Disclaimer: Prince of Tennis was created by Konomi Takeshi. No profit is intended to be gained by this story.

AN: Thank you all for your patience and prodding. No promises on when the next chapter will be out, but hopefully sooner than the three years you've all waited for this update.

Input is always appreciated. Constructive criticism is especially so. It always pleases me when a reader gives me predictions for where they think this fic will go, so if you have any, feel free to share. Enjoy.


By Cinpii

Rain pelted the shed with ever increasing insistence. Hard and angry, its rhythm matched the furious beating of Sakuno's pulse.

"Let go of me," she demanded.


Reddish brown eyes narrowed in irritation. What? She could not believe his audacity. Just because he was the tennis prince he could boss her around? No way. It was bad enough that he couldn't care less about her and degraded her in front of his friends. It was bad enough that she had run off and let him get away with it.

That all stopped now. She was not going to put up with anymore of his mistreatment. She was a new person. Stronger. More independent. And definitely not in love. Riding on the flood of angry thoughts, Sakuno set her jaw. With a sharp tug, she jerked her wrist free from his grasp.

At least, she tried. Ryoma's grip remained firm and unyielding.

"You're mad." Wonder colored his voice. "I've never seen you mad before."

"You don't know me. Don't presume to. Now let me go." Her last words were growled in slow, concise measures, their meaning unmistakable. Sakuno gave another tug.

If it was one thing Echizen Ryoma was known for, it was his obstinacy. If he didn't want to let her go, she wasn't going to go, end of story. His eyes narrowed at her petulance. She was being uncharacteristically willful. What happened to the biddable and meek schoolgirl he was used to? Though he had to admit, under different circumstances, this new side of Ryuzaki would have intrigued him, right now was not the time for her stubbornness to rear its head.

How could he properly apologize to her like this? Talking to an angry, bodiless voice in the dark. If he couldn't see her, how would he know if she was listening? He didn't think he could bear it if he had to repeat himself. It'd be hard enough just trying to say the words. If she didn't hear him…

Ryoma scowled. That wasn't going to happen. He wouldn't let it. He'd make sure she'd understand. To do that, he would ensure her complete, undivided attention. Determination firmly in place, Ryoma opened his mouth.

"Stop moving."

Her answer to his demand, another yank.

Ryoma frowned. The gall of her. She wasn't listening to him. Here he was, trying to properly apologize and set things right, and she wasn't listening. His eyes narrowed. He'd fix that. There was only one way to do it, in the confines of their tiny shelter. He initiated a sharp tug of his own that sent Sakuno sprawling into his chest. Her exclamation went unheeded as Ryoma rolled over, pinning her beneath him. Sakuno gasped as he pressed her into the cold concrete. The difference of temperatures was shocking. He radiated heat; it infused her body at every contact point.

Contact points, of which were many. They laid there, thigh to thigh, hip to hip, shoulder to shoulder. With each rapid inhale her chest rose, forcing more contact between them. The girl burned from modesty, feeling her breasts crushed against his larger frame. Small as they were, they were still hers, and Sakuno railed at the fact that Echizen Ryoma was touching them, no matter how indirectly.

Small hands strained against his shoulders, their intent to push him away, to escape confinement. Desperation fueled her actions. Her knee rose, her spine arched, her body twisted. And when pushing at his shoulders proved futile, Sakuno did something she never did before. Her hands fisted and she pounded him with them. She was not a violent girl, but he was bringing it out of her. Weeks of pent up frustration were channeling itself through Sakuno's fists. He had crushed her heart, humiliated her in front of others, and now he was manhandling her! He had another thing coming if he thought she was going to just take it.

The cat eyed boy blinked at the deluge of pummels. She was hitting him! Muffled thumps vibrated in the air as thwack after thwack connected. What the hell? This mere slip of a girl, who couldn't hit a tennis ball, was hitting him.

"Stop that," Ryoma hissed.

"Get off of me!"

Her words rained on deaf ears. All Ryoma could register was that she was very angry, very unstable, and if those knees of hers had better aim, it wasn't going to be pretty. So Ryoma did the only thing he could think of. He immobilized her. Scooting down her body, he straddled her thighs. She struggled, but his weight kept her legs pressed. Then he parried her fists and pinned them on either side of her face.

Her wrists were slim and his hands were slick from a combination of sweat and rainwater, but he was not letting go. Ryoma clasped Sakuno tighter, cursing. She was slipperier than Karupin when his cat was evading a bath.

"Damnit, you're making this harder than it has to be."

"Let me go!"

"Yada. Not until you listen to what I have to say."

It was unintentional, but his grasp had tightened with each comment. Sakuno winced in the dark. She averted her face and scrunched her eyes shut. Rapid breaths escaped through clenched teeth. Her heart thudded wildly against her sternum.

"You're hurting me," she whimpered, eyebrows knitted in pain. Her hands felt like they were throbbing from the lack of blood. Sakuno struggled futilely, trying to disengage his hold. It had never occurred to her that someone so slight could possess so much physical strength. Ryoma wasn't much taller than her. How could he be this strong?

"You're hurting me too," he retorted.

The young girl paused her struggles at his accession. Oh, no. He was not going to turn the tables around on her. He was the one pinning her down. He was the one manhandling her. She was the victim here. Not him.

Eyebrows furrowed as she expressed her disbelief.

At her derisive huff, he directed one manacled hand against his body. Small, delicate fingers splayed over the smooth expanse of flesh. A hot blush marred her cheeks as her unwilling hand caressed him. The warmth of his naked skin seeped into her palm.

"D-don't," she whispered, voicing her dissent. The blush traversed down to her throat and shoulders. What was he doing? Why was he making her touch him like this?

He paid her no heed and continued on, forcing her hand upon his body.

"Ryoma-kun!" she exclaimed, scandalized beyond bearing. The pigtailed girl shook her head, all the while trying to retract her hand from his unrelenting grip.

Sakuno could no longer feel the rough concrete against her back, the gritty dust clinging to her damp hair, or the frigid atmosphere. All she could sense was Ryoma. The press of his weight upon her. The smell of him against her body. The texture of his pants against her bared thighs. Sakuno was suddenly very aware of how their scuffle had ridden up the thin shirt she was wearing, and how it was no longer covering as much of her as she wished.

Her knees instinctively clamped together. With painful clarity, she registered every place of her body he was touching. Fear, white hot and scorching, thrummed through her veins. She was suddenly very afraid of what he wanted to do with her.

Her arms stiffened, trying to fight his will. She was no match for the boy's blunt strength though. His grip tightened with determination. There was a point he wanted to get across to her, and this was the only way.

And then it stopped. He no longer drew her hand across his torso.

Sakuno blinked. What..?

Ryoma had placed her hand right over his heart.

"You're hurting me right here," he emphasized, driving the meaning home by thumping her hand against himself.

Sakuno laid there, unmoving. Her thoughts spun. Her hand was lying upon his chest. She could register the strong, rapid contractions beneath her touch. Her body went slack with surprise, the tension leaving her. She was hurting his heart? But she had done nothing to warrant such a concession. If anything, that was her line. He was the one who shattered her affections.

She shook her head, incomprehensive.

Ryoma heaved a silent sigh. Why was she making this so difficult? It was already hard enough conceding his feelings. Why couldn't she get it? Weren't girls supposed to be better at grasping symbolism? There was no dodging it. He would have to suck it up and tell her. The girl was so slow; she would not be able to understand any other way.

Ryoma leaned down slowly, testing the waters. Her lack of resistance made the decision to release her an easy one. His hands rubbed against her wrists in a silent apology, massaging the circulation back before he released them altogether and linked their fingers. His nose nuzzled the side of her face until his lips sought their query. Soft, slightly wet bangs tickled her temple.

"Ryuzaki," Ryoma whispered in her ear. His breath was hot and gentle. Sakuno shivered from the contact.

"I like you."