The Strong, Silent Type (Prince of Tennis)
By Haruka (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Atobe Keigo sipped his iced tea and set it back down on the table beside him. The shade of the umbrella protected him from the sun, and he was set back just far enough that distance saved him from being splashed.
"Yuushi, watch me dive!"
"I'm watching, Gakuto."
"The ball, Shishido-san!"
"Got it! Back at you!"
"Jiroh's asleep on the inflatable mattress! Let's dunk him!"
Atobe enjoyed being able to invite his friends and teammates to his luxurious mansion, where they could use the pool, tennis court, or stables. But there was one person there besides himself who wasn't in the pool just then.
Kabaji crouched a couple of feet behind Atobe's chair, playing with the family dog. His seemingly-vacant expression remained as unchanged as ever.
The second-year gentle giant had been the object of much teasing before he proved himself and became a Regular on the Hyotei tennis team. It wasn't anything that he said or a lack of intelligence. Atobe knew better than that. Kabaji just wasn't every expressive. He spoke only when spoken to, and sometimes not even then. When Atobe spoke, however, he always replied.
People thought him simple-minded because his thoughts and feelings were kept behind a blank mask. That was both their mistake and their loss.
They also regarded Kabaji as Atobe's slave or puppet. It was true that Kabaji usually did anything that Atobe said, especially on the tennis court, but that didn't mean he couldn't think for himself. Instead, it showed that Kabaji respected his senpai, buchou, and friend's advice. Atobe didn't keep the younger boy nearby because he wanted a servant. He simply enjoyed his company. Where else would he find someone who didn't babble incessantly, even when he had nothing to say? Kabaji neither argued with him nor licked his boots. He was just _there_, a reassuring presence who never doubted, questioned, or judged.
He was Atobe's best friend.
Deciding that they had both watched the fun long enough without being part of it, Atobe rose from his chair and removed his cover-up, handing it to the waiting butler. "Kabaji," he said. "Let's swim."
"Yes," the younger boy said, as he always did, and stood up to his considerable full height. The two of them headed for the pool together.
(Word challenge – Vacant)
Prince of Tennis belongs to Konomi Takeshi.
This fic is not to be re-posted.