Wild

Pet Shop of Horrors crossover. While visiting the US, some of the tennis boys come across an unusual pet shop. This evolves, as such things do, into some strange situations for a few of them. Drama, I-2, Future PoT anime continuity, middling PSoH manga continuity

Ryouma strolled down the narrow street, trying not very hard to more or less keep an eye on most of his teammates. It helped that he’d expected for, weeks, to be doing this. He’d been roped into playing tour guide the last time it was the US’s turn to host the Kantou vs. West Coast competition, too, so he’d been ready for it this time and only put up a token protest.

“Hey, Echizen!” Momo’s hand emerged from the crowd and snagged Ryouma’s arm, dragging him in front of a window display. “What are all these?”

“How should I know?”

…though he did spare a few moments to wish that the regular teams of the chosen players hadn’t all managed to come watch. He might have gotten out of this altogether, if they hadn’t. The only player from his temporary team who was along today, and not one of Seigaku, was Yukimura-san. Everyone else had split up like a handful of same-pole magnets as soon as the closing ceremonies were done. Tachibana-san was with his own team today; Sanada seemed to be hiding out in his hotel room; and Ryouma hadn’t asked where Atobe was going. He did wonder why they all seemed so eager to get some distance again. After all, it wasn’t like the coaches had done anything really cruel with the lineup this year.

Well, not to them, anyway. Pairing Tachibana-san and Yukimura-san for Doubles One had turned out to be pretty cruel to the other team. Ryouma didn’t think he’d ever seen a match played so… fiercely.

“This is a busy part of the city, isn’t it?” Fuji-senpai asked, appearing beside him. “And such a varied crowd! Did you ever come here to watch the people?”

“No.”

Then again, he’d probably have been stuck anyway, Ryouma decided, watching Fuji-senpai slip through the clumps of people. If nothing else, Fuji-senpai would have latched onto him for a good audience to act all nonchalant in front of. Ryouma had been fairly impressed that Sanada managed to keep Fuji-senpai serious all through their match, but he’d known it wouldn’t be permanent. Fuji-senpai liked to play around too much. On the bright side, at least Inui-senpai had carried Kaidou off to the Natural History Museum to look at bones, and Kikumaru-senpai had been dragged away by Mukahi and Oshitari-san.

He hadn’t asked where they were headed, either.

Ryouma leaned against a shady bit of wall, hands tucked in his pockets, and relaxed while his teammates darted back and forth across the street, dragging this person or that to be shown the newest interesting shop. Having repelled the latest attempt at this, Tezuka-san leaned beside him.

“Good choice of location,” he commented.

Ryouma grinned at his captain. “I thought so.”

If anyplace could hold the interest of his senpai when they were determined to play tourist, he’d figured Chinatown would be it. Something was always happening.

“Risi, not that door!” a faint voice exclaimed. A few doors down, a bright bird with a long tail flitted into open air and nearly crashed into Yukimura-san. A quick snatch captured it, and he held it gently while it cheeped in protest.

“Hush, now,” Yukimura-san told it, petting the small head with a fingertip. “I don’t think the owner would like it if I aid and abet your escape.” The bird eyed him for a long moment before it settled down in his hands with a coo and a ruffle of feathers.

“Well, at least she didn’t go far.” A young man in formal clothes emerged from the shop doors. “Although,” he added, in Japanese, tipping his head, “I can’t say I’m surprised she likes you.”

“Really?” Yukimura-san’s eyes narrowed a little, and his smile sharpened.

Ryouma wondered for a second whether they knew each other or something. Yukimura-san was usually impenetrably charming with strangers. He drifted toward them. Actually, everyone was gathering back around them.

“What a beautiful bird,” Oishi-senpai said, softly.

The man smiled. “She’s a very rare breed; the shop specializes in exotic pets. Would you care to come in and look?” He ushered them all inside, and accepted the bird back from Yukimura-san. “Now, are you going to behave?” he asked it. The bird cheeped and bobbed a few times, and he nodded. “Good.” He set it on an open perch, where it settled down and started to preen its trailing tail feathers.

“Is it a songbird?” Fuji-senpai asked, coming to stand beside him.

“Oh, yes,” the man answered, low voiced. “She sings at dawn.” His smile looked very strange for a moment, and Fuji-senpai gave him a sidelong glance.

Ryouma observed that, while most everyone else was fanning out to make impressed noises over the animals, Fuji-senpai seemed more entertained by the proprietor.

“Dottybacks!” Oishi-senpai exclaimed from the cluster of aquariums one corner. “And is that one… a Cypho?” he looked over his shoulder at their host, wide-eyed. “How do you keep this many of them alive when they can see each other?”

The owner perked up. “Ah, you’re familiar with the breed, then?”

“I would love to put together a coral tank, and maybe even keep a breeding pair of these.” Oishi-senpai touched a finger to the corner of the tank, looking longingly at the tiny fish.

“Wow,” Momo whispered, peering into the tanks, “look at those colors.”

“But they’re so aggressive,” Oishi continued. “They’d take a lot of attention to make sure the young didn’t all kill each other off. Not to mention they’re worse escape artists than that bird.” He made a deprecating face, and turned away from the tanks with a last, lingering look.

“Most fish owners simply take a certain percentage of loss for granted,” the owner said in a very neutral voice.

“That’s irresponsible,” Oishi-senpai frowned. “Of course they can’t be controlled completely, they’re living animals after all. But when we take them out of the wild, we have a duty to do our best for them.”

The owner gave him a long, measuring look and smiled slowly. He reached for pen and paper, and wrote something out quickly and neatly. “This is our address. If you think you might be interested in some of our animals, there are a few trans-Pacific shippers that I trust. Just let me know.”

Oishi-senpai glanced around at the shop full of cheeping, growling, gurgling animals, at the sheet of paper and back at the owner, looking a bit dazed. “Thank you. I’ll keep it in mind.”

“You do seem to have a talent for keeping the peace between your tenants,” Yukimura-san noted, looking down at a racoon sprawled asleep on top of a small bear, “Mr…”

“D,” the owner supplied.

“Of course.” Yukimura-san smiled. “This place has a very relaxing atmosphere.” He turned. “Don’t you think so, Tezuka?”

Tezuka-san was not, naturally, oo-ing and ah-ing. He was leaning against the wall with his arms crossed and his eyes closed. “Very,” he agreed, without looking up.

Ryouma blinked. Tezuka-san did actually sound relaxed. Fuji-senpai stopped beside their captain and asked something, softly. Tezuka-san leaned his head back against the wall and shrugged one shoulder. Fuji-senpai abruptly left off his curious examination of D and focused on Tezuka-san. Yukimura-san was looking very amused for some reason.

“The incense helps with that,” D answered, drawing Yukimura-san’s eyes back to him. “I blend it myself. That way I can always send a packet with the more sensitive animals, to give them something familiar while they settle into a new place.”

Ryouma was really starting to wonder if he was missing something, because Yukimura-san was looking at D with wide eyes. “Send it with them?” he repeated, still staring.

“Oh, yes. It’s very helpful.” D smiled, and for one second it was sharp as a knife. And then he was looking cheerful again.

Yukimura-san gave him a tilted return smile, and his eyes glinted. “Indeed.”

“So, who’s up for dinner?” Ryouma put in. He figured hunger was probably making him lightheaded. The conversation would surely make more sense after he’d eaten.

A chorus of agreement answered him, Momo loudest of course. D recommended a restaurant down the street and waved them goodbye at his doors.

“Do feel free to stop in again, if you’d like,” he called. “Any time.”


D closed the doors after his visitors. “Well! That was something you don’t see every day.” He turned toward the back. “T-chan, you can come out now.”

Tetsu shouldered through one of the curtains, grumbling. “Why couldn’t I be out here?! What if one of them had gone nuts? Worse, what if one of them decided he liked you?”

D smiled indulgently at Tetsu’s ferocious glare. “They were both wild, T-chan. Neither of them was likely to stay here.”

“Yeah?” Tetsu bristled. “That tiger sure looked like he was thinking about it.”

“Actually,” D sighed, “I hope he comes again before he goes home. For his own sake.”

Tetsu snorted, cynically. “And because you want to grill him about how he’s managing to pass.”

D chuckled. “All right, that too.”


