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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: So we start seeing the inevitable hints of TezRyo. I swear, I can’t resist it. I am trapped in the Tezuka zooooooone.
 
Usual thanks to ka0richanfor her excellent beta work.  She is writing some cool things on her LJ at the moment, go look!
 
The Dispossession of Echizen Ryoma
 
Chapter 12
 
On Thursday morning they wound up being late to practice, since Tezuka hadn’t the heart to wake Echizen up until the last possible moment - even then he’d insisted the freshman eat all of the breakfast he’d prepared. If Oishi was surprised at the sudden shift in both the captain and youngest regular’s arrival times, he didn’t show it. The advantage of being captain was that no one could assign him laps if he were late.
 
It was a peculiar situation, and for once in his life, Tezuka found himself at loss of what to do. He felt that he ought to be doing something.   After all, the responsibility for his kouhai’s wellbeing currently lay with him, as the adults around the youth had apparently failed him. As such, the senior found his concentration wavering throughout the morning drills as he pondered Echizen’s dilemma.
 
Absently, he called practice to a close a few minutes before classes were due to start, and then proceeded to spend most of his morning lessons only half paying attention. Fortunately, no one seemed to notice his distraction, so he was able to consider some other courses of action uninterrupted. 
 
There was no problem with the short term. The only real difficulty appeared to be food and accommodation, and Tezuka had no qualms about lending Echizen his spare futon and feeding him – after all, he was cooking for himself at the moment anyway, one extra mouth was not that much more work. The only thing that really had him concerned was the fact that it had already been a month. That did not imply a simple solution to the matter in the near future, and certainly nothing would change without some sort of positive action from another party. There was also the matter of the fact that, despite how well he’d managed, the freshman had damage to repair. Echizen had worn himself physically and emotionally into the ground, but was clearly both too stubborn and too prideful to have even noticed. He’d have to keep a close eye on the younger boy.
 
Barely suppressing a sigh, Tezuka forced himself to focus on what the teacher was saying – even if he already understood the work, it was disrespectful to daydream during class. It was so difficult to concentrate, though; school hardly seemed important in light of his kouhai’s situation. 
 
The whole issue would be a great deal simpler if he hadn’t already promised Echizen that he’d keep his secret. Realistically, it was a highly personal issue and it wasn’t his place to tell anyone, but if some of the other regulars were at least involved… what difference would it really make, though? Everything was up to Echizen. The most he could theoretically do for the time being was make sure that the first-year was taken care of. 
 
With that thought in mind Tezuka stood as the bell rang for lunch and immediately headed towards the Echizen’s classroom. Seeing as all four of the freshmen that had initially joined the tennis club were in the same homeroom, it had been easy to remember their class number. 
 
"Eh?  Tezuka-buchou?!  What are you doing here?" Horio exclaimed loudly when he entered.

"Looking for Echizen," he replied, brown eyes sweeping the room efficiently. A number of the girls in the room were tittering at his arrival, and he was drawing quite a few curious glances.

"He's probably up on the roof," Kachirou piped up.  "I thought I saw him heading that way earlier."

He nodded his thanks and left the room, ignoring the speculative murmurings of the students behind him. Really, he should have checked the roof first; it seemed that Echizen could nearly always be found either there or on the tennis courts. 

Sure enough, Ryoma was stretched out on his stomach under the sun, book open in front of him.  Was he doing his homework in the middle of the day?  "Echizen."

The freshman snapped his book shut and sat up.  "Buchou."

"Lunch.  Have you eaten?"

The uncomfortable look on his kouhai's face confirmed that suspicion.  He pinched the bridge of his nose. "Have you really been subsisting on just afternoon burgers with Momoshiro?" 

"Sometimes Ryuuzaki brings bento.  Other times I've been stealing scraps from Momo-senpai," Echizen muttered.

That explained why Ryuuzaki’s granddaughter had been so cheerful lately, he supposed, watching their afternoon practice with doey eyes almost every day of the week.  Still, he felt vaguely horrified at the notion that his team’s youngest player hadn’t even been able to get enough to eat, and had to resort to stealing scraps

He reached over and pulled the freshman to his feet.  "Come."

"Where?" Echizen asked, stumbling after him and scrambling to gather his books.

"I normally buy a cafeteria lunch.  I'll get extra - you can share mine."

