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By Sinnatious
 
Summary: When Ryoma finds himself in a tough situation, his pride might keep him swimming, but it’s Tezuka who keeps his head above water.
 
Rating: PG-13
 
Author’s Note: Needs more dinosaurs. 
 
The Dispossession of Echizen Ryoma
 
Chapter 6
 
It had been another cold night.
 
When the sun rose, Ryoma wasn’t sure if he had been to sleep at all. It certainly didn’t feel like it. At times, it felt as though the night was going to stretch on forever. The warm light seemed so alien after so many miserable hours spent trying to stay warm in the cold breeze, curled up on the dewy grass. Just to make matters worse, there had been a brief shower at 3am. Though it was mostly just drizzle, it was enough to dampen his clothes and skin and make the wind sting. He’d very nearly left the deserted park to try and find somewhere else to sleep, but there was no knowing what sort of people might be roaming the streets at that hour of night. They certainly weren’t bound to be good ones. 
 
His body felt heavy as he practically dragged himself to Seigaku. Once again, he was forced to wait in the cold for the gates to open. Even the warm shower couldn’t entirely chase the chill away this time. It felt as though it had sunk into his very bones and refused to be dislodged. 
 
That morning he was already feeling perfectly miserable, having spent most of the night shivering instead of sleeping.  And just his luck, instead of Oishi being the first to arrive after him, it was Tezuka.
 
If the captain was surprised to see him there, he didn't show it.  "Echizen," he greeted neutrally.
 
"Buchou," he responded automatically, eyes half-lidded and struggling to stay open.

"Oishi mentioned you'd been arriving at morning practice early, but I didn't believe it until now," he said, glancing at his watch.  "It doesn't start for another half hour."

"My mother's been messing with my alarm clock," he explained.  He didn't feel comfortable outright lying to Tezuka, but what choice did he have?

The captain was staring at him, and Ryoma had the sinking sensation that Tezuka saw straight through his words. He turned his head away and busied himself with checking the strings on his racquet.
 
Fortunately Oishi arrived not long after, followed by a few of the early bird juniors and then the rest of the club in the five minutes before practice officially started. They’d returned to drills again; apparently being able to practice against the other regulars the day before had been a rare treat meant to stop the complaining. 
 
Morning practice flew by in a whirl. Ryoma stumbled on a couple of his drills, but he was confident that he caught himself before anyone noticed. That confidence wavered when Tezuka stopped him as morning practice concluded. "Echizen, a moment."

He turned and waited as the captain finished talking with Oishi and made his way over to him. Tezuka placed a hand on his shoulder and regarded him with his eternally serious expression. "Echizen, are you unwell? Your stamina was a little low, and Oishi mentioned that you were showing symptoms of the flu yesterday."

Ryoma certainly felt terrible, but in his mind he hadn't felt well for what seemed like a long time. It had been too cold to sleep the night before, and he hadn't had anything substantial to eat since burgers with Momoshiro a day and a half ago. His body felt clammy and his muscles were weak, but he was rather sure that sleeplessness and hunger were the causes of that. If anything, he was proud that he'd been able to maintain his concentration under such conditions. No, proud wasn't right: he needed to be able to do it, so that if he found himself in a situation like the match he'd had with Ryoga again he'd be able to pull through.

It was highly possible he'd caught a chill from sleeping out in the cold, he admitted, but the last thing he wanted was to have his senpai coddle him. A sore throat and sniffle were unpleasant, but hardly enough to stop him. He wasn’t really sick. He didn’t get sick. More to the point, he couldn’t afford to get sick right then. 

Suddenly, he remembered that Tezuka was waiting for a response. "Just a bit of a sore throat. Nothing serious." He didn’t feel like outright lying to Tezuka twice in one day. Besides, with the captain it was always safer to veer towards the truth, so that you had deniability later.

"Have you been to the nurse?"

"It's not bad enough for that. It'll go away in a day or two. If it doesn't, I'll go see the nurse then."

He glanced at the senior's face and had to look away again when confronted with those discerning brown eyes. Ryoma froze when a cool hand made its way to his forehead a moment later. "You do have a slight fever, though. Even if it's not serious, it isn't a good idea to push yourself. You don't have to come to practice this afternoon. Go straight home after classes and get plenty of fluids and rest."

"But-," Ryoma started.

"That's an order. It is far better to miss one afternoon of practice to expedite recovery than it is to push yourself and wind up missing a whole week. Just because the Nationals are behind us doesn't mean that we can be careless. If anything, we have a reputation to uphold now."

Ryoma knew that trying to argue with the captain would be pointless. "Yes, Buchou," he responded, turning to leave. What was he going to do all afternoon? This meant he wouldn’t be able to go get burgers with Momoshiro, either. He supposed he could go to the street courts for a while, but even if he just had to sit on the sidelines and watch he'd rather stick around Seigaku. Seigaku was home, now.
 
Really, he was just a little sleepy and hungry, and his voice was probably just scratchy from disuse.  At the very worst he’d caught a slight chill. That was no reason to prevent him from coming to afternoon practice!

As the youth caught a sneeze, he stopped to ponder his dilemma. Regardless of whether or not he was sick, Ryoma had to admit that he couldn't stand the thought of another night in that park. He'd become used to it rather quickly but it had been getting progressively colder every night. It wasn't appropriate accommodation anymore. It was time to find somewhere else to sleep. Maybe after he left the street courts he could try and look for somewhere a little more shielded from the elements. There were plenty of homeless folk that managed with even less than what he had; surely there were plenty of nooks and crannies nearby where he'd be protected from the wind and could remain undisturbed.

The notion of actually telling someone and asking for help skittered briefly across his thoughts again, but was ruthlessly squashed. He held his chin up determinedly. He didn’t need help. He could manage fine. So what if he was a little under the weather? That was easy to handle. The embarrassment of his team mates finding out was the only thing he wouldn’t be able to bear.
 
In the afternoon Ryoma somewhat sulkily bade Horio, Kachirou and Katsuo farewell. Casting a longing glance towards the courts, he made his way out of the school grounds, doubling back after a couple of blocks to head towards the street tennis courts. If he couldn’t attend practice, he’d just find an opponent elsewhere. 
 
To his surprise, both Yuuta and Mizuki from St. Rudolph were at the street courts.  He really shouldn't have been so shocked, given that they seemed to hang out there an excessive amount, but he honestly hadn't expected to see any familiar faces during the hours clubs normally operated.

That left him contemplating heading elsewhere, but Yuuta spotted him almost immediately and ruined that plan. 

"Hey, Echizen!"

Sighing, Ryoma adjusted his cap and waited as the other Fuji came running over. Mizuki trailed behind him at a more sedate pace.  "What are you doing here?  Doesn't Seigaku normally have practice in the afternoons?"

"I could ask the same of you," he replied, not really wanting to admit that he was supposed to be sick and at home resting.  He almost snorted at that idea.  'Home'.  Seigaku was home now, but then, the others wouldn’t understand that. 

"St Rudolph finished formal activities for the season this week," Mizuki interjected smoothly, eyes glittering - no doubt he was excited at the prospect of fishing for information.  Ryoma folded his arms and trained a bored hazel eye on the rival club’s manager.  He didn't mind Fuji's brother, but he didn't appreciate the slimy company he kept.  "Club members are supposed to self-train during this time."

"Hn," Echizen replied, completely uninterested.  Yuuta was staring at him, and he was more occupied with trying to ignore his questioning gaze.

"Echizen, are you feeling okay?" he asked suddenly.  "You're not looking too good."

"Fine!" he snapped unintentionally.  When the other two tennis players recoiled, he amended, "Just didn't sleep well last night.  People have been asking all day. It’s irritating."

He was expecting Mizuki to interject with some snarky jibe, but the senior just frowned, grabbing his chin and tilting it this way and that to inspect his face.

"It's no surprise, you look like you haven't slept or eaten for days," he remarked after the annoyed freshman batted his hand away.  "Is something bothering you?"

"None of your business."

"Of course it isn't.  But it's poor form when a National Champion falls from grace because he isn't taking care of his health.  Of course, it doesn't bother me; anything that makes St Rudolph's victory easier is to be encouraged.  It would just be disappointing if there wasn't at least a fight when our schools next get to play," Mizuki quipped with a musical lilt in his voice.

Ryoma just muttered a farewell to the younger Fuji, gathered his bags and made way to leave the courts. At first he'd been somewhat hopeful that he might have a decent opponent to practice with, but he wasn't going to hang around with a concerned Yuuta and a nosy Mizuki.  Besides, he reminded himself, wherever the younger Fuji hung out the older would almost inevitably follow.  Ryoma didn't particularly want to get caught red-handed disobeying Tezuka's orders.  The last thing he needed was another lecture on taking care of himself.  Who were they to talk to him about that sort of thing, anyway?  Considering his circumstances, he was doing a fine job of taking care of himself! 
 
Speaking of taking care of himself, if tennis wasn’t going to be an option then it was time to do his homework and start looking for more appropriate accommodations. 
 
The little park that he’d come to think of as ‘his’ was just as deserted as always upon arrival. Ryoma retrieved his duffel bag from the bushes and set himself up on the park bench to do the day’s assigned work. His handwriting was barely legible - it was difficult to summon the energy to even check if his work was correct, much less presentable - but he managed to complete it in a timely fashion. That done, he packed his things and made to leave.
 
Ryoma paused though, glancing back before stepping out on the footpath. It felt sort of weird. It had only been a week, but in that time the previously unknown park had become so familiar to him.
 
