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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: And so we reach the conclusion of the first act.
 
The Dispossession of Echizen Ryoma
 
Chapter 9
 
 
Morning came far too soon as far as Ryoma was concerned. 
 
“Echizen. Echizen!”
 
“Nnnnhhhh.”
 
“Echizen, it’s ten in the morning. I’ve let you sleep long enough. Wake up.”
 
“Buchou?” Ryoma asked blearily, startled by the bright sunlight streaming through the window. For a moment he was terribly disorientated. At first he thought that he was at the clubhouse, but that wasn’t possible because the clubhouse was never this warm and comfortable, and then thought that he had to be back at home and that the past three weeks had just been a horrible nightmare from which he was finally awakening. But then, what would his captain be doing in his bedroom? In the process of dragging himself into consciousness, Ryoma finally managed to recognise his surroundings and recall the previous day. It was like having a bucket of ice water thrown over his head.
 
“And Oishi said you’d become a morning person, too. I suppose that doesn’t apply on weekends?” Tezuka was standing by the window, the midmorning sunlight catching the tips of hair and giving him something of a glowing halo. Given how the senior had quite literally been his saviour the previous day it felt a little surreal, as though maybe the scenery itself was mocking him. 
 
Ryoma didn’t reply, not really knowing how to respond to that. How could he explain that it was sort of hard to sleep on the clubhouse benches, that last night had been the first proper night of rest he’d had in three weeks? It felt like three months.
 
“I expect you’ll be wanting to head home. I’ll be downstairs preparing breakfast while you get changed.”
 
Ryoma didn’t really want to leave, but knew that it would be suspicious if he tried to stay. At least spending the evening with Tezuka had calmed his nerves, centred his focus and settled his tumultuous universe - even if only temporarily. The captain just gave off that air of dependability that made you think that everything would be okay. It would probably be impossible for him to ever explain to Tezuka how grateful he was to him for just being there. He settled with just nodding. 
 
Taking his time getting dressed - as though somehow it would delay his being cast back into the streets for a little longer - Ryoma eventually headed downstairs where he was greeted with about half of a traditional Japanese breakfast. Tezuka had said that he was nearly out of food, so he’d obviously cobbled it together from whatever was left. Still, the very notion of eating breakfast seemed like such a luxury after the past few weeks of going without that the senior could have fed him sand and it would have been adequate.
 
They ate in silence, though a few times Ryoma thought that the senior had been about to say something before stopping himself and observing his guest with searching eyes instead. It was Tezuka, though, so he must have imagined it, because the idea of the aloof captain either making idle conversation or hesitating to say something important was ridiculous. 
 
It seemed as though the meal was over too soon, even though it was almost lunchtime when Ryoma found himself standing on the front doorstep. He dearly missed Sunday practice at times like this.
 
“Would you like for me to walk you home?” Tezuka offered politely. 
 
It was hard to stop the ‘yes’ from falling from his lips, simply because Ryoma didn’t like the idea of having to entertain himself for the entire day again, but he knew it would be foolish. “No need. Thanks for your hospitality, Buchou.”
 
“Any time.”
 
With a half-hearted wave, Ryoma trudged down the footpath, forcing himself not to look back. There were still tennis clubs he had yet to try and find work at. On the other side of town, though – he wasn’t going to risk going within six blocks of the red light district ever again. 
 
Unfortunately, despite his best efforts, Sunday ended without him finding any work. He was going to have to try again next weekend. Breakfast had carried him through the day, but it was with a heavy heart and empty stomach that Ryoma retired to the clubhouse again that night. 
 
Monday morning practice arrived, and Tezuka didn’t say anything other than the usual instructions to him. The week quickly settled back into its odd routine. On Wednesday, Ryoma had been unable to filch any scraps of lunch and Momoshiro had refused to pay for burgers, citing a cut allowance, so he’d been forced to buy a single burger and fries with the last of his money. Eating it had been a slow and torturous affair, and Ryoma had morbidly wondered if that was what eating a last meal felt like. If so, he pitied the criminals on death row because he didn’t think he’d ever enjoyed a meal less. He was now officially stone cold broke, and the one burger had barely lasted him until evening. 
 
Thursday saw Sakuno offer him some rice balls at lunch, and Momoshiro heading off after practice to meet with Tachibana’s little sister. On the Friday neither of the freshman girls were around, but he managed to convince Kikumaru and Momoshiro to pay for his burgers in the afternoon. The rest of the day faded into obscurity beyond those points. Indeed, Ryoma was having trouble remembering what it was like not to be obsessed with food, or always jealously eying his classmate’s bento and cafeteria lunches. He’d thought he’d been getting used to having hunger as a constant companion, but apparently there were still new heights he was yet to experience.
 
