Happy Birthday
by Jain

Written for Halrloprillalar.

The morning of Kaidoh's fifteenth birthday, he found a gift in his locker. It didn't have a card on it, or anything else to indicate who it might be from. He looked around the changing room suspiciously, dismissing the idea of it having been left by Momo or Echizen almost as soon as he considered them. That it might be from one of the other regulars was even more absurd. It couldn't have been left by just anyone, though; Kaidoh had locked the clubhouse himself the day before, and he'd been the first to arrive for morning practice. He narrowed his eyes at Momo one last time, since Momo was the only other person with a key besides Ryuzaki-sensei.

"What?" Momo asked belligerently.

Kaidoh glanced at the package. It was very prettily wrapped. Too pretty to have been the work of that moron. "Nothing," he said, and pushed the gift to the back of his locker before slamming the door shut.

After a bit of friction at the beginning of the year, Kaidoh and Momo had worked out a system for tennis practice: Kaidoh told the other tennis players what to do, and Momo alternately broke up fights, patched up scrapes and bruises, and postured obnoxiously. They usually played doubles together or with one of the second- or third-years in the morning, and then took turns playing singles while the other of them supervised drills and practice games in the afternoon. It was a good routine, both comfortable and challenging.

Today, though, Kaidoh kept getting distracted by wondering what was in the box, and who could have left it in his locker, and if Momo might have lent his key to somebody, even though he wasn't supposed to. He let two easy balls go by in a row and hissed in frustration, then hissed again when Momo pulled him aside.

Surprisingly, Momo didn't yell at him; he just peered into his face and gruffly asked, "Are you feeling all right?"

"Of course!"

Momo held his hands up. "I was just asking!"

"If I were sick, I would have stayed home," Kaidoh said, and stalked back to his position on the court. He paid better attention after that, though, and Momo eventually stopped shooting worried looks in his direction.

After that unfortunate beginning, the rest of the day dragged on endlessly: school and afternoon practice and his daily training regimen couldn't distract Kaidoh from the gift that he'd shoved into his bag earlier and that he'd been trying unsuccessfully to ignore all day. When he got home, he took the fastest shower of his life, toweled off quickly, and got dressed in clean clothes. He opened his gift while water dripped down his nose and trickled down the back of his neck.

Inside were a wool hat and a pair of fuzzy mittens. Kaidoh stared at them, more than a bit puzzled--winter wouldn't arrive for another six months at least--but then he stroked one mitten and smiled a little. It was very soft, and the hat and mittens were a nice shade of light blue.

He took out the layers of tissue paper in the box to make sure that there wasn't a card lost somewhere inside. There wasn't, so he folded up the paper neatly and threw it in his trashbasket. The hat and mittens he put back into the box and set on the top shelf in his closet. Then he lay down on his bed and did homework until his mother called him for dinner.

The morning after Kaidoh's fifteenth birthday, there was nothing out of the ordinary in his locker. Not that he was expecting anything, really, but it would have been very convenient to discover a letter or note from the person who'd left him the gift the day before. As it was, Kaidoh might not ever figure out who'd given him the hat and mittens.

He didn't let himself get distracted that day--neither at morning nor afternoon practice--and Momo appeared willing to forget his stupid mistakes from yesterday's game. Kaidoh didn't ask him whether he'd lent the clubhouse key to anyone, though he'd been planning to do so. Instead, he made sure to lock the clubhouse extra-carefully following afternoon practice.

He'd just begun his run, crossing through a park near school, when he saw Fuji sitting on one of the park benches. Kaidoh stopped running; it had only been a couple of months, but that didn't keep him from missing people already.

"Kaidoh!" Fuji called, and walked over to him. "You're not wearing your birthday present." Kaidoh's eyes widened in surprise. Fuji sounded disappointed, and he had to fight the urge to apologize.

"It's a little warm to wear a hat and mittens, senpai," he said.

Fuji held a hand up as though to test the lovely May weather. "You might be right. You'll wear them when it gets colder, though, won't you?"

"Of course, Fuji-senpai. Thank you for the gift," Kaidoh added belatedly.

Fuji beamed at him. "You're welcome." He took Kaidoh's hand in his, and Kaidoh blinked down at him. Then Fuji pressed his right palm flat against Kaidoh's left palm. "I had to guess what size you were. Do the mittens fit right?"

"I...I don't know. I didn't try them on yet."

"Oh." Fuji curled his fingers around Kaidoh's, and Kaidoh stared at their clasped hands, feeling hot all over yet somehow not wanting to pull away. "Maybe I could join you on your run, and then we could go to your house and you could try on your new mittens for me. That way I can take them back to the store and exchange them for mittens in your size if they don't fit right."

Fuji's voice was light and seemingly unconcerned, but Kaidoh could feel the slight tremble in his fingers. He had to swallow hard a couple of times before he could trust his voice, and he was pretty sure that his face was bright red. Fuji's cheeks were flushed, too, though, so Kaidoh didn't let himself feel too bad about that. "I'd like that, senpai," he said, and didn't let go of Fuji's hand until he absolutely needed to so that they could start their run.

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