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The Power of Gossip - Chapter 13

Title: The Power of Gossip
Rating: T
SummaryIn Tezuka’s defence, it had been a moment of panic at the end of a very stressful day. Now everyone thinks he and Ryoma are dating.
Author’s Notes:  Only one chapter left!  I am almost nervous about posting it.  Should the forces of the universe be willing, expect it sometime around Wednesday.

Chapter One - One White Lie
Chapter Two - This Is How Rumours Get Started
Chapter Three - Dropping Pennies
Chapter Four - Resisting the Forces of Chance
Chapter Five - Over-thinking Things
Chapter Six - Discussing Rumours
Chapter Seven - Reading Between the Lines
Chapter Eight - Outside the Comfort Zone
Chapter Nine - Realising the Obvious

Chapter Ten - Resisting Temptation
Chapter Eleven - Avoiding the Issue
Chapter Twelve - Loving Tennis


********************************
 
The Power of Gossip
 
Chapter 13 – The Truth Will Set You Free
 
By Sinnatious
 
********************************
 
Tezuka didn’t get any sleep that night. He’d been in shock for a good ten minutes, thoughts whirling chaotically about his head, before it finally occurred to him that he ought to go after Ryoma, to explain – though what he was explaining he wasn’t yet sure of. Even as he reached for his jacket though, he had to pause. Where would Echizen have gone? If they were at home in Japan, he would have at least had an idea of some different places to check, but they were in unfamiliar territory. 
 
He went and checked the lobby and the tennis court, just in case, but when both were deserted he headed back to their room, at a loss. Surely his roommate couldn’t have gone too far – he’d left wearing only a jacket over his bed clothes, after all! Maybe he’d gone to Momoshiro’s room? But what if he hadn’t? It would be awkward explaining what had happened to the others if he came around looking.
 
It appeared that there was nothing to do then but wait until Echizen came back. 
 
Except that Echizen didn’t come back.
 
At first he couldn’t fathom what had been going through the other pro’s head. Where was the misunderstanding? What was there to misunderstand? He’d been the one to instigate the kiss, and Ryoma had responded. What had he done wrong?
 
Unless… Tezuka realized that he’d only really been considering it from his own point of view. What would the situation look like to someone who wasn’t sure of their own feelings? It was entirely possible that Ryoma had just become caught up in the moment. His heart sank at the thought, but he shook his head. No, he didn’t think that was right. Why would Ryoma have been so quick and eager insist on the use of first names if he didn’t feel the same way?
 
Somehow, Tezuka knew it was his fault. Echizen had one way or another come to the conclusion, from that stray remark, that his feelings weren’t genuine. He puzzled over that for a few minutes, trying to figure out what was so offensive about it. Ryoma had asked if it was okay, and he’d responded in the positive – it wasn’t like he’d said ‘no’ or anything like that. 
 
With a flash of insight, he picked up his phone. Of course! If he couldn’t find Echizen in person, he could at least call him and talk the matter over. Hurriedly, he keyed in the numbers and held the phone to his ear, silently urging the other pro to answer.
 
A muffled jingle played from the other end of the room. Despondent, Tezuka followed it, and found Echizen’s phone underneath the spare towel that had been discarded earlier. With a curse, he shut his phone off and slumped into the chair. What was he supposed to do now? 
 
The hours crawled by like years. More than once he considered going to bed, but he didn’t want to be asleep when his roommate came back. And even if he tried, he wouldn’t be able to relax enough, consumed with anxiety over the whole affair and with a healthy dollop of worry lathered on top over his roommate’s current whereabouts. It took a ridiculous amount of self-control to stop himself from running out into the night looking for him, even if he intellectually knew that he’d just be more likely to miss the other man that way.
 
So Tezuka didn’t sleep. He made himself tea, then coffee, then paced back and forth in the room. When the sun rose, he finally ceased his vigil to have a shower, hoping that perhaps when he emerged Echizen might have returned – some foolish wish in line with the notion of a watched pot never boiling. He even stayed in longer than usual to that end, but the hotel room was still deserted when he stepped out of the bathroom. 
 
