Prince of Tennis, On the Cellular Level

Title: On the Cellular Level [Inui/Kaidoh]
Rating/Warnings: PG because I use Fuji’s name a few times.
Summary: Inui’s speeddial bumblings mean Tezuka gets a respite, Oishi gets to slap himself, and Kaidoh just gets it.
AN: Thanks to marksykins for reading the tripe and feeding me Tezuka cookies. If you’ve seen the It’s a DATE! episode, this’ll be about 50 times funnier.

On the Cellular Level

“It’s Kaidoh.”

“Kaidoh?” Inui blinked. There was a second of silence, the soft static of the wireless line hissing in Inui’s ear. “Can I help you with something?”

“You called me, sempai.” This time the soft hiss wasn’t static.

“A…ah.” He had? He’d meant to call Tezuka, he wanted to report that he’d just seen Momoshiro and Echizen heading towards the street courts and was wondering what Tezuka’s opinion on non-standard practice was.

“I trained already today,” Kaidoh said, the ‘if that’s why you’re bothering me again’ crackling unspoken across the line.

Ah, now Inui remembered. He had called Kaidoh several times in a row last week when he couldn’t find the kouhai in person to check up on his training, the early stages were crucial to the menu, and had switched his number with Tezuka’s as the first speed dial. He had meant to change it back, but hadn’t done so as of yet.

And then he also remembered that Tezuka had been talked into a movie by Oishi, Fuji, and Eiji, and thus his phone was almost certain to be turned off.

“Kaidoh,” Inui said, figuring that since Kaidoh was already on the line, what would it hurt? “Momoshiro and Echizen are headed towards the street courts. I was wonder what your opinion on the effects of non-standard training are?”

There was another long moment of silence before Kaidoh asked, “You want my opinion, sempai?”

“Yes,” Inui prompted, delighted with the fact that he’d been on the phone for more than 45 seconds, a new record. “In particular if you have any thoughts on the ratio of enthusiastic spontaneity to purposefully chosen exercises.”

“You think it matters, sempai.”

It wasn’t a question, but Inui launched into an explanation anyway, unloading several weeks worth of data onto his unsuspecting kouhai that he had taken specially after noting that several players, such as Oishi, showed improvement and enjoyment during structured activities, and others, such as Kikumaru, tended to have a higher energy level and learning curve when engaged in what Inui would term “just fooling around.”

It wasn’t until he was flipping through the pages of his notebook in search of a particular example that Inui realized there had been silence on the other end of the phone for minutes on end.

“Kaidoh?” he asked. Perhaps he had just missed the click? He had been wanting to discuss this topic with someone for a few days, and his enthusiasm did sometimes run away with him.

“Yes, sempai?” Kaidoh was not only still there, he didn’t sound irritated, or bored. He just sounded like…Kaidoh.

“Ah…” Inui felt himself caught flat-footed again, but wasn’t exactly sure why, and his fingers hovered uncertainly over a notebook page which contained a graph of what Tezuka ate for lunch vs. how many laps he gave Fuji at practice that afternoon. “Am I interrupting anything?”

Inui wrinkled his nose. What had he asked that for?

“No. Go ahead, sempai.”

The bell curve of Kikumaru’s attention span seemed a much safer thing to analyze than his own strange behavior, so Inui launched into renewed explanation with fervor, even making a few connections between several graphs that he had never looked at in this particular sequence before.

All in all, he felt very satisfied with himself when he finally ran out of things to say and took a deep breath.

“You’ve put a lot of thought into this.” Kaidoh commented. “I’ll be sure to think on it, sempai.” Inui swallowed, and his throat stung. “Is there anything else you wanted to say?”

“Ah…no.” Inui furrowed his brow. There really wasn’t. Inui realized suddenly that he had absolutely no data on how people ended phone conversations.

“I’ll be going then,” Kaidoh was saying, almost gently, as if he was aware that Inui had no idea what his half of the script was.

“Yes,” Inui said.

Nothing happened.

“Sempai?” Kaidoh’s voice startled Inui, who had been waiting for the familiar click and soft beep. “You should hang up now.”

“Yes,” Inui said, pulling the phone away from his ear and thumbing the ‘disconnect’ button. Then he looked down and just stared at the phone in his hand like it was a strange, metallic insect that had alighted there, still-warm and alien.

*********

Two days later, Inui was sitting at his desk, entering data into his computer from a series of experiments to determine the circumference of an object’s handle required to elicit the BURNING response in Kawamura, when suddenly Kaidoh’s voice was hissing in his ear.

“Kaidoh?” Inui realized he was holding the phone to his ear and frowned at his notebook. “What…”

“You called me, sempai.” Kaidoh’s voice held a flicker of emotion for the first time in recorded history, but Inui didn’t have enough data to ascertain whether it was amusement or irritation.

“A-ah.” Well, so long as he was on the line… “Kaidoh, I’ve conducted a series of experiments to determine the circumference of an object’s handle required to elicit the BURNING response in Kawamura…”

*******

“Are you fighting with Tezuka?” Oishi asked, eyes earnest and a little terrified, and Inui flipped a few pages over and made a tally mark in the ‘Oishi overcomes fear for the sake of mothering’ column.

“Mn,” Inui lifted his head back up to give Oishi his full attention, making Oishi swallow, “why do you ask?”

“Tezuka said you haven’t talked on the phone in a while.”

That was most assuredly not what Tezuka had said. There was a 63% probability that Tezuka, under duress of Oishi or possibly Fuji badgering him, had said “Inui hasn’t called me in five days” and a 22% probability that his eyes had added “I have dared switch my phone back to vibrate.”

“I’ve been occupied with other endeavors,” Inui said, but he let the amusement linger in the corners of his mouth just to freak Oishi out a little. Oishi twitched. “But if you feel I should be giving more attention to Tezuka, I do have my phone right here…”

“N-no!” Oishi went a little pale as Inui slipped the phone out of his pocket in almost a caress. “I was just concerned, Inui-kun. I’ll leave you to your lunch then…”

Oishi scampered off, and Inui put a tally mark in the “Oishi does a thousand ‘Hail Tezukas’ and then slaps himself” column, then glanced at the phone in his palm.

Well, it was out already and all.

“Ah, Kaidoh! So I was calculating the likely length of time before Fuji introduces his fourth counter based the variables of available challengers and the upcoming matches, with the added factor of Echizen’s sudden interest…”

*******

“Kaidoh?” Inui was starting to suspect that he was either slightly psychotic, or experiencing minor time loss as a side effect from alien abduction. He didn’t even have his notebook in front of him this time! “I was just thinking about…hmm…”

“I called you, sempai.” Amusement! Inui thought triumphantly, that one was definitely amusement, and where the hell had his notebook gone?

Wait. What?

“You…called me?” Something warm tickled Inui’s chest, and he thought vaguely that he should have known better than to have that second glass of Juice.

“Yes.” Kaidoh sounded rather more gruff than usual, and a tad out of breath. Inui flicked a glance towards his watch and thought that Kaidoh didn’t usually train this late on Sundays, but then again being predictable seemed to nettle the second year. “I wanted to ask you something.”

Inui finally located his notebook on his bed and flipped it open, then stared at it blankly. What should he mark this under? Kaidoh’s section only had two headings, ‘training’ and ‘bandana patterns,’ and this didn’t seem to fit either one. Perhaps it was time Kaidoh got his own notebook, since his pages were nearly full already and they had really just scratched the surface of…

“I’m at the street courts,” Kaidoh said, making Inui freeze with his hand halfway up to the shelf where he kept blank notebooks. “Do you want to…”

Inui jabbed the phone off and was halfway down the stairs before he remembered he’d left the notebook on the desk, and by then it would have been a shame to spoil his downward momentum when it would increase the chances that he could make it to the street courts in under ten minutes by 14%.

*******

“Well, Mamushi?” Momoshiro asked, tapping his racket against his shoulder, while a bouncing Eiji leaned on his shoulder to peer at Kaidoh. “Is he coming or not? What’d he say?”

Kaidoh pulled his phone away from his ear and stared at it. “He hung up.”

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