“Please go out with me!”
Haruichi fought back the smile that tugged at his lips, then let it loose because he couldn’t help himself. Eijun looked sweet, bent over with his hands clasped together like a prayer over his head. He was trying not to be obvious, but failing miserably, glancing up at him every other second. It was endearing. Everything about Eijun was.
Haruichi waited until he knew Eijun caught his smile, and then said calmly and proudly, “No.”
An imaginary weight crashed down over Eijun and Haruichi held back a giggle. It felt terrible, being so happy over this since Eijun seemed to be sincere. But that only made Haruichi question this whole thing more.
“No?” Eijun asked, lifting his head meekly. Something pulled at Haruichi’s chest, and he almost wanted to let the whole thing drop. Almost. “But—but Furuya said…”
Haruichi smiled wider. That explained it. “What did he say?” he replied, stepping closer to Eijun. He knew Aniki would have tilted his head mockingly and kept the smile plastered until he got what he wanted, but Haruichi couldn’t do that to Eijun. He gently placed his hand on Eijun’s arm and gave a small squeeze. It seemed to give his friend his energy back.
“Lying jerk! I knew he wanted to throw me off my game so that he could take the ace number for himself! Well, jokes on him, HAHA! I saw right through his plan!”
“Eijun-kun.” Haruichi tightened his grip in a way he hoped felt friendly and not pressing. “What did Furuya tell you?”
Eijun rubbed his chin and nodded his head. “Hm, yes, I remember his words exactly. He said ‘Sawamura. Your best friend is in love with you,’” he answered in probably the worst Furuya impression ever.
His hand dropped and Haruichi wanted to bury his face. “Eijun-kun.” He turned to the side, so he didn’t have to look at his friend’s face. “You’re not in love with me.”
A beat, and then, cheerful as ever, “I know.”
Haruichi counted to three, enough for the embarrassment to die down on his cheeks, then faced Eijun’s smile. “If you know, then why did you ask me? What if I had said yes, were you going to lead me on for weeks?”
The smile slipped off his face, and Haruichi wanted to scramble to put it back in place, but he clenched his fists to keep himself still. “I—yes? But no!” Eijun jumped forward and grabbed Haruichi by the shoulders, pulling him in a bit too close. “I only did it because I wanted to make you happy! You’re my best friend, and I didn’t want you to be sad because I didn’t love you, because I love you the most! Except for maybe Onii-san.” He let go of Haruichi as he thought about that, and then his face paled. “Good thing you said no, because what would Onii-san say?”
He pointed at Haruichi accusingly. “Is that why you said no?! Because you knew Ryou-chan would disapprove, and you didn’t want him to hurt me? Harucchi, you must follow your heart.”
Haruichi’s head was spinning as he jumped through Eijun’s thought process. It took him a second, but he thought he had it figured out—and he probably understood it better than Eijun did. “Eijun. Listen to me. I said no because I’m not in love with you, and you’re not in love with me.” He smiled, sweet as the cherry blossoms and wide as the sea. “You’re in love with someone else, aren’t you?”
“That’s what you said to him? Kyah ha ha!”
Now that he had had the night to sleep on it, Haruichi felt his cheeks flush. It probably hadn’t been the best idea to point blank tell someone their own feelings, but it wasn’t against the rules either.
Furuya bumped against Haruichi’s shoulder in a way that he knew now to read as comforting. “My idea was a good idea.”
“Good idea?” Maezono replied. “What if Haruichi had said yes?”
He blushed harder. “I wouldn’t!”
“Or what if he had figured it out?” Maezono continued.
“Then I would have won,” Furuya said simply.
Kawakami jumped in, “Nothing says—”
From across the table, Haruichi seemed to be the only one who noticed Miyuki slinking deeper and deeper into the scowl on his face. He gave the captain a small shrug as a peace offering and Miyuki waved his hand in return. “It’s fine,” he said as if brushing crumbs off his sleeve. “He’s never going to notice anyhow.”
Haruichi highly doubted that. There had been something genuine in the way Eijun had looked at him last night, and he didn’t miss the relief in the pitcher’s face when Haruichi told him he didn’t like him in that way. Maybe Eijun hadn’t figured it out yet, but his heart was clearly in the right place for it.
Confusion had washed over all his features, and it had been almost funny, the way his shoulders had tensed as his brows pulled in. “I’m not in love with anyone!” Eijun had proclaimed, but his tone sounded far from convincing.
They had walked back to the dorms together, and Eijun had grabbed his hand, just to “play pretend,” he had said. Haruichi turned a violent red, and Eijun poked his cheek. “Y’know, I could have loved you,” he said as he gazed up at the stars. “But maybe… maybe not in this life.”
Haruichi squeezed his hand and couldn’t find the words to say. They played at his tongue and danced around his mouth, but they didn’t want to leave. He took a deep breath to steady himself. Eijun would get there eventually.
Eijun dropped Haruichi off first, walking him straight to his door. He swung their hands back and forth—obviously he had no shame or issue with being caught—then slowly let go. “Harucchi?” he smiled brightly, the sun behind the moon. “Thanks for saying no. I wouldn’t want to lose my best friend.”
His fingers wrapped around the doorknob, but then Eijun spoke again and the hesitance in his voice made Haruichi freeze. He could see it: his friend was standing on the edge of a cliff and he wanted to jump, but his mind was too fogged to see the clear water that awaited him at the bottom.
“You said—you said I liked someone else?”
Haruichi inhaled as deeply and quietly as he could and waited for whatever it was Eijun hadn’t said yet. “Is… do you know if they like me?”
He looked over his shoulder and gave Eijun the best smile he could. “Isn’t the surprise always the best part?”
Eijun smiled back, but there were still clouds floating around his head.
And that’s how Haruichi had left him, unsure if he had made things better or worse.
Kuramochi had Miyuki in a headlock and was trying to rub his knuckles into his scalp. “What kind of talk is that, huh? Huh?”
Miyuki scrambled out of the lock, pushing Kuramochi away. “Is this anyway to treat your captain?! Besides.” Miyuki straightened his glasses and stood. “He’s not going to notice. And that’s fine.” He waved his finger at the underclassmen. “Finish your food.”
They waited until the doors swung shut behind him, before they all pounced on Haruichi.
“So you told him someone liked him?”
“You didn’t say who, right?”
“Kyahaha! As if that’s gonna work, his head is full of air!”
Haruichi hid his face in his arms. This was a lot more work than he had planned on.
The competition had been going on for only a few weeks, but everyone was getting restless. It had all started after finishing fielding practice one day, and while everyone else had moved off the field to go and stretch, Eijun and Miyuki stood in the middle, seemingly oblivious to the world. Miyuki patted Eijun’s chest with his glove, and the pitcher yelled, “How dare you tease me, Miyuki Kazuya!”
Kuramochi made a clicking sound with his tongue and shook his head. “Why are they always like this?”
Haruichi watched as the two moved closer to each other; he didn’t even think they realized they were doing it. It was as though the breeze pulled them together, and they did nothing to try and stop it. Even from across the field, they could hear Miyuki’s laugh. It wasn’t his normal mocking bite of a laugh, but something brighter and coarser, like glitter falling from fireworks.
The lightbulb clicked above Haruichi’s head. He wondered if Eijun knew he was dating the captain.
“Disgusting,” Maezono said around his water bottle. Kuramochi immediately smacked him across his belly. “Hey!”
“Take that back, douchebag. There’s nothing wrong with,” he waved his finger in the direction of the pitcher and his catcher, “that.”
Maezono rubbed his stomach. “I know! I only meant that they’re being disgusting. Look.” Six pairs of eyes turned towards them.
“Oh, yeah. They are.” Kuramochi shook his head sadly. “Imaging having to live with that.”
Kanemaru crinkled his nose. “Does Miyuki hang out in your room?”
“Yeah, and whenever he isn’t there, he’s with me, moping over Sawamura!” Kuramochi turned to face all of them and dropped his face into a frown. “’Isn’t that Sawamura so funny?’” he said in a shockingly good Miyuki impression. “’He’s such an idiot, isn’t he a riot? Too bad he’s not gay. Too bad he’ll never notice me. It’s not like he’s obsessed with me or anything.’” He rolled his eyes and kicked at the dirt. “Idiots.”
“Sawamura talks about Miyuki constantly,” Furuya piped up in agreement. “It’s annoying.”
“Like you don’t talk about him constantly either,” Toujou teased.
Furuya’s cheeks pinkened. “That’s different.”
Haruichi comfortingly tapped his arm. “We know, Furuya-kun.”
The two were still together, close enough that all it would take was a baseball glove to cover both their mouths. They did work together rather well, Haruichi thought. With Eijun to pull out Miyuki’s fun side, and Miyuki to keep Eijun stable. It had been evident for awhile that Eijun liked Miyuki—he had even admitted that the reason he chose Seidou was because something about Miyuki had pulled him here. He hadn’t used the word “irresistible,” but Haruichi had felt that invisible pull between them.
But from the sounds of it, Miyuki didn’t plan on doing anything about it, and Haruichi didn’t think Eijun had a clue about what was going on.
Another burst of laughter, this time from both of them. “God, I can’t take it,” Kuramochi said, pulling at his hair. “The flirting! It’s too much! Make it stop!”
“If they get together,” Furuya mumbled, bending down to Haruichi’s level. “Does that mean Miyuki will catch more of Sawamura’s pitches?”
A smile pulled at Haruichi’s lips. “Shh.”
Eijun triumphantly raised his hands up above his head, then ran as fast as a bolt of lightening across to where he kept his trusty tire. Miyuki shamelessly watched him all the while. When he finally looked away and began to walk towards the group of them, his eyes were still soft. He saw them all staring and flashed the middle finger before turning his head to watch Eijun run.
“This is the shit I’m talking about!” Kuramochi exclaimed. “Can’t they just get together already?”
Now that Haruichi had noticed, he had to agree. Eijun would be so much happier, as would their captain who had been seeming somewhat gloomy lately. Haruichi had just thought it was the curse of being in third year, but maybe that sadness in his eyes was something more.
Kanemaru rolled his eyes at how Eijun waved and grinned at Miyuki before sprinting faster. Miyuki’s mouth pulled into a grin but disappeared the moment he faced the group again. “They really need to get that out of their system.”
“For our sake, if anything,” Kawakami added.
“They’re not going to get together,” Okumura interrupted as he walked by, “Unless you make them get together.”
And just like that, the game began.
Watanabe made the rules list, and they all crowded around it in Miyuki’s room. “Rule 1. You cannot tell Sawamura that the game is being played. Rule 2. You can pick three days maximum for when Sawamura will realize. No doubling up. Rule 3. You cannot tell Sawamura that Miyuki has feelings for him. Rule 4. No extortion or blackmailing.”
(“Blackmail,” Kanemaru snickered. “As if that would work on Sawamura.”)
“Rule 5. You can try to influence Sawamura to realize his feelings, but you cannot try to stop him from realizing them. Please. We really just want this over with already. And rule 6. Nothing dangerous or non-consensual.” Watanabe looked up from the list and everyone nodded in agreement.
“I don’t see why this has to be done here,” Miyuki said as he placed a chip onto his tongue. “You know I’m right here, right?”
Kuramochi waved his hand. “I’ve been telling you for weeks to do something.”
Miyuki shrugged and loudly flipped the page of his sports magazine. “You’re all going to lose anyhow.”
Kanemaru grinned and placed his hand on his hip. “Sounds like a challenge. You want in on this?”
The tension in the air felt like lightening—and Haruichi had always been scared of thunderstorms.
After a minute, Miyuki lifted his head and individually eyed every single one of them. “I’ll bet. Put me down for never.”
Watanabe stopped moving his pencil. “Never?”
“Never, as in Sawamura will never realize how I feel.”
It was the closest thing to a confession Haruichi had heard from their captain. “Okay then!” Kuramochi jumped in, pointing at Miyuki. “If he wants to play, then he’s not allowed to confess. Sawamura has to do it first! That’s the only way for him to win.” He raised his eyebrows at Miyuki and their captain shrugged in response.
Watanabe slowly scribbled it down in the rules. “Anyone else?”
Haruichi cleared his throat. “Yes.” He shot Miyuki a glance, then boldly marked off three dates, all happening in the next month.
Miyuki’s mouth quirked, but then he turned back to his magazine with a shake of his head. “It’s not going to happen.”
That had been nearly three weeks, and it was starting to get painful. Maezono had already lost and placed two more bets since. They let him, because it was easier that way and tended to get him fired up during practice. But things had been slow and even though Miyuki spent more and more time with Sawamura, but nothing had changed. Not even when Kanemaru, reluctantly, gave Sawamura a stack of romance manga where the girl falls in love with her best friend unknowingly. When he asked what Sawamura thought, the boy had gone on a lecture about how foolish girls should be, and they need to realize their feelings sooner to not pull the boys around and, no he was not in love with Wakana and stop thinking that!
Kuramochi had wrestled him, refusing to give until he admitted who he liked.
Shirasu had told Sawamura all about his first girlfriend and how they got together.
And Furuya had told him the truth—and Sawamura still didn’t get it.
Everyone had been acting weird. As soon as he came into the cafeteria for breakfast, the entire room had fallen silent, eyes falling on him.
Eijun jumped back and held his hands up as to fight. “What?! I didn’t do anything!”
Miyuki scoffed, and Eijun slowly dropped his fists. He would gladly fight Miyuki any day, but that fight would be on his terms only. He didn’t want Miyuki playing any dirty tricks. Kuramochi had been training him every time he had wrestled the phone from his hands. He was ready whenever Miyuki was.
“You were supposed to be here fifteen minutes ago,” Miyuki drawled, leaning back in his chair to drag his eyes over his body in the way that made Eijun feel alert and alive.
“I was out running! I had too much energy!”
He grabbed his rice and walked over to the table, plopping down between Haruichi and Miyuki. “You know, part of your pitching training is getting enough sleep…”
“Aw, Miyuki Kazuya! Are you worried about my sleep?!” He grinned at Miyuki, whose lips twitched in return, but not enough to get that dimply grin Eijun loved so much. He had seen it for the first time just last week, and he had poked Miyuki’s face for a solid five minutes, demanding to see it again. It had ended with Miyuki stretching the skin of Eijun’s own cheeks as far as they would go, and Eijun had huffed and complained about how mad he was, but he wasn’t, not really. He couldn’t remember the last time Miyuki had actually made him mad. “Don’t worry! I got a full six hours!”
“That’s not enough, Eijun-kun,” Haruichi said. “You need to be more concerned about your health.”
Something weird happened while Eijun scooped rice into his mouth. From the corner of his eye, he saw Haruichi’s face pale, and when he looked up, Furuya was leaning across the table, his mouth opened as though he was about to speak, but before he could, something warm covered his entire back.
“Sawamura,” Miyuki’s warm caramel voice spoke against his ear. “If you don’t sleep, your body won’t be able to repair itself properly. Do I need to make you come sleep in my room?”
“Your bed is too small!” Eijun immediately snapped back. “You’d hog all the covers! You’d probably sleep right on top of me!”
Miyuki sat back in his chair. “I don’t see a problem with that.”
“I do! You’d crush me!”
His left eyebrow raised in the most delicate of curves. “Are you saying you think I’m stronger than you?”
“No, of course not!” Eijun shoveled the rest of his rice into his mouth and stood up. “I’m going to go run now because I’m the stronger one.”
He made a big huff about it as he walked to the door, stomping his feet down powerfully. He opened the door, then looked back over his shoulder at Miyuki. He noticed everyone else was staring at him, but he didn’t pay them any mind. “You’ll come get me before class, right?”