Shaking his head, he turned on his heel and walked away. What was he thinking, getting nostalgic over a place that only held discomfort for him? Sure it was a private little hideaway, but with the weather becoming so cold so suddenly, the park simply wouldn’t suffice anymore. Even if it was still comfortably warm during the days, the past two nights had been bitterly cold, and the thought of a third spent in those conditions left him feeling physically ill. Ryoma had briefly contemplated using what little money he had remaining to purchase a sleeping bag, or maybe a small tent, but carting around his school bag, duffel bag and tennis racquets was difficult enough already. He didn't think he would be able to handle another bulky package without looking like a homeless person.
 
Which he was, but that was beside the point.
 
So that left him scouting for somewhere else he could safely spend the night without being seen or stumbled across by anyone, and now also be shielded from the elements. A good deal of the remaining afternoon was spent scouring the area, and he quickly became distressed by the lack of available options. There just didn't seem to be anywhere appropriate. By sunset, Ryoma was starting to dread that he very well might have to spend another night shivering in park.
 
Feet dragging, he passed by Seigaku again as twilight set in. The school had been deserted for the day; clubs had finished their activities and the teachers were long gone. The metal gates had been shut, and the eerie silence gave the building a haunted, unnatural feel to those who were used to it bustling with activity during daylight hours.
 
Pausing, the freshman raised an eyebrow speculatively. The school... that might not be a bad idea. Or even better than the school... the tennis clubhouse. He patted the front pocket of his tennis bag experimentally, relieved to hear a faint jingle confirming the presence of his key ring. Decision made, he hurried around to the side of the school, throwing his bags over the wall and vaulting over easily a moment later. He quickly gathered his things and stealthily headed towards the clubhouse.
 
The tennis courts were, of course, empty - Tezuka would have called practice to a close hours ago, so even the stragglers were now long gone. Ignoring the pressing silence and the unsettling sensation of doing something bordering on illegal, Ryoma unlocked the clubhouse and shuffled inside, making sure that the door was shut securely behind him. He let out a sigh of relief once inside the familiar territory, looking around himself appreciatively in the dim light. Really, why hadn't he thought of this first? It was a lot safer at the school than out in some public place, and while he'd have to be careful not to be seen going to and from the clubhouse after hours, once he was there he wouldn't be disturbed until morning practice. It had everything he needed, too - toilets, showers, privacy, and protection from the elements. He could probably sleep pretty comfortably on the benches, and recalled seeing an old blanket in storage that the team used for events. Not wasting any time, he headed over to storage ‘room’ – it was really more of a large closet - where they kept the club equipment. The front was filled with baskets of tennis balls and spare nets, but the back was an interwoven mess of old broken racquets, cleaning equipment, flags and posters from tournaments, and... there it was! Amongst the miscellaneous bits and pieces that had been shoved to the back of storage over time lay an old tartan blanket, neatly folded and half-hidden behind a box of long-unclaimed lost property.
 
Ryoma picked up the blanket and studied it critically. His nose wrinkled as the scent of old mothballs floated up to greet him, but he ignored it and shook the blanket out, sneezing briefly at the dust it kicked up. It was old, frayed, and smelt musty, but it was also thick, soft, and large enough to wrap himself in multiple times if he wanted.
Folding the blanket back under his arm, he cast his eyes around the storage space again. It would actually be an excellent place to hide his duffel bag while he was at school. He hadn't felt altogether comfortable with hiding it in the bushes at the park, and he'd also been constantly worried about the prospect of rain. No one ever even looked at the back of the clubhouse storage area, and even if they did they would see his name on the bag and return it to him.
 
Spirits lifted, he immediately took a shower; having been deprived of the one he normally got to have after practice. It was sort of hard to see towards the end of it as twilight faded, but Ryoma was familiar enough with the place to find his way around by feel. The warm shower had made him more drowsy than refreshed, so with nothing else to do in the darkness, the freshman set his bag on one end of a bench, laid out the frayed picnic blanket, and wrapped himself in it. 
 
Unfortunately, exhausted as he was his mind was still alert, keeping him from drifting to sleep immediately. Part of the problem was that it was too early to go to sleep for the night, even if he hadn’t really slept the night before.   He wound up lying awake for at least an hour wrapped in the moth-eaten old blanket and staring into the inky blackness. 
 
The clubhouse was weird at night. It was oppressively silent compared to what he was used to. At the park, he'd been able to hear distant traffic, crickets, and the wind rustling through the leaves. Back ‘home’, the house was always filled with one sound or another, whether from ticking clocks, the humming of the refrigerator, his cousin working late in her room or Karupin's feet padding across the floor. Gods, he missed his cat.
 
