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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: In which Seigaku’s suspicions reach fever pitch.
In other news, argentum_luna  has been hard at work making more magic! Go feast your eyes on this. It will melt you into a puddle of goo. 
Previous chapters are here. Usual thanks to ka0richanfor the beta! Also, I'm not sure whether I'll get the chance to update tomorrow or not.  Just letting you know in case.  Conventions to attend!  I will take many pictures.
The Dispossession of Echizen Ryoma
Chapter 22
Ryoma felt rather awkward attending the funeral of a man he’d never met, but both Tezuka and his parents had insisted that he attend, as he was ‘a member of the household’. He didn’t want to be rude and disagree, but it was still baffling. As the captain had asked, he would do it without complaint, but honestly, he’d hardly interacted with the senior’s parents at all, and it was a little weird that they insisted on including him.
Still, given that he and the captain were the only people there under 40, maybe it wasn’t so surprising. Tezuka politely took in the various condolences with good grace, but when he’d given the freshman an opportunity to leave, his eyes had been begging him to stay. With a sigh, adjusting uncomfortable borrowed dress clothes that didn’t fit him, Ryoma remained. The senior had given him a roof over his head, kept his secrets, provided a shoulder to cry on, and looked out for him time and time again. Maybe he wouldn’t do as good a job, but he could at least provide silent support now. Even if doing so was painfully boring.
The funeral took up most of Sunday, but by Monday morning things seemed eerily normal once again. Breakfast was a somewhat sombre affair, but heading to school, Tezuka almost seemed like he was back to his usual self. Ryoma didn’t mind either way – it was sort of reassuring to see the stoic senior actually showing some emotions, even if only in private. Actually, it made the freshman feel pretty good to think that Tezuka trusted him enough to expose his own weaknesses like that. But seeing his senpai act normal assured him that he had helped, even if it was only just a little.
For once, Ryoma had been able to support his friend, instead of it being the other way around. Friend. They’d already been friends, probably for quite a while, but having it all official like that… It felt a little surreal to him. It kept him going through those miserable two nights spent shivering in the clubhouse after the captain had, for all intensive purposes, disappeared. But he’d known that there had to have been a good reason. Tezuka was a person of his word, after all. He’d called him by his first name in front of all the other seniors. It was a big deal, even if Tezuka brushed it off – Inui had already stipulated how rare it was. As rare as never.
Yes, he was inordinately pleased about that, though a little annoyed at how the captain continually wore himself down for his sake in the name of friendship. Hopefully he wouldn’t do it anymore. Ryoma wasn’t so proud as not to admit that his emotions had been a little raw lately, but he wasn’t made of glass. Tezuka didn’t need to coddle him so much. It was probably another bad habit picked up from the vice-captain.
They arrived at school early, but wound up sitting under the trees near the courts and talking about mundane matters to kill time, both having forgotten that morning practices were no longer occurring. It was irritating. As much as the extra sleep in the morning would be cherished, afternoon practice never felt like enough. Fortunately, Tezuka had already expressed a willingness to play extra tennis with him on Sundays and at least a couple of afternoons of the week. He’d take the senior up on it that afternoon. Tennis would cheer his senpai up. It always worked for him. 
Ryoma nodded to himself as he broke away from the senior to head to his own class. Yeah. They should play as much tennis as they could before it became too cold to, anyway. It would be good distraction for Tezuka, and if in the meantime it helped him get stronger so that he could completely thrash his old man and brother, then so much the better.
Afternoon practice that day featured random match ups – Coach Ryuuzaki had obviously decided to reward them for spending the past couple of weeks doing nothing but tedious drills. All of the Regulars naturally obliterated their opponents in record time – they were unlucky enough to miss any match ups with each other – and so scattered around the courts to watch the other matches play out. Naturally Ryoma quickly grew bored and wandered off to hang around Tezuka who was umpiring one of the matches. This prevented him from noticing the whispers and glances of his teammates two courts over.
“I mean… they can’t even talk while Tezuka is umpiring.”
“Fssshuu, maybe the brat is just waiting politely until the match is over to talk instead of interrupting.”
“We are talking about the same Echizen, right?”
“He’s just standing there,” Kawamura reported, craning his neck to get a better look. “Why?”
“On Tezuka?”
“Hmm, right. I don’t think even Echizen would dare.”
"There's definitely something going on between those two," Fuji observed as he joined the circle of gossipers, making the set complete. 
"Nya! That's what we were just saying! Ochibi's been acting strange for ages, but
Buchou keeps covering for him!" Kikumaru whispered conspiratorially.
"They've been travelling to and from school together," Oishi added. "It’s weird; Echizen doesn't really live that close to Tezuka."
Momoshiro crossed his arms at that, failing to hide his irritation at being left as a second fiddle. None of the other regulars bothered to call him on it.
“There’s the matter of first-names to consider, too,” Fuji remarked. 
“If they were in the same class, it would be no big deal, but the fact that this is Tezuka… it did strike me as a little unusual,” Oishi confessed.
“Hoi, you don’t think that they’re… you know,” Kikumaru asked in a hushed tone.
“Eiji!” The vice-captain exclaimed, scandalised by the suggestion.
“You were all thinking it!”
“Unlikely. The current probability is less than eight percent.”
“They’ve been sharing lunch! Am I the only one who noticed?!” the acrobat exclaimed.
“Echizen’s always stealing lunch from other people. Tezuka-buchou probably just lets him do it,” Momoshiro pointed out.
“But what about everything else?!”
"Maybe they've been doing extra training together," Kaidoh pointed out pragmatically.
They all paused at that and considered the possibility. It did make sense, as Fuji never really played Tezuka seriously and thus Echizen was the only other person on the team that really pushed their captain to his limits. And it wasn't hard to believe that Echizen would go out of his way to accommodate extra practicing, even so far as getting up early in the morning to meet with the captain.
"While that is a reasonable explanation," Inui finally stated, breaking the contemplative silence, "It fails to accommodate a great number of other unusual patterns that I have been tracking. Echizen’s erratic behaviour in classes, for one."
"He's been a little more... well, clingy, lately too," Momoshiro muttered, scratching his head.
"Eh? Ochibi? Clingy?"
"I can't picture Echizen being clingy with anyone," Kawamura protested.
"Well, clingy isn't quite the right word..."
The other regulars were deep in thought. Fuji stared at the ground, murmuring, "Now that you mention it, Echizen's been hanging around a lot more than usual. Even after ruling out how he's practically been attached to Tezuka lately, he used to wander off on his own a lot more. Especially at lunch and on weekends."
"True. I didn't think much of it at the time, but Echizen has even been willing to share other player's data with me lately - something he has never done before," Inui confirmed, searching through his notebook. "He's also had an approximately twenty second increase on his average time to start complaining when Kikumaru is choking him."
"I do not choke Ochibi!"
"Come to think of it, one of my neighbours' kids was saying something about someone named Echizen being the junior coach at their weekend class," Momoshiro piped up suddenly. "I'd completely forgotten to ask him about it, because it didn't seem like the sort of thing he'd do."
"Fsssshhhhhhh, I can't see the brat being terribly willing to coach a bunch of kids in his spare time," Kaidoh hissed.
"That lady has been dropping by after practice to visit Echizen fairly regularly," Kawamura noted thoughtfully.
"Ah! Ochibi has a girlfriend?! And she’s an older woman?!" Kikumaru exclaimed in disbelief.
"Negative. That woman is Echizen Nanako."
"Oh, so that makes her-?"
"Echizen's cousin. She lives with him and his parents. She attends classes at the nearby university."
"Remarkable as always, Inui," Oishi commented. "Although it makes me wonder why she would be dropping by after practice. You would think that Echizen would just see her when he gets home."
"Although it is sort of like Echizen is avoiding spending any time at home," Fuji mused.
That set the vice-captain worrying almost immediately. "Do you think he might have some family problems?"
Inui paused in his data scribbling and adjusted his glasses. "It's possible. It could be an explanation for why his cousin is coming to see him after practice. Sometimes if a situation is strained in the home, the neutral parties try to communicate outside of it."
"If that's the case, are you sure it's our place to intrude on Echizen's private business?"
Kawamura asked, looking concerned.
Inui seemed to be growing frustrated. "There are too many possibilities. I still do not have enough data."
"Saaa... then why don't we gather some?" Fuji suggested.
"You mean... follow him?" Kikumaru asked in an excited whisper. "Inui hasn't tried that already?"
"I tend to avoid tailing Echizen," he admitted after the team sent curious glances his way. "He has remarkably sharp hearing and eyesight. Then again..." His glasses glinted in the sunlight as he paused. "...Echizen has been quite distracted lately. His concentration on the court has been superb, but he's been caught not paying attention in classes other than just English multiple times of late. If we followed from a distance, even as a group it shouldn't be too hard."
"I don't like the idea of taking advantage of our team mate's upset state of mind like that," Oishi remarked disapprovingly.
"Relax, Oishi, this is for Echizen's own good," Fuji consoled the vice-captain with that ever-present smile on his face.
“But what about Tezuka? He’s bound to still be upset about his grandfather…”
“It’s not Tezuka we’ll be following.”
“We might as well be,” Momoshiro complained. He was obviously still a little sore at the notion that he might have been usurped as the freshman’s best friend.
“What they don’t know won’t hurt them,” Kikumaru interjected enthusiastically, clearly warming to the idea. 
“It would be best if we were to keep Horio and the others out of this, I think,” Fuji advised as the freshmen trio started to head towards them. “If it turns out to be a sensitive issue…”
The others nodded their agreement. Even if they meant well, the trio were even worse at keeping secrets than their resident acrobat, and that was saying something. Not to mention that Horio had the sensitivity of the brick.
The three first-years stopped in their tracks, suddenly unsure of whether it was wise to continue when all of their senpai were suddenly wearing wide, obviously fake smiles and staring at them. “Maybe we should go watch Arai’s match,” Kachirou suggested feebly. The other two nodded their agreement and hurried away.
The Seigaku Regulars did always love a good mystery. If it involved spying on their team mates, so much the better.


( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 4th, 2008 05:23 am (UTC)

(posting from work? o3o)
Apr. 4th, 2008 05:32 am (UTC)
Eee, Ryouma's so cute thinking about friends. x3

Also, I love their scheming. *_______* I hope they find out~ <3

And ahaha HORIO CAMEO I LOVE YOU. <333

(isn't her last name meino? x.x)

Apr. 4th, 2008 02:20 pm (UTC)
Is it? I thought Nanako would come from Nanjiroh's side of the family, seeing as Rinko was living in America when Nanjiroh met her? Hmmm.

Ha ha ha *looks sneaky*.
Apr. 4th, 2008 05:27 am (UTC)
ohohooh, the regulars are getting closer...love it!!!
Apr. 4th, 2008 06:51 am (UTC)

“Hoi, you don’t think that they’re… you know,” Kikumaru asked in a hushed tone.

“Eiji!” The vice-captain exclaimed, scandalised by the suggestion.

“You were all thinking it!”

Apr. 4th, 2008 07:58 am (UTC)
Yay. I'm happy to see this chapter posted just after reading the other 21 chapters. :) Although it does make me feel very scared for Echizen's sake.
Apr. 4th, 2008 10:47 am (UTC)
LOL. Eiji. XD

And Oishi, why are you so scandalised?! XD

Eagerly awaiting the next chapter.
Apr. 5th, 2008 11:05 am (UTC)
Perhaps Oishi has the dirtiest mind of them all, and leapt several steps ahead of the rest of the Regulars? *raises eyebrow*.

*laughs* That was my favourite part, I'm glad it went down well.
Apr. 4th, 2008 12:26 pm (UTC)
Take lots of pictures and have fun XXXXDDDDDDDDD!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And finally Regulars Attack XXXXXXXXXXDDDDDDDDD!!!!!!!!! The mistery will soon come to light 83!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I hope you can post tomorrow though :3!!!!!!
Apr. 5th, 2008 11:03 am (UTC)
I took HEAPS of pictures. It was rather fun, thanks. Tired now, though. Way too long on the feet. Why do I get up early to stand in line?

You're in luck! Managed to post a new chapter today. Right, let's see if we can keep the daily streak going right until the end!
Apr. 4th, 2008 01:19 pm (UTC)

Oh man, ROFL.


Have fun at the conventions! (I like pics.)
Apr. 4th, 2008 10:26 pm (UTC)
Oh dears. XD Sometimes I think the team gets too interested in others' affairs... not for lack of our amusement, though.

Have fun at your conventions! :D

And just because you people are bugging me for art, you can look here if you really want. Nothing specialized, not my best and still really sketchy, but for fifteen minutes, not bad. :P
Apr. 5th, 2008 12:37 am (UTC)
-flails- I'm not a "you people!" D<

(kidding, kidding. xD)

-dies all over their clothes and their hair and their expressions and god those eyebrows i love you i love you did i say i love you?-

Did I mention their clothes are amazing cute? <3
Apr. 5th, 2008 02:40 am (UTC)
I'm glad you like it, you people. XD

Goodness, I feel loved.
Apr. 5th, 2008 10:59 am (UTC)
Not bad for fifteen minutes at all! *___* Thank you for sharing!

It makes me ask - you draw that icon yourself by any chance? (It's just precious!)
Apr. 5th, 2008 02:16 pm (UTC)
This icon that I'm using here? Yep, I drew this one too.

Thanks much. :D
Apr. 8th, 2008 01:02 am (UTC)
HOHOHOHOHOHOHOHOHOHO! *Just imagine me with a camera from Card capter Sakura . Seigaku regulars on spying mode. It won't last long since Eiji is so loud and when Momo and Kaidoh are together, they are just as loud as well. Then Oishi will want to calm everyone and Kawamura will suddenly have a racquet in his hand. Basically, it's going to be chaos! XD I love Seigaku-Chaos! They are just a fun bunch. I bet you had fun writing them, right?

Inui should redo his calucaltions. Tezuka and Ryoma dating is only a 8% of probability? I would given at least a 70%. Come on, it's so obvious they are in love with each other. With a little push from Fuji, well, just let your imagination run wild.

I'm going to sleep now. My head still hurts really bad. But no worries, I'm at chapter 22 and I will be able to finish... I hope!

LOVE, Mimikitty
Apr. 8th, 2008 01:05 am (UTC)
Apr. 8th, 2008 07:00 am (UTC)
Those are the statistics in your dirty mind! Sure, they only have an 8% chance NOW... but we all know that percentage will skyrocket in a couple of years. XP

Seigaku chaos is ridiculously fun to write. I must try and engineer fics so that I can write more of them. :|

Thank you for all of the comments! I really hope your hurting head sorts itself out soon. Dragging illness is the worst.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )