The Love Bug


Momo finished his last of fifty laps – punishment for goofing around during practice – and dunked his head beneath the running water from the outside wash station. Cooled down, he shook his head like a dog, spraying the water from his hair all directions, and then used the hem of his t-shirt to dry his face. His stomach rumbled loudly. "I know, I know," he patted his belly consolingly. He'd had to forego his after-practice hamburgers with Echizen. It was like a punishment on top of a punishment.

Heading for the clubroom, Momo decided, after he'd changed, that he'd stop by a meat bun stand, to tide him over until dinner. He'd swing by the street tennis courts on the way and see if Echizen was there. Echizen usually hung around either the school or the street courts, waiting for him if they hadn't left together after practice. It wasn't something Echizen did for anyone but him, but there could always be a first time that he hadn't waited for Momo, either. Momo quickened his step.

"Eiji!" Oishi's laugh stopped Momo in his tracks outside of the clubroom. The sound was rare; Oishi was usually too worried about everyone else to pay attention to jokes. Momo heard another laugh, coming from behind the building. He tilted his head curiously. What in the world had Eiji said to get Oishi to laugh like that?

The question died on his lips when he looked around the corner and saw his senpai-tachi kissing. He blinked several times, but the sight didn't change. Eiji was wrapped around Oishi like a monkey and Oishi didn't seem to mind. They continued making out, oblivious to Momo's presence.

Momo pulled back and thumped his head against the wall. It wasn't really a shock. He sort of knew they were more than just tennis partners. So did everyone else. But knowing it and seeing it first hand were two different things.

Somewhat dazed, Momo entered the clubroom and drew up short. Kaidoh and Inui were sitting side-by-side on the bench, with Inui's data book open on his lap. Nothing unusual there – that mamushi and Inui trained together all the time. Except Kaidoh's face was currently bright red, Inui was breathing rather heavily and his glasses weren't on his nose. Kaidoh had them in his hand, instead. And his bandana was clutched in Inui's fist.

Momo decided to change when he got home.

Grabbing his stuff out of his cubbyhole, he bolted from the clubroom and ran, traumatized, for the bike rack. Kaidoh… and Inui… Momo shuddered, the chain rattling as he unlocked his bike. He had to find Echizen and tell him about the horror he'd witnessed.

"I miss you, Kunimitsu," Fuji said into his cell phone, as he walked past the bike rack. "Please come home again soon."

Momo stared, distraught, at Fuji's back. He'd called Tezuka by his first name, without any honorifics. In a tone of voice like Momo's sister used when she liked some boy in her class.

Momo slung his bag over his shoulder, hopped on his bike, and pedaled like mad off school grounds, before he caught the love bug that was going around.

He skidded to a stop at the bottom of the steps that led to the street tennis court, left his bike on the ground, and ran up the stairs. Relief hit him when he saw Echizen standing at the side of the court, looking up into the stands. "Echizen! You won't believe who I caught kissing!"

"I see them, too."

"You see—?" Momo looked where Echizen was looking and his bag fell to the ground with a thump. Dan Taichi was kissing the gray out of Akutsu Jin's hair, against the wall at the back of the stands.

"I wonder if this means Akutsu-senpai will be playing tennis again," Echizen said.

Momo whimpered.

Echizen glanced sideways at Momo. "Momo-senpai, you look pale."

"This is all a hunger-induced hallucination."

Echizen stared at him.

"Or some fatal disease that makes you love someone!"

Echizen continued staring.

"What if I catch it? What if I wind up kissing you?"

Echizen shrugged. "I suppose I'd kiss you back."

Momo choked.

"I'm hungry, Momo-senpai." Echizen hitched his own bag on his shoulder and headed for the stairs. Momo tried wrapping his mind around what Echizen had said and what it would be like to kiss Echizen. He felt butterflies in his stomach. He might have caught the disease already.

"Momo-senpai," Echizen called.

Momo dragged his jaw off the ground, scooped up his bag, and hurried after Echizen. The only way to know if he had the love bug was to kiss Echizen and find out.



Momo had a black eye from teasing Kaidoh about Inui again. They were both forced to run laps in punishment.

Echizen was waiting at the street courts for him afterwards, watching Akutsu and Dan play tennis. He and Echizen went for hamburgers and then kissed behind the hamburger stand. He'd grown used to the butterflies.