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one good turn (deserves another)

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The first time Koushuu walks in on them, Miyuki still has enough of a sense of shame to look vaguely embarrassed.

Sawamura, on the other hand, doesn't even hear the door open and looks at Miyuki—plaintive and more than a little breathless, and god, Koushuu hates—he doesn't even know what or whom, exactly—he just hates—because Sawamura definitely has his hands under Miyuki's shirt and is saying,

"That felt good. Why'd you stop?"

Koushuu spins on his heel and slams the door behind him.

He's already halfway down the stairs before he hears Sawamura's voice calling after him,

"Okumura? Hey, come back! We're still doing baseball studying tonight!"

"Didn't look like it," Koushuu mutters to himself, and stalks off to find Taku or maybe a tire so he can run until his brain is too exhausted to remember something he never, ever wanted to see.



(Taku nearly trips and falls on his face when Koushuu tells him later—and instead of looking appropriately, supportively outraged—Taku laughs.

"Sorry, I'm just—" Taku coughs and wheezes to catch his breath, which serves him right. "But honestly, Koushuu—why didn't you knock?")




That's a question Koushuu will ask himself time and again in the following weeks. For example:

He can hear the pair of them bickering almost before he's reached his door. And that's normal enough. Nothing Koushuu isn't used to after three months at Seidou and altogether too much time in the company of people as loud as Sawamura Eijun. It's not even that Sawamura is unbearably loud, on his own; it's the way he somehow manages to drag just about everyone else around him down to his level.

Koushuu personally thinks that somewhere, someone along the line made a terrible mistake letting Sawamura room together with Kuramochi-senpai.

Not even Miyuki is immune to this effect. Then again, Sawamura and Miyuki are two sides of the same dirt-stained coin, as Kanemaru-senpai likes to say with a roll of his eyes. Leave them alone together in a room long enough, and they're as likely to kill each other as they are to kiss.

Kanemaru had been joking. Or so Koushuu thought at the time.

Now, he knows that Kanemaru just didn't have all the facts: leave Sawamura and Miyuki alone together in a room long enough, and there's nothing stopping them from fighting and making out at the same time.

"You take that back, Miyuki Kazuya! Chris-senpai would never—"

"Oh? Are you saying you know from personal experience, Sawamura?"

"What?! How dare— Nnngh."

"Mmhm. So he was right about that, too."

Koushuu is going to need an entire truckload of tires to help him forget that—even if it's less than a second between him opening the door and shutting it again—because nobody needs even a nanosecond of the sight of Miyuki's lips on Sawamura's neck, Sawamura obviously enjoying it even as he continues to gripe about this unwarranted assault on his senpai's good character and reputation, how dare you, Miyuki Kazuya, you're definitely going to hell.

That part, at least, Koushuu can agree with.



("Ah," says Taku, pushing his glasses up his nose. His grin is far too bright for someone who's supposedly lending shelter and a sympathetic ear to Koushuu, who's hardly been able to set foot in his own room without getting an eyeful. Sympathy is distinctly lacking in Taku's voice when he snickers, "That explains why Sawamura-senpai was wearing a high collared shirt today.")




"Do neither of you know how to lock a door?" Koushuu snarls, because for the love of god, why does this keep happening to him.

"Everyone's at video game night," Sawamura says absently, at the same time Miyuki smirks, "Captain's privilege."



(Taku pats his arm. "Think of it this way," he tells Koushuu. "When you're an upperclassman, you can also do whatever you want."

"Why would I want to do that?"

Taku pats his arm again. "It's all part of growing up.")




The later in the summer, the worse it gets.

His stamina improves, so running stops being a useful distraction. They win, game after game, and Koushuu learns to camp out somewhere else—anywhere else—for at least two hours after they get back to the dorms. Koushuu files information away for his own survival, learns to pound on his own door before entering his own room—and it still doesn't save him from walking into the equipment shed one day after practice and finding Sawamura with his tongue so far down Miyuki's throat, it's a wonder neither of them have choked.

It's like they don't even remember what shame means anymore. Discretion has long since flown out the window.

Maybe it's something in the water. None of the upperclassmen so much as bat an eye when Sawamura shows up to breakfast one day, drowsy and smiling and a hickey distinctly visible above the collar of his shirt. Haruichi-san takes Sawamura's chopsticks from him, replaces them in his hand pointing the right way up, and asks if he got enough sleep.

Koushuu has enough difficulty finding his appetite under normal circumstances. That morning is a lost cause.

