This is a requested story I have written for my wonderful friend, Ironically Yours. The request was something involving Golden Pair and jealousy, so I've put this story together. It took me longer than it should have to get it done, but I'm happy with the result. I hope everyone, especially Ironically Yours, enjoys it, and as always reviews are very much appreciated. This is the first Prince of Tennis story I have ever written, so I would love to hear some constructive criticism. Cheers!
"O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; it is the green-ey'd monster, which doth mock the meat it feeds on."
Eiji Kikumaru typically came in two varieties: happy, or "jumping-up-and-down-and-shouting-in-peoples'-ears" happy. Regardless of which level of happiness Eiji was set to on a given day, he usually managed to brighten the mood of teammates such as Oishi and Fuji, while driving the more irritable members, such as Kaidoh and Echizen, insane. Nonetheless, Eiji's natural ability to feel enthusiasm in regards to the most mundane events that took place, as well as his optimism in the bleakest of times, was a constant force that most of the team took for granted.
Consequently, when Eiji showed up for their afternoon practice looking gloomy and crestfallen, even Kaidoh was curious as to the sudden change. Rather than skipping around, strangling Oishi and calling out "Ochibi-chan!" at the sight of Echizen, Eiji was simply sitting on a bench by himself, moodily watching Oishi out of the corner of his eye. While none of the Seigaku tennis players failed to notice this, Fuji was particularly interested in Eiji's change in personality—though his curiosity was rivalled by Inui's, who instantly muttered a satisfied "Ii data" and started scribbling in his notebook.
Ever the kind senpai, Fuji took a seat next to Eiji, who nodded in recognition before turning his attention to the court. Fuji watched as well, and was happy to see that their new doubles pair, Echizen and Momoshiro, were progressing significantly; at any rate, neither of them had managed to trip the other up thus far. This was no doubt due, in large part, to the fact that Oishi was coaching them. His patience and natural ability as a doubles player were doing wonders for the awkward duo, who slowly seemed to be building confidence as a team.
"Eiji," Fuji said casually, "why aren't you helping Oishi teach Echizen and Momoshiro?"
"Nya?" Eiji sat up as though he had been electrocuted, and he took a moment to glance over at Fuji, whose face was settled in a typical, peaceful smile. Uncertain of the sadistic teen's motives, he returned to his original position, settling his elbows on his knees and perching his chin in his hands. "Oh. Tezuka's orders."
This was all the encouragement Eiji needed: his face instantly flushed with anger, and he waved his arms in the air as he cried, "I don't know why, nya! If Momo and Ochibi-chan could have a chance to see us in action, it would help them improve, right? Right?" When Fuji nodded, he continued, "Right! But Tezuka wants Oishi to teach them alone, and he said next week we can start playing together again."
"Maybe he wants Echizen and Momoshiro to build confidence before playing against the Golden Pair," Fuji suggested softly. He turned in his seat to see where Tezuka was, but instead of spotting their captain he only saw Inui, who was still writing furiously in his notebook.
"Who knows," Eiji said dejectedly, shoulders slumping. "I asked Oishi, but he doesn't care, nya. Actually," Eiji reddened once again, "I think he likes it this way. He's always bragging about little Ochibi-chan--how great he is, how much he's improved, what an asset he is to the team." He crossed his arms and leaned back. "Hoi. All Oishi cares about now is his little Ochibi-chan."
"Are you jealous?" Fuji asked, that maddeningly cheerful look still plastered on his face.
"What? Jealous? No, no, no, nya!" Eiji, more agitated than ever, jumped to his feet and stood before Fuji. "Why would you think that? I'm not jealous! Not of Ochibi-chan! Never!"
Eiji cringed as a painful silence fell on the court. He slowly peeked over his shoulder to see the entire team staring at him. Echizen's eyebrows were hovering close to his hairline, and he seemed to have been interrupted mid-serve: his racket was poised, but instead of swinging, he was simply studying Eiji, letting the airborne tennis ball drop. Hours seemed to creep by before the ball finally stopped bouncing and lay motionless by his left sneaker. Momoshiro was equally stunned by Eiji's outburst, mouth gaping and eyes wide; Oishi seemed to share the sentiment, though his expression was also thoughtful as he regarded his doubles partner. Eiji turned to Fuji, who was smiling peacefully, perhaps unaware that the entire court was openly ogling them.
The endless silence was finally broken by Kaidoh, who let out a low "Fshuuu…" and stalked away. He passed by Inui, who was now writing in his notebook so rapidly it was a wonder the pages hadn't caught fire, and went into the locker room.
