“Want a sip, buchou?” Ryoma offered the can of Ponta to Tezuka, keeping a straight face all the while. Tezuka almost never drank anything with so much sugar and artificial coloring or whatever in it.
Tezuka glanced over at him. “Possibly.” He took the can from Ryoma and studied it in a way that would have been funny if it had been anyone else. Then he leaned his head back and took a sip of it. Ryoma watched him, startled.
Tezuka finished and held the can back out to him. “Here.”
“You like it?” Ryoma asked, trying not to sound incredulous.
“It’s not bad.”
“Okay.” Ryoma kept his eyes on Tezuka, even when he took another drink of the Ponta. He could hear Eiji’s voice in his head, crowing something about an indirect kiss. Hadn’t he said that when Momo-senpai and Kaidoh-senpai had accidentally drunk out of the same water bottle?
“We just had an indirect kiss, you know,” Ryoma commented, not quite sure where he was going with this.
Tezuka gave him another look...or rather, a Look, probably trademarked and copyrighted by authority figures everywhere. Ryoma waited, the long pause unexpectedly making his heart flutter in a way that was partly annoying, partly nice. Finally Tezuka nodded. “Yes.”
“Then...” Ryoma set his drink down on the ground and moved over. The height difference wasn’t so obvious when they were sitting down...not as obvious, at least, if you didn’t look at the legs. Ryoma knelt up on the bench and just leaned over and kissed Tezuka. Then he stopped and met Tezuka’s eyes. Tezuka looked at him, then stood and walked a step before glancing back. “Let’s go, Echizen.”
“Okay.” Ryoma reached down to grab his can of Ponta and jogged to catch up with Tezuka, careful not to spill the drink.
“You know what, Karupin?” Karupin purred and snuggled his face under Ryoma’s arm, then flipped over in that weird way cats had that was graceful and ridiculous at the same time. Ryoma took that as a signal for him to continue. “I think I like buchou.”
Karupin mewed and peered up at Ryoma, undoubtedly wanting to be petted. Ryoma obliged, figuring that Karupin owed him at least a few minutes of listening for this whole petting thing. “I mean like like him, I think. That’s what the girls say. I kissed him, anyway. Doesn’t that mean I like him?”
Karupin purred contentedly and pushed his ears against Ryoma’s hand.
“He didn’t stop me, but he didn’t really do anything, either.” Ryoma kept on scratching Karupin’s ears as he stared over at the far wall, thinking to himself. “What do you think that means?”
Ryoma sighed. “Well, I don’t know either.” He looked over at the team picture that they’d taken last year. “Then I’d better find out.”
Ryoma knew that he needed an expert to tell him what to do. He wasn’t going to kid himself, although he did hate admitting, even silently, that he couldn’t figure something out on his own.
He also hated the fact that the only expert he knew of was the last person he ever wanted to ask for advice. Unfortunately, nothing could be done about that.
“So you kissed him?” Fuji asked, smiling at Ryoma in a very disconcerting fashion. “And what did he do?”
Ryoma shrugged, sticking his hands into his pockets. “Nothing.”
“Nothing?” Fuji sounded mildly surprised.
“Nothing,” Ryoma confirmed irritably. “He just sort of stood there and then we went and played tennis. That’s it.”
Fuji shook his head and clicked his tongue, a sound Ryoma thought was limited to little old ladies. “My, my. I can’t imagine doing such a thing if such a lovely boy kissed me. Perhaps,” Fuji purred, “you might be better off with someone who appreciates you more.” He raised a hand to stroke Ryoma’s cheek.
Ryoma batted the hand away, scowling. “Stop playing around. I need help, and buchou already appreciates me plenty.”
“It doesn’t sound like it.” Fuji seemed only too pleased to hear that Ryoma was having troubles, hence the reason that Ryoma hadn’t wanted to talk to him in the first place. “If you’re set on Tezuka, though, I suppose I should help you.”
“Yeah, I guess so.” Ryoma wished Fuji would just get to the point to begin with. “What should I do?”
“Well, how did you kiss him?” Fuji asked.
“What, how?” Ryoma looked up at Fuji, wondering how exactly he was supposed to respond to that. “What do you mean how?”
“Show me,” Fuji said, stopping in the middle of the sidewalk and looking at Ryoma expectantly. “It’s not as though you can describe it without showing me, now is it?”
“...no. I guess not.” Ryoma took a step forward, then crossed his arms. “I can’t do it exactly the same way, you know.”
“Of course not,” Fuji agreed amiably. “Just try to make it as close as possible, that’s fine.”
Ryoma had the uneasy feeling that this wasn’t necessary at all and that Fuji was just making it up for his own amusement. Also, he was slightly worried that this would become blackmail material later on, though he had no proof of that. “All right, fine.” He didn’t have to lean up too much to just barely press his lips against Fuji’s. Then he pulled back and tried not to glare at Fuji.
Fuji hummed thoughtfully. “Not bad. Nice and gentle, that’s good for a first kiss.”
Fuji raised a finger in warning. “For a first kiss, mind you. But now you’re going to have to make it a bit more serious. Get his attention.”
“More serious. Right.” Ryoma thought he could do that, for all that he was only thirteen and had never actually kissed anyone before he’d kissed Tezuka the other day.
Fuji smiled sweetly, making Ryoma eye him warily. “Want me to show you?”
“Can you come over here for a second?” Ryoma gave his tennis racket a swing and sauntered up to the net, attempting to make sure he put on a fake show of confidence to hide any nervousness. Not that he was nervous, of course, oh no, not at all. Being nervous was clearly stupid, given that it was Tezuka and not someone else. “I need to talk to you about something.”
Tezuka didn’t pause this time, but walked up to the net, their heights obviously very different from this angle. Ryoma put a hand on the netting, then stopped. “Hang on a second.” He put his racket down on the court. Tezuka regarded him with an unreadable expression.
“Okay.” Ryoma stood up on his tiptoes and put his arms around Tezuka’s neck. He gazed into Tezuka’s eyes for a second, then for the second time in a week, pressed their lips together. This time, though, he did it more strategically. He slipped his tongue out and brushed it lightly against Tezuka’s lower lip, rewarded by a quick intake of breath on Tezuka’s part. Taking advantage of that, he slid his tongue into Tezuka’s mouth and proceeded to use the knowledge he’d gained from Fuji’s little “lesson”.
At some point, Ryoma heard Tezuka’s racket clatter to the court, and he smirked against warm skin.
When Ryoma pulled away, rocking back on his heels, they were both panting slightly. He didn’t move far enough away that he couldn’t feel Tezuka’s breath mixing with his. Tezuka’s taste and scent was different than his own, but not in a bad way. Ryoma would definitely drink soda that tasted like that.
“You dropped your racket.” Ryoma nodded down at the court.
“I know,” said Tezuka.
“So how did it go?” Fuji inquired.
“Fine, I guess.”
“Fine, you guess? Hmm.” Fuji’s blue eyes narrowed as Ryoma pointedly ignored his gaze. “I was hoping for something considerably better than that.”
Ryoma was silent, so Fuji pressed on. “What happened, exactly? Come on, Echizen-kun, or shall I try harder to get the details? Or,” he added, “I could tell the rest of the team, so that you could get their opinions-”
“No,” Ryoma snapped.
Fuji smiled. “You’re done being quiet, then? Why don’t you tell me what happened?”
“I asked you for help, not to keep on interfering,” Ryoma said.
“Don’t I deserve to know what happened?” Fuji put an arm around Ryoma, who tried to shake it off and failed. “After all, I was the one who suggested the method.”
“I guess.” Ryoma sighed and pulled his cap down over his eyes so that Fuji couldn’t see them, not that it would help. Fuji always pretty much knew what everyone was thinking anyway. “I kissed him, like you said.”
“It was...nice.” The word “nice” didn’t exactly sum it up, but it was as close as Ryoma was willing to get, whether Fuji deserved to hear more or not.
“Yes, and then?” Fuji leaned forward eagerly, looking oddly like Ryoma’s mother when something very interesting was happening in a soap opera.
Ryoma studied the sidewalk. “Well, then we went back to playing, and buchou won, seven games to six.”
“You kissed him the way I showed you.”
“And you went on playing.”
“And he won seven games to six.”
“Hmm. Anything else?” Fuji asked.
“Well...” Thinking back on it, Ryoma had to grin again. “Buchou dropped his racket when I did that one thing. You know.”
Fuji rubbed his hands together gleefully. “Did he? I would have paid to see that. Next time you should sell tickets.”
“Even if you like watching other people kiss doesn’t mean anyone else would want to,” said Ryoma disgustedly, mostly because he had the feeling that at least Atobe would probably buy those tickets if he was selling them, and for an outrageous price. “See you later, Fuji-senpai.” He stalked off without bothering to disguise his irritation.
Ryoma concluded that Fuji had been helpful...but not helpful enough. Fuji was one of the last people Ryoma would ever want to go to for advice. Therefore, logically speaking, he should go to the very last person he’d ever want to ask, and maybe he’d actually get an answer that worked.
As he marched determinedly down the stairs, he thought that he sure as hell better get a good answer, or he’d be really angry with himself.
“Hey, dad.” Nanjiroh was out on the porch, grinning over something that Ryoma preferred not to know about. When Nanjiroh didn’t reply, Ryoma repeated, more loudly, “Hey! Dad!”
“Huh, what?” Nanjiroh slapped his newspaper shut in a hurry and smiled angelically. “Yes, son?”
“I need to ask you about something,” Ryoma said, knowing that he was going to have to be pretty subtle about this so that Nanjiroh didn’t exactly know what was really going on.
“Always happy to give some fatherly advice,” Nanjiroh said. “Come on over here, sit down! We don’t talk enough, you know?”
Ryoma reluctantly folded his legs and sat down next to his father on the porch. “If you like someone, what do you do to see if they like you back?” Ryoma had never heard Nanjiroh cackle before, so it was at least a novel experience.
“Ah! This is about a girl, then!” Nanjiroh laughed and clapped Ryoma on the shoulder. “Who is it, that one with the braids? She’s cute! Can she cook?”
“I guess,” Ryoma said. “I mean, I don’t really know.”
“She likes you, I’m sure of it. You’re my son, aren’t you?” Nanjiroh nodded wisely. “Should be easy enough from here on out, believe me.”
“Well, yeah, but what do I do now?” Ryoma asked, beginning to think that Nanjiroh didn’t know anything and had gotten Rinko to marry him by sheer luck.
“Tell her, of course!” Nanjiroh looked at him as though he was crazy. “Nothing else can happen until you’ve both said it, I like you, I like you too, and bam! You go out together, and then afterwards, if you play your cards right, you can get some-”
“Uncle, what are you talking about?” Nanako had walked up at some point, and now she was looking horrified.
“Kisses,” Nanjiroh finished, earning him a skeptical gaze from Nanako and Ryoma. “What? That’s all I was going to say, I swear!”
“Buchou,” said Ryoma, the moment they met up outside the court they always played on. “Can I tell you something?”
“Will it be like the last something?”
Ryoma stared at Tezuka, mildly astonished. “Like...” If he was remembering correctly, the last time he’d asked to talk to Tezuka about something, he’d ended up kissing him. A smirk spread slowly across Ryoma’s face. “Should it be like the last something?”
Tezuka didn’t smile any more than he ever did, but he did raise an eyebrow. “It could be.”
“Would you mind if it was?” Ryoma asked, then added quickly, “Because I like you, buchou. I guess I should have just told you that in the first place, but Fuji-senpai said-”
“I was wondering.” Tezuka sighed and shook his head. “I thought Fuji must have taught you...something.”
“He did,” Ryoma confessed, then grinned and took a step closer so that he and Tezuka were only about six inches away from each other. “I didn’t use everything he taught me, though. I hit him when he put a hand up my shirt, so I didn’t think that would be a good idea.”
“He’ll run laps tomorrow,” Tezuka said, then paused. “After I thank him.”
“So can I kiss you again?”
“No.” Tezuka closed the gap between them, put one hand on either side of Ryoma’s waist, then leaned down and kissed Ryoma, the third time it had happened, which, Ryoma decided, was a good thing, except that three times wasn’t enough.
Still, he hoped he never had to ask advice from Fuji and Nanjiroh ever again.