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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: Made up for the short cruel chapter yesterday with this longer, fluffier one today. I hope? Though honestly, the number of people who didn’t see it coming surprised me. I’d been setting that up for ages.   
 
Previous chapters are here.
 

The Dispossession of Echizen Ryoma 
 
Chapter 21
 
The next twenty-four hours passed in a flurry of confusion, sadness and grieving.
 
After arriving in Kyushu his mother had taken him straight to the hospital, where he’d spoken in private with his grandfather for a time, left for a while so that two of Kunikazu’s friends could have a moment with him, then resumed vigil by his bedside into the night. His grandfather passed away in the early hours of the morning. Tezuka helped his mother and father make the calls to the relevant people, and then assisted in organising to have the body delivered back home for the funeral. They caught several hours of sleep at the hotel before catching a dawn flight back home, by which point some of the numbness began to wear off. 
 
Privately, the senior admitted to himself that he had suspected this outcome, even if he hadn’t wanted to admit it. Despite the fact that not even six months prior his grandfather held his usual judo instruction as normal and managed fine, Tezuka had noticed the other’s man somewhat abrupt decline in health, and so was not surprised when his parents informed him that Kunikazu required an operation.
 
Both of his parents assured him that the procedure was simple, though his grandfather had been reticent on the subject. That was when Tezuka first became suspicious that things were worse than they appeared. Then when his parents went to Kyushu for the operation also, and stayed there for a number of weeks… as much as he had tried to ignore the concern, it did not go away. Were he less understanding, he might have been upset by his family’s efforts to shield him from the possibility of his grandfather’s death, but in all honesty, Tezuka had come to the realisation several years ago that the man wouldn’t be around forever, no matter how healthy he seemed for his age. It kept his reactions in check and rational.
 
He had grieved, and did not doubt that he would grieve further, but mentally, he’d at least been prepared for the eventuality. It was still shocking when his mother had turned up at school, and it all happened faster than he’d could have expected, but he’d at least been able to say his goodbyes. Though the memory of the sight of that strong, alert individual reduced to a weak, frail old man on a hospital bed left Tezuka more shocked than the actual event of his grandfather’s death. 
 
They were all tired when they arrived back home in the morning. The sun seemed far too bright. His father quietly retired to his room, while his mother started making more phone calls, trying to arrange matters so that they could hold the funeral ceremony on Sunday. Tezuka lingered in the kitchen. “Is there anything I can do to help?”
 
“Oh, Kunimitsu,” she said with a tired smile. “You’ve already done more than enough. Your father and I can handle the rest – and some of your grandfather’s students from work have offered their help as well. You take a rest.”
 
“I don’t think I’d really feel right just being idle,” he confessed.
 
“Of course not. Then why don’t you go to school?”
 
He glanced at the clock. There was still enough time to make it. “Are you sure?”
 
“Absolutely. I’m sure none of your teachers will mind if you miss another day of classes, but maybe seeing your friends... You could use a break to take your mind off things. Go on ahead.” She shooed him from the kitchen. 
 
Tezuka stood in the foyer for a couple of minutes, indecisive. He wasn’t entirely certain if he wanted to go to school – how on earth could he be expected to concentrate on classes? - but eventually concluded that yes, seeing his team mates would make him feel a little better. His grandfather had sternly told them all not to wallow and mope around, and though the senior had the feeling that those words were mostly directed towards his father, he was still going to do his best to try and honour them. Even if he felt guilty for doing so.
 
Even though the flight had delivered them home far quicker than the train, Tezuka still didn’t arrive until close to the end of morning practice. Thus, his arrival garnered plenty of attention.
 
“Tezuka-buchou! You’re back!” Momoshiro exclaimed.
 
The other regulars clustered around him, abandoning their drills. “Tezuka, what happened? You never came to afternoon classes on Wednesday. Where have you been? Is everything alright?” Oishi fretted. 
 
“Ryuuzaki-sensei didn’t tell you?”
 
“She merely informed us that it was a personal matter,” Inui reported. He looked like he was itching to start spouting percentages, but held his tongue.
 
“It was my grandfather. He passed away.”
 
They all stared at him in shocked silence. Oishi was the first to speak, laying a tentative hand on his shoulder. “Oh, Tezuka, I’m sorry. You mentioned that he was going to have an operation, but I had no idea…”
 
“Are you okay?” Fuji asked softly.
 
He nodded stiffly. “Thank you for your concern.” 
 
“If there’s anything you need…” Kawamura offered tentatively. 
 
“I’ll let you know,” he confirmed. “But it’s alright, really. I was able to say my goodbyes. And I knew he wasn’t well.” He didn’t quite believe his own words, and by the look on Oishi’s face, he didn’t either. The rest of the regulars backed off a little though, looking awkward and muttering a smattering of generic condolences.
 
Having come to school precisely to get his mind off the whole sad affair instead of focusing on it, he turned his attention to the courts. Coach Ryuuzaki – apparently taking a more active role in his absence – was ordering everyone back to drills, but something seemed out of place. That’s right…
 
Tezuka could feel the colour draining from his face in horror. 
 
He had forgotten about Echizen.
 
He’d just vanished from school; whisked off to Kyushu to hold vigil at his grandfather’s bedside. Afterwards, he’d been so exhausted from the lack of sleep, so consumed with his grief and helping his parents that he hadn’t even spared a thought for the freshman until now. It had all been so sudden, so shocking, so fast…
 
Tezuka hadn’t even called the freshman to let him know what happened. How could he have been so irresponsible?
 
His mind stalled, though. What was he so worried about? Ryoma was pretty good at managing by himself – the youth had survived for an entire month on his own, after all, and at least now he possessed a part-time job and food and shelter. 
 
Shaking his head as though to clear it, Tezuka asked, “Where’s Echizen?”
 
Momoshiro paused at that, and scratched his head. “Don’t know. He’s real late. Maybe he’s sleeping in? He was a bit off colour yesterday.”
 
To everyone else, this wasn’t so unusual – until his recent trend of earliness, Ryoma was always one of the last to arrive at morning practice. But Tezuka froze as yet another horrible revelation dawned on him.
 
He had never given Echizen the spare key to the house.
 
Panic seized him again in that instant. Where had Echizen gone? Where could he look?
 
His eyes landed on the clubhouse. It was ridiculous. The others would have seen him in there when changing before practice. Unless…
 
“There isn’t much time left for practice. Everybody go finish up your drills,” he barked out, then hurried to the clubhouse. In the background, he could hear everyone scrambling to obey his orders, but his mind was solely focused on finding Ryoma.
 
Predictably, the clubhouse was empty, save for the various jackets and racket bags propped up against the shelves. Where could the freshman hide in the clubhouse, yet still go unnoticed even while everyone was getting changed?
 
Not the benches. Not the showers or toilets, either. That only left storage.
 
Tezuka carefully pushed the creaking door to the storage space open, nearly catching it on a broken ball basket that had been retired. It was dim and musty inside as always. He ran a critical eye over it. In the back of the supply cupboard there was the old picnic blanket. Tezuka remembered it being used once or twice before on team outings. Carefully stepping over a torn net and several busted tennis balls, he tried to pick the blanket up.
 
Sure enough, Echizen was curled up in it, apparently sleeping.
 
“Ryoma!” he exclaimed, crouching low and shaking his shoulder. “Wake up.”
 
Ryoma frowned and let out a grunt, but didn’t otherwise react. 
 
Tezuka glanced about the cupboard. It was rather cramped; the reason why the freshman was folded up into what had to be a rather uncomfortable position. What on earth had possessed his kouhai to take shelter in here? Unless…
 
Worriedly, Tezuka’s felt Ryoma’s forehead, and was alarmed to find it uncomfortably warm. 
 
Guilt surged through him. Of course. It had been terribly cold and windy at night for the past week or so. In a proper house, it was of little consequence – people would perhaps only break out an extra blanket or turn up their central heating slightly – but here, in the clubhouse, there was little to keep a person warm. And even worse, Ryoma’s duffle bag was still at his house where he couldn’t access it; couldn’t even get an extra shirt to help ward off the chill. The only protections on hand were the clothes on his back and a ratty old blanket. He must have retired to the storage cupboard in hopes that the equipment and old broken nets would provide some extra insulation.
 
Carefully, Tezuka gathered up his quarry, keeping him wrapped in the moth-eaten blanket.   He hooked an arm under his knees and another under his shoulders. Where to go? The infirmary?
 
The act of being picked up jolted Ryoma to awareness. “…Buchou…?” he slurred, half-opening his eyes and staring at him blearily.
 
“Echizen.”
 
“…I waited…. Outside… for hours… but you didn’t come home. Where were you?”
 
Guilt spiked through Tezuka again. “I’m sorry, Echizen. My grandfather passed away, and I had to go to Kyushu suddenly.”
 
“Oh. ‘M sorry. Wanted to meet him.”
 
“I would have liked you to meet him too.”
 
 “…Where are we going?”
 
“Infirmary.”
 
Growing more lucid, Ryoma shifted in his arms.  “Hey, let me down, I can walk.”
 
Tezuka obliged him, and the freshman stood shakily, letting out a single rasping cough and clutching the senior’s shoulder for support while he regained his balance. 
 
“Are you okay?”
 
“Will be.” He stifled a sneeze. 
 
“The infirmary,” Tezuka prompted.
 
Infuriatingly, Ryoma just shook his head. “No.”
 
“You’re ill. You’re developing a fever.”
 
“They won’t let me stay in the nurse’s office all day. I’ll just sleep in class.”
 
Of course. It hadn’t occurred to him, but the nurse would definitely try to send Echizen home, or call his parents to pick him up. Sighing and pinching the bridge of his nose, Tezuka compromised. “We’ll go home, then.”
 
“Huh? Don’t you have school, Buchou?”
 
“I can afford to miss another day.” He hadn’t really felt like attending classes anyway, and only came so that he wouldn’t be idle at home. Besides, looking after Echizen was more important. The guilt over forgetting to inform the first year of his absence was practically eating him alive.
 
Ryoma smirked weakly at that. “You’re skipping school?”
 
“Hardly. I nearly didn’t come in the first place. Let’s go.”
 
Tezuka went to inform his classmates that he wouldn’t be attending school after all. Fuji fetched copies of the notes he’d taken for their classes and handed them over with a sympathetic look. That sorted, he started escorting his ill charge back home. The journey took a lot longer than normal, as Ryoma was listless and apparently a little dizzy, but determined to make it on his own without help. Tezuka thought it an apt metaphor for their larger problem.
 
Eventually, they arrived home. Ayana was understandably shocked to see them. Before Tezuka could admit to his transgression, Ryoma placated her concern by informing her that he’d stayed over at Momoshiro’s house. Tezuka knew this was a lie, but held his tongue until he had the freshman settled in his room.
 
“The futon is fine,” Ryoma complained listlessly after being ordered into the bed.
 
“You’re ill. Take the bed. Besides, I’ll work at my desk while you sleep.”
 
“I don’t need a baby-sitter. I’ll be okay in a couple of hours.”
 
Tezuka doubted it, but didn’t argue. “You lied.”
 
A confused frown, then… “Oh, about Momo-senpai’s.”
 
“You shouldn’t have.”
 
“Your mother would have just worried,” Ryoma yawned sleepily, eyes drifting closed. “She’s got enough to deal with. Don’t want her to worry. She’s nice.”
 
Phrased like that, the senior couldn’t bring himself to complain. “Don’t go to sleep just yet. You should eat something first.”
 
Echizen stayed awake long enough to slurp down some ramen before drifting off. Tezuka helped his mother with a few odds and ends of the funeral arrangements, periodically checking on his charge and then later catching up on some homework.
 
True to his word, Ryoma seemed a great deal better when he woke up in the afternoon. Tezuka merely shook his head in disbelief. The youth had a remarkable constitution to be able to shrug off what had been promising to be a severe cold with just a warm meal and a few hours of good rest. To be safe, the senior made him take a long, hot bath, and bullied him into relaxing for the rest of the evening. He knew he was taking another page out of Oishi’s book, but was still rather frustrated with himself for his oversight. Ryoma had only barely opened up to him and started really trusting him, and then he made such a massive blunder. Would this damage their newfound rapport at all?
 
“You’re not superhuman, you know.”
 
Startled at the sudden pronouncement – could Echizen read minds now? - Tezuka glanced at the freshman, who just sighed and beckoned him to the bed. Confused, the senior complied with the request, seating himself on the edge next to where Ryoma was propped up with pillows. “It’s all over your face. You don’t have to worry so much. You’ve got enough to deal with as it is. Oishi-senpai has been a bad influence on you.”
 
He raised an eyebrow. “He has?”
 
Ryoma rolled his eyes. “I’m just saying. You shouldn’t look out for me at your own expense. It’s stupid.” He fidgeted awkwardly for a moment, then blurted. “You said we were friends, right, Kunimitsu? Let me look out for you some too.” The last part was muttered in a barely audible mumble.
 
Tezuka found himself speechless. Eventually, he cleared his throat, and stated, “But you slept in the clubhouse for two nights. You got sick. I didn’t even call.”
 
The freshman huffed, crossing his arms and glaring at him. “Buchou. Your grandfather died. You’re allowed to feel bad right now, but not because of me.”
 
He started a little. It was the first time someone else had stated the truth so bluntly. Ryoma apparently didn’t much care for the insensitivity of his statement, and just glared at him, as though daring him to keep feeling guilty. 
 
“I got to say goodbye to him,” Tezuka said instead.
 
Ryoma just kept his stare level, so the senior felt compelled to continue.
 
“I had time to get used to the idea, I think. Even if my parents kept telling me that the surgery was simple, I already knew that it wasn’t – otherwise they wouldn’t have both gone to Kyushu, and certainly not for so long.”
 
A pair of hazel eyes regarded him at length, clearly disbelieving. Crawling out from under the covers and kneeling on the bed, the freshman hovered uncertainly for a moment, then grabbed his shoulders and pulled him into a hug.
 
“Sorry Buchou, I’m not much good with words,” Ryoma muttered in his ear.
 
Tezuka didn’t cry. He’d shed a few tears in private in Kyushu, and that had been enough. Still, his arms tightened around Ryoma as though he were an anchor, and he found the small hands rubbing comforting circles on his back soothing. They sat silently like that for a long time.
 
Eventually, Tezuka relinquished his hold, feeling strangely better, and laid back on the bed. Ryoma pushed himself up so that he was sitting perpendicular to him, back against the wall, and started awkwardly patting his head.
 
Tezuka quirked his eyebrows, rolling his eyes up to stare at his roommate. “What are you doing?”
 
“Copying what you did for me when I was upset,” Ryoma retorted, quite seriously. “Do you want me to stop?”
 
Tezuka shook his head no, shifting a little to use Ryoma’s leg as a pillow, and closed his eyes, focusing on the sensation of those small, deft hands stroking his hair. It really was relaxing. “Don’t trouble yourself on my account,” he murmured, growing sleepy. He hadn’t slept much in the past few days.
 
“Hmmm, just glad that I could actually do something for you for a change.”
 
He cracked open an eye at that to stare at the freshman. His gaze met a pair of a soft golden eyes and a mouth with the edges just curved up into the very slightest of smiles. It was a pleasantly sincere expression. Seeing it honestly made Tezuka feel a whole lot better.
 
 
 

Comments

( 32 comments — Leave a comment )
kaorismash
Apr. 3rd, 2008 07:35 am (UTC)
"His grandfather had sternly told them all not to wallow and mope around...those words were mostly directed towards his father..."

:"|

I want a Ryomalegpillowthing. :| And a Tezukablanketthing on my leg.
sinnatious
Apr. 3rd, 2008 07:40 am (UTC)
Ryoma pillow case and Tezuka blanket. These things must exist, and we must find a way to buy them. :|
(no subject) - kaorismash - Apr. 3rd, 2008 07:43 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - argentum_luna - Apr. 3rd, 2008 08:40 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - roseofthine - Apr. 4th, 2008 04:37 am (UTC) - Expand
iluxia
Apr. 3rd, 2008 07:56 am (UTC)
*sigh*

How absolutely adorable.

But I wanted ANGST. Damnit. *sigh* I was thinking along the lines of---no, well, never mind... >.>
sinnatious
Apr. 3rd, 2008 11:53 am (UTC)
Surely the angst in the first half of the fic was more than enough? I think people would kill me if I put in too much more. D:

Oh no, now I'm curious! x__x
(no subject) - iluxia - Apr. 3rd, 2008 11:57 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sinnatious - Apr. 3rd, 2008 12:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - iluxia - Apr. 4th, 2008 05:21 am (UTC) - Expand
argentum_luna
Apr. 3rd, 2008 08:44 am (UTC)
Aaaaaaaaaaw. ♥

Wonder if Buchou is going to catch Ryoma's cold. XD

I want a Ryoma pillow too!
sinnatious
Apr. 3rd, 2008 12:10 pm (UTC)
*laughs* A fun idea. Although already done much better in many other fics. :P I would dare not take that path.
A Gift for You! - argentum_luna - Apr. 4th, 2008 01:53 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: A Gift for You! - sinnatious - Apr. 4th, 2008 02:03 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: A Gift for You! - argentum_luna - Apr. 4th, 2008 10:43 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: A Gift for You! - sinnatious - Apr. 4th, 2008 02:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: A Gift for You! - roseofthine - Apr. 4th, 2008 04:39 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: A Gift for You! - argentum_luna - Apr. 4th, 2008 10:44 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: A Gift for You! - sinnatious - Apr. 4th, 2008 02:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: A Gift for You! - roseofthine - Apr. 5th, 2008 12:34 am (UTC) - Expand
aventria
Apr. 3rd, 2008 10:10 am (UTC)
*wrenches self out of lurkiness*

Please forgive incoherency. since Sinn caused it in the first place anyway 0=3

This song has been itchingly at the back of my mind ever since like, erm chapter eleven (I think) but I couldn't really remember since it sort of fit for Ryoma but at the same time it sort of didn't......

But now, you've made it sort of more than fit but in reverse for Tezuka so it barraged its way back to the forefront of my brain.

And now the song's is like, this fic's dynamic theme song!
sinnatious
Apr. 3rd, 2008 11:51 am (UTC)
*waves* Eeee, your icons are so cute.

Oh wow, I remember this song. Well, the '94 Pretenders version, anyway. They do covers of songs that are only thirteen years old? Ouch, now I feel OLD. D: Hee, it is sort of appropriate though. *__*
faire_estela
Apr. 3rd, 2008 11:55 am (UTC)
You really weren't kidding when you said it's a hurt/confort fic!

The ending of the chapter is lovely. Should you ever find one of those TezuRyobedstuffthingies you're going up above, please let me know <3~
todecide
Apr. 3rd, 2008 01:54 pm (UTC)
aw Kuniharu ;_;
Ryoma and Kunimitsu are just too cute together xDD

*hugs Kunimitsu
pat_ace87
Apr. 3rd, 2008 02:23 pm (UTC)
TUHNGBMMTR;BM'FGJNIEBOBUJ905JTG,59TYNBYLBNV;EAV HE REMEMBERED RYOMA D8!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IN THE LAST CHAPTER I WAS NNNNNNNOOOOOOOEEEESSSSS WHERE'S YOUR RYOMA, AND NOW I'M LIKE YYYYYYEEEEEESSSSSS MORE FFFFLLLLUUUFFFFFF 8D!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Loved it 83!!!!!!!!!!
yusahana6323
Apr. 4th, 2008 03:21 am (UTC)
Aww, so cute! I love how fluffy and soft it was. <3

And dangit, I would draw too but I'm nowhere near as good as argentum-san. T_T *discouraged by ultimate superiority*

My school does prints! Haaaahhhhh XP
roseofthine
Apr. 4th, 2008 04:43 am (UTC)
I BET YOU'RE WONDERFUL COME DRAWWW. 8DDD

seriously i do really lame things with tezuryo on y!m. with, um, kun-kun. by mouse. 8D;;

-can't cg for her life-
(no subject) - sinnatious - Apr. 4th, 2008 02:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
roseofthine
Apr. 4th, 2008 04:51 am (UTC)
now that i'm done spamming, i can comment. >3

This is beautiful and fluffy and oh Ryouma, smiling and he actually called him kunimitsu. *______*

Tezuka being worried and Oishi-like and oh oh oh KUNKUN I LOVE YOU DON'T TELL LUNA I SAID THAT.
sleepingfingers
Apr. 4th, 2008 07:51 am (UTC)
I've just read all the chapters in one go and I just want to say that this is wonderful, wonderful. All the ways that you've written Echizen's and Tezuka's responses are very believable, and some of the scenes make me grin happily (especially that last scene :)).

I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the fic.
sinnatious
Apr. 4th, 2008 02:26 pm (UTC)
Oh wow, all in one go? I am simultaneously flattered and amazed. Thanks for reading, I'm very happy that you're enjoying it!
mimineko_chan
Apr. 7th, 2008 07:11 pm (UTC)
I don't know what to feel. I kind of pity Ryoma and I'm mad at Tezuka. But then again, I sympatise with Tezuka as well because he was really close to his grandfather and it's always hard to lose someone you love and respect. I'm actually quite close to my grandparents in China. And even if I'm around the other side of the planet and we only see each other once every two years, I still call them at least once a week. So, basically, it's poor Ryoma and poor Tezuka. *Sigh*

But what you wrote in the end. Ryoma petting Tezuka's head. *SQUEAL* That was just sooooooooooooooo sweet! Pillar pair are just the best of the best. *Having dirty thoughts here* XD

Right now, class is over and I have to go to the library to do some research for my essay. I'll try to read the last four chapters today... still have a bet to win ^^

- Mimikitty ♥
( 32 comments — Leave a comment )