Title: Cherry Red

Word Count: 1986


"Not again," Momoshiro forces his tired legs to follow Ryoma to the vending machine. The summer air is hot in his pursuit and he can feel the rays burning into his skull, creating sweat in his hair and making it drip down the side of his head. All Momoshiro wants to do is collapse under a shady tree, escape from the Japan heat, and spend his afternoon snoozing.

All Ryoma wants is a Ponta.

"Didn't you just have one an hour ago?" Momoshiro points out, hoping they don't have to walk all the way to the other side of the block.

Ryoma doesn't stop walking, determined to get a cool can of Ponta for his raw throat. If Momoshiro is complaining about the heat, Ryoma doesn't see what's wrong with desperately wanting a cold drink. It is excruciatingly hot, and even the sidewalk cement looks like the top of a burning oven.

"Momo-senpai, hurry up," the small figure says, turning a corner.

Momoshiro reluctantly speeds up his pace. He really doesn't treat me like his senpai, the older male thinks wryly, and a fond smile plays on his lips. Even though he is complaining, he enjoys these outings with his smaller kouhai. The company is refreshing, even if Kaidoh says it's lame to hang out with freshmen. Ryoma is a different kind of freshman, though, so it doesn't really matter.

As they near the vending machine, Momoshiro breathes a sigh of relief. He can finally stop moving his aching legs, and he regrets agreeing to a match earlier in the day. In heat like this, the best thing to do is stay inside with the air-conditioning pulled up to the max or swim in an outdoor pool. Ryoma stops and stares at the vending machine, before scrabbling around in his pocket.

His body stiffens, and his lips purse. "Oh," he says, and repeats, "Oh."

Momoshiro instantly knows what has happened, and already begins shaking his head in refusal. "Nu-uh, I'm not buying you a drink again."

Ryoma turns to him, gold eyes innocently peering under his hat. "Momo-senpai, I forgot my money. I'll pay you back later."

"That's what you always say," Momoshiro grins, and he would give his buddy a headlock but it's too hot to be touchy.

"Momo-senpai," Ryoma huffs, and he crosses his arms stubbornly. "You're not being a very good senpai right now."

"Oh, so now I'm your senpai?" Momoshiro says teasingly, and he can't help but remove Ryoma's cap and ruffle his hair gently. The boy winces as the heat hits his face full on, and quickly grabs his cap back and stuffs it on his head. He glares at Momoshiro, irritated and tired from the heat. "Buy me a drink," he demands with a pout.

Momoshiro snorts at the bratty attitude. "What if I said I have no money?"

Ryoma looks frustrated, because he adds, "Please Momo-senpai, I'm thirsty."

Momoshiro deducts that Ryoma must really be thirsty, because the boy almost never asks politely. It is obvious the heat is getting to the both of them, and for someone like Ryoma who drinks cold things even in the middle of December, it is a desperate desire. Momoshiro thinks for a moment, patting his wallet absentmindedly.

"On one condition," he says after a moment, and a grin breaks out on his face.

Ryoma looks weary. "Huh?"

"One condition and I buy you a drink,"

Ryoma decides that Momoshiro is smirking much too evilly for his liking, but his throat and tongue are begging for a drink. He wonders if he should move back to America, where the heat isn't nearly as bad. Then, he remembers they have the Nationals to win, changes his mind, and decides that he can suffer for the price of a Ponta.

"Fine," he says grudgingly, a petulant scowl on his lips. "What's the condition?"

Momoshiro tilts his head up towards the sky, acting like he is deep in thought even though he knows exactly what the condition is. It honestly isn't bad at all, because he is too kind to be able to be cruel to Ryoma. "Okay, you see…" he tries to build up the tension, but it doesn't work because Ryoma just taps his foot impatiently and scowls.

"You can buy any drink, but not Ponta!" he finally declares in triumph.

Ryoma blinks, and for a moment, he wonders if Momoshiro is being serious. When it appears he is, he smirks.

"That's all?"

Momoshiro's smile drops. "Whaddya mean that's all? You love Ponta!"

Ryoma shakes his head, as if Momoshiro is a little kid that is saying something stupid. "Honestly, Momo-senpai, use your brain sometimes. Do you really think that, in this heat, I care if I'm having Ponta or not?"

Momoshiro punches him in the arm gently. "Hey, be a good kouhai and succumb to your fate."

Dramatic, Ryoma thinks, and rolls his eyes. He presses his face up against the soda machine and nearly sighs at the ecstasy of the cool glass against his cheeks. He is someone who frequently uses the vending machine, and so every drink listed is familiar to him. He scans the list, skimming over milk, orange juice, coca cola…

"How about that one?" Momoshiro says loudly, copying Ryoma and pressing his face against the glass as well. "I don't think I've ever tried it before."

Ryoma follows Momoshiro's gaze, and sees a bottle that is unfamiliar. He narrows his eyes, his pride stabbed at this new drink that he has never tried or heard of. Maybe it is a good thing Momoshiro set this condition, because perhaps this drink he has never tasted will be even better than Ponta. With that thought in mind, Ryoma nods.

"I want that," he says determinedly.

Momoshiro laughs, shaking his head and inserting a coin. Ryoma clicks the button.

A moment later, the bubbly pink can of Cherry Coke appears at the bottom of the machine. Ryoma bends down and stares at it with a small smile. For some reason, he feels like this drink will be even better than Ponta, which is ridiculous, because nothing is ever better than Ponta. Maybe it is just the prospect of having a drink on a hot day that is exciting him.

"Cherry coke, huh?" Momoshiro says. "I wonder what it tastes like. Can I have a sip?"

"No," Ryoma says instantly, holding the bottle towards his chest protectively.

"Oi, Echizen!" Momoshiro complains, and suddenly realizes his own mouth is aching for thirst. "You need to learn how to share, you really, really do."

Ryoma just sticks his nose in the air, and Momoshiro can't help but laugh to himself. Ryoma really is too cute for his own good. With the heat beating down on them hotter and hotter by the passing second, Momoshiro watches with envy as Ryoma tilts his head up and lets the dark magenta liquid pour down his throat. It flows down like a waterfall, and Ryoma is too thirsty to stop. It comes to the point that the liquid overflows his mouth. He gulps it down, and a trickle of cherry coke spills down his chin.

"You really are thirsty," Momoshiro says, slightly in awe.

Ryoma nods, a small frown on his face. It didn't taste as good as Ponta, but then he reminds himself that nothing, nothing at all can taste better than Ponta, and that is kind of a good thing. He will always have a drink to rely on him. It never occurred to Ryoma before how important his drinks are to him.

"Can't I try just a bit?" Momoshiro says, and he tries to grab the can from his friend. Ryoma takes a delicate step back.

"No, Momo-senpai," Ryoma says, and simply swallows some more liquid. "I accepted your condition, and now this is mine."

"But I'm thirsty too," Momoshiro complains, "You shouldn't be so selfish Echizen, you really shouldn't!"

His rants go unheard to Echizen Ryoma, who simply starts walking, head held high, can opening permanently stuck to his mouth. Even though the drink is not amazing, it is extremely hot, he is extremely thirsty, and the liquid tastes extremely good going down his throat. He doesn't really notice Momoshiro tagging behind him with a frown, or the fact that he is drinking rather messily with his lips stained red.

"Echizen, stop walking," Momoshiro finally says, face flushed. "It is way too hot to walk. Can't we find some shade or something?"

Ryoma turns around, and just so he can speak, he removes the can from his mouth. Immediately, Momoshiro starts chuckling and pointing.

"What?" Ryoma asks, annoyed.

"It's just," Momoshiro smiles widely, and the heat is forgotten. "Your lips are really, really bright red. Like, cherry red. It kinda looks like you're wearing lipstick."

Ryoma pauses, and he can feel embarrassment flooding his features. He knows Momoshiro is just being immature, but he has been teased enough for a lifetime about looking like a girl, and the last thing he wants is to appear as if he is wearing lip stick. Kicking a stray pebble and watching it roll into a sewer, he meekly asks Momoshiro if he has a napkin.

Momoshiro just chuckles loudly, before nodding and pulling out a napkin from his pocket, an extra one he has stashed in his shorts pocket after going out for burgers. Even though it is kind of funny, Ryoma is the kind of person who would not appreciate looking like he was wearing lipstick. "Here ya go," the older male kindly hands Ryoma the napkin.

"Thanks," Ryoma mutters. He instantly starts rubbing the napkin furiously against his lips. After a minute, he looks up nonchalantly.

"Is it gone?"

Momoshiro bites his lip from bursting out laughing again. "No," he grins with a smirk, "Still bright red."

Ryoma's cheeks turn pink, and he throws the napkin to the ground with a flustered expression. Then, he glares at the Cherry Coke and chucks it at a garbage can. It clatters in perfectly, but Ryoma is not pleased, and he keeps his mouth pursed. Momoshiro thinks he looks even cuter annoyed, and can't help but notice that his lips look kind of attractive like that.

"Here," Momoshiro says with a small smile. He takes a step forward and closes the space between them.

Ryoma stares at his friend curiously. "What?"

"Let me try to see if I can get it out," Momoshiro says in a softer voice than usual, and he tilts Ryoma's chin up so their lips are inches apart. Ryoma suddenly feels uncomfortable at the proximity, and he shifts his feet. "Um, Momo-senpai?" he asks timidly. "What are you going to do?" Momoshiro smiles, but he is having a hard time controlling his heart rate, and Ryoma's lips look really luscious up close.

"Sometimes," Momoshiro says in a breathy voice, "You have to resort to your last resource,"

"My last resource?" Ryoma says anxiously.

Momoshiro just grins, and leans forward, eyes closed. Ryoma realizes what is about to happen, and braces himself, squeezing his eyes shut tightly, more out of necessity that desire. He is expecting it to feel gross, like it looks when he sees other couples down the street. He is expecting himself to be disgusted and pull away, like he has always planned to do if one of his fangirls happened to attack him. He doesn't expect it to taste sweet, and good, and like everything Momoshiro. He doesn't expect himself to lean back and return it. But he does, and their lips meet with a gentle desire that neither can hold back.

As Momoshiro adjusts to kissing his best friend, he manages to murmur out between a breath, "You taste like cherry coke,"

And Ryoma, dazed and amazed at the same time, learns that there are some things that taste better than Ponta.