The weekend arrived, and after a lot of legwork the freshman finally found a tennis club that needed an assistant coach for the junior players on Saturdays. The pay was clearly meant to be pocket money, but Ryoma had grown a deep appreciation of the saying ‘beggars can’t be choosers’. As it was, they had been sceptical of him to begin with - apparently seeking a high school student - but after he’d fired off a couple of twist serves there had been no more questions asked. He used his first meagre paycheck to do his laundry, buy a new rail card and purchase his lone meal for the weekend. It had been alarming when he’d actually had to resist throwing it up afterwards, but he stubbornly refused to give into his nausea. He had spent good money on that food, and refused to spend any more. Transport costs alone would probably eat half of what he earned at the tennis club as it was, but he’d been subsisting on no money for the past few days, so even a couple of hundred yen in his pocket was better than nothing.   
 
Still, going without food for the entire of Sunday made morning practice on Monday incredibly difficult. It was only through sheer force of will that Ryoma was able to concentrate and not mess up his drills, and even then he couldn’t quite shake the light-headedness that followed him throughout the day.   Thus lunch saw him nicking scraps from the side of a protesting Momoshiro’s plate in the cafeteria. 
 
“Hey, get your own!” the junior laughed, swatting his hand away. 
 
“Mada mada dane, Momo-senpai.”
 
“This is lunch, not tennis!”
 
Kaidoh hissed at them as he walked past with his own lunch, distracting the power player long enough for Ryoma to steal more from his plate while the two yelled insults at each other. When the pair caught the eye of a passing teacher, they sulkily went their own ways before they could be reprimanded. Momoshiro angrily chewed on his food, apparently oblivious to the extra missing morsels. “That damn Viper…”
 
Ryoma didn’t comment. With Momoshiro once again paying attention to his meal, he was relegated back to watching his senpai eat with hungry eyes.
 
“Jeez, Echizen, if you’re just going to sit there bored all lunch, don’t eat it in class!” The junior was operating under the misinformation that his kouhai had been bringing bento and eating it in class, explaining away the recent absence of his own cafeteria lunch. 
 
Again, Ryoma didn’t comment, though he did at least avert his gaze, only to have it wander around the rest of the cafeteria and watch his other classmates eat, which wasn’t helpful in ignoring the gnawing discomfort of a hollow stomach at all. Momoshiro always got more than enough from the cafeteria; he could at least share with his friend. 
 
Eventually, sitting there watching the other students eat became too depressing so Ryoma stood and made his way to the courts to hit a ball against the wall for the rest of lunch. But after only a few minutes he started to feel weary and sort of cold, even though the weather was quite pleasant, so he stopped and sat down under the shade instead, struggling to find the energy to stay awake.   
 
Afternoon classes passed as normal, and then when practice rolled around Tezuka set up matches between the juniors. Ryoma was nominated to umpire for a change, and the freshman didn’t try and protest as he normally would; he was grateful just to sit and keep score. Unfortunately, Oishi was hovering around at the base of chair when he finally descended at the end of practice, making it impossible to avoid the chronic worrier. 
 
“Echizen, how are you feeling?”
 
Not this again. Of course – he’d forgotten to mutter ‘mada mada dane’ when the match had finished. “I’m fine, Oishi-senpai.” Another lie. “Why do you ask?”
 
“Oh, it’s just… you’re looking a little pale is all. And you don’t really look like you’ve slept well, either.”
 
“Lunch didn’t particularly agree with me. Inui’s juice was involved.” More lies. This one sounded somewhat plausible at least, and the suggestion of short-term-only discomfort and the familiar element of Inui’s nauseating juice would be enough to ease the vice-captain’s worries.
 
“Well, don’t strain yourself. If you start to feel worse, just let me know, okay?”
 
“Thanks, Oishi-senpai,” he replied tonelessly. He’d have to check his reflection later to see what had Oishi worrying over him.
 
Practice was called to a close, and Ryoma trailed a hyperactive Momoshiro and Kikumaru for a while, despairing when the junior informed him that he wouldn’t be able to go out for burgers for the rest of the week; since his mother was doing some workshop and he had to watch his sisters until his father got home.
 
They parted ways and Ryoma wandered about aimlessly until the sun started to dip in the sky, indicating it ought to be safe to return to Seigaku without being discovered. On the way, he ducked into a public restroom to see what had Oishi so worried.
 
When he caught sight of his face into the mirror, Ryoma was startled by the unfamiliarity of the visage that greeted him. He was sickly pale as the vice-captain had observed, and there were deep, dark smudges under his eyes, giving them an unnatural sunken look. His hair was a little messy too, but who knew how long it had looked like that for; typically he’d just been giving it a half-hearted brush after waking up in the mornings. And has his cheeks always been so gaunt? His entire face had gained a sort of permanently pinched look. No wonder his senpai had been asking questions – as his cousin would have said, he resembled ‘death warmed over’. Great. It was a small miracle the other freshmen hadn’t started bothering him again, looking like that. Unless maybe the change had been gradual enough they hadn’t noticed? That was probably it. It had been a while since he’d last looked at his reflection, after all. 
 
Sighing, Ryoma leaned his forehead against the mirror, enjoying the refreshing sensation given off by the cool glass. The worst part was that there wasn’t much that could be done about it, short of taking a bit more care with his hair in the mornings. It was a little unsettling, sure, but he was probably still just adjusting to his new lifestyle. Though it wasn’t really new anymore, and he’d considered himself adjusted already…. after he’d been working at the tennis club for a few weeks things would improve, surely. He’d be able to work out a system where he could buy food a little more regularly at the very least.
 
The freshman took one more glance at his reflection, then turned and left the public restroom, heading back to Seigaku as the sun set. 
 
He was getting sick and tired of always feeling sick and tired. 
 
It had been a month, almost to the day, since Echizen Ryoma had become homeless.
 




 
 

Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
pat_ace87
Mar. 18th, 2008 11:56 am (UTC)
Before I begin readying, I must say I was worried for a moment when I read conclusion in your A/N T.T......you scared me.......now that I finished readying it: Poor Echizen, I hope he gets some helps pretty soon, and like always, great chapter ^.^!!!!!
sinnatious
Mar. 18th, 2008 12:00 pm (UTC)
Ooops, I see what you mean. Sorry! Just three acts, nine chapters each. They're not even really proper acts. I um, just didn't have anything else to write in the author's note? :P
pharrezychica
Mar. 18th, 2008 07:40 pm (UTC)
I was finally able to catch up with all the chapters!
Sorry I'm replying only here...

This is one of the most original stories out there, no doubt about it.
Everytime I think you can't surprise me again, you go and outdo yourself *.*

This last chapter hurt so much... I thought things would get better after Tezuka spent time with him, that he'd realize somethign was wrong... poor Ryoma is gonna collapse soon ;____;
sinnatious
Mar. 19th, 2008 11:08 am (UTC)
Thank you for high praise, but really, when you boil it down the fic is actually rather contrived. WAIT, NO, DON'T BOIL IT DOWN! Let us preserve the illusion. ;)

Honestly, I thought it bit of a common plot bunny, but maybe not? I'm sure something similar must have been done in other fandoms, if not yet tenipuri? I am sort of afraid to wade through FF.net these days. It has become a scary place.

(Has the sudden urge to play the batman theme. Tezuka is on the case!) I am happy you're reading, even if it causing you pain? :P
pharrezychica
Mar. 19th, 2008 02:26 pm (UTC)
I haven't found anythign like this in PoT and the scaryt hing is that it feels somewhat plausible... Nanjiro...

I hear you about FF.net
I went there when I run out of TezuRyo fics to read but it was a mistake... a HUGE mistake! *shivers*

Lol, now you stuck the Batmna theme in my head XD
Off to read the next chapter now! :D
jade_peace
Mar. 18th, 2008 08:30 pm (UTC)
TEZUKAAA~

WHY?

I WAS UNDER THE IMPRESSION YOU WEREN'T STUPID~

Great chapter as always, Sin!
roseofthine
Mar. 19th, 2008 04:48 am (UTC)
Oh wow. I'm surprised Ryouma's been able to survive this long, even with his Buchou. o3o

Then again, I'm a glutton, so I can't imagine only eating one meal a day. xD I've survived on two while traveling, but that's about it. o_O

I wonder what Rinko and Nanako are thinking. And ajkldsj;klj;kl KARUPIN. D< Who's gonna feed him now? Not that Ryouma could afford to, it's just. ;~~~; (sorry. xD i love tangents)
sinnatious
Mar. 19th, 2008 11:14 am (UTC)
I have done it! It is not pleasant. Not including periods of unintentional fasting, I once lived for a couple of weeks eating nothing more than two cups of instant ramen a day - one for lunch and one for dinner. I WILL NEVER EAT INSTANT RAMEN AGAIN. But it's definitely doable. Just, um, not recommended. IT DOES THINGS TO YOU.

Karupin will be okay. Do not worry about the Karupin. ;)
roseofthine
Mar. 20th, 2008 01:54 am (UTC)
oh wow. o_O -clings to her food- 8D

...KARUPINNN. ;~~;
mimineko_chan
Apr. 6th, 2008 03:58 am (UTC)
I really thought that Tezuka would push a little bit more.

But that last sentence It had been a month, almost to the day, since Echizen Ryoma had become homeless.... it made me want to cry all over again.

God, I just can't begin to imagine what Ryoma could feel like. I remember a chinese movie (it was actually a serie) and the guy asking his lawyer "Do you know what true hunger feels like?". And yes, it's impossible for us to imagine when you are at the true bottom...

I must admit Sin, what you wrote on this chapter. It was deep! Really got me moved.

I think I'll leave it like that tonight. I'm dead tired, still has an essay to finish and my cold is not gettin better. So even through I really wanted to continue, I have to have some sort of self control!

But this chapter, and also this fic, just made me realise how lucky I am. I am truely blessed!

- Mimikitty
sinnatious
Apr. 6th, 2008 05:25 am (UTC)
The one good thing about the bottom is that things can only go up. :| Rest assured that the rest of the fic is a lot fluffier and lot more tezryo-ish?

Eee, please don't cry! I am flattered that you found it so profound, though.

Good place to take a break. I am slightly in awe you both read and commented on all those chapters in one sitting! Get well soon!
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )