"Buchou, come on the Ferris wheel with me," said Ryoma, the moment he saw it.
Tezuka blinked and then shook his head. "I don't-"
Ryoma was unceremoniously pounced and seized by two insistent pairs of hands. Momo and Eiji dragged him off, kicking and flailing, in the direction of the big wheel. It probably looked like a kidnapping to anyone on the outside. Oddly, though, no passers-by commented or tried to prevent it. Ryoma wondered if the Seigaku regulars had been to this carnival before. That would explain a lot; for instance, the "limit 15 per customer" sign that had appeared on the yakiniku stall shortly after their arrival.
He shot Tezuka one final, pleading look before they reached the line for the Ferris wheel.
Ryoma had no particular fear of heights. His cousin was phobic about them, and he knew other people who were, but he rode in planes too often to mind being so far off the ground.
But with both Eiji and Momo in a single Ferris wheel car, anyone would have found reason to fear for their life.
"Haha, look at this, Momo, Ochibi!" Eiji performed a flip worthy of any professional contortionist act. The car was a large one, the type more like a cage or box than a single bench, and there were two seats that could each fit two people, facing each other.
Still, there was not enough room for acrobatics.
"That's nothing, nothing at all!" said Momo, ducking over and jumping as high as he could. The car swung crazily. Ryoma clutched at the door and stared out the window, hoping that they'd performed maintenance on the big wheel recently. It was certainly going to need it again, after this.
Ryoma had hoped that riding with a different pair of senpai would solve the problem. Oishi was probably the sanest at all, if he pretended certain situations involving ballet leotards had never taken place, and Inui was… well. He wasn't allowed to bring drinks on the ride anyway, so that was safe enough.
Unfortunately, Eiji cut into line with them just as they were about to board their car. "Hi, Oishi!" he said, draping himself over Oishi's shoulders.
"Oh, Eiji." Oishi smiled, used to acting as the trellis for a human vine. "Four people can fit in one car, can't they?"
The ride attendant nodded and told them yes, indeed they could, and Ryoma cursed his luck.
At the top of the Ferris wheel, Eiji started with his antics once more, an especially demanding challenge now that there was even less space for them. Oishi, strangely, didn't seem to care, laughing when Eiji pulled off a sort of abbreviated cartwheel. Ryoma pondered the likelihood of his teammates having been replaced by aliens while he hadn't been looking, and concluded that no, they were probably just insane.
Inui cared even less; in fact, he seemed fascinated. "Ah, interesting," he said, and made a note as the car rocked like a ship tossed by a hurricane. "Would you please rock the car twenty-five percent harder in the direction of the wind? South, I believe," he said, pointing.
Eiji happily obliged, with Oishi sticking his hand out the window to check the wind
speed, reporting it back to Inui whenever requested to do so.
Ryoma sighed and tried to quell the unexpected seasickness rising in his stomach.
He next found a strategic place in line next to Taka-san, one of the few people of his acquaintance guaranteed not to cause trouble (unless someone gave him a racquet, of course). However, he hadn't counted on Fuji's uncanny ability to talk himself to the front of any queue.
"Oh, I'll ride with them," Fuji assured the ride attendant sweetly.
"Che," said Ryoma. Taka and Fuji smiled at each other.
The moment the ride came to a halt five minutes later, Ryoma disembarked as quickly as humanly possible. Fuji followed, his left hand twined with Taka's right. "Fuji-senpai," said Ryoma, cap tugged down so far over his eyes that he could hardly even see the ground. "It's not polite to seduce someone when there's somebody else in the room."
"But it wasn't a room," Fuji pointed out. "It was a Ferris wheel car."
Taka turned bright red and stayed that way for the rest of the afternoon.
Ryoma didn't even consider riding with Momo and Kaidoh, and it seemed that the rest of the regulars shared his opinion, because they got a car to themselves. The ride attendant had to stop the wheel three times to warn the two of them to quit fighting up there, or they'd bring the whole thing down.
"Good, that's a good thing!" Momo declared. "As long as it falls on this mamushi!"
Kaidoh hissed and lunged for him.
They weren't allowed back on the Ferris wheel again, ever, said the carnival manager when the attendant called her over. And, Tezuka put in, they would run ten laps around the fairgrounds.
From the expressions on both their faces, it seemed that she and Tezuka had matching headaches.
"Buchou," said Ryoma. "You have to ride with me this time."
Tezuka shook his head slowly. "I haven't been on a Ferris wheel since I was very young."
"So it's the perfect time to go again. Buchou." Ryoma sidled closer, and the edge of his hand brushed against Tezuka. He curled his little finger around Tezuka's. "I want to go with someone who won't rock the car. Or try to seduce anyone while I'm in it," he added, making a face.
Tezuka gave a little cough that might have been a stifled laugh. "All right," he said finally, and let Ryoma lead him to the line for the wheel. None of the regulars dared interrupt, not while Momo and Kaidoh were still passing every five minutes or so, huffing and wheezing and sniping at each other.
They boarded car number twelve. Though there were two benches, one on either side, Ryoma slid onto the one Tezuka already occupied. "Hi," he said, grinning slightly.
"Hello, Echizen." Tezuka looked out the window, and Ryoma could tell he was trying not to smile.
The two of them were the last to load, and so the wheel started up, lifting them slowly from the ground. Ryoma glanced up. Fuji and Eiji were two cars above them. Eiji waved merrily when he saw Ryoma looking. Ryoma rolled his eyes, and raised his hand in a halfhearted return greeting.
"Hm." Tezuka was watching him now, with one eyebrow raised.
"He and Momo-senpai tried to kill me earlier," said Ryoma. "He doesn't deserve a real wave. Oh," he said, as a wave of inspiration struck. "You should give him laps, too."
Tezuka coughed again. "I'm not sure they'd be merited."
"Well, what if they'd actually knocked me out of the car?" Ryoma asked. "You'd have to give them laps if they killed me, right?"
"You wouldn't have died," said Tezuka solemnly.
"I don't know about that." Ryoma looked out the window, gazing dubiously at the ground. It was pretty far away.
"You wouldn't have," Tezuka repeated. "I would have caught you."
"I still would have given them laps," said Tezuka.
"How many?" Ryoma asked, pushing his cap up for just a second so that he could look up at Tezuka. "Five hundred? A thousand?"
"More than that."
"Oh," said Ryoma again, pleased by the answer. "Good."
A light breeze fluttered Tezuka's hair and the edges of Ryoma's, the part that showed beneath his cap. They'd reached the top of the wheel for the second time. It didn't feel like being seasick. It felt like flying. "Buchou?"
He'd meant to say thanks for coming with me or thanks for saving me from my psychotic senpai or even just I'm glad you're here. When he peeked out from under his cap and met Tezuka's eyes with one of his own, though, he found that words weren't necessary.
The wheel descended, bringing them into the midst of the laughing crowds and the rest of the regulars, waving frantically from their places in line. Then they ascended again, and Tezuka took the brim of Ryoma's cap between his fingers and pulled the hat off entirely, freeing all of Ryoma's hair to blow in the wind.
"Stealing my cap?" Ryoma teased. "Che."
And then Ryoma's breath caught in his throat as Tezuka leaned in and kissed him, slow and warm and giving him a taste of tennis in the middle of the scents and sounds of the carnival.
"You should go on Ferris wheels more often," Ryoma observed, nuzzling Tezuka's nose with his own.
"I should," said Tezuka.
"But only if I'm on them," Ryoma said.
Tezuka didn't reply, only gave him another quick kiss just before the ride ended, in full view of everyone in line.
"Hm, that was better than riding with Momo-senpai and Eiji-senpai," said Ryoma absently, as he stepped out of the car with Tezuka right behind him. "But I don't remember. Did you rock the car?"
"Yes," said Tezuka, with a perfectly straight face. "I did."
"Laps for you," Ryoma ordered, and then grinned slowly. "Want to go again?"
As it turned out, Tezuka did.