what came previous! It is, as much as she would like to deny it, a very good date. Hanamura also immediately realises something that had only been vaguely hinted at during the Senbatsu camp: Sakaki has an overabundance of charisma, when he deigns to use it.
He picks her up exactly at eight-thirty – or rather, the chauffeur brings him to pick her up. She knows that Sakaki is wealthy – it's an open secret, after all – but he doesn't flaunt his wealth like Atobe does.
Sakaki watches her as she slides onto the seat beside her, fighting not to blush when she realises his gaze darkens as he silently scrutinises her, probably right down to her make-up. She's carefully curled and styled her hair, and her slim, fitted dress reveals a figure that her lab-coat usually hides. She is terrible aware that it has been a very long time since her last date and that she is very much out of her depth.
"Very pleasing," he says, something very like a smirk flickering across his mouth. He is impeccably dressed in a dark suit and a dark red shirt that brings out his colouring. It briefly occurs to Hanamura that they make an incredibly striking couple, and she has to fight again not to blush.
The restaurant is as extravagant as Sakaki has hinted, and she is aware of many eyes on them as they enter, she on his arm. She allows him control here, since they are in an environment familiar only to him, and it is taking every effort for her to adjust herself to the surroundings. However, she insists on white wine when Sakaki enquires about her choice, mostly for the reason that red gets her tipsy far too quickly. He settles on ordering a bottle of both red and white, saying that he isn't much of a white drinker, and they settle into a polite discussion over starters.
It seems almost cliché to admit, but the wine finally loosens her up, but she is careful and drinks in small doses, refusing to let him order a second bottle for her. At the very least, she is determined to keep her wits about her tonight.
Their conversation wanders from their jobs; to whom they consider the best players on the junior high circuit (both agree that they are secretly relieved that the three from Rikkai Dai are not under their direction, but neither of them would ever consider taking coaching jobs at that school, of course); to their opinions on the current professional circuit. It slowly turns into what could be considered a healthy debate, the wine making their tempers slow, but Hanamura reminds herself that they are in public and making a scene in such an environment is more ridiculous than either would like to contemplate.
She is slow to recognise it, but it finally occurs to her that Sakaki seems to be, for lack of a better description, admiring her. His gaze isn't carefully blank any longer; he eyes her openly over the rim of his wineglass. Perhaps it is the wine, or perhaps she has been lulled by the pleasing surroundings and distressingly delicious meal, but Hanamura finally allows herself to relax.
The meal continues in a similar fashion, and Hanamura is very close to being tipsy when they leave, Sakaki's hand warm and strong against her arm as he leads her towards the exit. She is not so tipsy that she has lost her sense, though, and declines his invitation back to his house. They continue their spirited discussion, however, as he drives her home, and he walks her to the door of her small house.
They stand there for a moment, gazing at each other, before Hanamura thanks him for the lovely evening. She isn't lying, as it certainly had been a lovely evening, but being the recipient of Sakaki's surprising charm has made her feel strangely vulnerable, and she cannot help but feel a little awkward at the amount he has spent tonight without batting an eyelid.
Part of her still wishes she'd been warned that Sakaki changed tactics so abruptly when they weren't working together.
He smiles, so briefly that she almost misses it, acknowledging her thanks with quiet words. They gaze at each other for another moment, she blinks, and then his mouth is on hers.
To call it a good kiss would be to seriously undermine it, yet to say that it is earth-shattering is, to Hanamura's mind, vastly overdramatic. Yet there is no point denying that when Sakaki kisses her, she isn't doing very much thinking at all. His mouth is hot and wet, the kiss already far deeper than the one she had initiated, and she finds herself wrapping her arms around his neck as their tongues slide together.
She is panting when they break apart, and his eyes glitter as he looks at her. He brushes her cheek before they say goodbye, and she stands and watches the car drive down the street and out of sight, before she suddenly shivers and lets herself inside.
She stumbles to her room, the ache and wetness between her legs making her whimper, and she takes just enough time to pull off her dress and the jewellery before she half-falls onto the bed, her hand immediately going between her legs. She pays no heed to working slow, rubbing her clit furiously and rocking her hips to the fingers she pushes inside herself, gasping as her heart pounds and sweat beads at her temples.
Relief comes fast, thankfully, and she bites back a moan as she spasms and arches off the bed. She lays there, her eyes partially open as she gazes blankly up at the ceiling, trying to slow down her breathing.
She doesn't bother cleaning up, instead curling under the blankets and falling asleep almost immediately – but not before she wishes that there was someone else sleeping beside her.
The tournament begins and time both flies by and slows to a crawl. The matches seem to last for days, and Hanamura doesn't bother to hide the agitation she feels during some of them; one of them, at least, needs to show some emotion, and it seems to be left to her rather than Sakaki.
They do not speak about dinner, or the kiss – it's business now, so after-work events stay strictly after work – but Hanamura notices the way Sakaki raises an eyebrow when she expresses concern over the feud between Kevin Smith and Echizen Ryoma.
She frowns. "It's blatantly become more personal than it should be," she insists, her frown deepening. "It's gone too far."
Sakaki's expression flattens into disinterest, and she knows that she's stumbled, made a mistake she probably shouldn't have. "Mr. Baker –" He says the American name with distaste, but nevertheless carries on. "– has a point in that one of the things people come to these tournaments for is the emotion the players convey through their matches. The tension has been built up to the point where the last match, now that Kirihara-kun has been injured and Echizen-kun will take his place, will be watched with bated breath. This is what people have come to see, along with excellent tennis. I see no point in stopping it."
His tone is still as cool and distant as it had been when he'd started speaking, and he stands and walks away from her with a measured step. She watches him go, her hands curled into trembling fists as she silently seethes.
Sakaki, as it turns out, is right. The match between Kevin Smith and Echizen Ryoma has to be one of the most emotional matches she has seen on the junior high circuit. It is not on a par with the match between Tezuka and Atobe, but the passion seems rawer and less refined, both players younger and still aiming towards the standards the captains have set.
Life slowly returns to normal after the tournament, and Hanamura pays a visit to Seigaku one evening to deliver the last of the paperwork she had been required to complete and present to Ryuzaki. Tennis practice has ended, the last of the players leaving for the evening; Tezuka nods politely to her as they meet, and she compliments him again for acting as Ryuzaki's replacement in such an admirable way. Watching him walk away, she notes that he appears to have something dwelling heavily on his mind, and she remembers the vague rumours she has heard about Echizen being invited back to America.
She and Ryuzaki trade pleasant greetings, much as they did at the beginning of the Junior Senbatsu camp, and Ryuzaki casts a quick glance over the paperwork before hurriedly putting it away. Hanamura wishes it had been as simple for her to complete it.
Ryuzaki makes tea and they sit. "I hope it wasn't too difficult, working alongside Sakaki-sensei and helping Tezuka-kun as well," she says, pouring the tea and handing a cup to Hanamura.
She sips it, smiling slightly at the pleasant scent and warm steam, and replies, "Tezuka-kun needed very little help, actually. He is very mature for one his age. He reminds me a lot of Kajimoto-kun, both very serious. Of course, they are both captains."
Ryuzaki smiles. "Yes," she says. "Such maturity is often needed for keeping teams in line, and Tezuka rarely needs my help for anything except administrative work."
Hanamura doesn't reply, remembering what Kajimoto had told her about Seigaku planning a surprise party for Ryuzaki when she was released from hospital. She wonders briefly if her own team would have done such a thing for her, and quickly casts the thought aside. Some things are better not pondered.
"You haven't said anything about working alongside Sakaki-sensei, however," Ryuzaki reminds her, and Hanamura presses her lips together tightly before composing herself.
"It was a... challenge," she says, and frowns at Ryuzaki's heavy sigh. "We kept it professional since Tezuka-kun was also with us." She glares at Ryuzaki's disbelieving look, but knows better than to mention what had happened before Tezuka actually arrived back in Japan.
"We went out to dinner," she finally admits. She's doesn't have any idea why she's even telling Ryuzaki this, since she hadn't even tried to act as a substantial buffer between them, but Hanamura knows that if she finds the right people and asks the right questions, some doubts (which were never actually properly laid to rest) could be raised about Ryuzaki and a certain Echizen Nanjiroh – after he had turned pro, of course. So maybe they both have something in common – their personal lives colliding rather unpleasantly with their professional ones.
Ryuzaki's expression abruptly changes, the fading sunset causing shadows to linger across her face. Hanamura is suddenly struck by how old Ryuzaki is, a fact that she has always known but never quite realised until now.
"What do you expect from him?" Ryuzaki asks, rising to fill the kettle again.
Hanamura snorts. "Nothing that will last forever," she says firmly. "It would never work."
"That I agree with," Ryuzaki says. She pauses, and then adds, "Be careful. Sakaki-sensei is used to getting what he wants. He has never had to truly make an effort for anything." It suddenly occurs to Hanamura that Ryuzaki has also witnessed many things in her time; she and Sakaki have been in a friendly rivalry for several years.
"Yes," Hanamura agrees, since there is no denying the truth. She moves the subject to Echizen's U.S. offer, but Ryuzaki doesn't point this out and, instead, begins to answer her questions – and, yes, the offer is genuine, after all. Hanamura had always known the boy had talent.
She is returning to her car when her phone rings, and she almost isn't surprised when she fishes it out of her bag and sees Sakaki coming up on the caller display. Debating for a moment whether or not to answer it, she then sighs and flips it open. "Yes?"
"Dinner," he says, almost brutally. "Saturday evening."
She blinks, and then says, "Sakaki-sensei, hello. How are you?"
If he was such a man, he would be heaving a heavy sigh by now. Since he is not, he merely says, "Well?"
She rolls her eyes. She should possibly be grateful that he has such a one-track mind, but in reality she finds it slightly ridiculous and not a little irritating. "What time?" she asks. If it's anything like the previous dinner, then the food will be more than decent, and if anything else happens... well, she supposes she should be grateful (and perhaps hopeful) that there's even a remote possibility.
It's times like these that she wishes she had dated more during college.
There is the faintest hint of satisfaction seeping into Sakaki's voice. She does her best to ignore it, since it hints at other things that she definitely doesn't want to think about.
She sits in front of the mirror for over fifteen minutes, just looking at herself. She's not running late, since she's already dressed and ready, but part of her can't help but wonder if she is walking straight into a disaster. She's been careful getting herself ready, out of a personal sense of vanity as much as wishing to impress, though she's never dated anyone in her professional life before. It's easier in comparison to impress salarymen stuck at the bottom rungs of the corporate ladder when she's a scientist and a coach, but they've never lasted. Not that she's wanted them to.
Sakaki, however, has seen her coach, has most likely read her research and theories, and yet here she is in a new dress with her hair styled and off her neck, waiting for him to pick her up.
At least she knows what she's doing, this time. If he expects to be fully in control for this date, he's going to be surprised.
He compliments the dress when he arrives, but seems to pick up the hints towards her change in attitude. If anything, from the way he watches her, it seems that he sees this as another challenge. Hanamura looks away briefly to hide her smile. Tonight is going to be interesting.
He twists her assumptions around again; they are, in fact, having dinner at his house. The underlying hint towards later in the evening makes Hanamura grit her teeth, though she remembers what had happened after the previous dinner and somehow manages not to blush at the memory. It has been... very long since she's had any sort of decent sex, and she does imagine that Sakaki wouldn't exactly be terrible in bed, yet – it's time to stop that train of thought right now.
She's known that Sakaki is immensely wealthy, yet when the chauffeur helps her out of the car, she cannot help but stare. The house is large, but not extravagant for one with such wealth.
Still, she deliberately keeps the surprise from her face when she is led inside, and brought to a large room which seems to serve both as a casual study and reception room. She sits and accepts a glass of wine. Taking a sip, she raises an eyebrow, and says, "If I didn't know any better, Sakaki, I'd think you were trying to seduce me."
He sips his own wine, meeting her gaze, and then says, "I haven't even started that yet." A trickle of excitement flutters in her stomach, though Hanamura simply concentrates on her wine. Still watching her, Sakaki rolls his wineglass slightly, and, suddenly uncomfortable at the heavy gaze upon her, Hanamura asks him what he thinks of Echizen Ryoma being invited back to the U.S.
It brings the conversation back to relatively safe ground, though Sakaki soon dispenses with that as they move gradually towards more personal subjects. Hanamura answers with as much as she receives, noting Sakaki's awareness of this with growing amusement, until a manservant (since she really doesn't know how else to think of him) enters and announces that dinner is ready.
It's even more delicious than what they had been served at the restaurant, and Hanamura notes that if he's now trying to seduce her then he's started off on a good note. She eats sparingly, preferring to observe him and partake in good-natured arguments and the occasional subtle barb. Neither of them, however, is foolish enough to ignore the growing tension levels.
It's when they've retired to another room that she notices the grand piano. It has a look of an antique carefully and meticulously restored and when he notices her admiring it, Sakaki asks her if she plays.
"No," she tells him, not caring about the faint wistful note in her voice. Sakaki is a music teacher along with being Hyoutei's junior high tennis coach; this is one thing he will not use against her. "I'm afraid musical instruments were never anything I came to grips with. The sciences were where my talents lay."
"A pity," he says, sliding onto the seat and lifting the cover. She blinks, staring at him as he pauses, places his hands, and then begins to play. He only has to play the first few opening notes before she recognises it: the first movement of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata.
She finds herself sinking back into the seat, wrapped up in the music as he continues to play. Her hands begin to shake, and she wraps them together and presses them into her lap to still them.
When he ends the first movement, silence lingers in the air for a few moments before she blinks. Hanamura takes a deep breath before saying, "That was beautiful. Depressing when you're trying to seduce someone, but still beautiful. You play extraordinarily well."
"There is beauty in pain," Sakaki murmurs, replacing the lid and moving to sit down near her. "And Beethoven has always seemed more human than Mozart in his music."
Hanamura smiles. "Is this the beginning of a rant against Mozart?"
"No," Sakaki says, picking up his glass and draining the last of it, "merely a personal observation."
"My father plays the piano," Hanamura says, as she rolls the last of her wine and watches it splash against the glass. "The first movement of that sonata is one of my favourites. He told me it was a bad omen that one of my favourite pieces was so depressing." She tips back her head, swallows the last of the wine, sighing as it slides down her throat with a pleasant burn. She places the glass carefully back on the table, and then turns and kisses Sakaki.
She has no wish to be careful now, instead kissing him hard and fast, and he opens his mouth quickly as his arms close around her. She wraps her own arms around his neck, her fingers digging into his collar as she presses closer to him. He slides back along the seat until she finally pushes too much; he falls back against the armrest, dragging her with him until she lying on top of him, the kiss still unbroken.
They finally have to break for air, gasping as they gaze at each other. Hanamura has finally realised that she doesn't care what he thinks of her, what anyone is going to think of them, and that if he tries to belittle her or underestimate her, she will simply make his life hell or best him. Sakaki kisses her instead, light feather kisses that make her dig her nails into his shoulders. He hisses, but doesn't force her to stop, reaching up to loosen her hair so it tumbles down around her shoulders and back. She gasps when he tangles a hand in it, tightening his grip just enough to hurt, and nips his mouth in response. He kisses her again, chuckling slightly, and she finally realises that if this does end up one of the biggest mistakes she will ever make, at least the end result will be worth it.
His other hand trails down her side from her shoulder, going lower still, and she finally just gives up thinking, moving against his touch and humming low in her throat. It's apparently the right reaction as his mouth moves down to her neck, his movements becoming more confident and stronger as she gasps helplessly.
Hanamura reaches for his cravat and starts loosening it, beginning to work at his collar and further down his shirt. He stirs at this, pulling away from her; his eyes are narrowed and glazed, and his chest slowly heaves.
She watches him, the corners of her mouth curling up, and remarks, "We should probably move."
Sakaki chuckles, reaching up to brush away strands of hair that have fallen into her eyes. He moves to sit up and she sits back, gazing up at him as he stands, turns, and silently offers her a hand.
