Kitayama might be taking a picture of this (mousapelli) wrote,
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Fic, Prince of Tennis, Accidental Alchemy

As promised, the Golden Pair handcuff fic at last! I had darkeyedwolf take a look at this early on, but as she is occupied moving, and no one else seems interested, I have done my best with self-betaing.

Title: Accidental Alchemy [pre-Golden Pair]
Rating/Warnings: PG-13 for even brushing up against the topic of what Fuji does with handcuffs.
Summary: Eiji and Oishi's sophomore year, several members of the team think things would be much better if they got along.
AN: I am only up to episode 75, so I don't have any idea what the canon for Eiji and Oishi becoming the Golden Pair is, but I tried my best to stay in canon for what I know. Also, i recognize that Captain Yamato was likely not the captain during their sophomore year, but barring any mention of the intervening captain, I opted to use Yamato anyway because he is hilariously shady.

Also, since this is pre-series, there really aren't any spoilers that I can see.


Accidental Alchemy

"Game to Oishi, 45-30! Match to Oishi, six games to four!"

"You played a good game, Kikumaru-kun." Oishi smiled politely and held out his hand as he approached the net.

"Nnnn," Eiji replied grumpily, but he shook Oishi's hand. "You too."

*******

"Man, that guy is irritating." Eiji was still grumbling the next day at lunch. "He's so quiet, and he never wants to try new things, and his face is always like this!"

Eiji bit his upper lip hard and wrinkled his forehead all up, then glared at Fuji expectantly. Fuji continued eating his lunch quietly, giving no response other than a soft "Mn."

"Fuuuuji," Eiji let his face deflate back to normal and popped a bite of his own food in his mouth. "Don't tell me you like that guy!"

"Oishi-kun has made regulars three times in a row now," Fuji commented, as if saying that the sky was blue or that Inui was crazy. "He is an asset to Seigaku."

"But he's boring!" Eiji was rubbing his forehead to make sure it was flat and hadn't got stuck all Oishi-fied. "He hits the same shots over and over and over and over! Tennis with him is no fun at all!"

*******

"I'm concerned about Kikumaru making regulars," Oishi commented to Tezuka as they studied in the library.

"Hunh," Tezuka said, not looking up from his homework.

"He's very enthusiastic and dedicated," Oishi tapped his pencil on his textbook and wrinkled his brow, "but he's a bit erratic, don't you think?"

"Mmn." Tezuka turned over a page.

"All those acrobatics," Oishi shook his head, "he returns impossible shot after impossible shot, but then he can't get to a simple lob. And he has no stamina! If Hirota-kun hadn't got that cramp, Kikumaru would have never outlasted him."

"Fuji says he has tennis sense," Tezuka commented. Oishi blinked.

"Well, Fuji would know," he said at last. "But still…"

*******

"I'm glad I don't have to play doubles with him!"

*******

"Doubles practice today!" Coach Ryuzaki called as the club members were finishing up their laps. "Yamato-Takeshi team against Fuji-Sugiyama team on Court A! Tezuka-Inui team against Oishi-Kikumaru Team on Court B!"

Kikumaru gave an out-of-breath whine, but it was Oishi's soft grunt of displeasure that made Inui glance up from his pitcher of Beta Inui Vegetable Juice. He watched his opponents approach the court, Kikumaru with dragging steps and wrinkled nose, Oishi letting his racket scrape lightly along the ground.

"What do you think?" Tezuka asked, appearing behind Inui so suddenly that he nearly up-ended the entire pitcher of Juice onto a bandanaed freshman. He glanced over to Court B and then back to Tezuka, wondering what the Vice Captain wanted with his opinion.

"Not enough data," he answered, watching the two shake hands. Kikumaru still hadn't managed to make his face completely neutral as Oishi attempted to discuss strategy with him. Inui could practically hear him sighing from across the courts as he twirled his racket over his wrist, making Oishi twitch. "They don't like each other."

"They're regulars," Tezuka said, as if that explained everything. He put his racket up against his shoulder. "Let's go."

Kikumaru and Oishi were the worst doubles team that Seigaku had ever seen. They chased the same balls, ran into each other, broke in the wrong directions, had holes all over the court. Kikumaru shouted at Oishi after every lost point until he was too out of breath to say anything; meanwhile Oishi took the abuse with gritted teeth and retreated to the baseline, leaving Kikumaru to wear himself out in the forecourt.

"What do you think?" Tezuka asked Inui again after calling for a five-minute break. The score was three games to zero, and the only point scored against them was the shot Inui had missed while marveling at the degree of rotation Kikumaru had in his shoulder.

"Mm." Inui looked at Tezuka for a long moment, still curious about his motives. Over by the water fountain, Kikumaru was trying to insult Oishi and drink at the same time. Oishi watched impassively as Kikumaru swallowed the wrong way and began coughing hard. Inui's fingers flexed with the need to take notes. "They're completely out of sync."

"No," Fuji said. Tezuka and Inui looked over to find Fuji standing at the chainlink fence, his own game apparently finished. Kawamura, who was standing beside him, looked just as startled as Tezuka and Inui.

"No?" he said, raising an eyebrow. "Have you even been watching the same game as us?"

"Of course." Fuji's smile, if anything, widened.

"Then what…oh no," Kawamura interrupted himself, looking over Fuji's shoulder. The other three turned to see as well.

"Those two again." Tezuka glowered.

At the next court over, two freshman were picking up balls. Or at least, they were supposed to be, but the one with the spiky hair was shouting and waving his arms, and the one with the bandana was drawing back his arm like he was going to fire the tennis ball in his hand at point blank range.

"I believe you are in charge of the freshmen today?" Fuji said to Kawamura, who looked nervous and pained, but shuffled over to break up the fight anyway.

"You were saying about Oishi and Kikumaru?" Tezuka prompted.

"It isn't so much that they are out of sync," Fuji started, but was immediately interrupted when, at the next court over, the spiky-haired freshman took a swing at the other with a racket, and Kawamura stepped in between them and grabbed it.

Both freshmen hopped back a step when Kawamura screamed, "My temper is BURNING! COME ON!" Seizing the freshmen by the collar he began frog-marching them off the court.

"Oi oi, what's all this?" Captain Yamato asked, making everyone but Fuji jump. He had appeared behind Fuji and was peering at them through his sunglasses. "Vice Captain, are you endorsing this slacking off?"

"Of course not," Tezuka answered, back stiffening. Inui took the moment of distraction to sneak over to his bag and retrieve his notebook. He returned quickly, and no one noticed him murmuring to himself or scribbling down some notes as Kawamura passed by with the freshmen.

"Fifty laps each," Yamato said when they got close enough to hear, and the freshmen with the bandana made a weird noise like a leaking tire, but swallowed hard when the Vice Captain narrowed his eyes.

"GET MOVING!" Kawamura brandished the racket at them as they scampered off. "FEEL THE BURNING!"

"Fuji-kun," Yamato smiled serenely, "I believe you were saying something?"

"Inui said that Oishi and Kikumaru were completely out of sync as a doubles team." Fuji shrugged. "I disagree. But I have seen very little of the match."

"Ah." Yamato scratched his chin. "Perhaps we should watch more."

"Ready?" Tezuka asked Inui.

"Mn," Inui agreed, looking up and blinking. "More data."

"Hey, are we playing or what?" Kikumaru demanded from across the court. The others turned to see Oishi wincing and trying to lay a restraining hand on Kikumaru's shoulder, but he slapped it away.

Their play had not improved for the break, and Kikumaru in particular, for all his abuse of his partner, was flagging noticeably. Inui examined their play closely with what Fuji had said filtering through his mind, and thought he understood after a little while. He glanced to the fence every few points, where the Captain was still watching, an enigmatic smirk on his face.

"Kikumaru, Oishi, get over here!" Tezuka barked when the match was over, his aggravation at the other two clear. Kikumaru, who had been opening his mouth to tell Oishi exactly what he thought of their match, shut it with a snap and settled for a glare as they left their side of the court. When all four of them had reached the fence, Captain Yamato inclined his head towards Fuji.

"Fuji-kun has said a very insightful thing," he said. "I would like you to repeat it to Oishi and Kikumaru."

"Captain is very kind." Fuji dipped his head a little. "It seems that your movements are completely misaligned, but that is because you are only a step or two out of rhythm. No more."

Oishi's brow furrowed, but Kikumaru's expression cleared a little.

"Like my sister singing to the radio!" he exclaimed, and when Oishi stared at him blankly, blew hair out of his eyes in irritation. "She can sing, but her notes are just a little tiny bit off from the music, and it sounds worse than if she couldn't sing at all because the pitches are rubbing all against each other wrong."

"Exactly," said Fuji, looking pleased. Inui, who had retrieved his notebook already, mumbled a few words and scribbled.

"Inui," Yamato said, making Inui jerk his head up. "Do you have any suggestions?"

Inui blinked a few times, still confused about what made his opinion such a hot commodity this afternoon. He looked back down at his notebook and flipped several pages, then cleared his throat.

"Kikumaru needs endurance training," Inui began, pausing when Kikumaru made a derisive noise. "Oishi needs work on varying his pattern of shots. But for the two of them as a doubles team…" Inui wrinkled his brow. "Something to get in step. To connect their rhythms, tie them together."

"Tie them together!" Yamato exclaimed in delight, making everyone but Fuji start. "Fuji-kun, do you happen to have something we might use?"

"Ah." Fuji smiled, then reached into his tennis bag and pulled out a pair of handcuffs.

"Perfect!" Yamato grinned. Tezuka made a strange noise in his throat, and when Inui glanced over, looked almost like he was fighting down laughter. Inui quickly rifled to the back of his notebook; this was going to require a new page.

"Now just hold on!" Kikumaru bellowed. Oishi said nothing, but had gone very pale.

"Alternate training," Yamato reported, still smiling, "might involve, say, several hundred laps for stamina. And maybe some of that vitamin drink of Inui's here. What's that you call it?"

"Inui's Special Lucky Vitamin Drink," Inui said faintly, scribbling harder when Tezuka made the noise again. It was really kind of a repressed guffaw.

"It looks quite good," Fuji offered, while Kikumaru slapped a hand to his mouth, and Oishi's fingers twitched against his tennis racket.

"FASTER!" Kawamura screamed behind them at the dawdling freshmen. "Your THIGHS ON FIRE!"

*******

"I'm home!" Eiji shouted as he came through his front door. Shooting an irritated glance over his shoulder, he jerked his wrist forward and dragged Oishi through the doorway. "Mom, Oishi's spending the night!"

Oishi narrowed his eyes at Eiji, who was sticking his tongue out at him when his mother came around the corner, a dish towel and wet plate in her hands.

"Ei-chan, which one is Oishi?" she was asking, then stopped and examined the two boys, who were letting their handcuffed wrists dangle between them, Oishi blushing and Eiji scowling. Her lips twitched. "I see. Why don't you two come into the kitchen and tell me about your…problem."

Oishi sat in silence at the kitchen table, forgetting to eat the cookies Eiji's mother had pushed on him while Eiji told the story of their conjoinment with hand gestures so violent, Oishi was nearly jerked across the table more than once.

At least the captain had let them shower before clapping Fuji's handcuffs on their wrists, Oishi thought grimly as he offered an embarrassed smile to one of several Kikumaru sisters that had wandered through the kitchen. And really, it wasn't going to do any good at this point to think too hard about the handcuffs being Fuji's.

"And that crazy captain thinks this is a good idea!" Eiji finished dramatically, rattling the chain until Oishi's teeth chattered.

"Oishi-san," Eiji's mother said, her sympathetic eyes making Oishi feel even more embarrassed, "have you called your parents?"

"Yes." Oishi let out a little sigh. "I told them I was spending the weekend because of some…special training."

"He was too embarrassed to explain it to his parents," Eiji said derisively, flopping down in a chair at last, to Oishi's relief.

"The situation is a bit unusual…" Kikumaru-san gave a polite little cough, and Oishi had no doubt that she was smothering a laugh. He reached for a cookie, hoping to soothe himself with chocolate.

"It isn't our fault!" Eiji exclaimed, pounding on the table, making the hand with the cookie jerk away from Oishi's mouth, and his teeth clicked together painfully. "It's all that ridiculous, creepy Captain! We should protest! We should…"

"It's only a day and a half," Oishi reminded him sharply, using the chain to yank Eiji's hand up to stop his pounding. "He'll take them off before morning practice."

"You can't agree with this." Eiji glared at him, nose wrinkled. "You don't mind being handcuffed to me? Because I sure…"

"Why don't you boys go wash up for dinner?" Kikumaru-san interrupted cheerfully.

Still glaring, but at least silent, Kikumaru exited the room with his nose held high in the air, dragging Oishi after him.

******

"This is sadism." Eiji stared at their hands in horror. "He should be fired. He should be demoted to the table tennis club."

"Kikumaru," Oishi rolled his eyes, "you didn't realize before that we weren't going to be able to get our shirts off?" Eiji, eyes wide and indignant, clearly hadn't. "Why do you think the Captain let us shower and change back into street clothes before he did this?"

"I'm calling Fuji right now!" Eiji snapped, thrusting his hand into his pocket and yanking out his cell phone. He punched a few buttons before the device emitted a sad little noise. Eiji looked pained. "I forgot to charge it. Can I borrow yours? Please," he added gruffly after a moment. "It's after seven, so Tomiko is talking to her boyfriend on the house phone and nobody can get it away from her."

"Sure." Oishi fought down a smile at the thought of the trouble that would go down in his house if his older sister refused to let anyone else use the phone. He knelt down beside his bag, laying on the floor of Eiji's room, and grunted when Eiji slammed into him.

"Watch it!" Eiji snapped. "We're connected, you know!"

"I had noticed," Oishi swallowed several other choice words and merely handed over the phone. Eiji punched in the numbers as Oishi climbed carefully to his feet.

"Fuji!" Eiji shouted into the phone, making Oishi wince. "I know you have keys to these handcuffs, you freak! We can't even change our clothes! This is cruel and unusual training! Just what are we supposed to…"

Oishi watched Eiji's face as he heard the quiet murmur of Fuji's voice on the other end of the line. His expression bleached from furious to puzzled, and then to horrified. Eiji abruptly hung up the phone and handed it back to Oishi.

"Did he have a suggestion?" Oishi inquired, placing the phone back into his bag.

"Yes," Eiji swallowed hard, "but I'm not going to repeat any of what he said, ever."

"Oh thank goodness," Oishi replied with relief.

*******

"I'm really not comfortable with this," Oishi said stiffly.

"Oishi," Eiji snapped, "there's no way this chain is going to reach to a futon on the floor, so just get into bed! The sooner we get to sleep the sooner I might wake up and find out this has all been a stupid nightmare."

Sighing, Oishi tugged on the pajama pants Eiji had lent him, which were just a bit too short, before climbing into bed and trying to get comfortable next to Eiji, while simultaneously being as far away from him as possible.

"You're going to fall off," Eiji tsked at him. He sat up on his knees and climbed over Oishi, pushing him over. "Here, you take the wall." Oishi, too surprised to react to the sudden contact, slid over and let Eiji arrange him compliantly. "There."

"Ah…thanks." Oishi blushed a little. Eiji rolled his eyes and rolled over to turn off the lamp, pulling Oishi over onto him by accident. "Sorry!" Oishi apologized quickly, shifting back over against the wall.

There was a loud sigh from Eiji's side of the bed, and Oishi braced himself for another stream of abuse, but finally Eiji merely muttered a "My fault."

The only sound for several minutes was Oishi's steady breathing and Eiji's shufflings as he tried to get into a comfortable position. The chain rattled a bit, but didn't tug on Oishi, and as his eyes adjusted to the dark, Oishi realized that Eiji had planted his connected hand on the bed between them as he failed to settle in on his side.

"You…" Oishi's voice cracked a little, and he swallowed. "You can move over a little if you want. I have plenty of room. I like to sleep on my side."

"Aah!" Eiji flopped over onto his stomach with obvious relief. Only an inch or two separated them now, but Oishi had to admit it was more comfortable to lay his wrist beside his head on the pillow so that the chain lay limply in between their wrists. "Thanks."

"You're welcome." Oishi let his eyes drift shut. He wasn’t sure how much time had gone by before he was roused out of half-sleep by Eiji saying his name softly. "Hmm?" he answered, not sure whether he had dreamed the noise or not.

Eiji turned his head to face Oishi, and Oishi could make out the slope of his nose in the faint light coming in the window.

"Do you think I shouldn't be a regular?"

Oishi blinked and raised his hand to rub his eye, the chain clinking. "Kikumaru…"

"You don't, do you?" Instead of sounding angry, Kikumaru's voice just sounded resigned this time. "You think I'm only on because Hirota-sempai hurt himself, that it was an accident. It's okay, just say."

Wincing at the sound of his own words coming back to him, Oishi gave a soft sigh.

"Kikumaru," he said after a few moments, pausing to make sure Eiji was still awake. Eiji gave a little "nya" noise. "It's okay to have a little luck to be a regular. Inui made it two months ago because Takeshi-sempai twisted his wrist and had to play with his left hand."

"But he trains all the time," Kikumaru said sadly. "And he got dropped right away again."

"We're only sophomores." Oishi shrugged. "That happens to everyone. It just means you try harder next time."

"Not to Oishi," Kikumaru said, a grudging bit of admiration creeping into his voice. "Nya, never mind," he interrupted when Oishi tried to protest. "Sleep."

He fought to keep his eyes open for longer to see if Kikumaru would say anything else, but exhausted from the day, dropped off almost immediately.

*******

The next morning, Oishi was dragged out of a sound sleep by a shout of "Lucky!" and his wrist being shaken.

"Oishi, Oishi, wake up, wake up!" Eiji was calling, and Oishi pried open his eyes to find his bedmate bouncing on his knees. "It's lucky to wake up before the alarm, come on!"

Oishi tried to argue, but all that came out on his first try was a grunt. Eiji's bouncing was beginning to make him seasick, so he pulled himself to a sitting position and cleared his throat. Eiji let out a crow of victory and went to launch himself out of bed, only to have his rush checked by his bound wrist, and he tumbled off the bed.

A moment later his head popped up over the edge of the bed, eyes wide with apology, but he broke out in a grin when he saw that Oishi had caught the chain with his free hand to keep the handcuffs from wrenching his wrist.

"See?" Eiji laughed, climbing to his feet. "Lucky!"

"Hmm." Oishi let go of the chain and flexed his fingers a little to make the sting fade. He was certainly awake now, though, and he followed Eiji downstairs for breakfast. He blinked when Eiji got down a pan and asked Oishi to pull the eggs out of the refrigerator. "You cook?"

"Oishi doesn't think I can do anything," Eiji announced lightly, and Oishi flushed. Eiji cut off his apology by asking how he wanted his eggs.

Still feeling ashamed, Oishi watched silently as Eiji juggled several tasks at once, beating eggs and adding milk, adjusting the burner heat and kicking closed the cabinets. Slowly Oishi was starting to realize that what looked like random flailing was really just Eiji getting things done in his own rhythm.

It didn't taste too bad either, Oishi had to admit, and when Eiji's suspicious glance at the compliment turned into a real grin, Oishi found himself smiling back.

Getting up early must have had some sort of genetic basis, Oishi concluded when two of Eiji's sisters dashed into the kitchen from outside, brandishing badminton rackets at their baby brother.

"Ei-ji!" One of them sang, wearing a predatory smile that must also have been a result of Kikumaru genes. "Your friend plays tennis too, right?" The other sister giggled. "Now you don't have any excuse not to play us!"

"Oi, get lost!" Eiji rolled his eyes. "Oishi doesn't want to play your dumb game!"

The girls turned pleading blue eyes to Oishi, who swallowed and shifted a little in his seat, and when that didn't effect immediate results, they turned to other means of persuasion.

"Mou, Oishi-kun," the younger sister gave a pout that should have absolutely been illegal, "you want to play with us, right? Make Eiji play!"

"We're handcuffed together!" Eiji bellowed, jingling their attached wrists for emphasis, but the girls seemed unphased.

"It's only badminton, the court's small," the older sister pointed out, ratcheting up the pout a few notches. "Pleeeeease, Oishi-kun?"

Which was how Oishi found himself trudging upstairs with Eiji to get dressed for a round of Bondage Badminton. He wondered if Yamato had put Eiji's sisters up to this; it sounded like the sort of thing he would endorse.

"Stupid girls," Eiji was grumbling as he yanked a drawer out of his dresser and rummaged around for a pair of jeans. Oishi waited patiently since his bag was a little too far away to reach. "They just pout and make googly eyes and they get whatever they want."

Eiji stuck out his own lower lip and widened his eyes in an impression of his sisters, and Oishi was struck with the unpleasant realization that if he were ever faced with Eiji's pout at full force, he had no doubt Eiji would indeed get whatever he wanted.

The court was small, and mostly imaginary since they were just playing over a net in the Kikumarus' backyard, but that didn't stop Eiji and Oishi from getting completely tangled and smacking into each other while the Kikumaru sisters giggled.

"This isn't working," Oishi cut off Eiji's whine, rubbing his bruised ribs while Eiji clutched at an elbow. "Look, you concentrate on the birdie, and I'll just stay out of your way, okay? Don't worry about me."

"That won't be any fun for you," Eiji protested, but he was already bouncing on his heels a little, anxious to get on with the game, and Oishi murmured that being in traction wasn't much fun either.

It worked surprisingly well, or at least much better than their previous method. Oishi stayed back behind Eiji, concerning himself with keeping the chain from catching and staying out of the way of Eiji's flailing limbs. Eiji seemed perfectly happy to cover the whole court on his own, and once he began trusting Oishi to stay out of his way, managed a few twisting returns that made Oishi wonder if there was any part of Eiji that didn't bend nearly in half.

Just as in tennis, though, it was an easy lob that Eiji fumbled, overstepping himself and swinging completely wide. This time, however, Oishi stepped in smoothly and thwacked the plastic target neatly in between the two girls, making them run into each other with a satisfying crash. Eiji laughed in glee and high-fived Oishi with their bound hands.

"I thought Oishi was boring," Eiji announced abruptly as they were on their way back inside, victorious.

"Ah." Oishi rubbed the back of his neck, startled. "I am, I suppose."

"Nya, Oishi is patient." Eiji scuffed his foot, abashed. "I just didn't understand."

"A-ah." A touch of a blush ran across Oishi's nose. "Thank you, Kikumaru-kun." Eiji opened his mouth to say something else, but interrupted himself with a yawn. "Tired from just that little game?" Oishi teased. "You really do need to work on your stamina."

"Oishi, mean!" Eiji exclaimed, then he blinked and his jaw dropped. "You teased me! Oishi doesn't tease!"

"I do sometimes," Oishi laughed at Eiji's shocked face. "I've even teased Tezuka once or twice." Oishi laughed harder as Eiji made a big show of poking Oishi to make sure he was alive after such a daring feat.

After getting drinks to cool off in the kitchen, Oishi coaxed a reluctant Eiji into starting his homework for the next day. They sat at the kitchen table because Eiji claimed that he needed a lot of space, and Oishi was amused to find that for once his teammate was not exaggerating; while Oishi preferred to do one thing at a time, Eiji spread out several books at once and switched between multiple assignments simultaneously as they caught his interest.

More than once Oishi stifled a smile as Eiji took a mini-break by playing strange little games with himself. He was rolling a pencil back and forth between two fingers when the game got a little out of control and the pencil shot off to bounce across Oishi's book. Oishi calmly snatched the pencil out of the air before it fell to the floor and handed it back to Eiji.

"Sorry!" Eiji chirped, grinning sheepishly. "Nice catch."

Oishi shook his head and was about to reply, when his phone began to ring, the tone muffled in his bag. He bent to fish the phone out and was surprised to se Fuji's number on the screen. He clicked the 'answer' button.

"Hello, it's Oishi."

"Ah, Oishi!" Fuji's smile was practically audible. "My apologies, but I can't get through to Eiji-kun's phone. Has he forgotten to charge it again?"

"Hmm." Oishi glanced over at Eiji, who was balancing his pencil eraser-down on one finger.

"I see." Fuji chuckled. "I was merely calling to make sure that he had not killed you yet, and also to tell him not to forget the novel he promised to lend me. Could you remind him?"

"Sure," Oishi answered, wincing slightly as Eiji dropped the pencil and dove for it, jerking Oishi down a little. "Nobody has died yet."

"I'm glad to hear you're doing well with Yamato-san's little experiment," Fuji said. Oishi heard a familiar grunt on the other end of the phone line.

"Fuji," Oishi wrinkled his brow, "is Tezuka there with you?"

"Mn, I have to go, Oishi." Fuji ignored his question completely. "Make sure Eiji-kun finishes his homework, hm? See you tomorrow morning."

"See you," Oishi echoed, but Fuji had already cut the connection.

"That was Fuji?" Eiji asked, coming up from under the table with the pencil. "What did he want?"

"He wanted to make sure we weren't damaging his handcuffs," Oishi replied on a whim, and the look of horror on Eiji's face was completely worth the punch in the arm he got a moment later.

********

Meals while attached to Eiji were interesting, since Oishi was forced to use his left hand to eat while moving his right hand along with whatever flailing Eiji was currently involved in, but Oishi had gotten fairly adept at this by dinner, and only ended up wearing three or four bites; a vast improvement over the day before.

Even so, Eiji's mother shot Oishi sympathetic glances throughout the meal, and nearly caused a serious incident herself when she served Oishi seconds on dessert without him asking. Oishi averted disaster by immediately flipping a scoop of the strawberry ice cream over into Eiji's bowl, and found that he had suddenly been upgraded to 'Oishi-kun'.

By the time they finished up the last of their homework and got ready for bed, Oishi was struggling to keep his eyes open, the strain of keeping up with Eiji all day catching up to him at last. But as soon as Oishi collapsed into bed, Eiji settling in beside him, he had an unwelcome thought.

"Kikumaru?" Oishi asked. Eiji mumbled something unintelligible into his pillow. "What was that?"

"Eiji." Eiji turned his head and peeled open an eye to peer at Oishi. "Not Kikumaru. But Syuichirou is too long, so I'll keep calling you Oishi-kun, okay?"

"Okay." Oishi found himself grinning, and then he remembered his original thought and groaned a little. "Eiji, your phone."

There was a moment of silence before Oishi's realization dawned on Eiji, and then he groaned too as he rolled over to flip the light back on. Reluctantly, Oishi crawled out of bed too and shuffled around behind Eiji, yawning, while Eiji hunted up his cell phone charger and got everything all plugged in. By the time they got back into bed, Oishi's was thoroughly awake, and Eiji seemed to be suffering the same problem.

"Oishi? Why do you think the Captain handcuffed us?"

"Well," Oishi swallowed his knee-jerk response, which was 'because he thought it would be funny', "Fuji said he saw something in us, right? He is a prodigy, after all, the Captain must trust his opinion. Besides, where's the harm? Neither one of us is strong enough for singles, at least in comparison to the sempais, and doubles is Seigaku's weak point. Maybe he's hoping for lightning in a bottle."

"You don't think," Eiji asked after a few seconds of thought, "that it's because everyone was tired of us not getting along? Nya," Eiji interrupted himself before Oishi could really respond, "I like Oishi's reasons better. Besides, the Captain has done a lot of stranger things for training. Remember the week that Sugiyama-sempai had to spend learning to juggle?"

"Or the time he made Tezuka play DDR," Oishi added, making Eiji snort with laughter. "He still gives anyone who mentions the arcade in front of him twenty laps."

"Hey, Oishi?" Sleep was beginning to creep into Eiji's voice. "Warm up with me tomorrow?"

"Sure, Kik—Eiji," Oishi corrected himself, and Eiji made a pleased 'hmm' noise. "Sure."

********

"Well now," Captain Yamato grinned down at Oishi and Eiji amidst a batch of warming up club members, "what have we learned this weekend?" Fuji and Tezuka stood next to the captain, and Inui was loitering nearby with his notebook at the ready.

"Oishi isn't boring!" Eiji reported immediately. "And showers are good." Oishi, who was plucking at his damp shirt, had to agree. That morning they had agreed that, handcuffs or not, a shower absolutely had to be taken, but even a bout with Eiji's hairdryer had failed to dry their shirts completely, and Oishi shivered a little in the chill morning air.

"Eiji isn't scatterbrained," Oishi added. "He's multi-tasking." He gave a little chuckle when Eiji stuck his tongue out.

"Excellent!" their captain grinned, and held out his hand to Fuji, who passed him the key. Oishi sighed in relief when the handcuffs fell away, and rubbed a little at the angry red marks that had been chafed into his wrist from being dragged after Eiji. Eiji ceased his relieved dance of freedom when he noticed the wrist and Oishi wincing.

"Ne, I'm sorry." He took Oishi's wrist gingerly to get a better look, face sheepish. "I'll wrap it for you." Eiji let go of Oishi to root around in his tennis bag.

"Eiji," Fuji piped up, "do you have the book I asked to borrow?"

"Nya!" Eiji slapped his forehead in frustration. "And Oishi reminded me twice this morning!"

"Here." Everyone turned to see Oishi pull the book out of his own tennis bag. "I saw it on your desk before we left."

Eiji laughed in surprise as Oishi handed the book to Fuji, and the Captain slapped him heartily on the back.

"Excellent job!" he said again. "Good eye, Fuji." Fuji ducked his head a little as he tucked book and handcuffs into his jacket pocket. "And Inui-kun, good job as well! Do you think you might come up with something to help Kikumaru with his stamina?"

"Y-yes," Inui stuttered, caught off-guard again. His glasses hid his expression, but the corner of his mouth twitched up as he rifled through his notebook and jotted down a few things.

"All right, everyone!" Yamato clapped his hands and called the others to attention. "Get to work. Kikumaru, Oishi, you get that wrist wrapped up and warm up, you'll be showing the Vice Captain and I exactly how much you learned about doubles."

"Captain?" Oishi turned to Yamato while Eiji was busy fumbling around in his bag. "Why did you pair Kikumaru and me together yesterday?"

"I didn't pair anyone." Yamato tapped his chin with a forefinger. "It was the Vice Captain who made the doubles assignments for yesterday."

"Tezuka?" Oishi's eyes widened and he turned to Tezuka, who shrugged impassively.

"Fuji suggested it," was his comment.

"Hoi!" Eiji looked up finally. "Oishi, you were right! It was Fuji's tennis sense that saw something good in us after all!"

"Don't get carried away," Tezuka said, eyeing the grinning sophomore. "You haven't even played yet."

"Besides," Fuji said, "I just wanted Eiji-kun to stop complaining."

It wasn't the first time, nor would it be the last, that a Seigaku regular was ordered to run laps for laughing too hard, but Oishi found it hard to be irritated about it with Eiji jogging beside him, making Tezuka faces whenever they were on the opposite side of the court from the Vice Captain.

"Gold," Inui muttered to himself, sitting down on the courtside bench so he could write faster.

"Who, them?" Kawamura, who was sitting on the bench to re-tie his shoes, glanced from Inui to the two running laps. "If Fuji and the Captain think so, I guess you must be right."

"Eh?" Inui looked up from his notebook, peering at Kawamura. "Not them. I'm talking about the next batch of juice, the Ultimate Golden Stamina Juice!"

"Oh!" Kawamura rubbed the back of his neck and chuckled. "I thought…oh no, that little one is hissing again!" Kawamura grabbed his racket and dashed off the bench towards the trouble-making freshmen. "Oh my god, I'll make you BURNING!"

"Woah, what was that?" Oishi exclaimed when he was nearly run over by a pair of freshmen, one of whom was yelling "I won't lose to you!"

"Who knows." Eiji shook his head, then put on a burst of speed suddenly. "Come on, Oishi!" he called over his shoulder. "Hurry up, I want to play!"

For once finding himself in complete agreement with Kikumaru Eiji, Oishi sped to catch up. He fell into step beside Eiji, their feet striking the pavement in rhythm as they rounded the last corner.

At least until Oishi stepped on Eiji's loose shoelace, and a flailing Eiji took Oishi down with him in a tangle of limbs to crash into the pavement.
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