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As You Are

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-~- Prologue -~-

It shouldn’t have been a big deal.

“Uh… Miyuki?”

“What is it?” Miyuki briefly glanced up from his book, only half paying attention to his friend.

But then he caught the look on Kuramochi’s face.

Usually, for Kuramochi to look that serious, it had to be something important.

But it really shouldn’t have been a big deal.

Kuramochi looked up at Miyuki, hesitantly. There was an undercurrent of anger in his gaze.
But most of all, worry.
He pushed Miyuki’s legs off of his lap, where Miyuki had made himself comfortable, as usual.
Then Kuramochi moved closer, holding up his phone.
Showing a picture of Miyuki and his boyfriend, Sawamura.
Taken outside, Miyuki thought perhaps it was even just last weekend.
Actually, looking at their clothes, he was pretty certain it was.
Was it outside the restaurant they’d been too? Yes, Miyuki could see it in the background.
But of course, the most noticeable thing was Miyuki and Sawamura themselves.

Holding hands, naturally.
And Miyuki leaning down to kiss Sawamura.
Miyuki remembered it, even though it had been such a quick, passing kiss.
They’d both blushed pink. How did they always blush at such simple kisses?

Miyuki laughed. “How did you get that? Were you out last week too?”

Kuramochi frowned. “Miyuki… This is online. I didn’t take it.”

Now it was Miyuki’s turn to frown, not getting it. “What? Why would it be-“

“Miyuki.” Kuramochi said, very seriously. “I think you’ve been outed.”
Miyuki blinked, slowly, trying to get a grasp on the situation.

It shouldn’t have been a big deal.
It should have just been another, quiet, private moment of happiness for him and his boyfriend.

In truth, Miyuki didn’t really take it as seriously as he should have done.
He had no idea what this was going to mean.

Chapter Text

Miyuki Kazuya had been drafted straight out of Seidou.
He’d had scouts tripping over themselves to see him. And offers had been fast to follow.

He’d hesitated, only to consider which of the many paths open to him might be best. It was fair to say he’d even agonised over the decision.
But, then, finally, one day he received a letter from someone, someone with enough sway to convince him.

Miyuki had simply grinned and followed his gut.
The team he found himself on had welcomed him, gratefully.

And yeah, maybe Miyuki could have been a little bit less obvious in the way he greeted Chris on their first day. But he couldn’t exactly help it.
He felt like he’d waited forever to be on the same team again.

Miyuki didn’t even mind that having Chris there meant that he was unlikely to be on the starting line-up anytime soon.
If there was one person he could really get a kick out of watching play, it was Chris.

Meanwhile, as he was settling into the team, Miyuki was also settling into his new apartment.
Which he shared with Kuramochi.

They’d both wanted their own place, and neither wanted to rely on the help of their parent’s money now they could pay their own way.
This had seemed like the obvious option.
Even if Kuramochi did have one, small complaint.

The fact that his previous roommate from Seidou, and incidentally now Miyuki’s boyfriend, Sawamura Eijun, would often also be found at the apartment.
It wasn’t that Kuramochi minded Sawamura. In fact, they’d gotten pretty close over the past few years.

However.

Needless to say that after he came home from work one evening and found the two of them in the living room decidedly NOT watching the tv that was on in the background, Kuramochi had forced some ground rules on the couple.
Most important of which detailed where they could or could not get hot and heavy, whether Kuramochi was there or not.

--

It was Friday evening when the first picture of Miyuki and Sawamura showed up online. At first, Miyuki remained unconcerned about it. Maybe a little unhappy that something private was making the rounds, but apart from that, he wasn’t too worried.

He was too distracted with the idea that Sawamura would be staying over the weekend again.
It could be the last time for a little while, thanks to Miyuki’s recently building schedule.

This season, finally, Miyuki had been added to the starting roster. He’d ended the previous season as a reliable back up for Chris as catcher, but now they were swapping in and out more.

And Miyuki’s popularity was only growing. The cheers that could be heard when Miyuki’s name was called had a slightly higher pitch than other players. He had quite a few female fans, it turned out. (Quite a few was putting it mildly). And in the crowds waiting outside for their team, there was often that same huddle of girls and women, wanting to get a closer look at the ‘Pretty Catcher’.

Miyuki, for his part, was every bit as unconcerned by this as he had been when at Seidou. Fans were fans, as far as Miyuki was concerned, gender wasn’t an issue.
And those who entertained an idea of dating him? Let them. He was level-headed enough to know they liked the idea of him, not the real him.
His teammates often teased him about it, but good naturedly.

And then there was the manger of the team.
He quite clearly loved all the extra attention his young catcher had brought in.
Miyuki was a way to sell tickets, a way to sell merchandise. He’d been the one to make sure that Miyuki was at least always SEEN at games, even if he didn’t get to play.
Equally, his coach loved him for other reasons. His skill, the prodigy level genius that, happy to say, hadn’t been simply all hype after all.

Not to mention. This was a catcher that could get their newest acquisition to listen.

Narumiya Mei had been signed to the team that very season. He’d been a handful already. A pain at practice, demanding in the clubhouse, and sometimes downright irritating before and after games.

But settle him in next to Miyuki, and something strange seemed to happen. He’d listen, watch Miyuki’s cues and, seemingly, want to match Miyuki in every way.

As for games? Putting Narumiya and Miyuki together was basically a dream. They barely had to communicate, but when they did, it was smooth, easy. The number of time outs was limited, and brief whenever they happened.
Miyuki was an asset, in every sense of the word.
And it was seriously looking like Chris was going to start being HIS back up, not the other way around.

This wasn’t something Miyuki was planning on taking lightly. He was intent on putting in more practice hours, where he could, to make sure he could keep up with what was promising to be a very busy season.

Plus, this was Sawamura’s final year at University. He had tests to pass and, hopefully, if everything went according to plan, a busy draft season later in the year too.
Their time was about to become even more precious, and both Miyuki and Sawamura planned to get the fullest out of every second.

--

“Hello Mochi-Senpai!!”

Kuramochi groaned as Sawamura announced his entrance into the apartment in usual animated, loud manner.
It might be thought that a few years at University, some time growing might have allowed Sawamura to mellow, even a little.
That seemed destined not to be the case, however. Sawamura was Sawamura, no matter how much time passed or where you put him.

Kuramochi turned his head towards the doorway of the living room, and saw Sawamura hanging off Miyuki in typical fashion. Basically, clinging to his arm and pressing in as close as possible.
Miyuki, in turn was leaning a little into him and smiling affectionately.

When Sawamura had first started coming over to Miyuki and Kuramochi’s apartment he’d been almost hesitant, nervous. Like he wasn’t quite sure where he fitted into this new space.

But he’d quickly settled in. Like a third roommate that was only there roughly one third of the time.
He had spare clothes here, his own toiletries in the bathroom. One of the game controllers stored by the TV was his. Kuramochi knew that even more things of Sawamura’s resided in Miyuki’s room too.

It was his space as well, even if only occasionally.

Kuramochi frowned as he noted the very obvious nature of how Miyuki and Sawamura were acting.
He looked at Miyuki, the question obvious between them.
‘Tell me you weren’t acting like this out there…’
Miyuki shook his head, raising a hand to stop Kuramochi from voicing the question aloud.

“Feels like you’re always here, Sawamura!” He said, with a good-natured grin.
“How’s school?”
“… Fine…” Sawamura replied, noticeably hesitantly, slipping away from Miyuki as he answered.
Miyuki laughed. “Oh? Am I gonna have to tutor you?”

“No!” Sawamura protested.
“Really?” Miyuki asked, reaching his hands to Sawamura’s waist, grabbing him and pulling him close. “Are you sure? I promise I can produce amazing results.”
Miyuki leaned in, just barely stopping before his lips touched Sawamura’s.

Kuramochi’s exaggerated cough distracted him however, as was clearly intended.
“How’s the rest of the guys?” Kuramochi continued, conversationally. “Furuya and, uh, you know. Kominato.”
Miyuki grinned, knowingly at Kuramochi as he hesitated over Haruichi’s name.
The guy was painfully obvious.
But Sawamura was hopelessly oblivious and hadn’t yet noticed that his old roommate had been nursing an ever-growing crush on the younger Kominato brother ever since his final year at Seidou.

Dumbass just hadn’t ever made the move.

Mind you, Miyuki hadn’t been the one to make the move with Sawamura either. So maybe they were both dumbasses after all.

“They’re fine!” Sawamura said, brightly, finally making his way to Miyuki’s room to drop off his over night bag in there.
Kuramochi glanced at Miyuki, saw him trying not to laugh, and threw a cushion at him. “Shut up!” Kuramochi hissed.

“You are so obvious.” Miyuki teased, gleefully.
“I said, shut up.” Kuramochi grumbled.
“Maybe we should invite Kominato next time Eijun comes over?” Miyuki suggested.

Sawamura returned, happily falling into Miyuki’s outstretched arms, tipping them both back into the seat next to Kuramochi.
As usual Kuramochi tutted, making a show of edging away from the couple. “It’s like having a puppy…” He grumbled. “A puppy and an overindulgent owner!”
Sawamura pouted. “I’m not over indulged!”
“No you’re not.” Miyuki agreed, perhaps adding a little too cute a tone on his words as he moved in to kiss Sawamura.

“Oi.” Kuramochi interrupted. “What are the rules?” He said. “I’m not above getting the water pistol to cool you both off!”
It was a long-standing joke. Ever since Kuramochi had walked in on them (getting up to decidedly more than just kissing) that one time in the living room, he’d threatened to chuck cold water on both of them if they didn’t quit it.
Miyuki whined. “Let me kiss my boyfriend. It’s been… Almost a whole week!”

“Hmm…” Kuramochi mused. “About that… Have you told Sawamura?”

“Huh?” Sawamura looked up, sitting up a little straighter. “Told me about what?”
Miyuki winced, sitting up too as his hand reached to the back of his neck. “Uh…”
Kuramochi tutted. Then he pulled out his phone.
Brought up the page, which, in the couple of hours since they’d last looked, had already gained a lot more comments.
Then he handed the phone to Sawamura.
“You might want to think about being a little more careful about… Your public affection.”

Sawamura took the phone, frowning, not understanding what Kuramochi might mean by that.
Even as he read through the comments, saw the picture repeated over and over again, Sawamura still didn’t get it. Not because he didn’t understand what had happened. He just couldn’t wrap his head around how this could be such a big deal. And how it could blow up in such a short space of time.
Surely, everything would be fine, wouldn’t it?

--

It had gotten late, Kuramochi having long excused himself for the evening. Professing tiredness, though he often stayed up much longer than Miyuki did.

Sawamura edged closer to Miyuki on the couch, snuggling into him.
He knew that Miyuki was trying to act casual about what was happening. Act like it wasn’t bothering him.
But when Sawamura glanced at Miyuki’s phone, he saw he was scrolling through the news section which was, specifically, about himself.
The comments being made. The reactions.

Miyuki was good at hiding how he was feeling, but Sawamura thought that he could read a lot just in the small crease between Miyuki’s eyebrows.
“Miyuki…” Sawamura said, quietly.
Quickly, Miyuki closed his phone and put it down. He looked to Sawamura with a simple smile which even he must have known looked just a little forced.
Sawamura frowned at him, before burying his face against Miyuki’s shoulder.

“Miyuki… Are you? Is this… Going to be okay?”

A soft smile, and Miyuki petted at Sawamura’s hair. “I’ll be fine. My manager says he wants to talk to me tomorrow, I expect it’ll be about how we smooth this all out. Nothing to worry about.”

“So you’re not… Going to lose your place on the team?” Sawamura asked, looking up, hesitantly.
He hated that.
The idea that Miyuki could lose everything he’d worked for, everything he’d hoped for, just because of this.
(Just because of him.)

Miyuki’s smile dropped, and he blinked.
Sawamura had surprised him. This was obviously something he hadn’t thought of.
“B-because if it comes to that!” Sawamura said, suddenly sitting up. “Because if it comes to it! I won’t, I refuse to be the reason why you lose… Everything! I swear it, Miyuki Kazuya if they ask you to choose and you choose me, I will dump you so fast! You hear me?!”

Miyuki blinked, a few more times, shocked into silence.

Then he laughed.
And then laughed harder. Wrapping his arms tightly around Sawamura, and pulling him close. Falling backwards onto the couch and pulling Sawamura with him, on top of him.

Sawamura looked down at him, still looking so serious, yet so surprised.
“I won’t let them make me choose.” Miyuki said, softly, his hand reaching up to brush back through Sawamura’s hair.
He smiled, genuinely this time.
“They can’t make me choose between what I love most in the world.”
With a gentle, guiding hand, Miyuki drew Sawamura down to him, then kissed him, softly, warmly.

“It’s all going to be fine, I promise.”

--

Miyuki couldn’t stop pacing.

He was shaking with frustration.
And anger.
And indignation.
And.
(Shame).

“I refuse.” He’d said.

“Absolutely not.” He’d said.

And yet.
The coach. His manager, they’d both made it clear enough.

He closed his eyes, tightly and he could still see the cold, unmoving expression on the coach’s face.
“You will issue a statement, apologising for any confusion or inconvenience caused. And you will explain that it was a misunderstanding. You are not dating. And you most certainly are not gay.”

“I will not-“

“You will do it. Or you will not step foot out on the field until you do.”
He’d been unable to say anything.
He was shocked.
They were serious about this. Completely serious.

“Go home for today, Miyuki. And consider your options.”

He kicked the locker, cursing out loud as he did.

Miyuki had arrived at practice the usual time, straight after seeing Sawamura off to make sure he got the train back to his University.
He’d been careful. They’d kept their goodbye kisses to inside the apartment, even though they still had a little time before they were actually parting.
Not holding Sawamura’s hand had been more difficult than Miyuki had been expecting. But he knew it was for the best. If there was a spotlight on him (which Miyuki wasn’t really sure there even was), it was best to be careful until he knew it had moved on.

He was in plenty of time.
He’d just gone into the locker room, when the coach came and found him.

“Miyuki.”

He’d straightened up from where he’d been crouching to put his bag down. “Yes?” Miyuki said as he looked up, giving an easy smile.
He’d known already. Of course he had.

“We need to talk.”
Miyuki nodded.

And followed as he was led to the manager’s office.
The team manager was there too.
Miyuki was offered a seat.

He couldn’t remember the last time he felt this nervous.
The pictures were laid out on the desk, facing Miyuki.

Oh. So there were more?
A picture of him and Sawamura, still leant in close, smiling.
Just after a kiss.

Walking together.

Miyuki’s arm around Sawamura’s waist, pulling him close.

Another where they’d stopped, briefly on their way back to Miyuki’s apartment.
Sawamura leant back against a wall. Miyuki pressed close against him, hand against the wall beside Sawamura.
Leaning in, kissing him again, more deeply than the original picture that had come out.
Some others of them just walking, hand in hand.

Miyuki was relieved that the pictures didn’t seem to follow them on to train, on their journey back to his apartment.
He felt invaded enough as it was, Miyuki didn’t know if he would have been able to handle the thought of someone having pictures of his home.

“I don’t think we need to ask you to explain.” The manager said, pausing before continuing. “You’re in a relationship with this boy?”
Miyuki closed his eyes, steeling himself to speak.
He nodded. “Yes.”
A deep sigh from across the desk. “That’s a shame. If he was just a hook up it would have been easier.”
Miyuki felt his heart suddenly start thumping.
Easier?

“If we were to ask you to break up with him-“

Miyuki looked up from the pictures, wide eyed with shock.
The manager smiled, wryly. “I thought as much.” He said.
Now the coach finally settled into his chair, just off from the desk.

“The fact it’s a relationship isn’t a problem.” He said, as matter of fact in here as he was out on the field. “You guys all know you’re not supposed to date, but you do it anyway. All we ask is that you keep it discreet. Especially in a case such as yours. The girls in the stands are buying as much of your merchandise as the guys, doesn’t make sense to upset their illusions.”
Miyuki nodded in understanding.
All while taking a deep sigh of relief.

So that was all? He just had to be more discreet about it? Well, okay. Miyuki could agree to that. He could be more careful.
“The fact it’s a guy that you’re dating. That’s more of a problem.”
Miyuki froze.
His temporary relief disappearing in an instant.
“I-“

It was rare that Miyuki found himself unsure what to say.
But this was definitely one of those times.

“Listen, Miyuki.” The manager said, his voice coaxing and misleadingly calm. “We’re not saying we personally have a problem with it.”

“As far as I’m concerned.” His coach chimed in. “You’re a damn good player and invaluable to this team. I don’t give a damn who you prefer to take to bed.
However. This is bigger than just you. I have to think about the whole team here, and what affect this could have.”

Miyuki frowned, at that point not quite understanding what this was all leading to.

“And I have to look at this from the point of view of sponsors, marketability.” His manager continued. “Therefore…”
That’s when the press conference had been brought up.

That’s when Miyuki had realised this was so much bigger than he’d thought it would be.
He’d refused.
But they hadn’t accepted his refusal. Telling him to go home, to think about it.

And now here Miyuki was, head against his arm where he leant against his locker.
Trying to keep it together.

He could hear the other guys, already out there, at practice.
He couldn’t join them. At least not today.
Miyuki thumped his fist against the locker.
Then finally snatched up his bag and turned to leave.

--

“… How did it go?” Kuramochi asked, trying to keep his voice light as possible, even as he’d heard the door slam and the way Miyuki threw himself down on the couch.
When he didn’t get an answer right away, Kuramochi poked his head out of the kitchen.

He sighed as he took in the sight before him.

Miyuki was sprawled out, full length on the couch, one hand over his face, while the other was caught up in his hair.
“That good, huh?”

Miyuki let out a small grumble of frustration, the hand in his hair clenching tighter as he did.
Then he moved his hand away, staring up as the ceiling as he said,

“They want me to deny it.”

Kuramochi put down the glass he’d been drying, and came properly into the living room.

“Okay.” He said, picking up Miyuki’s legs to sit on the couch, letting him settle back down once Kuramochi was comfortable.
“Not really much point denying a picture but…”

“There was more than one.” Miyuki interrupted.

Kuramochi looked up. “…Oh.”
“They want me to say it was… A misunderstanding. That Eijun is just a friend. And…”
Miyuki trailed off.

And Kuramochi didn’t have to look up again to know the fury that would be in Miyuki’s eyes.

“They want you to say you’re straight, right?” Kuramochi filled in.
“Yeah.”

Kuramochi couldn’t think of what to say. Nothing felt like enough.
“You shouldn’t have to do that… What’s it matter anyway if you’re gay? It no one’s business.”

Miyuki sighed. “Something about… Marketability… Appeal. I- I don’t know-“
Kuramochi snorted. “Listen, Kazuya, I bet you half your fangirls have fantasised about you with… I dunno, probably Chris. They’re not gonna care.”
Miyuki smirked. “As if I ever had a chance with Chris.”

“Right, because Chris is as straight as, well, me.”

To that, Miyuki outright laughed. “You think you’re straight?!”
Kuramochi shrugged. “Well. Maybe not completely. I could be swayed…”
Miyuki nodded. “Uh huh. Uh huh. Especially if a pink haired-“

“Shut your mouth!” Kuramochi said, talking over Miyuki, even as he blushed pink.

Then he glanced at Miyuki, pleased to see he was smiling again.
Good, that was the result Kuramochi had wanted.

“Anyway!” Kuramochi continued, with a quiet cough. “The point is… I don’t think you have any reason to deny it.”
The smile slipped from Miyuki almost immediately.

“They’re not going to let me play… Until I do.”
Kuramochi stared at him then as this final bombshell hit.

He wasn’t sure what he could say to that.
Just watching as Miyuki closed his eyes, tried to get comfortable on the couch.
Kuramochi knew this was the very worst position they could have put him in.

--

Miyuki returned to practice the next day.
Naively he’d hoped that everything would just continue as normal.

Of course that wasn’t, couldn’t be the case.
Enough time had passed, and after discovering Miyuki had been sent home, any straggling team members who hadn’t already known certainly did now.
The usual noise in the locker room turned to a hush and then to a chilling silence as Miyuki walked in.

Ah.
Yes. This was an old, familiar feeling. The feeling that those around you don’t quite understand you, and certainly don’t know how to act around you.

Miyuki smiled, hesitating only briefly before continuing to his locker.

“Morning guys, did I miss much at practice yesterday?”
Might as well address the fact he’d been absent, even if, especially if no one was willing to bring up why.

No one said anything.
And Miyuki felt a certain stiffness come into his shoulders. A defensive kind of feeling. He glanced around briefly as he opened his locker, putting his bag down in front of it.
Heads turned as his gaze swept over them, pretending they weren’t staring at him.

Across the room, Nijima was halfway through changing. His practice shirt in his hands.
He caught Miyuki’s gaze.
Then hurried to put his shirt on, acting like a maid covering herself. A slight scowl marring his features.

Miyuki smirked, just a little, laughing lightly. “You really think you’re my type, Nijima?” Miyuki said, casually.

Just get it out there. Get it over with. Wasn’t that easier anyway?
“What the HELL Miyuki?! Have you been-“

Other dark murmurings came from all around Miyuki. His teammates voicing the concerns they’d likely held since they found out.
Has he been checking me out?
Has he been sneaking glances?
Ah shit, we’ve all seen each other in the showers, was he watching?

Miyuki sighed, already exhausted by it all.
“Look-“ He said, starting to turn around.

“If everyone remembers, Miyuki was photographed with his boyfriend.”
Miyuki looked around, and saw Chris in the doorway.

He slumped, just slightly in relief.
A new kind of hush fell upon the locker room now.
Chris really could do that just by walking into a room.
He came over and stood beside Miyuki.
Everyone watched him carefully. Like they were worried Miyuki had something catching and Chris might be harmed by it.
“And since I know what a loyal and dedicated person Miyuki is, I’m quite sure no one here needs to worry about wandering eyes.”

Miyuki smiled, just a little.
And yeah, maybe he felt a little warm with gratefulness as Chris placed his hand on Miyuki’s shoulder.
“Miyuki is still Miyuki. There’s no need to treat him any differently.” Chris said.

A few moments where it seemed like everyone considered this.
And then, just like that, the tension melted. And Miyuki let out a breath he didn’t realise he’d been holding.
“Thanks.” Miyuki said, as everyone returned to what they were doing, all interest in Miyuki suddenly gone.
Chris smiled back, with a slight nod. “If I can help in any way, I will.”
Miyuki laughed. “Maybe convince the manager to let me off doing a press conference?” He suggested, only half joking.
Chris frowned. “I heard about that. I don’t think it’s fair but… Miyuki. I think you’ll have to do it.”

Miyuki looked up at Chris, something like a jolt of disappointment running through him.
So Chris thought so too?
“Yeah. Maybe.” He mumbled in reply.

--

“Kazuya!” A sharp, hissing whisper and a tug at his elbow was the only warning he got that Narumiya had arrived at practice.
He’d just nipped back inside to retrieve his hat that he’d left in his locker. It was oddly bright for so early in the season, so Miyuki had gone back for it.

Not that the coach noticed. Or so it seemed. He’d basically ignored Miyuki completely so far.
Orders from the manager? He wasn’t even to be acknowledged until he agreed to deny his sexuality and the fact he was dating? What was this? Even school would never have played by such narrow-minded rules.

And that was something he couldn’t help thinking about.
Seidou had known.
Coach Kataoka had known exactly that Miyuki was gay. And yet Miyuki had remained a regular on the first string. Not only that but he’d been made Captain of the team.

He’d never expected a professional team to play by such petty means compared to his high school.

Miyuki looked around at Narumiya, who was scowling, darkly at him.
As much as they could press each other’s buttons, there was also an understanding between the two of them. Miyuki, much as he didn’t like to ever admit it to Narumiya, actually felt a kind of calm when with him.
There were no pretences here.

“Kazuya.” Narumiya repeated, darkly. “What the hell are you doing?”
Miyuki went to answer, likely with a smart remark.

“You’re putting us all in jeopardy with this, you know that?” Narumiya continued.
And to that, Miyuki couldn’t figure out what to say.
He just stared at Narumiya.

Realising that yes, potentially, this could make things difficult for their new star pitcher if… Certain things got out.
Not least their own history.
And Miyuki and Narumiya had a lot of history.

Miyuki sighed, brushing Narumiya’s hand off his arm.
“Calm down, Mei. This isn’t going to come back on you.”

Narumiya narrowed his eyes, stepping closer. “You don’t know that.”
Miyuki couldn’t help a slight grin. “Believe it or not, not everything revolves around you. This just affects me.”
“Until someone goes digging into your past and-“

“No one’s going to bother! I’ll be yesterdays news by the end of the day.”
Miyuki didn’t believe it, but if he said it out loud he thought maybe he could make it true.

Narumiya shook his head.
“Just get on with doing the press conference, Kazuya. The sooner you do it, the smaller the whole impact will be.”
Now Miyuki frowned, standing up a little straighter. The relaxed, easy quality to him slipping as he looked to Narumiya now.
“So you’re telling me to lie?”
Narumiya snorted a laugh. “You were lying by omission before, same as me. What’s the difference if it’s just outright now?”

Hands curling into fists, even as Miyuki heard the words turning over and over in his head.
Had he been lying? Really? No one asked so he’d never told. Did that really count as lying?

“It’s not the same.” Miyuki said, evenly. “I’m not going to hurt Eijun by standing up in front of everyone and saying that he’s nothing more than a friend.”
Narumiya stepped closer again.
His very presence managing to crowd Miyuki as he did.
“Then instead you’ll hurt his chance of going pro.
You’ve already got in, Kazuya, so you’re safe for now. Maybe you should be thinking about what could happen to Sawamura when draft season comes around.”
Miyuki felt himself go cold at Narumiya’s words.

He was right.
He was right and Miyuki hadn’t even thought about this part.
“Kazuya. Just do the press, get it over with.”

--

A couple of days later and Kuramochi came into the living room to find Miyuki sprawled, for a change, on the floor. Staring up at the ceiling and barely reacting to the fact that Kuramochi had arrived home.

“Oi.” Kuramochi said, kicking Miyuki’s foot as he walked past to get to the TV. “I said, ‘I’m home’.”

“Oh.” Miyuki blinked, looking a little dazed as he turned his head in Kuramochi’s direction. “Yeah, welcome back.”

Kuramochi rolled his eyes, stepping over Miyuki again so he could get back to the couch.
A few minutes passed where the only noise came from the TV, and the programme Kuramochi had put on.

“Hey, Kuramochi?”

“Yeah?” He glanced down at Miyuki, who was still staring straight up.
“Do you think I should just do the press conference?”

Kuramochi sighed, picking up the remote to immediately switch off the TV again.
“Are they still asking?” He asked, carefully.
“They don’t have to. They made it pretty clear today with their pick for the game.”

Kuramochi winced. “Eh? So they really went through with it? Not letting you in the game?”

“I’m on the list of 25 still but… They’re not gonna let me play. They made that obvious.” Miyuki explained, hollowly.
“You sure?”
“They added another catcher, as well as Chris. I think they’re being pretty transparent with their intentions.”

Kuramochi let out a low whistle. “That’s… Pretty blunt of them yeah.”
Miyuki sat up, pulling off his glasses to rub at his eyes. “Should I do it?” He asked, part to himself as well as Kuramochi.
Putting his glasses back in place, Miyuki instead shifted his focus to tugging at his hair, making even more of a mess of it than the damage the floor had done.

“Should I just… Do the stupid press conference and get it over with? It’s obvious I’m not going to get anywhere until I do anyway.”
Kuramochi nodded, “Mmm… Seems like it.”
He paused.
“But you’re not happy with that answer, are you?”

Miyuki frowned, shaking his head.
“I don’t want to do it. I don’t WANT to have to deny who I am, especially when it’s got no effect on the way I can play baseball.”
Kuramochi continued nodding. “I agree with you, you know I do.”

Miyuki looked up, focusing on Kuramochi now. “What would you do?” He asked. “If it were you?”

Kuramochi, momentarily shocked, played it off quickly. Stretching too obviously and looking away too fast. “Well, you know, since I’m not dating anyway it’s not like-“

“Say you were.” Miyuki interrupted. “Say it was you and Haruichi-“

“Now hold on-“

“Shut up.” Miyuki said. “Say it was you and Haruichi. Say someone… Leaked some pictures of you two… At the park or something. Say you, or he, were in a pro team. And you were asked to deny the fact you were dating in order to keep that position. What would you do?”
Kuramochi blushed slightly at the suggestion, arms folded tightly over his chest.
It took him a few minutes to really consider the idea.
And then he slumped, sighing.
“Honestly, Miyuki… I. I dunno what I’d do. I wish I could say to hell with it and be myself but…” He trailed off, looking at Miyuki.

Seeing the desperation in Miyuki’s eyes, even as it shifted, slowly, to cold acceptance.

Miyuki looked away.

“Mei says I should stop being an idiot and just deny it already.”
Kuramochi let out a burst of laughter. “Oh, I’m sure Tadano must be delighted that’s Narumiya’s stance on the matter!”
Miyuki shook his head. “That kid knows what Mei is like, he’s not vain enough to take it personally.”
Miyuki frowned, rubbing his forehead as he did. “He knows Mei won’t let anything get in the way of his career… Not even him.”

Miyuki’s shoulders sagged. “I guess to Mei… I just don’t look like I’m dedicated enough, because I’m considering putting Eijun and my own personal life ahead of-“

He stopped, abruptly as something soft hit him on the head.
Looking down, Miyuki realised Kuramochi had thrown a cushion at him.
Miyuki looked up, stunned.
And saw Kuramochi had gotten to his feet, was standing over Miyuki, glaring down at him with a fierceness that almost made Miyuki shrink back.
“You can angst and worry all you want over this decision because I understand its difficult.” Kuramochi said, his voice low and just slightly dark with anger.
“But I will NOT hear you even hint that you are not dedicated to baseball. You forget! I saw you through all three years at Seidou, I was right there next to you when you became Captain! AND I’ve seen you work your way up in THIS team, this PROFESSIONAL TEAM! Proving yourself to the point you were even getting picked over Chris, CHRIS! You’ve worked harder than anyone else I can think of to get where you are and if I think anything is unfair it’s the fact that EVERYONE is overlooking that right now!”
Kuramochi stepped forward, picking up the cushion to swat Miyuki over the head with it again. “Including yourself!”

Miyuki stared up at Kuramochi, blinking in shock.
Then he smiled, just a little.
Ducking his head to laugh, just a little too.
“Thanks, Youichi…”

Kuramochi blushed, his hand going to the back of his neck, self-consciously. “Well… Yeah. About time you heard it, you know?”
The two of them settled back onto the couch, and Kuramochi put the TV back on again.
Silence except from the voices on the screen again.
For a while.

“Any closer to a decision?” Kuramochi asked, carefully.
Miyuki shook his head.

Then he smiled. “Guess I have some time to think about it, since I already known I’m not in the next game anyway.”
Kuramochi couldn’t quite make himself smile back at that one.

Chapter Text

Sawamura Eijun had not planned to go to University. He wasn’t even really sure it had been on his list of things to do before he went to Seidou. And once he was there, further education was, quite literally, the furthest thing from his mind.

When he came up to graduating, one year behind Miyuki, Sawamura had had his sights squarely on joining Miyuki in the pro baseball world as soon as possible. If he could get onto Miyuki’s team? All the better.
But then Miyuki, on one of his visits back to the Seidou dorms to see Sawamura, had expressed his thoughts for the future. (Their future).

“If you can get on a scholarship, I really think you should take it.” Miyuki had suggested.
Sawamura just stared dumbly at him.
And then, slowly, his hands clenched into fists where they rested on his knees.
“You… Don’t want me joining you?” Sawamura asked, frustrated by how shaky his voice came out.
Because they both knew what Sawamura was really asking.
‘You don’t want me?’

Miyuki looked up, surprised by Sawamura’s words.
He’d seen the determined way Sawamura was trying to hold himself together.
And immediately Miyuki had swept Sawamura up into a tight hug, pulling him onto his lap.
Stroking Sawamura’s hair and whispering into his ear.

“If you knew how much I miss you when I don’t see you…”
Miyuki explained himself properly then. That he thought it might be good for Sawamura to have a more complete schooling life. That he should have some time in a place that wasn’t JUST about baseball.

And, as Miyuki had put it.
“One of us has to have another skill after we retire from baseball. I’m counting on you to keep me in the life I’m accustomed to.”
Miyuki had laughed, delighted as Sawamura had responded to that, nodding seriously.

Eventually Sawamura had settled to go to the same place as Haruichi and Furuya.
Naturally, it was still a University that had a heavy focus on baseball. One of the Big 6.

Sawamura’s parents had been pleased with the decision too.
When Sawamura had returned home that New Years, just before the beginning of the school year, he’d explained who had helped influence his decision.
That was the first time his parents asked to meet Miyuki.

They were still getting around to that part. Meeting parents was a big deal, they both agreed.

--

“Eijun. Eijun.”

The same time that Miyuki had that first meeting with his coach and manager, Sawamura was in a lecture.

At least, he was meant to be in a lecture. However, his mind had strayed, and he could almost imagine the voice he was hearing was Miyuki’s
“EIJUN!”
A swat to his head broke that illusion almost immediately and Sawamura was forced to open his eyes.
It took him a few moments to really grasp where he was.
One of the many lecture halls in his university.
And. Those closest to him all seemed to be glaring at him. Not least of all being Haruichi, sat beside him and, he realised, the one who’d hit him.
Sawamura laughed, quiet and self-consciously. “Sorry.” He muttered. Quickly working out that he’d fallen asleep and was clearly disturbing those around him.

Truly, Sawamura was always Sawamura, no matter where you put him.

Haruichi sighed, nudging his notebook closer to Sawamura so he could catch up on the notes he’d missed while asleep.
“I take it you and Miyuki had a good weekend?” Haruichi said, almost under his breath. It was the first class they’d had together that morning, and they hadn’t had a chance to catch each other before they started. Sawamura had got back to University just in time to drop his stuff off to his room and hurry to his first lecture of the day.
Nodding enthusiastically, Sawamura chose not to answer verbally, lest his voice come out over eagerly, as it tended to. Especially when Miyuki was mentioned.
“Last one for a while, huh?” Haruichi continued, gently.
Sawamura frowned, trying not to let it show how much he didn’t like it.
He nodded again.

Haruichi smiled, gently at him. “It’s okay Eijun. When you get to see each other again it will be like you’d never been apart. Just like always.”
Sawamura nodded, though it was almost mechanical at this point.

He’d wanted to stay an extra day. Which was totally impractical since he had classes and Miyuki had practice. But.
He’d wanted to be there when Miyuki came home this evening. Find out what the conversation with his manager had been like. Just. Just to see how it had gone.

Make sure Miyuki was alright.
Which. Of course. He knew Miyuki would be alright. Miyuki was always alright.

He managed to catch up with the material just in time before the lecture ended.

--

The rest of the day passed quickly, and for the most part Sawamura managed to mostly stop worrying too much about what might be happening with Miyuki. He hadn’t heard anything bad, so that must mean everything was okay, right?

Sawamura was in his final lecture of the day when his phone went off.
He couldn’t hide his excitement when he checked his phone and saw a message from Miyuki.

‘Hey~’ the first message read.
‘Miss you.’

Miyuki was usually only this overt when he wanted something, so Sawamura waited to see what the next messages might be.

‘Wanna try sexting?’

Sawamura nearly dropped his phone, and then nearly again as another message from Miyuki came through of a character winking.

‘MIYUKI KAZUYA I AM IN A LECTURE RIGHT NOW!’

Autocorrect was the only thing that saved him from making zero sense in his very rushed and flustered reply.

‘Hot.’ Miyuki replied, and Sawamura could almost feel his grin coming through the screen.
‘Is that your way of starting off or did you want me to start?’

Sawamura groaned, perhaps a little too loud.
He looked up at the clock, wondering when class was due to finish.
Which is when he realised how early it was.

‘… Why aren’t you at practice right now?’

Miyuki read the message.
But he didn’t reply.

Which was when Sawamura knew, for sure, that things hadn’t gone as smoothly as Miyuki had hoped.
This wasn’t going to go away quickly.

--

While the adverse effects of the news getting out was immediate for Miyuki, Sawamura didn’t start to see the effects on himself for a little a while longer.
While everyone was talking about Miyuki Kazuya and the rumours that he was gay, it took it little more time for anyone to wonder or begin to figure out who the other person in the pictures was.

And then the blown up, distorted and pixelated print out of the original picture appeared on Sawamura’s locker in the changing rooms, signalling that he’d very much been found out.
Haruichi and Furuya were with him as usual, as they all turned up to practice together.
Furuya took little notice, as he had over much of what was happening. It seemed that he didn’t quite understand what was happening with Miyuki, though those that didn’t know him could potentially read it as he didn’t care.

Only those who didn’t know him though.
To Furuya, Miyuki was still someone important in his life. Even if in a completely different way to Sawamura.
Haruichi stood beside Sawamura, staring at the picture, reading, understanding the intent behind putting this here, where everyone at practice would see.

“Eijun…” He said, quietly, looking towards Sawamura hesitantly.
“Well!” Sawamura said, perhaps a touch too loudly, as he stepped forward and pulled open his locker, putting his bag inside as he started to get ready with his usual excited swiftness. “C’mon Haruichi, Coach said I can try that pitch again today, finally!”
He was laughing, talking loudly. And to anyone but Haruichi, perhaps he would seem completely fine. Not bothered by the obvious malice in the gesture of plastering that picture there.

But Haruichi knew him better than that.
He was rattled. And, Haruichi knew why.
Not because it was an attack on himself.
But because it was an attack on Miyuki. Trying to invoke shame. On Sawamura too, but he didn’t care about that.
It was the shame they were trying to place on Miyuki that bothered him.

Haruichi knew, because he’d already had to pull away a fuming Sawamura from many conversations of ignorant baseball fans mouthing off about the ‘gay catcher’, and how he was a disgrace to his team (or, in some of the even more outlandish conversations, the sport itself).

So, as Haruichi watched his friend, saw the set to his jaw, the frown line between his eyebrows, he knew what he was thinking.

‘How dare they shame Miyuki Kazuya.
And how dare they try and make me feel anything but pride to be beside him.’

--

“Eijun.”

Haruichi knocked lightly on Sawamura’s bedroom door.

The two of them had been lucky enough to be put in the same dorm since their first year there. They had their communal living room, kitchen and bathroom. And they, plus three others had their own bedrooms separate from the communal space.
Sawamura’s room had been a shrine to baseball since the day he moved in. Basically, much like his room at home.

Except this one had one extra feature.
Taking up the entire wall above Sawamura’s desk, was pictures, posters, flags and various other memorabilia relating to one Miyuki Kazuya.
Anyone who didn’t know would just see it as Sawamura being a big fan of the major star player of recent years. But Haruichi, apart from knowing about Sawamura and Miyuki’s relationship, of course, also knew the real reason Sawamura had that all there, and why he had it so specifically above his desk.

To focus him. To remind him.
That if he studied hard, if he did well in his years at University, eventually, soon now, he’d get to join Miyuki again.
‘If I just keep working hard, I get to play with him again. I get to make that specific art with him again.’

In particular Sawamura had placed one picture of Miyuki and himself at direct eye level, just where he would look up from his screen.
A picture from Seidou. During the summer tournament, Miyuki’s last at Seidou.
The two of them just outside the dugout, coming back from a particularly blazing inning for Sawamura’s pitching.

Miyuki had grabbed him, yanking him by the shoulders as he beamed at him.
All Sawamura remembered Miyuki saying to him was ‘partner’.
And with that word, the jolt of realising that it meant the same as it always had, since their first encounter.
And yet, suddenly, Sawamura realised he also wished it meant more.

Haruno had taken the picture of them, and gave the printed version to Sawamura not long after the game.
“It seemed like an important moment, so I thought you should have it.” She’d said, with a shy smile.
It had been. In so many ways. That inning had sealed their win, even so early in the game.
Sawamura had proved, once again, his worthiness as the ace.

And.
He’d finally realised he was truly, completely in love with Miyuki. And had been since he’d first met him.
At the time, Sawamura still hadn’t had the courage to say anything. And staring at the picture, seeing his own smile and flushed cheeks as he looked at Miyuki. Seeing Miyuki beaming so big and seeming to be literally glowing.

It had been enough to make Sawamura want to cry.
‘I want to keep this. I want to keep that feeling forever!’

At the time it had seemed impossible. So instead he’d just settled on making sure they won each game, so at the very least they’d have as much time together as possible.
So, yeah, Haruichi knew exactly why Sawamura kept that picture there.

That was the look, the feeling he wanted to experience again.
Him and Miyuki, playing together again.

And, finally. Truly partners in every way. In ways neither of them had dared to hope for when that picture had originally been taken.

Sawamura was on his bed, sat up and staring at that wall. The one dedicated to Miyuki the star catcher playing for a pro team, as well as Miyuki the boyfriend he loved so much.
He had a kind of focus in his eyes that was so familiar to Haruichi, but he couldn’t even begin to imagine all the things going on inside his head.

“… Eijun.” Haruichi said again, gently, easing himself into the room and then closing the door behind him. “About… Today. The picture on your locker-“
“They want me to be ashamed.” Sawamura said, flatly. “They want me to feel ashamed to be dating him.” A little fire creeping into his voice now, and it was rising, steadily. “Ashamed to be seen with him, they-“
“Eijun.” Haruichi hurried over, sitting beside Sawamura and grabbing his hand to distract his attention.

Sawamura finally looked up, blinking as if only just realising that someone else was in the room.
Haruichi gave him the best, encouraging smile he could. “It’s just guys being jerks. They were just trying to rile you up. But they didn’t win, you didn’t let them. So it’s okay. You showed them you don’t care, Eijun.”

Sawamura frowned, deeply. “… You’ve heard the things they’re saying about Kazuya.”

Haruichi’s heart clenched, just a little.
He rarely used Miyuki’s given name, especially when Miyuki wasn’t around to hear it.
Sawamura surely was feeling more deeply, and more protective than he was even letting on.

“Just kids being jerks.” Haruichi repeated. “They’re just parroting the things they think they should be saying, that the media feeds them. You know half of them would still queue up for Miyuki’s autograph if they had half a chance.”
“But it’s still not right!” Sawamura snapped, slamming his hand down on the bed, and getting to his feet in the same movement. Yanking his other hand from Haruichi’s grip almost accidentally.
“NO ONE should be saying those things about Kazuya! They have no idea! No idea how incredible he is! How talented he is! How hard he works! How much he loves what he does, how dedicated! They have no idea what an amazing, and loyal and brilliant person he is! And how h-happy he makes me to be with him! How p-proud. How much I just- I just want…”
Sawamura sunk back down onto the bed, falling backwards until he was staring straight up at the ceiling. Going quiet as if so much emotion in such a short burst had drained him entirely.

Haruichi edged a little closer, swinging his legs up to cross beneath him on the bed. He reached out, rubbing Sawamura’s arm, comfortingly.

“They…” Sawamura started, his voice quiet, obviously hesitant. “His manager… They want him to do a press conference. And deny it. Deny he’s dating. Deny he’s. Gay.”
Haruichi’s eyes went wide as he heard this.
The original picture had been out for weeks now, with a couple of others drifting into circulation a little later.

How soon had Miyuki been told he’d had to deny it? How long had Sawamura known?
Was there any plausible way Miyuki could get out of it?
Sawamura closed his eyes, tightly.
“… I know it’s selfish, but I can’t help thinking that… He’ll be… Denying me.”

In response, Haruichi squeezed his arm, maybe a little too tightly.
“I know!” Eijun said, in a rush. “It’s not really that and I even told him if he has to choose he should chose saving himself but that was easy to say when he thought it was all going to be okay but now- now-“

“Eijun!” Haruichi interrupted him, as quickly as he could.
Sawamura’s eyes snapped open, and focused on Haruichi.
“If Miyuki does end up needing to go through with it.” Haruichi said, carefully. “Which… It seems like he’s hesitating to do anyway…”
Eijun closed his eyes, briefly and nodded.
“Then you know… He’s only doing what he has to, to keep doing what he loves.” Haruichi moved closer again. “He’s not really denying you. It doesn’t change how he feels about you one bit.”

Haruichi found it suddenly hard to swallow, like there was a lump in his throat.
And he saw Sawamura had closed his eyes again, tight enough to put creases at the corners of his eyes.
Proof of the emotions he was trying to keep in check.

“He loves you, Eijun.” Haruichi said, gently. “Miyuki loves you so much.”

Sawamura nodded, once, surely, and Haruichi didn’t hesitate to pull Sawamura towards him, holding him tightly.
As Haruichi held his friend, he could feel the tension coiled within him. His muscles tensed. Clear how much Sawamura was fighting to hold himself together.
“He’ll only do it, so that you can come join him on his team next year.” Haruichi said, gently, as his gaze made its way to THAT picture on the wall. “So that you and he can finally regain your battery again. Play together again.”

And Haruichi wondered how long Sawamura had kept his fears and worries in. Likely hiding as much as possible whenever he talked to Miyuki on the phone. Not wanting to add to Miyuki’s own concerns.
“It’s just not fair.” Sawamura said, finally. “It’s not fair that they can do this to him.”
Haruichi nodded. “I agree.”
“I just wish there was more that could be done…”

--

“Oi. Sawamura.”

Just after practice the next day.
The picture on his locker had been taken down, likely by a caretaker, but Sawamura hadn’t kidded himself into thinking this actually meant the end of it.
That was fine by him. If someone wanted to say something to his face, let them. He even wished they would.

Him, Haruichi and Furuya were all heading back to the lockers to get changed when Sawamura heard his name.
He looked around.

One of the new first years that he, admittedly, still didn’t know the name of.
He was grinning a self-satisfied grin, a couple of his friends moved closer, sensing something starting.

Haruichi, apparently, also sensed something, but he wasn’t eager to let things escalate.
“Eijun.” He said, gently tugging on his friends arm to try and distract him.
Sawamura ignored him.

“You have something you want to say, first year?” Sawamura said, turning around fully to face the small crowd.
Snickering laughter rippled through them.

“More like a question really, senpai.”
The sarcastic tone put on the final word was obvious.
The kid paused, looking around his friends, clearly getting extra encouragement from them.

“So we have our theories on this. But. We were wondering.”
He paused, his grin breaking into little catches of laughter that he couldn’t hold back.
“So. Is it like… You’re the top, and that pansy catcher takes it or-“

The kid didn’t get to finish the sentence.
Sawamura had crossed the distance between them in a couple of strides, grabbed the kid by the front of his shirt and yanked him forward, nearly clean off his feet.
A dangerous aura emanated from him. His eyes burning with fury.

“What did you call him?”
Sawamura’s voice was low, dangerous.
The younger boy blinked, clearly shocked to see the usually easy going Sawamura this angry.
This scary.
But still, he couldn’t show he was afraid, not in front of his friends.
So the first year forced the grin back on his lips. Met Sawamura’s gaze as straight on as he dared.

“Oh? Would you prefer I used something else? Gay is probably the correct term but, oh, right. He hasn’t even admitted it yet. Definitely the traits of a taker if you ask me. Bottom for sure. He even looks it too, doesn’t he? The type to take it. What do they call him? ‘Pretty Boy Catcher’? Right? PANSY! Disgrace to his team, right? How can they have any pride when they have a pansy catcher trying to lead their pitchers, huh?”

It was without thinking that Sawamura raised his hand. Pulled back his arm with a closed fist.
The first years gaze flicked to that raised arm, and a look of panic registered as he looked back at Sawamura’s face.
Knowing he’d do it.
He’d do it for sure.
The kid closed his eyes, and braced himself. All the while sure in the knowledge that he’d succeeded in his own little mission.

“Eijun!”
Sawamura let out a scream of fury as Haruichi grabbed his raised arm and pulled him back.
“Haruichi! Let me go! Let me go!”
Haruichi locked his arms around Sawamura’s waist, holding him back.
Sawamura continued to struggle, even as Furuya joined and helped in trying to restrain him and pull him back towards the lockers.
“Let me go!” Sawamura protested. “You heard them! You heard what they said! Let me-“

“Eijun.” Furuya said, quietly. “They’re not worth your time.”
Sawamura looked at Furuya.
And saw, realised that Furuya was nowhere near as calm as he sounded. His eyes blazed almost as much as Sawamura’s own. Furious indignance at the insults laid at the feet of a person who meant so much to him.

In one, determined movement, Sawamura pulled himself almost free of Haruichi and Furuya, his fury further fuelled by Furuya’s own.
Gaze square on the stunned first year who had been seconds away from a beating.

“His name is Miyuki Kazuya!” Sawamura yelled at him. “Miyuki Kazuya! The best catcher in the world! And you’d better not forget it for a damn second!”
Then he slumped back against his two friends, who supported him easily.
They continued to lead Sawamura away.

“I hate them. I hate them! And everyone like them.” Sawamura said, sounding worn, exhausted.

“I know.” Haruichi agreed.

“So do we.” Furuya added.

--

Miyuki continued to turn up for practice, continued to face the same treatment of basically being ignored. Everyone keeping their distance.
Only Chris remained unchanged, staying with Miyuki even when everyone else was so obviously shunning him. But Chris didn’t pretend like he didn’t know what was going on. He saw it.
And even Miyuki could see how helpless it was making Chris feel.

More games had passed, and while the coach hadn’t quite gone as far as taking Miyuki off the roster completely, his choices made it clear every time that Miyuki would not be playing.
Hidden away in the dugout, Miyuki could feel himself retreating inward more and more each time.
Not a familiar feeling.
He was used to being visible, in some way or other.

It wasn’t that he felt entitled to a place out on the diamond, he’d never felt like that (though some perhaps mistook his confidence as such cockiness). But that wasn’t what frustrated him.
It was knowing that the reason he was being held back had nothing to do with whether or not he deserved to be out there. Nothing to do with his skills as a catcher, or as a batter.
It was all just a punishment.
For being in a relationship, and being caught.
No. Not even that.

Because he wouldn’t deny being gay, and this petty idea that it could hurt the team’s popularity and support if he was seen out there.

Miyuki kept up his training, refused to let himself wilt or let his talent fade away with this set back. He had Chris sometimes to watch him. But lack of a pitcher to practice with was beginning to hurt, mentally at least. He was so used to having different styles to play around with, to get used to, to understand.

And as more games went by, Miyuki saw he wasn’t the only one becoming frustrated with his lack of presence out there.

Narumiya grew more and more agitated every game. It was obvious, even from Miyuki’s spot at the back of the dugout, the frustration that emanated from Narumiya on the mound.
He was slightly calmer when he had Chris catching for him. He argued less and took his time.
But as soon as it was Aida put in to catch for him, Narumiya’s old habits started to show.
Noticeably irritable and unwilling to work with the catcher that Narumiya saw as far inferior to Miyuki.

Miyuki knew that equally Narumiya would be frustrated with himself for going backwards in his own attitude, these petty behaviours were something he’d worked hard to recognise and work past. But it was clear he couldn’t help it.

Each time he returned to the dugout, that was the one time he’d acknowledge Miyuki at all. Gaze set on him. Glaring, demanding answer to the question:
‘Why isn’t it you out there? You know it should be you out there.’
Miyuki made sure to hold Narumiya’s gaze. Because they both knew the answer to that question.

--

A lost game, and though Narumiya had pitched well, it was clear he was still frustrated with his own performance.
He kept his distance, sitting alone on the ride back to their own grounds.

Everyone knew to keep away.
You can always tell with Narumiya when to keep away.

Miyuki kept his gaze on the back of Narumiya’s seat. Feeling the pitchers frustration along with his own.
Something told him that Narumiya would want to say something after this game.
Turns out he was right.

When they returned to the grounds, they were the only two who lingered after the coach’s quick after game talk.
Miyuki often stayed a little while lately. He liked that he could get some extra practice time in when everyone else was gone. Somehow it felt less isolated than when he was practising by himself with everyone there.
Tonight that clearly wasn’t going to happen though.

He’d barely made it to the locker room when Narumiya’s voice brought him to a sudden stop.
“How long do you intend to keep this up, Kazuya?”

Miyuki turned his head slightly, glancing around.
Narumiya was standing in the doorway, arms folded and glare fixed on Miyuki.

Miyuki sighed. “They can put me in whenever they want, Mei. They’re the ones choosing not to.”

“Because you’re being stubborn!” Narumiya snapped. “I told you Kazuya! I told you the first day that you should just get it over with! You’re holding yourself back! You’re holding ME back! The entire team-“

“Forgive me if I struggle with this a little more than you would!” Miyuki replied, finally turning around fully.
Fire filled, frustrated gaze met fire filled, frustrated gaze.
“And it is not my burden if the team is held back.” Miyuki continued. “I’m not the only-“

“You’re the best catcher on this team and you know it Kazuya! Don’t give me that empty modesty, it doesn’t suit you.”

Miyuki shook his head. “Chris is every bit as talented, and more experienced. You’re the one being stubborn here, Mei. Not me. If you want to throw your pitching off because you want to sulk that it’s not me catching for you then fine. But do NOT lay the blame on me.”

“Just do the press conference! Tell everyone you’re not gay and get yourself back in the damn games already Kazuya!!” Narumiya yelled, his voice echoing around the room.
Miyuki stood there. Still staring at Narumiya. Waiting for the echoes to stop ringing.

Narumiya stared back. And through the rippling anger and frustration, there was an undercurrent of something else now.
A desperation, a sadness.

“Kazuya! How long before you’re not even on the roster anymore? How long before they…”
Narumiya couldn’t say it. Couldn’t get the words out.

And Miyuki didn’t let himself show it, but the unsaid words stung him like nothing else had.

Something that, somehow, hadn’t even occurred to him until now.
How long before they cut you completely?

“Kazuya.” Narumiya said, his voice dropping to something softer, quiet. Almost, almost gentle. “Please. Don’t end your career so early. Not because of this.”
Then Narumiya turned, left.

Leaving Miyuki alone in the locker room.

And though he’d gotten used to being alone lately, he hadn’t felt this truly alone in a long time.
Finally understanding the real danger of that possibility.
He dropped to sitting on one of the benches, head in his hands.

For the first time, Miyuki truly considered going through with it after all.

Realising that, maybe, he’d had no choice all along.

Chapter Text

“I’ll do it.”
The simplicity of the words belied how much weight was behind them.

It had taken him another two days of consistent turning, considering and contemplating but eventually, it came down to this.
Miyuki wanted to play.
Narumiya wanted him to play.
Sawamura wanted to see him play. And was expecting to join him next year, so long as everything went to plan.
So, really. What choice did Miyuki have? Given that simple fact, there was only one choice he could make.

He’d tried resisting, but it was obvious that neither coach nor manager was going to back down. So here it was, the choice that he’d never really had any control over.

Miyuki made his way to the managers office first thing, before he even went to the locker room.

“Ah, Miyuki, good to see you!” Suzuki said, with a broad smile as always.
As if he wasn’t the one to put this choice on Miyuki. As if he wasn’t the one who’d told Coach Matsuda to basically ignore him all month.

“I’ll do it.” Miyuki said.
He didn’t even come in and sit down. He didn’t want to stay. He felt too uneasy, too unsteady. So instead he remained in the doorway.

Suzuki’s smile turned to one of slight confusion, but Miyuki knew it must be a ruse. Suzuki knew what he was talking about, there was nothing to be confused about.

“I’ll do the press conference.” Miyuki said.
Suzuki sighed, in obvious relief and leaned back into his chair. “Oh, Miyuki. You have no idea how happy that makes me to hear you say that.”
Miyuki just nodded.
He wasn’t going to smile.

“I look forward to becoming a more… Integrated part of this team again.” Miyuki said, almost pointedly.

“Yes. Yes of course.” Suzuki said, as if that was obvious. “You know why we had to…” He trailed off, looking up at Miyuki, almost like he was asking forgiveness.
(Miyuki knew he wasn’t).

“Yes. I know.” Miyuki said, quickly. He didn’t want to talk about it.
“I’ll be going and getting ready for practice now.” He said, turning away and heading back to the lockers.

“Yes! Good. I’ll let you know the details about the press conference when I have them!” Suzuki called after him.

--

Practice went the usual way it had been, but Miyuki barely noticed.
He’d decided, finally.
Put things in motion.
So things would start to get better, right? They had to get better.

That evening he called Sawamura.
“So. You’re going to do it?” Sawamura said, carefully when Miyuki told him.
“Mm. I decided… That it doesn’t change anything about us. But it’ll get Suzuki off my back, and Matsuda will let me play again so…”
“Oh. Okay. I mean. Yes. That makes sense.”
Miyuki frowned, worried. “Eijun. You know it’s just for show, right? I’m not-“

“I know!” Sawamura interrupted, his voice loud and abrupt enough to make Miyuki wince. “I know that. I just…”
Sawamura trailed off with a sigh.
And Miyuki felt his heart still in those moments of silence.

“I just hate that you have to do this…” Sawamura said.
Miyuki closed his eyes. “I hate it too.” He admitted.
Then, steeling all of his nerves, building up to the question he’d been afraid to ask.

“Do you hate me… For agreeing to it?”
More silence.
And Miyuki felt his head begin to spin. A sensation like falling.

A gasping kind of sound, then a small cough, like Sawamura was trying to hold something back.
“Miyuki Kazuya.” He said, in that very serious voice he sometimes possessed.
“I stand by you. Whatever your decision. Understood?”

Miyuki smiled, despite everything he was feeling. Fear and nerves of what was to come, the sickening feeling of denying himself so publicly.
He still had his Eijun, no matter what.

“Understood.” Miyuki replied.

--

He felt sick, prickly with heat that somehow didn’t become sweat.
He hadn’t eaten, so at least he could put the light-headedness down to that. Pretend like that wasn’t yet another symptom of his nerves.

Kuramochi had told him to eat breakfast.
Miyuki had teased back, asking if Kuramochi was his mother.

He could still hide behind jokes and teasing at that point. But by then already he couldn’t ignore the knot in his stomach.
Eating was impossible. He couldn’t do it.

He’d only managed to get Kuramochi off his case by saying he’d grab something on the way.
Kuramochi had, apparently, decided to believe him.

He knew Miyuki well enough to know there was no way of convincing him.
Especially when he was already under so much pressure. No point pushing him further.

“It’ll be okay, you know?” Kuramochi said, as Miyuki had gone to leave.
“It’ll suck, yeah. But you, Sawamura, me, the people who know you, who matter? Everyone knows you just doing what you need to. We all know the truth. So it’s okay.”
Miyuki was still standing at the door. Staring at the handle.
“It doesn’t change how you really feel about Sawamura.” Kuramochi added, gently.
Miyuki squeezed his eyes closed, tight.
And Kuramochi knew he’d taken it a step too far.
But equally, he knew Miyuki needed to hear it. So he wasn’t going to apologise.

Instead of answering, Miyuki simply nodded and headed out the door.

Now here he was, standing in the corridor outside the conference room.
He could hear the chattering noise inside. And it felt loud. Too loud. It felt like he was going to be swallowed up by that noise.
Miyuki fidgeted with his tie, and the cuffs of his sleeves. Suzuki had insisted that a suit was necessary, and Miyuki supposed he agreed, but that too felt like it was trying to suffocate him in its formality.

Suzuki himself looked in bright spirits, smiling at Miyuki and telling him that this was all going to be fine.
“Stick to what we went over, and everything will be fine.”

“Over quickly, if we’re lucky.” Coach Matsuda added in agreement.
If there was one person who looked even less comfortable in his formal attire, it was the coach. Usually suits were only worn for occasions of celebrations. New contracts signed, a big win, new sponsorships.

Miyuki wondered if either Suzuki or Matsuda had ever had to do something like this before.
At least he could take a little bit of comfort in their discomfort.
‘You’re the ones making me do this, so damned if I’ll feel sorry for you.’

Suzuki went inside first, and the noise in the room rose and then settled.
Matsuda followed, with a pointed look back at Miyuki.

Miyuki took a step backwards. Part of his brain screaming at him to run, get out of there now, let the coach and his manager give the speech if they wanted to. Why did he have to say it? Couldn’t they just speak for him? He hated the cowardice to these thoughts but suddenly, intensely, that was what he wanted.

As he stepped back though, he found himself blocked.
Miyuki jumped, expecting- not really knowing what to expect.
So, saying he was relieved when he turned and saw Chris standing behind him was something short of an understatement.
“I-“ Miyuki started.
Chris shook his head. “I’ll be out here after.” He said.
And Miyuki understood.
Chris was there to offer support. But not to tell Miyuki he didn’t have to do this.
As usual, Chris saw the simple facts of the situation.

Miyuki turned back to that door, pushed it open hesitantly and stepped inside the room.
He didn’t look up as he made his way to the chair set up for him. Between his coach and manager.
But the swell of chatter peaked as he entered, making Miyuki wince, just slightly. He hoped not too obviously.
Miyuki barely glanced at Matsuda and Suzuki, feeling further sickened by the encouraging smile Suzuki gave him.

Only after the three of them bowed to the gathered press and then sat down did Miyuki look up.
And wished he hadn’t.

The room was full. Packed. Not an inch of space anywhere. Extra chairs had been brought in and squeezed into all available spaces.
The looks on the faces in front of him was nothing short of hungry.

He felt trapped in a room of wolves.

Suzuki was talking. Miyuki barely heard it. Though he knew the general idea from what they’d discussed.
Suzuki was exalting Miyuki’s excellent character, and explaining how much good he’d done for the team. That he considered Miyuki to be one of their best acquisitions in recent years.

Matsuda interjecting. Talking about Miyuki’s dedication and skill.
All this only added to Miyuki’s feeling of isolation, of not really being there.
And now it was turning to the matter at hand. The real reason everyone was here.

Suzuki, ever the performer, turned slightly in his seat towards Miyuki, indicating it was his turn to speak.
“I believe I should allow Miyuki to address this matter himself.” Suzuki ended with a smile at him.

There was a script on the table in front of him. But the words blurred as Miyuki looked at them.
He knew them anyway. Burned into his head.
“In regards-“ Miyuki stopped, his voice coming out dry and quiet.
Closed his eyes, cleared his throat then began again.
He could feel the gathered crowd swell forward.

“In regards to the pictures taken on an evening last month.” Miyuki began, more clearly this time. Though it didn’t stop every word from being an effort.
“I would like to apologise for any confusion that may have been caused.” He continued. “I can understand that the nature of these pictures could be seen as misleading, and therefore could lead to.” Miyuki paused, hesitating over the words. “Misunderstandings and distress.”
Another pause. This time more intentional.
“I apologise for this also. For any distress I may have caused my team, my coach, manager and, of course. Our loyal fans.”

Miyuki closed his eyes.
“The boy in the pictures is someone I’ve known since high school. And.”

His voice stuck.
Miyuki panicked. He felt like he was going to choke on the next words.
Suzuki nudged the glass of water in front of him nearer to Miyuki, clearly sensing something of what was up.
Miyuki shook his head, refusing the offer of help.

“He’s just a friend.” Miyuki finally said.

The first hand of a reporter shot up.

“If he’s just a friend then why were you kissing him?”

Miyuki had been primed for questions like this.
“We were playing around. We’re comfortable with each other. But I recognise our behaviour was foolish.”
He hated his voice as the lie came out so easily. Wanted to bite his own tongue for betraying him so utterly.

More questions.
More of the same answers.

“Just friends.” “Just a friend.”

The knot in his stomach grew tighter each time the words left his mouth.
“In conclusion, Miyuki?” Suzuki said, signalling the end of questions.

This was the truly worst part. Even more than lying about Sawamura being just a friend.
This was the part Miyuki had been dreading the most. Knowing it wasn’t allowed to go unsaid.
“In conclusion… Despite what the pictures may suggest. I am not dating.”
A final pause.

“And I’m absolutely not gay.”

As the words came out Miyuki felt like there was some kind of poison in his mouth, drying it out and making it taste bad. His stomach twisted harshly again.
They tried to ask more questions. But either this had been the plan all along or both Matsuda and Suzuki saw how sickly pale Miyuki had become.

Either way it was wrapped up quickly, Miyuki guided out by Coach Matsuda’s hand on his shoulder.

Chris was there, like he’d said he would be, waiting outside.
His eyes widened when he saw Miyuki.
But there was no time to pause.

The bathrooms were just down the hall. Near but suddenly so very far to Miyuki’s swaying vision.
He didn’t remember getting there.
He just remembered throwing up whatever had managed to remain in his stomach, realising in relief that he had made it to the stalls in time.
The door swung open quietly.

Miyuki wanted to tell whoever it was to go away. But he didn’t have the energy for it. He felt like his voice had been stolen away as punishment for all the lies he’d just told.
“It’s just me.”
Chris came over to him, but didn’t try to help Miyuki up. He didn’t want to be upright. He wanted to stay here. Down here.
Warm, safe arms wrapped around Miyuki’s shoulders, pulling him close.
Miyuki was grateful that Chris didn’t tell him he’d done well, or that it was okay now. He didn’t want to hear either of these things.

Eventually, when Miyuki just about felt like he could, he let Chris help him to his feet.
“I’ll take you home.” Chris said.
Miyuki nodded.
The thing he wanted most in the world right now was to be at home, in his room, alone.
He needed that right now. No more eyes on him. No more demanding questions.

--

Chris had sent a message to say that he was bringing Miyuki home, and Kuramochi had replied simply with ‘good’.

Around 20 minutes later, Chris stood just inside the doorway, with Miyuki still mostly leaning into him. Miyuki’s skin still sickly pale and eyes barely able to meet Kuramochi’s, let alone focus on him.
It was without hesitation that Kuramochi stepped closer, ducking just slightly to force Miyuki to make eye contact with him.
“You throw up?” Kuramochi asked, bluntly.
Miyuki nodded.
“Still feel sick?”

This time he shook his head.
Kuramochi frowned, reaching out a hand to press against Miyuki’s forehead, taking his time to make his own judgement. Then finally he said. “Go on. Go lie down. I’ll bring some tea in a minute.”

Almost peeling himself away from Chris, Miyuki nodded. “Thanks, Youichi…” He said, before disappearing to his room.
Kuramochi looked to Chris then, and saw the clear worry etched on Chris’s face, his head still turned in the direction of Miyuki’s room.
“Come on.” Kuramochi said, trying to break the tense silence. “Did you want tea too? Something else? We uh…”

“Tea is fine.” Chris replied. “Thank you.”
Kuramochi made the tea, and went to go take Miyuki’s to him.

He found Miyuki on the bed, his tie and jacket off and discarded at the foot of the bed.
Apparently, he was already asleep.
Or, if he was only pretending, Kuramochi had sense enough not to disturb him.

Kuramochi returned back to the living room, settling on the coach with Chris and their own drinks.
“Thanks for bringing him back home.” Kuramochi said.
Chris nodded. “He couldn’t stay there. And I didn’t feel like he should be left alone.”

Kuramochi nodded along with Chris’s words.

“Is he sleeping already?” Chris asked, after a brief silence.
Another nod. “Looks like it. I didn’t press him either way. Just. He needs some time to himself.”

They both sipped at their tea in silence. Neither quite sure what to say.

“Where you there?” Kuramochi said, finally breaking the silence.
Chris shook his head. “I wasn’t allowed in, but I was just outside, I heard most of it.”
Kuramochi nodded, again.

“I watched it.” Kuramochi said. His voice sounded at once harsh and hollow. “As it was broadcast. I thought I should… You know. Make sure Miyuki wasn’t… Just going through this alone.”
Kuramochi closed his eyes, swore under his breath.
“I’ve never seen him like that. Not even at school. He never looked that… Unsure.”

And vulnerable.
And scared.

Chris nodded.
“I saw him just before he went in. He was bad then, already.”
He paused. “I wish… I should have stopped him from going in or-“

Kuramochi shook his head. “You couldn’t. He decided to do this. He’s doing this… So that he can play. That’s the important thing. He’s put himself through this so that… So that he can play again.”
Eyes tight closed. “It’s not… It doesn’t change anything. Who he is. How much he loves Sawamura or anything like that so…”

“Have you heard from Eijun?” Chris asked.

Again, Kuramochi shook his head. “I think he said he wasn’t going to watch it. Miyuki said that he didn’t have to. I think… Miyuki didn’t want him to see it either.”
“Makes sense.” Chris agreed. “No need to put them both through additional pain.”

Kuramochi looked up, at Chris. “How is Miyuki doing, really? Since this all started, how is he, on the team? I see him here of course but he can lie to me about how things are outside of here, and he knows it.”
Chris nodded, with a little shrug. “They seem… Not too bad? He’s mostly been left alone. A few guys have been a bit… Off with him but nothing bad. I’ve been keeping an eye out for him, Kuramochi, don’t worry.”
Kuramochi smiled, just a little. “Thanks, Chris. That’s reassuring.”

“I think what’s hitting him hardest is Narumiya…” Chris said.
Kuramochi looked up, frowning. “And what’s HE been doing?”

“Keeping his distance.” Chris said. “Barely talking to Miyuki, hardly acknowledging him. I think that’s hurting him more than anything.”
Kuramochi allowed himself a slight smirk. “Those two have always had the kind of tension you can taste in the air, but I know they get on. Miyuki was bouncing off the walls for a week when he found out Narumiya was joining the team.”

He paused, frowning as he thought about it, carefully. “I expect Narumiya is keeping his distance… To protect himself.”
Chris nodded. He knew a little, if not quite as much as Kuramochi did about Miyuki and Narumiya’s past relationship.

Kuramochi sighed, leaning back into the couch, tipping his head back to stare up at the ceiling.
“I just hope things start to get better now.” He said.

--

Sawamura didn’t watch the press conference when it aired.
Nor did he watch it online after.
As much as he feared it made him unsupportive, he couldn’t bring himself to watch it.
Knowing how much it was hurting Miyuki to do it.
And knowing how much it would hurt to hear the words Miyuki would have to say.
Even though Sawamura knew the truth.
Of course, he knew the truth of it.

The two of them had spoken on the phone again, briefly the night before.
Sawamura had been able to tell how nervous Miyuki was, but he didn’t mention it.
In fact, the only mention of the press conference had been Sawamura’s admittance that he wasn’t going to watch.
He apologised.
But Miyuki had said it was okay.
He’d prefer it if Sawamura didn’t see it.

“There’s no reason for you to witness me telling a lie when you know the truth of it.” Miyuki had said.
They’d both hurried to say goodnight then, both aware that they were close to their limits on how much they could talk about it.

Later that evening of the press conference, when Sawamura was busy studying, Haruichi and Furuya both came to his room.

“Hey, Eijun. How are you?” Haruichi asked, carefully as he settled on the end of Sawamura’s bed.

Sawamura didn’t look up. He didn’t dare.
Furuya closed the door behind them, and sat in his usual place in the middle of the floor.
He stared up at Sawamura’s ‘Miyuki’ wall. A similar sort of awe on his face as he had for the man himself.

“We watched it.” Furuya said.

“Satorou!” Haruichi chastised, reaching forward to smack Furuya’s shoulder.

“Sorry, Eijun… We just-“

“It’s okay.” Sawamura said. Pushing back his chair from the desk, but not looking around. “I get that you’re both worried about me. But I’m fine.”
Something like a smile, but without any warmth to it spread across his lips. “I didn’t watch it.” He said.
He looked around at both Furuya and Haruichi. “I couldn’t. I couldn’t watch him go through that.”

Haruichi nodded in understanding. “It’s okay Eijun, I think Miyuki would be happier you didn’t see it.”
Sawamura closed his eyes, tight, looking away from them again.
“… How was he? Did he… Did he seem okay?”

“Eijun, I-“

“It looked like he was uncomfortable. And at the end he looked a little unwell.” Furuya talked over Haruichi.

“Satarou!” Haruichi repeated, more loudly and sounding angrier than before.
Furuya looked around at Haruichi, frowning, looking irritated too. “He asked! He clearly wanted to know, so why should we lie about it?”
He looked back around again, at Sawamura’s back again. “The reporters were so persistent, and kept asking and asking him. It was… I don’t understand it!” Furuya sounded the closest to mad as he ever was when not about a game. “What does it even matter? Why do they care so much if he’s gay, that he’s dating you? That has nothing to do with-!”

“Furuya.”
Sawamura’s voice came out quiet, but perfectly measured.
“Thank you for your honesty.” He said, still not turning around. “I knew today wasn’t going to be easy, but I didn’t want to witness it myself. Miyuki didn’t want me to see it either, so I think he knew how bad it could be.”

Finally, slowly, Sawamura turned around.
It was obvious from his face how much he was holding himself in check. Holding steady.
“I don’t get it either, Furuya. I don’t know why people care so much if Miyuki is dating a guy, dating me. But they do. That’s just.” He paused. “That’s just… How the world is right now.”
He sighed, slumping forward like he had some great weight on his shoulders.
“I wish… I could help him more.”
Haruichi got up, and went over to Sawamura, resting a hand on one of those shoulders.

“You’re doing great, Eijun.” Haruichi said, gently. “Just knowing you’re still there, by his side, you’re doing so much for Miyuki.”

“And we’re here too.” Furuya said.

“For both of you.” Haruichi agreed.

--

The little pause, flicker of hesitation.

Narumiya lent in closer to the screen, trying to look deeper into Miyuki’s expression as he watched it again.

The look of pain as the words were uttered.
“And I’m absolutely not gay.”

The colour draining from his face. A slight wavering in his body, even though he was sitting down.

Narumiya paused the video again, tracking it back a few moments.
Then watching again.
Hearing the words over again.
and again.
Each time watching Miyuki’s expression ever closer.

Finally, without even stopping the video, Narumiya slammed the laptop shut, pushing it away from him.
“Damn it!” He cursed, loudly.

Tadano came back into the room.

“Are you done watching it yet?” He asked, carefully.
Narumiya flopped back against the couch, staring straight up at the ceiling, ignoring Tadano’s question. “He did it. He really did it…” He muttered.
Tadano sighed, settling down and reaching out to pat Narumiya’s thigh.
“Well… You did say he should…”
“I didn’t mean-!” But Narumiya cut himself off, quickly. Knowing the truth in Tadano’s words, but not wanting to admit it.

He reached his hands up to his face, rubbing over it. He sighed deeply.
“He looked like he was going to be sick.” Narumiya said.
Tadano nodded. He’d watched the video too, though only once, the first time Narumiya had seen it. “He looked incredibly pale…”

“Even Suzuki figured… Got him out quickly.” Narumiya continued.
Silence, as they both considered the events that had befallen Miyuki that day.
“Itsuki.” Narumiya said, quietly. “How would you react… If you were asked to deny your sexuality like that?”
Tadano paused, thinking about it.
He sipped at his tea to give himself more time to consider.

“As in… Denying dating you or…”

“Either.” Narumiya said. “Both. Same situation as Kazuya.”
Tadano nodded, accepting the terms.
“I don’t think I could do it.” He finally said. “I don’t think I’d have the guts to confirm it. But. I don’t think I could handle denying it like that.”

“Even if it meant the end of your career?” Narumiya pressed.

Tadano smiled, just a little. “I don’t think I have quite the same amount of attention as Miyuki Kazuya. I doubt anyone would care enough.”
Narumiya turned his head, pulling his hands away from his face to look at his boyfriend.

“Would you hate me if I did what he did? Denied you?”
Edging closer, Tadano reached out and took Narumiya’s hand, letting his thumb stroke gently over it.
“I trust your feelings for me enough. And I’d never want to be the reason for holding you back.”

A slightly uneasy smile on Tadano’s lips as he continued. “I’m sure that, Sawamura feels the same, about Miyuki.”

Narumiya’s jaw was clenched, and his eyes very slightly damp.
He looked away, even as he squeezed Tadano’s hand.

“It really hurt him to do it. Didn’t it?” Narumiya said.
“This has really hurt Kazuya, hasn’t it?”

Tadano couldn’t find the words to reply with. He couldn’t make himself lie just to comfort his boyfriend, knowing he’d be called out for it.
But he couldn’t utter the truth either.
The truth hurt too much.

--

Miyuki thought the hardest thing he’d had to do this week was the press conference.
When he met Sawamura off the train, and remembered at the last second that he couldn’t run up, hug him tightly and kiss him, he realised he was wrong. This was the hardest thing. Having to pull himself back at the last second.

Seeing the look of understanding as Sawamura saw Miyuki’s hands drop back to his sides.
A small flash of sadness crossed those eyes, but Sawamura managed to replace his smile again as he met Miyuki’s gaze.
It was so hard not to hug him.

I haven’t seen him for over a month, and I’m not allowed to hug him, in case someone sees.
Miyuki felt helpless, frustrated.

And then Sawamura took off his bag, forcing it onto Miyuki with a grin.
One part of their routine that was still safe.
Begrudgingly Miyuki took the bag, as usual grumbling about how heavy it was.

They walked close, close enough that the back of their hands could brush occasionally. A decent stand in for holding hands, they supposed.
Sawamura chattered about college, about Furuya, about Haruichi.

He didn’t mention the arguments he’d had with other students. Or the picture on his locker.
And neither brought up the press conference.

A silent agreement that these things were to be left alone, at least for a while.

--

Kuramochi called out a greeting to both of them as he heard the door close.
He heard a thud of a bag falling to the floor, but no returned greeting.

Curious, Kuramochi got up from the couch and went into the hallway, just to check on them.

He was greeted with the sight of Sawamura practically pinning Miyuki to the wall.
Both their coats were still on, and even their shoes had only been kicked off haphazardly at the door.

Sawamura pressed up against Miyuki, hands caught up in Miyuki’s hair, fingers gripping at it. Miyuki’s arms wrapped tight around Sawamura, as if he could possibly pull them closer.
Eyes closed as they kissed deeply, soft little gasps could be heard even from where Kuramochi stood.
Neither seemed at all aware of Kuramochi’s presence.

But Kuramochi couldn’t manage to be mad at them. He guessed this had all been held back all the way from when they met at the train station.
So he went back, returning to settle on the couch, waiting for them to come to him of their own accord.

When they finally came in, trying to act casual, Kuramochi allowed himself a smirk when he caught sight of the state of Miyuki’s hair, rendered a mess by Sawamura’s fingers.

--

The evening passed in its usual, comfortable way.
After so long apart it seemed that Miyuki and Sawamura had more than ever to talk about. Though both carefully skirted around the subject of the pictures, and the press conference.
Kuramochi too, joined in with the chatter, admittedly pleased and happy to see Miyuki looking so comfortable and animated again.
More like himself again.
He hadn’t laughed like this all week, so it was a relief to see it.
Kuramochi didn’t think he was imagining it when he felt like having Sawamura here made things feel… Lighter.
And more hopeful.

--

When Miyuki and Sawamura excused themselves for bed a little earlier than usual, Kuramochi said nothing. Usually he’d make some comment or remark on how they weren’t exactly going to be ‘sleeping’ anyway.
But tonight, he’d continued his mind set for the day.
Let them have this.
After everything, just let them have this.

--

They only put the bedside table light on, and pulled the curtains immediately.
A kiss shared standing at the foot of the bed.
And then carefully undressing each other, Miyuki occasionally pausing as he lent in to kiss at Sawamura’s newly revealed skin.
Finally, in underwear and tshirts for nightwear, they settled on the bed together, entwining easily as they continued to kiss.

So easy.
So right.
Miyuki felt so at peace, calm.
This was right. What they had, what they were, this was right.

It was with a mischievous grin that Sawamura pushed Miyuki onto his back on the bed. Then, eyes still on him, and seeing Miyuki’s returning grin, Sawamura slowly moved on top of him, straddling him.
“Oh?” Miyuki said, with a slight smirk.

Sawamura kept his eyes on Miyuki as he pulled his own shirt off, reaching down to push up Miyuki’s shirt also, careful to drag his hands over Miyuki’s skin. Both for his own benefit as well as Miyuki’s.

Leaning down to kiss Miyuki deeply as Sawamura’s hands worked to pull down their underwear.
Miyuki gasped softly into Sawamura’s mouth as fingers brushed past his pubic hair, lightly touching his cock.

Within all this simple pleasure, it took a few minutes to realise something was wrong.

As much as Sawamura was kissing and touching and generally pulling all the tricks he knew Miyuki liked, Miyuki had stopped properly responding.
The kisses they shared were brief, only instigated by Sawamura. Miyuki’s hands had remained on Sawamura’s hips a while now, just. Staying put. Not moving at all.
And, most telling of all. Despite all that Sawamura had done so far, Miyuki was still barely hard.

Finally, realising that ignoring the situation wasn’t doing anything, Sawamura sat up.
“What is it, Miyuki?” He asked, tilting his head slightly, confused by the situation. If there was a pout to his words, it was only because Sawamura felt like he was missing something important. Something he should be able to understand.

Miyuki blinked, looking up at him.
He looked every bit as confused and lost as Sawamura did.
Then he shook his head.
“Nothing.” He insisted. “It’s nothing.”
Then his hands gripped Sawamura’s waist, pulling him down. Moving swiftly and expertly so that Sawamura was beneath him, on his back. Hands guided Sawamura’s thighs apart as Miyuki moved between them.
Sawamura gasped as he felt Miyuki’s cock against him, thinking (hoping?) that he felt a little closer to being hard now.

Miyuki took Sawamura’s hand, guiding him to touch him.
He kissed Sawamura deeply then, almost forcefully, needing something.
Needing Sawamura.

Miyuki’s hand even reached down to start teasing at Sawamura’s hole. Just nudging, not too much yet since his fingers were dry. And while Sawamura yelped a sound of pleasure and his own erection was near painful with hardness, Miyuki was still not much better than before.
Miyuki swore, pulling away from Sawamura, sitting up and moving to the edge of the bed.
“Miyuki-“

“I can’t!” Miyuki snapped. “Damn it… I. I can’t… Get it out of my head…” He winced.
Why now? Why when he’d worked so hard already to try not to think about that damn press conference? Why did it have to plague him now?

But now, there, he’d finally admitted it. And Sawamura finally understood.
What was holding Miyuki back. Why it wasn’t happening tonight.

Those words. Those painful words he’d had to say. They echoed in his head, ringing. Calling him the liar that he was. Denying him the very thing he’d denied.
Sawamura crawled towards Miyuki. Bare skin pressing against Miyuki’s back as he wrapped his arms around Miyuki’s shoulders.
He leant against Miyuki, kissed his neck, softly.
“I. Love you, Kazuya.” Sawamura said, quietly. “I love you so much.”

Miyuki closed his eyes, reaching a hand up to stroke Sawamura’s hair.
He allowed himself a little smile.
“I love you too, Eijun.”

The words tasted warm, sweet. Comforting to say.
Sawamura squeezed him, tightly.

“It’s okay if we can’t have sex tonight, okay?” Sawamura said.
Miyuki couldn’t help laughing a little bit at that. “Thank you for being so understanding of my plight.”

“Just don’t make a habit of it.” Sawamura lectured.
“I’ll do my best.” Miyuki said, with a slight smile.
They laid back down, arms wrapped loosely around each other as they kissed, sweetly.
“Hey.” Miyuki said, so quietly that his words barely brushed against Sawamura’s lips. “I can still…”
He shifted slightly, pulling himself back a little to let his hand reach between them. His fingers glanced over Sawamura’s erection.

A sharp whine escaped from Sawamura.
He shook his head, pulling back, away from the touch. “Not without you. I don’t want-“

“Shh.” Miyuki silenced him with a kiss. Then grinned at him, one so genuine and bright that Sawamura could almost pretend everything was normal.
“Let me take care of you.” Miyuki insisted.
He reached his hand down again, and this time Sawamura let him. Soft, whining, wanting noises quickly spilling from his lips as he wrapped his arms around Miyuki, holding him close.
Sawamura came fast, after so much lead up. Soon after, he fell asleep still in Miyuki’s arms. And Miyuki allowed himself the indulgence of watching his boyfriend sleep. Smiling as he brushed at Sawamura’s hair, and softly kissed his lips until, finally, he fell asleep too.

--

The couple of days with Sawamura had allowed Miyuki to retreat to some kind of bubble. A world where everything was fine, a world before someone had released pictures of the two of them and turned Miyuki’s world so completely off track.

It was as they walked back to the station, and remembered, again, that they could not hold hands, that it all began to set in again. Slowly, like a cloud passing over them.
Yes Miyuki had done the press conference, yes he’d ‘cleared his name’ (damn he hated the wording of that), but now he had to keep the pretence up.
Was it even okay to be seen out with Sawamura? Should he be letting him walk back by himself? Or with Kuramochi?
But Miyuki couldn’t consider that. This was part of their routine. Their time together. He couldn’t let anything, not even this, take that away from him.
Miyuki felt painfully torn. A feeling he was becoming all too familiar with.

At the gates, they said goodbye as usual.
But as much as he wanted to, Miyuki found he couldn’t look up at Sawamura.

I can’t kiss you. I can’t hug you. I can’t even hold your hand.
I hate this… I hate this…

He jolted, just a little as he felt a hand on his cheek.
Looking up, Miyuki saw Sawamura looking back at him. That determination back in his eyes. Glowing.
Grabbing his hat off his head, Sawamura held it up to hide their faces from view.
Then he lent in, kissing Miyuki deeply, just a little bit forcefully.

Eyes wide and lips still slightly parted, Miyuki stared at Sawamura in awe as he pulled back from the kiss.
Replacing the hat on his head with a decisive motion, Sawamura said. “You don’t get to say goodbye to me with that defeated look on your face.”
Miyuki blinked, shocked by the words, and how well Sawamura had read his feelings.
Despite himself, Miyuki smiled, just a little, then laughed, softly at himself.

“Sorry. Sorry. I’ll stop.” He said.
Sawamura nodded. Reaching out and placing both hands on Miyuki’s shoulders. “Keep fighting, Miyuki Kazuya. Once you get back to playing, no one will even be thinking about who you might be dating.”

Miyuki nodded.
Suddenly, for the first time since this whole thing had started, Miyuki found himself looking forward to going to practice, thinking that maybe, maybe everything could finally have gone back to normal.

--

The same people still wouldn’t make eye contact with him, and the same people kept their distance. A couple actually exchanged pleasantries with him though, so Miyuki decided to see that as progress.
Practice itself… Not much had changed, though the coach wasn’t actively ignoring him anymore, he was still frustrated that no one was willing to pitch to him.

Miyuki tried catching Narumiya’s eye. But he was still being distant. Perhaps worse than before. He actively walked away when Miyuki went to talk to him.
“What the hell…” Miyuki grumbled to Chris later that day. “He was the one pestering me to do the press conference, and now he’s still acting mad at me?”

“I think Narumiya is working through a few things of his own, Miyuki. Try not to take it too personally.”
Miyuki only answered with a scowl in Narumiya’s direction, so it was up to Chris to change the subject.
“How’s Sawamura doing? Kuramochi mentioned you were seeing him this weekend?”
Miyuki’s expression changed, almost instantly. A contented smile spreading across his face. “I did. He’s good. Doing well.”

“We’ll have to arrange for us all to meet up sometime.” Chris replied.
Miyuki nodded. “He’d really like that.”
“I’d really like that.” He added.

--

Miyuki could feel it, everyone’s attention on him. Some outwardly staring in his direction, others so obvious in their trying not to look at him.
Coach Matsuda had gathered them at the end of practice to give them the rundown of the next game they were due to play.
Including the roster.
Aida was still on the main roster, and he was among those trying not to look at Miyuki.

It was obvious.
Miyuki would be on the bench. Again.
Even though… Even after what he’d done, what had been agreed.
Miyuki couldn’t stay, couldn’t listen to anymore.
He needed to get out of there.

On his way out, one person caught his eye. Holding his gaze for more than a couple of beats.
Narumiya was shocked too.
And he was angry that Miyuki wasn’t going to be playing again.
Miyuki shrugged, meeting Narumiya’s fierce gaze with his own.

What do you want from me? Miyuki thought.

What does everyone want from me?

What more can I do…?

Chapter Text

Narumiya slammed the apartment door behind him. And before even stepping to take his shoes off, let out an almighty scream of frustration.
“Damnit damnit damnit DAMNIT!” He cursed, keeping up a steady stream as he put his bag down and took off his shoes, finally heading into the apartment and going towards the living room.
Tadano sat at the table that doubled up as his desk when studying, which he had been doing before Narumiya returned.
“Welcome back, Mei.” Tadano said, pleasantly, barely looking up from his textbook.
“Another good day at practice?”
“Damn it!” Narumiya snapped in response. “Curse that manager! Curse that coach!” He flung himself, dramatically on the couch.
“And CURSE THAT DAMN KAZUYA!” He screeched at the top of his lungs.

Tadano sighed, closing his eyes a moment to collect himself.
Then he closed his textbook, recognising that there was no more studying getting done this evening.

He turned in his chair to face towards the back of the couch, where he could just about make out the tuft of Narumiya’s hair.
“Mei. What happened? I thought that now Miyuki did the press conference, he’d be back playing the next game. That’s what you wanted, right? That’s why you pushed him on it so much isn’t it? So then-“
“They didn’t do it!” Narumiya snapped, cutting Tadano off. “They promised they would! But Kazuya’s still not playing in the next game! Again! They’re not going to let him catch, again!”
Slowly, Narumiya sat up, turning around to face Tadano.
His eyes were wide, and betrayed all the shock behind them.
And the despair.
“Itsuki… I- I only pushed him so hard… I only… Got on his case and… And treated him like that so that… So that he’d stop being so stubborn and see. And see that if he just did the press conference… Everything could go back to normal. And it would be alright again…”

Tadano watched in quiet horror as his boyfriend appeared to crumble before his eyes.
He knew. He knew that Narumiya had been hard on Miyuki lately. And while he’d guessed, he hadn’t quite known Narumiya’s true motives behind it.
Now, this, finally, this made sense.

He’d been trying to push Miyuki into a corner, so that things could be over quickly.
“… Itsuki.” Narumiya’s voice broke, just a little. “I did all that to him… Made him feel even more alone and… And he did that press conference and…”

And Tadano went to him, gathering Narumiya up, in a way he only dared when he saw his boyfriend look this devastated.

Tadano felt Narumiya’s hands gripping at his shirt, gathering into fists. And Tadano found himself having to close his own eyes tightly, fighting back his own emotions. Feeling like he had no right to be upset over this, and yet it hurt to see Narumiya like this.

“How could I hurt him like this… For nothing?”
Narumiya’s voice took on a quiet, disbelieving quality to it. And that, perhaps, was even worse to hear.

Tadano knew, and knew well, just how close the two of them were. Hadn’t he heard about their history often enough, when Narumiya was still unaware of Tadano’s feelings? (And then still, when Narumiya was not quite so mindful of his feelings as he should have been).
As much as the two of them pushed each other, it was only ever to make the other improve, to strive for more.
Narumiya had never intended this.
And Tadano knew that Miyuki being denied what he’d been promised was only another stab in the back.

‘You’ll figure out a way to help him, Mei.’ Tadano thought, but knew not to say out loud.
‘Because you’ve never once stopped caring about him.’

--

Some have love at first sight.

For Miyuki and Narumiya, it was more like love at first game.

Second year of Junior High, their teams and therefore they, met.

Miyuki’s eyes widening in excitement as he figured out that Narumiya’s pitches were on another level. How he walked off grinning when first struck out.
The little grin as Narumiya noticed the calls Miyuki was making against him, marking him as an opponent worth something clever.
A beaming smile as Miyuki got his first hit.
The smirk as Narumiya got him out as he attempted to steal.
The favour repaid in Narumiya’s next at bat. Hitting a single. Narumiya’s proud grin.
And then Miyuki’s throw from the home plate to get him out with the next.

By the time the game was done, neither could keep the grins off their faces, even as they were both panting hard from exhaustion. Never taking their eyes off each other as they walked to line up.

Incidentally, neither of them can remember which team won that day.
It hardly seemed to matter.

They both hung back after the game, sat on one of the benches and talking the game all over again.
Also. Just as interestingly, neither can quite remember which one of them had started the conversation. Though it was definitely Narumiya who sat down next to Miyuki.
Eventually, Narumiya was called to say that it was time to go home.
Reluctant to leave, Narumiya had made hurried arrangements to meet Miyuki again the next day.
A little café not far from where Narumiya lived.
“I’ll buy us milkshakes!” He promised, even as he was already hurrying off.
Miyuki had no idea how he was going to get there. But he agreed anyway. Determined to make it.

--

He was nearly an hour late, and just slightly damp from sweat from the long walk (and maybe just a little bit of nerves?), but Narumiya didn’t seem to mind it. He just looked happy to see Miyuki.

True to his word, Narumiya bought them both milkshakes which where apparently ‘the speciality’.

Not usually one to take to sweet things, Miyuki drank nearly half of his in one go, just to cool himself down.
They talked for what must have been hours.

And, for Miyuki, he wondered why he kept looking at Narumiya so intently. To the point that he found himself having to look away. Worried that the other boy would think him strange if he noticed him staring.
But then he’d catch himself again. Perhaps noticing Narumiya’s eyes, thinking that he liked the blue of them. Or noticing the little pout Narumiya would make when he was thinking about something. And how it was completely different to the pout that he would make when something displeased him.

Miyuki found himself watching Narumiya’s hands too. Telling himself it was because he was interested as a catcher looking at a pitcher and how they might handle the ball, what potential pitches they could throw.
But then his mind would wander. Considering that, unlike some players, Narumiya’s hands still managed to look… Soft, even while they were strong. And how the fingers had a nimbleness to them that even watching him play with the straw in his milkshake was fascinating.

They exchanged contact details, and when they finally said good bye, the sky was just beginning to darken.

It was later, when Narumiya messaged Miyuki first, and Miyuki felt his heart beating hard as he looked at the message that he started to understand.
So this was what people called a ‘crush’?
This was what he heard the girls in his class giggle and blush about when they huddled up around the latest issue of Junon.
This was what he’d heard some of the other boys on the team talk about when they talked about girls.
But…

Narumiya was a boy. Just like Miyuki.
Miyuki found himself smile, just a little as he laid back on his bed, closing his eyes.
“Never can do things the same as everyone else, eh, Kazuya?” He said to himself.

He decided to leave any worrying about the consequences of being a boy with a crush on another boy for another time. Having a crush was an entirely new feeling and, Miyuki decided, he certainly didn’t hate it.

--

A week later, sat out together in a park after their own little practice session.

Miyuki had suggested some new things for Narumiya to try with his pitches, and Narumiya’s eyes were still sparkling from it.
Miyuki had stopped trying to pretend he wasn’t looking at Narumiya now.
He was finding it hard to take his eyes off him, if he was being honest.

“Hey. Miyuki.” Narumiya said, where he was laid out on his back on the grass.

“Y- yeah?” Half nervous that Narumiya was going to call him a weirdo for staring.

“I was wondering…” Narumiya trailed off, holding his hand straight up, as if to block out the sun.

“Do you like me?” He asked.

Miyuki jolted.
So he had been found out.

He’d hoped to have a little more time to enjoy Narumiya before he was told to quit being weird but… If this was it then he guessed there wasn’t much he could do. Miyuki drew his knees up to his chest, glancing from his seated position at Narumiya, trying to judge his mood.

“Because…” Narumiya trailed off, almost, almost with a hint of hesitation.
“Because… I kinda like you. I mean. I like you. A lot.”

Miyuki blinked, staring down at Narumiya.
There was no way… He didn’t mean…?
Narumiya’s hand reached out, somehow finding Miyuki’s hand easily.
Miyuki stared in wide eyed wonder at his hand enclosed within the other boys.
He’d been right. Narumiya’s hand was soft.

“Do you like me… Like I like you, Kazuya?” Narumiya asked.

Miyuki managed to draw his gaze away from their hands long enough to look back at Narumiya again. Saw him smiling, softly.
Those eyes looking all the brighter in the late afternoon sun.

“Yes!” He said, louder and quicker than he’d intended.
“Yes.” Miyuki repeated. “I like you. Mei.”

There was a moment, just a moment, where Narumiya looked surprised. His eyes widening, a slight jolt that made its way to their joined hands.

And then it passed, and that easy confidence that Miyuki was so used to was back.

“Well. Obviously.” Narumiya said, before glancing at Miyuki.
Miyuki couldn’t help but grin, knowing that if even for a moment, Narumiya had been surprised by him.

--

That night, neither Miyuki nor Narumiya slept much.

While Narumiya had been confident outwardly, he’d been scared he’d misread what Miyuki was thinking, feeling about him.
He’d been so relieved when he found out he was right.
And so excited.
And so nervous.
A boyfriend?
Something so new and unknown.
He was glad it was Miyuki.
Back then, he couldn’t possibly imagine it being anyone else.

--

The highlight, in Narumiya’s opinion, was the day that Miyuki came to visit his school to see him play.
Of course, Miyuki being Miyuki, he hadn’t announced that he was going to come. So instead Narumiya got the biggest, best kind of shock when he got to the mound in the games 5th inning and saw Miyuki perched on a bench, in perfect, direct view.

He beamed at Narumiya, and while the pitcher had a million questions in his head (not least ‘why are you at MY school right now?’), but that in no way dampened his excitement for the fact that his boyfriend was there.
Narumiya swore that his game got better just knowing that Miyuki was watching him.
And after the game was won, Narumiya waved and motioned Miyuki to come over.
“Hey! Hey guys, this is Kazuya! You know, my boyfriend?”

Miyuki turned an alarming kind of pink as he heard the words.
Narumiya couldn’t help but smile, especially as he leaned in, kissing those pinked cheeks and enjoying the little warmth he felt beneath the skin.
A few of Narumiya’s teammates waved him off, rolling their eyes. “Yeah, yeah. What haven’t we heard about ‘Kazuya’?”

But a few of the others, the ones that Narumiya considered closer to him anyway, came over, looks of genuine interest on their faces.
“Miyuki Kazuya! We’ve heard so much about you, it’s great to meet in person!”
Narumiya watched, proudly as Miyuki got used to a new group of people. Liking seeing him relaxing, smiling.

He still turned pink again when Narumiya took his hand though.
Which Narumiya thought was more than cute.

--

“I suppose this will change things between us...” Miyuki said, trying to keep his voice casual, but even he could hear the note of hesitation to it.

They’d been together just a handful of months, but already they felt like it had been always like this.
But now, the question that Miyuki had known had been coming had been asked. And Narumiya had even gone so far as to ask publicly.
Miyuki knew the answer before it was asked.
Seidou. He was going to Seidou.

And not even Narumiya could change his mind about that.

… Still. Even with the certain knowledge of what he wanted to do, wanted to go, he couldn’t deny the anxious knot in his stomach as he suspected it meant the end of what the two of them had.

The sideways glance to where Narumiya sat next to him on the wall certainly didn't help him pull off his 'unconcerned' vibe either.
But that glance told him that Narumiya wasn't so calm either. Not obvious to those who didn't know him, who didn't know his tells.

But Miyuki knew him.
He'd been watching this particular pitcher a long time already.

Narumiya sniffed, as if brushing the comment off. His chin tipped up slightly, to show confident defiance. But even so, he kept his gaze away from Miyuki.

“Doesn't have to.” Narumiya said.
“Unless.” Glance at Miyuki, glance away.
“Unless that's what you want?”

There it was. The question in the tone that spoke of his hesitance. His uncertainty.
Miyuki blinked. His gaze fixed on the ground ahead of them.
He hadn't expected this, honestly. He thought that Narumiya would be mad at him. Which was fine, he guessed. But he hadn't expected... This.
He got both? He got to go to Seidou, and still keep this relationship?
Miyuki hadn't expected he'd be allowed that.

Miyuki reached out his hand, without looking.
Easily finding Narumiya's hand where it rested on the wall.
Taking it, carefully.
Narumiya the one to lace their fingers together, and squeeze Miyuki's hand, just a little bit tightly.

--

In the end their relationship continued only a few months into the new school year.
There was no big scene. No big fall out.
In the end it was a simple conversation, the first one they'd had face to face for a while.

“This is hard, isn't it?” Narumiya said.
Miyuki shrugged, uncommitted.
“Kazuya.” Narumiya's voice had a sharpness to it, warning him not to brush it off.
“Yeah. It's hard.” Miyuki agreed eventually.

In a lot of ways. Too many ways for two 15 year olds in their first relationship, a relationship that only came second to their goals in life.
They knew each other well enough.
They'd both fallen in love with each other’s passion and talent for their sport, after all.
And with the summer seeming fast approaching, they realised that being rival schools was more complicated than they'd imagined. More pressure than they imagined.
Not an easy decision.
But one they agreed upon.

For once, Miyuki instigated the kiss as they said goodbye.
“See you out there, Kazuya.” Narumiya said.
“Don't think I'll go easy on you.” Miyuki teased.
“Don't you dare.” Narumiya's voice cracked slightly as he said it. Grabbing Miyuki for one more forceful yet somehow still achingly sweet kiss.

Because damnit. Narumiya Mei never lost at anything.

--

Roughly a year later, and now both were second years.
Which meant, of course, that the new first years had arrived. And among them of course, was one Sawamura Eijun.

“You like him. Don’t you?”
Miyuki hadn’t been paying attention, standing outside the stadium, waiting for the others to join him.
But that voice always jerked him right back to reality.

He could hear it from across the stadium and it would still have the same effect.
Miyuki knew his own voice had the same effect on Narumiya too.

Miyuki looked up, smiling just a little as he saw Narumiya leaning up against the wall beside him.
“Came to watch us, Mei? I’m touched.” Miyuki teased.

“That first-year southpaw.” Narumiya said, ignoring what Miyuki had said. “You like him.”

Miyuki looked away, his grin faltering a little. “I mean sure. He’s got an interesting style, right?”
Miyuki knew his cheeks had a hint of pink to them, he could feel it, just as surely as he could feel Narumiya’s gaze on him.

“Cut it out, Kazuya. You can hide a lot from everyone else. But you know you can’t from me.”

Miyuki mumbled something, making Narumiya nudge him. “What was that?” Narumiya demanded.

“I SAID-“ Miyuki paused, sighed. “I said… So you could even tell from that far away?”
Narumiya nodded.

He went to say something else, but when he looked up, he saw how completely he’d lost Miyuki’s attention.
The rest of the team was catching up finally.

Including Sawamura.

Narumiya looked at Miyuki, taking him in carefully. Admiring the soft smile on his face, how open he looked. The excitement, and (though he was trying to hide it) obvious love in his eyes.
All for Sawamura. All for him.

“You’d better tell him, Kazuya.” Narumiya said, pushing himself away from the wall and starting to walk away. “Because we both know he’s not going to figure it out otherwise.”
Narumiya left then, smiling in spite of himself.

Damnit Kazuya… You never even looked at me like that.
He was jealous, yes. But somehow, he couldn’t help being happy for Miyuki.

--

Of course, Miyuki wasn’t the one to make the move in his relationship, and, as it turned out, neither was Narumiya.

Third year for both Narumiya and Miyuki.
Narumiya and Tadano had been watching another one of Seidou’s games, both watching Miyuki closely. Tadano because he was still trying to get more tips and cues from the catcher, and Narumiya because… Well. That was just what Narumiya did.

On the way home, as usual, nearly every other word out of Narumiya’s mouth was ‘Kazuya’.

“Kazuya was playing really well today.”
“The pitchers all really trust Kazuya, it’s obvious.”
“I envy them, must be good to pitch when Kazuya is your catcher.”

“Kazuya-“

“ENOUGH!” Tadano finally exploded, unable to contain himself anymore.
Narumiya stopped walking, looking at Tadano, surprised.
And then he frowned, darkly.

“Kazuya this, Kazuya that, look I get it! I admire him too, and I KNOW you two have history but I’m SICK of this. All I ever hear is ‘Kazuya Kazuya Kazuya Kazuya’! Well you know something? I’m RIGHT HERE!”

Narumiya’s frown turned to one of confusion. “What do you-“

“UGH!” Tadano dropped their bags to the floor with a sound of frustration. Closing the gap between them, his hands reaching to grab Narumiya’s shoulders, holding him still.
And then. Not allowing himself hesitation. Tadano kissed him. Suddenly, a little bit hurriedly and maybe too harshly.

“I mean…” Tadano said, taking a step away, his head lowering as he let go of Narumiya. “I mean… That I’m right here. I’m… Right here.”
His cheeks were burning. Waiting. Just waiting for Narumiya’s rejection. Expecting it, fully.

Then a hand took his.
Squeezed gently.
“So you are.” Narumiya said, gently.

--

‘Heard your scored yourself a second year catcher, congrats.’
Miyuki messaged Narumiya a couple of days later, after the news had finally made its way to him.

‘Thank you! ♥ ♥ ♥’ Narumiya replied back with.

Miyuki chuckled, thinking he kinda liked this sickly loved up Narumiya after all.

‘Now how about you? Score your second year pitcher yet?’

And to that, Miyuki didn’t reply. And Narumiya didn’t press it, knowing that the silence answered plenty.
Miyuki couldn’t bring himself to reply. Just as much as he couldn’t bring himself to say anything to Sawamura, still.
Even though he knew how fast time was slipping away.

--

The news finally came to Narumiya when there was just a little over a month until graduation.

Finally, Miyuki and Sawamura had gotten together.
He didn’t need the details, he could simply be content that the obvious outcome had finally happened.
Tadano asked him later why he was in such a good mood.

“I always like it when Kazuya finally does what I know is best.” Narumiya said, with an oddly contented grin.

--

After that, it seemed that the two couples became closer, in their own ways. Narumiya and Miyuki spoke more often again, now that they weren’t rivals, and Tadano and Sawamura became friendly.
They’d even been on a few double dates.

And… Other things.

Now that Miyuki and Narumiya were both pro’s, both on the same team, they had more time than ever.

That first time that their team had played away, the first season that Narumiya had joined the team.
Miyuki and Narumiya had conspired to make sure that they got a room together. (Or, really, Narumiya did all the persuading needed…)
All so they could sneak their respective boyfriends into their room late at night.

Tadano had text Narumiya to let him know he and Sawamura were downstairs, and Miyuki had headed outside to check all was clear to let them into the room.

“Good to see you Tadano.” Miyuki said, warmly even as he slipped his arm around Sawamura’s waist. “College going okay?”

“Yes, going well! Thank you, Miyuki!”

“Itsukiiii!!” Narumiya whined from his bed, “You’re here for ME not to fawn over Kazuya.”
Tadano blushed, mumbling a sorry.

“Sawamura!” Narumiya said, redirecting his attention. “You still practicing hard?”

“Yes!” Sawamura replied, straightening up more, without really thinking about it.
Miyuki had to hide his smirk.
“I intend to make sure I am good enough to take my place back opposite Miyuki!”

“Oooh?” Narumiya said, with a wicked smile. “Intend to knock me off my mound, hmm?”

“Naturally. My place is where you stand, with-“

“OOOkay-“ Miyuki interjected, pulling Sawamura further away, towards his own bed. “Tadano, think it’s time to take charge of our respective pitchers, hmm?”

“I agree.”

Narumiya pouted. “You WOULD agree with Kazuya…”

“Mei, hush.” Tadano said, climbing onto the bed and placing a kiss on Narumiya’s cheek, making him blush.

The rest of the night the two couples pretty much ignored each other, as agreed. Taking the time for and with their partners only.
Lights out, and they’d curled up under the covers.

Sawamura was nervous just to kiss Miyuki, scared that the other couple might hear him.
Miyuki shook his head, kissing Sawamura repeatedly until he relaxed.
Slowly, Sawamura edged closer, whining softly in frustration as he realised the limitations when sharing a room.
He was heated, wanting, and he could feel Miyuki pressed close against him.
Miyuki seemed to read him perfectly, or perhaps he was experiencing something like a similar kind of frustration. One deep kiss, then Miyuki whispered in Sawamura’s ear. “Turn around.”

“What?”

Sawamura’s whispers were, as usual, not quite as quiet as Miyuki’s, so he had to stifle a giggle as he shushed Sawamura.

“Just turn around, would you?”

Sawamura did as he was told. Feeling both lonely to not have Miyuki in front of him, while also safer now he couldn’t see the other bed (the constant reminder that the other
couple was in the room.)
Miyuki kissed at Sawamura’s ear, making him shiver.
Then he reached down, palming at Sawamura’s crotch through his pyjamas.
Sawamura jolted, pulling back from Miyuki’s hand, while simultaneously pressing back closer into him.
“Calm down.” Miyuki soothed. “It’s okay, if you just keep quiet it’s going to be fine.”
Sawamura nodded, slowly.
His hand going up to cover his mouth as Miyuki’s hand slipped down into his pyjama pants, stroking him lightly.

