Disclaimer: Does not own Tenipuri and is not profiting from it in any way.
Warning: This fic contains shonen-ai, if you do not know what that means or do know what it means and do not like, then this fic is not for you. No complaining about it! You were warned.
Author's Note: This was meant to be a short and quick drabble for LJ to celebrate Ryoma's birthday but instead turned into a rather long one-shot. Also, incredibly sugary! I seem to be in fluff-writing mode at the moment. Might as well indulge in this particular vice while I can. Sorry for the cavities.
Takes Two To Tango
Ryoma stood in the corner of the locker room, watching his team mates' reactions to the news with some amusement. Kikumaru seemed rather excited, but then, the bouncy acrobat could get excited about nearly anything. Fuji looked rather pleased also, which should have been all the warning they needed, while the rest of the team seemed stuck somewhere between confused and horrified. Except for Tezuka, of course. The captain was, as always, doing his best impersonation of a living statue.
"Dancing lessons?!" Momoshiro bellowed incredulously at the top of his voice, causing the regulars next to him to wince at the volume. "What do you mean dancing lessons?!"
"I mean exactly that," Coach Ryuuzaki replied in a calm, measured tone, though if one looked closely they could spy the wrinkles at the edges of the weathered tennis coach's eyes creasing in suppression of a smile. "For an hour every afternoon this week. Regulars are excused from practice."
"For the school dance, of course," Inui reported blandly. "You didn't know about it? The cultural committee organised it. There have been posters all over the school for weeks."
"I know about that!" Momo protested. "What I don't know is why we have to have dancing lessons while nobody else does!"
Frowning, their coach reported, "The rest of the students did have dancing lessons. The tennis regulars missed out because you had those away games, remember? The basketball team did too, but they're organising their own makeup lessons."
"But why do we have to have dancing lessons at all?!"
"Silly Momo! So that people know how to dance, nya!" Eiji laughed, wagging a finger at the junior.
"It would look pretty bad if the school held a dance and everybody just stood around," Fuji added.
"Wait, exactly what kind of dance is it anyway, that we would need lessons?" Oishi asked, looking confused.
"I believe it is meant to be a more formal affair," Inui explained, flipping open his notebook and reading from a page. "Waltzes, folk dancing, that sort of thing. 'To broaden the cultural horizons of the student population'."
"But we're just middle-school students, what's-"
"Enough chatter!" Ryuuzaki called out as the room started to dissolve into conversation. "We've got the gym booked for the rest of the week, starting today! Come on, everyone! Yes, Echizen, even you."
Ryoma scowled, crossing his arms and reluctantly following his senpai, caught in the act of trying to slip out of the door. Even first-years were expected to go?
The team was corralled into the gym several minutes later, then stood about somewhat awkwardly in a loose circle while Coach Ryuuzaki set up a portable CD player near the wall. Strains of classical waltz filled the gym a moment later, echoing strangely in the wide open space.
Satisfied, she headed back over to them, hands on her hips. "Right then! Let's get started!"
"Eh, you mean you're going to be teaching us Ryuuzaki-sensei?" Kawamura asked in surprised voice, then winced, clearly not meaning to have asked the question out loud.
"Of course! Who else would? Now, who here has ever done the waltz before?"
Eiji and Fuji were the only ones to raise their hands, though Inui mumbled something about reading about it. Ryoma crossed his arms, silently calculating the distance to the door and wondering if he could sneak out before his senpai noticed. Dancing was a stupid and boring activity and something he had absolutely no use for. Why were they skipping tennis for this?
Ryuuzaki was just nodding as though she expected that outcome when Fuji raised his hand again with a smile. "Sumire, I can't help but notice that we're lacking any girls with which to practice."
Their elderly coach just shooed them into the centre of the room. "We'll just make do. And Fuji, stop calling me that."
Make do? Ah, some of them would have to take the girl part. Ryoma slouched even further, bitterly accepting that his status as the shortest member of the team would inevitably land him in that role. What was the point of learning some old-fashioned dance if they weren't even going to be learning the right parts?
Momo had obviously already made that connection. "Awww, why couldn't we get some girls to come help us practice? This is stupid! Half of us won't even be learning to do it properly!"
"Once you know one part, it's easy enough to figure out the other," Ryuuzaki explained.
"Fssshuuuu, stop complaining like a little kid," Kaido hissed before Momo could go into another rant.
"I'm glad you feel that way, Kaido," Ryuuzaki said with a grin. "You can be Momoshiro's partner for the day."
Turning away from the twin chorus of "WHAT?!", their coach waved at the rest of them. "Okay, the rest of you, pair up!"
There was a moment of confused hesitation before everybody scrambled for a partner. Naturally, Kikumaru and Oishi were quick to link arms, and Fuji was standing with Kawamura before anyone had even noticed him move. That left only Inui, Tezuka and Echizen.
