Disclaimer: I do not own Prince of Tennis and am making no money from this fanfic.
Looking back on it, Kaidou always thought with a wry grin, "I really shouldn't have touched it." Of course, in his defense, it all seemed so fanciful. Things like that just didn't happen in real life. Except to him. Because apparently, he'd been very evil in his previous life.
He'd decided to take an alternate, more scenic route for his evening run, partially because Inui-senpai had been stalking him more determinedly than usual and it was starting to freak him out. It was working so far. He hadn't seen Inui-senpai out of the corner of his eyes, yet.
He was passing by a large park with a densely wooded area when he saw it--something glowy and sparkly. Despite himself, he stopped running and squinted, trying to see what it was. It wasn't a light bulb or anything mundane like that. For one, there were no electrical outlets anywhere near this place, and also, the glow was kind of pinkish-purple.
He hesitated only a moment before stepping off the path and into the trees, intent on finding out exactly what that glow was. It was a small sphere on the leaf-covered ground. Even close up, it glowed from within, casting a pink haze on the ground around it. Mesmerized, Kaidou reached for it, wondering if it would feel warm or cold on his fingers.
It didn't feel like either. Instead, the moment his fingers brushed its pearl-smooth surface, a pain like pins and needles leapt up his arm and through his body like like an electrical current. It actually felt almost exactly like that time he'd stuck a butter knife in the toaster because his toast was stuck, except all through his body instead of just a quick pin-prick up his arm.
His last thought before his consciousness was swallowed up in pretty pinkish-purple sparkles was, "I guess I shouldn't have touched it."
He woke up slowly, the leaves beneath his cheek tickling his nose. He blinked in confusion, his body still tingling slightly from the shock he'd received. A quick mental check revealed that everything was still in working order; he was able to wiggle his fingers and toes with no problem.
He sat up slowly, blinking to clear his blurry eyes. It was dark outside, the stars sparkling in the sky. That was a bad sign. Okaasan would not be happy. He reached into his pocket to call her but found that his phone had been shorted out by the... whatever it was. Thinking of the whatever-it-was, he looked warily around for it, not wanting to touch it by accident as he was getting to his feet. Not seeing it anywhere in the vicinity, he stood, wobbling on unsteady legs, and staggered back out onto the road for the long walk home.
It took him over an hour to make a trip that would have taken him 20 minutes in optimum condition, but he wasn't up to running and his body somehow felt heavier than usual. By the time he reached the front door of his family home, he was breathing a little too fast, his limbs trembling with fatigue. It annoyed him; made him feel weak.
He fumbled with his key for only a moment before the door was yanked open, pulling him off-balance. His father stared down at him, his eyes inscrutable. "Otousan...." he began, bowing slightly. But the bow was too much for him and he tumbled forward, blushing furiously as he landed awkwardly in his father's arms. "Sorry...."
His father didn't say anything at all. His mother, however, screamed. At the top of her lungs. Kaidou cringed, clutching at his father's arms in an attempt to regain his balance and stand on his own. "Okaasan," he began, only to be interrupted by his younger brother's awed shout.
Hazue ran up behind him and Kaidou felt a slight tickle at his back. "Where did you get these?" Hazue asked excitedly, and the tickling turned to an odd tugging sensation.
"Get what? Hazue, what are you--"
"Mom, aren't aniki's wings cool?"
Kaidou turned slightly and blinked inanely at the glossy black feather Hazue was waving around. "What's that?"
Kaidou Shibuki stepped away, apparently satisfied that his son had regained his balance and was able to stand, and picked up the phone that his still-gaping wife had dropped. "It's a feather," he answered, hissing slightly in agitation as he replaced the phone on the receiver. "From your wings."
"I have wings?" Kaidou strained his neck trying to see these alleged wings, but nothing looked out of the ordinary.
"Stretch 'em out like this," Hazue suggested, flinging his arms wide.
The next thing he knew, two large black things burst into his peripheral vision on either side of his head. Kaidou yelped in fright, though he would later deny that, and stared in disbelief at the large black wings currently extended more than an arms' length at his sides. "Why.... Why do I have wings?"
"Can I have wings, too, Mom?" Hazue was asking eagerly, petting his brother's wings as if he was petting a dog or cat. It felt kind of nice. "Aniki can take me where he got his."
Kaidou didn't respond. His mind was whirling in confusion. Why did he have giant black wings? He flexed them experimentally, together and then one at a time. Hazue shouted in excitement, urging him to "do it again." He did, somewhat out of habit. Hazue rarely asked for anything from him, and when he did, his requests were always quite reasonable.
Okaasan and Otousan were speaking, but he wasn't really listening, since they weren't speaking to him. Okaasan was crying a little, which was somewhat upsetting, but his mind felt fuzzy and detached so he didn't mind much. Later, when he wasn't so muddled, he'd probably regret making his mother cry.
In the middle of all of the confusion, there was an urgent knock on the door. "Kaidou-san? It's the police. Is everything alright? Kaidou-san?"
"Kaoru, go upstairs," his father whispered authoritatively. "Hazue, go with your brother."
Kaidou Hozumi hurried to the door, wiping her eyes. "Oh, of course! I'm coming, please wait a moment!"
Kaidou obediently headed up the stairs, folding his wings up behind him so they wouldn't drag on the bannister and walls. Hazue followed, one hand still stroking the wing on the left, chattering excitedly. The brothers sat on Kaidou's bed, Kaidou watching the door and absently answering Hazue's eager questions.
He didn't realize it when he fell asleep, Hazue's small hand still stroking the glossy, black feathers of his wings.
His parents kept him home from school the next day, talking through the events that had given him the wings and discussing their options for moving forward. Kaidou was much more clear-headed after a good night's sleep, and Hazue had been personally escorted to school by their mother, who ordered him not to speak of his brother's wings to anyone, upon pain of death. Or severe grounding, anyway.
He had fallen asleep in his clothing the night before, so it wasn't until he begged for a break and went to take a shower that he realized the wings had ripped up the back of his shirt when they'd grown. Which made sense, of course, but it brought up a whole new set of problems. The ruined shirt was no big deal; it was just a white sleeveless muscle-shirt, and he had several of those. However, none of his other shirts had wing-holes in them, for obvious reasons. Unless he planned to walk around shirtless for the rest of his life, something would have to be done. Either that, or his parents would decide never to let him out of the house again. It was not a solution he favored.
After much deliberation (and some begging on his part--he had worked hard to become a regular and did not wish to give that up so easily) it was decided that he would attend school as usual the next day. It was impractical to think that they could hide Kaidou's condition forever, and he did need his education if he was to be a success in life.
Decision made, his mother got to work making wing-sleeves on the backs of all of his shirts and jackets. Kaidou practiced getting his shirts on and off. It was harder than it seemed to force the wings through the tiny sleeves. In the end, Hozumi made the sleeves bigger and added buttons so they could be closed back up again once the wings were through. Kaidou still needed help getting dressed, though, much to his embarrassment and annoyance.
Thursday came much too soon. Kaidou sat nervously at the breakfast table as Hozumi called Seigaku to let them know that he was feeling much better and would be attending as usual today. She did, however, mention that his illness had a lingering physical effect upon him, and asked if they would please keep an eye on him to make sure all went well. She didn't elaborate on the physical effect.
She drove him in so he wouldn't have to endure the inevitable stares during the long walk, but of course, she had to let him out once they reached the school. His day went downhill from there.
Not only did people stare as he walked from the car to the building to his locker to class, they pointed and whispered, too. Some of the girls actually squealed at him. "Oooh, look, look! Kaidou-kun is so cuuute!" He blushed heavily and hissed, ducking his head and walking faster, the wings tucked tight behind him.
Classes brought a new challenge. The small, hard seats made it very difficult for him to find a comfortable position for his wings, so he ended up having to keep them fully extended on either side. This was obviously not a good solution, since his full wing-span was almost double the length of his arms. In the end, sensei made him sit in the very back of the class, behind everyone else, both so that he could sit comfortably and to keep him from distracting the rest of his classmates. It didn't really work. It was tiring to keep the wings fully-extended for long periods of time, and his classmates just kept turning around in their seats to gape at him.
Finally, lunchtime arrived and he left the confines of the building as quickly as he could, finding a large, out of the way tree to sit under with his bento. This area wasn't heavily trafficked, so perhaps he could at least eat his lunch in peace.
He groaned in annoyance. Of all people to seek him out here, why did it have to be that dunk smash idiot? The guy just wouldn't leave him alone. He'd been forced to work with him last year, since Momo had been named captain of the junior high tennis team and he had been named vice-captain. That had been torture. The idiot seemed to think they were friends, now. "What do you want, moron?"
"Wow, look at that bento," Momoshiro marveled, not bothering to answer Kaidou's question as he unceremoniously plopped down next to his rival and began to unpack his own lunch. "I think it's even bigger than usual! My Mom still won't make lunches like that, not at all! I have to buy my lunch. I got yakisoba today, and melon bread."
"I don't care," Kaidou muttered, trying to scoot farther away but finding that the wings hindered his movements.
"Hey, watch it!" Momo waved away the feather that had come loose in Kaidou's shuffling. "You're shedding feathers, you're shedding them!"
"Leave my feathers alone! And go somewhere else if you don't like it." Kaidou savagely speared one of his octopus weiners and chewed it vigorously, wishing the loudmouth would just disappear somehow and leave him alone. Stranger things had happened. Just the other day, in fact, when he'd grown wings for no reason.
"Oi, Mamushi," Momoshiro asked, after a few moments of silence--sullen on Kaidou's part, too busy eating on Momo's--"Can you fly with those?"
Kaidou stopped in mid-chew, his mind going completely blank. "I... don't know."
"Haven't you tried? If I had wings, I'd try to fly first thing."
"It's scientifically impossible," interjected a dry voice from above.
"Inui-senpai!" Momoshiro greeted him enthusiastically. "Look, Mamushi's got wings!"
Kaidou scowled, a blush rising to his cheeks under Inui's intense scrutiny. "Shut up, idiot. And stop calling me Mamushi."
"I had heard the rumors," Inui replied, adjusting his glasses as they slid slightly down his nose. "I came to see for myself, but you weren't in your usual spot. I calculated that if the rumors were true, there was a 99.98 percent chance you would have wished to find an isolated spot to eat by yourself."
"Hmmm," Kaidou managed, frowning in annoyance. And a bit of fear.
"At any rate, as I was saying, it is scientifically impossible for Kaidou to be able to use those wings to fly. Birds have hollow bones to give them that ability. You would be quite fragile, had your bones hollowed out."
"Hmmm," Kaidou said again. He had more than half of his lunch left, but had completely lost his appetite.
"But Inui-senpai, isn't it a scientific impossibility for Mamushi to have grown wings at all?" Momoshiro asked, smirking slightly.
Inui's eyebrow twitched. "Yes."
"So, taking that into account, what's the chances that he can fly?"
"I would need to collect more data to answer that question," Inui answered. "So, Kaidou, if you wouldn't mind answering a few questions...."
Kaidou sighed as Inui-senpai whipped out one of his notebooks and Momoshiro laughed noisily. It was going to be a long lunch hour.
By the time tennis practice came, Kaidou was more than ready. Classes had been excruciating, but surely practice would be alright. He loved tennis more than anything else in the world--well, except for his family, of course, but that went without saying. And probably kittens and puppies. Although maybe they were tied with tennis. He decided not to think too hard about it, in the end. At any rate, the point was that he loved tennis and was looking forward to practice. Only that, too, turned out to be a disaster.
The courts were surrounded by gawkers, all wanting to see "the boy with the wings" for themselves. All of the members of the club, including the regulars, had trouble concentrating on their games because they kept turning to stare at him. And worst of all, his game had suffered. The wings had messed up his sense of balance and added extra weight to his body, making him slower and more awkward than he'd been in years.
Only a half hour into practice, Captain Sato finally called a halt to all activities and pulled Kaidou aside.
"Kaidou," he said uncomfortably, averting his eyes, "I'm going to have to ask you to retire to the clubhouse for now. I'm not asking you to leave the team, but no one can concentrate right now. And obviously, your own skills have suffered. Please wait for us there and all of the regulars together can discuss our options after practice."
Kaidou simply nodded in defeat. Sato had made up his mind, and as captain, he was to be obeyed. And he was right, of course. Kaidou was no longer in any shape to be a regular, and they all knew it, after today. It was merely a kindness that Sato had offered to "discuss their options."
He trudged into the clubhouse and stripped off his clothing, turning on one of the showers as hot as he could stand it, closing his eyes as the hot water slowly soothed away the ache in his back and shoulders, loosening the muscles that had tightened up after several hours keeping the wings fully extended. He cursed his new appendages heartily. Why had he touched that thing, anyway? Why did he have to have such a weakness for sparkly, shiny things? He let the wings rest now, drooping forlornly as the water beaded up and dripped off the glossy black feathers. He sighed heavily, wishing the ache in his heart could be soothed as easily.
He couldn't see an end to this. Eventually, the other students would get used to him and stop their staring, pointing, and whispering, but out in public there would always be people seeing him for the first time. He also didn't see any way he could keep playing tennis. Even once he got used to the wings, wouldn't they still be distracting and in the way? He might even be disqualified from playing in official matches. Not that there was a rule about it, but someone was sure to make one.
He stayed slumped there, eyes closed, for several minutes, trying not to think. Eventually, though, he started to feel lightheaded, the way he always did if he remained standing in a hot shower for too long. Heaving another gusty sigh, he straightened and reached for the faucet to turn off the water, only to stagger as a more severe wave of dizziness caused his vision to momentarily grey out.
Startled and somewhat alarmed, he reached out and braced one hand against the tiled shower walls, slowly falling to his knees as all of the strength seemed to leave him at once. He let out a weak "Shimatta," as he lost consciousness for the second time in three days, wondering why these horrible things always happened to him.
It was Momoshiro's hysterical laughter that woke him up. Oishi-senpai was kneeling next to him, clutching his shoulder in a painfully tight grip and shaking him frantically, calling his name over and over. But he wasn't aware of that until after he'd dragged himself back to consciousness for the sole purpose of punching Momo's lights out.
He hissed softly, slitting his eyes just enough to see the seven pairs of sneakered feet surrounding him. Just great. Not only had they watched him completely fail at tennis, they would also think him weak and sickly, now that he'd fainted in the showers. But why was the idiot laughing like that?
"I'm fine, Oishi-senpai," he said, sitting up slowly. He edged away and crossed his arms in front of his body. Tezuka-senpai wordlessly handed him a towel, which he took gratefully and wrapped around his waist as Oishi-senpai helped him to his feet. Not that they hadn't all seen him naked before--they showered here in the clubhouse all the time--but the rest of them were all fully-clothed, which made it awkward.
Momoshiro was still laughing. And pointing at something on the floor. Kaidou hissed at him and snapped, "What are you laughing at, moron?!"
"Umm, Kaidou," Oishi began, but Momo interrupted.
"Mamushi, you.... you...." He gasped for air, struggling to contain his laughter long enough to speak clearly. "You laid an egg!"
"What?!" He spun around to face the direction Momo was pointing and felt his heart plummet into his feet. There, on the wet tiles of the shower floor, was a little, glowing, pinkish-purple sphere just like the one he'd first seen in the woods on his training route. Only this one had pretty blue swirls on it. And Kikumaru-senpai was reaching out to touch it.
"No! Senpai, don't!"
Kikumaru's eyes leapt to his, startled. "Nya?!" And his fingers stopped mere millimeters from the pearly shell.
Kaidou let out a long, relieved hiss. "That's... how I got my wings."
"Nyaaaa?!" Kikumaru-senpai snatched his hand back, and leapt directly into Oishi's arms, causing the vice captain to blush furiously. "Oishiiii!" he whined piteously.
"E--Eiji," was all Oishi could say, flushing even darker.
Inui-senpai was scribbling furiously in his notebook. "Fascinating. Tell me, Kaidou, did you witness the previous winged man... or woman?... actually laying the egg?"
"What? No! Why would I.... No!"
"Why did you touch it?"
Kaidou's eyes darted to the door of the shower room, contemplating escape, but the other seven regulars were all lined up, blocking the exit.
"I didn't know it was an egg," he mumbled indistinctly.
"Hmmm," Inui-senpai said, quirking an eyebrow.
Sato-buchou cleared his throat. "It's obvious Kaidou is feeling better," he pointed out nervously. "Why doesn't everyone shower and change. We'll have a team meeting in the main room in 30 minutes."
"Hai," chorused all of the others.
Kaidou just bit his lip, eyeing the little egg on the tiles. "Buchou.... I don't think we need a meeting. I.... I can't be a regular anymore, like this. And there are many senpai who can easily take my place, so the team will be fine without me. Strong. I'll.... I'm just going to go home."
He stepped forward and knelt to pick up the egg, feeling the weight of his now-former teammates' eyes on his back. Then he straightened and stood, facing them all with as much dignity as he could muster while wearing nothing but a towel. He bowed to them. "I enjoyed playing with you."
He only stopped to put on his pants and pick up his school bag before leaving the clubhouse for good.
"I think it was the worst day of my life," Kaidou finished glumly, hating that he had to say it aloud, hating that it was true, hating the sad and sympathetic look in his mother's wet eyes.
"Oh, Kaoru," Hozumi said softly, lifting a hand and letting it rest at the base of her throat. Her dinner was untouched. So was his. Hazue and his father had eaten, but slowly, without enjoyment.
"So," his father said, putting down his chopsticks and regarding him grimly. "What do you wish to do?"
Kaidou shrugged, staring down at his plate.
"Do you wish to return to school?" Shibuki prompted.
Kaidou shuddered in answer.
"Then you will be schooled here, at home. We will make the arrangements. I had hoped it would not be necessary, but...." He hissed, shaking his head in disappointment. "It cannot be helped."
Kaidou nodded wordlessly. He hadn't wanted this. He'd wanted to go on with his life. Wanted to run, and play tennis. But he couldn't, anymore. The same reporters who had chased him home from school were outside the house now. He didn't have to get up and look, he knew they were there. Their excited speech was audible through the windows and the tiny openings between the doors and the walls.
He couldn't go out, not unless he wanted to be accosted by them again. Not unless he wanted to be stared at, pointed at, and whispered about. He wondered gloomily if he'd ever see the sun again, except through glass.
His mother and father were speaking quietly, urgently, their heads close together. They were talking about money, he knew. It would cost them to have him privately tutored at home, and while they were not a poor family, this would be a difficult expense for the household. He hated having to burden them with it.
"Aniki," Hazue said hesitantly, touching his arm. "Are you going to be okay?"
"Ah," he answered absently, automatically putting on a brave face for his younger brother. Hazue looked doubtful. "Really," he tried again. "I'll.... We'll be fine."
"You didn't eat anything."
"I'm not really hungry." The dinner was his favorite, no doubt prepared lovingly with him in mind, but the idea of eating it made him feel ill. "You can have it."
"What are you going to do?"
He shrugged. "Nothing. Stay home. Study. There's nothing else."
"Anikiiii," Hazue whined, tugging at his arm. "Don't say that. Maybe... maybe...."
"It'd be fine if it was you," Kaidou conceded, finally. "You wouldn't mind... all that." He gestured toward the window behind them, at the closed blinds hiding them from prying eyes. "But I do. I hate it. I don't... I don't want people to... look at me. Like that."
Hazue thought about that for a long moment. "You could let me have wings, too, Aniki. And I could let them take pictures of me all they wanted, and then they wouldn't bother you as much."
Kaidou smiled, just a little. Hazue really was the best brother a man could ask for. "No, I don't think so. And I've hidden that... thing, so don't even try to find it. I'll be angry with you."
Hazue sighed. "Okay, okay. Aniki is so stubborn."
Hazue let go of his arm and grabbed his chopsticks, spearing a piece of steak and holding it up to Kaidou's lips. "It's still good when it's cold."
Kaidou took the chopsticks from him and ate. His stomach didn't feel so tight anymore.
Kaidou Hozumi called Seigaku first thing the next morning and informed them that her son would no longer be attending school. Kaidou sat at the breakfast table, listening to her end of the conversation. It sounded like they were trying to get her to change her mind. He wasn't sure why. He was a fairly average student, except when it came to tennis. Maybe they liked the publicity.
He ate his breakfast slowly. Normally, he got up at 5:00 am to do his morning run and training exercises, ate a quick breakfast, and headed off to school. This morning there had been no run, no need to get ready to go out. He'd awakened anyway, and lay there staring at the ceiling for an hour before sitting up and flipping aimlessly through his chemistry book. He would have to ask Hazue to go to the library for him sometime soon.
He felt lazy. His muscles ached to move. He thought he might run up and down the stairs for an hour or so, later on. It would feel good and keep his muscles from turning to fluff. He'd have to figure out how to do his sit-ups and crunches, as well. The wings would make it awkward. He would also have his father buy some free weights.
He perked up a bit. He wouldn't have to go out of shape just because he was confined to the house. Maybe he could even ask Inui-senpai to make him a new training menu....
His momentary good mood immediately faded. He didn't really have the right to ask for that, anymore. He wasn't on the team. Inui-senpai would have no reason to do such a thing for him. No reason to even be his friend, anymore.
"Kaoru?" His mother's concerned voice broke into his thoughts. "You suddenly looked so grim...."
"I'm alright," he assured her, managing a smile he hoped was convincing. Judging from the look on her face, it wasn't. "I was just... wondering if it was okay," he said, thinking fast. "If we could afford this."
"You tutoring? Of course we can! You're too young to worry about such things, Kaoru. Let your father and me take care of you."
"I'm fifteen," he countered gently. "I understand about money."
"So you are," Hozumi agreed quietly. "But we--" She was interrupted by a knock at the door. "Now, who could that be?" Wary after yesterday's seige by the local news community, she stopped in front of the door and called, "Who is it?"
"Inui Sadaharu desu," came the answer.
Kaidou stood up so fast he knocked his chair over. "Inui-senpai?!"
"Inui-san, please come in!" Hozumi smiled welcomingly at him. "We weren't expecting you!"
"Senpai, what are you doing here?" Kaidou realized how rude that sounded and quickly clarified. "You... you'll be late for school!"
"Hmmm, most likely." Inui pushed his sliding glasses back up onto his nose. "However, there was a 98 percent chance you would not be attending school today, after yesterday's events. An 86 percent chance that you would not attend again at all, confining yourself to the indoors to avoid unwanted attentions. Therefore, I took pains to complete a new, indoor training menu for you that accommodates your altered physical state. You may not be playing tennis with Seigaku anymore, but you will not wish to be idle."
Kaidou swallowed hard, feeling a suspicious lump in his throat. "What was the percentage chance of that deduction?"
Inui smiled. "100 percent."
"How very sweet!" Hozumi exclaimed, taking the offered notebook. "Thank you, Inui-san!"
"You're quite welcome. If it's alright, I'll visit after school. Some others may wish to accompany me."
"That will be fine," Hozumi agreed after a quick glance at her flabbergasted son. "You are all welcome to join us for dinner."
"I would enjoy that, if it is not too much trouble. Shall I call you once I know how many will come?"
"You should go now, Senpai," Kaidou said gruffly, knowing that his cheeks had pinked and hating himself for it. "You're going to be very late."
"I will see you later, then." He bowed to Hozumi. "Sorry for troubling you. I'll be going now."
"Have a good day!" Hozumi turned to her son as she closed the door. "He's such a nice boy."
Kaidou wasn't sure he'd ever call Inui-senpai "nice," but he really was a good friend.
All of the regulars of Seigaku High showed up for dinner that night. So did Taka-san, who had quit tennis to concentrate on his career as a sushi chef, and Echizen Ryoma, who was now the captain of the junior-high team. His mother was thrilled. He himself was less so.
It wasn't that he didn't appreciate their loyalty, if it was, in fact, loyalty. He suspected that for more than one of them (at the very least, for Momo), it was the promise of a meal made by Kaidou Hozumi. His elaborate bentos were infamous at Seigaku. And outside Seigaku, apparently. Marui Bunta from Rikkaidai had once accosted him at a bus stop asking if he'd be willing to sell, offering increasingly exorbitant prices every time he refused. Marui-san had then proceeded to text message him every hour on the hour for three days straight. It only stopped after he got Sanada-san's cellphone number from Tezuka-senpai (who'd had to get it from Atobe, unfortunately, by promising an unnamed favor later-on) and requested some assistance.
Sanada-san was scary.
At any rate, no matter why they were there, Seigaku's tennis team and their hangers-on made for a very full house. He supposed he was lucky Horio and those other kids from Echizen's class hadn't shown up as well. He smirked to himself. Even after all this time, they were all still rather terrified of him. It was kind of cute, actually.
"You seem content, Kaidou," Inui said suddenly.
Kaidou stiffened. Inui-senpai was leaning so close that his breath felt moist on the shell of Kaidou's ear. He inched away slightly. "Ah... yes."
Inui chuckled, a sound that never ceased to give Kaidou the shivers. "I'm glad. We were worried about you, after yesterday."
"Everyone was?" Kaidou couldn't help but ask. Oishi-senpai would have been worried, of course. He worried about every little thing, all the time. Kikumaru-senpai would worry a little, partially because of Oishi and partially because he was a genuinely sweet guy. Kaidou kind of hated him, because he was so cute and cuddly and kept touching him, and it made him want to pet the redhead as if he was a cat. Which he was not, no matter how many times a day he "nya"ed. Taka-san would worry too, now that he never went into burning mode anymore. Which was good, because in burning mode, he'd probably just bellow something like, "OH, NO!!! OSTRACIZED!!!"
The others, he was more doubtful about. Tezuka-senpai would be mostly concerned about the team and whether they would be strong without him. (Which they would.) Fuji-senpai was probably enjoying the uproar. Echizen never seemed to care about anybody or anything besides tennis and his cat, and Momoshiro....
He glanced at the idiot, grimacing and immediately looking away as Momo spoke loudly with his mouth full and sprayed everyone within a two-foot radius with half-chewed food. The uncivilized baka.
Well, it didn't really matter, in the end. Time would tell which of them were truly concerned about him and which were just going with the crowd. In the meantime, he'd enjoy it while it lasted.
"Ne, Kaidou," Kikumaru-senpai said, jumping up and hugging him suddenly, "This was really fun! I'm going to come see you lots, nya!" He nuzzled his face into Kaidou's cheek, purring.
"A-- Ah." Kaidou felt himself blush darkly, and refrained from petting his senpai by sheer force of will.
Inui-senpai was the last to go, bowing to Hozumi and wishing the family a good night before taking his leave. It wasn't late, since it was a school night, but Kaidou felt tired after all of the socializing.
"It was wonderful of all of them to come here like that," Hozumi gushed as she cleared the devastated table. "I'm so glad you've been able to make such good friends!"
"Ah," Shibuki agreed. "Kaoru has always been awkward and shy."
"Otousan!" he objected halfheartedly. His parents laughed together, and he shook his head in resignation.
"Aniki!" Hazue exclaimed suddenly, staring out the front window. "A big giant limo just parked in front of our house!"
"A limo?" Shibuki asked, frowning in suspicion.
"A man is getting out!" Hazue continued excitedly. "And he's opening the door for someone else!"
Kaidou went to the window to see for himself, and his mouth dropped open when he saw who was approaching the door. "H-- Hyotei no Atobe Keigo?!"
Atobe sat imperially on the family couch, legs crossed and posture regal. Kaidou was surprised he hadn't usurped his father's easy chair. The two of them were alone in the living room, after all, Atobe having charmed his parents into leaving them alone for a time.
He eyed the Hyotei diva suspiciously. The other boy had ignored them all, for the most part, after the Nationals two years before. Only Tezuka still had any kind of relationship with him, and that was more out of that weird captain's bond they all seemed to develop rather than any kind of actual friendship. The whole Hyotei team had shunned them after that, even Akutagawa Jirou, much to Fuji's disappointment.
So why was Atobe here now? And how had he gotten Kaidou's parents wrapped around his little finger so quickly. "Did you go to charm school?" he asked, before he'd even realized his mouth had opened. Then he blushed deeply. What a question!
Atobe looked at him for a moment, startled, then laughed a deep, rich laugh. "No. I just have natural charm."
That was the other thing. He'd quit it with that "ore-sama" thing. Which was good, Kaidou supposed, but he kind of missed it. Atobe just didn't seem to be Atobe, without that. He imagined that if Kikumaru-senpai ever stopped saying "hoi" and "nya" all the time, he'd feel the same sort of loss. He wasn't sure why. It wasn't as if Atobe was a friend, like Kikumaru was.
"So...." he muttered, at a loss for words.
Atobe looked amused. "So." He leaned back into the couch cushions, making himself more comfortable. His eyes shifted to focus somewhere behind Kaidou. Kaidou almost turned to look, before he realized. Of course. The wings. "Those are interesting accessories," Atobe finished, eyes shifting back to Kaidou's face. "Would you tell me how you got them?"
Kaidou's eyes narrowed. "Why?"
Atobe shrugged gracefully and made a vague gesture. "The news media has reported all kinds of ridiculous speculations. Though I suppose any answer will be ridiculous, in this case. I'd just like to know the truth."
Kaidou was silent for a long while, considering. Then, he got an idea. "I'll tell you on one condition."
Atobe raised one finely sculpted eyebrow. "Condition?"
"Yes. This will cancel Tezuka-senpai's debt to you."
Atobe twitched. "Why should it? You are not Tezuka."
Kaidou didn't waver. "That is my condition."
Atobe regarded him seriously for a moment, before sighing and averting his eyes. "Fine. I accept your condition. I will contact Tezuka and let him know."
"This evening. Here. I want to hear you tell him."
It was Atobe's turn to narrow his eyes. "Atobe Keigo always keeps his word. It is you of Seigaku who have problems with that sort of thing."
Kaidou blinked. "What?"
Atobe's displeasure made fine lines on either side of his mouth and between his eyes. Kaidou wondered if he knew that. Probably not. He would probably never frown, if he did. "You know precisely what I mean," he ground out bitterly. "It may not have been you who committed the sin, but you stood by, nonetheless. You are just as guilty."
Ah. It was about THAT, of course. "Right. I can't believe you're still bitter about that, two years later. It was only hair."
Atobe lost control, slamming a fisted hand onto the arm of the couch. "It was NOT about my hair! It was a deliberate effort to needlessly humiliate me in front of a crowd of hundreds!" He recovered quickly, taking a deep breath and relaxing his posture, running a hand through his perfectly sculpted hair. It had regrown quickly--within a couple of months. Kaidou didn't see the issue. "The bet was that the loser would shave his head," Atobe explained, his voice still slightly strained. "Echizen did not give me the chance to fulfill my obligation--instead he assaulted my person while I was passed out on the ground, and none of you even bothered to stop him."
Kaidou averted his eyes, feeling his cheeks growing hot. He hadn't really thought of it that way before.
"It was dishonorable," Atobe finished quietly. "I do not enjoy dealing with dishonorable people."
Dishonorable? Kaidou was speechless. He was very honorable, he always had been. He worked hard to always be honorable in all of his dealings. He opened his mouth to tell Atobe that, when the other waved a hand, cutting him off.
"It matters not. I have not come here to discuss old slights." He directed his gaze back at Kaidou's wings. "Now, fulfill your end of the bargain, if you please."
Reluctantly, Kaidou did.
"I see," Atobe said when he was finished. He uncrossed his legs and crossed them again in the other direction. "My sources inform me you are in possession of one of those spheres."
"What?" Kaidou stared at him incredulously. "You already knew!"
"I most certainly did not. I would not have agreed to your condition if I did not need the information."
Kaidou frowned in confusion. "Then why--"
"My sources gave me incomplete information, all based on rumors, hearsay, and overheard conversations. So, you have one?"
Kaidou nodded reluctantly. "Yeah. So?"
Atobe smiled thinly. "So. I have a proposition for you. But first...." He took out his phone and hit two buttons, then spoke after a brief silence. "Tezuka? Atobe Keigo. I have called to inform you that your debt is cancelled. ... I have no reason to tell you why. You should be grateful. Here. Someone wishes to speak with you." He held out the phone to Kaidou. "Speak with him quickly to verify that it is him and that I have told him. You do not have my permission to engage in further conversation on my phone."
Annoyed, Kaidou got up to take the cell. It was just like Atobe to sit there comfortably and make others move around for him. "Senpai?" he said.
"Kaidou?" Tezuka sounded surprised. "What is going on? Why are you with Atobe?"
"He is visiting my house," he answered vaguely, keenly aware of Atobe's eyes upon him. "I asked him to cancel your debt."
"And why did he?" Tezuka wanted to know. "He wouldn't, without good reason. Have you sold your soul to the Devil?"
"Not yet," Kaidou muttered. He had a feeling he would be asked to. "I have to go, senpai."
He hung up. He felt bad, but Tezuka wasn't his buchou anymore, so it wasn't as disrespectful as it could have been. He handed Atobe back his phone.
"Now for my proposition," Atobe said as he turned off the phone and slid it back into his pocket. "I wish to purchase that sphere from you."
"Name your price."
"Oh, come now." Atobe rolled his eyes slightly. "It isn't such an unreasonable request. I want those wings. You have the means to give them to me. I will, of course, compensate you. I do not see an issue."
"There's a big issue!" Kaidou hissed, looming over the other boy in an attempt to be as intimidating as possible. It didn't seem to be working.
"What? The reporters? The talk? Those are things you hate. I love those things. I want to be stared at, and talked about. Besides, I would look utterly magnificent. Can you imagine?"
Kaidou could. A very clear picture formed in his head. He shuddered. "The answer is still no."
"Surely there is something you want. Something your family needs." To his credit, Atobe did not look disdainfully around the room as he said it, but Kaidou knew he had to be pitying them for having such a small, ordinary house in such a small, ordinary neighborhood. Or something.
"My family is fine," Kaidou retorted stiffly.
"You, then." Atobe was unperturbed. "What is it you want? Tell me, and I will give it to you. I have the means, you know that. I can give you anything you ask for."
"I want my life back!" Kaidou burst out, much to his mortification. "Can you give me that?!"
Atobe was silent, looking up at him with shuttered eyes. Kaidou was breathing hard, fists clenched at his sides. Atobe looked away first.
"I see." He stood gracefully, forcing Kaidou to step back. "Very well. I'll be going now."
He stopped as he passed by the kitchen, where the family was waiting, pretending not to have eavesdropped. "Thank you for your hospitality, Kaidou-san," he addressed Hozumi and Shibuki.
"Must you go so soon?" Hozumi asked, pointing to the cake she had served as they waited. "We have cake..."
"I must watch my figure," Atobe declined, smiling indulgently. "But it does look delicious."
Kaidou rolled his eyes. Atobe had definitely gone to charm school.
True to his word, Kikumaru-senpai did visit again. The very next day, in fact. He'd dragged Oishi-senpai and Tezuka-senpai along with him, and the four of them sat in Kaidou's room and talked until time for dinner. Hozumi once again invited the guests to stay, and while the Golden Pair reluctantly declined, citing family obligations, Tezuka accepted. He spent the whole meal engaged in a serious conversation with Shibuki about world events and the state of the Japanese economy. Before he left, he pulled Kaidou aside and asked him again why Atobe had cancelled his debt. Kaidou wouldn't tell him, but assured his former captain that he hadn't agreed to anything crazy in return. Tezuka left, still looking uncertain about it, but accepting, for the time being.
The day following was a Sunday, so he had several visitors throughout the day. Surprisingly enough, two of the visitors were from rival schools. Kamio Akira from Fudomine came with well wishes and stayed for a couple of hours, playing video games with him and with Taka-san, who happened to be there at the same time. A few hours later, Wakato Hiroshi from Jyousei Shounan showed up as well. The guy was totally obsessed with him, and Kaidou wasn't entirely sure why. People kept telling him Wakato was "changing over" into him during matches with other schools. He was the only student player Wakato ever imitated, aside from one-offs to annoy the students he was playing against; all of his permanent "modes" were of professional players. After Wakato left, Kaidou discovered that two of his bandanas were missing. Creepy.
The next week was more of the same. Inui-senpai's special indoor training menu required four hours a day to complete--spread out across the day in one-hour sessions--which left him mostly unoccupied. He spent a lot of time with his mother, assisting her with household chores and cooking, and read a lot of books. He also got hooked on a few of the daytime television shows, which annoyed him greatly. He would be glad when his parents managed to find a proper tutor for him.
The afternoons were the best. At least one of his friends from Seigaku visited every single day after practice. He suspected they had a rotation, or a sign-up sheet, or something. It would be like them to do that. It scared him a little, how much he looked forward to those visits. He didn't even mind when it was Momo who showed up, but he kept telling himself that was because Momo never came alone--he was usually accompanied by Taka-san or Echizen, which was nice, since they didn't seem to be in on the rotation. If such a thing truly existed.
He doubted it would last forever--at some point, they would forget about him and stop coming--but for now he would enjoy it. He hadn't realized he had friends. He'd thought they were just teammates. For once, he was glad to have been mistaken.
Atobe Keigo chose a quiet Thursday to make his return visit. The knock on the door came as a surprise, as tennis practice at Seigaku wouldn't end for another hour or so. Kaidou stood mutely in the doorway, staring at him.
"Will you not invite me in?" Atobe prodded softly, his face carefully blank, giving nothing away.
Kaidou stepped back slowly, allowing the other to step past him into the house.
"Atobe-san, welcome!" Hozumi greeted warmly. "How nice of you to visit again. Will you have some tea?"
"Thank you, Kaidou-san," Atobe answered, bowing respectfully. "I would like that."
Hozumi bustled away, humming contentedly. She would bring not only tea, Kaidou knew, but cakes and cookies, as well. She enjoyed nothing more than feeding guests.
Atobe seated himself in Shibuki's easy chair this time, crossing his legs elegantly and raising a eyebrow at Kaidou as if to say, what are you waiting for? sit down.
Irritably, Kaidou sat. "What do you want?"
Atobe clucked disapprovingly. "So rude, Kaidou. After I have come all this way to visit with you."
"You didn't come to visit with me," Kaidou retorted, but stopped as Hozumi brought them their tea and cakes.
Atobe thanked her and made approving noises as he tasted one of the berry cakes. Kaidou normally would have thought he was putting on airs, but he knew just how good Hozumi's cakes really were. Hozumi left them, blushing slightly at Atobe's gentile praise.
Kaidou picked at his own cake, sipping at his tea and watching Atobe over the top of his mug. Tezuka had asked if he had sold his soul to the Devil. He hadn't, but he thought perhaps the Devil had come to take it this day, regardless.
Atobe spoke. "I have considered your request and am prepared to make you a new offer," he said, not meeting Kaidou's eyes.
"I made no request," Kaidou answered, startled.
"'I want my life back, can you give me that?'" Atobe quoted. "Was that not a request?"
"It--" Kaidou was speechless.
"Perhaps you did not mean it as such, but I have given the matter much thought, and have discussed it with my parents. I believe you will find the result of our discussions quite satisfactory." He put down his plate and steepled his fingers, meeting Kaidou's eyes intently. "You have asked for your life back. These wings have robbed you of it, or so you perceive. You can no longer play tennis the way you wish. You have been driven out of society by your own shyness and insecurity, and by the unscrupulous persistence of the news media."
Kaidou simply stared, blinking dumbly.
"I cannot offer a way to remove the cause of your afflictions, but I believe I can relieve you of the bulk your burden," Atobe continued. "Will you hear of it?"
Kaidou realized his mouth was hanging open and shut it abruptly. "Will I-- what?"
Atobe sighed. "I will assume your consent. My offer is this: As you know, my family is quite well off. Our home is a large mansion on several acres of land, gated and staffed with security for our safety and privacy. We have our own woods and a lake, tennis courts and a swimming pool, a golf course, and a private airstrip. More importantly for your needs, we have a guest house."
Atobe stopped there, a hint of a smile playing about his lips.
"A... guest house?" Kaidou wasn't quite understanding.
"Yes. Well within the gated grounds of the Atobe land, close enough to the manor to be convenient, but far enough away to offer privacy and solitude to the guest who stays there. Kaidou, I am prepared to offer this house to you and your family for your use. You would live there, on our grounds, safe from the reporters and photographers who would dog your every step, and free to roam the lands as often as you wish without fear of being accosted or stared at. While it does not restore your life to they way it was, it would be an improvement on your current situation, would it not?"
"I... You... But...." Kaidou's mind was whirling. What Atobe was offering was almost too good to be true. A chance to go outside again without fear or embarrassment? Plenty of land where he could run, and even private courts to play tennis? And for his family, a new home with no mortgage to pay. Was it really worth that much to Atobe to be allowed to touch the egg?
Atobe raised an eyebrow. "Ahn? Is my offer still not to your liking?"
"No, I-- It's.... I don't...." Kaidou cut himself off with an irritated hiss, biting his lip and tasting blood. "What do you want in return?"
"I told you. I want that sphere. I want wings of my own. I told you to name your price and you have. Have I met your criteria?"
He wanted to say yes. He hadn't been outside in so long, and despite Inui-senpai's custom training menu, he felt bored and restless. He longed to play tennis again, even if he wouldn't be as good at it as he once was. "I...."
Atobe was silent, waiting.
"I need to talk to my parents."
Atobe left only a few minutes later with no further words spoken. Kaidou sat in stunned silence until Sato-buchou and the vice-captain, Kitamura-senpai, came to visit, and even then, he hardly spoke to them the whole time.
Kaidou stewed over Atobe's offer for three days before he screwed up the courage to speak with his parents about it. He had been driven to distraction about it the whole time, so much so that even Hazue was checking on him as often as possible, attempting to distract him with inane conversation and frequent requests to play video games.
In the end, though, it wasn't nearly as bad a talk as he had feared it would be. Shibuki and Hozumi had known there was something on his mind, and it was obvious it had something to do with Atobe, since Kaidou had been unusually quiet and withdrawn since the other boy's second visit.
The two accepted easily when he told them he wanted to speak with them, and then sat quietly as he explained Atobe's offer and his own urge to accept. Both waited until he had finished before asking questions, and Kaidou answered them as best he could, feeling much less nervous about the whole thing.
Once he was satisfied he had learned everything he could from his son, Shibuki leaned back and hissed thoughtfully. "You continue to have reservations about giving that boy the egg. Why?"
"Are you worried about his intentions for it?" Hozumi prompted, when Kaidou was silent for a long moment.
"No," he answered hesitantly, frowning slightly. "He just wants to have wings. He's a little.... He thinks highly of himself, and he thinks having wings would make him even more attractive than he supposedly already is."
"Supposedly?" Hozumi giggled. "There's nothing to suppose. He's quite handsome."
Kaidou shuddered as Shibuki rolled his eyes at his wife.
"Well, your mother and I will have to discuss it," Shibuki announced, nodding decisively, "but it sounds like a very generous offer. We would need to take into consideration the location. Is it very far from Hazue's school? My job? Why don't you call the young man and ask if we might visit the home before making our final decision."
"Alright. I.... I'll have to get his phone number from Tezuka-senpai the next time he comes over."
"No need," Hozumi chirped brightly, eyes sparkling. "He left his number with me the last time he was here. He asked me if I had ever considered starting a catering business. Can you imagine?"
Kaidou sighed, finding it absolutely mortifying the way his mother had fallen for Atobe Keigo's charming ways.
Kaidou flinched as both Momoshiro and Kikumaru-senpai loudly voiced their incredulity about the news he had just shared with them.
Echizen simply smirked and tugged at the brim of his cap. "Mada, mada dane."
"What does 'mada, mada dane' have to do with anything?" Kaidou muttered, glaring at the younger boy without any real heat. Echizen shrugged.
"You're going to live with Atobe?!" Momoshiro was absolutely appalled. Kikumaru-senpai had begun making retching noises.
"I'm not going to live with him, just in a house his family owns. And anyway, we haven't decided, yet. My parents are going to visit this weekend."
"But still!" Kikumaru-senpai stopped pretending to retch and leapt on his back instead, forcing Kaidou to fully extend both wings. "It's Atobe! He's evil!"
"He hurt Tezuka's arm! On purpose!"
"Well, yeah, but he apologized...."
"What do you have to do in return?" Echizen asked calmly. "I know he's not offering this out of the goodness of his heart."
"Well, no...." The three waited expectantly, Kikumaru still hanging onto him. "Would you get off me, please, senpai?" Kikumaru pouted but climbed down carefully, now more mindful of the wings. "Thank you."
"Well?" Momoshiro asked impatiently.
Kaidou sighed. "He wants me to give him wings, too."
"Hmmmm?" Echizen's eyes widened a tad. "Won't that mess up his tennis, too?"
"Ochibiiiii," Kikumaru whined, smacking the boy on the back of the head, "Don't be so insensitive!"
Momoshiro laughed nervously and backed away a bit.
Kaidou rolled his eyes. Honestly, did they think he was a complete basket case? "I'm sure Atobe has thought of that already. He probably has a plan."
"I bet he'll hire a private coach to teach him how to play tennis with wings," Momoshiro griped. "It's sickening. Really sickening!"
Kaidou shrugged. "He has the money, he should use it to make his life better. Besides, he didn't have to offer me the use of his courts and everything in addition to the house. I think it was a good offer."
Echizen perked up slightly. "Oh? You can use his courts? Do you think he'll let you use his private coach, too?"
"I don't...." Kaidou hesitated. Could he really even hope for that?
"He'll need someone to practice with, nya," Kikumaru suggested.
"Yeah, and he won't want to play bad tennis in front of anyone who'd blab about it," Momo added. "You're the perfect solution!"
"Who plays bad tennis," Kaidou growled, deliberately trying to start a fight in order to change the subject.
"Kaoru, we're home," Shibuki knocked on Kaidou's door late Saturday evening, waiting a beat before opening it.
"Good evening, Otousan," Kaidou greeted politely, putting down his book and trying to pretend he hadn't been looking out the window for them for the past two hours.
Shibuki smiled knowingly. "I saw you at the window."
Kaidou blushed. "How was your visit?"
"It went quite well. We met Atobe-san's parents, and many of their staff. The house is more than adequate--much larger than this one--and the commute will not be prohibitive for me or for your brother. Keigo-san has accompanied us home, and is waiting for you downstairs."
Kaidou frowned. "Why?"
"We have decided that we will move there, should you agree to his terms. I believe he wishes to discuss that with you."
Kaidou felt a rush of both joy and apprehension. Moving there would mean a chance to regain much of the freedom he had lost upon growing his wings, but it would also mean he would have to consent to Atobe's request for the egg.
Neither his family nor his friends truly understood his reluctance to agree to Atobe's request. It wasn't that he thought Atobe would abuse the wings in any way. The only way to do that would be to lay an egg and then deliberately use it to force-change other people. Atobe wouldn't do that because he would want to be unique. It also had nothing to do with his own experiences having wings--or at least, not directly. He believed Atobe when he said that the things that bothered Kaidou about it wouldn't bother him. However, there was no telling what would bother him, and Kaidou wasn't sure he could live with himself if Atobe ended up completely miserable because of him.
"Kaoru?" Shibuki prompted, and Kaidou jumped, startled. He had been lost in thought for longer than he had realized. "Are you having second thoughts?" Shibuki asked.
"I...." Kaidou debated whether he should share his concerns with his father. "Sort of."
Shibuki moved inside the room and took a seat at the foot of the bed. "Tell me why. Perhaps I can help."
"I just.... What if he hates it?"
"Having wings?" Kaidou nodded. "I see. You are concerned that the experience will not be what he expects. You would feel badly for him, if that were the case."
"Tell him that. Go downstairs and tell him your concerns. Make him agree that if you do this, he will under no circumstances blame you should things not go according to plan. Atobe-san have already suggested that a contract be written and signed by all parties. If that clause were to be added in--"
Kaidou startled. "Contract?" He blushed as he realized what he had done. "I apologize for interrupting. Please continue."
Shibuki smiled slightly. "I understand. Yes, a contract, stating the terms of the agreement and protecting our family's right to live in their guest home for as long as we wish. We will be returning to the mansion next weekend to read it and agree to the terms. I see no reason we could not request that additional language be added. Once you provide Keigo-san with the egg, your part of the bargain has been fulfilled, regardless of final outcome."
Kaidou thought about that for a long moment. "I guess that would be alright. I hadn't thought of signing a contract."
"We are considering selling our family home and moving onto their land. It is only proper that we have some way of protecting our interests."
"Yes." Kaidou put his book aside and prepared to stand.
"One more thing," Shubuki said quickly, holding up a hand to stop him. "The Atobe family have requested that you submit to a physical examination before giving Keigo-san the egg. They wish to be sure there will be no risk to his health."
"Oh. That's... reasonable. But--"
"You needn't worry. They have already suggested a trusted family physician who will probably be willing to perform the exam here."
"Ah. I understand. I will go downstairs and speak with Atobe, now."
"Good." Shibuki stood, as well. "He will be happy to be rescued from your brother."
"What has Hazue done?" Kaidou asked suspiciously.
"Nothing, really." Shibuki's lips twitched as a tried to hold in a smile. "He is enamored by the Atobe family's extensive holdings and is pestering Keigo-san with questions about what it is like to be so rich."
Kaidou made it downstairs in record time.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, the doctor the Atobe family had recommended was eager to perform his examination of the only known winged human in existence. When Hozumi called, he asked if it would be convenient for them if he were to come over the very next day. Since the next day was a Sunday and the family had no plans, the appointment was agreed upon.
Kaidou had never been very fond of doctors in the first place, and was not eager to be examined now that he was officially a freak of nature. He had always been a healthy boy, and was good about following his doctor's instructions regarding diet and exercise. Because of this, visiting the doctor had very been terribly unpleasant, but he still preferred to avoid it when he could. However, he knew that the Atobe family was correct. It would be best to know for sure if the wings had caused any adverse affect to his body.
Dr. Itsugawa arrived at the house almost exactly on time. Kaidou hated him on sight. It was nothing he could pinpoint, exactly. The man was of ordinary height and weight, with neatly styled black hair and stylish wire-framed glasses. He wore a grey suit with a lighter grey tie, and carried a medium-sized black leather bag. He had a soft voice and an easy smile, but there was just something about him that gave Kaidou the creeps.
Itsugawa introduced himself politely, bowing to Kaidou and his parents, then asking where the examination should be held. Originally, it was to have been held in Kaidou's room, but he impulsively answered, "Over there," and pointed to the living room. Shibuki raised an eyebrow but didn't contradict him, instead telling the doctor that he and his wife would be in the kitchen, should they be needed.
The examination didn't take long and wasn't at all invasive. Dr. Itsugawa told Kaidou that it would be useful if he were to visit his clinic for x-rays sometime soon, so that the altered bone structure and musculature around his spine could be examined more closely. However, everything appeared to be in perfect working order, and he saw no reason why the transfer of the sphere could not take place as planned.
Kaidou thanked the man politely, stepping away from him as soon as he could. His skin crawled where the doctor had touched it.
They joined Kaidou's parents in the kitchen, where Dr. Itsugawa gave them a quick summary and signed the papers provided by Atobe's lawyers.
The family looked around at one another once the man had left. It was done. Within a few weeks, they would be moving into a new home.
And Atobe Keigo would have wings.
Kaidou's friends took the news reasonably well. Kikumaru and Oishi were the ones to visit on Monday, so they found out first. Predictably, their reactions were polar opposites.
"Oh, that's good news," Oishi said, smiling benignly.
"Noooooo, Kaidouuuuu!" Kikumaru wailed, leaping into his arms and rubbing their cheeks together.
Oishi's smile faltered. "E--Eiji...."
Kaidou sighed. "Senpai, please get off."
"But, Kaidou, whyyyy?" Still whining, Kikumaru reluctantly placed his feet back on the floor. "Atobe is eeeevil!"
"He's not evil," Kaidou started, but then remembered having had the exact same conversation before and didn't bother to continue. "Anyway, it will be better for me. I can go outside without people staring at me."
"Does he have a lot of land?" Oishi asked curiously.
"I haven't seen it yet, but he told me they did. It's all gated, too, so reporters won't be able to come in without permission."
"What about when he lets them in?" Kikumaru pointed out. "Atobe loves to have his face in the papers."
Kaidou faltered at that. Atobe had already said that he wouldn't mind having reporters following him about; what good would this move do if Atobe had reporters crawling around all the time?
"I'm sure he won't do that," Oishi said quickly, patting Kaidou awkwardly on the shoulder. "This move was a good decision. It will all work out, really."
Kaidou could only sigh in resignation. Why could nothing ever be simple?
Kikumaru finally perked up. "Hey, when are you moving?"
"I... next week."
"Okay, good! That gives us plenty of time to plan the party!"
"Party? What for?"
"A housewarming party, of course!" Oishi easily picked up on his doubles partner's train of thought. "Do you think your parents would mind? We could make all of the arrangements and provide all of the food.... Oh, do we have to get Atobe's permission?"
"I'm allowed to have whatever guests I want. I just have to tell the guards at the gate."
"All right! Oishi, this will be fun! I'm going to call Fuji. Give me your phone!"
Oishi obligingly handed over his cell, smiling fondly as Kikumaru bounded out of the room, already dialing enthusiastically. "Any excuse for a party," he remarked, shrugging lightly.
"Kaidou...." Oishi said, suddenly serious. "Is everything okay? I mean... I know Atobe isn't evil, but... is it really okay to let him have that egg? What if he ends up hating his wings and throws you guys out of the house?"
"He can't," Kaidou answered simply. "We signed a contract. There's no way he can throw us out or do anything bad to my family once he gets the egg, whether he likes the outcome or not."
"A contract?" Oishi thought about this for a long moment. "You and your parents read through it? The whole thing?"
Kaidou nodded. "We were all satisfied with the terms. I just have to deliver the egg to him within two weeks of moving into the house." He paused, then reluctantly added, "And they made me see a doctor."
"A doctor? Oh, to make sure it would be safe for Atobe. Did it go alright? I guess it did, since you're moving next week."
"Yes, it was fine." He grimaced, a little. "I didn't like him."
"Who, the doctor?" Oishi looked concerned.
"Yeah. He gave me the creeps. I'm not sure why."
"Hmmm." Oishi frowned, then brightened almost immediately. "Hey, I'll bet my Dad would take you on as a patient. That way, the next time you need to see someone, you don't have to use someone you don't like."
"Really?" Kaidou perked up. He had been dreading visiting Dr. Itsugawa's office for the X-rays, but maybe now he wouldn't have to.
"Sure! I'll talk to him tonight."
"Thank you, senpai," Kaidou said solemnly, already feeling a weight lift from his shoulders.
Oishi blushed slightly. "It's nothing. That's what friends are for, right?"
"Hn," Kaidou responded, feeling his own cheeks heat up.
Luckily, Kikumaru chose that moment to burst into the room babbling happily about party decorations.
Kaidou let his senpai's enthusiastic words wash over him without really listening. He felt a lot better about things after speaking with Oishi. The contract assured that even if Atobe wasn't satisfied with his wings, it wouldn't reflect negatively on the Kaidou family. Plus, Atobe himself had shrugged off those concerns when he'd voiced them. There was a chance there might still be reporters on the grounds of the Atobe home, but upon reflection, Kaidou was pretty sure he and Atobe could work out a deal. The other boy had been surprisingly reasonable about everything, so far, and now he didn't even have to see that creepy doctor again.
He caught himself smiling slightly and forced his face back to a neutral expression. It wouldn't do to let Kikumaru think he was excited about the party plans.
"Oi, I saw that grin, Kaidou! Waaa, I never knew you liked that sort of thing! I'll make sure to tell Fuji to bring it to the party. I'm so excited!"
Kaidou gulped in bewildered apprehension, realizing he'd schooled his features moments too late. He had no idea what Kikumaru had been saying. And the idea that Fuji would be bringing something to the party was worrisome. He sighed and decided to just let it be, feeling the smile wanting to creep back onto his face. He gave in to it.
Upcoming: Look for the sequel, "Sparkling Wings of Dreams," coming to a Web site near you! (At some point.... After I write it....)