It Takes Two

by beaple leone michaelmas

Summary:

An evening patrol, a strange girl, a stern grandfather – the makings of Tezuka Kunimitsu's first love.

Prologue: 10

A/N:

Hello, 2010! ::D

Disclaimer:

I don't own Prince of Tennis; the whole concept belongs to Takeshi Konomi-sensei.

Prologue: 10

"I need some help here!"

The boy with light brown hair and glinting glasses stared at a nurse speeding by, her arms splattered with dark red blood. Eyes wide and watchful, he scanned the room for his grandfather, walking past bodies covered with bloodied white blankets, trying to stay as unobtrusive as possible.

After a mass shootout in a concert hall in Ginza, the emergency room of Mizuide General Hospital was packed and frenzied, handling twenty one patients – seven of them dead, the rest badly injured. [1] Kunimitsu, who often tagged along in his grandfather's rounds, once wished something exciting would happen while he was on patrol. Tonight, in the midst of so much pain and despair, he regretted his silent prayer, and realized it had been made very selfishly…

A slight movement on the left caught his eye. Through a gap in the curtains covering one of the hospital beds, a small, pale hand was reaching out, frail fingers stretched forward as though grasping something. Seeing that everyone else was busy, Kunimitsu strode forward with long, determined strides. This, he told himself, was his role to play in this emergency situation; even at a young age, he felt terribly guilty and largely responsible for tonight's tragedy…

"Mama-"

Kunimitsu froze as he heard a soft voice, a girl's voice, calling out for her mother. To his horror, the hand suddenly fell to the side of the bed, limp and lifeless.

His voice caught on his throat as he tried to scream. Had the girl died – right before his eyes?! Then, suddenly, he heard the sound of muffled sobbing, faint amidst the noise of the ER. As he realized it was coming from behind the curtains, he sighed inwardly.

She was still alive.

Unable to think of any other way to help, Kunimitsu reached out for the frail hand. Alarmed at the sudden touch, the hand pulled away, a heavy voice calling out, "Who's there?"

"I-I didn't mean to scare you," he said, stuttering uncharacteristically. Clearing his throat, he added, "You seemed like you could use a little help."

There was a pause; the girl seemed to be considering his statement.

"You can't help me," she said after a while. "Nobody can…"

This intrigued Kunimitsu.

"My grandfather says there are two kinds of pain," he said abruptly, surprising himself. "There's the physical, and there's the emotional. If you're in physical pain, if your body hurts, I can get you a doctor. But if you're in emotional pain - that is, if your heart hurts, so badly that it's as if it's wounded – I can… listen to you if you want-"

"You talk a lot, don't you?"

That shut Kunimitsu up. It was strange that she thought that when everyone else said otherwise.

"I only want to help-"

"You can't bring Mama back to life!" the little girl cried, pounding the side of the bed with her clenched fist. "You can't bring her back – no one can, nothing can!"

Kunimitsu stared, his lips parting slightly.

"I-I'm sorry… I didn't know-"

He stopped talking at the sound of renewed sobs.

Feeling helpless, he turned to look at the hand again – her nails had dug into her palms so deeply, so forcefully that Kunimitsu thought she would bleed. Slowly, hesitantly, he reached out for her hand again, his fingers trembling slightly.

As his small, pale hand closed upon the little girl's, she stiffened visibly. But she did not pull away.

Feeling thankful but worried, Kunimitsu concluded that it was the girl's heart that hurt; he immediately tried to come up with a way to make her happy – even just for the moment. Suddenly, he remembered what that song from his favorite movie advised: to be happy, one must think of one's favorite things. [2]

Kunimitsu frowned slightly; he didn't know what her favorite things were! But then… maybe… he could talk about his favorite things instead? Maybe they would make her happy, too?

His eyebrows furrowed as he tried to find something to talk about. What made him happiest? What made him feel thankful to be alive? What made his senses sing? It was simple, really-

"Do you play tennis?"

The girl sniffed loudly, coughing.

"Tennis?"

"Yeah… tennis," Kunimitsu said, relieved that he had made her stop crying – for the moment. "It's the best game in the world. Even better than soccer, or, or, basketball, or, um, uh-"

"I don't play sports," she replied sulkily. "I especially don't like ball games. I don't see the point of chasing a tiny ball around the court, and I don't like how people fight over it."

"Oh. That's… sad."

"You don't know what it feels to be sad-"

Kunimitsu winced. He had reminded her…

"I… like tennis because it makes me feel alive," he said, attempting to steer the conversation back to safer ground. "When I play tennis, I can hear the wind as clearly as if I was by the sea, and… the world seems perfect when I'm on the court…"

"Is that why you play? It's the excitement you're after?"

"Maybe…" Kunimitsu said noncommittally, a bit puzzled himself; no one had ever asked him that before. "I think… I also like it when my friends cheer for me. I like playing with them… So maybe I play for them, too…"

"You don't sound too sure," the girl observed, voice thick. "My sensei says you should always know what you're playing for. If you don't, you'll never play seriously. And if you don't play seriously, you'll never improve, and you'll never get anywhere…"

"You said you didn't play sports-"

"I play the piano," the girl replied softly, almost whispering. "I've been playing it since I was five…"

"Why do you play the piano then?"

"Because I love the piano," she answered simply. "I love its sound. I love making music. And I'm good at it, too… My mother always said I was going to become a famous pianist someday. She said I had large hands and long fingers, so it was okay…"

She sounded odd as she said that. Worried, Kunimitsu strained to hear if she had started crying again; he was surprised, but pleased, to discover that she was not. Feeling strangely happy, he upturned both their hands, holding her palm up to his eye.

"Yeah… they are long," he said, inspecting her fingers with his own. "Thin, too… But your hands aren't big at all. They look tiny, in fact…"

"That's only because we're still kids," she chided. "You really don't use your head, do you?"

"Well, yes, but when you compare your hand with mine…"

He raised their hands, the palms facing each other. As he had expected, his fingers were significantly longer than hers.

"See?" he said simply. [3]

Silence. Then-

"Baka!"

She pulled her hand so far back, so suddenly, that in her haste, she widened the gap in her curtains. Gasping almost inaudibly, his mouth falling open in shock, Kunimitsu found himself staring straight into the bright green eyes of an extremely pretty girl with dark brown hair. For a moment, he found himself unable to speak.

"Y-you… have green eyes."

The girl seemed to be in shock as well. At Kunimitsu's words, she began to blink rapidly, her cheeks reddening.

"W-well, duh-!"

"There you are," a familiar voice suddenly called out, making both children turn their heads. Tezuka Kunikazu stood before his grandson, a relieved look on his usually stern face. "It's time for you to go home. Come on."

"But grandpa-"

"No complaints," said his grandfather, assuming his normal, authoritative air. "We're leaving now-"

Kunimitsu looked worriedly at the girl.

"I'm sorry, I have to go now," he said, slightly panicking – again, very unlike him. "I hope you're feeling much better. Sorry…"

With a deep bow, he turned to leave. Then a hand suddenly closed upon his wrist.

She was looking at him again; her eyes really were too distracting.

"Wait, at least tell me your name-"

"Mitsu! Do I have to tell you twice-?"

"Sorry, Ojiisan-!"

Very, very distractedly – What was happening to him? Why was his heart pounding so fast? He only felt this way when he was playing tennis… What was happening?! – Kunimitsu ran after his grandfather, who was waiting for him with an inscrutable expression.

"I heard you got hurt," Tezuka Kunikazu said gruffly but not unkindly, his hand on his grandson's shoulder as they briskly walked across the ER. "What happened?"

"Nothing~"

"Tezuka Kunimitsu!"

"I sprained my wrist trying to help one of the victims," he admitted, lifting his left sleeve to show his bandages. "I tried to help him onto a wheelchair, but he accidentally leaned on my arm. It wouldn't have been so bad if he hadn't been so heavy…"

Momentarily taken aback, his grandfather smiled briefly and ruffled his hair.

"It seems I can't scold you for this particular injury," he said. "But I wish you'd take better care of yourself. You do know that if anything bad happens to you, you may never play tennis again?"

Kunimitsu smiled.

"It will heal in time," he said, fixing his sleeve, thinking about a girl with very deep, very green eyes.

It will heal in time.

A/N:

Thanks for reading! Please check out Part 2!

Written December 31. Turn of the year! ::D

Revenge of the Footnotes:

[1] Mizuide General. Does not exist as far as I know.

[2] That song from his favorite movie. My Favorite Things from The Sound of Music.

[3] Palms up. Inspired by the La Corda d'Oro manga.