5. Miyuki Kazuya
Kazuya swears he's going to get early white hair from trying to keep up with Sawamura. One match he's a complete and utter mess, stumbling over his new pitches, and then a match later he's sending goosebumps down his spine from his pitch-perfect ball.
So he supposes he should stop being surprised all together when Sawamura, still mute from his sore throat, brings two pom poms with him to the dugout.
He's shaking the soft pink pom-poms as they make their last preparations, drinking another sip of water, warming up their body, checking their bats and gear.
"Oi, Sawamura," Kuramochi calls out. "Stop messing around!"
With a pout, Sawamura hides himself behind the pom-pom. Kazuya smirked at Kuramochi's affronted look.
"Leave him be, Mochi. Maybe he's given up on being a pitcher and wants to be a cheerleader instead."
Tojou perks up, teasingly calling out, "Has my time come then?"
Sawamura gaped at them, soundlessly chewing them out. His pom-pom shakes in tandem with his temper.
"What are you mouthing off there you jerk?! You just said something about my mother didn't you?!"
"Alright, alright," Kazuya sighs, coming up behind him to cover his mouth. Sawamura shoots him a cat-eye glare, but with pom-poms in hand and his lack of vocal abilities it's as threatening as a slightly motivated chihuahua. "I won't tell you to throw it out. But don't overexert yourself. Norikane isn't the favorite to win, but that'll only make their plays more unpredictable and desperate."
Sawamura rolls his eyes, shoving one of the pom-poms to Kazuya's face.
Kazuya blew out a stray piece of pink paper from his mouth. "I'll take that as a yes my dearest most honorable senpai."
Sawamura pokes his tongue out and Kazuya only resisted the urge to tug it when Coach calls all the batter to group up.
It's an easy match up. Their batters perform as they're expected to. Kazuya still feels a jolt of pride when he sees the six runs they gained in the first inning.
Kazuya credits it to their batter's earnestness in improving over the last few months after their underperformance in the invitational and the fall tournament, of course, but today there's an extra pressure to do well. One shaped like Sawamura Eijun, equipped with the merciless deadly weapon that is a soft pink pom -pom.
You see, Sawamura brought the pom-poms to cheer on the team to make up for the lack of his usual commentary. Which is all and well, considering his waffle shaped scoreboard on their last practice match proved effective.
But it paled in comparison to the viciousness of the pom-pom.
Only players that hit a home run was greeted to a grinning and flushed Sawamura, pom-poms at a ready, shaken as he gushes at them silently.
Only Shirasu has had the pleasure of receiving said greeting, which he accepted an exasperated smile.
But if you hit anything else than a homer, you received nothing more than a nod. If you're lucky, a smile.
Kazuya saw the flames of rage building up inside every batter in the dugout. Everyone looked determined as they wiped down their bats. Maezono kept staring at the pom-poms longingly.
"He's got them all on the palm of their hands huh." Kuramochi drawls as he takes off his gloves.
Kuramochi shoots him an odd look for his casual response.
"Oh my god,” Kanemaru whispered in faint horror. “That dumbass gave us a praise kink .”
“Just be glad you’re not Asou.” Tojou laughs, pointing at the dejected batter who, despite hitting an RBI double, received nothing more than a pat on the back and a few thumbs up.
"Oi Miyuki," Kuramochi shoves him. "The hell are you frowning about?"
"Hmm, nothing. Nothing at all."
Kazuya rubs a hand over his face. He most definitely does not have a praise kink, much less for Sawamura. He's the older one here dammit! He's the main catcher! He should be the one giving out praises for Sawamura to lap on!
Bottom of the first inning, and Sawamura's up to pitch.
Kazuya calls for a cutter, hoping to figure out how Sawamura's numbers are today.
Instead, his breath gets taken away with a dull ache to his hand.
He's nearly perfect today. Nearly, because Kazuya knows this still isn't his full power.
Without his voice, he couldn't shout out his usual catchphrase, but the look he shared with the fielders as he raised up his fist was a clear message.
Zero. Absolutely zero runs given.
Even Kuramochi shouted out an osh with the rest of the fielders at that.
Bottom of the second, count 1-1, and Kazuya watched as the third pitch he hit scored an RBI and a double. Even as he prepared for a steal and Maezono hit the sloppy pitcher's fastball right on, he sighs when he arrives at home base. That still wasn't a home run.
Sawamura meets his eyes and smirks. He takes his pom-poms in a batting stance and swings, one of the pom-poms floating away as Sawamura holds it with an outstretched arm.
Kazuya stifled the fond smile with a bite of his lip. "Yeah, yeah, you only want home runs."
And then the bottom of the fourth inning came.
With eight runs on the bag, there's no need to overexert themselves. In fact, with Norikane's batters being as they are, they should continue pitching low and away.
He signed at much to Sawamura only for him to shake his head.
Kazuya blinks, then signs for an inside fastball.
Kazuya asks for a time out and the umpire announces it. He jogs to the mound, only to realize halfway through it that he has no way to communicate with Sawamura.
"Dammit," Kazuya curses softly. "Do you have a notepad? Course not. God, I should've prepared-"
Kazuya's rambling is cut off with a tug to his arm. Shocked, he lets himself be dragged in until there's no space between him and Sawamura. The pitcher is pressed to him, chest to chest, well, chest to gear, and with a shiver, Kazuya realizes what's about to happen.
"Miyuki-senpai," Sawamura whispers to his ear, voice rough and rasped. And oh, this is the first time in days-weeks, that Kazuya has heard Sawamura's voice. He misses it. "You're calling very tamely today."
Kazuya reminds himself this is a game, a very important one at that. Single elimination. Summer championship. One slip up and they're gone. This isn't the time to awaken very not straight feelings for his pitcher.
Kazuya has to clear his throat anyway before he answers. "Tamely? Is that what you're calling it?"
Sawamura smiles. "You've seen my numbers. We have eight runs. Don't tell me you're thinking about something as boring as we can give up a run or two ?"
"My," Kazuya smirks. "What a change of pace you've had from our last game."
He sees Sawamura pout from the corner of his eyes. "Don't tease me…"
"Sorry," Kazuya whispers back, feeling a little mischievous. Sawamura tenses, the tips of his ears going red. "If that's what you want Ace , then I'll call more...aggressively."
"H-huh?" Sawamura mumbles. "O-oh. Yeah. That's...what I want."
"Don't disappoint me," Kazuya says louder, backing up from the mound.
Irked that he can't whisper back whatever comeback he concocted, Sawamura mouths it out instead. Something about Kazuya being a jerk, and oh a jab about him being a tanuki bastard, ending with his tongue poked out.
Kazuya grins, tugging down his helmet. "Love you too!"
Kazuya jogs back home before Sawamura can grab him, squatting behind the batter after thanking the umpire. Just before the time out is rescinded, he fans his face with his hand. The umpire and the batter give him odd looks but sue him. He's not used to Sawamura being uncharacteristically quiet. And assertive. And bold.
He's learning from me and I don't know how to feel about that, Kazuya mused.
Huffing, Kazuya locks eyes with Sawamura once more and calls for a splitter. It lands perfectly on Kazuya's mitt.
It's a shutdown game ending in 13-0 across the board.
Kazuya flexed his fingers as he watched the Sousei-Kouwa game beyond the fence. Five innings. Just five innings, but again, Sawamura showed a side to him that Kazuya's never seen before.
It's not quite there yet though. Sawamura hasn't found his happy medium. But that intensity, his refusal to give up a single run, his aggressive playa even when they're well beyond safe in runs.
His pride as a pitcher, and his respect for the other team.
It was more than perfect.
He hears the team's comments about Sousei's plays every so often, and he reminds Furuya about Nara's famed defense, but his eyes stray to his back anyway.
"Hey, Sawa-" Kanemaru yells out.
"Don't bother Kanemaru, just let him be," Kazuya smiles. "He said he couldn't get a wink of sleep last night again."
Everyone on the team glanced at Sawamura fondly. Without a care in the world, guarded by his very own wolf, Sawamura sleeps on, the most relaxed Kazuya's ever seen him all week.
It must've been tiring and frustrating to go by his day without his voice. But Kazuya could tell he was even more anxious than that. His voice and call outs are the lifeline of this team to their Ace. When Furuya's on the mound, he leads with his plays. But Sawamura, he leads with his heart.
The whiteboard, even the pink pom-poms, was Sawamura’s way of reassuring everyone that he was still there, supporting them. Kazuya didn’t know if the pitcher realized he was reassuring himself of that too. Probably not, the idiot.
He watches as a small breeze passes through the field they were resting at, brushing Sawamura’s soft hair back. The pitcher wrinkled his nose before his face softened into a blissful smile.
Sickening. Absolutely sickening.
Beside his sports bag are the two pairs of pom-poms, also swaying with the wind as if taunting Kazuya for his ineptitude in hitting a home run.
It came to him then. A sense of inspiration. An imaginary light bulb flickering on. He turns to Kuramochi with a devilish grin.
The shortstop glanced up at him and let out a shudder. “God, what now?”
“Hey Kuramochi,” Kazuya drawled. “What say you we take our dearest Ace down a peg or two?”
“Yui! Sachiko!” He called out to the two managers huddled together over an icebox.
“What?!” Sachiko yelled out, a handful of water bottles tucked under her arm. “We’re busy!”
“Seconded!” Yui chirped, unloading their bentos for lunch.
“Hee,” Kazuya whined. “But I thought of something super fun!”
Both their ears perked up at that.
“You have some hair band right Sachiko? And Yui you brought your makeup right?”
They both shared a look.
Kazuya pointed behind him with a grin. “We can’t have our cheerleader be lacking in the looks department, now can we?”
“See? What did I tell you?” Kuramochi stage whispered to Kominato. “Pure evil.”
Kominato pressed a hand to his mouth, but his eyes gave away his mirth. Soon the whole team caught on to his schemes, sharing excited whispers to each other.
“Can we please take a photo of him afterward?”
“Give him your reddest lipstick Yui!”
“Pull up his bangs to his forehead!”
“Hey someone arrange the pom-poms!”
A few minutes later after Sachiko and Yui’s hard work, they pulled away to show the team their work.
Kazuya had the pleasure of taking the first peek, and instead of the instinctive bellied laughter he thought would come out of his lips, it’s a gutted whimper. Kuramochi swings an arm over his shoulder, leaning his weight on him. “What? Why do you look like that-”
Kuramochi breaks off, staring at Sawamura with his jaw agape.
A curious Maezono bounds over, shoving the space between them. “What? Don’t leave me out! Does he look that stu-”
The team looked on in confusion as their captain and two vices stood over Sawamura in silence. Eventually, they all approached the sleeping pitcher, eager to see how silly Yui and Sachiko made him look.
“...what the hell,” Asou said, with feeling. “WHAT THE HELL.”
“Shuu…” Higasa fumed out.
Nori slowly raised a hand to cover Shirasu’s eyes, which the batter accepted with a slight flush to his cheeks.
“Seriously?” Tojou laughed breathlessly. “Even makeup succumbs to Sawamura’s logic huh.”
“I can’t,” Kanemaru whimpered. “I can’t have another sleeping kink awakened by this moron!”
“Wow, Sawamura-senpai really is something el-Masashi?! Don’t fall asleep on me!” Yui whimpered.
“This is all your fault, senpai.” Okumura glared up at him, hovering an arm protectively over the sleeping Sawamura.
Kazuya raised his hands in assent as even Kominato has taken his spot next to Sawamura to glare in his signature Ryo-san way at anyone trying to sneak more looks. Furuya still hasn’t budged from watching the Seisou game.
Ignorant of his team’s varied existential crisis, Sawamura slumbers on, a soft smile on his face highlighted with his slightly red lips, a light blush on his cheeks, and a thin line of eyeliner. Despite his bangs being tied up to reveal his wide forehead, it simply added to the charm of a clumsy cheerleader who fell asleep from enthusiastically supporting his team.
Pom poms arranged over his hand, Sawamura was a sight to behold.
Eventually, Kominato and Okumura scared everyone off enough to disperse, and Kazuya shot Sawamura one last look before focusing back on the Seisou game.
Now if one were to quietly bribe both Yui and Sachiko with snacks, extra turns in cleaning the bathroom and or the cafeteria, and promises to not leave their clothes astray around the field, one may potentially receive a photo of a certain asleep pitcher.
And most of the team, including Kazuya, may or may not have done exactly that.
It was an awkward moment indeed when they all converged in the bathroom one day with sponges and buckets and their pants rolled up to their knees.
“You too, Kanemaru?”
“S-shut up Hiroomi! This is for blackmail material! Wait-you weren’t even there!”
“Don’t underestimate the bond between men.”
Fuck it, it was worth the shame to see Sawamura’s sleepy smile whenever he opened his phone.