Author's note: This would take place a few years later, in senior high. Yes, I know the ages are still a bit off, but bear with me.
Many thanks to Kaka-chan, who beta-ed this fic. And the people who reviewed Snakey Love, I love you all!
It was another afternoon at Seishun Gakuen Senior High. Echizen Ryoma watched pensively as the Tennis club members began to leave one by one, gathering their things and heading towards the exit.
Ryoma took a deep breath, and took a few choice steps towards the vice- captain. "Oishi-senpai."
Oishi looked up from his chat with Kikumaru Eiji, surprised. The dark- haired teenager rarely initiated any sort of conversation, so Ryoma coming up to talk to him must have been, in Oishi's eyes, something short of a miracle. Maybe he'll be willing to share his feelings! Oishi felt his motherly instincts take over, and automatically brought himself to smile kindly at he youngest regular of the Senior High tennis team.
"I have a favor to ask of you."
"You do?" He's asking you for help! He must want to confide his innermost concerns in you!
"Hoi hoi, ochibi!" Kikumaru Eiji's voice broke in cheerfully, as he grinned at the none-too-small "ochibi" standing across him and Oishi. "Anything you want to ask Oishi, you can ask me too nya! Don't leave me out of things!"
Ryoma shifted uncomfortably, looking uncharacteristically indecisive. "I'm not sure -"
"Just name it, ochibi!" Kikumaru said, placing his hands on his hips and trying to peer down at Ryoma. Which didn't really work anymore, because Ryoma's height was now dangerously close to rivaling his. It's the milk, KikumaruEiji, he thought decidedly to himself. Must... not... let ochibi... grow taller... than me...
"Just let him speak, Eiji," Oishi said, and the both of them turned their heads expectantly towards Ryoma.
Ryoma looked torn, as if he wasn't really sure it was a wise idea. After fighting what looked like a painful internal struggle for a few seconds, he finally opened his mouth to speak. "I've just got my learner's permit."
Kikumaru grinned. "You're growing up so fast, ochibi!" he cackled, and clapped him on the shoulder. "So you want us to supervise your driving, nya?"
Oishi felt a warm glow fill his heart. Seigaku's very own Echizen Ryoma, on the road to adulthood! I still remember when he was a wee lad...
"Oishi-senpai?" Ryoma's voice snapped him out of his reverie.
"Of course," he said warmly, smiling fondly at Ryoma, who looked as if he was having second thoughts about the whole matter. "When?"
Ryoma blinked. "What?"
"When would you like me -" ("Us," Kikumaru reminded him) " ... us to supervise your driving?"
"Oh." He paused to think. "Tomorrow?"
"It'll be fun, nya!" Kikumaru announced happily. "We can go after practice!"
The golden-eyed boy looked visibly relieved. "Thank you." Giving the Golden Pair a quick bow, he hurried off the courts, tennis bag in tow.
It is a miracle, Oishi thought wonderingly, as he gazed at the retreating back of Echizen Ryoma as he disappeared around the corner. He's finally opened his heart, and asked for our help! Such a dear, dear boy...
Kikumaru Eiji eyed his best friend curiously. "Oishi," he said uncertainly, as he peered into his face, "are you crying?"
"Of – of course not!" the vice captain denied quickly, hurriedly rubbing his sleeve on his damp cheeks. "Something... uh... got in my eye. Yeah," he lied, hoping Eiji wouldn't notice.
Thankfully, he didn't. Throwing his hands behind his head and stretching like a cat, Kikumaru let out a yawn. "Can't wait for tomorrow," he said sleepily.
Little did Syuichiroh Oishi know, his agreement with Echizen Ryoma on that very day was what he would regret the most for the rest of his life.
"Hoi, hoi! Let's go, ochibi!"
Momoshiro stuck his head in at the door of the clubhouse. "Where are you guys headed off to?"
"We're going to supervise his driving, Momo," Oishi said pleasantly, shouldering his tennis bag. "It turns out Echizen's just gotten his driver's permit. Would you like to come along for the ride?"
Momoshiro started as the blood drained out of his face. He was an interesting shade of paper white as he inched away slowly, looking constipated. Oishi wondered concernedly if he had a stomachache. "You – you guys go ahead... I have... to... ah... babysitmyyoungersisters! Yeah! Seeyouguyslater!" Before anyone could respond, he dashed off, leaving in his wake a trail of billowing smoke.
"What was that all about?" Fuji asked, entering the changing room.
"Momo's acting weird again nyaa, Fuji... Wanna come for a ride in ochibi's car?"
Fuji smiled. "As interesting as that sounds... I'm afraid I'm busy today. I'm going with Tezuka to the official drawing of the ranking matches."
Kikumaru grinned slyly in Fuji's direction. "Just that, ne Fuji?"
Fuji's smile didn't falter. "Maybe a good snog after that, then," he deadpanned.
"A hundred laps, Fuji." Tezuka's voice echoed from outside the changing room.
"Ah, Tezuka – you know I was joking. Saa, let's go..." Laughing amusedly, Fuji bade his teammates a quick goodbye before hurrying after the stoic captain.
A massive sweatdrop appeared behind Oishi's head. "Er... we should probably be going... Echizen?"
The three of them had barely taken two steps out of the changing room when they came face to face with Kawamura Takashi.
"Hoi, Taka-san! Ochibi-chan's going to be driving today! Come and support him!"
Kawamura scratched his head awkwardly. "Uh... sure..." He turned to give Ryoma an encouraging smile. "I'm sure you're a very good driver, Echizen."
Ryoma didn't say anything. He simply strode forward purposefully in the direction of his home. Used to his antisocial tendencies, Oishi, Kikumaru and Kawamura followed closely behind at a more leisurely place. About twenty minutes later, they were in front of the Echizen residence.
"The car's that way," Ryoma said, heading to the back. Gesturing somewhat stiffly for his senpais to follow him, he led them to the smaller gate situated at the farther end of the house, where a brown SUV was parked.
The four of them piled into the car, tennis bags in tow. Oishi sat in the front, while Kikumaru and Kawamura spread themselves out on the backseat.
"This is pretty spacious, nya!" Kikumaru laughed gamely, bouncing slightly. "There's space for our bags and everything!" If it weren't for the fact that there was a roof on the car, Oishi was positive Kikumaru would have been doing somersaults.
"All set, Echizen?" Oishi asked, directing his attention to the tennis prodigy in the driver's seat. Noticing the beads of sweat starting to gather on the younger boy's forehead, he felt his maternal concern overwhelming him once more. "Now, calm do -"
Oishi could barely get out what remained of his sentence as the car pulled out of the driveway at a breakneck speed. Fumbling with his safety belt, a horrified glance to his right told him things were not right. Not right at all.
Was it normal for people to have psychotic smiles on their faces as they drove through residential areas at 100K per hour?
Echizen Ryoma cackled.
In the backseat, Kikumaru and Kawamura had been violently thrown backwards as the car continued to move forward at what had to be beyond the city speed limit.
"Aaaa! Too fast, Echizen!"
"Ochibi! Slow down!"
Ryoma's eyes had a glazed look as he took a sudden turn that caused Oishi's stomach to take a similar spin. "Echizen," he said, gripping the handlebar so tightly that his knuckles had lost all colour, "You should probably ease up on the accelerator -" he was cut off as he felt Kikumaru's arms encircle his neck in a death grasp.
"Oiishiiii..." Kikumaru wailed in his ear, "get ochibi away from the wheel!"
"Try – trying..." he choked out, as he fumbled hopelessly towards the steering, which Echizen didn't look like he was about to relinquish anytime soon. The way he was leaning forward in the seat, maniacal grin in place, gave the vice-captain a deep sense of foreboding.
This only increased as he saw Ryoma take a violent turn into an expressway. Kikumaru blanched. Kawamura's face was a deathly shade of mauve. And Oishi was left to salvage the delicate situation.
"Left, Echizen!" he shouted, over the screech of tires as the car squealed across four lanes, miraculously missing a row of foliage lining the side of the road. "I meant the left pedal! The BRAKE!"
"We're on an expressway, Oishi-senpai," Ryoma said, turning towards him, with an expression Oishi could only describe as demented. There was just no other term for it. "I can't slow the other cars down." He smiled at Oishi to reassure him, which did exactly the opposite.
Oishi had lost all the feeling in his legs. "Yes you can," he gasped out, in a last desperate attempt to grab hold of the wheel. Only to be painfully flung to the side again as the car swerved dangerously to the right, then to the left, and the right again in an arc around the other cars on the busy expressway.
"Take that!" Ryoma laughed. "Drive B!" Ignoring the horns and shouts as drivers wound their windows down to rail at him, a crazed glint appeared in his eyes as he sighted a car overtaking him in the adjacent lane.
Kikumaru, who had released Oishi and had apparently decided to clutch at Kawamura instead, was screaming incoherently as he felt the car lurch forward again, moving left and right precariously whilst (barely) dodging the nearby traffic. It was a simulation nightmare. Kikumaru had been in 3D simulators before, where the entire "ship" had been flipped, rocked, and jerked in all directions to make it seem more realistic. But this was different. Ochibi's driving was a safety hazard. Perilous. Unpredictable. And he probably wouldn't even live to tell the tale.
He looked at Kawamura, who had fallen into a shocked silence ever since Ryoma had performed his infamous tennis move – driving a SUV. Struck with an idea, Kikumaru hastily unzipped his tennis bag, and thrust his tennis racket into Kawamura's open palm.
"BURNING!! MOERUZE!!" Kawamura shouted, flames ablaze. In a rush of adrenaline, he wound down the window and waved his free fist menacingly at the other drivers, while his other hand holding the racket windmilled dangerously in Kikumaru's face.
"Eiji," he heard Oishi say weakly from the front, horrified. "What did you do?"
Kikumaru buried his head in his hands, moaning to himself. "I thought he might have been able to stop Ochibi's driving..." Another swerve. Kikumaru found his head mercilessly slammed against the side window.
Meanwhile, Kawamura was in his prime, yelling out words of encouragement to Ryoma as they continued to progress haphazardly through the jumble of cars on the flyover."BURNING!! OVERTAKE THAT SCUMBAG, ECHIZEN!!"
"No! Kawamura!! Don't encourage him!"
"Aspirin..." Kikumaru groaned piteously. His call of need went unheeded as the vehicle actually picked up speed as it neared an intersection.
"BRAKE, ECHIZEN!" Oishi screamed.
"We'll make it!" Ryoma declared, confident in his impeccable sense of timing. "The light isn't red yet."
As Murphy's law would have it, the light flashed orange, then a fateful red.
"Aw," Ryoma bit his lip. "Damn."
"SLOW DOWN!" was the simultaneous response of Kikumaru and Oishi as they desperately hung on to their seats for dear life. Kawamura was still waving his racket, oblivious to the doom that was about to befall them.
Their pleas fell on deaf ears, as Ryoma slammed his foot on the accelerator once more, and the SUV zoomed forward at what had to be three times the speed limit.
Kikumaru almost cried. "Oishi," he said quaveringly, whilst curling into a disconsolate ball, "I just wanted to let you know – you're the best doubles tennis partner I've ever had."
Oishi would have replied to this, but was more concerned with the fact that they were on a collision course with oncoming traffic. He squeezed his eyes shut. I love you, mom. Don't forget to unclog the sink once every now and then when I'm gone.
Awaiting impact and experiencing none, Oishi cautiously cracked an eye open. To find that they were still zooming through the roads of the city in one piece.
"How did -" he said, confusedly turning in his seat to check if they had, indeed, cut through the flow of traffic. What he saw, however, wasn't exactly flowing traffic. It was a ten car pileup.
"Mada mada da ne."
Oishi felt a vein throbbing. Thankfully, Ryoma had the sense to slow down ever so slightly as they made another corner with a deafening screech. Pedestrians screamed. Dogs barked. Oishi's heart thudded painfully in his rib cage.
Kikumaru, who had managed to uncurl himself, was now an interesting shade of green. "I don't feel so good...
"Buildings and trees whizzed by. Oishi had given up trying to reason with Ryoma; it seemed futile to even attempt such a thing.
This is it, he thought dismally. The end of all my years as a tennis player, and a student at SeishunGakuen Senior High. We haven't even made it to the Nationals this year, and I'm about to be in a horrific car accident because of a deranged schizo at the wheel. Why? WHY??
"GREAT-O!" Kawamura cried. "EXCELLENT! FABULOUS DRIVE!!"
"Mada mada da ne!" Another infuriating laugh.
"I'm going to be sick..."
The SUV flew over a hump and landed, giving Oishi a vague impression of his stomach being dislodged into his throat. He fumbled helplessly for a weapon. Anything.
His fingers closed on a battered umbrella concealed at the side. Yes, that would have to do. In the back, he heard a window being frantically wound down, and his partner's agonized retching.
He was about to swing the umbrella in the crazed prodigy's face when the fates decided to torment him further. Echizen Ryoma chose that precise moment to carry out another of his tennis moves.
"Twist serve!" he sang out, on a sudden flash of inspiration, turning the wheel to the right several times gleefully... and releasing it.
The car took a sharp turn to the right, before spinning off perilously across the intersection as it skidded on a puddle of water. Oishi's life flashed before his eyes as the umbrella dropped to his side, forgotten.
"Ka – kami-sama..." Kikumaru felt his vision spin, and his breakfast came up again. It was like being on a Tilt-a-Whirl, Echizen Version. Only nobody sane enough would pay to get on, surely.
After the car had recovered from its somewhat centripetal flow of rotation, Ryoma pulled the vehicle along a side road, turning it viciously into a relatively deserted residential lane.
Oishi could still hear strings of curses being hurled in their direction as his mind struggled to keep up with the situation. He was amazed there weren't any police sirens echoing after them.
It's all my fault, he berated himself. If only I had shown more responsibility, and immobilized him before he went onto the highway!
He was so absorbed in his self-blame that he almost didn't notice when the car gradually slowed to a halt.
"What happened?" Kikumaru croaked, half-draped out of the car window. "Why has the world stopped spinning?"
"We've stopped." There was wonder in Oishi's voice. He turned to see how his fellow teammates were doing. Kikumaru looked like he had been to hell and back, and Kawamura appeared to be unconscious, although he still seemed to have a vague semblance of his burning personality.
"...burning..." A faint whimper, and a sickly cough. "Mo.. eruze..."
Oishi snuck a glance at Ryoma. He was looking desolate. "We're out of gas."
When this all sunk in, Oishi found himself letting out an uncharacteristic whoop as he unbuckled the safety belt, unlocked the door, and practically flung himself out of the hellride. Kikumaru soon followed, albeit a bit warily, as if expecting someone to yell "Just kidding!" and drag him back into the car for another round. Upon realizing that the SUV was indeed out of gas, and that Ryoma wasn't going to be able to drive another inch forward, he promptly dropped to the ground and kissed it, tears of relief flowing down his haggard cheeks.
Ryoma got out of the car and stared forlornly at the bumper. Oishi was too preoccupied with twirling around on the grass to care. He was alive!
When Kikumaru had regained his senses, he swiftly got to his feet and pointed an accusing finger at Ryoma. "Ochibi! You suck, nya!"
Oishi coughed. "I agree, Echizen. Perhaps... you shouldn't drive for a while." Not while we're in the same country.
Ryoma looked vaguely petulant. "Why not?"
Because you're a health hazard to everyone within a ten mile radius of your driving.
"Because you're still too young."
And you're a freaking schizo, did you know that?
"And you're a little... excited when you're at the wheel."
And I'd be damned if I let someone like you endanger the lives of the general public!
"And I'd be da – devastated if something ever happened to you. So just... don't, okay?"
Ryoma sighed. "Maybe I need more practice..." He looked hopeful again. "Maybe next wee -"
Kikumaru tackled him, umbrella in hand.
Oishi pretended not to hear Ryoma's yelps of pain, and headed off to find a public phone so he could call for a cab. And a restraining order, if he could pull it off.
But until then... he'd be confiscating a certain black-haired adolescent's car keys.
Reviews would be much appreciated :)