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the fleeting beauty of transience

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The pale pink petals of the towering sakura tree flutter in the air, swaying as wind commands them—bringing clear blue skies and an aching feeling in his chest along with their bewitching waltz. Eijun rests his left palm against the rough bark, feeling the splinters dig into his fingertips.

Spring has come, drenching him in showers of sakura petals. Their light touch leaves Eijun chilled and weighed down as if lashings of torrential rain are drowning him instead.

All around him are a sea of freshly pressed blue uniforms—Eijun can see specks of red ribbons tied around graduation letters through the corner of his eye.

The shrieks and sobs of his seniors and classmates fade into a blur. Eijun looks away from the scene into the far off distance—at the baseball ground where memories too painful to recall were born.

Sakura blossoms are a beautiful lie. Their alluring color and fragrance filling hearts with false promises before disappearing at the end of their brief existence—leaving behind only agonising remembrances.

The glass wall shielding him from the world mutes his surroundings. Creating a piercing silence for his thoughts to well up unbidden from where Eijun has buried them.

The smacking sound of a pitch finding its place in his catcher's mitt.

The feeling of a leathered brown glove tapping his chest.

Lips curling into an amused smirk, revealing a hint of pearly white teeth—the sight always making Eijun bare his own in response.

Broad shoulders leading to a broader back always facing him, the sight of it growing further away. Fading into the distance even as Eijun trips and stumbles after it, his hand outstretched. Fingers slipping through it like catching smoke whenever it came into his grasp.

Always, always wanting to reach it no matter how far. Reach him.

He opens his mouth to scream, to plead, to beg, anything to stop the figure from vanishing completely. But no sound comes out. His loud, grating, annoying voice fails him when he needs it the most.

The splinters are probably puncturing his heart right now, forcing a painful sensation as if a heavy weight was crushing his chest.

Graduation day has come to take Miyuki-senpai away and leave Eijun behind.

His fellow baseball comrades have gathered together to make final memories with each other but Eijun needs more time before he can join them and perform the act of a cheerful, overbearing kouhai. He needs time to steel his heart and not let his emotions slip through the cracks in his mask.

Before he can take a calming breath to soothe his frenzied nerves, he hears the sound of footsteps.

Footsteps matching the pulsing rhythm of his frenetic heartbeat.

A warm breeze sends the sakura petals into a dance once more, releasing more of their fragrance—along with the scent of pinewood and cinnamon—into the air.

Eijun's hand slips from the tree trunk and comes to rest at his side but he can't muster the courage to turn around. His body is trembling like a leaf caught in the wind but even if the figure notices it, he does not comment.

On any other occasion, it would have led to amused teasing and mocking laughter but today a comfortable silence envelops them. Even if there are unspoken words choking their voices, the time to hear them has long passed, leaving behind only a faint sensation of regret.

Miyuki-senpai is standing directly behind him, so close his breath is sending shivers throughout Eijun's body.

The catcher wordlessly weaves his fingers into Eijun's soft, brown locks, the roughened calluses on his fingertips leaving feather-light touches. The sensation feels so good that Eijun almost leans into the touch, like a puppy trying to encourage his master to pet him more. He catches himself before he can act like an idiot—before he can give any ammunition for snide remarks that would break this peaceful silence between them.

Miyuki pulls a sakura petal from his hair, enclosing it tightly in his fist.

Taking a deep breath, Eijun turns towards him. Catching the sight of amber eyes glowing in the specks of sunlight filtered through the leaves. Eyes filled with want and other unspeakable emotions. A warm blush colors his face red as Miyuki finally speaks, his husky voice leaving Eijun with shuddering breaths.

"Sawa—"


"—mura. Sawamura!"

Miyuki-senpai's voice is even clearer now—almost as if he is speaking directly into Eijun's ear.

Eijun's eyes fly wide open.

The familiar feeling of disorientation after a restless nap washes over him. His eyes blink rapidly, trying to sense his bearings. The pillow his head's resting on is doused in the familiar scent of pinewood and cinnamon. He's lying flat on his back on the floor of a room that wasn't his but still familiar as the place in which he spends most of his free time. Miyuki crouches above him, bracing himself on his left palm—whose fingers almost curl into Eijun's hair.

His bleary eyes make out Miyuki's face looming over his sleeping frame. The shadows from the harsh tube light masks the older boy's face but Eijun can almost make out a hint of concern in his amber eyes.

The thought of Miyuki worrying about him sends a jolt of pleasure throughout his chest although he's not quite sure why.

His voice isn't as husky as it was before but it is still lower than Eijun expects and he can't stop his cheeks from flushing in response.

"Y-y-yes?" he stutters, ears following suit and turning as crimson as his cheeks.

Miyuki pushes himself away from Eijun—who can't stop himself from feeling a pang in his chest at the action—and sits up, leaning against the frame of the bed. Eyebrows drawing together, he studies Eijun with a piercing gaze before looking away in the opposite direction. "It's nothing really," he mutters in a deceptively casual voice. "You had a really interesting expression on your face."

Eijun bites his lips and Miyuki's gaze immediately snaps towards the gesture. The look in his eyes sends a tingling sensation sweeping up his neck and back. His chest tightens hard enough that he's almost gasping to breathe.

Miyuki's overbright gaze is the same as one he saw in his memory. No. Wait. It wasn't a memory. Unless one could have memories of the future.

Eijun can feel his drool drying on his cheeks, lifting a leaden arm slowly to wipe it away. His movements are vague and unfocused; he's more focused on calming his escalating heartbeat and replying without making a fool of himself. A task easier said than done according to a sneering voice in his head—one that sounds a lot like Kuramochi-senpai.

His other hand tightly clutches the shoujo manga he had been reading against his chest.

The shoujo manga he's been reading of a girl who fell in love with the senpai she admired.

Oh.

It was a dream. A dream where he and Miyuki-senpai stand in place of the characters amidst the rippling sakura petals.

His thoughts are akin to a swirling hurricane, picking apart any attempt to reflect on them. The intensity of the dream has left him breathless.

The sound of his heartbeats is so loud that it is making his ears ring; surprisingly, Miyuki-senpai can't hear his heart's imitation of a drum concert.

