But thoughts like these never quite touched the surface; they mostly shivered underneath it, nothing more. Inui could feel them lurking just below the conscious layer of his mind while he ran through his day, and it irritated him. Ever since he'd woken up, the itch of something that refused to coalesce in his upper brain had been bothering him. It was the same feeling that he got when he was staring at Fuji's data and trying to make theories out of wild outliers.
During math class, Inui stared at the pop quiz. The numbers swam around and turned into long, twisting curlicues. He scribbled something and turned it in. Arakawa-sensei held him after class.
"Inui," he said, lips turned down and wrinkly lines on his forehead. "This is your quiz," and he handed Inui a paper covered with red. "This is not up to your usual performance. Do you have anything to say for yourself?"
Inui stared at his quiz and the problems didn't make any more sense than they had sixty minutes ago. "No, sensei," he replied, and ducked his head and left.
During lunch, Inui was supposed to have a conversation with Tezuka. The semifinals were coming up and they needed to talk about training and the match line up.
"Inui," Tezuka said, and gave him a look. The same inscrutable look that he gave everyone, but usually Inui could figure out if it was a I'm-not-drinking-your-tea look, an I'm-going-to-win look, or an I'm-about-to-order-laps look. It mostly depended on the context rather than visible variations on Tezuka's face.
"Yes?" Inui tried to decode the look.
"Do you have anything to say to me?" Tezuka folded his arms and looked at him. This look was almost visibly disappointed.
"I, no, Tezuka," Inui made vague motions with his hands. "I can't think today. Can we talk tomorrow?"
"Hmph. Remember, the matches are coming up soon." Tezuka picked up his tray and walked away. Inui sat at the table by himself and thought about banging his head on the table. He'd looked at his notebook right before lunch. It was full of data and training exercises, all of it designed to maximize Seigaku's chances of winning. He could remember drawing it up, bent over his desk writing neatly with a .5 mm pencil. It all looked insane to him now, though.
Inui almost skipped tennis practice. He'd zoned out in science class, doodled during history class, and ended up stabbing holes in his notebook during English class. He couldn't concentrate at all today and it was driving him mad. He didn't know why he couldn't concentrate, and that made him even more angry.
"Inui-senpai." It was Kaidoh's voice.
Inui didn't turn around. Kaidoh was at a very important stage in of his training, and if he saw that Inui was going crazy, he would lose all confidence in Inui as a coach. "What, Kaidoh? I'm very busy right now."
Kaidoh stared at him. "We have practice right now, senpai."
"Er, yes, I know," Inui said.
"We should go to practice, then," Kaidoh said. There was a brief silence. "Senpai, the courts are in the other direction."
Inui sighed. "Kaidoh, today hasn't been a very good day," he said, turning around, "and I don't--" He stopped in the middle of his sentence. He looked at Kaidoh and suddenly he remembered what he had dreamed about last night. It was Kaidoh. Only, it wasn't just Kaidoh, there had been something special about the situation. He tried to remember what it was. He had put together a new training menu for him before going to bed last night, but that wasn't it. He had made a note to watch Kaidoh practice in the river so that he wouldn't overwork his wrist, but that wasn't it.
"Inui-senpai?" Kaidoh asked. "Is something wrong?"
Inui realised that he had been staring. "No, nothing's wrong," he said, still thinking hard.
Kaidoh stared at him, looking unconvinced. "You look distracted, senpai. Perhaps you should rest?"
"No, no, I'm fine," Inui replied, not really listening. He could feel the suppressed thoughts shivering just below his consciousness, and he tried to force them into the open.
During practice, Inui played worse than ever. He knew what his subconscious had been thinking about and suppressed in the stages between sleeping and waking, but he couldn't pinpoint exactly what it was. He got distracted and kept looking at Kaidoh instead of focusing on their match against Fuji and Kawamura. Tezuka's face got obviously grim, which was a new event that Inui would have noted down if he hadn't been focusing on Kaidoh, and he ordered Inui to do forty laps.
At the end of practice, Kaidoh stomped off the court. Inui hurried after him because he had to figure out what was going on in his mind. He didn't think he could endure another day of haphazard thinking.
"Kaidoh," he called.
Kaidoh merely grunted and kept stomping away. Inui jogged after him and laid a hand on his shoulder.
"Kaidoh," he said.
Kaidoh whirled around. "Yes, senpai?" he hissed.
Inui blinked. He hadn't seen Kaidoh look so mad since he'd been mistaken for a purse snatcher, run over, and hit in the head by Echizen. "Is something wrong?" he asked, and leaned in.
Kaidoh was shaking and gritting his teeth. "I don't know, is something wrong with you, senpai?" He looked like he wanted to punch Inui in the face but was too polite to do anything of that nature. He continued, "Because you were off all day today and you weren't paying attention during practice and we didn't practice that new formation at all and--"
Inui leaned in a little closer and tuned out Kaidoh's choppy, angry speech. He made a note of in the back corner of his mind that he'd never heard Kaidoh say so much at once, but mostly he was watching Kaidoh's face. It was so emotional, and his lips looked so soft, and Inui really, really wished Kaidoh would shut up so that he could concentrate better. Inui felt like he was close to making all of his thoughts click, and he leaned forward a little more.
Kaidoh abruptly shut up and his eyes went wide with shock. After a moment, he said, "Aga--blah--ugl," and Inui realised that he could feel Kaidoh's lips moving. Against his lips. They really were soft. Abruptly, everything came crashing together, and he realised that his subconscious had been dreaming about Kaidoh and thinking about Kaidoh, but not just Kaidoh. Not training with Kaidoh, not supervising Kaidoh's practice, but kissing Kaidoh. About pulling him in close and biting his lips and sticking his tongue inside Kaidoh's hot mouth. That feeling was almost as good as the feeling of everything clicking into place in his head, and Inui grinned.
Then he yelped, because Kaidoh had pulled away and punched him in the mouth. "Agh, senpai!" Kaidoh said, looking horrified. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to--I mean--what are you doing?" He looked torn between apologizing and punching Inui again.
Inui touched his mouth and looked at his fingers. They had blood on them. "Kaidoh," he began.
Kaidoh was blushing furiously. He bowed and told the ground, "I'll see you at practice tomorrow, senpai," and ran off.
Inui stared after his fleeing kouhai. All the data, all the thoughts were neatly aligned in his head. He could see where to go from here, and what his next step would be. He could review that quiz for Arakawa-sensei now and call Tezuka after dinner.
Tomorrow, he would see Kaidoh again.