36: Expectations For The Future
It was amazing how fast time could fly. Sakuno, standing in the front yard of her high school was smiling nostalgically, holding her school bag loosely in front of her and letting her braids dance slightly in the breeze. She took a deep breath, the crisp morning air filling her lungs with life and invigorating her entire body. It was almost like she was fourteen again, standing in front of her middle school and getting ready to tackle her third year with gusto.
Almost, as the only difference this time was it was her third year of high school.
"I'm going now, or I'll be late." Ryoma called out to the members of the house, his tennis bag slung over his shoulder and his school uniform newly washed and smelling of laundry detergent. He heard his mother call out to him and tell him to have a nice first day as a third year, and Ryoma groaned when he saw his father walking towards him. The old man had a grin on his face that spelled trouble for the young tennis player, no doubt.
"Ryoma." Nanjiroh started, fishing into one of his kimono sleeves to produce a piece of paper. There was an address on it, and a phone number was at the top as well. Ryoma took it hesitantly, wondering if his father was trying to skip out on an errand like he always did. "Go there after school, and if you get lost, call the number at the top. Make me proud, boy!" And without another word (or a chance for Ryoma to respond), Nanjiroh quickly made his escape into the kitchen. Ryoma just stared at the place where his father disappeared, a scowl running across his face.
"Weird oyaji." He muttered, stepping out the door.
Aimi grimaced; flipping her perfectly curled (dyed) deep red hair back as she made her way past the front gate of the school. She still didn't know why daddy insisted she go to a public high school when he knew perfectly well she could afford going to a private school because of the money she made as a model. He tried to explain his reasoning to her, definitely, but Aimi preferred to tune him out when he started on a lecture about going to a public school. She honestly didn't care, because once she turned eighteen, he couldn't decide anything for her anymore. She would model on the cover of playboy if she wanted to, damn it!
Sighing, Aimi flipped her curls back again, sashaying across the school front yard. She spotted that brown-haired, pigtailed, plain girl standing a little ways from the school, her head back and her face serenely calm. Aimi scowled, still remembering that instant in their first year of high school. How dare both of them?! Embarrassing her in front of the entire school! Aimi was a full-time model, and she would be respected because she actually has to work! Not like a bunch of the other teenagers in the school, who just lazed around as their parents did all the work for them. Not like her dad, who just lazed around and told her to work, hoarding all the money she made…
Her cell phone rang at that moment, stopping her train of thought. Blinking, Aimi spied her caller ID to see her manager's number flashing in her face, so she picked up with a bright smile and a little peek of her (already perfect) nails. Her manager was this shy, pushover type of guy, who got embarrassed easily. Though he was tall and could pass as a bouncer, Hiroshi was such a gentle, sweet person. Aimi enjoyed ordering him around to do everything; he never complained.
"Aimi-san." Hiroshi said over the phone, the model shivering a bit. Sure, he was a pushover, but damn did he have a nice voice! "I'm sorry for the short notice, but-,"
Aimi listened closely to her new job, examining her nails meticulously. If that nail-stylist didn't do it perfectly…
"Same old, same old." Sakuno thought to herself, giggling a little. Ryoma was napping; head cushioned in her lap as she gently brushed away his unruly bangs. He was muttering things in his sleep, a trait Sakuno soon found occurred occasionally when he was asleep. His words were too soft to be coherent to her ears, but sometimes she could pick out things like her name, Karupin, ponta, of course tennis, and sometimes even "baka oyaji". Sakuno smiled tenderly, knowing despite his complaints and insults about his father Ryoma truly cared for the man who brought him into the world of tennis, and raised him to be the fine young man he is today (although Ryoma would vehemently deny those facts).
Sakuno hummed softly, gasping a little when Ryoma reached up to grab her wrists, a little smirk at the corner of his mouth. She blushed, but Sakuno didn't turn away and just smiled at him. She was trying to work on her timidity, to ensure she wouldn't get flustered and say exactly the wrong things around reporters and paparazzi. She could end up damaging Ryoma's reputation, not to mention her own. Being something of a celebrity was a very vexing lifestyle. Sakuno only hoped she could live it without locking herself away in her house forever.
"Sakuno." Ryoma said, sitting up. He spun around, facing Sakuno and pulling her closer to her. Sakuno shrieked a little, her head and arms landing on his chest lightly. She blushed, smiling and snuggling into Ryoma. This was certainly a change, but she wasn't going to complain! Ryoma fingered one of her braids, frowning a little. "Oyaji wants me to go somewhere after school today. Tag along?" He asked. Sakuno looked up with slight puzzlement.
"Are you sure its okay?" Sakuno asked, and Ryoma shrugged. She grinned, thinking to herself that she should've seen that coming. Of course Ryoma wouldn't care if his dad wanted him to bring Sakuno or not; he'd do it anyway. So Sakuno nodded and nothing more was said between the two of them.
Sakuno sighed, watching Ryoma choking his father on the ground. They were in a studio, the people behind them setting up a background and a professional looking camera with big lights. A clothing rack was close by with a vanity, some of the make-up and hair artists checking over equipment. The camera crew was checking lighting and other technical picture-taking specifics, and Ryoma's manager Ukitake Noboru was talking with the representative of the ponta company about Ryoma's photo shoot.
Yes, you heard me right, a photo shoot.
I'm sure you can imagine how angry Ryoma was when he found out.
Sakuno, finally exasperated with her boyfriend slowly killing his own father (as stupid as said father was), pulled Ryoma off of Nanjiroh and calmed him down by placing her hand on his chest and whispering in his ear to calm down. Ryoma, still disgruntled, wound an arm around Sakuno's waist and growled low under his breath. Sakuno pinched his shoulder, getting the animalistic sound to stop. Sakuno led him away to the clothing rack, where she handed him off to the stylists there. He looked uncomfortable when they started to sift through clothes and check his face for imperfections to cover with make-up. Sakuno just smiled a little, stepping back and watching Ryoma getting ready for the photo shoot.
"Sorry about this Sakuno-chan." Nanjiroh said, coming up behind her. "Noboru-kun was getting impatient, and Ryoma needs to break into the industry sooner or later." Sakuno smiled bitterly, looking up at the ex-pro tennis player. Her hands twisted in anxiety in front of her.
"I saw it coming." Sakuno said softly. "I braced myself for it too, but sometimes that's not enough. Ryoma was born to stand in the spotlight." Nanjiroh smirked a little, nodding at the truth of her words.
"Damn straight! He's my son." The samurai exclaimed, before clapping a hand on Sakuno's shoulder and walking away to talk to Noboru. Sakuno smiled again, but this time she covered it by lowering her head to look at the ground.
"And I was born to stay in the shadows."
Sakuno huffed, brushing her bangs back as she stood in the corner of the large room. Ryoma had another photo shoot today, and had dragged Sakuno along with him, even with Noboru's protests. Not knowing anything about photo shoots, and a naturally shy girl, Sakuno merely satisfied herself with watching her boyfriend grumble and groan about being forced into uncomfortable clothing and posing in strange positions. She giggled a little; blushing slightly as she sifted through the official pictures of every photo Ryoma had taken since breaking out into the model industry.
It always astounded her how handsome he looked in all those clothes he was forced into. Ryoma may have complained about it non-stop, but Sakuno was secretly grateful for them. He had cast aside every photo that was given to him for every picture he took, but Sakuno gathered them up and put them in a scrapbook. Ryoma thought she was being ridiculous, but Sakuno ignored him and continued doing so. She couldn't help it. Her boyfriend was damn hot.
She always passed by clusters of girls in school, squealing over the latest Ryoma photo that they found plastered on a magazine or took a shot of off a billboard. Sakuno secretly stewed in her triumph, having clear, glossy and original photos of them all and getting to look at them everyday. Ryoma just scoffed, muttering under his breath about girls and continuing to walk along.
Sometimes the girls actually heard him, and they giggled about his aloofness, the cocky, cold shoulder attitude he had. All of them went gaga over his ice-cold personality. Sakuno just smiled quietly under her hair. They didn't know the half of it.
They didn't know the soft smiles he reserved only for her, the jealous looks he was prone to having in private when Sakuno discussed with him about a male partner for a project she had. They didn't know the smouldering golden eyes she was seeing quite frequently when Ryoma felt like kissing her senseless. They didn't know the embarrassed flush that spread across his face when his father did something particularly mortifying. They didn't know the panicked, pained expression his face took on when she almost ran into a car. They didn't know the rare, genuine smile that spread across his entire face and didn't leave until someone interrupted the two of them in private.
They didn't know him. And for that, Sakuno was extremely grateful.
Sighing, Sakuno shook those thoughts away and focused on Ryoma, pouting as the make-up artist was trying (and failing) to get him to retain a normal expression. With a little giggle escaping her lips, Sakuno dusted the imaginary dirt from her skirt (from leaning against the wall) and made her way over to Ryoma. He saw her coming, and his face lightened up, making her laugh softly.
"Ryoma." Sakuno called his name, coming closer. The make-up artist seemed a little surprised at Sakuno's familiarity with Ryoma, but politely stepped aside when she saw Ryoma's face relax. There was a peculiar expression on her face, one that Sakuno was seeing quite often. It was that look of, "you are actually associated with THE Echizen Ryoma?" Sakuno just ignored it, coming forward to be lightly pecked on the lips by her boyfriend.
That struck that expression of, "YOU'RE his GIRLFRIEND?!"
Sakuno ignored that too.
"Stop frowning," Sakuno admonished lightly, tapping his nose with a smile. "The sooner we get this over with, the sooner we can leave, right?" Ryoma let a large breath exhale through his mouth, but he settled a little more comfortably into the chair and maintained a cool expression (the one he always wore during photo shoots). The make-up artist sighed in relief, thanking Sakuno and getting straight to work. They were running a little behind.
Stepping back, Sakuno began to retreat to her little corner once more, until Ryoma's outstretched hand grabbed her wrist and forced her to stay beside him. She raised a brow at him, but he just squeezed her hand in reply. Sakuno giggled.
Oh this was good.
Yamashiro Aimi stood smirking in absolute victory in the doorway of the studio, her keen eyes picking up on Seigaku's esteemed couple in the corner. The gorgeous Echizen Ryoma was getting his make-up done, while his plain and totally dull girlfriend Ryuzaki Sakuno was standing beside him looking mighty uncomfortable. From the way Sakuno was acting (shy and reserved like always), Aimi concluded they probably didn't know what the photo shoot that day entailed, which only made her amusement grow.
It was like a golden opportunity, and Aimi would milk it for all it was worth
Ryoma was a little disgruntled, trying to keep as still as possible. The make-up artist was brushing his face with some weird padded cotton, smoothing it all over his face. His gaze flickered over to Sakuno standing beside him as he held her hand. She was watching the woman with something akin to fascination, before catching his eyes and smiling sheepishly. Ryoma let a corner of his mouth curl up.
His gaze flickered around the room, catching sight of some person walk through the doors and get pulled away to another part of the studio. He didn't think too much of it, getting tugged to another part of the studio to put his clothes on. Unlike all his other photo shoots, this one was simply a pair of black pants (form fitting ones) and a white collared shirt that he was instructed to keep as wide open as he could.
Sakuno was watching nearby, Ryoma seeing the little blush on her face. He smirked a little again, ambling over to her and giving her a swift kiss on the lips. She uttered a noise of objection, but that quickly stopped when he reached up to brush a sensitive spot on her neck. Ryoma backed away when he heard the person in charge of the photo shoot shout for everyone to take their places. Ryoma saw the person from earlier emerge in a simple white tank top and a short black pleated skirt. Both she and Ryoma wore no shoes.
Vaguely, Ryoma heard Sakuno gasp in shock beside him, but for reasons he never truly understood.
No, no, no, no, no. This was not happening.
Across the room, Aimi's lips curled into a victorious sneer as she met Sakuno's eyes.
It was happening.
Sakuno couldn't move another step, watching Ryoma and Aimi gather in front of the many plants stationed before the backdrop. She vaguely heard the director saying something about turning the water on, and Sakuno's heart nearly exploded when she realized they were dousing Aimi and Ryoma with water, soaking them to the bone and making their clothes see through.
With a mortified, yet muffled squeak, Sakuno saw the smug grin on Aimi's face as her light pink bra exposed itself through her clothes, her loose hair drenched and sticking to her neck and face. Her make-up still remained, and Sakuno quivered as she compared Aimi's dripping, sexy wet frame to her own dull sense of fashion and childish pigtails. Even as she looked over to Ryoma's figure, Sakuno couldn't feel better about herself about having such a handsome boyfriend, only worse. His wet black locks were flattened around his head, a few strands sticking to his face, facial expression obviously showing discomfort. The white shirt he wore was completely transparent now, not that there was much of a difference since he exposed most of his bare chest when he was dry.
Sakuno gulped, and turned to look away when she heard the photo shoot director shouting orders to Ryoma and Aimi.
"Okay guys, I want a nice, intimate atmosphere."
Aimi wanted to tear her hair out.
No, never mind. Her hair was much too beautiful and worshipped to be torn out. Aimi wanted to tear that Ryuzaki Sakuno's hair out instead! I mean, even though she didn't do anything to cause Aimi's anger, she still has lots of long hair! Surely she wouldn't miss them too much.
Growling, Aimi threw her hands up in the air (and off of Ryoma's bare glistening chest) to stalk back to her chair, plopping down in it and promptly turning to Hiroshi, her loud voice carrying over the entire studio.
"I can't work under these conditions! How am I supposed to debut my first risqué advertisement if my partner looks at me like I'm chopped liver?!" She shrieked, Hiroshi wincing at the sheer volume of her voice. Sakuno could hear the director sighing and quietly discussing with the photographer before they announced a five-minute break. Sakuno hurried over to Ryoma, who was still dripping wet and not allowed to towel off. She didn't seem to notice the director coming over to talk to Ryoma, or that he could hear their conversation perfectly.
"Ryoma, are you okay?" She asked anxiously, her fingers itching to go snatch a towel up and try to dry him off. Ryoma shrugged, obviously not in a state of disarray like Aimi was on the other side of the room. He merely grabbed her arm and tugged her forward, trying to wind his arms around her. Sakuno squeaked, pressing her hands on his slippery chest and flushing a bright red. "Ryoma, no! You'll get me wet too." She told him. Ryoma blinked, but then smirked devilishly. Sakuno gulped.
"So?" He scoffed, using his superior strength to press her dry body to his wet one, giving her a deep kiss. Sakuno's protests fell on dead ears, and she quickly melted into his touch. Pulling back, Sakuno grimaced at the wet spots now staining the front of her shirt. Ryoma just laughed, his face lighting up as he kissed her nose affectionately. "They'll dry." He stated, Sakuno making a dirty face at him for saying that.
The two turned to attention, looking at the director that stood facing them now, his lips quirked up in a grin. Sakuno flushes, trying to untangle herself from Ryoma, but finding she could not because of his iron-tight grip on her.
"What?" Ryoma asked, his face schooled into his customary stoic expression. Sakuno gave up trying to escape Ryoma's arms and merely ducked her head into his neck, hoping to hide her red cheeks. She could still hear everything the two were saying, not surprised at how the director brought up Ryoma's nonexistent facial expressions. She could almost see his pout in her head; disgruntled that someone would think he was like a robot or something. "So what do you want me to do about it?" Sakuno heard Ryoma ask, a little annoyed. The director chuckled, and Sakuno peeked out to look at him shaking his head.
"Nothing at all, Echizen-san. But I will need to ask if I may borrow your girlfriend."
Instinctively, Ryoma's arms tightened around Sakuno, who couldn't help but gasp slightly. His eyes narrowed into a glare, lips taut in a thin line. "What for?" He demanded. The director put his hands up, trying to quell the protectiveness in Ryoma's eyes. A slightly nervous smile was on his face.
"We merely wish to replace Aimi with her."
Sakuno's head came up, mouth dropping open in shock.
They all turned to see Aimi's whitened face of shock, still drenched in water and dripping all over the place. Quickly, in a split second, her face reddened with anger and Sakuno couldn't help but want to cover her ears.
"Replace me? With of all people, that PITEOUS creature?! You must be INSANE!" She screeched, Sakuno meekly bowing her head when she heard Aimi call her piteous. "This is an OUTRAGE! I am a professional, veteran model and you're going to replace me with some… some… amateur?!" She paused for a second there, shaking her head. "No. No, not even an amateur. A newbie, who doesn't know the first thing about modelling." With an angry growl, Aimi snapped her fingers and snatched the towel Hiroshi brought her. "Well, if you're going to just flick me out of the picture, than you can kiss the money you used to pay me GOOD. BYE."
With a sharp turn, Aimi stomped back over to her casual clothes and began to dry off, intent of getting out of there as soon as possible. The director seemed unfazed, turning back to Ryoma and Sakuno after Aimi finished her tirade. A bright smile spread across his face.
"Well then… shall we?"
The Ryuzaki refused totally at first, but she slowly took into account what they had to give up just for her help. A professional model, and the large amount of money they must've had to pay her. Sakuno blushed to the roots of her hair, gulping as she hesitantly left Ryoma's arms. She bowed to the director in respect.
"My name is Ryuzaki Sakuno." She said. The director smiled and bobbed his head at her.
"It's very nice to meet you Ryuzaki-san."
Sakuno shifted nervously on the spot, twiddling with her fingers until she gathered the courage to look into the director's eyes with a determined gleam.
"Um, sir?" He gave a nod to indicate he was listening. "Why me?" He chuckled a bit, winking.
"You'll see, Ryuzaki-san."
"Okay Echizen-san, I want you to look at Ryuzaki-san like she is the most beautiful woman in the world!" Sakuno heard the director call at the two of them. Sakuno looked up at Ryoma, getting embarrassed at staring at him when other people were watching (and taking pictures!). She ducked her head down, flushing. It surprised her a little when Ryoma's finger hooked under her chin, carefully angling her face back to looking at his, leaning forward to kiss her. She pulled back, her hands coming up to cover her mouth.
"Ryoma!" She hissed, gasping when he reached forward to tug her back to him again. His bare chest was warm under her palms, and Sakuno retracted her hands to cross them over her chest. She was wearing what Aimi wore for the photo shoot, and was very embarrassed at the thought of people taking pictures of her visible bra. The skirt was really short too, not making her feel any better. Ryoma's hands encircled her wrists, pulling her arms away from her chest. He leaned forward, kissing her temple gently.
"You're beautiful just the way you are." He said to her, sliding his hands up to entangle his fingers in her wet locks. One of his hands gripped the back of her head, angling her face upwards so his lips could reach hers. Tears began to slip out of Sakuno's eyes as she pulled back and turned head away.
"Liar." She muttered. Ryoma's eyes narrowed. He pressed another kiss to her exposed neck, making her breath hitch. Her hands gripped his black hair more tightly. Ryoma let his arms travel down to wrap around her waist and pull her closer to him. His lips traveled up to her ear, and his hot breath fanned over her sensitised skin.
"Why don't you get it?" Ryoma asked, his voice so exhausted that Sakuno felt her eyes widen and her heart pang. He sounded like he had been defeated, and Ryoma was never anything but a winner. "There's no one but you; there will never be anyone but you." Sakuno choked on her sobs, her hands migrating to his shoulders and clutching them in a death-grip.
"You say that now…" Her voice trailed off, and she was surprised when Ryoma wrenched back from her, his eyes blazing furiously. His grip on her shoulders was so tight it almost went to the point of hurting.
"No one." Ryoma said, his voice firm and confident, like it always was. Sakuno turned her face away again.
"B-but… but I'm not good enough. Ryoma is so much better than I am! I could never possibly equal him… not ever." And she broke down, crumpling to the floor.
Ryoma knelt down, letting his fingers dance through her hair, down to her shoulders before shifting directions and taking hold of her face again. His lips brushed her forehead, her cheeks, before he pulled back and smirked that cocky smirk everyone knew him so well for.
"You call this not equal?" Ryoma asked, sweeping his hand across the entire studio. Sakuno turned to the direction he gestured to, seeing the photography crew still working with lights and the photographer peeking out from his camera to give them a "what are you doing?" look. The director stood behind him, waving and winking at Sakuno. His hands made a little shooing motion, as if telling them to continue with the photo shoot. Her heart fluttered ever so gently as she turned back to look at Ryoma still smirking at her.
"B-but… the magazines…"
Ryoma reached forward, placing a finger on her lips. He leaned in, breath fanning over her ear. Sakuno shivered.
And she did.
The picture was used in a perfume advertisement that was displayed on a giant billboard in many of the major bustling intersections in Tokyo. Sakuno was so embarrassed when she first saw it, and almost died after hearing a couple of girls pass by and remark on how cute the two looked together. Tomoka almost didn't recognize her until she repeatedly looked at the picture in a magazine and Sakuno's own flushing face.
During school, as another group of girls passed by her and Ryoma (both of them miraculously remaining unnoticed), she once again heard the gushing comments of Ryoma and the envious observations of Sakuno's beauty.
Sakuno blushed to the roots of her hair and Ryoma just smirked.
"Tomo-chan… what are you doing?" Sakuno asked, sweat dropping from her head as she watched her best friend attack the magazine with a pair of sharp scissors. The fanatic Ryoma fangirl had a gleam in her eyes that resembled something very sinister and evil as she cut away at yet another advertisement of Ryoma and Sakuno together.
Since debuting with her tennis prince, Sakuno's identity didn't take too long to be found out and she was suddenly the envy of every girl that walked past her, not because she was hanging off Echizen Ryoma's arm, but rather because of the pretty face she hid behind long pigtails and girlish flower clips. Several agents floundered to her with speeches of fame and fortune, but were all waved away by Ryoma and his father, Echizen Nanjiroh. The samurai refused to let anyone manage his future daughter-in-law's career except him.
And when he said "him", he really meant Noboru.
As Tomoka cackled gleefully, Sakuno started to get a little nervous when she saw her best friend open a scrapbook and start gluing it onto a page. "Can't you see, Sakuno-chan?" Tomoka asked, grinning. "I'm making you, and me, a scrapbook to remember all the fun times you had with Ryoma-sama before he leaves!" Sakuno smiled slightly at her friend's enthusiasm… until the comment really registered in her brain.
Tomoka looked up, a little confused.
"Yeah. You know, for America."
Sakuno's heart came crashing down. She couldn't believe she forgot.
Ryoma was leaving after he finished high school.
"Sorry for intruding." Sakuno stated automatically as she entered the Echizen household. There was a glazed, faraway look to her eyes that made all of the inhabitants of the temple wonder what was wrong with her. Ryoma came tromping down the stairs and saw his girlfriends strange behaviour, but didn't say anything yet. He would rather not have a heart-to-heart when his old man was standing right there.
Without saying a word to any of them, Ryoma slipped on his shoes, grabbed his wallet and his house keys to stuff them in his pocket and adjusted the white Fila cap on his head before turning to Sakuno.
"Okay, let's go." He said, bidding his parents, his cousin, and Karupin farewell until later on. The night sky was dark, and he was a bit curious as to why Sakuno called him out so late, despite being a weekend. She had always been very wary of traveling around at night time, but he paid it no heed for the moment and merely grasped her hand in his larger one. "So where to?" he asked. Sakuno mutely led him along.
They went onto the bus, where they transferred into a subway station and took a couple of stops from Ryoma's house. Sakuno dragged him out of the station and began walking in a random direction (or so Ryoma thought). It wasn't until they stopped in front of a mildly large building that Ryoma managed to choke on thin air.
It was a love hotel.
"Sakuno…" He said, taking a step back only to see her dead serious eyes staring up at him with something akin to desperation. His body became minutely aware of her much smaller, more delicate one and he tried to stamp down those feelings of desire that stirred in him more often than he would've liked them to.
"Please, Ryoma." Sakuno pleaded, the desperation more pronounced now. The tennis player gulped down the knot in his throat, before he gripped her hand tightly and strode into the front doors. She followed meekly behind, pushing away all the doubts and fears she had while leading him here. Sakuno had an entire trip to change her mind and chicken out, but she wasn't going to. No matter how scary the idea of her first time was going to be.
There was no way in hell anyone but Ryoma would take her virginity.
"What are you planning to do after high school?" Ryoma asked suddenly as the two of them laid spent on the bed in the love hotel. Sakuno's grip on the blanket tightened, and she gulped as she seriously considered that question.
"I… I don't know. I never really got past the whole celebrity thing." She said, laughing shortly as she recalled the career that was blossoming whether or not she wanted it to. After Ryoma leaves, Sakuno was going to retire from modelling permanently. Not only did she think she would've be able to take the pressure, the memories of posing in front of a camera would dredge up too many memories of their time together.
Ryoma hummed, ruffling his unkempt black hair. "In America it'll be really troublesome. I can just imagine all the paparazzi and tabloids and Kami the fangirls!" He said, not quite noticing that Sakuno's eyes went misty all of a sudden at the mention of America. Ryoma's arm, swung over Sakuno's waist, was playing with the edge of the blanket as she looked up to the ceiling and avoiding Sakuno's eyes. "But maybe… they'll back off once they realize I have a girlfriend." Sakuno smiled bitterly.
"They won't care once they realize she's several thousand miles away." Ryoma closed his eyes, his arm tightening around her lithe form.
"But what if she isn't?"
Sakuno snorted, opening her mouth to say, "Like that'll matter much. If American fangirls are like… Japanese… fangirls…" Her jaw went slack as she realized the implications of his suggestion. "Ryoma… you couldn't possibly-," His arm disappeared, and the tennis star was suddenly turned towards her, eyes golden eyes blazing like twin suns.
It wasn't a request, it was a command. And Sakuno couldn't help but smile at Ryoma's peculiar way of showing affection. Most girls would find it rude and obnoxious, but Sakuno wouldn't have it any other way. She wouldn't have him any other way.
"To the ends of the earth, Ryoma."
"I feel like I'm giving you away at your wedding." Sumire sniffled, dabbing the pockets under her eyes as she watched her granddaughter's face flush in embarrassment.
"Obaa-chan!" Sakuno exclaimed, before smiling and hugging her. "Please don't say things like that. Ryoma might get," here, her voice dropped to a whisper, "ideas." The old coach just laughed in between sniffles, hugging the younger Ryuzaki and kissing her forehead much like she did when Sakuno was very young.
"Well make sure you don't make me a great-grandmother anytime soon, alright?" Sumire said sternly, the face that probably would've looked menacing if not for the trails of tears. Sakuno flushed, exclaiming, "Obaa-chan!!" once more in mortification. Sumire laughed, patting the girl's head before her face actually turned ominous. "I'm serious."
"Don't get your knickers in a knot old hag." Nanjiroh drawled, clubbing his son at the back of his head and smirking. "He may be my son but he sure as hell has more sense than I do." Here, Nanjiroh grinned wickedly. "And anyways, with my watching him twenty-four seven, you can guarantee all those little romps they're going to have will be caught on my brand new camcorder and uploaded on the internet for all to see!" Ryoma flushed bright red in anger, fists clenching together.
Nanjiroh walked away, snorting in laughter as he left Ryoma and Sakuno blushing red to the roots of their hair.
"SAKUNO-CHAN DON'T FORGET ME!!" Tomoka cried, biting a handkerchief that Horio gave her. They had gotten together sometime around graduation, and though the road was still a little bumpy, Sakuno was sure the two of them had something special; something that would last. The two best friends hugged and exchanged condolences and promised to write; all that good stuff. All his old team members and friends smothered Ryoma, and though he seemed disgruntled at the attention Sakuno knew he was secretly treasuring every moment.
After finally getting away from his rabid senpai and straightening out his rustled clothes, Ryoma held a hand out to Sakuno, the trademark cocky smirk gracing his lips. As her hand reached out to entwine with his, a soft smile touched her lips.
"Let's go Sakuno."
The alarm clock buzzed loudly, the flashing red digital numbers spelling out, "7:30am". A slim, dainty hand reached out to slap the offending sound. Poking out of the light pink covers of the bed was a head of tangled brown hair and bleary caramel eyes. Ryuzaki Sakuno was barely able to register the time as quickly as she did, before gasping in shock and flying out of bed. A paper on her desk fluttered to the floor from eating her dust, and the calendar across from the desk had one particular date circled in red marker. Her grandmother from the floor below had already called out to her when she ran across the hall to get to the bathroom.
"Sakuno! Your first day of third year isn't going to wait for you to get ready!"
For a split second her entire body froze and she replayed that same sentence over and over again in her head. She could've sworn…
Shaking her head to rid herself of that strange feeling, Sakuno swiftly entered the bathroom and closed the door, wondering absentmindedly if anything interesting was going to happen today.
A/N Yes, I know I'm evil. Making you wait for two and half months wasn't exactly the smartest thing I've ever done, but I didn't want to half-ass the last drabble (if you can call it that anymore). This is the final drabble I'm doing for this collection and I wanted it to be special, so there was no way I wasn't going to put one hundred percent into it. Again, sorry about making you wait long. I hope the quality and quantity of this chapter makes up for it!
As a last note, thank you to everyone who stuck it out with me to the end. I'm so happy you've all taken the time to review my drabbles, and I'm so happy they brought a little bit of joy (or sadness) to your day. You have no idea how much it means to me to be able to affect people with my writing. I was a little sceptical about doing a collection of drabbles at first, I'll admit, but the support all of you have given me has encouraged me to someday write another collection of drabbles. Key word: someday. I have way too many projects to even be considering one right now, I'll admit. Maybe when I find inspiration, or maybe when I find free time. One or the other, but once again,
THANK YOU MINNA-SAN!