Alright this is the last chapter. Can you believe it? I hope you like this last chapter and had fun reading the story. And really thank you for all the reviews. This is my highest reviewed story yet!
Chapter #8: So We Finally Know
Echizen had immediately gone home, where his mom had yelled at him, his dad had made a few perverted comments, and he had been grounded for two weeks for skipping school. There wasn't any point in telling them that his crazy senpai had locked him in a closet in an attempt to match make him with Momo so he didn't bother. All he wanted to do was get up to his room and maybe stay there until the world started to make sense again. He didn't even mind that he was grounded because he usually would be hanging out with Momo and right then Momo was the last person he wanted to see.
How could Momo be in love with him? That just wasn't . . . well . . . it was unexpected at least. Even knowing about homosexuality now, Momo had been his last choice for the person to fall in love with him. The older boy just seemed so straight, what with all those girls literally throwing themselves at his feet.
And everybody had known this but him? Ryoma knew he wasn't exactly the most observant of people but he thought he would be able to recognize if someone was in love with him. That seemed a little too big to be able to hide. Though Momo had apparently managed to hide it even from himself so maybe Ryoma was wrong. Not that Momo was exactly Mr. Observant either.
But what really bothered him was the question of what to do now. What did Momo expect of him? What does a person say after they find out their best friend likes them a little more than they should?
Fuji had instigated this whole plan to get them together so obviously he thought Momo and Ryoma should do the whole dating thing, but what did Momo want? What did Ryoma want?
Obviously Fuji thought Ryoma had feelings for Momo too or else he wouldn't have tried to set them up. (Or would he have? You never know.) But was Fuji right? Did Ryoma like Momo like that?
Thinking about this, Ryoma finally had to say that maybe he did and maybe he didn't. Ryoma had absolutely no idea how he would know. It wasn't like he had a lot of experience with relationships before this after all. Sure girls had tried, but Ryoma had always either been ignorant of their feelings or too busy with tennis and Momo to care.
Why would he need a girlfriend anyways? What good were they? So they could be used for sex things, big deal. Ryoma had never exactly been all that interested in sex things and even if he had he'd always had a little trouble finding girls attractive. They just seemed strangely bulbous when compared to guys and what he was used to. They were all off-balance and lumpy and always insisting on spraying themselves with the smell of flowers of all things. Why flowers, he'd always wondered. Why not something that actually smelled good and wasn't so girly? Like hamburgers. Momo smelled like hamburgers sometimes.
Momo wrapping his arms around him and holding him close, his warmth and laughter, the smell of hamburgers and greasy fries and sweat.
Shaking his head, Ryoma blinked back to reality. That was weird. What the hell had that been?
He'd been thinking about girls. About how weird looking and girly smelling and all around boring they were. Ryoma frowned, rethinking that thought. Did that make him gay?
Thinking this over and running what he knew of homosexuality over in his mind, Ryoma had to say that maybe, probably, almost definitely, yes, it did.
But did that mean he was attracted to Momo?
"What do you think Karupin?" Ryoma asked his cat, who was curled up alongside him on his bed. "Do I like him?"
Karupin looked up and gave him a you-interrupted-my-nap-for-this-stupidity? look. "Meow."
Ryoma sighed and went back to petting Karupin's silky fur. "Yeah, I don't know either."
After Ryoma ran off, Momo decided to give the younger boy some time and then figured that he had put off going home for long enough. With a sigh, he said good-bye to his senpai and set off for his house where he was promptly yelled at and grounded for a week.
Now it was the next morning and Momo had spent the whole night fretting about what would happen when he got to school. Would Ryoma say anything? Would Ryoma try to avoid him? What if nothing changed and Ryoma decided to just ignore his accidental confession? Could he handle a brush-off like that?
Apparently yes, he could, as he'd discovered that morning during practice.
"Here's your bag," Ryoma said, coming up to Momo at practice and handing over Momo's bag.
"Ah. Thanks," Momo said, taking the bag from him.
Ryoma nodded and then turned around, apparently just going to leave it at that.
"What," Momo said, sounding confused. "That's it? No insults. No big 'stay away from me' speeches?"
Ryoma turned back to him and calmly raised a brow. "Did you want me to?"
"Well I want you to at least say something," Momo said.
"Like what?" Ryoma asked, still calmly and almost like Momo was being ridiculous for even caring.
"Well, you know," Momo said, able to come up with a few things but not sure if he should say them. "Maybe tell me to get lost or never speak to you again or maybe call me the scum from your shoes. Something like that. You know, get it over with. Don't just ignore me and leave me guessing and expect me to be okay with that."
