Wednesday, November 30, 2005: No spoilers, though the fic does take place when the boys are 18. And since I only have 8 minutes to write this intro and post the fic, I'm gonna cut it short. ^_^ Enjoy!

*ponders* What else should I say? Ah yes: WARNING!!! This fic is yaoi! ((Hey, it's Golden Pair, what do you expect? ^_^)) Don't read if you don't like.

Disclaimer: These guys don't belong to me. If they did, I'm sure some of them would be kissing on screen. :-D Please don't sue, I promise I'll put them back where I found them.

Misery Loves Company
by Renee-chan

My son is miserable. He thinks that I don't know this... but how could I not? He's my son. I carried him in my womb for 9 months and have carried him in my heart for far longer than that. I know him better than anyone and I know that he is desperately unhappy. The one thing I don't know is what about.

Nothing is more frustrating for a mother than this: knowing that your child is unhappy and being powerless to do anything about it. And I have so little time left to help him over these things. Soon he will be out of my house and beyond my sphere of influence to help. He turned 18 just a few short months ago and will be graduating high school soon. Sometimes I can't believe that all that time has passed since I carried him home from the hospital... but it has. My Shuu-chan is no longer a baby with a child's woes, but a young man with a man's problems.

I wish he would talk to me... After all, who else could listen to his troubles without passing judgment? Who better to understand than his mother?

Shuuichirou came home and went straight up to his room this evening. That, in itself, is not so unusual. What was unusual was that, for a change, he did not have Kikumaru-kun with him. That is a rare happening these days. The two were very close even in junior high. Now that they are in high school, Shuuichirou spends nearly every evening studying with his tennis partner. I think he fears that Kikumaru-kun truly would not study without his influence. So to see him home alone at this hour is... well, unusual.

I follow him up the stairs after only a few minutes and knock quietly on his door, "Shuuichirou? It will be another hour until dinner, but I can prepare you a snack if you are hungry..."

The snack isn't important. What is important is that my son opens his door and interacts with me. Then I'll know if something in particular is wrong today. He doesn't disappoint me. He opens the door and offers me one of his gentlest smiles, "No, 'kaasan. I'm not that hungry. I can wait for dinner."

I smile in return. We know the steps of this dance so well, my son and I. I bow my head demurely, "Then if there is nothing else that you need..." A request for dismissal if everything is all right, a blatant opening to talk if it is not. We were always about subtlety and tradition in my family and, unfortunately, that seems to have rubbed off on my eldest child -- in spite of my husband's best efforts.

For just one moment, it looks as though Shuuichirou will take the opening I have given him. Then, just as he opens his mouth to speak, the front door opens once again and my husband calls out a greeting. Shuuichirou just shakes his head and smiles once more. I keep my sigh internal as I nod and return downstairs. I do love my husband, but sometimes the man's timing is nothing short of atrocious.

As I reach the first floor, Kazuhiro is toeing his shoes off in the entryway while trying to juggle his coat, his briefcase and a bouquet of flowers in his arms. I think the shoes are winning. I stand and watch him, arms crossed over my chest, waiting for him to ask for assistance. Kazuhiro comes from a very untraditional family, but in this one respect he is the same as every other Japanese male I know -- he has great difficulty asking for help. Today is no exception.

After another minute of struggle the shoes come off. Unfortunately, the briefcase and flowers go flying as well. It's a good thing that I was expecting just such a problem and catch them both easily. It isn't something I discuss often, but before taking up the more ladylike hobbies of tea ceremony and flower arranging in high school I was on the softball team. And my reflexes, fortunately for my husband, are still superb. He grins sheepishly up at me and rubs a hand along the back of his neck. I merely lift an eyebrow. He laughs even as his face reddens, "Happy anniversary, Sachiko..."

I smile and hold his briefcase out to him. He steps up to take it from me and offers me a chaste kiss in return. "Happy anniversary, anata." We move into the kitchen where we can sit and talk. I begin arranging the flowers in a vase I selected this morning for just this purpose.

The topic of discussion is not unexpected. Kazuhiro, after all, knows our son as well as I do. He tilts his head in the direction of the stairs and quietly asks, "No Kikumaru-kun today?"

I shake my head as I settle one of the tiger lilies into place, "Shuuichirou came home alone and went straight upstairs."

A quiet sigh, "Something's been bothering him for weeks. I wish he would just talk with one of us... or even with Emi-chan for that matter." Another sigh, "How did we manage to produce a son who is far more concerned than any man should be about others discussing their problems with him... and is so utterly tight-mouthed about discussing his own problems with others?"

I settle an iris into the arrangement, "I have often wondered the same thing. Did you know that his teammates refer to him as the 'Mother of Seigaku'?"

Kazuhiro lets out a little snort, "It doesn't surprise me. I don't suppose he's spoken with you about whatever is bothering him?"

My husband's eyes are so hopeful that I hate to disappoint him. I push a few fern leaves into the arrangement before I answer, "Almost... but no."

A worried look settles onto my husband's face, "You don't suppose he's had another fight with Kikumaru-kun?"

I pause in my deliberate placement of flowers, my hands still upon my tools. The thought had certainly occurred to me. After all, I have never seen Shuuichirou more melancholy than when he and his doubles partner are having an argument. But how to find out? Shuuichirou wasn't talking and we couldn't very well ask Kikumaru-kun if he wasn't here... "That may very well be the case, anata. But how do we find out if Shuuichirou won't talk with either of us?"

I recognize that grin. Oh, do I recognize it. Once upon a time, I fell in love with it. If only I'd known then what I know now... He laughs, most likely at the look upon my face, "Now, Sachiko... you don't even know what I'm going to suggest."

I turn my eyes back to my flowers, "That we call Kikumaru-kun? Or do something equally ridiculous like visit him unannounced?"

There is definitely a twinkle in his eyes now. Oh, Kami-sama, what are you thinking, Kazuhiro? He shakes his head, "Now, that would be impractical. Give me credit for a little more intelligence than that." I wait patiently for the other shoe to drop. He doesn't make me wait long. "I was thinking, rather, that we should invite them over here. Kikumaru-kun and his parents. A quiet get together."

I raise an eyebrow as I finish my arrangement. Surprisingly, the idea has merit. Faced with both us and Kikumaru-kun's parents one of them might very well open up and talk. After all, if Kikumaru-kun is not the reason for my son's silence, surely he would know what is. But practicality reigns, so instead I say, "And what reason would we give?"

That seems to deflate him. He sighs, "I hadn't quite thought that far..."

I place the arrangement carefully in the middle of the table and sweep the clippings into the garbage. I do my best thinking while engaging in such seemingly mundane activities and today is no exception. "Wasn't his and Kikumaru-kun's first win at Nationals around this time of year?"

A wicked smile blooms on Kazuhiro's face, "And we never did celebrate the successful start of their partnership..." His smile dims, "But won't that look strange? Celebrating such a thing 4 years after the fact?"

The look that I am giving him must be truly frightening judging by how quickly he tries to take back that last doubting question. The plan may not be perfect, but at least it is a plan. We spend the last few minutes before dinner ironing out the details and finally settle on a date two weeks from now for the proposed gathering. Naturally, I will involve Kikumaru Reika in the planning, but that can wait until tomorrow.

I pull dinner off the stove while Kazuhiro calls the children. I feel worlds better now that we are one step closer to getting to the bottom of this and thank Kami-sama, once again, for granting me a husband who so easily understands me.

Oishi Shuuichirou paced back and forth across the floor of Eiji's bedroom for the twentieth time. Eiji knew this because he'd counted each set of steps. On the twenty-first pass -- right on schedule from past experience -- Oishi exploded with a frantic, "But it doesn't make sense!"

Eiji sighed. To say that things had been strained between he and his lover this month would be putting it mildly, but when Oishi had called him and anxiously insisted that they needed to talk, Eiji hadn't hesitated to invite him over. However, even his patience with his partner was wearing thin, "Nya, Oishi... What doesn't make any sense?"

Oishi spun to face the redhead, "Your parents haven't told you?"

Eiji, now starting to get truly concerned, stood up and walked over to his partner. Placing his hands gently on Oishi's shoulders to gather his attention, Eiji spoke, "Oishi, you aren't making any sense." The taller boy opened his mouth to interrupt and Eiji flexed his fingers, shaking him slightly, "Hoi hoi, you're not. Why don't you start at the beginning and tell me what's wrong?"

Oishi deflated from his frantic posture and nodded, "You're right, Eiji..." He took a deep breath then blurted out, "My parents decided to have you and your parents over tomorrow."

Eiji's eyebrow twitched, "That's it??"

Oishi pulled Eiji's hands off of his shoulders and gripped them tightly between his own, "Eiji, don't you understand? They must know! About us! The timing can't be coincidence. Our anniversary is tomorrow!"

Eiji pulled his hands from Oishi's grip and folded them into his pockets, "Nya, Oishi... I don't see what the big deal is. Even if you're right. I've been saying for weeks that we should just tell them. They'll find out anyway as soon as we graduate, ne?"

The dark-haired boy sagged in place, "Eiji... I've told you, it isn't that easy. My parents would be devastated. I can't disappoint them that way."

A quiet hitch in Eiji's breathing was the only reply. They'd had this argument before and would likely have it again. Every year as their anniversary came around they discussed telling their parents about the change in their relationship. Every year the anniversary came and went with both of them keeping their silence. Every year Oishi promised that next year would be the year, that surely when they were graduating the secret could safely be told. But now... he was backing out again. Eiji could sense it. This year and for the four following it would be because he needed his mother's family's connections to get into a good college -- forget that he could manage it on his grades and transcript alone. Then it would be because he needed his uncle's connections to get into a good medical school and then into a good internship... residency... tenured position... it would never end. And where would that leave Eiji? The cheerful, unexplained roommate through all of it. But Oishi didn't see that. And Eiji didn't seem capable of explaining it to him, judging by his resounding failures thus far.

Oishi rubbed his temples, sensing his partner's pain but unable to say anything to alleviate it. He fell silent as well.

The rest of the visit was awkward, stilted, like every other visit since Oishi had announced last month that he wouldn't be enlightening his parents about their relationship this year either. It upset him, but Eiji didn't know how to fix the awkwardness. He was upset and hurt... but he didn't want Oishi to be upset and hurt along with him. It was a mess. And now this... Obviously, Oishi was concerned that his parents had called this gathering because they knew and wanted to put a stop to their relationship. But... why worry about it now? They'd find out tomorrow anyway, and until then there was nothing they could do but wait.

Shuuichirou greeted the next day, a Sunday, with considerably less cheer than he greeted most. Doom, of some unknown variety, was hanging over his head like the Sword of Damocles. He barely managed to choke down breakfast and limped through his studying like a condemned man. Even Emi's insistent chatter failed to cheer him.

It seemed that each time one of his parents walked by him they were frowning. He was ready to jump up and scream at them to get on with it. Why wait until Eiji's family came over? Couldn’t he at least be disowned in private?

By the time 3:00 PM rolled around, he'd nearly given himself an ulcer from the stress of waiting alone. When the bell rang and his mother went to show Eiji's family into the living room, Oishi nearly passed out on the spot.

Of course, it was Eiji who came upstairs and found him, frozen to the spot where he'd been sitting on the floor. The redhead knelt next to him and pulled him close to rest against his chest. He didn't say a word, just held him. The quiet rhythm of Eiji's heart and the steady rise and fall of his chest slowly calmed him until he could relax from the rigid posture he'd been in for the last 2 hours. Eiji started rubbing soothing circles around his lower back as he spoke, "Nya, Oishi... I love you. With everything else that's been going on this month... I think maybe you forgot that. But I do. With all that I am. And if you love me the same, then what difference does everything else make? It'll work out. Somehow, it will. It has to."

Eiji sounded so very sure of himself as he spoke that Oishi found himself relaxing further. Somehow... somehow he had forgotten. Their one saving grace, the one thing that had kept them stable, on and off the courts, was their love. The knowledge that no matter what, they were there for each other. A gentle smile spread across his face and into his voice, "When did you get to be so wise?"

Eiji laughed as his arms squeezed him into a tight hug before letting go, "It's all that studying you make me do." At Oishi's incredulous look, Eiji pulled a face, "Hoi hoi, it is. It's a wonder I haven't gotten stupid again in the last month."

That last finally accomplished what Eiji had been failing to do for weeks. It made Oishi laugh. And with that laugh... the tension was gone, snapped like a rubber band. And suddenly it was all right. It was their anniversary and everything was golden again. Whatever was waiting for them downstairs... they would face it together. Oishi took Eiji's hand in his and they descended the stairway as one.

I sent Kikumaru-kun upstairs to fetch my son while I got his family settled in the living room. I confess that I'm worried. I thought for sure that the very idea of this little party would cheer my poor Shuu-chan up. I was wrong. Dead wrong. If anything, it's made him worse. My son has been wandering around the house like a man condemned ever since I announced this little party. All I can hope is that the party itself will bring some life back into him.

Kikumaru-kun comes back downstairs, Shuuichirou's hand held tightly in his, as though he's afraid to let go. It isn't an uncommon sight -- my son's partner has always been a very physically affectionate person -- but something about it today seems different. Maybe it's the expression on their faces...

Before I have a chance to figure it out, Kazuhiro and Tadashi emerge from the kitchen holding the rather large cake that Reika and I prepared for the occasion. Kikumaru-kun looks cutely perplexed and Shuuichirou looks as though he's just swallowed one of his fish. Live. They are both staring at the words on the cake as though they are written in Latin.

Kikumaru-kun blinks once or twice, then drops Shuuichirou's hand to throw both of his up in the air. Exasperation quickly overtakes the confusion on his face as he glares at my son and blurts out, "And you were worried about telling them?? Oishi~~~! Mou! You were right -- they already know!"

For his part, my son is now gaping like a landed fish. I really wish I knew what this was all about. Shuuichirou turns to face Kazuhiro and I and says in a hushed tone, "Then... you've known all along?"

Thank goodness for Kazuhiro's willingness to plow onto any battlefield, "Of course! We're your parents! You didn't think we'd forgotten, did you?"

Shuuichirou looks like he's about to faint and puts a hand to his head. He mumbles quietly, "This is it? This is what I've been worried about for two years?"

Now it is Kikumaru-kun's family's turn to get in on the action. Tadashi frowns, "Two years? I thought you said it was four years?"

Kikumaru-kun squeaks, "You think we've been lovers since junior high?? Nya! Papa, even Oishi's not that advanced!"

Dead silence descends upon the room.

Kikumaru-kun and Shuuichirou look at each other and their faces drain of all color as they realize what a blunder they've unwittingly made. I can almost see it as they count back four years and realize that there is another anniversary that we might have been celebrating. Kikumaru-kun flushes a red as vibrant as his hair and Shuuichirou pales another shade.

And through it all, I can't help but feel relief. I know now why my Shuu-chan has been so miserable. How can you be anything but when you live in constant fear that the one thing that makes you happiest may destroy your relationship with your family? Obviously he's wanted to share his joy with us and has been unable to for two years. Two years he has kept this great secret. Two whole years...

I become slowly aware that underneath the relief a feeling of immense joy is beginning to swell in me. I can fix this. I can help my Shuu-chan with this one last problem. And as his mother, I am the only one who can.

A quick glance at my husband tells me that he feels the same way. Another at Kikumaru-kun's-- hmm. Perhaps Eiji-kun might be more appropriate? Yes. Another glance at Eiji-kun's mother tells me something similar. We each understand the joy and relief that comes along with the realization that your child's grief is one you can ease. With matching smiles we relieve our husbands of the cake and carry it over to our children. Kazuhiro and Tadashi come to stand behind us.

I can't help but smile as my eyes take in the sight of the pair leaning on each other for support, "Well, it appears that our plan worked, even if it wasn't the outcome that any of us were suspecting."

Reika nods in agreement, "We knew that you were each upset about something and were having a miserable time trying to figure out what!"

Kazuhiro throws in his two cents, "So we thought that if we could get all of the adults into one room with the two of you we might get one of you to tell us what the problem was."

Tadashi coughs into his hand, "It worked rather more spectacularly than we imagined."

Having been the brain behind this operation, it is left to me to deliver the coup de grace, "What I suppose that we're trying to say is that we've known for some time that you were each an extraordinarily special part of each other's lives and likely would be for some time. Having known that, it isn't too far of a leap to take this new angle into consideration. So, in light of that..."

Reika and I hold the cake out as we all yell, "Happy anniversary!"

Eiji-kun's eyes fill with tears and he buries his face in Shuuichirou's shirt in an attempt to hide them. Shuuichirou wraps his arms around his partner and turns eyes on me that are full of no small amount of wonder and amazement. We'll talk about this further, I have no doubt, but at least now we'll be talking. It does occur to me that our ready acceptance of this situation is not normal in the slightest, but then again, anyone who has known Shuuichirou and Eiji-kun for the last four years could likely have predicted that this would happen... and we have certainly known them. And if this is a fairy tale ending... well, so be it. I know two doubles players that won't complain in the least.

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