Standard Disclaimers Apply.

A/N: Ryoma is actually my favorite character, not because he's one of those stereotypical 'we'll pull through' characters like most of Seigaku. That's actually why a lot of people don't like Seigaku—they're too perfect. I think he's actually got a lot of interesting aspects to him that people don't explore much. I like his personality, it's almost oxymoronic in a way, being the quiet, poker-faced and somewhat indifferent boy, but at the same time, the arrogant, bratty, spoiled boy.

So this is just another take on him. Just to see how it turns out. Also, I admit, I've never seen a single bit of PoT. I can't be bothered to read 300 something manga chapters, or watch a whole anime on tennis. I don't even like tennis. But I like the characters, and their dynamic, which is why I'm in fandom. So if anything is really really off in character (though one could say this whole thing is OOC), that's my fault.

So go on. I hope you enjoy.

He's not really there.

It's the only time when he really feels alive now, in that place with that court under his feet, that ball in his hand and the racquet swinging with all his force behind it, that rush of dominating, devoting, focus. But it is still feels a little empty, and he likes to pretend that the words that were spoken to him before were not so expecting.

'Echizen, be the pillar of Seigaku.'

Another expectation, just like all the other expectations piled on him: he will beat his father because he lives for tennis, he will always say mada mada dane even though he feels like he too, still has a long way to go. Even those stupid fangirls that follow him around have expectations—they want him to be the white knight that will place them into an ultimate romance story they can call their own.

He's happy that he has people to be friends with now at least. In America, his classmates didn't talk to him much, believing that his silence was a way of placing himself above them. In a predominantly white school, he was made fun of for his 'slanty eyes' and 'yellow skin' even though he was actually rather pale in complexion. He suffered through endless rounds of 'Guess the Asian Guy's Ethnicity!' where no one got it right, and when they got their answers, promptly forgot the next day and they would begin to play all over again.

Even with all the etiquette, he feels he is much more suited to Japan. He has his senpai, and he will look after them as they have looked after him. No matter how he is he respects them greatly.

But he doesn't think he wants to do tennis for the rest of his life. Tennis is something to do right now, and he is putting his all into it, because he doesn't know what else to do. He has been drilled into tennis, so much so that he is not sure what he is looking for anymore. He likes the feel of winning, and the spice of Seigaku has brought to him something new, but he still wants.

Tennis is empty.

He doesn't want to be 'Samurai Junior,' lurking in his father's shadow. He doesn't want to become the pillar, and he really doesn't want to go back to America.

It's all about the domination now, the rush of winning, the sense of devotion, because he wants focus, something to drive his life. He doesn't want to be the expectations of the people who look at him and see something that they can mold. He wants to be himself. He wants to be Ryoma.

Who is Ryoma? He'll ask himself at times. Is it the boy with the almost eternal poker face, with the golden catlike eyes and messy hat-hair, the one who doesn't smile much? He's not too sure.

He'll say nothing. He never mentions any dissent about tennis, or about how empty he feels his life is. His father, lazy pervert he is, can pull through in bad situations, but has the emotional IQ of a flea. His mother, hard-working, and intelligent, is providing for the family so he doesn't bother her. He knows she gets stressed out at times; law is a tricky business. His cousin Nanako is a university student, also busy with work, and he just doesn't feel close enough to her.

It's part of why he likes Karupin. His keen Himalayan cat accepts him quietly, a warm ball of fur that will listen to him when he talks to the wall of his room.

For now he'll be content with being Echizen. He'll have to choose someday, whether he wants to shrink his universe down to that neon colored-ball, or expand it, and truly see the world.

Maybe one day, he will be there. Not Echizen, not Ryoma.

He'll just simply be. And that's all he really wants.