Title: The Most Important Thing
Challenge fic: Song: "If You're Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band)" by Alabama. No rules. Random pick by my playlist #Idon'tremember (9 I think) out of 10. Pairings: None, unless you squint like my beta. Hints and friendship.
"Eiji… hey, Eiji! Pay attention."
The red hair turned with a bright smile, "Don't worry so much Oishi! I'm sure I can handle it."
"It's a big thing to handle."
The smaller boy smiled again, confident, "I know it's hard, but I have experience in dealing with things like this."
Oishi glanced at him, doubtful. He trusted his double's partner like no one else, but this was something very important to him. It was priceless and irreplaceable.
"Don't worry! I took care of my cousin's hamster for a week once. It was a piece of cake." Eiji assured him earnestly.
"Ne, isn't that the hamster that you said di—mfff!"
Eiji looked up from his headlock on the freshman, "He's such a kidder! Aren't you kiddo?"
Oishi was now very doubtful and wondering if he should have asked someone else to watch his fish while he was out of town for the week. Except… who could he ask, really? Tezuka had better things to do than watch a fish tank; Fuji already had plans; Momoshiro—that was a death warrant for his finned friends right there…; Kaidoh…well, Oishi wasn't even going to ask.
"Now, I put packets of food that are labeled. Only feed them those packets. No more, do you hear me?" Oishi instructed, rubbing the back of his neck nervously. There wasn't anything he could do about it now. His family left as soon as practice was over.
"And be sure to put in the water conditioner, okay? When you do the thirty percent water change. If you don't it will burn them with acid from the chlorine in the tap water."
"No acid baths." Eiji promised, his head bobbing as he bounced a ball on his racket.
"Are you sure?"
Oishi's eyes locked on Echizen. The freshman was taking a long drink out of the ever-present can of juice and ignoring them. Despite the desperate run not to drink Inui concoction, he barely seemed worn. An idea came to Oishi, but Eiji beat him to it.
"The kiddo will help me!"
Echizen's head came up with his eyes narrowed in suspicious, "Says who, Kikimaru-senpai?"
Oishi put a hand on the boy's shoulder and pulled him aside, whispering, "I would really, really appreciate it if you'd keep an eye on Eiji… I'll buy you drinks for a month if you do."
"Mada mada dane." Echizen replied, "I'll do it Oishi-senpai, but you don't have to buy me anything."
Oishi got into the car after practice and tried to put it out of his mind. Surely, it would be alright with Echizen. Yes. He would put it out of his mind and not think about it again. Oh, and offer a short prayer for his poor fish.
"Now where is it?" Eiji muttered, rooting around in a small tote for more fish food. He had already dumped in the next day's little plastic baggy. The fish had gobbled it up so fast he was sure that they were starving. Even as he hunted the fish were running up and down the glass with an expression he swore said, feed me, feed me. Well, he wouldn't let them starve. Feed them once a day? No way.
"Ne, didn't Oishi say…"
Eiji tossed some cotton-stuff over his shoulder, "Hey, I know what I'm doing here. Those fish are starving!"
The kid sighed from behind him.
"Besides, can you look at those cute little faces and let them starve? That's so cruel!" Eiji paused to look at the fish; who looked back and wiggled eagerly. "Waaaaaaaaah!"
Eiji pressed his nose against the glass and pointed, "It looks just like Tezuka!"
"What." The kid came up behind him and blinked, "It does look like him."
"You're new name is Tezuka." Eiji informed the fish. It wiggled extra hard and Eiji clapped, "He likes it!"
"How can you tell?"
"They're all wiggling."
"He wiggled a lot. Because he was really excited about his new name." Eiji explained, finding a can of fish flakes. He wrenched off the lid and gave them a liberal handful. The flakes swirled on the top and in the current of the filter and drifted down.
His digging had uncovered a book on fish.
Well, that made sense. A book on fish.
"And that one's Fuji." He pointed to a blue fish with yellow and black on it. The book said it was some kind of "sick-lit". "See how close he is to Tezuka. They're the rulers of the tank."
He flipped through the book, while pointing out who everyone was, "And that's Kaidoh! See how snake-like it is? And those beady little eyes…"
"Kaidoh-senpai better not hear you." Echizen smirked.
"He's not here." Eiji replied, sticking out his tongue, "And that one's me! See how cute and playful it is? He's even got my eyes." He flipped through the book and found out it was called a yo-yo loach. It was cute with little letters all up and down its side spelling out yo-yo in black and silver.
"Which one am I?"
Eiji stabbed at the glass, "That one. The one sulking in the corner by himself."
"I'm bored. Let's play a game."
"No way." Echizen refused. His cat, which had followed them, was peering into the fish tank. Eiji couldn't resist.
Grabbing the radio silently, he snuck up behind the intent cat. With one quick flip, he turned on the music, full blast.
He wasn't expecting it to be some weird, not to mention deafening, music, and neither was the cat apparently.
Karupin went flying into the air and landed in the tank with a fantastic cannonball. The scream was enough to send Echizen flying to save his soaked furball. The cat came out of the water like a bedraggled rat and clung to the kid's face, screaming and yowling as it thrashed around.
Echizen, likewise, was flailing, although it was more to get the cat off his face. His cap went flying, smashing Eiji in the face. The acrobatic tennis player had been in mid-dodge, trying to avoid other airborne objects being hurled with painful force.
"Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!" He screamed as he was treated to the same pleasure as the cat. Nasty fish water got up his nose and in his mouth. Dragging his head out and furiously patting his ruined hair, he spit water and said a few choice words. Unfortunately, Echizen and the cat weren't done yet. They smashed into the back of his knees, making him crumpled.
To save himself, he grabbed the fish tank…
Very big mistake.
Water, glass, fish and rocks flew everywhere.
"Eheh," Eiji chuckled weakly, watching the last of the tank water drain into the carpet, "Oops."
Three towels later, one for the cat, the two boys surveyed the mess. The carpet was soaked, probably down to the pad. Books and papers lay scattered everywhere and half the rocks ended up on Oishi's neatly made bed. The other half lay in the ruined shell of a tank.
"I found Kaidoh-fish." Echizen said, pointing at something squirming on the floor. He poked the fish with the end of his net. It tried to get away from him furiously and made small hissing noises.
Meanwhile, Eiji had found Tezuka and Fuji nestled together in a gasping heap in the kid's cap. Hastily he flipped them in the bucket and continued searching for survivors.
There were very few survivors.
They really only found Eiji, Kaidoh, Tezuka, and Fuji, plus a handful of unnamed, and therefore un-special, fish. They all lay dazed in the bucket.
"You put conditioner in there, right." Echizen asked. Band-aids swathed his face where deep scratches had cut into his cheeks and chin.
It took another ten seconds to start throwing things off the tote and find some water conditioner. Rather than take the time to read the label, he dumped half the bottle in.
"What am I going to do?" Eiji lamented as they carefully picked pieces of glass out of the carpet. He had been tempted to try the vacuum but figured it would get soggy. Towels were almost ankle high to pull the fish water out of the carpet and the fish in the bucket were swimming like they were drunk.
The Eiji-fish in particular was doing very badly. He was floating belly up. Bad foreshadowing there. It made him gulp.
"Buy a new tank. Clean up his room. Replace the fish."
"Are you saying I should cover it up? That's genius!"
"Don't be modest! I'll fix it up and he'll never know the difference!" Eiji said enthusiastically. Then Oishi wouldn't be so mad at him that Oishi would never speak to him again.
His wallet was a small sacrifice…
Eiji's jaw dropped open at the price of the fish tank. He could buy two new, nice rackets for that much money!
"May I help you sirs today?" The employee asked politely, pretending not to notice Eiji's shocked expression, "Are you looking for a new tank?"
"Yes." The kid said for him, popping a bubble and playing with the new cat toy he had picked out.
"Is this your first tank?"
"Um, no, I, uh, broke… broketheotheroneandneedanewonerightaway."
"Oh. Well, do you know which size you need?"
They came in sizes!
"Well, it was this long," He gestured with his hands in front of his face then switched them around, "And about this wide. Oh, and this tall! Or was it this tall? No, wait a minute. Kiddo, what size was it?"
Echizen gave a secretive smile and pointed to a tank.
Eiji eyed it. It looked kind of… well, big. But he couldn't remember how big the other one was anyway… The price tag was big too.
"Well, is there anything else you need?"
Eiji gave a nervous smile, "I have to get some fish too."
The employee gave him a skeptical stare, as if sensing his sheepish words.
"Um… they were little… and colorful… and swam?" He gulped as the stare got heavy. The employee gestured to a line of a hundred or so tanks, "All of these fish… swim. You'll have to be more specific."
Two hours, one pissed off employee, and an empty wallet later, Eiji and Echizen walked out of the store with the peeved employee in tow. Echizen was still flicking around his cat toy.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you! I'll pay you back, I promise! I swear it! Do you need us to become blood brothers or something because I will pay you back!"
"This better not take too long." The store employee snarled. She had taken off her distinctive, and ugly, uniform and was carefully tending the fish. After she had heard how he killed the last batch, she said he wasn't to even look at the bags or breathe on them. How little faith!
It had taken lots of pleading and harassment to bribe the employee to follow them back and help set up the tank.
When they got there, she let the two guys carry it in. Then she shooed them out with pissy looks and said in a cool voice, "This will take about an hour. You should go rent a professional vacuum if you ever want to use that mattress again. It will dry the floor too and get out the little pieces of glass."
"You sound like this has happened to you before." Eiji said eagerly, hoping someone else had done something so stupid before.
She shook her head, "It's common sense. You better hurry. I expect to be paid the minute I'm done."
Eiji decided to take her advice. He didn't want to be buying a new bed too.
"Done." The girl said, putting on the finishing touches. Happy fish darted around, exploring, and everything looked near perfect. Eiji wasn't worried about the decorations. He could always claim he thought they were boring and rearranged them. "Now pay me and I'll leave."
"Wow… it's big."
The employee shrugged, "Yeah, the other tank was smaller. I figured you knew."
"Money, now." She paused, "Oh, and don't be surprised if your rams lay eggs. The female looks ready. I can't believe they survived that. They're supposed to be really hard to keep. Your friend must be fairly good at keeping fish."
"Which one are the 'rams'?"
She pointed and he looked stunned. Echizen just started chuckling deep in his chest and turned away.
"Oh my god! Tezuka's a girl! And Fuji knocked her up!" Eiji screamed.
For some reason the employee just snatched the money and ran. How rude.
Oishi grinned, happy to be back home. Traveling always made him homesick. He couldn't wait to see his friends and get back to tennis. He hadn't had much of a chance to practice.
He was mildly surprised to find Eiji nowhere around. He had thought his friend would want to show off his achievement…
Oishi took the stairs three at a time and slammed into his door before remembering to turn the knob.
There was something odd about his fish tank… besides the fact that the decorations had been move.
He blinked, then gave a weak laugh.
"Hey, Eiji, thanks for taking care of my fish." Oishi said and Eiji let out the breath he had been holding. After running away all day, he got trapped in the locker room before practice. Echizen had just smirked at him and sauntered away! The brat. "But you didn't have to buy me a new tank."
"Um… yeah… I… wanted to surprise you!"
Oishi watched him coolly, "Oh, I was surprised."
"I was very surprised to find my prized emperor tetra in my pillow and my swordtail under my covers." He paused and continued, "And I was very surprised to find a gold severum peeking out from some plants. I don't remember having one of those."
"Oh, really. Well, I don't know anything about your king retina-thingy and your sever-yum."
"Eiji…" Oishi fixed him with a level look.
"I admit it! I broke your tank. Well, Echizen's cat broke your tank, but I was supposed to be the responsible one! I dumped in too much water conditioner into the bucket after five minutes of the acid bath and I dumped in more food than you said! But they looked so hungry. And then there was water and glass everywhere. Your poor fishies… Tezuka and Fuji were in the kid's cap and Kaidoh was flopping towards the window… it was horrible!" Eiji desperately tried to duck out the door but Oishi blocked him. He started sniffling and knew it was all over. "I understand if you hate me now. I killed your precious fish and broke your tank and did all the things you told me not to do…"
"Noooooooo! Don't say it. Just let me go." He howled.
Oishi grabbed his wrist and said gently, "Did you get this cleaning up?"
Startled, the smaller boy glanced down at his arm. It was covered with some gauze where an errant piece of glass had sliced open his skin.
"No." Hiccup, "When the tank broke."
"Hey, it's okay." Oishi said and Eiji yanked his hand back, "No it's not. You hate me; I know it."
"Eiji, I don't hate you. People make mistakes. And you tried to fix yours." Oishi replied, sitting down and pulling on his regular's jacket. "So thank you for the tank and the truth. I really appreciate it."
"Are you sure?"
"Positive. I don't hate you. Besides, you got my rams to spawn, and I've been trying to do that for ages."
"Waaaah! How cute! Little baby Fujis and Tezukas! Can I see? I want to see them!"
Oishi and the rest of the team stared at him, including the real Fuji and Tezuka. Echizen just gave an amused smirk and walked by. Eiji would never learn.
A/N: First PoT fic. I had way too much fun with this one, and now, I am going to bed. Inspired by a conversation involving character cosplay, the plus side of Oishi, and a special. Also, the fish tank fiasco was inspired by real events and fish casualties, minus a cat. Oh, and Kaidoh-fish is called a "violet goby" or a "south American dragonfish". They look big and bad but are really pretty harmless -
Beta's Comment: )) yes that's great…now I'm getting kicked out again so I'm on my way home