Author's Note: This is the companion story to Learning Curve. This story can be read alone, but I recommend checking out Learning Curve if you want to see Sakuno's point of view. I apologize for not placing them together but to honest, they have such different viewpoints that I thought it would get too confusing. Also this story has additional scenes that didn't take place in Learning Curve.
Summary: Ryoma's body froze. 'She couldn't have just said what I thought she said,' he thought eyeing the girl who still seemed to be somewhat in a trance as she stared at his mouth, 'there is no way shy little Ryuzaki who tends to blush when I glance in her general direction just asked me to teach her how to kiss.'
Warning: Since this story is from Ryoma's point of view, I want to warn you that he is a bit perverted. I know some people might think this is OOC but think about it. His father is a perfverted old man and remember that by this point, Ryoma is in high school. Most high school boys are hormonally driven at least to some degree. I'm sorry if that offends (or shocks) anybody but it's true. Also, since I rushed writing and editing this story, I might have missed a few errors. If you happen to notice any, please point them out so I can correct them.
Shout-outs: This story is dedicated to the people who voted for it on my profile page and to those who were kind enough to drop a review for Learning Curve, especially Quiet and Complicated and OrangeAce. I hope you all enjoy this piece as well.
Disclaimer: Prince of Tennis is not mine. If it was, Ryoma would have asked Sakuno out for a real date by now.
Mada Mada Dane – you still have a ways to go
Baka – idiot
Ano – Um
Buchou – captain (I think.)
Soon as the bell rang signally lunch, Ryoma headed out for his normal spot beneath an old cherry blossom tree. He had discovered it on his first day at Seigaku High School. Desperate to escape from fangirls chasing him screaming the name "Ryoma-sama," Ryoma had raced past the tennis courts to the southern section of the school. Once he noticed that he managed to lose his pursuers, he slowed down a walk. There he found an unpopulated spot by an old tree that stood at the top of a small incline and decided to rest.
Six months later, he continued to go to the spot every day to eat his lunch away from his noisy classmates and to take a quick nap before the bell sounded for classes to start. He had just finished eating the bento his cousin had made when he heard someone approaching. Mentally he groaned. It would seem that his "secret" spot was no longer a secret. He briefly entertained the idea of pretending to be asleep but soon discarded it. He didn't want to be laying on the ground defenseless if the person approaching ending up being a fangirl. Instead, he stood up in a semi-ready position should the need to run arise and turned to see who was coming. Ryoma blinked. The person approaching was indeed a girl and a fan but not the kind he had been expecting. Instead, it was Ryuzaki.
Sure enough, the granddaughter of his ex-coach was slowly, and rather hesitantly, approaching his position with her head looking at the ground as she walked. When she looked up and noticed him looking back at her, her eyes went wide and she stumbled a little in surprise.
Ryoma wanted to shake his head at the sight of her typical gracelessness. Even now that she played on the girl's tennis team, she would still have moments when she would revert into her former klutzy self. But over the years the normally oblivious Ryoma did manage to pick up on the fact it only happened when she felt embarrassed. Ryoma also noticed that although most of her shyness had faded around the players, she still hadn't totally rid herself of that particular trait when in his presence. Then again, Ryoma had to admit that it would be weird to see the coach's granddaughter completely rid of her shyness, so he didn't mind. In fact, sometimes her bashful nature was kind of cute.
'Wait did I just call Wobbly Hips cute?' He nearly shook his head in disgust at the fact he connected the word "cute" with anything. 'Then again,' he thought watching her slowly come closer, 'she has changed quite a bit since junior high.'
Despite the fact, Ryuzaki continued to wear her hair in twin braids and was still shy around him, she had grown up, especially physically. She hit another growth spurt a year or two which put her a couple inches taller than what she used to be in junior high. Ryoma had also underwent a growth spurt which rendered him around 5'7" which meant the top of her head could just barely reached his shoulder.
But if Ryoma was being totally honest it wasn't her newfound height that he had been paying attention to the last few years. No, because truth be told, Ryoma, like most of the other guys at Seigaku High School, couldn't get over the fact that little nerdy-looking Ryuzaki had been one of the first girls in their grade to reach puberty and begin to blossom.
Curves had begun to replace her formerly square hips starting in the second year in junior high. By the third, even normally asexual Ryoma had noticed that her chest had more... bounce to it than before. As hormonally driven as teenage guys were, and considering the oblivious nature of Sakuno, the coach had desperately asked Ryoma to walk Sakuno home whenever she was occupied in hopes that it would discourage the boys from approaching the innocent Sakuno. Ryoma agreed with surprisingly little fuss; he too had noticed the guys lurking around her and figured Sakuno was too naïve to understand why so many boys had suddenly started to surround her. He guessed correctly considering Sakuno never did figure out why so many boys were so eager to talk to her or why Ryoma would always offer to walk her home when her grandmother had to stay late at school.
"Ano… Ryoma-kun?" Sakuno asked dispersing his thoughts with the sound of his voice. She now stood directly in front of him with her hands twisting together nervously in front of her body.
"Yeah?" he prompted when she didn't continue.
"I-I was wondering i-if, if it's not t-too much trouble, t-that you could t-teach m-me…" she trailed off and her eyes lowered to the ground in embarrassment.
Ryoma would never admit it, but that was the one thing he disliked about her. He could tolerate her stuttering (even though it meant conversations took forever); he was fine with the way she blushed (it was a bit flattering), but he absolutely hated that she couldn't look him in the eye for more than a few seconds at a time unless he was on the tennis courts. It kept reminding him that no matter what he did, she never felt comfortable enough around him to be able to look him in the eyes. She could look any of the other regulars in the eyes, except him and the others teased him mercilessly because of it. 'Although,' Ryoma thought to himself taking a closer look at the female before him, 'there is one advantage to her shy nature.' Since Ryuzaki was always looking at the ground, it meant that should he happen did to take a few longer glances than what was entirely appropriate since she couldn't catch him staring. Most of the time though, he just wished she would look up more.
"Teach you what?" he asked gruffly knowing his tone would get her to look up at him.
She did, but she only looked in his eyes for a brief moment. Then her eyes seemed to slide away from his and drop an inch or two lower… to the level of his mouth? "I-I w-wanted you to t-teach me how to…" her voice drifted off entirely.
"How to?" There was a long pause following his question which left him wondering just where Ryuzaki's mind had gone. He shifted awkwardly waiting for her to answer.
"Kiss," Sakuno finished somewhat dreamily.
His body froze. 'She couldn't have just said what I thought she said,' he thought eyeing the girl who still seemed to be somewhat in a trance as she stared at his mouth, 'there is no way shy little Ryuzaki who still tends to blush when I glance in her general direction just asked me to teach her how to kiss.'
"Oi, what did you just say?"
Suddenly, the glazed look in her eyes faded and grew wide. Then the mother of all blushes began to grow on her cheeks. Soon it had spread to the tips of her ears and the length of her neck. Ryoma wondered offhandedly just how far down the redness went before he realized she had yet to answer his question.
"What did you just ask me, Ryuzaki?" Her fearful eyes began to look more relaxed and relieved but Ryoma wasn't done with her yet. "…you want me to teach you how to kiss?"
The frantic eyes returned and the red cheeks seemed to shift into a shade of burgundy. Quickly, she broke eye contact and began to look around as if trying to find an escape route. 'Well, I can't let that happen now can I?' he thought fighting back a smirk. To redraw her attention he took a step closer; her eyes snapped back to his. He waited for her response with one eyebrow quirked. 'Well kitten,' he thought amusedly, 'what are you going to do now?'
Apparently she thought blatant denial to be the best approach. "No, no, no," she said shaking her head and waving her arms in frantic denial, "I-I didn't say that. Of- of c-course n-not, R-ryoma-kun!"
'Sure you didn't,' he thought, 'and Kaidoh is the friendliest man alive.' He noticed that she was looking at him hopefully, probably hoping he would accept that for an answer. She should have known better; when has the Prince of Tennis ever be merciful when it came to getting what he wanted?
"I heard you say it," he replied confidently.
He saw the pout on her face before it was replaced by desperation. "Ano.. I ano... W-well maybe I s-said it, but I didn't mean it!"
'Sorry kitten, it's too late to back out now,' he thought wickedly enjoying playing with her, especially when his teasing continued to fluster her. "Then why did you say it?" he asked enjoying to see the way she squirmed at his questions. Apparently, Fuji had rubbed off on him in the past couple of years and he now had acquired a sadistic streak. She opened her mouth to make another denial but stopped when she made eye contact again. To his surprise, and great curiosity, she flushed suddenly and shook her head as if to rid herself of some unwanted thought.
"I-I- I've got to go!" she shouted before racing back towards the school.
If she had looked back, she might have seen the way The Prince of Tennis remained where he was, carefully watching her frantic departure. She might have noticed the way his lips curled into a wicked smirk that would definitely bring the rosy hue back to her cheeks. But what probably would have scared her the most was the way he purred the word "interesting" before pulling his cap down to hide the way his hazel eyes sparked.
After Sakuno's rather rushed retreat, Ryoma slowly made his way back into the school. It was too late to chase down Ryu- no Sakuno – considering how fast she was sprinting. And if arrived back in the hallways too early, it would give his fangirls a chance to assault him. He slipped into the biology classroom just before the bell sounded. Since the teacher had a habit of droning on the whole period, Ryoma decided to devote his attention to a greater purpose: figuring out what caused Sakuno to be so bold. Granted, he wasn't upset per se by her uncharacteristic display of boldness, but he was a bit mystified as to want inspired it.
Thinking back over the past week, he had noticed some of his other tennis players looking at him strangely, as if they knew something he didn't, Momo-sempai in particular. Fuji had been giving him more smirks than usual too. Not to mention the fact that the loud girl who was friends with Sakuno, Osakada Tomoko, had been giving him odd looks too. At the time, he thought that they were all just being their normal weird selves, now he was wondering if there wasn't something more to it. After all, the timing was too close to be coincidental. Ryoma leaned back in his chair and pulled the cap down over his eyes more. 'Does it really matter that something or someone else caused it? After all, it's already done. Now I just have to figure out what to do with the information.'
Ryoma snorted quietly. 'If I know Sakuno she'll probably be too embarrassed to ever approach me again,' his eyes gleamed, 'and that just won't do.' Totally disregarding the lesson, Ryoma began to strategize about what to do with a brown-eyed girl with braided hair.
In gym, Ryoma scowled when the coaches ordered the boys to separate from the girls. Gym was one of the few classes he and Sakuno shared. He had hoped to get a chance alone with Sakuno to talk with her (read: fluster and tease her). Unfortunately, the girls were assigned to play softball with the one of the assistant coaches while the boys ran the timed 1600 meters.
Ryoma finished early then most of the others; apparently Tezuka's frequent orders of laps did come in handy every now and then. He grabbed a cup of water that one of the gym assistants had placed on a table. Sipping it slowly, he tried to inconspicuously wander closer to where the girls were on the baseball field. He managed to arrive in time to see Sakuno at bat.
Apparently, her poor form transferred to softball as well. Ryoma shook his head at her overly bent knees and the slouch in her back as she stood at the plate. The first pitch went wild and Sakuno had to duck to avoid being hit. Ryoma's grip tightened on the plastic cup as the ball passed just inches above her helmet. The pitcher must have called out an apology since Sakuno just waved her hand to show that she was fine.
'Stupid girl,' he thought watching her dust off her clothes, 'she is way too forgiving.' The second pitch came and Sakuno swung and missed. Watching her twirl around in a comical fashion had Ryoma grudgingly smiling a little. He knew he should probably head back to the track before the teacher noticed his absence, but something kept him from moving. Probably because of what happened next. He had just turned as if to start making his way down to the track, when the pitcher released the ball. He paused to see what would happen. When the third pitch came across the plate, Sakuno finally connected. But rather than driving the ball into left field, she lost control of the bat sending it flying into the chest of the catcher who fell backwards from the force. Ryoma blinked and blinked again. Then he started laughing. 'Leave it to Ryuzaki to attack someone with flying baseball bats,' he thought tugging down his cap to hide his grin lest someone notice that he was capable of smiling.
"Echizen Ryoma, get down here now!"
Ryoma turned and saw that the teacher had finally realized his disappearance. His grin dropped into a frown. He took one last look at the baseball diamond where Sakuno was kneeling and apologizing to the catcher before heading back down the hill to the track.
After classes, he headed to the tennis courts knowing that Sakuno would be there. Ever since junior high, she attended both the men's tennis practices and the tournaments religiously. It was his chance to catch her. In the locker room, he forced himself not to rush while getting ready for practice knowing that any change in his usual routine would alert the others that something was amiss.
Heading out of the locker room, he subtly looked for Sakuno only to see that she wasn't there. His eyes narrowed. Noticing that Osakada had already arrived, he slowly made his way near her to hopefully glean the reason for Sakuno's absence. Fortune was on his side. Osakada was talking to Momo and Ryoma caught the name Sakuno mentioned. Pretending to stretch, he listened in on their conversation.
"So where did Sakuno-chan go?" Momo asked.
"She told me she had to head home early today?"
"That's strange. Did she say why?"
"She mumbled something about having to study for her English class, but it was hard to hear her," Osakada paused for a moment before continuing, "I think she might be sick too."
"What? Poor Sakuno-chan is sick?"
"I think so. She seemed awfully flushed and looked like she was going to faint. I offered to walk her home but she insisted that she was fine and she didn't want me to miss practice."
Ryoma scowled. 'She's not sick; she's just embarrassed and avoiding me.' The scowl deepened at that last thought. He knew that she would be embarrassed around him now and that she might avoid seeking him out for awhile but he never thought she would go so far as to skip watching practice. 'Stupid girl,' he thought, walking quickly to the front gate.
"Oi, Ryoma. Where you going?" Momo called.
Ryoma ignored him and kept walking, cursing stupid females who talking about kissing people and then avoid him. He never noticed the way Momo and Osakada shared a conspiring grin as his departure.
He had just made it to the front on the high school when he realized that Sakuno was nearly out the gate. He was about to call out to her when he paused. Her pace seemed slow and her gaze would drift in the direction of the tennis courts almost longingly before she looked back at the path before her. It seemed that Sakuno hated the idea of missing a tennis practice. Ryoma smirked, 'good thing I'm here to stop her.'
"Ryuzaki!" he called when he was only ten feet behind her.
He watched her body stop in surprise. Slowly, almost cautiously, she turned to face him. The overly fake smile on her face had him immediately frowning.
"H-hello Ryoma-kun," she said trying not to look him in the eyes, "I-I wish I c-could stay and talk but I'm really in a big hurry so I'll j-just see you around sometime and…"
"Why?" he interjected not liking the fact she was trying to lie to him. She winced at his curt tone but still continued on with the innocent routine.
"Huh? I-I don't know what you're talking about, Ryoma-kun."
'Like hell you don't,' he wanted to say but figured it best to phrase his thoughts a little bit more delicately in order to avoid scaring her off even more.
"Why did you ask me to teach you how to kiss?" Okay, so maybe it was a bit blunt but he was a fan of the direct approach, it had a tendency to get results. And it worked. Her defiant attitude seemed to deflate with the slump of her shoulders and the lowering of her head as she looked mournfully at the ground.
"I'm sorry, Ryoma-kun," she began, continuing to look at the ground morosely, as if she had committed some unforgivable sin but was trying to beg for his forgiveness, "I didn't mean to say it and I'll never ask you that again. I'm really sorry."
Ryoma wanted to groan, he hadn't anticipated this reaction when he was making plans during class though he probably should have. Then again, his plotting had switched to fantasying about five minutes into it, so maybe that was part of the problem.
"I didn't ask you to apologize, I asked you why," he told her, hoping she would stop looking like she was going to burst into tears any second.
The glum expression faded into shock. He watched her bite her bottom lip as she thought through how to respond. He tried to wait patiently for her response, but the image of her biting her lip had sent other images of a more… impure nature into his head.
'This girl will be the death of me,' he thought trying to ignoring the images in his head. When she looked up at him, he made sure his face didn't give away any of his less than holy thoughts. Apparently, his expression was a bit intimidating since she began to look a bit fearful.
"Well?" he gently prodded. Well, relatively gently since the fearful expression had yet to fade.
"I wanted… I-I wanted to…"
"You wanted what?" he asked trying to get her to say the words he already knew. He knew spoke too harshly when she winced and her eyes began to take a light sheen. He felt bad but he was trying his best considering girls and emotions tended to be two mysteries he had never understood. He was about to repeat his question in a softer, less callous tone when she looked up and looked him straight in the eyes.
"I wanted to see if I was a good kisser or not," she said clearly. To Ryoma, it almost seemed like a challenge, one he was most willing to accept.
"And you wanted me to teach you," he said taking a step closer. Game
She nodded hesitantly. Set.
"O-okay?" she parroted back with a confused expression.
"Yeah, okay," he said and with that he leaned forward to press his lips to hers. His hazel eyes burned into her chocolate ones, and he only had one thought:
It was official. His crazy old man actually knew what he was talking about when it came to girls.
But perhaps that was going too far and giving his old man too much credit. But he had to admit that kissing Sakuno felt almost as good as winning a game of tennis. Then he noticed that he was standing close enough to her body to realize that she smelled like a mixture of strawberries and vanilla. He fought back a groan. Scratch winning a game of tennis, this was as good as if he beat his old man in a match.
She gasped and without hesitation, he took advantage of her parted lips. After just one taste, he felt addicted. He wanted to go further. He wanted to go deeper. Without thinking about, his hand that rested gently at the side of her face snaked to the back of her neck to pull her closer and now her body was flushed against his. He wanted to grin at the way she squeaked in surprise at his bold action but he managed to resist. That's when it happened. She made a sound that sounded like a cross between a contented sigh and a sensuous moan and he couldn't help but think that he would never let her go.
Unfortunately, since a certain part of his lower body was beginning to respond to the kiss, Ryoma decided it best to put a little space between them. He released her slowly and carefully watched her reaction. Her eyes blinked open as if she was waking from a dream that she didn't want to let go of. Her trance-like state had him smirking. When her fingers touched her lips in wonder, the smirk grew. Exponentially.
Then, for no reason whatsoever, the cute confused look simply disappeared. She closed her eyes as if afraid to look at him and see what his action would be.
'Why would she think she has to fear me?' he thought to himself, 'doesn't she know I would never hurt her?'
He watched as tears began to slip under her closed lashes. Irritated at the girl for misunderstanding and ashamed of himself that he apparently failed to prove himself to her, Ryoma firmly grasped her chin to force her to look at him.
"R-ryoma-kun?" she asked with tears still in her eyes.
'Stupid girl,' he thought to himself but without any condemnation. Sakuno was an idiot that was a fact, but that was okay. Because that was just one more thing, he adored about her. Lighting his hold on her chin so his grip wouldn't hurt but it would prevent her from turning her eyes away, he tried a different tactic. He made sure his tone wasn't harsh or cruel and spoke his traditional phrase.
"Mada Mada Dane," he said, his eyes compelling her to understand.
She didn't. And although she couldn't turn her head, her eyes shifted to the side to avoid looking at him. But he wasn't finished yet. Keeping his eyes on her, he carefully touched his lips to hers once more. This time he didn't pull away. Instead, he remained close to her in case she still didn't get the message. Because if she didn't, he would be happy to "tell" her again and again and again.
"I said mada mada dane," he repeated before bringing their lips together once more. He could sense the moment she understood his words. Her body went from being tense and alert to calm and relaxed. Not to mention, she began to respond tentatively at first but growing in eagerness, something that pleased Ryoma greatly.
After a few more minutes of not-so-chaste kisses and innocent caresses on her cheek and on skin around the waist, Ryoma pulled away. Once again, to Ryoma's satisfaction, Sakuno had a dazed look on her face. Which faded into a pout, when she realized that this wasn't a quick pause to break for air but rather a stopping point.
"Ryoma-kun, why did you stop?" she asked, "I liked it." A few seconds passed before Sakuno realized what she had said. When she did, she blushed her earlier shade of bright cherry red.
"Do you now?" he asked, enjoying the way the blush deepened in response to his teasing.
Her indignant shout had him laughing. Although, she didn't like the fact that he was laughing at her, she didn't try to stop him since she hardly ever saw him laugh like that.