She isn't thinking of seduction when she follows him. She isn't thinking of being seduced or what it will mean when she turns, watching him close the door and lean against it. They gaze at each other, and then he walks forward, cups her face, and kisses her again. She digs her fingers into his shirt (ignoring the haughty voice that sneers clinging to him in her head) as his hands slowly move down her arms, then looping up her back. He kisses her neck with faint pressure, teeth grazing the vein and she lets out a long sigh. His mouth is soft and warm, and it isn't until his fingers slowly pull down the zipper of her dress that she realises that the seduction has long since begun.
There's no point stopping now, and she laughs briefly as her dress glides down her hips and thighs, pooling in a heap at her feet.
She leads him to the bed and makes him sit, watching her as she unclasps her bra and removes her stockings. His eyes darken as she slowly removes the last of her underwear, and his expression causes the first stirrings of a pleasant ache between her legs.
Hanamura stands before him, almost smirking, and then reaches forward to remove his cravat and pull his shirt out of his trousers, yanking it off him. She kisses him, lightly nipping his mouth as she runs her hands down his back and over his chest, smiling as his breath hitches when she grazes his nipples with her nails. Trailing her hands down his stomach, she doesn't hesitate as she grasps his belt and begins to unbuckle it.
Two can play at this game.
She straddles him when she pushes him back, grinning as he gazes up at her. She lets out a slow sigh when he cups her breasts, kneading gently, rubbing the nipples until they're hard and firm. She rolls her hips forward in an unconscious movement, humming when she presses against his arousal. A long moan rolls from his throat at the contact, and she stops being careful.
Still rocking against him, she presses delicate kisses against his chest, moving to roll her tongue slowly around his nipples, gradually hardening them until his breath comes fast and heavy, and Sakaki finally groans, "Stop!"
She lifts her head, raising an eyebrow, but leans up to press her mouth against his, her tongue moving leisurely. Then she yelps into his mouth as his hands skim up her inner thighs, parting her legs to gently press against her sex; she rocks forward instinctively, pulling back to arch and hiss between her teeth as he slips a finger inside her. She opens her eyes to see him smirking, his eyes dark, and she growls and kisses him again to wipe the satisfaction from his face.
"More," Hanamura says in a tight voice, and he obliges her.
She fights not to whimper as he rubs her clit in time to the steady rhythm of his fingers moving, and loses, crying out as she presses against him; each time she dips forward she can feel his erection against her as well, and it's been so long she's almost afraid that he'll fnish her just like this.
Sakaki brings her to the brink, to the point where she's whining deep in her throat, beginning to shake, and then he withdraws his fingers. She almost sags against him, her hands braced against his chest, and she glares at him.
"What do you think –" she begins, and then stops when he reaches up to remove her glasses, setting them aside gently.
"Just to be careful," he tells her in a mock-serious voice, his eyes gleaming. He rolls her onto her back before she can speak, grinning as he cups her right breast and brings his mouth down on the other, sucking carefully and using enough teeth to make her squirm.
She doesn't realise what he's doing until he continues downwards, kissing her ribs and stomach, and she gasps when he spreads her legs, and she finally understands when he begins pressing kisses against her upper thighs, moving upwards until he presses his mouth against her, and then she finds she can hardly speak at all, except to let out a breathless cry.
He licks her, quick and confident, and it takes all of what little control she has left not to buck her hips or scream. She can't keep from crying out as he teases her clit with his tongue, swirling around it until she's nearly sobbing with need, and then he buries his tongue inside her and she screams.
Any hint of gentleness disappears as he does it again and again, pressing his hands against her hips to stop her bucking or rising off the bed. It's been so long, and it's been far, far too long since anyone has done this to her so well, and her eyes squeeze shut as she gasps, shaking as he brings her closer and closer, until –
She cries out, finally arching as she comes, spasms overtaking her. She's panting, sweat beading against her temples as she tries to calm down, but he makes it difficult by continuing to kiss and graze her clit with his teeth, making her legs tremble and her breath catch in her throat.
She whimpers when he finally stops and settles beside her, kissing her slowly, but stops when she presses him against the bed, gripping his wrists firmly as she straddles him again.
Sakaki raises an eyebrow. "Quick," he says, and she glares before she kisses him again, nipping his bottom lip hard enough that he twitches.
She takes her time putting on the condom as punishment, until he's growling and shifting uncomfortably, but she takes pity on him at last and slides down almost brutally fast; his head lolls back and he groans. She laughs, pausing for a moment and familiarising herself with the sensation of being filled, before whispering against his ear, "It's not fair that you get to have all the fun."
She moves almost luxuriously slowly, rocking her hips and pulling back only slightly, but her eyes flutter close when he matches her rhythm, and she lets a long moan spill from her mouth as she arches her back.
He grips her hips almost hard enough to bruise, and they finally give up trying to move slowly, until all she can concentrate on is the slow tightening inside her, and the heat of his skin and the scent of him as they move together. They kiss almost sloppily, Sakaki pressing his teeth against her neck hard enough to almost leave a mark, and she lets out a strangled scream as she comes again, shaking so hard that she almost collapses against him.
He flips her over again, her legs spread almost indecently as he thrusts into her fast enough to border the line between pain and pleasure, and she can't stop making pitiful mewling sounds. He comes, shaking as he still moves inside her, and she lets out of a soft moan as he gradually slows. He buries his face against her neck, his arms trembling as he eases himself down beside her.
Neither of them moves for several minutes, breathing hard as their bodies slowly recover and calm, and Hanamura curls against him without thinking, her eyes closing.
"Apparently," Sakaki says just as she beginning to contemplate sleep, "seduction is to your taste."
She snorts without bothering to open her eyes. "That's not to say that there's no room for improvement," she retorts, and he laughs.
The experience doesn't completely change her life, but it does make it more interesting.
Maybe it's been too long for both of them, but the dates – and the sex – continue. She doesn't know where it's going, and doesn't really want to ask. Neither of them are clearly in this for anything serious not long-term; it's better simply not to ask questions.
Everything changes on a perfectly normal evening. She's finally managed to calm Kajimoto, who's furious thanks to Kirihara showing up at the courts and causing utter chaos in an impressively short space of time. Things hadn't actually calmed down until she herself had arrived on the courts, slamming a ball at Kirihara which had just barely missed.
"Leave, Kirihara-kun," she had said, her eyes narrowed and her voice cold. She had expected him to sneer and glare; she hadn't expected for him to study her carefully before his eyes had lit up. He'd demanded a match from her in the future; she had refused, yet again.
She was really going to have to visit Rikkai Dai and speak to Yukimura. Kirihara's repeated visits were beginning to be troublesome.
She is filing away paperwork that she's finished after putting off for far too long when a knock breaks through the comfortable silence. "Come in," she says, without looking up.
She glances up and stops when her eyes meet Sakaki's, and then she blinks. "What are you doing here?" she asks, staring blankly at him. "And don't say you were just passing on your way home," she adds quickly when he straightens and opens his mouth. "I will remind you that you are currently in Kanagawa."
Sakaki's lips curl briefly, and she sighs, shaking her head and gesturing to the chair near her desk. He sits, watching her as she tidies away the last of her folder and then sits. She threads her fingers together and rests her chin on them, watching him.
"Well?" she asks.
He shifts slightly, and then says, "I felt this would be better coming in person than over the phone." She immediately straightens, her eyes narrowing, as he continues, "You know Hyoutei have been allowed entry into the Nationals due to them being held in Tokyo this year?"
She nods, not bothering to offer him congratulations since they both know it's down to sheer luck more than anything else.
Sakaki steeples his fingers and meets her gaze directly. "Atobe's parents are having a party in celebration, which I am required to attend." He sighs and then says, "I want you to attend with me."
Hanamura raises both eyebrows, planting her hands on her desk to steady herself. "Are you serious?" she asks, not even bothering to hide the fact that she is staring at him as though he's lost his mind. It's either that, or he hasn't realised the implications of her actually appearing in public beside him.
His expression is impassive and distant once more, and she studies him carefully, remembering his words. The fact that it is Atobe's parents, and not Atobe himself, is the only reason Sakaki is probably attending, and she presses her lips together as the realisation suddenly occurs to her.
She reminds herself that she had gone into this willingly. Sakaki has taught his students well, just as she has hers, and she cannot fault him for that. Atobe holds Sakaki's ideals like they were always his own, being as ruthless and efficient on and off the court as his teacher, just as Kajimoto has taken on her beliefs and ideals, refusing to accept anything else other than continuous improvement.
She will admit that she's never seen it work as well as it has between Sakaki and his best and brightest student. She wonders briefly whether Atobe can also play the piano, and then quickly turns away from that train of thought before it can take hold of her.
"I wouldn't want to disappoint Atobe-kun," she says lightly. Sakaki's eyes narrow and she smiles, knowing that it doesn't reach her eyes. She contemplates asking him exactly what Atobe has been saying to Sakaki, but it will be far more fun to ask him directly.
Instead, she stands and walks around her desk, leaning against it as she regards him. Finally quirking a smile, she says, "I suppose you're choosing a dress? I sincerely hope it'll be stunning."
He laughs, the sound cutting off after a moment, and stands up. He kisses her, a mere brush of lips and slight pressure, and murmurs against her mouth, "I will make sure of it."
The smile fades from her face when the door closes behind him.
Nothing lasts forever. She stopped expecting that long ago.
Atobe's gaze is both challenging and mocking when he finds her, studying paintings on one of the upper floors while sipping a glass of wine, the vintage alone ensuring that she would have to starve for a month before she could afford it. "Hanamura-sensei," he says, a cruel lilt in the edge of his voice, yet his eyes turn admiring as he regards the dress Sakaki had chosen for her.
She smiles, seeping as much cold into it as she can. "Atobe-kun," she murmurs, sipping her wine delicately. Whatever is in his glass is definitely alcoholic, and she has noticed him dogging the heels of Seigaku's Tezuka more closely than usual tonight. Whatever he had hoped to achieve, however, has not been successful, judging from the sharp pinch of his mouth and his narrowed eyes.
"What do you hope to gain by this?" he suddenly asks, motioning her to sit in a nearby antique loveseat. He looks tired, the alcohol probably beginning to hit his system.
She had been prepared to be angry with him, indignant that he would take an adult relationship so personally and to heart. Yet now, as she looks at him, all she sees is an exhausted teenage boy, a captain who has let his team down already and now has to lead them to an uncertain victory, precariously near drunkenness. Sighing softly, she reaches over and takes the glass from him; he lets go without protest.
And it suddenly occurs to her, as she stares down at the poorly diluted whiskey. She has nothing to gain, really, except for whatever she intends to make of this... something almost like a relationship.
This isn't forever; neither of them thinks like that. But it can still be pleasing, and more than a little interesting.
"Get some sleep," she tells Atobe gently, and she remembers Kajimoto coming to her at the end of the Senbatsu camp, worried about the rumours concerning her and Sakaki and what it meant for her reputation. Perhaps, in the end, teenage boys all have the same worries after all, she thinks, ducking her head so that Atobe can't see her brief, flickering smile.
He watches her stand, draining the last of her wine, and he returns her smile as she turns and begins to walk down the hall. This party has been harder on her than she'd ever admit to anyone; she'd been incredibly conscious of the fact that the people lingering and exchanging small talk earned more per year than she would ever hope to make in her entire life, and she had felt, even more disturbingly, very like a trophy wife during some conversations. She'd been complimented on her work and her research, as a woman of science, but there had been the unmistakeable hint that she did not quite belong, not yet at least.
Still, she's had to put up with worse things before, and this had hardly been unexpected.
Sakaki appears before her when she's nearly at the end of the hall, still impeccable in dress and appearance. His gaze moves from her to Atobe and back again, and Hanamura knows he's wondering exactly what has passed between them.
She smiles when she reaches him, the smile of a woman who knows how to get exactly what she wants, and grabs one of his jacket lapels, dragging him down for a slow, deep kiss. His eyes are wide, his pupils dilated, when they break apart, and her smile deepens as she lets go and walks past him, back towards the milling crowd.
She used to adapting to new situations, and she can seduce perfectly well on her own.
He had her at hello.
She has him at goodbye.
It is, as much as she would like to deny it, a very good date. Hanamura also immediately realises something that had only been vaguely hinted at during the Senbatsu camp: Sakaki has an overabundance of charisma, when he deigns to use it.