Disclaimer: Nope, not mine still.

A/N: Well, it's a week late, but blame that on school. I wasn't actually expecting teacher to bog us down with so much work so soon! So far, I've had: two projects due, five quizzes in ONE class, and two tests in two different classes! Oh dear heavens, this is hell on earth!

oh, btw, I don't mean to offend anyone's preferences in dog breeds. I'm just taking advantage of a ready-made reputation for a particular breed. And kinda, maybe, sorta...putting in my own experience. It was nothing like in my story, and I only got bit in my hand- even if the teeth did go through my hand-and I was certainly older- but it was this breed I specify here, and when I see one, I do react the same way as told here.

Oh, warnings, well, the usual ones, and some possible trigger alerts if anyone's been attacked by an animal.

Chapter 10

Ryoma was walking downtown besides Momoshiro and Kikumaru, who hadn't let up on their seemingly overwhelming desire to have him along with them. He hid a yawn behind his hand, eyes half-closed and looking around lazily trying to find any possible escape route.

"...and then she said that it was *my* fault! Can you believe that, Eiji-sempai? Can you? Yo, Echizen, what'd'you think, huh?"

"Nya! Of course it wasn't your fault, Momo! Ochibi, tell Momo it wasn't his fault!" Kikumaru does a backflip and wraps an arm around Ryoma's shoulders, urging him to contribute to the conversation.

"...it was Momo-senpai's fault. He shouldn't have done that."

"WHAT?! Echizen~, you can't do that, nah, you can't yo! It was NOT my fault!"

"Ochibi! How could you, you need to stand by your sempai!" Added Kikumaru, shaking him like a rag doll in the process.

"Itai, Kikumaru-senpai."

"That's what you deserve, Echizen, for not taking your sempai's side!" Momoshiro stated.

"Uhwah, Ochibi's so mean today! I know, I know! I know what will make Ochibi happy! Let's go get ice cream, nya!"

"Eiji-sempai, wouldn't that make *you* happy?"

"Nya~ Momo-chi, are you saying no to ice cream?"

"No no, nothing of the sort! Of course Echizen'll be happier with ice cream, won't you, Echizen?"

"Tch. Only if sempai-tachi pay."

"EHH? You brat, you shouldn't..."

"Ah, it's ok, Momo, it's ok! It's my treat today! Let's go, let's go!" That said, Kikumaru took off down the sidewalk, hand fastened on Ryoma's arm, thus dragging him along, towards the ice cream store on the corner across from a park in the area. Ryoma ran as fast as he could so his arm wouldn't be torn out of his shoulder.

Once all three had ice cream cones, they turned to the park and crossed the street. As they chose a walking trail, Ryoma spotted a woman out walking her dog. Her pitbull dog. He swallowed the mouthful of ice cream he had and casually walked over to Momoshiro's other side. If the dog got free, he wanted as many people between him and it as possible, and even if Kikumaru managed to jump away, Momoshiro was much slower and, also, a lot bigger than Ryoma, so hopefully would hide him from view.

Momoshiro and Kikumaru continued prattling on about inconsequential things, only occasionally requiring Ryoma's input, which was fulfilled by a grunt or a 'hmm'. He kept his eye on the woman and her dog, who had paused to talk to someone else. 'American' he thought, as faint strains of their conversation floated over to him. He carefully avoided looking directly at the dog.

Then Kikumaru glomped him while yelling in his ear, Momoshiro started exclaiming, and Ryoma was distracted.


Ice cream cones long gone, Momoshiro and Kikumaru were now playing some stupid game that had something to do with catching falling leaves. Particular falling leaves. And everytime one of them spotted one, whatever it was, whomever was closest would grab Ryoma's arm and drag him along with them, blithely ignoring his protests.

On one such rush, after Momoshiro successfully caught that particular leaf he wanted and while he was showing it off to Kikumaru, Ryoma took a breather and glanced around, wondering if there was some way he could get away. Heck, even if he'd not discovered what he had about them, he'd still be trying to get away by now normally.

As he looked around, he noticed a woman sitting on a bench chatting with someone who's back was to him. For some reason, the woman looked familiar. Ryoma reached up to tug his cap down, so he could stare for awhile without seeming rude. For some reason he really felt that he should remember just why she was so familiar.

He racked his brain, to no avail.

Huffing, he gave up. If it was that important, he'd remember, right?

As he turned away, the woman gave a sudden shriek of laughter, followed by a "Oh no, you didn't?!" It took a few seconds for Ryoma to realize that said exclamation had been in English, not Japanese.

'Ah, the American.' curiosity satisfied, he settled down.

Only to turn back to face her so quickly, he was surprised he didn't get whiplash. 'Didn't she have a...dog?' he quickly scanned the area around her, under the bench, beside it, *on* the bench.

Nothing.

A ball of dread settled in his stomach.

Keep calm. Breathe. Keep calm.

Ryoma turned around and tugged on Momoshiro's sleeve.

"Hold on Echizen! I have to prove to Eiji-sempai that my leaf is the best!"

"Nya, Momo! MINE'S the best! Ne, ne, Ochibi~?"

Don't run. "Momo-sempai."

"Tell Eiji-sempai mine's better, Echizen!"

"NO! MINE'S better!"

Breathe. Ryoma tugged harder, "Momo-sempai!"

Breathe.

Finally, Momoshiro turned around, "What?"

Breathe. Talk. "It's getting late, we should start heading home."

Keep calm.

"Ah, Echizen! It's not even 7 yet! What are you talking about?"

"Yeah, Ochibi! We've stayed out later than this lots of times! Nya!"

Don't look around.

Breathe.

"I want to go home."

"Eh, he looks kinda pale, Eiji-sempai. Are you getting sick, Echizen?" Momoshiro looked vaguely worried- whether it be actual worry over someone he'd claimed to despise or worry that he himself would catch whatever it was, he still looked worried.

"Eeeehhh? Ochibi?!" Kikumaru came to stand in front of him, peering at him from waaay closer than necessary. "Are you sick?"

Blink. Step back. Breathe.

"No, I'm fine, Eiji-sempai, Momo-sempai. I just want to go home."

At that, Momoshiro came forward and wrapped his arm around Ryoma's neck, pulling him over and delivering a very painful noogie. "Ah, Echizen, you shouldn't worry your sempai like that, you shouldn't."

When Ryoma finally was able to stand up from his new position, he opened his eyes.

And froze.

Staystill donotmove staystilldonotmovestaystillstaystillstaystilldonot movedonotmove

"Ah! Look, Eiji-sempai! A dog!"

"Awwww, how cute!"

Breathe. In...Out...In...Out..IN...OUT...In..Out..In..Out.. . .InOutInOutInOutInOut...

Kikumaru kneeled, holding a hand out. "Come here, doggy! Come here, come here!"

Momoshiro left Echizen's side to do the same.

Or tried to, at least. He turned around when he felt a strong tug on his shirt. Echizen was holding onto it very tightly.

Echizen was also deathly pale, sweating, shaking slightly, and close to hyperventilating.

He was also staring straight at the dog.

Momoshiro put the dots together.

"EEEEHHH? Echizen, you're scared of a DOG?" He laughed, loudly. "Eh, Eiji-sempai! Look at Echizen! He's scared of a dog!" He managed through his laughter.

Kikumaru turned around and looked at Ryoma. "Eh, Ochibi? Why are you scared of a dog? He's not going to hurt you! See, see! Come, you'll see!" He jumped up and ran the few steps to Ryoma, then grabbed his arm and started tugging him in the direction of the dog. Who was sitting no more than 15 feet from them, by Ryoma's calculations, staring straight at them.

Childish laughter. Rustling leaves. Four year old Ryoma ducked down behind the neighbor's bushes to hide from his 'ka 'yaji so he wouldn't find him.

Ryoma moved two steps before it registered in his brain that he was moving *towards* the dog, not away from it. He dug his heels in and violently tried to tug his arm away from Kikumaru.

"Ryo-chan! Where are you! I'm gonna find you! I'm gonna gonna gonna fiiiiind youuuu!" His 'ka 'yaji sounded like he was not far from his hiding place, so Ryoma quickly ducked even lower and shushed himself.

"NO! Let me go, Kikumaru-sempai!"

"Nya, Ochibii! Don't be such a scaredy-cat!"

Ryoma peeked out of his hidey-hole. He hadn't heard his daddy in a bit, had he gone away? When he didn't immediately see him, he crawled out of the bush he was hiding in. Hearing a noise, he quickly turned around, thinking it was his daddy.

"NO! LET ME GO!" Ryoma was beyond trying to keep calm.

"Momo, help me!"

Momoshiro walked up, still chuckling, and easily grabbed Ryoma's other arm, almost lifting him off the ground.

It was the neighbor's dog. In Ryoma's mind, a puppy. He reached out his hand and walked towards the growling pitbull. "Here, puppy. Here, puppy. Come here."

"NO!" Ryoma screamed. He pushed off the ground with his legs, catapulting up as high as he could, and tucked his legs in as he came down, gravity making him too heavy to hold for a few moments. Momoshiro and Kikumaru let go of him.

The growling became louder. When Ryoma was only twenty feet away, the dog started barking. Ryoma laughed, thinking the puppy was happy and wanted to play. He clapped and kept walking.

From somewhere behind him, he heard a scream, "NANJIROH!" A door slammed.

A moment was all he needed. Ryoma quickly rolled to his feet and ran faster than he ever had here in Japan, his mind subconsiously scanning and discarding trees. Without thinking, his body turned a sharp right and made straight for a tall oak that had a few branches just barely within his jumping reach.

The dog stopped barking and growled again, baring his teeth. Its head lowered, as if preparing to charge. Ryoma was ten feet away from it.

"RYOMA NO!"

Ryoma spun around, surprised his daddy was yelling. As he moved, his feet got tangled and he fell.

Ryoma ran full tilt towards the tree, not even pausing to take a breath, he just jumped. He bent his knees and sprang up, arms outstretched, praying and begging in his mind that he could reach the branch.

Ryoma looked up and saw his daddy running from the house towards him. He looked scared. What was wrong? Ryoma got scared from seeing his daddy like that. A noise from behind him made him turn around. The puppy was biting at his leash, and as Ryoma looked, it tore in two. The puppy turned and ran towards Ryoma.

Now Ryoma got scared. The puppy was scaring him. It was snapping its teeth and making that same noise as before.

His fingers barely got hold of it, but they did. Ryoma ignored the ripping of his nails and the scraped skin, he swung and pulled and pulled until he could wrap his arms around the branch and then he wrapped his legs around it and swung up onto it. Once on, he only paused long enough to acertain he wasn't going to fall off before standing and reaching for the next branch.

Ryoma screamed. He screamed louder than he ever had, the fear so palpable in his scream that he drew out several people along the block, wondering what was going on.

Ryoma didn't stop until he was as high as he could go, and even then, he clung to the trunk of the tree and prayed and hoped that the woman would take her dog and leave.

Ryoma didn't care that he was acting like this in front of Kikumaru and Momoshiro, who would surely spread it all over the school. Ryoma was beyond caring. He was having a hard enough time breathing, let alone worrying over such things.

When he was four feet away, the pitbull leaped. Ryoma couldn't look away, even as tears of fear streamed down his face and he continued screaming.

Momoshiro finally caught up with him, and stood at the base of the tree Ryoma was hiding at.

"Man, Echizen,-huff- you run fast.-huff huff- How come- huff- you never-huff- run like this-huff huff- in practice-huff huff- Bet Buchou'll love-huff- love it." Momoshiro has huffing from running all across the park after the surprisingly fast Echizen.

"Momo! I got him!" Kikumaru ran up to the still-panting Momoshiro, holding the docile dog in his arms. "Eh, where's Ochibi, nya?" Kikumaru looked around them, not spotting Echizen anywhere.

After taking a final deep breath, Momoshiro straightened and pointed up.

Then, Ryoma couldn't see anything. Everything was black for a moment and something heavy- really heavy- was on him, and there was growling and ripping sounds and more screaming- someone else was screaming now, it wasn't just Ryoma- and something warm and sticky and red was getting on his face and hands and clothes-

Kikumaru looked up and saw Ryoma clinging to the tree with all his strenght, eyes squeezed shut and tear tracks on his pale, pale face. He grinned. Turning, he gestured to Momoshiro to be quiet, and passed him the dog to hold. That done, he walked underneath the branch that Ryoma jumped with all his might to reach and tore his nails and skin in, and, with just a little hop, got his arm around it, quickly flipping so his legs were around it and his arms free. He hung down and gestured to Momoshiro to give him the dog. Getting the idea, Momoshiro grinned and walked closer to do just that.