Disclaimer: It's not mine. Hell, a fortnight ago I didn't even think I'd be in this fandom.
Spoilers: Vague, vague spoiler for what happens at the end (aka: this is future-fic). Otherwise... nope.
Pairing: Vague Tezuka/Ryoma. Or Ryoma/Tezuka. Whichever. I tried my best.
Words: 750. Exactly.
Summary: It isn't the same when Ryoma comes back.
Author's Notes: For bookshop because this is all her fault. ♥ Um, first fic so, uh, be careful. I haven't even half of the anime watched, so my characterisations are probably whacked, for which I apologise, but I had to get rid of the "write fic NOW!" itch somehow. They're really five connected drabbles of 150 words that somehow turned into a ficlet.
Five Minutes Early
The air smells of promise.
Ryoma jogs briskly, the familiar routine allowing his mind to wander onto more important things. Japan is the same, but not; going off to America shouldn’t make such a difference; Japan should not feel more like home considering the little time he spent here, but it does.
The familiar thump thwap of his sneakers hitting ground echoes in his mind as he paces himself, his breath coming in controlled huffs as he pushes himself, and –
There’s more than one pair of sneakers hitting ground.
He stops so suddenly that his chest tightens, but there’s no mistaking that measured, effortless stride, the brief glint of sunlight off lenses, but he’s turned a corner before Ryoma can say anything or give any reaction at all. He stares after the now long-gone jogger, eyes narrowed. Perhaps he didn’t see him; more likely he did.
“Che,” he says.
It isn’t that Ryoma actively hates his father (if having no general respect for one’s father means not hating him, especially on the days when Nanjiroh’s smile mocks more than usual), it’s that perverted tendencies and idiocy aside, Nanjiroh knows the game, and Ryoma knows a certain milestone will come when he’s won against him.
If that day ever comes, but it will; Nanjiroh knows him too well for anything else, and Ryoma knows his father better than he’d like to.
Ryoma bounces the ball slowly on the racquet, up down, up down, bounce, bounce. No determination today, no fancy techniques, nothing.
Nanjiroh has always claimed to know Ryoma too well, and Ryoma possibly believed him once, but now he wonders if he knows himself that well at all.
It’s easier that having to consider if winning Buchou’s respect is better than wiping that mocking smile off his father’s face.
Tennis is a reasonably simple game when one goes back to basics. Aside from the obvious idea of ‘hit the ball over the net and keep hitting it until your opponent falters’, Ryoma finds the rhythm soothing. Nothing can calm him like the repeated sound of ball hitting strings and the scuff of sneakers on the court, even when coupled with the feeling of sweat clinging to him and the usual annoyance of facing an opponent who’s underestimated him yet again.
Go a level up, and tennis is not so simple. Sets can be difficult, games long, and the sun beats down mercilessly. Opponents must be watched, never underestimated, another trick must be waiting in the back of his mind. Movements must be filtered, copied, twisted to one’s use. He can never, ever become complacent in his game, prodigy though he may be.
Nanjiroh, however, did not teach him this.
On Ryoma’s first day in the high school tennis club, Buchou does not say a word. His gaze lingers on him for a moment, his mouth thins a little, and then he looks away, barking for laps to be run.
Ryoma isn’t sure what he was expecting (Nanjiroh would say he expected a “Honey, I’m home!” type of welcome and Ryoma clamps down on his father’s inner voice right now), but this isn’t it. So he watches, listens, sliding easily back into the rhythm of tennis that is always familiar. Buchou is tense, unnerved even, and blatantly avoids Ryoma at every cost.
Ryoma makes a firm habit of jogging every morning, but Buchou is always a moment ahead, disappearing around the corner before Ryoma can catch up. He gives no sign or indication of ever noticing Ryoma during his morning jogs.
Ryoma decides to start his jogging five minutes earlier.
The air smells of promise, and Ryoma is five minutes early.
His legs move automatically as he jogs and he allows his mind to wander, listening for the tell-tell thump thwap of Buchou’s sneakers on the pavement. He doesn’t know if going five minutes earlier is too early, but he can wait. Ryoma has learned to be patient, after all.
He is early and Ryoma leans against a wall, keeping himself limber. Tennis prodigies do not remain so if they allow themselves to become complacent or out of shape, Ryoma knows, and anyway, he has to pass the time somehow.
Footfalls come closer, and Ryoma braces himself.
“Buchou,” he says, standing in his usual bored, can-we-get-on-with-it? pose as Tezuka turns the corner and stops with his usual precision.
Buchou is silent, while Ryoma smirks.
Buchou looks at him properly for the first time since Ryoma has returned, and says, “Echizen.”
Onwards to the sequel: Perfect Strangers.
P.S: I need to find PoT icons. Uh huh.