What now? Oishi looked out at the city from his perch atop the dumpster. What now?
They'd never discussed what they would do after they'd won it all. Nationals had always been so far away, a mythical tournament on the horizon that they worked toward but never expected to experience. Now, the gold medals were around their necks, heated by the sun and pressing hotly against their uniform shirts. Nationals was already three days past, but Oishi still wore the medal, just to verify that it was real, that he and Eiji were number one – Seigaku was number one.
They trained for the medals they wore, ran in the morning before school, hid weights on themselves to train during school, and practiced an extra two hours on formations after formal practice was over. Together constantly, they learned to divide tasks, everything from meals to homework they split according to one another's strengths and weaknesses.
The practices were over. No morning runs and no secret training filled their days. Neither knowing what to do, they made their way to the dumpster to fill their time on the first free day. They didn’t' talk; there was nothing to talk about. No dream for future tennis supremacy, no training plans – nothing remained between them that need be discussed.
"Wanna come over for dinner?" Eiji's elbow caught Oishi in the side. "Mom's bringing the barbeque out and my sisters promised not to eat all the good beef before you could get some."
"Sure. You need any help with history? I heard the exam is going to be hard." They'd never discussed entry exams before or which high schools they wanted to go to or if they would still play doubles after the Big Win. He wanted to assume that they would go to the same school, uphold their name, move through things with the same ease and camaraderie that blessed their middle school days, but Eiji could think differently. Eiji might want to give up tennis or play singles or any number of things that didn't bind him to Oishi's side for another year or three.
"Fuji got some mock exams from someone online. I've been studying with those." Eiji looked down at his medal. "He and Tezuka are trying for the school near my house. It's not too tough to get into and Yamato-senpai goes there so…" He kicked his heels against the dumpster and reclined back, hand shading the sun from his eyes. "So I was thinking we could go there too if you don't have somewhere else you wanna go."
"Inui gave me a list of some places. I was going to check them out, but I didn't have anywhere special in mind." It made sense for Fuji and Tezuka to follow Yamato; they were his favorites. Inui was applying to prestigious science schools and thinking ahead to what would get him the easiest ticket into Todai. He was, he said, done playing tennis for at least a year. Nobody had to ask why.
"He gave me a list, too. Fujiko said I should throw it away." Eiji shrugged. "I guess it depends on what you want to do, though." He pushed himself up and scooted closer to Oishi until their sides almost brushed then took off his medal and dangled it between and slightly in front of them. "It's pretty heavy, isn't it? My neck's starting to hurt from wearing it."
"Then take it off."
"But you've got yours on. I can't stop wearing mine until you stop wearing yours. Or," he slipped his medal over Oishi's head, "you can wear them both!"
Oishi felt something in his neck pop. "It's too heavy! Eiji!"
Eiji removed both medals and set them down. The dumpster thrummed with the contact. "Stupid Oishi," he grumbled. "We play doubles, right?"
"Yes." Oishi watched Eiji's face. His partner's eyes always gave away his movement and his eyebrows always betrayed his moods. Eiji's eyes moved from Oishi's chest to his hand a moment before he scooted the final inch that brought them side to side.
"And we've got Synchro, right?" Eiji took Oishi's hand in both of his.
"So I know that you're worried we're not going to play doubles anymore, and you're not sleeping because you think that we've got no reason to hang out anymore. Right?"
For a scatterbrain, Eiji sure had his moments.
The medals to the gut were painful, more painful that the time Eiji mis-twirled his racquet and it clocked Oishi in the shin as it fell.
"These are just nationals medals," Eiji said. "You weren't listening to me, were you?"
"Listening?" Oishi always listened, even when Eiji was talking about the drama in his hamster village.
"I said we'd be the best doubles conbi in the world. Nationals is just small stuff." Eiji's head clunked down onto Oishi's shoulder. "You wanna be the best in the world, too, right?"
Many times before, Oishi had been tempted by the head resting on his shoulder. On dizzying nights after a long practice, he felt compelled to turn his head and place soft kisses on the splotchy red cheek next to him. He never gave in, but he always wanted to.
Today, the desire rose again and again he pushed it down, instead resting his head, only briefly, on Eiji's and giving his partner's arm a squeeze. He inhaled slowly then smiled out at the sunset. "Best in the world sounds good. We'd have to go pro, though." He'd never really considered tennis as a career path, but he'd never given much thought that far into the future, either. "That's a lot of training. We'll have to work a lot harder."
Eiji produced a piece of paper from his pocket. "Inui made us a three year plan." The quirk to Eiji's grin said that he'd made some sort of trade for the information, a trade that Oishi wouldn't approve of.
Oishi looked over the paper. Morning training. Hidden weights. Extra after-practice practices. Sleepovers to improve partner intuition. Weekend recreational outings to improve partner intuition. Other partnering activities to improve intuition as temperament and desire permits.
Taking back the list as he rose to his feet, Eiji stretched. "We can start tomorrow. I'll sleep over at your place." He reached his hands to the sky. "We'll be the best in the world!"
Standing, Oishi handed Eiji's medal back to him. "Best in the world," he agreed. Tonight, after dinner at Eiji's, he'd put the medal up on the wall, next to their nationals team photo. It was only a nationals medal after all, and he and Eiji had a bigger prize in mind, waiting for them somewhere on the horizon.