Miyuki waved his hand absently, and Eijun knew by now to take that as a yes. He wasn’t sure exactly how it had started, but for the past few weeks, he had been walking to class every morning with Miyuki. They went to his class first, as it was on the second floor, but Eijun wished he could drop Miyuki off for once. He hated leaving Miyuki in the doorway, and those extra few seconds he’d have with him if they went to the third floor first felt as valuable as stardust.
As he shut the door behind him, he was sure he could hear Miyuki’s voice behind him. “See? It’s hopeless.”
Eijun was sure the frown he had worn all day had molded his face into permanent dissatisfaction. The ball landed with a comforting thunk back in his glove, and he frowned harder.
From across the bullpen, Miyuki laughed. “What’s with the face?”
He tossed the ball up and down in his hand. “You threw that hard.”
“Ah, so now you’re willing to pay attention.”
“I’ve been paying attention!” He pointed accusingly at the catcher, who stared at him for a long moment before getting back into position.
“Let’s try number 4.”
Eijun tossed it flawlessly, and Miyuki caught it as if he was a magnet pulling it towards him. Eijun understood how that felt; no matter how irritated their captain made him, he always found himself pulled back to him. He had thought, once, that he would always be walking at Miyuki’s heels, but more and more often he found himself walking right alongside him.
He got into throwing position and let the next ball fly. Right as Miyuki cranked his arm back to return it, Eijun asked, “Why am I hopeless?”
He caught the ball, but it wavered in the air. “Where did you get that impression?”
“You. You said it.” He was ready to toss more, but Miyuki wasn’t squatting down. Instead, he pulled the mask from his head. “Hey, I’m not finished--!”
“You’re not—” Is what Eijun thought he heard, but he couldn’t be quite sure. Right then, Kuramochi’s laugh echoed around them.
“What’s this? Lover’s quarrel?”
Eijun nearly threw the ball at him. “We’re not--! Kuramochi-senpai, that is not how you behave!”
Kuramochi scuffled right into the bull pen, walking right to Miyuki. “I’m not doing anything.”
“You are… what are you doing in here?! This is—I’m pitching!”
Easily, Kuramochi flung his arm around Miyuki’s shoulder. Miyuki scowled and pushed Kuramochi’s arm away, but he didn’t really mean it. Underneath his usual mask—not his catcher’s mask, but the one he normally wore on his face and didn’t let anyone normally see underneath--, Eijun could see his smile.
He wasn’t sure when it started; when he had first been able to see Miyuki for who he was, and not solely as Seidou’s captain and catcher.
It was that Kuramochi was interrupted his beloved pitching; that was why the red emotion bubbled up inside of him and inflamed his cheeks. Look at him, his arm thrown around Miyuki, laughing with him as if they had one hundred inside jokes and not one of which they were willing to share with him. Kuramochi leaned into Miyuki as he laughed, and Miyuki didn’t bother leaning away. Eijun clenched his hands so his fingernails pressed into his palm.
And then, he saw it. The way Kuramochi’s eyes slid over to him with something that screamed intent burning inside of them.
He knew that look. He had seen it hundreds of times before. In every single shoujo manga, there was the jealousy plot, which worked one of two ways. Either a rival made the protagonist jealous, or the protagonist tried to make the love interest jealous so that they would realize their love…
Miyuki had called him hopeless. It’s always hopeless when the girl thinks the boy won’t realize her love. Haruichi’s words and Furuya’s words—that someone close to him liked him….
The puzzle pieces clicked into place and Eijun slapped his fist into his palm.
“Kuramochi-senpai!” He yelled. Both sets of eyes turned towards him. He could see the amusement in Miyuki’s face and that anger he felt earlier burned into something more in the pit of his stomach. “Are you in love with me?!”
He wondered if the entire team froze, because it sure felt like it. There was no noise and no movement beside the breeze. Miyuki’s lips parted slowly, and then his face twisted into that grin; Kuramochi’s face, on the other hand, pulled downwards and spun, as if all the gears suddenly turned the wrong way.
Sound came back all at once. Miyuki’s laughter and Kuramochi’s exclamations of disgust.
“Sawamura! Dumbass! No!”
He wasn’t called Cheetah without reason. He was in front of Sawamura in seconds, and his hand clenched into the fabric of his collar before shaking him back and forth. “Dumbass! Of course not! Ew!”
“What!? It was a good question!”
“No, it wasn’t!”
Over Kuramochi’s shoulder, Eijun watched as Miyuki’s hands came up to his face and rubbed at his eyes and cheeks, pushing his glasses out of the way. When his hands fell, the playful smirk was gone, replaced with something that looked closer to exhaustion.
Kuramochi was still shaking him as Miyuki’s eyes met his. A rock fell in Eijun’s stomach, and he felt the ripples in the water as Miyuki refused to look away. He didn’t smile, or tilt his head, or do any of the annoying things Eijun associated with his captain. He simply looked, as if he were waiting for Eijun to make the first move.
“Hey! Are you listening to me?” Kuramochi asked, before pulling Eijun’s non-throwing arm back.
“Ow ow ow!” Eijun protested, although it didn’t really hurt.
“I don’t like you!”
Eijun yanked his arm back. “Okay, okay. Sorry!”
“I can’t believe how dumb you are,” Kuramochi said with a shake of his head. “You’re so close, but you can’t even see—”
He was cut off by a yell from Coach telling them to get back to practising or else they’d be running laps for the next practise.
Kuramochi threw his arms into the air and walked out of the bull pen, but not before punching Miyuki in the shoulder. “He’s your idiot,” Eijun thought he heard, but he couldn’t quite be sure. The wind played tricks sometimes, taking things it shouldn’t and twisting them before they could make their way back. He must have misheard. He wasn’t anyone’s idiot but his own.
“Did you see that?”
“No one said he was smart.”
“He reads so much manga, I thought--”
“Yeah, well, guess Kuramochi’s in love with him now.”
“DIDN’T COACH TELL YOU TO GET BACK TO PRACTISING?!”
Eijun didn’t have to look up. There was only one person who said his name like that.
He grunted and reached for the inside of his foot. He really didn’t like stretching much: it’s not that he couldn’t do it, but it was so boring compared to everything else, especially when no one else was willing to help. At least with help, he could feel his muscles stretch and burn in the way that felt productive, and there was someone else to talk to. Even if all they did was tease him about how flexible he was.
Warm hands on his shoulders, and a breath that felt like the sea-side breeze on his cheek. “Let me help you.”
He didn’t know why they called it a cool down because right now all he felt was heat. Everywhere.
“Okay,” he replied, letting go of his foot and sitting up. He dropped his head back so he was staring up at an upside-down Miyuki Kazuya. He couldn’t help but grin. Miyuki blinked, but he smiled back.
“For someone so flexible, you suck at this.”
The warmth spread down from where Miyuki pushed at his shoulders through Eijun’s torso and into his legs. It was as if there was something magical about Miyuki’s touch; as if he was able to take something uncomfortable and make it not entirely unwelcome.
As Miyuki slowly pressed down harder, Eijun let out a soft sigh.
The hands loosened on his shoulder before pressing down again. It almost felt as if they had gotten wider, covering more of his back. “Does that feel good, Sawamura?” Miyuki mumbled, voice too close to his ear.
Eijun nodded, and Miyuki let go. They smoothly transitioned into the next stretch, and Miyuki’s hands were back on him in a flash. He didn’t know why, but it was always better when Miyuki helped him stretch. He supposed it had something to do with their connection: if a battery was a work of art, Eijun secretly thought of theirs as a masterpiece. He liked all of the catchers he worked with and had worked with in the past, and each brought something different and exciting to the gameplay. But Eijun was allowed to have his favourites, and it was definitely Miyuki. When he caught his pitches, excitement sparked like fireworks in Eijun’s chest. Especially when he said those works Eijun so craved to hear: nice pitch.
“You’re quieter than usual,” Miyuki said with a chuckle that reminded Eijun of crickets in the summer grass. “Whatcha thinking about?”
“You,” Eijun blurted before he could stop himself. “I mean—not like--- I wasn’t!” He didn’t know what he was saying, but he knew he shouldn’t have said it.
Instead of pulling away, Miyuki’s hands gave him a firm squeeze. “Hmmm?”
“Just… you’re my senpai, right?”
“That is generally how these things work.”
Eijun swung his arm behind him but couldn’t quite smack Miyuki. Another chuckle. “Then, senpai, I must ask for your guidance and help as my elder and wiser!”
“Okay, okay, sheesh, what is it?” He patted Eijun, indicating it was time to switch positions. Eijun spun around so that he faced his senpai and crossed his legs in front on him. Miyuki raised an eyebrow expectantly.
He clapped his hands together and bowed his head. “Please, tell me who likes me!”
He expected a laugh, but it’s not what he got. He got those broad hands, hands that caught whatever he threw at him, no matter when, no matter how unreasonable. They gently pushed down his own hands until Eijun lifted his head.
Miyuki gave him a twisted grin, but it didn’t quite sit right on his face. “Doesn’t that ruin the fun?”
“Ugh!” Eijun pulled at his hair. “Haruichi said the same! I just want to know, because maybe—” His cheeks flushed and he cut himself off. Maybe what? It was easier to push everything away, to focus on someone else, so that he didn’t have to turn in and see what flower petals of feelings were floating around in the pool of his chest.
“Hmm?” Miyuki leaned close, his shit-eating grin spreading. “Maybe what, Sa-wa-mu-ra?”
Eijun felt his cheeks flush, and he assumed it was from the exertion of stretching because it was easier than to figure out what it might actually be from. He pushed Miyuki’s face away with his hand, and the catcher laughed before licking at his palm. Eijun shrieked and pulled his hand back, rubbing it against his thigh as Miyuki cackled. “Pervert!”
“If I’m the pervert, then I guess I won’t tell you who likes you.”
Eijun grabbed his wrist and pulled him back in close. Eyes as intense as he could make them, he glared at Miyuki. “Does that mean you know?”
The Adams’ apple in Miyuki’s throat bobbed and caused Eijun to swallow himself. Miyuki licked his lips and Eijun suddenly became very aware of his own: chapped, and dry, and probably not as cherry red as Miyuki’s plump lips that were surprisingly close and starting to open…
The shuffling of dirt against shoes. Miyuki looked away first, and Eijun followed the line of his jaw down to his chin, then up to his lips, across the slope of his nose, and to his eyes. He stared at them, the warm brown of melted chocolate, then followed their gaze to where Furuya stood several feet away.
“Oh. Sawamura. I came to help you stretch,” he said, as if he hadn’t interrupted a strangely intimate moment between the pitcher and catcher.
Eijun leapt to his feet, leaving the moment like a crumbled piece of clothing around his feet. “Aha! Miyuki Kazuya has already helped me stretch!”
Furuya’s eyes narrowed, which was funny, because Eijun had never seen him think this hard at anything. “That didn’t look like stretching.”
An awkward giggle bubbled out of him and he rubbed the back of his neck. “No? It was.”
Furuya turned his gaze to Miyuki who was whistling innocently beside them. Huh. Eijun didn’t know he could whistle. “Stretching.”
“Yep,” Miyuki replied, sending Furuya this weird look Eijun didn’t understand. “Stretching.”
“Wow, Furuya,” Eijun laughed, breaking the lightning bolt of tension that had somehow formed between them. Really, everyone had been acting strange recently, but this was some of the weirdest. It was like they were speaking through their eyes in some language just between the two of them. A flash of jealousy erupted in Eijun. It was unfair; he wanted to know the secret language too!
“I don’t think you’ve ever wanted to help me stretch,” Eijun continued, speaking extra loudly and cheerfully to tear those two apart from each other. “What, do you just want to touch me?!” He laughed loudly, hands on his hips as though he had made the greatest joke ever.
No one else joined in and Eijun stopped mid-laugh. (it hadn’t really been a real laugh, but one of the laughs he used to reassure everyone else. He knew they thought he was goofy, but he saw the way they smiled and their shoulders loosened on the field when he started laughing from the mound. No, his real laughs were saved for Haruichi’s snarky comments that slipped out of his innocent frame, and when he beat Kuramochi at Smash Bros, and when Miyuki jabbed him right in his side where he knew it tickled most.) He blinked once, then again as the sunlight dawned on his brain.
“You!” He stumbled back, pointing right at Furuya. “You’re the one who has a crush on me!”
A thump as Miyuki fell back onto the ground. He placed his hands on the side of his head, right by his temples, but low enough to smush his cheeks, and shook his head. Furuya, similarly, seemed to be speechless. His mouth kept opening and closing, but no sound came out.
Eijun gave a triumphant laugh. “Furuya-kun, you should have told me!”
Miyuki made a noise akin to a groan. “It’s not Furuya, Sawamura.”
“Huh? But he—but who else could it be?! It’s not Haruichi, or Kuramochi, it can’t be you…”
Furuya frowned at that. “But why can’t it be—”
“Alright, time to go to bed!” Miyuki interrupted loudly as he got back up. “To be the ace, you need lots of rest. Let your muscles rebuild. Yadda yadda.” He grabbed Furuya’s collar and began to pull him out. “See you later, Sawamura.”
He watched as they left, his hand clenching and unclenching if only to have something to do. He felt like he understood even less than he had before.
“AH! CURSE YOU, MIYUKI KAZUYUA!” he yelled and before he bolted into a run, he could swear he heard Miyuki’s obnoxious laugh.
It was there, on the doorstep, first thing in the morning. He didn’t know when it had been put there, since he had run his frustration out last night and came home late and was up early again to get another quick run in, but there it was.
He knew it was for him immediately, even without seeing the tag with the handwriting. It was so much neater than his own, with round swoops and broad strokes.
Good luck for the ace.
That was all it said, but he knew exactly who it was from.
And so, it turns out, did everyone else.
“Good morning, Eijun-kun,” Haruichi greeted, concealing a yawn with his hand. He took up his usual spot beside the pitcher. “Can I ask why you’re wearing Miyuki-senpai’s hat?”
“Oh this?” Eijun pulled down at the cap for the umpteenth time that morning. He grinned back at his friend. “It’s Miyuki’s lucky hat! For good luck in the match!”
From down the table, Okumura snorted. “Good luck, huh?”
Haruichi tapped Eijun’s hand before he could snap something back at his misbehaving kouhai. “That’s awfully kind of him.”
“It is!” Eijun agreed and toyed with the hat again. He couldn’t help it; it fit him differently, a bit too large no matter how much he adjusted it, and it smelt different, like grass and sweat. His smile slowly faded, as if the scent itself were enough to calm his nerves. He’d never been as into superstitions as his eager mother or hyper grandfather, but he knew there was something special about this hat. Since receiving it this morning, the blood in his veins had been replaced with gold.
“Y’know,” Eijun said suddenly after a few minutes of thoughtfully chewing his rice. “Miyuki has been kind of strange lately.”
He looked up, and everyone at the table’s eyes were on him. “Oh yeah?” Zono asked, which was kind of weird for him to be interested in this kind of thing.
“Yeah, it’s—” He didn’t want to say weird, or strange, or any other words that were of the same sort. Because even if it was different than the Miyuki Kazuya he had met a year ago, he wasn’t unfamiliar. If anything, he felt more like Miyuki than ever before, in the way he was there when Eijun turned the corner, as if he knew he had been thinking about him. He smiled so much more, and even when he was smiling at him, it never felt mean. It felt like Eijun had marigolds blooming from his chest, and Miyuki wanted to pick every single one, cutting them away only to replant them in his own chest.
But that—feeling that way, seeing Miyuki in that way, not as the captain or catcher but as a boy who wanted to feel things—that was weird.
He forced a smile, the kind that called upon sunshine. “He’s probably playing some joke on me, trying to mess me up! That Miyuki Kazuya!” He laughed, but when he looked over the eyes of his teammates, no one else was laughing.
Haruichi gave him a small smile, the same he had given when Eijun had confessed. Furuya’s eyebrows furrowed, Kuramochi shook his head, and Kanemaru stared—stared in a way that made him seem upset, perhaps? Eijun was used to people giving him funny looks, and Kanemaru was giving him his least favourite look of all: disappointment.
Eijun got up and moved down the bench so that he sat in front of his classmate. He smiled, and Kanemaru scowled. “What?”
“Don’t worry, Kanemaru! I’m sure Miyuki will give you a good luck charm too!” He didn’t really mean it, and kind of hoped Miyuki wouldn’t because that made his gift special, but he also knew that sometimes you had to tell little white lies to make people feel better.
“Today’s the fourteenth, yeah?” Eijun nodded and Kanemaru sighed. “You wouldn’t understand.”
Why had Kanemaru asked him the date? Was it his birthday—had everyone forgotten?! But no, that couldn’t be it, he had checked the calendar this morning, he was sure of it. He had been talking about Miyuki, and the hat, and—well, that had been all he had talked about this morning so far. It was his most exciting thing and thinking about it made his chest feel full of bubbles.
He wouldn’t consider Kanemaru his best friend, but he was a friend.
Eijun opened his mouth to ask the million-dollar question, but Kanemaru immediately clapped a hand over his mouth. “Not. A. Chance,” he growled.
The hand dropped, and Eijun exclaimed, “You didn’t know what I was going to say!”
“I could tell by that crazed look in your eyes.”
“Oh my God,” Okumura groaned and covered his face with his hands.
Kuramochi stood up. “I’m really upset that bastard tanuki is going to win.”
Eijun’s ears perked. Win? Win what?”
“Is there anyone Eijun hasn’t asked?” Shirasu said. “Other than the obvious?”
Eijun’s head played ping-pong as he turned from one teammate to the next. They were all complaining about something, and it was something about him but no one would tell him what. He shoved the rest of the rice into his mouth and stood as loudly as he could. He stomped over to the door, which swung open the minute he reached for its hand.
Miyuki smiled that jump cocky smile that usually made Eijun feel like floating or like punching him in the face. “Your hat looks good, Sawamura.”
The hat. That had to be it. All this weirdness had started when he walked in with the hat. He yanked it off his head and pushed it against Miyuki’s chest. “I don’t want it,” he mumbled, then pushed past him and out the door.
If anyone called after him, he didn’t hear it.
He should have kept the hat.
He kicked at the dirt, feeling too balled up with energy to sit still. They won the match, but his pitching had been messy, and while he picked himself up in the end, he knew he had played lousy.
The hat shouldn’t be blamed, because it was only a hat, but it had caused this turbulence of emotions inside of him that manifested in his pitching. It was only Miyuki’s calming hand on his shoulder during a time-out that had saved him in the end.
He kicked at the dirt again. He wanted to run more. He wanted to run and run until he couldn’t think of anything but the way the air burned his lungs.
“I knew I would find you here.” Voice like salted caramel; sticky, but not entirely sweet nor smooth. Eijun gave the ground a particularly rough kick. “You pitched well today. Not your best, but far from your worst. You’re evolving. You’ll have bad days.” His voice was closer now, but Eijun didn’t want to look to see. “And knowing you, you’ll have a lot of ‘em.”
“Everyone keeps acting weird!” He blurted, lifting his head to meet Miyuki’s eye. “It all started with that dumb Furuya telling me someone liked me, but I’ve asked everyone, but no one will confess! Ugh!” He pulled at his hair with both fists and stomped at the ground once. “Was there ever anyone? Was he just playing with me? But then Haruichi said—and he wouldn’t!”
He jumped up, letting all his frustration flow out as his feet landed with a firm thunk back on the ground. He didn’t know what to call the emotions swirling in his chest: they were like dipping a paint brush into a bucket full of water and watching the colours blur, but when he looked at Miyuki, the entire water turned a vibrant red. Those feelings he understood, as distant as he tried to make them be.
The lucky hat was on Miyuki’s head, and his face was serious in a way that made Eijun uncomfortable. He liked the smiles, even as bitter as mean as they could be. They fit better on Miyuki’s face, and made Eijun feel somewhat at ease.
“Miyuki.” He blinked at the captain and shuffled a bit his way. “If you knew who liked me, you would tell me, wouldn’t you?”
He could his senpai swallow, but Miyuki said nothing. His eyes, in the fading light, were the same colour as the dirt that collected underneath his fingernails. That probably wouldn’t be flattering to most people, but it was the shade of hardwork, and commitment, and determination, and play.
Eijun swooped in close, moving right in front of Miyuki and staring at him right in the eye.
“See, it’s so unfair! Because I keep asking and asking and no one will tell me, and—can I tell you a secret? I think they’re playing with me!” Miyuki’s lips quirked at that, and it was enough to keep Eijun going. “Because they’re all acting so nice to me, and talking to me about manga or girls, and they keep giving me things like food, and asking me to hang out so I start to think that maybe it’s them, but it never is!” He laughed because he had nothing else to do. “And the worst part?! Maybe they like me, maybe they all like me, but the one person I want to like me doesn’t.”
He could have fallen back, or run away, or given up, but he was so sick of all of it, and asking people to confess finally gave him the desire to confess himself.
Because the more manga he read, and the more gifts he got, and the more people talked to him, he kept realizing over and over again that there was only one person he really wanted that attention from.
He grabbed the front of Miyuki’s shirt and curled his fingers in tight. “Tell me, Miyuki Kazuya! Why don’t you like me?!”
There were a lot of reasons Eijun liked Miyuki, but one of the biggest ones was that he never could understand him. Out of all the responses that Miyuki could give him, which all raced through his mind in the flash of a second after he spoke, when he realized what he had done, Miyuki gave him the one answer he didn’t expect: he threw back his head and laughed.
Eijun let go of his shirt, then changed his mind as a flash of anger shot through him. “Don’t laugh at me, Miyuki Kazuya!” Miyuki continued to laugh as Eijun shook him the best he could. “It’s rude to laugh at people’s feelings!”
A hand on his wrist, and Eijun immediately let go. With his free hand, Miyuki wiped the tears from his eyes. “You are the absolute biggest dumbass on this planet.”
He frowned and took a step back, but Miyuki’s hand on his wrist pulled him in close, and then even closer than they had been before. He could see the tiniest freckles that dotted along Miyuki’s cheek bone. “That’s not very—oomph!”
Eijun had been forced quiet many times before, but none had ever been so sweet as the feeling of Miyuki’s lips against his own.
He laughed, because he had to. Then, Miyuki was laughing too. He bit down on Miyuki’s lip, a soft little nibble of a bite, just because he wanted to.
“Ow,” Miyuki mumbled, but he didn’t pull them apart. Eijun laughed more. “You’re terrible at this.”
“So are you!”
They weren’t even kissing anymore, but they stayed close enough to brush their lips when they spoke. Each word sent warm chills down Eijun’s back.
“So,” Miyuki began, drawing out the vowel as he grabbed Eijun by the shoulders and pulled him back. The sunset behind him created a halo of blues and pinks around his head. He was so beautiful it drove Eijun insane. “Have you figure out who likes you?”
Eijun blinked, then grinned, then punched Miyuki in the shoulder. The catcher cackled and Eijun shut him up by pulling him in for another kiss.
“And that’s how I have a boyfriend now!”
Sawamura stood amongst his friends and teammates, hands in confident fists that sat on his hips. Kazuya was sitting beside him, scooping rice into his mouth. His lips still felt as though they were tingling, even if he knew it wasn’t possible. Sawamura last night had been so eager, exactly in the way Kazuya knew he would be. They had said goodbye about seventeen times, because Sawamura kept pouting and pulling Kazuya in for “one last kiss.”
Stupid Sawamura, Kazuya thought as he chuckled into his rice bowl.
He feigned disinterest, but he knew the reaction would be too good. He lifted his bowl to scoop some rice into his mouth and slid his eyes over to Sawamura.
The boy looked too proud; the same look he had when coming off the mound after a particularly good inning. Praise me! his eyes demanded, and normally Kazuya was more than willing to oblige—after roughing him up a bit, of course.
When the cheers and applause didn’t come, Sawamura’a face fell and Kazuya openly grinned. All of the other boys immediately turned towards Watanabe, and chaos erupted.
“Yesterday was the fourteenth, right?”
“Who was it? Who bet on the fourteenth?”
“Aww, why couldn’t they wait until today?”
Watanabe cleared his throat, but Haruichi beat him to it. “It was me.”
The table burst into cheers and Haruichi who was turning a shade of pink even darker than his hair. His slowly spread into a grin that for once he didn’t try to hide. Kuramochi ruffled his hair and Kawakami gave him an affectionate pat on the shoulders.
“Uh, excuse me?” Eijun demanded, waving his hands widely to gather attention. Furuya glanced his way, but the glare turned into shards of glass and he immediately turned away. Kazuya chuckled. What a sore loser. “As much as I’m all for giving Harucchi the love he deserves, I’m the one who got a boyfriend? I’m over here!”
Kazuya decided he had had enough. No need for anyone else to rub in his loss. “Congrats, Kominato,” he said with a slight smirk. He could feel Sawamura’s eyes burning into his back, which was even more reason to ignore him.
Haruichi gave a small shrug. “I know how Eijun-kun is.”
“Unfortunately,” Kazuya responded. From the corner of his eye, he could see Sawamura’s ridiculous frown. “Don’t forget to finish your breakfast,” he said as he began to walk out. Watanabe had pulled out the envelop that he knew held all the collected cash.
Footsteps stormed up behind him and a hand wrapped around his arm. “Miyuki Kazuya! What is going on?!”
Kazuya kept walking, but Sawamura pulled him back. They struggled, both pulling in opposite directions, but as soon as they left the breakfast cafeteria, Kazuya gave up, causing Sawamura to stumble back. He had his dumb monkey face on, looking like he was ready to pounce. Kazuya crowded in on him, pushing him back against the wall.
“Hmm? You wanted to know something?”
Sawamura practically went cross-eyed, his determination giving into desire as his eyes kept flicking down to his lips. “Uh… yes! You can’t—what was going on in there?”
Kazuya pressed in closer, tilting his head. “There was a bet.”
“A bet on… on what?”
Sawamura’s eyes flickered, and it was the most wonderous thing Kazuya had ever seen. “Doesn’t matter.”
“Did you… did you lose?”
Their lips brushed and Kazuya could feel Sawamura’ breath on his face. “I wouldn’t say that,” he whispered, and then sealed it with a kiss.