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17 October 2005 @ 12:39 am
[LOG] - Datapair <3 Part I  
Characters: Inui Sadaharu and Yanagi Renji
Date: After the two finish moving in to their new apartment
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Our two favorite datamen go out to celebrate their moving in, and in more ways than one, get more than they expected.

It was several weeks later that they found themselves moving into the apartment. Making sure his blender was plugged in, Inui proceeded to unpack the rest of his personal belongings. Nestled at the bottom of his suitcase were his photos, placed there for protection. He looked at them, there were pictures of the old team, and the one he had held onto since before he even gone to Seigaku.

Staring up at him were younger versions of both himself and Renji, holding a trophy up in victory. He smiled and placed it on his desk.

Yanagi entered the living room, carrying a box from his dorm room. He set it on the desk on the opposite wall, going through everything. He smiled, taking out the notebooks he'd kept on all of his teammates during school. He thought for a moment and put the notebooks aside. He'd take them to the picnic as a little present.

Inui neatly shoved his now-empty suitcase under his bed and looked around the room. He nodded to himself; everything was unpacked and neatly put away. He, at least, was officially ‘moved in’.

He peaked his head out into the living room, spying Yanagi going through a box of his belongings, “Renji, is there anything I can help you with?”

"Hmm? Oh I'm fine, thank you Sadaharu," Yanagi smiled back at his friend before placing the photos on the desk. They were of his family, with a few pictures of himself and Sadaharu as well as his teammates from Rikkai.

“Ah, alright then.” Inui eyed the pictures both he and Renji had brought. They certainly filled up the empty spaces in their apartment nicely. He smiled, feeling for the first time in a long while ‘at home’.

Looking around, Yanagi placed the notebooks he'd taken out into a book bag before zipping it up. He'd take it, along with the sushi, to the picnic that Yagyuu was arranging for the former Rikkaidai players. "All done?"

Inui nodded, “Yes, I just finished.” He noticed the book bag Yanagi was shouldering, “Going out?”

"Eh? Oh! Not today. This is for the picnic Yagyuu-san wishes to have next week," Yanagi explained, placing the book bag against the wall near his door so he wouldn't forget it.

“I see.” Very like Renji, planning ahead like that. “Well, we’re all moved in, should we do something to celebrate?”

"Of course. Dinner and perhaps a movie or show?" Yanagi suggested and then blinked. That...sounded decidedly like a date. Okay.

Inui stared at his friend in silence, the same thought passing through his mind. But, it was fairly common for friends to go out to dinner and movies as well; perhaps for once he was overanalyzing the situation?

“That sounds like a good idea, Renji.” He finally answered, deciding to go with the suggestion.

"Good," Yanagi didn't even blink at his friend's agreement. Pushing aside the strange thought that entered his head, he straightened himself up.

Inui nodded, walking back to his part of the apartment to grab a light coat. It would probably be cooler outside by the time they got back. “Anything you wanted to see?” he asked, “ I know there’s a nice Thai place near the theater that isn’t too expensive.”

"Sounds wonderful," Yanagi said, slipping on his own coat that he'd retrieved from his closet. Once he was in his coat, he nodded to his friend. "That sounds like a good idea to me. Lead the way."

Being so close to the subway station, it was only a short ride to the restaurant. Sitting down at a table for two, Inui picked up his menu, keeping it lowered so that he could read it while still being able to see Yanagi across the table. He briefly scanned the different choices, quickly deciding on the chicken.

Looking through his own menu, which primarily rested on the table, Yanagi went through each selection and decided on the fish. Once they'd placed their orders, he looked up and gave a brief smile to his friend.

Inui returned Yanagi’s smile with one of his own then looked out across the street where couples were already walking into the theater, going to see an early show. “So.” He asked, turning back to his friend, “is there something specific you wanted to see, or should we just take our chances and see what’s playing when we finish dinner?”

"Second option has possibilities," Yanagi mused, resting his chin on his hand as he leaned on the table. There was a 30% chance that they would enjoy the film, though the stakes would be higher if they actually knew what was playing.

The same statistics were running through Inui’s head. Who knew if they’d like what was playing, or if anything was even going to be starting when they finished eating. But…..for once, maybe the two data masters could just forget their data. Just for one night. “I think it does.”

Smiling, Yanagi nodded, folding his hands on the table. He didn't want to mention anything, but perhaps he could get Inui to tell him what was wrong. Whatever it was, it was bothering his friend greatly.

It was at that moment their food arrived, and for a while their friendly conversation ceased. They had been distracted most of the day unpacking, but Inui at least finally realized just how much of an appetite he’d build up from moving boxes and suitcases all afternoon.

Purring softly at the smell of the fish, Yanagi took a small bite. Delicious. He looked over at his friend and smiled. After all, he was with his best friend again. No matter what had happened in the past, they would always remain friends.

Inui raised an eyebrow at the sound that escaped Yanagi’s lips. Interesting. He took a bite of his own food, making a mental note that they should come here again, especially if the food caused Renji to make sounds like that.

Completely oblivious to Inui, Yanagi savored the taste of the fish delicacy. It had been such a long time since he'd had any kind of decent meal. And fish was his favorite, he was so going to make sure they came here again.

The food was good, Inui admitted, although the reactions it was getting from his friend were rather….intriguing. The other hadn’t looked up once since they had started eating. “So…” he began in a conversational tone, “how do you like the food, Renji?” Maybe that would get his friend’s attention.

"Hmm?" Yanagi blinked, looking up at his friend after swallowing the latest morsel of food. He smiled at his friend and gave a confirming nod. "Very good, thank you. And how is yours?"

“Delicious.” Inui responded, eating anther bite of chicken, “We shall have to come here again in the future.”

"Most definitely," Yanagi smiled, taking a sip of his beverage.

The meal continued on in silence, Inui glancing often at Yanagi as his finished off his food. He took his eyes off his friend just long enough to glace back over at the theater. It seemed a bit of a line was forming. Perhaps luck was on their side, as far as finishing in time for a show was concerned. He gestured towards their next destination, “Ready to go, Renji?”

"I am," Yanagi finished the last of his meal and placed his napkin on the table. He noticed the line as well and was very pleased. They seemed to be doing quite well.

Inui nodded, raising his hand and indicating to their waiter that they wanted the bill. “We should get relatively good seats to whatever’s playing. The main crowd doesn’t seem to have arrived yet.” He indicated the line, which while forming, was by no means as large as he predicted it was going to be soon.

"Which can be a good thing," Yanagi said, eyeing the crowd outside. It was definitely time for them to get going if they wanted to miss the large crowd.

Inui noticed the growing crowd as well, and nodded to the waiter as they were given the bill. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out his wallet and quickly paid for the meal before Yanagi could protest then stood up walking to the door and holding it open for his friend.

Smirking, Yanagi gave a nod to his friend, exiting the restaurant. If Inui wanted to pay for dinner, that was fine. He'd just pay for the tickets, ha!

Renji would no doubt try to pay for the tickets; Inui could tell from the smirk on the others’ face that that was what his friend was planning. Well, there was a reason Inui hadn’t put his wallet away yet. ‘Really.’ He thought, moving to catch up with Yanagi, who was already halfway across the street, ‘Does he think that my observational skills have gotten rusty after just a few years?’

Of course he doesn't but Yanagi was ready for any and all eventualities. He'd been wanting to see this show for some time so, of course, had come prepared. He eyed his friend's wallet and waved it away as he pulled out two tickets from his pocket. "Try again next time, Sadaharu. Here's your ticket."

Inui’s eyebrow quirked ever so slightly. So, it was his turn to be surprised that their data hadn’t really been abandoned after all. He wondered for how much of the night he had been played. “Ah, thank you, Renji.” He said, honestly appreciative, taking the ticket from his friend’s hand.

"You're welcome. I'd already intended to see this show, and thought we might as well use the tickets, ne?" Yanagi smiled, his lips quirking slightly. "Besides; you treated me to dinner. It's only fair I treat you to the show."

“I guess you’re right on both counts.” Inui had to agree, “but we’re living together now and we’re sharing a lot of things. It shouldn’t really matter who pays for little things like this, especially between old friends.” Of course, he liked to treat Yanagi to things, but that was beyond the point.

“So, what are we going to go see?”

"An interesting little European film I'd heard about," Yanagi said, pointing to one of the posters on the wall. "It seemed interesting. I hope you don't mind." He liked spending time with Inui, and hadn't been able to do very much of it as the years went by.

“Of course not.” Inui allowed himself a small laugh, “I was the one who wanted to just take things as they came, remember?”

"Ah yes..." Yanagi actually flushed, though it wasn't all that evident by his appearance. "We were going to do that weren't we?" Oops.

“Yes, we were, Renji. Don’t tell me you’re forgetting things so easily in old age.” Inui asked, jokingly.

"Hehe...who me? Forget? Perish the thought," Yanagi shrugged, rubbing the back of his neck. "You know old habits die hard."

“Yes, I’m quite aware.” Inui smiled. Once a dataman, always one. He checked his watch, “Looks like the shows going to start in another fifteen minutes, shall we go in?”

Sure enough, the line, now considerably longer than it had been, had begun moving into the theater.

"Yes, lets." Yanagi gave a brief smile to his friend before following the other group of people into the theater. He kept his eyes forward, trying to push away the thought that this was a date. It wasn't a date. Just two old friends going to see a movie together.

It seemed lines didn’t matter any longer once the doors opened, as everyone, seeing people were being let in, rushed forward anyway, hoping for good seats. Inui found it very unorganized. This would only have taken 50% of the time it was if people had stayed in line. Without thinking, he grabbed Yanagi’s hand, trying to keep him close, and steered the two of them to the entrance. He didn’t want to lose his friend in the crowd.

Yanagi blinked, staring at the hand that was now holding his own. A slow smile crept over his lips but was quickly gone moments later. He allowed Inui to lead, watching with disapproval as all people seemed to mill around, looking for seats. He hated anything that was unorganized.

Inui lead Yanagi to the far side of the theater, once their tickets had been presented. He calculated, quite accurately, that more people would go for the center seats, although all of the places in this theater offered a good view. Finding two end seats, he gestured for Yanagi to sit down, he would follow.

Nodding, Yanagi took the seat inside, giving Inui the end seat. Sitting comfortably in his seat, he sat back and held the refreshments and popcorn they'd purchased just prior to coming into the theater. A movie just wasn't a movie without popcorn!

Once he saw Yanagi had situated himself, Inui also took his seat. Waiting until his friend was sipping his soda, Inui grinned and snuck his hand over, reaching for Yanagi’s currently unattended popcorn.

His hand slipped out and smacked the one reaching for his precious popcorn. Yanagi sipped his soda, not even glancing at Inui. "Kirihara doesn't get away with that, what makes you think you can?"

“Kirihara wasn’t your doubles partner for three years.” Inui replied matter of factly, cradling his hand. He had a feeling he still wouldn’t be getting Yanagi’s popcorn, however.

"Ask nicely and I'll share," Yanagi smirked, sitting back in his seat. "And thank God for small favors. I don't know if even I could handle Kirihara as a doubles partner."

No one could handle Kirihara as a doubles partner, Inui ventured to guess. Looking at the popcorn, he sighed, “Could I please have some popcorn?” Renji ruined all his fun.

"Of course you can," Yanagi grinned back at his friend, holding out the tub of popcorn. Nothing like teasing your best friend in the evening.

Just as Inui reached for the popcorn, the lights in the theater started to dim. Quickly grabbing a handful in the failing light, he turned his attention to the screen, leaning back comfortably into his seat.

Turning from his friend, Yanagi sat back just as the lights dimmed and the movie started. He placed the popcorn between them and smiled slightly. The credits began to roll and he prepared to enjoy the movie with his best friend next to him.

Inui adjusted his glasses, following the subtitles that ran down the screen. The movie was good thus far, Renji had good taste, not that he ever doubted the fact. He reached over blindly for some more popcorn, not wanting to take his eyes off the screen.

