Determined to Win

"Ryoma, I understand how you feel, but I'm afraid I can't accept your feelings."

Ryoma looked up at Momoshiro, his eyes even larger and blanker than usual. "What?"

Momoshiro waved the note in his face. "It was very brave of you to put your love confession in my locker, but it would never work. It just wouldn't work!"

"What?" Was it just Momoshiro's imagination, or did Ryoma actually sound a little shocked to be turned down? Prince of Tennis? More like the Prince of Arrogant Brats! And here Momo was, trying to be nice about it! Nice!

"I know I'm the spiky-haired guy of your dreams, and who wouldn't want to 'sit beneath the budding cherry trees and gaze adoringly into my eyes?' It's spring, and I'm a really handsome guy. It's only natural. But I'm your sempai!"

"What are you talking about?" Ryoma was starting to look a bit annoyed.

"This sort of thing always happens to me," Momo said. "Always! First Tachibana's sister, and now you. I can't help it. It's just the way I am!" He shook his head. "I'm just irresistible."

Ryoma frowned a little, apparently waiting for Momo to start making sense.

Momoshiro sighed. "Do you know how it works with two guys together? One has to be on the bottom. I know that you would want to be on top. But I'm the top, see? I'm the sempai."

Ryoma blinked at this. He opened his mouth, but Momo waved off the argument.

"I know what you're going to say! You would insist that deciding with a tennis match would be only fair, but I am not going to end up on the bottom, with 'Twist serve!' echoing in my ears..."

Ryoma adjusted his cap, scratching his head. "Momo-sempai..."

Momoshiro held up a hand. "And I don't think you really want to be on the receiving end of my dunk smash, even though you may think you do right now. I admit you're very cute—"

"I—cute?" Whatever Ryoma was about to say was lost in the face of this announcement. His eyes narrowed dangerously. "What's cute about me?"

Momoshiro had to admit that the glare Ryoma was giving him right now wasn't very cute at all, and Momo groped for a response. "Well—er—uh—" he rubbed the back of his neck, embarrassed. "Ah...when you jump to serve, the way your shoelaces wiggle—that's cute," he offered weakly. Ryoma stared at him for so long without speaking that Momo began to feel nervous and scuffed his foot against the floor. "Um. And I like eating burgers and hanging out with you, but I think you ought to keep your focus on tennis," he glanced at the note again, "instead of 'imagining running your fingers through my perfect hair.'"

"But Momo-sempai!"

"No," Momoshiro said, stealing Ryoma's cap long enough to ruffle his hair affectionately. "You need to think about the next match, not...'kissing me heatedly until we both melt with love.' So let's just be friends, okay?" He gave Ryoma his patented thousand-kilowatt smile, hoping sincerely this wouldn't mess up their friendship too much. He really did like Ryoma.

Ryoma was bright red, looking up at Momo with horror. At least he wasn't crying, Momoshiro reflected ruefully. He hadn't wanted to embarrass Ryoma, but some of the things in that note were just too much! How did Echizen get such crazy ideas in his head?

Still, Ryoma wasn't saying anything, and Momo started to get a little anxious. Ryoma was pretty laconic at the best of times; Momoshiro hoped he hadn't sent the poor kid into shock. And what if Ryoma ended up giving him the silent treatment? He sure didn't want that...that would definitely be bad for team chemistry.

Worriedly, Momoshiro sat on the bench beside Ryoma and took his hand. "But maybe someday, okay?"

Ryoma stared at their joined hands, looking like Inui had just offered him a drink. "Maybe someday?" he repeated dubiously.

"Sure," Momo blurted. "I could see that. Kissing and everything. It wouldn't be too bad." Momo shifted uncomfortably. He had promised himself that he wouldn't kiss Ryoma. It would be taking advantage, and anyway, if the rest of the team found out they'd never let him live it down. But he couldn't stand to see Ryoma all dejected. It wasn't Ryoma's fault that Momo was so irresistible.

"You want to kiss me?" Ryoma glanced up at him and Momo twitched involuntarily. Something about Ryoma's eyes reminded him of a match...some spark of cunning or anticipation or whatever it was that went on in that almost scary, gifted brain. They gleamed, and Momo could almost hear the sound effect that would accompany it—zing. In the back of Momoshiro's head, alarms were going off. He'd seen that look too many times just before Echizen did something outrageous. But what did he have to be afraid of? They weren't playing against each other, and it was just Ryoma...


Ryoma reached up, yanked him down by the collar of his Seigaku jacket and kissed him. It didn't start out very good, but as Momo obediently kissed back (what else was he supposed to do, break the kid's heart?), Ryoma showed him just what a quick learner he could be. It hardly took a moment for Momo to give in and wrap Ryoma in a cuddly sort of embrace that would rarely have otherwise been tolerated. Before the kiss heated up too much, Ryoma pulled away and ran a fingertip over Momoshiro's lower lip.

"Do you like it?" Ryoma breathed.

Momoshiro moaned. "Yes," he added, all his good intentions leaping out the window at the sight of Ryoma's come-hither gaze and the teasing smirk hovering around the edges of his mouth. "Yes, yes, yes."

Ryoma smiled grimly. "Mada mada dane."


Standing up quickly, Ryoma snatched his tennis racket up from beside the bench and brought it down with a sweeping arc. Twang.

"Ow!" Momoshiro covered his head. "Hey—you messed up my hair! My you know how long it takes to get it perfect?"

"Stupid!" Ryoma shouted. "I didn't write you any love note!"


Ryoma yanked the paper away from him and flourished it in front of his face. "Look at this writing! Is this my writing? This note is from a girl! Stupid!"

Momoshiro leapt to his feet as Ryoma stormed out. "But it was in my locker! In the boys' changing room!"

"I didn't put it there! And you can go soak your head, 'perfect hair' and all!"

"Echizen...wait up!" Momo stopped to grab his own racket off the floor. It was just like Echizen to pull something that amazing and then walk away like it was nothing. Momo hurried after him, putting the note back in his pocket. Why had he thought it was from Ryoma, anyway? Momoshiro tapped a finger against his lips. Wishful thinking? He smiled a little. That kiss had been awfully good. Maybe deep down Momoshiro had known this was meant to happen.

And if it was meant to happen, Ryoma ought to just stop fighting it right now and give into...what had the note said? The sweet, sweet inevitability of their passionate love. Heh. Feeling cheerful, Momo walked with a bit more swagger as he trailed after Ryoma.

"You can't run away forever!" he called out. "I have stamina, and your legs are shorter!"

"Leave me alone, you pervert!"

"You kissed me first!"

"Don't yell things like that!"

Maybe Ryoma was angry with him right now, but Momo was sure he'd get over it. Ryoma might take advantage of an opponent's weakness, but he never walked away from a game before it was finished—and this was anything but finished. There was still the possibility of Momo scoring a point or two. For now, Momoshiro wasn't giving up. This was a match he was determined to win.