Kunimitsu walked down streets without really looking where he was going. He knew quite well that it was dangerous to wander a strange city alone, at night, but right now he was too agitated to care. In fact, for the first time in a very long time, he was almost hoping for the appearance of some lowlife who would give him an excuse to set aside his self control.

He scolded himself for the thought, but his heart wasn’t in it.

Today had been more stressful than usual, and Yukimura’s sense of humor hadn’t helped. Who would have thought that they’d find someone who recognized them while out playing tourist? He’d spent the remainder of the day torn between the relief of knowing there was someone he might talk to, if he chose, who would understand, and the reflex terror that someone knew what he was.

A familiar sign caught his eye, and he stopped short on the sidewalk. Count D’s Pet Shop. Kunimitsu snorted, silently. It seemed his instincts had had a destination in mind after all. Now, if he could just decide whether that was a good thing or not.


About to lock the doors, a faint sound caught D’s ear. A chopped off rustle, very much like someone standing outside the doors and wondering whether he should approach or not. D smiled, and if there was as much darkness as sympathy in the expression, well, his visitor couldn’t see him yet.

“Welcome to Count D’s Pet Shop,” he said, more softly than he would have for a human. “Please, come in.” He opened the doors to meet the very level gaze of the young man outside, and his smile turned more cheery. “Would you care for some tea?”

Tezuka-kun’s mouth tightened. “Thank you.” He didn’t sound grateful at all, but he did stalk inside. D stifled a grin, and closed the doors behind him before making a comforting and domestic fuss with the tea set.

“So,” he said, as they sipped, “if I gathered correctly, you and the other young men here this afternoon play tennis?”

Tezuka-kun nodded, gazing into his tea.

“A useful outlet for competitiveness,” D mused.

Tezuka-kun gave him a mildly exasperated look. D decided that one of his friends must have a habit of speaking obliquely, too. Very well, then, he would be a bit more direct.

“It must be very stressful, living in a city, among such crowds, when your instincts call for space,” he suggested.

“There are adjustments that have to be made,” his guest agreed, sitting back. D nodded. The scent of the shop was starting to relax Tezuka-kun again.

“Adjustment, adaptation,” D nibbled a cookie. “They’re the true wonders of the natural world. That which adapts lives. And animals are capable of the most amazing feats, really. Changing from rural to urban habitats; from being carnivores to being omnivores.” He looked back up into the opaque brown eyes across the table. “From a range that consists of land to one that consists of people.”

Tezuka-kun’s eyes narrowed, and topaz flashed in them for a breath. Another observer might have thought it was only the lamplight.

“Yes, I thought that might be it.” D sipped his tea. “Those others who were with you, they are your team?”

“Yes,” Tezuka-kun said, and an edge of vibrato had entered the deep voice. He was tense again, coiled to move.

“I make no claim on them,” D assured him, softly.

Tezuka-kun took a deep breath and sat back again, passing a hand over his forehead. “My apologies,” he said, at last. D waved this off.

“It’s only in your nature. Actually,” his mouth quirked, remembering, “I was surprised that you and Yukimura-kun dealt so peacefully with each other, seeing that he was in the middle of your territory.”

A shrug answered him. “He has his territory, and I have mine; we don’t interfere with each other that way.” Tezuka-kun’s mouth twisted. “This week of being on the same team hasn’t been especially easy,” he admitted.

D was fascinated. “And it’s all subsumed into this game. Territory and challenge, and all. Truly an amazing adaptation.”

Tezuka-kun looked away, abruptly. “Maybe.”

“Is there a problem?” D asked quietly, not pressing.

Tezuka-kun was silent for a long moment. “In school, there are times I can’t properly mark or defend my territory. And after this year I will have to find another. As you said—stressful.”

D considered this. No wonder Tezuka-kun was tense. His kind were not terribly social animals, and while he could ameliorate that a little by considering some humans his territory, humans didn’t hold still the way landscape did. Stressful, indeed. Still, he thought Tezuka-kun might be overestimating his trouble; not uncommon in the young of any species.

“Surely your territory won’t be entirely broken, even if you part ways somewhat,” D pointed out. “That nice young man, Oishi-kun will never abandon you, I’m certain. And the quiet young man who smiled so much. Not to mention,” D’s mouth quirked, “the one who was rolling his eyes at everyone else.”

That made Tezuka-kun look thoughtful. “Oishi and Fuji I might be able to keep, I suppose,” he said at last. “Echizen, though, is almost ready to go looking for his own territory. I wouldn’t do either of us any favors by trying to stop him.”

D raised his brows. Interesting. It sounded as though Tezuka-kun regarded Echizen less as part of his territory and more as one of his own kind. Well, that had no bearing on the situation right now. “You should relax for a while, Tezuka-kun.”

The look he got this time was completely exasperated. “In the middle of a city? Where?”

“I’ll show you.” D rose, and beckoned his guest through the door to the back.

A corner of Tezuka-kun’s mouth twitched as they walked down the long halls, but he didn’t bother asking how it was possible. His eyes did widen a bit when D finally opened a door and they stepped through into a cool, rustling forest. D set down the censer he had picked up, and settled on a patch of grass next to it. D saw Tezuka-kun take a deep, deep breath of the breeze, and laughed gently as longing crossed his face. “Run and hunt here as long as you like,” he said. “I’ll stay with you; follow my scent to come back to the door, here, when you’re ready.” He had to take his own breath in at the burning, wild desire in Tezuka-kun’s eyes when they met his. Brown lightened to topaz, and Tezuka-kun turned toward the trees, and in a few steps he was bounding on four velvet paws.

D smiled as the jagged stripes in Tezuka-kun’s fur blended into the forest. He had rarely been thanked so… thoroughly. He leaned back and inhaled deeply again, waiting for the scent of blood on the breeze.


Ryouma stalked down the streets that he hadn’t necessarily shown his senpai during the day. He’d been restless after they all got back to the hotel. Not the only one, either. Tezuka-san and Fuji-senpai had both gone out, too. A day like this one should have left them all tired enough to sleep, but it looked like not. Ryouma felt a little wound up, actually. Not dissatisfied with the recent games, but as if he was ready for another right now. He’d considered prodding one of the others into a match in the hotel ballroom, but when he’d mentioned the idea he’d gotten a vehement veto from Oishi-senpai. So, walking it was. He didn’t pay too much attention to where he was going, besides making sure to follow lit and crowded streets.

He didn’t notice Fuji-senpai until they nearly ran into each other.

“Echizen,” Fuji-senpai smiled. “Revisiting today’s sights?”

Ryouma blinked at him, and then at their surroundings. A familiar sign caught his eye. Count D’s Pet Shop. Of all the places to wind up.

“Not really,” he answered. “You?”

Fuji-senpai eyed the doors. “I did wonder whether Tezuka had come back here. When I asked him if he felt all right, earlier… Well.”

Ryouma gauged Fuji-senpai’s worry by what he had almost said directly, and decided it was greater than he’d seen it since their captain injured himself. “The shop did have a nice, relaxing atmosphere,” he offered.

Although, now he thought about it, he’d been feeling whatever he was feeling ever since they’d come out of this place. Well, there was one way to find out. He tapped on the doors, and pushed them open, hearing Fuji-senpai come in behind him.

The shop was empty of any humans, though the animals all eyed them with interest. The doors in the back wall were open. Ryouma glanced up at Fuji-senpai, who was frowning faintly. Part of Ryouma’s head was pointing out that they should announce themselves, or find a bell to ring, or something, and just ask whether Tezuka-san had been in. The rest of his mind didn’t seem to be listening, and when Fuji-senpai moved toward the back doors, Ryouma followed him.

He was positive that Tezuka-san was back there.

They made their way down a long hall, which, the logical part of Ryouma’s mind pointed out, was a little peculiar, even for this part of town. Logic seemed to be fighting a losing battle, though. The hall dead-ended at yet another pair of tall doors. This was the place. Ryouma pushed them open.

The two of them stepped into a forest.

Ryouma felt only vaguely surprised, though it would occur to him later that he should have been completely freaked out. Fuji-senpai certainly seemed shocked, standing still as a stone, wide eyes darting around. Then he stiffened. Ryouma followed his gaze and saw Tezuka-san lying stretched out, uncharacteristically lax, with his head resting in D’s lap. D’s fingers carded through his hair, and Tezuka-san seemed to be asleep.

“Tezuka?” Fuji-senpai choked.

Tezuka-san stirred, and a tiger lifted his head from D’s lap to blink at them.


D raised his brows at the two intruders. Well. He certainly hadn’t expected them to follow Tezuka-kun—hadn’t expected them to be able to. Fuji was shaking his head and staring very much like someone who distrusted the evidence of his senses. Echizen…

Echizen walked forward, grass swishing against his shoes. “Buchou,” he said, with surety.

Tezuka-kun narrowed his eyes and growled, tail flicking twice. Echizen ignored this sign of displeasure as if he’d had practice, and kept coming. His eyes, now that D could see them, were very calm and a little distant, and, as he came closer, their bright brown flickered with gold. Two more steps, and another tiger paced toward Tezuka-kun.

Tezuka-kun tucked his chin down and his growl scaled up into a startled, inquiring sound. He glanced at D.

“I think you saw more truly than you were aware, Tezuka-kun,” D murmured, thoughtfully. He was ready to swear that Echizen was entirely human, but the speed of this change said that the boy had a powerful affinity for the wildness in himself.

Tezuka-kun snorted, and stalked toward Echizen, glaring. Echizen twitched his ears and stood his ground, head tipped to one side. D put a hand over his mouth to hide his smile. Echizen either didn’t really understand the language of his current shape or else liked living dangerously. The young tiger ducked Tezuka-kun’s swipe, and made to nip the raised paw. A brief tussle of fur and growling resolved with Tezuka-kun lying on Echizen’s shoulders and washing his ears vigorously. Echizen-kun sighed, and laid his chin down on his paws.

Footsteps sounded beside D, and he looked up to see Fuji staring down at him with hard eyes.

“Have we been drugged?” the young man asked, very calmly.

D sighed at this echo of his detective’s favorite accusation. Humans. “You are under the influence of something,” he answered, gesturing to the smoking censer, “but it isn’t a drug.”

“What is it?”

A corner of D’s mouth curled up. “You might think of it as reality,” he suggested.

Fuji looked from D to his two friends, and D could see reluctant understanding in his tight expression. He was actually a bit impressed with this boy’s iron refusal to give way to panic or hysteria. His mind was evidently still working, in face of what must be very strange to him, and that was rare. Possibly troublesome, too.

“Tezuka,” Fuji said, quietly, “why…” He gestured to D. Probably, D decided, asking why someone so strong willed had let another person meddle with his integrity. An honest answer, which he had little doubt Tezuka-kun would give, would reveal far too much. He really might have to do something about Fuji’s interference.

Tezuka-kun leaned his forehead against Echizen-kun’s fur for a moment and sighed before he looked up. “Because this is what I am, Fuji,” he answered, his voice equally low. “You should forget.”

Fuji gazed at him for one frozen moment before his calm broke into a glare and he stepped toward Tezuka-kun. “Forget?! Forget that you turned into a tiger? Excuse me?!” His sharp gesture of denial turned into an upsweep of wings, and he fluttered up to a branch where he assaulted everyone’s ears with some very strident commentary.

Echizen-kun rolled onto his back, under Tezuka-kun’s arm, and propped himself up on his elbows. “I’d have thought you’d be bigger, Fuji-senpai,” he commented, with an insolent grin.

“Lovely markings, though,” D cut in over a particularly piercing rejoinder. “The Eurasian variety of Lapwing is a lovely bird.” He smiled up at Fuji, who had paused to cock his head in a remarkably skeptical manner. “Their common name refers to the irregular rhythm of their flight, a great fascination to bird watchers. They’re also one of the breeds that will feign injury to lead predators away from their nests.” Fuji flipped his wings at D, clearly not mollified much.

Echizen-kun, on the other hand, was bright-eyed and looking deeply amused. “Suits you perfectly,” he prodded.

Fuji-kun spread his wings, looking ready to dive at his young friend, and Echizen-kun crouched, ears back, tail lashing. Tigers weren’t technically able to grin, but he was definitely grinning. Fuji-kun flung himself off the branch, only to pull up at the last minute, and peck Echizen-kun soundly between the ears. Echizen-kun’s claws parted Fuji-kun’s tail feathers, for his trouble, and they were off through the trees, leaping and diving at each other. D was now very impressed with Fuji-kun’s amenability to the wild when he finally acted.

Tezuka-kun put a hand over his face and laughed, silently. D laid his hands on Tezuka-kun’s shoulders, urging him to lean back against D. Tezuka-kun gave in with a sigh. “He really should forget,” he said.

“Perhaps,” D murmured. “Your Fuji has more in him than is immediately obvious.”

Tezuka-kun snorted, settling his head against D’s chest, and purred as D combed his nails through Tezuka-kun’s fur. D contemplated the evening’s events, Echizen-kun’s part in particular. The speed of his change was unusual. Normally, a little of the incense D blended merely enabled humans to see what they normally did not. It took a higher concentration for human consciousness to enter into that part of the world they regularly ignored, and higher yet for a full transformation to follow. Fuji-kun had followed that pattern, though the break in his temper seemed to release a transformation hard on the heels of the second stage. Echizen-kun, though… to move so quickly, and into the shape of Tezuka-kun’s spirit…

D smiled down at the tiger snoozing on his lap. Tezuka-kun had had a good hunt, earlier, as D had hoped. He had brought Tezuka-kun here only to relax and refresh him from the strain of living among humans, but it might turn out that there was more for him to do tonight.

Tezuka-kun woke when the other two returned. Echizen-kun flung himself down in a pleased sprawl, panting. Fuji-kun landed on his head, ignoring the resulting ear twitching. Tezuka-kun sat up, adjusting his glasses.

“We should go soon.”

Echizen-kun heaved a vast sigh, and hauled himself upright, too, crossing his legs. D held out a hand for Fuji-kun to flutter down to, and stroked one finger over his head. Fuji-kun stretched, lacing his fingers together over his head, and smiled cheerfully at Echizen-kun.

“Maybe next time,” he suggested. Echizen-kun sniffed.

“That could be a bit difficult,” Tezuka-kun pointed out, dryly.

Echizen-kun looked at him, biting his lip. “Not for you, though,” he said, slowly. “That’s what you meant, isn’t it?”

Tezuka-kun nodded, silently. Echizen-kun pursed his lips, and looked from him to D with a question in his eyes.

“There are ways for a human to take on another nature,” D told him, evenly. “They are not reversible.”

“D-san!” Tezuka-kun exclaimed, sharply, and frowned at his protege. “Echizen…”

Echizen-kun looked up at him, solemnly. “If it’s reality, like he said, why shouldn’t I want it?”

“Echizen,” Fuji remonstrated, softly, leaning to take the other boy’s shoulder, “it can’t be easy; and it must be dangerous.”

Echizen-kun made a derisive noise, ignoring Tezuka-kun’s definite nod. “Like pro tennis is easy and safe?”

“Tennis isn’t something you have to hide from everyone you know,” Tezuka-kun pointed out, approaching a glare.

“Not everyone,” Echizen-kun answered, simply.

Tezuka-kun had to swallow and take a long breath. D folded his hands in his lap, hiding his sympathy for both sides of the argument. When Tezuka-kun seemed unable to speak, though, he felt compelled to add a practical warning.

“It is unlikely you and Tezuka-kun would be able to have much contact, outside of your competitions.”

“No,” Tezuka-kun put in, at last. “We could share to an extent.” He shrugged, as D’s eyes widened. “You spoke of adaptation. My family learned to take the females’ way, when we started to take humans as mates, and share territory. Inside the family, at least.”

“Remarkable.” D felt the little bubble of joy that rose in his chest whenever he encountered some animal managing to win in spite of everything.

“I want this,” Echizen-kun said, very firmly, looking both Fuji and Tezuka-kun in the eye.

Fuji sighed, and smiled wryly. “If you’re that determined, I suppose that’s all there is to it.” He turned a sharper eye on Tezuka-kun. “And if you suggest, now, that I forget…”

Tezuka-kun ran a hand through his hair. “No, I won’t suggest it again.” His eyes softened a shade as he glanced at Echizen-kun. “The choice is yours.”

Echizen-kun gave him a bright, wicked smile. “I know.”

Tezuka-kun looked down his nose, and D chuckled. They would do well.

“Come here, then, Echizen-kun,” he directed. When Echizen stood in front of him, D drew his finger along one sharp corner of the censer, cutting it. He marked Echizen with his blood between the eyes, on his palms and over his heart, and called. A sharp twist of wind and scent swirled around the boy, and he folded up, gasping. When it left, Echizen-kun looked back at D with gold eyes and arched his whiskers in question. D held out his hand, and Echizen-kun swiped the blood off his fingers with a long, rough tongue. A second later he looked mildly revolted, and folded his arms.

“Done?” he asked.

“Done,” D smiled.

“Doesn’t feel all that different,” Echizen-kun observed.

“No, it wouldn’t I imagine,” D agreed. “You were half way there already. The result of accepting Tezuka-kun’s influence, I believe.”

Tezuka-kun blinked.

“I’ve never seen anything quite like it,” D admitted, “but I have to wonder whether this would have happened, eventually, in any case.” Tezuka-kun and Fuji both moved closer to Echizen-kun, who relaxed a little, probably calmed by their scents. D ruffled Echizen-kun’s hair, getting a glower in return, and looked around at his three guests.

“It will be well.”


Ryouma yawned his way through the breakfast buffet, weaving among hotel guests back to the tables his teammates had secured. Tezuka-san, of course, had already efficiently filled his plate and chosen a seat. Ryouma contemplated the high proportion of meat on Tezuka-san’s plate, and then on his own, and sighed. At least his mother would probably be happy when his eating habits turned more to the Western food she prefered. Ryouma deposited his plate at the next place, glancing around to see who else was up and about, and ground to a halt.

“Echizen?” Fuji-senpai asked from behind him, setting down his own plate and laying a hand on Ryouma’s shoulder. He’d been doing that a lot, since last night; Ryouma didn’t mind, especially right now. Having Fuji-senpai’s scent so close steadied him.

“You didn’t mention that,” he muttered through his teeth to Tezuka-san.

Tezuka-san raised his brows, and followed Ryouma’s glance. “Ah. Yes. You get used to it.”

“What do you see?” Fuji-senpai asked, softly.

“Yukimura-san is a dragon,” Ryouma said, very flatly, not taking his eyes off the members of Rikkai who had just come through the door.

Fuji-senpai was silent for a long moment. “That could explain a few things,” he said, at last, in a contemplative tone. Ryouma glared at him, but couldn’t keep it up for long before his eyes were drawn back to Yukimura-san.

Who was now staring back at Ryouma.

Waving his team to an open table, Yukimura-san strolled toward theirs. Tension wound through Ryouma’s whole body, as Yukimura-san’s scent fanned over him, sharp and blue like lightning. “I see the reputation of that family for meddling is the truth,” Yukimura-san said, looking Ryouma up and down with a slight smile.

Ryouma jerked his chin up. “It was my own choice,” he snapped. He had a strong urge to claw that look off Yukimura’s face. His tension eased again as Tezuka-san’s scent folded around him. His captain had risen and stepped forward, nudging Ryouma just a bit behind him.

“Don’t push him yet, Yukimura. He’s still new to this.”

“Of course,” Yukimura-san murmured, stepping back. “I can wait.” His eyes narrowed for one moment, wild and glinting, and then he smiled at them sunnily and turned back toward his team. Ryouma took a deep breath, throttling down his own fizzing aggression, and leaned against Fuji-senpai.

“So, eventually, I get to bite his throat out, right?” he asked.

Fuji-senpai laughed, and even Tezuka-san’s shoulders twitched with what looked like suppressed amusement.

“Figuratively,” his captain specified, sternly.

“Ok, I can work with that.” Ryouma pulled out his chair and started in on his breakfast. As the comforting chatter of his team surrounded him, punctuated with Momo and Kikumaru-senpai stealing each other’s bacon, he relaxed further. He could work with this.

It was reality, after all.

End

In order to make locations and participants match up, I have hypothesized that the coast v coast competitions take place on the high school level, as well as the junior high level.