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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: I am heading up north for the long weekend, and shall thus be unable to update for the next few days. Not sure yet whether I’ll be able to post a chapter tomorrow night before I leave. It shall depend on when work finishes. Just in case: See you Monday!
 
The Dispossession of Echizen Ryoma
 
Chapter 10
 
 
Tuesday afternoon found Tezuka Kunimitsu rubbing his eyes tiredly before replacing his glasses. Practice had run late thanks to a few of the juniors' matches that had dragged into tie breaks, and then Ryuuzaki-sensei had kept him back in discussion for ages. When she finally left, he still had student council work he'd neglected for the past week that had to be taken care of. The sun had already set and twilight was well underway when he'd finally started packing up, at which point the last of the teachers had stopped by and given him the spare keys, reminding him to lock up before he left and to drop the keys back off first thing in the morning. It wasn’t the first time he'd been the last to leave the school, and none of the faculty ever complained about giving him the keys so that he could leave when he was finished. All the same, Tezuka sometimes wished that they'd just kick him out like all the other students so that he'd have an excuse to ignore some of the council work a little longer. He couldn't even really remember why he'd run for it in the first place.
 
Sighing to himself as he flicked off the lights, Tezuka headed out of the school, checking that all of the lights were off and relevant doors were locked on his way, even though that wasn’t technically part of his duties. The main gates had already been closed, of course, but there was a side gate that teachers and the security guard often used. He made his way there, already mentally running through what homework he had to do when he got home.
 
Halfway there, he stopped in thoughtfulness. His shoulders felt too light. Ah, he'd left his racquet bag in the locker room again. He would have to stop by the clubhouse on his way out. The senior sighed to himself again, resisting the urge to rub his temples. It had been a long day.
 
It was always strange to see the tennis courts so empty and lonely in the evenings, even though he’d seen it that way plenty times before; being captain typically meant that he was usually the last to leave practice. The chill settling into the evening air was a stern reminder that there was probably only another month or so left before the club would stop officially meeting for the year. Somehow, though, Tezuka sensed that the regulars would find some way to keep meeting on a regular basis. They’d gone to the Nationals together after all, and even now none of them were able to abandon the intense training regime they’d placed themselves under during its lead-up. Nor should they, of course. They couldn’t be getting careless; winning once and then allowing hubris to take over had destroyed plenty a promising tennis player. 
 
Withdrawing his key, the captain unlocked the door and swung it open in one smooth motion. His arm reached out to switch on the light before stilling in shock. 
 
Was that… Echizen?
 
It was hard to tell which of them was the more surprised. Although for his counterpart, ‘horrified’ or ‘panicked’ might be more appropriate adjectives. "Echizen?"
 
The startled freshman was sitting on the bench, school bag open next to him and homework laid out on his lap, mouth opening and closing in a manner that vaguely resembled a goldfish. It was quite dim inside the clubhouse - he knew that Echizen had unnaturally good eyesight, but surely he would have noticed how dark it had become? And since when had the first-year started doing his homework at the clubhouse? Had he stayed back to get some help from one of the seniors or something? But that wasn’t right – he’d seen Echizen leave earlier, and distinctly remembered locking the clubhouse before going to speak with Coach Ryuuzaki. 
 
"It's late," he said finally, deciding that he really didn't care what had kept the freshman there. "Gather your things. It's almost dark, so I'll walk you home." He was sure that Echizen didn't appreciate such an intrusion on his independence, but the facts of the matter were that the other student was still just a first-year and he couldn't allow any of his regulars to put themselves at risk. Especially given that his kouhai seemed to be even more a magnet for trouble than he himself had been at that age. Tezuka’s mind leapt unbidden to the memory of chance encounter with Echizen in the business district just a little over a week ago.
 
To his surprise, though, Echizen didn't move. When he sent an enquiring glance in his direction, the youth just fidgeted, before muttering, “No need, Buchou.”
 
That was a perplexing answer. “The school is closed, Echizen. You cannot stay here.”
 
They stood there in silent stalemate for a long moment, though Echizen refused to make eye contact. Eventually, the younger boy gathered his things, stuffing them haphazardly into his school bag and standing with a slight huff. “Fine.” His steps were hesitant as he headed towards the door, though, eyes darting towards the storage area for some reason. Tezuka didn’t pay it any mind, instead just closing up the clubhouse behind him. He nearly forgot to pick up his racket bag that had been the original purpose of the trip.
 
He led the way to the side entrance with Echizen dragging his feet behind him. Once outside the school grounds, Tezuka offered, “Lead the way.”
 
“You don’t need to walk me home, buchou. I’m probably going to go hang out at the street courts for a while. Don’t let me keep you.” The words were casual, but spoken so quietly that the senior had to strain his ears to hear them.   
 
Tezuka really would have felt better delivering the freshman home himself, but the street courts were well-known in the area and he knew for a fact that many of the other middle school teams hung out there after hours, so Echizen wasn’t going to be alone. “I’ll walk you partway there, then,” he compromised. After all, he’d never actually figured out what had been bothering his kouhai for the past few weeks. 
 
They set off in silence, falling into easy step side by side. Tezuka allowed for several minutes of silence, but when it became clear that Echizen wasn’t going to say anything, he asked, “Are classes going well?”
 
Echizen started, as though surprised at being addressed. “…Yeah.”
 
There hadn’t ever really been a question of that, but he had to start somewhere. “And club? None of the juniors or seniors been giving you trouble?” It went without saying that he worried about Echizen, who seemed so like him in so many ways sometimes. He’d done his best to ensure that the youth didn’t suffer the same unfortunate fate he had during his first year at Seigaku, but it was impossible to be certain.
 
“What? No. Club’s good. You’re leaving behind a weak batch of juniors, though, Buchou.”
 
“Something we are working towards correcting at the moment. They will improve after some match experience,” Tezuka replied. The street courts came into sight. He gave a reluctant nod in farewell. “I’ll leave you here, then. Take care on your way home.”
 
“…Sure.” 
 
As he walked away, though, Tezuka couldn’t shake the feeling that he’d overlooked something important. It bothered him. It bothered him that night when he arrived home to the empty house, it bothered him when the chilly Autumn breeze rattled the window panes and woke him up in the dead of the night, and it bothered him so much that he wound up waking up far too early, and so arrived at school when the main gates were still opening.
 
To his surprise, the centre of his thoughts was setting the nets up on the court when he arrived at the clubhouse. How on earth had Echizen managed to sneak in before him? He hadn’t seen the freshman at the gates. “Echizen.”
 
The youth suddenly jerked, nearly dropping the net as he turned around to face him. “Buchou. You’re early.”
 
“Not that early, apparently,” he replied, dropping his bag and taking the other end of the net.
 
Echizen just shrugged. “It was cold last night. Couldn’t sleep,” he said with a yawn.
 
“Most people sleep in when it’s cold,” Tezuka pointed out. 
 
The freshman didn’t seem to have a response for that. And that bothered him too. 
 
Tezuka was able to put the strangeness of their club’s prodigy out of his head long enough to focus in class, but found himself observing their youngest regular with a steely eye in practice again that afternoon. Was it just his imagination? Echizen really wasn’t looking well, but his tennis was undergoing a spurt of growth at the moment. Obviously some serious practice hours were being put in. Normally, he’d take it as a positive sign – Echizen’s moods could practically be measured by the intensity of his tennis – but maybe in this case the obsession was becoming unhealthy.
 
Impulsively, he called practice to a close earlier than usual, retreating back into the school to try and get ahead on his student council work for a change. It might have just been instinct, but he found himself lingering again, leaving only when the teachers started to close up, and even then he loitered on the grounds far past when any other student would. 
 
It was just a suspicion, really, that led Tezuka back to the tennis clubhouse as the sun was setting. 
 
The courts were deserted, the nets taken down, and the school grounds eerily quiet. However, Tezuka was somehow unsurprised when he opened the door to the tennis clubhouse, and Echizen was there again. 
 
The freshman practically yelped when he swung the door open, half tripping over and very nearly falling into the storage cupboard. He seemed to be dragging a large duffel bag. 
 
Tezuka just raised an eyebrow.
 
For his part, Echizen seemed to know that he’d been caught out. He looked like he was on the verge of panic, actually, which just made the captain all the more suspicious. 
 
“Echizen… what are you doing here?” he asked in a level voice. Two days in a row… there was a reason behind it, and this time he was determined to find out what it was. 
 
“….Studying!” Echizen blurted, pointing to the books on the benches as though they were proof.
 
“And you need a duffel bag to do that why…?”
 
He didn’t seem to have an answer for that. 
 
Sighing and pinching the bridge of his nose, Tezuka asked, “Echizen, what are you doing here? The truth, please.”
 
The silence that followed was heavy, but the senior was the patient sort. Eventually, the first-year seemed to deflate, muttering, “I can’t go home, buchou.”
 
Tezuka suddenly wished that Oishi was present. This looked like some sort of personal problem - likely Echizen had some disagreement with his family that morning and was punishing them by staying out unreasonably late. They were probably at home, worried sick about him. Still, Oishi wasn't present and as far as he was concerned, they couldn't have won the Nationals without Echizen, so he forced himself to be patient.
 
"And why not?"
 
He didn't like the silence that greeted that question.
 
"Echizen?"
 
The youth turned his head away, refusing to meet his eyes. Tezuka resisted the urge to groan - that would be unbecoming of his position. This was why he normally detested dealing with freshmen. They tended to have much more childish and emotive reactions to problems – it was hard to believe that it was a scant two years ago that he was in the same position. Though he had to admit, Echizen still tended to act more mature than most of the juniors, and probably Kikumaru as well. Which was why it was rather surprising that he was having this conversation. Had family problems been the reason for Ryoma’s recent unusual behaviour?
 
"Echizen," he prodded again.
 
The youth just fidgeted with his cap.
 
"Are you running away from home?" he asked.
 
Echizen shrugged, not meeting his eyes again. His posture relaxed a little, though. “Something like that.”
 
“And yesterday?” The silence that greeted his question was all the answer he needed. The freshman had obviously snuck back to the clubhouse after he’d walked him to the street courts and stayed there for the night. He was starting to regret helping Oishi petition Coach Ryuuzaki to give Echizen a key. At the time it had simply seemed to make sense, since the youth would almost certainly become the next captain.
 
“Get your things,” he suddenly ordered.
 
Echizen blinked, looking a little stupefied, but carefully finished retrieving the duffel bag from the storage room where they kept the nets and balls, then packed his books away into his school bag. Once done, he stood there and stared at him expectantly. The first-year rather looked as though he was about to face his own execution, actually, which was rather unsettling. Tezuka just turned and motioned for the youth to follow. “Come with me.”
 
The two of them left the clubhouse, locking it behind them, and walked to the bus. Tezuka picked up an extra ticket for his companion, and they stood near the door in silence. The senior was acutely aware of a pair of golden-brown eyes fixed firmly on his back, but he was too lost in thought to offer any explanation, merely gesturing when they reached the right stop that it was time to get off. 

Tezuka wasn't entirely certain what he was doing as he took the freshman to his house.  It was all quite a shock to him, so much so that he wasn't yet able to really process it.  His mind was a whirlwind of thought, and though he managed to maintain a calm demeanour on the outside, on the inside he was drowning in a torrent of conflicting emotions - a distracting mixture of concern, irritation and confusion that made reasoning through the situation inordinately difficult. 

As they walked the familiar streets, he was vaguely aware of Echizen following him quietly, looking about as lost as he'd ever seen him.  No, that wasn't true - the freshman had looked like that for weeks.  The expression didn't suit him - it made him seem even younger than what he already was.  It made him look fragile. That was the only reason he could think of for why he wasn’t marching Echizen back home and delivering him to his parents personally. 
 
He unlocked the door and ushered his guest into the dark house, fingers fumbling as he searched for the light switch.  Untying his shoes and leaving them in the foyer, he held out his hand.  "Your bags."

Uncertainly, Echizen handed over his bags to the waiting senior, looking entirely as though he had no idea what to make of the situation and so was just going with the flow until it made more sense to him.  Tezuka took them and deposited them in his room along with his own.  When he returned downstairs Echizen had finished removing his shoes and was standing there awkwardly.

"Come," he ordered, heading into the kitchen.  Looking as though he felt terribly out of place, Echizen followed.  "Sit."

He set about making tea for himself.  "Would you like some green tea?" he asked.  "I'm afraid we don't have any Ponta." 

"Tea is fine," Echizen responded in a small voice.

The senior prepared the tea in silence, still running through everything in his head. By the time the tea was ready, he thought he at least had an idea of where to begin. 
 
Setting the drink in front of the suddenly very small looking youth, he took a lengthy sip while he regarded him. Echizen was looking terrible, but he had been for some time – his face seemed gaunt and pale, and the dark bags under his eyes had practically become a permanent feature. Looking at it from the new context, though, Tezuka wondered how it was that he could have ever thought it was just all in his imagination. 
 
“Why did you run away?”
 
No response. Echizen was staring at the grain of the wood in the table as though it were the most fascinating thing in the world. It was hard to resist the urge to sigh. This really was more Oishi’s territory.
 
“Nothing is really achieved by running away, you know. You’ll have to face them eventually.”
 
A slight frown was the only reaction. 
 
Tezuka just frowned, setting his tea back on the table. “You can stay here tonight, but after school tomorrow you’ll go sort things out. That’s more than enough time.”
 
Still more silence. It was vaguely worrying that the youth’s parents hadn’t come looking for him yet, especially since this would be Echizen’s second night away from home by his reckoning, but then, not too many parents thought to look for their child at school when they went missing. 
 
Tezuka shook himself, trying not to let his concern get the best of him. Really, this was a cut-and-dry situation – obviously there was some problem at home, possibly fighting parents or something, and Echizen had run off. Surely after a second night he would have cooled down, started to miss the comforts and conveniences of home, and would be ready to go make up with his family. Maybe if they weren’t all part of the same sports club he might be worried about something worse, but no one had spotted any bruises or anything in the locker room so it probably wasn’t anything that couldn’t be solved with a few apologies and teary hugs.
 
That was what Tezuka kept trying to tell himself, anyway. It was sort of hard to convince himself when Echizen still refused to meet his eyes.
 
 
 

Comments

( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Mar. 19th, 2008 01:47 pm (UTC)
very captivating story! thank you for posting it. poor Ryoma T___T in such desperate situation he still remains so brave, so decided... yet he's only 12. love him very much. I like your Ryoma, he seems so in character. can't wait for another chapter! update, update, update... =)
pharrezychica
Mar. 19th, 2008 03:04 pm (UTC)
Ouch, ouch... I thought Tezuka finding out would make me feel better but instead I feel worst ;___;
Cause it's really putting in prospective how insane what Nanjiro did actually is... no one would ever think of that happening.

Ryoma... you're gonna let your pride kill you ;__;
Will Tezuka or someone find out the whole truth at some point?
*cuddles porr Ryoma*
sinnatious
Mar. 24th, 2008 03:39 am (UTC)
But of course! :O What kind of story would it be otherwise?!

And you know he would, too. Remember that episode with Yamato, how they fall down the mountain, and he stops Yamato from calling for help 'because it's embarrassing?' XP *cuddles Ryoma also*
iluxia
Mar. 19th, 2008 06:39 pm (UTC)
*sigh* Buchou. You can do better than that. Come on. *deeper sigh* You're smart, aren't you? If Echizen did run away, he'd surely want to go home after a day or two. But what if he CAN'T go back? What if he didn't RUN in the first place? *headdesk*
pat_ace87
Mar. 19th, 2008 10:34 pm (UTC)
You know...you know.....when I read your A/N....I told myself....I said "If she's leaving for a few days, then I won't read this chapter until she comes back and starts posting every days; like she started doing."......but...**watery eyes**...I held on to that thought for seven hours.....before I broke down and run to my computer and opened LJ and submerged myself in this new chapter **breaks down in tears**....and now I HAVE to wait until you come back for the next one **aaahhhhh**.......;_;..........
sinnatious
Mar. 24th, 2008 03:35 am (UTC)
Yes, I apologise for my unfortunately timed journey, thank you for your patience! I'm back now, and chapters will resume being posted normally. Heee, seven hours. :D
roseofthine
Mar. 20th, 2008 02:02 am (UTC)
Tezuka. Echizen and teary hugs? You're going insane. x3

also, just. ajkldsj;kljdkls tezuka. *g*

ryouma. Lying. I love how you can tell he wants to go home and cuddle with his buchou so much but he's unwilling to admit and let Tezuka see his weakness! -flailyflail-

also, see you, uh, Monday. x3 You shall be missed, but I hope you have fun up north~ <3
sinnatious
Mar. 24th, 2008 03:42 am (UTC)
Hee, thanks. I would have much rather stuck around here, though. INTERNET WITHDRAWL, ACK. I didn't think I spent that much time on the computer until I couldn't anymore. T__T

LOL, now you mention it, perhaps Tezuka's fiction reading is influencing his grasp on reality. :P Although when we consider the books you see him reading... XD
roseofthine
Mar. 24th, 2008 03:45 am (UTC)
Awww. <333

(and, i spend all my time on the computer. 8D unless i'm writing for not!schoolwork, ahaha. or drawing. <3)

Hey. The books he reads are perfectly fine material. The fact that Katie had breast implants wasn't even a big part of the story.

Um. I think her name was Katie, anyway. o_O
jade_peace
Mar. 20th, 2008 02:55 pm (UTC)
TT________________________TT

;_________________________;

SIN I LOVE YOU SO MUCH.

Tezuka Tezuka Tezuka can't you see, he DIDN'T run away from home, he ran TO it because he was kicked out and BLARGH. *Sigh* Come one Tezukaaaaa. Ryoma needs his pillar.
mimineko_chan
Apr. 6th, 2008 03:52 pm (UTC)
Dear Sin-chan,

Me again! I just realised something... You updated everyday... LOL! But I'll try to finish the chapters before you actually finish posting the fic since obviously, you already finished writing the fic. Hihi! And it seems that lucky Kaori-chan read the whole thing before everyone else.

So I guess that chapter 10 is the turning point. I must admit that this story is really hitting me hard; I dreamed of a homeless Ryoma last night. I am probably becoming delusionnist because I'm having a small fever and my throat hurts really bad, but I really thought that Ryoma was a homeless "cat". LOL XD

I really want to write a miniature dabble, but I don't know what to write. Hihihi! Is Tezuka going to beging molesting Ryoma? But I'm just happy that Tezuka discovered Ryoma's situation. I was actually getting worried that our darling buchou was too dense! And wishin that Oishi was there too, well, sorry buchou, but you'll have to deal with your freshman prodigy by yourself. And as compensation, you have said prodigy all to yourself. XD

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Cold, it was cold. Ryoma tried to put his leg under his jersy to have a bit more warm. But alas, even if he was small his jersy could not cover his whole body. The temperature at night is decreasing rapidly at this time of the year. The bench was uncomfortable, but that was all there was. He thought that it couldn't be worse and that was when he felt dropplet. Oh great, it begins to rain. Small drop of water descended on the ground. It wasn't a heavy rain, but Ryoma being on the bench with only his jearsy on him could feel himself being drenched. With quick movement, he took his things and rain towards a big tree in the park where he could take cover.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

I don't know what to write, gomen. Maybe Karupin again next time? But there is only so much to write. I don't dare touch Ryoga or Nanjiroh what the hell they are thinking. Also, I am happy that Tezuka and Ryoma are going to end up together and Nanjiroh through out Ryoma is the cataclist, it's really not worth Ryoma's getting the hardship at such young age.

Well, I'll stop for now. It's lunch time, but since you are probably still asleep and I'll write to you after, you'll just have all my comments in one batch! ^.^

- Mimi

PS: I'm having a big head because Sin-chan replied to all my comments! ♥ ♥ ♥
sinnatious
Apr. 7th, 2008 08:03 am (UTC)
Yes! I'm still updating every day (though only three days left! At your pace, you actually might catch up in time, though). I WILL NEVER, EVER DO THIS AGAIN. Even if the fic is already more or less finished.

Hee, you should be grateful Kaori read the whole thing first, otherwise it would never have been posted. ;) She convinced me to go ahead and post it. She wasn't that lucky - she got it in a rather raw and messy state. I don't normally use a beta reader, but this particular fic needed one.

Your obsession with Tezuka molesting Ryoma! XP! I think you're going to be slightly disappointed? It's only a PG-13 fic! XD

Gah, I hope your cold hurries up and gets better. T__T Thank you for the mini-drabble!

*Is getting a similarly big head over the fact that you're leaving such meaty comments on every chapter* ♥♥♥
(Anonymous)
Mar. 1st, 2011 06:56 pm (UTC)
Test, just a check up on
Hello. And Bye.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )