The night air was comfortably chilly.
The time of the year where the weather transitioned from winter to spring had finally come. Where it was too cold not to wear a coat but too warm to close it.Naked trees flourished in countless shades of green and the flowers abloom had already begun to wither. Making way for barely recognizable fruits and thick leafs.
It was perfect for a walk. Not that that was Shuns actual intention.
He took a long drag from his cigarette and blew a thick cloud of smoke into the air. It lingered there for a few moments before it dispersed, and revealed the beautiful night sky in it‘s way. On nights like this Shun could see the milky way in its whole glory.
He could stare at it for ages until he had to crane his neck and his muscles became stiff.
It had become a habit ever since he started smoking. He’d walk around until the smell of tobacco left his clothes, often for hours, before returning home. He enjoyed the silence. It was one of those rare times where no one would bother him. It was the most relaxing time of the day. His sanctuary, if you want to call it that. Where he could just turn down and think about his day. Or nothing at all, depending on his mood. Thanks to that there was no one who knew the neighborhood better than Shun did.
He took another drag of his cigarette. He hadn’t noticed how far his stroll had taken him. He was all the way over, close to the small shrine at Nitta. If he left now it’d take him around an hour to get back home. He contemplated his options: his mother was probably worried about him being out so late… she hadn’t written him yet, though and he hadn’t been at the shrine for quite a while.
He might as well let the creepy statues at the entrance scare him a little bit.
There were some shrines at Yokote as well, bigger ones. He liked them, too but the possibility of getting caught smoking by someone he knew was too high for his liking. It had already happened way too often… He still had a burn on his hand from panicking and hiding it last time.
He flicked his cigarette bud to the ground and stomped it out. The ash left a black strain on the pavement, a barely visible alteration to the dark shades of gray under the bright full moon light.
Shun put his hands in his pockets and began striding in the direction of the shrine. He was absent-mindedly playing with the half empty pack of cigarettes in one and the lighter in the other.A strong breeze tousled his chestnut-brown hair as he was about to make his way up the mountain as he saw a familiar figure running up the seemingly endless stairs.That was a surprise. It was almost 11:30 pm, he hadn’t expected to see him out there.
“What are you doing out so late, princess. Had a lovers-quarrel?” Shun called out.
The figure stopped and looked over their shoulder in surprise. He had a slightly distressed expression on his face.
So he was right, huh?
Now that was going to be just peachy~ Just because no one was bothering Shun didn’t mean Shun couldn’t bother anyone.
He did live close by, Shun remembered, in that small, unsuspecting house. The way from there to the shrine would be the perfect distance for a jog. But not in pajamas.
“Mizugaki-san.” Was as he got as a greeting.
Shun lazily strode up the stairs until he was only a few steps away from Harada.
“Really, I’m not even worth a “good evening”? you need to be more polite to your seniors, princess.” Shun said, in a joking, light-hearted tone.
As expected, Harada didn’t react and just waited for him to get to the point. That he just didn’t know what to say slipped past Shuns mind.
Man, that kid was seriously dull…
Shun didn’t get what Shugo found so fascinating about him, aside from his pitching skills.
“Seriously, what are you doing out here so late, you should be asleep.” Shun repeated.
“I could be asking you the same.” Harada retorted.
Shun felt like sighing. “Not going to answer me, huh? Either way, I’m taking a stroll. It’s a nice night, after all.” Harada didn’t quite seem to understand. Seriously, those prodigies were all the same. Or was it just Harada? Nah, Shugo would definitely go out on a run on a night like this. Well, whatever.
The stinging pain in his right cheek irritated him.
“So, I told you my reason, but why are you here?” Shun repeated.
“I’m just going for a run.”
Shun let out a humming sound. “Must have been a pretty spontaneous decision then.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re not properly equipped, you’re wearing normal street shoes, the sun’s already down and you don’t have a jacked. And, funny, I could swear those are pajama pants.”
“Well, maybe I just like jogging in my PJs!” Harada snapped and Shun burst out laughing.
“No need to get so offended, princess. But seriously, you’re practically asking for a cold running around like that.” Shun said once he calmed his breath.
He looked the younger one up and down. Dark hair, brown, almost black eyes, a pretty face and an aura that gave off the vibe of someone who didn’t care about anything. Not about others, not their opinions or their problems. Not even about themselves. Someone who just did what they did without thinking at all. That unwavering confidence really pissed him off. As if he was someone special and everyone else was just foot folk for obeying the rules of society. Even if it wasn’t his intention to make everyone around him feel that way- no, the princess didn’t care enough about others to do it intentionally. He probably didn’t even know about it.
“Please stop calling me princess.” Harada asked him.
“Oh, but it suits you so well, princess.”
Haradas dark eyes narrowed, “What do you mean by that?”
Shun climbed another step so they were face-to-face and looked at him with a cold, uncaring glare. He was looking at the underclassman more like he was an object than a real person.
“What’s so special about you anyway? I don’t get why he’s so obsessed with you.”
Harada looked at him confused but slightly irritated, “What?”
“You’ve got no social skills. You don’t know how to deal with failure and can’t understand, or even care, about how others feel. Sure, you’re a good pitcher but that’s about it, isn’t it? It’s all you’ve got going for you. Baseball is all you have. If someone were to take it away from you there’d be nothing left.”
Harada clenched his fists, furious at how Shun was acting like he knew everything. They had barely ever even exchanged a word before and now he was pretending that he knew him. Who the hell did that guy think he was?
“Don’t act like you know anything about me. What the hell are you getting at anyway? Are you trying to rattle me up like you did with Gou?!” Harada raised his voice. A pretty rare occurrence. But either way, a person Shun couldn’t make angry was yet to be born.
A sly smile stretched across Shuns lips. If he didn’t happen to be an upperclassman and hadn’t been standing with his back to a set of stairs Harada would have loved to punch him. Not to say that he didn’t consider doing it anyway, but he knew of consequences. He wouldn’t be allowed to play in the upcoming match if he punched a member of their rival team.
It also looked like it wasn’t the first time this month Shun had gotten himself in such a situation just that the other person didn’t hesitate to consider the consequences. Shugo would probably have punched him even with that fact. He was prone to impulsive actions, he only had to push the right buttons.
Shun almost wanted to laugh. That kid was so soft. But on the other hand, violent types like Shugo and Nagakura were too much trouble anyway.
“This isn’t about baseball or our match.” Shun stated. “You really are quite the princess. You think no one understands you. Even now, I’m making you angry, aren’t I? Everyone is so obsessed with you, trying to figure out what’s going on in your mind but you aren’t as hard to figure out as they think you are.”
“What the hell do you know!” Harada finally snapped, and it only made Shuns grin widen. “To answer your question of what I’m getting at, I simply wanted to confirm something. There’s nothing you can do that I can’t do, too. I wonder what part of you he’s so obsessed with. No matter how hard I look, I just can’t see it. You aren’t as special as everyone thinks you are.”
Haradas nails dug into his skin. How cute. He really wanted to punch him- it was written all over his face. First years were so easy to fluster.
“The reason why everything seems so complicated isn’t because people aren’t trying. It’s because you make no attempt to understand them either. Isn’t it exhausting to keep on that mask of Harada the pitcher 24/7? Relax and have fun for once. That’s what baseball is all about. Your battery is brittle and you can’t make up with Nagakura. You don’t get what the other is thinking, you don’t see each other eye to eye, and it’ll make the both of you fall apart eventually.”
Shun shook his head. He didn’t get what Shugo saw in that kid aside from his nice face. His attitude towards everyone else was just incredibly annoying.
Suddenly, a shout came form the bottom of the stairs.
“Oh, looks like your knight in shining armor has come.” Shun hummed. “If your battery is so easy to break apart your bond was never strong to begin with.” he called over his shoulder as he began descending the stairs. Now that Nagakura was there the conversation was over for him. One punch a month was enough. They met half-way and Shun gave Nagakura a small wave as a greeting as they passed each other.
Nagakura slowed down. “Mizugaki-san, are you jealous?” he asked.
“Of whom?” Shun asked in amusement.
Harada didn’t have anything Shun didn’t already have and their relationship was nothing desirable. It was just childish love. No, not even that. They wanted to be so much at once they didn’t even manage to be single thing. They were rushing, as if there was no time, even though there was. When they failed they could try again and again until it worked. That was what relationships were about.
“Or is it because Kadowaki-san had his eyes on Takumi and not on you?”
Shun spun around and glared at him over his shoulder. Oh, what an ugly face he just made. Filled with jealousy, anger, and disdain.
"Back then, when you said that you've been playing with Kadowaki-san for years, you were marking you territory, werren't you? You were afraid someone might snatch him away from you."
"Don't be redicules!" Shun hissed coldly, eyes gleaming with fury.
Nagakura just glanced at him before continuing on.
“Takumi, you’re going to catch a cold.”
“Don’t baby me. How did you even know where I was?”
“I took a lucky guess. Now, let’s go home, it’s getting cold.”
Shuns eyes threw daggers into his back. That little shit. His good mood had went down the drain. Once he reached the bottom of the stairs he lit himself another cigarette and continued walking with a sore face.
He had the urge to let out an "Ugh" sound. Those two certainly were a pair.
Playing with the cigarette between his lips, he looked at his phone. He had turned it on silent so it wouldn’t bother him. The icon for a new message blinked. Probably from his mom. He debated if he should open it or not. It wasn’t all that important. If it was from his mom it’d just tell him to come home already and go to bed. He was about to do that anyway. If he took the short route he’d be home in about half an hour.
In the end he decided to open it either way. To his surprise it wasn’t from his mom but from Shugo.
"Where in the world are you? Your mom is super worried."
‘Why can’t she just message me on her own phone if she’s that worried…?’ Shun wondered. Suddenly his screen lit up with
another message and Shun froze dead in his tracks.
“What did you say to Harada?”
His stared at his screen in disbelieve and began looking around when suddenly, a hand reached out from the shadows of the trees and snatched the cigarette right out of his mouth. Shun wiped his head around just to face Shugo, who was comfortably leaning against a tree off to his left, phone in one hand and Shun’s cigarette in the other.
Shit. For how long had he been standing there? And how much did he hear?
Shugo waved the cigarette in front of Shuns face. “So this is what you’ve been up to on your night walks, huh?!”
“Oh don’t be like that~ It’s just a smoke.” Shun said. And when Shugo put his phone back into his pocked, he used the
opportunity to snatch the cigarette out of his hand and put it back between his lips.
“Do the others know about this?” Shugo asked, referring to their teammates.
“Of course.” most of the others had caught him smoking at least once, “In fact, you’re one of the only ones who didn’t know.”
Shugo made a face of disapproval, “Do the grown-ups know?”
“Of course not. Neither does the coach.” Shun took a drag from his cigarette, “I’d be in heaps of trouble if they did.”
“And that’s why you go out every night.”
A statement, not a question.
“Yup. But more importantly,” Shun glanced at Shugo over the bud of his cigarette, “How did you know I was here?”
“I had a hunch.”
“You found me in the neighboring town, around an hour away from where we live, in the middle of the night because of a hunch?” Shun asked in amusement. Must have been rotten luck.
“I was already in the area when a hunch named Nagakura called and told me you were messing with Harada.” Shugo replied sternly.
Seriously? That kid called Shugo on him?! Nagakura really was more perceptive than he had originally thought. Shun was going to remember that.
“Nagakura has your number?” Shun asked. More to avoid the topic at hand than interest. Even thought he did wonder how and when Nagakura got his friends number.
“No, but Kaionji does. He called him and asked for it. He was pretty pissed off about being woken up in the middle of the night.”
Shun had to hold himself from smirking at that image. There was nothing to smirk about. Now Kaionji knew about it, too. great, he's have to expect a call from him as well tomorrow. Even though it was still pretty funny.
“Seriously? He asked Kaionji?” How did Nagakura even know that he had his number?
“Yeah. Nagakura also told me what you were saying might interest me, and he was right.”
Shun had wanted to avoid the topic as long as possible, might even had gotten his hopes up that Shugo would just drop it, but of course he didn’t.
“What in the world were you doing?”
“Ah, don’t worry. I didn’t lay a hand on your beloved princess.” Shun said with a lazy shrug and started in the direction of the shortcut.
“What did you mean with what you said?” Shugo asked.
Shun froze again. He felt a sense of dread and swallowed subtly. Unfortunately he forgot how disgusting your own saliva tasted after just smoking and ended up grimacing.
“How much did you hear?” he asked, trying to let his voice sound less weary and nervous than he actually was.
Ah, so he didn’t hear much. Shun felt himself relax internally at that. He didn’t really care about Shugo getting angry at him as long as he hadn’t overheard the last part. “I just gave him some advice. Nothing concerning you.”
“Then explain to me why I heard you saying my name.” Shugo demanded. But his voice sounded strange, a bit strained.
Shun shrugged, “You were just mentioned in the flow and why don’t we talk about how you were eavesdropping on us?”
“I didn’t intend to…!” Shugo defended himself. He hated doing stuff like that but what Nagakura had told him had caught his interest. He had been curious to finally find out what his friend had been going on about all this time, about the things he would never say in his presence.
“There’s something I need to talk to you about.” he changed the topic.
“And that’s so important you went to look for me in the middle of the night? Can’t it wait ‘till tomorrow?”
“I’m afraid not.”
“Let me guess, it’s about what happened at the river, isn’t it? Are you going to apologize for punching me?”
Shugo avoided his eyes, “Well, not exactly, I mean, that too, but that’s not the point.”
“Well, then say what you want to say. We’ve got enough time.”
Somehow it sounded like Shun was mocking him. Shugo fell in step beside when he began walking again. He took a long drag from his cigarette as Shugo began talking.
“Shun you really pushed me this time. It was different from usual- you wanted me to punch you, didn’t you?”
Shun blew a cloud of smoke into the way in front of them and watched it disperse in the cold night air. The strings became thinner and thinner as they sunk to the ground.
Shun smiled, “Looks like you’re smarter than I thought, Shugo.” he admitted, “But I’ve got to give the princess some credit, too. He’s still not as dull as you.”
“What are you talking about?” Shugo asked, confused.
“He really wanted to to do it, too, but thought of the consequences of punching someone who’s standing with their back to a set of stairs and didn’t.”
“Did you do that on purpose, too?
“Maybe. Getting punched once a month is enough. My mouth was bleeding the whole day after. it doesn't mix well with smoke, you know.”
“Apologizing won’t make it hurt any less. You violent types are so much trouble.” Shun gently rubbed his swollen right cheek. It had a bluish-purplish color.
“Shun, why were you messing with Harada just now? I don’t know what kind of grudge you’re holding but it has nothing to do with him.”
“And neither does it with you. Don’t you have other things you should be concentrating on, captain? Have you ever even wasted a thought about our starting lineup or what tactic to use? This game isn’t just about you and your little date with the princess, it’s about our entire team, Shugo. And I won’t lose.”
Shun didn’t care who out of the two would come out victorious, Harada or Shugo. But he wanted to win. Harada getting hit off or Shugo getting struck out he didn’t care about either. If he had the chance he wanted to see the both of them lose.
Shugo clenched his fists, “So you went after their battery.”
“Exactly. The princess is going to lose, Shugo.”
Irritated Shugo grabbed him by the shoulder and raised his voice, “How can you be so sure of that?!”
Shun slapped his hand away and turned to face him, “Oh, come on! You’re so fixated on the princess you’re forgetting to see anything else! If all it needed was a little push to break up the battery they never had a chance to begin with.” He dropped the bud of his cigarette and stomped it out angrily, “Nagakura sees himself as inferior to Harada. There’s no trust between them. You saw how they were when they got pulled out, not even a single look. Nagakura was too ashamed to face his own partner and Harada was too shocked to say a word. They aren’t even a team, they’re just first years. You’re expecting too much from Harada and Nagakura is trying too hard to keep up. That’s why they’re so easy to break apart. You’re all taking this way to serious. Just play game by game. It’s just baseball...”
Shugo looked to the ground, “Is there any way to get them back onto their feet?”
Shun let out a groan, “What kind of captain asks something like that about another teams battery… Compared to you, I actually
want us to win this match.”
Shugos face twisted into an angry grimace, “Are you saying I’m not taking this serious?!”
“You just asked how to fix our rival teams battery, for gods sake!” Shun sneered.
Angrily Shugo grabbed Shun by the collar, “What the hell are you getting at?!”
Suddenly, Shun’s expression turned into an ice cold glare. “Let. Me. Go.”
His tone was so threatening Shugos grip immediately loosened in surprise. “I have no interest in getting punched again by a huge oaf like you!”
“I wasn’t going to punch you!” Shugo said, trying to defend himself but he let go of Shun’s collar either way. Shun had already admitted that he had purposefully pushed Shugo to the point of him getting punched but that left one question: ‘Why?’
“Shun, why did you push me so far? What was your motive?”
“Is that all you wanted to ask?”
“Y-yeah…” At the beginning, at least.
“I thought I made it pretty obvious. I guess you’re not that smart, after all.”
Shugo tended to be oblivious. Reading other people had never been his strong point. Though it played to Shuns advantage in the current situation. “I meant exactly what I said, you’re all taking this way too serious. or rather, too personal.”
Shugo’s eyebrows furrowed but he waited for Shun to continue, hoping to get a clearer answer out of him. “You’re all overreacting in your game of false pretense- you, Kaionji, Nagakura- sure, Harada is a good pitcher but that’s all. He’s got nothing going for himself outside of that.” Shun lit himself another cigarette, “I almost feel bad for him.”
But in truth, that was all a lie. Shun had fallen under Harada Takumi’s spell just like everyone else.
“Do you hate Harada?” Shugo asked.
“This isn’t about hate or like- I’m just pointing out the obvious. You’ve got your eyes all over him, Shugo, but Harada isn’t that special.” He was just some kid. The way Shugo gushed over him was painful to watch. Having them both get humiliated during their game had been so satisfying in the long run. Shun wished he had taken advantage of the situation and savored the moment for a little longer.
“There’s nothing he can do, that you can’t do, too, huh?”
Shun froze mid motion, the cigarette half-way to his mouth. The way Shugo had his eyes fixed on him made his stomach sink. It made him feel captivated, yet intimidated.
His smile dropped.
‘Shit! Just how much did he really hear?’ Shun thought, nervously.
“What did you mean by that?” Shugo continued.
“It’s impolite to eavesdrop, Shugo.” Shun said, like he was lecturing a child, not letting a hind of his nervousness show. It was a good thing that he was a good actor in these kind of situations.
Shugo looked at him like he was about to figure something out and it made Shun uneasy. It gave him the feeling that he’d end up in a trap if he didn’t leave right now.
And so he did just that, he avoided the topic.
If he had heard that much he must have been there for way longer than Shun originally thought.
Shugo didn’t relent, “Answer me!”
Shun just shook his head with a smile, it was just a charade either way but it did the trick. “That’s between Harada and me, it’s got nothing to do with you.”
“Then why did I hear my name?!” Shugo sounded agitated, but it didn’t have it’s usual bite to it. It sounded more berating than harsh.
“Seriously, Shugo, you’re getting too full of yourself. Not everything can be about you.” Annoyed he took another drag from his cigarette, letting the nicotine calm his nerves a little.
“It does though. It’s got a lot to do with me.” Shugo said.
Shun shrugged, giving him an uninterested look “What do you mean? I already told you; you‘re being too stuck up.”
How much he wanted to leave was barely noticeable, hidden well under a mask he had carefully forged over the years. But Shugo knew that mask.
“Aren’t you the one taking this too serious?” Shun gave him a confused look and was about to ask, when Shugo stepped closer and gently brushed his finger over his bruised cheek. “You even let yourself get punched just to get your point across…” And it hadn’t even worked, because Shugo still hadn’t understood. There still so many unanswered questions left and he felt more confused than ever.
Shun found himself unable to move. It was such an out of character gesture for Shugo. He wasn’t a very touchy person. Always pushing Shun’s hand away when he let it linger and rarely ever touching him on his own accord. They were so close Shugo only had to lean down a bit and if Shun stood up on his tip toes they’d-
Suddenly Shun broke out of his frozen state and violently jerked his head away. Pretending he did it because it hurt, even though it didn’t. Shugo was so gentle. Shun didn’t even know he could be like that. He had always been a brute. Or rather, he had never been at the receiving end of Shugo’s gentleness.
Shun dropped his cigarette and stomped it out on the pavement. There had still been some left but whatever.
“Let’s go home, Shugo.” he said, but before he could turn his back completely Shugo asked, “Shun, are you jealous?”
“Jealous of who?” The question came out too quickly, too harsh.
‘Shit’ Shun cursed himself.
“You tell me.”
“What’s with you? Making all those assumptions- you’re starting to sound like Kaionji.” Shun said, trying to subtly change the topic back to Shugo. But Shugos stare didn’t relent. Just what did he want from him?! It was obvious. So nauseatingly obvious, Shun didn’t want to hear about it. He gritted his teeth. He just wanted to go home. “It’s getting late.” he said after a moment of silence and turned again, but Shugo grabbed him by the elbow. “Just tell me, Shun!”
Aggravated, Shun snapped, “Tell you what?!”
Why couldn’t he just let it go and not think about it like he always did? But he couldn’t even have that, could he? He wasn’t that kind of a lucky person. He always got the short end of the stick. That didn’t mean that it wasn’t frustrating, that it didn’t hurt, didn’t make him angry.
Shugo flinched, surprised at Shun’s sudden outburst, it wasn’t like him to get angry like that, but he quickly collected himself again, “I want to know what you said at the river, and to Harada just now, was all about.”
he said in a calmer, more collected voice.
His insistence only helped to piss him off more. “For the first: I meant exactly what I said, there’s nothing I need to reiterate. For the second: it’s not important. It’s got nothing to do with you, so just forget about it.”
Shun said coldly and yanked his arm out of his grasp
“’Are jealous that Kadowaki has his eyes on him and not you?’ it was something along that line, wasn’t it?”
Shun paled and he spun around. “For fucks sake, how good are your ears?!” he snapped.
“Good enough to hear you talking shit!” Shugo retorted. “You’re still going on about crap like it’s got nothing to do with me after what I’ve heard?”
“You wouldn’t get it, so just shut up!”
Shun wanted another cigarette. He really regretted throwing the other one away now. He took the pack from his coat pocket and tapped it in the way so one cigarette would get pushed up and pulled it out with his mouth. But Shugo snatched it from between his lips before he could lid it. “There you go again, saying crap like that- just be clear already!”
Shun glared daggers at him and Shugo glared back just as intensely.
For a second he considered it. He really considered just telling him. He imagined the face Shugo would make if he did: surprised and shocked, eyes wide with disbelieve and the realization of how comfortably oblivious he had been, refusing to look at what was right in front of him.
What was the worst that could happen?
That was the answer.
That thought that he even considered it was already so absurd it almost made him burst out laughing. He had spend so many years carefully hiding those feelings just to blurt them out on some random street because of something Nagakura of all people had said?
Not in a million years.
Shun shook his head, as if he was talking to a stubborn child that had just said something incredibly stupid. But it didn’t look serious. The way he did it looked more like he was doing it to himself, like he was trying to shake off a stupid thought that had accumulated in his head.
What had he been thinking just now…
Shugo stared at his friends features, hoping they would give him some insight of what was going on in his head.
Shun suddenly found himself overcome with a strong sense of malice and anger but he shook the feeling off. It would be so funny though, to see his reaction.
“You’re hopeless.” he muttered, not showing anything of what had just been going on in his mind.
Shugo clenched his fists, frustrated at Shun keeping everything that had just shown on his face hidden and buried in secret. He was sick of being kept in the dark and all those secrets and two-faced comments. “It’s enough! Stop this useless charade already and tell me what you really mean. It’s been going on for way too long. This isn’t about me, or Harada, or anyone else for that matter- it’s about you, Shun!”
“Have you ever considered the possibility that I just don’t want to tell you?” Shun said, coldly. Suddenly, he stepped closer, the sense of malice having returned full force with an idea. “You say you want to know?” he asked, the distance between their faces being way to small to be considered appropriate.
Shugo took a step back, surprised at the spontaneous invasion of his personal space but also Shun’s sudden change of behavior. “Then try figuring it out yourself. I’m sick of playing part-time interpreter for your lack of social skills!” Shun just smiled satisfied and leaned back again. It was so easy to utilize Shugo’s dislike of physical contact for his own benefits. He had successfully managed to push Shugo away again. Shun felt satisfied at that. It’d probably take him a while for him to sort out his thoughts again, until then, he would be left alone.
But Shugo managed to push his surprise aside and catch himself again and return to his stern, stubborn expression. Under other circumstances Shun would’ve been pleasantly surprised at his quick recovery but now he was just annoyed.
“I’ve known you my entire life, I can tell it’s been eating you up from inside for ages!” Shun wasn’t alright, he hadn’t been for a long time now… always hiding, always pretending, always sneaking secret glances. Suddenly, Shun felt his body heat up with a surge of anger, His fingers grabbed into the fabric of Shugos collar and pulled him down to his level. “What the hell do you know?!”, he barked in his face. He had always been looking past him and now he dared to pretend he knew how he felt? What a load of bullshit!
Shugo just kept that irritatingly confident expression on his face and it made Shun want to punch him. Shugo knew exactly it would piss him off. He knew he was an idiot but he wasn’t that dull!
Was he trying to make him angry?!
He was trying to get him angry and make him slip up with the truth.
He knew the only times where Shun was honest were when he was too furious for his rational mask to keep him in check and the angry and cynical face he always kept hidden came to the surface. That damn underhanded bastard… that was a tactic Shun would use but not Shugo. Maybe he thought he knew him a little too well, after all…
Shun sneered in disgust and pushed Shugo away. “Don’t act like you know me.”
“Don’t pretend that I don’t!” Shugo shot back, and Shun had the urge to snort.
“You always act like you know everything and no one can get behind you but the truth is; you aren’t as hard to figure out as you think you are.”
“Oh, really?” Shun huffed, “Then tell me, Shugo, what the hell do you think you know about me?” Shun’s voice was a mix of amusement and anger. Maybe it was even a bit of sadism. He just wanted the satisfaction of hearing how wrong Shugo was.
“You always act like nothing has anything to do with you and you’re holding no responsibilities. You always see yourself as an outsider no matter the situation. You’re smart and rarely ever talk about yourself: when the topic falls onto you’ll prod someone else’s weakness until it shifts to them. It’s easy to make you laugh but you’re also quick to anger. You get cynical when you’re pissed off and it’s hard to understand you sometimes because you never actually say what‘s bothering you.”
After over ten years of friendship it should be expected that the other party could tell what was going on. But maybe that was exactly their problem. They had grown toocomfortable and thought they knew everything about the other. But there were always new things to discover, new things to tell even after they had been friends for so long, and sometimes, there were things that should never be revealed.
“There’s something you’re desperately trying to hide from everyone, but you can’t help it and drop hints now and then. You don’t even notice when you do because it’s never picked up on-” It was though. Once, and it hadn’t ended well. “-It hurts you to keep it secret and you‘ve been doing it for way too long. Doesn’t it make you feel lonely, always keeping people at a distance like that?” Shugo looked at Shun with sadness when he said that, or was it pity? He didn’t know and didn’t care. He was just looking down on him.
He had seen it before, on Kaionji, heard it in his voice, too. He didn’t know how to accept the simple and genuine compassion of Nitta’s captain. He always thought he was scheming something behind it. In his eyes no one was kind without a reason. Or rather, Shun had never been on the receiving end of that kind of attention. He himself was cold and rational and had the air of someone who was fine just by themselves. He didn’t know what it felt like to be looked at with compassion. It wasn’t like he cared either way about what Shugo thought of him.
That must’ve been the most blatant lie Shun had ever told himself. It was almost sad what a single touch from Shugo could do to him.
“Was that all?” he asked, coldly. “You’ve just painted yourself a picture of me and are unwilling to look past it. Or rather, you don’t even care if it matches up with the truth. I don‘t know what you‘re trying to see but it‘s got nothing to do with me.” Right, that was the mask he needed to keep up. It was just perfectly placed to hide everything going on in his mind.
“Stop lying to yourself and pretend this doesn’t involve you. It’s got a lot to do with you!”
“Me? Lying to myself? No. I’m to old for that kind of self-hatred.” I’m only lying to you. “Don’t try and push the blame around just because you can’t deal with being wrong. Not that there’s anything to blame to begin with. But if it makes you happy, go on and tell me what ‘makes me feel lonely’.”
The way he said it was belittling, mocking, in a way. He was almost excited to hear what kind of bullshit Shugo had come up with. If anything it’d make for a good laugh later.
“You’re always teasing me about Harada but the truth is, you’re the one who likes him, aren’t you?
Shun’s expression dropped. It just dropped to the ground in utter disbelieve. There was a moment of silence and he just starred at him, Then he burst out into laughter. It was so loud it neared hysteria. He and Harada? That was the most ridiculous thing he had ever heard!
Shun had to hold his stomach in order to keep himself from keeling over. “Congratulations, Shugo, that is the dumbest thing you’ve ever come up with!” Shun laughed.
Shugo’s eyebrows were drawn low and his lips pressed together in a tight frown but they quivered a little, as if Shun’s laughter was about to make him smile as well.
“It’s not dumb, it’s pretty obvious.”
Shun looked up. “Wait, seriously? You were being for real?” he asked in disbelieve.
The way Shugo looked at him already gave him the answer. Shun straightened himself up and looked him in the eyes. “I have no interest in that kid.” He was so annoying. His entire attitude and how everyone else acted around him, with those sparks in their eyes, it was hard to watch.
“You don’t need to be ashamed, Shun.” Shugo said, and Shun felt a pang of irritation. “Aren’t you the one who snapped as soon as I even suggested you dreamed that something happened between the two of you? You’re just trying to cover up your own feelings.”
“I don’t have any feelings for Harada.”
Shun raised an eyebrow in a ’yeah, right’ way, with an lopsided smirk on his lips. And neither do I. At least not any positive ones. “The only reason you’ve come up with that conclusion is to comfort yourself because you can’t accept how much control he has over you.”
Shugo frowned, clearly irked at the accusation and Shun felt his smile grow at how his words hit the mark but, much to his annoyance Shugo just played over them and kept up his act. He was trying really hard today, wasn’t he?
“You’re so adamant on denying it but you’re one who’s constantly making passes at him, calls him princess and brings him up in conversation.”
“I bring him up because he’s the only topic that catches your interest. We’ve already been over this. I swear, it’s like he’s the only thing on your mind, now days.”
“It’s not-” Shugo began but Shun interrupted him. “Listen, I can’t stand that kid. In fact, I think it would have been better for all of us if he’d never shown up. If he hadn’t we’d have much less problems.”
The excited spark that appeared in Shugos eye when he looked at him, something he usually loved to see, that made a broad, satisfied smirk grow on his lips at the thought that his captain was ready to go all out, now irked him. He just wouldn’t shut up about him, Shun could even tell whenever he was thinking about his pitches by the look on his face alone.
Everyone looked at him like that. Like he was the most amazing thing in the world, or some kind of god, even though all he was was a mouthy first year with a bad attitude. It was preposterous, the effect he had on them.
“You’ve convinced yourself that you’re doing this for my sake without even considering the possibility that it’s complete bullshit.
‘Don’t need to be ashamed’, my ass! You just can’t accept that you’re having feelings for another guy!”
“You expect me to believe you even though you went out in the middle of the night to meet him.” Shugo said, sternly.
Shun sighed in annoyance. “You’re still on about that… it was a chance encounter! And aren’t you the one who went out to look for me even though you could have just waited ‘till tomorrow, so what’s the big difference? You were wrong, Shugo. Get that into your head already!”
“I’m not wrong, just-” Shugo was interrupted as Shun grabbed him by the collar and pulled him down to his level. “Would you shut up already!? I bet you think you’re a goddamn genius for what bullshit your mind has fabricated but let me tell you something: everything about him, and everything about you pisses me off to no end. He took away the little I had, he’s threatening my spot. If you had just never grown so obsessed with him, if he had never caught your eye, everything would still be how it’s supposed to be. He disturbed the peace of our daily routine and makes us feel like idiots for having been satisfied with how we were in the first place!”
He had had so little but that kid still had come and taken it like it had never been his to begin with. And maybe it wasn’t, but what of it?! He had worked so hard to forge what he had. That little place where he could be by his side. Where his skills were recognized and he was being relied on, where he was seen as Kadowaki Shugos vice captain, who’s perception could be seen as quite terrifying. Someone who was often overlooked but feared and respected by those who had been there long enough to realize he was the one who pulled the strings in the background. Maybe he couldn’t make Shugo feel the excitement and frustration the same way Harada did, but he had his own methods to archive the same goal.
“Threatening your… Shun, what are you talking about? You’re not even on the same team!” Shugo said, irate and confused.
“That’s not what I’m talking about. He’s threatening to destroy everything we’ve been working so hard for. But you wouldn’t understand that. You protégé’s are all the same. You live for the excitement, the thrill, you have no idea how you make everyone around you feel. Or rather, you don’t care!”
Shun didn’t care if it was just behind the lines. All he needed was the satisfaction of knowing that that was how things were on his presence could be seen as something so natural it’d leave a hole if he suddenly wasn’t there anymore. A hole that no one else could fill.
Shun had been convinced and comforted himself with that knowledge. But now…he wasn’t so sure anymore. Doubts had risen and the image of Harada standing in his place had burned itself into his mind. And it tormented him every time he was forced to look at that damn kids face. Was he supposed to just let it be taken away from him?
Shun might not be doing it the nicest or most convenient way and he might be an asshole about it, but he wasn’t doing anything bad. He was simply eliminating a threat.
Yes, out of all people, Mizugaki Shunji was the one who hated Harada Takumi the most. He was just messing with all of them, or rather, they were letting him mess with their heads. It wasn’t even his fault, Shun was fully aware of that, but really, what was wrong with hating him for it? “We’ve been working for those spots almost our entire lives and then that cheeky first year just waltzes in as if he owns the place. Admit it, Shugo, it infuriates you too. It’s no surprise people want him dead in their dreams.” Shun growled.
Shugo looked at him surprised, a subtle realization ghosting over his face. “Shun… could it be that you were the one who dreamed about killing him?”
"Yeah, as if I’d ever sink to that level! You don’t care enough about other people to give a name to their feelings. As if you’d ever be able to tell if someone is in love or not. Who the hell do you even think you are to judge me for what I do, when you can’t even sort out your own feelings!? You’re ignorant, Shugo!”
And yet, he was still giving him that look, one that didn’t suit him at all, that Shun just couldn’t read.
“You couldn’t be more wrong. If you really knew how I feel you would never have spouted that kind of bullshit… as if I’d ever fall for someone like Harada…”
If he knew the truth he wouldn’t be here right now, he wouldn’t be looking at him like that.
“You might be right about everything you just said, but there’s one thing you got wrong.” Shugo said and Shuns jaw clenched in anger. What the hell was he still on about now? Shugo might be dull but he wasn’t that stupid. Shun had already debunked all his assumptions. Even an idiot like him knew when to admit he was wrong, so why…?
Suddenly, Shugo reached out and brushed a loose strand of hair behind Shun ear before letting his fingers rest on his cheek once more
“I know how you feel.” His voice was gentle and calm, yet it held an intensity to it Shun didn’t know where to place.
There he was again with that damn gesture…and Shun just couldn’t shake it off, no matter how hard he tried. It filled him with a desire for things that weren’t his and he knew were never going to happen. Why was he doing it, why was he touching him now, of all times? It just made no sense. Shugo never did stuff like that.
Suddenly, Shun’s throat went dry and his limbs were overcome with a sudden, strange numbness.
It slowly sunk in and he realized what Shugo was trying to do. Of course he wasn’t that dumb. Purposefully trying to make him angry, saying something so ridiculous, it was sure to make Shun blow up, constantly insisting and prodding even though he had already been proven wrong…
'It hurts you to keep it secret and you‘ve been doing it for way too long.’ ‘Doesn’t it make you feel lonely, always keeping people at a distance like that?'
'Just tell me, Shun.'
Shugo was trying to help him.
He wanted him to get it off of his chest. He didn’t want to see his friend suffer, because of one single and simple reason. “And I care about you, more than anything.”
Slowly Shun’s grip loosened and he looked to the ground.
“Drop it...” he whispered. “It won’t tell you, no matter what you do.
I just can’t...
He wasn’t going to confirm it.
That way, it would still stay only a suspicion and nothing would change. They could spend their last months together like everything was normal and just have fun together. He let go of Shugo’s collar and gave him a push to the chest, forcing him to take a step back. Sometimes, Shun wondered if life would have been better if he had never met Shugo. And sometimes he even wished for it.
But then he’d look at him again and be overcome with that overwhelming warm and prickly feeling of affection and excitement he used to take for granted, and then he wouldn’t know anymore. It would certainly have been easier, yet he couldn’t help but feel incredible pain and anger at the thought. Anger at himself for even letting something like that happen and anger at Shugo for just being how he was and getting him into that kind of situation in the first place.
Maybe Shugo wasn't the only masochist around them...
“Then just show me.”
Slowly Shun turned his head to stare at him in disbelieve. Looking for some sign that he was just joking, that he wasn’t serious, doubt, even pity. But Shugo was stern, as always.
Shun wasn’t the one to use actions instead of words. That was Shugos forte. But when he looked into Shugos dark eyes he found himself mesmerized.
His gaze was filled with so much affection. And he finally understood what it had been that he hadn‘t been able to name… and it really wasn’t meant for him. Shuns mouth went dry and for the first time that night, maybe even his entire life, he didn’t think and let his body guide itself.
Slowly, he leaned closer, titling his head upwards and pressed his lips against Shugos.
A tingling sensation spread through his entire body and gave him the urge to close his eyes. Softly, he moved his lips against Shugos. It was so hesitant yet it felt so good, Shuns eyes fell shut. It could barely even be called a kiss, yet, he didn’t want to stop.
Shugo brushed his fingers against Shuns hand and he felt like he was about to cry. Shun pulled away. He couldn’t bear looking into Shugos eyes. He let his head hang low and his gaze fixed on the ground. Seeing the look on his face was just too much for him.
“You were never planning on telling me, were you?” Shugo asked quietly.
“Of course not!” Shun replied. “We’re on a sports team. Stuff like this just isn’t accepted there. Heck, you could even loose your scholarship if someone saw us like this and I know you’d be disgusted. You’d just end up hating me…”
“I’m sorry for trying to force it out of you by making you angry. It was cruel.”
“If you already knew why didn’t you just keep quiet?”
“I guess I could have, if I didn’t care for you so much. I could never hate you.”
Shun felt a wave of pain rush through his chest. “You should be disgusted! I mean I...” his voice cracked.
“Shun, I just willingly kissed you. I guess I wasn’t being clear enough…” Shugo mumbled the last part more to himself than to anyone else. Shun let out a confused “H-huh?” which Shugo ignored as he grabbed Shuns chin, turned his head sideways and pressed a kiss against the side of his neck. Shun froze up and his ears grew hot. “I would have just let you keep your secret if I didn’t return your feelings.”
He just blinked at Shugo in disbelieve as he pulled away. His mind trying to comprehend what had just left his mouth, and failing miserably. “H-huh? You-what…?” Shun stuttered. He didn’t know what to say and for some reason just blurted out, “I…you- Why didn’t you say that from the start!?” He didn’t even know why he said it. Out of desperation and shock, maybe, but for some reason he felt like he was supposed to be angry.
“If I’d just suddenly confessed to you, you would have found a way to twist it around and reject me. I know how stubborn your mind can be!” Shun felt almost offended at how right he was. “And besides, I only had a hunch. It was a pretty big one but it still wasn’t a hundred percent. I just had to hear it from your mouth. I want you, too, but I would have been fine with just being with you.”
“So would I! I would have been fine with just being at your side!” Shun raised his voice, almost yelling. “I just wanted to give you one last big send off before high school starts and then I’d…”
“Try to disappear out of my life and act like it never happened? You think that’s okay but I don’t want that. I don’t want to leave you behind!”
“Meeting up is going to be hell!” Shun reminded him.
“I know that.” Shugo said without blinking.
At that point they didn’t even know what they were fighting about anymore.
“And we‘ll have to hide it from our families.”
“We’re going to have to pretend nothing is going on in public.”
No kissing, no holding hands, probably not even a hug.
“I’m aware of that.”
“What the hell are they going to think about you when they find out you’ve been sneaking out of school to meet up with your boyfriend…” Shun sighted.
“Hm… lucky guy?” Shugo was met with a glare. “They don’t need to know the details. Plus, I’m sure you can charm your way out of there.” he said, casually. Then he too a deep breath. “So, do you wanna date anyway?”
Shun didn’t even hesitate a second to reply, “Of course!”
They starred at each other as an awkward silence spread between them, cheeks tinted with a soft shade of red.
“Was that…the entire conversation?” Shugo asked, in mild disbelieve.
“I think so…?” Shun replied, carefully.
Again, they looked at each other in silence. Listening closely, they could hear the cogs in their heads turning, until it finally clicked.
“Oh my god!”
“We are so stupid!”
But they were still young. They were allowed to be stupid.
Without another word they fell into each others arms for a long overdue hug, laughing at their own silliness. Shun couldn’t deny it; it was probably the best he ever had.
“Does that mean you’re going to tell me straight out when you’re jealous from now on?” Shugo asked.
Shun nodded, his face still pressed into Shugos chest.
Whether they were happy, sad, jealous or angry, they were going to tell each other and work it out together.
After all, that was what they had.
“I do have one condition though.” Shugo suddenly said.
“I can’t change schools this late in the year, Shugo” Shun said, not even looking up.
Shugo chuckled. “Not that.” but he couldn’t deny that he would have loved it if it had been a possibility. He was going to miss playing together with him. He slowly loosened the hug and tapped the cigarette, he was still holding between his fingers, against Shuns forehead. “You need to quit smoking. After all, I want to be with you for as long as possible. Plus, it smells gross.”
Shun shrugged. Better now than never. “Fine. But you’ll have to accompany me on my night walks then.”
“Deal. Can we make it night runs though?”
Their fingers laced together as they began walking home hand in hand.
“Not in a million years, Shugo.”
Shugo laughed and it sounded like music to Shuns ears. “Fine, night walks it is then.”
Shun let out a breath and it created a small cloud of fog in front of him.
“At least let me finish this pack. It’d be a waste to just throw it away.” he said, looking down at the half-empty pack. It’d take around two or three more days to smoke them if he kept up his usual routine.
“I think I’ve got something better to give you instead.” Shugo said with a sly smirk.
Shun mirrored it. “Oh? And what’d that might be?” he asked, teasingly, already having an idea. One which he wasn’t appalled to.
“How about I’ll just show you?”
And a s expected, Shugo leaned down and gave him a kiss. And not a chaste one at that. Shun didn’t hesitate to title his head and return it just as passionate. That didn’t stop him from trying to grab the pack of cigarettes Shugo had snuck out of his pocked, but he ended up getting a little distracted. They only parted when their lungs begged them for air.
“You really like doing this don’t you?” Shun asked.
Shugo looked at him a bit confused before he brushed his fingers over Shugos hand, that had entangled itself into Shuns hair.
“I just like touching you.”
Shun grinned at all the implication that allowed. “You know… there are still seven cigarettes left~”
Little alternative ending:
Shugo gently took the pack out of his hand. “I think I have something better to give you instead.”
Shugo said with a sly smirk.
Shun mirrored it. “Oh? And what’d that might be?” he asked, teasingly already having an idea. One which he wasn’t appalled to.
“Agree to go on night runs with me and I’ll show you~”
“Oh, come on! That’s no fair!”
Shugo laughed as Shun tried to snatch the pack of cigarettes back from him before the smaller one just wrapped his arms around his neck and pulled him into another kiss.