Archiving: just ask.
Date Written: July, 2005
Disclaimer: Not mine!
Notes: This ficlet was written because I really
needed to go somewhere Tezu/Ryo-ish after the Tezuka/Atobe match. That match is the crux of the whole series to me and I just break
every time at what it does to Ryoma. The one that was written for 30 kisses was written because I really had
to deal with this whole "Buchou" thing in my head, and what it meant for Ryoma and what it meant for Tezuka. It was like a broken record. So when I say that Tezuka is obsessed with how Ryoma says "Buchou," it's really me who's obsessed. I need to seek treatment. I know.
II. Tezu/Ryo, part one of an untitled fic.
May someday become 30_kisses-ish. 950 words.
In the middle of the match, in the middle of the court, what Tezuka can feel most besides his shoulder throbbing in agony is Echizen’s determination. He feels it as if it were his own. At the time, he takes it as something meant for him, directed at him—Echizen’s way of giving him strength.
Later, watching the way Echizen never looks at him, never glances away from Hyoshi during the tiebreak, Tezuka realizes he has gotten it backwards: his own determination in the match against Atobe, all his will and endurance, has been meant for Ryoma.
The selfish places within him, the parts that urged him to accept Ryuzaki-sensai’s offer to study overseas, that even now are bitter over the pain in his shoulder, argue that it shouldn’t be this way: he has given too much—he has always given too much, especially to Echizen Ryoma. But strangely Tezuka is too riveted to the look in Echizen’s eyes, to his stance right before he hits Tezuka’s zero-shiki, to feel embittered. All he has today he has given to Echizen. And Tezuka would not have it any other way.
When the matchpoint is called, Ryoma immediately turns to look at Tezuka. The sudden twisting of Tezuka’s stomach is more unnerving than the pain in his shoulder, and reminds him that his motives may not be entirely unselfish after all.
The celebration at Kawamura’s goes on at Tezuka’s insistence. The regulars are still in shock, relieved and glad for the win, but more than a little horrified at what the win may have cost them. Tezuka knows that some of them, Eiji and Momo, and perhaps even Inui and Fuji, would rather not have to think about his injury. Ryuzaki-sensai drives Tezuka to the clinic; Oishi wants to accompany them, but allows Tezuka to dissuade him when Tezuka suggests that the team needs their vice-coach in this moment more than he does. He gives Tezuka a reluctant look of concern, and joins the others inside the sushi shop.
When Echizen calmly exits the shop and slides in the van without a word, Tezuka finds it takes a strength of purpose he does not possess to tell him to go back inside. Ryoma sits behind Tezuka on the way to the clinic—eyes focused straight ahead, as he was on the bench. Tezuka speaks when he is spoken to (by Ryuzaki-sensai), and wonders if he is really so important to them.
At the hospital only Ruzaki-sensai is allowed to accompany him. Echizen gives the nurse a look and comes anyway. He remains silent while they wait for the doctor. He hardly looks at Tezuka at all, and Tezuka is slightly embarrassed that he knows this because he keeps looking at Echizen.
After an eternity the verdict from Oishi’s uncle arrives: in his opinion Tezuka’s play against Atobe was regressive at least a full 6 months, possibly more; with intense recuperative therapy, the injury might be partially healed by the nationals—but nothing is certain.
“Buchou,” says Ryoma beside him in a rush of breath.
Tezuka finds he has nothing to say.
In the back of his mind, Tezuka knows many things. In the forefront, he entertains few. He knows he will play in the Nationals. He knows he will play Echizen again, and that when he does he will be beaten. He knows the day will come when his drive to play tennis will be replaced by the drive to play Echizen. He does not allow himself to acknowledge that one day even that drive will not be enough.
The day he plays his final match with Echizen before leaving, Echizen finds him alone after practice, in the locker room putting away his jersey. “Buchou,” he says quietly, and they look at one another. It should have been sufficient, the game and their exchange on the court afterwards—but it isn’t, and now Tezuka knows it is not enough for Echizen either. The air between them is thick with the absence of something.
He has to acknowledge it now, the thing he has not entertained: he shifts it from the back of his thoughts to the center of them, allows it to grow and take shape as he looks back at Echizen now. Echizen’s eyes are clear and searching, and Tezuka reads his thoughts there. The lack that Echizen feels is not simply because Tezuka is going away.
Ryoma starts to speak, but Tezuka cuts him off.
“Echizen,” he says firmly. Ryoma’s mouth snaps shut.
“Not yet,” says Tezuka softly. Although he doesn’t know if Echizen understands, or if he understands himself, Echizen nods.
“Hurry up and come back so I can beat you,” Echizen says crisply, and waits an instant before he turns his back.
Tezuka takes the image of Ryoma’s gaze with him on the long flight to Frankfurt.
Tezuka believes his enemies shape his destiny; he has always viewed every game as a chance to evolve, and every opponent as a teacher. In Germany he is surrounded by opportunities to learn, to grow, to seek perfection. He makes a discovery in every European player he sees.
He knows his perception has shifted, however, when he finds himself wondering how Echizen would counter his evolving style—what he would use if he were on the court, and how quickly his return attack would form.
It is not problematic, out of context. But Tezuka’s game is singles. And beside that fact—not ahead of, but evenly beside—Echizen’s is too.
Even so, some things, once acknowledged, cannot be brushed aside. “Not good enough,” Tezuka will murmur, and refocus his attention.
Frankfurt is nothing like home.