"Mada mada da ne," Echizen said in a patronizing voice. He picked up the dropped tennis ball and passed it to Momoshiro. "Your serve."
Echizen's casual remark set the others into action: Kawamura faced Tezuka and continued with their conversation, while the match between Oishi, Momoshiro and Echizen resumed. The other team members carried on with their own training, though hesitant glances were occasionally sent towards Eiji and Fuji. There was tension in the air, and it was nearly palpable.
Eiji sat back down, groaning in embarrassment. "I shouldn't have done that."
"Oh, I wouldn't worry about it," Fuji replied. "I'm sure everyone will forget about the whole thing before long."
Eiji chose not to respond, instead worrying his bottom lip and studying Oishi. It didn't take long for him to become completely wrapped up in his thoughts and observations, given the soft flutter of Oishi's shirt as he reached upwards with his racket, and the determined expression on his face as he served. His heart lurched painfully as Oishi shook his head in exasperation and jogged over to Momoshiro. Their conversation didn't quite reach his ears, but from what he gathered Momoshiro was being reprimanded for taking control of the court again. Echizen, as expected, was standing behind him, arms crossed and lips pulled into an easy smirk. Eiji wanted to serve a ball right at his stupid, fat head. Instead, he grimaced and got to his feet, incapable of watching Oishi any longer.
"Eiji, wait," Fuji said as he took a few steps towards the locker room.
"Nya?" He turned back to look at his senpai.
"Have you considered talking to Oishi about how you feel?"
"What?" Eiji's eyes widened in surprised. "No, of course not! How could I? He would…he would…"
"Finally know the truth?" Fuji offered helpfully.
"Know the…what? No!" Eiji was panicking again. With a nervous glance over his shoulder he lowered his voice; he didn't want to attract any more attention than he already had. "I don't know what you're talking about, Fuji, but you'd better explain real fast, hoi!"
Fuji sighed, shaking his head. "You don't need to hide anything from me, Eiji. I know."
"You…know?" he asked uncertainly.
"I do." Fuji nodded. "You've felt like this about Oishi for a long time, haven't you?"
Eiji scrunched up his mouth and cast his eyes downwards, refusing to answer. His cheeks were nearly as red as his hair, causing Fuji to grin even more broadly. "That's what I thought. Really, Eiji, just tell him. I think you'll be surprised at the outcome."
"But, Fuji! What if he doesn't feel that way?" Eiji forgot all about hiding his deepest, darkest secret from the older boy and started hopping up and down frantically, fists clenched against his chest. "He'll think I'm scary! Or weird! Or a freak! He'll never talk to me again!"
"Who's never going to talk to you again?" Oishi inquired, coming up behind Eiji and swinging his tennis racket over his shoulder.
Eiji's blush trickled down his neck and arms, and he cringed as though he had just been struck. He feigned innocence as he squeaked, "What? Oh, nothing, nevermind! Did your practice go well?" He started to back away from Oishi, which was quite a change from the way he usually greeted him—jumping on his back and strangling him to death. Before the puzzled boy had a chance to reply, he continued, "Well, I have to go! Homework to do, places to go, people to see! I'll see you around, okay?" He grabbed his racket from the bench and hurried off. Oishi, by this point, was simply baffled.
"Mada mada da ne," Echizen repeated, shaking his head at Eiji's retreating form.
A headache was starting to prickle at the sides of his head, brewing painfully around his temple and eyes. He had been staring at his computer screen for far too long, and he knew he should take a break, but what if Oishi just happened to come online when he went downstairs for a few minutes? He couldn't let that happen, and so he sat in his computer chair, frequently checking his instant messenger's contact list and waiting for the Golden Pair's other half to come online.
He had been waiting for two hours, and his patience was starting to wear thin. Grumbling, he checked his cell phone, even though it would have vibrated had he gotten a text message. Nonetheless, he had to make sure, just in case he hadn't adjusted the settings properly. As expected, he hadn't received a single message from Oishi since he had checked his phone four minutes ago.
Letting out a deep exhalation and allowing his forehead to rest on the edge of his desk, he wondered where Oishi might be. Did he have a lot of homework to do? Was there a family function going on he wasn't aware of? Or was he perhaps out with a certain someone, enjoying the company of someone other than Eiji…
The very thought caused his blood to boil, and he brought his fists smashing down on his knees as he sat straight in his chair. He couldn't spend his Friday night like this. It was pathetic. Mind made up, he turned off his computer and hurried out of his room, calling to his mother to let her know he was leaving before heading out the front door. It was chilly outside, and he wished he had thought to bring a jacket, though he was too impatient to go back and get one. He needed to know why Oishi was ignoring him.
He knew the way to his best friend's house as though it was ingrained in his memory, as he spent nearly as much time there as he did in his own home. They were the Golden Pair, after all, and to separate them was practically a crime, thereby making Echizen the ultimate villain. Eiji pictured his stupid little smirk on his stupid little face, no doubt aware that he was tearing Oishi away from him and there was nothing he could do about it. He clenched his jaw and started grinding his teeth together angrily, wanting once again to serve a tennis ball right at Echizen's fat head.
When he finally arrived at Oishi's house, his temper had worsened considerably. He knocked on the door, waited for a response, and was pleased to hear footsteps approaching. He knew from the heavy, slow footfalls that it wasn't Oishi who was answering the door; he was quieter and faster when he walked.
"Ah, Eiji, how are you?" Oishi's father pulled open the door and gave him a warm smile.
"Good, thanks," he replied. "Is Oishi home?"
The older man frowned as he shook his head, and at this Eiji's heart dropped deep into his intestines. "He went to sleep over at a friend's house…I forget who. He's on the tennis team."
"Echizen?" he guessed, trying to keep from snarling.
"No, that's not it," he said. "Uh…Tall kid. Black hair. Eats a lot."
"That's the one. And I'm pretty sure that other kid, Echizen, is there too." He studied Eiji for a moment, scowling, and then added, "I'm surprised to see you, though. I thought you'd be over there with him."
"He never told me about it," Eiji said, barely concealing his disappointment. "Well, thank you for letting me know. Tell everyone I said 'hi'."
"Right, okay." Oishi's father hesitated, seeming to wonder if Eiji was alright, given the crushed look on his face. He didn't want to meddle in his son's affairs, however, so he simply added, "You take care."
He shut the door, and Eiji listened to the sound of his retreating footsteps. Oishi was with Momoshiro and Echizen. Of course. It was to be expected, wasn't it? And a sleepover, no less. He suddenly felt very sick, and he regretted the ice cream sundae he had eaten a few hours ago. He forced himself to swallow and push the bile back down his throat, taking deep breaths through his nose and calming himself down. He didn't want to throw up all over the garden, though the urge was strong.
'He would deserve it,' he thought miserably, running a hand through his hair and walking away from the house. 'I should puke all over the lawn. It'd serve him right.'
Instead, he went home and checked his cell phone before signing onto MSN Messenger and waiting for Oishi to come online. He hated himself for it, and he hated Oishi even more, but what could he do? They were the Golden Pair, though at this point, they didn't seem so golden anymore.
The locker room was painfully silent as the Seigaku tennis team got ready for their morning practice. Momoshiro and Echizen had been holding a half-hearted conversation for a few minutes, though it was dropped quickly. Fuji was smiling, apparently oblivious to the strained atmosphere. Inui and Tezuka left immediately after changing, while Kawamura and Kaidoh watched as Eiji sent Oishi dirty looks every few seconds. This, naturally, was the main cause of the tension: Eiji had stormed into the locker room and thrown his bag onto the floor, barking at Oishi that his weekend had been "just peachy" after several inquiries. Naturally, this wasn't the case, as Eiji had spent his entire weekend sulking. Even when Oishi had come online the next morning, messaging him and boasting about the progress Seigaku's new doubles pair had made the previous evening, he had shut off his moniter in anger and crawled back into bed. Oishi was now very worried about the lack of communication between them, though he pushed himself to give his friend some space and ask Fuji about his weekend instead.
"Very good," was the reply, after which that horrendous silence engulfed them once again.
Still intent on starting a conversation, Oishi turned to the youngest regular and said, "Hey, Echizen. You didn't forget about our plans after school, did you?"
Echizen opened his mouth to reply, but he was interrupted by the sound of a racket clattering to the floor. Looking over, they saw Eiji, red-faced and scowling, picking it up and setting it on the bench. His hands were shaking.
"Eiji? Are you sick?" Kawamura asked in a concerned voice, coming to hover near Eiji as he sat down.
"No," he said stiffly. "I'm fine."
Echizen quirked an eyebrow, but he turned to his senpai and said, "No, I didn't forget."
"What are you two doing?" Fuji asked in a conversational tone.
Oishi shot him a grateful smile, relieved that someone else was trying to make the situation less awkward. "We're going to the library to get some books about doubles."
"Nya?" Eiji piped up suddenly, head snapping towards Oishi. His eyes were shining, and Oishi could have sworn his bottom lip was trembling. "Doubles? Doubles in what? Tennis? Dating? Sex?"
Oishi flushed fiercely, and he opened and shut his mouth several times before croaking out, "What? Eiji, what are you…What…?"
"Doubles in sex?" Fuji asked curiously, head tilted to the side. "You mean a foursome?"
Echizen made a choking noise that was nearly drowned out by Momo's "What?", while Kaidoh stalked out of the locker room before he had to hear another word.
Eiji snarled and snatched his racket off the bench. "Sure. Why not? Foursome. Or threesome, probably. Great. Just great."
He followed Kaidoh out the door, slamming it shut behind him. Oishi turned to Echizen, who was still blushing. "What was that about?"
"Did you two get in a fight?" Momoshiro asked, eyeing the door nervously in case Eiji returned. He wasn't used to seeing Eiji like this, and he didn't want to cross him. It seemed dangerous.
"No." Oishi's brows furrowed and he shook his head. "Not that I know of, anyway. I mean, I know he was upset that we haven't been playing in a while, but…Why would he care if I go to the library with Echizen?"
At this, Echizen gave an exasperated sigh, and he pulled on his hat before saying, "You're really slow, aren't you, senpai?"
He picked up his racket and left the room with Momoshiro. Oishi, completely confused and overwhelmed, sat on the bench and groaned. "What does he mean, slow? What's going on?"
"Oishi," Fuji said, coming to place his hand on Oishi's shoulder, "if I may quote Echizen…mada mada da ne."
Eiji knew he had to do this. He had to because the Golden Pair, not to mention his own sanity, depended on it. Besides, he reasoned with himself, how hard could it be? He would go up to Oishi, tell him exactly how he felt and why he was angry, and then walk away. Simple, right? Yes, he told himself. Easy as can be.
So then why were his palms sweating, forcing him to wipe them on his denims every few seconds? It was cool outside, a faint breeze ruffling through his hair, yet his hands were moist regardless of how often he wiped them. And if telling Oishi how he felt wasn't such a big deal, why did his chest constrict and his heart quiver every time he thought of it? Why did his stomach flip over whenever he wondered what Oishi's reaction would be?
Alright, so maybe it wasn't as easy as he had promised himself. But now that he was standing on Oishi's porch, hearing the muffled sound of soft footsteps padding up to the door—Oishi was going to greet him, he realized in despair—he couldn't exactly change his mind. This fact became painfully evident as Oishi opened the door, his expression a mixture of curiosity and relief.
"Eiji," he said. "I kept trying to call your phone, but I didn't get an answer."
Eiji studied the ground in feigned interest as he said, "Oh, right, sorry. I was out and I left it at home."
"Oh. That's okay." They stood there for a moment, Oishi fiddling with one of the drawstring on his brown sweatpants and Eiji staring at his shoes, until Oishi finally said, "Would you like to come in?"
"Nya?" He looked up, wondering if he shouldn't just go home and start that homework he'd been putting off. He knew, however, that he had no choice. Shoulders sagging, he said, "Okay."
Oishi's mother and father were sitting together in the living room, holding a quiet conversation in front of the television. Eiji liked coming to Oishi's house: it was always peaceful, and it was a sort of vacation from his own life, where no nagging parents, chores or homework were there to bug him.
He greeted Oishi's parents, who smiled and offered him a cup of tea. He politely declined, and once the formalities were over, he was led up to Oishi's room on the second floor.
"Where's your sister?" he asked, noticing that her room was dark and unoccupied.
"Out with her friends," was the reply. They walked into his bedroom, which was as neat and organized as Eiji had expected it to be. Oishi flicked on the light switch and shut his bedroom door behind him, causing Eiji to suddenly feel trapped. There was no way of escaping what he had to say next, though he dreaded it greatly.
He sat down on Oishi's bed as he usually did, though he now felt strange and out of place. Not because he had never been with Oishi alone while feeling this way about him; his crush was a secret he had been keeping for years. No, he felt uncomfortable because he wasn't sure where things stood between them. Oishi no doubt knew he was angry, though his fury probably seemed completely irrational.
"I'm guessing you didn't just come here to get some math notes," Oishi mused, sitting in his computer chair so that he was facing Eiji.
"Um," he mumbled, "not exactly. I want to apologize." He gulped audibly, hesitated, and then cried, "I'm sorry, Oishi! I've been so mean! You never get mad, but you should, because I've been awful, nya!"
Oishi smiled and shook his head. "It's fine. I forgive you. I'd just like to know what the problem is."
"Oh. Well. Nevermind. I'm okay now, so that's what matters, right?" He flashed him a bright, cheery smiling, hoping he would fall for it.
He didn't. "Eiji, I need to know what the problem is. You can tell me anything, can't you?"
'Everything except this,' he thought moodily.
"I won't get mad, I promise," Oishi assured him. "You know you can trust me. We're the Golden Pair, right?"
"Right," he agreed. "But after I tell you…" His face crumpled as he continued, "After I tell you the truth, I don't think we'll be the Golden Pair anymore, nya."
"Well, you see, the thing is…" He bit his bottom lip, visibly flustered. "I mean, it wasn't exactly, you know, a big deal—but I made it into one, I guess. Well, okay, I know I did. But it actually wasn't. I mean. Well." He looked at Oishi helplessly, unsure of how to get the words out.
"Were you mad about me spending more time with Echizen and Momoshiro than with you?" Oishi offered.
"Yes!" Eiji jumped off the bed and waved his arms in the air as he said, "I didn't want to be angry, nya! It's just…It's not so much Momo, but Ochibi-chan. I mean…You always talk about him, hoi, and how amazing and skilled he is, and what a great tennis player he'll turn out to be."
Oishi nodded as Eiji paused to catch his breath, urging him to continue.
"And I guess I got…" He whimpered and then said in a tiny, hurt voice, "Jealous."
"Eiji," Oishi said so tenderly that it made Eiji's heart flutter, "you don't need to be jealous. Echizen's a good player, but just because I think so, does that mean you're not? You know I don't want to play doubles with anyone but you."
"I know," he said miserably. "I don't know why I got jealous. I guess it's because…well…I mean…it's most likely because…"
"You thought the Golden Pair would split up?"
"No, not exactly," he muttered, sitting back down on the bed. He was getting a headache, and he wanted nothing more than to be in bed, safely sleeping and away from Oishi. Coming to confess had been a bad idea. "It's more like…"
Oishi got out of the computer chair and came to sit beside Eiji, who blushed and looked away. Oishi smiled at the gesture. "You can tell me," he said, his voice so soft now it was nearly a whisper. "Really, you can. Nothing you can say will change the Golden Pair, Eiji."
At these words, Eiji turned to glance at him, and this proved to be a mistake: he was instantly struck by how clear and bright Oishi's eyes were in the present lighting, and how wonderfully inviting his plush lips looked. He found himself concentrating on Oishi's mouth, its sides lifted in an understanding smile, and the painful longing he had become so familiar with over the past years hit him full force.
"What do you want?" Oishi asked. "For me to stop coaching Momoshiro and Echizen?"
"No," he said quietly. Honestly.
"For me to ask Tezuka if we can play together starting tomorrow, instead of waiting another week?"
"Well then, Eiji, what do you want?"
He felt the word bubbling out of his throat and into his mouth, spurred on by years of silent yearning, watching and wanting, and before he could stop himself it slipped past his lips and burst into the air. "You."
Oishi was startled. "But you have me, Eiji. Golden Pair, right?" He grinned.
Eiji shook his head violently, which caused Oishi to frown. "Not like that. Like. Like." He clasped his hands in his lap, staring down at them and scolding himself for being so upset. He couldn't cry. Not in front of Oishi.
Oishi took his hand and cupped Eiji's cheek, gently turning his head so that they were facing one another, their noses barely centimeters apart. "Like this?" he asked, before leaning in and pressing his lips against Eiji's.
The world seemed to pool into a puddle of bright, warm light all around him, curling into his stomach and melting his brain. The only thought Eiji could process was 'He's kissing me. Oishi. He's kissing me. He's actually kissing me. Oishi is actually kissing me.' His lips were as smooth as he had imagined in his dreams, moulding easily into his, and when Eiji opened his mouth Oishi's tongue slunk in, carefully rolling against Eiji's in a way that made him moan deep in his throat more than once. He wrapped his arms around Oishi's neck, deepening the kiss and gripping his shirt.
Oishi was the one who eventually broke the kiss. Panting and trying to catch his breath, he nuzzled his face into Eiji neck and brought his arms around his waist, holding him tightly. A large grin was starting to form itself on Eiji's face.
"How long?" he asked Oishi, out of breath and deliriously happy.
"Too long," he muttered, pulling back and giving Eiji a quick, chaste kiss.
Eiji nodded, burying his head into the crook of Oishi's neck and sighing. "Me too."
Oishi reached for Eiji's hand and held it, running his thumb over his slender fingers. He whispered, "I told you we would always be the Golden Pair."
And this time, Eiji believed him.