Yaru: All In One

Ebook cover for the arc

Whether Tezuka is in the same school or not, he’s always the end of Echizen’s search for some peace and stability in the midst of his drive to improve his tennis. Hybrid continuity, Divergent Future, manga and anime spoilers in places. Eventual Tezuka/Ryouma.


Ryouma and Tezuka have a mild clash of wills, over which Ryouma gets rather frustrated. Drama, I-3

Note: This particular story really came out of my personal opinion that the whole affair with Kevin Smith in the anime was rather inconsistent with the way Ryouma and Tezuka normally behave.

Most of the time, Ryouma agreed with Kikumaru-senpai. They could do without the scouts and sponsors crawling all over team practice time. It wasn’t like most of them had any real business with junior high students, no matter how talented. Only an idiot would consider going pro straight out of junior high.

After all, all the really fun competition was still going to be in high school.

And the high school scouts were wasting their time, as far as Ryouma could see. None of his senpai looked likely to give so much as a first thought to choosing high schools until Nationals were over. This one, though, had at least brought along an interesting hook. An example.

The example also seemed to think this would be interesting, going by the way he—Takeuchi, wasn’t it?—was eyeing the Regulars. After considering the third-years, though, his gaze settled on Ryouma.

“That’s right,” he said, as if thoughtfully, “this is the team with the first-year prodigy, isn’t it?”

Ryouma could hear the mocking undertone perfectly well, and stifled a grin. It wasn’t quite time to grin at this one, yet. Not until Ryouma had him on the court. He swung his racquet up to his shoulder, and gave the interloper a Yeah, so? look from under his cap.

“Well, that would make a good place to start, wouldn’t it?” Takeuchi asked, lightly.

“Takeuchi-kun,” the scout started.

“An example, Ishida-san. Isn’t that why I’m here?” Takeuchi cut in, without looking away from Ryouma.

Yep, definitely a first class jerk. Just the kind Ryouma liked taking down, when he stumbled across one. He stepped forward.


Ryouma checked, and looked around, sharply. His captain had his arms folded, and a particularly unyielding expression on his face. The visitors both sputtered a bit under that forbidding stare. Ryouma felt like sputtering himself. This was a challenge!

Tezuka-buchou’s eyes turned to meet his, and Ryouma stiffened. There was a clear command in that look, and no compromise whatsoever. But he couldn’t really want Ryouma to back down, could he? Not from this, this—Ryouma could only fall back on his childhood vocabulary—this poser! Could he?

“Buchou…” Ryouma trailed off, leaving the appeal hanging.

Still no hint of persuadability. His captain really was ordering him to back down. After a long, disbelieving moment Ryouma took a deep breath, turned on his heel and stalked away.

“Echizen…” Oishi-senpai started to call out, and then stopped. Perhaps Tezuka-buchou had told him to let Ryouma go. Just as well. Ryouma wouldn’t argue in front of visitors, but he wasn’t much in the mood to be polite to his senpai, right now, either.

He found an out of the way corner and took his frustration out on the wall.

It calmed him down some, but he was still in a bad mood when practice ended. This was not helped when he heard his captain’s voice behind him.


“What is it?” Ryouma muttered, paying unnecessary attention to packing his racquets.

“I don’t want you playing Takeuchi outside of school, either, if he challenges you again.”

That got Ryouma to look around, wide-eyed. Tezuka-buchou looked serious. This was just a day for firsts, because his captain had never said anything about who Ryouma played in his off time, any more than he had ever expected Ryouma to stand down from a match. Ryouma wrenched his gaze back to his bag, and bit his lip, but it was more than his self control could take.

“Buchou,” he said, and stopped to take a breath and try to moderate his tone. His captain waited. “Why?” he asked, at last, only a little strained. “Why won’t you let me play him? Do you really think I can’t do it?!” Despite his attempts, he couldn’t keep the edge of indignant incredulity out of his voice.

“I’m sure you can.” The even response pulled Ryouma’s eyes back to his captain. “But that kind of game isn’t good for you to get into the habit of.”

Ryouma blinked at him. That kind of game? What was Tezuka-buchou talking about? Apparently the question got through without needing to be verbalized, because his captain sighed faintly.

“The more widely your skill becomes known the less that kind of match will be an object lesson and the more it will be simple bullying,” Tezuka-buchou pointed out. “Does your game need that?”

Ryouma almost winced under the cool question. He wasn’t… was he? But he couldn’t pretend he didn’t know what his captain was talking about, because he did. “No, Buchou,” he muttered, looking aside. He shouldered his bag with a sigh of his own and turned for the door.

“Echizen.” Tezuka-buchou’s voice stopped him again, and Ryouma looked up, questioning. A question looked back at him, unvoiced because his captain would never ask it out loud, but still present. Would Ryouma do as Tezuka-buchou said? Ryouma’s mouth tightened with irritation, and maybe even a little hurt. Of course he would. He wasn’t about to be gracious about doing something he didn’t want to, or not doing something he did, but he would do it.

Ryouma certainly hoped his captain appreciated this.

Tezuka-buchou nodded, accepting that silent assurance, and let him go.

Ryouma had suggested to Momo that they stop by the park courts, hoping that a good game or two would put him in a better mood. Momo had been obliging and played an all out match with him, much to the gratification of the spectators, and Ryouma was finally shaking out enough of his tension to grin back properly at his friend, when he heard a newly familiar voice from the sidelines.

Takeuchi. Ryouma almost groaned out loud. Was some kami ticked off at him, or something?

“What a wonderful coincidence, Echizen, wasn’t it?” Takeuchi sauntered toward them, and Ryouma spared a spiteful moment to note that Atobe did it better. “Now that your babysitters are gone, how about that match?”

“No,” Ryouma snapped.

“Why not? Surely the prodigy isn’t scared?” Takeuchi wasn’t sneering, and somehow that made it even more offensive.

“I don’t know what discipline is like for your team, Takeuchi-san,” Momo said, hard and quiet, “but our captain forbid any matches with you. That’s all there is to it.”

“Ah, so there is still a babysitter,” Takeuchi said, eyeing Momo. “Well, perhaps another time, then.”

Ryouma breathed deeply, fighting down the urge to send a ball flying for some sensitive body part on the jerk. “Was there anyone else around who wanted to play?” he asked, tightly.

“Yeah, but how about one more round with me, just to calm you down enough that you don’t kill them?” Momo suggested with a wry smile.

Ryouma snorted. “Yeah. Thanks, Momo-senpai.”

The next day, at practice, Ryouma came to where his captain was leaning against the fence and leaned, silently, beside him for a few moments.

“Are you sure?” he asked, at last. “It would be a public service, honest.”

His captain looked down at him, sternly.

“Just asking,” Ryouma sighed, and slouched off again. He paused to look back. “Positive?” he pressed, widening his eyes hopefully. He grinned, feeling slightly more pleased over Tezuka-buchou’s rare expression of exasperation, and stepped off more quickly, before his insolence gained him any laps.

Even getting a rise out of his captain didn’t really help his mood for long, though, and when Momo asked whether he wanted to hit a different street court than the one up by the park, he growled. Momo grinned.

“Now, how did I know you would feel that way?” he teased. Ryouma glared at his friend, but had to admit that he would probably be grateful for Momo’s presence. He had no intention of crossing an actual order, but having his friend around might just keep him from trying to throttle Takeuchi, either.

He had second thoughts about whether this was a good thing when Takeuchi proved to be there ahead of them, tonight.

“And still with the babysitter, Echizen?” he asked with a raised brow. “Or is it a bodyguard? I’m really starting to wonder.”

That got him a glare from both of them.

“Maybe he really thinks you can’t handle me,” Takeuchi prodded.

“Hardly,” a deep voice said, repressively, from behind him.

Ryouma’s eyes widened, as Tezuka-buchou pushed away from the lamp post he’d been leaning quietly against. Takeuchi looked rather startled, too, but recovered quickly enough.

“So, has the captain come to deal with me, instead?” he smiled.

Tezuka-buchou paused, just past him, and spoke without turning. “Neither I nor any of my team will play the likes of you,” he stated, crisply. “Echizen.”

“Buchou?” Ryouma’s good mood was entirely restored.

His captain looked down to meet his gaze. “Come play a match with me.”

Small irritants were completely swallowed in the hot glitter of excitement. “Whatever you say, Buchou,” Ryouma agreed, grinning.

A murmur swept through the watchers, two parts Tezuka-buchou’s name and one part shock. Two players hastily declared their match finished and cleared a court for them. Ryouma took the intensely annoyed look on Takeuchi’s face, tucked it away to treasure later, and forgot about him. Even if he hadn’t been able to focus tightly on his own, Tezuka-buchou’s presence pushed everything else from his awareness when he played his captain.

It was like drowning, if your goal was to live underwater. Exhilarating, infuriating, overwhelming. Still overwhelming. Ryouma could do it, now, could hit shots that his captain couldn’t return. Just not enough. He couldn’t break past that well of stillness yet.

He was getting closer, though, and if this game, too, left him on his knees, he could return his captain’s gaze straight on and read approval there.

As Ryouma sprawled on a bench to catch his breath, he noticed Takeuchi fading back through the buzzing onlookers with a rather shell shocked expression. Ryouma made no effort to suppress his wicked smirk. Momo noticed, too.

“Doubt we’ll have any more problems with him,” he murmured, sounding deeply satisfied.

“Mm.” That reminded Ryouma, actually. He slipped around the corner of the courts, to where Tezuka-buchou was just slinging his bag over his shoulder. “Buchou?” he said, softly.

His captain glanced at him with a raised brow. Ryouma glanced down.

“Thank you,” he mumbled.

Tezuka-buchou was still for a moment, watching him. And then he nodded, and moved off, a hand resting on Ryouma’s shoulder in passing. Ryouma watched him go before shoving his hands in his pockets and turning back to find Momo.


Last Modified: Oct 17, 09
Posted: Sep 15, 04
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Tezuka observes one of Ryouma’s matches. Drama, I-2

Kunimitsu stood in the shade above a tennis court, and watched Echizen Ryouma play Rikkai’s captain, Kirihara. He was not the only spectator standing discreetly back. Sanada was here also, not too far off, come, as he had, to watch last year’s teammate play.

The two players being who they were, the match proceeded to the accompaniment of taunts and verbal jabs, smug grins and determined glares according to who had scored the last point. Kunimitsu was moderately amused by Sanada’s expression of exasperation over, presumably, his protege’s manners or lack thereof; it wasn’t as though Sanada had a great deal of room to talk on that subject. Not when he was wound up in a game, himself.

And Echizen certainly didn’t seem to mind. Quite the contrary, he and Kirihara appeared to be getting almost as much fun out of provoking each other as they did from the game itself. It didn’t distract either of them from their play, which was all Kunimitsu had ever concerned himself with. That and making sure Echizen had challenges enough to occupy him. He knew people had wondered, sometimes, about how hard he seemed to push Echizen, but he’d never seen it in that light. If it seemed that he placed insanely high bars in front of his best player, he did it with the sure knowledge that Echizen would go off in search of a cliff if left to his own devices. It was something they shared, that hunger to exceed, to exercise all abilities to the utmost. Echizen was the only person Kunimitsu had met, thus far, who he was positive could go just as fast and far as Kunimitsu himself. Except that Echizen would do it with a wicked smile, and brilliant eyes, and a companionable taunt on his lips.

A look like the one he was giving Kirihara, who had just put a drive past him.

Echizen was considerably more flamboyant then Kunimitsu. A year’s passing had done nothing to change that, and Kunimitsu thought it probable that nothing ever would. Watching, now, as Echizen and Kirihara bared their teeth at each other across the court, he thought Echizen would never employ the mantle of quiet that Kunimitsu used in his own game. But, then, Echizen’s profligacy made his intensity none the less.

That was, in fact, one of the things that drew Kunimitsu, and had from the start. It was almost a relief to him to watch it. Kunimitsu was very good at maneuver and manipulation, but it was of necessity. After helping his mother manage his father and grandfather, and their continuous sniping, steering his team and opponents presented only modest difficulties. So he was good at maneuver and manipulation, yes, but those were not what truly came most easily to him. For all that he enjoyed the elegance of understatement in his game, it was eagerness for the bright, sharp edge of confrontation that drove him. He saw the same thing, all unmoderated, in Echizen. The way Echizen threw himself into any match that looked like a good challenge reminded him irresistibly of the way he’d seen birds of prey throw themselves into the air—the same arrogance of absolute commitment. Echizen hid nothing. It was not truly strange to him, that Echizen was so open, almost confiding, with his best opponents. Kunimitsu was a little the same way with the best of his, the only people he could show so much to, and it pleased him that Echizen himself was becoming one of those.

On the court below, Echizen had won. Kunimitsu smiled to himself, and Echizen turned and looked directly at him, just in time to catch it, as if he’d known Kunimitsu was there all along. Echizen raised his chin and traded back a sharper grin. The edge of it tilted, and he tipped his head at the court, as if inviting Kunimitsu to come down and give him a real match. Kunimitsu narrowed his eyes, and flicked his fingers to send Echizen to the net where his opponent was waiting without much patience at all.

Echizen tucked his chin down and went, with a jaunty air, and Kunimitsu let himself smile again, just slightly, at his back.


Last Modified: Sep 03, 07
Posted: Sep 19, 04
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Ryouma drags Tezuka off for an unofficial match. Drama, I-3

When the doorbell rang, Kunimitsu knew exactly who it was. He couldn’t have said how he knew, because he categorically refused to believe that an inanimate object such as a doorbell was capable of ringing in a cocky tone just because of who was pressing it. But the information got through somehow.

He wasn’t particularly surprised.

He had been a bit surprised the first time Echizen Ryouma had appeared on his doorstep, at the start of Kunimitsu’s first year of high school. By this, the middle of his second year, it was nearly routine. It had made perfect sense as soon as he stopped to think about it, of course. Fuji had been chuckling a few weeks after Echizen’s first visit to Kunimitsu, about Echizen’s tenacity and ability to hold a grudge, but Kunimitsu knew that wasn’t the main reason. He had come to the two of them in particular because there was no one left in Seigaku’s junior high that Echizen could keep advancing against. He was not, Kunimitsu thought, particularly fixated on himself or Fuji. If Kunimitsu had permitted it, he would probably have gone up to Kanagawa every weekend to provoke Sanada or Yukimura and spent vacations in Kansai badgering Chitose.

Each time the thought occurred to him, Kunimitsu spared a moment to be grateful Echizen had allowed himself to be restrained from doing so. Most of the time. And if the cost was working with Echizen himself, it was one Kunimitsu was pleased to pay.

Most of the time.

“Echizen,” he said, opening the front door, “it’s eight in the morning on a Sunday.”

Echizen withstood his glare calmly. “I know. But I needed to know whether you were busy today, so I can be in time for the bus to Kanagawa if you are. And you always get up early.”

Kunimitsu refrained from pointing out that Echizen knew this only because of his bad habit of showing up so early. It was hard to keep the glare from turning into a glower, but he managed. Kunimitsu had long ago realized that Echizen derived some sort of satisfaction from provoking unguarded expressions, both verbal and non-verbal, out of him. If nothing else, a match between them had the benefit of redirecting Echizen’s attention to less trivial matters. Sometimes Kunimitsu thought that was the entire point of the provocation. Other times he just thought Echizen had spent too much time in Fuji’s company.

“Have you eaten breakfast yet?” he asked, suppressing a sigh.

Echizen shrugged. “Not really.”

Kunimitsu eyed his visitor, taken with the ignoble impulse to make Echizen sit through breakfast with the Tezuka family in revenge for being visited so early. Judging by Echizen’s expression of trepidation, though, the possibility had already occurred to him. The threat was as good as the reality, as far as making Echizen call at a more reasonable hour for the next couple months, so Kunimitsu didn’t pause too very long after gesturing Echizen inside.

“I’ll just get my bag, then. There’s a fairly good pastry shop down the road.” He restrained a chuckle as Echizen’s shoulders slumped just a bit with relief, and he followed Kunimitsu up the stairs with commendable discretion.

And he had to admit, as they walked down the street, Echizen had chosen a very pleasant morning to drag him out into. Kunimitsu enjoyed early mornings, when he had a reason to be out in them, and at this hour on a Sunday they had the shop more or less to themselves. Because it was Echizen, he did indulge himself in the minor revenge of eyeing the boy’s choice of beverages until he sighed and got extra milk.

“Are we even, now?” Echizen asked, with a rather amused look.

Kunimitsu didn’t dignify that with a reply. If he ever admitted out loud that he lowered himself to sparring with Echizen over these tiny barbs, he’d never get the moral high ground back again, and he would need it next year. “How have you been doing against Sanada, these days?” he asked, instead.

Echizen shrugged one shoulder. “It goes back and forth. He won last time.”

Hence Echizen’s willingness to let Kunimitsu be busy if he wished, and head up to Kanagawa instead.

“It’s Yukimura-san I have a harder time with,” Echizen continued. “Of course, he won’t play me as often.”

“He has his own to take care of,” Kunimitsu pointed out.

Echizen looked at him for a long moment before directing a tiny smile down at his remaining buns. “Yeah. I know,” he said, quietly.

“I hope so,” Kunimitsu returned, just as softly, reminding Echizen of his own responsibilities as captain, this year.

“Yes, Buchou, that too,” Echizen agreed, smile a bit crooked now. Kunimitsu knew that Echizen had not been best pleased to be stuck as captain. Too bad. He needed the experience, and Seigaku’s junior high team needed the best available. That was Echizen, and they both knew it. Kunimitsu didn’t believe for one moment that Echizen called him captain, still, out of any failure of self-confidence.

The private little smirk as Echizen polished off the last bun and they rose to go was proof enough of that.

“Do you have something new for me, today?” Kunimitsu hazarded, as they walked. For a moment he thought Echizen was going to be coy about it, but then he grinned.

“Something. I was hoping to work on it with Sanada-san a little more, but since I have you today…”

Kunimitsu smoothed the smile that wanted to answer Echizen’s sparkling glance into mild approbation. He wondered, as he often did of late, if this would be the day. Echizen was closing on him. Their games were getting closer. But Echizen wasn’t the only one striving to progress as fast as possible, and he had yet to win against Kunimitsu. Their competition would gain a definite edge once he did; Kunimitsu was looking forward to it.

Even as they stood, now, a match with Echizen demanded all of his strength to win. As Echizen served, Kunimitsu abandoned his usual responsible and dignified reserve for the raw ferocity of focus that blanked out any expression but that of the ball against the racquet. Echizen answered with the glee that was so much his signature on the court. Kunimitsu had long since given up on instilling any kind of decorum in him.

It was just possible, though, that his emphasis on greater subtlety had finally begun to pay off. In the third game, Echizen broke free from the Zone. Not by powering through it, which he had tried some time ago and given up as useless in the long run, but with an extremely finely judged return that cancelled all spin. Tezuka missed the ball by centimeters. Echizen’s teeth were bared in a smile of satisfaction. The look Kunimitsu gave him back had not trace of a smile in it, but Echizen looked perfectly pleased with the simple acknowledgement that Kunimitsu gave him.

Echizen did not win their match, but it was close. It would be soon.

Echizen still looked rather disgruntled, as they fished out water and sat, recovering their breaths.

“I trust this won’t discourage you from the subtle approach altogether,” Kunimitsu remarked.

For a moment, Echizen looked like he was about to say it had. Then he grinned and shrugged, apparently calmed enough to leave off baiting for the time being. “I’m going to pass you. I’ll find whatever it takes,” he said.

That won a faint smile. Echizen’s determination was one of the things that made Kunimitsu enjoy these matches enough to tolerate his protege’s apparent hobby of getting under Kunimitsu’s reserve.

“Come,” he directed, rising. “We have time for another match, before lunch.”

Echizen brightened, his eyes turning fierce enough to spark a tingle through Kunimitsu’s blood.

It would be soon.


Last Modified: Sep 03, 07
Posted: Sep 23, 04
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Ryouma catches up to his senpai, and takes advantage of his second time around with Tezuka as his captain. This time with, perhaps, a few more insights than last time. Drama, I-3

As soon as Ryouma came within range of the crowd noise that enveloped the high school tennis courts he started praying that his captain had a lineup for the ranking matches that would make the day, in some way, less annoying. He counted three professional grade cameras before he managed to sidle past the last shrill clump of fangirls to reach the board. He blinked a few times, as he scanned it, and pursed his lips in a silent whistle.

The good news was that he and Tezuka-buchou were in the same block. The bad news was that most of the players Ryouma knew to be weaker were also in that block. Glancing up at the person who came up behind him, Ryouma cocked his head.

“Stacking the deck, Buchou?” he asked.

“It’s the captain’s job to balance the blocks in whatever way will give us the strongest team,” Tezuka-buchou pointed out.

“I noticed. Are we really that hard up in doubles, though?” Ryouma asked. His only answer was an even look, but he caught a glint of approval there, too, that he had interpreted the lineup correctly.

It was more or less a given that Kikumaru-senpai and Oishi-senpai were separated. But this time, all the potential doubles pairs were separated. Fuji-senpai from Kikumaru-senpai. Inui-senpai from Kaidou-senpai. Kaidou-senpai from Momo-senpai. Momo from both Oishi and Kikumaru. And then, after taking this precaution, then Tezuka-buchou had thrown all the better players the club had to offer against them.

Leaving, Ryouma was still rather disgruntled to note, the worst players in A block with he and the captain, where none of them would interfere with whatever would be hashed out in the other blocks. He sighed.

“Both Hyoutei and Rikkai have all their strongest doubles pairs in play this year,” Tezuka-buchou commented.

“I know,” Ryouma shot a grin over his shoulder. “I know what the job is, Buchou; though I’m glad you’re stuck with it, this year. Guess I’ll live with being bored this time around.”

“Not,” his captain said, with a sharper glint in his eye this time, “for long.”

The grin got wider. “Whatever you say, Buchou,” Ryouma agreed, and strolled toward the far court and his first match with a bounce in his step. The promise of a serious match against his captain could make up for a lot of boredom.

He was clinging to that thought two days later, and couldn’t quite suppress a sigh of relief when he finished off his last mandatory opponent. Finally. A quick look around showed that he hadn’t been the only one looking forward to this. Just about the entire club was drifting, as if casually, toward B court. Ryouma snorted.

“So,” he said, as he and Tezuka-buchou met at the net, “is it okay to beat the captain?”

One of his captain’s brows gained an ironic arch at this echo of their very first matches. “If you can,” he answered, coolly.

Ryouma certainly tried. Perhaps, though, their audience lent even Tezuka-buchou an extra edge of determination not to lose. Despite every trick Ryouma had learned in two years of playing against him, Ryouma couldn’t pull ahead enough to win. In the end, Tezuka-buchou took the match 7-6; Ryouma heard Ryuuzaki-sensei’s voice in his head grumbling about bone-headed boys and the ridiculousness of a ranking match going to tie-break. A quick glance at the sidelines, and her expression, told him that was probably exactly what she was really doing. Ryouma ignored that, as he thumped down on a bench beside his captain and accepted a towel with a breathless nod.

He also ignored the storm of whispers and exclamations from the rest of the club, and even the Regulars, except for Momo and Fuji-senpai who both looked amused each in his own way. It couldn’t really be that much of a surprise, that he had caught up to Tezuka-buchou, could it? He sniffed, imagining what would happen the first time he actually did win. He’d only managed it twice so far, to be sure, but hitting a moving target was most of the fun.

It was harder to ignore when Kikumaru-senpai pounced on him at the end of practice, while everyone was changing.

“Looks like you’re growing up, Ochibi!” Kikumaru-senpai told him with a grin, ruffling his hair.

“Kikumaru-senpai,” Ryouma said, with a long-suffering look, “I’m the same height you are, now.”

“Can’t be!” Kikumaru declared, looking him up and down with wide eyes. “Inui, he isn’t really, right?”

“Yes, in fact, he is,” Inui-senpai answered, very calmly.

Ryouma gave him a dirty look. He knew, and he knew Inui-senpai knew, that refusing to take part in Kikumaru-senpai’s enthusiasm just inspired him to greater heights to compensate. Sure enough, Kikumaru demanded that their heights be compared right then and there, which involved a certain amount of admonition from Oishi-senpai to be fair and stand with his heels flat to the floor, while Inui watched with a wicked quirk to his mouth.

“Exactly the same height,” Oishi-senpai reported, at last.

“But that means he’s gotten taller than Fuji!” Kikumaru-senpai protested.

“Fuji-senpai’s little brother has been taller than him for years,” Ryouma pointed out, finishing changing. “I doubt he minds.”

Before the glint in Fuji’s eye could materialize into anything unfortunate, Ryouma cast an appealing glance at Momo and made his escape under cover of his senpai’s farewells. Momo was laughing as he caught up.

“I almost forgot how much you liven the team up, Echizen,” he chuckled.

Ryouma snorted and didn’t mention that he was glad to be back with his proper team. Momo-senpai’s smile said he knew already.

The first round of ranking matches looked likely to set the tone for the whole season, Ryouma quickly decided. Stretches of boredom broken here and there with matches good enough to be worth it. Fudoumine was the carrot of the district preliminaries, and Ryouma had a good match against Shinji-san, his most common opponent from Fudoumine. Shinji-san must have thought so, too; he didn’t slip into any side commentary on their games the entire time. Ryouma was hoping to find some decent action sometime before the very end of Prefecturals, too.

At least, he was until he happened to get a look at Ryuuzaki-sensei’s clipboard full of lineups.

He and Tezuka-buchou were taking Singles One or Two for every match.

He wasn’t even going to get to play until the quarterfinals at this rate!

Ryouma spent the weekend in tight lipped silence. He didn’t trust himself not to snap if he did say anything. He’d never lost his temper in public, and he wasn’t going to now. Momo looked a bit concerned, but let him have his space and nudged the rest of the team away from him. Ryouma was grateful for that.

He watched how the rest of the lineups worked out, hoping to see what reason his captain or coach could have for arranging things like this. It took a while to spot, but eventually he decided it wasn’t about any one slot. It was about one player. The only one who played in every single match was Fuji-senpai. He was most often in Singles Three. Wherever he was, though, he always played.

Finally, Ryouma took the opportunity, as they watched Fuji-senpai sounding out yet another opponent, to approach Tezuka-buchou when he was a little apart from the rest of the team. After a few more minutes of watching quietly, Ryouma spoke.

“Buchou, why are you still trying to draw Fuji-senpai out this late?”

His captain shot him an expressionless, sideways glance that gave nothing away. Which was, of course, a dead give-away to anyone who had put in the kind of time Ryouma had watching the tiny cues of Tezuka-buchou’s reactions.

“He won’t be going on in tennis, after this year, will he?” Ryouma asked.

“He won’t,” his captain agreed.

“Then why?” Ryouma persisted. This time, Tezuka-buchou looked at him more directly, and Ryouma gave the look back. If he was getting cut out of the games because of this, he thought he had a right to know the reason behind it. Tezuka-buchou didn’t do things this drastic without a good reason.

If the reason really was purely to test Ryouma’s self-control, he was probably going to fail right here and now; but he didn’t think that was it.

“While he is still a member of my team, I will do my best to call out the best game he can possibly play,” Tezuka-buchou answered, tone unyielding.

Ryouma waited, watching his face; not with challenge, now, but with a silent appeal to the trust between his captain and this member of his team. Tezuka-buchou sighed, very faintly, and looked out over the court where Fuji had decided to wrap things up briskly.

“The things you learn on the court—do they apply only to the game of tennis?” he asked.

The first thing that flashed through Ryouma’s mind was a series of encounters, some successful and some disastrous, with other sports. But then other things recalled themselves to him. Where he had gotten the discipline to keep countenance when he moved and had to deal with the shock of a whole new world. Where he had learned cooperation of any kind. Where he had learned the genuine pride in himself that let him choose his path without fear of anyone’s shadow. He lowered his head a bit, glancing aside toward the court.

“He is toying with them less and less,” he noted, as a roundabout peace offering.

Tezuka-buchou’s eyes were gentler as he looked back at Ryouma. “Yes,” he said. If Ryouma had had to guess, he would have bet that it was relief hidden behind the Captain’s Face, this time.

They stood in companionable quiet as the results of the match were called.

“I’m starving,” Momo declared as they all packed up for the day. “Anyone else want to grab some food?”

Ryouma tossed an Of course grin over his shoulder.

“That could be good,” Kikumaru-senpai decided. “Oishi?”

Oishi-senpai looked up from his bag with a regretful smile. “I have some extra studying I have to get done tonight.”

“You’re always doing extra studying, lately. You’re getting test anxiety way to early!” Kikumaru admonished. “I haven’t started studying for exams. Fuji hasn’t, right?” He waved at Fuji-senpai, who agreed, looking amused. “Tezuka hasn’t either!”

Tezuka-buchou glanced up from the papers he was making quick notes on. “Our schedules are arranged so that we have time to concentrate on Nationals now, and exams after that,” he observed. “But Oishi’s exams are more intensive than the usual.”

Ryouma’s head came up as Kikumaru sighed and leaned on his partner’s shoulder, offering to come make some food while he studied so he would eat something. The tone of “our schedules” had caught his ear.

“Buchou?” he asked, trying to stifle his alarm.

Tezuka-buchou seemed to spot it anyway, from the long, level look he gave Ryouma. “College,” he confirmed, and then added, “first.”

Ryouma started breathing again. The horrifying thought that this might be the last year he could play Tezuka-buchou receded, and he relaxed and finished packing. He also muttered, very quietly to himself, about bad senpai who thought it was fun to scare him like that.

Fuji-senpai agreed to come along for a bite, and the three of them headed off. Ryouma was still rather glum, contemplating the fact that one of his best targets was now going to be behind him rather than in front of him, where he could aim properly. Momo elbowed him.

“What are you sulking about, Echizen? You’ve already won against Tezuka-buchou, haven’t you? I thought we’d have to sweep people’s jaws up, along with the tennis balls, that day.”

Ryouma shrugged, impatiently. “He’ll just win next time, though. I’m not ahead of him, yet.”

“So, what’s to stop you from nagging the poor guy for matches while he’s in college?” Momo asked with a wry smile.

Ryouma’s mood brightened, at that. Maybe Tezuka-buchou wouldn’t mind; just every now and then…

Fuji was laughing. “It’s good to know you’ll be doing something you enjoy so much, Echizen,” he said.

Ryouma glanced sidelong at Fuji-senpai, hesitating. “Will you be, too?” he asked, finally.

“Yes. I will.” Fuji-senpai smiled at him, more reassuring than his usual smile, and Ryouma ducked his head, satisfied. He chewed on his lip for a moment before asking the next question.

“Will he?” Ryouma glanced back the way they had come.

After a thoughtful moment, Fuji nodded. “Yes, I think he will, too.” And then his mouth curled up.

“Moreso after he graduates and catches you up again, of course.”


Last Modified: Feb 08, 12
Posted: Sep 25, 04
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Yaru, Part One

During Tezuka’s first year of college, and Ryouma’s second year of high school, Ryouma tracks Tezuka down again and they edge into a relationship not based on the tennis club. Drama With Romance, I-4

Kunimitsu remembered that it had taken less than a month from the time he started high school to the day Echizen Ryouma had come to find him. He was not, therefore, entirely surprised to see Echizen now, not quite two months into Kunimitsu’s university studies. Echizen’s expression also bore a remarkable resemblance to the one he had worn on the previous occasion—a flash of uncertainty muffled under sardonic indifference.

What was odd was that Echizen had sought him out in this place.

Kunimitsu favored this particular outcropping because it was a bit off the main walking trails. After a pleasant, if thoroughly untaxing, walk up, it was nice to appreciate the view somewhere apart from the chattering families and shouting children. Someone had to have told Echizen how to find it, and as soon as Kunimitsu found out that it had been Fuji he was going to have some words with his friend. He preferred not to be disturbed, up here.

“Echizen,” he said, neither welcoming nor rejecting.

Echizen had gotten fairly adept at reading him, over the years, and Kunimitsu was sure he understood the nuance. After a moment of hesitation, though, Echizen picked his way through the underbrush to the span of smooth, sunny rock where Kunimitsu sat and perched beside him. Kunimitsu contemplated his body language. Echizen was slightly less than arm’s length away, arms wrapped around drawn up knees, chin tucked down. He wasn’t looking at Kunimitsu at all. Kunimitsu didn’t think he’d ever seen Echizen telegraph uncertainty so strongly.

“Do you like the view of the city from up here?” he asked, quietly, fishing for the reason Echizen had come to him here.

Echizen looked out, as if he’d just noticed the panorama in front of them. Eventually he nodded. “It’s a lot quieter,” he remarked.

Which was certainly true, if not especially informative. Kunimitsu didn’t think he’d get any better results if he asked, outright, why Echizen was here, though. He decided to wait, and see if silence would draw an answer out.

As silence settled over them, though, filled with the distant hum of the city, and the low shush of wind through the trees, and the sharper rustle of squirrels chasing each other overhead, he noticed that Echizen’s tension seemed to be receding. His arms loosened, and folded on top of his knees. He leaned forward to rest his chin on them with a sigh. His eyes drifted half closed. It was actually very relaxing just to watch.

When Kunimitsu stood, at last, to go, Echizen looked up at him.

“Thanks,” he said.

Kunimitsu nodded a silent You’re welcome, though he still wasn’t at all sure what for. He wondered, as he started back down the trail, whether he would ever find out.

Echizen found him at the same place again the next week, and again the week after that. Clearly, Fuji had also mentioned Kunimitsu’s schedule, which was an unusual amount of information from someone who professed not to have the faintest idea what Echizen had wanted it for. Kunimitsu made a note to have another word with Fuji and see if he could drag whatever his friend suspected out of him. Echizen certainly showed no signs of letting on. Each week he arrived a little after Kunimitsu, and came silently to sit beside him, and didn’t say a word unless Kunimitsu asked him something. Despite the continuing itch of curiosity, his presence was restful.

Normally that only happened after they had played a particularly hard match against each other.

By the end of the first month, in spite of Fuji’s annoyingly steadfast refusal to speculate on why Echizen came to find his erstwhile captain, at the top of a modest cliff overlooking the city, every week, Kunimitsu thought he might have begun to understand. The clue came to him when he realized that he was finding it relaxing to watch Echizen’s edginess soften, each visit.

Echizen’s tension lessened when he was with Kunimitsu.

Which seemed to indicate that he was under quite a bit of it, Kunimitsu reflected, watching Echizen lean back on his hands to look up at the quarreling sparrows. He had pressed Echizen to do and be many things, over the past four years, but at ease was not one of them. Kunimitsu faced a dilemma, if he wanted any more of the particulars, though. Echizen was nobody’s fool, and, if Kunimitsu asked more pointed questions about sources of stress in his life, would understand that Kunimitsu had noticed both the tension and its easing.

And then Kunimitsu would be obligated to either accept Echizen’s presence, and his reliance on Kunimitsu, or object to it. To date, he had avoided doing either.

Kunimitsu sighed, silently. When he had been Echizen’s captain, reliance had been reasonable. Team members relied on each other, and the captain carried an extra share; that was simply part of the position. Kunimitsu had accepted the responsibility, and, in fact, passed it on to Echizen to good effect. Now, though…

Kunimitsu had chosen to go all the way through college before he entered pro tennis. He had no doubt that Echizen would chose to go professional after high school. He was sure they would meet again, professionally, but their paths had diverged. Was it good for Echizen to still follow him so closely?

Unfortunately, perhaps, Kunimitsu chose that moment in his reflections to look again at Echizen’s eyes. They were bright and peaceful, a distinct contrast to their tightness a few weeks ago. Kunimitsu knew that he wasn’t going to deny Echizen that peace without a more significant reason. He had never been particularly good at leaving Echizen to his own devices. Ryuuzaki-sensei had teased him about it. On the bright side, he supposed, that did mean that he was free to press Echizen for details. Prime suspects first, since he knew Echizen, while a good student, did not have the kind of effortless time of his classes that Kunimitsu or Fuji did.

“How has your second year been so far?” he asked.

Echizen looked at him sidelong. “School’s been fine,” he said, eventually.

Kunimitsu gave Echizen his sternest look, the one he had learned from his grandfather. If Echizen knew what Kunimitsu wanted to find out, he wasn’t about to play twenty questions with the boy. Mischievous amusement flashed across Echizen’s face before it faded away, and he looked down at the ground.

“It’s calm, here,” he muttered.

Kunimitsu raised a brow. “Just here?” he asked. Meaning, not anywhere else in Echizen’s life right now?

Echizen nodded. Kunimitsu sighed out loud, this time. Specific problems were so much easier to deal with. There was nothing to be done about something this general; nothing but wait for Echizen to work it out on his own. Kunimitsu didn’t doubt that he would; Echizen wasn’t the sort to stand still and be run over. It was one of the things Kunimitsu had always appreciated about him. And if Echizen needed that little extra bit of familiarity and stability, while he worked on it, Kunimitsu supposed it was acceptable for him to provide it.

Echizen was watching Kunimitsu from the corner of his eye.

“It’s good to have someplace like that,” Kunimitsu allowed. He was hard pressed to suppress a smile when Echizen blew out a quiet breath and relaxed again. He didn’t think he had ever known anyone as artlessly expressive as Echizen was once he let his shell drop. It had always amused him that Echizen opened up faster to his opponents than to anyone else, and that the only reason Echizen had been so free within his team was that each of his teammates could also give him a hard time in competition.

Altogether, perhaps he shouldn’t be surprised that it was he Echizen had sought out.

Kunimitsu had expected Echizen to become a bit more talkative, now that he knew his presence was accepted. But he was as silent as ever, seeming perfectly content to pass each Tuesday evening without exchanging a single word. In retrospect, Kunimitsu did recall that Echizen had always been fairly reticent, off the courts. It was just that his unbridled insolence and provocations on the court tended to overshadow the fact.

He also found that Echizen was visiting their outcropping even when Kunimitsu wasn’t there. While Tuesday was the one day of the week Kunimitsu was assured of having enough time free to take the bus, walk up and still have long enough to just sit for a while, he did try to get out for a decent walk someplace besides the city parks a few times a week. This trail was his favorite, when he thought he’d have time, and Echizen seemed to have taken to it also, to judge from the several occasions Kunimitsu found Echizen there before him on odd days, sprawled on his stomach so that he could look over the drop-off. When that happened, Echizen only looked over his shoulder and smiled before setting his chin back on his crossed arms.

That expanse of weather-smoothed stone became a shared place without Kunimitsu being able to pin down just when it happened. By the middle of summer, though, he knew this to be the case, and so it was simply courtesy that led him to speak.

“I won’t be here, next week. I’m leaving a bit early to get to some of the trails further out from the city.”

He had rather expected Echizen to make a face, or otherwise indicate his disgruntlement. He did not expect the abrupt and seamless blankness that accompanied Echizen’s nod of acknowledgement. Perhaps it was his surprise at an expression so alien to Echizen’s manner that prompted him to say what he did next.

“You can come along, if you’d like.”

Echizen’s eyes lightened, as he blinked at Kunimitsu, and Kunimitsu found himself relaxing to see the opaqueness replaced by faint surprise.

“It would be all right?” Echizen asked.

Kunimitsu reflected that he hadn’t realized just how for granted he had come to take Echizen’s openness, with him. It would bear some thought, whether he should let himself rest against it to the extent his own reaction indicated he did. For now, though, he had made the invitation, and could hardly withdraw it.

“Yes,” he answered.

Echizen nodded. “I’d like to come.”

Kunimitsu told him the time the bus would leave, and wondered whether it was deliberate, this talent Echizen had for getting people to act outside their usual parameters.


Last Modified: Oct 06, 07
Posted: Sep 26, 04
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Yaru, Part Two

Ryouma comes to terms rather abruptly with the reason he’s clinging to Tezuka. Drama with Romance, I-3

Ryouma glanced up at his companion, and then back down at where his feet were going.

At first, it had been a matter of chance, really. Ryouma had missed his captain’s presence, which always made it easier to be calm. And, when Fuji-senpai had shown up to watch his brother’s match against Ryouma at the district preliminaries, Ryouma had been reminded and asked, in passing, how Tezuka-san was. Fuji-senpai had cocked his head and given Ryouma a long look.

And then he’d told Ryouma to go find out for himself, and given him quite specific directions on how to do so.

When he’d seen Tezuka-san, sitting at the edge of that overlook, Ryouma been startled at the wave of relief he felt. It had reminded him of his first year of junior high, and how he’d felt when his captain had returned to the team. Which was strange, considering that Tezuka-san wasn’t his captain anymore and certainly hadn’t returned. Quite the contrary.

Dissecting his own reaction had helped distract Ryouma from the reaction itself. Ryouma knew perfectly well that he had always depended on his captain, for a challenge, for an example, for a little peace in all the craziness. He had just thought he’d done a better job convincing himself that he had to stop, now they were on different tracks.

Apparently not.

Apparently, the craziness now consisted mostly of Tezuka-san’s absence. Ryouma had never been much for denial, so, having reached this conclusion, he had chosen to keep visiting unless and until Tezuka-san indicated he wasn’t welcome. He had been a little surprised that Tezuka-san hadn’t done so yet, not even after he seemed to realize why Ryouma was there. Ryouma had been even more surprised when Tezuka-san invited him along on a trip that fell on Visiting Day. Not that his surprise had kept him from accepting.

All of which had led him to here, hiking up the side of a mountain. A fairly gentle mountain, of course, this was no hanging-from-ledges affair. Though, Ryouma reflected, that could be fun, too, at some point. Still, he had to keep his mind on what he was doing if he didn’t want to take a spill. Which he had no intention of doing, especially in front of Tezuka-san. Ryouma took some pride in being able to pick up new skills quickly, and had every intention of becoming competent enough to justify being invited along next time, too. So he kept an eye on where Tezuka-san was placing his feet, and how he shifted his weight to keep his balance on the slope.

There was something rather soothing about the activity, actually. Unlike the vast majority of athletics Ryouma had undertaken, there was no real competition, here. He was pretty sure that a huge chunk of rock covered in trees had no interest in defeating him; it was just there. The challenge, here, was… himself.

Maybe that was why Tezuka-san liked it.

This did not, of course, stop him from glaring at Tezuka-san’s back, when he crossed a washed out bit of the trail with one long step. Just because Ryouma accepted the fact that he would always be fairly small and compact did not mean he appreciated it when tall people flaunted their extra centimeters. When Tezuka-san paused and looked back, though, as if to offer his shorter companion a hand over if it was needed, Ryouma merely cranked up the glare a few notches and sprang over on his own.

Taking comfort from Tezuka-san’s presence was one thing. Accepting help for something like this was completely different.

The lightening of Tezuka-san’s eyes said that he probably knew just what Ryouma was thinking. Ryouma raised his chin and smirked back. He was pleased when this won a curl at the corner of Tezuka-san’s mouth, before Tezuka-san turned back to the trail.

When they finally came out of the trees, it was almost a shock. Ryouma thought that, if he took another few strides, he might step into the sky. It must be absolutely incredible at night.

He didn’t realize that he had said that last out loud until Tezuka-san turned to look at him, brows slightly arched.

“Yes, it is,” he confirmed, quietly.

Ryouma turned back to the sweep of blue and air over them, and breathed out a soft sigh. He wondered if he could possibly manage to come up here at night, some time, and see it. He remembered seeing the night sky through thin air, a few times, away from city lights. Personally, he thought Japanese schools won, hands down, when it came to field trips, but he’d been on a few good ones back before they’d moved, too.

Ryouma tipped his head back to follow the path of the sunlight across the sky until he swayed and Tezuka-san touched his shoulder to steady him.

When Fuji-senpai turned up at the next Seigaku match, Ryouma didn’t think it was quite as coincidental as the last time. It didn’t soothe his suspicion at all when Fuji fell in beside him, as the team was leaving.

“Good game,” he complimented Ryouma.

“Thanks,” Ryouma told him, a little warily.

“Your play has come back on-center again, I was glad to see. You seemed a little distracted earlier in the year.”

Ryouma made a noncommittal noise, and took a sip of water; he knew what Fuji-senpai was talking about. He was also glad that irritating, prickly, talking-to-himself babble inside his head had faded. It wasn’t as thought he had ever been able to tell what was wrong.

Fuji-senpai smiled at him, affectionately. “Who would have thought your little crush on Tezuka would last this long, or affect you so much.”

Ryouma nearly inhaled a mouthful of water. “My what?” he choked.

Fuji-senpai chuckled at him. “Did you really think no one noticed?” he asked.

“I’m not… it isn’t… what…” Ryouma bit back further sputtering, and took a very deep breath. It didn’t help all that much. Fuji-senpai was watching him narrowly, and finally made a surprised sound, brows arched.

“You didn’t realize it? Well, there’s one over on me,” he said, cheerfully. “I thought you had.”

Ryouma pressed his lips together and stalked on, trying to ignore Fuji’s presence beside him. He did not have a crush on his captain. Ex-captain. On Tezuka-san. He respected Tezuka-san, of course; Tezuka-san was his best challenge, and the one who understood best how Ryouma felt about the game. Tezuka-san was the one who had always known where Ryouma was trying to get to, and he’d put his own game on the line, more than once, to help Ryouma get there. And of course Ryouma loved playing against him; it was an incredible thrill to go all out and never be sure who would win, and Tezuka-san’s game was beautiful just to watch, never mind actually stand in the middle of and reach out and touch. And, yes, so it made Ryouma feel better to be around Tezuka-san, anyone whose life was as crazy as his would be grateful for a little peace and quiet. And if he just happened, just circumstantially, to have noticed that late-day sun turned Tezuka-san’s eyes bronze, that didn’t… it didn’t…

Ah, hell.

All right, fine, but that still wasn’t a crush!

Ryouma glowered at the still smiling Fuji from the corner of his eye, and was suddenly struck by a horrible thought.

“Fuji-senpai,” he said, slowly, “you’re not…” he nearly choked on the word, “you’re not matchmaking are you?”

Fuji-senpai laughed. “Of course not!” He smiled benignly at Ryouma. “I’m just watching to see what happens.”

“Has anyone ever told you you have bad hobbies?” Ryouma grumbled.

“At times,” Fuji-senpai allowed, serenely.

Ryouma sighed. Yes, that was Fuji-senpai, all right. Not precisely comforting, but a whole lot better than the alternative. “Have you mentioned anything to Tezuka-san?” he asked, crossing his fingers.

“Certainly not,” Fuji assured him. “It’s none of my business.”

Ryouma snorted at the magnitude of this bare-faced lie, but was reassured. If he was sure of any one thing, now that Fuji-senpai had kicked him over the edge of enlightenment, it was that he wasn’t saying anything about this to Tezuka-san. Daydreams were probably no longer avoidable, but that didn’t call for him to make a voluntary idiot out of himself.

A week later, Tezuka-san asked if he really wanted to see what the end of that trail looked like at night.


Last Modified: Feb 08, 12
Posted: Sep 26, 04
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Yaru, Part Three

Tezuka finally loses his battle to stay detached. Romance, I-3

Kunimitsu had come to the conclusion that, if he wanted to know what was going on with Echizen, he would need bait. He no longer had the authority to demand an explanation. Or, at least, if he did, he wasn’t sure he wanted to use it, or even know about it. With no institutional roles surrounding them, any authority he still had with Echizen would be personal. This was a time when Echizen should be growing beyond that. If Kunimitsu had done his job properly, Echizen should not think of Kunimitsu as his captain for much longer. He could only hope that this time together, outside of a shared school and team, would help and not hinder the process.

Which brought him back to the question of bait, because seeking an accounting from Echizen without offering in return would definitely not help. This did not mean that Kunimitsu was above choosing a place and time to his own advantage. For example, the side of a mountain after sunset and before moonrise, when it would be dark enough that Echizen, who was very good at deciphering subtle, non-verbal cues, would not get more from Kunimitsu than he intended to give. It also helped that Echizen seemed absolutely entranced by the sky, and might answer him without thinking.

So. “It’s good to be doing something that requires an effort,” he offered, quietly. “After last year, the Seigaku University tennis club doesn’t offer much of a challenge.”

Echizen made a considering noise. His shadowy outline leaned back a little further. “I bet,” he said, in a judicious tone, “that Fuji-senpai says you should have chosen Rikkai University, instead.”

“He does,” Kunimitsu acknowledged, dryly, giving information to draw information out. He had not expected that Echizen’s sense of humor would make it easier.

“I would say I’m glad I won’t have to worry about that,” Echizen said, thoughtfully, “only the last time I said that to Dad, he laughed. He wouldn’t tell me why, because he likes being annoying, but I bet I know. He thinks he’ll be the only real challenge for me.” Echizen sniffed. “You’d think he’d never seen the rest of you play.”

Kunimitsu held back his smile out of habit, even in the dark. It was good to know that Echizen had taken so much assurance from that very first lesson. It did sound, though, like tennis was not the source of Echizen’s apparent agitation, this year.

“You never held back, with me, Tezuka-san,” Echizen continued, more softly. “Right from the first.”

“Yes,” Kunimitsu agreed.

“So why are you holding back now?”

It seemed that Echizen didn’t need to see him to gather more than Kunimitsu expected. He switched to bluntness. “If I asked you, directly, why you came looking for me, would you tell me?”

The moon was rising, and he could see Echizen’s head turn toward him. “Yes.”

“Why would you answer?” Kunimitsu asked. Before he asked anything else, he wanted the answer to that.

“Because you never held back,” Echizen replied, matter-of-factly. “You’ve always been honest with me. Doesn’t that mean I should be honest, too?”

Silence filled the space between them, until Kunimitsu spoke again. “We should be going.” Before the revelations got out of hand.

Ryouma stood and stretched. “You didn’t usually tell everything,” he said, “but what you did say was the truth.” It was bright enough, now, to guess at the spark in his eyes as he looked at Kunimitsu and smiled.

Kunimitsu visited his mother as often as he had an hour or two free. He felt guilty, every now and then, that he had moved out and could no longer shield her from his father and grandfather’s bickering, but she had laughed at his hesitation and shooed him off. She had even helped him pick out an apartment, and given him her largest, most luxuriant spider plant, the most unkillable live housewarming gift possible. When neither of the other men of the family were looking, she had also tucked Requiem et Reminiscence in among the fronds, with a wink. Realistically, he knew quite well that, while he had learned how to wear a stern and reserved face from his grandfather, it had been his mother who taught him the serenity he needed to wear it easily and well. Tezuka Ayana needed no one to shield her.

His mother examined him over the edge of her teacup. “You’re looking more cheerful again, Kunimitsu. That’s good. Is the tennis club turning out better than you thought?”

“Not particularly,” Kunimitsu answered, frankly. It was generally quite useless to even attempt to keep secrets from his mother.

“Ah. Have you met someone who drags you out of your routines and keeps you from boring yourself stiff, then?”

Case in point. Kunimitsu smiled into his own tea. That was actually a reasonable description of Echizen. It was what made him both infuriating and intriguing to deal with.

“I suppose so,” he said, and gave in, with a sigh, to his mother’s prompting look. “Not someone new. One of my team from last year.”

She smiled at him, affectionately. “They did seem to make you happy, both times you’ve led them. I think you liked helping your team win as much as you enjoyed your own victories. You enjoy being needed, Kunimitsu.”

Kunimitsu consulted the depths of his teacup. He knew his mother was right, and yet…

“Kunimitsu?” she asked, gently. “What is it?”

“I don’t know if it’s good for Echizen to need me, still,” he admitted. “I did my best to help him advance, to stand on his own without any shadow over him.”

“Do you think you failed?” his mother asked, brows raised.

Kunimitsu opened his mouth, and then closed it again. Did he truly believe he had failed? That his own shadow lay over Echizen, now? He held that thought up against the memory of Echizen grinning and prodding at him; of Echizen’s blazing eyes on the other side of a net; of Echizen leaning back on his hands, relaxed, tracing the arc of the Milky Way across the sky.

“I know you don’t want to be like your grandfather that way, and overshadow where you only wished to teach,” his mother said, softly. “You should trust that you won’t; and, perhaps, trust this young friend of yours, too.”

Kunimitsu felt tension unwind from his shoulders, and smiled, leaning forward to brush a kiss against her cheek.

“Thank you, Mother.”

What still astonished Kunimitsu, sometimes, was the fact that Echizen seemed to trust him. Enough to have fallen asleep, beside him on their sunny rock. And, while Kunimitsu was not normally much troubled by protective impulses where Echizen Ryouma was concerned, the black hair fanned untidily across Echizen’s cheek was making Kunimitsu’s fingers itch to tuck it back.

It could, of course, just have been his own ingrained neatness. But Kunimitsu somewhat doubted that was all it was.

Ryuuzaki-sensei had asked him, once, why he took such trouble for Echizen. At the time, he had answered simply that he was Echizen’s captain. It was true enough. But it wasn’t all the truth.

Part of it was, indeed, the desire he felt to see any of his team play at their best, and beyond. Part of it was almost aesthetic; Kunimitsu couldn’t think of any other way to describe it, much as he didn’t want to have anything in common with such a clearly disturbed individual as Jyousei’s Hanamura-sensei. The shape of Ryouma’s potential had been stunning, and it would have been a criminal waste not to do everything possible to bring it out.

Part of it was harder to explain.

Perhaps it was the casual courage that pursued its own goals unflinchingly and didn’t care what the rest of the world thought. Perhaps it was the exultation in the game itself, that thought nothing of losing beyond “next time, I won’t”. Perhaps it was the willingness to drive on beyond reason.

Perhaps it was those things that Kunimitsu recognized because he had felt them, too.

Perhaps it was just that Echizen was the only one who could make Kunimitsu work quite so hard to bite back a smile or a sigh when Ryouma glanced up with that troublemaking gleam in his eye.

He glanced at the angle of the sunlight, and then at his watch. Whatever the whole truth was, it was getting late and they should both be going. “Echizen,” he called, quietly, “Echizen, wake up.”

Echizen stirred, and made a faint grumbling noise. “Echizen,” Kunimitsu said, more firmly, leaning toward him.

Echizen’s eyes opened a little, still hazy. He blinked at Kunimitsu and reached up a hand to touch his face, as if to see whether he were really there.

Kunimitsu held quite still.

Echizen’s fingertips slid down his cheek and across his mouth. It was the last touch that seemed to wake Echizen up all the way, because his eyes abruptly snapped fully open and shock raced through them. He snatched his hand back and started to roll away and onto his feet.

Kunimitsu’s hand flashed out and closed on his shoulder, and Echizen froze.

Kunimitsu nearly sighed at himself. That impulsive move had presented him with a nice predicament. If he had let Echizen go, it was quite possible that they would have silently agreed to ignore this little occurrence completely. But, no, he had to give in to his urge toward confrontation and make things more complicated. He really had let his control lapse around Echizen, this year.

Echizen was still frozen, half way up on one elbow, looking back at Kunimitsu from the very corner of his eye. Kunimitsu could feel the tension in him, poised to go either way, waiting. Well, as long as he’d gone this far, he might as well keep going. It was not natural to either of them to stop halfway. What was that European phrase? In for a sheep… He’d been mildly appalled when he had looked up the historical source of that saying, though no more so than he had at some portions of his own country’s legal history…

He recognized that he was stalling, and that was not acceptable, no matter how far he’d let his self control go. So, then. He tugged on Echizen’s shoulder, and, after a moment, Echizen let himself drop back to the stone under them and look up at Kunimitsu. Still waiting. And Kunimitsu’s mouth twitched.

He lifted his hand to Ryouma’s face and tucked back the unruly strands of hair that had been distracting him earlier. Ryouma blinked at him.

“I’ve never known anyone else with such a talent for getting me to act on impulse,” Kunimitsu observed. The pleased curl to Echizen’s lips at that piece of information pulled a smile out of Kunimitsu in answer, and he let it. He needed to make sure of one more thing, though. “I’m not your captain any more, Echizen.”

He didn’t know if Ryouma heard the hope or the question under that statement, but Echizen nodded. “No, you’re not,” he said.

The surety in his voice soothed Kunimitsu’s last reservations, and he leaned down and touched his lips to Echizen’s. A light brush, another, and then Echizen reached up and wrapped his arms around Kunimitsu’s shoulders and pulled.

When Kunimitsu regained his balance, only a hastily thrown out hand was keeping his full weight off Echizen, and one of his legs was between Ryouma’s. Ryouma grinned, looking insufferably pleased with himself, and leaned up to steal a third kiss.

“You certainly recover quickly,” Kunimitsu told him, and shifted until he could wind an arm around Echizen and pull him tight up against Kunimitsu’s body. He took advantage of Ryouma’s quick breath to offer a more serious kiss, and Ryouma answered readily, opening his mouth against Kunimitsu’s. His arms tightened around Kunimitsu’s back, and when Kunimitsu pulled away Echizen made a noise both disappointed and annoyed. Kunimitsu laughed low in his chest.

“Your enthusiasm is gratifying,” he said, straight faced, and Ryouma glared at him, “but I have no intention of carrying on outside on a rock, however isolated.”

Echizen made another grumpy noise, but his expression agreed. Which was good, because Kunimitsu’s knees were becoming quite definite about the ‘on a rock’ part of the statement. The uncertainty lurking in Ryouma’s glance up at him, though, prodded Kunimitsu to an offer he really hadn’t intended to make so quickly.

“Would you like to come back to my apartment with me?”

Used as he was to seeing it under other circumstances, the brilliance of the look Echizen returned stole Kunimitsu’s breath for a moment. It was the brilliance that made Echizen such an irresistible lure and goad and challenge on the court, and Kunimitsu resigned himself to the knowledge that he had just welcomed all the interest and chaos and trouble and thrill that Echizen trailed after him like a too-long scarf into yet another part of his life.

He couldn’t quite bring himself to worry about that.


Last Modified: Feb 08, 12
Posted: Sep 26, 04
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Yaru, Part Four

Tezuka and Ryouma achieve some closure. Romance with Porn, I-4

Ryouma was entertained by Tezuka-san’s apartment. Most of it was meticulously neat in an absentminded sort of way. He was willing to bet that Tezuka-san put things back in their assigned places without ever really thinking about it. So he had to wonder just who had supplied the huge, untidily sprawling spider plant that hung by the sliding door to the modest balcony, or the equally sprawling jade plant a short stand underneath it.

Actually, he’d bet on Fuji-senpai for the jade plant; Ryouma had seen one like it overrunning Fuji-senpai’s windowsill in a twining riot of tendrils. But Fuji didn’t use the same jab twice very often, so there must be someone else who thought Tezuka-san’s life could do with a bit less order. At least two people, then, who would probably approve of him, Ryouma thought, knowing that the grin taking over his face was likely a dead give-away to his thoughts.

“You look like you’re contemplating making my life difficult,” Tezuka-san remarked, behind him.

Sure enough. When Ryouma turned, though, he could feel the grin turning into something less certain. He’d spent quite some time, by now, sidestepping his physical attraction to Tezuka-san. Having Tezuka-san standing in front of him, close enough to feel his body heat, was a little… disorienting. It only got moreso as Tezuka-san’s expression softened; normally it took a good deal more work on Ryouma’s part before that happened.

It was actually better when Tezuka-san gathered him close. Easier to let his body’s response rule. Ryouma moved closer still, fitting himself against Tezuka-san, stretching up to press a kiss against his mouth.

The expression of Tezuka’s body changed, at that, tautened. So much the better—less time to waste thinking. Ryouma buried one hand in springy, honey brown hair and licked, lightly, at Tezuka-san’s lower lip. Tezuka’s arms tightened around him, hard enough to drive the breath out of him. Tezuka caught Ryouma’s gasp in his mouth, lifting him up and kissing him deeply.

And then Tezuka-san drew in a long breath and started to loosen his grip.

“Don’t let go,” Ryouma protested, pressing close.

Tezuka-san stilled. “Most people like to breathe,” he pointed out.

“Breathing is nice,” Ryouma agreed. “But when you hold me that hard I know I’ve really reached you.”

After a moment, Tezuka’s arms closed snugly again, and Ryouma looked up with a smile. Tezuka-san was studying him, mouth curved with a faintly rueful quirk at one corner. “I never expected you to make a vocation of that hobby of yours,” he said, softly.

“Why not?” Ryouma asked. “Don’t you know what you’re like, when you open up a little?” Tezuka-san’s brows asked the question, and Ryouma chewed on his lip, trying to put it into words. “It’s like water,” he said, at last. “Underwater, it’s everywhere, wrapped all around you, and it seems perfectly calm until a current comes along. And then you can’t do anything to keep from moving with it. That’s what you’re like when we play for real. And then, when you forget to be reserved, it’s like the surface of water—choppy or bright or ticklish when you put your hand in the way of the waves.” He couldn’t say what look there was in Tezuka-san’s eyes, now. It wasn’t one he’d ever seen before. But it made him think of something else, and he slid both arms over Tezuka-san’s shoulders, laughing up at him. “And I don’t know what it’s like, yet, when you touch someone, but I was hoping to find out.”

Tezuka brushed fingers through Ryouma’s hair and down the side of his neck. “Are you sure?” he asked, deep voice a little huskier than usual.

Accustomed, from years of listening, to hearing the things Tezuka left unsaid, Ryouma tipped his head and gave him a slightly exasperated look. “I’m not afraid,” he said, definitely. “And I like this, and I want to feel you.”

Tezuka’s arms tightened fiercely around him, again, but his lips against Ryouma’s were soft and light, coaxing faint, breathless sounds from him. When one of Tezuka’s legs pressed between his, Ryouma moaned, arching up against Tezuka and pulling him down to a more insistent kiss. When Tezuka’s tongue still only flirted with his, Ryouma nipped at it, and then made a pleased sound as Tezuka’s low laugh vibrated down the whole length of his body.

“Bedroom,” Tezuka murmured.

Ryouma growled, but let go long enough for them to cross the apartment without tripping. He would have pounced on Tezuka again, there, but Tezuka closed his hands over Ryouma’s shoulders, brushing his thumbs across Ryouma’s collar bones. Ryouma caught his breath, and stood, curious. Tezuka stepped back and began undressing, without either haste or hesitation. By the time his shirt slid off his arms, only to be caught and draped, neatly, over the closet door, Ryouma’s breath was coming short. Which he couldn’t help thinking was a little ridiculous, considering the number of times he’d seen Tezuka one pair of boxers short of naked, but there it was. It wasn’t until Tezuka stripped off the last cloth, and stepped back to sit on the edge of his bed, dropping his folded glasses on the bedside table, that Ryouma understood. It was in Tezuka’s eyes when he met Ryouma’s gaze, in the hand he held out to invite Ryouma close again. Ryouma had said that he wanted to see Tezuka open. Tezuka was telling him that he could.

Ryouma came and took Tezuka’s hand in both of his, stroking his fingers over the palm and hearing Tezuka’s breath catch in turn. And then he stepped back a little and reached for the hem of his own shirt. He couldn’t quite manage to meet Tezuka’s eyes, but he felt them on him like a beam of sunlight—something hot and tangible where it touched.

When he stepped back to the bed, Tezuka’s hands passing up his back smoothed the awkwardness away, and Ryouma leaned into him with a sigh, relaxing. This feeling, skin sliding over skin, was almost familiar. It felt like those times, when they played, that they both saw each other clearly, the times when they each knew what the other would do, when they… touched. Ryouma eased into the familiarity, straddling Tezuka’s legs so that he could press closer. Tezuka’s hands swept tiny shivers up his legs, over his ribs, threaded into his hair and drew Ryouma down to a kiss that made him glad he wasn’t supporting his own weight.

Tezuka’s mouth muffled the sound Ryouma made when those long hands slipped back down and between his legs. Tezuka let Ryouma’s sudden surge against him tumble them both back onto the bed, and Ryouma found himself sprawled over Tezuka, looking down at the smile lurking at the corners of Tezuka’s mouth. Shifting to twine his legs more comfortably with Tezuka’s, Ryouma paused and sighed. He could feel that Tezuka was hard. He rocked against Tezuka, gasping a little, both at the hot wash of sensation and at the soft groan it pulled from Tezuka. Tezuka’s fingers kneaded against his rear, spreading him open, stroking him, and Ryouma tensed a little. He saw both heat and deliberate restraint as Tezuka looked up at him.

“Have you ever done this before?” Tezuka asked.

Ryouma shook his head. “Not this.”

Tezuka’s mouth softened further, and he wrapped his arms around Ryouma and rolled them over, kissing Ryouma gently until he was breathing deeply again, moving with Tezuka. “Tell me if you don’t like this, then,” Tezuka said, reaching over Ryouma’s head. “Some people don’t.”

Ryouma felt Tezuka’s slick fingers nudging against him, and shivered a little, pulling Tezuka down to kiss him again. One finger pressed, circling, and slid into him. It was… odd. Ryouma couldn’t decide whether he liked it or not. The fact of it, there, was very strange, and yet the sliding movement might be nice. He frowned.


He could feel Tezuka’s lips curve as they brushed his neck. A second finger pressed in, and Ryouma snatched a breath. Oh… that… yes, that was better. The stretch felt good, and the slide was firmer, now. He liked that. He wound his arms around Tezuka, arching up into him. “Mmmmmh. More,” he murmured.

Tezuka kissed him, hard, and Ryouma shivered again at the strained control in it. A third finger slid in between the first two, and the sound in Ryouma’s throat was harsher this time. The feeling was more intense, and he spread his legs wider, pushing up into it. Warm. Not rough, but… something like it. He held on more tightly, and returned Tezuka’s kisses with abandon.

Tezuka was letting his control go, too. When he knelt back and pulled Ryouma up with him, Ryouma found himself held almost as hard as he had been earlier, and moaned against Tezuka’s mouth. Now he could say what it was like when Tezuka touched someone. It was like the pull of a wave going out, drawing your feet out from under you and pulling you into the water. And Ryouma was perfectly willing to go.

“Tezuka,” he breathed.

Tezuka slipped around him and drew Ryouma back against his chest, straddling his knees. Ryouma smiled at the arms closed around him.

“You’ll be all right like this?” Tezuka asked, softly.

“Mmm. Yeah,” Ryouma sighed. It would be nice to watch Tezuka’s eyes, because he would bet that they were burning just a little wild. But he wanted more to be held, right now. It kept him from completely losing his breath as Tezuka pressed into him. He did grab for the headboard, though, because this was far more than Tezuka’s fingers had been and he was shaking by the time Tezuka’s hips met his. Tezuka’s hold on him tightened, soothing, mouth brushing the nape of Ryouma’s neck. Ryouma relaxed, slowly, panting a little. It felt good, just… intense. When Tezuka drew back and thrust in again, though, it pulled a sharp sound from him. That pressure, stroking inside him, was hotter, now, sharper. A new edge surged through him with each thrust. It shuddered down his nerves like heat waves off the street in summer, and Ryouma found himself moving, rocking back into Tezuka, straining against that hard slide.

Tezuka answered him, moving faster, hands stroking down Ryouma’s body, between his thighs, fondling him, lifting him up to meet the driving pace. The deep voice in Ryouma’s ear was rough, now, breathless over his name. Ryouma stretched into the tight hold and hard caress, voiceless with the weight of sensation running through him, driven into him, stroked out of him. It rushed down to a hot point and exploded through him, raking down him over and over and over.

Tezuka’s movement against him had a dreamlike edge for a minute, before he gasped sharply against Ryouma’s neck and caught him closer, stilling. A distant corner of Ryouma’s mind decided it was probably oxygen overdose. Most of him was too busy drowning in lax warmth to care. Eventually, Tezuka loosened his hold and drew away, letting Ryouma down to the bed and leaning over him for a slow kiss.

A last, small, shiver passed through Ryouma at the open smile Tezuka wore, and the laughing, rueful, affection in his eyes. He reached up and sighed, pleased, as Tezuka gathered him close again.

Being Tezuka’s lover, Ryouma had decided, was not significantly different from being his friend or his opponent. Well, except in the obvious sense, when Tezuka brought Ryouma home and laid him down on the bed, or pressed him up against the wall, or came up behind him at the door to the balcony and slid a hand…

Ryouma realized that he was getting distracted, and probably rather flushed, and refocused on the rack in front of him. The point was, they both still had their own lives, and their lives were still running along pretty separate tracks, and they had a limited number of times and places to meet. And if Ryouma wanted to keep going along on Tezuka’s hiking trips, which he did, Tezuka chose places with gorgeous views, Ryouma needed shoes that were not sneakers.

First, though, he might just need to read the manual of hiking boots to figure out what the heck all the alleged benefits listed on various tags meant.

A clerk popped up at his elbow. “Can I help you, sir?”

“Only if you can translate this stuff,” Ryouma told him, absently, squinting at phrases like ‘external heel’ and ‘mid cut’.

“That is part of my job,” the man said, easily. “Are you just starting out hiking?”

“I am,” Ryouma specified, “the person I go with isn’t.”

Actual interest replaced the professional smile. “Ah. Do I take it that you cover some more demanding trails?”

Ryouma had to stop and think about that. He suspected Tezuka wouldn’t think they were demanding at all, and he wasn’t having any trouble keeping up. But he certainly didn’t see any families on the trails Tezuka seemed to like best. “Yes, some,” he said, at last. “Probably more, later,” he added.

The clerk looked thoughtful. “Most of my customers who do serious climbing prefer the lower cut shoes, but more ankle support is a good idea when you’re still building up to that. If your friend likes rougher trails, the traditional, high cut boots will likely stay just as useful as time goes on.”

Ryouma had no intention of inviting injury. “Boots,” he agreed. “If he ever breaks out the climbing ropes, I’ll come back then.”

The clerk grinned. “It sounds like your friend really has you hooked,” he commented.

Ryouma choked down a laugh at the image this brought to mind. Though if their excursions ever turned to fishing, he was bringing a pillow. Still…

“Yeah, I guess you could say that,” he allowed.

Ryouma rummaged in one and then another cupboard before giving up and standing in the middle of the kitchenette, glaring impartially at all of them.

“Do you reorganize your cabinets instead of biting your nails like a normal person?” he called into the living room.

“Yes,” Tezuka answered quite calmly.

Ryouma transferred his glare. Tezuka’s sense of humor could be a little abstruse sometimes, but Ryouma could recognize perfectly well when he was being teased. “Good to know that,” he returned briskly, “so where did you put the glasses this time?”

“Beside the refrigerator, of course.”

Ryouma fished out two, muttering, and brought the filled glasses out to the couch. “Serve you right if I dumped this on you.”

“Mm,” Tezuka said, agreeably. He was obviously wrapped up in the textbook on the table in front of him, and Ryouma had to stifle two separate impulses. The first was to spill a few drops of ice water down Tezuka’s neck to get his attention off the physics reading that he really didn’t need to devote such concentration to. The second was to get between Tezuka and the table, and kiss the stern line of his mouth into something softer. The entertainment value of one was about equal to the other.

Ryouma restrained himself for the time being, and set one drink down by the open textbook before taking his own and sprawling on the huge floor cushion that had put in an appearance a few weeks ago.

“Why are you bothering with this?” he asked. “It isn’t like you need a college degree to go pro, and if it’s professional tennis that you want you’re wasting four of your strongest years.”

Tezuka gave him a long look. “It’s debatable whether they’re my strongest years,” he said.

Ryouma narrowed his eyes. He was used to Tezuka’s roundabout conversational methods, but he wasn’t in the mood to be patient today. Tezuka sighed and closed his books.

“I’m planning on a career in pro tennis, yes. But what about after? If I decide I don’t want to teach, this,” he waved at the books and papers, “will give me more options. That’s all.”

Ryouma thought about that. It was true, his dad was pretty much useless since he didn’t play or teach; well, not anyone but Ryouma. He really couldn’t see Tezuka lazing around doing nothing but collecting dirty magazines.

Really, really couldn’t see it.

“I’ve never really wanted to do anything else,” he mused. “Not since…” he broke off, not quite prepared to say out loud not since I first played you.

Tezuka’s eyes lightened. “I didn’t really think you had,” he agreed, a laugh running under his voice.

After a moment of hesitation, Ryouma came to kneel between Tezuka’s legs and comb his fingers through Tezuka’s hair. “You’re coming, then?” he asked, quietly. “You’ll be there?” He felt a little silly asking Tezuka Kunimitsu, of all people, for that reassurance, but still…

Tezuka’s arms wrapped around him, tight enough to make him gasp. “I will,” he murmured in Ryouma’s ear.

Ryouma relaxed in that grip, content to stay there for as long as Tezuka wanted to hold him.


Last Modified: Feb 08, 12
Posted: Sep 26, 04
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Yaru, Epilogue

Tezuka and Echizen settle in with each other. Romance with Drama, I-3

Kunimitsu stood at the back of the humming spectators and observed the various recriminations and celebrations of Rikkai’s and Seigaku’s teams with some amusement. He had company, as he always did when he came to watch matches between these teams. Both Sanada and Yukimura had come, today.

What amused Kunimitsu most was watching Echizen and Kirihara, engaged in a discussion as vigorous as their just finished match, climbing the stands toward their respective seniors without paying the slightest attention to anyone else. This included several of the scouts who made bids for Kirihara’s attention, only to bounce off his impenetrable focus on Echizen.

“…supposed to be two years ahead of me, not two behind!” Ryouma was saying, in an aggrieved tone, as they came into earshot.

“I don’t know what you’re complaining about,” Kirihara told him. “I’m going to be the one bored out of my mind for a year, until you catch up.”

Ryouma waved a dismissive hand. “No you won’t. Momo-senpai is going straight on. And,” in the tone of someone being fair against his every inclination, “Atobe-san is already in the pro circuit.”

Kirihara made a face. “This is supposed to be encouraging?”

“He’s a good opponent,” Ryouma said, “and it’s the best we’ll get until they graduate. Two years!” he glared impartially at Kunimitsu, Sanada and Yukimura all.

Sanada declined to comment, merely giving Kunimitsu a look that asked him to control his unruly kouhai. Yukimura, though, smiled.

“Well, after all, university is where we’ll find the majority of our favorite opponents, isn’t it?” he teased, gently.

Ryouma eyed him dourly before giving Kirihara a look remarkably similar to the one Sanada had directed at Kunimitsu. Kirihara snorted and stepped around Ryouma to place himself between Echizen and Kirihara’s erstwhile captain. Ryouma’s mouth quirked, and he abandoned that front, apparently satisfied, to saunter over and stand inside Kunimitsu’s personal space, gazing up from under his cap with a gleam in his eye. Kunimitsu stood his ground and looked back with, he hoped, sufficient coolness to indicate that he had no intention whatsoever of being tempted into a public display and Echizen could just put a leash on his mischief right now. Judging from Ryouma’s grin, at least the basic idea got through.

Yukimura had a hand over his mouth.

“Your team is getting ready to leave,” Kunimitsu pointed out to Ryouma. “You should join them. I’ll see you later.”

That promise seemed enough to placate Ryouma. “Sure thing,” he agreed, easily, turning back toward the stands. Kunimitsu was under no illusions that Echizen had actually chosen to shelve his mischief; the bright look he tossed over his shoulder was enough to prove otherwise. Kunimitsu couldn’t quite keep an eyebrow from twitching up with rueful resignation.

“Okay, now I’m really impressed,” Kirihara declared. A glance showed him watching the two of them, wide eyed.

“Akaya!” Sanada rapped out. Kirihara directed an obvious Well, aren’t you? expression up at him.

Yukimura appeared to be having a coughing fit, which was almost convincing, but his sparkling eyes gave away his amusement.

Echizen grinned at Kirihara and strolled down to the Seigaku team. Kunimitsu shook his head. It should be an interesting evening. “Sanada. Yukimura,” he nodded to them. Sanada nodded back, and Yukimura recovered enough to bid him a goodbye that wasn’t too very choked.

As he walked away, Kunimitsu heard Yukimura chiding Kirihara, in his soft “social voice”, for the breach of manners.

“Yes, Yukimura-san,” Kirihara said, tone repentant. “But, really! I never thought, in a hundred years, Echizen would actually catch him…”

Kunimitsu chuckled to himself. That made two of them.

He remembered the comment, later, though, as he lay on the floor of his unlighted living room, reclining on one of his two floor pillows, and stroked Ryouma’s bare shoulder. Ryouma purred and settled closer against his side, tucking his head down against Kunimitsu’s chest.

He had been more or less pounced on, as soon as the door was closed, and clothing was strewn haphazardly around the room. In fact, if he wasn’t mistaken, that was a sock hanging from the jade plant. Not that Kunimitsu had been at all a reluctant participant. But it reminded him.

“Were you chasing me, all that time, Ryouma?” he asked, ruffling his fingers through the sleek, dark hair under his cheek.

Ryouma shrugged, and twined himself still more closely around Kunimitsu. “Not really,” he answered. And then he lifted his head to give Kunimitsu an impish look. “Not any more than you were chasing me,” he added.

Kunimitsu chuckled out loud. “Fair enough.”

Which meant, he reflected, gathering Ryouma just a bit tighter against him, that they had been heading toward this more or less since they set eyes on each other.

Fair enough.


Last Modified: Feb 08, 12
Posted: Sep 26, 04
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