At this, Ryoma frowned, his attention now caught. "Why would I say any of those things?"
"Oh I dunno," Momo said with a heavy sigh. "Maybe because you now hate me?"
"I don't hate you," Ryoma said.
"Well then why did you run away yesterday?" Momo asked, just daring Ryoma to answer that one.
Ryoma shifted on his feet uneasily and looked away with an uncomfortable shrug. "I dunno. What was I supposed to do?"
"Not run away," Momo said bluntly.
This made Ryoma turn back to Momo with a frown. Opening his mouth, he was about to say something to that when Nakayama-sensei, their coach, blew the whistle. Momo winced at the shrill sound and both Ryoma and him turned their heads to see what the coach wanted. It was time for practice.
Ryoma wasn't quite sure of what to think about Momo thinking he hated him. He didn't like it for one. It made him uncomfortable and he definitely wanted to clear up the misunderstanding, but he couldn't quite do that until he figured out just what he was feeling.
Did he like Momo? He knew he definitely cared about him—he was his best friend, of course he cared—but did he care about him in that particular way? And could he actually call that feeling love?
Ryoma didn't know so he ignored Momo for the rest of the day, retreating to the roof during lunch and making sure he wasn't at his locker long enough for Momo to catch up to him.
But then it was afternoon practice time and Ryoma couldn't quite avoid Momo during that. He could ignore him though so that was what he would do.
Coming up to the clubhouse, he thought he heard the distinct sound of muffled laughter and a few furiously hissed shushes before the laughter quieted. Wondering what was going on, Ryoma slowed his pace, not quite sure he wanted to go inside anymore. Obviously the senpai were planning something else. But when he paused at the doorway, somebody came up behind him and prodded him impatiently. "Are you going in or not?"
It was Momo and he didn't wait for Ryoma to answer, pushing past the younger boy to open the door and step through.
Almost automatically the laughter broke out again and Eiji said loudly, "Momo! Stay where you are!"
Momo immediately stopped in place, but looked confused. "Huh?"
"Stay where you are!" Eiji repeated, laughter in his voice, and then commanded, "And look up!"
Both Ryoma, still standing just outside the door, and Momo, standing right in the doorway, looked up. There hanging right above their heads was a branch of mistletoe.
"Mistletoe?" Momo said, sounding even more confused, and then poked at the small branch above his head curiously. "What's mistletoe doing here? It's the middle of May!"
Ryoma just closed his eyes and put a hand to his forehead. The senpai again. He couldn't believe this. They were still trying to get him and Momo together? And in such a stupid way too.
"Kiss! Kiss!" Eiji urged cheerfully.
Apparently starting to get what was going on here, Momo gave Eiji a truly irritated look. "I thought I told you all to stop messing with us."
Here Fuji spoke up, an innocent smile on his face. "Actually you never said anything of the sort."
Hearing this, Momo frowned and tried to remember everything he had said yesterday. Giving it up as useless, he finally shook his head and said, "Well I heavily implied it at least."
"Hmm. Maybe," Fuji allowed.
"So are you gonna kiss or not?" Eiji asked, starting to sound a little annoyed himself.
"Not," Ryoma said, eyeing Eiji flatly.
"But you have to!" Eiji complained, "It's mistletoe!"
"So?" Ryoma said, not caring. "It's not Christmas."
"So?" Eiji repeated back at him. "Who cares if it's Christmas. You still have to kiss."
Ryoma shook his head, remaining stubborn. "That only works at Christmas."
"No, it doesn't!"
"I'm gonna have to go with Echizen on this one," Momo said, "It's not Christmas so it doesn't count." He turned to eye the mistletoe. "We should probably take it down though, huh?"
"What? No!" Eiji shouted a little more frantically, seeing his plan going up in smoke. "You have to kiss!"
Ignoring him, Momo reached up for the mistletoe and grabbed it. "I'll go throw this away."
Seeing that his plan had failed, Eiji sighed and looked disappointed. Oishi patted him on the back comfortingly and that was okay, but he'd really wanted his plan to work.
They were so close. Momo had already confessed, even if it was accidental, so all they needed now was to push Ryoma over the edge and into the truth.
But how to do it?
Momo still wasn't quite at his best during practice. He'd been miserably distracted all throughout morning practice and he was only marginally better during the afternoon. Tezuka had to force him to run laps because it was clear that Momo's mind was not on tennis.
Momo's mind was actually on that short confrontation with Ryoma from that morning. He'd said he didn't hate him, but what did that really mean? Did he have a chance?
Momo didn't know and he obviously wasn't going to find out any time soon because before he could even get into the clubhouse after practice ended Ryoma was already dressed and gone.
Discovering this, Momo sighed and set off to go get his bike and start the trip home. Today was the first day of his being grounded so he wouldn't be able to go over to Ryoma's house and demand answers for at least a week. Maybe he'd be able to corner the brat tomorrow during school.
"He thinks I hate him, Karupin," Ryoma told his cat as he opened the door to his bedroom, careful not to step on Karupin as she rubbed up against his ankles. "Why would he think that? Do you know?"
Karupin looked up at him innocently and meowed softly. "Meow."
Ryoma sighed and closed the door quietly before dropping down onto his bed, emotionally exhausted by his day. "Why am I asking you? You weren't even there."
"Meow," Karupin agreed as she jumped up on his bed and head-butted his hip, clearly asking him to pet her so he did, running his hand through her thick silky fur.
"I just don't know what to do," Ryoma continued. "Do you have any ideas?" He paused in his petting to look down at his cat, who had climbed up onto his lap and was beginning to purr softly. Hearing his question, she opened her eyes to give him an impatient are-you-really-this-stupid? look.
Mistaking her look for anger at not being petted, Ryoma started to pet her again, frowning softly as he fell into his own thoughts.
Part of him wanted to just go up to Momo and tell him that they should just stay friends, that's it, nothing more, but another part of him, the part that was loudly protesting this first part and feeling almost pleased by Momo's confession, wanted to go up to Momo and tell him that he loved him too and say something like, "Let's get over the mushy part and just be an us." Because that was really all he wanted, to be able to hang out with Momo like they used to. He'd been happy like that, it just being him and Momo with no questions about what they were to each other and whether they were gay or straight or bi or asexual. Because did any of that really matter in the end?
Obviously it did to some people otherwise he wouldn't be in this predicament.
Of course then there was that third part, the logical, rational, part that told him that neither of the previous parts' action would get him what he wanted. If he told Momo they should just stay friends there would always be that tension that came of knowing how Momo felt and the possibilities that were there and not taken. But, on the other hand, telling Momo he loved him was not only possibly lying, but it would also lead to some strange new relationship with Momo where sex things were normal and he would be completely out of his depth.
Couldn't there be a middle road somewhere? Maybe a choice where he gave Momo a chance but told him to take the new sex things slowly? Would that work?
It would certainly make everybody involved happy. Momo because he was getting a chance and Ryoma because he was making Momo happy.
Ryoma smiled as he continued to softly pet Karupin. He had a plan.
But how to tell Momo?
Apparently Eiji and the other senpai hadn't quite given up on their mistletoe idea because almost every single door Ryoma came across the next day had mistletoe hung above it. It was starting to get really annoying, not that he had actually been kissing anybody because of it. Because honestly, who obeyed the rules of mistletoe in May?
"Horio! Horio! There's mistletoe! You have to kiss!"
Hearing this, Ryoma had to look up from his Science homework to find Horio stuck in the doorway with one of their female classmates. Ryoma tried to find her pretty and just couldn't do it.
"Kiss! Kiss!" the kids in the class urged and Horio obligingly leaned down the few inches and kissed the girl square on the mouth. Everybody burst out laughing as the girl screwed up her face in disgust and quickly wiped her mouth before hurrying out of the doorway and to her desk where a small crowd of her friends had gathered to giggle at each other.
Ryoma rolled his eyes and went back to the Science homework. Okay, so apparently some people still followed the rules.
He was able to avoid all other mistletoe experiences safely until lunch when he went in search of Momo. This search seemed to take a lot longer than expected and he finally found the other boy when Momo spotted him from a few yards away and shouted, "There you are! I've been looking all over for you!" before bounding over to Ryoma's side. "Come on," Momo said as he took Ryoma's arm and started to drag him over to a more private area. "Let's go somewhere quiet."
Not quite sure where this was going, Ryoma still decided to just go along with it because it served his own purposes in the end as well.
Finally they got to a spot under their usual tree, far away from all others, and Momo let go of his arm before turning to regard Ryoma seriously. "I just wanted to know one thing. What did you mean by the fact that you don't hate me?"
Ryoma frowned. "I mean I don't hate you."
"But does that mean I have a chance?" Momo looked so hopeful as he asked that, eyes wide and pleading.
Ryoma smirked at this and ducked his head. Sure he wanted to tell Momo he'd decided to give him a chance, but this sounded like he could have a little fun with it first. "I dunno. Can you stand being in a relationship with someone so young looking?"
Obviously not quite comfortable with having his words from two days ago being dragged into the here and now, Momo frowned and shifted uneasily. "You don't really look all that young looking," he finally said, "I may have been over-exaggerating just a little." He put up his thumb and forefinger, holding them close together to show just how little he meant.
Ryoma looked up at Momo with a raised brow. "Just a little?" he repeated.
Momo shuffled his feet and let his hand drop back down to his side, looking away from Ryoma and his raised brow. He clearly didn't like having to admit that he was wrong. "Okay a lot," Momo finally allowed.
Ryoma clasped his hands behind his back and rocked back and forth on his feet, holding his head so Momo couldn't see the growing smirk. "How do I know you're telling the truth? You seemed to believe yourself two days ago."
"I was just . . . you know . . . upset," Momo tried to tell him, still looking uncomfortable. "I don't exactly like being gay, you know."
Here Ryoma looked up at Momo with guileless eyes, holding back his amusement for now. "Is it because of me?" he asked innocently.
"What?" Momo asked, clearly not understanding where he had gotten that from. "No. No. Of course it's not because of you."
"Are you sure?" Ryoma asked, still innocently, rocking back and forth on the soles of his feet again, hands still clasped behind his back. He bit his lip to hold back the smirk that wanted to form. Momo looked so uncomfortable.
"Yeah," Momo said, eyes darting down to Ryoma's lips and then up again to meet Ryoma's eyes. "Yeah, of course I'm sure. Why would you even think that?"
"Oh you know . . ." Ryoma said, looking away. "I just—Ryoma couldn't help it. He snerked. Then, trying to remain serious, he schooled his face into an innocent look and continued again, "I just thought because you were so upset about my looks I—Ryoma bit his lip again to hold back the laughter. Momo was actually falling for this innocent act?
Momo looked confused by the laughter. "What are you—then he seemed to get it. "Why you little brat," he said loudly, almost angrily but Ryoma could hear the laughter behind it. "You were winding me up the whole time."
Smirking widely, Ryoma shrugged and didn't bother to look innocent of the crime. "Maybe."
"No. You were," Momo said, looking at Ryoma in disbelief. "I can't believe you. Here I am being absolutely serious about a serious subject and you're acting all innocent and playing games. Echizen."
Ryoma just looked at him. "You deserved it."
Momo looked incredulous. "What for?"
"For two days ago," Ryoma told him with a frown. "For acting like you were becoming a pedophile just because you liked me."
"Alright, alright," Momo said, allowing him that, "You got me. Now can we be serious for a minute?"
"Never thought I'd hear you say that."
Momo smiled. "Never thought I'd say it either." Then he got a serious look on his face. "But I am serious. Does not hating me mean that I have a chance?"
Ryoma sighed and looked off to the right before turning back to Momo. "Yeah. Yeah, it does." He didn't like being serious, but he guessed he could put up with it for a short while. "I already thought about it too."
Momo waited anxiously for him to continue. "And?" he pressed.
"And I say yeah."
Momo visibly brightened. "Really?"
Ryoma gave Momo a warning look and added onto his previous statement. "As long as we go slow. No rushing."
"Of course not," Momo said, scoffing as though the idea of doing otherwise had never occurred to him. "Who do you think I am? I have to get used to the idea of gay sex things just like you, you know."
Ryoma still didn't look like he quite trusted him. "Right." There was a pause, each of them not quite sure of what to do next, broken by a happy squeal coming from the tree above them.
Looking up quickly, they were surprised to find that Eiji was in the branches of the tree. "Kiss! Kiss!" Eiji urged.
Momo looked confused and a little disturbed. "What are you doing up there? Did you hear everything?"
Eiji looked sheepish and a little embarrassed for a moment before answering his first question. "I was trying to hang some mistletoe just in case you two ate lunch together here and I got stuck." He paused a moment before admitting, "I, um, can't get down."
"Do you want us to go get Oishi-senpai?" Momo asked.
Eiji shook his head quickly at this. "No you have to kiss first! Love confessions always have to end in a kiss!"
Ryoma and Momo each eyed the other, somewhat embarrassed to have an audience.
"Look!" Eiji said, holding out a branch of mistletoe so that it was hanging over their heads and shaking it. "Mistletoe! Now you have to kiss!"
That was enough for Momo. Smirking a bit, he grabbed Ryoma by the arm and pulled him in close, hesitating just a moment before dragging Ryoma into a kiss. Feeling Ryoma smile a bit into the kiss and wrap his other arm around Momo's neck to deepen it, Momo wrapped his own arm around Ryoma's waist and the two quickly got lost in each other.
"Woo Hoo!" they vaguely heard Eiji cheer them on, but wouldn't let that distract them. "Go Ochibi!"
Finally pulling back from the kiss, Momo and Ryoma each smiled. This seemed like the start of something great.
That cheesy enough of an ending for you?