Fuji craned his head upwards so that his face was to the welcome warmth of the sun. Standing besides him was Eiji, his hands in his pockets, the headphones of his IPod in his ears as he listened to music. Fuji briefly entertained himself with the thought that Eiji's favorite song was a medley of mewing kittens. That would certainly explain why Eiji had decided to suddenly go into a cat language during a friendly street tennis match the day before. Shaking himself from his thoughts of Eiji and cats, the brown haired prodigy shifted the bulging, white shopping bags he held from one hand to another (Eiji had a matching set, as well) as he turned his face down the street, smiling eyes searching for the bus and the two boys' ride home.
"It's late," he grumbled, shifting the heavy grocery bags yet again. Another good reason not to take the faculties offered for public transportation: they were never on time, and what time there was was wasted waiting for it. "I don't see why Nee-san couldn't have given us a ride home," he continued to grumble, looking quite sulky indeed. But no, Fuji Yumiko had simply smiled when Fuji had made his request, and had said, very sweetly, that she would be busy with work and that he should take the bus home.
They could probably walk to the Fuji residence, but that idea had been shot down by Eiji, who was loathe to walk the entire way over to his friend's house with extremely heavy grocery bags.
Half an hour later, the two boys were walking down Fuji's street, Fuji going on a tireless monologue about the unreliability of public buses, that was, until Eiji brought him back to reality, courtesy of his loud voice. "Miho!" he called, waving madly. When the girl saw him and waved back, he shot off like a cannon towards her, grocery bags and all. "Miho! Miho! How are you? How was your day? Would you like to help me carry some of these bags? Of course you would, because Miho loves to help people!" So saying, he dumped one of the large bags into the arms of a puzzled Miho, chattering on happily as he did so. "Nya, Miho, what are you doing over here?" Eiji asked curiously, breaking off from his ramblings. "And you have a bag as well! What's in it?" Eiji's attention was directed to the backpack slung casually over her shoulder.
"I'm going over to Asa-chan's house to convince her to come to today's summer festival."
"Oh…" Eiji was silent for a moment vefore he brightened up. "Great! Fujiko-chan and I will come and help as well! We can back the cake at her house, too!" Conveniently, the redhead failed to mention that there would be a good chance of the oven exploding with Fuji cooking.
Miho, however, looked thrilled. "Great!" she exclaimed as well, clapping her hands together. "The more the merrier! We'll help with the cake as well!"
It sounded like a good plan, and so the three of them marched purposefully down the street towards on unsuspecting Asa's house.
The door to the Ijuuin house was opened by a girl who looked like she had just crawled out of bed. Fuji scolded her lightly as she let them in, looking puzzled as to why she was getting a sudden visit. When she asked, all she got was a response of "Summer Festival! Summer Festival!" as Fuji and Eiji set up in her kitchen, leaving her with Miho in the living room.
"I'll go make some tea!" Asa offered, starting for the kitchen.
Miho beat her to it. "I'll make it!" she said brightly, bypassing her. "Sit down and rest, Asa-chan!"
"You make me sound like an old lady, Miho-chan," Asa complained, but nonetheless she obeyed, sitting on the couch and listening to the sounds coming from the kitchen. She smiled slightly as she heard Eiji chatter on happily to his baking partner about the cake they were going to make. Fuji laughed in response, and then there was a faint tinkling of glassware as Miho made tea. Presently, she returned to the living room with a laden tray.
"Here you are!" Miho set the tray onto the coffee table and busied herself with pouring the warm, amber liquid. "Would you like milk? Sugar?"
"Um… just plain will do." Asa accepted the drink and cradled it in her hands. "Really, though," she muttered, "you shouldn't have done it. It's rude to make a guest work. Now I feel guilty."
Miho pounced on those words. "Perfect! How about you work off that guilt and do a favor for me?"
Miho grabbed her backpack from where she had placed it on the couch, unzippering it and digging through its contents like a frenzied dog. "Here! You have two hours to read all of these books. They're very important; don't skip anything!" Among the titles that she dumped on her hapless friend was Skating for Beginners, A Beginner's Guide to Ice-skating, and The Art of Figure Skating. But before she could even crack open one of the books, there was an explosion in the kitchen.
Eiji's indignant voice drifted from the kitchen to their ears. "Oi, Fuji, what did you put in this cake? Gunpowder?" Miho and Asa exchanged quizzical (albeit worried) glances before standing up and making their way to the two sputtering boys.
The kitchen… was an utter disaster. Cake batter dripped off the counter, the stove, the open oven, Fuji, and Eiji. Trails of powdery white flour littered the countertop, the floor, Fuji, and Eiji (no surprise there). If Asa hadn't been fully awake when she let her friends in her house no more than twenty minutes ago, she was now. Her eyes flitted around the devastated room, not lingering on one spot for more than a few moments. Standing in the center of the mess, Fuji and Eiji fidgeted nervously as they waited for the verdict.
Said verdict was nothing like they thought it would be. Both Miho and Asa nearly collapsed laughing, leaving the boys dumbfounded (and it wasn't often that Fuji was dumbfounded) and annoyed. "It's not funny!" they argued in their defense.
Asa covered her mouth in an attempt to stifle her giggles, while Miho tried to mask her laughs as coughs. Crying tears of mirth, Asa edged cautiously into the messy kitchen. Fuji watched her progress with an adorable look of absolute confusion on his face. "Look at yourself," she scolded, reaching up and brushing a few wisps of his hair from his face. Her fingers came back sticky with batter. "You're dripping in batter. It makes it hard to figure out who's the one being baked: the cake itself or you two!" She stepped back, frowning slightly as she took in the state he was in and then that of Eiji's. "You guys will have to clean up. I think Otou-san won't mind if you borrow something for the mean time until you can change into a new set of clothes. Don't they look like walking cakemen, Miho-chan?"
"Yeah! They do look quite like it."
Asa proceeded to shoo the two boys out into the hall and up the stairs. "Wait one moment! I'll see if I can find something to fit you!" She scampered off to find the promised garments, leaving Eiji and Fuji to drip cake batter over the floor. "Don't worry about the mess; I'll clean it up later. These should be able to fit you two. Just come back downstairs when you're finished; Miho and I will take care of the cake." And then she was heading back downstairs before they could even squeak out a word of protest.
"Well… I guess there's nothing else we can do about it, is there?" Fuji asked with a little shrug. "Do you want to go first?" he offered. Eiji grinned at him and then bounced into the bathroom, shutting the door with a gentle click. Fuji settled himself into the floor and tried to limit his dripping cake batter to as small a space as possible. So when Eiji came out of the shower with all the cake batter washed off him, he found his friend curled up into a little ball.
"Nya, Fujiko…" Eiji muttered, poking him. "You'll freeze into a cake statue if you don't wash off all of that batter."
"Ah… is that so?" Fuji asked, uncurling himself and vanishing into the bathroom. "We wouldn't want that to happen, now, would we?" The door shut and then Eiji heard the water running as Fuji started his shower. Giving his wet hair one last rub with his towel, he bounced downstairs into the kitchen.
Half of the mess was already cleaned up courtesy of Miho's diligence in cleaning, and Asa was manning the counter as she mixed up another bowl of cake batter. She looked up when she heard Eiji enter the kitchen and flashed a smile. "There's tea, Eiji-kun," she offered, gesturing to the tea set on the kitchen table. Eiji thanked her before pouring himself a cup. "Um… what exactly is this Summer Festival?" she ventured forth, looking curiously at the boy as she stirred.
Eiji looked up from his tea with a thoughtful expression on his face. "Well… it's a Summer Festival," he offered. Miho offered a small snort from the floor as she worked to clean up the last of the mess. "Tezuka said that we did well during the Nationals, so he offered that we go ice-skating," he said cheerfully. Of course, it also helped that Fuji and Eiji had "softened him up," so to speak, beforehand, but she didn't need to know that. And Miho definitely didn't need to know that, otherwise she would pester him continuously on how he did it.
"Well… that sounds fun," Asa mused, returning to her stirring. That would certainly explain why Miho had dumped all of those ice-skating related books on her shortly before. "Is Miho-chan going as well, then?" she asked, pouring it out into a cake pan.
"Yeah! And you can come, too!" Eiji said brightly, picking up his cup again and sipping at the warm liquid. "It'll be fun! We can teach you how to skate if you don't know how!"
"Don't worry! Don't worry!" Eiji said. "I'm sure Fujiko-chan would love to teach you! Doesn't he strike you as the teacher type?"
In the shower, Fuji had to pause while lathering his hair with shampoo to sneeze. Oh my… someone's talking about me behind my back, he thought, rinsing the soap suds of his body. It might be Eiji, now that I think of it… he's probably chattering off his head in front of Miho. Shutting off the water, he got out of the shower and dried himself off, satisfied now that he wasn't covered in cake batter. Dressing in the borrowed clothes, he headed downstairs to find that Eiji was indeed chattering on.
Eiji was in the middle of a lecture as Fuji walked into the now spotless kitchen. "Because Fujiko-chan is a tensai, after all!" he was saying, "A tensai can do anything!"
Fuji sneezed again and Eiji whipped around to find the genius standing in the doorway. "Just because I'm called a genius doesn't mean I can do anything," he said amiably. "For instance," here he held up a finger and wagged it gently from side to side, "I can't fly. Ooh… is that tea?" He poured himself a cup and sipped happily. "I can skate though," he added, almost as an afterthought.
"That's good enough; you can teach Aa-chan! She's coming to the skating session, and then she's going to celebrate the rest of the Festival with us!"
"I don't remember ever agreeing to that…"
Fuji laughed. "Whatever you say, Aa-chan," he teased, grinning at her, "it's fruitless. You're going, the end."
She had nothing to say to this, and that ended the discussion.
Asa laced up her skates and then made her way slowly to the rink. She was hesitant to actually go on the ice, as it was slippery, cold, slippery, wet, did she mention slippery? "Do I have to do this?" she asked some random person who was standing next to her, and received an odd look from that person before she was pushed out onto the ice.
Fuji wagged a finger in her face when she turned around and gave him a sulky glare. "Of course you do, Aa-chan," he said brightly, stepping out after her and gliding up besides her, adjusting his scarf to a more comfortable position around his neck. "It's not that hard. I'll teach you, all you have to do is hold on to me." He grabbed her hand and began moving forward, and she was reduced to clinging desperately to him as if her life depended on it. She swore he was laughing at her as he moved along, from the way his shoulders were shaking.
There was suddenly a shriek and when the two of them turned around, they found Eiji trying his ultimate best to teach Miho how to skate without toppling completely onto her face. "Poor Miho-chan doesn't look too coordinated on the ice…" Asa said softly, although she really shouldn't be saying anything on the subject, as she wasn't that coordinated herself.
"Eiji looks like he's having fun," Fuji noted brightly. "Let's join them." And without warning, he turned and headed in their direction, which was at the other end of the rink.
Miho looked up from her seat on the ice as Fuji and Asa came up. Fuji's smile was mischievous, and Asa looked like she wanted nothing more than to bolt from the place. "Hey!" she said brightly, pushing herself up. Kaidoh and Inui passed them on their trip around the rink, Inui giving his junior a lecture on the proper forms of ice-skating so that he could go extremely fast and use the least amount of power in doing so. Next, Tezuka skated around with Echizen, listening as the rookie spoke about some new topic tennis related. And then there was Oishi and Taka-san, the former lecturing the latter yet again about the dangers of being too reckless out on the courts and hitting too many too-powerful shots. Momo clung to the boards for all he was worth, looking exceedingly nervous.
"Oishi never stops, does he?" Eiji asked cheerfully, tucking his hands behind his head as he watched his doubles partner. "No wonder he's Seigaku's Mother Hen! He's such a worrywart!" As soon as those words left his mouth, Oishi sneezed, tripping over his own feet and landing flat on his back. Startled, Eiji hurtled over to the downed Oishi, wailing apologies as he did so. Fuji laughed as Tezuka and Echizen paused their rather one-sided conversation and looked over; Tezuka's face had a look on it that raked through Fuji, as if scanning him to see if he was guilty enough to be assigned laps around the ice rink.
"It wasn't me," Fuji offered, waving cheerfully at his captain. Tezuka just gave a shake of his head before continuing on with his skating. "Tezuka really needs to stop frowning all the time. Skating is supposed to be fun, not torture." By this time Asa and Miho had inched their way over to Eiji and Oishi, and were asking how he was. Oishi was fine, thankfully, although he would most likely be sprouting several large bruises the next morning.
"Honestly, Eiji," the egghead sighed, shaking his head as he dusted the massive amounts of snow off of him. "Must you go about talking about people behind their backs?" For answer, Eiji simply grinned and flashed his victory sign in Oishi's face.
For the next half hour, they skated (or tried to skate, at least) until it was time for the ice cut. Momo was obviously very happy with this decision, and collapsed on a chair and gave an exhausted sigh. "I'm never going to go skating ever again," he groaned, 'Never again…"
Eiji was ecstatic as he took out a round box. "Let's eat, let's eat!" he exclaimed. "Fujiko-chan and I tried to bake a cake, but we kind of failed… so Aa-chan and Miho baked one for us."
Tezuka frowned. "When you say 'fail', how exactly did you fail?" Because this was Fuji they were talking about, so it was natural for him to worry.
Fuji grinned like an impish child. "The oven exploded," he said, sounding as though ovens exploded on a daily basis (they probably did, what with Fuji's recent discovery on his inability to bake cakes). Tezuka sighed; he had right to worry. "But it's alright! It got cleaned up thanks to Miho-chan." He cut the cake into pieces for all of them and then handed them out. "Have a slice," he offered to his captain.
"You know I don't like sweets."
Those blue eyes opened and stared at him sternly. "Saa… you wouldn't want to waste Miho-chan's and Aa-chan's efforts, now, would you? It's delicious." When Tezuka refused again, Fuji frowned, taking the slice of cake and loading a portion onto a fork. "Open," he commanded, and when Tezuka gave him a glare and was about to say something to deter him, he popped the forkful of dessert into his mouth. Once that was done, he poked the fork into the slice of cake. "Now you have no choice but to eat the cake," he said, placing the plate into Tezuka's lap. Asa and Miho sighed in unison as Fuji continued his task of divvying up the cake.
"I brought sushi," Taka offered. His teammates gave happy little exclamations before falling on the sushi like a pack of hungry wolves.
"It's really good!" Momo said happily, stuffing another sushi into his mouth.
"Boys are so enthusiastic about food, aren't they?" Miho asked brightly. She had packed her own bento, and now she took the liberty of unwrapping it to eat. "Want a dango, Asa-chan?" She held up a rice dumpling. "Nii-san made them this morning because he said he wanted a different taste today, so I'm not sure how it will taste. But it looks nice, ne?"
"Yeah… I'll try one." She took the dumpling and popped it into her mouth, chewing thoughtfully. "Mmm! It's really good! I didn't know that Oshitari-kun was such a good cook."
Miho grinned. "Surprising, isn't it? Eiji's a good cook, as well… as long as he's not cooking with Fuji-kun." She glanced at the two boys, noting how Fuji kept on teasing Tezuka as the captain ate his way through the slice of cake and how Eiji chatted happily with Oishi as they ate what was left of the sushi. Inui was talking to Taka about some topic or another, with Momo and Kaidoh interjecting occasionally. "Tennis is an amazing thing, if it is able to bring together so many different personalities. Through practicing together, winning together, and losing together, everyone understands each other better. Problems are approached and overcome together." She sighed and packed up her finished lunch. "If only all of the world's problems could be solved through the use of tennis… what a world that would be!"
It was obvious that Miho had never encountered someone like Akutsu Jin before on the tennis courts.
A/N: It's a little too long for an omake, isn't it? Whoops.... ^^; Please read and review! Thank you very very much!
The sequel is coming along nicely, although it's really slow in coming. Please hang around and read it when it's up! Thanks!