Suddenly realising that they didn't have an even number, Inui seemed to size the two of them up from across the room. As he took a step forward, Ryoma immediately stepped to the side, grabbing a fistful of Tezuka's shirt. For his part, the captain didn't do anything other than acknowledge him with a slight tilt of his head.
"Oh, Sumire, looks like we don't have even numbers, either," Fuji remarked merrily from the sidelines as the somewhat crestfallen data-gatherer wavered, clearly lost.
"Not at all! Whoever is left over will be helping me demonstrate!" Inui slouched a little further, but didn't dare say anything as Coach Ryuuzaki poked and prodded him into position. "Everyone, face your partner. Right! Compare heights – whoever's the shortest will take the girl's part of the dance!"
Eiji and Fuji didn't seem to mind that, and Ryoma had already reluctantly resigned himself to that fate, but he could hear furious hissing from Kaido and laughter from Momo. Their coach just ignored them, and continued with her instruction.
"Okay! Left hand on the shoulder there... partners, hand on the back... Fuji! Higher than that!"
Tezuka stood in front of him awkwardly, before Ryoma stepped forward and muttered, "I'm not going to bite, buchou."
The captain's eyes just slid to the right. Ryoma followed his gaze and smirked. Kaido and Momo already looked more like they were about to wrestle than dance.
"Che, whatever." He fumbled for the senior's hand, clasping it in his own and holding it out. Tezuka's hands were a bit larger than his. He frowned, shifting the grip until their fingers were interlaced a bit more comfortably, the captain obligingly relaxing and tightening his grip until Ryoma was satisfied with the arrangement. It was an odd sensation. He smirked in approval as he realised he could feel the same calluses on the senior's hand as his own - evidence of many, many hours holding a tennis racket. It was always nice learning something new, no matter how obvious or insignificant, about their esteemed captain.
Tezuka's hand settled on the small of his back, mimicking the pose Coach Ryuuzaki was demonstrating with a mortified-looking Inui. It felt unusually heavy. For a moment he forgot himself, until the captain let out a little impatient sigh, grabbing his left hand and placing it on his shoulder before resuming position.
Ryuuzaki-sensei was prowling up and down the line of dancers, nodding and scowling alternatively. Ryoma was relieved when she passed them over with a satisfied nod, before yanking a pale-faced Inui back into position. The freshman possibly felt a brief stab of pity for the data-gatherer, but that may have just been the memory of a particularly foul brand of Inui juice.
"Right, let's get started. We'll begin with the just the basic steps and turns. Try to keep in time with the music, it should come naturally. One… two… three… four… and again…" For a woman who was growing somewhat elderly and rotund, their coach almost managed to look regal doing a waltz. Though the effect was somewhat. tempered by Inui's robotic movements. "…What are you all standing there for? You learn by practicing, not watching!"
Spurred into action, the regulars started to awkwardly obey. Ryoma glanced up at Tezuka, who had yet to move. "…Buchou?" That hand on his back still felt heavy, which didn't make any sense, because it was barely touching.
The captain just nodded, and they took their first step. Ryoma was surprised by the sudden movement, and was slow to follow up. Their first few steps weren't even remotely in time with the music at all, and the freshman found himself having to double-step at times to keep up with the captain. In time with the music? What did that even mean? There wasn't any real discernible beat.
Inui and Ryuuzaki stepped near them. Their coach was scolding Kaido and Momo nearby, while the data-gatherer turned his attention on them. "Echizen, I don't recommend trying to use the split-step while dancing."
Ryoma scowled. "That wasn't the split-step." Though it wasn't a bad idea. Tezuka's strides were so much longer than his! How was he supposed to keep in rhythm when he had to step twice to keep up? His right palm felt sweaty already. This was so weird. What was so great about dancing? Granted, he was pretty sure they weren't doing it right, but even so…
For several minutes, they awkwardly waltzed, though the more accurate description would be that they stepped in a rough square, tripping over each other's feet every third step. The music looped back to the start, briefly plunging the gym into silence before filling it with swelling violin again. The freshman was already getting sick of that particular melody.
"Have you ever done this before, buchou?" Ryoma asked with a wince when the captain accidentally trod on his toes for the third time.
"...No. Have you?" Tezuka seemed to be concentrating exceedingly hard on each step they had to make. They just couldn't seem to get in time.
"No. Sorry," Ryoma apologised, when this time he stepped on the captain's foot instead. They both halted their awkward and jolting waltz, staring at each other for a long moment. Oishi and Eiji whirled past them gracefully, chatting as they did so, although they didn't seem to be moving even slightly in speed with the tempo of the music Coach Ryuuzaki had running in the background. It figured that the Golden Pair would be able to synchronise well enough to dance like that on their first attempt. It probably helped that Kikumaru delighted in doing elaborate spins and showing off whenever possible.
Tezuka cleared his throat, then suggested, "Maybe you could try standing on my feet?"
Ryoma stared blankly at him. "I saw a father teaching is daughter that way on TV," the captain elaborated.
The freshman briefly bristled at being compared to a child, but they weren't getting anywhere as it currently stood. "...Okay." He carefully stepped on top of the senior's shoes. It was a little awkward, though, as it brought their bodies flush together, and Tezuka had to wrap his arm further around his back in a sort of half-hug to prevent him falling off.
"This is stupid."
The captain took that as a yes and started striding around the room in the waltz. Even supported as he was, Ryoma nearly fell off, and wound up clinging to Tezuka's neck.
"Can you match that rhythm?" the captain murmured in his ear after they'd done several cycles of it.
"…Yeah, I think so," he muttered, embarrassed. They paused again, and Ryoma gingerly stepped off the captain's feet, more than a little humiliated that he was light enough for the senior to carry his weight in such a fashion. That unusually heavy hand settled again on the small of his back, they joined hands, and tried once more.
It was a little easier now that he had a feel for it, though they were moving far more slowly than the others, trying to keep in sync and avoiding tripping each other up more so than paying attention to the music. Ryoma focused whole-heartedly on the task, briefly forgetting that there were still others in gymnasium.
"Tezuka! Echizen! Keep in time!" Ryuuzaki barked at them suddenly, breaking his reverie.
The freshman started, surprised, and lurched forward unsteadily, in the exact same instant that Tezuka stepped back, similarly reacting to their Coach's command. Then all of a sudden, the world was tilting strangely, their feet became tangled, and in a flail of limbs they tumbled to the floor with an inelegant thump.
Their team mates all halted in their waltzes to look over and laugh. "Hey, Echizen, did you actually trip?!" Momo teased, obviously having briefly forgotten his argument with the Viper still in his grip in order to mock the younger boy.
"I'm more surprised that Tezuka of all people can't quite get the grasp of this relatively simple dance," Fuji remarked idly from where he hung off Kawamura's arm.
"Are you two okay?" Oishi asked, concerned and about to rush to their side.
A silent yet loaded glance from their captain quickly silenced them, though Kikumaru still had trouble stifling his chuckles. Coach Ryuuzaki had simply cast a bored eye over them, smirked, and left them to untangle themselves while she continued the lesson. Ryoma silently wished that he could shut them up all with just a glare the way the captain could. That sort of power had to come in handy.
"Are you alright?" Tezuka asked once the others had retreated, scared away by their leader's piercing gaze.
"….Yeah." He clambered to his feet with a wince. Dancing was dangerous. "…You?"
They stood there in silent stalemate for a moment until Tezuka awkwardly held out his arms again, and with a reluctant sigh, Ryoma stepped back into position.
The others moved onto some other more complicated steps as the hour wore on, but by the end of the first lesson all Echizen and Tezuka had really managed was the basic steps and quarter-turns without tripping over each other's feet.
Thus at the end of the hour, Ryoma concluded that he didn't like dancing at all and that it was going to be a very long week.
Ryoma spent most of the following day dreading dancing lessons that afternoon. His only hope to not completely embarrass himself again, he concluded, was to try and pair up with one of the other regulars who were better at dancing, and maybe closer to his height, too.
However, after Coach Ryuuzaki herded the tennis club regulars into the gym the second time and ordered everyone to pair up, he found himself standing next to Tezuka again. Fuji had seemingly volunteered himself to dance with Coach Ryuuzaki in preference to either himself or Tezuka. That was probably the exact moment that he was convinced that the easy-going senior really was a sadist. Fuji would actually happily dance with the Coach if it meant watching his team mates make idiots of themselves.
"Momo-senpai," he hissed at his friend, who had wound up with Kawamura this time. The Golden Pair had naturally hooked up again, and Inui had grabbed Kaido almost immediately, clearly not wanting to be the odd one out again.
"No offence, Echizen," Momo said a bit sheepishly, "But you and buchou… um…"
"Everyone saw how terrible you two were yesterday," Eiji interjected with a grin, poking the freshman's arm. "We'd rather not have our feet stepped on."
"Is there a problem?" the captain asked from next to him.
"No problem," Ryoma quickly responded, averting his eyes with a sigh. This was going to be so embarrassing. He'd never met anyone in the cultural committee, but was developing a healthy dislike of them all the same for creating such irritating school events. They were probably all girls with long hair who had never played tennis.
The music started to fill the gym again, and Coach Ryuuzaki clapped her hands to get their attention. "Okay, does everyone remember everything from yesterday? Take your positions and go through the first few steps again!"
