Finishing Without Regrets
A Prince of Tennis Fanfic
Disclaimer: Not mine
Part One: Rematch
the Nationals the team starts to slump a little in practice. The tennis
season is coming to an end and issues of exams and the incipient loss
of their Captain weighs heavily on the team. Kamio tries to keep
everyone on track, but the depression is starting to get to him too,
and he wonders why Tachibana says nothing about their lacklustre
When Seigaku's Echizen, Fuji and
Tezuka show up a week later, his question is answered.
"Individual training today,"
Tachibana tells them cheerfully. "Or you can feel free to watch."
don't wait for another invitation, each of them scrambling for good
seats as Tachibana and Echizen spin a racket. Tachibana calls rough and
wins the first service.
"What do you think this is all
about?" Ishida asks him quietly.
Kamio shrugs, feeling a bit hurt
that Tachibana hadn't filled him in.
"It's about finishing without
regrets," Fuji's soft voice informs them, and they both turn to the
Kamio feels the unspoken pressure
from the rest of the team to find out more. "What do you mean?"
turns to regard them with a gentle smile and calm eyes, "It's not
something official or talked about, but after the Nationals and before
the end of the year, while everyone is still in top condition, a lot of
unofficial games take place. Usually they're between those who haven't
had a chance to play a certain person, or who want a rematch."
There were a few cautious nods and
are a few unspoken rules. You're not supposed to organise a match
between people you're likely to play next year, which is probably why
you haven't heard about it before now. It's mostly the third-years who
are setting up the matches, because we're graduating and this might be
our last chance to play someone. You never know who's going to move
away, or who might give up the sport to concentrate on their studies,
so you don't want to miss your chance. Other than that, as long as the
other person is agreeable, it's fine. You can set the games up
privately, or ask your Captain to organise it. You don't HAVE to ask
your Captain about the games, but it's considered polite to at least
let them know you're setting up a match."
"I see, so that's why
Tachibana is playing Echizen and not Tezuka," Shinji says, gazing into
the distance. "Because he's graduating and they might not get a change
to play again for two more years, and Tezuka and Tachibana already
played at the Nationals so they don't need to play again."
Fuji interjects smoothly, before Shinji could really get going. His
eyes glint, "In fact, Echizen ASKED if he could play Tachibana..."
was a brief explosion of outrage at the nerve of Seigaku's brat before
Fuji's lips curve in a smile. "Oh? I thought you'd be pleased," he says
innocently. "Tachibana is the ONLY person Echizen has requested a match
with, although a few other captains have asked to play HIM."
Fudoumine collectively consider
this and allow themselves to be mollified.
if we wanted to match against someone, say one of the third-years on
YOUR team..." Ishida asks nervously. "We could just ask?"
"I'd be delighted to forward on any
requests," Fuji says cheerfully.
Ishida fidgets. "It's just that,
well, I heard that Kawamura's retiring...?"
nods, "Yes, he is. But I'm sure he'd be glad to play you again. I could
ask him tonight and let you know tomorrow if you like?"
"That wouldn't be too much
trouble?" Ishida asks anxiously.
"Oh no, I have to drop by anyway,"
Fuji's eyes gleam dangerously.
"It's MY turn to play Tachibana
goes home with his head buzzing and a sense of relief loosening the
anxiety that's been building in his stomach. It WASN'T over yet. There
were still matches to play and watch, they could hold onto the feeling
for a bit longer. No regrets.
Lying on his bed, he
considers the people he'd played and seen play this year, and is
grateful to Fuji and Tachibana, and even to Echizen who indirectly
showed them that it wasn't over yet. Who do I regret not matching against?
Who do I want to play again?
When the phone rings and a cheery
voice greets him as "Rhythm-boy!", he has his first answer.
"It's KAMIO," he growls in
response. "Akira Kamio! Remember it!"
"Sure, sure. So Rhythm-boy, what
are you doing this Sunday? Want to go out?"
twitches, and then smiles like a shark. "I'm sorry, but I'm supposed to
be beating some annoying guy from Yamabuki at tennis that day."
"Oh? Are you sure it's not the
other way around?"
"I look forward to seeing that
then. Shall we say 2pm? If the street courts are full we can come here,
I have the spare key."
"Yamabuki's fine," Kamio says
haughtily. "You're gonna need all the home court advantages you can
Sengoku is still chuckling when
Kamio hangs up on him.
a tough match, and Sengoku's teasing doesn't make it any easier, but
Kamio perseveres. The other boy is stronger than him, but he's faster,
and they both give it everything they have.
a LOT since the last time they played and Kamio is hard-pressed to
return his shots. His arms are screaming in pain by the time they reach
the final game, and he decides that maybe it's time he took up some
strength-training too. He's mostly been working on his footwork and
speed since the Junior Senbatsu training camp and he feels kind of
weedy next to the older boy.