Eijun answers in what he feels is a garish imitation of his normal voice but it's the best he can do for now. "You woke me up from a deep sleep, Cap! How am I supposed to know what expression my face was making?"

Miyuki sighs, rubbing his temples. "I'm not "Cap" anymore, Sawamura. Besides, you're the one trespassing in my room. If you want to sleep, go do it in yours. Kuramochi isn't there to bother you anymore."

Eijun tilts his head away, focusing on the door. "You don't have to say it in such a mean way. I was just having a painful dream, that's all," he mutters in a huff.

Miyuki's expression is blank; if he's doing it on purpose he needn't have bothered—Eijun has never successfully been able to read him outside of baseball anyways. The partnership as Seidou's strongest battery is transient at best. Miyuki's actions and intentions on the field—transparent and clear as day to Eijun—become opaque and convoluted outside it.

The gap between their battery and their relationship as Miyuki Kazuya and Sawamura Eijun was akin to an insurmountable abyss. There are days when the chasm is almost within closing distance but one snide remark and an angry retort later widens it once again.

Eijun draws in a long breath, opening the manga volume to distract himself from any more painful thoughts. He comes here to spend time with Miyuki and no matter how brusque the catcher can be, Eijun doesn't want to let go of whatever fragmented connections they have.

He's lying down in the room Miyuki shares with Kuramochi-senpai right now—the one assigned to them after retirement. Graduation is still a few months away; Eijun's dream is merely a foretelling of what is to come. Eventually.

For now, the third years are focused more on clearing their college exams or exploring other options. Kuramochi-senpai is frantically studying to enter the same college as Ryou-san—enduring Miyuki's smirks and Harucchi's knowing glance but retaliating whenever Eijun mentions it; a fact the younger boy bears with ill grace.

Unlike his roommate, Miyuki has decided on going pro immediately after graduating. Baseball teams throughout the country have recognised his fearsome prowess on the baseball field so he doesn't need to worry about a lack of offers. He's merely content watching the mad rush around him, remaining tight-lipped no matter how much Eijun wheedles him.

Sometimes, Miyuki drops by their practices to egg them on; Eijun has to resist his conditioned reflex and chase after him. There's a melancholy air around the former catcher whenever Eijun catches Miyuki sneaking glances at him—those moments last only for a second before he turns around and walks away from Eijun, leaving a bitter taste in the younger boy's mouth.

Eijun is not the same over-enthusiastic kid who rushes into matters far beyond his understanding anymore. His position as the ace and his desire to be a reliable senpai have helped him advance past his limitations. Maybe Miyuki has outgrown Eijun's world but any thoughts of forgetting the catcher—the reason he came to Seidou—and moving on melt away when he remembers that look.

He wants to understand Miyuki. He wants Miyuki to understand him.

Eijun wants the gap to disappear before their splintered connection dissolves fully.

Even though Miyuki has a lot of free time, he still manages to vanish whenever Eijun tries to hunt for him with a loud, "Miyuki Kazuya, catch for me!" It's not the best approach—his senpai has never been broken by any of his previous cajoling pleas but baseball grounds them into a battery. The only relationship in which they've ever understood each other till now.

Sometimes, Miyuki agrees to catch for him—whether out of eagerness or resignation is something he doesn't know—and Eijun can feel everything falling into place like a perfect symphony. He tries to hold on to the feeling as long as he can but it slips through his fingers like an illusion that was never there.

So he spends time in Miyuki's new room in the retired senpais dorms as he did before when they were teammates. Like always, Miyuki sits at his desk, finishing homework or looking up data, graciously offering a pillow to Eijun who's lounging around reading his manga. No matter how irritating the catcher behaves sometimes, he always takes care of Eijun.

It's a habit they've had since Eijun's first winter at Seidou. With Miyuki being banned from the practice grounds because of his injury and rehabilitation, Eijun needed a way to fulfil his regular dosage of Miyuki. He excused himself into the older boy's room with complaints of Kuramochi-senpai's loudness. After much grumbling and threats of kicking out over noise control, Miyuki agreed to let Eijun read his manga in peaceful silence—he was only able to resist for a few minutes before sitting down next to Eijun to read with him anyways. It was the first time they had spent time together outside the field, just basking in each other's presence.

The time they spend doing different things together will always remain Eijun's favourite memory of them.

Even after the senpais retires, Eijun lets a few days go by before his withdrawal is too intense to bear and he resumes his old habit of bringing his reading material to Miyuki's new room. He had been so excited to see Miyuki for the first time since Nationals, he even ignored Miyuki's snide teasing. Not that there was very much of it. For once, Miyuki had reciprocated his pleasure and hadn't left his side until Eijun had to tear himself away and bid the older boy a somber goodnight.

Whenever Wolf-boy runs out of patience and huffily tells him to finish practicing and go to sleep, he always dashes to Miyuki's room instead, loudly complaining about cheeky kouhais along the way. After a quick back and forth in which insults are exchanged, Kuramochi leaves them alone to go badger Zono and the battery settles down into their usual routine. Miyuki hasn't shown his softer side again since that first day but Eijun doesn't mind. He's always excited enough for both of them.

Eijun doesn't know if Miyuki senses the soft smile he has on his face or if he's ignoring it out of embarrassment but Eijun wears a matching grin out of happiness too.

Occasionally, Miyuki finishes whatever he's doing before Eijun leaves and almost immediately settles down next to him, sticking as close to him as he possibly can. Eijun leans into the older boy's touch as well; they read the pages and lose themselves in playful banter until Kuramochi returns and the temporary spell is broken.

Miyuki interrupts Eijun's musings with a quiet, "What were you dreaming of that made the dream so painful?"

Eijun turns over on his side, burying his face in the pillow and almost flinging the manga across the room in the process. "I was dreaming of you," he mutters. Maybe talking about it would alleviate the tight feeling in his chest.

Miyuki's eyes widened, his mouth almost falling open in shock. "Me? I was the one hurting you?"

"No, I didn't mean it like that at all!" Eijun vehemently protested, furiously shaking his head. "It was about your graduation. That was the sad part."

"My graduation made you sad? Why?" Miyuki's voice is rough—nothing like his usually nonchalant manner.

Eijun snorts, the pillow muffling his words. "What do you mean why, Miyuki Kazuya? Why wouldn't it make me sad? You're leaving me behind after all."

Out of the corner of his eye, Eijun sees Miyuki raise his hand in the pitcher's direction before letting it fall back down by his side. "You don't want to be left behind? I had a feeling that maybe you didn't enjoy my company at all." The bitterness in his voice is strong enough to make Eijun's heart feel as if it's being enclosed in a tight, cold fist.

Eijun narrows his eyes at the reaction, furiously rubbing the back of his neck. "That's not true at all and you know it! I'm always the one running after you. Isn't that proof enough? Are you sure you're not the one who hates me?" he fires back, his right hand tightening into a fist.

Miyuki grimaces, looking down at his feet. "I don't hate you or anything, Sawamura. Sure, you're annoying but I'm not going to leave you behind."

Eijun glares, eyes alight with fury. "We spend very little time together now. Someday, it's going to be very easy for you to abandon me."

Miyuki furrows his brow, pursuing his lips. "It'll be easier for you to abandon me instead."

Eijun pouts, puffing his cheeks. "I'm never going to abandon you, Miyuki Kazuya! I'll follow you around for my whole life no matter what."

Miyuki grins, lips curling into a wicked smirk. "You look like a dog and act like one too, but I didn't know you believe that you're a temperamental little puppy, Bakamura."

"Don't call me Bakamura! Or a puppy! Why do you have to be so mean, you tanuki bastard," Eijun fumes, gnashing his teeth.

"Thanks for the compliment," Miyuki retorts in a nonchalant tone.

"It's not a compliment! Why do you—"

Miyuki smoothly interrupts, saying, "Why don't you just ask if you want to spend more time with me?"

"I ask you all the time!" Eijun howls. "You're the one who always pulls a disappearing act like you're a magician when I ask you to catch for me."

Miyuki sighs, rubbing his forehead. "I don't want to waste all my time just playing baseball with you," he replies in a quiet voice.

Eijun's shoulders droop, his vision blurring by the tears forming in the corner of his eyes. There's a heavy feeling spreading across his body, weighing down his limbs. With a loud sniffle, he hoists himself up, muttering, "If I'm bothering you or wasting your time, I'm very sorry for that. I'll just go away right now."

Miyuki immediately grabs his arm, quick as a cat, and pulls Eijun towards him. Losing his balance from the sudden jerk, he topples over, pushing down the older boy and reversing their positions from earlier.

Eijun scowls, lips pressing together and flattening. "Why did you do that?" he growls, his voice rising higher in pitch when he sees Miyuki still hasn't let go of his arm. "You could've seriously hurt yourself!"

"Don't go, Sawamura. Didn't you say you'll follow me your whole life no matter what?" Miyuki murmurs, his sultry tone raising the hairs on Eijun's nape.

"You're just sending mixed signals," Eijun stutters, his pulse thundering like gunfire in his ears.

Miyuki doesn't reply; he lets his heated gaze travel all over Eijun's crouching figure, from top to bottom, lingering on his lips before sweeping over his throat, traveling further downwards—the younger boy can feel his cheeks growing redder by the second. He traces soothing circles on Eijun's forearm, shifting until Eijun's knees lie in the gap between his legs.

His eyes are over-bright, almost feverish and the expression in them sends shivers down Eijun's spine. With his other arm, he pulls Eijun flush against his chest and places his chin on top of the younger boy's head.

The pounding of his heart is fiercer than ever; he can barely hear anything else above it. Being in such close proximity to Miyuki, he can feel the heat radiating from the other boy's body, warming his face even more, turning the color from red to bright maroon. He's frozen in place, unable to make a single movement without Miyuki's signal. He holds his body stiffly but Miyuki starts gently rubbing his back, coaxing Eijun into a relaxed state.

Eijun wills his erratic pulse to calm down, taking slow, deep breaths. Just like in the dream, Miyuki's eyes have transformed from their normal brown color into an enticing amber, much like tree sap that traps captivated bugs and lures them into a suffocating death. His pupils are fully dilated, almost blown fully black, his gaze like a predator who's got his prey in sight. Just like in the dream, when Miyuki finally speaks again, his voice is pleasantly husky—Eijun closes his eyes and tries not to drown in the sensations the low timbre awakens.

"I didn't mean it like that at all, Sawamura. I don't want to spend all our time on the field outside, you know. Just being here like this, this is nice too."

Eijun slowly nods. "Yeah, this feels good too," he mumbles bashfully, slurring some words trying to get through his embarrassment.

Miyuki smirks, a teasing lilt in his voice as he says, "Oh, you're very forward, Sawamura-kun. We haven't really done anything and here you are, talking about how good my embrace feels."

Eijun blushes, flinching away and breaking the cage-like hug Miyuki's holding him in. Miyuki's grin slips off his face for a moment before returning flatter and more distant than before. "Stop teasing me, Miyuki Kazuya! We're having a serious talk here!"

Miyuki hums, "You're the one who pushed me down, Sawamura-kun. What a cheeky kouhai."

Eijun's blush returns with full force as he hisses, "You pulled me over. Take responsibility, you shitty senpai."

"Take responsibility, huh."

Miyuki grabs Eijun's shoulders and pulls himself up, pushing the younger boy against the bed frame in the process. One hand slowly slides down the younger boy's chest, wrapping around his waist. The other one strokes Eijun's cheek, digging into his hair and pinning it to the back of his head. Miyuki licks his lips—Eijun is hypnotised by the glistening, light pink color and unconsciously imitates the action, forcing a tight grin onto the older boy's face.

His eyes aren't playful or teasing but filled with arousal and desire.

He leans in close, his breath tickling Eijun's ear—heating the back of his neck and making goosebumps erupt all over his sensitive skin. His voice is so low it can't even be called a whisper but Eijun hears it clearly. "Don't regret what you've said, Sawamura."

Before Eijun can reply, Miyuki presses his lips against his, robbing the younger boy of a chance to retort.

The kiss starts with just their lips mashing together—Eijun is taken by surprise and even if he wasn't, he wouldn't know what to do; any knowledge he has about kisses comes purely from shoujo mangas. The hand cradling his head holds him firmly in place—he can't break the hold even if he wants to. His breath has coalesced into a tight ball constricting his throat. Eijun is completely helpless in the face of sensory overload, a doll that can be arranged at will—a fact Miyuki Kazuya takes advantage of.

Miyuki licks the younger boy's lips, soliciting a gasp from Eijun. Taking advantage of the small opening, he plunges his tongue into Eijun's mouth, making him moan in pleasure. Miyuki's moan is softer but just as fervent. His heaving breaths are beginning to have an odd effect on Eijun, creating a scorching feeling in the pit of his stomach. His hands have no strength in them but he weakly clutches at Miyuki's waist—whether to pull him in or push away, Eijun can't tell anymore.

They break apart just as Eijun's breaths become burning sensations he can no longer ignore. He's panting, trying to coax air into his aching lungs. It's a good thing he's already sitting down—he's sure his legs can't bear his weight anymore.

Eijun clutches the pillow like a drowning man clutches his life jacket. Between the dream and the kiss, he can't think straight anymore. His pulse is shooting through the roof and the ball of acid forming in his stomach is corroding everything it touches. He opens his mouth but no words come out. He furiously shakes his head and tries again. "Why did y-you do that?" He can't stop his voice from breaking down.

Miyuki is panting, his eyes glossy, skin completely flushed. His tongue darts out to moisten his lips and Eijun's eyes are glued to them like magnets. His voice is hoarse, filled with desire. "You looked like you wanted it."

Eijun shudders, desperately trying to gather his thoughts and understand the situation. "Are you just making fun of me? As always? I thought—" he sobs, hands curling around his middle.

Miyuki's face falls. With narrowed eyes, he stumbles backwards. He opens his mouth, eyes full of emotion, before snapping it shut, the thin line of his mouth hardening. He shrugs, turning away from Eijun. "Don't worry, it didn't mean anything."

Eijun feels like he's been punched in the gut—he can feel his breath being forced out from his lungs.

Miyuki's eyes widen, a panicked expression settling on his face. He extends his arm and Eijun shrinks away. "Sawamura—"

Eijun can't. He needs to escape. He needs to leave before Miyuki uses his words and bends the situation to his will. He shoots up, dashing across the room, ignoring Miyuki's protests and slamming the door. He runs down the stairs, clutching the railing for dear life.

Eijun doesn't want it to mean nothing. Hearing those words shattered the tenuous bond they have like it was made of porcelain and those shards are now piercing his soul. He feels as if someone is holding his heart in a fist and slowly crushing it. His palms feel clammy and he can’t get his knees to support him. He doesn’t want to run. He wants to fall to the ground, curl up and simply escape.

Like everything else in their relationship, the kiss is just a fleeting, transient delusion. No matter what Eijun does, he can't close the gap between them.

He isn't in love with Miyuki.

Then why does it feel like he just got his heart broken?


Eijun focuses on the pitching machine, eyes narrow. His body is completely taut, fingers curled around the bat in a light grip, readying his stance. As the ball hurtles across towards, he takes a full swing, body twisting under the bent of its force. And he misses.

He grits his teeth, scowling as he digs his heels into the dirt once again. Trying to ignore his hardened stomach, he's adjusting his grip as a voice speaks up.

"That's the sixth time in a row you've missed it, senpai."

Even though the speaker's behind him, masked in the shadows, the owner of the cold, haughty voice is unmistakable.

"If you have time to make snarky comments, you have time to catch for me, Wolf-boy."

Eijun looks towards the younger catcher who's adjusting the straps of his knee pads.

Okumura's wearing a flat expression on his face as he continues, "I'll have to pass. I'm not interested in catching for someone who doesn't have his head in the game."

Eijun lets out a bark of forced laughter, making Okumura wince and shoot a pointed glare in his direction. "I didn't know you've watched High School Musical too, Okumura. I really like that movie too." Eijun tries to grin at his joke but it freezes into a garish half-smile. The effort is too painful.

"If you have time to make such lame jokes you should focus on solving your personal crisis instead." Okumura is looking steadily in his direction but he can't meet his eyes.

Eijun considers laughing again to alleviate some of the tension but the younger boy's piercing stare gives him second thoughts. "What personal crisis? Everything's alright in my life."

Okumura's face wears a pinched expression and he crosses his arms, sighing heavily. "If you're trying to say that your usual level of playing is the same as it is today then I'm very worried about the state of the next match."

Eijun leans forward, waving his hands in excitement. "Don't be so rude to your senpai! I'm the best ace Seidou has ever seen! Especially better than Furuya!"

"Does Miyuki-senpai agree with that statement too?" Okumura asks in a quiet voice.

Eijun freezes like a deer in headlights. He didn't expect to be ambushed by the catcher's name so suddenly. "Why're you bringing up that bastard tanuki?" he mutters, kicking at the dirt vehemently.

"Because he's standing right there," Okumura replies, his voice completely blase.

Eijun whips around immediately, his heart pounding like he's just finished a marathon. "There's no one there!" he yells, nostrils flaring, turning towards Okumura, anger alight in his eyes. "I don't see him anywhere."

"I must've been mistaken then."

Eijun glowers, grinding his teeth. "Don't joke like that!"

Okumura raises a pointed eyebrow, wearing a faint sneer on his face. "Did you two fight?" he ponders, rolling his eyes.

"I saw that! Don't roll your eyes at a senpai, Wolf-boy!" Eijun scolds, shaking his head fiercely. "Why would you think that?"

Okumura sighs, looking away from Eijun. His jaw tight, he sneers, "You've been jumping around like a squirrel on steroids for the past few days and he hasn't dropped by since you started acting strangely either. It's not rocket science. Anyone can tell something's happened between the two of you whenever you aren't your usual self."

Eijun's laugh is shaky, too low for anybody to hear but it still makes his ears ring. So everybody knows. As always, he's the last to arrive at any realisation. "I haven't been searching for him. I didn't even know he was missing," he mutters, lowering his head.

"That's never mattered to you, senpai. Whether he's here or not, you're always looking at him."

Okumura's matter of fact voice makes Eijun look up. He's giving him a knowing glance and for once his face isn't hostile. In fact, he's wearing an expression that can almost be called gentle.

They stand in amicable silence for a few seconds before Okumura departs, leaving behind Eijun lost in his thoughts.

Eijun has always been surrounded by people. Having a large group of friends since childhood made him comfortable around people and he genuinely enjoys his interactions with everyone he comes across. Some people choose to stay back but he knows that some prefer solitude and so he leaves them alone to choose when they'll approach him. For a long time, he's believed Miyuki to be one of those solitary people but Eijun just can't understand any of his reactions.

Any time he chases Miyuki, he's met with mocking smiles and well-crafted taunts that make him halt in his tracks. He pulls away, afraid he's being too persistent, but Miyuki keeps looking at him until Eijun's curiosity flares up again and the cycle continues.

Any time they come close to breaking it, one of them falters.

He racks his brains over and over but he can't find a solution.

Does he even want one?

Why can't he just let go of Miyuki?

The last thought leaves a queasy sensation in his stomach like his mind can't even bear to think of such a thing. And it's true. Miyuki is the reason he even came to Seidou. He influenced Eijun's life before they even became a battery. Eijun would stop playing baseball sooner than forgetting Miyuki Kazuya.

He begins to feel his brain overheat from the volcano of thoughts erupting in his head. Slapping his cheeks till they sting and resemble ripe tomatoes, he strides towards the equipment shed and grabs his tire. He needs an exhausting run with his trusty companion to clear his head.

The sky changes from indigo blue to velvety darkness dotted with glowing stars by the time he's finished. He stops in the middle of the field, the tire next to him, his throat completely dry. He's dry heaving, lungs trying to take big gulps of air but spending them again in the next instant. His vision blurs as the lack of air leaves a painful stitch in his side.

He collapses on the ground, flat on his back, legs shaking from the exhaustion. His forehead's damp and there is a faint trickle of sweat making its way down his face.

He's managed to block out thoughts of Miyuki and their kiss but now that he's resting, he can't stop them from creeping back in. To distract himself, he tries remembering how he used to picture his first kiss to try and overwrite the actual one.

In the light of the setting sun, as it sinks out of view behind the mountains, dousing everything in a brilliant orangish-gold color. Eijun's hands tremble as he brings his lover closer to him. With closed eyes and puckered lips, the kiss tastes better than anything he's ever felt before. It's over before he knows it and he lets out a noise of protest, opening his eyes to beg his lover to continue. Miyuki-senpai smiles back at him and—

Eijun sits up with a jolt, his hand flying to his chest, trying to calm his pulse rising from the surprise. He can feel the rush of adrenaline coursing through his veins.

What's Miyuki doing, appearing in his fantasies? That's never happened before. He's always pictured a faceless girl next to him—not his admittedly very handsome senpai.

The kiss must have fried his imagination, he thinks. Furiously shaking his head to get rid of any remnants, he tries imagining it once more, trying to remind himself that Miyuki isn't his lover.

He's standing on a bridge, overlooking a river whose waters shimmer in the moonlight as if diamonds were caught between rippling streams. There's a cool breeze spreading the scent of the roses he's gifted to his lover. He turns towards them, leaning in to capture their lips. Miyuki-senpai stares back at him, familiar grin in place, amber eyes framed by the crimson petals and—

Eijun groans, burying his face in his hands. He'll never admit how much his real first kiss has satisfied and aroused him more than any fantasy ever has but Miyuki entering his dreams to haunt him is something he hadn't foreseen.

It's completely useless. No matter which detail he changes, Miyuki's face is the only one he can picture as his lover.

Eijun can't stop a jolt of pleasure from spreading through his body whenever he realizes it.

He's left with a sinking feeling in his chest.

Does he like Miyuki? Or is it merely admiration?

Images flash through his mind, a montage of all the time they've spent together.

Miyuki casually slinging an arm across his shoulders, whispering aibou to him, the word that changed his life.

Soft words of encouragement and a steady hand on his back whenever he felt like falling into the throes of despair.

His proud smile when Eijun recovered from the yips and threw to the inside once again.

Playful matching grins they wore when tricking people together both on the field and off it as well.

Sitting on the stairs underneath the stars, switching their cans of black coffee and coffee milk while mocking each other for their tastes.

Dragging Eijun back to his room in the dead of the night and tucking him in bed after making sure Kuramochi was asleep and wouldn't tease him for it.

Eijun clutching Miyuki's arm in fear whenever the team watched horror movies, the catcher mocking him and making fun of him as usual but still sharing his blanket and rubbing his arm in a soothing gesture.

Sneaking into Miyuki's room at dawn, hovering over his eye-mask covered face and pulling it up, watching his eyes slowly widen open like a new-born kitten's. And best of all, seeing Miyuki's genuine smile, as heartwarming as sunlight after a long spell of rain, free of its usual barbs and cruel twists.

A soft smile spreads across Eijun's face as he savours the memory. Miyuki's prone to fake laughter, snide comments replacing genuine smiles more often than not. The few occasions Eijun has been graced with heartfelt laughter are among his most treasured memories. When Miyuki's being his prickly best and Eijun needs reminders of why he cares so much about such a cold person, he remembers the baseball field, Miyuki's glove tapping his chest, his amber eyes gleaming with life and his face scrunched up with genuine laughter. No one's ever been able to elicit such intense emotions in him apart from Miyuki Kazuya.

Oh.

He likes him. He likes Miyuki Kazuya.

Eijun can experience the heady rush of his first love only for a fleeting second before reality sends his euphoria into a pit of despair. Remembering the events following their kiss and Miyuki's cold denial of their kiss makes Eijun feel as if there is a stone in his chest, weighing down everything, crushing his ribs.

He can't stop tears falling down his face from the cruelty of it all. He'd been right before.

Miyuki Kazuya had broken his heart.

Eijun curls his body into a tight coil, holding onto the tire for dear life as well. His shuddering breaths make his chest rise and fall rapidly, desperately searching for air. An abrasive ball forms in his throat, almost suffocating him.

He can hear shouts and shrieks from the distant field; he doesn't want anyone to encroach his personal space right now. Eijun just wants to be alone to mourn something he'll never have.

After a while, when he's finally calmed down, he swipes his hand across his face, rubbing away the tear tracks. His eyes and nose are still red and puffy from crying but no one would notice as long as he runs to his room without anyone seeing him.

