Notes:  Why am I writing this?  Because I can't find any more Kamio-Shinji fics...!  I've searched and searched, but I can't find any I haven't read.  It's so
horrendously depressing I can't stand it.  Why don't people love this pairing?  Shinji is adorable and Kamio is just downright fun.  Not to mention they're hot as
hell and are almost always together in the anime.  They should have a pair name, like golden pair and dirty pair, and heck, they even have a special name for
the Fuji-Eiji pair.  It's just not right.
Age Discreption:   I’m taking them to be as old as they look, in which case the Fudomine team as freshmen were 12-14, Juniors 14-16, and Seniors 16-18.
Warning:  rambling, shonen ai, reference to violence
Pairings:  Shinji / Kamio, one-sided Tachibana-Shinji
Author:  Arigatomina

Another Day

Part 1:  Wherein Tachibana reflects on Shinji, and Shinji gripes about Kamio.

Tachibana Kippei remembered the day he'd first suspected the two would end up being closer than mere teammates.  At the time, he'd thought they would be
good friends, possibly doubles partners, or perhaps rivals if the chemistry drove them in the opposite direction.  While he hadn't known what would eventually
happen, he'd seen something there.

He'd stopped by the local tennis court after a particularly nasty encounter with the soon-to-be-replaced regular team.  As he reached the top of the cement
steps that led from the street to the court, Kamio Akira had passed him, pelting in the other direction.  Hands clenched, shoulders slightly hunched, and head
ducked so that his blood red hair hid his eyes, Kamio didn't even glance up to see who he'd nearly run over.  Tachibana turned in surprise and watched until
the underclassman disappeared from sight, flying down the steps and around the corner at a furious pace that increased with every step.  He stared after the
figure, once again marveling at the boy's natural speed.  Then he finished climbing the steps and found Shinji standing a few feet from the empty court.

The first thing that struck him was the silence, no sound at all save for the rhythmic slapping of the tennis ball Shinji was bouncing on the narrow rim of his
racket.  Tachibana had learned that silence was to be avoided where Ibu Shinji was concerned.  It was a sign that he’d blocked himself from the world around
him, a state he’d stay in for days if nothing interested him enough to draw him out.  Aside from the racket in his right hand, Shinji was a statue, dark blue eyes
unfocused and distant, straight bluish black hair a bit tangled from the hazing a few hours before, and complicated by whatever practice he'd been doing since
then.  A fresh bruise tinted his left cheek, the only injury he’d sustained during their latest encounter with the regulars.

Tachibana approached him and put a slow hand on his shoulder.  He'd expected the teen to jump, or at least gasp in surprise.  Shinji merely blinked owlishly
and looked at him from the corner of his eye, the ball still bouncing reflexively for a long minute before he caught it and turned.

"Tachibana-san," Shinji murmured, his voice so monotone he could have been remarking on the weather.  "You came to practice?  I can play with you, if you
want."

Tachibana opened his mouth to respond, but the boy continued to speak, his voice softening as if he didn't expect to be heard.  He'd known Shinji long
enough to understand and accept this unusual habit.  It wasn't that Shinji didn't expect to be heard, so much as that he didn't expect anyone to actually listen.  
Most of the time no one did.  Shinji's soft monotone had a way of droning into the background.

"Though...if he wanted to play with me," Shinji muttered quietly, staring askance at Tachibana with a pronounced frown, "he would have asked me earlier.  
Maybe he wants the court.  But I'm not on the court, so there's no reason he'd need to speak to me if that's all he wants.  He better not be looking for Kamio.  
As badly as he played with me, he can't play Tachibana-san right now.  Tachibana-san doesn't look hurt, so they'd need a handicap and Kamio wouldn't go for
that.  He'd blow up again and I don’t like it when he yells.  I didn’t do anything wrong, so he shouldn’t yell at me.  But Tachibana-san really recovers fast.  I'm
jealous.  He probably hides the pain on purpose to make him look better than me.  Kamio does that, too, so that's probably it...  

“I don't see why they do that, though.  It's nothing to brag about.  I don't get hit as much because I don’t talk to people who yell at me.  I don’t like the taunts,
but if I can’t hit back, why should I bother talking?  If they want to make me look bad, they should brag about how the regulars get angry when they talk back.  
Kamio doesn't even have to talk to get a reaction, any more.  I don't see how he can glare so loudly.  A person shouldn't be able to glare loudly since glares
don't have sounds.  But he's really stupid.  If he keeps getting hit, he won't be able to play tennis.  I don't think being a martyr is something to brag about.  I'm
smarter than they are.  I won't start a fight if I’m not allowed to hit back.  But I can't just watch my friends get picked on, either.  I don't see why Tachibana-san
won't let us-"

"Shinji," Tachibana interrupted smoothly, waiting till those dark eyes blinked before continuing.  "I have a plan to deal with the team.  It won't be long now, you
have my word.  If we fight back, it's a fight.  So long as we're not the aggressors, they're in the wrong.  We've talked about this before."

"I know," Shinji said, followed by a muttered, "Why is he saying that again?  Does he think I forgot what he's been saying for weeks?  I'm not stupid.  He can
say it all he wants and I still won't agree with him.  I don't see why he repeats it when he knows I'll do whatever he tells me to, since we all respect him more
than anyone.  It's not like I'd let someone hit me otherwise.  He probably thinks I won't listen to him if he doesn't tell me constantly.  He's a good captain, so I'll
listen even if he only tells me once.  But he can't believe that.  If he could, he wouldn't keep repeating himself.  I hate that.  Why do people repeat things like I
can't hear them?  Although, if my captain is doing it too, it must be me, not them.  I still don't like it."

Tachibana winced a little at his teammate's diatribe.  It was difficult to listen to someone spill his every thought without the slightest concern that he'd be
overheard.  He'd come to suspect Shinji actually wanted to be heard, considering most of the things he said were directly related to whomever he happened to
be with.  Looking at it that way, Shinji was one of the most open and honest people he'd ever known.  He was also one of the more bitter and suspicious
people he'd met.

"Would you play a set with me?" asked Tachibana, once Shinji had trailed into silence.  "My shoulder's tense from that fall.  I want to see how much it limits me
so I’ll know whether or not to participate in practice tomorrow."

Shinji's eyes widened in surprise.  He nodded with a serious expression and turned immediately for the side of the court nearest him.

Tachibana smiled at his back and moved over to face off across the net.  Whether Shinji was surprised at the request or at the admission of an injury - two
things he'd been complaining about - Tachibana couldn't tell.  Since joining the club, he’d noticed that no one ever responded to the things Shinji muttered.  
The other freshmen stared until the muttering trailed off, exchanged winces and tried to ignore him, or simply distracted him from whatever he was going on
about. Once Shinji started a game, he ceased giving away his thoughts in a vocal manner.

"I'm not your captain," Tachibana remarked conversationally.  "Even if all of us made our own team, there's nothing to say I'd be the captain."

"You will be," said Shinji, his tone both careless and convinced.  "You already are.  Service game?"

"Ah," Tachibana nodded.  "Just a light practice.  Don't do any of your targeting on my right arm, all right?  I don't want the muscles to lock up."

"Hai."

Tachibana started the match with a light serve, just powerful enough to make the muscles in his shoulder twinge.  He was relieved to see Shinji return the easy
shot with an equally easy swing.  While he did trust his teammate, he knew Shinji was a lot more competitive on the court than he appeared to be.  He was also
right about the regulars in their tennis club.  Things couldn't go on like they were, or one of the freshmen would end up seriously injured.  

What had started as ritual hazing of freshmen members was rapidly progressing toward outright abuse.  Shinji wasn't the only one angry at having to stand
down to players who were far beneath him in skill.  Ishida had already warned him he wouldn't pull his punches much longer, and Kamio, as Shinji had noted,
was getting more aggressive with each passing day.  If anything, his advice for the freshmen to 'stand down' was pushing them to incite the regulars even
more.  He hadn't transferred to Fudomine to witness that sort of behavior.  And he wasn't going to let a potentially great team be kept down by their own
school.  What they needed was their own team.

"I quit,” said Shinji.

Tachibana jerked upright in time to see the ball he'd served bouncing freely on the other side of the net.  Shinji was already walking off the court with his head
down and a scowl on his face.  His mumbling was barely audible.

"...shouldn't encourage them.  I don't like masochists and flashy martyrs.  It's not the same, though...not Tachibana-san.  He can take care of himself.  But I
was easy on Kamio, so I should be the same with my senpai.  After all, if he strained too much it would be my fault.  Then everyone would blame me and I’d
probably have to quit the club.  I bet they do it on purpose, both of them.  Making me look like the bad guy for not helping them hurt themselves...and if I did
help, I'd still be the bad guy for encouraging them.  I didn't think Tachibana-san would do that, though, not on purpose.  Maybe he didn't notice his arm was
shaking.  He's not hot-headed and stubborn...Tachibana-san is smarter than Kamio.

“Kamio's an idiot.  I don't know why I like practicing with him.  I shouldn't, not when he makes me look bad.  And he definitely does it on purpose, yelling at me
for not playing any more with him, when he could barely even hold his racket with that bandage on his hand.  Where does he get off yelling at me, anyway?  
He never even talked to me last year, and now he acts like I'm a bad friend.  I don't even remember becoming friends.  Just because he doesn’t laugh at me
anymore, doesn’t mean we’re friends now.  You don’t have to be friends to be teammates.  Ishida’s always talking like I can’t hear him, but that doesn’t stop
him from asking me to play him.  I may like playing Kamio better, but that doesn’t mean we’re better friends.  Besides that, friends don't hurt each other, so
even if we were friends, that wouldn't make him right.  He'd still be stupid and wrong, being an idiot and then getting in my face like that.  When did he get taller
than me, anyway?  That’s just not fair.  Even if it’s only a few centimeters, I shouldn’t have to look up to him..."

The boy crossed to where he'd left his bag near the edge of the court.  Not once did he glance back to see Tachibana's expression.  If he had, he might have
been surprised by the smile on his future captain's face.

“Shinji,” Tachibana called, “thanks for practicing with me.”

Shinji turned slowly, his eyes narrow and suspicious.  “You’re not mad that I quit?”

Tachibana crossed over to his teammate with a serious expression on his face.  “Not really.  It surprised me how quickly you stopped, but this was only a
practice match. I take it Kamio didn’t appreciate having you quit on him?  I saw him running out of here when I came up.  It’s good that you didn’t let him push
himself.”

“He was mad because it was just a scrape,” Shinji admitted, scowling a little as he shouldered his bag.  “Maybe if he’d taken off the bandage he could have
played better, but even a little scrape can get infected.  I told him to go home and wash it right.  That just made him yell louder.”

They were headed toward the steps that led down to the street.  Shinji sent a sidelong look at Tachibana, a hint of resentment creeping into his eyes.  

“I know you don’t want us to fight back,” said Shinji, “but it’s making Kamio frustrated.  The next time he gets so close to me, yelling like that, I’m going to hit
him.  I don’t think he cares who he fights with, as long as it’s a real fight.”

Tachibana stopped in surprise.  He could see Kamio picking a fight with anyone who annoyed him.  But the idea of Shinji throwing the first punch in a conflict
was just…laughable.  The boy could hold a grudge better than anyone he’d ever met, but even that was more an undercurrent of resentment, rather than
outright anger.  Everything about Shinji was subdued, never brash or reckless.  That was one of the things Tachibana liked about him.

“I’ll talk to him,” said Tachibana.  “We’re all getting frustrated, but we can’t take that out on each other.  Inciting the regulars won’t solve anything at this point.”

Shinji gave him a bored, almost droll look.  “You’re going to tell him to channel it into his game, like you did with Ishida.  Kamio already does that.  That’s why
he blew up when he had to stop playing.”

“I see,” Tachibana smirked.  “In that case, you give me your word you won’t go hitting any of our teammates, and I’ll get Kamio to stop yelling so much.  I really
doubt giving him the fight he wants will settle his temper.”

“Not if he’s fighting me,” Shinji muttered, looking away.  “I’d crush him.”

It was difficult not to laugh at how that threat was given with such confidence.  Shinji didn’t have Ishida’s physical strength or Kamio’s speed, and while his
intelligence was undisputed, that wouldn’t help in a fist fight.  But just like he was on the court, Shinji had full confidence in himself no matter who he was up
against.

“Ah,” Tachibana breathed, giving as close as he could to a sober nod.  “In the meantime, do you want me to walk you home?”

Shinji glanced back over his shoulder, a frown drawing his eyebrows together.  “I’m fine.  I didn’t even get knocked down.  You should get your shoulder
checked.  You’re too important to take chances.”

Tachibana couldn’t determine the context of that statement, and he didn’t want to jump to conclusions.  He’d been drawn to the quiet player, who he suspected
might be a genuine tensai, but he hadn’t seen any hint that Shinji returned the interest.  Something on his face must have caught the boy’s attention, because
Shinji blinked and looked away, his frown darkening into a scowl.

“I wasn’t supposed to say anything,” Shinji muttered quietly.  He shrugged after a moment and glanced back.  “I guess it doesn’t matter.  Most of us recognized
you from your early games.  I don’t know why you’d want to start over at Fudomine, but it would be too stupid if you couldn’t play anymore, just because of a
bunch of regulars who can’t tell a topspin from a slice.”

“Ah,” Tachibana sighed. “I’ll see you tomorrow, then.”

He wasn’t sure how to react to the freshmen knowing his past.  None of the regulars had recognized him, so he’d assumed the school was small and poor
enough that he would have complete anonymity.  After a moment of thought, he decided he didn’t particularly care.  Them knowing his past didn’t change
anything.  He still had to find a way to get them out from under the current team, without losing any of them in the process.  However amusing it was to imagine
Kamio and Shinji fighting each other, he knew one would drop out of the tennis club by the time it was finished.  They’d need every player they had if they
were going to start their own team.  And that meant he had a certain volatile redhead to track down.

.-.

PART 2

.-.

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