Author's Note: Hi again everyone! …Well, in the tradition of The Other Half, we shall begin with Oishi. And there will indeed be interludes with the other Seigaku regulars we have come to know and love, hopefully almost all of them this time since this will probably go on longer than the prequel. Anyway, I hope you all enjoy!
Chapter One: Rain I Desire
I need to let go
Need to want to keep letting you know
That we both have a reason to follow
Long as we let this lead
-Sara Bareilles, "Morningside"
The rain pattered gently against the windows of my room, my roommate chatted in lowered tones on the phone, and the clock silently turned over from 2:12 to 2:13. It was hard to tell that time was passing. How could anyone be certain without the seconds ticking by to prove it?
I made a visible effort to hide my impatience. I was nearly an adult, after all. I should be able to be patient instead of fidgeting and asking when it was going to be time yet like a little kid.
2:14. Hadn't it been 2:14 for ten minutes now? That's it. I'm getting a non-digital watch tomorrow.
My roommate shoved his cell phone into his pocket and turned to me with a grin. "All right! It's a go. After class today I'll be heading over to Hokuto's for Golden Week."
I turned away from the persistently unmoving clock and pressed my hands together in gratitude. "You are a lifesaver, Hashimoto."
"Hardly. I should be thanking you." Hashimoto's grin grew sly. "You gave me a tailor-made excuse to spend the entire week at my girlfriend's apartment."
"Good for you. So you're a lifesaver getting his just rewards."
"That I am indeed." Hashimoto began to gather his books up from his desk and looked around the room anxiously for a moment. "Oishi, have you seen my book bag?"
"I put it on the hook on the back of the door."
"Thanks. You're almost as good as my mom at things like that." As he went back to putting together his things for class, Hashimoto asked absently, "Hey, your friend isn't going to destroy my bed, is he? I don't want to have to disinfect it or anything when I get back."
"Absolutely not. He gets my bed."
"Oh, good. I trust you with my stuff more than some stranger."
I chose to not say anything and simply responded with a faint hum of agreement before looking back at the clock. Time passes more quickly when there's something to distract you. It was now 2:19.
...oh, no way
I jumped up from my seat and searched around frantically for my jacket before remembering that it was hanging on the back of my chair where it always was. Hashimoto stared at me for a moment, completely perplexed, and suddenly laughed. "Wow, Oishi, I've never seen you caught by surprise before. I thought that was like death for a medical student."
"Kinesiology isn't the same as being pre-med," I corrected automatically as I tugged my shoes on and knelt to tie them. "I'm running late. I was supposed to leave at 2:15."
"The train is only a ten minute walk away," my roommate pointed out with a frown. "Isn't you friend getting in at 2:30?"
"He should be here at 2:35, actually, but he could get there early." I quickly double-checked my pockets to make sure I had my wallet and keys with me. "Besides, something could delay me."
Hashimoto shook his head in disbelief. "You're worried about being late and you're leaving with enough time to still be there ten minutes early. Amazing, Oishi."
When I was sure I hadn't forgotten anything, I pulled an umbrella out of the stand by our shoes and opened the door. "And you have five minutes before your professor locks you out of class."
The door closed on a string of curses that could peel paint from the walls as Hashimoto scrambled for the last of his things.
It wasn't actually raining outside, but the clouds were low and the air heavy with humidity, the kind of weather that promised persistent, miserable drizzle in place of a more enjoyable shower or thunderstorm. Still, even the weather could not dampen my mood. Minutes before I had been anxious and impatient. Now I was anxious, impatient, and more excited than I would have ever thought possible.
The university did not have classes during Golden Week, of course, and it was always nice having time off for the holidays. My parents had been content to let me stay on campus as my request, especially after seeing how much studying I had to do even during breaks the last time I had been home. With Hashimoto's girlfriend agreeing to let him stay with her, everything had fallen into place, save for one last important ingredient.
The subway station was crowded as always and the crush of anxious university students hurrying off for their week of idleness made it even more difficult to navigate without running into others than usual, but I didn't feel as guilty at bumping into the strangers there as I did every other time. I was just as excited as they were, maybe even more so, though I didn't know what they were all going off to do themselves. I was simply in too good of a mood to worry unless someone actually told me off, and since no one did, I didn't bother worrying.
Besides, if I stopped and apologized to everyone I ran into, like I had most of my life until starting at the university, who knew how long it might have taken me to get anywhere. I'd had to learn that the hard way during my first couple of weeks of school…it hadn't mattered how early I arrived at my stations, I'd been late everywhere because I had to say I was sorry to so many people, and since they never responded except to stare at me like I was insane, I'd finally forced myself to stop. Anyway, there was no way I was going to be late for this. I'd probably go crazy if I had to wait much longer.
At last I arrived at the platform for the train I needed, and for a moment I felt a surge of panic that I wouldn't be able to find him in the crowd. This was one of the express trains that ran outside of Kyoto and so it was much more crowded than usual with all of the students who were traveling back to their families or outside retreats for the week. There were so many people…what if I missed him somehow in the crowd? What if the train had actually come early and we had somehow passed each other by? I fumbled for my cell phone, suddenly convinced I needed to make a call right away, and before I could flip it open a new train pulled into the station.
I hesitated as people poured out of the doors and tried to make out which train it was from a distance. A moment later, there was a ripple of movement at one of the doors and one of the passengers shoved their way onto the platform and began pushing their way through the crowd as quickly as possible. A grin spread over my face and I dropped my phone back into my pocket, hooking the umbrella over my arm so that my hands were completely free when Eiji finally broke free of the crowd, dropped his bag to the ground with a crash, and threw himself at me with a shout. "Surprise!"
I staggered a bit under the weight of my old friend but the gesture was still so familiar it almost hurt. "You caught an earlier train."
"I did!" Eiji fell back and reached for his bag without looking behind him, practically beaming at me in pride. "I got to the station early so I wouldn't be late, and here I am." His grin faded and he suddenly frowned at me. "You're here early, too," he accused. "I was going to surprise you."
The station was suddenly way too warm, and I tugged at the hem of my jacket so that Eiji wouldn't see my expression. "Well, I didn't have anything going on so, ah, I just thought there wasn't any point in sitting around…"
Eiji kept his arms crossed, but his expression went sly. "You missed me that much?"
"No!" I answered too quickly, and wanted to kick myself. "I mean, of course I did, but that isn't why I'm here early."
From the look on Eiji's face, I could tell he wasn't fooled. I was never going to hear the end of this. "You just couldn't wait to see me, hmm, Syuichirou?"
"You couldn't, either, if you caught the earlier train!" I protested, but it was only half-hearted at best. The sound of my name coming from this young man I hadn't seen in what seemed like years was all that was needed to make the moment absolutely perfect.
The missing piece was back in my life.
I took Eiji's bag from him and smiled back at him. "Come on. The faster you unpack, the sooner I can show you around."
Eiji's face lit up again. "Eh? Show me around where? Hey, do I get to meet your roommate?"
"Probably, but he's staying with his girlfriend this week. She lives off campus."
"Hmmm? Really?" Eiji asked slyly as we made our way up the stairs towards the main station and the exits.
I shot him a look. "Pervert."
"Of course, nya!" Eiji laughed at the look of exasperation I sent him and unhooked the umbrella from my arm, tapping it in front of him as he walked like a cane. "Taka says hi, by the way. We might have to keep him as a cook or something one of these days. He feeds me better than my mom does at home."
"I'm not surprised."
"No, really, he's gotten a lot better! He's started making Western food when we have the extra grocery money and it's better than going to the restaurants even. I was actually surprised." With a twirl of the umbrella, Eiji went off on a monologue about Taka's cooking that quickly turned into stories about his classes, complaints about how the roller coast in Tokyo Dome city was a complete let-down, and something about Fuji and his professors in America refusing to let him in class. I nodded and answered the questions he occasionally asked but other than that there was no room for me to speak. Not that I minded. I was more than happy to just walk with Eiji and listen to him, right beside me, warm and smiling and real and…just…there, with me.
My sister used to tease me about being a hopeless romantic when it came to my former doubles partner, until she started dating in junior high and Eiji turned the tables on her whenever he had the chance. If she could have seen me then, she wouldn't have been able to resist giving me a hard time. I wouldn't have blamed her, either. I was surprised Eiji hadn't teased me longer himself. But I couldn't help myself. I was happy at school and my friends there were as good as any I had made in junior high and high school, but Eiji wasn't there and now that he was…well, suddenly I couldn't even imagine how I'd made it through the months without him actually physically there with me.
It was strange…when we were in high school, during our second year we'd taken some time off from each other, not for any real reason but because we both knew we would be leaving for university in only a couple of years and neither of us had ever been in a relationship with anyone else but each other, so we had decided to break things off to see what happened. I don't think either of us was happy with the decision, and I know that the one time I saw Eiji with someone else I had wanted to strangle both of them, but even then he had still been there, my best friend and the person I trusted more than anyone else in my life. We lasted three months before realizing that nothing had really changed at all…we still met up for lunch almost every single day, spent more time with each other outside of school than with any of our other friends or few romantic interests, went to each other first whenever we had important news, everything we had been doing from the moment we first started playing together back at Seigaku. We both stayed late after tennis practice one day, me to help clean the clubhouse and he to finish running some extra laps. Eiji had stolen my uniform shirt as a joke, I simply took his and put it on like it was my own, he complained that he couldn't wear mine because of the smell, and when I asked him what smell he was talking about, he crossed his arms and answered, "Yours, of course!"
"Mine?" I almost laughed. "That's not your best comeback, Eiji."
"Well, it's true," he retorted. "You have a very distinctive smell. It never changes."
I couldn't think of anything to say to that at all. My partner had fallen silent as well. He looked more embarrassed than I could ever remember seeing him, and since Eiji really had no shame it was more than a little bit strange to see him that flustered. Even so, his eyes were focused and clear when he looked at me, unflinching and intense and so blue it hurt to look at them. "This is pointless, isn't it?"
"What is?" I knew exactly what he meant, but the words spilled out before I could think.
Eiji had just rolled his eyes, shook his head, and sent me an expectant look. I don't know which of us kissed the other first, but it didn't really mater. We had months worth of them to make up anyway.
After that we hadn't even bothered to worry about what would happen when it was time to leave high school behind, even when I was accepted into Kyoto University and Eiji decided to stay and go to Bunkyo back home in Tokyo. We called each other almost daily, emailed each other constantly, or at least Eiji did me...it was a bit difficult to take notes in class and write a message on my phone at the same time, but since Eiji never waited for me to answer before sending his next email it didn't seem to bother him much.
But still, I hadn't actually seen Eiji since I had left for Kyoto at the beginning of the term. When he told me he had saved up enough money from his part time job to take a trip for Golden Week, I didn't even think before suggesting he come down to Kyoto. I'd missed him. It was that simple. I just hadn't realized how much until that moment when he was there with me again.
"Syuichirou? Hooooiii?" Eiji leaned in front of me and pressed his nose up against mine. "Earth to Syuichirou, is anyone home?"
I blinked and stepped back. "Ah, sorry, Eiji. You lost me somewhere around California."
"No kidding! That was a while ago. We're back in Kyoto now." Eiji bounced ahead a few steps and began walking backwards, staring at me intently the entire time. "I asked you what building you live in."
I winced as two girls turning the corner just barely missed running into my friend and glared at him as they walked past us. "It's on the next block. Eiji, maybe you should watch where you're going."
"Why? I don't know where we're going anyway. You can watch for me." Eiji grinned and stretched his arms above his head carelessly, nearly hitting another passerby with the end of the umbrella in the process. I groaned and hoped that we'd even make the remaining block without him knocking someone into traffic.
Still, Eiji was there, even if he was currently an accident waiting to happen, and he was smiling at me. I wouldn't have rather been anywhere else right then, not for anything in the world.