It just so happened that at the same moment that Inui reached inside the tub of popcorn, Yanagi did the same thing. He blinked, a momentary frown crossing his lips as he felt something brush against his hand. When he realized it was Sadaharu's hand, his cheeks turned a light shade of pink and he pulled his hand back out.

Inui’s brow furrowed as his hand made contact with Yanagi’s. The quick withdrawal of the other’s hand from the popcorn left him even more confused. Forgetting both the food and the movie he turned his head to see if anything was wrong. Was it just him, or did Renji’s face look a little red? Perhaps it was just reflection from the screen.

Blinking, Yanagi kept his gaze on the screen, glad that the darkness hid the blush. Or so he hoped. He gave it up to the intensity of the movie, not even aware of Sadaharu's gaze on him.

Well, Renji seemed to be watching the movie now, so Inui decided to ignore the incident, for the moment at least. Now was not the time to be questioning his friend about such things.

Yanagi was ever so grateful that Inui either hadn't noticed, or was ignoring it for the moment. If he had noticed, perhaps he'd forget about it by the end of the movie.

That was hardly likely. Inui was just as persistent as Yanagi when it came to such situations. However, his odd observation of Renji’s face color could wait, the movie was getting even more interesting, and his stomach was reminding him that he hadn’t gotten any popcorn in his last attempt for the bag.

The movie and popcorn were the last things on Yanagi's mind. He kept his gaze forward, his mind tumbling over everything that he felt. It was all so confusing and he wasn't sure what to make of it all. After awhile, his mind settled back onto the movie, and pushed aside his concerns for a later time.

The film continued in silence, which wasn’t really that awkward as they were in a movie theater. The popcorn remained half full, as Inui had stopped eating after realizing that he was the only one who had taken any for the past half hour. He was beginning to worry about Renji again. Of course, the earlier incident had ever completely left his mind.

The movie would be over in approximately thirty seven minutes. He would have to talk to Renji then.

It wasn't long before the end credits rolled and the lights came back on, signaling the end of the movie. Yanagi blinked, rubbing his eyes. The sudden light always disturbed him a bit, since he wasn't used to the sudden shift in lighting. He smiled, looking over at his friend. "What did you think of it?"

“It was a very good movie, you picked well, Renji.” Inui smiled, staying seated. It was better to wait for the main crowd to leave before trying to exit the theater themselves. Besides, he still needed to talk with Renji.

"Thank you," Yanagi smiled, leaning back into his seat and listened to the music for the end credits. It was nice to just relax without anything to do for awhile. Let the theater empty out before they left.

The crowd was just as unorganized leaving as they had been coming in, and the credits had nearly ended by the time the two friends felt the theater empty enough to leave. Inui took the leftover popcorn and sodas and dumped them into a trash can on the way out. “By the way, Renji.” He began, the popcorn reminding him about what he had wanted to talk about, “are you ok, you didn’t eat anything for the last hour of the movie.”

Damn Sadaharu and his perception. Yanagi should have known he wouldn't have missed that little incident. "Ah? Hmm...yes. Quite all right. I just wasn't hungry any longer." Well it wasn't really a lie, but he rarely ate popcorn at a theater when he was hungry.

“There was also the fact that your face was red for several minutes after our hands touched in the popcorn bag.” Inui continued, mentally taking note of Yanagi’s rather curt answer to his first question. Well, he’d find out here if it had just been a trick of the light that had made him think he saw Renji blush. He eyed his friend’s face closely behind his glasses to see how he’d react.

Yanagi stared back at his friend, quirking an eyebrow upwards. "Are you sure you didn't see a reflection of some sort, Sadaharu? I don't remember blushing for any reason." He was lying through his teeth, but the other didn't need to know that.

The answer was slightly defensive, and there was a fairly good probability that Renji was indeed lying, but Inui calculated that further questioning might make his friend irritable, so he stayed silent. Turning and walking in the direction of the nearest subway station, “That must have been it. I suppose we should go home then.”

"If you'd like," Yanagi said, a note of sadness in his voice. He'd been enjoying the night out with his friend.

Inui stopped, noticing his friend’s depressed tone. “Is something wrong, Renji?” he asked, moving back over to Yanagi’s side.

"Hmm..." Yanagi frowned before linking his arm with is friend's. "I don't know. I just don't feel like going back home just yet. Do you?"

Inui raised an eyebrow at Yanagi’s sudden display of affection, “It’s always good to spend time with you, Renji. What else would you like to do?” He looked at his watch. “There aren’t many places open this late.”

"Hmm...how about that coffee shop? We could sit and talk if you'd like," Yanagi suggested, pointing to a corner coffee shop that seemed to be quite busy.

The shop seemed crowded, but Inui could spot a few open tables through the establishment’s front window. “That’s seems like a good idea.”

Inui turned and, noticing their arms were still linked, found himself guiding Yanagi towards the shop’s entrance.

Yanagi noticed too, and for the life of him, he couldn’t remember doing it. Or maybe Inui had? But he couldn't remember him doing that either. It felt odd, but not unpleasant, so he didn't do anything about it.

The fact that their arms were linked, Inui thought as they passed into the coffee shop and were told to wait for a table, pressed their entire evening, which also included dinner and a movie, more into the realm of ‘date’ than ‘friendly excursion’. He wondered if Renji was also realizing this.

In fact, Yanagi had been trying not to think of that. Hard when the details kept glaring at you accusingly. Once inside, he removed his hand from Inui's and walked up to the counter, looking over the menu while trying to get his thoughts in order.

Inui followed him over, wondering what could account for this change in his friend’s attitude. Keeping one eye out for the hostess to come and seat them, he put the other on Yanagi, looking to see if something was troubling the other man. He had been acting slightly strange all night.

Once they were seated, Yanagi looked over his menu, trying to get his thoughts together. He needed to stop this and now. Otherwise he'd go insane. "I'm sorry if I've seemed out of it, Sadaharu. I suppose it is just the pressure of everything that's been happening lately."

Well, that was a logical reason for Renji’s actions, Inui supposed. After all, moving into a new place was quite the task, especially since they were still in college.

Still, he had hoped that going out tonight would allow the two of them to forget their problems and stress, for a little while at least. He wondered why the night seemed to have the opposite effect on Renji, but decided not to voice this concern. It may make his friend even more stressed than he seemed to be already.

De-stressing was definitely on one of Yanagi's top priorities at the moment. He smiled at Inui from across the table and shook his head. "I'm sorry for being so odd tonight."

Inui smiled back, “It’s alright, Renji. We both have a lot on our minds.” He finally picked up his own menu, quickly browsing the various selections to see what he wanted to order. “I’ve had a good time tonight, let’s finish it up without any worries.”

"Agreed," Yanagi nodded, looking over his own menu. He had to stop acting like this, otherwise it would make Inui even more suspicious. Giving his friend a smile, he reached out and took a sip of the water from his glass.

Inui was already pretty suspicious as it was, although he guessed Yanagi already realized this, or else he wouldn’t have openly admitted to acting oddly just now. Drinking some water from his own glass, he watched the waiter move closer, hoping it would still be a few more minutes before they were asked to place their orders. He seemed to be having trouble deciding what he wanted.

Yanagi just felt odd, of late. He kept thinking of the past, and all the missed opportunities. He'd been given another, what with finding and rooming with Sadaharu now. He smiled lightly, looking over at Inui from across the table. No reason to be uncomfortable; this was his best friend, after all.

Yanagi seemed to have relaxed, and for that Inui was grateful. Little did the other know, but their past had also been on Inui’s mind as of late. He had been worried that what had happened between them as children may have been getting to Yanagi, and after all these years, he would be again abandoned by his dear friend.

Abandonment was furthest from Yanagi's mind. He'd been thinking of that, of how his family had moved and how lonely he'd been throughout the years without Sadaharu around. Yukimura and Sanada were wonderful friends, but they weren't Sadaharu. They'd never be able to take the place of his best friend in his heart.

The silence hanging in the air indicated that Yanagi was currently lost in thought. “What’s on your mind, Renji?” His friend had plenty of time to think to himself in silence when Inui wasn’t there to keep him company.

"Hmm...about you and me, actually." Yanagi admitted ruefully, his lips quirking together. "All the things that have happened since we first met."

Inui raised an eyebrow, surprised that the two had been thinking the same thing, “That’s what’s been on my mind as well, Renji.” He confessed, “That we are both thinking about those times….perhaps there are some things we need to talk about.”

"Perhaps," Yanagi conceded, tilting his head to the side thoughtfully. So, his friend had been thinking about the same thing. How ironic.

Ironic indeed. It seemed that they both had issues with their shared past that needed to be resolved. “Renji…” Inui began, about to place his thoughts out on the table, but he was interrupted when a hand came down upon it instead, and their waiter looked down at them expectantly for their orders.

Inui found himself quickly asking for a plain cup of coffee, sighing inwardly. He had forgotten to take Murphy’s Law into account when beginning the conversation.

Of all the times for the waiter to show up now. Yanagi hid his irritation at the waiter, knowing it wasn't really his fault. He ordered a cup of tea and watched thankfully when the other disappeared to fulfill the order.

He shook his head and smiled at his friend, shrugging slightly. "You were saying?"

Inui gathered his thoughts quickly, hoping he could get what he wanted to say across before the waiter returned with their haphazard orders. “Renji,” he started again, “I know the circumstances surrounding….why you left. But…you’ve never told me why…you did what you did.”

There, he had said them. The words that had been on his mind since middle school. He just hoped they weren’t the words that would drive his best friend away from him again.

It was such a simple question, but held so much meaning. Yanagi gazed down at the table, his hands folded on the tabletop. Outwardly he was as calm as ever, but inside was a different story. Tennis had brought them together, but it had also driven them apart.

"I'm not sure...what you're asking, Sadaharu." Yanagi hedged gently, his mind racing on what he should say.

“Data suggests you do, Renji.” Inui said, completely serious. He had just revealed his innermost thoughts and feelings to his friend. Yanagi wasn’t going to avoid his question so easily.

He realized it now. This was something no amount of data gathering, no calculations and no notes could tell him. And he needed to know.

The evening had suddenly grown far too serious, but there was no going back now. There was already enough heartbreak in the past.

It was only a matter of time before Yanagi was pressed with that question. He'd known it, as soon as he'd suggested to Sadaharu that they become roommates. He'd wished, long and hard, that it wouldn't come. But wishing didn't always yield the results you wanted.

Even though his family had moved to Kanagawa, he knew that he still could have practiced and played with his best friend. Why had he broken things off so abruptly? Sometimes, he wasn't even sure himself.

"Personal feelings should never come into play in tennis," Yanagi said softly, his gaze on the table. He remembered repeating those words to his fellows in Rikkai; remembered Sanada saying something similar to him during the match he lost during the Kantou Tournament all those years ago.

Inui wasn’t sure why, but those words….stung. “It that all it was?” he found himself asking, just as softly. “Tennis? You chose tennis over us? Or was that all our ‘friendship’ ever was?”

He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Of all the potential answers to his question, this was one he had not expected, or prepared himself for.

Shaking his head, Yanagi finally looked up at his best friend. He could see the hurt on his friend, even if it wasn't obvious to others. He couldn't help but smile; even after all this time, they still knew each other so well.

"No, Sadaharu. That wasn't what I meant." He sighed, opening his eyes to gaze at his friend unflinchingly. "I was afraid to tell you how I really felt and I knew that if I did, I'd either lose you completely, or you'd be heartbroken when I had to move away. So...I took the cowards way out. I left without telling you anything, hoping that you would get over it quickly and move on. And you did."

“How you really felt….?” What could Renji mean by that? There was nothing that Yanagi could have told him that would have caused him to ‘lose’ Inui. Not short of saying he hated him, which judging by the way he was looking at Inui right now, didn’t seem likely to be the case.

“I’m afraid I don’t understand what you mean, Renji. But if you think I’ve ‘moved on’ since that day….you’re mistaken.”

"I don't think I really understood myself back then," Yanagi admitted ruefully. He frowned at Inui's admittance that he'd never moved on. That wasn't right; he shouldn't have done that. He shouldn't have waited all these years for someone that he didn't even know if he'd ever see again.

"I do now though. I've thought about it for a long time, ever since that day. Even after we met again during junior high, the feeling wouldn't go away." And it had surfaced yet again, becoming even more pronounced during the night. He didn't know why; none of his data could prepare him for the emotions that wanted to take over, make him become impulsive and do crazy things.

This whole "date" thing was crazy. But sometimes even data failed; some things just couldn't be analyzed, they had to be felt and experienced. And so, Yanagi chose that path. To show Inui just what he meant, not by words, but by actions.

He leaned over the table, his eyes wide open and gazing at Inui's eyes through his glasses. Hesitating only a moment, he leaned forward and kissed his best friend, using actions instead of words to convey what he'd been fighting with himself with all night, and ever since he'd left that fateful day so long ago.

Yanagi had abandoned his data, and as their lips touched, Inui could feel all of his calculations, his observations and hypotheses, crumble away as well as he was lost in the emotions of the kiss. And as the data slipped away, the answer he had been searching for for so long became blindingly clear. It wasn’t matches or medals or tennis that held the answer, it was Yanagi himself.

He had been looking in all the wrong places. The answer had been right there, in those two eyes that were now staring right into his.

Feeling self-conscious, Yanagi's analytical mind kicked in right about then. He cursed himself for being so spontaneous; it wasn't like him at all. But then, maybe it was, once all the data was taken away and he was just left with himself and nothing else.

But the data was speaking to him now. Sadaharu hadn't pulled away so that could only mean three possibilities: either he was scared to move (unlikely; Inui wasn't the type to be scared so easily), he was unsure of himself, or was actually enjoying this.

The last two were far more preferable then the first. Yanagi pulled back, sitting uncomfortably in his chair, though it had nothing to do with the chair. He didn't say anything as he gazed at Inui; his first instinct was to apologize, but he'd be damned if he apologized for his feelings. They'd been holed up for too long; he needed to let them out and no matter what happened, he wouldn't be sorry for them.

It wasn’t that he was unsure of himself, of that Inui was most certain. This was the first time he had been sure of what he was doing in years. And when Yanagi pulled away from the kiss, from him, it was like an echo from the past; that day so long ago when Renji had murmured a soft ‘gomen’ before running away. And he knew what he felt then, something as a child he couldn’t have understood, was the same thing he felt now.

Yanagi looked so nervous, a sight Inui had rarely seen on the other’s face. And despite the odd looks the two were now receiving from both the numerous patrons of the café, as well as passerby, seeing them through the window, it was this look that worried Inui the most. Did Renji regret what he had just done? Because Inui felt regret too.

Regret it had not happened sooner.

Yanagi ignored the stares of the people around them, though inwardly he cursed himself. This certainly hadn't been what he intended, all these people watching them. He was sure at least some of the stares were disapproving, but he ignored them for the time being.

Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out his wallet and deposited a few yen on the table before getting up. He took Inui's hand and tugged him to his feet and led him outside. The last thing they needed was to be the center of attention for all the gaukers around.

Well, this was certainly an unexpected situation. It seemed it was Inui’s turn now to be lead around by the hand. And from a scene that neither of the data collectors would ever have predicted happening when they set out that evening. How interesting.

At least, that’s what Inui’s mind would have been thinking, filing the information away in his head until he found a convenient notebook, had he been in his normal state of mind.

Of course, this currently non-existent part of his brain would have observed, this was hardly to be considered ‘normal’.

It wasn’t until they were several blocks from the café that Inui finally managed to regain control of both his feet and his voice. “Renji?” he asked, stopping. He was somewhat breathless from their quick exit, “Where are we going? And what….I….”

"I didn't feel like giving the patrons a free show," Yanagi said by way of explanation. Now that they were relatively alone (there wasn't anyone out on the streets that Yanagi could see), he turned to his best friend.

Yanagi felt a stab of doubt, but quickly pushed it aside. He would find out what he needed to know now; was tired of waiting for the 'right moment' or for the other to bring it up. It was time to act on his own and stop being afraid.

"I've wanted to do that for a very long time...ever since we were kids." He looked away, giving a rueful laugh. "I'd always thought that when we left Tokyo, I'd forget about you; find new friends, someone else to care about. I did find new friends, but even they couldn't replace what I felt for you in my heart. But then you showed up again and I lost to you, but I was happy nonetheless. Then you vanished again..."

He was talking too much, but he didn't care. All the old feelings were bubbling up to the surface and he needed an outlet. Even if what he was saying would be thrown back in his face, he had to let it out. "And now you're back in my life again. I don't know what to make of it all, Sadaharu. I honestly don't. But I can't lose you a third time. I just...can't go through that again."

“Do you…think it was any easier for me?” Inui asked quietly. “To think that my best friend had left me for no reason? To see you again at that game, on another team? To step out onto the same court as you, but not with you?”

Somewhere in the back of his mind, Inui realized he was starting to sound on the verge of hysterics, and he took several deep breaths to calm his nerves. “All I ever wanted…even before I realized it, was to be with you. I understand that now, in the way I couldn’t before. I said a long time ago that I wanted us to ‘conquer the world’ together, but…..you’re my world, Renji.”

There, he had said it. This simple, yet elusive, truth he had been struggling to find for so long. Inui looked into Yanagi’s eyes, his glasses hiding nothing of the emotions that were written strikingly clear on his face. “And I’ve been out of touch with reality since I was in junior high.”

"Hmm...that's been the whole problem, hasn't it, Sadaharu? We've coasted along life, doing what was expected of us, but never with the one we wanted to do it with. Not since we were doubles partners have we been able to do what we wanted, for ourselves and no one else." Yanagi couldn't help but smile slightly. He shouldn't be happy about this, but the thought that Inui had been just as lost as Yanagi had been felt...comforting.

He'd taught Inui how to use data, but it seemed the student was teaching the teacher more than the other way around. "You're my world as well. I tried to replace what we had with others, with Genichirou and Seiichi but it just wasn't the same." He didn't mention how he felt lost all over again when Yukimura was sent to the hospital; how he would cry himself to sleep at night, knowing he'd lost two of the most important people in his life.

Yanagi was right. Throughout his life, Inui had always though he was in control. If he had enough data, he could accomplish anything. But it took tonight for him to realize that it took the abandonment of all of his data for him to truly see what it truly was that he couldn’t live without. “Our lives have been so different from what we wanted, ever since that day you moved away. I think it’s about time we change things, Renji.”

He took a step forward without thinking, letting his heart instead of his mind control his actions. All these years had been lost, but they were here now and that was all the data Inui needed. He took Yanagi’s hand, “Change them back to how they used to be.”

"To how they should be. Yes." Yanagi nodded, clasping his hand with Inui's tightly. He smiled softly, tilting his head to the side briefly. "Everything that came before isn't important to what we have now. It was difficult, yes. But we survived it and if we can survive that, we can survive anything, ne?"

And who’s to say they couldn't have their old dreams back? They were together now and that's all that mattered. They could attain their goals, if only they were patient enough. And both excelled at that.

Indeed they both had to have been patient to have lived for so long without each other. They had spent so many years with just the barest hope of crossing paths again, on or off the tennis courts. But it all paid off in the end, and here they were again, finally together. Whatever they had been forced to endure before this had been worth it, just for this moment.

“Yes, we can survive anything.” Inui agreed, “Especially now that we’re back together.”

"Exactly," Yanagi smiled, gazing gently at Inui. This night had turned out very different from what he'd expected it to be. He hadn't expected all that had happened between them. In fact, he'd been trying to hide a lot of it, but now he was glad that hadn't worked. It was good to get everything out in the open, and to know that Sadaharu felt the same way that he did.

"We should probably head back home now. It's getting rather late." Home. Their home, where they lived together.
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