Not that he'd admit that, of course.
"Good game," Sengoku grins as they
shake hands. "I'm glad to have had the chance to play you again,
this point Kamio's given up on correcting him about his name and just
sighs. "Yeah, it was pretty good," he agrees. He fidgets, unsure if
he's allowed to ask about Sengoku's future plans. Are you going to keep playing? Where are
you going to high school?
should be interesting next year," Sengoku muses out loud, a faint smile
playing across his face. "I hear high school tennis is a whole new
level of play. Ah, it'll be strange being a freshman again, and not
being allowed to play on the school team. What a pain!"
Kamio relaxes minutely. This wasn't
a farewell then, there will be other times, other games.
grins at him and claps him on the back. "Come on, let's get cleaned up
and changed and go out for a snack. Sempai treat!"
"You're not MY sempai!" Kamio
yells, shrugging loose. "I don't need to be paid for like a girl!"
"Now, now, don't get all touchy
Rhythm-boy!" Sengoku laughs. "I'm the one who asked you out after all,
so I should pay."
They argue all the way to the ice
cream parlour, and split the bill.
Part Two: A New Challenge
days after the Nationals get busier. Training picks up again and
Tachibana drives them relentlessly, trying to hone their skills further
before he leaves. Ishida has his match with Kawamura and returns
bubbling with ideas for developing his game. Mori and Uchimura ask for
and get a rematch with the Golden Pair, and are then surprised to be
telephoned by Rokkaku's Saeki/Itsuki pair, looking for a game. Shinji
gets an invite from St Rudolph's Akazawa and (much to everyone's
surprise and secret envy) Rikkai's Yukimura. They all attend that
particular match, and watch in astonishment as Shinji's monologue
grinds to a halt after the third game, to be replaced by a determined
look in his eyes and a rapid increase in power. Afterwards, Sanada and
Tachibana play a breathtaking game that stuns EVERYONE silent for the
bus ride home.
Kamio himself has only had the one
game against Sengoku, but doesn't find himself worrying about it. He
has no regrets.
Tachibana holds him back after
practice on Tuesday.
you think you can hold on to your temper at a private away match?" He
asks quietly. "I'd like you to be there, but my opponent can be... a
Stung, Kamio opens his mouth and
thinking carefully before answering. "I'll do my best," he says
finally. The approving gleam in his Captain's eye sends a warm feeling
shooting through him.
"Excellent. Meet me outside our
school gates on Sunday, 1pm. Don't be late."
the rest of the week Kamio wonders who the match could be with. By
Saturday he's formulated several theories, but none of them seem
likely, and he resigns himself to finding out when they get there.
The stretch limo that arrives to
pick them up on Sunday is a dead give-away however.
"Not that Atobe jerk?" He asks,
shooting a look at Tachibana, silently pleading with him to deny it.
His Captain's lip twitches in a
faint smile. "He IS very good. Almost as good as he thinks he is."
Kamio sulks all the way there.
When they arrive however he adopts
his best manners. Tachibana wanted him to be here, and he won't let him
greets them at the courts politely, and even condescends to recall
Kamio's name. He also introduces them to a second year who he refers to
as "the next Captain of Hyoutei" and Kamio and the other boy exchange
assessing stares. Yes. We will
meet next year.
make small talk for a while before Atobe and Tachibana head for the
courts. The second-year, Hiyoshi Wakashi, is apparently going to
referee, and directs Kamio to the best places to sit on the bleachers.
can be bench coach if you want," Tachibana tells Kamio before he
leaves, and he is about to accept when he realises that Atobe doesn't
have anyone bench coaching for him. Probably because he doesn't think
anyone as wonderful as himself needs it, but it makes Kamio reconsider
his decision anyway. This IS a private match after all, he shouldn't
get involved. He can be supportive just fine from the bleachers, and
it's not like Tachibana really needs his advice.
So in the end
he declines and finds a seat with a good view. It's a little odd being
the only member of the audience, and the opulence of his surroundings
makes him acutely aware of his non-elite status, but he shoves both
those concerns aside. Damn it, they'd EARNED the right to play here, to
be invited. Fudoumine had made it to the Nationals after all, and
Hyoutei hadn't. They DESERVED to be here. So he relaxes (a little) and
enjoys the game.
The score is even when someone
behind him. "I didn't even know Atobe COULD play without his cheering
squad," a low voice growls. "Wonders never cease."
briefly at this apparent conversation gambit, but keeps quiet. A poke
in the back ends his decision to ignore the other guy, and he turns,
scowling. "Hey, I'm trying to watch the game."
"They're taking a
break. Who wants to watch them drink water?" The other boy points out.
"You're Kamio right? Fudoumine's speed guy? I hear you're supposed to
Kamio picks up the challenge in
that comment and his scowl deepens. "That's right. Who are you?"
Shishido, third year," the boy lazily introduces himself. "I'm the
speed receiver on our team." He gazes at Kamio assessingly. "We were at
the Senbatsu training camp together. But I mostly played doubles then."
gaze flickers across the bleachers and spots another boy sitting
nearby, watching them intently. Oh yeah, hard to forget that face. The
shy guy with the silver hair and the killer serve, Choutarou Ootori,
which means that this was...
"Oh yeah, I remember you. Didn't
you already lose to us once?"
Shishido growls low in his throat.
"I got careless. It won't happen again."
Kamio feels uneasy, and moves to
protect his Captain. "Tachibana is here to play Atobe, not you."
Shishido shrugged. "YOU'RE not
doing anything now."
kind of way is this to ask for a match?" Kamio demands in annoyance.
"You Hyoutei jerks..." he strangles the insult in his throat, glancing
down at the court.
Tachibana is watching him from the
faint smile curving his lips. "If you want to, feel free to play a game
Kamio!" He calls and Kamio flushes.
"Of course not!" He yells back.
"Leave me alone," he hisses at Shishido. "I'm WATCHING!"
"What's the matter, not man enough
to accept a challenge?"
"We're not kids! I'm not giving in
to such a stupid ploy. And I'm TWICE the man you are!"
"After they're done then."
Atobe calls, pausing in his serve. "Shishido is perfectly capable of
whining until you give in. Why don't you two settle it on the courts
and stop distracting other people from watching me play?"
bites back a scathing retort. Shishido doesn't bother keeping his
thoughts to himself. "What other people? Your fan club seems to have
something more IMPORTANT to do today!"
He stands up and grabs
Kamio's arm. "Come on, we're only encouraging him. We'll use the court
down the OTHER end." Calling for Ootori to referee for them, he
half-drags the other boy away.
"You're annoying!" Kamio complains.
"I wanted to watch that game!"
seen Atobe play before," Shishido says, "And I'm going to be stuck
watching him play for the next three years, since we're once again
going to the same damn school. I swear I'm going to beat him over the
head with a desk before the first term is out if we wind up in the same
Next to him, Ootori shoots the
befuddled Kamio an amused look. "They're always like this," he explains.
"Isn't he your teammate though?"
Kamio asks plaintively. Other teams are WEIRD.
"There's no rule that says I have
to LIKE my teammates," Shishido growls. "Are we playing now or what?"
game begins and ends in a whirling dervish of terrifying speed. Kamio's
never played someone who can keep up with him, and he's amazed at
Shishido's ability to get to the ball, no matter where he hits it.
Suddenly he can sympathise with the gape-jawed opponents he's left in
the dust all year.
Despite their similarities, their
not identical. Shishido tends towards sudden dashes, while Kamio keeps
his rhythm going constantly. Their game spins and blurs as they race
around the courts, finally leaving the pair of them flat on their
backs, exhausted and unable to move.
It's only when Atobe comes over and
nudges at Shishido's prone body with his foot that the two find the
strength to get up.
"Next time I want to play YOU,"
Shishido manages to tell Tachibana as Ootori helps him up. "I owe you
for last time."
"I look forward to it," Tachibana
says as he helps Kamio to his feet. "But I think we're done for today."
too tired to think rude things about being driven home in Atobe's limo
(and the expression on the face of the snobby woman from the house next
door who always makes snide comments to his mother when it lets him out
at his gate is enough to make him forgive any number of class insults
that Atobe delivers). But probably the most interesting event of the
day is the comment Ootori makes while Shishido is changing.
you for accepting his challenge. Shishido doesn't want to admit it, but
he's been worried lately about going back to singles next year."
feels confused and it shows on his face, so Ootori tries to explain.
"I've always played doubles, and Shishido always used to play singles.
This year he switched exclusively to doubles. You play both, so you
know the differences, but it's different when you're playing one or the
other all the time. You... fall into mental patterns, and they can be
hard to get out of. But now he knows he can still play competitive
singles, even though he specialised this year. It's a huge relief for
him. I guess that doesn't make much sense."
Kamio tries to
imagine what it must be like to play only singles or only doubles. It
eventually occurs to him that this must be one of those weird mental
boxes that are only obvious to the people outside of them.
That night he thinks about singles
and doubles and people who can play both.
Part Three: A Different Side
been thinking about the match that he wants to play for days now and he
has the distinct feeling that time is running out. It's not that he's
afraid of asking, it's just that he's aware that this request borders
on the edge of breaking the unwritten rules, and he feels... uneasy.
unofficial games that have been going on over the past few weeks are
gradually becoming fewer as old scores and curiosity are settled. So
far Kamio's just played the two games against Yamabuki's Sengoku and
Hyoutei's Shishido. But both times, he's been the one challenged. This
last game is going to be one he has to ask for and that makes him
nervous, more so because while he knows one of the people involved well
enough to not mind asking, he's never had any contact with the other.
Finally he decides that he'll
regret it more if he doesn't take the opportunity while he can. It's about finishing without regrets, he reminds himself, and calls Shinji
at home. After getting his agreement, he calls Tachibana.
"There's a match I want to play."
hears him out and points out the obvious flaw. "These matches are
supposed to resolve unanswered questions, to leave no regrets. They are
not supposed to be played against people you will likely be matching up
against next year."
"This is different," Kamio argues.
not the person, it's the pair." He struggles to explain, finally giving
up and saying, "It's a doubles thing."
Tachibana, for all his
skill and brilliance, has never really played what Kamio would consider
to be "proper" doubles. He doesn't understand that it's not about the
individual people involved, but what they can do together, how they
work as a team.
No two doubles pairings are ever
"I'll ask," Tachibana says finally.
"But they may not say yes."
An hour later Kamio's phone rings.
"Where and when?" A quiet voice
an odd pairing, Kamio thinks. He's always thought of Kaidou as big and
aggressive, but he seems smaller and meeker standing next to his sempai.
thank you for agreeing to this match," Kamio begins nervously. "I
realise that uh, that it's a bit odd and we're all second years except
"You wanted to play the Inui/Kaidou
pair while we are available," Inui says calmly. "I understand."
Kamio realises with a sense of relief that he really DOES understand.
Playing against Kaidou next year, even in doubles, wouldn't be the same
as playing Kaidou/Inui NOW. Different personalities, different styles,
No two doubles pairings are ever the
Inui smiles slightly as the younger
three relax. "It's a doubles thing," he says quietly.
match gets off to a wobbly start. Kamio is used to playing against
louder, more aggressive people, and Inui's calmness is confusing.
Kaidou, usually easily roused to anger, is also much more relaxed in
this pairing than he is when playing singles.
Shinji is also thrown off at first, apparently by Inui's occasional
mutters of calculation. It's a very different game to any they've
played before, with the sole exception of the match against Yanagi and
Sanada of Rikkai. But that's good, and Kamio feels himself rising to
the challenge. They needed this match, he realises. Although it was
primarily because he wanted, needed, to understand Kaidou a little bit
more before they matched against each other again, the tennis Inui
plays is fascinating in its own right. He's so different to most of the
opponents Kamio usually goes up against. There's no clash of
personalities at all. Inui absorbs the emotions flying around like some
sort of vacuum. No, not a vacuum, more like... like pebbles being
thrown into a pond. Frustration, anger, rage, they just leave tiny
ripples as they impact on the surface and are swallowed, leaving
nothing behind but a cool surface.
Or maybe not a pond, Kamio
thinks, as a return shot whistles past his ear, and he sees Inui
straighten in satisfaction. More like the ocean...
And the tide is about to come in.
the fact that by the end of the game Kamio is willing to promise almost
ANYTHING in order to avoid having to play against "data tennis" ever
again, he's satisfied.
"Good game," Inui compliments him
as they shake hands. "I enjoyed it."
"Thanks. Me too. But you know, that
data tennis is REALLY annoying," Kamio responds.
Inui smiles at him. "Yes. I do
him Kaidou breaks his good kouhai exterior and rolls his eyes, a
long-suffering expression on his face. Kamio grins. Both of them have
themselves firmly back under control by the time they shake hands
"So, I'll be seeing you next year I
guess," Kaidou says,
clearly awkward but feeling that, as future captains, they should make
SOME effort to converse.
"I'm looking forward to it," Kamio
acknowledges. "I want a rematch."
"You'll get it," Kaidou promises,
his eyes glinting menacingly. "One way or another."
Kamio matches him glare for glare
and a fierce smile spreads across both their faces.
If not on the way to the Nationals,
opponents make for good tennis," Inui says quietly, watching the
byplay. "And that makes for good data." He flips open a notebook and
starts writing in it, oblivious to the exasperated sighs of the second
Epilogue, Part One: We'll Have No
weeks have flown by, and it's graduation day, a day of bittersweetness
for the tennis team and the one who is leaving them. There's a minor
squabble over Tachibana's jacket buttons which is finally resolved by
An, who removes all of them (over her brother's strenuous objections)
and strings them on a ribbon, which is then tied around a group photo
of the team at the Nationals.
"There, now you'll always be
together," she says, satisfied.
Tachibana sighs, "I'm only going to
the high school half a mile away, not to America."
"Oh shut up niisan, it might as
well be America for us," An looks suspiciously misty. "You'll still
we LIVE in the SAME HOUSE!" Tachibana says in the exasperated voice
that one can only be driven to by a sibling, before looking at the
faces of his woebegone team and melting. "Yes, of course I'll visit."
not sure who starts the group hug, and doesn't care that it's unmanly
as the team mobs their Captain, refusing to let him go until he
promises to visit, take care of himself, stay in touch and not get into
any fights until they can get there to back him up.
"Which of us
is taking care of which?" Tachibana finally says, voice rough with
emotion. "I'll be fine. You don't have to worry about me." He pats a
sobbing Mori on the back gently. "You all know where I live. If you
start to worry, just come by and visit, alright?"
Kamio gets the feeling they'll all
be visiting him quite regularly.
"Now, why don't the rest of you
grab your things, and we'll go out to get something to eat?"
Later that evening, Tachibana pulls
in your hands now, Kamio," he says, his hand a warm reassuring presence
on Kamio's shoulder. "Remember what you've learned this year. Look
after each other."
"We will," Kamio promises, choking
slightly and trying not to cry.
"You can do it Kamio. I believe in
"We won't let you down."
Epilogue, Part Two: ... Because It's
Not Really Over
The new school year feels bland and
empty, and the whole team is in a slump.
on! Get your feet moving!" Kamio yells as they start some smash
practice. "What would Tachibana say if he could see you all moping like
this? No regrets!"
"You're moping too," Sakurai mutters to him in
passing, and Kamio winces.
"Well, aren't I allowed to?" He
"Nope. Cos you're the Captain now."
YOU'RE the vice-Captain!" Kamio points out, and Sakurai nods, smirking.
"Which means I get to stand behind you and look supportive, Captain."
reigns in his temper and reminds himself that Sakurai's right about ONE
thing. He IS Captain now, which means he can't blow his top all the
time. Even if he really, really wants to.
"Yes?" Kamio turns to regard the
small group that has wandered over to the courts. "What is it?"
The boy who spoke turns nervously
to regard his comrades, who make encouraging motions. "Um, is this the
"Uh... where do we sign up?"
Kamio blinks. "You... want to join?"
boys nod with varying degrees of enthusiasm and the original speaker
bursts out, "Is it true that this team went from being totally unseeded
last year to playing in the Nationals?"
"Yes," Kamio responds, his mind
whirling. He'd never thought about new players.
I TOLD you!" The boy swivels triumphantly to face one of the others,
then back to face Kamio. "I'm Keiichi Tarou, second year, and I just
transferred here. My family moved from Osaka last month and my old
captain told me that Fudoumine was good and I should join up."
continues to rabbit on about what he's heard about Fudoumine's team
(mostly accurate) and his own tennis skills (probably
overly-optimistic) and Kamio lets the dialogue wash over him while he
observes the rest of the group (mostly first years, many with tennis
bags, at least one of which looks fairly well-worn, always a good
sign). Thinking frantically, he spots Sakurai looking just as
dumbfounded as he feels. An evil smile crosses his face.
"I see," he interupts hastily.
"Well, my name is Akira Kamio and I am the Captain of Fudoumine's
"CAPTAIN!" The entire group
immediately bows. "Please accept our hard efforts this year!"
reels briefly and continues on with only a slight pause, "And this is
Masaya Sakurai, the Vice-Captain, and he will take your names and
classes and other information. Sakurai, I'm counting on you."
majestically he leaves Sakurai gawking after him and rapidly being
surrounded by the newbies, and makes his way over to where Shinji is
"Yo Shinji, pick up the pace," he
mutters at his best friend, who shoots him a confused look.
"I feel the rhythm coming back."
Notes: The leaving out of the game scores was done deliberately,
because often I couldn't bring myself to pick a winner (I love them
all! Well, not all, but too many to pick favourites). So people can
choose for themselves who won.
I SO wanted to write a
Momo/Kaidou vs Kamio/Ibu pair match in this story, because I had the
perfect title for it: Three Arguments and a Monologue. Unfortunately
when I laid out the rules for the games I realised that this meant I
couldn't do it, which is a shame.