He succeeds, tearing across the Seidou Spirit Dorm and stopping in front of his door. Everyone else is engrossed in extra practice so Eijun will just turn in earlier than he always does and wake up tomorrow having moved on. As painful as it is, he has to do it.

He opens the door, expecting to greet Asada, and stops in his tracks, slack-jawed. Kuramochi-senpai is languishing on Eijun's bed, lazily flipping through the pages of a sports magazine.

For a moment, it feels like he's gone back in time, Kuramochi never left and Eijun is a first-year all over again, returning from a late-night run to the older boy's admonishments.

Eijun gives him an incredulous stare before asking, "What are you doing here?"

Kuramochi scowls, a dangerous expression signaling Eijun's doom spreads across his face. "Is that any way to talk to your senpai? I've lived longer in this room than you have, Bakamura."

Eijun bows in apology making Kuramochi snort and mutter something about cheeky kouhais and discipline.

He waits for Kuramochi's anger to abate before speaking up, trying to ensure his voice is as respectful as possible. "Can you please move away from my bed?"

Kuramochi rolls his eyes and shifts in place, making no move to listen to Eijun's wish and get up. "Nope. I need a break from studying and my roommate moping around the room like he's a ghost that's haunting the place of his death."

"Miyuki-senpai acts very weirdly sometimes," Eijun muses, shrugging his shoulders.

Kuramochi hums in agreement. He narrows his eyes, flicking them in Eijun's direction before looking back at the magazine and continuing in a deceptively casual voice, "He has a good reason this time though."

Eijun feels his palms begin to sweat. Chewing his lip, his breathing begins to quicken again as Kuramochi stares at him. His eyes aren't as accusatory as Okumura's but they're far more knowing and Eijun can't bear to meet them.

"Do you know about it?" Eijun blurts out, unable to bear the silence stretching out between them. He doesn't know how to deal with it—they've never been silent in each other's presence for even a second.

"Know about what? That he finally made a move and you ran away?" He's giving Eijun a significant look, scrutinising him, debating whether or not the conversation is worth it.

Eijun swallows, his throat suddenly dry. He's not as big an idiot as everyone thinks he is— over the years, he's learnt to read between the lines. But he still needs to speak out. To confirm whatever Kuramochi is insinuating. "What do you mean finally?" His voice is soft as a whisper but his senpai can hear it clearly through the silence. "Isn't that what you've always wanted? You chase after him relentlessly and when he finally faces you, you're the one who runs away?"

Eijun gnashes his teeth, hands balling into fists at his sides. With a strained voice, he hisses, "Why are you saying that I ran away? Why does everybody keep saying I chase after him? What was I supposed to do? I didn't want any of this!"

Kuramochi sits up and Eijun immediately backs away in reflex. He stalks over to the younger boy; Eijun feels his back hitting the closed door.

Eijun is taller than him but he almost crouches in shame at the stern look his senpai's giving him. Kuramochi scoffs, "Are you sure about that? Think carefully about the meaning of your actions."

Miyuki staring at him, eyes filled with desire. His heartbeat quickening, matching rhythms with Miyuki's. The feeling of soft lips pressed against. The scent of pinewood and cinnamon enveloping up. His mouth being explored by the other's tongue. Miyuki's bright eyes filled with— happiness? Happiness. That quickly turned into fear and regret at Eijun's reaction.

Oh.

Oh.

It was Eijun's fault. It was his fault Miyuki pretended to deny his true feelings behind the kiss.

Something must've shown in his eyes because Kuramochi sighs, slaps the back of Eijun's head and goes back to lie down on the bed. "Finally," he snorts. "Watching you two idiots dance around each is beginning to hurt."

"I didn't even realize," Eijun mutters in a stunned voice.

"Of course," is Kuramochi's immediate quip. "You're an oblivious idiot, Bakamura. You never realize how obvious you are."

Eijun whines. "Was I really obvious?"

"Painfully so. All the wrestling holds in the world won't pay back the pain you've caused me. In fact, the only person more oblivious than you is Miyuki. He couldn't even see what all of us can see clearly enough."

Eijun rubs his forearm, nauseous from his roiling stomach. "I don't know what to do," he admits in a small voice. "I think I hurt him, Kuramochi-senpai."

"He's hurt you plenty of times too. And you've hurt him. Anytime one of you crosses the line, I finally think it's about to end for good but forgiveness comes easy to both of you. And you go right back to each other's side. You're gonna let something like this stop you?"

Eijun bites his lip, thinking deeply. It's true. There have been times Miyuki's pushed his anger beyond the boiling point and times when he's infuriated Miyuki enough that the older boy stops holding back with his jabs and aims it where it hurts the most. But nothing has ever stopped Eijun from going back to that room, shoujo manga in hand. Nothing has ever stopped Miyuki from tossing his pillow towards Eijun and announcing that he'll join him as soon as he's done with his work.

The silence in the room is only broken by the intermittent sounds of Kuramochi turning the pages of the magazine.
"Is there anything you can understand, Bakamura?" he remarks in a wry voice.

Yes, there is one thing that he does understand.

The strength of his feelings.

He doesn't want to run away anymore. He wants to do what he's always done—no matter how stacked the odds are against him, he'll face the problem with all his willpower and win.

Flinging the door open, he yells out a loud, "Kuramochi-senpai, I'm heading out!"

"If you dare do anything dirty in my room, Sawamura, you won't live to see tomorrow!" Kuramochi barks, but Eijun's already left. He's heading towards Miyuki's room, taking the stairs two at a time.

Sakura petals are like raindrops—momentary elegance that disappears as soon as you've had a second to savour it. They are beauty in transience, fleeting joys that come and go in their own unpredictable way. Just like love. Sometimes love isn't built to last. A love that fills your soul with pleasure can be short-lived and bring hatred and regret the very next day.

It would be so easy to look at their bond as something temporary. The messy, complicated emotions arising from it as a nuisance fixed by time and distance. All Eijun has to do is stay still.

Miyuki's graduation is inevitable and slowly, everything will end, all these arduous, excruciating sentiments. In time, no matter how strong their attraction is, Eijun will let go.

But he doesn't want to. He's done with chasing after and running away. He's going to stay his ground and grasp his dream with his own hands.

Eijun is not letting go this time.

They're going to hold each other in an embrace and look at the dance of the wind and the sakura petals together this year and all the years that follow. The strength of Seidou's strongest battery will save Miyuki Kazuya and Sawamura Eijun.


Eijun slams open the door, yelling a very loud, "Miyuki Kazuya!" making his senpai jump up from his chair in surprise, almost falling over before gripping the edge of the table at the last second.

He's panting heavily like he's just run a marathon but he can't let that stop him from getting out the words he desperately wants to say.

After an initial moment of wide-eyed shock, Miyuki's expression hardens and he turns his back towards Eijun, muttering in a low voice, "Go away, Sawamura. I'm busy right now."

"We need to talk about what happened between us," Eijun insists.

"Didn't I tell you to forget about that," Miyuki retorts coldly.

Now that his mad rush of confidence has faded, Eijun feels his cheeks begin to warm up as he remembers the embarrassing events that happened the last time he was in this room.

"I can't forget about it. I won't forget about it." The hard tone in his declaration finally makes Miyuki glance towards him, though only for a second.

"You don't need to pretend for my sake. I don't want to be led on by you," Miyuki snarls through gritted teeth.

A spasm of irritation spreads throughout Eijun—he almost opens his mouth to make an angry retort before realizing his mistake and taking a calming breath. Acting without thinking is what made the situation worse in the first place.

He shakes his head slightly, trying to get rid of the negative thoughts. "You know, Miyuki-senpai," he begins, trying not to let the pit of acid bubbling in his stomach corrode his words, "You're the one who's leading me on. I've always, always looked up to you and admired you. But you just tease me and make fun of me until you're satisfied and then you throw me away. I try so hard to make you see me. I can't imagine life without you. So much so that even dreams of you graduating hurt more than anything else. I want you to look at me, Miyuki-senpai. I just want you to see me."

Miyuki's floundering, his eyes bigger than they've ever been and mouth half-open in surprise.

Eijun's rant has devolved into mumbles now, almost incoherent, but he pushes through. "Why did you say that it meant nothing?" He needs to know the answer—he wants his speculations and guesses to reveal themselves as something concrete. He doesn't know how he'll ever recover if he's wrong about this.

Miyuki sighs, looking at Eijun with pained eyes. The unsure expression on his face makes Eijun's pulse shoot up in an unruly rebellion.

"I didn't know what to do," Miyuki begins, slowly, like he's weighing every word carefully. "You looked like you were dying. I panicked. I'm not as in control of things as you think I am, Sawamura. I thought you felt the same way I did. You looked like you were feeling it too. I couldn't resist it anymore. I wanted you to see me too—beyond my position as catcher. But then you started crying and everything went horribly wrong. I didn't think you'd hate it this much. So when I looked at you breaking down like that, I didn't know what to do."

Eijun feels his resolve crumbling—the chaotic tangle of their emotions seems too daunting to ever straighten out. His chest feels heavy and his intestines seem to have knotted themselves, weighing down everything.

"So you kissed me and told me it meant nothing?" Eijun marches towards the older boy and yanks him up from the chair, gripping his shoulders tightly. With shining golden eyes, he declares, "Take responsibility, Miyuki Kazuya!"

"Don't say those words if you don't mean them," Miyuki snaps, a vein throbbing in his neck.

"I mean those words with all my heart. I never say anything I don't believe in. You may have been reading all those shoujo mangas with me while having ulterior motives but learn from them! The confession comes before the kiss. You're not a shoujo manga master like me but you should've known that much at least! If you're saying that you like me, then confess."

Miyuki lets out a shaky laugh, almost sagging into Eijun's arms. He draws the younger boy into a tight embrace—Eijun squeaks in surprise, ears flaming hot—and buries his face in the crook of his neck. Miyuki's face burning red—Eijun can feel the heat of his blush seeping through the shirt and into his skin, sending delightful quivers racing throughout his body.

"You chase me and then run away, and now you want a confession. You're a cruel man, Sawamura Eijun," Miyuki whispers against his neck.

"I've never really fallen for anyone before. I didn't know how to deal with my emotions. It's the first time I've ever been serious about anyone so I held back, wanting for these intense and annoying feelings to fade away. Baseball is the most important thing to both of us so I thought it was better if we just focused on our battery. But after I retired, I found my life was lacking something. At first, I just thought I missed playing baseball. But the lack of it was temporary, I assured myself. I'd return to the field soon enough. And even then, after all those self-reassurances, I still felt hollow. My life was gray and empty not because of baseball, but because—because you were missing."

Eijun is staying quiet but his arms squeeze Miyuki in a tight hug, trying to portray the depth of his understanding without destroying the moment.

"I always thought I was envious of you who's always surrounded by people. But I was content sitting by the sidelines and watching you because no matter how much of a racket you were making, you never lost sight of my presence. Only now that our battery doesn't really exist anymore, I realize that I was just jealous I couldn't show my emotions freely too.

Miyuki pulls back slightly, cradling Eijun's face in his hands. His warm, amber eyes are wide and genuine, swimming with emotion and his lips curl into a slight smile, soft as a feather. "Before I knew it, a bright-eyed idiot with a loud voice and a really beautiful smile crashed into my life, broke down my walls and refused to go away. I don't want you to be taken away by anyone else, so listen to this properly. The junior with a praise kink who approaches me like a puppy with stars in his eyes, who admires someone like me, who refuses to stop chasing me no matter what, is someone I like very much. So this time, you take responsibility for your actions, Eijun."

The way Miyuki says his name is like a fervent whisper as if it's the name of a god to be worshipped, filled with love and adoration.

Eijun's face and neck feel impossibly hot and he can't stop a blush from spreading across his cheeks. He can't bear to meet Miyuki's eyes, trying to hide with his fringe. He puffs his cheeks into an almost pout as Miyuki chuckles, low and rough, filled with desire.

"Miyuki-senpai, I—" he dithers, settling into the gap between Miyuki's legs while Miyuki plays with his hair.

"I'm sorry for running away." Eijun's voice is soft and filled with regret. He looks at Miyuki with pleading eyes. "It was so unexpected that my feelings didn't catch up. I just couldn't bear it meaning nothing. For a long time now, I've been chasing after you without knowing the depths of what I want. Or rather, my heart knew. My head couldn't keep up. I think I've always wanted to fall in love with you but something held me back—not from falling, that was always inevitable. From realizing that this was what I wanted. When I think about complicated stuff, it makes my head hurt."

Miyuki sniggers, a light gesture and looks at him with teasing eyes. "Why am I not surprised?"

Eijun pouts, sharply pulling at the other's hair. "This isn't the right time, Miyuki Kazuya! I'm trying to give you the best confession of all time," he shushes, placing a finger on Miyuki's lips.

Taking a deep breath, he continues. "So I'll just focus on simple stuff. My eyes are always searching for something. I start looking for you before I even know what I'm seeking. I chase after you because I want to stay by your side. I rush into your room every day because I want to give you my best smile and begin your day in the brightest way possible. I came to Seidou because a very cocky person told me that he wanted to make a work of art together. More than anything, I want to be your equal. It's always been as simple as this. It's always been you I want."

Eijun falters at the end, stumbling over voicing out his naked desires. Miyuki's wearing a tender expression on his face and Eijun can feel his eyes begin to tear up in response. There's a smile spreading across his face that cannot be contained. The warmth radiating from Eijun's body mingles with Miyuki's, making him sigh in pleasure. Breathing in the familiar scent of pinewood and cinnamon intoxicates him, and with glistening eyes, Eijun looks up at Miyuki, letting a small whimper escape his slightly parted lips.

Eijun can almost feel Miyuki's composure snap, as he leans forward, amber eyes dilating into a predatorial black, intent on devouring the younger boy before.

Eijun closes his eyes, bottom lip jutting out, scrunching his face in anticipation. He waits for a few seconds with bated breath for a kiss that never comes. He opens his eyes, letting out a small grumble in protest only to find Miyuki smiling so wide crinkles are forming in the corner of his eyes.

"What a cute face," Miyuki chuckles, voice hoarse from holding back his desire. "You really want me to kiss you that much, Eijun?"

Eijun's face heats up at the suggestive lilt in Miyuki's voice. "I don't know what to do! You took my first kiss!" he yells, weakly punching the other's chest, thrashing around in their embrace.

Miyuki grips him even tighter, forcing Eijun to stop imitating a fish out of water. "That was my first kiss too," he whispers. He captures Eijun's lips in an open-mouthed kiss that doesn't last as long as Eijun would've liked.

"That's your second kiss," Miyuki hums, wearing a smug grin on his face.

Eijun opens his mouth but before he can say anything, Miyuki slips his tongue inside and expertly traces the warmth of Eijun's mouth. Their tongues curl around each other, as Miyuki bites Eijun's swollen, bright pink bottom lip.

Breaking apart, Miyuki sings a playful, "That's the third," before diving back in and peppering Eijun with more kisses.

Another kiss in which Miyuki tilts his head so deeply, Eijun thinks he's trying to suck out his soul, "And your fourth."

Pressing his lips against the corner of Eijun's mouth, Miyuki has time to say only a quick, "That's the fifth—" before Eijun pushes away Miyuki's face.

"What are you doing?" Eijun gasps, heaving onerous breaths. His heart's thumping so loudly he's afraid it's going to escape his ribcage and make a break for it.

Miyuki beams, a burst of laughter escaping him, pure and genuine. "I'm not just content with your first one. I'm stealing all your kisses," he proclaims, stroking Eijun's cheek.

"You don't have to steal what belongs to you," Eijun whispers, barely getting the words out through his embarrassment.

Miyuki chokes, jaw dropping in surprise at Eijun's daring comment. "You're such a smooth operator, Sawamura-kun. Looks like reading all those shoujo mangas actually paid off."

Eijun harrumphs, biting back a proud smile. He falls back onto the floor, pulling Miyuki along by the neck of his shirt. He's trapped in between the older boy's arms, letting out a sigh, a devious grin spreading across his face.

"Call me Eijun, Kazuya-senpai," he whispers, watching proudly as Miyuki sucks in a trembling breath.

He digs his fingers into Miyuki's hair, reaching up to press his lips against the other's, nipping at the bottom one until Miyuki opens his mouth. He shyly bats his tongue against Miyuki's, throwing back his head to give the older boy more access, clutching at his shoulders for dear life. Miyuki nudges open Eijun's legs and pushes with his knee.

Eijun gasps, breaking apart their kiss and grabbing Miyuki's leg. He's holding in a breath, his neck bared, watching Miyuki's pupils dilate. He's feeling light-headed, nerve endings alight with pleasure, arousal concentrated at one particular point.

Miyuki raises an eyebrow, his skin flushed red. He licks his lips, flashing a wicked grin at a mesmerised Eijun.

"There are lots of other firsts, you know," he whispers, his voice almost conversational if his composure hadn't betrayed by his shuddering breaths.

"Didn't I tell you," a voice speaks out, trembling with suppressed fury. Kuramochi's standing in the entrance, fists clenched, a large vein throbbing in his neck. His lips were pulled back, baring his teeth. He's cracking his knuckles, moving slowly and deliberately, eyes fixed on the duo embracing each other on the floor

Eijun and Miyuki clutch at each other, heartbeats racing for a different reason now.

"Didn't I tell you not to do anything dirty in my damn room!"


The pale pink petals of the towering sakura tree flutter in the air, swaying as wind commands them. Eijun doesn't notice the blossoms trembling like leaves in a thunderstorm nor falling on him like steady drops of rain. He doesn't feel the bark of the tree he's pressed against digging into his back. All his senses are focused on the man before him. His lover. Someone who infuriates him with his incessant teasing but holds him and murmurs soft words of encouragement when he needs them the most. Someone who's brushing away his tears and reminding Eijun of his promise to follow him no matter where life takes them. For their whole lives.

His back is turned towards Eijun, and as always Eijun reaches out to it. Before he can grab it, Miyuki Kazuya turns around and grabs his hand, pulling Eijun towards him.

Miyuki pulls a sakura petal from his hair, enclosing it tightly in his fist, amber eyes filled with warmth and love.

Eijun buried his face in Miyuki's chest, whispering the words he'll only ever tell him. "I love you, Miyuki Kazuya."