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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: Second last chapter, yay!  Okay, we're getting into cavity territory again.
 
Previous chapters can be found here.
 
 
The Dispossession of Echizen Ryoma
 
Chapter 27
 
 
Ryoma had perhaps somehow been expecting for something to change after seeing his brother, but the day after his grand declaration wasn’t that dissimilar from the ones previous – initially, anyway. 
 
The only thing that was really different was that his motivation to train and improve had shifted focus again. It was no less intense, but his head felt… clearer, somehow. He’d arrived at an uncomfortable truth about his father; one that he didn’t want to acknowledge, but that made his path clear before him all the same.
 
There would be people who disagreed, who would say that healing and forgiveness and understanding were the way. But Ryoma wasn’t a forgiving person, and honestly believed that his father was probably past help. He considered trying to explain it to Tezuka, but didn’t think that the senior would really understand, even though he knew his friend would try. Ryoga might get it, but he’d probably be the only other person on the planet who would. 
 
Ryoma felt a little conflicted over his older brother, though. It wasn't like he was at all close to Ryoga - it was rather hard to be when they'd gone years without seeing each other - but there was a sense of kinship there.  When he realised what Ryoga had sacrificed for him in the past... it was hard not to respect and admire and feel some sort of loyalty towards him. In the same breath, however, his brother was indirectly responsible for his current predicament.
 
Frowning, Ryoma shook his head irritably and returned his attention to serving. The ball bounced frustratingly low, turning his recently un-returnable twist serve into something that Kaidoh handled rather easily.
 
The junior glared at him, but he just shrugged, finishing the rally and thus match with a drop shot. He could only compensate for the effect the cold had on the ball’s bounce so much. There was a reason why tennis was a summer sport, after all. 
 
“It was a good match,” Fuji remarked from the sidelines as they left the court. Kaidoh hissed something unintelligible in their direction before stalking away. Ryoma made to follow, but the blue-eyed prodigy stopped him with a gentle hand on the shoulder. "By the way, Ryuuzaki-sensei has your cousin in her office again.”
 
Ryoma nodded to show he'd heard.  Idly, he wondered how he'd be able to meet up with Nanako when afternoon practices stopped.  They'd have to work something out.
 
“You need a distraction?” the senior asked, tilting his head towards the freshmen trio currently heading towards them, no doubt intending to share their usual post-match congratulations.
 
Shaking his head, he ambled towards the clubhouse to change, ignoring his classmates. Practice was almost over anyway, and he didn’t want to keep his cousin waiting for too long. It was useful to have his senpai running interference, but there was no need in this instance.
 
Still… his face threatened to break into a smirk at the memory of Horio’s rather vocal confusion when Tezuka made all of the regulars except Ryoma run laps after that whole debacle with the Coach. They deserved it, too, for putting he and the captain through that sort of stress. Ryoma hadn’t wanted them to find out in the first place, and then when the inevitable had occurred, they’d nearly messed everything up for him! All of those nights spent in the park and clubhouse sleepless and hungry would have been for nothing if he’d then been sent away because they couldn’t keep their gossiping to a whisper.
 
Although... he didn't know what he'd been so worried about anymore.  It was sort of embarrassing having all of his senpai coddling him, but his anxiety over their finding out seemed a bit... stupid, now.  For all the embarrassment, the weight off his shoulders more than made up for it.  Tezuka had been right all along, though that came as no real surprise.
 
In any case, Nanako was waiting. Ryoma shrugged his regular’s jersey on – there was no real need to shower, as he hadn’t worked up much of a sweat in the cooler weather – and promptly headed towards the Coach’s office.
 
He needn't have rushed.  His cousin and Coach Ryuuzaki were sitting down having a nice chat over a cup of a tea.

"Ryoma!" she greeted with a smile.

"It was nice talking to you, Nanako.  I'll give you two some privacy," Ryuuzaki said, standing.  "Have to go make sure those freshmen clean up properly today.  The storage area was a mess when I last looked!"  The first-year barely stifled a choked cough at that.
 
