Sorry for any incorrect information!
Fandom: Prince of Tennis
Rating: E for Everyone! (Challenge Everything)
Ryoma wasn't the first one to school. He wasn't a stranger to the traditions of Valentine's Day either. A lot of the time, girls would hurry into school extra early to sneak valentine's gifts into the boy's locker of their dreams. He wasn't sure how they did it, seeing as the lockers were locked.
But even if he were entirely used to the occasion, he wasn't ever expecting to receive a gift himself. So when he walked into school and opened his locker to change his shoes, and found a little box and card inside, he was more than a little confused.
Ok, that was a lie. He was used to receiving gifts. He got one every year from that girl Sakuno and her eccentric friend...Tomo? A lot of girls gave him gifts, but never in this fashion. They were always open about giving him gifts and all the other boys in his class were jealous of his fame. This method of giving gifts, in a locker, he'd heard was for when a girl didn't want to be known or if they didn't want others except their valentine to know they'd given the gift.
When the other tennis players gathered on the courts, each one walked by Ryoma. Every one of them stared at him because they weren't used to him being there until later. After a lot of people had come in, people stared merely because he was holding a valentine. Ryoma had the little box in his right hand and was holding it up to eye level so that he could stare at it. One would think his arm would get tired, but he hadn't moved since school let out for the tennis team to meet.
Horio was suddenly next to him, and his two other same year friends, Kachiro and Katsuo, were also there. But only Horio was talking to him.
"What's that Echizen? You get another Valentine?" he sounded a bit upset that Ryoma had gotten so many valentines. "Echizen?"
Ryoma blinked and turned his head to look at Horio in confusion.
"Eh?" he asked. Horio smacked himself in the forehead as the other two sighed.
"What's with you? You're not listening today, huh? What's so special about that valentine? Who's it from?" Horio tried again. Ryoma blinked once, slowly, before turning to stare at the valentine again.
"I don't know." he said simply. Horio laughed once.
"Ha! What, did you not recognize her?" he laughed again. Ryoma shook his head.
"Maybe he got it in his locker, ya think?" Kachiro said softly behind Horio. Ryoma nodded and Horio stopped laughing.
"Really? You did? This is serious. You've never gotten one before, have you?" he seemed intrigued now and sat down next to Ryoma, who had returned to staring. "Well, don't just stare at it, open the darn thing!"
Ryoma blinked and looked around as if he'd just realized where he was. He looked from Katsuo to Kachiro to Horio and then back to the gift. His left hand came up to the little red box in his hand and touched the tiny blue ribbon that held it together. He shook his head and lowered his hands, letting his right hand settle on his lap.
"No. I'll open it at home." he decided suddenly and stood to put it back with his other things in the changing room until it was time to go. A pair of cat-like eyes watched him leave before someone called and they turned to focus on this new distraction.
Ryoma walked inside with a bag full of little chocolates and gifts from girls that had come up to him all day. In his hand he held the little box carefully, and on his back was his tennis stuff. His school stuff was in the bag with the gifts.
"Tadaima!" he called almost lazily into his house. His father greeted him and he quickly hid the little box.
"Ooh! Ryoma's got gifts!" his father cheered childishly, just like last year and the year before that.
Ryoma set the bag on the ground and pulled his school bag out before walking away, letting his father take all the spoils. He pulled his right hand from behind his back, where he was hiding the little box. Once in his room, he deemed it safe to calm down and dropped his tennis bag and his school bag to the floor next to his bed.
Now for the little box. He laid on his stomach with the box in front of him and reached out. Pulling the ribbon off proved a simple and unnecessary act, as it did nothing. He worked at the box for a moment and it opened. Inside was...
"Hm? Cat?" he muttered, pulling the little plush doll out of the box.
It was so small it fit in the palm of his hand. The cat was a Himalayan, and looked like Karupin. It was sitting on it's back legs and had a tennis ball as big as it was in front of itself. It's eyes were hearts, as if it were screaming 'I LOVE Tennis!'
It was a peculiar gift, Ryoma was sure of that. It wasn't edible and it was valentine-like. He was sure the sender must know him pretty well, or well enough to know he loved tennis and had a Himalayan cat. This was surely special ordered and created, meaning it was expensive. But...
Everyone in the world who had ever met him knew he loved tennis. But the only people at school that knew he had Karupin were his teammates. So it must be a fellow tennis player, one of the regulars. But why would they send him a valentine? Maybe it was the sibling of one of his teammates, or a girl had gotten their information from one of the more blabber-mouthed members.
In fact, the only regulars he was sure wouldn't tell were Kaidoh and Tezuka. Any of the others would reveal his secrets, whether or not they meant it spitefully or if they were merely having a conversation. So it was impossible to know who to ask. But...There was also a letter.
Ryoma's eyes widened and he ran downstairs to retrieve the letter from the bag of gifts he'd given his father. Ten minutes later he fell down on his bed, narrowly missing the strangely and incredibly soft plush cat. He'd had to sneak around like a spy, waiting for his family members to leave the bag of chocolate treasures alone so that he could slip in and find the correct letter.
The envelope was normal and white, with tape sealing it shut everywhere along the seal in a messy manner. He supposed that the present had been wrapped by a pro, and that his gift giver was really very messy and didn't like the taste of envelopes. But enough with the analyzing, he had to rip the envelope open to read the card inside.
It was a store bought card, one many other people would have. The outside was a light lavender color with the word "Lucky!" printed at the top above a simple purple heart that matched the card. The inside was white and plain, with a few simple words on the right side. "So lucky to have met you."
Ryoma didn't really see how this was a valentine card, except for the purple heart on the front, but the word 'Lucky' reminded him of Eiji Kikumaru. He could actually hear the older male saying "Lu-cky!" after getting in a particular difficult shot, or getting two perfect yolks, apparently.
Imagining the possibility of getting a valentine from Eiji made him blush. The older tennis player had always intrigued him, and annoyed him sometimes. But when they got to highschool and his hormones actually kicked in, Ryoma kept noticing him. His acrobatic tennis was suddenly seductive and his happy-go-lucky attitude was suddenly contagious and Ryoma kept smiling.
Ryoma frowned and placed the cat next to the bed he'd gotten for his cat, Karupin. It looked like him, so he could have it. He placed the card, flat and closed, on his side table, to find a home somewhere else at a different time. Thinking about Eiji had gotten rid of his interest at this strange gift. Of course he'd never get a gift from Eiji, all the older male's attention was on his partner Oishi.
With that, Ryoma fell into a fitful sleep.
The next day, Ryoma was strangely lethargic, probably from his sudden sorrow the night before and his lack of dinner or a proper breakfast. All his old team mates had gone to this high school, and those that were still here now that he was a sophomore were a bit worried for his health and kept asking him if he was alright.
All except Eiji, and that just made him feel worse so he sat out of practice that day. He headed back to the changing rooms to change out of his tennis uniform and back into school clothes to head home. He glanced Oishi and Eiji having some sort of argument just before he closed the door. Halfway through pulling his shirt over his head, the door opened.
Ryoma finished pulling his shirt off so that he could see who his visitor was, and there was a collective gasp in the room. Ryoma blushed and gasped because it was Eiji, and he was shirtless in front of the senior. But Eiji just seemed embarrassed to have found Ryoma half dressed and kept averting his eyes.
"Eiji-sempai." Ryoma greeted in his usual tone. Eiji grinned at him and walked over to his own gear.
"Get any special valentines yesterday? I heard you were particularly interested in one." Eiji laughed once. "Some girl finally caught your attention!" he joked.
Ryoma picked up on something then and stopped in pulling his school shirt on. He just needed his pants and he'd be done. Ryoma turned his head to look at his sempai, but the other male was sitting on the ground with his back to Ryoma and searching through his bag for something. Ryoma quickly pulled his pants on and walked over to Eiji.
"Eiji-sempai?" he started, and Eiji looked up at him, stopping his search. "Why are you sad?"
There had been a tone to Eiji's voice that Ryoma had come to associate with Eiji being unhappy, because the other teen refused to let others see him truly upset you had to learn these things. And during that gentle banter, Eiji had used that tone.
Eiji's face fell, but he merely turned back to his bag and smiled when he found what he'd been searching for. He held up a simple white ribbon to Ryoma and forced the younger man to take it.
"Give this to your new girlfriend on White Day, ok?" he gave a smile and headed out of the room. Ryoma watched him go and then looked down at the ribbon. It was new. He tightened his grip on the simple strip of material and grabbed his things before leaving, sticking the ribbon in his pocket.
Ryoma sighed as he pulled on his tennis shirt. It was two days before White Day and he didn't know anything more about the present or what to do with the ribbon. Karupin had taken no interest in the cat doll and it was now perched on his window sill until some later date. And he was sorely tempted to keep the ribbon because he'd gotten from Eiji. But Eiji would ask about it surely and then what would he say?
Ryoma offered to 'train' Horio and friends today because he didn't think he'd be able to concentrate enough to actually play and none of them had gotten much better over the years. The captain, no longer Kunimitsu in their high school, agreed to it because they were sophomores and needed to learn something.
Eiji, Ryoma noted, was playing singles against Oishi and seemed to be having fun. But, upon closer inspection, Eiji's smile was a false, skin deep mask. Oishi knew this, and Ryoma knew that Oishi knew this. Ryoma knew that Oishi would take care of it like he always did, and once again Ryoma would feel useless for being unhelpful to his crush.
The day went by fast and soon Ryoma was pulling his school jacket on to go home. He put his hands in his pockets and paused, pulling out the white ribbon he had stuck in his right pocket this morning without thinking. He stared at it and thought about the gift. It was nice and he'd like to repay the sender, but they weren't stepping forward and he didn't know what to do. His thoughts then drifted to Eiji and he actually relived the moment when Eiji had given him the white cloth. Suddenly, he felt every moment in the past few years that he could have told Eiji how he felt pass by once again and tears filled his eyes.
But he wouldn't cry. Then the thought of Eiji as a senior, and how he would be gone next year came to him and two tears drifted down his cheeks. Then the door to the changing room clicked open a crack and his tears were gone with a gasp. Everyone else had gone home, so who was coming in? Their voices drifted in. Wait, voices?
"Let it go Oishi." the first voice was obviously Eiji. Ryoma's heart sped up but his facial expression didn't change, and he searched for somewhere to hide.
"No. You gave him a gift, and now you're forcing him to find a girlfriend. You went for something, but it didn't show immediate results, and so you're backing out like a coward." Oishi's voice was accusing. The door handle was released.
"Shut up! You have no idea how hard it was to even get near his locker, let alone give him a valentine!" Something in Eiji's voice...
Ryoma stopped breathing. Eiji was scared. He'd given someone, a guy, a valentine. But why would they bring it up now, almost a month later? He closed his eyes for a moment and then opened his eyes and wiped away the two dried tears. Was it Eiji...?
"Eiji, I know it's difficult to come out about these sort of feelings. But do you really think Ryoma would be that harsh, even if he didn't return the feeling? You're friends!" Oishi sounded frustrated.
Ryoma got scared when the door cracked a bit more. Oishi's eye was visible now through the crack, and it was Eiji opening the door. Oishi must have glanced Ryoma inside, because his eyes were suddenly wide.
"Eiji." the door stopped. "Just tell him. Tell him face to face."
There was a pause, then Eiji's voice became a whisper.
"But I don't know if I can." he really was scared of rejection...
Ryoma didn't know if the emotions were playing out on his face like they were in his head and in his heart, but right now he didn't care. Soon that door would open all the way and Eiji would see him and then there would be no chance of a relationship with him!
God must have been looking out for him though because there was a sudden crash from somewhere nearby and both Oishi and Eiji rushed to see what the problem was. In that moment, Ryoma took his chance and ran from the room and didn't stop until he was home.
"Eiji...sempai..." he whispered before heading inside.
Ryoma asked the captain if he could skip on practice the next day, and was granted his wish as long as he ran 10 laps around the courts the next day. He gladly accepted, because right now he just needed to be away from Eiji. Eiji watched him leave before practice had even begun and frowned, and Oishi almost laughed, but it was too sad for that and he merely got Eiji pumped by playing tennis with him.
Ryoma sat in his room and planned for White Day, tomorrow. He had to give that ribbon to Eiji, but how? An idea came to him and he decided that he'd go to bed early today, to be ready. He had to get to school early. So, right after dinner, he took a shower and went to bed.
Eiji shuffled along into the high school the next morning, wondering who Ryoma would give the ribbon to, if anyone. He opened his locker to change his shoes and gasped when a little white ribbon fell out. He grabbed it before it had fallen too far, and no one had seen it yet. Eiji stared at the ribbon in confusion before taking the card that was in his locker as well.
'I'm not sure how I got this in your locker, but oh well. I felt I should return the favor. I guess your just 'Lucky' huh? I don't mean 'lucky to have met' me, I mean that you're lucky...that I'm giving you this ribbon. I'm not good at holidays sempai.'
Eiji slammed his locker shut, holding the white ribbon and white card in his right hand and his left hand resting solidly on the locker. If anyone checked to see what the noise was, they didn't see anyone because Eiji was so fast he was already gone. He jumped the short walls and racks as he ran through the school to the other classrooms. He got to a door and nearly ripped it open, effectively drawing the attention of almost everyone in the room.
"Is Echizen Ryoma in here?" he asked, hiding how frantic he was.
"Kikumaru-sempai." Horio said as he walked up. "What are you doing-?" he stopped and blinked at the small scrap of ribbon that hadn't been hidden in Eiji's fist against the door. "No. Echizen hasn't gotten in today. You might check the tennis courts though."
"Arigato!" Eiji beemed as he bowed to the younger student and hurried from the room.
"What was that about?" a few kids in the classroom started muttering to themselves.
"They're both tennis players. Maybe something happened?"
Horio sighed, then smiled. Wow, Echizen was that way huh?
Ryoma heard footsteps behind him and stopped mid-toss of a tennis ball. He'd been practicing to make up for his lost tennis time yesterday. As he turned around he was tackled to the ground and let out an 'umph' as they hit the ground.
"Oh my god Ochibi! Give me permission to act like a girl for a moment please!" Eiji squealed. "Oh my god! How'd you know?" he asked, pulling away so that Ryoma could see his face, which showed he was about to start crying.
"I...heard you and Oishi-sempai talking and..." he looked away and Eiji paused for a moment.
"Is that it?" Eiji asked quietly. Ryoma closed his eyes. "So does this mean you like me too?"
Eiji sounded happy and yet tentative and Ryoma looked at him as he nodded. Then Eiji hugged him again and kissed him. Ryoma kissed back and it was only about four kisses later that he realized where they were.
"Sempai. We need to get to class. And we're defacing the courts." Ryoma let a joke slip in and Eiji laughed as they stood up.
"Ochibi made a joke!" he laughed. Ryoma smiled and Eiji rubbed their noses together. "Come on. We should get to class, kareshi." he grinned. Ryoma smirked evilly and walked ahead.
"Sure thing, kanojo." he let out a laugh and then took off running before Eiji could process what had just happened.
"Hey! I'm not a girl!"
Kareshi - Boyfriend
Kanojo - Girlfriend