They both agreed that there were two major peaks they had to overcome: the Seigaku Regulars and their respective families. Of course, they had nine months in which to inform these parties, but there was only so long they could hide this particular development, and besides, Eiji had pointed out, they had to plan things and prepare! Babies didn't take care of themselves, after all, and he wasn't sure what Oishi was beaming at him the whole time, but he decided he didn't care when Oishi pressed him back into the bed kissed him like there was no tomorrow. He reminded Oishi, of course, that after the baby, they'd have to be more careful so that it didn't happen again (unless they wanted it to, of course, but he didn't say that to Oishi just yet), but Oishi only nipped at his ear and asked him when he became so responsible, and Eiji had giggled and laid back and let him do as he pleased, because he couldn't get pregnant again, right? But regardless of their reconciliation, they still had so many issues to take care of, and after two weeks of careful discussion behind locked doors, they decided that neither one of them wanted to tackle their families just yet, despite the pressure the doctors had been putting on Eiji otherwise, and so the Seigaku Regulars it was.
They waited until after practice one day; Oishi had talked to Tezuka beforehand, and the Regulars were called into the club room so that none of the non-Regulars would overhear. It took some time to get them all quieted and sitting down, of course, all but Oishi and Eiji, who stood at the front of the classroom together, Oishi wringing his hands and Eiji fidgeting, with his arms wrapped tightly around his abdomen, as was becoming habit. Even as the other Regulars chitchatted and moved about the room, Tezuka looked up at the two of them silently; Oishi had not told him the matter at hand, and his calm but watchful gaze made Eiji fidget even more. He silently wished that Momo and Kaidoh would fight just a bit longer over the seat by the window, but no such luck; soon, everyone was silently sitting and looking up at their fukubuchou, waiting for whatever announcement there was to be made. Eiji swallowed and looked at Oishi, and Oishi smiled comfortingly back at Eiji, which made Eiji's heart rate calm just slightly as Oishi turned back to look out at the team and made the announcement.
All in all, everyone took it rather well. Certainly, there were some exclamations from the crowd at various moments, and no one really believed at first (but then again, neither had Eiji and Oishi, at first), but eventually, it seemed to sink in for most people. Sure, Momo kept staring at them, slack jawed, and Inui kept eyeing Eiji strangely, but Tezuka and Taka-san (whom Fuji had brought along, with Eiji's permission) congratulated them warmly and Kaidoh blushed and hissed and muttered something that Eiji didn't catch but assumed was something kind, and Fuji just smiled knowingly and gave Eiji a tight hug after everyone else had had their turn. All the Regulars were informed that they were to tell no one of this, and all swore solemnly not to let it slip, and though Oishi fretted, Eiji felt confident that no one would... after all, Eiji was fairly sure that the Seigaku Regulars were the people he trusted most in the world.
After the meeting, everyone acted fairly normal towards Golden Pair; after all, they had to keep it quiet, keep it from the rest of the team, but there was a barely noticeable extra softness in everything; there were extra smiles, extra consideration towards Eiji. For a week, in fact, everything was positively lovely; everyone was kind to him and Oishi was being sweeter than ever in an attempt to make up for his earlier irresponsibility and possibly (though this was only Eiji's speculation) for getting Eiji pregnant in the first place, and Eiji was beginning to feel more and more optimistic about this whole pregnancy. Even with trips to the hospital to worry about and to keep secret from his family, even with the doctor pressuring him to tell them who the father was and to tell his family about everything and warning him about this and that and constantly threatening him that the media might find out at any minute...despite everything, when he was surrounded by his friends, or when he was alone in his room all wrapped up in Oishi's arms, Eiji was happy.
And then, that Saturday evening, Inui telephoned Eiji to inform him that he was fairly sure he had "figured it all out," and that they'd better meet up sometime tomorrow.
Oishi arrived at Eiji's house the next morning to be greeted by Eiji's older sister; when Oishi inquired as to Eiji's state of readiness, she laughed. At his inquiry, she raised her eyebrows and asked if they had a date or something, to which Oishi blushed slightly and responded not really, but they were to meet a friend in half an hour at the park. Eiji's sister laughed and shook her head, and then informed Oishi that Eiji had not yet gotten out of bed and refused to do so, but he was welcome to try. "You're the most likely out of any of us to get him to do anything, anymore," she teased, to which Oishi blushed and bowed and excused himself to Eiji's room.
Oishi found Eiji curled up in bed, eyes squeezed closed tightly. "Eiji," he chided softly, rubbing Eiji's arm softly, "It's time to get up, love."
Eiji let out a low groan and rolled over, shaking his head. "I don't feel gooooooooooood," he whined, hugging his knees to his chest and his side and not opening his eyes. "Go without me, Shuuichirouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu."
Oishi shook his head, smiling softly and sitting on the bed. Eiji, after all, wasn't the easiest to wake, Oishi knew from experience, but he had learned, over the years, the best way to go about waking him was to coax him into consciousness like a cat out of hiding. Leaning over, he pressed a soft kiss to Eiji's cheek, speaking softly into his ear. "I'd love to let you sleep, but you know we have to meet Inui today. I've come to take you, so why don't you get on up, and I'll make you some breakfast."
But Eiji wasn't cooperating. "Nooooooo," he whined persistently, "I don't feel good Shuuichirou!"
Oishi sighed; Eiji often gave excuses in this half awake state, but perhaps he really wasn't feeling well? Stroking Eiji's hair away from his face gently, noting to himself how fine and smooth it felt without all the gel that Eiji wore on a daily basis. "What's wrong, darling?"
Eiji pouted, even with his eyes still squeezed closed. "I'm nauseous, always nauseous! Every morning, Shuuichirou! So I don't wanna get out of bed! It's Sunday!"
Oishi was suddenly hit with a pang of guilt; he may not know much about pregnancy, being a seventeen year old boy, and all, but he had heard of morning sickness before. This was, generally, his fault, but all he could do now was do his best to make it better, right? Pressing light kisses along the side of Eiji's face, he lowered his voice again. "I'm sorry, love, but we have to go meet Inui. Afterwards, I'll take you out to lunch, okay? I'll buy you whatever you want, but you have to get out of bed... what do you say?"
Eiji pursed his lips tighter, but he finally opened his eyes a crack. His lips curled into a slight grin, and he angled his head slightly, giving Oishi access to more of the side of his face. "Nnnnn... You're sexy when you're promising me things, you know?"
Oishi laughed softly, kissing him one last time. "I'll go make you some toast. Get dressed, okay?"
Eiji sighed and propped himself up on his elbows, trying to keep pouting but breaking into a little smile. "Only if you put marmalade on it for me, too."
They arrived to meet Inui a good half-hour later than planned, but luckily, they found him, still waiting, seated on a park bench with his notebook in hand as he intently scribbled something there. He appeared to be watching someone or something in the park, he didn't look up as they approached, and so, finally, Oishi greeted him with a, "Good morning, Inui. I apologize for our tardiness... Eiji overslept."
"Sorry, Inui," Eiji added, knowing Oishi would want him to, and burrowed a little more into the crook of Oishi's shoulder, still feeling a little dizzy. Oishi's arm wrapped around his waist was warm and comforting and protective, however, and so he brought himself to look up at Inui, even through his morning sickness. "You... said you had something to tell me?"
Inui surveyed the couple for a moment, and Eiji wondered exactly what he was looking at, shifting uncomfortably beneath his gaze. It was impossible to say where his focus was behind his opaque glasses, and Eiji couldn't help but fidget, leaning further into Oishi's embrace. Perhaps he shouldn't have gotten out of bed, after all... if Inui was just going to be weird about it (like that one time back in middle school when he'd asked Eiji if he could come along on one of Eiji's sleepovers at Fuji's house), Eiji didn't particularly want to be here.
