs to be competitive, and Hiyoshi's not...bitter about seeing him on the regulars when he isn't.

Ohtori Choutarou, though, that's another story. Ohtori isn't better than him; his scud serve could be impressive, but it only rarely hits the mark. His own game's cleaner, more polished, and more importantly - he wins, almost all the time.

"I'm sorry you didn't make the regulars," Ohtori says quietly from behind him, and his voice makes Hiyoshi's teeth grit together as he bites down a sharp, annoyed retort. "I was surprised to see myself up there," he continues. "If any two first years were going to make it, I was sure it'd be Kabaji and..."

Oh, shut up, Hiyoshi thinks, but aloud all he says is: "It doesn't matter. Congratulations."

"Thank you." Ohtori cocks his head to one side an tucks his hands into his pockets. "You're not going to just let me stay ahead, are you?" he asks.

Hiyoshi snorts. "Don't be ridiculous," and his eyes narrow slightly as Ohtori grins.

"Good," Ohtori said. "For a second, I was afraid you were going soft on me."

"In your dreams." Hiyoshi lifts his racket away from his side and shifts his grip, holding a lightweight aluminum tennis racket the way most people would hold a sword. "Do you know what gekokujou is?"

"Of course."

"Then you don't ever have to worry about me going soft."


*

The thing about Ohtori's serve, Hiyoshi thinks as he swipes at his damp bangs and narrows his eyes, is when he hits it right, he really hits it, and there's no prayer of smashing it back at him. Not even for him. Luckily, Ohtori still can't control it most of the time, but when he can he'll be even more of a rival and, Hiyoshi has to admit to himself, even more of an asset to the team. Maybe that's why, when they play, he always finds himself giving Ohtori gruff tips on controlling his aim. It's a reversal of the traditional roles at Hyoutei, he thinks with a tinge of amusement; the regulars play matches with the rest of the club, and it's usually a tactic to get the pre-regulars to improve. The regulars end up acting like teachers but ironically, Hiyoshi muses as he approaches the net, sometimes it's the opposite with he and Ohtori.

Hiyoshi Wakashi is not a fan of irony.

"Better," he says flatly as he and Ohtori meet at the net. "But you're still hitting it out more times than not. You need to slow it down until you've mastered your aim some more."

"I can't slow it down," Ohtori says. "It's my signature. It's..." he hesitates, and Hiyoshi finishes his sentence.

"The reason you got on the regulars? Part of it. It's probably what pushed you ahead, but if all you had was that serve and nothing else, you wouldn't be where you are." Hiyoshi's voice is crisp and matter-of-fact, impartial, but Ohtori is pretty sure he can hear a trace of residual resentment in his voice. "If it is the reason," he continues, "then Hyoutei isn't what I thought, and I should have gone to Rikkai instead."

A slow smile spreads across Ohtori's face as he surreptiously glances behind them. Atobe's there, with Shishido, and only one of them looks amused. "You know the captain's right behind us?" he asks, and Hiyoshi snorts.

"Of course I do."

"I thought you might." Ohtori swallows a snicker and tucks his hands in his pockets - practice at Hyoutei begins with 100 laps every day, and he'd rather not add an extra 50 to that number - then glances at Hiyoshi. "Practice is over," he says.

"Yes."

"Want to go for a burger and a soda before we go home?"

Hiyoshi twists his head to the side and opens his mouth to deliver his customary refusal, but then he pauses and lifts his shoulders in a careless shrug.

"Sure," he says. "Why not?"

It's not like treating Ohtori like the enemy is getting him anywhere anyway, he thinks.

"I knew I'd soften you up eventually," Ohtori says with a grin, and Hiyoshi shoots him a look.

"I am not," he enunciates, "going soft."

"Of course not."

Then again, Hiyoshi thinks, being friends with Ohtori is probably guaranteed to drive him just as crazy as treating him like a rival does.

*

Everyone at Hyoutei knows who the captain next year will be - maybe, at first, some thought it would be Ohtori Choutarou, but for months now it's been clear: Hiyoshi Wakashi. He stands on the sidelines, his arms folded across his chest and his face impassive as he watches two first years play each other on the court.

"I feel a sense of deja vu," Ohtori murmurs, bending his head towards Hiyoshi. His teeth flash in a bright grin. "You?"

"Not particularly," Hiyoshi returns. He glances at Ohtori. "I'm not Atobe."

"I'm not Shishido-san."

Hiyoshi grunts and then jerks his head in the direction of the two first years. They've approached the net, and they're arguing - heatedly, arrogantly - over whether a shot was in or not. "They'll both be on regulars next year," he says, and Ohtori's eyebrows shoot up.

"Bitter over that?" he says mildly.

"Don't be ridiculous," Hiyoshi begins and then scowls as Ohtori gives him a look. "Fine, a little. But I understand the point. I do better if I have to fight for something. It's not going to do either of them any good.

"Besides," he adds after a moment. "We can't afford to run that kind of experiment this year. There's only three of us left."

Ohtori inclines his head. "And an army of 100 pre-regulars, most of whom would be on the main team at any other school."

"Sure," Hiyoshi says with a shrug. "But we're not any other school. We're Hyoutei."

A husky chuckle escapes from Ohtori's throat and Hiyoshi shoots him a look. "What?"

"Nothing," Ohtori says. "It's just..."

"What?"

"I think I figured out why you were a foregone conclusion for captain and neither Kabaji nor I were." Hiyoshi raises his eyebrows, and Ohtori clarifies. "You have the attitude down."

"Heh," Hiyoshi snorts, "maybe so. But you would have done fine," he continues with a shrug. "You'd be a good captain, but the club wouldn't feel the same as this one."

"It'll still be different," Ohtori says almost idly. "You're not Atobe, after all. Next year will be our year."

"Yeah." Hiyoshi gives Ohtori a long, measuring look. "Want to come to the office after practice?" he asks. "You can help me look over the...potentials."

Ohtori looks surprised for a bare instant, and then he nods. "Sure," he says, even though he's always thought that was the kind of responsibility Hiyoshi would never share. "I'd be happy to."

"Good," Hiyoshi says. "I'll see you later."

"Where are you going?"

"It's the third years' last day," Hiyoshi says, a slightly self-deprecating smile slipping onto his face. "I have to try to beat Atobe one more time before he graduates."

When Ohtori opens the door to the office, forty-five minutes later, Hiyoshi's already there. His feet are propped up on the desk - even a few months ago, Ohtori never figured Hiyoshi would relax enough to do that - and he's flipping through a shief of papers, marking a name occasionally Ohtori notices as he leans against the doorjamb. It's not long before Hiyoshi senses him there and looks up.

"Why didn't you come in?" he asks.

"I was watching," Ohtori says, walking forward and folding himself into the chair across from Hiyoshi. "You seem to have everything well in hand," he adds. "I'm surprised you asked me to help."

"You're observant. Sometimes," Hiyoshi says, "I was focused on what I was doing. You can pay attention to what everyone else is doing too." He shrugs. "I'd be an idiot not to ask you your opinion out of pride, and I'm not an idiot."

Ohtori skims through the sheaf of paper in front of him on the table, and smiles. The handwriting is all Hiyoshi's, and he wonders when he had time to do all of this.

"I've been taking notes since first year," Hiyoshi says as if Ohtori asked. "First, it was about the competition. Not so much now, but it's still valuable."

"Yes," Ohtori agrees. He pauses and reads a file on a second year who's been a strong member of Hyoutei since his first year, but hasn't quite made it to the regulars yet. One of their main rivals, back in first year, Ohtori remembers. "You're very thorough," he says, glancing up. "I don't think you need me."

"Do you want to go?"

"No."

"Then stay," Hiyoshi says carelessly, but an involuntary flush suddenly creeps up his cheeks. "Maybe I don't need you," he mutters. "But I want you."

"Really?"

"Yeah."

"I see," Ohtori says, and as a scowl creases Hiyoshi's face and he bends his head to stare down at his papers again, Ohtori leans forward and jerks his chin back up. He kisses him; it's fast and awkward and sloppy, an experiment, but, he notes, Hiyoshi kisses him back.

"I want you too," Ohtori says as he leans back. He can feel his own face burning, he thinks; that's not something he expected when he's thought of this before. He runs a hand over his short silvery hair and his teeth flash in a brief grin. "I have for a while," he says, and then looks at Hiyoshi for his reaction.

There's a pause, and then Hiyoshi's mouth kicks up in a half-grin. "Yeah," he says. "So have I."


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