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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: Thanks for your suggestions everyone! Links to previous chapters can now be found here. Tags, duh. (facepalms) I’ll post all the links again in the last chapter for convenience as well, but this reduces the clutter.
In unrelated news, everyone look at THIS INCREDIBLE PICTURE argentum_lunaposted to Chapter 16 comments! I am still slightly spazzy over it. Go, click it right now. Also be sure to click on the picture to see the big shiny version. Thank you so much for drawing it! *bubbles*
The Dispossession of Echizen Ryoma
Chapter 18
Dinner that night was an even more awkward affair than afternoon tea – for Ryoma, anyway. He found himself somewhat lost when they went downstairs and discovered the table already set and the food laid out. The Tezuka family ate mostly in silence, occasionally making light, impersonal dinner conversation, which was at least nicer than the usual interrogations the captain gave him over meal times. But the whole affair still didn’t sit quite right. He and Tezuka had settled into something of a routine over the past two weeks – he’d set the table while the captain organised the food, then he’d also do the dishes and clean up afterwards. The senior’s mother continually shooed him away, though. 
It stood to reason – he really was a guest and an outsider, after all. But Ryoma had grown sort of comfortable in the captain’s house over the past fortnight, even after continually telling himself not to get too used to it. The sudden sensation of being an intruder fell upon him again all at once, and so he was relieved when Tezuka ordered him upstairs to take a bath.
The senior, for his part, waited until he could hear the running water in the bathroom before heading back to the kitchen where his mother was wiping down the stovetop. He hovered awkwardly in the entranceway and cleared his throat. His mother had seen him, he knew, but was patiently waiting for him to gather his thoughts and speak his mind. “About Echizen… please let him help with the housework.”
She immediately ceased her cleaning and stared at him with an almost horrified expression. “Kunimitsu! Why would you suggest such a thing? He’s a guest!”
Tezuka shook his head. “That’s exactly why. Echizen is normally…” He spent a moment searching for a nicer word than ‘lazy’. “…less than enthusiastic about extra work, but in these circumstances it seems to make him feel better to contribute something to the household.”
She wrung out a dishcloth, a frown marring her face. Not for the first time, Tezuka found himself wondering why she always looked so tired lately. Hopefully she was not overworking herself. “With Echizen’s family, is it really-”
“He has a slightly complex family situation. It will not be easily resolved, but it is Echizen’s wish that it remains private so that he can continue attending Seigaku. I’m sorry I can’t give you more details. I promised to keep his confidence.”
“I’m just glad he has you to confide in, then,” she said softly. At his confused look, she smiled gently, beckoning him closer and tucking a stray strand of his hair back into place. “I already know that boy is no runaway. A mother can tell, you know. He was trying to hide it, but he watching us with such a sad face during dinner.”
Tezuka frowned. He had not been aware. Then again, the senior had been keeping more of eye on the freshman’s plate to make sure he ate properly – it hadn’t escaped his notice that his charge’s appetite hadn’t been as healthy the day before.
“You just look out for him. In fact, I think it will do you some good. It will be a good distraction for you during this difficult time, and I think you could both use the support. Now shoo – upstairs with you. Leave me to my work in peace,” she ordered with a smile.
Slightly befuddled, Tezuka retreated. His roommate, freshly bathed, had studiously immersed himself in a book in an out of the way corner of the room. The captain wondered if maybe he ought to discuss what his mother had thought was bothering the boy during dinner, but in the end awkwardness won out. He sat at his desk to get ahead on some assignments instead.
They went to bed that night without speaking.
The next morning, Tezuka tried to keep a closer eye on Echizen during breakfast, but couldn’t see any expression other than sleepiness. His father had greeted him with a tired smile and opened the newspaper, while his mother hovered over the two of them, making sure they were set for the day. The senior waved it off, finding the behaviour a little unusual, but after seeing Ryoma’s discomfiture at the mothering it made more sense. His mother was apparently trying to make up for the first-year’s current lack of family in her own quiet way, even if it was probably making Echizen more upset rather than less.
Attendance at club that morning was at a record low – it had been quite cold, and Tezuka recalled that a large chunk of seniors had high school entrance practice exams that day. Most of the students would likely just make use of the ladder system to move on to Seigaku’s high school – it was probably the best public school in the area – but those that wanted to try to get into the elite private schools or institutions closer to their homes would be studying rather intensely over the next two months. The regulars were still there, along with three other seniors, but the rest of the third-years were absent. 
The day only became more unusual. During recent lunchtimes, Echizen had been meeting him in the cafeteria, whereupon Tezuka would ensure that the freshman ate something, but there was no trace of the first-year that day. About halfway through the break the captain toyed with the idea of tracking the youth down to make sure nothing was wrong, but conceded that by the time he found the boy lunch was likely to over anyway. Fortunately, Ryoma seemed to be fine in practice that afternoon, setting growing concerns to rest.
Practice was called to a close relatively early. When everyone was changing in the locker rooms, Echizen approached him for the first time that day.
“Yes?” he asked, pulling his attention away from his shirt buttons.
“I’m going out for burgers with Momo-senpai today.”
It was surprising, but a relief. It had been quite some time since the freshman had last gone for burgers with his friend. Was Echizen finally going to return to a more normal pattern of behaviour? “Very well. Enjoy yourself. I’ll see you back at home.”
Ryoma just nodded and left the clubhouse. Tezuka took the opportunity to do some much-neglected student council work, then for the first time in a fortnight returned home alone.
Even though his mother was at home, the house felt incredibly empty. Apparently he had become used to having a shadow. Given how tired his parents looked that morning and the day before, Tezuka made a point of not bothering them, and instead retired to his room to focus on homework and assignments. Echizen turned up promptly as the sun was setting, blushed at Ayana greeting him home and asking about his day, and retreated to the captain’s bedroom to work on homework until dinnertime. 
Tezuka was relieved that his parents had taken to Ryoma so well. There had never been any doubt about their acceptance – they would never turn away someone who needed assistance. Neither of them were gossips either, so he knew they would respect the younger boy’s privacy and the delicacy of his situation. Tezuka also rarely asked favours of them, and thus was confident that they would grant him this one. Still, it had eased his lingering concerns when Echizen had apparently summoned some manners out of thin air, and his parents in turn took a liking to the younger boy – with his mother quietly fretting over him and his father apparently enjoying the prospect of someone actually smiling at his remarks. Yes, things seemed to be going well in that quarter.
It was a little odd when Echizen didn’t join him for lunch again the next day, though, and spent that afternoon out as well. And then repeated this pattern for the rest of the week. The return to a familiar routine should have been reassuring, but the abruptness of it left Tezuka feeling suddenly uneasy. 
Then on Friday, his mother met him at the door with another surprise announcement.
“You’re returning to Kyushu? But you’ve only been back for a couple of days.” There were suitcases gathered in the foyer. Apparently they were leaving soon. His gut began to clench with worry. “Is grandfather-”
“It’s just a minor complication,” his mother said soothingly. “But you know how your father is…”
“Wasn’t the operation supposed to be low-risk?” he asked, distress growing.
“Well, yes, but your grandfather is getting rather old… we’ll be in contact. I’ve re-stocked the fridge, and left some money on your desk. Call us if you need anything. Take good care of Echizen while we’re away, okay?” She bustled around the foyer, checking last minute things, while her son stood awkwardly off to the side. 
Really, telling him to take care of Echizen was ridiculous, as he’d been doing that for a fortnight already without their help. “You’re leaving today?”
“As soon as your father gets home, yes. Hand me my bag, will you?”
Passing over the handbag wordlessly, Tezuka tried to ignore the growing dread and sensation of wrongness. 
Echizen returned to the empty house later that evening, surprised at the sudden turn of events. Wide eyes remained fixed on his face as he relayed the change of circumstances, before averting away as the freshman stuck his hands in his pockets.
“…Is your grandfather going to be okay?”
Tezuka swallowed, and turned his attention to serving out the dinner his mother had left in the oven for them. “They said it was only a minor complication.”
“…Are you worried?”
The hand serving out the rice paused briefly, then resumed ladling. “A little.” If he expected Ryoma to be honest with him, it was necessary to respond in kind.
“Hn… you’re close to your grandfather.” It was made as a statement, as though the freshman was recalling a past conversation. 
“What’s he like?”
When asked that question, one could never produce a proper answer. “He’s very traditional and… disciplined. He’s the judo instructor at the local police department. Until he had to take time off for this, at least.”
“Hm. Sounds like an impressive person.”
They didn’t talk for the rest of dinner.
Echizen was scarce again for most of the next day, which drove Tezuka slightly stir-crazy, as the youth was a rather effective distraction from his increasing worry – or at least an effective means of displacing it. His parents called during the day, but were rather vague when he asked details, and when he had wanted to speak to his grandfather, was informed that he was sleeping. It would have eased his concerns considerably to actually exchange even a few words, but as it currently stood he’d only spoken to his grandfather once since the operation, and it was starting to bother him. 
When Echizen spent Sunday out at some undisclosed location for most of the day that bothered him too. In the end, he chose to worry about Echizen first, because he could actually do something about that.


( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 31st, 2008 11:25 am (UTC)
Mar. 31st, 2008 11:30 am (UTC)
That's a lie, Echizen. You're so not going for burgers with Momo-sempai. So. What are you doing, you stupid little kid. Buchou wants you by his side.

Ah, I see! You're trying the old 'I'll be difficult and he shall desire me more!' trick! =D=D

Ignoring that little piece of idiocy of mine, I'm sort of concerned by Echizen. Does he want to stop intruding on Tezuka's family, or is he looking for some other arrangements for himself? Argh. Want more.
Mar. 31st, 2008 11:36 am (UTC)
:( Next chapter is longer to make up for it. You'll probably like the next chapter. I like the next chapter. It doesn't have as much skin as Chapter 16, but it's still one of my favourites. :P

No, Ryoma, playing hard to get with Buchou will backfire horribly! He's much too thick for that to work! :O

Mar. 31st, 2008 11:41 am (UTC)
I guess Tezuka learns about Echizen's doings in the next chapter and comfronts him about them? No, don't tell me, it's just a guess. Or, rather, a hope. And then they have steamy sex. Covered by, uh, a blanket or something. Because you said it doesn't have much skin. =D=D=D=D

Mar. 31st, 2008 11:52 am (UTC)
XD Ryoma really did go for burgers with Momo. This fic was only rated PG-13! Even under-blanket sex would break that. On second thought, the next chapter is probably going to horribly disappoint you. :|:|:| Confrontation yes, but... *suddenly wants to rewrite chapter as per your vision. Must... resist....*

Mar. 31st, 2008 11:59 am (UTC)
I hope you love my typos because you get lots T_T
What, every day? And for so long? Did someone die and leave Momo a fortune? Was Ahobe that someone? =D=D

Oh, you know it won't <3~ Even if there isn't steamy sex, which is a pity. (And I just had the vision of Echizen and Tezuka literally having steamy sex and of Echizen's -left- hand hitting the window and leaving a wet trail down à la Titanic, and, uh. Yeah. Right. PG-13, you say? ^^')

Mar. 31st, 2008 12:32 pm (UTC)
Re: I hope you love my typos because you get lots T_T
*hugs typos* And then of course that begs all sorts of questions as to exactly what sort of relationship Atobe and Momo had. :D

Oh god, crackiest pairing yet.

dasfljkasflkk That mental image. *___*

Mar. 31st, 2008 01:29 pm (UTC)
Re: I hope you love my typos because you get lots T_T
Oh, please. I've seen doujinshi of that. I have doujinshi of that, actually.

Which one? The Steamy one or the Princess one? I favour Princess Mitsu-chan, myself. With long legs and a frilly dress and a sparkly crown... and a deep, manly voice. Oh, Tezuka. <3~
Mar. 31st, 2008 01:41 pm (UTC)
Re: I hope you love my typos because you get lots T_T
Pictures or it didn't happen! XP I believe it, though. Crazy doujinshi. And here I found Ryoma and girl!Tezuka disturbing.

*dies laughing.*
Apr. 1st, 2008 04:27 am (UTC)
Re: I hope you love my typos because you get lots T_T
Apr. 1st, 2008 01:18 pm (UTC)
Re: I hope you love my typos because you get lots T_T
I didn't think there would be a problem either. BUT I WAS WRONG. x___x Perhaps a better doujinshi artist will tackle it someday.
Apr. 1st, 2008 10:05 pm (UTC)
Re: I hope you love my typos because you get lots T_T

(what kind of hairstyle would girlbuchou have? *___________*)
Mar. 31st, 2008 11:42 am (UTC)
Arrgh sounds like there's something seriously wrong with Granpa Tezuka :( Ryoma! You're supposed to comfort/distract Buchou!
Mar. 31st, 2008 01:14 pm (UTC)
Mar. 31st, 2008 10:25 pm (UTC)

Ryoma, what are you doing?!

Apr. 1st, 2008 02:47 am (UTC)
Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.............. *insert (think) emote here* Ryoma-chan, itai doko itteruno? *rubs chin* I'm guessing he's either doing more part-time work for money, or it's something tennis-related (well, hey, what's NOT tennis-related in Echizen Ryoma's life anyway?), or it's got something to do with Ryoga/Nanjiroh/both. But it's hard to guess. I mean, I understand why Ryoma was suddenly offset by the arrival of Tezuka's parents, but I don't get how that connects with him suddenly disappearing on Tezuka. Unless, of course, it isn't connected at all (which I find is quite interesting, if it is the right answer).

*scratches head, pulls up Word* Thank you for firing up my fingers.

Edited at 2008-04-01 02:48 am (UTC)
Apr. 1st, 2008 12:30 pm (UTC)
Oh excellent, does this mean we can look forward to reading some more of your work? *___*

I'm afraid that the reasons everyone else cooked up were much more dramatic and exciting than what occurs in fic. Sorry to disappoint. :(

Unrelated, but I felt it necessary to tell you: That avatar is incredibly awesome.
Apr. 1st, 2008 10:47 pm (UTC)
Concerto 07 is almost done. I'll be starting on Windcity tonight after I eat and pig out at Barnes. XDDDDD

*patpat* You know readers' imaginations are wild things. Unbridled. It's fine. I look forward to Ryoma and Tezuka's dilemma.

The avatar? Oh, I snagged it from faire_estela. I think it's by robotsex.
Apr. 1st, 2008 04:28 am (UTC)
They went to bed that night without speaking.


also: Links to previous chapters can now he found here.

That's a b, I think. =)
Apr. 1st, 2008 01:16 pm (UTC)
Ah yes, thank you. Those letters are entirely too close together on the keyboard. Maybe I should get kaori to beta my author's notes as well. :P
Apr. 1st, 2008 10:53 pm (UTC)
Apr. 1st, 2008 04:37 am (UTC)
I shan't bother you too much because you don't know me well and I know I'm annoying, but...

*bows* Hail master! XP You are amazing.

Will keep up with this one, I will. :D
Apr. 1st, 2008 09:59 am (UTC)
You are not annoying at all! Feel free to bother me all you want. :P

Especially if it gets me called 'master'. *laughs* You are too kind.
Apr. 7th, 2008 05:42 pm (UTC)
Why do I have the feeling that Tezuka's parents left just to leave them alone? Or is my fever starting again and beginning to have dirty thought about them? But there is definetly something fishy going on around here. Why is Ryoma avoiding Tezuka now? Is he hiding something again? Is he having another job? Aaaack... too many questions... and not enough holes in this chapter to write a dabble. Actually, they are even dabbles as they are just way too short! I wish I could do a drawing... it's been awhile since I actually did take my pens to draw. And usually, I do oil painting. *sigh*

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Fsssshh! That baka Momoshiro! Why does he always act so stupid? And his dunk smash is weaker than my snakes. Fsssssssshhh! I have to train more; it seems that Tezuka buchou is giving us more laps. I have to be stronger especially since we have won the nationals. Next year, it will only be me, that baka Momoshiro and the brat. Speaking of the brat. What is up with him? He seems unhealthy these days. It seems that buchou is taking care of him, but he seems more small and skiny than when he came in the team. I don't admit it, but the brat is good and I like him. Fsssshh, Momoshiro will never hear me say that. I'm worried for the brat. He seemed hungry and when he tries to steal from that baka, I will help him. I will try to help him.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

*Goes and hide* I really don't know how to write Kaidoh! XP I think that I prefer writing Inui and his data.

- Mimikitty ♥
Apr. 8th, 2008 06:53 am (UTC)
Gosh, you know, I wouldn't even know where to begin writing in Kaidoh's POV. If Ryoma is hard, Kaidoh would be freaking impossible. (Though, it is a challenge... *is thoughtful*)

I know what you mean about the art thing. One of those hobbies that's nice, but tends to lose out. Oil painting is a whole other level though! But we don't need to draw now. :P We can try and con the lovely luna into doing it for us! ♥ Have you seen her pics yet? There's a couple hidden in the comments, or you can check out her lj for more.
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )