Recipient's name: mousapelli
Pairing(s): Arai/Kachirou, with hints of MomoRyo and Tomo/Horio
Disclaimer: Konomi owns all.
Author's Notes: I really hope you enjoy this. I think I wound up rewriting this 8 times before I was finally happy with it because I was so nervous writing for you! ♥
The name is Horio Satoshi and I have two years matchmaking experience. I know that might be hard to believe; what with my being only eleven years old, but it is a fact. Around the same time I picked up playing tennis, I also picked up a knack for setting up dates.
The first date I set up was when I was nine. I was at a park playing tennis when I tripped and skinned my knee. This girl happened to see my fall and came to my rescue, patching me up in no time. She wound up dating the guy I was playing against. I am a genius matchmaker. Love would never have found them were it not for me. I, of course, fell on purpose, seeing the need to make this love connection.
There have been many other occurrences over the last two years where my charming persona has brought together some wonderful couples. Most recently, I brought together one of my best friends and one of our senpai. The following is the story of how I set them up.
"Kachirou! KA-CHI-ROU!!!" Horio flailed his arms wildly in front of his friend Kachirou's vying to get his attention. This was the fifth time today that Kachirou's attention had been diverted and neither Horio nor Katsuo could pinpoint the cause.
"Looks like Arai-senpai is winning," Echizen said, standing several feet to the side from where the other three freshmen were sitting.
With a dreamy expression on his face, Kachirou sighed. "I know."
"He speaks! Kachirou speaks! He's alive!" Horio exclaimed, no longer flailing in front of Kachirou but dancing to the side in excitement, which for all intents and purposes is still considered flailing. Of all the things Horio had any amount of experience with, if he were to claim prowess in flailing, no one would dare doubt him for a moment.
Katsuo watched his friends in silence, not sure what to make of Kachirou's sigh, and patently ignoring Horio's… dance.
Suddenly, as if the message had just reached his brain, Horio stopped moving and stared wide-eyed at Kachirou, his eyebrow raised high. "Kachirou?" His voice came out with a squeak.
"Hmm?" Kachirou tore his eyes away from the tennis court to look at Horio.
"You're being really weird." Horio scratched his head as he studied his friend.
It was now Kachirou's time to be surprised, the expression of surprise quickly fading to a faint blush and then Kachirou excusing himself for a drink of water. Horio and Katsuo exchanged a look. Horio turned to share the look of concern with Echizen, but he was already gone. Horio wasn't sure how he did it, but one day, he would figure out the secret to Echizen's ninja-like ability to pop-up out of nowhere and his equally ninja-like stealthy disappearing without anyone noticing.
As the June ranking matches continued, Kachirou's attention persisted in its unsettling trend of being focused on their senpai, Arai whenever he was playing a match. Katsuo, who had known Kachirou for years, found things much less surprising than Horio did, though he didn't bother to point it out. He didn't think that it would be productive to add any fuel to Horio's fire, and trying to temper it would only have the reverse effect.
Kachirou's attitude toward Arai had changed ever since the two had played a match against each other. Katsuo had noticed it and he was sure anyone who paid attention to Kachirou on a regular basis would have been as aware. Horio seemed to be the exception to the rule, at least up until now.
Now, Horio was distracted coming up with plans. He had two years matchmaking experience and while matchmaking two guys was a little out of the realm of his experience (read: greatly out of it), Horio would not let that matter deter him. He would make sure his friend and senpai could be happy together.
Kachirou was disappointed when Arai didn't make the regulars this time around, but upon seeing his senpai's renewed determination to become a regular with the next ranking match, his disappointment melted away and was replaced with the urge to cheer Arai on. As he was about to go wish Arai good luck in training to be a regular, Horio clamped a hand on Kachirou's shoulder, stopping him in his tracks. Now was the time to put Plan A into action.
"Kachirou, you should ask Arai-senpai to practice with you." Horio grinned.
"I'm not good enough to help him become a regular, Horio." Kachirou pointed this out calmly, though both he and Katsuo both knew he was far from calm. "He should practice with someone better than him."
"Don't you want to become a regular next year? Show some initiative and practice with him. You'll help him display leadership qualities and you'll get to improve a bit."
Kachirou wasn't sure he bought what Horio was saying. "I don'-"
Horio started to panic a little, and then remembered the best trick in the book, reverse psychology. "Fine, if you won't, then I will." He began to step toward Arai.
"No! I'll ask him, but he's not going to say yes," Kachirou said.
He approached Arai, his head held high and his resolve firm. "Arai-senpai?"
Arai stopped talking with Ikeda and Hayashi and turned to look at Kachiro. "What?"
"Better luck next time." Kachirou paused. "You did really well in all your matches. I was wondering if you'd be willing to practice with me."
"Thanks, Katou, but not today. Maybe some other time." Arai smiled and tried to play it cool. He liked Kachirou but he was a second year and Kachirou was a first year that wasn't all that great at tennis. What good would it do for him to have a practice partner below his skill level?
"Mm." Kachirou nodded and returned to his friends, trying not to let the disappointment show on his face.
After ten failed attempts at Plan A (Horio had insisted that Kachirou keep trying), Kachirou was finally successful in arranging some practice time with Arai. Horio was proud of this accomplishment, and completely ignored the fact that Inui had given Arai a stern nudge to just practice with him already. It was his triumph to celebrate and no one would stand in his way.
Kachirou looked really happy to be practicing with Arai. His smile didn't disappear throughout their entire practice. Even when he fell, his arm extended and the ball just out of his reach, his smile didn't fade a bit.
"You alright, Katou?" Arai asked, stepping up to the net and glancing down at his kouhai.
Kachirou nodded and stood up, ignoring the pain in his knee, the skin scratched and bleeding lightly. "I'm fine."
Arai looked down at Kachirou's knee. "You should go get the cleaned up." He was about to call over Horio and Katsuo to help Kachirou to the school nurse, but glancing over, he noticed they were both busy. He sighed and looked up at Kachirou's face. "Need help getting to the nurse?"
"Mm." Kachirou nodded. He didn't really need the help, but he wasn't about to turn down Arai's offer.
They walked to the nurse's office in awkward silence, Arai acutely aware of how much he wasn't needed in this excursion. When they arrived at the nurse's door, Arai glanced back down the hall, wondering if he went back right now, if anyone would notice he had left in the first place. "Um, you okay from here?"
"Yeah. You can get back to practice. Sorry." Kachirou opened the door to the office and slipped inside, not bothering to wait for Arai's response.
Needless to say, Kachirou was surprised to find Arai waiting for him when he emerged all bandaged up a few minutes later. "I told you that you could go." He immediately wished he hadn't said that, certain he sounded like an idiot saying it.
Playing cool again, Arai replied, "I'm the senpai, you're not supposed to order me around. Now let's get back to practice."
"Hai." The smile returned to Kachirou's face and the headed back out to the tennis courts.
A week passed, and then two more since Arai and Kachirou had practiced together. Horio wondered if maybe he had been wrong about Kachirou's interest in Arai – the two of them hadn't spoken to each other since that day, and Kachirou had focused on watching the senpai other than Arai practice.
It was time for Plan B. Not only was this plan better than Plan A in its essence, but in execution, this plan couldn't possibly fail.
"You should ask him on a date," Horio said.
"Ask who?" Kachirou stared at Horio, unsure of what his friend was talking about.
"Arai-senpai." Horio thought this was rather obvious. "You should ask him out."
"WHAT? I can't do that! Why would I want to do that?" Kachirou knew the answers to all his questions, but somehow, letting Horio say them was better. Then he could blame him when everything went horribly wrong like it was doomed to.
"Ask Arai-senpai on a date. Yes you can. And you want to because you like him." The last sentence felt funny to say, but Horio knew a match when he saw one, and he definitely saw one in Arai and Kachirou. "It won't be that hard. Just ask him to go bowling with you. Or see if he wants to play billiards with you. You were pretty good at that."
"I'm not going to ask him!"
"Ask him what?" A girlish voice sing-songed out of nowhere. Kachirou and Horio snapped around to find Tomoko standing behind them.
"Where's Sakuno-chan?" Horio asked.
Tomo crossed her arms and glared. "That's no way to greet a girl! She's at tennis practice."
Horio turned back to Kachirou, doing his best to ignore Tomo. "It's not that difficult, just ask him."
"Ask who what?" Tomo piped in.
Kachirou sighed and looked over at Tomo. She was persistent, as persistent as Horio and telling her now would be the easiest course of action. "Horio wants me to ask out Arai-senpai. On a date." He gulped at that last word. He'd never been on a date, let alone asked anyone on one.
"I don't think that's a very good idea. Don't do it." With that, Tomo grabbed Horio by the ear and dragged him off, yammering on and on about putting ideas into people's heads, all the while plotting her own way to get Arai and Kachirou together.
Saturday afternoon, Kachirou was sitting at home watching television when the doorbell rang. Tomo and Horio stood outside on his porch waiting for him, both ready to drag him away when he answered the door.
"What are you guys doing here?"
"Get your shoes on, you're coming with us!" Tomo grinned and grabbed Horio's hand.
Horio pretended not to notice, but Tomo had quite the death grip. "Hurry up," he squeaked.
Momoshiro grinned when he saw Arai sitting alone at a booth at the diner, all dressed up like he had somewhere to be.
"Yo! Arai!" Momoshiro said, sliding down into the seat across from Arai, Echizen sitting down next to him moments later. "What's going on?"
Arai blushed. He had hoped no one would see him here. It was kind of embarrassing being asked out by a freshman girl who wouldn't take no for an answer, he didn't really want anyone from the team to witness him being stood up. Tomo was supposed to have been there twenty minutes ago. "Uh, nothing." Real convincing 'Nothing,' he thought.
"Sorry we're late!" Tomo said, running over to the booth, still gripping Horio's hand and with Kachirou in tow.
Kachirou looked around at everyone and wondered what was going on. Surely they weren't going to make him confess that he liked Arai in front of all of them.
"What's going on?" Momoshiro asked Tomo. "Arai here won't tell me."
"It's a date!" Tomo grinned.
"Che." Echizen smirked and looked at Momo. "Doesn't this remind you of something, Momo-senpai?"
"Let's eat!" Momoshiro said. This was going to be interesting and he didn't want to miss a moment of it.
Tomo and Horio nodded, and Arai looked confused. He let his confusion get the best of him and found himself asking a question that would have been better left alone. "I thought you asked me on a date, Tomo-chan, but then why'd you bring them along?" He pointed at Horio and Kachirou.
"Kachirou is your date and Horio is mine. I knew he wouldn't ask you himself, and you probably would have said no if he had, so I had to take it into my own hands." Tomo pushed Kachirou onto the booth bench next to Arai and then squeezed onto the other side with Horio, Momo, and Echizen.
Momoshiro burst into laughter. This was even better than when An-chan had invited him out on a date. Mostly because this time he was just a spectator.
"Are you here on a date with Echizen, Momo-chan-senpai?" Tomo asked, smiling sweetly.
Momo stopped laughing and Horio started. "Echizen and Momo-chan-senpai? Now that's an unbelievable couple."
Tomo smacked Horio in the arm to get him to stop laughing and the six of them sat in awkward silence until the waitress came to take their order. It wasn't until they were done with their meal and walking home that anyone said anything to anyone other than the waitress.
"Sorry that Tomo-chan tricked you like that, Arai-senpai. I didn't know she was going to do this." Kachirou said.
"Whatever. It's fine." Arai shrugged.
"No its not. You came here expecting a date with Tomo-chan and you wound up on a date with me." Kachiro kicked at a stone.
"Technically, I'm still on a date with her… it's just a triple date." Arai laughed, finding the humor in five guys and one girl equating a triple date. "Besides, I didn't really want to go on a date with her."
"Oh." It was then that Kachirou looked around and saw that the other four were way behind them. "Looks like its slowly becoming just a date…" One you probably don't want to be on, he thought.
Arai looked behind them. "Yeah, looks like it."
"Sorry. You can go home now, if you want. You don't have to stick around for my sake." Kachirou didn't want him to leave, but he didn't want to be on a date with someone who had been tricked into it either.
"I don't want to. I'm having fun, even if this is… odd." Arai paused and ran a hand through his hair. "And it's not like it's really a date. We're not holding hands or any of that silly stuff."
"Yeah…" Kachirou sighed. "It's not that silly though."
"You sound like a girl saying that." Arai bit his tongue after saying that, no need to embarrass his kouhai more than he'd already been today. "It must have taken a lot of guts not to run away when Tomo explained what was going on. But I'm not surprised considering it was you. You're a tough kid."
"Calling me a kid doesn't…" Kachirou trailed off as Arai's hand brushed against his. "Make me feel any better about it all."
"Sorry." Arai looked down at his feet then back over at Kachirou. "If you have enough guts to challenge me to a match when you think I'm wrong, or to not give up in asking me to practice with you, why didn't you…" Arai trailed off as Kachirou's hand brushed against his, and almost by instinct, he reached out and grabbed Kachirou's hand.
If there had been a "moment" with this gesture, it was lost when they heard Tomo shrieking with delight in the background.
"I don't think that matters now…" Kachirou said quietly. "But, do you want to do this again sometime?"
"Only if you don't drag along all your friends." Arai winked.
"Mm." Kachirou nodded.
And that my friends is the story of how I, Horio Satoshi, matchmaker extraordinaire with two years matchmaking experience brought one of my best friends and one of our senpai together in the game called love.