A/N: This one's quite a few months old, but I found it while going through my USB, so I decided I'd post it anyway.
Ryoma always manages to surprise Tezuka. Tezuka isn't sure how he does it, but he knows every time it happens, he is caught off guard. Sometimes, they're just standing side by side, watching a tennis match. Ryoma is silent, not conversational at all, so when he speaks out of nowhere, the older is always momentarily startled.
Other times, Tezuka will be in his own thoughts, thinking he's alone – and out of nowhere, the small figure will pad up to him and ask him a question. It has happened so many times now, that Tezuka knows he shouldn't be surprised, but every single time, he is anyway. He doesn't mind it, not really. The first word Ryoma always acknowledges him with is buchou, and that fills Tezuka with a sense of familiarity.
Tezuka blinks, and the papers shifting in his hands freeze. Once again, he's caught off guard. Closing the book neatly, and tucking the important paper under his desk, Tezuka turns around to give Ryoma his full attention. The boy rubs his eyes sleepily, dressed in the Junior Invitational night clothes.
"You're up?" Tezuka questions.
A lazy smirk forms on his face. "I could ask you the same question."
Tezuka pauses briefly, before gesturing to the papers lying carelessly on his desk. "I was thinking about who to choose for the tournament. There's only a few days left."
Ryoma bites his pink lip between his teeth, and a small frown inches onto his face. The bright eyes on his face widen slightly, and he takes a step forward, hand reaching out towards the binder. Tezuka's hand immediately slaps over it, disapproval hung in his face. "Echizen," he reprimands. Ryoma looks at the paper with longing, before glancing back up at the captain.
Tezuka's eyes soften at the innocent voice. "Yes?"
"Is Germany fun?"
The hold around his pen tightens, and Tezuka glances towards the window. "It's nice there. The people treat me well, and I'm recovering at a steady pace." His throat tightens slightly when he thinks about going back to Germany to complete his rehabilitation. A strong urge wants him to stay here longer, to help shape Ryoma into the tennis player he has the potential to be.
"It's not better than Japan, though?"
Tezuka clears his throat, placing the pen back down on the desk. "It's not really the country that matters. It's the people."
"Hmmm," Ryoma nods slightly. He looks a bit put off. "Want to go for a walk?"
Again, Tezuka's eyebrow rise. He isn't expecting such a direct question, especially because it is already quite late. Pushing in the swivel chair and clearing up the desk, he grabs his sweater and shrugs it over his shirt. The gesture itself is a silent answer to Ryoma's question, and the boy grins, eyes bright.
"May I ask why?" Tezuka questions as he follows Ryoma out the hallway
Ryoma looks over his shoulder. "To breathe in the night air."
The smirk is evident, even as Ryoma's back faces his. Tezuka inwardly chuckles, remembering the earlier morning when Ryoma had found him at the tennis courts. The same question had been asked, with a similar answer from Tezuka. He likes Ryoma's company. It's just different, sometimes. Ryoma is the only one who can make him uncomfortable.
When they reach outside, Tezuka is glad he brought his sweater. It's a little chilly. Despite that, the captain's eyes elatedly follow the scenery of the dark. Nature has always appealed to Tezuka – the fresh air lets him breathe, freshens his mind, and assists in making important decisions. It's the time when he is calmest.
"Hey, buchou?" Ryoma trots alongside him.
Since it's dark, Tezuka lets himself smile at the name. "Yes?"
"Was my match against Sanada okay?"
Unconsciously, Tezuka's eyes flit to Ryoma. It's the kind of question that Ryoma never asks in front of other people. But then, Tezuka guesses he isn't exactly everyone else. He knows Ryoma holds a high degree of respect for him, and Tezuka is careful to never take advantage of the knowledge. Oishi once told him that if he wanted to, Tezuka could make Ryoma do anything he wanted. Inui and Fuji seconded it.
"You played well," Tezuka said thoughtfully. "Still, there were plenty of holes."
Ryoma sighs. "Elaborate?"
Tezuka doesn't answer, skeptical of giving the boy advice. He wants Ryoma to learn on his own, figure out his mistakes, and expand his abilities. Without responding, he continues to walk. The match against Sanada replays in his mind. "Echizen," the captain finally says in the deep voice. "You played well. But you're not quite there yet. Keep practicing."
Ryoma huffs, "What's thatsupposed to mean?"
"It means not to take this camp lightly."
"I'm not-" Ryoma starts, but his sentence stops midway when he trips over a stray rock. "Waahh- buchou!" he frantically waves his hands in the air to gain his balance, but gravity pulls him towards the ground. Swiftly, Tezuka's reflexes reach out and tighten around the waist of the twelve-year old. Ryoma blinks at the catch, and straightens up.
He dusts himself off. Tezuka's hands are glued around his waist. "Be careful," the captain breathes.
"Thanks," Ryoma murmurs.
A moment passes, and Ryoma wriggles a little. Tezuka realizes he really shouldlet go of the younger's waist, but his fingers seem reluctant. After a little bit of convincing in his mind, and Ryoma's questioning "Buchou?", Tezuka finally gets the willpower to pull his hands away. He clears his throat.
"Watch your step."
Ryoma looks slightly confused, cheeks dusted pink. "Hai."
The rest of the walk is somewhat silent, apart from their footsteps crunching the leaves below them. Tezuka isn't sure where they are walking, and he's aware that Ryoma is following him now instead of the other way around. For once, Tezuka lets his mind rest and his instinct guide him. "Where are we going?" Ryoma speaks up curiously. The captain shrugs a little. They keep walking, crossing a fork in the path until they reach a small cliff.
Tezuka walks towards the edge, the cliff edges memorized. It's a nice view of the city, and he's come to enjoy the spot.
Ryoma walks right past him.
"Echizen! Watch out!" his heart drops. Tezuka's hand shoots out and grabs Ryoma, lurching him forward. Ryoma yelps, but Tezuka just clutches him in his arms. The thumping in his heart rings loudly in his ears. All he can think is Ryoma could have fallen right off that cliff – and lost his life. "Echizen," Tezuka repeats, losing all his composure. He can't bear to let go.
"Buchou?" Ryoma asks.
"No. You could have fallen." The older's voice shakes.
Ryoma glances down, and his sharp eyes detect the outlines of the cliff. He inhales sharply. "Oh."
Tezuka cradles him in his arm tightly – all he can see is Ryoma casually stepping towards the edge, unbeknownst to the trembling fall underneath him. "I told you to watch your step," Tezuka instructs, but his voice still isn't steady. Ryoma apologizes quietly, and squirms out of the captain's arms. Tezuka watches with slight panic as he steps closer towards the edge, but the boy promptly stops and stares out into the distance.
"It's the city," Ryoma claims.
"Ah," Tezuka adjusts his glasses. He had forgotten why he'd come here. "It's a really nice view."
Ryoma tilts his head, and a smirk shines through the darkness. Bright eyes rake over Tezuka's figure. The smirk widens. He shifts closer – and closer, until his legs brush right next to Tezuka's, and his sleeveless arm touches Tezuka's jacket. Tezuka can feel the banging in his heart finally drop down as the closeness of the boy comforts him. He's here. Not down the cliff. He won't go down the cliff and disappear. The image disperses into nothing.
A small hand tightens around his. Tezuka's eyes widen the slightest, but instead of saying something, he grips it back.
Together, they watch the blinking cityscape below them. And together, they close their eyes and breathe.
I'm not fond of the ending at all, but since it was old, I couldn't be bothered to change it. xD