His cousin was on it in an instant. “Are you okay? You’re not coming down with a cold, are you? It is the season for it.” A hand felt its way to his forehead.
 
Rolling his eyes, Ryoma slumped into the seat Ryuuzaki had left. “M’fine.” He’d managed to fight off enough impending colds over the past couple of months already – the chances of getting sick now were comparatively slim. Best to distract Nanako, though, so she didn’t start getting all motherly on him. He got more than enough of that from Tezuka and Oishi these days. "What's been happening?"

"I was going to ask you," she said in a hushed voice.  "Ryoga came storming in a yesterday and started arguing with your father.  They were being so loud!  What happened?  He mentioned that he'd talked to you, and that you'd been staying in a park?"

Ryoma winced, mentally cursing Ryoga for his loose tongue.  "Only for a couple of nights, before Buchou took me in."

"But a park!" She was visibly worked up about it.  "You didn't say anything about that!"

"Wasn't important."  He needed to get her off this topic quickly.  "So what happened?"

She sighed, shaking her head.  "I'm not sure.  Your brother was rather angry, though - I don't think I'd ever seen him like that before.  He came to me to ask for help writing a resume this morning, too," she confided.  "Did you know he'd been working for a conman before?!"

He nodded.  "Yeah, on that cruise ship."

She sniffed.  "It's no wonder he's been lounging around the house so much.  No one respectable would hire him with that sort of working history.  I helped him fix it up.  He mentioned that he really wanted to get another job so he could move out.  I think he wants for you to be able to move back in."  The last part was added softly.

Ryoma stiffened, then shifted uncomfortably.  Eventually, he stated, "I don't think that's really possible anymore."  He'd sworn that he would never play his father in tennis again.  Even if Ryoga left and he was allowed to come home by default... after confronting that understanding of his father, could he do it? And wouldn’t his father just throw him out all over again if he refused to play tennis with him? 
 
At least he knew where Ryoga was coming from now. He was somewhat pleased that his initial assessment of his brother hadn't been completely off base.  It really had been something as simple as Ryoga being unable to get a job, and figuring that he was old enough to handle the consequences of losing the match.  His brother's anger on his behalf after discovering that Ryoma hadn't received the same treatment went a lot way to soothing his bubbling resentment.  It was almost a shame that he wouldn't get to play Ryoga again.  Maybe he'd make an exception for a private match just between the two of them one day.

Nanako, for her part, just nodded sadly, then perked up.  "Oh, almost forgot!  I have some more money for you!"

Ryoma gaped.  "More?  You just gave me some last week!"
 
She proffered the envelope with a winning smile. “Go on, take it. I checked your cupboard for some more winter clothes, but you’ll have outgrown them all by now.”
 
Ryoma accepted the envelope a little reluctantly. He was going to acquire a hoard of money at this rate – his paranoia had him reluctant to spend it even when most people would deem it necessary. “Where are you getting all this money, though? Isn’t this difficult for you?” It would be horrible to think that Nanako was depriving herself for his sake.
 
“You underestimate your cousin! I’ve been ripping your father off for quite a bit of his money lately. Did you know that he’s a compulsive gambler? The way I figure it, this money should be yours anyway.”
 
Ryoma had to smirk at that, but it quickly turned into a frown. After a pensive silence, he finally whispered, “Why are you doing this? Why are you doing so much for me?”
 
“Because it’s the right thing to do, silly!”
 
“We don’t even know each other that well.”
 
Her smile puckered a little at that, but it rebounded quickly enough. “Maybe we didn’t… but I think we know each other a lot better now, wouldn’t you say?”
 
That… maybe that was true. He certainly hadn’t appreciated Nanako before. It was rather easy to take her presence for granted. But then she’d turned up at the courts, and worried about him when no one else from his family had… and then proceeded to alternate between being a saint to him and cheating his father at gambling.
 
“Thanks for the money,” he mumbled, carefully pocketing the envelope. The ‘for everything else, too’ went unsaid.
 
Tezuka appeared at the door a couple of minutes later, and Nanako made to excuse herself. “I won’t keep you any longer, then.”
 
The captain stopped her, though. “Please, don’t leave on my account. My parents were actually hoping to invite you over for dinner next weekend.”
 
Ryoma was just as startled by the pronouncement as his cousin was. “Eh, but that is, I…” she stammered.
 
“You only ever get to see each other for a short time after practice currently, correct? My mother thought it would be a good opportunity for you to visit in a nicer environment. And this way, you can see where Ryoma is currently staying.”
 
Nanako blushed, before demurely agreeing, “…That would be wonderful. Ryoma’s told me a little about your parents, and I would love to meet them.”
 
He handed her a folded piece of paper. “This is the address and phone number, if you don’t already have it, and a potential date and time. If it doesn’t suit you, please suggest another day that will.”
 
She took the paper reverently, checking it briefly. “This will be fine. Please let your parents know for me.” Ryoma didn’t resist much when she gave him a quick hug, even though it was sort of embarrassing in front of Tezuka. “I’ll drop by here again before then in any case. Thank you, Tezuka.”
 
She left, and the captain suggested, “We should be going too.”
 
Ryoma followed along quietly, not really sure what to make of it. It would be nice to meet up with Nanako outside of that somewhat awkward school setting, but how had Tezuka’s parents known to invite her over? To the best of his recollection, his cousin was only ever mentioned in passing, and he doubted that the senior would have explained much to them behind his back – he was far too honest for that. For that matter, he’d never actually discussed his predicament with them – did they just figure things out of their own?
 
“No tennis today?”
 
“I have an exam tomorrow.”
 
Ryoma merely grunted an acknowledgement, and wound up spending the rest of the afternoon curled up in the corner of Tezuka’s room reading.
 
More surprises were in store for him that night, though. Tezuka’s mother had finally conceded the duty of washing dishes to him several days ago, but that night she stopped him before he started. “Echizen, could we speak with you for a moment?" Ayana asked politely. “Kunimitsu will handle the dishes tonight.”

Ryoma couldn't help tensing.  It sounded serious.  Had he done something wrong?  They were smiling, so he didn't think it was anything bad... Or maybe they wanted him to explain things to them as well. Ryoma hoped not. He was tired of answering questions all the time. Tezuka didn’t seem at all concerned, though, even flashing him a brief reassuring smile. 
 
They settled in the lounge room. Kuniharu made to turn on the television – it looked like a reflex - but his wife slapped his hand away, and he adjusted himself, clearing his throat and sitting up straight.
 
Ryoma’s stomach was practically tying itself in knots at this point, so it was fortunate that they didn’t waste any time beating around the bush. “We’ve been giving some thought to your… situation… lately and we came to the conclusion that using the spare futon on the floor of Kunimitsu’s room just won’t do any longer,” Ayana announced firmly. 
 
Oh no, they wouldn’t really… They had been so nice
 
Kuniharu nodded his agreement. “That’s why we thought it might be time to move you into my father’s old bedroom.”
 
They were going to - “What?”
 
“Well, it’s empty now… We don’t have a proper guest room for you to stay in, so you might as well use that one. It would certainly save a lot of trouble setting up the spare futon in Kunitmitsu’s room every day,” Kuniharu answered absently.
 
They were giving him his own room?  He was stunned speechless, and didn't quite know how to react.  There was something so... permanent about having his own room there. But…
 
“Your father’s room, though…” he began, not entirely comfortable with the notion.
 
“Don’t be getting any silly ideas,” Ayana interrupted. “He’d not want to see that room going to waste over sentimentality.” 
 
Kuniharu fidgeted, and then added, “Unless you’re worried about ghosts.”
 
“Kuniharu!”
 
He broke into a grin. “Just kidding.”
 
She rolled her eyes. “And here I was worrying about you.” She patted his knee affectionately.
 
Ryoma cleared his throat, and managed in a small voice, “Just… um… thank you. I’d really… thank you.” He couldn’t manage much more than that. The generosity of all the people around him was actually getting pretty humbling. 
 
Kuniharu clapped his hands together. “It’s decided then. We’ll move you in tomorrow.”
 
“You can run along now, Echizen,” Ayana offered. “Don’t let us keep you.”
 