But then Inui was writing some final thing down muttering to himself, "I didn't expect Oishi to come..." and Eiji wondered if he thought they couldn't hear him. Whatever the case, however, he finally stood and faced them, snapping his notebook shut. "Thank you both for coming out this morning. I've been thinking for a while on your unusual circumstance, and I think I've finally hypothesized a plausible reason behind it."
Eiji was suddenly all ears. "What's that, Inui?" he asked eagerly, wanting to know how exactly he had gotten himself into this strange and unexpected situation. It wasn't that he was really upset anymore... he and Oishi had talked a lot, and he was certain things were going to work out. Still, if Inui had a reason, it'd certainly get all the doctors off his back, at least a little, and satisfy his own curiosity, as well.
"Coral reef fish," Inui replied matter-of-factly, as if this would suddenly explain everything. Eiji glanced up at Oishi, to make sure he wasn't being dumb, but Oishi looked just as lost, and Oishi, Eiji knew, knew a lot about fish. When they gave him blank gazes, however, Inui seemed to catch on and elucidated.
"Among some species of coral reef fish, protandry-- the biological switch from male sexual organs to female-- is common. Quite a bit of research has been done on the subject, however, no research has been done as to how the hormones of these fish might affect the human body when ingested, as there would likely be few subjects willing to undergo experimentation... however, coral reef fish aren't entirely difficult to obtain and contain quite a few relevant nutritional elements, and as such--"
At this point, Eiji realized Oishi was beginning to tremble slightly, and looked up at him in surprise as he cut Inui off. "Inui, you... you fed us coral reef fish, even knowing that?!"
Inui raised an eyebrow. "I used parts of the coral reef fish in a juice that I distributed to the Seigaku Regulars in early August. However, in my defense, I really had no idea that any reaction like this might occur. It's really rather fascinating..." And oh, Eiji did not like that tone in his voice when he leaned in slightly, looking at Eiji in particular. "It's good data. May I have your permission to continue to gather data on you as this progresses, Kikumaru? Of course, it might require a bit more one-on-one study, but..."
Eiji glanced up at Oishi, rather intimidated, hoping for a more diplomatic answer than oh god, ew, no, stay away from me, you're the one who made this happen to me in the first place. Oishi met his gaze for only a second before nodding and turning back to Inui. "This has all been very stressful for Eiji, and that can't possibly be good for the baby. I think it would be best if you kept your data-gathering to while we're at practice, if that's all right, Inui."
Inui looked at him for a moment before nodding. "I understand. My best wishes, then, Oishi, Kikumaru." And with that, he returned to the bench, immediately beginning to scribble in the notebook once more.
Eiji smiled tentatively up at Oishi, and Oishi smiled back as they began to walk away. "Well... that's certainly something, isn't it?" Oishi asked blandly, and Eiji stuck his tongue out.
"Inui, that creep! It's all his fault that this happened. What if he knocked other people up, too?! Everyone drank that stuff... what if he fed it to ochibi, too?! He's only a kid still, and-"
"Come on, Eiji, calm down," Oishi replied, rubbing his arm gently. "It's not Inui's fault. And besides, we have to look on the bright side of things, right?"
Eiji bit his lip, then nodded, wrapping his arms around his abdomen. "Right." Resting his head against Oishi's shoulder, he fell quiet as the exited the park and began walking down the sidewalk, into town. Even if Inui was a creep... well, there was nothing to be done now, and Oishi was right. It might not have been his first choice, and it might cause a lot of difficulties and things, but he was happy to be having a baby with Oishi. After all, it was something that he would have thought impossible before, and even if now wasn't, perhaps, the best time, he was sure he would have wanted it in the future. Opportunities didn't always present themselves at the most convenient times, and Eiji was determined to be content with the way things were.
After a few minutes, Oishi smiled down at him again, however, and Eiji blinked back up at him. "So, how about that lunch I promised you?"
A grin grew on Eiji's face. "I totally forgot. Your treat, right?"
Oishi laughed. "Of course."
If Inui had fed him the juice in early August, then, by the beginning of November, Eiji was already three months pregnant, and though nine months seemed like a heck of a long time, it frightened Eiji to think that they were already a third of the way in. Time felt like it was going by in fast-forward; he had doctor visits at least once a week, and there was the ominous feeling about tennis practice as it became more and more obvious that Eiji's time on the team was steadily running short. Outside of school and tennis, Eiji began to adopt the clothing his oldest brother left behind when he went to college, the clothing that he previously sat around in the closet because it was too big for Eiji. He told his parents it was a new trend when they inquired; he couldn't very well tell them that all of his old things were getting uncomfortably tight. He began borrowing Oishi's school jackets because Oishi was a little broader than he was and so they didn't quite hang right on him, a little too loose. Oishi assured him that really, no one else besides Eiji would ever notice the difference, but Eiji told him that they were better safe than sorry.
Though it was a hassle getting to and from the doctor's office, honestly, Eiji felt blessed that the doctors were handling this the way they were. They had all decided that they would do their best to keep this as under wraps as possible, so as to protect Eiji from the media and the general public. They would get Eiji out of school for the second half of of the term with notice that he was under the hospital's care, and were taking extra precautions to make sure everything was as normal as it possibly could be. They were comforting when Eiji meek voiced his fear of cesarian sections and informative but not patronizing every time he had a question about something that Eiji had the feeling he ought to have known. Every so often, they pressured Eiji to tell his parents or to tell them the identity of the father of the child, but Eiji was able to brush them away relatively easily. No one seemed to connect the fact that Oishi was almost always with Eiji to the father question, so all was well.
In the blink of an eye, another month had gone by, and all too soon, it was Eiji's last day of tennis. When they had told the rest of the team, Tezuka and Oishi had conferred and decided that, on the twenty-third of November, one month after Eiji and Oishi had informed the rest of the team, Eiji was to stop participating in Regular practice. Eiji argued that he was really fine, and just because he was pregnant didn't mean he couldn't play tennis, but Oishi had asked him if he'd really be able, really want to play tennis without doing acrobatics, and, of course, it was out of the question for Eiji to throw himself around the courts like he was used to now, and so Eiji had grudgingly agreed.
And so, Saturday, November the 23rd, Eiji played his last doubles game as Golden Pair. Perhaps out of an act of kindness on Tezuka's part, he assigned them to play a practice match against Inui and Kaidoh, and, of course, with the grace and ease that only Synchro allowed, Golden Pair triumphed. As they stood at the net, shaking hands, Eiji, unsure of the next time he would play doubles, or tennis at all, was suddenly overwhelmed with a surge of emotion and, completely against his will, he could feel a few rebellious tears break free and begin to stream down his face. It was stupid, he knew he was being stupid-- after all, this was simply the way things had to be, but he was going to miss being on the courts together so badly, and he could feel more tears breaking loose now...
He tried to hide it from Oishi, he really did, but once they were off the courts and Tezuka was announcing the end of practice, Oishi happened to catch Eiji wiping at his eyes and pulled him close, wrapping his arms tightly around Eiji's waist, and Eiji couldn't help it, he let go and cried into Oishi's shoulder for a few minutes, because, more than anything, he was going to miss tennis, miss doubles, and who knew how long it would be before he'd be able to play again, and he was just beginning to get ahold of himself again when Oishi ran a hand through Eiji's hair and murmured into his ear that he'd better hurry up and get changed because then Oishi had a surprise for him.
Eiji perked up slightly at that; he had no idea why or what, but surprises from Oishi were always good, and so he sniffed and let Oishi thumb away his tears before jogging off to shower and change.
He tried to hurry, but somehow, once he was dressed, he found Oishi already waiting for him, Eiji's schoolbag in hand and a warm smile on his face. "Come on," he beckoned softly, "It's the weekend before your birthday. I'm taking you out."
Before Eiji really knew what he was doing, he was throwing his arms around Oishi's neck, and it felt like he was practically glowing with joy, with love for this boy with whom Eiji was absolutely sure he wanted to spend the rest of his life, and instead of responding, he kissed Oishi full on the lips, right there outside the tennis courts, people's reactions be damned. And when he finally drew away, panting and with swollen lips, Oishi took his hand and Eiji squeezed back and let Oishi lead him off the school grounds and into town. Of course, he had no idea where they were going until Oishi led him to a little ice cream parlour that Eiji all of a sudden recognized, and he couldn't help but turn and grin to Oishi again.
Oishi was smiling back, and he asked softly, "Do you remember this place, Eiji?"
Eiji put on a scoff, despite the fluttery feeling that was building in his stomach. "Of course I do! It's where you took me on our first date."
Oishi looked sheepishly pleased with himself. "Well, I know you like strawberry parfaits and I figured... for old times' sake."
The look on his face, Eiji decided, was absolutely adorable; a little hesitant, as if he worried Eiji wouldn't appreciate the sentiment. Grinning widely he leaned in and kissed Oishi on the cheek very deliberately before dragging him towards the building. "Hurry up, or we won't be able to get the right table!"
It turned out, once all was said and done, that the table at which they had sat more than three years ago now was taken already, but they got the booth right next to it, which was good enough for Eiji, and ordered their strawberry parfaits and reminisced about the old times and how Inui had stalked them there and taken pictures and interrogated them about it later, and about how, subsequently, their relationship had come out in the open, and about how great everyone had been about it, how kind everyone was still being about it. And after they were finished eating, Oishi paid the bill and wiped the whipped-cream from Eiji's nose with his thumb and, hand in hand, they had left, just as they had many, many dates ago.
Eiji was fully prepared just to head home for the night, his birthday surprise done with, but Oishi suggested they stop at the part on the way back to watch the sunset, and Eiji agreed, because more time with Oishi was always a good thing. Oishi led them to a little secluded bench off to the side and pecked Eiji on the cheek before telling Eiji to close his eyes. Eiji inquired as to why several times before complying, but when Oishi bid him to open his eyes again, he gasped in surprise. Oishi had slid down the bench and placed between them three packages, each wrapped immaculately in brightly-coloured paper. "Oh, Shuuichirou," Eiji gasped breathlessly, but Oishi only smiled. "Open them up."
The first package revealed strawberry-flavoured toothpaste from Eiji's favourite brand, and Eiji grinned. He had always been particular about his toothpaste and Oishi seemed to be the one person who understood that; for special occasions, he bought Eiji new tubes of toothpaste and never asked to use, or worse, borrowed without permission, Eiji's toothpaste at home. Eiji thanked him, and Oishi only smiled and urged him to open the other two packages.
It had always been hard for Eiji to be polite and peel back the wrapping paper on birthday gifts, but, after what felt like eons, he had finally revealed his other two presents: a matching blue plaid scarf and hat which Eiji had been eyeing in a boutique display a few months ago. They were of a matching fabric; the hat was a beret of sorts; it was the new, fashionable sort, the type that was to be worn off the back of the head, stylish, and the scarf was long and had white fringe at the ends to match the white pompom on the back of the hat. The set had been too expensive for him to ever afford, especially with a baby on the way and all, but he had been walking with Oishi and had pointed it out anyway, and now, here it was sitting in his lap. He stared at it a moment, wide eyed, before looking up at Oishi, speechless.
Oishi was looking back at him hesitantly, and shrugged. "I... I know you said you liked them, and I figured it was practical, since winter's coming up, and all, and... well, since it was a bit of an indulgence, and since you're being so responsible and everything... I thought it was something you'd like. Of course... if you don't want it, you can return it and get something else with the money... I really don't mind. I just wanted to buy you something nice that would make you smile."
Oishi seemed to be looking for a verbal response but Eiji decided that throwing his arms around Oishi's neck and kissing him like there was no tomorrow answered just as well as any words might have. And when Eiji drew back to breathe only to have Oishi pull him closer a second later, he was pretty certain that Oishi agreed.