"Come on," he said dragging her along by her hand, "it's time to go."
"Go? Go where?" she asked confused as they headed back into the schoolyard.
"Tennis practice," he answered without slowly down.
It took a few moments for Sakuno to process his words, but once she did she immediately grew worried. "Ryoma-kun, you're going to be late for practice, you should hurry and run over there."
"I'm already late," he said adjusting his cap with his free hand, "and if I leave you behind, you might wander off again."
"Mou, R-Ryoma-kun," she said struggling to find a reply, "I can get there on my own. Y-you need to go because Tezuka-buchou will make you run laps for being late."
Instead, of releasing her hand to run on ahead, he stopped suddenly and turned to face her. Surprised, Sakuno ran into him. When she moved to step back, he stopped her by putting his arms around her waist.
"R-Ryoma-kun," she squeaked, surprised by their unexpected closeness. She tried to wiggle her way out of his arms, but he didn't let her go. Instead, he tilted his head down so that their faces were only centimeters from one another.
"Looks like I need to be compensated," he whispered close to her ear.
"Compensated?" she parroted, unable to think with him being so close.
"Yeah, compensated. I think one kiss for every lap should do it."
That snapped her out of her daze. "But Ryoma-kun, you have to run a lap for every minute you're late."
"Uh huh. And I'm already twelve minutes late…" he said leaning in closer to steal another kiss.
"Echizen, release Sakuno-san right now or I'll have you running forty laps around the courts," came the order of a stern Tezuka. He had been on his way to ask the office if the young Prince of Tennis went home sick since he hadn't arrived at practice. Imagine his surprise when he came across the prodigy making out with a girl who looked suspiciously like his ex-coach's granddaughter. Imagine his surprise when he realized it was indeed the ex-coach's granddaughter. But instead of immediately jumping to following his order, Ryoma simply turned around to face him with a cocky smirk and amused hazel eyes.
"Promise?" he asked slyly.
Tezuka's eyes hardened and narrowed. He was about to shout another order, to lengthen his running time, when Sakuno-san did something rather uncharacteristic.
"Ryoma-kun!" she shouted and tried to slap him but with arms trapped against his chest the attack lost its effect and only caused Ryoma to turn his smirk on her.
Surprised by her outburst and her unexpected attack on Echizen, Tezuka paused for a moment to consider his next course of action. "Fifty laps," he stated.
Tezuka looked between the coach's granddaughter who blushed immediately following her shout and Echizen whose smirk grew upon hearing his order.
"Ano… fifty l-laps is a l-long time to run," Sakuno continued.
"Then he better get started," Tezuka said heading back to the courts. As he walked away, he could still hear bits and pieces of their conversation.
"You heard him, fifty," Ryoma said to the girl.
"But R-Ryoma-kun, that's too much."
"You know what they say," Echizen said before his voice dropped a few notches lower, "Practice makes perfect." Followed by the tell-tale signs of someone kissing.
If he had been anyone else, Tezuka would have rolled his eyes. Instead, he settled for a small snort and a brief shake of his head. 'Teenagers,' he thought.
When Echizen showed up another ten minutes later with hair mussed and eyes dancing, the urge to roll his eyes surfaced again. "Sixty laps," he said, trying to ignore the way Ryoma grinned like the cat who managed to eat both the canary and the goldfish, and the way Sakuno gasped from her place along the fence of the courts.
"You heard him," Ryoma said underneath a lowered cap, "sixty." He didn't wait for Sakuno to respond but instead just started running the prescribed laps. Sakuno watched him leave with mouth agape and cheeks red. But then a slow, shy smile grew on her face. Tezuka wasn't sure but he thought he heard her whispered something just then, something that sounded like, "okay, sixty it is then."
AN: I'm still working on The Lesson Plan which is the prequel to this but it's coming rather slowly since I have been distracted by so many other fic ideas. I have thought about continuing this story further, showing what it would be like for romantically-challenged Ryoma to date a bashful (and oblivious) Sakuno, but I haven't decided yet.
Let me know if you think I should keep it a one-shot wonder or turn it into a multi-chaptered fic. Please review!