"But Buchou-"

"It's unacceptable that you survive on so little food," he interrupted.  "Until you tell someone else about your situation, you're under my care and I will not have you starving."

"I'm not hungry," the first-year protested. 

"I doubt that."

"No, really, Buchou," Echizen insisted, making to tug his cap down over his eyes before obviously remembering that he wasn’t wearing it.  "I had a big dinner last night and you gave me breakfast as well this morning.  I'm not hungry at all."

Tezuka paused, staring at his kouhai.  Realisation set in.  Of course... if Echizen really had been surviving on scraps for a month, that was more than enough time for his appetite to diminish to the point where eating a full three meals a day would feel like too much. 

That didn't mean it was okay, though.  "That is exactly why I must insist.  You have to resume a regular eating pattern.  You don't have to eat a lot - but you will eat."  He grabbed Ryoma's wrist, not trusting that the first year wouldn't try and abscond on him, and started dragging him to the cafeteria. They gained a few curious glances in the hallway, but no one dared asked any questions of the stern captain and his apparently unwilling tag-a-long. Tennis business, they figured. 
 
Only when they reached the cafeteria did Tezuka release him. By then, most of the other students had already fetched their food, so there was no line. Tezuka collected his lunch, getting an extra large serving, and headed over to the usual table where the senior regulars usually sat during lunch. Echizen reluctantly followed, slouching into a seat on the end. 

"Oh, Echizen is joining us today?" Fuji asked pleasantly as Tezuka set down his tray.

"How very unusual," Inui commented from across the table.  "There is only a 0.5% chance that Echizen would willingly join us for lunch.  35% of the time he eats with Momoshiro, 15% of the time with the other freshmen and 40% of the time he either goes to the roof or the courts."

Ryoma sulkily started eating the rice ball Tezuka quietly handed him.  He hadn't been lying - he really wasn't hungry after both dinner and breakfast, but he was quickly discovering that the captain could almost match Oishi's level of mothering under the right circumstances.
 
Even though his presence there was a novelty to the seniors, they didn’t make anything of it. In fact, it felt a lot like any of the regular club outings. Ryoma sat on the edges and didn’t really contribute, aside from when Kikumaru or Oishi prompted him. Tezuka was as still and silent as a stone, leaving the idle chatter to the others and providing a useful barrier from their curious gazes. Inui scribbled in his notebook even during lunch. Ryoma idly wondered how many pages the data-gatherer went through in a week. 
 
Lunch ended and Ryoma returned to class without incident. He spent English staring out of the window, but actually managed to focus properly in maths. Once classes were finished for the day, it was out to practice, where things were business as usual on the tennis courts.   Ryoma couldn’t help but keep glancing at the captain though, uncertain whether or not he was going to do anything different now that he knew his secret. He was somewhat dreading the end of the school day. Tezuka might have promised to keep his confidence, but it was clear the senior thought that others ought to be informed. What if he went over his head and told someone else anyway?
 
Practice itself held no surprises, though as it was ending Tezuka caught him before he could head back to the clubroom with everyone else.  "Echizen.  I have to speak with Ryuuzaki-sensei, but-"

"You're not going to tell her, are you?" he interrupted, feeling certain that his fears were going to come true.

"No.  I said that I would keep your confidence until you feel ready to tell people yourself," Tezuka assured him.  Ryoma relaxed.  He hadn't wanted to doubt his captain's word, but at times the senior felt more like an adult than a fellow student.  It was hard to believe that he would side with him, rather than his father.  He had been nervous all afternoon that the captain would march him back to his house and demand a meeting with his parents, or organise a conference with his homeroom teacher or something.  It was stupid, though.  Tezuka was a good senpai; even if sometimes he looked ten years older than what he was, he was still a teenager who understood the world from a teenager's perspective.  Ryoma just had to keep reminding himself of that.  "I was merely going to ask how long you were planning to be out with Momoshiro, so that I would know when to expect you back."

It was a weird feeling, hearing those words.  The sensation was similar to receiving a warm hug after being out in the cold rain.  Ryoma didn't know what he'd been thinking to make those words so reassuring. It wasn't as though Tezuka was going throw him back out on to the streets all of a sudden - his bags were all still at his home, just for starters - but a part of him didn't really believe that he'd get to sleep in a soft bed, use a proper bathroom and eat a full dinner three nights in a row.  Apparently over the course of the past month he'd become accustomed to a bare-bones lifestyle. Being thrust back into the lap of luxury felt almost illegal, like sleeping on the fancy display beds in a furniture store while wearing your shoes.  You kept expecting some disapproving sales person to come and ruin the illusion at any moment.

It would be weird, though, knocking on the door like that.  More intrusive than just following his senpai home.  "I'll wait," he blurted.

Tezuka raised a single brown eyebrow elegantly.  It seemed like everything the senior did was understated and elegant; it was amazing no one really resented him for it.  Frustratingly, he was the only person ever able to make Ryoma feel awkward.  "Are you certain?  Even if it is only a few trivial club matters, it could still take a while."

"It's fine.  Momo-senpai is babysitting his sisters this week anyway."  And burgers were expensive, too.  Ryoma was going to stubbornly cling on to his few hard-earned yen for as long as possible.  When Tezuka still seemed dubious, he added, "I'll practice some hitting against a wall or something.  Don't hurry on my account."
 
“If you’re sure then I’ll meet you back here.”
 
Ryoma nodded and wandered off to hit a ball against the school wall, not wanting to wind up getting questions about why he was waiting around from the other club members. He did that for a good half an hour, losing himself in the familiar rhythmic motions while he turned the past twenty-four hours over in his head.
 
It had been hard to tell which of them had been more shocked the day before. Despite spending an entire day contemplating it, Ryoma hadn’t been able to think up a plausible lie, and had finally been forced to come clean. He still wasn’t sure how he felt about being found out. Certainly, he’d been feeling miserable at the time, but there were so many questions and uncertainties now. Ryoma hadn’t thought that anyone would ever have to find out – he’d been so careful – so he’d never once considered what to do if he was. Which left him where he was now.
 
At least Tezuka seemed willing to keep his secret. And it was really nice that the captain was letting him stay at his place, though Ryoma held no illusions about its permanency. Given the senior’s disposition, it was rather amazing he hadn’t been sat down, interrogated, and shipped off to Momoshiro’s - or worse, back ‘home’ - immediately, but it was probably only a matter of time. 
 
Even so, half an hour later when Tezuka finished up, they didn’t talk; merely walked to the bus and returned to the house in silence. Once there, the captain started doing his homework, suggesting amicably that the freshman do the same. Ryoma finished first and sat there reading, not wanting to bother the senior in his studies. When it was starting to get dark, Tezuka retreated to the kitchen to make dinner; Ryoma followed and watched his every move with hawk-like eyes. The fact wasn’t lost on him that he’d probably need to know how to do these things now, and the young tennis player didn’t want to get caught out like he had been at the Laundromat again.
 
They sat down to eat dinner, and halfway through, Tezuka finally started asking questions. Ryoma knew it was coming after the night before, and tried to answer as best he could out of politeness more than anything else, but it was still hard to bring himself to speak in detail of the past month. It was embarrassing, and it had been something he’d expected to keep secret for… well, forever. Never mind the impossibility of that notion. He respected the captain, though, so he tried his best to give at least some sort of answer, even if it was deliberately vague.
 
“So, we have established already that you have not been eating properly lately. Can I assume your recent early arrival time to practice can also be attributed to your situation?”
 
“….Yes.”
 
Tezuka sighed, and expounded, “Have you been sleeping?” It was said in a tone of voice that suggested the senior already knew the answer, but wanted to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.
 
“….As well as can be expected.”
 
“Meaning,” Tezuka prompted.
 
Ryoma crossed his arms sulkily and admitted, “The park and clubhouse weren’t very comfortable.”
 
Tezuka remained silent.
 
“….And there was always lots to think about,” Ryoma reluctantly added, sensing the unspoken prompt. “…And it was cold.” He shivered involuntarily at the memory. That ratty old picnic blanket had been more than enough for the first week, but as the evening temperatures continued to plummet in the lead up to winter, even that couldn’t always keep out the chill. 
 
“I see. How have you been managing for other necessities? Money? Laundry? Homework?” Figures Tezuka would consider ‘homework’ among the necessities.
 
“I had some money saved, but it didn’t last very long. So I got a part-time job.”
 
“Doing what?”
 
“Tennis club. Assistant coach for a kid’s class.”
 
“That wouldn’t pay very much.”
 
“I’m underage. It’s better than nothing.”
 
Tezuka let out a small ‘hm’ at that and let the matter drop. “And…”
 
Sighing, Ryoma continued, “I used a Laundromat to wash my school uniforms. And I did my homework at lunch or at the park.”
 
Crossing his arms, Tezuka sat back and regarded him for a long moment. Ryoma spent a moment wondering what the senior would look like without his glasses, then wondered how strong the prescription was and how anyone with bad eyesight could be capable of discerning the spin on a tennis ball with such apparent ease.
 
The captain’s voice jerked the youth back to the present. “I suppose that’s enough for now. I’m still not pleased you didn’t seek assistance from anyone over this. Even if you felt like you couldn’t go to a teacher, you should have certainly let one of your senpai know.”
 
“….You qualify as my senpai, don’t you Buchou?”
 
“And I only found out through chance. How long would you have continued on as you were had I not stumbled across you in the clubhouse?”
 
Ryoma didn’t answer. And Tezuka found himself thankful that he had found his kouhai when he did, because it was perfectly clear that Echizen would never have come to him – to anyone - on his own.
 
Echizen seemed to have organised himself remarkably well, though – better than he expected. He’d even managed to procure a small source of income – no easy feat for a middle-school student – and had managed things like his own laundry while still balancing tennis and school. Tezuka was mildly impressed. Pride seemed to have helped keep the youth’s head above the water… but it was that exact same thing that had stopped him from swimming to shore.
 
Realising that he’d been silent for some time, Tezuka stood from the table. “I don’t have any problem with you staying here for the time being. But I do suggest you think about telling someone else about this.”
 
Ryoma stared at him with strangely expressionless golden-brown eyes. “Okay, Buchou. Thank you.”
 
That was when Tezuka knew, that for all of his misapprehensions about not informing an adult or going through what ought to be proper procedures, it wouldn’t make a difference. He’d find himself doing whatever those eyes asked of him anyway. 


 

Comments

( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
su24
Mar. 25th, 2008 10:50 am (UTC)
tezuka...mothering...hihi...so true!!! :) ohhhh, i wander if somehow the other regulars will join in the madness....fuji especially...ptff, imagine him babying ryoma wut with him having a younger brother on his own....but i am getting side track....thanks for the chapter!!! :D
sinnatious
Mar. 25th, 2008 11:35 am (UTC)
*laughs* Ryoma would drown in the coddling! Now, imagine Tezuka being so motherly here... and consider what Oishi would be like in the same situation for hyucks. :P
iluxia
Mar. 25th, 2008 01:18 pm (UTC)
Tezuka was a good senpai; even if sometimes he looked ten years older than what he was, he was still a teenager who understood the world from a teenager's perspective. Ryoma just had to keep reminding himself of that.

ROFL That makes buchou seem so..... *laughs* "Ryoma just had to keep reminding himself" -- Is it THAT hard to remember that buchou's a teenager? *glances at buchou, cracks up* I guess it is.

Keep it up. Be waiting for more. =DDD
sinnatious
Mar. 25th, 2008 01:21 pm (UTC)
Indeed, Tezuka is a dinosaurial dork who acts twice his age. And we love him for it. :P
iluxia
Mar. 25th, 2008 01:26 pm (UTC)
This is why I'm writing him at no younger than 18 nowadays. Honestly. Can a fourteen-year-old act THAT uptight?
sinnatious
Mar. 25th, 2008 01:27 pm (UTC)
Perhaps we have Onegai Teacher syndrome! Tezuka went in a suspended state for ten years, so he's really 25, but still has to complete school. :P

OH THIS SO HAS TO BE WRITTEN.
iluxia
Mar. 25th, 2008 01:30 pm (UTC)
@__________@
Ooooooooooooh....

I wanna try........... but I dunno where to start. -____-;;

Edited at 2008-03-25 01:30 pm (UTC)
sinnatious
Mar. 25th, 2008 01:32 pm (UTC)
Do it! Do it! *pokes* :D

Begin with Tezuka waking up in the middle of a night beside a lake. :| Or something. *can't remember Onegai Teacher that well anymore. This calls for a rewatch.*
pharrezychica
Mar. 25th, 2008 01:48 pm (UTC)
Aww....AWW!!!
The last sentence! *____*
I'm so glad you let us enjoy some peace for another chapter... :P

Can't wait to see what happens next!
*hugs*
pat_ace87
Mar. 25th, 2008 07:11 pm (UTC)
ERJGMBO;FBNR;OKMBLKSDFVM.,,JFGIERNGV YOU JUST MADE MY DAY....I WAS IN THE LIBRARY UNTIL 1AM YESTERDAY WOKE UP AT 7AM TODAY RUN AROUND IN HELLISHLY COLD WEATHER AND WAS BOMBARDED BY SQUIRREL PELLET (don't ask o.o) AND NOW I FINALLY GET A CHANCE TO READ YOUR WONDERFUL FICTION XXXXXDDDDDDD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! MY DAY GOT WARMER 83!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
sinnatious
Mar. 26th, 2008 10:16 am (UTC)
I'm sorry, but I HAVE to ask about the squirrel pellets. :P
pat_ace87
Mar. 26th, 2008 06:16 pm (UTC)
fjgner;vbslv X'3!!!!!!!!!!! YOU SEE, THERE'S THIS ECOLOGY THING THAT MY SCHOOL STARTED RIGHT RIGHT.....DAMN THIS IS GOING TO BE WERID XXXDDD!!!!!!! WELL IT WAS LATE (1AM...EARLY...W/E) AND MY ROOMATE AND I WERE JUST ABOUT DEAD FROM THE WHOLE DAY....NIGHT...W/E....AND SHE TRIPPED AND AND ....o.o......THE SQUIRRELS WENT WILD .... o.o ........ NEXT THING WE KNOW THEY'RE MAKING THIS WEIRD HIGH PITCHED NOISES AND AND.... O.O.... PELLETS JUST STARTED BOMBARDING US AND IT WAS LIKE AN ARMY JUST CAME OUTTA THE SEEMINGLY INNOCENT TREES .....o.o.....IT WAS SCARY.......X3!!!!!!!!!
sinnatious
Mar. 27th, 2008 12:02 pm (UTC)
ATTACK OF THE GHOST SQUIRRELS! *laughs*

That's an awesome story. CREEPY, but awesome.
m3owchan
Mar. 26th, 2008 12:33 am (UTC)
It's nice having something new to read everyday.:D
sinnatious
Mar. 26th, 2008 10:22 am (UTC)
XP Don't get used to it! There's only 15 more days worth! (Although if we could coordinate some other authors in the fandom...)
roseofthine
Mar. 26th, 2008 04:00 am (UTC)
it was disrespectful to daydream during class.

...i love you. .__.

"Come."

8DDD

also asdfjk;l SUMMARY SENTENCE! -points- and LAST LINE RABURABU. -pumps hearts at you-
sinnatious
Mar. 26th, 2008 10:17 am (UTC)
Get your mind out of the gutter!

Tezuka zooooooooone!
jade_peace
Mar. 26th, 2008 10:50 pm (UTC)
*FLAILS*

MOTHERLY TEZUKA. THE LAST LINE. <3333
mimineko_chan
Apr. 6th, 2008 09:16 pm (UTC)
He’d find himself doing whatever those eyes asked of him anyway.

That last sentence ROCK!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

If anyone were listenning to his data, they would realise that there was still a 9.5% missing in his calculations of Echizen's wherebouts during lunch time. But as everyone didn't listen to his datas this closely, especially as something as trivial (for them) as Echizen's lunch time, they didn't realise that he didn't share all the datas that he possessed. This was actually an opportunity to gather more data. But he should concentrate more on rectifying his datas for now. It seems that he must take into account his 9.5% afterall and join it to the 0.5% of Echizen eating with them. Turning back a few pages, where the 9.5% lay innocently, Inui regarded that data with keen eyes. That percentage was more of a far away possibility than actually happening in reality. But he had to keep every angle into account. But really, there were more chances of Echizen eating with them than actually making out with Tezuka? Inui was puzzled.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Aaack, it's even lamer than before... *goes into hiding*

- Mimikitty
sinnatious
Apr. 7th, 2008 09:31 am (UTC)
OMG, how do you keep coming up with drabble?

asdflkjdalkj, I didn't think anyone else would notice that missing 9.5%. The idea was that there'd be lots of little percentages making it up, BUT I LIKE YOUR IDEA VERY MUCH, YES.

Inui is love.
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )