Disclaimer: If I owned Prince of Tennis, tennis playing would conform to the rules of gravity and logic. (read: I don't own PoT)

An apology is certainly in order this time around. I made you all wait a heck of a long time for this update! You've been amazing about reviewing, and I can't appreciate that enough.

Special thanks go to Tenshin-no-Tsubasa, Domyouji, alwaysblossom01, iKiohri, mysweetcat, m o o g l e d a i m e, and xhikaorux, who reviewed for Dictionary. Honestly, those reviews were what got me motivated to finish this chapter. You've made me unconditionally happy!

As ever, thank you Kurama's koochi-q, my bff and beta. Love you much.

I (really) hope you enjoy this chapter!

Sakuno Makes a Throne

The second the seal alarm clock went off, a hand had already shot out from under the covers. Sakuno had actually been awake for half an hour already. It seemed like her body had been so tense when she had gone to sleep that it had automatically forced her eyes open and her mind to a point of readiness as soon as the clock struck 5:00.

Sakuno reveled in the warmth of her sheets a second longer before tossing them to the end of the bed and lowering her feet to blindly search for her slippers. She could feel goose bumps emerge on her arm as soon as her dainty toes brushed the cold floor, and she suppressed a shiver.

As she gathered the clothes she would wear that day, she mentally checked off what she needed to do that morning.

She needed to get some of the premade brunch from the cafeteria. There was simply no time to shop the day before, what with the opening dinner and introduction. She hoped to start them on homemade meals on Monday, so she had made sure during the opening dinner to pay attention to what her house members ate, so she could make them food they liked.

Consequently, going to the grocery was another item on her list. Her grandma had told her that there were many stores in town to choose from. An and Dan had agreed to go with Sakuno to explore their many shopping options, and although Tomo had already made it clear that she was not going to cook her house's meals, she agreed to come along as well.

While she was in town, the houses were supposed to hold a "Get to Know Your House Day." Although she wasn't sure quite what that entailed, she hoped her housemates would have a good time. Maybe today's activities could bring everyone together, and they wouldn't fight about who got which rooms like the night before. She was sure, in any case, that when they arrived home they may be a bit tired, so she planned on making them a snack before they went to bed. Technically, she was only responsible for providing brunch on Sundays, but she knew that first days were always the most exhausting.

Besides, even among her older relatives, the little girl was well known for being wise with money. She knew where to shop and how much would be reasonable to spend. If she played her cards right, she could easily buy enough food for her group and have money left over.

After straightening her pleated skirt, Sakuno quietly crept out of her room and out the house door, bringing the food money with her.

---

She really shouldn't have been surprised that the cafeteria kitchen wasn't open yet. It was only 6:30am, but she couldn't force herself to go back to her house to sleep. Instead, the young girl decided to go walking on the grounds. She needed to find the group court that was to be used for group training. From Monday to Wednesday, the group court would be where she brought House 3 lunch.

Each house was to train on their house court until noon, when they would head over to the group court to train with another house until 4:30pm. Sakuno and the other moms were to take lunch to their houses in-between training sessions. They also had to bring lunch to the group court on Friday, when all the houses trained together.

On Thursdays, however, there was no group training, so the moms were to bring the lunches directly to the house courts. Although the schedule was confusing, Sakuno knew she would get the hang of it eventually. She supposed she should make a copy of the schedule and post it on the house refrigerator, because she was fairly sure that even if the boys had gotten a copy, most of them had more than likely already lost it.

Her ears accustomed to the still silence common during early hours, the young pigtailed girl was able to hear the sound of someone practicing at the group court before they were in sight.

The scene was familiar to her and brought with it the equally familiar feeling of her heart pounding a mile a minute.

The green-haired boy swung his red racket with uncanny precision. He seemed to move in slow motion, although the neon ball moved startlingly fast. She could see the muscles in his arm tense just before the racket met its goal.

Caramel eyes, accustomed to watching fast-paced matches, followed the ball as it hit pavement on the other side of the net. The older boy's racket met the ball with equal precision and force. His eyes, just visible behind his glasses, burned with an intensity equal to that of his opponent.

"Too slow," he murmured stoically.

The other boy smirked and responded with a ball that moved too fast for Sakuno to follow.

She could watch Ryoma play tennis for hours on end and never get tired of watching. Since day one, she had gone to every game he played, cheering for him and knowing in her heart he would always win and always amaze her every step of the way. It would take more fingers than all the teams' combined to begin to list what made the tennis prince so captivating to the young girl. Although she was certainly not as verbose as her hyper friend, Sakuno was as big a fan of Ryoma as anyone else.

At first she was admittedly scared of her almost bizarre fascination with the boy. She had never, in her 12 years of existence, ever felt quite so strongly about any one person not in her immediate family. He was cocky (with good reason), dense (in the ways of girls' affections), and just plain obtuse (always), yet Sakuno had never known anyone more charismatic in her life.

Despite his quirks, he drew people to him like moths to a flame. Sakuno could only wish fervently that in the end she wouldn't get burned.

---

Balancing ten boxes at once was not a skill with which Sakuno had been blessed. Actually, balancing at all was not a skill with which she had been blessed, but the former was a more immediate concern for the young girl.

She had been working on turning the doorknob of House 3 with her elbow for what had to be the last ten minutes with little success. After sneaking away from the practice tennis match without being spotted, the young girl decided to fulfill her duties as a mom and went to get the food she had originally been seeking.

Sakuno wished she had thought about bringing something to cart the meals around in, but it seemed that she had left her foresight back in Tokyo.

"Mou," she huffed, after having the doorknob slip away from her elbow once again. "Open up, you!"

Sighing, she took a step back and gave the door a stern glare.

"You will open," she told it. "And you won't give me any more troubles than I already have!"

Mustering up all the elbow strength she could, Sakuno resumed her position for what she hoped would be the last time.

And this time, much to her surprise, the doorknob did turn! However, she was not expecting the door to fall open as well.

The braded-haired girl shut her eyes in horror as she lost her balance, landing awkwardly on her butt, and felt the top of her tower of boxes fall Jenga-style.

After a few moments of not hearing brunch splatter all over the floor, Sakuno peeked an eye open and found herself spectator to familiar yellow pants.

Wide eyes looked up to meet the irritated gaze of the Rikkai Dai fukubuchou. How in the world he had managed to catch the boxes in mid air she would never know. He didn't seem too surprised or startled by such a sudden greeting; only a bit irritated, but Sakuno had come to realize that that was his permanent expression.

"I assume this is brunch," he addressed the younger girl, who was still on the floor outside the opening.

"H-hai, Sanada-san."

And without another word, the hat-wearing demon disappeared back through the door.

Sakuno still held four or five of the food boxes tightly in her arms and tried not to be too embarrassed at her great show of coordination. She didn't figure Sanada to be the type to tease or tattle, and he had managed to save all the food before she had made a mess of the hallway, but that did not stop the self-conscious girl from feeling a bit humiliated.

About ready to enter her house, Sakuno froze at the familiar slurping sound of Ponta being savored. Slowly, she turned her head to her left, already knowing who it was.

"Ryoma-kun," she choked. "Good morning."

He took another sip of Ponta as his buchou opened the only other door in the hallway. His famous cat eyes gazed down at her in a bored manner, as he spoke from behind the raised can:

"Klutzy, Ryuuzaki."

---

"Awww! Western-styled food?" one of the housemates complained.

Not everyone had woken yet, but as it was a "Get to Know Each Other Day", the tired travelers could sleep in and not be reprimanded. Sakuno watched as the bleary-eyed boys ate at the dinner table.

Sanada had been the only one awake when she first arrived, but soon others had rolled out of bed and were munching on their breakfasts in relative peace.

Having only lived with her active grandma for years, the young girl had never witnessed the severe drowsiness teenage boys were prone to in the early hours of the day. For the past two minutes Marui had been working on picking up the same piece of eggs with his chopsticks, and Sakuno was beginning to wonder if she should scrounge the kitchen for a fork to make things go faster.

Her normally alert, red-headed sempai was also surprisingly sluggish. She wasn't sure if his eyes were open at all and couldn't tell if his broken "nyah"s were signs of awareness or just sleep talk. In fact, the only alert housemates were Sanada, Kajimoto, and Taka, who had all been up earlier to train.

The egg slipped again, and Sakuno decided it was time to intervene before all the sweet-lover's food went cold.

"Ano, Marui-san. Would you like for me to get you a fork?" she asked politely, trying to get the third-year's attention.

"If he can't use the utensils he was born with, he won't be able to use foreign ones," a voice called sardonically from her direct left.

Startled, Sakuno turned her head a bit to look at the Rikkai Dai junior, who had just woken up. He tousled his messier-than-normal hair and yawned but still looked a bit more alert than his sempai.

She noticed that he seemed to have even less of a sense of personal space than even Sengoku, and was actually quite a bit slimmer than she had always assumed. However, with Momo and Kaidoh as her only references for what a second-year should look like, Sakuno's assumptions were a bit warped. He was built more like Fuji or Ryoma, but that observation did little to assuage her instinctual fear of the boy.

Noticing the girl tense up, Kirihara smirked and leaned closer.

"Scared?"

Sakuno could feel her heart increase in tempo the closer the green-eyed ace got and was relieved when the towering frame of the only other second year appeared in the alcove.

"Kabaji-san!" she squeaked, practically running across the great room and away from the far more intimidating boy. "Are you here to get breakfast?"

"Usu."

Sakuno cheerfully handed the second-year a box and told him to sit wherever he felt comfortable. However, after a few moments of watching the immobile boy expectantly, she realized that there was something else he wanted.

Tapping her chin, Sakuno tried to think of how to ask the older boy what he needed without forcing him to speak outside his comfort zone.

"Is it about Atobe-san?" she speculated.

"Usu."

"Ah, um…"

Kirihara watched the two, amused by their extreme difference in height and annoyed that he hadn't been asked if he wanted breakfast too.

"Does Atobe-san want breakfast, Kabaji-san?"

"Usu."

"Oh, then will he be coming out soon?"

From the crowded table, Sakuno could hear the voice of the progressively more alert Kikumaru ask Marui if he planned on eating his eggs.

"Does he want me to bring the food to him, then?" she tried.

"Usu."

"Nyah! No fair!" Kikumaru screamed as he banged his fist on the table, suddenly energetic. "No fair, no fair, no fair!"

"Kikumaru-san, lower your voice," Sanada ordered from his seat, although the sharp glare he threw toward the alcove indicated his opinion on the diva's request.

"He can't just ask for special treatment!" the Seigaku third year stage-whispered viciously. "If Atobe gets breakfast in bed, I want an extra blanket!"

"More time to sleep," Marui grumbled from his seat. He was more awake now, thanks to Kikumaru, but his mood had yet to improve.

"Better roommates," Kirihara suggested, pulling a seat out.

"Are we making requests?" Sengoku asked good-humouredly, pulling his and Kajimoto's door closed after him. In comparison to his other housemates, Sengoku looked every bit awake. Sakuno, who sincerely wanted to get to know her house better, noted to herself that he was most definitely a morning person.

"I request a daily massage!" he grinned, looking expectedly at Sakuno. As he was clearly anticipating, the young girl turned a color that could rival the color of demon-Kirihara's eyes as she ducked behind the solid Kabaji.

A morning person and a flirt, her mind noted.

"Tch. Shameless," the second year said, swiping food off Marui's plate.

"Don't judge others' actions while dismissing your own, Kirihara," Sanada corrected, his eyebrow twitching in warning. Sakuno noticed that as brunch progressed, his glares increased in intensity. Responsibility, she thought to herself, is responsibility.

"Maybe I should go talk to Atobe-san," she reasoned, although talking to the diva was really one of the last things she wanted to do.

"Usu."

---

"You want Ore-sama to what?"

"A-ano."

Trying to reason with Atobe was like trying to fly a kite with no string.

"Atobe-san should – or rather, the rest of House 3 feels that it would be…best if Atobe-san would eat with everyone else, in the great room."

"And why should Ore-sama stoop to such levels as to dine with mere commoners?"

"Urm…" Sakuno tried her hardest to come up with a reason Atobe would agree with, but rather pathetically could only say, "because everyone really…wants to spend time with you?"

"Like hell we do!" a voice called from the other room, "As if anyone would want to spend time with such a pri-"

Sakuno winced as the voice was cut short by a firm thump.

The diva, who was reclining regally in bed, raised a single grey eyebrow.

"Well, maybe that's not quite what they said, but as a family and a team, everyone should eat together, don't you think?"

"No."

Looking hopelessly at the tennis captain, she had a sinking suspicion that Atobe wasn't going to budge for anything.

"Are you done here?" he asked, looking at his nails. "If so, leave the food and go."

Sighing, the first year put down the bento and made to leave the room. Halfway to the door, however, his haughty voice made her pause.

"Ore-sama may be willing to compromise, though."

Uneasily turning around to face the all too smug boy, Sakuno hesitated for only a moment, getting the feeling that her fate had never been in her hands.

"What would you like to request, Atobe-san?"

---

"This is one of the most ridiculous things I've ever seen," Kajimoto voiced, watching as the young girl put the final touches on what Kikumaru had already dubbed "Atobe's Throne."

With Kabaji's help, Sakuno had managed to find several large slabs of wood, that she stacked on top of each other forming a makeshift platform on one end of the dining table. Draping extra bed sheets on top to give the steps a uniform look, she had then, with quite a bit of struggling, managed to lift the chair that had been in her room on top of the stack.

The result was a Martha Stewart-worthy rendition of a king's seat, complete with condescending I'm-higher-than-thou view. It had taken quite a while to get all the materials together, and most of the other teammates had already finished eating, but she knew that at least now all complaints about the diva could be addressed to him directly, and wouldn't have to be filtered through her.

Brushing out her skirt, Sakuno looked toward the room next to the kitchen.

"Should I go wake up Akutagawa-san?"

"Please don't," Marui replied with an expression somewhere between fear and exhaustion.

Atobe sat down (or rather, up) and crossed his legs, almost upsetting Taka's glass of milk. Looking down at the pissed off group of teenagers below him, Hyotei's buchou smirked.

"Don't look so cross," he advised. "Now everything is as it should be."

Sanada stood.

"Kirihara, Marui. You have not completed your morning exercises yet."

It didn't take much convincing to get the rest of the Rikkai Dai regulars to agree to leave.

Taking a small bite of the sausage, Atobe's expression turned to one of distaste, for his food had grown cold.

In this chapter…

Questions from the audience:

Q: Could you not make the story open-ended?

A: I'll have to see how I feel once I get to the end of the story (which is not even close to being soon). I might change my mind by the end, and maybe yall with have changed your minds too :D

Q: Is Cat Street nice?

A: Very much so. I like the manga better than the live drama though. They are completely different, though, so you have to keep that in mind.

Q: Will Yukimura be visiting often?

A: He may make a few appearances. I'll make sure to involve all my favorite characters just a bit, but know that they wont be in every chapter (as made obvious by how little happens in every chapter).

Questions from the author:

Does anyone know any good Sakuno doujinshi or fan art? Any pairing will do, as long as Sakuno's a part of it!

Author's recommendation:

The following dramas: Brother Beat, Atashinchi no Danshi, and Mei-chan no Shitsuji

Jane Austin novels. Especially Northanger Abby, Pride and Prejudice, and Emma :)

Disclaimer: If I owned Prince of Tennis, it would be classified as shojo. (read: I don't own PoT)

Merry Christmas! (or good luck finding something to do with all the stores closed for those of you who don't celebrate Christmas )