But I am not going to rec fics right now because I have just finished re-rewatching eps 65-68, and if I don't talk about the love I will stay awake all night tossing and turning and trying to not write fanfic.
So. Previous recaps are tagged here, only they aren't in any remote sort of coherent shape, and mostly are just excuses to flail about Tezuka.
This deals directly with Ep 68. Tezuka has already Done That Thing and Ryoma has already been all, *smirk* *unzips jacket* (no, not like that. Though, if that were what Ryoma had to do to become Seigaku's pillar of support then I guarantee you he'd've signed up for the job a lot faster) *goes to warm up* And now he and Momo are coming back to the You Know Where to see how Tezuka is doing in his You Know What with Atobe. This is where we pick up.
Okay, for starters, and the sake of pure comparison-- this is how Ryoma looks when he is deeply upset.
the shots above are taken from ep. 27, in which Ryoma is very, very worried about his cat, Karupin. This is the most upset we will ever ever see him in the entire series.
Except, of course, for the opening moments of ep 68.
Also just for comparison, here is the most worry/concern we will ever see Ryoma express for another actual human being in the series:
This is from somewhere in the 50's when Ryoma is watching Momo from a distance, after Momo has temporarily *spoilered.* Momo is Ryoma's best friend. :(
This is Ryoma after Tezuka has Done What He Does, and Ryoma comes back and sees him Doing It:
What you are missing out on, as well, is the tiny, trembling, Breathy "Buchou" Voice™ as he stares at Tezuka.
Ryoma watches intently. He reacts. With hope and eagerness and his heart in his throat, like the rest of us. :((
And then The Spoilery Thing has ended.
And Aja throws in Tezuka's reaction which is possibly one of the best moments of the entire series:
And Ryoma knows what he has to do.
Tezuka approaches him, and Ryoma puts on his serious face. They stare at each other soulfully and meaningfully, in ways that cause me to shout once again that, slashy interpretations or not, Ryoma's relationship to Tezuka is the focus of Prince of Tennis, and it fascinates me endlessly, and, and. Shutting up and posting pictures now:
The world shrinks for one long moment to Ryoma, and Tezuka, and the waves of energy and zen-like unspoken directives that Tezuka is undoubtedly radiating at this point in the episode.
Tezuka continues to radiate meaning and authority and zenlike waves, and asks:
"Do you remember what I told you under the overpass?"
(Every time he says "Do you remember the overpass?" he makes it sound like their secret Yakuza meeting place. 3 pm. Come alone. I'll bring the balls. Leave the rackets. Take the cannoli.)
Ryoma says, "Hai." Which translates to "Yes." And also, possibly, "You leave me without the ability to speak multisyllabically."
Tezuka understands all that Ryoma cannot quite spit out in coherent sentences, of course, and leaves the rest up to Ryoma.
Who kicks ass, because he is the Prince of Tennis.
Were it not for spoiler things here, I would talk more specifically about how he kicks ass, and the ways in which this particular ass-kicking tells us that not only does he remember the overpass, and how Daddy rocked his world like a Neil Young concert, but he is prepared and willing to do whatever it takes to do what Tezuka asked of him then: become Seigaku's pillar of support.
And Tezuka watches.
Ryoma? Ryoma evolves.
And then both the episode and the entire Hyotei Arc ends with the following image. Which is technically from ep 65 but which has the same effect as if the creators of the show had chose to end with the two of them walking together into the sunset:
They undo me.
If anyone needs me, I'll be here trying not to kerbibble. And most likely failing.