Everyone resumed their positions, and Ryoma felt that heavy hand settle on the small of his back again. A moment later, they were awkwardly dancing. It did at least seem to be going a little better than the day before – they frequently mis-stepped and weren't at all graceful, but there was no more toe-stomping or floor tumbling. The freshman even allowed himself to relax slightly. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad.
"Right, now it's time to try some spin outs!" Ryuuzaki suddenly called out, clapping her hands again. Spin outs? Oishi and Kikumaru had been doing spin outs for half the day before, and Ryoma was pretty sure he'd seen Fuji and Kawamura do it, too. Dread started to curl in his stomach as he watched the demonstration. They hadn't even properly mastered the basic steps yet!
"My, Sumire is quite the dancer," Fuji cheered – never mind that he was half the demonstration.
"Fuji, you have no right to call me that. Alright, now everyone else try it!"
"Ready?" Tezuka asked.
Not at all. "Yeah."
Ryoma took a deep breath and concentrated. He could do this. It was just footwork, after all. How hard could it be?
All of a sudden, Tezuka was whirling him out, arm extended but still clutching his hand securely. That bit went fine, but then there was a sharp and sudden tug on his arm, and Ryoma's feet couldn't quite keep up, and he found himself stumbling.
His shaky lurch forward was halted by Tezuka, who caught him and steadied him against his chest. He stood there for a moment, wrapped in that loose embrace, before stepping back again wearing a scowl. "I messed up."
"We'll just try again."
The second time had similar results, though, as did the third. Ryoma was quickly growing frustrated.
"You've almost got it," the captain assured him. "Once more."
Easy for him to say. All he had to do was hold his arm out. Ryoma's only consolation was that it at least looked like Kaido was having similar problems on the other side of the room, as Inui was patiently talking the second-year through it in a manner that just seemed to make the Viper more confused. He smirked slightly when he saw his irritated senpai return the tug on his arm with twice the force, causing the data-gatherer to stumble forward awkwardly instead. Unfortunately, his senpai didn't tumble to the ground, robbing him of his chance for revenge.
When they broke hands on the fourth try, Momo laughed at him from where he and Kawamura stood. "Go, Echizen!" he jibed, clearly enjoying being better at something than his kouhai for once.
"Ack, sorry buchou," the junior deferred. He and Kawamura hurriedly danced away. They made a strange looking pair on the dance floor.
"Don't mind it," Tezuka assured him. "Just take it slowly. Relax."
He wished he could. None the less, Ryoma took a deep breath and tried to do as the captain suggested. They continued dancing, and then, when he nodded to signal that he was ready, Tezuka spun him out. His arm extended, his feet found the right places, then at the apex of the movement there was a gentle tug on his arm, only this time he kept up and managed to spin back into the embrace, arm half folded and back to the senior.
He'd completed the move successfully! He paused, taking a moment to enjoy the satisfaction of solving the damn problem. Tezuka's arm was still wrapped around his midsection in a tight hug - did it have to be so tight, or did the captain just not know his own strength? - and a after a moment he felt a breath of warm air on his left ear. "Good work, Echizen."
The words filled him with warmth, even though rationally he knew that all he'd really accomplished was a terribly simple thing that everyone else in the team had managed in less than half the time. And there was the little voice telling him that half of it was Tezuka's fault, for pulling on his arm too suddenly or stepping faster and wider than what the shorter boy could keep up with, leading to the sensation that he was sometimes being dragged around the dance floor. But he was still glad it was Tezuka. Tezuka stopped his senpai from making fun of his beginner attempts at dancing, usually managed to catch him after his mis-steps, and at least seemed to share his distaste for the activity in general. Ironically, the activity itself was more fun with someone else who didn't like it.
That didn't mean he was changing his mind about dancing, of course. Whatever brief warm fuzzy feelings he might have been experiencing were all completely swept away when they moved on to the fox trot, and it was like starting from the beginning all over again. Ryoma was only glad he'd been paranoid enough to wear thick socks that morning. Maybe tomorrow he'd try reinforcing his shoes with cardboard, too.
On the third day of dancing lessons, he didn't bother moving from Tezuka's side when it came time to choose dance partners – even if he was a terrible dancer, at least his partner was almost as bad. Coach Ryuuzaki had ordered Kaido and Momo together again as punishment for fighting, the Golden Pair hooked arms with confident grins, and this time Kawamura was the odd one out, with Fuji and Inui looking like a very scary pair of co-conspirators.
The first fifteen minutes of the lesson was spent reviewing the past two days; or rather, everyone else got the feel back while the captain and the rookie stumbled about in a mere mockery of a dance. Fortunately, being the esteemed captain, Tezuka silenced any snickers with just a glance, so nobody commented on their poor performance. It wasn't like it was necessary training for the Nationals, after all.
