Discussions and Revelations
The kitchen table was quieter than usual. Perhaps Ryoga was just being paranoid and paying a little too much attention to detail today, but he couldn't hear a peep out of either his father or his little brother. His mother was working a later shift at work today, so it made sense if it was marginally quieter, but not this silent.
It wasn't that the Echizen family was usually loud and chaotic. Ryoga had a feeling that if he wasn't here, Nanjiroh, Rinko, and Ryoma probably had completely soundless meals. After all, his father was usually absorbed in his magazines, Ryoma never talked, and his mother was too busy cooking the meals by the stove. It was only when he came to visit during the Christmas break that the family let loose stories and shared what had happened throughout their day.
But he was here right now, and it was still quiet. This made Ryoga suspicious.
"Oyaji?" Ryoga tried. "How was ringing the bell today?"
His father murmured something along the lines of 'shut up', before flipping another page of his dirty magazine. He took a sip of his water, glancing up for only a moment. "A new edition finally arrived," His eyes quickly flicked back to the page.
That explained things, then. But it still didn't make sense why Ryoma was being so quiet. Sure, the boy never spoke unless he needed to, but he usually said something during dinner. Sneaking a glance in his direction, Ryoga's frown deepened. Prodding his sushi around, Ryoma was staring at his plate, zoned out into another world.
"Chibisuke?" Ryoga asked, plastering a smirk on his face. "How was your day?"
Ryoma blinked, snapping out of his daze. "Fine."
Nanjiroh looked up. "Got a girlfriend yet?"
Ryoga and Nanjiroh both waited for the scowl, accompanied by the 'Baka Oyaji' but when neither came, surprise filled their features. Ryoma was staring at his plate again, brows furrowed, concentration evident on his face.
There was a pause. "Chibisuke? Are you sick?"
The reply was curt with no emotion, like he was simply saying it to get them to stop bothering him. Nanjiroh and Ryoga exchanged glances and the former put aside his magazine. He steepled his fingers under his chin and grinned. "So, kid, you didn't say anything when I asked if you've got a girlfriend. Does that mean…"
Ryoga's mouth fell open. "No way."
"I don't have a girlfriend." Ryoma said irritably. A small sigh accompanied the sentence and he muttered under his breath, "Though sometimes I wish I had one." He hadn't meant for his father and Ryoga to hear the last part. That part was for no one besides Karupin to hear.
So when Nanjiroh started laughing hysterically like it was the end of the world and Ryoga's lips curved into a snicker, Ryoma couldn't help but feel embarrassed. "Shut up." He said, stabbing his fork into a piece of sushi and shoving it in his mouth. He chewed angrily.
"I wasn't talking." Ryoga said smugly. He shifted into a comfortable position on the chair, ready to interrogate his sweet little brother. "So, you wish you had a girlfriend, huh? Getting to that stage now?"
"Finally. It's about time." Nanjiroh snorted.
Ryoma clenched his fist and glared fiercely at the two older men. Sometimes, he felt like they were both the youngest and he was the only responsible one around. Yet there were a few things he'd been wondering about lately, and he didn't know who else to ask about it – and since the topic was brought up, whom better than his older brother and father? He knew it was kind of suicide to try to explain his feelings to two idiots, but he didn't know who else to turn to.
"So, how come you want a girlfriend?" Ryoga asked. He squinted. "Peer Pressure, or – or, don't tell me. Sex?"
"I don't want just any girlfriend." Ryoma said haughtily.
Nanjiroh's fork clattered onto the table. "You don't want just any girlfriend…wait…so you mean to tell me…" he started to chuckle, an evil glint in his eye.
Oh shit. Ryoma braced himself. Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit.
Ryoga quickly caught on. "There's a certain girl, isn't there?
"Ooh, this is getting good. Chibisuke's in lo-o-ove."
Ryoma wanted to bury himself in a hole deep underground and never come out. He hadn't meant to let so many things slip. Even though he had been contemplating the idea of asking his father and brother for advice, that's all it had been – contemplating. But now they were already catching on and from the smirks on their faces, he could tell they were going to sit there all night until he spat out every last detail of what he was thinking.
"So, who's the girl?" Nanjiroh wondered. "She cute?"
Yes, she's adorable. Ryoma thought. He brusquely shook his head. "None of your business."
Ryoga and Nanjiroh settled back into their chairs, determined not to give up. Nanjiroh browsed through any girls he could remember that may have been to Ryoma's liking. He wasn't very familiar with his son's social life, so it was a little tough. "Is it that – that chick with the two pigtails?"
The boy's heart nearly stopped.
"That Tomoka girl?"
Ryoma breathed a sigh of relief.
Nanjiroh chewed on his lower lip. "What about – oh, what about that girl you went on a date with?"
Ryoga nearly fell off his chair. "Chibisuke's been on a date before? When did this happen?"
"I never did." Ryoma said, equally confused.
Nanjiroh thought hard, before snapping his fingers. "That's right, it was never really a date, but I thought it was so I was spying on yo-"
Ryoma felt his stomach drop as he realized where this was going.
"That old hag's granddaughter. Is she it? Ryuuzaki Sakuno?"
It wasn't that he wanted to do it. He really didn't. But he couldn't help it – it was something he had no control over. How could he control himself from blushing? He tried to hide under his hair but it wasn't that long yet and he felt his cheeks flooding with heat. He was sure they were bright pink by now. Damn, hormones. Just her name made him burn up.
Ryoga and Nanjiroh looked at him.
Nanjiroh was the first to start howling with laughter. He was in tears, clutching his stomach. "It – oh my god – it is her, isn't it? Kid, you're blushing! This is just great. My son loves that cute Sakuno girl and he'll bring her home all the time and, Bwahahahah, this is just hilarious-"
Ryoma sunk deeper in his chair.
"Who's Sakuno?" Ryoga wondered.
Nanjiroh nudged him, wiping the corner of his eyes as his laughter slowed to a trickle. "It's my old coach's granddaughter. She's in his school. Two braids, stutters a lot-"
"She sounds cute." Ryoga grinned. He leaned into Ryoma's face. "So, ya like her?"
Ryoma tried to look aloof and bored but he was pretty sure he looked anything but that. Sometimes keeping a calm front was difficult. Pushing out his chair, he made way to leave the room, not wanting to deal with this any more than he had to. "If you immature people will just excuse me-" he began, trying to push past his big brother.
Ryoga steadied him by putting two hands firmly on his shoulders. "Not so fast. You like this girl, right? So I assume you want to make her your girlfriend?"
Nanjiroh started to choke with guffaws. "That's cute." He said. "The kid sucks at interacting with people. How's the girl supposed to like him back?"
Ryoma resigned to his fate and sat back down, quickly shoving a piece of sushi in his mouth so he wouldn't have to talk. His face burned and he stared at the ground, hoping his father and brother could just forget about this whole thing.
"How about…how about you just kiss her then?" Ryoga suggested, actually sounding genuine. "You're more of an action kind of guy anyway, so just make out with her and I'm sure she'll get the message."
"I don't think she-" Ryoma started.
"Ryoma? Kissing? The boy's never even held a girl's hand." Nanjiroh was having the time of his life. "He's a total amateur in the romance department."
Ryoma glowered murderously at his father. "Shut up." He said, a hint of pleading in his voice. He just hated this conversation and wanted it to be over. Slumping in his seat, he crossed his arms over his chest and refused to look at either of them.
"Okay, so kissing's out of the question." Ryoga said after a moment. "How about you get her in bed instead then? If the message isn't clear by then, well, she's gotta be stupid not to know."
Ryoma jerked his head up. "Will you please, please, shut up?"
Nanjiroh snickered. "I got an idea. How about you wear a shirt that says 'I love Ryuuzaki-Sakuno'?"
If boiling was a real feeling, Ryoma was pretty sure would be literally at his hottest point of anger right now. He felt so embarrassed and unsure and annoyed that he wanted to explode. But he couldn't. Then they'd probably start laughing, saying he was becoming a teenager and was getting mood swings, when it obviously wasn't anything dumb like that. Taking a deep breath and counting to ten, Ryoma composed himself and put on a bored expression.
"Che, if we're done making fun of me, can we just finish eating and go to sleep?"
Ryoma inwardly groaned.
Ryoga thoughtfully took a sip of his water. "Hmm. I know. How about you go to school naked? I'm sure she won't be able to resist throwing herself over you if she sees you without clothes on."
Just count to ten Ryoma. Think good thoughts. Think Karupin. Ryoma bit back a shudder, before smirking. "Are you saying I have an attractive body? Never knew my brother was gay. Or, incest, actually."
Ryoga sputtered on his water. "No! That's not what I meant at all!"
Nanjiroh hooted. "Good one kiddo!"
The older boy's head whipped to his father. "You're supposed to be on my side. We're ganging up on him, remember?"
Ryoma sighed, pushing around his food. At least he wasn't the center of attention anymore. Usually, he didn't mind everyone staring at him – he was used to it on the tennis courts, but this was different. He smiled softly, taking a swig of his cup of water. He actually kind of liked the feeling he got around Sakuno, but he still wasn't sure what to do about it – and it was clear that his father and brother were not going to be of any help whatsoever.
Ryoma thought about Sakuno's cute stuttering and fiddling of her braids. His smile grew slightly.
"Hey, Ryoma, why don't you brag to Sakuno about how big your penis is? I'm sure she'll like you then. You do have a big one, right?"
And Ryoma was out of there. Standing up abruptly and pushing his chair in, still smiling, he walked quickly out of the room, uttering a sentence he should have said long ago when the conversation first began. "Mada Mada Dane." He said smoothly, disappearing upstairs.
Ryoga blinked at his father. "What'd I say?"
Nanjiroh shrugged, returning to his magazine. "Who knows? Maybe the kid's getting mood swings."
With Ryoma upstairs locked up in his room, his father's nose back in his porn magazines, and his mother still at work, Ryoga realized something depressing. The dinner table was silent again.
Oh, well. He decided. Time to go pick Ryoma's lock with a hairpin and restart the conversation.
THE END. Sorry if the ending was bad, I just wanted to post this today so I kind of rushed it! Anyway, hope you enjoyed!