title: Price of Failure
fandom: Prince of Tennis
characters/pairings: Yukimura/Sanada, Yanagi, Niou/Yagyuu, Kirihara, Marui, Jackal
rating: G/Teen
warnings: kissing, sexual situations
summary: Sanada can't face his captain after losing.
notes: none

The hallway seemed extremely loud, the life of the hospital pulsing all around them. Sanada sat with his hands clasped together, his elbows on his knees, his feet shoulder-length apart, his eyes trained on the floor. Niou and Yagyuu stood very close together, near the door where the doctor had last emerged. They might well have been conversing, or not; with those two, it was hard to discern the use of language, as they had so many forms and outlets of expression to communicate between them. Marui was pacing nervously in front of Jackal, who was sitting on the floor and staring straight ahead. Kirihara was mumbling to himself, and fidgeting in a manner not entirely fit for sane people, and staring at the wall.

Yanagi sat next to Sanada, and watched the clock as much as he watched everyone else.

A nurse stuck her head out of the door, and Niou and Yagyuu moved together to talk to her. Niou stepped away and toward everyone else, and smiled.

"He can see us now."

Rikkai Dai's tennis team had never more fluidly moved as a unit. There would be a crush at the door at this rate, but there was something wrong. Yanagi turned around to see that Sanada had not moved a single millimeter. "Genichirou?" he inquired quietly, and everyone stopped.

Sanada remained motionless, as still as stone.

Yanagi took a step back to Sanada's side. "Genichirou. We can go see him now." He was relieved when Sanada stood up.

He did not immediately raise his eyes, though. After a moment, he lifted his chin and looked Yanagi in the eye. "I'm sorry. I can't."

Yanagi was genuinely confused. "What?"

"I... I can't." Sanada turned his back and started to walk away.

"Genichirou!" Yanagi raised his voice. This was incomprehensible. Sanada was walking away. "Genichirou, you idiot..."

Sanada turned the corner and left.

"Yanagi-senpai?" Kirihara asked, and in those few syllables, volumes of confusion were expressed.

Yanagi turned and faced the team. Well, his team, now, apparently. That idiot... "Well? Let's go."

Kirihara stayed to watch for Sanada's return, except he didn't want to be the last person in Yukimura's room, so he edged out Jackal at the last moment.

Yukimura was on a hospital bed, looking pale and worn, but otherwise, quite normal. He smiled for his team, but when the door closed and it was clear that not everyone was assembled, his smiled disappeared. He looked at Yanagi. "Where's Sanada?"

Yukimura had clear, piercing eyes that naturally remained fixed on the goal that meant the most to Yukimura. It was hard to look into those eyes and still bear bad news. He stepped closer to the bed, to give them the illusion of privacy. "He was here. He was relieved that everything went well. But he left."

"Left?" Yukimura echoed, sounding as if there could be no doubt that Yanagi had used a definition of the word that Yukimura was unfamiliar with, as he could not mean that.

Niou stepped forward, and shoved a pink, fluffy bunny at Yukimura. Yanagi would not have been surprised to learn that he had actually pulled it out of his ass. "Hey, forget the wooden soldier. Congratulations on your surgery, Captain!"

Chatter quickly sprung up, as it inevitably did between them, but there were never long periods of time when Yukimura's eyes did not linger on Yanagi, who was obviously responsible for bringing Yukimura what he really wanted.

If only Sanada wasn't so damned stupid...

It was never hard to find Sanada, especially for Yanagi. Predictable wasn't precisely the correct word, though it was certainly apt. More like he was rigid and easily comprehended.

Especially for Yanagi.

He sat down next to Sanada in the chemistry lab, and put his lunch down. "We're not supposed to eat in here. Chemicals."

Sanada did not look up. "I'm not eating off the bench."

Yanagi could argue, but it wasn't worth it. "He asked for you again yesterday. He tried to call you, he said."

Sanada's hand lowered, the fried shrimp on the end of his chopstick appearing to wilt. Sanada did not sigh, but there were times when he appeared to want to. "I know."

"He knows about the loss. He doesn't care. He wants to see you." If necessary, Yanagi could get the colored markers and draw Sanada a map. He'd like to think his friend was a bit savvier than that, but there was no telling, really.

"I can't," Sanada said, and his face looked pained.

Yanagi considered. "You're being a jackass, you know. He wants to see you."

"I know," Sanada said firmly, and he stood up, shoving his lunch back in its box. "But I can't."

"Genichirou..." Yanagi warned.

"Don't lecture me, Renji," Sanada bit off viciously. "I already know what you are going to say. Believe me, I've thought of it myself. But I can't."

Yanagi sighed, not as encumbered as his friend. "Idiot. I failed him as much as you did. So did Akaya. He doesn't care. He just wants to see us, but not nearly as much as he wants to see you." He stood up, prepared to get the colored markers.

Sanada tossed the rest of his lunch in the trash, and shrugged. "I know. And I can't." He walked away.

Yanagi sat back down again. Another day of facing Yukimura's accusing eyes.

"So, are we going to see the Captain or what?" Niou was lounging somewhat angrily against the end of the lockers. Yanagi continued to patiently lace up his new sneakers, ignoring Niou's impatience entirely.

"What's the point?" Marui sighed, and lay back on the bench, scratching his tummy. "Captain only wants to see one person. And he's not getting ready to go, is he?"

"Where's Kirihara?" Yagyuu inquired quietly, adjusting his glasses. "He never passes up a chance to see the Captain."

Yanagi looked up, mildly concerned. Kirihara was too adept at mayhem.

"Don't worry about him," Niou yawned. "He was headed for the weight room last I saw. So, we going or what?"

Yanagi tied off his shoelaces, and patted them down neatly. Perfect. He stood up and grabbed his tennis bag, hefting it over his shoulder. "Let's go."

Everyone scrambled to fall in line behind him.

Sanada had just finished another fifty reps on the lateral press. He took a moment to catch his breath and wipe the sweat from his brow. This was what Yanagi-senpai would call a 'prime chance.'

Kirihara zoomed forward, and grabbed Sanada's wrist, and wrenched him off the machine, and toward the door.

"Kirihara! What in the name of all that is good and holy do you think you are doing?!"

He shut his eyes tightly and kept pulling. He was definitely, definitely incurring Sanada's wrath, but it would be worth it. He hoped. "Captain wants to see you! Every day, he asks, where is Sanada? Why isn't Sanada here? When is Sanada coming? He wants you! So I'm bringing you to him, whether you like it or not!"

"Do you honestly think you can drag me all the way to the hospital, you moron? Let go!" Sanada was snarling. Either Kirihara was in for the beating of his life, or Sanada was going to kill him.

Still. "Captain Yukimura wants to see you! You're the only one he wants to see! Everyday, his face falls when you don't walk in through the door! So if I have to drag you all the way there, I will, but it's not fair, because you could make him smile and you won't and I'd kill to be able to make him smile now!"

Sanada was quiet, and Kirihara was afraid to look over his shoulder to see what his Vice Captain was thinking, so he plowed on ahead and kept dragging a surprisingly less resistant Sanada along.

Once again, Yukimura sat up and watched the door, until it closed, and Sanada had not appeared. He glared at Yanagi and slumped back against the pillows.

Niou and Yagyuu exchanged a look, and slunk back a bit. Marui actually shifted so he was behind Yanagi, who was resigned to this by now.

What else could he do?

"I'm sorry," he apologized quietly, bowing slightly. "I tried to talk to him, but..."

"Talk to who?" Yukimura shrugged, but failed to look indifferent. "So, tell me about practice."

Though he asked that, he showed little, if any, interest in the answer. After a few minutes of failing to lift Yukimura's sinking mood, everyone was looking at Yanagi with looks that varied from inquisitive to annoyed to desperate to angry.

And then the door burst open, and Kirihara pushed Sanada inside.

"Here! I brought him for you, Captain, so, good, and now I'm going to run away really fast." Kirihara waved to them, and then did exactly what he said. Sanada glared at the door, but that was more an attempt to keep his eyes off of the young man on the bed who was looking amused for the first time since his surgery.

Niou clapped Sanada on the back, and winked at Yukimura. "Well, since you have who you want, there's no point in us being here, right? Hey, Vice Captain, let's run our laps together tomorrow." He laughed as he let Yagyuu drag him away. Marui grinned from ear to ear, probably because he was released, and he waved goodbye.

Yanagi looked from one to the other, and smirked.

"Good to see you smiling, Seiichi."

"Thank you, Renji. Now get out."

"Yessir," he smiled, and closed the door behind him.

Sometimes, Kirihara got things amazingly right.

Sanada continued to stare at the door, which was amusing, especially since his cheeks were bright red. But it could only be amused for so long, and then it was annoying.

"Sanada. Sit down." Yukimura patted the edge of the bed, and smiled.

Sanada nodded, and sat down, keeping his eyes down.

This wouldn't do. "Sanada. Take off your hat."

He complied, instantly. This pleased Yukimura, who shifted down so he was sitting right next to Sanada. He lifted Sanada's chin, and turned his face so he could look at Sanada. "Sanada. Where the hell have you been?"

It took a moment for Sanada to find his voice, and his eyes were still looking anywhere but at Yukimura. "I'm sorry. But. I. I couldn't. Not after I failed..."

It wasn't as if Yukimura hadn't known the reason for Sanada's absence as soon as he was informed of the result of the match. Still, he sighed and rolled his eyes. "Do you really think I care about the tournament? We made it to Nationals. Think how much more dramatic it will be when champion Rikkai Dai, unable to win without their Captain at the Kantou tournament, sweeps Nationals under his brilliant leadership?" He propped his chin up on Sanada's shoulder, and smirked.

"I have no doubt of the drama," Sanada sighed, and folded his hands together. "But I failed you."

"Genichirou..." Yukimura murmured, putting his hand on Sanada's cheek. "You only failed me when you didn't come to see me."

Sanada winced, and pulled away a bit. "All through the match, I was thinking of you. I was fighting for you. I thought about you, u-under the knife, and I..." he cleared his throat, and closed his eyes.

"Genichirou," Yukimura asked quietly, seriously, "did you really think that if you lost, it would mean that I wouldn't recover?"

Sanada gasped, and covered his face with his hands, turning away from Yukimura. "I fought with all I had, and it wasn't enough! Yukimura... Yukimura, I'm sorry... I should have won..."

"Next time, you will," Yukimura smiled, and put his arms around Sanada's shoulders, resting against Sanada's back. "Sanada. I'm all right. I haven't had a twinge of numbness since the surgery. I recovered. It was a success. I'm going to be just fine. Which you would know if you turned around and looked at me. Genichirou."

Slowly, Sanada turned, staying close to Yukimura. He lifted his eyes, and looked Yukimura in the eye. "I swear, I will never, never fail you again."

Yukimura put his hand on Sanada's face, and kissed him. "Good. Because I've missed you. Genichirou."

Sanada grabbed Yukimura, pulling him up into a tight embrace. "I love you, Seiichi," he whispered.

Grinning happily, Yukimura ran his fingers through Sanada's perfect straight, silky hair. "Prove it to me."

Sanada let go enough to look Yukimura in the eye, and then he grinned. Yukimura laughed as Sanada essentially pounced on him.

He had so missed his samurai.

"Why are we standing outside the door again?" Marui whined, glaring at Yanagi. He was restless, and there wasn't enough room for him to move around here.

Yanagi remained still, patiently leaning against Yukimura's door. "Because it would be inconvenient if Yukimura and Sanada were interrupted."

"Why?" Marui whined, frowning. "What are they doing? They had to have made up by now. Captain doesn't stay mad long."

"Oh, yeah, they've made up by now," Niou smirked. "But this is special occasion, so Sanada has to draw out the up part until they've completely made it."

Yagyuu grinned, and even Yanagi had to smile. Marui glared. "Is the Vice Captain doing weird things to the Captain?"

"Not weird," Yagyuu stated calmly. "It's perfectly natural, between Captains and Vice Captains. It's how pecking orders are established among wolf packs, for instance."

Yanagi had to cover his mouth that time, but Niou was laughing hard enough to distract, anyhow. "Let's not make a scene," Yanagi warned. "We're trying to avoid an interruption."

"Well, how long will this take?" Marui demanded.

"About fifteen, twenty minutes," Yagyuu answered readily.

"Possibly thirty, since they did just have a fight," Niou reminded.

"Hospital rooms have some interesting... accessories. If the Vice Captain is creative, it might take up to an hour," Yagyuu loftily suggested.

Niou licked his lips predatorily. "You know, I feel a cold coming on. Let's find an empty room and work me up, mm?"

Yagyuu smirked.

Yanagi sighed. "Don't make a scene," he reminded, wearily.

"I'm going home!" Marui declared, marching off in the opposite direction of Niou and Yagyuu.

Yanagi sighed, and kept watch.

The demands of friendship...