At some point, Koushuu realizes—with a whole new kind of horror—that he's actually getting used to it. Maybe resigned is a better word. He's gone back to his room to pick up his bat; no one answers when he knocks—and knocks again just to be sure—so when he walks in, he is not expecting to find Miyuki and Sawamura making out against the wall.


Sawamura blinks at his voice. Or perhaps he finally had to come up for air. "Oh, hey. You're back already?"

"It's nearly ten-thirty." Koushuu spots his gear by his bed, keeps his eyes firmly averted so he doesn't have to see Miyuki's hand creeping under Sawamura's shirt. "Didn't you hear me knock?"

"Uh. Must've missed it. Did you hear anything?"

"Mm. My mind was elsewhere."

Apparently. Koushuu grabs his gear and makes to leave.

"If you could lock the door on your way out," Miyuki suggests.

Koushuu grabs a tie lying on the floor—nope, not thinking about how it got there—lets himself out and hangs the tie on the doorknob. It's more consideration than they ever gave him, but honestly, at this point, it's either that or permanent self-exile.



("You're a good man, Koushuu," Taku says, perfectly deadpan. Koushuu glares at him over his math textbook. Taku grins right back. "They'll thank you someday."

"I don't want their thanks. I just want them to give it a rest."

Kanemaru snorts. "Easy for you to say." When Koushuu and Taku look to him as one, Kanemaru shrugs irritably. "Summer goes fast. Before you know it, the third years will be gone." With another shrug, Kanemaru goes back to his own homework. "You'll see.")




"What do we do now?"

Koushuu pauses, fist poised to knock, when he hears Sawamura's voice coming from inside. He almost doesn't recognize it at first: the hitch in his breath distorting Sawamura's trademark optimism into something else.

Sweat drips down Koushuu's neck in the humid August night.

Miyuki replies, "You do what you always did. Move forward. Step by step."

"Not without you."

A pause. "Go to Koushien again next year, Eijun. With Okumura. You'll make a good team..."

Koushuu walks away before he can intrude any further.

There are still some things, he imagines, that they want to keep for themselves.



(He spends the night in Taku's room. Kanemaru lends him an extra pillow, and Koushuu lies awake long after everyone else has gone to sleep, listening to the familiar sound of other people breathing.

What do we do now?)




The answer is: exactly what they did before.

The third years have retired. Miyuki has moved out of the team dorms. Sawamura is back to normal—or as normal as Sawamura ever can be. Koushuu works with him and Furuya. Kuki gives Yui hell just because he can. Toujou-san returns to the bullpen, to a roar of approval from Sawamura, and Koushuu hands their ace off to Kariba so he can check the new captain's condition himself.

He sits with Asada at dinner, listens to Taku gossip through three bowls of rice and after-hours batting practice, returns to his own room without fear, and gets up in the morning to do it all over again.

Bit by bit, step by step, they settle into a new normal.

In retrospect, Koushuu should have known better than to get complacent. One night he stops by Sawamura's room, and the door is open a crack, so he walks in without thinking—

"I brought the scorebook you asked for. If you want to go over it—"

"Hey, Okumura."

—and there's Miyuki. Who gives him a cheerful smile, and then continues unbuttoning Sawamura's shirt as if nothing has happened. It's a full two seconds before Sawamura blinks and looks over his shoulder. His eyes settle on the scorebook in Koushuu's hands.

"Oh. Yeah, thanks. You can drop that on my desk," Sawamura says, and Koushuu considers dropping his head on the desk as well. It's not worth it, decides.

"The door was open," Koushuu feels obligated to point out. "You're going to scar Asada for life if you're not careful."

Sawamura makes a humming noise, which is no kind of response. Koushuu gives him an irritable glance—and looks away when he realizes it's because Sawamura is, apparently, getting Miyuki back for all the hickeys of this past summer.

"Oops," says Miyuki, suspiciously breathless. "Sorry about—that."

Koushuu is already halfway out the door, and it's still not fast enough to avoid hearing the catch in Miyuki's voice.

For god's sake, Koushuu thinks, with feeling, thunking his head against the wall once he's safely outside. Why him? Why any of this? Why?

A gasp floats through the ridiculously thin wall.

Koushuu bolts for the staircase, stomping loud enough to—hopefully—drown out whatever other noises are now happening behind closed doors.




"I'm not laughing at you. Really, I'm not. I'm very sympathetic. You've been through a lot."

"I expected to," Koushuu all but growls. "I was prepared to—for baseball. Obviously, that's not how they see it."

"I mean. Sawamura-senpai is certainly rounding the bases."

Taku ducks the pillow that Koushuu launches at his face, laughing exactly as he's just promised not to do.

"But hey, if nothing else," Taku says, clutching the pillow and catching his breath, "you're learning a lot."

"Why would I want to learn about that?"

"I don't know. Aren't you curious?"

Koushuu gives him a blank look. Taku smiles and shrugs. After a pause, Koushuu ventures, "Are you?"

"Hmm. I mean, who isn't?" Taku props his chin on one hand. "Even Kanemaru-senpai sneaks off sometimes. Don't tell anyone I told you, though."

"I won't," Koushuu says automatically, before it occurs to him. "Wait. With who? And why haven't I heard about it?" The grapevine around here is impressive, to say the least.

Taku snickers to himself. "Captain's privilege, I guess."

No. "No." Koushuu stares Taku down, calling his bluff. Taku just raises an eyebrow. Koushuu sits on the bed, dumbfounded. "How did I miss that?"

"You had a lot on your mind," Taku supplies, "with the previous captain." Koushuu gives him a glare. Taku laughs into the pillow. "Miyuki-senpai has taught you a lot, I'm sure."

"I don't know about that," Koushuu mutters.

"Want to find out?"


Taku shrugs. He's looking down at the pillow—and Koushuu knows that tell; Taku avoiding eye contact is Taku avoiding the actual topic at hand. "Just curious."

They're sitting very close. If he moves his hand a little, he can touch Taku's knee. "Why are you asking me?" Koushuu hears himself say.

"Eh. Why not?" Taku laughs; it's a fake laugh. "You're serious about everything you do. So you'll probably be good at this, too." Before Koushuu can do anything about the heat rising to his face at the idea—the idea that Taku put in his head, but one he can see more clearly than he wants to admit—Taku springs to his feet. "Anyway! I'm gonna get a soda. Do you want—"


Koushuu doesn't remember reaching for Taku's hand, but that's definitely his fingers wrapped around Taku's wrist, keeping him tethered. Shoulders tense, Taku glances at him—and does a double take.

"Are you blushing?"

The answer is literally written all over his face, Koushuu thinks with a scowl. It probably doesn't look very impressive, given the fact that yes, dammit.

He tugs on Taku's hand, pulls him back down—"I didn't say no," Koushuu mutters—and kisses him.

It's probably not very good, technically speaking. It's certainly over far too quickly. The angle is awkward, and Taku ends up half leaning, half-sitting in his lap when they pull apart.

Still. He can see why other people are into this. He likes the way Taku fits, warm and close in his arms. He likes the way their noses brush when Taku says,

"That was nice."

Yeah, Koushuu thinks distractedly. "Guess I have learned a thing or two."

There's a pause. Koushuu's brain finally catches up with what he just said when Taku starts laughing and doesn't stop, burying his face against Koushuu's neck—which tickles—and when he tries to squirm away, Taku laughs even harder.

He only stops when Koushuu winds his fingers through strands of messy hair, holding Taku in place so he can kiss him again.



"Oy, Okumura! You were also supposed to give me the scorebook from last— Oh my god! Ha! I knew it!!" Sawamura strikes a victory pose for absolutely no reason, or so Koushuu thinks, until Sawamura adds, "Kanemaru so owes me ¥500!"

"What?" Koushuu splutters—because seriously, what even.

Meanwhile, Taku calmly straightens his shirt and says, "If you're looking for Kanemaru-senpai, he's in Toujou-san's room."

"Cool. Thanks, Seto." Sawamura pauses at the door. He grins. "Don't do anything I wouldn't do."

Koushuu picks up the scorebook and hurls it at Sawamura. "Get out!"

Sawamura catches the scorebook with both hands, laughing as the door shuts. Koushuu can hear him laughing all the way down the hall and back up the stairs.

Taku pats his shoulder. "It happens to everyone. Don't worry about it." A pause. "Though, we should probably lock the door. Maybe stack a chair against it."

"Yeah," Koushuu agrees, then frowns at the note of concern. "Why?"

"Well," says Taku. His tone might have passed for remorse, but his grin struggles to show anything but mischief. "Pretty sure Kanemaru-senpai didn't go over there to discuss team business. If you know what I mean."

Koushuu laughs, and Taku's grin widens—and then Taku's kissing him, and honestly, Koushuu couldn't care less who might walk through the door.