Half an hour more of pacing later, he gave up, deciding to head downstairs. Ryoma had to pass through the lobby to get into the hotel – he’d be less likely to go insane waiting for him there than waiting for him in here. Maybe the other pro would become hungry and come to breakfast, even.
 
To his surprise, the others were already gathered in the foyer, despite the relatively early hour. Though it shouldn’t have been surprising – he vaguely recalled plans for going out that morning, since Oishi and Eiji didn’t have a match that day. Naturally, with everything that had happened, he’d completely forgotten about it. More startling, however, was the sight of a familiar figure attempting to walk past them. 
 
“-you tell us, Ochibi!” He only caught the end of Eiji’s cajoling.
 
“Been out running it off this morning, huh?” Momo laughed. That killed the small hope he’d had that the nineteen year old had gone to Momoshiro’s room, leaving a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. Where had the youth spent the night then? Had he really just been wandering the streets for the past seven hours in his pyjamas?
 
“Shut up,” Ryoma muttered, jostling past them, heading towards the elevators which Tezuka had just disembarked from. The teen looked up at that moment, and caught sight of him. Time seemed to stop as they both froze, but Echizen refused to meet his eyes, and after a moment, broke the spell by hurriedly stalking past him. 
 
For a long moment, he was too surprised to react, but when the shorter man brushed by him without a word, Tezuka jerked around. “Echi-Ryoma!” he called, reaching out for the other pro, twisting him around to face him…. and immediately pulled back as if he’d been burned. 
 
It was clear his roommate hadn’t slept either. Ryoma was sporting deep bags under his eyes, and his gaze was so cold it felt like ice water was being dumped over his head. “I don’t want to talk to you right now,” he whispered, abruptly shrugging him off and stalking into the waiting elevator.
 
Tezuka couldn’t do anything, couldn’t form any of the words that needed to be said, and merely stood there, still as a statue, as the doors closed, separating them once again. 
 
The quiet sound of the doors closing seemed to spur him into action, as he hurriedly pressed the button to call the other elevator, ignoring the confused chatter of his friends in the background. He had to speak to Echizen. He had to. 
 
It seemed as though the elevator would never come, and when it did, it travelled at a mind-numbingly slow pace. Naturally, when he finally arrived on their floor, his roommate was no longer in sight. Once he reached the door to their room, he took a deep breath, not quite certain yet of what he was going to say, but needing to see the other man at least. 
 
Nerves gathered as best as they could be, Tezuka opened the door and stepped into the room. Surprisingly, it was empty – how could the teen have slipped past him? – but after a moment he heard the tell-tale click of a lock on the bathroom door.
 
“Ech-Ryoma?” he tried, standing near the door. There was no response, but if he strained his ears, a slight shuffling sound of movement could be heard within.
 
The other pro could lock him out, but he couldn’t block his ears. “Ryoma. We need to talk. I need to explain…” he trailed off, partially because he wasn’t sure exactly what he was supposed to explain first, and partially because the sound of the shower being turned on full-blast could be heard through the door. 
 
Apparently Echizen could block his ears after all.
 
Tezuka stood there for several minutes, considering entering into a battle of patience, but the younger man could be remarkably stubborn when it came to these sorts of confrontations, and he’d probably waste an awful lot of water in the interim. Depressed, he left the hotel room again, temporarily defeated. 
 
Ryoma hated him now. Of all the outcomes he’d worried about, this was the one he’d feared the most. 
 
Like a zombie, he headed back downstairs. His friends were still gathered around, looking confused – though their expressions eased considerably when they caught sight of him. Tezuka slowly walked towards the breakfast table they were standing next to, feeling the sudden need to sit down. 
 
“Morning Tezuka,” Inui greeted. “You don’t look like you slept very well.”
 
“No,” he mumbled in response, not quite able to summon a proper greeting himself.
 
“Fssshuuuu, what was up with the brat?” Kaido hissed, still looking towards the elevators.
 
“Did you two have a fight?” Oishi asked worriedly.
 
“…Something like that.”

"A lover's spat?" Momoshiro teased.

"We're not lovers," Tezuka said heavily. The words felt like puncture wounds.

"Nya, but Ochibi had a hickey!" Eiji crowed, elbowing his doubles partner in the side. That must have been what the acrobat had been trying to tease Ryoma about earlier.

Tezuka was finding it hard to find words, right then. All he could really think was that he'd messed things up terribly. He’d hurt Echizen, and he wasn’t even sure how. It was a sickening feeling that made his stomach churn.

"Tezuka?" Oishi asked in concern.

Fuji's eyes were wide open. Even Inui had stopped scribbling in his notebook.

Tezuka sat down heavily at the table, and put his head in his hands.

"Hey, Tezuka! Are you really okay?" Oishi stammered, hurrying to sit next to him, voice pitching up in concern.

"I messed up." His voice sounded strangled even to his own ears.

"Eh?" Momoshiro voiced as the rest of them gathered around.

There was a long pause, mostly due to everyone's confusion and Tezuka's unwillingness to explain. Finally, Fuji broke the stalemate.

"Tezuka and Echizen were never actually going out."
 
The sudden silence was deafening.
 
"You're kidding Fuji, right?  Right?!" Eiji demanded, looking uncertain, as though he wasn't sure whether it was supposed to be a joke or a deadly serious matter.

"Even I wouldn't kid about something like that."

Oishi was looking at him thoughtfully.  "Now that I think about it... I don't remember Tezuka ever once calling him by anything other than Echizen.... or Echizen calling Tezuka anything other than 'buchou'..."

"I thought 'buchou' was like a pet name!" Eiji protested.  Tezuka felt his fingers tense.
 
"Echizen never stopped calling Tezuka 'buchou'," Momo informed them.  His laid back tone didn't quite match the worried expression on his face. 

"Eh?  You mean for that for the past month... when Tezuka kept saying that it wasn't true... you mean...," Taka looked stunned, and then suddenly guilty.  It seemed like his friends were finally coming to believe what he'd been saying all along. So it had only taken one dissenting voice after all.

"Fsssshuuuuu.  Sorry Tezuka," Kaido said quietly next to him, expression somewhere between horrified and embarrassed.

"We really didn't mean to make things so awkward!  Argh!  No wonder Echizen's been so cranky at me!" Momo exclaimed.

"But Ochibi and Tezuka make such a good couple!" Eiji complained, seeming not able to quite grasp the sudden shift.  "I always thought so - didn't all of you?"

There was embarrassed shuffling of feet. 
 
“You two did look rather natural together, I thought,” Kawamura admitted, looking apologetic. “I sort of always assumed that eventually…”
 
“My data made it seem like the most reasonable conclusion…”
 
“Even though he never said anything about it, Echizen always seemed to hold Tezuka in such high regard…,” Momo added.
 
The others let their eyes wander around the room, as though not wanting to confess their own thoughts on the matter.  Tezuka could guess, anyhow. Oishi had pretty much already outlined what everyone had thought to him anyway.
 
“Are you gay?” Inui piped up suddenly.
 
“Inui!” Oishi chastised immediately.
 
“It’s a valid question. That was one of many assumptions made. I am seeking to correct these assumptions.”
 
Tezuka closed his eyed, and just nodded. Amidst his revelation of his attraction to Ryoma, he had given that matter some thought, and it hadn’t taken that long to reach that conclusion. His persistent lack of interest in girls was not baseless, but he’d never even given himself the chance to consider if his preference lay in other avenues – he’d just assumed for such a long time that he wasn’t at the stage in his life where he was ready for a romantic relationship. At least now he knew why his few abortive attempts at dating in high school had been so spectacularly boring.
 
“Hmm, so at least the original basis for these assumptions was not incorrect… the only difference is that you and Echizen are not, in fact, dating, correct?”
 
Tezuka nodded again. 
 
“Never have been?”
 
“Of course not,” he whispered – he didn’t dare raise his voice any louder, lest it wobble.
 
“We’ve already established that, Inui,” Fuji reminded the data-gatherer.
 
“I know, but it is all very shocking… it is so grossly out of proportion with my data," Inui muttered, then paused.  "Though... I do not think that my original data was in error."

"Eh?  What are you talking about Inui?" Taka asked curiously.  The others stood at attention to hear the resident data-expert speak.

Inui pushed his glasses back up to the bridge of his nose.  "Given the subject of recent conversations and the data I have been gathering over the week... Tezuka, is it fair to say that you and Echizen are not dating... yet?"

"Eh?  Yet?" Oishi asked, looking confused.  After a moment, though, his eyes widened and he turned to stare at his distressed friend in horror... "Tezuka... you mean...?"
 
It seemed that the cat was out of the proverbial bag. “It must be pretty obvious that I like Echizen, huh?” he asked weakly. “It seems that everyone else knew before I did.”
 
Oishi was distraught.  "I booked you the room with the single bed, too... it didn't even occur to me... Tezuka, I'm so sorry!  That must have been so hard for you!"
 
“Wait, wait, you mean that even though they’re not actually dating… they want to, right?” Momoshiro asked.
 
“I’m not so sure about Ry-Echizen,” Tezuka explained. Why did his body feel so heavy? Oh right, he hadn’t slept for twenty-four hours.
 
“You two did fight,” Oishi fretted, apparently recalling their brush in the lobby and the nineteen year-old’s foul mood.
 
The others had all fallen silent, absorbing this turn of events. Their resident hyperactive redhead, however, just couldn’t seem to grasp the sudden flip the universe had taken. “But…. Ochibi had a hickey,” Eiji repeated his earlier statement lamely.
 
At those words, the other’s eyes all widened and Tezuka was vaguely aware of a set of six heads swivelling towards him. 
 
“Tezuka, did you…?” Inui started hesitantly.
 
“Fssshuuu, did you hurt him?” Kaido grunted, suddenly stepping forward threateningly.
 
“No!” he retorted, a little more loudly than he intended. “No, it wasn’t… it was just kissing… but then he-” Suddenly embarrassed, Tezuka trailed off. He couldn’t talk about such a personal matter with his friends in the middle of a hotel foyer. 
 
“So you confessed?” Momo demanded. His best friend was involved, so he was clearly getting worked up over the issue.
 
“Not exactly,” he replied reluctantly. “We were talking, and one thing led to another… he was willing,” he added defensively when he saw Kaido giving him a suspicious look. “I didn’t intend to suddenly kiss him like that, but he was willing.”
 
Inui nodded sagely, snapping shut his notebook that had been resting open, forgotten, in his hands. “Of course. Almost anyone would be pushed to the limits of their self-control under that situation. You’ve been sharing the same bed for the past week and a half, after all.”
 
Oishi looked somewhat as though he was about to hyperventilate. “Tezuka, I really thought… if I had known…”
 
“It’s not your fault, Oishi. Don’t blame yourself,” he said dully.
 
It wasn't his fault – any of their faults. Not really. It had been his own slip-up to begin with. If anything, maybe he ought to thank them for finally bringing his attention to the issue. Without that catalyst, who knew how many more years it might have taken him to finally pay attention to his own feelings? By then it might have been too late. Both he and Echizen were on the same pro circuit now, but it wasn't hard to imagine one of them suffering an injury and deciding to retire later on down the track, and what might have happened then?

The fact of the matter was, Tezuka was not a wishy-washy person. He wasn't teetering on the brink of indecision or anything like it, and he never had been. It just hadn't been something he'd thought about before the misunderstanding had FORCED him to. And now that he had, he knew the path he had to take... he just didn't know how to walk it. That had been the real problem, and the only reason he’d stalled and avoided Ryoma as he had.
 
Of course, the situation was now hopeless. Ryoma hated him, he was sure. How could he have been so insensitive? No matter the other person’s feelings, of course they were going to take it the wrong way if you just kissed them out of the blue! He’d known that from the beginning!
 
Only… Echizen had responded to start with. He’d even insisted on first names. 
 
It was so confusing! Why couldn’t it be more like tennis?
 
Even that thought made his heart ache for Echizen though – he’d heard that exact phrase spill from the other’s lips almost as frequently as his infamous ‘mada mada da ne’. 
 
“What do I do?” he asked, more speaking to himself than those around him.
 
“Well, that’s easy, isn’t it?” Fuji replied. “Talk to him.”
 
“What?” Tezuka hadn’t really been expecting a response – in fact, for a second he’d almost forgotten that his friends were witnessing his little breakdown. “No… I already tried. He won’t listen. He hates me.”
 
“My data does not suggest that is the case,” Inui disagreed. “And it is imperative that the misunderstanding is cleared up, for better or for worse.”
 
Tezuka knew that, really. He’d wanted to speak with Ryoma all night, after all, to try and explain himself properly as he should have done in the first place and figure out whether the other man felt the same way. But after the other pro had brushed by him in the lobby with such a look in his eyes… and when he’d refused to even give him the chance to talk… he didn’t think he could stand that conversation anymore. If Echizen announced that he hated him… Tezuka just knew that he’d fall apart. 
 
It was a curious sensation, having your entire world hinge on one person like that. He’d never truly understood it before, and privately found the actions of friends and family fighting with their significant others baffling. Discovering how emotions could so easily sweep aside all rationality was not something he was enjoying. He was in control. His rationality and ability to rise above petty emotions was something he prided himself on. Now it was just something else of himself that had been swept away by this entire fiasco.
 
As if sensing his inner anguish, Oishi laid a comforting hand on his shoulder. “Tezuka… you have to. I don’t really think Echizen will do it.” That was true. Echizen was notorious for stewing over his problems alone until they festered into something much worse, and would almost certainly never confront anybody over a personal matter. “Talk to him again. Make him listen. You can do it.”
 
Tezuka sighed. “You’re right… I guess I’ll just give him some time. Maybe once he’s calmed down…” And it would give him more of a chance to make sense of situation, too. He was too close to the whole affair to see everything clearly. He needed to find some way to take several steps back to sort things out. It would be stupid to apologise without being certain of what exactly he was apologising for first.
 
“Are you sure? I mean, maybe we could somehow-” 
 
“Saaa, let’s go Oishi,” Fuji suggested, manoeuvring the doubles player away from the table, with a shell-shocked Eiji robotically following. “It’ll all sort itself out. Tezuka has said he’ll find a way to talk to Echizen. Don’t you trust him to keep his word?”
 
“Yes, but-”
 
“Momo, Kaido, aren’t you coming?”
 
“Uh, right.”
 
“Fsssshuuuuu.”
 
His friends shuffled away, murmuring worriedly amongst themselves. Tezuka briefly wished for the days where he could assign them all laps for gossiping, but that only made his mind leap to Ryoma, only this time all he could see were those cold, hurting eyes.
 
He buried his face in his hands once again. Gods, if the press ever found out the full story about this, they’d have an absolute field day.
 

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
kaorismash
Oct. 13th, 2007 09:41 am (UTC)
Oh, such a typical title. ;P Have not read anything just yet, so that I can still remain coherent and get at least something out. :D

"spectacularly boring" :___________D ♥♥♥ :))

AND AND. JUST. ));

hjdsgjkdafhk;ljfadkl;hjadfgkj. Oh Tezuka, you precious, precious thing. )); And Ryoma. ACKJASKFHGSDKLG. |;

</3 :|
sinnatious
Oct. 13th, 2007 10:17 am (UTC)
Ah yes, I was rather uninspired when it came to thinking of a chapter title this time. Busted.