Here, though, there was nothing save for the occasional drip from the showers that he would have welcomed if it weren’t so inconsistent and damn annoying. Even if it still felt too early to go to sleep, he was worried someone might see if he turned the clubhouse lights on and come to investigate. While he was certain the clubhouse would be left alone, he was pretty sure that Seigaku - like most schools - had a security guard drop around on a routine patrol at least once a night. He'd buy a small torch or lamp tomorrow, he decided. Something small that would let him work on his homework while not lighting up the clubhouse enough to be seen through the windows. It should be possible to get a decent one for just a couple of hundred yen.
 
With that thought, his exhaustion finally overtook his anxiety and Ryoma slipped off to sleep. For the first time all week, nothing woke him.

Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
roseofthine
Mar. 15th, 2008 05:11 am (UTC)
Before I read, you... adsf adsfj;kl dsfj;kl dsf
roseofthine
Mar. 15th, 2008 06:14 am (UTC)
now that the dinosaur-giving is over...
I...I wanna be snarky about how when he finally finds comfort, it's in a tennis-related place. -laughing so hard-

also, Tezuka is so caring and seeing through his lies and ryouma doesn't want to lie outright twice! *________________________________*
sinnatious
Mar. 15th, 2008 06:17 am (UTC)
Re: now that the dinosaur-giving is over...
When I said it needed more dinosaurs, I certainly didn't mean Barney. *facepalms*. THE HORROR!
roseofthine
Mar. 16th, 2008 05:11 am (UTC)
Re: now that the dinosaur-giving is over...
We both know you loved it.
roseofthine
Mar. 16th, 2008 05:13 am (UTC)
Re: now that the dinosaur-giving is over...
HEY WTF I LEFT A COMMENT TODAY AT THE SAME TIME AS YESTERDAY. -laughing-
iluxia
Mar. 15th, 2008 07:10 am (UTC)
Ugh, no. It's making me angst. It's making me ANGST. Ugh no no no.
faire_estela
Mar. 15th, 2008 09:01 am (UTC)
I agree with Rose up there - he finds comfort at a tennis-related place? Oh, Ryoma <3~

(He's soooooo going to get caught, though.)
pat_ace87
Mar. 15th, 2008 05:03 pm (UTC)
....maybe looking too deep into it, but....it that "nothing woke him" foreshadowing for what (or who) WILL wake him up....????!!!!.....as in ... maybe... a concerned willing to let him live with him, pretty hot bucho ^.^!!!!!!
sinnatious
Mar. 16th, 2008 06:35 am (UTC)
*laughs* As much as I enjoy foreshadowing, you give me too much credit there. The whole point of that sentence was just to indicate it was the first decent night of sleep Ryoma had for a while. :P BUT HEY, there's still a chance!
jade_peace
Mar. 16th, 2008 07:27 pm (UTC)
Dinosaurs xD

Ryomaaa~ *Pets*

I love the Tezuka/Ryoma interaction =DD and Sleeping in the clubhouse = adorable.

Sinnn~
mimineko_chan
Apr. 6th, 2008 03:37 am (UTC)
Still too short for my liking... But no worries, there is still next chapter! ^^

Also, Tezuka's role here was AJFODAIJFAJDFKLJL, yep, that's the description. XD
Now, why do I have the feeling that Tezuka is going to discover Ryoma sleeping in the club?

Through I do want to write a dabble... actually I have a slight idea of who to write. I am eager to know when Tezuka will "save" Ryoma's stuborn ass ( and that's when Tezuka demand repay with said ass)

++++++++++

The nap was nice. The sun was just perfectly situated when she lay. Opening her eyes, she had some sort of lazy smile, when she was happy. The nap felt nice. She was warm. And the dream was the best. But waking into reality had been a shock. And suddenly, her somewhat of a smile disapeared. Ryoma was not in the house. His stuff were gone. Oh, there were some of his things that were left, but his important things disapeared. Day and night, she thought of him. Where he could be. If he was well. Did he think of her. She missed him. Nobody thought of her feelings. She was sad, she wanted to shed tears, she wanted to haul, she wanted to be mad. But alas, she didn't comprehend what was going on. Being the lazy being that she was, she got up and went to the kitchen. She was hungry, but didn't have the appetite to eat. She looked at the food, and even if her stomach told her that she needed the food, but wasn't in the mood to eat. So she climbed the stairs and went to Ryoma's room. It was not closed. Quietly, she marched to the window, and looked at the sky. Karupin mewled!

Did you think that she was Rinko? XD

- Mimi
sinnatious
Apr. 6th, 2008 05:10 am (UTC)
KARUPIN POV! *glomps* Oh, that's so sad and tragic. T____T

Oh dear, I always assumed Karupin was male. Oops.

Some of the chapters are a bit short, sorry. But hey, at least you're in the situation where you can move straight on to the next one? The fic will probably be finished by the time you catch up! :P
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )