Archiving: just ask.
Date Written: July 11, 2005
Disclaimer: Not mine!
Notes: Okay, so, finally I'm letting my fitful helpless passion for Tezuka/Ryoma show. And it's all mmmdraco
's fault. She wrote this lovely lovely Tezu/Ryo
drabble, and allowed me to propogate both her backstory and svz_insanity
's plot bunny for the continuation. Read her drabble first, then this.
“What’s this, what’s this?” Nanjiroh took his hands out of his pockets and tripped over to the computer desk, monk robes flapping. “My son studying?”
“Go away, old man,” murmured Ryoma, attempting to turn the screen away from him. Nanjiroh had already seen the contents.
“Wave-particle duality,” he read. “Blackbody radiation?” His eyes narrowed. “Hey, are you doing something illegal?”
Ryoma snorted, turning off the monitor and opting for the bed and his book instead.
“Oh, quantum physics, huh?” said Nanjiroh. “You trying to become a science genius now too?”
Ryoma ignored him and kept reading.
“Who lit that fire under your ass, eh?”
More silence from his son.
“Hmph,” said Nanjiroh, taking the hint at last. “My son, a scientist. But!” He paused in the doorway to waggle his finger at Ryoma. “You’ll never surpass your old man!”
“Che,” said Ryoma.
“Ochibi!” squealed Eiji upon catching his first glimpse of Ryoma the next morning. “Ochibi, Ochibi, what’s wrong, you don’t look so good today!”
“Eiji!” said Oishi in slight disapproval beside him.
Eiji tugged Oishi’s elbow and pointed emphatically to where Ryoma sat with the first years, currently tugging his cap down over his eyes as far as it would go. “Look at his eyes, nyah!” Eiji said. “They’re all red like he has the flu.” His eyes widened and he backed away. “You don’t have the flu, do you? I don’t want to catch it!!”
“I’m fine, Kikumaru-senpai,” said Ryoma. He wasn’t sure that Eiji had heard him, though, as Eiji was currently yelling to Momo that Kiddo’s eyes were all red and his face was puffy, and obviously they hadn’t been taking enough care of him.
Momo-senpai took a look at Echizen and observed that he had seemed fine on the bike ride to school that morning.
fine,” said Ryoma, in vain.
Momo scrutinized Ryoma’s eyes and declared that he didn’t look sick but had obviously stayed up all night the night before. “What were you doing, eh?” he asked wickedly. “Did you stay up all night with a girl?”
Eiji’s face lit up. “Ochibi!”
The headlock/bear hug the two of them proceeded to smother him with was worse than usual. When Tezuka’s voice broke through their banter, Ryoma was able to tell himself that he was happy to hear it because it meant a timely rescue from having his hair hopelessly mussed for the rest of the day.
They sprang apart so quickly Ryoma almost lost his balance. He picked up his cap where it had fallen in battle, and reset it atop his head.
“Five laps each,” said Tezuka. “You should already be warming up.”
“Hai,” they said, and Ryoma knew they were waiting until they were safely out of earshot to declare that they had gotten off easy.
Tezuka glanced at Ryoma. “You don’t feel well?” he asked.
Ryoma muttered, “I’m fine,” and stared at the captain’s feet.
“Then, in that case, ten laps,” said Tezuka.
Ryoma’s head shot up at that, and Tezuka calmly took a good look at Ryoma’s tired face and bloodshot eyes. His eyes flashed in a swift change in emotion that only someone who had studied his face could have detected; yet Ryoma had not studied it long enough to know what this particular emotion might have been.
“You know better,” said Tezuka to him in an undertone, and turned away.
Ryoma’s stomach dropped. “Hai,” he said miserably, feeling Tezuka’s disappointment in him like a slap.
Eiji and Momo allowed him to catch up with them. “Hoi, you’re being punished, too?” said Eiji. “Oh, kiddo, sorry—you didn’t do anything and we got you in trouble!”
“Buchou is angry with me,” said Ryoma. And rightly so, he thought; his legs did not want to run one lap, let alone ten. He was stupid to have stayed awake so long the night before. Even if he had only done it because—
“Tezuka is just strict,” said Momo. “He never wants anything to come ahead of tennis.” He elbowed Ryoma in the ribs. “Not even the girls. Tezuka probably doesn’t know what a girl is.”
“Ow, Momo-senpai,” said Ryoma. Gritting his teeth, he put on a burst of speed and moved ahead of them.
His legs would not be happy with him later.
“Tezuka, is something wrong with Echizen?” asked Fuji in his quiet voice.
Fuji knew him too well. There was never anything overt in these types of comments, except that they spelled out Tezuka’s preoccupation with Ryoma. Tezuka would rather they didn’t. But Fuji was Fuji.
“His play is…” Tezuka offered, and then trailed off.
“Erratic,” ended Fuji. “And he looks tired.”
Tezuka nodded, and they fell silent.
On the court Ryoma was doing everything right, except that he wasn’t: his reflexes were slow, his concentration was shaky, and he seemed to be utilizing three times the effort to make normal, easy shots.
And still he was hitting Inui’s fast repeat serves, and sending ball after ball into the basket on the opposite side of the court.
“He’s amazing,” said Fuji, unnecessarily.
He’s exhausted, Tezuka thought.
Ryoma hit 50 balls and sent all but the next-to-last into the basket. When he sat back down he didn’t look particularly winded, but his legs were shaking.
“Echizen,” said Tezuka.
Ryoma sprang up and their eyes locked. Tezuka was reminded, with a sharp twisting in his stomach, of the power he held over this first-year, who looked at him always as if whatever Tezuka said to him next might hold the key to unlocking something crucial—maybe about himself, maybe about Tezuka. As if Ryoma held his breath whenever Tezuka spoke.
Lately Tezuka had been feeling breathless as well.
“Yes,” Ryoma said, his expressionless voice belied by his wide eyes.
“Go home,” said Tezuka.
“Buchou,” breathed Ryoma.
“I never want to see you attend practice in this state again,” Tezuka continued.
Holding his mask of displeasure in place against Ryoma’s expression of complete devastation was one of the harder jobs Tezuka had as captain.
“I’m sorry, buchou,” said Ryoma in a small voice, and Tezuka knew that only the audience around them kept him from dropping to his knees. Tezuka looked at him long enough to see his shoulders slump in acquiescence, and turned back to practice.
…For about thirty seconds, before his eyes were drawn back to the clubhouse, back to Ryoma’s drooping figure.
Whatever Ryoma had been doing the night before, he had clearly thought it was important enough to sacrifice his tennis practice for. He had clearly made the wrong choice, as far as Tezuka was concerned—but perhaps it had been a hard choice, one that Ryoma was already suffering.
Out of the corner of his eye Fuji was watching Tezuka without a word, and Tezuka felt his next too-accurate, too-innocent question hovering unspoken in the air.
He ignored his own discomfort and walked to the clubhouse.
Ryoma was putting his racket away. When he heard the step in the door he turned and blanched to see Tezuka standing there.
“Buchou,” he said, his voice tight with emotion. “Please forgive me.”
“Would you mind telling me what was so important to you?” said Tezuka quietly. He sat down on the bench next to Ryoma’s locker.
Ryoma’s hands clenched and he frowned. “It was stupid,” he said in frustration. “I was—” He cut himself off and shut his locker door too loudly before dragging his book bag to the bench beside Tezuka.
“I was trying to figure out something,” he said. He yanked a book out of his bag and handed it to Tezuka.
“Quantum Physics?” he said.
Ryoma sighed. “You said it was a third-year subject. I just wanted to get a head start.” He looked up at Tezuka. “But it’s hard, Buchou. Do they really make you learn things like that in junior high?”
“No, they don’t,” said Tezuka automatically, in a rush of guilt and a rare sense of shame. “Ryoma, I owe you an apology. When you saw me in the library the other day, I lied to you.”
Ryoma’s face went blank in shock.
“I was checking a book out for a friend who has no library card.” Tezuka shifted on the bench and made himself meet Ryoma’s huge eyes.
He hadn’t realized until now how very, very important it was to him that Ryoma think well of him—possibly because he had taken it for granted that Ryoma did, and would.
“Then why didn’t you just say so?” said Ryoma, shoving his bag over and sitting down.
“I didn’t want you to know I was breaking the rules.”
Ryoma’s eyes narrowed. “So you lied to me to keep me from thinking you were being dishonest?”
Despite himself, and the fact that it was nothing to joke about, Tezuka smiled.
“Maybe,” he said, “I just wanted to impress you.”
Ryoma studied his face—no, sought
his face for something. “Why?” he murmured. He sounded…
Tezuka refused to think that his first-year sounded hopeful.
“I’m your captain,” he said. It was the best reason-that-wasn’t he had.
“Oh,” said Ryoma. And now he did sound deflated.
“I’m sorry,” said Tezuka. In spite of his best efforts he heard his voice drop to a level reserved for only his most intimate moments as he continued, “Forgive me?”
Ryoma’s eyes sparked, and Tezuka suddenly realised they were sitting quite close together.
“I think you should run laps, Buchou,” said Ryoma calmly.
“How many should I run?” said Tezuka obediently.
“Thirty,” said Ryoma without missing a beat.
“Thirty it is,” said Tezuka.
“I forgive you,” said Ryoma, smiling.
And then, because Ryoma with his red eyes and impish smile and inexplicable adoration was altogether too much, Tezuka took Ryoma’s hat off and ran his hand through Ryoma’s hair.
Ryoma’s mouth fell open.
“How late did you stay up?” asked Tezuka.
“Til four or five,” said Ryoma. “I wanted to learn as much as I could, since I thought you were--" he caught himself--"thought we'd have to study it.”
“Ryoma,” Tezuka began, and stopped. His hand was still threading its way through Ryoma’s hair.
“Yes?” Ryoma said. He may or may not have been leaning into the touch.
“You don’t need to impress me,” Tezuka said finally. “Or anyone.”
“Hai,” said Ryoma in a rush of breath. He was staring intently at Tezuka. Tezuka dropped his hand and let Ryoma look for slightly longer than was absolutely necessary.
Then he stood. “Go home and sleep,” he said. “Tomorrow, thirty laps for being sent home early from practice.”
Ryoma stood too, and the smile was firmly in his eyes and in his voice. “Yes, buchou.” He shouldered his racket and his bag and preceded Tezuka out the door. Before pushing it open, however, he stopped.
“And we’ll run them together?”
Ryoma looked over his shoulder at Tezuka.
“I’ll be early,” he said.It’s a date,
Tezuka most emphatically did not think.