Disclaimer: I do not own Prince of Tennis.
Notes: Another Ryoma and Ryoga brotherly one-shot! I'm not very pleased with this one, and it's AU as all of them will be, but I hope you can enjoy anyway.
Ryoma: 4-years old
Ryoga: 10-years old
Ryoga peeled his fifth orange, slowly letting the vibrant apricot shavings scatter onto the counter. The sight of the juicy fruit made his mouth water and he could already feel the slurpy sour liquid seeping onto his tongue.
He peeled faster.
It was a warm Saturday afternoon, the summer sunlight filtering in through the kitchen window in pale shafts. Rinko and Nanjiroh were out on a cinema date after much insisting on the latter's part, leaving Ryoga and Ryoma home alone.
And free to eat as many oranges as I want.
Ryoga smugly took a bite from his favourite snack, relishing as the flavour lit up his taste buds. However, just as he was about to take another bite, his peaceful devouring was interrupted.
"Aniki, Aniki…" the door to the dining room flung open, slamming against the pale white walls. "Aniki!"
Ryoga scowled through a mouthful. "What, Chibisuke?"
The cute little toddler stumbled down the tile floor, his Fila hat slipping over his face. He was sported in an oversized red t-shirt with strapped denim overalls overtop.
"Aniki…" he plummeted towards his brother as fast as his short leg span could take him. "They took…took…"
Ryoga rolled his amber eyes, turning around to face the brat that was known as his brother. "Yeah?" he said, wondering if the boy had dropped his Ponta or something. God forbid he had. The last time that had happened, Ryoma had thrown a fit and cried for an hour straight, shattering the family's ear drums in the process.
When Ryoga looked down to view his brother, his handsome features transformed to shock.
Ryoma stood there with tears building in his large golden eyes, his lower lip quivering. His entire small-framed body was shaking violently.
"They s-stole her…they…" Ryoma hiccupped, grabbing a fistful of Ryoga's pants and burying his face in his leg. Ryoga's eyes softened and he crouched down so he was eye level with Ryoma.
"Who stole what, Chibisuke?" he gently rubbed the boy's back, trying to get him to stop trembling.
"They stole…Ryo-tan's Karu…they stole her!"
"Karupin?" Ryoga's voice was filled with disbelief. The beautiful Himalayan cat was like Ryoma's best friend. While most kindergarteners had imaginary playmates and stuffed animals, Ryoma spent all his free time grooming Karupin to absolute happiness.
How dare someone take my brother's cat.
Ryoga growled softly, hugging his Chibisuke's vibrating figure to his chest. "Who stole her?"
"Those boys…Aniki's friends."
Ryoga's face went pale at the mention of his companions, but it was quickly overtaken with anger. His grip tightened on his brother.
"Where'd they take her?"
Ryoma sniffled, rubbing his tear-stained cheek. "Ryo-tan was playing outside with Karupin when Aniki's friends said they wanted to play too…but then they pushed Ryo-tan over and ran to the farmhouse with Karu!"
The farmhouse, huh?
Ire flooded Ryoga's body but he tried to control himself. "Say Chibisuke…wanna go on a quest together?" he asked sweetly, while thinking of a million ways to take revenge on his friends.
Ryoma's eyes lit up and he nodded feverishly. His big brother was always so busy with his friends these days that it left the poor toddler feeling lonely most of the time. The prospect of going on an adventure with Ryoga momentarily made him forget about his dear Karupin.
Ryoga's eyes flitted to the window, where over the rolling heat waves, he could see the old, rickety farmhouse standing strong. Ryoga and his friends spent most of the summer lazing around there with junk food and video games. It was like a club, almost.
Some friends, harassing my little brother like that.
Ryoga gritted his teeth. "Our mission is to retrieve Karupin."
The smile on Ryoma's face got impossibly brighter. An adventure with his big brother combined with getting his beloved cat back.
The day had been utterly flipped around.
"Why does Aniki look so angry?" Ryoma tumbled after his older brother, small hand clasped tightly in his. They were making their way down the orchid field that lead quickly to the farmhouse. Ryoga's eyes were flared and he was squeezing Ryoma's fingers a little too tightly.
"Because my friends," he sounded positively venomous, "pushed you over and stole your cat."
"They didn't push Ryo-tan that hard." Ryoma's face glowed proudly. "Ryo-tan was just too strong for them!"
Ryoga sighed, suppressing a smile. He wiped a beat of sweat from his forehead with his free hand, contemplating how excruciatingly hot it was. He could only despise his buddies more for making him come out in this hot weather and breaking his spirited orange-feasting.
"How come Aniki doesn't play with Ryo-tan anymore?"
The question caught Ryoga off guard. He curiously looked over his shoulder to see a big frown plastered on his brother's face. His stomach twisted with guilt. Ryoma was right – for the past few months, he had been shutting his little brother out because he was having too much fun with his other friends.
"Uh," Ryoga scratched the back of his neck, finding it too awkward to apologize to a four-year old. "Well, we're going on an adventure now, aren't we?"
"Ryo-tan hopes Karu is okay."
Ryoga eyed his brother, before sighing softly. He decided to play along just to please him. "Aniki hopes Karu is okay too."
It worked well, for a brilliant smile spread across his brother's face the moment he said it.
For a long moment, Ryoga and Ryoma simply stared at the farmhouse door. It was pale and peeling with spray painted graffiti sprawled across it. The smell of weed and hay floated around amiably.
"Aniki…" Ryoma moved closer to Ryoga. "What if they try to push Ryo-tan over again?"
Ryoga smiled reassuringly, ruffling his younger brother's hair. "Don't worry. I won't let them go near you."
Ryoma blinked up innocently at Ryoga, his golden orbs twinkling. It was rare for his big brother to be so exceptionally nice to him. Yes, the pair was fairly close, but Ryoga spent most of their time together endlessly teasing Ryoma. The little toddler was glad his brother was being so nice for a change.
"Ready to go?"
Ryoma broke out of his thoughts to see his Aniki awaiting his approval.
Ryoga tightened his grip on Ryoga's hand, eyeing the door cautiously. He knew there was no real danger among his friends but it was likely that at least three of his mates were inside.
Three on two, Ryoga thought.
He glanced at his little brother.
But with us two together, we could beat a hundred people.
With a deep breath, feeling renewed, Ryoga pushed the thick door open. It creaked loudly as it revealed the shabby insides of the farmhouse. Instantly, voices swarmed their ears.
"It's so fun to mess with Ryoga's little brother."
"Yeah, well, if Ryoga finds out, he'll kill us."
"He won't. I'm sure Ryoga won't complain about it. Besides, it's not like we're actually going to steal her."
"Yeah," a third voice spoke up. "We'll give it back tonight, when the little wimp's cried enough."
Ryoga's body shook with fury, his eyes narrowing into slits and his free hand clenching painfully, He stormed into the room, roughly pulling Ryoma along with him.
The three boys lounging on the hay stacks jumped in surprise as Ryoga barged inside. The ten-year old was practically seething. His eyes were lit up fiercely.
"Ryoga?" A tall, brown-haired boy said nervously.
"Why'd you take my brother's cat?" Ryoga snapped back.
Ryoma noticed that his beloved kitten was sitting in the middle of the room, licking her paw obliviously. The small boy's face brightened joyfully and he scurried over to give his kitten a big hug. "Karu!" he exclaimed, falling to his knees and accepting his pet in a warm embrace.
He buried his face into her fur, sighing happily. Glancing up, still smiling, he noticed that Ryoga was heatedly talking to his three friends.
"We didn't take him…" The other kid mumbled, sounding sheepish.
"Of course you did." Ryoga grumbled, feeling his anger deflate slowly but surely. After seeing Ryoga happily hug his kitty, he didn't have as much fire for revenge. His brother was smiling and happy, and in the end, that was all that mattered.
"We were just teasing him!" the third boy nodded feverishly, looking stricken. The brown-haired one was pale, wondering if Ryoga was going to beat them all up.
Ryoga studied them all intently – they all looked guilty and scared like deluxe wimps. With a long, hard sigh, the preteen dropped his hands to the side and simply glared at them all. "Well, I'll let you off on a warning. If I ever see you guys even go near my Chibisuke again, then you won't be getting off so easy."
All three boys looked visibly relieved.
"Well then Ryoga, that was-"
"Shut up." Ryoga said. "I'm still mad."
And with that, he walked over and took Ryoma's hand. "Let's go."
Ryoma just stumbled after his brother, eyes wide, Karupin following along. When they got outside, the air was still sweltering and the heavy rays beat down on them as they walked back. It was rather silent, aside from the younger boy's giggles as he played with Karupin.
Ryoga paused and looked back to see his brother's innocent face looking up at him hopefully. He raised an eyebrow in question.
"Can we go on another adventure tomorrow?"
And Ryoga simply wondered if he'd ever get time to have his orange-feast.