They had been hiding it fairly well, but by five months, Eiji was really beginning to show, and finally, together with Oishi, Eiji finally came to the decision that it was time to let his family know. It wasn't as terrifying a prospect as it might have been; all of Eiji's family besides his grandparents knew that he and Oishi were dating, and though his parents had had some trouble with it at first, they had gotten past it for the most part; after four other children, it seemed, they had learned that, with matters such as this one, they only wanted their children to be happy. And so while they weren't entirely accepting of homosexuality as a whole, they had four other children to give them grandchildren and two other sons to continue the family line, and Oishi was so considerate and responsible and kind that, in the end, they really couldn't dislike him.
Oishi had insisted he be there for the occasion; he wanted to take responsibility, he said, and prove to them that he'd be a good father, and so Eiji, albeit grudgingly, allowed it. He was a little worried about what his parents might do to him-- after all, it was one thing to approve of him as a boyfriend, it was another altogether to comprehend that he had gotten their child pregnant. After all, his oldest sister, who was twenty-two and married, hadn't had any kids yet, and Eiji was only sixteen and still in high school and distinctly not married, and he wasn't sure how his parents would take that.
But to his honest and complete shock, they took it fairly well. Sure, they hadn't been to clear on the whole boy-being-preggers thing at first, but then again, no one was, and now that Eiji was obviously and visibly pregnant, it was a lot easier to convince people. And sure, they hadn't been pleased with the situation, but Eiji and Oishi honestly couldn't really be blamed when no one would really think of this situation, and they were impressed, in the end, with how mature Eiji and Oishi were being about it, and so, in the end, though they weren't thrilled, they certainly weren't irate, either. There were differences in opinion; they wanted Oishi to, as they put it, "make an honest boy of Eiji," but Eiji and Oishi carefully explained that Oishi would do everything he could and be a good father without making any unnecessary premature commitment that might end poorly, and of course he and Eiji were still very much planning on staying together, and his parents were satisfied enough with that, and so that's how things were.
It was a weight off Eiji's chest, honestly, when, that night, he curled up in Oishi's arms and breathed a sigh of relief and fell into an easy sleep. But in the morning, he had something altogether new to dread: today they were to tell Oishi's parents, and Eiji had the sinking feeling that that was not going to go over anywhere near as well as the talk with his parents had.
Eiji had a doctor's appointment first, in the morning, but then after that, they were going to eat at Eiji's and go straight to Oishi's house to get the matter sorted out. Oishi had, multiple times, attempted to explain that this was not going to go over well and his parents were probably going to have some choice names to call Eiji and possibly the both of them, and it would be better if Eiji weren't there at all, but just as Oishi had insisted to be there for Eiji, Eiji held his ground, and finally, Oishi relented. Eiji could tell he was all nerves throughout the whole day; he was tense and twitchy, and Eiji wished there was something he could do about it even though he knew there was nothing. The sooner this was over with, he finally decided, the better, and so he ate quickly as Oishi picked at his food and didn't actually eat much, and then held Oishi's hand firmly all the way until they got to Oishi's front door. Before they went inside, he offered his best reassuring smile, and Oishi broke into a hesitant smile back at him, even as his hands shook, and together, they went inside, for better or for worse.
For certain, Oishi's parents did have some choice words for Eiji, and for Oishi too, and though Eiji had been expecting it to be bad, he hadn't quite known what he was in for and was only beginning to appreciate how brave Oishi had to have been to face that from his own parents once it was all over with. Oishi's father had yelled, threatened, insulted, called both Eiji and Oishi things neither of them cared to repeat while Oishi's mother cried and asked Oishi how could he do this to her, as if Oishi had gone to prison or gotten shot or something. It disgusted Eiji, but he supposed it had to be a lot of a shock, since Oishi's parents hadn't even known they were dating, and people tended to do things they didn't quite mean when they were shocked. A few minutes in, Eiji began to feel rather guilty, honestly, because if it wasn't for him, Oishi wouldn't be in this situation, and he swallowed and only nodded with every piling derogatory statement towards him, but Oishi was brave and brilliant and defended Eiji, defended what they had together valiantly until the end, and if it had been possible, Eiji would have loved him even more than he already did for it, because he had never seen anything quite so admirable as Oishi doing what was so much harder but what he believed.
Two and a half hours after they had entered Oishi's house, they left it with three suitcases filled with the most of Oishi's belongings-- his parents had been generous enough to let him keep his things when they threw him out. They walked in silence back to Eiji's house-- in tears as he hurriedly threw things into suitcases, Eiji had apologized over and over, had promised Oishi that of course he could stay at Eiji's house and that, somehow, Eiji'd make things better since this was all his fault in the first place, and he hated the fact that Oishi had to comfort him when Oishi was the one who had just gotten kicked out of his home, but he had gotten ahold of himself, and now he allowed Oishi the silence because he simply didn't know what else to say, not now. He felt terrible for it, but Oishi was staring so intently at the cement in front of him that Eiji didn't dare interrupt his thoughts, whatever they may be. It was the least he could do, after all.
When they got inside, Eiji's mother met them at the door, and with insight refined over the raising of five children that Eiji cursed when he'd scored poorly on tests, she seemed to sense what had happened without any explanation whatsoever and took one of the suitcases from Oishi. "Why don't you set those down and I'll move them to Eiji's bedroom for you? Dinner's almost on the table, if you want to get washed up."
For the first time since they had left Oishi's house, Oishi looked up from the floor. "Thank you," he said, with that unfaltering politeness with which he always impressed his friends parents, but beneath, Eiji could see a warmth that wasn't always there before, and he had a feeling that his mother could see it there, too. And despite everything bad that had transpired, Eiji couldn't help but beam, because, no matter how much he complained about curfews and chores and house rules, he was extremely proud of his family, was extremely thankful that they could understand, could accept the one he loved with such open arms.
But Eiji's mother didn't let it show, but rather took the other two suitcases before turning to her son. "That's right. How did the doctor's visit go, dear?"
Eiji's smiled broadened and he took Oishi's hand, and, glancing at him, was thrilled to see the traces of a smile on his lips as well. Looking back up to his mother, he practically scintillated, all the worry and doubt from before falling away in sheer assurance that everything would, somehow, be all right. "It went great, Kaasan. We're going to have a little girl."
Despite the fact that Oishi had been entirely ready to give it up right alongside Eiji, Eiji had insisted that Oishi continue with tennis until the baby was born, because after that, neither of them would have much free time, and Eiji called Oishi all sorts of names and assured him that just because Eiji was out of the game didn't mean Oishi had to torture himself needlessly. Eiji still came to practices, after all, sat on the bleachers and watched, awash in a sea of too-big, too-baggy clothes with a warm smile on his face as he watched Oishi practice. Soon, he knew, the doctors were going to be taking him out of school and relegating him to general bed-rest, because no one really knew what was going to happen, and though he didn't blame them and was glad for the excuse to be out of school now that it was really getting obvious, he wanted to enjoy these last practices while he could.
Time moved quickly, however, as it seemed want to do anymore, and soon, another month and a half had passed and it was Eiji's last day in school until the baby was born. Oishi and Fuji had promised to bring Eiji's homework to him and explain the lessons, so that he could stay more or less caught up and, hopefully, still graduate on time with the rest of them, and Eiji's elder sister, who was living at home her first semester at college, and Eiji's mother had offered to watch the baby during the day, once it was old enough, so that Eiji could get back to school as soon as possible. It was all very kind of them, and Eiji was extremely grateful, but it didn't make the last day any easier, and, as he had been finding himself in tears more and more often anymore (it's the hormones, Fuji had kindly informed him), he was really trying to keep himself from acting stupid. Echizen and Taka-san had even shown up to watch practice, as well, and Eiji was touched that they'd want to wish him well like that, and spent most of the practice sitting between the two and determinedly blinking back tears.
Once practice was done, Eiji gathered his school bag and went to wait for Oishi by the entrance to the tennis courts, but Oishi smiled and shook his head. "We're not going home just yet," he informed Eiji, and when Eiji blinked in confusion, Oishi gestured to Fuji, who smiled as well and took Eiji's hand. "We've a surprise for you," he explained without really explaining at all, voice all melodious and enigmatic, and Eiji didn't have much of a choice but to follow.
It was a bit of a hike, and Eiji wondered why Fuji kept taking them on "shortcuts" that Eiji was fairly sure made the trip longer, but soon, the three of them arrived at Fuji's house. Thoroughly confused, Eiji allowed Fuji to lead him inside and up the stairs to his bedroom, but was still startled when Fuji pushed him lightly ahead. "Go on and open the door," he urged, and Eiji, terribly bewildered but not knowing what else to do, did as told.
There was a cry of "Surprise!" that sounded most distinctly like Momo with an undertone of apathy that could only be Echizen, and Eiji blinked around the room with surprise. All of the Regulars, the entire team from senior year of middle school, was gathered in Fuji's bedroom, and there was sushi (vegetable, Eiji noted as he felt a smile begin to crawl across his face, because he remembered the doctors telling him too much fish was bad for the baby), and a large pile of packages wrapped in bright colours, and Eiji turned back to Fuji and Oishi all wide eyes and disbelief. "This... is for me?"
"It's a baby shower," Fuji explained indulgently, that warm, patient, fond smile that he seemed to reserve for Eiji dancing across his lips. "For you. Go on in."
From that point on in Eiji's memory was a bit of a blur; he was sure he cried a few times during the course of the evening but he couldn't remember when. Then again, it hardly mattered, what mattered was how impossibly happy, how impossibly loved he felt as he was surrounded by his friends, all congratulations and hugs, and just existing in the knowledge that they had put this together for him was too much. And then, of course, there were the gifts: baby clothes from Tezuka and Echizen, a blanket hand-knit by his mother from Kaidoh, a rather fancy perambulator from Fuji and Taka-san, children's books from Inui, stuffed animals from Momo, and then, after everyone had left, Fuji had given him something else: a sturdy yet attractive bag that Fuji informed him had been sewn by his sister, and, later Eiji was floored to discover ten thousand yen in one the of the pockets. Eiji had hardly known how to thank everyone, but everyone seemed to understand, so it was okay that Eiji cried entirely too much afterwards.
But really, the part that Eiji remembered the most clearly was after that, when they all sat around eating sushi together, just like old times, and talked and joked and told stories just like they always did, and Eiji, emotional rollercoaster that he currently was, felt almost giddy, because everything was normal and the way it was supposed to be, and though he was happy to be having a baby with Oishi, he also knew he was going to miss his friends, and he wanted to hold onto this moment for ever and ever and ever.
But, all of a sudden, he was started out of his thoughts and let out a little noise of surprise which somehow caught everyone's attention and placed his hands over his abdomen, eyes wide. Oishi on one side and Fuji on the other both asked him what it was, to which Eiji laughed and looked up, from one to the other. "I can feel it," he replied simply, laughing slightly at the sensation. "I can feel the baby kicking."
At that, Oishi looked at him with wide eyes, too, and Eiji grinned and took his hand in his own and placed it where he had put his own hand a second earlier. With great pleasure, he watched Oishi's eyes light up, too, before he heard Fuji's sweet, almost excited voice ask, "May I, as well?"
"Of course!" Eiji had replied, and then everyone had wanted to feel, because it was such a novelty, and Eiji grinned at them all as they placed their hands on his tummy, one by one, like he was a preschool teacher with show-and-tell. It was cute, really, to see Echizen's eyes widen when he felt it, or to watch Kaidoh blush and hiss softly in what Eiji had learned over time was the way he expressed emotion, and, all of a sudden, Eiji felt all warm and fluffy in a way that was different than before. After all, it was true, things were certainly going to change, but, Eiji was suddenly sure, more than what he had been assuring himself of before, things were going to be more than all right.
As they left late that evening, all sorts of gifts in tow, Oishi kissed Eiji softly and squeezed his hand tightly and asked, "Are you happy?" and Eiji didn't skip a beat before kissing him back and smiling fondly and replying that yes, yes he was.