Soft, careful panting in Sawamura’s ear as Miyuki tried to keep himself steady too.
Sawamura’s hurried hands tugged at his pyjama bottoms, pulling them down. His intention only to give Miyuki’s hand easier access.

But then he felt Miyuki, hard behind him, and couldn’t help himself from pressing back into him.
A low, needy sound escaped Miyuki’s throat, his hand briefly leaving Sawamura’s erection to pull down his own pyjama pants, an arm wrapping around Sawamura’s waist to pull him back closer.

“Want… Want it Miyuki.”
Miyuki buried his face against Sawamura’s shoulder, trying to hide another low, wanting sound.

“Are you sure?” Miyuki whispered in Sawamura’s ear.
Sawamura nodded.

“Can you keep quiet?”

Again, Sawamura nodded.
They hadn’t planned for this, so they had to make do with simple saliva.

Miyuki kept his movements small and slow, working Sawamura carefully through the prep.
Both muffled their shallow breathing as best they could. Miyuki against Sawamura’s shoulder, while Sawamura turned his face into the pillow.
Sawamura bit down on his own hand as Miyuki carefully guided himself inside him. Going slow enough that he was almost completely all in on the first try.

“You feel so good.” Miyuki’s voice was so low, Sawamura could barely catch it.
He certainly couldn’t trust his own voice to reply either.

Miyuki kept his hip movements slow, but with a wide rotation, working deeply.
“Does it feel okay?”

Sawamura only trusted himself to nod.

“You’re doing so good.” Miyuki soothed, reaching his hand down to stroke lightly at Sawamura’s erection again. “So good at keeping quiet.”
In truth there were tears in Sawamura’s eyes, he so badly wanted to let out sound, to gasp, moan. To call out Miyuki’s name. But he couldn’t, he knew that.
He was relieved when he felt Miyuki pull him closer again, pressing deeper. A different kind of sound escaping Miyuki before it could be fully muffled against Sawamura’s shoulder.
“C-coming-“

Sawamura didn’t need telling, he could tell. He could feel it as Miyuki spilled out inside him, making him bite harder on his hand. They rarely had sex without a condom, for simple hygiene sake mostly, but they both secretly enjoyed it without. Both liking the extra feeling of closeness. And somehow, Sawamura didn’t quite understand it, but somehow there was something about this too that he liked.

Sawamura gasped, shuddering as his orgasm hit too, the way he moved with Miyuki still inside him setting off something like a second wave of it in Miyuki who, this time moaned directly into Sawamura’s ear.

Soft panting and kisses to Sawamura’s shoulder as they both cooled down. Slowly coming out of their bliss, enjoying the extra feeling of contentment between them.

Then they heard it, from the next bed.
Much louder and more obvious than they had been.

Miyuki chuckled, tiredly.
“Goddamnit Mei… Can’t lose at anything…”

--

So much history, and so much more besides. Close in a different way than as boyfriends, having worked out where they fitted in each other’s lives along the way.
They could read each other easily.

So perhaps that was part of the shock. Narumiya had misread Miyuki on this one, thought there would be a different outcome.
Now he wanted to fix that.

That night after it was announced that Miyuki wasn’t going to be playing in the next game, again, Narumiya didn’t sleep.
For once he didn’t wake Tadano up, wanting to figure this one out on his own.

Eventually, in the early hours of the morning, just as it was starting to get light, Narumiya realised he knew exactly what he could do.
What he should have been doing since the beginning.
He could start now, at least.

--

“Oi! Kazuya! Come catch for me!”

Miyuki looked up, surprised to hear his name.
And especially because it was his first name. It meant that that could only be one person calling him.
Standing just a short way away from him, tossing a baseball up and down in his left hand, was one Narumiya Mei.
The same Narumiya Mei that had been treating Miyuki like he didn’t exist.

And yeah, it hurt more than Miyuki admitted. As much as he valued Chris’s steady presence, Miyuki found that the pitcher’s recent treatment had felt like he’d been abandoned.

Narumiya had his head slightly turned away from Miyuki, his head held high.
But he kept glancing at Miyuki, waiting for his reaction.

“Sure you want that?” Miyuki replied, maybe a little more harshly than he meant to.
The recent betrayal by their coach and manager still stung, badly. “Not gonna damage your reputation? Being seen with me.”

And yeah.
He wasn’t letting Narumiya forget how he’d been treating him these past few weeks.

Narumiya tutted.
“Oh shut up, Kazuya.” He said. “I’ve missed having you catch for me.” Narumiya continued, not so subtly looking at Miyuki, checking his reaction.

Miyuki was looking back at him.
Smiling just a little.

And yeah. Maybe Narumiya had shown his hand a little more than he’d intended.
But that was fine.
He started walking, and Miyuki caught up to walk beside him.

Narumiya had finally figured out what he could do for Miyuki.
Even if it was just a small thing, Narumiya hoped Miyuki understood it was his way of apologising.

Chapter Text

‘Still not playing. Guess maybe the timing isn’t right yet.’
Miyuki winced even as he sent the message.
Sawamura had messaged him, excitedly asking about the upcoming game the next day, clearly fully expecting to hear that Miyuki would be playing.

Miyuki still felt too shocked, too wounded.
He understood the basic fact of it.
He understood that he would not be playing.
And yet… The reality of it, of all of it had yet to sink in.
The fact that he still wouldn’t be playing, even after what he’d done, what had been agreed.
After he’d put himself through that.
Said those words.
Denied Sawamura.

Denied himself.
He’d done all these things, and yet, still, he wasn’t even going to get to play.
Kuramochi had been shocked when he’d told him.
They’d been eating dinner when Miyuki brought it up.
And it was obvious that Kuramochi hadn’t known what to say.
Eventually, after a long silence that had started becoming too frequent in their apartment now, Kuramochi said,
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry they’re still holding you back.”
Miyuki just nodded in response.

--

The team had won, so everyone was in good spirits.
Mostly.
Narumiya still exuded a sour-like energy. But his pitching had been brutally fierce.
Apparently, his frustrations at having helped in Miyuki’s degradation were currently fuelling a fire within him. He saw no faces in the batters put before him, only targets to be taken down.
Chris had actually commented that was a wonder that no batter had been hit today.
“I’m not saying his control is off, I just mean that his pitches feel that vicious.”

At least the coach had had sense enough to give Chris the catcher position this game, that seemed to give some kind of stability in Narumiya’s game.
And, of course, though Miyuki could be happy for his team, he was still left with a hollow feeling.
Actually. Worse than before.
Before at least he knew why he wasn’t out there. That there was still a bargain to be made, and he still had some control of the situation. He knew that he wasn’t playing because he hadn’t decided to say yes to the agreement.

Now?
Now it just felt like everything had been taken from him.
He’d done what was asked. And still gained nothing.
He’s just lost more of himself.

So when the team walked out of the stadium, heading to the bus to take them home, Miyuki stuck by Chris (as had become his habit lately, since no one else seemed to treat him consistently), his head down, trying his best to keep out of sight.
Away from the prying eyes of fans and media alike.

He still heard them though.
The voices calling his name. Some of them higher pitched than others.
The fans that still turned out for him. Hoping, hoping to get to watch him play.
The urge to cover his ears, to block them out was high.

I’m sorry. A voice in his head said, addressing those fans calling to him.
I’m sorry. Am I a disappointment to you? I’m sorry I can’t give you what you want from me.

“MIYUKI! KAZUYA!”

And then a voice, a single voice cut through all the rest.
One he’d know anywhere, even in a crowd like this.
Miyuki looked up, and it was immediate.
Straight away he was able to find Sawamura.

Somehow he’d managed to fight his way to the front of the crowd, in direct view of Miyuki.
And it was like everyone else fell away, and relief washed over Miyuki. The heaviness to his shoulders lifted and he found a smile spreading across his face to replace the shock of seeing his boyfriend.

Ever ridiculous, Sawamura was even wearing the jersey that could be bought from the teams gift shop. Miyuki’s jersey. Along with the hat with Miyuki’s number on it.
Miyuki felt like he could cry with happiness.
It was so ridiculous. So ridiculous that his boyfriend was wearing his merchandise. Ridiculous that he’d come out here when Miyuki knew that Sawamura should DEFINITELY be at his own practice right now.
And ridiculous how infinitely happy it made him.

Miyuki hadn’t realised he’d started moving until he felt a hand on his shoulder, pausing him.
He looked behind him, saw Chris there, holding him back, gently.
A glance to their coach, to their manager and Miyuki understood it.
Chris didn’t want Miyuki to get into trouble.
The pain in his eyes told him that Chris would like nothing more than to let Miyuki go to Sawamura right now. But he couldn’t, not with a clear conscience when he knew it could make things worse for Miyuki.

And Miyuki understood it, visibly slumping as he came to accept it.
He looked up again, and saw Sawamura, still smiling, still waving.
Miyuki took out his phone, held it up to indicate that Sawamura should expect a message from him.

‘Meet me back at the stadium.’

Sawamura’s smile faded, but only to become that determined look that Miyuki was just as fond of.
A nod, a little salute from Sawamura told him he was understood.
And Miyuki smiled.
That light feeling coming back. Even if just a little for now.

--

The after-match meeting was brief yet far too long for Miyuki’s liking. Knowing that Sawamura was waiting just outside for him.
As soon as they were dismissed, he was gone. Ahead of everyone.
And yes, just there, right there, was Sawamura. Waiting.
Miyuki didn’t think twice about sweeping him up in his arms, pulling him close and kissing him, deeply.
“Miyuki!” Sawamura squeaked, just a little panicked. “Y- your team is r- right there, just coming out behind you! Do you t- think-?”

“I don’t care.” Miyuki said, kissing him again, hotly. Then again, kissing his neck. “Right now, I don’t care.”

And yes, he heard the muttered words as teammates passed them. Some of them surprised, some disapproving.
“It’s almost like he wants to get caught…” One said.
Miyuki flinched, imagining more pictures showing up tomorrow morning.
But he couldn’t think about that right now. He squeezed Sawamura, tightly, burying his face in against his boyfriends neck, breathing him in.

“Thank you.” He said. “Thank you for coming to see me.”

“I thought maybe… You might need me.” Sawamura said.
Miyuki nodded.

They were home before Kuramochi.
And even though it was still early, they headed straight to Miyuki’s room.
A hurried undressing, between heated kisses. Hands with fingers that trailed over skin, touches feeling so hot, like it had been months since the last time.

They were still standing by the door when Sawamura’s hand slipped inside Miyuki’s underwear, feeling him.
Sawamura smiled against Miyuki’s lips as he found him to be hard already.
“Good.” Sawamura said, teasing. “No repeats.”

Miyuki grabbed at Sawamura’s hair, bringing him close to kiss, deeply. “I’ll make up for last time. And then some.” He promised.
Eventually, the only item of clothing left between them was the jersey that Sawamura was wearing. Miyuki had attempted to remove it a few times, but he’d been denied.

Now Miyuki sat on the end of his bed, watching his boyfriend as he took the final item off.
Admiring the muscle, the toning to his boyfriends chest and stomach. He’d been softer, lighter when they’d first started dating.
Amazing what a handful of years could do.

Then Sawamura did something surprising.
Instead of coming right to Miyuki, he stepped back, pausing before going to the bag that Miyuki had taken to the game with him.
Pulling out the jersey in there, and putting it on. Not doing it up fully, so it still hung open.
Miyuki watched him, not quite understanding, head tilting as he waited on explanation.

“I wanted the real one.” Sawamura said. “The one that you wear when you play.”
Miyuki closed his eyes, rubbing his hands over his face. “But I haven’t-“
Sawamura pushed him down, onto his back on the bed, getting on top of him as he did.
Miyuki blinked up at him, wondering how many more surprises his boyfriend had in store for him.

“The fact you didn’t play in it today isn’t the point!” Sawamura said, almost fiercely. He sat up, bringing the fabric of the jersey up to his face. “It’s yours. It smells like you. And it proves… It proves that you belong there. You deserve your place there! On your team!”
Letting his hand drop, letting the jersey drop.

“You belong there.” He repeated. “Just- just like I belong with you…”

And Miyuki got it.
He understood what Sawamura was trying to do. Trying to prove.
These difficult times will pass because… Because they just would. They had to.
Although, honestly, all Miyuki could really think about was how hot his boyfriend looked wearing his jersey. He’d done it a couple of times before, with Miyuki’s old Seidou jersey and once with this uniform, when Miyuki had first been signed.
Miyuki was reminded how much it got him going, to see Sawamura in it.
And made him wonder if he’d in fact been figured out.

Miyuki reached to the drawer, retrieving familiar items.
Sawamura watched him, all the while lightly stroking Miyuki’s erection, keeping him hard, but nothing to over stimulate.
Sawamura stayed on top, straddling Miyuki even as Miyuki’s fingers worked him through prep.

And Sawamura moaned, low in his throat as he lowered himself onto Miyuki’s cock, letting him in slowly.
Miyuki’s eyes closed, teeth clamping down on his lip as he tried to hold back the overwhelming sensation of being inside his boyfriend.
Why did it seem like it had been so long? It hadn’t been that long, had it?

Sawamura’s hand on his face.
“Stop that.” He said. “Don’t hold back. Don’t hold back anything, please.”
Miyuki opened his eyes, and saw Sawamura leaning over him, eyes wide with love and lust.
And he nodded, agreeing, promising.

Sawamura sat up again, letting his hands find steady holds on Miyuki’s waist and thigh.
And then he moved, slowly rotating his hips to bring himself up and then down again, swallowing slightly at the slight stretch as he got used to the feeling.
Miyuki watched him, for now still keeping quiet.

Sawamura grinned, knowing he was being tested. Moving again, letting himself sink lower now.
A little more, and then he finally got the sound he wanted out of Miyuki. Felt Miyuki’s hips jerk beneath him, obvious in his wants for more.
While Sawamura tried to keep them slow, it was obvious that it wasn’t going to happen. Both felt so starved of each other it was natural that they were a little greedy now.
As he got close, Miyuki sat up, reaching for Sawamura.

“Come here. Come here.” He gasped, his voice coming out in breathless panting.
Sawamura reached out, pulling Miyuki close to him. Sitting on Miyuki’s lap and keeping himself still so that Miyuki could set the pace, thrusting up into him.
Sawamura kept his arms wrapped tightly around Miyuki, and enjoyed the safety of feeling Miyuki’s arms around him.
Miyuki’s hands grabbed at the material of his own jersey, remembering Sawamura’s intentions. But most of all thinking how much he liked seeing him in it.
Miyuki buried his face against Sawamura’s shoulder, panting hotly against it.

“A little more…”

Then he felt Sawamura’s hand move between them, knowing that Sawamura was touching himself, trying to catch up to Miyuki.
He came with a gasping kind of moan, never quite catching his breath back.

“Eijun… Eijun…” The name on his lips.

“Ka- zu- ya…” Hot wetness on their stomachs, declaring both had come at almost the same time.

A collapsed, hot and slightly messy heap on the bed.
Sawamura curled up beside Miyuki. The dominant bottom returned to the cute and snuggly boyfriend who loved nothing more than being close like this.
Miyuki stroked his hair. Smiling softly, contentedly.

“… You really look hot wearing that, you know?” He said.
“Guess I should wear it more often.” Sawamura replied, with a grin.

--

“How are things at college, really?”

They were still in bed, barely moved except the simple shifts to make themselves more comfortable.
Miyuki reached out, brushing back at Sawamura’s hair as he asked the question he knew he should have asked earlier.
But he’d been scared of the answer.
Because if things were bad for Sawamura at college, then Miyuki knew it was his fault. But it wasn’t fair, was it? If Sawamura was suffering because of this, he should know it.
Sawamura was already taking on so much of what Miyuki was going through, surely it was only right if he shared if he was struggling too?

Sawamura’s eyes went wide. “Oh! They’re fine! Fine, of course! I’m working hard!”
Miyuki couldn’t quite hold back his chuckle at that, pulling Sawamura closer, enjoying the way he’d been misunderstood.

“That’s good to hear. I don’t doubt it.” Miyuki replied. “But… I mean. How are people being with you…? About. Me? And everything that’s going on? Is everything… Okay?”
Sawamura blinked, taking in the question anew.
“Oh!” He blurted, hurriedly. “That! Yes! It’s all okay! It’s fine! Please don’t worry about it!”

Miyuki watched him, carefully.
Wanting to believe his words. So badly wanting to believe him.
But he’d seen it. The panic in Sawamura’s eyes as he took the question in. The hesitation.
Sawamura was so obvious.
But so stubborn.

Miyuki leaned close, kissing Sawamura softly. “Promise me you’ll tell me if anything is wrong? I don’t want you hurting over this.”
He paused. Considering the press conference, again. The hurt that lay there.

“… At least. Not hurting more.” Miyuki added.
Sawamura frowned.
“Please. Do not worry about me.” He said, almost sternly, making Miyuki look up, meet his eyes again.

Instead of saying anything else, Sawamura reached out, pulling Miyuki closer and kissing him, deeply.

--

Though he stayed a while longer, long enough to have dinner (and see Kuramochi), Sawamura couldn’t stay the night. He had a lecture early in the morning and as he’d explained, he’d already skipped one class plus practice. He really didn’t need to be getting into any more trouble.
Least of all with Haruichi, who had been messaging him insistently for hours.

“I think Haruichi might report me as a missing person if I’m not back by the morning…” Sawamura said, scrolling through all the unanswered messages that he’d been ignoring.
Miyuki had laughed, even though he was a little sad to let go of Sawamura so soon.
“That’s okay. Getting to see you was already an unexpected treat.”

As per routine, and as per their specific liking, Miyuki walked Sawamura to the station.
They didn’t hold hands. But they did find a discreet place to kiss before saying goodbye at the station.
Despite the ill feelings left over from the game, Miyuki couldn’t deny he was happy.

--

“Miyuki.”

Admittedly, Miyuki was getting kind of sick hearing his name called out by that voice. Yet, he knew, it wasn’t as if he could protest about it
Suzuki was his manager after all, and, despite how Miyuki felt about the recent treatment he’d been receiving, this was still the man who kept Miyuki employed.
So he stopped, looked around. Trying his best to remain neutral in his response.

“Yes?”

He was surprised to see the serious look on Suzuki’s face.
“A word, please, Miyuki.” He said, already turning and heading towards the office.
Miyuki sighed, resigning himself to follow.
A silence remained between the two of them until both had sat down. And even then, Suzuki remained quiet a while longer. His hands steepled and tapping at his forehead, eyes closed in thought.

“Miyuki.” He finally said, turning in his chair and facing his chair forward, towards Miyuki.
“I heard that… The boy from those pictures was here yesterday.”

Ah.
That.
Miyuki guessed he should have expected this.
He did his best to not appear shaken, remaining neutral.

“Yes.” He said, calmly, even smiling a little bit. “My boyfriend was here. He came to meet me after the game. He travelled out here because he had a feeling that yesterday might have been… Difficult for me.” Miyuki paused, looking up at Suzuki, meeting his gaze head on and continuing, pointedly, “Especially after what I’d been told. What had originally been agreed.”

Suzuki looked away, not even acknowledging Miyuki’s words and what they alluded to.
“You were seen, by most of the team, kissing this boy outside the stadium.”

Miyuki said nothing.
If Suzuki wanted apology or explanation, he wouldn’t be getting it. He surely wouldn’t be getting it.

“Miyuki…” Suzuki paused, sighed. “Do you understand how this could look? And what could happen if… More pictures made their way online, again?”
And still, Miyuki remained silent.

His skin prickling slightly.
Hating that Suzuki had picked up on the fear that had occurred to Miyuki too, even as it had happened.
Hating that it was a fear he had to have.

Suzuki watched, waiting for Miyuki to say something.
Then he leaned back in his chair.
“You leave me no choice.” Suzuki said.
“You’re not allowed to see him.”

“What?!” Miyuki was on his feet, chair practically kicked back.
Hands slammed on the desk. And Miyuki knew he was pushing too hard. That he was stepping out of line. But how was he supposed to stay silent, stay still when something like this was on the line?

Not see Sawamura?
Wasn’t that just-

“Now, Miyuki.” Suzuki’s voice was irritatingly calm, he’d barely reacted to Miyuki’s outburst. “Please. Work with me on this. The more people see the two of you together the more they will continue to associate you with the original images. And worse if more of the same gets out! By continuing to be so… Overtly public with him you are risking everything. Now. I’m not asking you to break up with him, but-“

“Oh, what?” Miyuki snapped, venomously. “Am I meant to be grateful for that? Thank you for treating me so kindly? For allowing your disappointingly gay team member to continue his relationship, so long as he keeps it quiet?”
Suzuki met Miyuki’s gaze, unflinchingly. Apparently unaffected by the fire in Miyuki’s eyes.

“You don’t have to break up with him. But I am telling you that you are not to be seen in public with him. Under any circumstances.”
Miyuki’s mind was reeling. Thoughts spinning too fast.
His body felt hot with rage.
Indignance.
Shame.

He shook his head, slowly. “No.” He said, his voice soft with disbelief. “No this. This is…”

“Miyuki.”

And Suzuki’s voice was soft too. As if he were trying to comfort Miyuki. “You knew. You knew to be careful and yet you continued to be reckless.”
He paused, standing to place a calming hand on Miyuki’s shoulder.
It took everything Miyuki had to stop himself from shrugging that hand off. But he refused to meet his manager’s gaze.

“I’m doing this to help you.” Suzuki told him. “I hope you’ll see that.”

And then Suzuki sat down again.

