Atobe glanced at his cell phone. It was about time for Echizen to be getting his first gift.
Ryoma was only aware by the time he got to school on the morning of February fourteenth that it was Valentines Day because he had seen so ridiculously many advertisements on his way. He wasn't expecting anything special, however, and was therefore very startled when, in his desk, he found a large, heart-shaped box of expensive chocolates. He was less startled when, upon inspecting the card, he discovered that they were from Atobe, but he couldn't help but smile to himself, anyway. He hurried to put them away, however, when he noticed a few of his classmates were staring, and pretended to the best of his ability that nothing was going on.
It was harder to pretend, when, after the teacher for his first class had left, someone came to the door and asked for him. Wondering what was going on, Ryoma willingly went to the door only to be handed a large bouquet of lilacs. It was ridiculously embarrassing, and Ryoma didn't know what to do besides come back into his room and shove the flowers under his chair, hoping people wouldn't notice. He got the feeling that Atobe was relying on a knowledge of flower meanings with which Ryoma wasn't familiar, but he didn't really care. The thought was nice, but this was getting stupid fast, and, knowing Atobe, Ryoma didn't have much hope that things were going to get better.
Ryoma's assumption was correct; after second period he received a box of tennis ball shaped marzipan, at lunchtime, an expensive cake, next, pansies, and finally, red roses. By the end of the day, people really were staring at him as he left for tennis with armfuls of gifts, and he was not looking forward to facing his teammates' reactions. Little did he know what he would find when he reached the tennis courts.
Through the influence Atobe had but rarely used, he got himself, Oshitari, and Mukahi out of school early. The other two were only coming with him upon the promise of restaurant reservations that only an Atobe could manage to get. But, for the last and most extravagant part of his Valentines Day gift, their presence was needed.
When they arrived at Seigaku, they were early enough to beat the students getting out of class, and by the time people started arriving at the tennis courts, Atobe and his teammates turned back-up singers were completely set up and awaiting the arrival of Echizen.
When the boy in question came around the corner, the other gifts Atobe had sent during the day piled in his arms, Atobe signaled to Mukahi to play the music, and then the three of them broke into song.
Ryoma paled when he saw Atobe, decked out in a frilly purple blouse, with Mukahi and Oshitari behind him, along with a rather expensive looking boombox and microphones, but when they actually began to sing, he had to keep himself from turning and walking away. This... this was insane, this was ridiculous! What was that about winning boyfriends' heart's and wanting a fabulous romance--?! Ryoma got the vague feeling he had heard this song on the radio maybe once or twice before, but sung by a woman (and, oh god, Atobe was using "watashi" and there was something really wrong with that...) and now his teammates were appearing on the courts with a range of skeptical expressions on their faces, and Ryoma had the desire to curl up and hide because his face was bright red and this was just ridiculous.
Atobe finished singing with a flourish, and then looked up, only to see that Echizen was bright red and trying to slowly back up through the crowd, while obviously trying to disappear. Really, that wasn't the reaction that Atobe had been aiming for, when he decided that Echizen was going to get everything Atobe had to offer for Valentines Day. Now, it appeared Atobe would have to work hard to salvage the situation.
So, Atobe handed the microphone he was holding off to Oshitari (right after which they collected the boombox and made themselves scarce) and then went after him, making his way through the crowd and then grabbing Echizen and pulling him away from all the people who were staring and obviously waiting for something else to happen.
"I hope you enjoy the gifts I sent you. I tried for things that I thought you would enjoy," Atobe said, as Echizen refused to look at him. "Is there anything else you'd like? I'm sure I can arrange something for you, trade something if you didn't like it..?"
At the moment, Ryoma wanted nothing more than all these people to go away... but yet, he felt like he couldn't blame Atobe. After all, it was he who had chosen to let Atobe pursue him, and he knew what sort of a person Atobe was. So, looking away and still blushed he shrugged. "It's fine. Just come back later and pick me up." And then, giving Atobe a sideward grin, he turned and left. He did have to go to practice, after all.
Atobe ended up waiting at a coffee shop for the two hours while waiting for Echizen's practice to end. It was only sub-par, the coffee weak and the cake a bit too sweet for Atobe's taste, but the decor was tasteful and the atmosphere relaxing, so it wasn't a bed way to spend the two hours. Of course, that was minus the amount of time it took to get rid of Oshitari and Mukahi, who insisted on having him drive them back to Oshitari's house so that they could properly prepare of the dinner they had planned for the night.
On the way back to the limo (which, much to Atobe's dismay, could not find a place to temporarily park, and so was several blocks away) he happened to pass by a soda machine, and noticed that it sold grape Ponta. Echizen's preferred flavor, as everyone on the tennis circuit knew. Smiling a bit to himself, he bought a can and made sure to put it in the mini fridge as soon as he was back in the car. One more present wouldn't hurt Echizen, now would it?
After practice, Ryoma packed up particularly hurriedly in order to escape before anyone could question him about Atobe's musical debut, and walked briskly to the gates, arms still full of gifts, where he smiled to find the limo and Atobe waiting for him. He let Atobe get the door for him and help him dump his armfuls of candy and flowers and tennis bag before getting in and settling himself as Atobe sat next to him.
Though he wasn't exactly talkative, Ryoma had long ago stopped trying to ignore Atobe's existence, and at least acknowledged him as he ranted about whatever it was he chose to rant about. Today, however, Atobe only gave him a grin before turning and withdrawing something from what appeared to be a refrigerator in the car. Ryoma was only confused for a second before Atobe placed a can of grape Ponta into his hands, and at that, Ryoma couldn't help but break into a smile. Of all the things Atobe had given him today, all of the money and effort he had spent... somehow, this was Ryoma's favourite gift of all. Looking up and giving Atobe a sloppy half-grin, he nodded. "Thanks."
Atobe really couldn't help it: Echizen looked adorable, holding his can of Ponta and smiling at Atobe, and actually saying thank you, so Atobe turned and grabbed him, pulling him into a tight hug. He felt Echizen's gasp against his chest, knew that he hadn't been expecting it, so he only held him for a few seconds before slowly pulling back. "I'm glad you liked it. Happy Valentine's Day."
Ryoma flushed and nodded, looking at his gift a second longer before shifting to look out the window. He didn't trust himself to open his mouth; he had the feeling that if he tried to speak, he would end up telling Atobe the truth about his own feelings and everything, and that would ruin his whole little plan. He couldn't let Atobe get egotistical about the whole thing, after all, and think he had won Ryoma over so easily! And so, instead, he leaned against the side of the car and stared out the window, and, when he got home, gave a small grin and a wave before lugging his armful of gifts inside.
After dinner and a bath and time to calm down and think, Ryoma made a mental note to start looking for White Day gifts.
After Valentines Day, Atobe toned his flirting and courting back down again, and his and Echizen's contact was once again limited to chance meetings and the rides home Atobe continued to give (he now kept the limo's refrigerator stocked with grape Ponta). He was so busy concentrating on his studies and the wooing, that he did the unthinkable: he completely forgot about the arrival of White Day.
He was quite abruptly clued into the fact that it had arrived when he walked into the bathroom to find Oshitari and Mukahi making out quite passionately, with a discarded bouquet of white flowers sitting on the sink. He calmly left the bathroom, and went about his daily business as usual, only every now and again bothered by the question of whether Echizen had actually gotten him anything in return for Valentines Day. They never talked about the relationship they did or did not have, so a return gift today would at least tell Atobe if there was interest or not.
At the end of the school day, when he was packing his books and homework, he found it. A small white box, tucked into his school bag (Echizen must have asked one of Atobe's teammates to put it there). Inside, there was a roll of Atobe's favorite grip tape (white) and a note reading Monkey King- hope this meets your standards.
Atobe knew that he must have been smiling in a most undignified manner as he left the classroom, but he couldn't bring himself to care: he had received a White Day gift from Echizen Ryoma, and right now, that was all that mattered.
A week went by rather without event, and Ryoma was surprised, really, at the relative normalcy of it all, considering how eventful his life had been of recent. At the end of a week, however, things got at least a little more exciting, because Oishi announced that Friday at the beginning of practice that, within an hour, Hyoutei's Regulars would be arriving to have a practice match, and, of course, they ought to be on their best behaviour. Kikumaru promptly asked why they had to behave when Hyoutei never did, and Momo agreed, which began a lot of everyone talking at once, from which Ryoma silently excused himself and began hitting against the wall. He shouldn't really have cared that Hyoutei was coming, but yet, that meant Atobe was probably coming, and Ryoma couldn't help but be a little excited. It was another chance to play his little game with Atobe, and he got the feeling that things were soon going to reach a climax, the result of which was unknown even to Ryoma. It was engaging, unlike so many things in Ryoma's life, and so he waited, hoping that Hyoutei would arrive sooner rather than later.
Atobe arrived promptly at Seigaku with all of the Hyoutei Regulars in tow. Many of his teammates had complained about coming, seeing as the second years being groomed for the next year would be the ones taking part in the practice match, but as outside advisors of sorts to the club, he insisted on their presence.
He and Oshitari settled on the bench as the other members dispersed, both to warm up and yell at the underclassmen as they were warming up. Atobe used the chance to surreptitiously watch Echizen, who wasn't paying a wink of attention to Atobe in turn. That rankled slightly: Atobe would have thought he could at least say hello or acknowledged his presence or something of the sort.
Instead, he was laughing and joking around with Momoshiro, in a way that nearly set Atobe to glaring at the both of them for all he was worth. The spikey-haired idiot should learn to keep his hands off of other people's semi-boyfriends, and to keep unnecessary physical contact to a minimum. Atobe understood that sometimes teammate felt the need to be in constant contact with one another, but Echizen looked a little too comfortable with his sempai, and Atobe simply could not take it any more!
He stood and stormed over to where the two had situated themselves. "Echizen," he said, none to gently and none to quietly. "Ore-sama demands a tennis match. Right now. And if ore-sama is the winner, you will formally agree to be ore-sama's boyfriend and go on a date with ore-sama." Let him deal with that ultimatum.
Ryoma blinked up at Atobe, startled. This was not at all what he was expecting it to come to... but then again, this was all the more exciting. In the past, Atobe had only lost to Ryoma... the fact that he was willing to try anyway, and the fact that he wanted Ryoma badly enough to go to these lengths... it really was rather moving. Grinning slightly, he nodded, gripping his racquet and motioning to one of the far courts. "Let's go."
"Y-you're not really going to agree to that, are you, Echizen?!" Momo exclaimed, looking at him disbelievingly, but Ryoma only shrugged and nodded as he moved to his tennis bag, pulling on a pair of wristbands and grabbing a few tennis balls. thus prepared, he made his way to the far court to face Atobe. "Which?" he asked plainly, placing the top of his racquet on the ground and looking to Atobe, waiting for an answer.
"Rough," Atobe replied, testing the tension of the strings on his own racket and making sure he wouldn't have to switch it for his spare. He hoped Echizen noticed that it was wrapped with the white day grip tape. Even if he knew on some level that Echizen probably already knew it.
He had called the serve correctly, and made sure to get a ball before moving to the baseline in order to serve. Atobe decided that the best way to show his will to win this game was to start off as strongly as possible, so he blasted a Tannhauser at Echizen and smirked when the freshman wasn't successful in his attempt to return it.
Ryoma didn't even bother to try to return Atobe's serves-- why waste the energy? There was no way he possibly could, and so he simply waited out Atobe's service game, letting him tire himself out. After all, there was no way Atobe could afford to keep it up for the whole match, and when it was Ryoma's service, then he'd knock off some of Atobe's ego. Still, even as he let Atobe's fourth serve roll past him on the ground, he grinned slightly. For Atobe to do something that extravagant in the first game, he was obviously serious about winning, a fact that touched Ryoma, even if he wouldn't let it show.
After the announcement of, "Game, Hyoutei! One game to love!" Ryoma made his way leisurely to the other side of the court, retrieving a ball and rolling his shoulder as he bounced the all a few times against the ground. "Ready?" he asked Atobe obnoxiously, catching the ball before drawing back into a Twist Serve. He probably could have tried for something more impressive, but why bother? It would be boring if they didn't rally at all, and Ryoma wasn't looking for an easy win.
Atobe wasn't sure if Echizen was trying to make him look like fool or not, but starting with such an easy serve either meant he was looking for a hard fight to win, or he wasn't taking the game seriously. Atobe sincerely hoped it was the first option, because he could use a tough match right about now, to finally have a chance to just play tennis. So, he returned Echizen's shot more strongly than Echizen had first sent it, showing his resolve and hoping Echizen would meet the challenge.
Ryoma was both surprised and touched by Atobe's determination, and, with a grin, he returned the ball with Hametsu e no Rondo, just to see how Atobe would react to his own shot. Ryoma was fairly certain it wouldn't work, certainly not on its creator, but it would be interesting to watch, and perhaps Ryoma just had Atobe on the brain. Either way, Ryoma certainly wasn't intending on going down without a fight, and if Atobe was going to come on so strong, Ryoma figured he ought to step it up, too.
Normally Atobe was aware of exactly what was going on around him, what the score what, how many sets he had won or lost. Today, all his concentration was on the tennis, on beating Echizen and on each hard won point. It was a game that was constantly see-sawing, Atobe would be ahead, then they would draw even, then Echizen would pull ahead, then it would all start over again. Everyone was watching them, and without Atobe even realizing it, the game had gone into a tie break, and both he and Echizen refused to back down.
For the first time in a long time, Ryoma was actually feeling challenged, and it was nice, really. With the score at 6-6, they were entering into a seven-point tie break, and it was Atobe's service. They were both visibly tired, and as Ryoma waited, he could hear both the Hyoutei and Seigaku Regulars murmuring amongst themselves as they watched. He wasn't sure at what point his and Atobe's match had won out over the actual matches people were supposed to be playing, but, he supposed, since they actually had something at stake, it would make it a bit more interesting.
Just as the game had, the tie break swiveled back and forth, crawling forward one point at a time. When, at 7-6, there was no clear winner, they continued on, until, finally, finally, at a score of fourty-nine to fifty-one, Ryoma lost the match. There was an almost deadly silence over the group; it seemed almost as if no one quite knew what would happen or what to think.
Atobe couldn't quite process what had just happened. He had won. He had just played another impossibly long tie-break with Echizen Ryoma, and this time, he had won. And he had to say, what was riding on the match was that much more important to him and so when it ended and he actually was the winner, he threw all Hyoutei dignity and poise to the win and didn't bother to try and stop himself from smiling like and idiot.
At the look of elation on Atobe's face, Ryoma couldn't help but grin, too. The fact that Atobe cared so much about winning this match, about winning over Ryoma... it made Ryoma feel warm, somehow. At the beginning of all of this, he had been certain that Atobe wasn't capable of caring about anything besides himself, and that this whole winning him thing was only for Atobe to prove his prowess at wooing or something. But now, now that they had played an ungodly long tie break and Atobe was throwing away his pride and smiling like an idiot, Ryoma knew for sure that this situation, this something between the two of them was a lot more than that, and he was only a little surprised at the happiness he could feel bubbling inside of himself.
Still, things had to be attended to, and so he set aside his racquet and made his way briskly around to the other side of the court, where Atobe was still standing. As he approached him, Ryoma slid one of his wristbands off and tossed it at Atobe, where it hit him square in the chest and then fell to the ground with a loud thud. Grinning, Ryoma came to a stop right before Atobe, looking up into his eyes. "Mada mada da ne," he commented, before standing on his toes and pressing a kiss to Atobe's lips.
Atobe was shocked by the weighted wristband (really, he could have beaten Echizen without them, he could have), stunned when Echizen kissed him first (certainly hadn't been expecting that at all), and still deliriously happy enough about everything that he didn't care that Echizen had technically cheated to let him win.
He wanted to hug Echizen, he wanted to kiss him, he wanted so many things right now that he probably shouldn't do with the entirety of two school's teams worth of regulars watching. Instead, he pushed all the things he couldn't do aside and drew Echizen into a hug that probably would cut off the oxygen supply to Echizen's head in to Atobe's arms, but he didn't care, because all his work had payed off finally!
"Anywhere you want," he murmured to Echizen before he let him go. "Our first date, you can pick anywhere you want."
Grinning cockily, Ryoma shrugged. "You're better at that kind of thing than me. You pick, Monkey King." Really, he knew, he was stupid with excitement, but he didn't care, because, he finally fully admitted to himself, Atobe really had won him over entirely and he was in love and he didn't care what anyone else thought. Turning, he made his way back to the other side of the court to collect his racquet, calling over his shoulder, "But you better get off the court first. You're in the way." Looking back at Atobe for a second, he winked with a grin, before walking back to the sidelines and not caring that all of Seigaku was staring at him as he did.
Atobe was in a daze of happiness for the rest of the day. If anyone had bothered to ask him what had happened, they most likely would have received a jumbled response about Echizen and a date and how happy he was. However, the regulars traveling with him did not, in fact, ask him about it (mainly because they were there and thus knew what had happened) and instead stared and sniggered about how lovestruck he was acting.
But Atobe didn't care. He was planning a date, and all that mattered what what kind of food Echizen liked to eat, what sort of activities he enjoyed, and should he ask or just play it safe and make reservations at a very nice Japanese restaurant and take him sight seeing afterwards? Maybe he should just ask Echizen what he liked and figure it out from there...