Ryoga looks up from his plate at Kazuya. “Stop what?”
Kazuya waves his fork in Ryoga’s general direction. “That.”
He quirks an eyebrow in response. “What, existing?”
“Don’t chew so loudly. It disturbs the peace.”
Ryoga shrugs and goes back to shoveling steak into his mouth. “I don’t see anyone else complaining,” he says, mouth still full.
“Don’t speak with your mouth full. That’s disgusting.”
Irie elbows Kazuya in the ribs. “Hey, give the guy a break, Tokugawa. He is from America after all.” He frowns and looks at Kazuya. “How did you hear him chewing anyway? I can’t hear everything over how loud the middle schoolers are .” A hush falls over the dining hall as he raises his voice on the last few words.
Kazuya looks away and the chatter crescendos again. “I just happened to notice, that’s all.”
Ryoga swallows and Kazuya’s eyes track the motion of his adam’s apple. “Well, why don’t you notice how much food is left on your plate instead, huh? It’s not gonna eat itself.” He licks his lips just a bit too slowly to be unintentional and smacks his lips together.
Kazuya stabs his fork into his steak a bit too violently.
Ryoga stops serving mid-swing and turns to look at Kazuya on the neighboring court. The tennis balls hits the ground and bounces off into the fence. “Stop what?”
Kazuya frowns. “You know what.”
“No, I don’t know. Please do enlighten me,” he replies sarcastically.
“Don’t treat this practice match like a joke. I don’t care how good you think you are. Treat your opponent with respect by playing seriously.”
Ryoga spins his racket around his hand. “Are you sure that’s what you want?”
Ryoga’s opponent tentatively raises his hand. “Uh, Tokugawa-san, I don’t mind if he doesn’t go all out, I mean it’s just a pr-”
He stalks over to Ryoga and jabs his finger into his chest. “I know that you’re capable of more than this. Don’t look down on us just because you managed to beat Kiritani.”
Ryoga carefully wraps his hand around Kazuya’s and pushes it away from his chest. His hand is warm, too warm, and Kazuya pulls his hand back like he’s been burned.
Ryoga smirks at him like he knows something that he doesn’t. “Maybe you should pay some more attention to your own game than mine, hm? You can’t be respecting your opponent if you’re watching me closely enough that you can tell that I’m not playing at full strength.”
He rolls the sleeves of his jacket up and Kazuya definitely doesn’t watch the way his forearms flex. He reaches out for Kazuya and pushes him back. Kazuya feels his shoulders burning from his touch. “Stand back, pretty boy.”
Ryoga saunters over to the errant tennis ball and bends over to pick it up. Kazuya pointedly looks away. It’s not like he’d be able to see anything under the U-17 winter uniform. Not that he’d want to see anything.
Kazuya turns and stiffly walks back to his court. Behind him, he can hear the sound of a racket hitting a ball. Ryoga laughs as his opponent screams as the ball bounces towards his face and Kazuya can’t help but listen.
Ryoga stretches his arm behind his head and Kazuya watches his triceps twitch. “Stop what?”
“Parading outside like that in the middle of December.”
Ryoga looks down at his tank top and basketball shorts. “I don’t see what the problem is.”
“You’ll catch a cold.”
Ryoga grins devilishly at him and steps closer. “Oh? I didn’t know that you were that concerned about me, Tokugawa.”
Kazuya stiffens but doesn’t step back. “I’m not. But like it or not, you’re on the World Cup team. You can’t afford to jeopardize your health like that.”
Ryoga waves his hand dismissively. “It’s not like I’ll be on the team forever.”
Kazuya narrows his eyes. “What exactly do you mean by that?”
Ryoga takes another step closer. “What, would you miss me if I left?”
Ryoga steps next to Kazuya and slings his arm around his shoulders. He’s warm, uncharacteristically so. With his free hand, he reaches for the bottom of his tank top and uses it to wipe the sweat off his forehead. Kazuya stares disapprovingly at his abs.
“You’re going to get sick if you’re sweating this much in the cold.”
He shifts his arm around Kazuya and leans in close to his ear. “Relax,” he breathes into it. Kazuya holds back an involuntary shiver.
Ryoga pats Kazuya on the shoulder before letting him go and slinking off towards the dormitories. “Don’t stay out too long, Tokugawa,” he calls back over his shoulder, “you might be the one to catch a cold.”
Kazuya stares after him long after he disappears into the dorms, the image of his deltoids etching itself into his mind.
Ryoga bites into an orange, peel and all, and Kazuya lets out a noise of disgust. “Stop what?”
“First of all, that. Second, stop distracting Echizen.”
Ryoga looks at him blankly and takes another bite out of his orange. “You’re telling me to stop distracting myself.”
Kazuya’s frown deepens. “I meant your ‘brother’. Ryoma.”
“I could almost hear the quotes around ‘brother’. You know, we are biologically related, right? We lived together and everything.”
“You’re not acting like much of an older brother to him now.”
“And what, you are?” Ryoga asks.
Kazuya bristles. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Don’t think I don’t see you hovering around him all the time. I’m not sure if it’s pathetic or cute, how much you want him to like you.”
“That’s what you latch onto?” Ryoga takes another bite out of his orange before grimacing and throwing it back over his shoulder. It lands perfectly inside a trash can. “But yeah, cute. You’re cute.”
“I am not cute.”
“It’s cute how offended you are by that,” Ryoga teases.
Kazuya takes a deep breath to calm himself. He shouldn’t be getting riled up by just this, whatever this is.
“Is it wrong for me to want him to like me?”
Ryoga shrugs. “Honestly, it’s kind of weird. Even I wasn’t that fixated on him when he practically worshipped me.”
“I’m not fixated on him. I just want him to be able to reach his full potential.”
“Yeah, that and you want to be his nii-chan.” Ryoga shuffles closer to Kazuya and throws his arm around his shoulders again. “I’m almost offended that you pay more attention to him than me,” he simpers with faux sincerity.
Kazuya squints at him. “And why is that?”
He squeezes his shoulder and lets him go, walking away. “Hey, I called you cute. You figure it out from there.”
He stops and turns around. “Maybe you should consider that maybe Ryoma isn’t the one being distracted by me all the time, alright?”
Kazuya doesn’t sleep well that night.
Ryoga slips his hand under Kazuya’s shirt and presses his lips against his jawline. “Stop what?”
Kazuya shudders and arches into his touch. “Stop teasing me.”
Ryoga smiles against his jaw and laughs. “But it’s so much fun. I can’t believe I was at this for days before you finally realized things. You’re so slow.”
Kazuya frowns. “The coaches have ranked my speed at a 4.5 out of 5.”
Ryoga pinches his side and Kazuya flinches, knocking his skull against Ryoga’s. Ryoga pulls back, hand on his head, and inexplicably laughs. He presses a kiss against Kazuya’s forehead where he hit him. “You’re cute.”
Kazuya sighs and Ryoga amends his statement: “And cool and manly and all that, but mostly cute.”
“I’m breaking up with you.”
“We’re not even together. You just barged into my room and kissed me out of nowhere like five minutes ago.”
“Could we . . .”
Ryoga looks at him expectantly.
“Could we . . . try being together?”
Ryoga kisses him again on the cheek. “Yeah, yeah. I’d like that.”
Kazuya smiles and kisses him back.