Sketching out a deep bow – and whole-heartedly meaning it – he’d retreated from the living room and went to find Tezuka. He was already in his bedroom, packing his bag for the next day.
 
“Your parents are going to move me to your grandfather’s room,” Ryoma reported, still a little dazed.
 
“I am aware. They discussed it with me first, but wanted to ask you themselves.” Tezuka frowned at his bag, rearranging several items to fit a particularly unwieldy book in.
 
“Your parents are rather cool.”
 
“Are they?” The senior seemed genuinely surprised by the notion, as though he’d never even considered it before.
 
“Yes.” They still hadn’t pressed him for details on his situation, seeming content to pick up whatever little morsels slipped through regular conversation. No doubt when Nanako came over they’d get the full story then. Previously, he might have worried about it, but if they were going so far as to move him into a room…
 
“If you say so.”
 
Awkwardly, Ryoma asked, “Are you sure it’s really… I mean, your grandfather’s…”
 
“He would want the room to be used. I think it would bother him to know it was going to waste,” Tezuka answered.
 
“Hn. Your mother said something similar.”
 
It went some way to soothing his reservations, but that night when they were both settling into bed, Ryoma still couldn’t relax enough to sleep. Too much had happened over the past couple of days – between this, and Ryoga, and his personal epiphany regarding his father, resting felt impossible.
 
Tezuka must have heard him moving around, because after a few minutes he asked, “Having trouble sleeping?”
 
Scowling into the darkness, he admitted, “Yeah.” Then… “You know, Buchou… this might be the last night we share a room like this.”
 
“Hm.”
 
“I’m sort of going to miss it.”
 
The, “Hm,” was slightly more contemplative this time.
 
After a few more minutes of him tossing and turning, Tezuka asked, “How did you used to get to sleep?”
 
What sort of question was that? “What?” 
 
“Before.”
 
“You mean at the clubhouse? I didn’t really. I only ever got to sleep when I was too tired to notice anything else.” He didn’t see the relevance of the question.
 
“No, I meant before that.”
 
Oh. Ryoma thought hard about it. The answer felt a bit like a knife twist in the gut, though. “…Karupin.”
 
“Your cat?”
 
He nodded, before remembering that Tezuka wouldn’t be able to see him in the darkness. “Yeah. He’d usually sleep curled up next to me. I’d listen to him breathing, and-” His voice hitched, and he mentally cursed. He kept trying to avoid thinking about Kaurpin, because his cat was honestly one of the things he’d missed the most. At least he knew Nanako was taking good care of him.
 
There was a rustle of bedcovers, then Tezuka ordered. “Come here.”
 
“Eh?”
 
“Hurry up, it’s cold.”
 
Confused, Ryoma threw back his own blankets and felt his way to the bed. Once there, Tezuka pulled him in, flinging the blankets back over him and pulling him into a loose hug.
 
“…Buchou?”
 
“I’m not quite Karupin, but it might help. Just this once,” he explained with a yawn.
 
Ryoma didn’t have any response to that. He just burrowed deeper under the covers. Tezuka was warm, and he could feel the rhythmic rise and fall of his chest with each breath. Soon, he found himself unconsciously matching that rhythm, eyes slowly closing as he drifted off to sleep.
 
 

Comments

( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
sleepingfingers
Apr. 9th, 2008 06:30 am (UTC)
Aww, cavities is definitely a good thing in this case. :D Tezuka trying to be Karupin for Ryoma's just beyond sweet; and the fact that Ryoma now has his own room and just. I can't wait for the next chapter, although I'm sad that the story is coming to an end.
sinnatious
Apr. 9th, 2008 09:18 am (UTC)
I'm more relieved! Finally this fic can safely leave my head and I won't be compelled to work on it anymore! :P
su24
Apr. 9th, 2008 07:13 am (UTC)
karupin=tezuka...no wait...it's kunimitsu now...:)....
can't wait for the last chapter!!! :)
faire_estela
Apr. 9th, 2008 07:33 am (UTC)
I want to burn Nanjiroh's magazines ♫

Ehem, right. My bet for the ending goes to Echizen not going back to his parents' and staying at Tezuka's -Tezuka's parents want to keep him as a pet, after all- and to Ryoga being surprisingly nice and sexy and getting all friendly with Nanako (...er ^^') and with everyone living happily ever after. Except for Nanjiroh, of course, who will be refused for the rest of eternity by everyone. What do you think about that theory, Sin? =D=D

Also, where did that 'let's get a Tezublanketthingy' plan end? I suspect Echizen would benefit from it too.

Edited at 2008-04-09 07:33 am (UTC)
sinnatious
Apr. 9th, 2008 07:46 am (UTC)
I do believe that yusahana is doing something about it! *____* The Ryoma pillow/Tezuka blanket combination shall be win.

Your bet is noted, and your theory rather accurate? I don't find the ending particularly satisfying, personally (I took a bit of influence from Konomi, there. Except more TezRyo.)

Ryoma/Nanako?! A new form of Echizencest?

Oh boy, if you hate Nanjiroh after this chapter.... :/
faire_estela
Apr. 9th, 2008 07:51 am (UTC)
WHAT. WHAT. I WANT. THAT WOULD BE SO COOL. YUSAHANA. WHAT'S THAT WHAT'S THAT WHAT'S THAAAAAAAT!

...you brought them both together to Germany? Heh, that would make me all sorts of happy. Echizen and Tezuka eating sausages. Sausages. Together. Like. Together. Eeeeh *__*

Ah well, I guess we'll see tomorrow =D

Oh, come on. We've already seen several Nanjiroh/Nanako and Ryoma/Nanako around. I know I've talked at least once about Rinko/Nanako. Ryoga/Nanako is the only combo still left to see... and, curiously enough, the only one I deem possible. I'd actually like to read some serious fic focusing on that pairing.
sinnatious
Apr. 9th, 2008 07:57 am (UTC)
Ryoma/Nanako?! I have seen no such thing! :O

You bring up a point about Ryoga/Nanko, however. *is thoughtful*

She already managed to acquire a really scary inverse Fuji shirt. *shudders* http://yusahana6323.livejournal.com/3936.html#cutid1
faire_estela
Apr. 9th, 2008 12:48 pm (UTC)
Hmmm. I seem to remember about reading it on ff.net - there were one or two MarySue!Nanako fics a couple of years ago, when I entered the fandom. One of those was rather long, I think.

Come on! It would work. Besides, I don't think they're related by blood.

...=DDDDDDDDD OK. TELL ME IF/WHEN SHE MANAGES TO GET IT, PLEASE? I'm planning the most amazing Pillar t-shirt ever. =D
argentum_luna
Apr. 9th, 2008 08:32 am (UTC)
Ahhhh Buchou cuddling ♥!!

(I can't quite imagine Tezuka yawning-- so cute!)

I kinda hope Karupin moves in, and they can all snuggle happily together >_<

I rather like your Kuniharu. XD
sinnatious
Apr. 9th, 2008 09:19 am (UTC)
Kuniharu is difficult to write, I'm glad you liked him. And that image is too adorable for words. *___*
iluxia
Apr. 9th, 2008 09:33 am (UTC)
*melteredage*
yusahana6323
Apr. 9th, 2008 01:47 pm (UTC)
Noooo ennnddddd :(

Oh, fine, end it. But it will be a good ending, so my whining will be put to rest. Probably.

Ryomapillow will be coming up soon... then I just need to get a blanket for Tezuka-screenprinting. To the new ruler of the developed world... W*lmart! XP
sinnatious
Apr. 10th, 2008 06:01 am (UTC)
*_____* If you manage to pull of a Ryoma blanket and a Tezuka pillow, you DO realize that you would rule the fandom FOREVER?

I hope you like the ending. I was a bit meh over it, personally. But it makes you think? (I hope?)
yusahana6323
Apr. 11th, 2008 01:21 pm (UTC)
I thought it was a Ryoma pillow and a Tezuka blanket? XP oh, I would rule ne? Hmmm... good. *rubs hands and begins to plot evil*
sinnatious
Apr. 11th, 2008 01:27 pm (UTC)
Um, yes, you're right, it was. THE THOUGHT OF IT MADE ME SO DELIRIOUSLY HAPPY I TURNED TEMPORARILY DYSLEXIC?
yusahana6323
Apr. 11th, 2008 09:45 pm (UTC)
I THINK THE THOUGHT OF THOSE TWO CAN MAKE ANYONE DELIRIOUSLY HAPPY/DYSLEXIC :D:

If I have some free time, I might actually get those done tomorrow... but that's a pretty big "if". :|
pat_ace87
Apr. 9th, 2008 02:59 pm (UTC)
**shifty eyes** me suspicious about Nenjiroh "loosing" to Nanako and given her money **shifty eyes** 8X........ Ryoga must have been really mad though, I can imagen ..... and...... I'm kinda starting to not like Rinko...I know you haven't mentioned her more then twice I think but that's really bugging me....not good mother at all ~_~........ The last part was too adorable, I loved it....and I can imagene Ryoma running back to Tezuka's room to sleep with him again when he's given his own room XXXXXXDDDDDD!!!!!!!!!!
Me still suspicious though **shifty eyes get bigger P__P** .........
sinnatious
Apr. 10th, 2008 06:05 am (UTC)
It's a bit of a cop-out on my part, but I didn't mention Rinko very much simply because we don't see her very much in the manga or anime. She's just not really there, even if you get the impression every now and again that she is. I tried to mimic that a little. But yes, perhaps it has made her a bit of a bad mother. :/ I hadn't intended to demonize her that badly, but oh well. Creative license?

You definitely know Ryoma would be sneaking into Tezuka's bed on the nights he can't sleep. ;)
todecide
Apr. 9th, 2008 03:32 pm (UTC)
that was so sweet ;D i want a kunimitsu karupin too 8D

i'm a little sad the fic's ending though, but it's great! ^_^
m3owchan
Apr. 9th, 2008 09:24 pm (UTC)
Aww~ So cute!
mimineko_chan
Apr. 10th, 2008 12:02 am (UTC)
Dear Sin-chan, still one more chapter, ne?
I liked this chapter, through I must admit that I still have a lot of questions concerning the Echizen household, and especially Nanjiroh. In the last chapter, Ryoma had his own opinion about why his father did not do the sames things as he did to Ryoga, but what was the truth behind it? Through it's very difficult to get into Nanjiroh's head and his head is filled with dirty thoughts and naked women and to know what really is important: tennis or his sons? And what about Rinko in all of this?

About Tezuka's family... aren't they too, uhm, well, loose? I mean I know that they trust their son and they like Ryoma, but shouldn't they at least be a bit more nosy?

Ok, the part about Ryoma and Tezuka in bed and the mentions of Karupin = *SQUEAL*
Now it remind me of your first fic where Ryoma and Tezuka had to share a bed (thank you Oishi). They are just the sweetest couple.

- Mimikitty

PS: Exactly how many laps the regulars, and the others, had to run for spilling Ryoma's secret?
sinnatious
Apr. 10th, 2008 06:12 am (UTC)
Last chapter is the Nanjiroh chapter. I figured I'd save the answers about him until last.

All your points are valid, but I didn't want to fall into the trap of characters acting a particular way just because we wanted them to act that way. i.e. Tezuka's parents being nosy, or Rinko being a good mother. I do enough of that sort of thing already. :) The ending will not satisfy you, but then, it's not really supposed to.

P.S. Pick a number. A large number. ;)
roseofthine
Apr. 10th, 2008 04:25 am (UTC)
They were going to - “What?”
...8DDD

...also, hello, Karupin!Tezuka. xD Aren't you a bit, um, big, and, um, bony today? 8DD

Thanks so much, Kun-kun. -amused-

And ohhh, Ryouga. ;~~~~~~~~;
jade_peace
Apr. 10th, 2008 10:04 pm (UTC)
Tezuka as Karupin ASDFGHJKL;

♥♥♥

I LOVE YOU SO MUCH.
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )

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