"Are you alright, Yuuto?"
Yuuto flashed him a smile. "I'm fine, thank you." The corners of his eyes crinkled when he smiled, and his lips stretched wide. They were plump, but not overly so.
Izumida tore his eyes away when he realised he was staring. How impolite.
He shifted a little, even though there was no position that was truly comfortable. His lungs itched from the dust. It was bothersome, but considering they were only spending a short amount of time here, it didn't really matter.
Izumida focused his gaze on the hanging clothes and tried to remember if any of the club members had recently reported lost articles of clothing. Most of the clothes looked as if they had been there for quite some time, but you could never be too certain. Ashikiba had reported losing a t-shirt just the other day. An unfortunately common occurrence, despite the distinctiveness of his clothing.
Izumida pursued that train of thought for as long as he could, but as hard as he tried to ignore it, the silence grated on his nerves. He was acutely aware of Yuuto opposite him, who was looking somewhere to the side and did not look as though he would be speaking up anytime soon. He almost seemed to be ignoring Izumida, a fact that left Izumida somewhat at a loss.
The silence continued to grow more stifling, until Izumida brought himself to break it.
"Well, this is a bit awkward," he said. He smiled at Yuuto, hoping that addressing the situation would be enough to ease the atmosphere.
Yuuto smiled back, with that same smile as before. "Ah, I guess you could say that." He played with some sort of bracelet on his left wrist and it made a light clinking sound as he slowly rolled it between his fingers. It appeared to be bright red, but the light wasn't good enough to properly tell.
Izumida cleared his throat. "You know, we played this game last year," he said, and when Yuuto looked at him somewhat bemusedly, he pointedly added, "while your brother was on the team."
"Is that so," Yuuto replied after a pause, tone oddly flat.
Izumida realised what he must have assumed, and felt his face grow uncomfortably warm. "I mean, not that I had a turn with him, or anything like that," he hurried to clarify, "I just meant—"
"It's alright, Izumida-san. I don't really need to know about everything Hayato-kun did," Yuuto cut him off, still smiling. The clinking of the bracelet had grown louder, and his hand movements jerkier.
"That's not what I meant—" Izumida started to protest, but stopped himself. He sighed. "Never mind."
Yuuto's gaze dropped to his red bracelet. Izumida searched for some other topic, and finally settled on: "Is your practice with Ashikiba going well?"
He had, of course, heard from Ashikiba himself that, aside from the rough start, Yuuto was doing satisfactorily and was unsurprisingly progressing at an incredibly fast rate. But it never hurt to listen to the opinion of the juniors, especially as Ashikiba's thoughts often wildly differed from those of everyone around him.
"Yes, it's going fine."
Said perfectly amiably, but without indicating much else.
Izumida hummed. This was familiar, more comfortable ground. "That's good. I'm glad to hear that you're adjusting well." He hesitated, but decided that he may as well forge on. "Some members were worried, after that incident," he said, making sure to catch Yuuto's gaze.
Understandably. It wasn't often that a new member caused that much of a commotion. Had it been anyone other than Yuuto, people would have already been insisting that he be suspended. Then again, no-one but Yuuto could have caused such a stir in the first place. It had not been a pleasant start of the year.
Yuuto's eyes flashed, but the smile stayed on his face. "I'm really sorry about that," he said, tone more sheepish than apologetic. "I made sure to apologize to—"
"Yes, I know," Izumida reassured him. "It's alright, we understand. New surroundings can sometimes be a little overly stressful, but the important thing is to adapt, which you're successfully doing." Helped in large by the fact that the majority of the club members, personal feelings aside, had been willing to turn the other cheek to Yuuto's more improper behaviours. Izumida would have been perturbed, or perhaps even amused, had he not been so relieved.
"Right," Yuuto said, after a moment of silence, expression neutral.
"Although," and this was something that had been on Izumida's mind for quite some time, "I hear that you always refuse requests to come to sprinting practice?"
It was such a waste. A lot of members had expressed great disappointment that Yuuto hadn't turned up, even once, in spite of multiple invitations. The younger student was already getting enough compliments on his climbing, that many couldn't help but wonder.
Yuuto's hand stilled. He shifted in place, and Izumida couldn't help but notice the visible tension straining his frame, muscles rigid and tense. Izumida frowned.
"Ah, sprinting isn't really my thing," Yuuto said airily. "I'm a climber, after all." He gestured with his hand, in a way that was quickly becoming familiar. It was remarkably endearing.
"Yes, of course, but I mean— it doesn't hurt to try. You could turn out to have a talent for it." Considering Shinkai-san, it wouldn't be surprising. And one couldn't think help but think of the wide, smooth roads when thinking of the Shinkai name.
Yuuto's face twisted, and when he smiled this time, his eyes were completely hidden by the fall of his lashes. He laughed. "I don't really think so, Izumida-san." And here he looked at Izumida head on, red eyes boring into his. "I'm not Hayato-kun, you know."
Izumida startled. He looked at Yuuto again, taking in the whole of him: his wide imploring red eyes, the thinnes of his smile, his hand clenched around his red bracelet, his slender frame drew up tight, and he suddenly felt— uncomfortable. Awkward.
"No," he said slowly, "I suppose you're not."
Yuuto didn't say anything. He had stilled completely and averted his eyes. He seemed to draw further back into the wall behind him, strands of black melting into the shadows. He suddenly looked much smaller than before.
Izumida's gaze fell into his lap.
Another stretch of silence passed. Izumida stayed silent, and only spoke up when their time was almost up.
"In any case," he finally said, "you will be ready for the Inter-High?"
Yuuto didn't respond for a moment, until a slow "yes" left his lips.
Izumida nodded. "Good." He shook off the lingering discomfort and pressed on. "We have a duty to win back our crown."
The weight that the words brought was familiar and comforting, and he let it fall on his shoulders, straightened under it. His muscles twitched with strength and vigour, and his emotions settled.
He crossed his arms. "Nothing less then complete triumph is acceptable." His tone was clear and resolute. "It is a heavy responsibility to bear, but I know that we will all rise to the task."
A second of silence. "Of course," replied Yuuto expressionlessly.
"Good," Izumida said.
In the end, that was the only thing that mattered.