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By Sinnatious
Summary: When Ryoma finds himself in a tough situation, his pride might keep him swimming, but it’s Tezuka who keeps his head above water.
Rating: PG-13
Author’s Note: I picked up the Prince of Tennis artbook in my weekly bout of financial irresponsibility today, and it came with Ryoma’s cap! Complete with the ‘R’ instead of the ‘F’ for Fila. I’m wearing it right now. This has nothing to do with this chapter, it's just awesome and I wanted to tell somebody.
The Dispossession of Echizen Ryoma
Chapter 5
When Monday rolled around, the weather took a turn for the worse with foreboding clouds gathering overhead during classes. Ryoma spent the entire day anxiously watching the sky, worrying about what would happen to all of his clothes if it rained. Even if his duffel bag was rather effectively hidden in the bushes at the park, that sort of cover would hardly keep his few possessions dry.   At the very least, his books would be ruined. He was only distracted from his worries by tennis practice and his rumbling stomach - with his funds already starting to run low, he’d decided to forgo buying breakfast and dinner on weekdays, and instead relied on mooching burgers off Momoshiro and hoping that Ryuuzaki or Tomoka would offer him a bento. Admittedly, he didn’t feel comfortable accepting the girls’ offers of lunch, worried that they might get the wrong idea – Tachibana’s little sister had pulled him aside and given him a lecture on it the last time he’d been dragged along on one of her and Momoshiro’s ‘not-a-date’s – but desperate times called for desperate measures. 
Fortunately, the sky cleared up partway through afternoon practice, leaving only a cool breeze. Ryoma allowed himself to relax as he prodded his senpai into shouting him burgers again, and made a mental note to find some plastic bags to wrap around his bag later, so that when it did inevitably rain, his belongings would stand a chance against the elements. It was a big enough risk just hiding them in a park like that; he didn’t think he had enough luck left to take a chance with the weather as well.
“Oi, want a ride home?” Momoshiro asked as they left the burger place. 
“No thanks, Momo-senpai, I’ve got to go meet someone.”
“Heh! No wonder you ate like a starving person! You were in a rush to your date, am I right?” the junior jibed.
“Nothing so interesting. I have to pick something up from one of my mother’s colleagues.” He wished his voice wouldn’t hitch on his lie. Fortunately, Momoshiro wasn’t that observant.
“That IS boring. Sucks to be you. You’ve been running a lot of errands lately, though. Are you sure you’re not just avoiding me?” It was asked in a joking tone - Ryoma knew his companion didn’t mean anything by it - but his answer was careful all the same.
“Hm? I guess that’s true. Well, you’ll just have to manage, senpai,” he replied, tugging his cap down over his eyes as he walked away. 
“Oi, Echizen!” Momoshiro took mock offence, then laughed. “See you tomorrow!”
“See you,” Ryoma replied dully, walking away. The wind picked up, and he had to suppress the urge to rub his arms against the sudden chill. Changing direction once he was sure his senpai was out of sight, he started making his way to street courts. Some tennis would warm him up straight away. 
The street courts were oddly deserted so he stayed until well after dark, practicing his serves and running himself through a wide range of solitary drills. It was a pain having to go fetch the balls himself after he was done, but that was good exercise too. His stamina had to increase so that the next time the captain assigned everyone two hundred laps he’d be able to do it with ease. 
Remembering that he still had to do his homework, he headed back to the park and struggled to do it under the moonlight. Fortunately there wasn’t a lot; he’d managed to do most of it in English class. 
As had become custom in the evenings, Ryoma sought out a public toilet a couple of blocks away to visit the bathroom, brush his teeth and get changed out of his sweaty clothes. Usually he just got dressed in another set of street clothes, not comfortable with the idea of sleeping in his pyjamas out in the open. After that, it was back to his little hideaway behind the bushes to at least try to get a decent night’s sleep.
Three hours later found the small freshman shivering and digging through his duffel bag for another shirt. The cool breeze from earlier that day turned out to be an omen as the temperature dropped rather drastically the more the night wore on. Working his fingers to keep them warm, he huddled into a ball with his knees drawn up to his chin and hands tucked under his armpits, wishing desperately for gloves and warmer pants. 

When he'd packed his bags just prior to being thrown out, Ryoma hadn't bothered packing any heavy clothes. At the time he hadn’t known that he was going to be on the streets within the hour, and only packed as though he was going to a friend's house. The warmest clothes currently in his possession were a long sleeved shirt and a thin jacket - early Autumn wear. Both of those were being worn at the moment, along with his regulars' jersey, but still the cold wind cut through. He didn't have a scarf, either.
It was dark and even quieter than normal in the park, the cold having chased away the last of the crickets. The leaves rustled mockingly in the wind; the shrubs were no protection from it. Despite the cold, Ryoma eventually managed to drift off to sleep, curled up with his duffel bag at his back – some shielding from the wind being better than none - and his head resting on the ground.
When he woke in the morning he was shaking, limbs stiff from the cold.  The warming kiss of sunlight on his skin was a welcome relief several minutes later, but Ryoma still wasted no time in heading for the tennis clubhouse, eager to make use of the hot showers. He arrived at the gates a good twenty minutes before they were due to open. It was hard to wait and resist the urge to just vault over the wall and be done with it. 

When Ryoma finally made it to the clubhouse, he headed straight for the showers.  The water was freezing when he first turned it on, but as the hot water worked through the cold pipes blissful relief came at last.  The warm water chased away the chill from his body, his feet and fingers stinging for a minute as they adjusted to the temperature change.  He stayed in longer than usual, partly to rid his body of the old sock sort of feeling that came with sleeping on the ground, and partly because he didn't want to confront the cold again.  Unfortunately, he had to stop before Oishi arrived at practice and wondered what he was doing using the showers before playing. 
The bite of cold air as he redressed was sharp and unforgiving.  Times like this were when he most missed his warm bed with heavy blankets and Karupin curled up against his side.  This was exactly the type of morning that would normally have him sleeping in until the absolute last minute and then having to run laps for being late to practice.  Still, the shower had helped somewhat; waking him up a little and loosening muscles that were sore from spending the night curled up in such an awkward position.  He'd have to do extra stretches to make sure he didn't pull anything. 

Ryoma sneezed as Oishi came through the door. "Excuse me," he mumbled. 

The vice-captain just greeted him with a cheery smile.  "It sure is cold this morning, huh?"

"Hn."  Ryoma set about pulling the nets out of storage.  Over the past week he’d discovered that Oishi was entirely too much of a morning person to be considered completely sane.

"I'm surprised that you're still early!  I think almost everyone will sleep in a little late today.  Even knowing that it'll warm up pretty fast, it was hard leaving the bed this morning, huh?"

The freshman didn't respond, barely stifling another sneeze.  He rubbed at his chest, irritated at how tight it felt. 
"Echizen, do you have a cold?" Oishi asked worriedly. "Do you want to go the nurse's office?"

"It's fine, senpai. Just reacting to the cold morning."
The senior didn’t look convinced, but thankfully didn’t press the issue. 
Morning practice passed in the usual blur of dull drills and stretches. There wasn’t going to be another ranking match until Spring, so that meant they were all stuck working on refining their control and improving their stamina instead of actually playing tennis. Even though Tezuka kept telling the rest of the regulars they had to improve the juniors so that the team wasn’t left in the lurch once the seniors graduated, it was still boring. 
Practice ended, but the day dragged on and on. Ryoma was thankful he had a double lesson of English; it meant more time for sleeping.  The thought of lunch made him nauseous - even though he’d been hungry that morning - so he headed up onto the roof to work on his homework under the warm sun instead of hanging around the girls or grabbing scraps from Momoshiro.  Half way through his maths problems, his eyelids grew heavy and he fell asleep.

A hand shook him awake a little later.  Blinking blearily, Ryoma was greeted by the sight of a concerned-looking Oishi.  He sat up too fast in his surprise, and felt as though the world was spinning briefly. He was forced to put out a hand to steady himself. Hopefully the vice-captain wouldn’t notice and start worrying. 

"Oh, sorry, Echizen, I didn't mean to startle you," Oishi apologised. "I was looking for Eiji when I saw you out here. Lunch is going to be over in a few minutes, and I didn't want you to be late to class."

"Oh, thanks Oishi-senpai," he said with a yawn, then massaged his throat.  It felt a little scratchy.

The senior waved it off, instead observing, "You've been early to practice yet you're sleeping on the roof at lunch?"

"Been tired all day for some reason.  Must be the weather," Ryoma replied offhandedly, stretching and then stifling another sneeze.  He paused when he saw Oishi giving him 'that look', which generally meant that you were either about to get lectured on something or the vice-captain was about to start asking questions in a gentle, concerned voice.  It was time to stage an escape.

"Thanks again for waking me up.  I have to go to class."  Ryoma quickly gathered his half-finished homework and hurried from the roof.  He'd probably have to avoid the senior in afternoon practice as well if he wanted to avoid a lecture or an interrogation.  It would probably turn into some sort of spiel about making sure he got enough sleep.
His head started to ache through his afternoon classes, but he persevered through them. By afternoon practice his throat was starting to feel sore, reflecting itself in a slight hoarseness in his voice whenever he spoke. Even if he was tired, though, he had the opportunity to play Momoshiro – Tezuka had obviously taken pity on the bored regulars and assigned everyone to matches – and won in straight sets. The memory of his match with Ryoga was burned in his memory, and he would allow no weakness or lack of concentration from himself any longer, no matter the circumstances. He should have been able to win that match with his brother, and it was irritating that he hadn’t. 
“Ah, ‘mada mada dane’, right?” Momoshiro laughed as they finished the match. “I didn’t even get one game! I must be slipping.”
“Heh, or Ochibi’s become stronger!” Kikumaru interjected, barrelling into their conversation, high from his match against Fuji. He’d lost, of course, but the hyperactive senior was obviously pleased at being allowed to go all out with his acrobatic play.
“He held back, too,” the power player complained good-naturedly as Oishi joined them. “Didn’t even use a Cyclone Smash or Drive B.” 
“You have improved, haven’t you Echizen?” Oishi commented with a smile. “You must be doing extra practice. Just be sure not to overdo it.”
Ryoma had been doing a lot of extra practice in the evenings at the street courts, but that was mostly due to a lack of anything else to do. Still, he could recognise the impending lecture from the vice-captain, and sought to change the subject. 
“Heh, since you lost, does that mean you’re paying for burgers, Momo-senpai?” Frustratingly, his voice came out somewhat gravelled, and he caught Oishi giving him that discerning look again. 
“Sorry Echizen, I’ve got to head straight home and watch my sisters today,” the junior apologised, then grabbed him in a headlock and mussed his hair. “My wallet gets a break this time! You can’t sponge off your senpai all the time, you know! Who would have thought that you’d become such a cheapskate?”
“Che. Kikumaru-senpai?” he tried.
“Hoi hoi, I don’t have any money to feed you with today, Ochibi!” the red-head proclaimed, pointing at his shoes. “Just bought new sneakers!”
“Eiji! Didn’t you just buy new shoes three weeks ago? You can’t have worn them out already!” Oishi exclaimed.
“But these are the red ones! They look much cooler, and they’re lighter, too!”
Sighing, Ryoma headed for the clubhouse. “I’ll see you all tomorrow, then.”
“See you Echizen!” Momoshiro called out. 
Walking past Tezuka on his way to the exit, he caught another sneeze. The bespectacled captain’s sharp hearing picked it out anyway. “Gesundheit.”
“Thanks.” Figures that Tezuka would say that instead of ‘bless you’ like everyone else. 


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 14th, 2008 02:21 pm (UTC)
NNNOOOO, why are you draggin it out, why are you making him suffer like this ;_;.......... It's KILLING ME ;_;!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! PLEASE tell me that he'll get a place to stay in the next chapter....PLEASE ;_;!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Mar. 15th, 2008 04:54 am (UTC)
:O But that would be spoilering!

...Yeah, it does sort of get dragged out, sorry. A bad habit. I can't resist. :P
Mar. 15th, 2008 04:44 pm (UTC)
spoiler away XD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It's nerve wracking, but it's ok at the same time....it keeps me coming back every chapter XD!!!!!!!!!
Mar. 14th, 2008 06:27 pm (UTC)

I can actually picture Tezuka saying that!

As usual, can't wait for the next chapter!
Mar. 15th, 2008 12:29 am (UTC)
ROFL Is it coincidence that I was just looking at that word in the dictionary moments ago? Gesundheit, that is. ROFL. Tezuka, joo arr so adorkable.

Edited at 2008-03-15 12:29 am (UTC)
Mar. 15th, 2008 04:52 am (UTC)
'adorkable' may very well be my new favourite word. *____*

There ARE no coincidences. There is only hitsuzen. :|
Mar. 15th, 2008 06:56 am (UTC)
Adorkableness is Tezuka. His adorkability surpasses all imagination.

:| Hai, Yuuko-sama.
Mar. 15th, 2008 05:03 am (UTC)
Much...lighter. -laughing-

Ohhh, poor Ryouma and his not getting to eat. <3

...I hope he gets a job or something. ;3;
Apr. 6th, 2008 03:11 am (UTC)
Why did I find this chapter so short? Oh, a final sentence with Tezuka... But come on... I need more... *sniff*

Oh well, on to the next chapter.

No dabble for this one Sin, sorry, but there is really not much I can write!

And reading this must be pretty boring for you, ne? Gomen, but I just had to comment.

- Mimi
Apr. 6th, 2008 04:59 am (UTC)
Not at all, thank you for the comments! <3
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )