Summary: Kazuhiro is failing both Trigononmetry and team sports; Kobayashi isn't doing much better.
Fandom: Aim for the Sky!
Original Story: Torrent by Marksykins
AN: Thanks to my betas, who always come through with the flail and the fixes.
Sum Identities (The Hey Baby What's Your Sine Remix)
"You've got a what in trigonometry?" Captain Tsukada demands. "Is that a percentage or are you converting your grade to degrees Celsius?"
"I'm not real good at doing that either." Kazuhiro shrugs, looking sheepish. He shifts from foot to foot a little, making the floor of the office creak, as Tsukada glares.
"I thought I asked you if there were any other problems I should know about," he says. "You know, when you joined the team, right after we'd established that your tan goes all the way down?"
"Well," Kazuhiro scratches the top of his nose, "I wasn't expecting you to get past the pants thing, truthfully." Truthfully, he hadn't been expecting to even still be on the lacrosse team a whole month after Asakawa had dragged him into Tsukada's classroom. He hadn't lasted four days on the soccer team, much less four weeks.
He hadn't lasted four minutes on the track team. Like any 14-year-old would be surrounded by poles and not make the obvious joke.
Tsukada pinches the skin between his eyes. "When's your next test?"
"Next week," Kazuhiro answers, giving Tsukada a winning smile. "But don't worry, I'll get Asakawa-kun to…"
"Oh, no," Tsukada says. "Asakawa and his lacrosse scouting talent is what got us into this mess in the first place." Kazuhiro starts to whine a protest, but Tsukada holds up a hand. "First of all, Asakawa wouldn't know trigonometry from a glory hole."
"Asakawa doesn't know anything from a…"
"And secondly," Tsukada interrupts, very loudly, "you really aren't very bright if you think I'm going to make this fun for you. Kobayashi-kun will be tutoring you until next week."
"Kobayashi-kun?" Kazuhiro groans, shoulders slumping.
"Do you have a problem with Kobayashi-kun?" Tsukada crosses his arms.
"He…" Kazuhiro catches himself before he blurts out the first thing that comes to mind and heaves another little sigh. "Don't get me wrong, Tsukada-captain, Kobayashi-kun is shougilicious and all. But he can be a little…high-strung."
"Then I suggest you don't wind him up any tighter." Tsukada says, dismissal clear in his voice. "I expect you to exchange numbers with Kobayashi-kun and work out a study schedule. Also, as punishment for not being honest with your captain and endangering the first string of the team, tomorrow you are not allowed to run laps."
"Tsukada-captain!" Kazuhiro's mouth drops open, calf muscles twitching at the thought of watching everybody else run while he's trapped on the bench, but he shuts his mouth meekly when Tsukada threatens to make it for the rest of the week.
Stupid Kobayashi-kun, he thinks when his ass is glued firmly to splintery wood while everyone else crunches over the dead grass. Stupid lacrosse.
"What's wrong with Kobayashi-kun?" Asakawa asks, tilting his head and shaking the bleach squeezy bottle back and forth like the directions say to. He's perched on the counter, swinging his feet so that his bare heels bang against the cabinet.
Kazuhiro snaps his plastic glove idly. "He's so grumpy. And I don't think he likes lacrosse much. Or me. Or anything."
"Nah, he just gets wound up over things." Asakawa giggles and Kazuhiro wonders if they should maybe open a window. "Like Misaki. Nobody can really hate lacrosse, right?"
"Not when you say it like that," Kazuhiro laughs, reaching over and mussing up Asakawa's damp hair over the roots that they're about to dye. "How do you think you got me here?"
"Subterfuge and handjobs," Asakawa replies glibly, butting his head against Kazuhiro's palm with a grin. Sometimes Asakawa is so cute it seems like not even lacrosse can contain it, Kazuhiro thinks. No wonder the team went from having five members to having almost all eleven in only a week and a half, most of the new regulars not having a very clear idea of how they ended up in the locker room.
Then he frowns when that makes him think about Kobayashi all over again. He shakes it off.
"Thanks for having me over," he says as Asakawa gives the bottle a last shake and examines the result. "My mom said if I bleached her bathroom carpet again she'd staple underwear to my butt."
"My mom says if we spray bleach all over the bathroom at least she doesn't have to clean it as much. It's ready, do me first!"
If there's anybody who can resist a demand like that from Asakawa, Kazuhiro knows it isn't him.
"He must like something," Asakawa murmurs when Kazuhiro has his fingers buried in his hair, and it takes a moment for Kazuhiro to connect the statements together. "You can do it, Kazuhiro-kun!"
Just then Asakawa's mother sticks her head in the door and asks if they mind touching up her roots a little because she has a date that night, and they all end up crammed in the bathroom, giggling from the bleach fumes, and Asakawa's mother promises to make them brownies because she's suddenly starving.
Kazuhiro bets even brownies couldn't make Kobayashi smile.
Kazuhiro looks up from his conversation with Aiko and Kuwabara-chan to find Kobayashi glaring at him. The lenses of his glasses seem to intensify the glare, like a magnifying glass and Kazuhiro is the ant.
"Hi," he says. He tries to keep his smile in place even though Kobayashi-kun is looking at him like he is a pillbug that refuses to roll.
"Tsukada said I have to talk to you about something," Kobayashi says, frowning. "So just tell me whatever it is and I'll let you get back to your double-date here."
The girls giggle beside him, but Kazuhiro's smile slips a little. "They're just friends, from the Drama Club. This is Aiko, and this is Kuwa—"
"Look I don't care, okay?" Kobayashi interrupts, glancing to either side as if he'd rather look at anything else, as if he'd rather be anyplace else. "What do you want?"
Kazuhiro stares at Kobayashi for a long moment. His skin feels funny, like something with a lot of legs is crawling up his arm, and he can't figure out why Kobayashi's bored expression and refusal to meet Kazuhiro's eyes makes him want to take two fistfuls of Kobayashi's uniform and shake.
"Tsukada-captain says you have to tutor me in trigonometry," he says, wondering why he's even bothering with all this. He's quit a lot of sports for a lot less than putting up with Kobayashi's extracurricular attitude problem.
"Oh, fabulous." Kobayashi's look of distaste intensifies, but at least he finally drags his eyes up to Kazuhiro's face. Even if he just glares harder. "I'm going. We'll talk during practice."
"Later," Kazuhiro says out of reflex, but Kobayashi is already turned away, shouldering his way down the hallway.
"How rude!" Aiko sniffs, crossing her arms, and Kuwabara-chan agrees that even she doesn't think he's cute at all. Kazuhiro stares after Kobayashi until he turns the corner, then yanks off his uniform jacket like he's stripping off the whole incident.
When Kazuhiro gets a good look at the inside of Kobayashi's house, things suddenly make a lot more sense. In Kazuhiro's house, the whole living room wall is covered with photos of him and his brothers, the whole way from when they were tiny and wrinkly until now. The newest one is of Kazuhiro in his lacrosse uniform (i.e., holding his crosse), while Isao and Nori hold up little rubber balls and snicker.
In Kobayashi's living room, instead of pictures of him doing embarrassing baby things, there's a wall of trophies with smug little men clutching teensy gold rackets.
"They're my father's badminton trophies," Kobayashi answers as Kazuhiro fingerprints up the smug little men, and then he mumbles something being nationally ranked. He drags Kazuhiro away as fast as he can, despite Kazuhiro nearly stumbling over his own feet as he gawks at everything.
Things aren't any better in Kobayashi's room, but at least the trophies there have Kobayashi-kun's name on them, and minimally less retarded figures.
"Put that down," Kobayashi sighs, reaching to take the trophy out of Kazuhiro's hands and sitting it back exactly where it was, plus or minus a millimeter.
"Shougi, huh?" Kazuhiro asks, grinning because Asakawa had been right, bless his newly-bleached head. "So there is something you like."
"Huh?" Kobayashi is setting his school bag down on his desk and frowning. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Show me!" Kazuhiro demands, letting his own bag drop with crash.
Kobayashi seems to think Kazuhiro means show him how to play, rather than show him that he actually enjoys something, but Kazuhiro is so caught off-guard by the sharp interest on Kobayashi's face that he can't quite bear to interrupt him. He amuses himself meanwhile by making the kinds of moves that make his brother Nori throw couch cushions at him.
Kobayashi just grimaces, and explains in answer to Kazuhiro's questions that he's only even playing lacrosse to keep his father and his army of smug brass men happy. The pieces they're using are interesting, the set well-made; Kazuhiro keeps picking them up off the board to examine them, and Kobayashi keeps snatching them back and putting them back into place.
By the time Kobayashi says that it's getting late and they should start math, he at least looks like the top of his head isn't about to blow off at any moment.
"Did I win?" Kazuhiro asks, but Kobayashi doesn't seem to have any idea what he's really talking about.
Kobayashi is his usual grumpy self the next day at practice, proclaiming his ambivalence for lacrosse loudly and at any available opportunity. The many-legged bug is crawling over Kazuhiro's skin again, and he scratches idly at the itchy material of his T-shirt while he thinks about that.
"Look, just leave the pants on, man," Kichida says, interrupting Kazuhiro's thoughts. Kichida seems to be in one of his outgoing moods today, wrestling with Tachiki until the captain snaps at them, and making loud penis jokes that crack up Asakawa and Harada.
Kazuhiro grins and takes that as permission to yank the irritating shirt off; he can think more clearly when the wind is making his skin goosebump.
A half-dozen yards away, Kobayashi looks up and makes a tcht noise that is plainly audible to Kazuhiro. Kazuhiro sticks his tongue out.
"What's the deal with you and Captain Shougi?" Kichida wants to know, swinging his crosse like a golf club. "How'd your date go?"
"It wasn't a date, it was math!" Kazuhiro squawks, putting his fists on his hips. "With Kobayashi, are you crazy?!"
"Did you have your pants?" Kichida asks, then when Kazuhiro opens his mouth adds, "The whole time?"
"I'm a streaker, you moron," Kazuhiro informs him, nose in the air. "Of course not!"
"I hear," Kichida sidles closer and throws an arm around Kazuhiro's bare shoulders, murmuring conspiratorially, "you even gave him a pet name."
Kazuhiro whacks Kichida in the shin with his crosse; Kichida's arm turns into a headlock and he twists Kazuhiro's nipple. Kazuhiro gets another good shot in with his crosse before a fist to his kidney stuns his fingers numb and the stick hits the muddy ground with a squish.
"CAT FIGHT!" hollers Harada, and before Kazuhiro knows it he's on his back in the mud with the breath knocked out of him and Tsukada-captain leaning over him, shouting.
"Kazuhiro…and Kobagin…" Kichida wheezes beside him, "sitting in…a tree…"
Snarling, Kazuhiro flails out an elbow and nails Kichida in the stomach, driving the air out of his stomach with a satisfying whoosh, and before it's all over Kazuhiro has a huge bruise blooming across his cheek and everybody on the team calls Kobayashi "Kobagin" until he stomps off the field.
At least Tsukada-captain is so infuriated in the aftermath that he forgets he's forbidden Kazuhiro to run laps.
"I got you normal graph paper," Kobayashi says, slapping down the pad.
"Thanks, Kobagin," Kazuhiro says, then winces when his grin makes his face hurt.
"I'm not being nice to you," Kobayashi clarifies, glaring. "Your purple paper was giving me a headache. And stop calling me that!"
"No buts!" Kobayashi yells, really yells, and Kazuhiro is stunned into momentary silence. "I'm not doing this because I want to, I'm doing this because Tsukada is making me! I don't like you and I don't like lacrosse, and the sooner you get enough math into your bleached head to pass this test, the sooner we can get out of each other's faces, all right?!"
Kobayashi is holding tightly onto the edges of the table, cheeks pink, staring at his fingers.
"Okay," Kazuhiro says quietly, because there is nothing else to say.
After about a half an hour, he lies and says he gets it, then leaves the new pad of paper on the table and escapes as quickly as he can.
His skin is prickling and his face is sore, and he runs the whole way home, but for the first time ever in his entire life it doesn't make him feel any better.
It must be because he was wearing pants the whole time, he figures.
The next day Tsukada remembers, and Kazuhiro sits on the bench, heels squelching in the mud, while everyone else runs and Tachiki calls Kobayashi "Kobagin" every five seconds.
It makes Kobayashi snarl and Kazuhiro stare at his feet, and Kazuhiro guesses that he shouldn't have got his hopes up that lacrosse would be different from everything else.
He cuts practice the next day, unable to shake off the day before. It's Saturday, which means that Nori doesn't have cram school and catches him slinking in the door.
"I'm home, big brother," he says dully, and Nori raises an eyebrow under his proper Japanese haircut.
"Don't you have practice?" he asks. "Is the lacrosse stint over already? You lasted what, a month this time? I think that's a record!"
"I was in the Drama Club for six weeks," Kazuhiro corrects, staring at the buttons on his jacket like he's never seen them before, stomach knotting up at the reminder of the way Aiko and Kuwabara-chan had tried to cheer him up that morning by gossiping cruelly about Kobayashi in front of him.
He picks at his dinner until his mother feels his forehead, and then goes to bed early with an ice pack for his cheek. He ends up with his sheets tangled around his ankles, staring at his ceiling until the ice is nothing but water sloshing around in the plastic bag.
He wakes up the next morning with a soaked pillow.
Monday morning, he's barely awake enough to resent his constrictive underwear when the back of his neck prickles and Aiko elbows Kuwabara-chan hard, and Kazuhiro turns to find Kobayashi about to tap his shoulder.
"Kobagin?" slips out of his mouth before he can stop himself, making Kobayashi roll his eyes.
"Don't call me that," he says, pushing up his glasses. "Look, are you coming over today? Your test is tomorrow, and I know you said you got it, but since you don't seem to be able to keep things like practice in your head…"
"Get lost, dweeb," Aiko sniffs, hands on her hips. "Where do you get off being mean to Kazu-chan?"
Kobayashi narrows his eyes. "Excuse me?"
"Go back to your board games, four-eyes," Kuwabara-chan adds, tossing her hair. "Real sports aren't any place for a little geek like you!"
"Now just hold on," Kobayashi snarls. Kazuhiro is looking back and forth between Kobayashi and the girls like he's watching the Kantou tennis finals, jaw dropping open when Kuwabara-chan uses a word he's only ever seen before in shrink-wrapped manga.
"And furthermore," Aiko is leaning forward into Kobayashi's space now, poking him in the chest with a very pointy fingernail, "Kazu-chan will be just fine without any more of your 'help' so you can just…"
"HEY!" Kazuhiro finally interrupts, making everyone in the hallway freeze, including Kobayashi and both girls. "Kobagin's GREAT at lacrosse! He could be a professional shougi player, with trophies and everything, but instead he writes all our plays, and he's even smart enough to teach an idiot like me math! And his glasses are a lot more stylish than your stupid berets and stretchy pants any day! Come on, Kobagin!"
Kazuhiro turns on his heel and stomps off, dragging Kobayashi along by the wrist, and it isn't until they turn the corner that he realizes what he's doing all at once, and drops Kobayashi's hand like he's been burned.
"Sorry, Koba—" Kazuhiro catches himself and shoves his hands in his pockets. "Sorry."
"It's okay," Kobayashi says. They're both staring at the floor. He mumbles something else, and when Kazuhiro asks him to repeat it snaps, "I said you're not an idiot, idiot!"
Kazuhiro laughs, and they stare at the floor some more.
"Look, I'll see you at practice, okay?" Kobayashi drags his eyes up long enough to give Kazuhiro a warning glare. "Don't skip."
"I won't," Kazuhiro promises, because he's just realized that he doesn't want to.
He's all ready to beg Captain Tsukada for forgiveness, pants on and everything, but before he can even get his mouth open, Kobayashi strolls up with his hands shoved in his pockets, blinking from the sting of his new contacts.
"Just let him run, will you?" he says, making Tsukada raise his eyebrows. "It's like watching a puppy have his bone stolen."
"And how's that math coming, Kobayashi-kun?" Tsukada inquires.
"It's just fine." Kobayashi meets Tsukada's gaze evenly. "You'll see."
A fight between Sato and Tachiki breaks out on the other side of the field, and Tsukada-captain gives them one last pointed look before telling Kazuhiro that he can start with ten laps for causing a scene in the hallway, and jogging off.
"Thanks, Kobagin," Kazuhiro says, a little confused about what just happened, but then again that's been the last few days all over.
"Don't thank me, we're even," Kobayashi replies. But after a second he glances at Kazuhiro out of the corner of his eyes. "I didn't mean what I said on Friday."
"Yeah, you did," Kazuhiro shrugs.
"I mean, I didn't mean to say it like that."
"Yeah," Kazuhiro ducks his head to force Kobayashi to look him in the eyes, "you did."
"Fine, I did." Kobayashi reaches up to push up his glasses, then rolls his eyes at himself. "Kazuhiro, you like lacrosse, right?"
"Yup!" Kazuhiro stretches his arms over his head, stretches his fingers towards the sky until the wind tickles his bare stomach. "I think I do."
"Yeah," Kobayashi echoes. "I think…I think I do too."
What are tangents? the first question on Kazuhiro's math test asks.
Tangents are things you get off on before you figure it out for real, he writes, and then he draws the diagram Kobayashi showed him last week.
Only it looks even better drawn in pink pencil.