Eiji's never told anybody, but the first time he went over to Oishi's house, he stole something. It wasn't anything big, but Eiji had felt guilty enough about it to have hidden his loot deep in his bedroom, well enough so that even he's forgotten it's there.

He hasn't thought about that for ages. It comes to him out of the blue while he's pestering Fuji for one of his inari, and because Eiji is completely vulnerable to every emotion he feels, it stops him short with hashi frozen over Fuji's bento box. He doesn't realize it until Fuji taps him on the hip, mouth pursed in a silent question. Eiji won't tell Fuji what's wrong, but he does manage to steal an inari and a handful of candy drops.

When he meets Oishi on the courts after school, Eiji can barely keep his mind on the game. They practice doubles against Echizen and Momo and it's a good thing Eiji can play purely on instinct and sunshine or they'd be wiping the floor with him. After being targeted by a particularly ebullient Kikumaru Beam, Momo throws his racket at the net and runs crazily off the court, leaving Ryoma to curse in annoyance and inform Oishi, "This doesn't count as you winning," before strolling away. Oishi smiles — heartbreakingly fond — at Eiji before heading off court to put his racket away.

"Maybe we can get them next time," he says as Eiji trails up next to him. Oishi's hands are sure as he cleans grit from the edge of his racket, digging out the gunk it accumulates when he trails it; his hands are strong as he slides it into his bag, tugs zippers into place, tightens straps. Oishi always knows what to do.

Eiji nods, feeling suddenly a little dizzy. He wonders if he maybe shouldn't sit down or drink something. And he was stupid, it turns out, to think that any of this would escape his partner because Oishi is right there with a bottle of Ponta, urging him over to one of the benches. "Eiji, I told you to drink more water when it's hot like this," he chides gently. "You move around so much, it's easy for you to get dehydrated."

The Ponta bottle is cold and wet against Eiji's palms; Oishi must have gotten it from the machine right before they came out. "It's a card," he blurts out suddenly. "It's a sakura-festival card from Natsumi-chan, and I stole it." He uncaps the bottle and swallows pear-flavoured soda way too fast and the bubbles flock all through his throat, popping uncomfortably.

Oishi doesn't say anything right away. He looks a little bit puzzled but not angry and he tucks his tongue into his cheek the way he does when he's thinking something through. Eiji could throw up. Finally, finally, Oishi's broad clear brow smoothes and he goes, "Oh! —" and Eiji wrinkles his nose.

"I didn't mean to keep it this long, nya," he says plaintively, knotting his fingers together. "I don't even know why I took it!" Which is totally a lie. He'd taken it because he barely knew Natsumi, but the second he'd seen her writing on that sakura card coyly outlining Oishi's name, he'd *hated* her. And he couldn't stand the thought of her stupid giggly card sitting in Oishi's room, just...sitting there. *Giggling*.

"I," Oishi says, and then sighs and pushes his hair back, smiling. His eyes crinkle and Eiji cautiously licks his lips. "You're not mad?" he ventures.

"Eiji." Oishi sits down next to him and shoves their shoulders together. "Why would I be worried about some silly card after all this time? It's not like I was ever even friends with Natsumi. She just..." he looks uncomfortable, shrugs. "It's not important. I'm not going to be mad at you for something like that, when it was probably just a mistake."

If he was a better person, Eiji would probably confess that no, it was no mistake, he'd taken that card on *purpose*. But the back of his throat is tickling with fruit-tasting carbonation and his heart is still thrumming like racket strings, so he isn't a better person. He's a person who says, "Okay. We should go have cheeseburgers," and then leans over to kiss Oishi.

The best part of it is that there's no beat of surprise and there's no hesitation; Oishi kisses back right away, biting gently at Eiji's bottom lip and licking the corner of his mouth, and Eiji recalls with wonder that Oishi does, after all, love the taste of pears. He also recalls vividly that the card is wrapped up in one of his baby kimono and shoved under the secret shelf in his closet. Eiji thinks that maybe when he goes home, he'll dig it out and rip the card up, and him and Oishi can toss it into the wind together.

image by glockgal

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