Kaori, please don't cry! It'll all be good next chapter, I promise.
roseofthine
Oct. 13th, 2007 03:33 pm (UTC)
Oh god oh god oh god.

=(((

You are making me feel all torn up inside.

I still love you~

Oh Tezuka must be feeling so...;~~~~~~;

And Ryoma! Poor, poor, Ryoma. ;~~;

boring~ 8DDD

The last line...THEY HAD BETTER NOT. ;~~~;

(though I think that'd be hilarious in a different situation. =(((()
pat_ace87
Oct. 13th, 2007 05:18 pm (UTC)
oh, poor, poor Tezuka -_- ....... He really has to sit down with Ryoma and have a LONG talk about all this. And Fuji finally decided to step in and talk ~_~ ....... I laughed when Kaido stepped up talking about "Fshhh did you hurt him." I could picture him with this I-don't-care-if-you're-my-former-captain-I'll-rip-you-apart-if-you-hurt-him look ^_^!!!!!!! Lol, great chapter, can't wait for the next one, and it's almost over...nnnoooo....sadness ;_; ..... ^_^!!!!!!!
mimineko_chan
Oct. 13th, 2007 05:24 pm (UTC)
Hey Sin... got that chapter out, ne ? I really don't know what to say... Yes, everything has finally come out. But euh... The truth will set you free ? I don't think that the truth set everyone else free. Tezuka is feeling guilty. And Oishi is going to have a crisis. And you didn't leave me space to write anything... NYAAAAA !
I'm going to go swimming this afternoon and will try to think of a better dabble to write to you.
mimineko_chan
Oct. 13th, 2007 10:11 pm (UTC)
Would it be cheating if I put one of my past dabble here ? I'm just too lazy... (also have lots of homework, but that's not reason enough) to invent something.
Sin, you didn't put anything for me to interpret. Or is it just my imagination that's failling me ? GAAHHH ! I certainly hope not !

They were looking at each other. Neither one blinking, they were just staring. One was in a sitting position, looking upward. The other one standing, looking down.

Silence...

Neither one wanting to back down...

It was a contest...

A battle of will...

Or stupidity...

"I am not giving him up." Said the one who was standing. He had a frown on his face.

"Hmmmf." The other just sniffed but still glared.

"I am not taking him away from you." The one standing was tired, he wanted the other to understand.

The one sitting on the floor, stood up, but he still was no match to the tall guy. In fact, he still had to till his head up to look at him in the eyes.

Then, he turned and walked away, swinging his bottom to show his dissatisfaction. He was hungry and sleepy. No use fighting with that stupid guy anyway.

The taller one sighed, took off his glasses and rested his eyes. He sat down on the bed and looked around.

The room was small, not really cleaned, so unlike his room. However it was comfy.

"Ne Kunimitsu." He opened his eyes and saw his boyfriend holding a glass of water.

"Ah, domo." He thanked him.

"What's wrong ?" His boyfriend asked, and went to sit on his bed with him.

"Ryoma, I do not think that your cat likes me." He said it with so much conviction that his boyfriend had to hid a grin.

Ryoma didn't think that laughing would be a good idea at the moment. He did not want to go running laps today nor tomorrow at practice.

"Why ?" He asked.

"It is just feeling. Never mind." Tezuka would never admit that he felt intimidated by a cat, let alone a very cute cat like Karupin.

"Che." Ryoma then went to kiss his weird boyfriend.

Oh well, as long as Ryoma is kissing him like that, he wouldn't care if Karupin likes him or not. Through it would be better if she does. It would simplify things when they all move in together. Ryoma would never abandon his cat to his perverted father. 'Looks like I'll have to buy more catnip.'
sinnatious
Oct. 14th, 2007 07:37 am (UTC)
Heh, should have posted this one in the drabble meme Mimineko!

So cute.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )