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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: This chapter was a rather difficult one to write. I wasn’t entirely happy with Ryuuzaki-sensei, but hopefully it came out okay. 
Previous chapters can be found here.
The Dispossession of Echizen Ryoma
Chapter 25
Tezuka fished through the poorly stacked folders, looking for where the treasurer had hidden the budgets. He was briefly distracted from this quest by the pattering sound of running footsteps in the hallway, and then when the door violently burst open, pulled from it completely.

It was Fuji.  The normally serene prodigy wore an almost panicked expression.  He was panting and his hair was mussed - he'd obviously sprinted there.

"Fuji.  What's the matter?"

A second later, Oishi, similarly ruffled, caught up.  "It's Echizen," he gasped. The captain stood at attention, nerves suddenly on end. “Ryuuzaki-sensei… Tezuka, I’m so sorry! We were just talking, and didn’t realise…”
“Where is he?” he demanded.
“She took him to her office,” Fuji reported, standing aside to clear the doorway. Tezuka took off at a run.
Ryuuzaki had found out. It had been a niggling concern at the back of his head that their coach might eventually stumble across Ryoma’s situation – she was a rather sly woman who kept surprisingly close tabs on her team. But Tezuka had not honestly thought she would find out so soon. 
He skidded around the corner, spying the closed office door up ahead. Completely forgetting his usual propriety, he threw the door open with a sharp bang. 
The two occupants of the room turned towards him, startled. Ryoma’s face broke into an expression of abject relief – Ryuuzaki just raised an eyebrow as he tried to catch his breath. “Tezuka. Just the person I wanted to see. Please, take a seat.”
Tezuka closed the door behind him and took the seat next to Ryoma stiffly. This wasn’t a conversation he was looking forward to having. Barging in like that probably hadn’t helped their situation any, either. 
“This one,” she began, indicating Ryoma, “is refusing to explain some rather curious things I overheard this afternoon. Something about staying with you, and sleeping in the clubhouse?” She seemed undecided whether to take the stern or gentle approach to this newly discovered issue, and was currently managing to tread the fine line between the two.
Tezuka watched Ryoma out of the corner of his eyes. His fists were clenched and trembling. He must have decided that remaining vague when asked and silent when pressed was the safest route. 
It wouldn’t work, though. As stubborn as Ryoma was, Ryuuzaki could be so more. If he kept it up, she might get the bright idea to call the freshman’s parents, and there was no way that could possibly end well.
“Ryoma,” he said softly, “I think we should tell her.”
Ryuuzaki was sitting at attention – she’d obviously already deduced that something big was going on. Ryoma sent him a quick, disbelieving glance, but soon relented with a resigned nod. What else could they do? 
He was aware of fingers hesitantly grabbing at his hand, as though looking for some assurance. Quietly, Tezuka slid Ryoma’s right hand into his left, interlacing their fingers together and giving it a reassuring squeeze. 
Taking a deep breath, the freshman started talking. “I was thrown out of home because I lost a tennis match with my brother. I’ve been staying with Buchou. But when he was called away to Kyushu, I couldn’t get in to the house, so I slept in the clubhouse instead.” The word tumbled out in something of a breathless rush.
They were greeted with stunned silence. Apparently they had shocked the elderly woman speechless. She shook herself, then asked, “I’m sorry, but could you repeat that?”
“I was thrown out of home.”
She gathered her composure quickly. “When? How long has this been going on without my knowledge?” A bit of a hard edge was present in the woman’s voice, coloured with faint disbelief.
Ryoma’s mouth was pressed into a thin line, so Tezuka braced himself and answered instead. "I found him sleeping in the tennis clubhouse a little over a month ago. He'd already been there for a month." He decided to omit the information about the park for the time being. Ryuuzaki Sumire had something of a temper, after all, and he didn't see the point in the fanning the flames of the fire more than necessary.
“There was no need,” Ryoma mumbled.
“The other regulars only found out yesterday,” Tezuka added, in hopes of mollifying her a bit.
Ryuuzaki was pacing behind her desk now, visibly restraining her anger. The captain really didn’t want to be there, but it was better that their coach direct some of her ire towards him instead of Ryoma, whom he suspected wouldn't be able to handle it so elegantly right now. It helped that he knew she meant well, and that her anger was not truly directed at them, but the freshman probably wasn’t be able to tell the difference.
“I don’t believe this… thrown out? That Nanjiroh…” She glared at them. “You’re not pulling my leg, are you?”
At their blank expressions, she scowled. “Right, forgot who I was talking to. But still! Living on the streets?!” she raved. Her eyes swivelled towards the phone, and she stalked towards it with a determined air. “I’ve got to talk to that idiot, and sort this-”
“Don’t!” Ryoma blurted. Her hand halted above the receiver. “I don’t… I don’t want to see him,” he finished lamely.
Ryuuzaki stood there for a long moment, clearly battling with an intense desire to call her old student and have a good rant at him. Eventually, her anger cooled back down to a simmer and she stepped away from the phone. She stared at Ryoma for a long moment, before finally murmuring, “He really did it, didn’t he?”
“We would not lie to you about something like this,” Tezuka replied quietly.
With a tired sigh the woman shuffled back to her chair, suddenly showing her age. “Sorry, sorry… it’s just all quite difficult to take in, you understand.”
“We understand,” Tezuka agreed.
"This at least explains why the other teachers were asking about you not paying attention in class," she grounded out. "So, now you’re staying…?"
"He's staying at my house," the senior confirmed.
"Hmph, I'm disappointed that you didn't tell me sooner, Tezuka. That's a rather gross neglect of your duties as captain." Ryoma sent him a worried glance. He rubbed his thumb across the back of freshman’s hand.
"I understand. However, given the personal nature of the issue, I felt that I should not do so without Ryoma's permission. There were many other factors involved as well. I will take full responsibility and accept any punishment for my actions."
"There'll be none of that," Ryuuzaki grumbled, waving her hand dismissively. "The one who should really be punished is that idiot Nanjiroh. I knew he could be an irresponsible bastard, but I didn't think he'd ever do something like this! It was too much to hope that Rinko sorted him out after all." Sighing, she rubbed her hands against her temples. "Okay, give me a minute to absorb this. I need to think."
They waited patiently while she sat there in thoughtful silence for several minutes. Finally, she asked, “Do you know why?”
That wasn’t a question Tezuka could answer. He turned his head to face his companion. Ryoma glanced away, before eventually murmuring, “For tennis, I guess.”
“For tennis?”
The first-year shrugged. “It must be tennis. He never really explained why. But tennis is the only reason I can think of.”
Ryuuzaki seemed dubious. “But would even a tennis-obsessed idiot like Nanjiroh go that far?”
Ryoma was looking distinctly uncomfortable by now. “Probably.” The admission sounded somewhat bitter.
She sat back, and contemplated that for a moment. “Hrm… You know, this is really something I’m obligated to report to family services.”
Tezuka hesitated, then ventured, “We are aware. But both Echizen and I were hoping that because he is in no current danger that you would not be required to do so.”
“It’s embarrassing – I understand that. And Nanjiroh’s still celebrity enough that it could make it into the papers.”
“And I don’t want to leave Seigaku,” Ryoma added quietly.
Ryuuzaki gave him a sympathetic look. “Right, Seigaku. Even so, if it comes to light anyway and it’s revealed that I knew about it, that’s my job on the line. You kids understand that, right?”
The grip on his hand tightened to the point that the senior started to become preoccupied with the flow of blood to his fingers.
Forcing himself to remain calm, Tezuka mentally ran through every loophole he could think of it, every plea that might make their Coach change her mind. As much as it shamed him to admit it, it was as much for himself that Ryoma had to stay as it was the freshman’s own wishes. He squeezed Ryoma’s hand back, wishing there was some more depth to the assurance. 
Had they really reached the end of the line? Were the past two months of hardships going to be for naught?
“I ran away!” Ryoma blurted suddenly.
Both Tezuka and Ryuuzaki looked at the freshman in surprise.
“What?” Ryuuzaki asked, looking confused. The captain very nearly smiled at the sudden realisation. Of course!
“None of that was true. I just ran away from home, because we had a fight. Buchou’s family are letting me stay with them.”
“Echizen…” she began.
Tezuka cleared his throat. “Ah, sensei… I should point out that if family services become involved, they’re effectively powerless to take any action in the case of runaways.”
She frowned. “I believe the police have the ability to return the child home after a certain number of days.”
“That is true. But only if the family requests it.”
The woman’s eyes widened. She grinned ruefully at them. “You’re a smart pair of little rascals.”
The death grip on his hand relaxed a little. Tezuka smiled faintly. It was okay. They’d found a way.   “Neither Echizen nor myself wanted to put you in an awkward position."
She smiled at that. "You kids... Very well, then, I'll keep it to myself. I'll even help out where I can.” The senior could practically feel Ryoma’s relief.
“Then can we go?” he asked eagerly.
With a heavy sigh, she agreed, “Yes, you can go for now. I’ll be calling you back to here to ask more questions later, though.”
The freshman practically shot to his feet, heading towards the door and half dragging the still-attached captain with him. “Although, Tezuka, if you could stay a minute,” she requested. 
Ryoma sent him an apprehensive glance, but the senior just waved him along. “I’ll meet you by the gates.”
Mollified, he retreated, though not before sketching a hasty bow to their Coach and sending one last concerned look to his senpai. They waited until he was safely out of sight and earshot before speaking again.
“So, Tezuka…”
"He didn't wish anyone to know. I'm sure that if he had his way, that would still be the case. It was pure luck that I even caught him out," he explained.
She nodded. “Don’t worry, I figured it was something like that. You say he's staying with you now, right? How's that working out? And what are his long-term plans?"
"I don't think he has any, to be honest. He’s been practicing a lot more tennis to beat his father and brother, but I don’t think he really wants to go back there. It has been bothering him lately, too. Neither my parents nor I have any problems with him staying with us indefinitely, but he's having a rather hard time believing that."
"Hmm, it would be difficult to swallow. He's probably feeling like a guest who has long overstayed his welcome."
Tezuka didn’t respond. He didn’t have any ideas of ways to remedy that.
She kept him there a little longer, asking a few more questions and giving some advice. Eventually she dismissed him, stating that they’d already given her far too much to think on for one day. He bowed respectfully and quickly left the room, finally allowing himself a relieved sigh.
That could have been a disaster in the making, but it had actually gone rather well. The senior even found himself feeling a little relieved at the thought that there was an adult who knew about the whole affair now. 
When he left the school building, he could see Ryoma loitering by the gates. The other regulars were standing there talking to him, but when they saw him they waved and headed off – or rather, Fuji corralled them away. He made a mental note to later berate his teammates for spilling the secret not even a day after finding out, and then to thank them for alerting him of the fact so quickly.
The two of them played tennis at the courts by Haruno station for hours, working all of the stress out of their systems. The stars were twinkling in the night sky by the time they finished. His parents rolled their eyes good-naturedly when Tezuka apologised and explained why they were home late.
“And here I was sort of hoping that Echizen would be a bad influence on him, but they spend the evening out playing tennis,” Kuniharu groused.
“We were having a late dinner anyway,” Ayana said with a smile. “Why don’t you two go clean up, and we’ll start when you get back downstairs.”
They headed up to the bedroom, discarding their bags and getting changed.
“Ne, Buchou, we should play that much tennis every day.”
“I have homework. So do you,” he pointed out, shrugging his shirt over his head.
“But we don’t have much longer left for tennis this year. Homework will still be there when the snow falls.”
It was a compelling argument. “I don’t know what my parents are talking about. You are a bad influence on me.”
Ryoma just grinned.


( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 7th, 2008 09:56 am (UTC)
I think Ryuuzaki's characterisation was fine-- she's a gruff old auntie sort of person, and she's got a soft spot for the Echizens.

♥ for caring!Fuji!!

And Ryoma and Tezuka holding hands! (Or rather Ryoma cutting off Tezuka's circulation to his fingers, but anyway...)

Much ♥ for Ryoma's bad influence :D
Apr. 8th, 2008 09:01 am (UTC)
That is a relief. :)

Writing all the hand stuff was so much fun it should be made illegal.
Apr. 7th, 2008 01:19 pm (UTC)
Yeah, the coach seemed pretty well done to me.

But... finger-lacing, hand-squeezing and thumb-rubbing! *flail* That does more to me than I can say. *_____*
Apr. 7th, 2008 02:07 pm (UTC)
Words cannot express how much I'm loving this story! Probably as much as Power of Gossip, even tho they're so different they're both so captivating!
I didn't stop reading your story, I lagged behind and waited to catch up before commenting ^o^

There is so much that happened, so mnay beautiful moments! *__*
The first name basis... and I loveloveLOVE how Tezuka grew attached to Ryoma, how much he values his friendship, how t's not sense of duty anymore.
I loved also the previous chapter and the other regulars' reactions...

Ryuzaki-sensei was perfect here IMO. Very true to character, the right mixture of stern and wicked that she is.
But how much I'm liking the direction of the story only makes e more anxious... a confrontation with Nanjiro is happening... is it? I don't want Ryoma to go back ;___;

*gnaws lip in anticipation*
Apr. 8th, 2008 09:03 am (UTC)
Aww, thank you. I still consider this fic as my bad child, but I'm glad you're enjoying it.

At least it's pretty close to the end now, yes? (Although it's not much of an ending... :/)
Apr. 7th, 2008 03:39 pm (UTC)
Oh wow, this chapter was so lovely. There are many bits I want to quote at you: Tezuka's and Echizen's laced hands, Echizen's "I ran away!", and Tezuka's father's statement! (I mean, really! :D)

And oh, it kills me that Fuji in near-panicked mode is something definitely worth noting on. I've come to love your Fuji's (in this and other pieces) quite a bit. :)
Apr. 8th, 2008 09:05 am (UTC)
People keep saying this, but I don't think I write Fuji that differently to anyone else? I'm glad you like it, though. :)
Apr. 7th, 2008 04:06 pm (UTC)
I found Ryuzaki-sensei's character just fine, I think any other adult would have reacted the same way......to tell you the truth I was actually expecting her to rant a bit more about Nanjiroh o.o...... And like always, great chapter, and the whole run away thing was pretty well done XXXDDD!!!!!!!!!!! ..... it's almost over though ;_;......sequel O_O!!!!!
Apr. 7th, 2008 09:31 pm (UTC)
Oh, the finger-lacing, hand-squeezing, thumb-rubbing. *_____*


And the bad influence.
Apr. 8th, 2008 12:33 am (UTC)
“But we don’t have much longer left for tennis this year. Homework will still be there when the snow falls.”

It was a compelling argument. “I don’t know what my parents are talking about. You are a bad influence on me.”

*_* Oh Sin. This is exactly what I needed after my day. Just that one little bit. Tezuka can not deny the logic in Ryoma's logic. :|
Apr. 8th, 2008 09:08 am (UTC)
Ryoma's tennis logic is infallible. Tezuka cannot resist. :P
Apr. 8th, 2008 01:54 am (UTC)
I love you.

You are just so utterly BRILL.
Apr. 8th, 2008 09:05 am (UTC)
The feeling is mutual.
Apr. 8th, 2008 05:05 pm (UTC)
I'm at chapter 25! YAY! I'll be able to finish today. Hoyay! And I might say, this is freacking fantastic fic. I thank Kaori for giving you a kick in the butt and convince you to put this fic up.

Question: How come Fuji was panting? I must admit that the effect of a panting Fuji throught very hot (yes yes dirty mind at work here) makes the story more real. But they are all regulars here. Even sprinting to the room doesn't take that much, ne? Well, I can't say very well. Last week, I had to meet a teacher and her office was in the 7th floor. And no, I didn't take the elevator, I took the stairs and I was panting. I guess that I'll have to do more exercices (but I am just too lazy XD).

The child services and Police 'problems' are slightly sureal! Is that like that in Australia? So if a family doesn't care about the child and the child run away... then nobody could do nothing? Isn't that negligent then child services will put the child in custidy and find a foster family to put the child? I guess for the fic, you changed a few things...

I'm slightly mixed up in the end. So the Tezuka family thinks that Ryoma is not a bad influence on their son? I'm kind of lost... or is it just me? So his parents aprove that they stay late to practice tennis? Or do they think that it's better than go partying all night?

I liked the way Ryoma argue. Homework will still be there when the snow falls. LOL It will still be there, but there will just be much more homeworks.

- Mimikitty ♥

PS: I still think that Ryoma has a good influence on Tezuka; it makes him more human and more incline to do dirty things to Ryoma.

PS 2: I was suppose to have a class this afternoon but it was canceled. Through I am happy that I have more time to do my assignments and rest a bit (my throat still hurts but not my head thank god), it's the second lesson that has been canceled for this class and it's almost the finals... I don't know when the professor will have the time to re-take the class. *Sigh* Tell me more about your life, work life and love life. ^^
Apr. 9th, 2008 07:30 am (UTC)
Anyone will pant after sprinting, no matter how fit, even if they can jog for a long time without breaking a sweat. And there would be some distance from the courts to the student council room I assume, including sets of stairs. I did it like that to emphasize the urgency. And maybe just a little bit for hot panting Fuji.

I admittedly didn't research the law that thoroughly, but based on hearsay with people who have dealt with runaways as well as people who have dealt with family services, it is a bit of a loophole. If a child is above a certain age the rules change, but it's this loophole that allows runaways girls to go live with their boyfriends for months even when their family wants them back. Again, this is based on the Australian legal system - Japan, Canada or America might be different. It's all very contextual. In any case, I don't wish to read tomes of legal gibberish just for a few points of a fanfic. Family services can be a bit retarded sometimes - ineffectual for the people who need it, and completely overbearing for the people who don't.

P.S.2. Not much to tell, I'm afraid. :P All very routine and boring.
Apr. 9th, 2008 12:00 am (UTC)
Right, forgot who I was talking to.

and eeee, last line. =D and bad influences. <333

(we all know ryouma's just irresistable. ;D)

...sorry i forgot to check this place. -ducks tomatoes-

I shouldn't have. ;~~~; This was beautiful. <3
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )