In the Moment, the Future
Bearit's Notes: My first impromptu fic; in other words, this was not a planned fic. Proceed with caution. No real warnings, besides slight shounen-ai (MomoRyo main; Golden Pair side). An important note: the temperature is read in Celsius, because the Japanese (and the rest of the world besides the United States) use Celsius. A quick guide: 40 degrees Celsius is 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
Japanese Words to Know:
kouhai: one's junior (student or colleague)
obasama: aunt (with the utmost respect)
The intense heat of the summer sun beat on the black gravel of the narrow street in front of the Echizen residence mercilessly, and Momoshiro did his best to ignore his faint and dreary body as he slumped to the gates of the house with the small bundle of paperback English textbooks in hand. Somehow, riding his bicycle that long distance wore him out, and he was Not Pleased. Walking the short distance from his bike to the gates was no pleasure, either.
He rang the doorbell and sighed, running a hand through the top of his spiky hair. How troublesome, he thought bitterly, that Echizen didn't have the decency to take his books home the night before, and leaving his senpai to run this errand for him.
"Yes?" asked a young woman's voice over the tiny speakers underneath the nameplate. Momo recognized her voice instantly; Echizen's cousin, Meino Nanako.
This was the first time Momoshiro had ever used this system. Normally he would yell for the first year, or the first year was already on his way out, or the gates would be open so there was no need. He laughed nervously and tiredly.
"This is Momoshiro, from Seigaku's tennis club..." he started, and Nanako clapped with recognition.
"Momo-san, Ryoma-san's friend, right? I'm sorry, but Ryoma-san's asleep right now."
"Asleep?" Momoshiro blinked and looked at his watch. It was 10:00. Momoshiro sighed and remembered how Echizen was constantly running late not only for school but for competitions, too, and how tired he always seemed. He liked to nap during competitions, too. "It's okay; I just came by to drop off his textbooks."
"Oh, all right, I'll be right there."
Momoshiro grinned wearily. "Thank you."
He stepped back from the gate and took a quick glance around the neighborhood. Quiet. But then, most kids would be inside with the air conditioner and either books or video games laid out in front of them, or they would be at the beach with cool, sweet watermelons and freezing cold water, and oh how much that appealed to Momoshiro right now. But, no, if he was going to the beach or the pool, he would have to take his little brother and sister with him. His mother wasn't going to leave him with any other choice. Damn punishments.
He sighed with resignation, just as the wooden gate opened and out popped the face of a college student.
"Momo-san?" she asked.
Momoshiro nodded. "Good afternoon, Nanako-san." She nodded a greeting back. "Oh, here are his books." He handed the textbooks, now floppy with moisture from the heat, to her with outstretched arms. "And tell him thanks for the help last night."
"Yes, and thank you," she said.
Momoshiro walked back to his bike, and for the sake of pride hid the exhaustion the heat plastered all over his face. Amazingly enough, Meino Nanako did not close the gate so quickly but instead decided to watch the second year junior high student off. It wasn't too much later after Momo kicked up the stand to the bike when Nanako asked:
"How far is it to your house, Momo-san?"
Momoshiro turned and saw the concerned look on her face, and he grinned brightly and shrugged. "Not too far, actually, especially not on bike."
It was a lie, and somehow, Nanako knew it.
"Still, it's too hot to ride right now; the hottest time of the day is coming up. Why don't you come inside for a little bit and have a drink?"
Momoshiro shook his head. "No, I'll be fine."
Nanako also didn't believe him. She didn't show it by either her expression or tone of voice, but Momo just somehow knew that she didn't believe him. Maybe coming from the lie that he didn't live too far away from the Echizen residence?
"I insist," she said.
Momoshiro stared at his bike and smirked slightly. "Well, I guess it won't hurt," he said and took out the key from the bicycle. He shoved the jingly key chain in his pocket and followed Nanako inside the gate and to the house.
The first feeling that swept through Momo's body was freezing "this is what the Ice Age was like" cold. He sighed and welcomed the temperature drop without realizing it, and Nanako giggled.
"You wouldn't have wanted to wait until you got home, would you?" she asked.
"Oh, this feels so nice, so nice," he said as he slipped off his sandals. Nanako laughed some more.
He followed her into the kitchen, and she waved at the wooden table and chairs inviting him to sit. He did so, and even that felt refreshing. He thanked small favors that Oishi had canceled practice that day; nobody would have survived, especially if he, Momoshiro Takeshi, found the act of mere sitting in a wooden chair (though with a soft cushion) to be the most relaxing thing ever to be discovered.
He made sure not to slump because that would be rude; even in his own household his mother often scolded him for not sitting at the kitchen dining set properly. He also made sure not to lean forward and fall on the tabletop because, that would be rude also. And even if he wanted to, a bundle of newspapers and books laid scattered in his way.
"What would you like to drink, Momo-san?" Nanako asked.
Momoshiro shrugged. "Anything cold, thanks."
Momo took the time that Nanako used to fix something cold (and with lots and lots of ice) to glance around the house subtly; he had just realized this was his first time in the Echizen house. Oh, he had been on the property before, but all those times he was either picking the first year up or playing a game of tennis by the temple behind the house. A couple of times Nanako dropped by the temple to tell Ryoma that dinner was ready; Momo had been extended an invitation to stay over, but he would always decline and headed home feeling refreshed from the evening's game but with a heavy weight of homework on his shoulders.
The day before in school he received his English test back and a big red pencil mark showed the world his embarrassing grade of 35. Okay, so he cut back on his English studies to concentrate more on tennis, math homework, going out and eating burgers with either Echizen or Eiji or sometimes both, and more tennis.
The teacher, however, certainly did not find that as an acceptable excuse; his mother neither, and she promptly grounded him from any of his leisure activities--short of tennis since he had a responsibility to the club--until he came home with at least an 85 on the test. The teacher wanted him to get at least a 90 so he can have a decent enough grade in the class. Either way, Momo saw it as an impossible task.
Somehow, from somewhere and somebody, Echizen Ryoma heard about Momoshiro's problems in English and offered to help. Momo denied needing it despite it being Echizen offering, and besides, how much would a first year student know anything about a second year student's English homework? After a tense afternoon tennis club meeting since both were insulted by the other's words, Horio revealed to Momoshiro that Echizen grew up in America; Momo promptly apologized and nearly had to beg for the first year to help him study.
Not that much studying got done the night before.
Momo groaned; he was doomed.
"Here you go," said Nanako as she handed him a glass with a pale yellow liquid. "I hope you like lemonade."
Momoshiro nodded. "I like!" he said. "Thanks!"
She giggled. "You're welcome."
And then the drink vanished. Momo grinned with satisfaction; a nice refreshment indeed. Nanako blinked.
"Um... would you like some more?"
"Yes, please!" he said. "That's some really good stuff, Nanako-san!"
"Obasama made a whole pitcher of it this morning before she left for work," she said, "since the temperature is supposed to be up to forty degrees."
"Forty? That's IT?" Momo asked and nearly fell over the books and newspapers in front of him. "It feels like fifty out there."
Nanako laughed and gave him another glass. He took it, but since he was so refreshed from the last cup he took his time with it. Nanako noticed the bundle of objects in front of him and apologized and she swept them off.
"I was studying before you came," she said, "since Obasama told me to stay inside today unless I really had to go outside. The laundry's done, at least."
Momo grinned. "Does that go for Echizen, too?"
She shook her head. "She knows that there's no way Ryoma-san would stay cooped up in here no matter what the weather is. He'll probably go out and practice this afternoon."
"Tell him I'll join him in the evening; I'm NOT practicing in that heat."
Nanako laughed again. "I can see why you two are such close friends," she said, "Ryoma-san doesn't talk much about what happens during the day unless we ask him, though you're starting to pop up in his talk more and more."
Momoshiro looked at her quizzically. "Really?"
Well, they have been getting close, but if Nanako knew how close...
"I've been wondering," she said, "how did you two get as close as you did?"
Momo frowned. "Good question. I wish I knew," he said and took another sip of the lemonade.
"Momo-san, do you mind telling me how you and Ryoma-san met?"
Momoshiro stared at her for a moment and then shrugged. "It's nothing spectacular. We bumped into each other on the way to the tennis courts on the first day of school."
Or rather, he bumped into ME, Momo thought with a chuckle.
"Most of the meetings those who are the best of friends are hardly ever spectacular," she said with a smile. "I'm still interested in the details."
So Momoshiro told her; it was the least he could do in return for her hospitality. He told her more than what was really necessary, actually, because then he went on to describe his and Echizen's first encounter with street tennis, and how they played their first official match together in doubles because of it. Before he knew it, he found himself fuming over Inui's special juices and describing the latest event the Seigaku tennis club was involved in-- bowling.
Nanako laughed and told him about what happened when Ryoma came home from that day of bowling, and how he looked exhausted and disgruntled all at once. Momo explained simply, "It's because of Inui-senpai's juices."
She was very amused, and Momo found himself quite relieved expressing his feelings of the experiences and antics of the tennis club; his younger siblings certainly wouldn't understand, and his mother would scold him to be just as passionate for schoolwork as he was for tennis. His father would be interested if he wasn't always so stressed out by the time he returned home from work, and he always left so early in the mornings, too. Sundays were the only times the Momoshiro pair of father and son could enjoy themselves, though Takeshi had to share that time with his siblings.
It was relaxing with Nanako. No worries, no being interrupted constantly... it was nice.
But before Momo could rejoice in this new feeling, he remembered his last conversation with Tachibana Ann, and frowned.
"Nanako-san, I have a question."
She blinked. "Yes?"
Momo hesitated. "Romance... in junior high... do you think it's stupid?"
"Well, not so much stupid, but... worthless? Like it won't last, and we're wasting our times?"
Nanako smiled softly. "Do you have a girlfriend?"
"Uh... something like that. But that's not why I'm asking."
"Momoshiro-kun, I'm happy if you're happy, but I don't want to see you hurt. So I have to warn you about something."
"Warn me about what?"
"There's such thing as high school sweethearts. But have you ever heard of junior high school sweethearts?"
"What do you mean?"
"Even if we were the ones going out now, I don't think it would have lasted past our third year of junior high. Maybe if we started seriously and frequently going out in high school, there's a chance it could last forever. Same with you and Echizen-kun."
"Do you think," said Momo slowly, staring at his half empty glass of lemonade, "that romance that started in junior high can last forever?"
"Started in junior high? Sure."
Momo did not miss the emphasis Nanako placed on 'started'. "So, it can work if they met in junior high, were separated during high school, and sometime during or after college they meet up again and have it work out for the best?"
"That's one scenario, yes," said Nanako, "but I've only heard of one case so far where a romance lasted from the start of junior high to now, when they're married, at the age of twenty-five. And I'm amazed I even heard of that. Everyone else, they had a little puppy love thing going on in junior high, broke up for a couple of years, then got back together again in high school, but more often they not they had a crush on each other in junior high but didn't do anything about it until high school or even college."
"So it's rare to keep it going strong?"
Nanako sighed. "Momo-san, people change. You're only thirteen, right?"
"You're going to be a different person when you enter high school. Maybe slightly different, maybe completely different, depending on your experiences and situations. But that's what being a teenager is all about, discovering who you really are."
"What about Echizen?"
Nanako grinned. "He's changing everyday, haven't you noticed? Especially with you around. He's becoming more open, you might say. There's the positive change, and a change that would be beneficial in any kind of relationship he might be entangled in right now. I'm sure your friendship with him will be a lifetime one."
Momo smiled weakly. "That's good to hear."
"But don't be so worried about the future, Momo-san!" she said. "Enjoy what you have now, and who knows? You may be one of the lucky ones."
Momoshiro thought for a moment to the Golden Pair. They never seemed to care about the future after junior high; they were more into making it to Nationals and winning it. Maybe that should be Momo's only concern. That and his stupid English make-up test. If he failed that one, too, his mother may just ban him from tennis completely until he got straight 100's, like the straight 100's Momoshiro saw on Echizen's tests the night before. And that was not a pleasant thought.
But maybe the Golden Pair was one of those rare examples of a relationship that could survive forever. Momo couldn't see one of them changing without the other doing likewise to accompany the other.
Were they the exception?
Before Momo could ask about that, without using Oishi and Eiji's names directly, of course, Nanako looked past his shoulder and smiled brightly.
"Good morning, Ryoma-san."
"Morning," he mumbled as Nanako stood and went to the cupboard to grab some items. Momo turned around and saw the first year rub his eyes tiredly and glaring straight at him. "Momo-senpai? What are you doing here?"
"Rise and shine, sleepyhead," Momoshiro laughed as Echizen grabbed the seat next to him. "I came to drop off your textbooks; you left them at my house last night."
Echizen tensed. "Oh."
Momo grinned. Yes, it was kind of embarrassing to tell in front of family, since they were supposed to be studying, not... the other stuff they were doing the night before. Momoshiro learned exactly nothing having to do with the English language, but instead that Echizen Ryoma was quite ticklish. The latter was more useful, anyway.
"It's so strange for you to forget something you were working on," said Nanako, presenting him with a glass of orange juice and a bowl of cereal with silky white milk. "Don't you have English homework to turn in Monday?"
Echizen sighed and grabbed the spoon inside the bowl and ate the brown wheat crackers. "Saa," was his only answer.
Nanako smiled gently. "I'm going to take my books and study in the living room. Call if you need anything." And with that, she gathered the lump of books and newspapers and left the kitchen.
The cereal vanished in no time, and Momo stared at his kouhai, impressed. "You're in a bit of a hurry, aren't you?"
"Momo-senpai, want to play tennis?"
Momoshiro nearly fell out of his chair. "I came here to drop off your books, not play!"
"Why not? The weather's nice."
"Nice? NICE?! It's nearly fifty degrees out there!"
"Not by much!"
Momo and Echizen stared at each other for a few moments; Momo fuming and Echizen calm. Then the younger shrugged and stood, picking up his bowl and heading towards the same cupboard his cousin had been at while she prepared his cereal.
"Fine, if you're not up to it."
"I'm pretty sure Kaidoh-senpai is still jogging today, right now even, despite the heat. But if you're not up to the challenge--"
Momo stood with his palms planted on the table. "All right, all right, I'll play!"
Echizen turned around and smirked. Momo headed for the door that led to the back path to the temple, but just as he was about ready to swing open the door Echizen grabbed his forearm and spun him around. With that, he kissed him firmly.
When they broke off, Ryoma grinned again in his normal "I'm Echizen Ryoma and don't mess with me" way.
"I don't know about you, but I'M not worried about our future. I'm happy with how things are right now."
Momo bulged his eyes. "You were listening?!"
Echizen said nothing but walked past Momoshiro and grabbed two of the rackets leaning against the house's outer wall and headed for the temple, seeming unfazed by the heat.
"Happy birthday, Momo-senpai."
Momo blinked in surprise--and then smiled and followed after him. "I can't lose today, I can't lose."
And from the doorway between the kitchen and the living room, Meino Nanako smiled. Maybe Momoshiro Takeshi and Echizen Ryoma would be the lucky ones. But even if the 'maybe' doomed them, at least they were happy now.
That was all that really mattered.