prillalar: (1atobe1)
prillalar ([personal profile] prillalar) wrote2010-04-11 04:53 pm

PoT Fic: How Do You Get Down From An Elephant?, Atobe/Momo

Why did it take so many years for me to write this pairing? We may never know. But I hope it's worth the wait. :) [ reposting from otpimpchallenge ]



How Do You Get Down From An Elephant? by Halrloprillalar / [livejournal.com profile] prillalar
Prince of Tennis, Atobe/Momo, PG13, 6300 words
Dating is a game and Momo is definitely going to win.

[livejournal.com profile] kestrelsan, you're the best beta of all time.

+

"I always knew you'd acknowledge my strength one day," Momo said.

"More cake?" Atobe raised his eyebrows.

"Okay." It was really good cake. Even if it made Momo kind of uncomfortable to have it served by a servant. And to be eating it with Atobe. Momo took a bite. Mmm, orange. "When are we going to play tennis?"

Atobe put down his teacup. "We're not."

Momo was a little surprised by this. Though not too surprised to take another bite of cake before responding. "Then why am I here?"

"Isn't it obvious?" Atobe leaned back in his chair. "It's a date."

+

Momo had been half-asleep when Kabaji showed up. Showed up actually in Momo's bedroom, like he was one of Momo's friends, which was apparently what Momo's mom had thought he was. Not to mention it was barely noon. On Sunday!

"Atobe-san wants you," was all that Kabaji would say. Then he dragged Momo out of bed. Momo stuffed himself into his clothes before Kabaji could do that for him too and then into the back of Atobe's limousine. But Momo should have known something was up when Kabaji wouldn't let him bring his own tennis racquet. And when Atobe served cake instead of aces. Not that Atobe would be able to ace Momo -- it was just a figure of speech.

And now they were on a date.

+

"A date?" Momo squawked. He wished he could say that he had used a cool and urbane voice, like he didn't much care, but he had to admit it really was a squawk. Like some sort of startled waterfowl.

"It's a great honour for you." Atobe ran his fingers through his hair. "Have you never been on a date before?"

"Of course I have!" Momo had been on three dates before. Although they were all group dates to play mini golf. And he had known about them in advance. "It is a tennis date?"

"I don't play tennis on dates," Atobe said. "You're having tea with me."

"But if it's a date, why is he here?" Momo kind of waved at Kabaji, who was sitting on a chair by the door. Without any cake or tea. Momo hoped he wasn't supposed to be on a date with both of them, because that was just a bit more urbane than Momo felt he was capable of. "Shouldn't we be, you know, alone?"

"It's just a first date," Atobe said. "Are you some kind of slut?"

"No!" Momo squawked again. Definitely waterfowl. Possibly a duck. "I mean, I'm not inexperienced or anything. But not a slut. No." He put down his fork. "Are you?"

Atobe's eyebrows climbed higher. "Tea and conversation. Is your family well?"

"They're fine," Momo said. "Well, my brother is pretty bratty right now. The other day, he glued all the pages of my Melbourne Racer strategy guide together because I wouldn't give him ¥500 to buy a comic book."

"Ah," Atobe said. "My cousin is given to inappropriate pranks as well. Last month, he dyed the water in the large pool green. And before that..."

Next thing Momo knew, he'd eaten three pieces of cake, drunk four cups of tea, and traded a large number of stories with Atobe about younger relatives and their ridiculous antics. Embellished a little, just for effect, of course.

Atobe stood. "I trust you had a pleasant afternoon with me."

Momo stood up too. "Uh, sure. Thanks for the cake." Was the date over? Somehow he figured there would be more to it. Atobe stepped towards him and Momo braced himself. Okay, sure, here's where he was going to be expected to pay up for all the cake he'd eaten. He remembered that Atobe had never said whether or not he was a slut...

Atobe leaned forward and brushed his lips over Momo's cheek. "Kabaji will take you home."

+

Kabaji led Momo through the hallways of the Atobe mansion. Momo figured he'd need a GPS unit to navigate on his own. Or at least a trail of bread crumbs.

The date hadn't been too bad, but still it was far too strange a way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Especially with no tennis. When Momo got home, he was going to tell his mom not to let Kabaji in if he showed up again. And not to take any calls from people who sounded like they were rich and egotistical. But it might be okay to accept delivery of any cakes that happened to arrive.

They reached the front door at last. Doors, actually. Plus a huge porch and some statues and a fountain and possibly a gold-plated fire hydrant for dogs to use. And more people, going in instead of coming out.

"Momoshiro." Oshitari raised his eyebrows, which was maybe some sort of Hyoutei thing, only Momo had never seen Kabaji do it. Of course, Momo had never really seen Kabaji's face move at all. "Fancy meeting you here."

"Do you want to play tennis?" Momo said, because playing Oshitari was super-fun, plus he owed him a major beat-down for their match at last year's Nationals. "Only I'd have to go get my racquet first."

"What's a junior high kid doing here?" Mukahi said, just like he'd been in high school for two years instead of two months.

"Isn't it obvious?" Oshitari said, with a bit more complex eyebrow movement. "He's the flavour of the month."

"What?!" Momo had almost perfected his duck squawk. Soon, he'd be able to make a living recording duck calls for hunters to play in duck blinds while they were duck hunting.

"Don't worry, he'll get bored of you soon," Oshitari said. "They never last longer than -- what would you say, Gakuto?"

"Four dates," Mukahi said.

"How would you know?" Momo said, modulating his voice out of duck range. "Were you...?"

"Of course not," Oshitari said in a cool and urbane voice, like he didn't much care, and Momo tried to memorize how it sounded so he could practice it later when he was at home. "But word gets around."

"Come on, Yuushi," Mukahi whined, kind of like a buzzing fly that a duck might eat because it was being annoying.

"See you, Vanilla," Oshitari said and they went inside.

"Peach!" Momo called after him. "I mean, I'm not a flavour!"

Four dates. And then Atobe would be tired of him? Of Momoshiro Takeshi? Like hell he would! He would definitely be so captivated by Momo that they would go on five dates! And then he'd beg for more!

Momo turned and faced the house. He pointed straight at the window of Atobe's sitting room. Or what he thought was the window anyhow, he was still a bit disoriented.

"Atobe-san!" he said. "I won't lose to you!"

+

So now Momo had to think of a way to be so interesting, so cool, so gosh-darned attractive that Atobe would not get tired of him but instead would fall hopelessly in love with him. Or at least go on five dates with him.

Not that Momo was unattractive, but he had to be realistic. If Atobe had really dated so many people, then presumably a few of them had been at least as awesome as Momo. So he needed an edge.

"Are you even listening to me?" Kaidoh threw his pencil down on the desk.

"Sure, sure," Momo said, cooly and urbanely, just like he'd practised.

"You can be replaced you know." Kaidoh pushed a sheet of paper over to Momo. It turned out to be the order of play for their upcoming friendly against Fudoumine.

"Yeah, you could replace me as Singles Two so I can be Singles One."

"I meant as vice-captain."

"Dream on," Momo said. "No one else has the patience to play good cop to your bad cop."

Kaidoh scowled, which was a point to Momo, if they were keeping score, which Momo wasn't, really, but maybe Kaidoh was. "I'm in a hurry, so just read the damn list."

"Keep your panties on." Momo scanned the list, it was fine, it was always fine. "What's the rush, anyhow? A sale on ankle weights?"

Kaidoh looked out the window. "There's a field hockey game. Against Kakinoki." He had a funny look on his face that Momo didn't really associate with school spirit.

"Oh!" Momo had seen Kaidoh around with this girl after school and she was always carrying a field hockey stick. He had assumed they were working on an assignment together or something. But it looked like the boy viper had found a girl viper after all. "You want to go watch your girlfriend."

Kaidoh hissed but he didn't deny it. He snatched the paper off the desk and took a long time putting it away in his bag.

"Hey, Viper, how did you get her to like you?" If Kaidoh could get get a girlfriend that cute -- hell, if Kaidoh could get a girlfriend at all -- then it would be a snap for Momo to snare the affections of Atobe.

"What are you saying?" Kaidoh turned on Momo, looking more like usual, in other words: pissed off. "That it was a trick?"

"Don't be so touchy." Momo should have known this was a bad idea. "I was just curious."

"Enjoy Doubles Two with Horio." Kaidoh stalked out of the room.

Momo wandered out into the hall. Maybe he should phone up Eiji-senpai or someone. Yeah, if he wanted his own private dating business spread all over Kantou. Plus Eiji might be depressed about dating since Oishi was in a different school now and all.

He'd need to come up with a plan on his own. A scheme. A strategy.

He was thinking so hard, he walked right into three girls who were standing in a giggling knot by the stairwell. "Sorry, sorry!" He scrambled on the floor, picking up their stuff.

And found a magazine.

+

Momo skimmed Ten Tips to Catch Your Man for approximately the millionth time. After all he'd gone through to get his own copy of the magazine -- the clerk clearly did not believe his lie about buying it for his sick sister and there were at least five people from his class in the bookstore at the time -- the advice seemed kind of lame. Be yourself? Who else was Momo going to be?

Have a good sense of humour could be okay. Momo already had a good sense of humour.

All he could do now was wait for Kabaji to pick him up again. Or maybe Atobe would come himself. For sure someone would; there was no way Momo wouldn't at least get the four dates he was owed. Tomorrow was Sunday again and Momo would be ready.

"My pleasure," he said and tossed his hair. Well, the voice was not bad. Pretty urbane. But his hair didn't actually move. He crossed off Tip Number Three. Not everyone had to have flippy hair. "My pleasure," he said again. "My pleasure."

"Yes."

Momo turned around and there was Kabaji.

+

The restaurant was super-fancy. No, not super-fancy, super-super-fancy. There were probably thirteen forks on the table and that was just on Momo's side. On Atobe's side was Atobe, looking super-super-fancy himself. Momo was glad he'd put on a tie.

But a tie was probably not enough to Catch His Man. "Um," Momo said. Atobe looked up from the menu. Sense of humour, Momo reminded himself. Urbane and witty. He cleared his throat. "So a duck walks into a bar and orders a beer."

"Oh?" And there went the eyebrows again.

Okay, so the magazine had been a complete waste of money. But he couldn't stop now. "'A talking duck!' the bartender says. 'Where did you come from?' 'I'm working the construction site down the road,' says the duck. 'You should work for the circus,' the bartender says. 'You'd make a fortune.' 'Really?' says the duck. 'But what would they need with a bricklayer?'"

Atobe looked at Momo. Momo wasn't sure, but it was possible the corner of his mouth twitched a bit. Like from a seizure caused by the lameness of the joke. Atobe turned to the waiter. "We'll both have the duck."

Momo sipped his iced tea and broke a breadstick in two. Only there was probably a special breadstick fork he was supposed to use. "There are a lot of forks," he said. "Is this some sort of test? Like there's really only two forks to use and I'm supposed to pick the right ones? Or I choose one and then you make it disappear and re-appear later from my ear?"

At least Atobe didn't raise his eyebrows this time. "I understand this is overwhelming for you, being here with me," he said. "With tableware, always start from the outside and work your way in."

"Just like that?"

"Except for the oyster fork."

"Is that for scraping out the pearls?"

"Just follow my lead," Atobe said.

"Okay, but if I choke on any pearls, you'd better know the Heimlich manoeuvre."

"I know a lot of manoeuvres." Atobe tossed his hair, just like the magazine model, and Momo started to wonder about that whole slut thing again.

Dinner was super-super-fancy but also super-super-tasty and Momo managed to keep his fork faux pas to a minimum. He wasn't sure he was scoring too many points yet, but sometimes you need to drop a few games while you're figuring out your opponent's play.

When dessert came, it was on fire. "Crepes flambé a l'orange," Atobe said.

"I bet everything tastes better on fire." The crepes certainly did. Momo wanted to ask for a second serving to take with him but a fire in a to-go box would probably be a bad idea.

"Not salad," Atobe said.

"Or on a stick. Everything tastes better on a stick. What about something that's on fire and on a stick? With chocolate sprinkles." Which would be oh-so-sophisticated. Momo gave himself a mental smack for non-cool babbling.

But Atobe laughed. "I'll mention it to the chef. Do you want coffee?"

"Will it be on fire?"

"There might be sprinkles."

In fact, there was whipped cream and sprinkles. Sweet and buzzy, just like Momo liked it.

Atobe settled the bill. He walked Momo out to the curb, where the limousine was waiting. Momo was expecting Kabaji to appear from somewhere like a body guard or a bouncer. But Atobe got in and sat down beside Momo. The car pulled out.

The windows were tinted but the city lights showed through, neon signs and office windows flicking past them, changing colours over Atobe's face.

"So," Momo said. "Do you have a bunch of forks in here too?"

"Probably," Atobe said and kissed Momo.

Momo clutched the edge of the seat. Atobe's lips were dry and warm and they kind of nudged at Momo's. Atobe's fingers cupped Momo's cheek and Momo found himself leaning into it, opening his mouth, breathing in the musky smell of Atobe's cologne. Kissing Atobe was nice, more than nice. It was warm and tingly and more-ish like the crepes flambé.

Then the car stopped and Atobe sat back.

Momo let go of the seat. His fingers were cramped up. "I guess this is my place."

"Good night," Atobe said.

+

"Let's go, guys!" Momo called. "You can do it!" Arai and Kachirou were down 2-5 to Uchimura and Mori. Privately Momo thought there was no way they were going to be able to pull it out, but of course he was supporting them. "Concentrate!"

"Face it," An said. "You'll never beat us this year."

"Never say never." Momo grinned. "And you haven't seen me play yet. Or the viper."

"How is he?" An asked. "As captain, I mean."

Momo looked around and lowered his voice. "Don't tell anyone I said this, but he's good. They work hard for him."

A cheer went up and Momo turned back to the court. "Don't mind, don't mind!" he called. "We'll get the next match."

Doubles One took the court. "I don't think you'll get the next match," An said.

"Can I ask you something?" Momo looked around again. And lowered his voice even more. "How do you get a guy to like you?"

An's eyebrows went up, which proved it wasn't just a Hyoutei thing. "You're trying to get a guy to like you?"

"Yeah, well." Momo stared out at the court. "I just wondered."

"Oh!" An said. "It's him, isn't it?"

"Him who?"

"Kaidoh-kun."

"WHAT?!" This squawk was more than just a regular duck, it was a pissed off duck. A super-duck, a radiation-mutated giant monster fire-breathing duck. "No! No times one million!"

"I always wondered about you two," An said.

"Well, don't. Anyhow, he's got a girlfriend." Momo shaded his eyes and looked over to the other side of the courts. "That's her there by the water cooler."

"She's cute," An said. "Good for him."

Momo shrugged. "He's less cranky these days, anyway."

"But back to you." An cocked her head. "How long have you liked this guy?"

"Like? I don't--" Momo stopped to think. Probably he shouldn't tell An that this was a game, not a romance. A game that Momo was absolutely for sure going to win, just like his Singles Two match against Ibu. "I guess a few weeks."

"Just be yourself," An said. "That's the most important thing."

"You sound like a magazine article."

"And a cute outfit never hurts."

"A cute outfit. Hmm." Anything that would give Momo an edge would be good. It was hard to compete when he didn't know the score.

"It doesn't always work." An looked up at Momo.

"Oh," Momo said. "Oh."

Kamio stormed up and pushed himself between them. "Momoshiro, stay away from An-chan!" He crossed his arms and glared at Momo. "I know what you're up to! And I won't let you!"

"Sometimes it works really well," An said.

+

"More popcorn?" Atobe said.

Momo shook his head. Not that he didn't like popcorn, of course, but he thought he'd already got a grease spot on his cute shirt. Well, he wasn't sure if it was cute, exactly, but it was new. And maybe Atobe thought bowling shirts were cute. That could be worth a point or two to Momo.

They were sitting together on the couch. Atobe's arm was resting along the back and sometimes he slipped his fingers down inside the collar of Momo's cute bowling shirt and stroked the back of Momo's neck. Which made Momo shivery and warm inside and sometimes made it a bit difficult to concentrate on the plot of the movie.

Although the huge TV made it harder to miss. Actually, Momo was surprised they weren't in some private theatre, with a proper screen and proper seats and such.

"Um, who was that guy again?" Momo squinted at the screen.

"The girl's older brother," Atobe murmured. "He doesn't want her to go to Europe to art school." He shifted on the couch, closer to Momo, and dropped his arm so it was around Momo's shoulders.

Clearly, Momo's natural alluring-ness was working. He snuggled in a bit and let his knee rest against Atobe's. He could totally be a sexy super-spy, using his sophisticated wiles to steal secret inventions and whatnot.

And it was a fun way to spend the time. Maybe after the movie, they'd kiss some more. He'd been thinking about that all week, on and off. Enjoying the kissing was a great side-benefit to the whole dating game.

Momo tried to focus on the movie, in case they were going to have an intellectual discussion about it later. It wasn't his usual sort of film -- no explosions or cute animals or humorous misunderstandings -- but it was really pretty good. When the girl's first art exhibition got a positive review, Momo even did a little fist pump.

Then the girl's mother died. And she couldn't go to Europe, she couldn't go anywhere. Her brother locked her art supplies away. Her father wouldn't speak to anyone. And Momo had a lump in his throat so big, he couldn't swallow it away.

He tried anyhow. Because urbane, cool, and witty guys did not, did not cry at sad movies. So he blinked and swallowed and blinked some more and glanced over at Atobe to make sure he hadn't noticed anything unusual, like Momo being lame and emotional.

Atobe was staring at the screen, his face pale in the blue light. He glanced at Momo, then turned back, turned away. But Momo could still see his face, like a still from the movie: the draw of his mouth, the dent in his forehead, the water in his eyes.

And Momo felt it like a physical event, that exact instant, like a key turning in a lock, the tumblers clicking into place. The moment that he started to like Atobe Keigo.

The movie ended. Atobe turned off the TV. And everything that was a fun game five minutes ago was serious and tense now. Momo didn't know what to do, like he'd been called on in class and not only did he not know the answer, but he didn't even know what class he was in. And possibly had no pants on.

"Um," Momo said. The air felt strained, he was strained. Probably Atobe was thinking about how awkward and un-fun this all was. Do something, Momo told himself and his mouth opened and words came out. "There are these two ducks swimming in a pond."

Atobe just looked at him.

"'Quack,' says the first duck. And the second duck says, 'I was just going to say that!'"

"Momoshiro."

"Do you like my new shirt?" Momo said.

Atobe put his hands on either side of Momo's face. "It has a grease spot on it." And then they were kissing, making out, Atobe climbing astride Momo's lap and pushing him back into the couch cushions.

And Momo heaved a sigh, a wave of heat rolling over his whole body, and let himself go. Wherever Atobe would take him, Momo just wanted to follow.

+

On Monday, Momo told Kaidoh that he had a dentist appointment after school. He got a ball cap from the back of his closet and a pair of cheap sunglasses from the drugstore. He borrowed his dad's old jacket. And he took the bus out to Hyoutei High School.

It took him a while to find the tennis courts. He climbed the bleachers, ignoring the whispers of "Spy!". And he watched Atobe practise.

Atobe was playing as well as he ever had, better even. He was graceful, strong, precise, and very, very cool. And it wasn't just Momo's infatuated brain -- all the students cheered for him.

It all just sucked so bad. Liking someone -- that should be an exciting part of a young man's school life. It should be fun. It shouldn't feel like stomach ache and headache and heartache all at once. Because at the most, Momo had one more date with Atobe and he didn't see how there was anything he could do to change that. Not with all those girls holding up their signs, not with all those boys waving their arms in the air. Atobe-sama, Atobe-sama!

Momo punched his palm. He punched the bench. He tried to be angry with himself for falling for Atobe, for stuck-up rich-boy egomaniac Atobe. But he couldn't even do that much. Because the truth was Atobe earned those cheers.

And he wasn't even cutting tennis practice.

Momo got up and moved to the end of the row. One of the boys grabbed his arm. "Got everything you need, spy?"

"No," Momo said and went home.

+

"We're nearly there," Atobe said though his headset. Momo looked down at the tree tops. He never thought he'd be in a helicopter with Atobe again. At least this time he could relax.

They set down in a clearing and Momo jumped out, ducking down, even though he wasn't tall enough to get his head chopped off by the blades. Atobe handed out a cooler and a couple of bags, then climbed down himself. When they were clear, the helicopter flew away.

And they were alone. Utterly, completely alone on the side of a remote mountain. "You didn't bring me up here to kill me, did you?" Momo said.

"I have people for that." Atobe picked up one of the bags. "Come on."

Momo slung Atobe's extra bag over his shoulder along with his own and picked up the cooler. He just had to keep remembering his plan for the day. Well, not a plan as such, more like a resolve. A resolve to enjoy this one last date as a treasured memory of his burning youth and not to look for more. And maybe next year, when Momo was in high school, he'd play against Atobe in a tournament and kick his ass.

For now, though, he followed Atobe through the forest, ducking under branches and stepping over fallen logs. "Is this some sort of nature hike?" Momo wished he'd worn long sleeves. And maybe some insect repellent.

Atobe pushed aside a branch and there was a river. "We're fishing."

Fishing seemed like it should be boring but it turned out to be fun. Atobe showed him how to cast and they stood together on the bank, not really talking, just listening to the whirr of the crickets and the whirr of the reels.

Atobe caught two fish. Momo had one on the line, but he lost it right away. "Don't yank so hard next time," Atobe said.

Momo was about to give up when he felt the tension on the line again. "Let it out a bit," Atobe said. Momo let the reel spin. "Not that much -- reel it in!" Momo reeled and reeled and there it was again, that force pulling against him, tugging and jerking.

He got the fish to the shore and Atobe lifted it onto the bank. It flopped around. "Throw it back," Momo said.

"Don't you want to keep it?"

"No." He didn't mind Atobe's fish too much but Momo didn't want this one to die. "Let it go."

Atobe held the fish down and pulled out the hook. Then he heaved with both hands and the fish arced out over the water, a flash of silver in the sunlight, then sank under the surface.

Momo put down his rod and sat cross-legged on the grass. Atobe got out a knife and squatted in front of his fish. "Is this going to bother you?"

"It's fine," Momo said. "It was just that one."

Atobe turned out to be a fish-cleaning expert, which was completely unsurprising in some ways and very surprising in others.

"I never thought I'd see you with fish guts on your hands," Momo said.

"You've seen me with dirt on my face," Atobe said. "And I've seen you with whipped cream on your nose."

"Seriously?" The retroactive embarrassment crawled over Momo's skin like some sort of horrible bug. So much for treasured memories of burning youth! "Why didn't you say something?"

"Sprinkles too." Atobe put the fish on ice. Then he unpacked the lunch. "Here." He handed Momo a fork. "There's only one for you. So you'll know which one to use."

Momo laughed. Maybe his burning youth wasn't ruined after all.

After lunch, they sat side by side, leaning back on their hands, looking out over the water. "When ducks fly in a V," Momo said, "why is one side shorter than the other?"

"I don't know," Atobe said. "Why?"

"There's less ducks on that side."

Atobe looked at Momo. Then he started to laugh.

"That's the one you laugh at?" Momo stared. Atobe was actually giggling. And of course nobody would believe him later if he told them. "That was the worst one yet!"

"I know," Atobe said. He pulled Momo down onto the blanket and they kissed, slowly and carefully, until the sound of the helicopter filled the air.

+

So now everything was back to normal, Momo told himself. Back to normal tennis practices and normal after school snacks and, soon, back to normal date-less weekends. Normal except it was already Thursday and the ache hadn't gone away yet. But that was okay. Unrequited romance would build character, definitely, and Momo would come out of it stronger than before. He was probably getting stronger right this instant.

The ball whizzed past his head. "Pay attention!" Kaidoh yelled.

"Whatever!" Momo yelled back. Okay, maybe it would take another week or so. He ran for the ball and picked it up, squeezing it in his fist. Maybe there was some sort of support group he could join. For Rejected Dates of Atobe. They could probably have their own softball league.

"Momoshiro!" Momo blinked and turned around. Kaidoh was standing at the net. "What's the matter with you?"

"Sorry." He hit the ball over to Kaidoh. "I'm going to get some water." He jogged over to the sinks and held his head under the tap. Maybe if he froze his brain, he'd stop thinking about this all the time. About stupid Atobe and his stupid attractiveness and his stupid four date rule.

Seriously, Momo had better be building some freaking amazing character out of this.

He shook the water out of his hair and rubbed his head with a towel. Then he caught sight of Kaidoh's girlfriend watching from the far end of the fence. He dropped the towel around his neck and went over.

"You're Momoshiro-kun, right?"

"Momoshiro Takeshi. Call me Momo-chan."

"I'm Moritaka Kumiko." She smiled at him and Momo grinned back. "You're the vice-captain? Thank you for taking care of Kaoru-kun."

Aw, Kaoru-kun! "No, thank you. He's been much more relaxed lately. Arai even said he saw him smile once, though he couldn't actually prove it."

Moritaka laughed. "He works too hard."

"And the grass is green and the sky is blue." Momo leaned against the fence. "No field hockey today?"

"The grounds are being landscaped. So I had a bit of free time." They both watched the courts for a while. Kaidoh served an ace against Ikeda. "Good job!" Moritaka called.

"So, Kumiko-chan," Momo said. "I'm really curious. How did Kaidoh actually ask you out? I never thought he'd be able to actually, you know, talk to another human being, let alone be romantic."

"Oh, me too," Moritaka said. "That's why I asked him out."

"You did? What did he do?"

"It was so cute! He blushed and choked and did that sweet hissing thing and just when I thought he was going to pass out, he nodded. And now we're going out."

"I'm sure he was adorable," Momo said. "Just like now." Kaidoh was looking over at them like he wanted to glare at Momo but couldn't because then it might look like he was glaring at his girlfriend too. Momo waved and smiled.

Moritaka waved too. "Relationships don't all have to be one way, do they?" she said. "I don't like waiting around for someone else. And it's always better to be--"

"Yourself."

"Straightforward, I was going to say."

"That too," Momo said. "That too."

+

On Saturday, the high schools had a half day. Momo went out to Hyoutei and hung around the gates, waiting for Atobe. Kabaji was there too, presumably for the same reason, though Momo hoped not with the same motivations. They nodded at each other.

A whole group of tennis players came out at once. "Hey, Vanilla," Oshitari called.

"More like Potato," Mukahi said.

"Potato is not a real flavour, Gakuto."

Momo ignored them. He marched up, ducked around Kabaji, and stopped in front of Atobe.

"Atobe-san," he said. "You're going on a date with me."

The boys laughed. "You have some sort of dating service now, Atobe?" Shishido said. "How much for coffee and a kiss?"

Atobe didn't laugh. He looked at Momo for a long time and Momo got that awkward school feeling again, the no-pants one. But he kept his back straight and his gaze steady. When he got turned down, it was going to be to his face and it was going to be knowing he'd done everything he could.

"Okay," Atobe said.

Momoshiro barely stopped the squawk from getting out. "All right then," he said instead.

"I'll call the car around."

"No," Momo said. "We're going on the train."

Atobe lifted his eyebrows. So did Oshitari -- maybe they were connected by a string? Then Atobe handed his bags to Kabaji. "Take these home," he said. Then to Momo: "Let's go."

They didn't talk much on the train. Atobe didn't ask where they were going. Momo didn't ask why Atobe was coming along.

When they arrived at the amusement park, Atobe gave Momo a look. "Hey," Momo said. "It's a normal thing to do. And it's my treat today."

"And what a treat it is," Atobe said. "Let's go on the coffee cups first."

So they rode on the coffee cups and went through the haunted house and rammed his bumper cars into each other. Atobe even raised his arms on the roller coaster and yelled.

"Time for snacks," Momo said and bought them candy floss and pretzels and colas. They sat down at a table. "Oh, just a minute." Momo rummaged in his bag. "Here." He laid six forks in front of Atobe, all in a row. "I thought you might want them."

Atobe laughed. "Which is the candy floss fork?"

"Probably that one." Momo pointed. "And this one is for gum."

Atobe pulled off a piece of floss and nibbled on it. "Not bad. For something that's blue."

"It's on a stick," Momo said. "You can't go wrong with food on a stick. Do you think we should light it on fire?"

"I'm not sure these pretzels would even burn," Atobe said. But he ate everything. "What's next?"

Momo thought about suggesting the roller coaster again. But it was time to be a man. "Come on," he said. "We're going on the Ferris wheel."

+

Momo slid in next to Atobe and the attendant closed the door. "This is so cliché," Atobe said.

"I know," Momo said. "I'm a cliché kind of guy."

The car rose, then stopped while the one beneath them filled. Then they went up and around, the park, the city spreading out beneath them.

"Well?" Atobe said.

"Well." Momo took a deep breath. This was it. "Atobe-san," he said. "I'm not sophisticated and laid-back and cool. I'm a passionate guy."

"Oh?"

"I like you," Momo said. "I like you and I want to keep going out with you. That's all."

It was a lot. Momo's heart thumped and his knees shook and the air was stale and nervous and possibly there was less oxygen from the altitude. Also, if Atobe told Momo to go to hell, they still had fifteen minutes before the ride was over. It could be awkward.

"Well?" Momo said.

Atobe looked at him for a long time. "So, a duck walks into a store," he said.

Momo's mouth dropped open.

Atobe continued: "'Give me some chapstick,' he says and the the clerk says, 'Cash or cheque?' 'Oh,' says the duck, 'Just put it on my bill.'"

Momo stared. "Is that...is that a yes?"

"Obviously," Atobe said.

"Jeez!" Momo slumped back in his seat. "I thought my heart was going to stop."

"This is a great privilege for you, going out with me."

"Obviously," Momo said and put his arm around Atobe's shoulders.

The rest of the ride wasn't awkward at all.

+

"You don't," Momo said into his phone. "You get down from a duck."

"Ha ha," Atobe said. "The recital is Saturday at six so make sure you have appropriate attire. There's a reception afterwards. Oshitari is bringing some new boy he picked up from the Fine Arts club."

"Get off the phone," Kaidoh said. "We have work to do."

Momo made shushing motions at him. "I could find a date for Kabaji."

"Oh, he has a girlfriend," Atobe said.

"Does she play field hockey?" Momo said. Kaidoh glared and Momo smiled sweetly.

"What?" Atobe said. "Just be ready on time."

Momo put the phone away. "You were saying?"

"You shouldn't take calls when we're working on club business," Kaidoh said. "We have to finalize the practice schedules for next week." And then his phone rang. His face went red.

"You'd better talk to her." Momo grinned. "It's our burning youth, after all."

Kaidoh was wearing his usual scowl, but after he took the call, it turned into a rather dopey smile. It was pretty adorable.

Momo took a photo and mailed it to Moritaka. Then he put his feet up on the desk, closed his eyes, and wondered if a bowling shirt was appropriate attire.

-fin-

Comments of any kind are always welcome. :)

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