Ryoma hates parties, and there are so many at Christmas anyway that no one ever objects to his desire to stay as far away from birthday parties as possible.
That doesn't stop Seigaku from turning their annual Christmas parties into an excuse to ply him with presents year after year. Ryoma doesn't resent it, exactly. He just wishes Eiji would stop giving him stuffed animals.
Ryoma has never paid much attention to the years passing. He's too busy. It's different the year he turns 16, though--it's the first year that Tezuka-Buchou is not with the others as they gather around the Christmas tree. The other graduates are there, all except Fuji. But it's not Fuji Ryoma misses as he lets Momo drag him to the center of the room so that Eiji, who is playing Santa this year just like every year, can weight him down with presents.
Tezuka-Buchou has sent him a present. So has Fuji. But it's not Fuji's gift that makes Ryoma 's stomach tighten. He shouldn't resent a package (obviously a book) so much, just because of the person who isn't there to give it to him. But time has passed, and Ryoma never expected Buchou to hold himself back from the Pros after his time at Seigaku had passed.
He's grateful for the fact that Eiji and Momo can't stop grappling over which of them gets to rumple his hair, because it's easier to mask his disappointment when he's trying to duck out of their grasps. He's sixteen now, and they should be over that after nearly four years. He’s not a kid anymore. He’s grown a lot taller.
He wonders if Tezuka sees him as small.
Then there's a knock at the door, and the way his heart suddenly explodes in his chest tells him that maybe he's more of a kid than he wants to admit.
The outburst from the other Seigaku members is sudden and startling. Ryoma thinks he's grateful for it, because that way no one can see how quickly he stands, how quickly he lets Tezuka's unopened present slip out of his fingers in favor of the real thing. Tezuka is standing in his doorway, tall and lean, with new glasses and the same smile every time he returns, just touching the corners of his mouth, faint enough that Ryoma likes to think that he's the only one who can tell.
"Buchou," he says, because the others have parted for him. Because Tezuka isn't looking at anyone else.
Tezuka steps forward. "I brought you a present," he says, and slides his racket bag onto the floor beside him.
The room suddenly feels too big and too small, all at once--too big to cross the distance between Tezuka and himself, too small to do anything but clamp down on the first smile Ryoma has felt all night.
The others crowd around, stifling, laughing, impersonal. But Ryoma doesn't mind.
Buchou has brought his racket, just for him, and suddenly sixteen doesn’t seem small at all.