Coach Ryuuzaki introduced them to several more basic dance steps, which they all muddled through with various degrees of success. "This is such a waste of time when we could be playing tennis instead," Ryoma muttered under his breath. Tezuka didn't respond, but the freshman thought he saw the corner of the captain's mouth twitch upwards in the barest semblance of smile. At least the senior agreed with him on that. It was criminal how much fun Oishi and Kikumaru seemed to be having.
That train of thought was once again rudely interrupted by their Coach clapping her hands. "Right, now for a dip! Those leading, drop your partner like so!" Ryuuzaki called out, demonstrating with a red-faced Kawamura, who clearly wanted to be absolutely anywhere else right then. "It's up to you to hold them up and keep their balance, okay? It's just like those trust exercises we do for doubles training!"
That was somehow not reassuring, as Ryoma himself didn't exactly have a good track record with doubles, and he wasn't sure if he'd ever seen or heard of their esteemed captain doing doubles either.
"No way! Absolutely no way!" Momo was yelling out on the other side of the gym. Kaido was hissing furiously. Oishi and Eiji, naturally, were halfway to mastering it while everyone else protested.
"Silence! Get to it! Momoshiro! I saw that!" Ryuuzaki snapped.
"Fsshhuuu, don't drop me you bastard! You trying to pick a fight?!"
"This is stupid!"
He agreed with his senpai on that point, at least. This was stupid. Ryoma thought it was only dances like the tango that had dips. Half of the dance moves they were learning certainly didn't seem to belong to the traditional set of dances. Was Coach Ryuuzaki just torturing them now? How the heck was this supposed to 'broaden their cultural horizons'?
"Are you ready?" Tezuka asked as they started their fumbling dance again.
"No- ack!" His response came too late, as suddenly the captain was leaning forward, and he reflexively arced backwards to accommodate.
So far, so good, but then his impromptu limbo became unbalanced. "Ah, buchou, I'm slip-" he started, before suddenly landing on the ground with thud. Tezuka followed him to the floor, getting his elbow right in his stomach and effectively pinning him.
"Ach! It-t-t-te," Ryoma spat through clenched teeth, stars dancing before his eyes. There was a heavy warmth pinning his legs, and he thought he could hear his senpai barely restraining their laughter in the background, though it echoed dully in his head.
"I'm sorry, are you okay?" Tezuka asked, pushing himself up on to his elbows, allowing the freshman to get his breath back, and the world returned to proper focus once again.
It took him a second to re-orientate himself, actually, but when he finally did he came across a pair of serious brown eyes regarding him with concern. "…Fine," he grunted, though he just knew he was going to pick up some bruises from that tumble. Tezuka seemed to know as well, because he held his gaze for a long moment, and a second later a hand was threading itself through the hair at the back of his head.
"You hit your head against the floor pretty hard. I'm checking for bumps," came the curt reply. Ryoma fell silent at that and remained obediently still while the captain's fingers ran lightly over his scalp. It was an odd sensation, and he couldn't help but idly wonder if this was what it felt like for Karupin when he stroked the top of his cat's head.
The captain ceased his ministrations. "There doesn't seem to any problem." After a long moment, the hand dropped away. They sat there staring at each other for several seconds.
"Buchou…," Ryoma eventually began.
"Could you get up now? You're sort of heavy."
Was that a blush on the senior's face? Impossible – it was just a trick of the light. "Of course." The captain clambered to his feet, and then helped the freshman up also. Ryoma only accepted because he was still getting his breath back, was still a little too light-headed to even notice the hand at the small of his back guiding him over to the benches at side of the gym.
"Tezuka?" came a concerned call. Oishi, Ryoma realised belatedly.
"Echizen took a tumble. I should probably take him to the nurse."
"What? No," Ryoma protested, "You said there weren't any bumps. I'm fine. Let's keep going."
Tezuka regarded him somewhat doubtfully. "Are you sure…?"
"Of course. Let's go. It was nothing." His voice held conviction, but in the back of his mind the freshman was wondering why on earth he wasn't taking this excellent opportunity to get out of the rest of the dance lesson.
When they tried again, though, he fell on his backside once more, though much more softly and gently this time, as Tezuka was moving extremely slowly and carefully, handling him as though he were made out of glass or something, and caught him enough to ensure a gentle landing. Ryoma just growled in the back of his throat, and they tried again.
That time, Tezuka had dropped him but managed to keep his own balance. "Sorry," he apologised, holding out his hand to help the freshman back to his feet for what felt like the tenth time that day. "I keep missing the centre of gravity."
"Che," was his only response. At least this time it was he who was getting the sympathetic looks instead of Tezuka. Coach Ryuuzaki had apparently given up on the two of them as a lost cause, and left them to their clumsy antics for the rest of the lesson.
On the fourth day, Momo actually offered to be his partner.
"Nah, I'll stick with buchou," he replied, crossing his arms.
"But Echizen.. you know… jeez, I'm just trying to help you out. I mean, I know I'm not great either, but after yesterday…"
"You dropped Kaido on the ground, too. Twice," Ryoma pointed out.
"Yeah, but that was on purpose-" the junior trailed off when Tezuka stepped up next to the freshman. "I mean, that is… ah heh heh… um… bye!" Momo practically sprinted to the other side of the gym.
"You're not going with Momoshiro?" Tezuka asked in surprise.
"Nah. He just doesn't want to be stuck with the Coach," he dismissed. Inui had teamed up with Kaido again, as had Fuji and Kawamura, and there wasn't ever a question about the Golden Pair, leaving the lanky power player in the lurch.
Admittedly, after the disaster of the day before, any sane person would be seeking out a different dance partner, but Ryoma was stubborn. Changing partners would be like admitting defeat. And he still wasn't quite able to accept that their infallible captain could be such a lousy dancer, even after he'd been dropped time and time again the day before. His hand wandered to the back of his head, rubbing it cautiously and recalling the sensation of those strong fingers sliding through his hair.
His distraction was such that he almost missed Coach Ryuuzaki's latest horror-inducing proclamation.
"Okay everyone! Today, you're going to be doing twirls!"
"You have got to be kidding me!" That would have been Momoshiro yelping from the back again.
Coach Ryuuzaki predictably ignored him. "Momoshiro, you're with me! Okay, leading partners, hold your partner's hand up above their head like so. Momoshiro, do it properly. Okay, then the partner does a twirl underneath, drop hands and resume position. Easy! Even you and Echizen ought to be able to get this one, Tezuka."
Tezuka, for his part, didn't do anything other than clear his throat and nod in acknowledgement. It didn't particularly fill Ryoma with confidence.
An hour later, the regulars spilled from the gym, Ryoma tugging his cap over his face to hide his blush as Kikumaru and Momoshiro laughed at him. He couldn't even do a simple twirl right?! What was wrong with him? Dancing was so stupid. He didn't get it. The others had looked ridiculous, true – he didn't think he'd ever be able to forget that frightening image of Kaido doing a twirl – but they hadn't managed to trip over their own feet! There at least weren't any unfortunately tumbles that day, as Tezuka usually caught him – which was inevitable, as the captain always stood too close so that whenever he tried to do the twirl – even the word itself made him cringe – he invariably wound up clipping his elbow or tripping over the senior's feet. And when they tried to increase the distance, the height was wrong and their grip would break.
"Oi, Echizen, want a ride home?" Momoshiro called.
"No thanks," he muttered. "I'll walk." No way he was going to listen to the junior spend the entire journey home rubbing their dismal performance in – especially after his senpai's pity offer of partnering him earlier. At least Momo had to deal with Coach Ryuuzaki for the entire lesson. It had been pretty funny.
"Don't worry about it, Echizen," Oishi piped from behind him. He turned around to see the vice-captain smiling supportively at him, then glancing about a little furtively. "You're actually doing okay. It's sort of, um, that is… it takes two to tango, right? Tezuka isn't… making it exactly easy."
It was true, but Ryoma couldn't quite believe it. The Tezuka zone itself almost resembled a dance sometimes, and for someone with such poise and grace… it didn't register. Wasn't blaming his own lack of success on the captain just making excuses?
"Thanks, fukubuchou," he replied tonelessly, then walked away before the vice-captain could try and cheer him up more. How utterly humiliating. At least there was only one dance lesson left, then the event itself. Was the event compulsory too? Could the school even make extra curricular events compulsory? Then again, if they let the parents know, that was probably enough – his father would eventually annoy him into going, crowing the entire time about him asking some girl to dance. Ha, not that it would do him any good, consider he'd been learning the girl part of the dance all week.
After finishing his homework and ignoring his father's calls for a match after arriving home, he flopped back onto the bed, staring at the darkening ceiling while lazily petting Karupin. It was frustrating. He knew he could do it - he'd watched the others enough to see how it could be done, and he knew that Tezuka had as well, and after watching enough he was normally able to imitate anything to at least a respectable level. Why was it that he still kept tripping and bumping into his dance partner when he was doing everything right?
His face flushed, the memory of Tezuka's warm hands trailing through his hair suddenly springing to the forefront of his consciousness. It was just practice, just lessons, and none of those caresses meant anything. The ever-present guiding weight on the small of his back, the hand at his elbow…
Karupin let out a mewl of discontent, and Ryoma suddenly realised that his hand had stilled. Robotically, he resumed the stroking motion, though his mind was still a million miles away. It had felt sort of nice. Buchou was an interesting person. He liked hanging around him, even if he was a terrible dancer. And sometimes the looks the captain gave him… those brown eyes held such intensity it made his knees weak.
He was terrible at teamwork and doubles – he knew and acknowledged that, if only internally. But somehow, he felt that he ought to be doing better with Tezuka. The fact that he'd failed so miserably so far continued to bother him. Eventually, he stood up, and started stepping around the room, playing the music through his head.
It was finally the last dance lesson, or as Ryoma had started to mentally dub them, 'torture sessions'. Coach Ryuuzaki almost seemed disappointed by the notion as she assembled them all in the gym. "Alright everyone, you've all come a long way since the start of the week… well, most of you, anyway," she amended, casting a dubious glance over at Ryoma and Tezuka. The captain had appeared at his side almost immediately upon arrival, and the freshman didn't seek another partner. They'd been tripping over each other's feet all week; they might as well see it through all the way. "Today, try and combine everything you've learned and just practice. Just go with the flow and do whatever."
"Finally! I'm so tired of this!" Momoshiro groaned.
"Momoshiro! Since you're so confident, you're with me again today!"
"Enough! You've been complaining all week. You're with me so I can keep an eye on you!"
Everyone else finished pairing up – Kaido reluctantly agreeing to work with Inui again and Fuji hooking his arm through Kawamura's with a soft laugh. Fuji had been enjoying himself far too much throughout the week. It probably helped that he, along with the Golden Pair, hadn't had any troubles at all with the lessons.
Ryoma turned and faced the captain, who was staring down at him with his usual incomprehensible expression.
"It's the last day of lessons," Ryoma stated needlessly.
"We're going to get it right today."
Tezuka tiled his head slightly, and asked, "You think we can?"
"I know we can," Ryoma said with a scowl, grasping the senior's left hand and clasping it with his right, stepping close and looking up with his best glare. "Let's go, buchou."
Tezuka, for his part, just took his position, and by unspoken agreement, when the music started to swell they began dancing.
Ryoma couldn't explain it. Something seemed to click. The steps and the rhythm and the movement just came naturally, and Tezuka's arm almost felt like an extension of his own. It felt so natural now, so right... why had it been so hard before?
The other regulars stared, slack-jawed, as the captain and the rookie whirled effortlessly across the gym floor. Even Coach Ryuuzaki had a dumbfounded expression on their face, and the Golden Pair had frozen in place, watching the previously un-coordinated pair gracefully surpass them when the previous day they had danced like a pair of drunken spiders with twelve legs.
The freshman glanced up, and caught sight of the slightest of smiles hovering at the edges of the captain's mouth. The seeds of suspicion began to grow in his mind, flowering into a revelation as Tezuka effortlessly dropped him into a dip, arm easily supporting his arced back.
"…Buchou," he muttered breathily, "Were you just pretending to be a lousy dancer?"
The captain just quirked an eyebrow at him. "Weren't you?"
Apparently he'd never had the chance to find out. "You… was that sabotage?" That seemed more like Fuji's sort of thing. The captain… he seemed far too… honest, he supposed, to pull such a dirty trick. It didn't really mesh with the character of the upstanding, responsible student they were all familiar with.
Tezuka pulled him back up, and extended his arm, Ryoma automatically whirling out, then turning and folding back in without thinking about it, not missing a single step along the way. The captain's arm wrapped around his torso through the movement, hugging him close as he whispered in his ear, "I couldn't very well let you partner with someone else, could I?"
The freshman's face felt slightly warm, but he couldn't quite tell if it was from embarrassment or pleasure. "But was it really so necessary to throw me to the floor?"
There was that faint trace of a smile again. "I may have been a little… opportunistic."
It was in that moment that Ryoma decided that maybe dancing wasn't so bad after all.
Night of the Dance
When the night of the cultural committee's big event finally came, Ryoma felt it was rather anti-climatic after all the fuss over compulsory dancing lessons. Most of the student body did attend, at least – the female half of the school population seemed to enjoy it, and a good chunk of the male population came along simply because the girls were there. There were almost inevitably a few like himself, as well, who had been bullied into a dress shirt and pants by his cousin and teased by his father until he left the house just to get away from them.
Predictably, most of the students were gathered in large circles, girls and boys separated, though the cultural and literature clubs, combined with the suggestive might of a few of the chaperoning teachers, regularly pressured large groups of them back into actually dancing with their dates. A lot of the freshmen still clustered in groups anyway, separated by gender, most having not gone to the trouble of asking someone to go. The seniors were the only people that seemed to actually be making any effort of it.
Ryoma, for his part, had been forced to revise his opinion of dancing again, when Tomoka had spent about half an hour trying to coax him into dancing with Ryuuzaki's granddaughter. Despite the fact that he and the captain had eventually sorted the dancing thing out, truth was, the freshman had only learnt the girl's half of the dance, and had no desire to make a fool of himself in figuring out the guy's version on the fly – much less with the pair of well-intentioned but often annoying girls. Thus, about an hour in, he found himself leaning against a wall in a mostly abandoned corner of the garishly decorated gym, where the lighting was poor enough that no one really noticed him. Observing from the shadows was proving to be much more fun. It was amusing watching their vice-captain getting solicited into dance after dance with girls, and Kikumaru routinely getting irritated and dragging his doubles partner away. Fuji, dressed as a girl – had the teachers not noticed, or had they just decided to let sleeping dogs lie? - was dancing with an embarrassed-looking Kawamura. Ryoma idly wondered exactly how much choice the power player had in that arrangement. He also noted that Inui was hovering near the refreshments table, and accepted that his current drink would have to be the last of the night.
After about half an hour of growing increasingly bored, distraction finally came by the way of Tezuka. The captain was heading in his direction, and given the lack of others in his nearby vicinity, he was obviously the target. Hopefully the senior wasn't about to berate him for not joining his peers on the dance floor.
"Echizen," the captain greeted, quietly standing next to him.
"Buchou," he acknowledged, a little warily.
It appeared that his fears were unfounded, however, as Tezuka merely stood next to him, nursing his drink in silence. After a moment, he couldn't resist the urge to ask. "You haven't been dancing?" He'd been keeping an eye out for the senior on the floor, but the captain had been scarce for most of the evening. It hadn't seemed likely the Tezuka would be able to escape the clutches of the throngs of girls, either – he cut quite a rakish figure in his black slacks, white dress shirt and sports jacket. Although maybe he had blended in with the chaperones, escaping their notice. He was probably the only student who could pull it off.
"No. I don't much care for events like these," the senior admitted. "Why do you think I came over here?"
"Heh, for a second I was wondering if you were going to ask me to dance," Ryoma commented.
"Do you want to?"
"Here? …Not really."
Tezuka just nodded slightly, as though expecting the answer, then grasped his hand and tugged him towards the door of the gym. Ryoma didn't have the chance to protest, and just curiously followed along.
The air was crisp outside of the gym – it was nearly winter, after all, and the sky was dotted with stars. The music and chatter from inside the building was suddenly muted, replaced by a soft breeze rustling the trees and the sound of his own breath.
"Echizen." The captain seemed to be standing very close all of a sudden. Ryoma could feel the warmth emanating from his body, and smell the faint whiff of cologne.
He cast a curious glance at the senior, who was mostly expressionless as usual. Although the slightly flushed cheeks seemed a little out of place. Belatedly, the freshman spied the cup clutched in the senior's left hand. "Did you get that from the refreshments table?"
"Inui was there."
"…I see. That would… explain quite a lot."
"…Buchou, are you drunk?"
"I shall have Inui run two hundred laps on Monday."
Ryoma smirked a little vindictively. He was still a little sore about the split-step comment in the first dancing lesson.
They stood there in silence for a long moment, eyes locking in a staring contest with no outcome. Eventually, Ryoma asked, "Buchou, why are we out here?"
"You said you didn't want to dance inside."
"You want to dance out here?" Ryoma asked in confusion, glancing about the abandoned school grounds.
That was fair enough. "Okay," he agreed, taking up position. "Let's dance."
That seemed to briefly stymie the senior. "Well?" the freshman prompted impatiently.
"I didn't think you'd say yes. You obviously don't like dancing," Tezuka admitted, grasping his hand. They could barely hear the music out here, but it didn't seem to matter.
"And you do?"
"…Not especially. But I don't mind dancing with you." It was an odd and startlingly honest answer from the reticent tennis captain, one that made butterflies dance in his stomach and his heart thud strangely in his chest. It felt strangely like the anticipation he felt before a big tennis match.
"Same here. Just don't drop me, okay?" Ryoma said with a smirk.
Tezuka had a strange glint in his eye that the freshman couldn't comprehend until a second later, he found himself being dipped, then dropped a short distance onto the ground. "Ack!"
"Buchou!" he complained with a mild wince. Grand, he had probably messed up his dress clothes now. His mother would have a fit.
"My apologies. It seems that, once again, I find myself unable to resist taking advantage of an opportunity." Then the captain was leaning forward, and capturing his lips in a chaste kiss.
A little startled, Ryoma eventually melted into the embrace, and the outside world slipped away, the music vanished into the background, and everyone except Tezuka seemed to disappear from the world. The one distant part of his mind that remained coherent decided that maybe it wasn't dancing with the captain he really liked, but just Tezuka himself. And that little revelation made the entire week's worth of humiliating dance lessons completely worth it.