Word Count: 5,351
Disclaimer: Konomi is the king of everything.
Beta: moshi ♥
Summary: Oishi has something to tell Eiji.
When Oishi’s midterm report came home, it contained the usual round of Bs and the occasional A or C. His father said he was proud and went back to his newspaper. His overachieving sister, Izumi, sniffed at the Cs and refused to touch the report in case such shocking marks were contagious.
Oishi's mother, who was the only mother in the whole of Japan who thought that there was more to school than grades, read the report all the way to the end. It contained a little box for comments from 3B’s sensei.
“What does this mean, Syuichirou?” she asked. “'Oishi-kun is a good student and all-rounder. He fulfils his duties to the tennis club admirably. His main failing is that he tends to be a bit of a ditherer.’”
Oishi squirmed, debating whether or not to answer her. Before he could rule either way, Izumi spoke up in the bored tone she reserved for conversing with lesser mortals. “It means indecisive, vacillating, irresolute or faltering, Mother. Is there any nattou left?”
“Really, Syuichirou? You’re all these things?”
“I don’t know.”
“Of course you don’t know,” said Izumi scornfully. “You’re a ditherer.”
As Oishi sat in bed and tried to read Pro Tennis Monthly, he reflected on his report. His sensei was probably right. Oishi did have a hard time making up his mind about things, although when his mind was made up it stayed that way. His time as interim buchou had helped, but now that Tezuka was back there was no need for Oishi to make decisions any more. He was very glad that Tezuka was back, of course. And a tiny bit resentful.
But mostly glad.
The next morning, Oishi sought Tezuka’s opinion before class. “Tezuka, do you think I’m indecisive?”
Tezuka seemed distracted. “Damn, I still don’t understand these stupid verbs. Can I see your English homework, Oishi?”
“Sure.” Oishi handed over his homework sheet, covered back and front with neat and accurate sentences. English was one of his A subjects. “Did you hear what I said?”
“Indecisive?” Tezuka spied the sensei at the end of the hall and started scribbling at the speed of light. “Totally. Why?”
Oishi frowned, but the sensei was upon them and Tezuka was occupied with hiding his inky hands from her sharp gaze.
Oishi met Eiji for lunch. They'd begun eating together more often as the year progressed. As usual, Eiji was late. Oishi had unpacked his lunch and had Eiji’s half waiting for him by the time he arrived, darting through the chattering crowds like a monkey. He jumped over the back of the chair instead of pulling it out, and miraculously didn’t break his head.
“I met Ochibi,” explained Eiji. Despite running all the way from Block Seven, he wasn’t even out of breath. “He looked grumpy, so I offered to buy him ice-cream after practice.”
“Echizen is always grumpy,” Oishi pointed out. “And I thought you ran out of pocket money yesterday?”
“I did, so it’s a good thing he refused,” laughed Eiji. “Mmm, mochi. Excellent. Please thank your mother for me -- for the forty millionth time.”
Oishi smiled. “Don’t worry about it.” He never passed on Eiji’s thanks for the food, because it wasn’t his mother who made it.
Eiji began scarfing down his rice-cakes as though they would disappear if he didn’t. Oishi had eaten at Eiji’s house quite often, so he totally understood where Eiji was coming from. No one in the Kikumaru household suffered from indigestion -- it was evolution in action.
“I wanted to ask you something,” said Oishi, a bit hesitantly. After what Tezuka had said, he was no longer certain he wanted to know the truth. Then again, when was he ever certain about anything?
Eiji opened his eyes wide, his cheeks puffed out like a hamster’s. With barely a grimace, he swallowed down half a plateful of rice and said, “Go on.”
Oishi was surprised by Eiji’s sudden and unswerving attention, but he soldiered on. “On my school report it said I was a ditherer. Would you say that’s true?”
“Oh.” Eiji sat back against his chair, rubbing his neck. “I think I ate too much just then. Ditherer? What does that mean, that you can’t make up your mind about things?”
“Yeah,” said Oishi. He paused. “I think so.”
Eiji grinned. “Of course it’s true! I’ve seen you trying to decide if you want plain rice or egg rice or both at dinner. Do you remember when that sushi shop closed on us before you’d put in your order?”
“That was so embarrassing.” Oishi squeezed his eyes shut at the memory.
“Don’t worry about it.” Eiji leaned across the table and punched Oishi lightly on the forearm. “My report said I was easily distracted and have poor concentration levels. I don’t think they’re supposed to write nice things.”
“I suppose you’re right,” agreed Oishi, feeling better.
They went outside to spend the last few minutes of lunch in the sunny courtyard. When they stopped to talk to Inui -- whose report had said that his analytical approach to every subject was stifling his natural creativity -- Eiji slung his arm around Oishi’s shoulders. He kept it there when Inui left to spend his last seven minutes and twenty-three seconds updating his data notebook, and didn’t take it away until the bell rang.
One of the few things Oishi was sure of was that he liked it when Eiji did that.
The sky had been threatening rain all day. Tezuka curtailed practice early, fearful of his regulars slipping on the wet ground or catching instantaneous pneumonia. Eiji hung around while Oishi locked up the clubhouse and they walked home together. They did it practically every day, because Oishi’s house was only four blocks away from Eiji’s.
As they rounded the corner on to Eiji’s street, the heavens opened and they were both drenched in the heavy deluge. Black clouds roiled across the sky, and lightning split them open like sudden earthquakes.
“Crap! We’d better run!” gasped Eiji. He held his bag over his head and sprinted to his gate. After a moment, Oishi did likewise.
They huddled in the porch as Eiji rummaged for his keys. His hair was plastered to his skull, and his fringe sent dribbles of water down his face. The sky darkened further as Oishi watched and wondered if he should call his mother to come pick him up.
“Got it.” Eiji held up his key triumphantly. A clap of thunder preceded another shock of lightning. It lit up dark angles of Eiji’s face, like a Kabuki mask.
“Oh, shit,” breathed Oishi, as struck with realisation as if a bolt of lightening had grounded itself on his head.
Eiji’s lips were wet from the rain -- which was to be expected.
Oishi wanted to touch them with his own -- which was an unexpected, and wholly unpleasant, development.
In a daze, he followed Eiji inside, where one of Eiji’s sisters was waiting with warm towels. Fortunately, Eiji didn’t seem to realise that his lips had suddenly become kissable. He chattered on ceaselessly as he towelled his hair dry. Oishi’s freezing fingers found his mobile and dialled home.
“Hey, silly!” Eiji’s voice was suddenly up close. “You’ll catch a cold if you don’t dry your hair. And then Tezuka-buchou will kill you dead.”
Oishi began to reply, but then hard fingers were pushing into his scalp, scratching his hair between folds of the towel. Eiji wasn’t exactly gentle, but it still felt like he had electrodes attached to his fingernails. His every touch made Oishi shiver. At least his wet clothes gave him an excuse for doing that.
By the time Oishi's mother arrived in the car, the weather had all but cleared and Oishi had warmed up nicely. But he still couldn’t look Eiji in the eye, and he couldn’t stop looking at his mouth. It never ceased moving, so Oishi had a lot of scope to appreciate it.
“Mother, what are you supposed to say to someone if you want to kiss them?” he asked on impulse. His mother braked so hard the car skidded half-way across the road.
And she wonders why I’m indecisive, thought Oishi crossly.
“You startled me, Syuichirou!” she gasped. Oishi was glad to see that she was now gripping the steering wheel extra tightly. “I never realised you had a girlfriend.”
“A girlfriend?” repeated Oishi, too loudly. “I don’t have a girlfriend! Uh. I mean, I don’t have a girlfriend … yet.”
“I’m not sure what you should say,” said his mother, chewing her lip. “Perhaps you should ask your father.”
Oishi took her advice, and was told to ask his mother.
Izumi informed him loftily that he needn’t worry; no girl in the whole of her senses would go anywhere near him, never mind kiss him. Oishi took this with good grace, because after all he didn’t want to kiss any girls. He felt quite repulsed by the thought.
His cousin Jun, who had come over for dinner, laughed so hard Oishi thought he might be sick. Then he asked if she had big boobs.
Discouraged, Oishi decided he’d been talking to the wrong people.
The first person Oishi managed to collar the next day was Fuji. He wouldn’t have been Oishi’s ideal choice of agony aunt, but he knew he had to bite the bullet right away or he’d lose his nerve entirely.
“Hey, Fuji-kun,” he began, and stopped, at a loss to know how to continue a conversation with Fuji that didn’t involve tennis.
“Good morning, Oishi-kun,” replied Fuji. “You look a little worried. Is your wrist troubling you again?”
Oishi blushed dark red before realising that Fuji was talking about his injury, not what Oishi had done before falling asleep the night before. “Er, no. My wrist is fine, thank you. I wanted to ask your advice on something.”
“Shoot.” Fuji sounded like he was laughing at some internal joke, but he always sounded like that. Far more unnervingly, his eyes opened a crack.
“Um.” Oishi scrubbed his hands together. “Do you … I mean … when you like someone …”
“If you’re asking me out, I’m afraid I’ll have to say no,” said Fuji. “I’m not allowed to date until I’m sixteen.”
“No! I mean, I’m sure you’re nice and everything, but I don’t … oh, crap.” Oishi’s blush was threatening to block all his higher brain functions.
“You want to ask someone else out, is that it?”
Fuji patted him companionably on the shoulder. “Just go to that new ice-cream parlour in Centre Gai. It’s the ideal place.”
He walked off with his face wreathed in smiles.
“Thanks,” Oishi called after him. He promised himself never to make idle conversation with Fuji outside the tennis courts again. The experience was just too bizarre.
Echizen was loitering by the water fountain with Momoshiro when Oishi changed classes. Oishi doubted that Echizen was in a position to offer any solution to his dilemma. On the other hand, Momoshiro was always getting presents and food from girls in his class. It stood to reason that he’d kissed one or two of them.
“Hello, Echizen-chan, Momo-chan,” he hailed them.
Echizen just nodded. Momoshiro said, “Yo, Oishi-senpai. What’s up?”
“Er, nothing.” Oishi wondered if everyone knew about his nocturnal activities. “Hey, Momo-chan, you have a girlfriend, right?”
“Oh, I don’t have a girlfriend.” Momoshiro preened. “I have girlfriends.” There was a loud cough from Echizen. “I mean … did you want me to set you up sometime, Oishi-senpai?”
“No thanks, that’s okay. I just wondered how you go about telling someone that you … well, that you like them.” Oishi scratched the back of his head, wondering why Echizen was smirking.
“Simple. You just go up to them and compliment their hair or their lip-gloss or something. Make sure you use the words ‘really pretty’ or ‘beautiful’ at some point.” Momoshiro winked. “Even if they’re not. Girls don’t appreciate honesty at all.”
“Right.” Oishi imagined telling Eiji that he was 'really pretty.' Oishi did think he was cute -- his stomach jumped at the thought -- but pretty? Still, it was better than nothing.
Echizen gave a gusty sigh. “Oishi-senpai, Momo-chan is talking a load of bull.”
“Echizen!” Momoshiro slugged Echizen in the shoulder. “Show some respect to your senpai.”
“He doesn’t need respect, he needs advice,” said Echizen.
“I gave him advice!”
“Yeah, for chatting up a girl.” Echizen crossed his arms and looked away.
Momoshiro shrugged helplessly and said in a stage whisper, “He’s a little -- you know -- cuckoo.” He made a twirly motion beside his ear.
“Don’t worry about it.” Oishi smiled. “Thanks for your help.”
“Any time, senpai.”
As he walked away he heard Echizen furiously whisper something. Momoshiro yelped, “Shit, I forgot!”
Must be his homework, thought Oishi, trying to figure out where he’d find Tezuka.
On the way to lunch, Oishi was accosted by Inui. He had a way of appearing suddenly but silently that was quite disturbing. Oishi tried to smile in a normal way.
“I have been talking to Fuji-kun.” Inui adjusted his glasses. “The probability that you would ask me for romantic advice as well was 87%. I did some calculations, and you have a 100% chance of success if you follow well-tested modes of behaviour.”
“That’s … good.” Oishi cleared his throat. “And what are those modes of behaviour?”
Inui checked his notebook. “One: be honest. Two: smile, but do not laugh. Three: do not hesitate -- seize the moment.” He snapped the book closed, looking as smug as a Buddha.
“That’s it?” Oishi’s heart sank. “Well, thanks. I guess.”
“You’re welcome,” said Inui. “Look, there’s Kaidoh-kun. Don’t you want to ask his advice too?”
“Not really,” mumbled Oishi. He’d been planning to leave Kaidoh out of his survey, and not just because Kaidoh was only going to grunt anyway.
But Inui was watching him with a spooky smile on his face, so Oishi made his way over to where Kaidoh was sitting on a step. He was eating an apple with enormous rage. Oishi wondered if the group of giggling girls standing beside the steps had anything to do with that. He thought not. Kaidoh did everything with enormous rage.
“Greetings, Kaidoh-kun,” said Oishi.
Kaidoh glanced up, scowling. “Oishi-senpai,” he acknowledged him.
Oishi looked at Kaidoh’s glowering expression and abruptly decided he was too young to die. “Well, it was nice talking to you, Kaidoh-kun.” He turned on his heel and walked off swiftly.
There was a slap of footsteps, and Kaidoh was tapping him on the shoulder. “Here,” he grunted, pushing a piece of paper into Oishi’s hands.
Oishi looked down at the kanji. Kaidoh’s handwriting was terrible, but Oishi could clearly see that he’d written You worry too much.
Oishi snorted and tucked the paper into his pocket. Like he hadn’t known that already. And now it was too late to make it to lunch.
Sighing, he got out his phone and messaged Eiji to let him know.
Fifteen minutes before practice started, Oishi joined Tezuka for a meeting with Coach Ryuzuki in the tennis club office. They held these every week to keep each other up to date on the club members’ progress and any issues that needed attention.
Ryuzuki was a little late, so Oishi took the chance to ask the advice of the one person who might be able to contribute something useful.
Oishi hid the training menus before Tezuka could become irretrievably absorbed in them, and said, “Tezuka -- you haven’t been talking to Fuji today, have you?”
“Nope.” Tezuka looked at him over the top of his glasses. “I can see those menus behind your back, you know.”
“Oh.” Flustered, Oishi dumped the menus on the table. “Listen, I need to know how you say to someone that you want to … that you like them. And don’t suggest that I should ask anyone else’s advice -- I’ve already asked everyone but Kawamura.”
Tezuka looked as if he was itching to pick up the menus. “Why do you need to tell this person that you like them? Don’t they already know?”
“No, they don‘t,” snapped Oishi. “How would he -- I mean, they -- know?”
Tezuka squinted up his eyes like he always did when he was surprised. “We are talking about Eiji here, aren’t we?”
At that moment, Ryuzuki came through the door. “Apologies, boys. The music teacher thought I really wanted to know about his plans for the spring festival.” She sat down at the desk. “Oishi-san, are you all right?”
Tezuka coughed. It sounded very like ‘Eiji-kun.’
“Oh, have you asked him out yet?” Ryuzuki stacked the menus neatly. “It’s about time. I have a bet on with Banjii-sensei, you know.”
“I think I’m going to be sick,” said Oishi faintly.
“Not on the menus!” Tezuka and Ryuzuki yelled at the same time.
Oishi walked into the clubhouse in a stupor. Echizen, Momoshiro and Inui all sent him wicked grins. Kaidoh’s scowl and Fuji’s expression of total Zen remained unchanged, but Kaidoh muttered ‘Good luck’ on his way out and Fuji slipped him the business card of the ice-cream parlour in Centre Gai.
“Hey, Oishi-kun,” whispered Kawamura. “Momo-chan said you needed to ask someone out?”
Oishi nodded dumbly, unable to look at Eiji, who was tying his laces not three metres away.
“Getting your parents to invite a girl over is a good idea,” said Kawamura earnestly. “That way you know you’ve got their approval from the start. It saves time. It's how I met my girlfriend.”
“Thanks,” Oishi muttered through numb lips. He sank down on to a bench, feeling like it would be a bad idea to ever get up again.
“Hurry up and get changed, lazy-bones!” urged Eiji. “You’ll have to run laps if you don’t get a move on.”
Oishi looked up. Eiji was bouncing from foot to foot. Oishi tried to swallow, found there wasn’t enough saliva left in his mouth, and blushed instead. He managed to nod.
“Be waiting for ya!” Eiji grinned and sprinted outside.
After only ten thousand years, Oishi regained enough co-ordination to change into his uniform. He sleep-walked through practice. Eventually Tezuka sent him to fetch some paperwork from the office, obviously afraid that Oishi would do himself an injury in his current state of mind. Oishi would have been afraid of the same thing, if any part of his brain was actually functioning.
Everyone was gone when Oishi finally made it back to the courts. He forgot entirely about his bag and made for of the dumpster where he and Eiji met after losing matches. Dumping the paperwork beside him, Oishi lay back. The metal still held some heat from the sun.
So, thought Oishi. Let’s review. Everyone on the team besides me, Eiji and, apparently, Kawamura knows that I like Eiji. He examined the thought from every angle and could find no fault with it. Sadly he couldn’t see anything remotely good coming from this disseminated knowledge of his love life, either.
“Eiji’s going to hate me when he finds out,” Oishi said aloud.
“What’s that?” came a voice from below. Oishi started and nearly slid off the dumpster.
There was a scrabbling sound, and Eiji was pulling himself up beside Oishi. “I thought I’d find you here. Well, actually, I thought I’d find you in the clubhouse or the tennis office, but you weren’t there. Then I thought you’d be at home so I called over, and that’s when it occurred to me that you might be here.”
“Um,” said Oishi. Eiji was sitting right beside him. Granted, the dumpster wasn’t the most spacious place in the world, but they didn’t actually need to be touching.
Not that Oishi was complaining.
All the advice he’d received swirled around in his head. He still couldn’t decide if it were a good or a bad idea to tell Eiji about wanting to kiss him. On the one hand, they’d never lied to each other before -- and not telling him that would be a kind of lie. On the other, Oishi didn’t want to lose Eiji as a friend, not to mention the damage the information could do to their doubles play.
He looked at Eiji’s face, unusually still as he soaked up the last of the evening sunlight, and realised he didn’t have a choice. He wasn’t going to be able to spend much more time around Eiji without the truth spilling out of him.
"We shouldn’t be up here," said Eiji. "We haven't lost any matches today." He looked down. "Hey, Oishi, why did you bring all these programmes for the spring festival with you?"
"What?" Oishi frowned. "Eh, I must have picked them up by mistake."
"I'll say." Eiji put his arm around Oishi, not noticing as Oishi stiffened. "What'd you do, go to the completely wrong office?"
Eiji had changed back into his school uniform, but his tunic was unbuttoned. Oishi was looking right at the bones that curved down sharply under Eiji's skin. It was amazing that he hadn't noticed them before, given how fascinating he found them now.
"Hoi," said Oishi faintly.
"What's that?" Eiji tilted his head, jostling them closer. "Going to give up tennis to join the orchestra?"
Eiji's lips were awfully close. It wasn't raining now and they weren't wet, but apparently that didn't matter to the large part of Oishi's brain that wanted him to touch them. Oishi felt like he'd just drunk burning tea.
His body made the decision before his brain, and suddenly he was jumping off the dumpster.
"What are you doing, Mr Crazy-Head?" shouted Eiji. "You could have broken something!"
"I forgot I had to run an errand," called Oishi. He sprinted off, hearing Eiji's fading voice asking him about the programmes.
When he reached his gate he ran on past. He sprinted to the park, where he met Kaidoh. Kaidoh stared at him as if he'd grown fangs and pink hair, but Oishi didn't stop. He kept going until the ache of his muscles and the tearing pain of each breath covered up every thought in his brain to do with Eiji. He only stopped when he ran out of legs.
"If you liked someone, you'd tell them -- right?" asked Eiji suddenly, as they were on their way to school.
Oishi thought of his own predicament and winced. "I'm not sure. Maybe if I knew they liked me back, I would."
"Hmm." Eiji skipped the cracks in the pavement. "But what if you were pretty sure? Would you then?"
"How sure is sure?"
"Oh, Oishi!" Eiji swung around Oishi like he was a lamppost and was gone again, his bag flapping open. "I don't have Inui's probability calculator. I'm almost totally sure, but I could be almost totally wrong, too."
Oishi gloomily shoved his hands into his pockets. He'd grown used to his feelings for Eiji over the last week. But just when it had seemed like he'd got a handle on things, another horrible thought had occurred to him: what if Eiji liked someone else? Eiji generally seemed too interested in things like ice-cream and tennis to think about girls, but it would happen sooner or later.
It turned out to be sooner.
"Why?" asked Oishi. He tried to smile as if he meant it. "Who do you like? Is it a secret?"
They were at the school entrance now. Eiji spun around and leaned against the wall, tugging a lock of hair thoughtfully. "No, not really," he said. "I've told loads of people, actually. Just not the person I like."
Oishi couldn't keep the hurt out of his voice. "Loads of people? Why didn't you tell me?"
"Oishi, Oishi, Oishi." Eiji grabbed Oishi's lapels and touched their foreheads together. "Isn't it obvious?"
"Well, no." It was hard to concentrate when he could feel Eiji's knuckles against his throat, but Oishi did his best. "If you don't tell me who you like, how am I supposed to know?"
Eiji stepped forward and wrapped his arms around Oishi's neck. "Because it's you," he whispered. "Are you mad?"
They stood there for a whole minute, Eiji hugging him while Oishi stood like a sack of cement. He couldn't process what Eiji was saying, because it was too good to be true. Plus, Eiji's hair smelled of his favourite pineapple shampoo. Had he washed his hair specially?
Eiji's arms loosened and he stood back, his mouth drooping. "I guess you are mad, huh?" He hugged his bag to his body. "I'd better go. I'll be late."
He walked off with his head bowed. Oishi sank against the wall, unable to keep a loopy grin off his face. "He likes me," he told himself, trying to convince his brain. "He likes me. He likes me! Eiji likes -- oh, shit, I've done it again."
Eiji didn't show up for lunch. Oishi sadly packed away the onigiri he'd prepared. He guessed Eiji was angry, or embarrassed, or both.
"What the hell did you say to Eiji-kun?" Tezuka demanded before practice. "I saw him earlier -- he looked like the sky had fallen in on him. He mumbled something about you."
"I didn't say anything," replied Oishi. "That's the problem. He said he liked me, and I said nothing."
Tezuka's eyes narrowed almost as much as Fuji's. "You have got to be joking. First of all, how did you not know that already? He's told everyone in Seigaku and half of Fudomine and probably Rikkai for all I know. Second of all, you like him back. Third of all … you really suck at romance."
"Thanks," muttered Oishi. "I hadn't figured that one out on my own, come to think of it."
"Maybe you should write him a note," said Tezuka, with what Oishi thought was unnecessary sarcasm. "Or hire a pregnant woman to tell him for you. But you'd better find some viable method soon, because your tennis is suffering."
"Is tennis all that you think about?" Oishi felt wounded.
"No," scoffed Tezuka. "I also think about … actually, yes. It is."
"Thanks." Oishi dropped his head into his hands.
"Hey. Don't sweat it, Oishi. You're exactly where you want to be -- just go for it." Tezuka looked up as the regulars filed into the clubhouse. "Ideally before practice starts."
Eiji crossed to the opposite side of the room from Oishi and turned his back on him. This stumped Oishi for a moment, then he caught Tezuka's eye. Despite the glasses and porcupine hairdo, Tezuka managed to look extremely menacing.
No amount of laps had ever made Oishi's legs feel this reluctant to move, but Tezuka's gimlet gaze and the urgings of his deeper longing forced him on. Several decades passed in few seconds, and Oishi was standing behind Eiji. Eiji was pulling on his socks, which unfortunately did not smell of pineapples. He couldn't not have realised that Oishi was behind him, but he made no move to turn around.
Oishi swallowed. "Eiji?"
The set of Eiji's shoulders stiffened, but he continued tugging up an already well-tugged sock.
"Eiji. I, um, I need to tell you something." Oishi rubbed his palms on his tracksuit pants, but they grew damp again almost straight away. "Could you turn around, please?"
Heaving an enormous sigh, Eiji did so. He stared at a point somewhere over Oishi's shoulder, his lips pressed together so hard they were drained of blood.
Oishi still wanted to kiss them.
"What you said this morning," whispered Oishi. "I do too."
Eiji's gaze flicked to Oishi's face, his eyes widening as he went. "What did you say?"
"I like you, Eiji!" shouted Oishi. Eiji's cheeks flushed -- but they couldn't have been anything beside Oishi's, which felt like someone had blowtorched them.
"Tell us something we don't know," said Echizen in a bored tone. Momoshiro swung a racquet at him, but he ducked it easily. "Are we going to play tennis?"
"Not yet," murmured Eiji. He smiled at Oishi, who would have smiled back except that his mouth was otherwise occupied in kissing Eiji.
It was a mere promise of a kiss, their lips cool and light and barely touching. But there was something about the brush of Eiji's mouth that made Oishi's heart pound, and his body feel too heavy to move.
"When I said 'before practice,' I didn't mean literally," said Tezuka dryly. "Can you guys break it up for now?"
"Damn," said Eiji, hiding his smile in Oishi's chest. "Just when we were getting somewhere."
"We still are," said Oishi, "aren't we? I mean, after practice we --"
Eiji placed his finger against Oishi's lips. Oishi started and fell silent. "Ochibi was right. Let's play tennis. And then we'll play some more."
"Okay," said Oishi, for the first time in his life agreeing to something with wholehearted sincerity.
As they walked out, Oishi put his arm around Eiji's shoulders.
"Please, have some more mochi," said Oishi's mother. "Syuichirou-chan made it specially."
"He did?" Eiji sent Oishi a calculating glance. Oishi studiously avoided his gaze. "In that case, I will definitely have some more. Thank you."
There were only three of them kneeling around the table. Oishi's father was still at work and Izumi had ensconced herself in the library for the foreseeable future. Both Eiji and Oishi liked having dinner at Oishi's, because there were graveyards that saw more action than Oishi's house at night and it wasn't in Eiji's nature to be quiet.
"Did you tell Eiji-kun about your school application?" Oishi's mother pushed the bowl of mochi towards Eiji.
"Of course," said Oishi. Eiji had been the first one he'd told.
"We were all very surprised, Eiji-kun, that Syuichirou-chan made up his mind so quickly! Izumi-chan was sure that Syuichirou-chan would take so long to decide that college would begin before he'd settled on a school. And then Syuichirou-chan told me that you were accepted too -- that is wonderful."
"It is," agreed Eiji, managing against the odds to keep a straight face.
"Forgive me for mentioning this in front of Eiji-kun." Oishi's mother drew a piece of paper out of her obi. "But your end-of-year report came today."
"May I see it?" asked Oishi.
His mother handed over the report. The balance of the grades had tipped in favour of Cs, and there wasn't an A in sight. Oishi scanned the box at the bottom. In a rather uncertain script, the sensei had written: Oishi-kun's grades have shown a definite slip -- perhaps due to his intensive tennis training? I fully expect that this problem will be resolved in future. More surprising is Oishi-kun's change of attitude. He seems to be able to make up his mind about things at last, which is a refreshing change.
"I am a little surprised, Syuichirou-chan," said his mother. A frown was visible beneath her powder. "After all those study sessions you had with Eiji -- practically every night -- I would have thought that your grades would go up, not down."
"Mine did the same," Eiji hastened to assure her. "I guess we got side-tracked ... by the tennis, I mean."
"Ah." Oishi's mother smiled. "That makes sense."
Eiji pressed his knee against Oishi's as he leaned over for yet another helping of mochi. He had a look in his eyes that told Oishi he'd be getting a rather more personal thank-you for the food later on, when Oishi's mother had left for her night class in flower arranging. Oishi smiled and let his hand fall into his lap, so that his elbow brushed Eiji's side.
The sensei was wrong. Oishi wasn't any more decisive now than he'd ever been. It was just that a choice between homework and Eiji, or grades and Eiji, or a school with Eiji and a school without, wasn't really a choice at all.
And Oishi was absolutely certain about that.