Summary: RyoSaku. Epilogue. Years later, the best of friends might just be partners for life. Complete.
Disclaimer: POT is still not mine, even if I wept and begged and cried blood. (Well, I didn't actually cry blood, but you get the point. –grins–)
Stuff in italics are not flashbacks. Mostly they revolve around Ryoma's life in America. :D
"Before I start, I would like to congratulate you for winning the American Open. So, Ryoma, I understand this is your first professional title?"
Echizen Ryoma tilted his head to the side, almost as if in deep thought. "Yeah. Sort of."
The reporter blinked in surprise. "Sort of?"
The 18-year old tennis champion shrugged. "I won three times in the American Junior League when I was twelve. I don't think that counts, though."
"Oh? When you were 12? That's pretty impressive."
Another shrug. "Thanks."
The reporter grinned slightly. "Well, now that that's over, let's have the real questions. The most frequently asked would be— do you have a girlfriend?"
Ryoma stared at him. "That's the most frequently asked question?" he said incredulously.
The reporter laughed. "You might be surprised by how frequent that's asked. So, do you?"
Ryoma shook his head in disbelief. "Can't believe it," he muttered to himself. With a huff, he leaned back in his seat. "Yeah. Yes I do." There was a collective groan from the audience.
"Really?" The man chuckled. "For how long?"
"Oh, I see. Wait— three years?"
"Oh. OH. Well, that's… surprising. Well, it was nice meeting you, Ryoma. Congratulations on your win."
"Hello, everybody. My name is Ryuzaki Sakuno. I'll be teaching chemistry until Sayaka-san returns from her maternity leave. Please take care of me."
The class bowed.
Sakuno smiled. "Well, since it's our first meeting, we won't be having a real discussion today." Everyone cheered. "So, let's all get to know each other. Who has questions?"
"Sensei, how old are you?"
Her smile widened. "Twenty-four. What's your name?"
"Hiroki Ryuu, sensei."
"I see. Hiroki-kun. Any more?" At that, almost half the class raised their hands. She laughed slightly. "I'm glad you're all so eager. All right. What's your question?" she indicated to a pretty female student sitting near the window.
The girl grinned. "Sensei, I'm Izanami Rei. I'm sure all the boys would like to know the answer to this one, and I'm going to spare them the embarrassment of asking." All the hands promptly lowered at her pointed look. "So, sensei, do you have a boyfriend?"
Sakuno blinked and leaned against her table. "Well…" The class waited for her answer with bated breath. "Surprisingly, yes. I do have a boyfriend."
Rei giggled when half the class groaned. "I just knew she was taken. Sensei, how long have you been together?"
Sakuno blushed at the unexpected question. "O-oh. Almost ten, I think."
The younger girl gasped. "Wow! Then… you were together since you were in school?"
Sakuno blushed deeper and smiled shyly. "Y-yes. I studied here, actually."
There was a pause, until someone spoke from the back of the room. "Wait. You're related to the former tennis coach, Ryuzaki-sensei?"
Her eyes softened at the mention of her retired grandmother, and she met the gaze of a tall blue-eyed student. "Yes."
The student stood and smiled easily. "I'm the current captain of the tennis club, sensei. My name's Kazuhiko Ryoma."
"Ryoma Echizen. Fancy seeing you here again."
The tennis pro offered an easy smile. "Yeah. Imagine that."
The reporter laughed. "And I see you've gained a sense of humor. Congratulations on your win. Again. I've lost count at six titles in four years."
Ryoma shrugged. "I could show you my trophy case."
The man chuckled. "Someday, maybe. How do you feel after winning your second Wimbledon?"
"Pretty good. A bit dehydrated, though. I think I could drink a dozen Pontas."
The man shook his head. "Well. You really did gain a sense of humor. I almost can't believe you were that uptight kid six years ago."
"Hey, I wasn't uptight." He offered a small grin. "I'd rather call it being focused."
"So, the question everyone would like to ask again— do you have a girlfriend?"
Ryoma sighed. "I can't believe that's still the most asked question. But yes, I do have a girlfriend."
"Oho, you really are the ladies' man, aren't you?" he teased.
Ryoma grinned. "On the contrary, I'm actually the soul mate type of guy."
"Whoa, whoa! So it's still that girl from six years ago?"
"It'll always be that girl," Ryoma said seriously.
"I'm sure a lot of women are sorry to hear that, but that's pretty cool of you. Would you like to give a name?
His grin widened. "No. She's shy like that."
"So, are you going to marry her?"
"I've known her half of my life. I can't explain it much but…" Ryoma's smile was sly. "I think we've run out of time."
The reporter blinked and finally noticed the 15 SEC timer. "Aw. Well, it's nice seeing you again, Ryoma. I'm sure I'd see a ring by the time we see each other again."
The tennis prince laughed. "We'll see."
Sakuno looked up from checking her students' papers and smiled in surprise. "Kazuhiko-kun. Is something wrong?"
The tennis captain shrugged. "No. I just wanted to see you."
She blinked. "Oh. Well?"
She smiled uncertainly. "Well now that you've seen me, is there something else?"
He gaped. She honestly couldn't be that clueless, right? He laughed slightly. "Well, there is something else, but I'm not sure you can solve it," he teased.
She sat straighter in her seat and leaned forward earnestly. "Really? I'm sure I can help, Kazuhiko-kun." Her smile was warm. "I'll do what I can."
Kazuhiko stared at her. Surely, it was a crime for a teacher to be that pretty. She was practically tempting him to—to corrupt her or something. "Sensei," he breathed.
Utada Hikaru's "Come Back to Me" suddenly played in the silence of the room. Sakuno started at the sound and whipped out her phone. When she looked at the screen, a surprised smile suddenly lit up her entire features. She motioned for Kazuhiko to wait for a moment.
He felt a spark of jealousy shoot through him. Because that smile was entirely different from the one she sent him.
"Ryoma-kun," she murmured. She didn't notice the boy behind her stare at her in surprise at the mention of his name.
"You sound well."
She laughed gently. "Of course. I'm taking care of myself. And you?"
Her cheeks darkened. "You're really becoming quite the charmer, Ryoma-kun."
There was a chuckle. "Only for you."
Her eyes softened. "You don't have a game?"
"Yeah. In ten minutes."
She gasped. "Ryoma-kun! Then why are you calling?"
Something in his voice made her sigh. "I love you, Ryoma-kun," she whispered.
"Idiot." She could almost hear the affection in his tone.
She smiled slightly. "Come home soon."
When Sakuno hung up, she turned around and was surprised to see her student still there with the strangest look on his face. She flushed when she realized he must have overheard the rather sappy conversation. "That was, um, my boyfriend," she offered hesitantly.
"His name is Ryoma too?"
She laughed. "Yes. What a coincidence." He strode forward until he was right in front of her, and she was surprised by the intensity of his gaze. "Kazuhiko-kun?"
"Sensei," he breathed, grasping her hand firmly. She blinked at the touch. "I'm going to take you away from him."
She blinked again. "E-eh?" With one last squeeze of her hand, he left. Sakuno could only stare at his retreating form. Did he just…?
"Are you telling me some kid actually hit on her?"
Eiji rolled his eyes. "For the tenth time, ochibi, yes. One of the students did hit on Ryuzaki-chan."
The redhead sighed and plopped next to the tennis prince. "Really, ochibi. It's not like it's the first time it happened. Ryuzaki-chan's a very pretty girl now. Even all my fingers and toes aren't enough to count the number of times she's been hit on the first month you were away. And maybe if I didn't have Oishi nya and I liked that sort of thing, I would have liked her too. Not that I don't, but you get my point, ne, ochibi?"
Ryoma scowled deeper. "You are not helping, senpai. How on earth do you know these things anyway?"
Eiji grinned. "I'm not your senpai anymore, ochibi. And I'm not sure you want to know my methods."
Ryoma rolled his eyes. "Right. I don't."
"So," Eiji started, beaming. "When should I book the plane?"
Ryoma almost smiled. His senpai really were quite useful sometimes.
Ryoma almost felt nostalgic as he entered Seishun Gakuen. As he strolled through the grounds, he felt a bit more free. A grin tugged at his mouth. Maybe he should drop by the tennis courts, just for a while. He walked the familiar path to the courts and was surprised to see them empty. It was then that he noticed all the pink flyers and hearts and balloons tied randomly to some trees. He grinned a little. Trust Eiji-senpai to set up his flight on Valentine's Day. With a little sigh, he entered the courts. He could almost remember his junior high years, with Tezuka-buchou and the other regulars and the Nationals. And his third year. When he was the captain and he had fallen in love.
Shit. He was really getting too sappy.
He spotted a racket lying innocently on the bench and immediately decided to play, for a little while. He smiled to himself as he took a tennis ball from his pocket. He can really never escape from tennis, huh? He didn't even notice a pair of wide brown eyes watching him in shock.
Sakuno jerked when something was snapped firmly against her wrist. She looked down, saw the handcuffs, and looked up to blink at the perpetrator with confused eyes. Kazuhiko grinned. "There wasn't actually a rule forbidding the students to wed with their teacher, right?"
"By the end of this day, you're going to call me Ryoma," he muttered to himself. "Anyway, let's go sensei. Wouldn't want to be late for our appointment."
She frowned slightly and allowed him to drag her along. "Kazuhiko-kun, you know nothing would result from this, and really, I can't even think of liking anybody else but Ryoma-kun—"
"You meant me, right?" he grinned.
Her eyebrows knitted. "No! Will you please—" Her eyes widened as they approached the wedding booth. Sakuno was oblivious to the surprised stares of the students as she just focused on calming down and trying to talk reason to her student. "Kazuhiko-kun, please—" She was cut off by the rather dramatic appearance of a first year who suddenly burst through the bushes and stared at them with extremely wide eyes.
Kazuhiko blinked. "Arata? You okay?"
The boy swallowed gulps of air and finally forced himself to speak. "H-he's here," he stammered excitedly. "Echizen Ryoma's here!"
Sakuno's eyes widened.
"What? Really? Where?" Kazuhiko's eyes were gleaming with awe and excitement in finally seeing his idol. "Where?"
"A-at the t-tennis courts, buchou!" Arata wheezed.
There was a moment of tense silence. Then there was loud squealing and everybody was dashing towards the tennis courts. Even Kazuhiko. Who apparently forgot he was still chained to his poor sensei and was running at full speed. Sakuno couldn't believe her ears.
Why was Ryoma here?
Ryoma was a bit surprised when he heard screams and shouts in the air. His eyes widened slightly as students flocked to watch him. So… he was pretty famous after all, even with students. He offered a half-smile experimentally, and almost all the girls swooned. He blinked. Ok. No more smiling. Really, what was so exciting about watching him hit the wall? Oh! Maybe the current tennis captain was watching as well. Maybe they could play a game or something. That would be a good way to test the team's skill. He was just about to call out a challenge when—
He turned around, and his eyes widened.
Kazuhiko was practically trembling with excitement. He couldn't believe Echizen Ryoma was here. His idol, his superstar— he almost couldn't contain himself when he arrived at the tennis courts and finally saw the tennis pro face-to-face. "Echizen Ryoma-san!" The man turned to him, and he saw the surprise clearly etched on that face.
Kazuhiko blinked. Wait, what? There was a tug on his wrist, and he finally remembered his sensei who was handcuffed to him and… "Shit! Sensei, did I hurt you?" he asked worriedly, checking for any signs of bruises. "I'm sorry I was so rough. I forgot. Oh shit, you're all red—" He stopped when a hand descended on his arm. He looked up and saw furious hazel eyes.
"Let me." With one quick move, Ryoma removed the handcuff from both their wrists.
Kazuhiko sighed. "Wow. Thanks, Ryoma-san. Are you all right…" he trailed off when he saw his teacher's wrist gripped firmly by the tennis pro. His eyes trailed upward and saw the pretty blush on her face. Kazuhiko felt a sinking feeling in his stomach.
Ryoma lifted the racket and pointed it at the gaping captain. "I challenge you to a tennis match for daring to touch my girlfriend and trying to marry her." Their audience gasped.
Sakuno paled. "Ryoma-kun, it's not a big deal. He was just playing around and I'm sure he didn't mean any of it, right, Kazuhiko-kun?" She stared at him pointedly.
Kazuhiko nodded quickly. He knew when to back down in a fight. Especially one that he's surely going to lose.
Ryoma scowled. "Then I'm challenging him to a tennis match for daring to touch my girlfriend, trying to marry her, and playing with her feelings."
Sakuno sighed exasperatedly.
Ryoma's smile was cold. "Your serve."'
Kazuhiko shut his eyes tightly and prayed everything would be over quickly. He had a feeling he was going to be thoroughly trounced.
He really should know better than to hit on his teacher.
"Oh, Kazuhiko-kun! I'm so sorry! I apologize for Ryoma-kun's behaviour. He was being such a jerk. Really," Sakuno said, glaring at her boyfriend. "And what was that move? It wasn't even an official game. You could have injured him, Ryoma-kun!"
Ryoma sighed and almost rolled his eyes. "Easy, Ryuzaki. He managed to dodge the ball, didn't he? And that was my latest technique. I really should bring you to some of my games," he muttered to himself.
Kazuhiko could only watch as the couple talked. One, his arm was hurting. He couldn't even imagine the force the pro put in every shot. And he wasn't even sweating. Two, he had a terrible feeling that the older man was still angry (and slightly disappointed), and he didn't want any unwanted attention drawn to his poor self.
"And why are you here anyway? Didn't you just have a game last week?"
Kazuhiko perked up. "Yeah! I watched that one— with Jack Spencer. Man, that was brilliant!"
Ryoma looked at him coolly. "Oh? I'm glad you enjoyed that."
At the sudden silence, Kazuhiko mustered enough courage to stand and bow in apology. "Sensei, I'm sorry for the trouble that I caused you. Rest assured that it won't happen again."
"It better not," Ryoma muttered. "Now that she's getting married."
Sakuno sighed and smiled slightly. "Yes, and I'm sure that was just a phase of…" she trailed off, her eyes widening as she looked at the tennis prince. "What?"
Ryoma blinked. "What? I just said—" He groaned as what he just said dawned on him. "So much for surprises." With a sigh, he bent down on one knee, facing Sakuno.
Kazuhiko smiled nervously. "Should I leave or something?" When nobody answered, he exited quickly.
"Look. Just, let me get this out." Ryoma took a deep breath. "Ryuzaki. I love you. And I loved you more when you let me go to America and pursue tennis. And you don't know how much I appreciate all this… waiting that you're doing. So— I can't believe all this sap I'm saying. Just." He smiled slightly and offered a ring. "Marry me?"
Sakuno was biting her lip to keep from crying. "Ryoma-kun, you idiot," she whispered. "Do you even need to ask?" With a sob, she threw herself into his arms and showered kisses all over his face. "I love you."
Ryoma pressed his lips to her temple. "I love you more."
Wow. I can't believe I finally finished something. This is unbelievable. Thanks to all my faithful readers and most especially to my reviewers. I know not many people were expecting an epilogue, but this just suddenly came to me, and I can't help it. I was thinking of putting it in A Twist of Fate, but I needed a better premise. Anyway, I LOVE YOU ALL GUYS! THANK YOU SO MUCH!
And no, I'm not retiring yet. Haha. I'll answer to some of the reviews when I can. I'm working on it. Thanks again. And read my other stories. Thank you!
This is unedited. So if there are any problems, feel free to inform me and I can edit. And I love Kazuhiko. Anybody can borrow him. Just ask. Peace. :D