Title: How Rikkai Lost Their Rather Spiffy Red Jackets and Got the Vomit Yellow Ones.
Or, as it is saved on my computer, The Schizophrenic Fic.
Characters: Rikkai. Ostensibly pairingless, and to all extents it is, but my bias probably shines through anyway.
An early birthday present for Yukimura because I won’t have access to my computer this weekend as I am going home to get my own birthday presents early. *Cries* Why couldn’t I have been born three days earlier?! Then I’d have shared my birthday with Yukimura!
This is not, technically, a birthday fic. It does, however, include the giving of a gift.
Set shortly after the Hyotei matches.
The hospital room was thick with the sweetly sick smell of decaying flowers.
Sanada didn’t hesitate, dropping his bags to the floor just inside the door and striding across the room to the lurid floral display.
The whole vaseful went out the window, hopefully to land on the head of one of the incompetent bags of useless flesh charged with his Captain’s care, and Sanada set the empty vase back on its stand with a satisfied clunk.
Trash disposed of, he turned and took a seat in the chair beside the bed. There was a familiarity to the motions that should never have been.
Sanada clenched his hands into fists as he watched Yukimura stir, slowly coming back from whatever place he had discovered within himself over that long, terrible winter.
His captain blinked slowly, taking a long deep breath and smiling. “Thank you, Sanada,” Yukimura murmured. “I was beginning to detest that smell.
And you detest that kind of flower, Sanada added silently, thinking of the subtle elegance that was Yukimura’s garden, which held no place for the kind of useless, overripe, florid things he had just defenestrated.
Yukimura forced himself to sit up, his movements heavy and clumsy in a way that must surely be against the natural order of things.
Sanada watched him struggle and had to drive his nails into his palms to stop himself from reaching out to help. Yukimura wouldn’t accept it. That kind of reaching out would just drive him further within himself and the visit would be spent in uncomfortable silence and empty pleasantries.
Yukimura needed to do what he could for himself. There were too many things he couldn’t.
And Sanada hated to see what that fact did to him.
There was something more though. Something more than just the dull, steady grind weighing on him today. Sanada could see it in the strain lurking in his eyes, in the way his hands clenched in the bedclothes.
“Yukimura?” he asked and let his captain hear the question behind it for himself
Yukimura gave him a little smile. The sheer emptiness behind it made Sanada’s gut twist. “It’s nothing Sanada. Just a silly little thing.”
Sanada stared at him, his fists clenching. He couldn’t ask. Didn’t dare to say anything that whiffed of social politeness, because the only thing it would gain him was the polite, socially acceptable lie that everyone gave.
Instead he simply looked at him, silent, so Yukimura could not pretend it was anyone else behind the question. Yukimura never lied to Sanada.
For a moment it seemed that Yukimura would continue to deny everything despite that. And then Yukimura seemed to sag and tense all at once. .
“It’s this.” Yukimura forced out. He tugged on the fabric of his medical gown at his collar bone. “I hate it. I hate wearing it.” His hand clenched in the thin fabric. “I never cared before. Never really cared about what I wore, what it looked like. You know that. All I cared about was that it functioned, let me do what I needed to do.
“This?” He gestured at the pale blue medical jumpsuit. “This is worthless. It can’t keep you warm, it can’t protect you, you can’t move in this. The only thing it’s good for is for being sick in. For being weak in.”
He laughed unevenly. “And it has to be ugly as well! All I wear, all they let me wear, and it’s such an ugly thing…”
He took a deep breath, throttling all the frustration back down to wherever he had buried it before, and offered Sanada a strained, rueful smile. “I told you it was silly.”
Sanada shook his head feeling again that furious, loathsome helplessness that had become far too familiar over the last awful months. “It is not silly,” he said hoarsely.
And then fell silent because he couldn’t think of anything else to say.
Yukimura laughed suddenly. Sanada looked up, startled. “Ah well,” his captain smiled, the shadow in his eyes almost hidden save to one who knew him well. “There’s nothing that can be done about it. Now come,” he patted the bed invitingly. “Come and tell me what our team’s been up to.”
It was like vertigo. The swiftness of that change.
Yukimura hid behind a fragile shell of normalcy that, for all its fragility, Sanada couldn’t breach. Couldn’t reach that small knot of terror and despair, born in the darkness of winter where there had been nothing of the kind before, that Yukimura had allowed him to see so briefly.
Left him feeling almost guilty. As if, if he could have found the right thing to say, to do, he could have made a difference. So that Yukimura wouldn’t have needed to retreat, to cover those wounds with pitiful bandages. As if he somehow, someway, he could have made it all better… but he failed.
Consumed by the need to do something, to somehow make it better. And the awful suspicion that there was nothing he could do…
“What the...” Marui muttered, scrabbling through his locker. The shower of sweets that fell to the clubroom floor as a result was ignored. “My regular jacket’s gone.”
“Mine too!” Kirihara exclaimed.
“Mine is also missing,” Yagyuu admitted.
“Niou,” Jackal said darkly, turning from his own jacketless locker to confront the Trickster.
Niou held up his hands before him in mock defence. “Hey, mine’s gone too. It can hardly be one of my tricks.”
The others gave him disbelieving looks. “Really,” Niou insisted. “Not me.”
“Niou is quick to claim credit for his own tricks once discovered,” Yagyuu acknowledged.
“Well who else do you think could have done it?” Kirihara said peevishly. “Sanada-san?”
“Good. You’re all here.”
At the sound of Sanada’s voice Kirihara nearly shot out of his skin. “S-sanada-san!” He stuttered, unable to remember for a minute that he hadn’t been saying anything that would earn him laps – this time at least.
Sanada raised an unamused brow and entered the clubhouse. There was an uncertain moment as he forced the large, unwieldy cardboard box he was carrying through the doorway. The team eyed it curiously.
Yanagi followed him, radiating a discrete amusement that past experience had taught them to treat warily. They were both missing their jackets.
“I suppose we can assume that you’ve also had your jackets taken,” Jackal said
“Yes,” Sanada said, setting the box down with a thump.
The team exchanged bemused looks.
“Um, you don’t seem upset…?” Marui ventured.
“Of course not,” Sanada said calmly. “I took them.”
The team gawped.
“You took them?” Marui spluttered. “Wha- why –“
“I’m sure Sanada-san had his reasons,” Yagyuu intruded calmly. The look he turned on their vice captain made it perfectly clear that there had better be a reason.
“Sudden descent into insanity not an acceptable excuse,” Niou muttered sotto voice from where he was lurking at his partners back.
Sanada directed a swift, warning look Niou’s way before turning his attention back to the team as a whole.
“I removed the regular Jackets because we will no longer be needing them.” He nudged the box with his foot. “The new uniforms arrived today.”
The team stared.
“New uniforms?” Kirihara asked curiously, having recovered sufficiently from his fright to indulge it.
The doubles teams meanwhile exchanged confused looks.
“It seems strange to be changing our colours in the middle of the tournaments,” Jackal said.
“Nevertheless, we are,” Sanada said levelly. “These,” he tapped the box, “Will be our uniforms from now on. The old ones have been disposed of.”
The doubles teams exchanged rather more suspicious looks.
“Why would you feel the need to deny us access to our ‘old’ uniforms, Sanada-fukubuchou?” Niou asked narrowly.
“And how do you know those are going to fit us?” Marui added, eyeing the box.
“Renji was kind enough to provide your sizes.”
Unnerved looks were directed at their analyst, who looked amused.
“And you do not need to know my reasons,” Sanada concluded firmly. He glanced up at the clock on the wall and looked annoyed. “Practice has been delayed long enough with this.”
He opened the lid.
The team stared at that which was revealed.
Yanagi continued to look amused - and lifted not a finger to beat some sanity back into their vice captain’s head.
“What the hell,” Niou muttered.
“No. Way” Kirihara hissed
Sanada folded his arms across his chest. “You will do this,” he pronounced in tones that held the unshakeable resonance of ‘this is how things will be.’ The ‘or else’ hovered, unspoken but palpable and full of dark seemings. Such as infinite laps and tripled wrist weights.
“You do seem to be suffering a lack of other clothes,” Yanagi murmured, amusement winding its way through his voice.
Their eyes dropped to the box.
One by one, reluctant though they were yet compelled beyond their reason, they complied.
There was, after all, always appeal to a higher court. Even the Emperor yielded to a higher authority…
The outraged screeching of the floor nurse managed to reach his ears before the thunder of footsteps on the corridor floor, but only just.
Yukimura barely had time to set his book aside before his door slammed open and his team poured into his room. Rather in the manner of an avalanche.
Or perhaps a mud slide. In sandy country.
Yukimura blinked. Then blinked again, just to be sure his eyesight wasn’t going the way of the rest of his body.
“Yukimura-buchou!” Kirihara wailed. “You have to do something!”
Marui extended an arm covered with one of the more repulsive shades of yellow Yukimura had ever seen and shook it at him. “See?” he demanded. “Do you see this?”
“It’s rather hard not to,” Yukimura admitted. “What is it?”
“Our new regular uniforms,” Niou said darkly.
Yukimura blinked “New - ?”
Yanagi and Sanada appeared at the door then, apparently having paused to pacify the floor nurse. Or else to have knocked her over the head and stuffed her in a supply closet which, given the opinion his friends had somehow formed of the nurses during his stay here, wasn’t entirely outside the realms of probability.
They had also somehow managed to acquire the same eyesore afflicting the rest of his team.
While Yanagi joined Yukimura by the bed, Sanada shut the door firmly behind them, his vice captain being a strong proponent of the ‘team business should be kept within the team’ theory, and took a sentinel stance beside it, folding his arms across his chest. He seemed to be avoiding looking Yukimura’s way.
The litany of complaints paused briefly as his team sent a set of synchronised dark looks at his vice captain, but picked up again with barely a falter in their rhythm.
Yukimura leaned back in his bed and looked his team over. Niou had a slit eyed look on his face which meant that he was contemplating some particularly objectionable scheme under the philosophy that, if he was displeased with the way his life was going, best to spread that unhappinness around. With a big shovel.
Yagyuu was managing to make his displeasure pointedly clear while still maintaining his gentlemanly veneer – and also, somehow, managing to hint that, under these conditions, he would not be adverse to assisting Niou in whatever dark plot his partner had cooked up.
Jackal’s gaze was as straightforward as ever, which lessened the force of his displeasure not one bit. Marui was spluttering almost incoherently.
Kirihara was pulling the ‘poor abused little kouhai’ thing for all he was worth, and looking not unlike a kitten attempting to convince the third person in as many hours that it was neglected and starving and really, really should be fed.
The sight of them shouldn’t have made him feel all warm and goopy inside.
Really. It shouldn’t.
“And everyone’s going to think we’re all colour blind when we show up at the courts in these!” Marui concluded his latest spiel indignantly.
Niou cast him an annoyed look. “At least this time your hair doesn’t clash with the colour, Marui.”
“It didn’t!” Marui glared affront at Niou. “My hair did not clash with our red jackets!”
“It really did, Marui-senpai,” Kirihara put in gleefully. “It was painful.”
“Jackal,” Marui whined, turning to his doubles partner. “Tell them it didn’t clash!”
Jackal looked uncomfortable
Kirihara started sniggering.
Marui growled and stuck his gum in their kouhai’s hair.
Yukimura held a hand over his mouth, his eyes sparkling with suppressed laughter as Kirihara howled and lunged at their self-declared genius, sending them both crashing to the floor.
“Genchirou will be pleased,” Yanagi murmured in his ear, barely audible over the increasing noise the brawl was producing.
Yukimura looked over at his vice captain. Sanada’s expression suggested the contemplation of murder, or at the very least of maiming, as he glowered at the brawl that had now expanded to include Niou. “Really? That is not an expression of his I would have ever associated with pleasure, Renji.”
Sanada’s patience finally snapped and he waded into the brawl to the accompaniment of painful yelps from its participants, his face dark.
“No.” Yanagi’s tone suggested that his Captain was being deliberately obtuse. “He will be pleased that you have laughed, truly laughed. Our Genchirou doesn’t find helplessness an easy state.”
Yukimura looked up at his data specialist, a slight smile playing around his lips. “I suppose there is no harm in making the uniform change official for a while. After all.” His mouth quirked, eyes shining with suppressed delight. “It’s bad manners to return a gift.”
X-posted to tenipuri and my writing journal antique_land