First PoT fic; don't get your hopes up.
Disclaimer: I don't even know how to play tennis. You think I could make a manga/anime on it?
The Art of Refusal
Echizen Ryoma was known for a lot of things: his tennis skills; his fanclub; the fact that he was Seigaku's only freshman regular.
Girls knew him for his looks and popularity. His team knew him for his aptitude at tennis, and infuriating cockiness. His opponents knew him for his Twist Serve and his favorite phrase, mada mada dane.
But he was particularly well-known for his attitude.
He was smug, rude, blunt, and hardly ever did what he was told. It drove his teammates, classmates, and family up the wall, but Ryoma couldn't care less what they thought. He wasn't going to do what other people wanted unless there was some advantage for him. He wasn't spineless enough to let others walk all over him, and hated other people who were.
Which was why he was currently boring a hole through the back of Ryuuzaki's head with his eyes.
The girl was sitting straight in her seat, head tilted to see the boy standing in front of her.
"…And I tried some of your tempura at the festival last month, and it was delicious, so would you be willing to make some for me?"
"I would be happy to, um—"
"Akira," the dark-haired boy supplied, grinning. "Great! Can you bring them tomorrow?"
Akira thanked her and walked away, back to his seat, leaving Sakuno to slump in her seat, chin resting in one propped-up hand. Behind her, Ryoma frowned. She was cooking for some guy whose name she didn't even know? Ridiculous.
Sakuno perked up again, this time to speak to a girl with long raven hair. Ryoma vaguely recognized her as a particularly loud fangirl.
"Hey," greeted the girl with a smile, perching on Sakuno's desk. "I wasn't here yesterday, I was sick, so I was wondering if I could borrow your notes?"
Sakuno nodded, rummaging through her backpack and pulling out a notebook. "I can give them to you at the end of class, and you can return them tomorrow?" she asked softly.
The girl suddenly made a face. "Oh, no, I just remembered—I have a doctor's appointment today. I won't have time to copy them…"
Sakuno hesitated, still holding up her notebook. Then, at the girl's hopeful look, she offered, "Well, I can write them for you if you want…"
"Oh, would you? That'd be great!" The girl hopped down and beamed. "You're the greatest, Sakuno!"
Sakuno mumbled an embarrassed reply as the girl rushed off.
She sighed, setting down her notebook. She had tennis practice today, too, not to mention homework and studying. She would have to go shopping for ingredients, then go home, cook, and copy notes. Fingering one of her long braids, Sakuno grimaced. It was going to be a long day.
Behind her, Ryoma was folding his arms across his chest and leaning back against his seat.
It seemed Ryuuzaki needed to be taught a lesson, and who better to teach it to her?
Horio suddenly came up to him, and opened his mouth, but Ryoma shooed him off absently, deep in thought.
After all, who was better at turning people down than he was?
Sakuno pulled on the shirt of her uniform, not even bothering to fix her braids, merely smoothing down her shirt as she ran out into the sunshine to where the boys' team was practicing.
She arrived in moments, falling against the fence. Her eyes darted around, and she sighed in relief when she saw they were still at it.
She had taken barely here minutes to leave practice, get changed, and get here, and yet she worried she might be too late. But now that she was here, and could see the regulars – more importantly, a shorter boy with a white cap covering his dark hair, she could finally relax.
Brown eyes fixed on Ryoma, she absently reached up to pull out the ties to one of her braids, before unraveling it and moving to the next one.
An auburn wave cascaded down her back, and she ran her fingers through it in lieu of a brush.
Sakuno sighed, turning to face Tomoka, who had undoubtedly been there all practice.
Skidding to a halt in front of her, Tomoka grinned and tugged lightly on a lock of Sakuno's long hair. "Showing off for Ryoma-sama, are we?"
Sakuno immediately flushed. "Tomo-chan! Of course not!"
Tomoka laughed, then, catching sight of something over her best friend's shoulder, stopped, mouth agape.
"Well, it's working." She grinned, pointing behind Sakuno. Slowly, she turned, to meet a very intense pair of amber eyes.
Well, obviously he was staring.
Ryoma had been waiting to speak to Ryuuzaki, and had been vaguely annoyed that she wasn't watching at practice as usual. So when her unbelievably loud and annoying friend had called to her, he had glanced over to see her.
But something had been different.
It took him a moment to realize her usual braids were gone, and her long hair was let loose. He raised an eyebrow; was it normal to have that much hair?
But when she turned to look at him, he decided that normal or not, she looked better than she usually did. The braids made her look childish, and were probably the reason behind her inability to walk in a straight line without tripping over the air. Perhaps she just needed balance…
She stepped closer to the fence, nearly stumbling over her backpack, which she had dropped on the ground earlier, and Ryoma sighed.
"Hey, Echizen! Stop checking out the girls!" Momo called, grinning devilishly. Ryoma shot him a glare, but it was too late.
"Nya, Ochibi's looking at girls?" Honestly. Could Eiji-sempai be any louder? Ryoma wondered as the third-year came bounding over, looking over at Ryuuzaki and her friend.
Ryoma spared them a last glance. Osakada looked delighted, while Ryuuzaki seemed to be pleading with the ground to swallow her whole.
Ryoma turned back to his match, preparing to serve. The sooner he talked to her, the better.
Sakuno, having finally retied her hair, approached her grandmother when the regulars had cleared the court and left to change.
"Obaa-chan!" she greeted cheerfully. "Are you ready to go?"
Her grandmother looked over at her, rifling through a folder of papers. "Hm? Oh, Sakuno, I'm afraid I still have some work to do. If you can wait, I'll be done soon…"
Sakuno bit her lip. She still had so much to do; she would have to head off on her own. Trying not to let her disappointment show, she began to politely decline, when from behind her came a voice.
"Walk with me."
It wasn't a request, and although Sakuno knew who had spoken, that didn't stop her from gasping "Ry - Ryoma-kun!"
Ryoma gave her a flat look, then his gaze moved to her grandmother behind her, wordlessly asking permission from the often-scary coach.
Sumire nodded, smiling briefly at the two of them as Ryoma turned and began to walk away, Sakuno only running to catch up after she nudged her.
'Ah, young love.'
One thing could definitely be said about Ryoma: he didn't waste time.
About a block away from the school, he stopped and turned to look down at the blushing girl beside him.
She turned questioning brown eyes on him, lips parted slightly.
Ryoma's eyes narrowed.
"Stop being nice," he instructed, voice flat.
Sakuno's mouth dropped and her eyes widened in confusion, and she mentally ran through his words again.
Ryoma sighed, leading her to the park across the street.
"Do you have time for a drink?" he asked her casually, already knowing what her answer would be.
And sure enough, after a moment's pause, came her small voice: "Yes."
Ryoma's amber gaze snapped to her flushed face. "I thought you had to make tempura and copy some notes… not to mention do your homework?"
For the third time that day, Sakuno was shocked. How had he known?
"I, um… that is—"
"You can't say no," he suggested bluntly, leading her towards the vending machines and getting two cans of grape Ponta.
Sakuno took the can he offered, still looking quite startled. Ryoma sat down on the bench behind them, and she followed suit.
"I can say no," she insisted, though she sounded more like she was trying to convince herself.
Ryoma cocked an eyebrow, leaning back as he popped open his drink.
After a few moments of silence, he spoke, not looking at her. "Can you lend me some money?"
"Of course," came her prompt reply.
Ryoma glanced lazily at her, smirk growing on his lips, as she realized her mistake, bringing a hand up to her mouth as she turned beet red, eyes wide.
Sakuno entered the classroom that day with her head down. She gulped nervously, steeling herself as she settled herself in her seat.
Akira came bounding over to her first. "Did you make it?" he asked eagerly.
Sakuno smiled apologetically, shaking her head. "I'm sorry… yesterday was a very busy day for me. I promise to get them to you soon, though!" she added quickly when he slumped.
Behind her, Ryoma rolled his eyes.
He had instructed her yesterday to stop putting her life on hold to do things for other people, stressing that it really didn't matter if she refused them sometimes.
She had seemed to understand, and although Ryoma was hoping she would do as he said, he wasn't entirely counting on it.
But he was impressed when she didn't come into class with a container full of tempura. But he should've known she couldn't entirely refuse. If it had been him, he wouldn't even bother with a response to the annoying boy.
But, of course, Ryuuzaki wasn't him.
Akira walked away, mouth set in a small smile at the promise of Sakuno's cooking in the near future, and she breathed a sigh of relief. One down.
She felt Ryoma's breathing on her neck as he leaned forward to whisper, "See? He doesn't hate you."
She had confessed the day before that the reason she never refused a request was because she worried about offending someone, and possibly cause a fight between them. Ryoma had scoffed disbelievingly. Who cared what other people though, after all?
Apparently she did.
Sakuno smiled weakly at him, readying herself for the disappointment she knew she would cause that day.
It surprisingly wasn't that much. When she had told the girl in her class, Ayumi, that she didn't have the notes, and could she please copy them tonight, since she was pressed for time, she had nodded and thanked her, taking Sakuno's notebook at the end of class.
She had politely declined another girl's offer of sitting with her at lunch, since she knew Tomoka hated her.
She had told Horio that she would love some tips on tennis, but she was running late for class, and could she take a rain check?
All in all, she was pretty impressed with how she had done, considering it had only been a day, and was eager to thank Ryoma later that day.
And she had something to give him, anyways…
"What're these?" Ryoma demanded, lips curled in a frown.
"Um, l-love letters?" she replied sheepishly, kneeling down before him on the grass.
Ryoma peered at one distastefully, holding it between his fingers, before snorting and letting it fall to the ground. He turned back to re-tying his shoes. "Not from you, I hope?"
Sakuno flushed. "Of course not, I—" she bit her lip. Ryoma wasn't going to like this. "S-some girls in o-our class wanted me to, um, give these to you…" She wrung her hands anxiously.
Ryoma looked up at her, resting one arm on an upraised knee. "And you said yes?"
Sakuno looked down, face heating up. "W-well… I couldn't say no to all of them…"
Ryoma sighed. "Mada mada dane."
He stood up, swinging his bag over his shoulder, and Sakuno did the same, scooping up the pink, frilly, and scented letters as she did so.
Ryoma took them from her and dumped them into the trash as they walked away from the school in silence.
But something was bothering him…
Ryoma chanced a sideways glance at the girl beside him, eyes falling to rest on the braids swaying in the breeze. He frowned. Those things really bugged him.
"Ryuuzaki," he said abruptly. She looked at him expectantly.
"Cut your hair."
She smiled at him, a small tug of the lips that grew to nearly take up her whole face.
Ryoma froze, gripping the strap of his bag with one hand, the other in his pocket.
Ryuuzaki giggled lightly, skipping ahead of him.
Maybe it was better when she let people walk all over her, actually…
First PoT fic, like I said, so excuse the suckiness. Constructive crit would be nice so that my next fic doesn't turn out like this. And if you've read this far, you rock. If you review, you pwn out loud.
Either way, I now adore you.