A/N: Okay, so I attempted to write angst/fluff, which I fail at. Concrit is more than welcome. And as always, I never have and never will own PoT.
When they were still in the beginning stages of their friendship, one of the first things that Oishi noticed about Eiji was how much the redhead touched him. It seemed as if there was always a hand on his shoulder, someone constantly hugging him from behind, fingers perpetually wrapped around his wrist. There was nothing particularly special about this, he knew, considering Eiji acted that way with everyone. But honestly, it bothered Oishi. It wasn't that he was annoyed with his new friend's presence; he just didn't like to be touched. He was someone who needed personal space, and he was made increasingly uncomfortable by Eiji's continuous need for physical contact. He put up with it, though, because he didn't want to hurt Eiji's feelings.
Soon, however, he was beginning to grow accustomed to feeling the warmth of Eiji's hand on his skin, and slowly but surely, it made him less uneasy. He became used to that contingence, because it was so frequent in his life. He wasn't completely comfortable with it yet; he still valued his personal bubble. But he no longer tried to discreetly squirm away when his double partner draped himself over Oishi. It was commonplace, and Oishi came to expect it. It didn't feel awkward to him anymore, it merely felt normal.
As time progressed, Oishi didn't even think about it anymore. By their third year in middle school together, he had even come to enjoy the little touches that he and Eiji shared. Oishi would grasp his partner's hand without a second thought, and when Eiji would hang from Oishi's shoulders, grinning at him, Oishi would smile back just as genuinely. All of it, down to their fingers brushing together or their knees bumping, was comforting to Oishi. His need for personal space was now replaced by a longing for that closeness. He treasured the relationship that they shared.
But Oishi had a problem. Eiji wasn't touching him anymore. He hadn't in days.
This lack of contact was as discomforting— maybe more so —as the presence of it had once been. He couldn't remember a time during their friendship when Eiji hadn't been there to happily invade his personal bubble, and now that he didn't mind it, and it was gone, he wanted it, needed it. It felt so odd to be without it. Eiji had been behaving strangely these past few days— abnormally self-restrained and almost… stiff. It wasn't right. It felt as if there was a large distance between them, and Oishi felt out of synch.
Whatever it was that was bothering Eiji, he needed to fix it.
They won, but just barely. Normally, they could win easily against Inui and Kaidoh, but today, it had been more difficult. Oishi attributed it to Eiji's problem, whatever it might be, because it was throwing off their balance. But still, their combination was strong enough to win even when they weren't at their best, and the loss of a few more points than normal was nothing to be worried about. That's what he told himself, despite whether or not he truly believed it.
He walked up to Eiji, who was still facing the net, and placed his hand on the redhead's shoulder. The other boy turned around immediately, breaking the contact, and looked at Oishi. Eiji's grin was weak at best, and blue eyes weren't meeting green ones. Oishi resisted the urge to furrow his brow; he needed to act normally right now.
"Good match, Eiji!" he exclaimed, raising his hand for a high five.
Eiji looked up, eyes darting from Oishi's hand to his face, and then lifted his hand hesitantly, fingers forming a thumbs-up. "Thanks, Oishi. You too," he replied, smiling to hide what was bothering him. He took a few steps before doing a cartwheel, and then walking towards the benches. Oishi sighed, following him off the courts. Even with this charade, Eiji's lack of his normal exuberance was blatant.
Eiji lifted a water bottle from the bench, taking a sip, and then pouring some over his face, the lukewarm liquid rolling over his skin. Oishi stopped a short distance away, watching him for a moment. He lifted his foot to take another step forward, but then settled it back down on the ground. Fuji had come over to Eiji, saying something to him, and smiling as always. Eiji's face lit up as he talked to the other boy, talking excitedly about something and acting as animated as ever, as if nothing was wrong. He saw Eiji smile brightly at something, Fuji chuckling softly, and then stared in confusion as Eiji hugged Fuji tightly.
That effervescence wasn't fabricated, and the sincerity that Oishi saw in it confounded him even further.
The corners of his mouth tugged down as the confusion settled deeper in his mind. He had thought that Eiji had been separating himself from everyone, but maybe he had just imagined that… Maybe Eiji was only acting strangely around him. Oishi bit his lip, forehead wrinkling in befuddlement. Had he done something to upset Eiji? To made him mad, angry? He couldn't think of anything. He directed his gaze back to the bench and watched as Fuji sauntered away from the redhead. He sighed. He had to deal with this now, before it got any worse.
His steps were slow as he approached his doubles partner, his insecurity showing in the way he walked. He didn't quite know how he was going to bring this up, but he didn't stop walking. Oishi had never needed to think about what he was going to say to Eiji beforehand, so why start now?
He halted when he was still a few feet away from Eiji, not wanting to make his doubles partner uncomfortable. He clenched and unclenched his fists at his side, and then took a deep breath. It was just Eiji; he shouldn't be so nervous. "E-Eiji…!" he said, a bit louder then he had meant it to be.
The red head of hair whipped around, and Eiji looked at Oishi with curiosity. "Nya, Oishi, what is it?" he asked, kneeling down to pull one shoelace loose, and then tightening it before retying it. Oishi assumed it was an excuse to not look him in the eye.
"Eiji…Did I…" he began, taking a step closer and then squatting so that he was level with the other boy, "Did I… do something wrong? Are you mad at me?"
Eiji looked up, eyes widened in surprise. "Of course not, Oishi!" he replied.
"I… It's just... I thought I might have done something to upset you," Oishi explained, looking down to the ground.
"Oishi… I'm not mad at you," Eiji assured him, grinning to show that he was being honest.
"Well, then what's wrong?" he asked, meeting Eiji gaze.
"Huh? Nothing's wrong, nya," the redhead told him, and Oishi sighed, wishing Eiji would just be upfront.
"Eiji… I know something's bothering you, so would you please just tell me?" he pleaded.
"Silly, Oishi," Eiji teased, "I'm fine, believe me."
"Eiji, you've been avoiding me lately," Oishi responded.
"Avoiding you? What do you mean I've been avoiding you? We just played a match, and before that—"
"You haven't been touching me!" Oishi yelled, wishing he had been quieter in the next moment when heads turned to stare at them.
"What!?" Eiji demanded, staring wide-eyed at his doubles partner.
"I mean…," he began, hushing his tone to keep his voice from being heard by those who had now taken an interest in their conversation, "You haven't been touching me like you normally do, like putting your hand on my shoulder and hanging from me. You were sitting two feet away from me on the bench earlier! I thought it was because you were angry at me."
Eiji bit his lower lip, and turned his gaze away. "It wasn't because I was mad at you."
"Then why?" Oishi asked.
"It's just…" Eiji began, "It's because of my brother! He told me the other day that's it not normal how much I touch and hug other guys! He said it was weird, and I thought that you might think it was weird too, so I was trying to stop."
Oishi frowned. "But… you just hugged Fuji," he pointed out.
Eiji looked up at him again, his gaze earnest. "But it's different with Fujiko, nya. He's not my doubles partner," Eiji explained, voice quiet.
Oishi's eyes softened, and smiling, he pulled Eiji into a hug, the redhead letting out a small noise of surprise. "Eiji, don't listen to your brother. I liked things the way they were before. That was normal, no matter what he tells you. It was better that way," he said, and felt Eiji relax in his arms, nuzzling his forehead slightly against Oishi's shoulder.
Oishi smiled. This was much better.