“That is all, Miyuki. You can return to practice again now.”

Miyuki left without another word.
But he couldn’t stop himself from slamming the door behind him.

--

“Oiii Kazuyaaa where have you- whoa!”

Narumiya found himself nearly knocked down as Miyuki swept past him.
His very aura seemed made of fire, and for once even Narumiya wasn’t sure if he should get too close.
But he’d spent too much time keeping his distance from Miyuki. Narumiya was done with that already.

“Hey. Hey! Kazuya, what the-“ Narumiya caught up to him, grabbing at Miyuki’s shoulder and pulling him back around to face him.

He hadn’t been ready for the look on Miyuki’s face.
Not just anger. But hurt. So much hurt.

“What happened?” Narumiya asked.
Miyuki seemed unable to get the words out. Any words out. Narumiya glanced and saw Miyuki’s hands curling into fists, uncurling again.

“I’m not allowed to see him.” Miyuki replied, eventually.
“Eijun… I’m. I’m not allowed to be seen with him, near him. Anything. I’m not-“ Miyuki stopped, biting down on his lip and looking away, clearly aware of how his voice had been rising, gaining emotion as he talked.
“And I’ve… Somehow got to explain that to him. As if… as if it isn’t bad enough that I denied him, in front of… Hundreds? Thousands of people? Now I have to hurt him more by telling him I can’t even be seen with him anymore? How am I supposed to do that, Mei? How in the hell-“

Narumiya nodded, understanding.
The press conference had been more than bad enough. Surely that would already be putting a strain on Miyuki and Sawamura’s relationship. But this, on top of it?

And Miyuki looked… Frayed, close to breaking.
It was scary to see up close.
Narumiya had thought he’d seen all sides of Miyuki by now. But here was something new. Something that Miyuki wouldn’t show lightly, or, perhaps even willingly.
Narumiya nodded.

“Come on.” He said, lightly cuffing Miyuki’s shoulder with his mitt. “Come practice with me.”

Miyuki looked away, looking, almost longingly at the locker room, and beyond it. “Mei… I don’t know if-“

“Come practice with me.” Narumiya repeated, more sternly this time, not allowing room for argument. “Come practice, clear your head some, right?”
It took a few moments. Then, finally, Miyuki nodded.

“Okay.”

The fire seemed to have cooled, at least a little bit.
“Okay. Yeah. You’re right.”

They walked together outside. And all through the rest of the day, Narumiya made sure that Miyuki was kept as distracted as possible.

--

Kuramochi returned home that evening to find Miyuki stretched out on the couch, staring up at the ceiling.

“Your mood swings are giving me whiplash…” Kuramochi grumbled, throwing a discarded cushion at Miyuki’s lap as he settled himself down on the floor in front of the couch, leaning up against it.
“Honestly, yesterday I come home to you, practically damn naked in the kitchen, giggling and beaming away announcing that you’re cooking and that Sawamura is here… Which I knew because he was also near naked and hanging off you.”

“Mmm.” Miyuki said, absently. “I said sorry about that…”

“And now tonight I come home to you all depressed again!” Kuramochi continued, ignoring Miyuki’s apology.
Kuramochi tipped his head back, knocking against Miyuki’s knee. He turned his head, looking towards Miyuki’s face.

“So? What happened? Did you get an explanation as to why they didn’t let you play?”
Miyuki shook his head.
“So… You’re upset that you still don’t know?”

Miyuki shrugged.
Kuramochi closed his eyes, composing himself. “Look. Miyuki. I know this whole thing sucks, but I am trying to help here. Don’t go putting up walls on me just because you feel vulnerable right now.”
To that, Miyuki frowned, turning his head to face towards the couch cushions.
Not liking being called out.
Not liking that he’d been read so very easily.

“Oi!” Kuramochi protested, jabbing him in the side, making Miyuki flinch. “You can’t pull this on me, Miyuki! Talk or I’ll-“
“I’m not allowed to see him!” Miyuki said, all in a rush.
“Eijun. Suzuki said. I’m not allowed to be seen. With him. He says that… People won’t believe what I said and. It’ll make things worse. So… I can’t see Eijun.”
For a few, long moments, Kuramochi just stared at him.

Then, decisively, Kuramochi got to his feet, standing over Miyuki.
He stuck his hand out, offering it to Miyuki.
Frowning, Miyuki sat up, but didn’t take the offered hand.
“Get up.” Kuramochi said. “We’re going out.”

“Out? Where? I don’t really feel like-“

“Just OUT alright? So get up, and let’s get going.”

Miyuki looked ready to protest some more, but Kuramochi had already headed out to the hallway, and was calling to him to hurry up.

--

There wasn’t any real plan, but Miyuki thought he liked it this way anyway.

Kuramochi had wanted to get him out of the apartment, and out of his own head.
Miyuki guessed this was Kuramochi’s way of doing the same thing that Narumiya had at practice.
Keep him moving forward, keep him distracted with what he could do.
Miyuki appreciated it, even if he couldn’t help thinking that it didn’t solve much.

“It sucks.” Kuramochi finally said. Surprising Miyuki as he realised it was the first thing either of them had said since leaving the apartment.
“This whole damn thing sucks. I know I don’t need to tell you that but. Well. It does.”

Miyuki nodded, sighing. “Yeah… But. I guess. I’m not really surprised… It was all going to come out eventually, wasn’t it?”

“They didn’t have to make such a mess of it for you though!” Kuramochi protested.
Then he paused. Clearly pensive.
“This latest thing… It’s okay.” Kuramochi said, eventually.

“Huh?”

“I mean. It’s not okay, what they’re asking you. But. I mean. It’ll be okay. Because, we can make it work. We can work around it.”
Miyuki frowned, not getting it. “But I can’t-“

“They told you that you can’t be seen with Sawamura, right?”

Slowly, Miyuki nodded.
“Okay. So. So long as you’re not seen with him, there’s no problem, right?”
Still not following, Miyuki went to protest again.
“So. I can be the decoy.” Kuramochi continued, before Miyuki got the chance.

“HUH?”

“Say you want to go to the cinema with Sawamura? Well. I can go there ‘with him’ and then you meet us there, then I can leave you two to it and then I meet Sawamura after to take him home. That way you still get to have dates with him, but you’re not really ‘seen’ with him.
And things like… Going out to dinner. So we invite someone like… Haruichi? Maybe a few others. I know it won’t be the same but at least you’d get to spend that time with Sawamura right? And- oh! Park dates! That’s easy! Same thing but you two could ‘accidentally’ get separated from the rest of us, spend some time. We’d need to be careful but. I think. I really think this could work. I know it might be hard work but, it’ll be worth it so-“

Kuramochi stopped, abruptly when he looked up and saw Miyuki had stopped a couple of paces behind.
His hands were covering his face.

And Kuramochi was shocked.
He hurried back to Miyuki.
“Ah… Um. I’m sorry? I. Please tell me you’re not crying. C’mon Miyuki you can’t cry on me in public like this. I’m sorry.”

Miyuki shook his head, lowering his hands.
And yeah, maybe his cheeks were a little flush, eyes a little red from pushing back tears.
But he was smiling too.
“You’d go through all that trouble… For me?” Miyuki asked, quietly.
Kuramochi blinked.
“Well… Yeah. Obviously. For you and Sawamura.”

Miyuki’s smile grew, just a little more.
“You’re the best, you know that, Kuramochi?”

“Ughhhh…” Kuramochi groaned, grabbing Miyuki by the shoulders and dragging him forward. “Idiot. You’re so embarrassing.”

Chapter Text

“Good morning Haruichi! Isn’t it a great day to-“
Sawamura had been cheerfully greeting his friend as they met in the hallway, but, once again, Haruichi walked straight past him, without a word or a single glance at him.
It had been like that since the previous day, and while Sawamura couldn’t pinpoint exactly what had happened to make his friend stop talking to him, he knew he was correct on the timing.

“… He’s still not talking to me.” Sawamura grumbled.

“It’s because you upset him, and you refuse to ask him what’s wrong.” Furuya said.

“What?!” Sawamura snapped. “I’ve asked him! I’ve definitely-!”
He trailed off realising that, actually, perhaps… Furuya had a point.

“… I guess…” Sawamura muttered. “I’ll go ask… What I did to upset him…”

He finally caught up with Haruichi in one of the lecture halls.

“Hey! Haruichi so, um… I-“

“Not only did you disappear without telling anyone, you disappeared off to spend the night with Miyuki! Which, by the way, I would have been fine with if you’d just told me instead of lying and sneaking off! And not only that you didn’t even ASK if anyone might want to come with you! Idiot! You’re not the only one who might want to see certain people! Idiot!”

Sawamura stood, shell shocked and blinking as he looked at Haruichi. He wasn’t sure what he’d been expecting, but it certainly hadn’t been that outburst.
“Uh… So… Are you? Mad that I didn’t… Ask if you wanted to come?” Sawamura asked, tentatively.
Then he paused, frowned, considering this.
“But… Like you said. I went to see Miyuki. So… Why would anyone want to…?”

Haruichi tutted, slamming his books down on the table in front of him. “Idiot! Just because your world revolves around Miyuki, doesn’t mean everyone’s does! Miyuki isn’t the only one living in Tokyo!”

Sawamura winced, rubbing his head, feeling a headache coming on, fast.
“Haruichi… I’m sorry, this is probably going to make you mad… Madder. But… I don’t. Really understand what you’re getting at?”

Haruichi sighed, settling down into his seat. The lecture hall was starting to fill up now.
“Miyuki isn’t even the only one who lives in that apartment, is he?” Haruichi said, quietly.

“Huh? You mean? Kuramochi? Why would…?”
Slowly. Almost painfully slowly, pieces began to slot together, and Sawamura found himself staring at Haruichi.

Haruichi was blushing, just a little.
“Eijun… When we were second years? You weren’t the only one scared of the third years graduating.”
He looked up, smiling just a little. “I just. Wasn’t ready back then, like you were.”

Sawamura blinked, slowly. “Haruichi… You- You never…”
Haruichi looked at the clock, and gestured to Sawamura. “You’d better hurry to your own class. Starting soon.”
Sawamura looked around, startled by the time and how fast it had gone. “Ah! Damnit… Okay. Well… We’ll talk later? Haruichi? Is that okay?”
Haruichi nodded.

“Eijun.”

Sawamura paused, looking around.

“Sorry. For how I was acting. I guess. I was… Frustrated.”

Sawamura grinned. “It’s totally okay! I think I get it now, so we can fix it, okay!”
Haruichi nodded, smiling back, happily.

--

“This is completely not okay!”

“… Eijun…”

They were in Haruichi’s room and, given the whole day to consider what Haruichi had said, Sawamura had found himself wound up by the whole idea.
“Kuramochi, while a wonderful senpai is surely, surely not right for you, Haruichi. He’s older than you, Haruichi. You know that means he’ll expect… Certain things from you.”
Haruichi sighed, sitting up on his bed to look at where Sawamura sat on the floor, with Furuya laid out beside him.

“You mean like Miyuki expects of you?” Haruichi said, pointedly.
“Exactly! I know what I’m talking about because I’ve been dating an older man for nearly four years now…”
Sawamura froze as the words left his mouth.
“… Nearly four years already.” He muttered, taking this in. “Hey… Don’t… Some couples… After four years they’d be like… Thinking about getting married, right?”

“Some couples decide to keep on dating and never get married, I hear.” Furuya said.
Sawamura jolted staring at Furuya. “They do?! But I- I mean-“

“Eijun!” Haruichi snapped. “Could you focus. Please? Listen. I’ve liked Kuramochi… A long time. So I think I know what my feelings are. I’m not. Asking permission here. I’m… I guess I’m just. Finally ready to talk about this and. I hope. Maybe. Do something about… My feelings.”
Haruichi was blushing, just slightly, fiddling with his hair as he spoke.

Furuya sat up, getting up on the bed with Haruichi.
“I think you should talk about it.”

Haruichi smiled. “Well… At first. I thought it was just admiration. You know, because by the time we got there it was already, so obvious how skilled Kuramochi is.”

Both Furuya and Sawamura nodded.
Haruichi’s blush turned a little darker. “And then… I thought it was just that he’d worked so closely with my brother, I thought that maybe by working with him I’d get more of an idea of how to… Be more like Ryosuke. But… Then. I realised. It wasn’t that. And it was more than admiration.”
Haruichi’s voice went quiet, and to Furuya at least it seemed obvious that Haruichi was thinking about something that troubled him, at least in part.

“OH!” Sawamura piped in. “You mean like, you’d find yourself thinking about him when he wasn’t around?”

“Yes!” Haruichi said, looking up, smiling, clearly glad that Sawamura understood.

“And… Like. REALLY happy when he was around?” Sawamura continued.

“Yes!”

Sawamura paused, actively thinking. “And get reeeeally frustrated when he wasn’t paying attention to you?”

Haruichi blushed, looking away. “Well… I mean. That only really applied to certain people…” He muttered.

“And get all happy and like, feel all soft and squishy when he complimented you?” Sawamura continued, obviously pleased with himself to be on a roll.

“Yes!”

“And- and feel like a little ‘zing’ if he touched you? Even accidentally?”

“Yes! Yes exactly!”

“And… And you’d find excuses to be near him?”

“Yes!”

Sawamura fell into a quiet then, his attention clearly elsewhere as a smile spread across his lips. Haruichi found himself smiling too. Content and happy to be so understood.

“Eijun.” Haruichi said, softly. “Is that how you figured out how you like Miyuki?”
Sawamura looked towards Haruichi again.

“Nope!” He said, laughing. “I didn’t realise any of it until we started dating!”

Haruichi slumped, deciding that Sawamura really was hopeless after all. “Then how did you…?”

Sawamura looked away again, a smile still on his lips, but clearly a little more distant than he had been. His hands laced together in his lap, thumbs worrying over each other, almost as distraction.

“After… After the season ended. And we weren’t playing together anymore. I started to realise. It wasn’t just about playing together. I didn’t just. Miss him catching for me. It was… Everything. Not seeing him at practice. Not hearing his voice calling out to everyone. Not seeing him around the dorms.
The times I’d see him in the school building I’d. I’d freeze up. It was like… It was only then that I realised. He meant more to me and I felt like. I felt like now he was… So far away. It felt. Hopeless.”

He hadn’t noticed Haruichi get down off the bed. Settle in beside him. Take his hand.
“Me too. With Kuramochi. Me too.”
Sawamura squeezed Haruichi’s hand. “Sorry. I didn’t realise the same thing was happening to you.”

“It’s okay.” Haruichi said. “I wasn’t ready. But you were. You confessed. I was so happy you confessed.”
Sawamura nodded.

The third years, just like the year before, had started coming to practice again to help out the new first string.
But Miyuki hadn’t been coming as often as some of the others. Constantly being called by scouts and universities who so desperately wanted him.
So when he came to a practice game, and Sawamura saw the way everyone flocked to him, old jealousies had flared up. Old feelings.

Me. I want to be the one beside him! Me!

The confession had ended up being a very public one and almost entirely unintentional.

“Miyuki Kazuya!” Sawamura had yelled at him, when it was Miyuki’s turn to bat against him. “You should know! That I intend to follow you to whatever university, whatever team you end up on! I intend to reform our battery again! Because- because it’s you I-“

The words stuck in his throat. Words held back for so long, because he hadn’t realised until now what the words truly were.

“Because it’s you I came to this school for! It’s you I wanted to impress! It’s you I wanted to show I was worthy to be beside you. Because it’s you I- I. Love.”

The last word came out quiet. Shocked. Even as he uttered it. Even as he realised what he’d said. What he’d done.
Okumura, the one currently catching for him, stood, and asked the coach for a time out, even though it was obvious at this point.
Even though it was Miyuki who was the one coming up to the mound, joining Sawamura.

And Sawamura was shocked. Scared. Why was Miyuki coming here? To tell him off? To say he shouldn’t be disrupting a game like this? Even just a practice one like this. Of course, of course Sawamura knew this! He wasn’t stupid! But he’d been unable to hold himself back. He’d. He’d lost control of himself. Wasn’t that much obvious?

But Miyuki was smiling.

And Sawamura realised how much he’d fallen in love with that smile.
That smile and all the other smiles that Miyuki had.
Am I really? Going to have to do without this smile?

And now Miyuki was in front of him, close. So close.
“So.” Miyuki said. “You finally figured out what I meant by ‘partner’?”
Sawamura blinked.
Shocked.
Did Miyuki mean…? All this time? Since the first…?

Hands on his face, warm, careful.
And then lips close to his. “I love you too.”
The gap closed, and Sawamura would forever put it down to tiredness from the game, but his knees buckled under that kiss.
All this time. All this time had been leading up to this.

Of course, naturally, everyone gave them both hell for holding up the game. And Okumura had lectured Sawamura for letting himself get distracted. But. Both could tell, beneath all the jibes and teasing. Everyone was happy for them.
They guessed they weren’t the only ones waiting for this to happen.

Now, back in the present, Sawamura looked to Haruichi. “So do you… Think you’re ready to confess to Kuramochi? Now?”
Haruichi half shrugged half nodded. “I think. I’ve gotten to the point that I’d like… To know. Either way. You know?”
Sawamura nodded, squeezing Haruichi’s hand again. His promise to help, however he could.

--

It was a terrible idea, and as much as Miyuki had tried to protest it, his teammates had refused to take no for an answer.
Honestly, he wouldn’t put it past them at this point for it to be less about helping him (as they insisted it was), and more about making themselves look better.
The plan, they said, was for him to be seen, with them, indulging in ‘female company’.

“That’ll really convince everyone you’re straight!” One of them had said.

“And then the media and everyone will be off your back!”

“And coach will let you go back to starting again!”

“It’s a win all around!”

Miyuki was still sceptical, about the whole thing.
But while he protested, he was talked over and swept along.

Which is exactly how, two hours, too many drinks (on everyone else’s part) and a couple of establishment hops later, Miyuki found himself in probably the most awkward situation he could think of.
His five drunk teammates (oh he looked forward to them explaining this at morning practice…), all long forgotten about him, and all, as far as Miyuki could see, happily lost and entangled with different young women in the employ of this particular place.

Miyuki remained sober and, happily, unaccompanied, idly playing with the straw of the drink he’d been bought in the hopes he’d ‘loosen up’.
Miyuki had no intention of doing so. It was bad enough that he was out this late anyway, he’d had plenty of messages from Kuramochi, to which he’d only been able to reply the barest information. Mostly along the lines of ‘I’ll explain later’.

Miyuki looked around, considering making his escape while everyone was suitably distracted. He’d done his part, hadn’t he? He’d been out with them, been ‘seen’ going inside more of these places than he cared to consider.
That was enough, surely? Wasn’t it?

And then a girl, another employee came and sat next to him.
Miyuki looked at her, eyes glancing over her too revealing attire.
She smiled back.
“Lonely?” She asked.
Miyuki managed a slight grin. “Actually, I was about to leave. So, if you’d excuse me-“ He went to get to his feet, but then the girl reached out, grabbing his arm.

“Oh! Don’t leave yet, why don’t you stay and talk a while?”
Miyuki looked, pointedly at his teammates. “Uh. Yeah. Because talking is really on the agenda here.”

The girl shrugged, tugging on Miyuki’s arm until he gave up and sat back down again. “Can be, if you want.”
Miyuki raised an eyebrow. “Look, I’m sure you’re very nice but-“
“Oh!” The girl said, covering her mouth with both hands and letting out a delighted little laugh. “I just realised! I know you!”
“Oh yeah?” Miyuki replied, with a slight grin.
“Miyuki Kazuya!! The pretty boy catcher, right?”

Miyuki couldn’t help but laugh a little bit, it had been a while since he’d heard someone call him that.
“My friend LOVES you!” The girl gushed, then turned to something of a pout. “She keeps complaining to me that you haven’t played in ages. She still goes to the games you know, just in case.”
Miyuki tutted and leaned back into his seat. “Well I’m sure your friend knows exactly why I’ve not been playing recently…”
“Oh.” The girl said, looking at Miyuki from the corner of her eye. “That whole gay rumour, right?”

“Right.” Miyuki said, with a nod.

Another little shrug. “But you denied it already, so what’s the problem?” She continued, off hand.
Miyuki didn’t say anything to that. What could he say?

“Look.” He said, quietly. “I should really-“ He moved to get up again. But this time the girl pushed him back down on the seat.
“You paid to get in here, right?” The girl said, moving in close, far too close for Miyuki’s liking. Her hands were still on his shoulders. Miyuki looked up to see her face leant in close to his.
“You should at least enjoy some of the services we offer…”

She leant in a little more, nearly, nearly close enough for their lips to touch.
Quickly, Miyuki put up a hand, pushing her back by the shoulder as he leant back as far as the couch allowed.
“Look uh-“

“What’s the problem?” She asked, looking genuinely confused and upset.

“I- Uh-“ Miyuki stumbled on his words.
Dropping his voice low, Miyuki continued, “So… Uh… The thing is… I. Am gay. I have a boyfriend and, honestly, if you think this is going anywhere, I’ll have to disappoint you because. Well, like I said. I’m gay.”

The girl smiled, but not a nice smile.
There was something devious about it.
“Oh. Now, Miyuki Kazuya… I think you’re not supposed to say that…Are you?”

Immediately, Miyuki’s blood ran cold.

She was right, he wasn’t meant to say that. Not to anyone, not out loud.
She leant close again, and Miyuki felt frozen.

“Here… Why don’t I fix that for you?”

Miyuki was aware of the slight knock to his knee as the girl shifted over him, settling down to straddle his lap. Aware of the hand on his shoulder holding him in place. Aware of the other hand holding him by the chin.
Aware of the way she very obviously pressed her chest against him. She was quite petite, but more than enough to mark the difference between girl and boy.
He knew he should push her away, he wanted to, but he couldn’t be too forceful and hurt her, could he?
And he’d been the one to make the mistake, he’d been the one to say the words he shouldn’t out loud.

Finally she pulled back, pouting a little. “Need a little loosening up…” She commented. “Shall we go to a private room? Maybe cure that gayness properly for you?”
Miyuki was too shocked to say anything.
He’d really heard that, hadn’t he?

“After all… That’s exactly what your friends paid for…”

And that’s when it dawned on Miyuki.
Exactly what this was. Precisely what everyone’s plan had been.
Irrefutable proof, evidence. To clear the teams name once and for all.

Buy the gay catcher a hooker, in the hopes of straightening him out. Or, at the very least, come back with enough witnesses to say it had happened.
Enough deniability.
Enough to convince everyone.
But most of all themselves. Give themselves that peace of mind.

Not gay, can’t be, right? He had sex with a girl, so he can’t be gay after all!

Miyuki closed his eyes, gathering himself. Trying not to show how rattled, how angry he really was.

“Look.” Miyuki said, his hands very, very careful as he guided the girl off his lap. “I don’t care what’s been paid for. I’m not interested. Got it?”

The girl pouted in return. Still looking at him, waiting.

Miyuki got to his feet. “I’d be a waste of your time, pretty sure you wouldn’t even be able to get me up in the first place.” He said, with a shrug.
The look of shock and indignance on the girls face went some small way to making Miyuki feel better. Even though he knew it wasn’t her fault she’d been given this thankless task, she’d been cruel about it, taunting him.

As he left, he heard the calls from his teammates, demanding he came back.
He ignored them.

He got about half way down the street, before it all hit him.
The full awfulness of the situation. Exactly what his teammates had tried to do.
There was some part, some part of Miyuki that wanted to believe that they really had good intentions, buried, somewhere in there. But for right now, he felt like they just saw him as some ‘issue’ they had to fix.
None of them had come after him.
If any of them had genuinely cared, they would have come after him. At least to check on him, if not to apologise.

He wished Narumiya had known about tonight, wished he hadn’t had date night with Tadano tonight. No way this would have gotten this far.
Wished Chris had known. He would have stopped this, all of it. Before it even started.

Miyuki pulled out his phone, about to call Kuramochi to let him know where he was.
He saw Sawamura’s number first, and nearly lost it then.

I need to tell him.
Miyuki knew that.
But… What if it upsets him too much?
But I have to be honest with him…
But…
He scrolled past quickly, deciding he was in no state to make that kind of choice right now, or to have that kind of conversation.
Finding Kuramochi’s number, he called him.

“Yeah sorry… Uh. I’m not feeling so good… Could you… Come meet me? Sure. Yeah, sorry Youichi…”
Miyuki gave the address of somewhere nearby; he certainly couldn’t give his real location.

When Kuramochi got to him, he took one look at Miyuki, slowly, up and down. “… What happened?”

Miyuki shook his head. “Not now, please?”
Kuramochi nodded, though reluctantly. “Alright, fine. Let’s just go.”

Miyuki stayed quiet on the way home, avoiding questions. And though Kuramochi tried, Miyuki avoided all further questions even when they got back.

--

Only once did Kuramochi really press it. And that was when Miyuki announced he was heading to bed.
Kuramochi got in his way at the door. Forcing eye contact, even if only briefly before Miyuki looked away.
“Answer me this, at least, Kazuya.” Kuramochi said. “Did someone hurt you tonight?”

Miyuki closed his eyes, jolting slightly at the memory of what had happened. Not the events themselves exactly, but the intentions behind them.
Then he shook his head.
Kuramochi frowned at that. “Okay then what-“

“Youichi…” Miyuki said. “Please?”

Kuramochi shook his head, stepping closer to Miyuki. “No. I’m not about to start letting you keep things to yourself, Miyuki. Because I know what you’re like and I know that once you start you-“

“It was a hooker.”
Kuramochi stopped, abruptly. Eyes going wide as he slowly registered what Miyuki had said.
“Wait. What?”

Miyuki sighed, suddenly looking very, very tired as he sat on the edge of the couch. “My teammates, some of them anyway, decided to… Take me out and. Buy me a hooker.”
Silence stretched on between them, the situation settling in between them. And finally, Miyuki looked up at Kuramochi.
Eyes going wide in surprise as he saw Kuramochi’s hand over his mouth, slightly doubled over.
And. Quite clearly.
Trying his best not to laugh.

Scowling indignantly, Miyuki grabbed a cushion and threw it at Kuramochi. “Bastard.” He grumbled. “It’s not funny…”

At that Kuramochi burst out properly laughing. His hand reaching out to the wall to steady himself.
“Sorry.” He gasped. “Sorry. It’s just. A hooker?” He giggled. “They-“ Gasp, another fit of laughter. “They bought you a hooker?”

“Yes!” Miyuki snapped, arms folded as he glared at Kuramochi, waiting for him to stop laughing. “They were trying to ‘prove my straightness’ or something… Straighten me out or whatever.”

Slowly, slowly Kuramochi calmed down. “Yeah, no that. That is shitty of them. I’m sorry about that. But… Damn, Miyuki what kind of look did she have on her face when she realised it wasn’t gonna happen?”

At that, Miyuki couldn’t help the little smile that tugged at his lips. “She was uh… Kinda pissed actually.”
Kuramochi tried, failed to hold back another laugh. And this time, Miyuki actually joined in.

“That poor girl!” Kuramochi exclaimed. “You probably hurt her professional pride or something!”

“It’s not MY fault!” Miyuki protested. “I have a boyfriend! I’m not gonna be able to… You know…”
Kuramochi nodded, still laughing.

Eventually, exhausted from laughing and with Kuramochi collapsed on top of Miyuki, they both admitted they were ready to go to bed.
“Feel better?” Kuramochi asked.
Miyuki nodded. “I still… Hate what the guys were trying to do but. I guess I see the funny side.”
“Good.” Kuramochi said, pushing himself up and heading towards the bathroom. “You know. You can always tell me anything. If nothing else, I’ll always listen.”
“Thanks, Youichi.”
“Anytime.” Kuramochi repeated.

--

The next evening, Miyuki called Sawamura.

He took a while stalling, and Sawamura KNEW he was stalling because Miyuki only ever asked so many questions when he was avoiding something.
Then finally, a silence.
“So. Suzuki says. Suzuki says I can’t be seen… With you. Because it might. Make people think about the pictures and uh-“
Miyuki’s words were out all in a rush, making Sawamura’s head spin.
He couldn’t take it in.
He wasn’t allowed to be seen with Miyuki anymore?
“But! Kuramochi came up with this really great idea and! I think it will work; I think it will really work actually.”

Sawamura listened, as Miyuki explained the ‘disguised date’ idea to him.
And the more he listened, the more Sawamura couldn’t believe his, or indeed Haruichi’s, luck.
“Yes!” He said, excitedly. “Yes that sounds fantastic! I’ll tell Haruichi about it tonight!”

“Oh!” Miyuki said, sounding surprised. “Do you really think he-“

“I’m sure he’d love to go! Will it be this weekend?”

“Uh well, if that works with your schedule?” Miyuki said, uncertainly.
“Definitely! I’m really looking forward to it!”

Miyuki chuckled down the phone.
“You’re cute sometimes, you know?”

“HUH???”

They lingered a little longer on the phone.
Neither could admit that they had the typical couple habit of not wanting to be the one who hung up. But this time Sawamura said goodbye first, excited to tell Haruichi that his plan to talk to Kuramochi was officially moving forward.

--

He’d been so excited by the idea of getting such an early opportunity to get Haruichi a chance to spend time with Kuramochi. He hadn’t given himself a chance to really take in the other part of news that Miyuki had given him.

Thinking about it, Sawamura guessed that that had been part of Miyuki’s plan. Distract him with good news so that he wouldn’t dwell on the bad.
But it was bad, wasn’t it?

Miyuki had been told… He wasn’t allowed to be seen with Sawamura. And it was a direct order, from his manager.
The same manager who had held Miyuki back from playing, forced him into doing the press conference. Denying his relationship. Denying his sexuality.
Sawamura was staring at his wall, looking at the pictures he had of him and Miyuki.
Dates. And times they were out with friends too.

Am I bad for him?
Sawamura wondered.
Am I holding him back?

Would Miyuki… Be better off without me? Would his life be easier…?
Then he wouldn’t have to sneak around.
He wouldn’t have to hide a relationship that could ruin his career.

“I’m sorry about the circumstances.”
He heard Miyuki’s words again.
“But I think… The four of us will still have fun?”

No.
Miyuki was still doing everything he could. He wasn’t backing down.
And if Miyuki was still fighting to keep their relationship, how could Sawamura even consider leaving him alone in this?

It was risky.
It was difficult.
But Sawamura wasn’t going to let anyone, anything, take Miyuki away from him.
There was no way he was allowing that.

“You’re not alone in this, Miyuki Kazuya.” Sawamura said, out loud. “I won’t give up. No matter what.”

Chapter Text

Miyuki had long since given up on social media, leaving his accounts to gather dust and unkind words. People could be bold online, crueller than they would dare in person.
When the insults and calls for him to quit had started showing up on posts, Miyuki had beat a hasty retreat.
It wasn’t like he really missed it anyway. It hadn’t been a difficult decision at least.

What he hadn’t figured was that that was only the start.
“Hey, Miyuki, more letters came for you.”

Miyuki smiled as Chris handed them to him.
“Thanks.” He said, glancing at the bundle of letters Chris still held.

“Just me or is your stack getting bigger?”
Chris shrugged, grinning a little, not quite hiding the fact he was pleased to be getting fanmail too.

Miyuki looked back at his own. Leaning back against his locker. Smiling as he recognised the handwriting of the top one, and the next one down.
Feeling grateful that he still had such loyal fans. These ones made sure to still write him regularly. Always offering words of support. Promising to wait for him.
They’d never made mention of the photos, or the press conference.
He had good fans. And. He hoped he’d soon be able to repay them for their kindness.

Miyuki was flicking through, then he noticed one that stood out. In so much that it didn’t stand out like the others.
His regular fans always decorated their mail, even the envelope had clear thought and attention to it.
But this one was plain.
And the address, his name even, had been typed.

Curiously, Miyuki opened that one, just to see what kind of letter might be in there.
It took just one quick scan of the page.
And Miyuki felt himself go cold all over.
And yet his eyes were locked on the page, reading over and over.

Hate. Pure, obvious hate spilled out on a page.

‘Disgusting deviant.’

The words so early on the page, he could barely take in the rest of what it said.

And then a threat. Clear as the black and white it was printed in.
‘If you’re so desperate to take cock, I’ll make you take mine until you swore you were straight after all.’

Shaking hands dropped the letters.

“Miyuki?”

Chris coming to help him.
But there was no way, no way Miyuki was letting him see what was in THAT letter.

“It’s fine!” Miyuki said, hurriedly, gathering them up. Nervous laugh that he hoped, hoped sounded genuine.

“I’ll just. I’m just going to uh…” Miyuki shoved all of them in his locker, closing it quickly.
He looked up, seeing Chris watching him, worriedly.

Miyuki forced a smile. “Sorry.” He said. “Some of the girls. They. They’re just really. Really kind. You know and it…”
He trailed off, hoping that Chris would buy into that lie. That he would mistake Miyuki’s fear for overwhelmed emotions.
Please Chris, please. Just at least pretend you believe it…

Chris smiled, nodded. “You have some nice fans, Miyuki. I’m sure they’ll be delighted to see you play again, soon.”

Later. When everyone else had cleared out of the locker room, Miyuki returned.
Retrieving the letter.
He didn’t, wouldn’t look at it again.
And he went to throw it away. To get rid of it. Banish it completely.

But then, an awful thought.
What if someone saw it? Found it somehow?
What if it was someone who would taunt him for it? Make things worse (Miyuki had stopped pretending, there were at least a couple of teammates that would happily give him hell if they could get away with it).

Or, just as bad though in a different way, what if it was Chris? Or worse, Narumiya?

What would they say?
So instead Miyuki shoved the letter in his pocket.
He had to keep it safe.
Safe so that no one would see it.
And safe… In case the threat was ever acted upon.

Miyuki pushed that thought from his mind, even as he returned the letter to his bag. Zipping it into an inside pocket.

Banishing it for now, at least.

--

“So? Nervous?” Miyuki grinned, glancing at Kuramochi as he nudged him.
The two of them were waiting just inside the cinema, just as had been agreed for their ‘date that’s not a date that is a date’.

And while Miyuki still had some reservations as to how well this would go, some nagging paranoia in his head of something going wrong, he had to admit he was also excited.
A date with Sawamura while also hanging out with Kuramochi AND seeing Haruichi for the first time in ages?
It really was the perfect way to distract himself from everything that had been going on.

Not least the letter he’d received earlier that day… (He tucked that thought away deep, as far as he could to keep it hidden).

Kuramochi narrowed his eyes at Miyuki, looking unimpressed. “One word, just one and I swear I’ll-“
“Gotta admit, I was pleased when Eijun suggested Haruichi. Glad you get the chance to see each other again, finally.” Miyuki said, talking over Kuramochi.
The grin had settled into something softer, and he looked at Kuramochi again.

Kuramochi held his gaze a moment, looking surprised.
Then he looked away hastily.
“Yeah. Well. There hasn’t been a good time, you know?” Kuramochi muttered. “And I mean, I don’t even know if I still-“

Just then, the door to the theatre opened, and in walked Sawamura.
With Haruichi following in behind.

Miyuki’s grin returned.
He leant in, cupping his hand to his ear. “What was that? Were you going to say you don’t even know if you still like him? Hmm?”
Kuramochi elbowed him sharply in the side. “Shut up!” He hissed.

All while finding himself unable to look away from Haruichi.

It was true, it had been a long time since he’d seen Haruichi. But not so long that Kuramochi had forgotten how he felt about him.
Somehow, Kuramochi felt like he’d only become more attracted to him. The handful of years since Seidou had added a definition to Haruichi’s attractiveness. Cute no longer quite did him justice.
Something closer to… Beautiful.

And Kuramochi was glad to note that Haruichi had kept his bangs cut back out of his eyes.
It reminded him of when he’d first started to realise that he was crushing, hard on the younger Kominato brother.

While Sawamura beamed the second he spotted Miyuki, there was also the heart-breaking moment when it seemed like he was about to run up to him.
But then he stopped, suddenly, and his smile faltered as he obviously remembered.
He wasn’t allowed to run to Miyuki. To hold him or show any kind of outward affection.
As always, Sawamura wore his heart on his sleeve, and his emotions on his face. And seeing it tugged at Miyuki, painfully.

We can make this work, this IS going to work.

Just as Sawamura and Haruichi got close, Sawamura looked up, met Miyuki’s gaze.
And they both smiled, just a little.

Yes. Miyuki thought. This is going to work. This is going to be okay.
We’re okay.

--

The movie was one they’d all agreed on, and the screening itself was about half full. Enough space for them to relax, but not conspicuously empty either.
They settled into their seats and Miyuki felt a wash of calm break over him as Sawamura reached out and took his hand. Feeling oddly like when they’d first started dating, when things like this had still been so new.
He guessed maybe there were some up sides to certain things needing to be kept hidden after all…

Meanwhile, Kuramochi couldn’t stop glancing beside him, towards Haruichi.
Their reunion had been more awkward than he’d liked, and he hoped, hoped that Haruichi hadn’t noticed how much he’d been blushing.

“Hello, Kuramochi.” (Yes he was replaying it in his head, again.) “It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”
It had taken Miyuki nudging him (again) before Kuramochi had managed to respond.

“Y- yeah. It’s good to see you, Haruichi.”
The first name had been out of his mouth like a habit, and the look of surprise on Haruichi’s face made Kuramochi almost want to take it back.

But really, Kuramochi had hoped that his first name, or even better Haurichi’s version of ‘You-San’ had been Haruichi’s greeting.

Thinking back on it, Kuramochi realised how much, just how much he liked Haruichi, still. And that if possible, he liked him even more than he had before.

--

“Haruichi.”

His first name coupled with the familiar smile had made Haruichi startle, his heart suddenly beat faster and he was SURE he’d blushed.
He regretted not greeting Kuramochi with his first name then, but he’d worried it would be too familiar, after the time that had passed.
He’d been carrying this crush using mostly memories and the occasional pictures that Sawamura would get when he’d spend the weekend at Kuramochi and Miyuki’s apartment, seeing Kuramochi again, finally, simply reinforced everything.

Haruichi’s thoughts had been far away, so the sudden crescendo of music made him jump, gripping the arms of the chair.
And.
Of course.
Accidently grabbing Kuramochi’s hand which had been minding its own business on the arm of his own chair.

Haruichi dared a glance to the side and saw Kuramochi staring, wide eyed at the hand over his.

Quickly, Haruichi snatched his hand back, glad for the darkness of the theatre so that his blush could be easily hidden.
He made an effort to stare straight forward, willing himself to concentrate on the movie playing out in front of him. Maybe trying a little too hard, but it was all he could do to try and run away from the embarrassment of what had just happened.

Haruichi jolted as he felt a hand against his, fingers touching hesitantly at first, then taking it fully.
Haruichi blinked, before looking towards Kuramochi, seeing him smiling, just slightly.

Then Kuramochi leaned in, whispering in Haruichi’s ear. “Is this… Okay?”
Haruichi swallowed, nervously. Did Kuramochi know Haruichi’s feelings for him? Had Sawamura told him? Or had Sawamura told Miyuki who had in turn told Kuramochi?
Yes his mind was spinning with too many thoughts, but Haruichi had no idea how to stop them because Kuramochi Youichi was holding his hand and this was not how he’d expected things to go! (Even if he’d really hoped for it)

Slowly, Haruichi nodded. “Yes.” He said. “It’s. It’s okay.”
Kuramochi smiled, a little more now. “I figured… With what those two are up to, it would probably be okay to hold your hand. If you were okay with it.”

Curious but equally wishing he wasn’t, Haruichi leaned a little forward to look past Kuramochi and see what he was referring to.

Neither Miyuki nor Sawamura were looking at the screen, instead both fully involved with each other. Both leaned over the arm that separated them, and with hands that reached out to each other, the couple were kissing, deeply yet softly.

Haruichi found himself growing a little hot. He guessed that Kuramochi was used to this kind of thing, but when Haruichi had seen Miyuki and Sawamura together the most they’d shared were brief little kisses.

His back to them, Miyuki seemed to be leaning more into Sawamura now. And perhaps there was something to Haruichi’s expression that made Kuramochi look. But the next thing Haruichi knew Kuramochi had grabbed at Miyuki’s shirt, pulling him back.

Miyuki looked up with wide, surprised eyes at Kuramochi.
“If you end up on the same seat together I’m kicking you both out, you hear?” Kuramochi hissed at Miyuki.
Looking a little like a scolded puppy, Miyuki nodded.
His attention quickly returned to Sawamura though.

Kuramochi tutted. “They’ve literally been like that since the movie start-“
Kuramochi stopped, abruptly as lips collided with his.

Not quite perfect, maybe a little bit harsh, and definitely only brief.
But still. A kiss.
Haruichi had kissed him.
And Kuramochi looked at him, unable to fully process what had just happened.

Haruichi was watching him, wide eyed, clearly waiting for… Something. Some kind of response.

Closing his eyes, tight, Kuramochi tried to give himself time to think.
But suddenly the movie seemed too loud, too much of a distraction.

“Come on.” Kuramochi said, getting to his feet, and giving Haruichi’s hand, still in his own, a slight tug.

--

Just outside the screen, in the empty hallway of the cinema, Kuramochi found himself still trying to figure out what to say.
And Haruichi looked…
So much younger then. And so unsure. And so much wanting Kuramochi to say something.

“So.” Kuramochi started, his hand reaching up to the back of his head, awkwardly looking away. “Uh-“

“I like you.” Haruichi said, suddenly.
Kuramochi, unprepared for yet another shock so soon, slowly looked towards Haruichi.
There was something more to Haruichi now.
A fire to him.

Ah yes. That other side of Haruichi that Kuramochi loved so much.

“You-san.”

And he melted slightly to hear that name again.
“I’ve… I’ve been. In love with you a. A very long time.”

Kuramochi blinked, trying to process.
Wait.
Hold on. Slow down.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t be like Eijun, and confess to you sooner but. Please. Be assured that my feelings for you are no less. I. I like you. I’ve liked you so long. And. And it’s okay if you don’t feel the same but I needed you to know. So.”

Haruichi punctuated his sentence with a nod.
And then he was looking at Kuramochi again.

Waiting for an answer.
Waiting for a response. Something.

But no words were coming.
So instead, Kuramochi did the only thing that his mind was managing to tell him.
He reached out to Haruichi, pulling him a little closer, and then kissing him, just as sudden as Haruichi had done in the theatre.
He felt Haruichi jolt, stiffening beneath the kiss.
But then, slowly, slowly relax.
They broke apart naturally.

“Same for me.” Kuramochi said, finally. “I mean. It’s the same… I mean. I. Like you too.”
Haruichi’s hands on Kuramochi’s face, and he was kissing him again. And it was a little deeper, a little bolder now.
And neither could quite believe it at all.

--

They returned to their seats, and just as Kuramochi settled in, Miyuki nudged at his arm.
“What?” Kuramochi hissed.
“Congratulations.” Miyuki said, with a slight grin.
Kuramochi blushed, and muttered a thank you in return.

--

Miyuki wasn’t quite sure how to handle Sawamura’s excitement at having Haruichi stay over at the apartment.
And he really didn’t know how to explain to Sawamura that despite all the effort he was putting into making the couch comfortable, it was unlikely that Haruichi would be sleeping in it.

It was almost adorable that Sawamura had such an innocent view of his friend, and Miyuki had no wish to shatter it.
Clearly both Haruichi and Kuramochi knew to keep quiet too.

On the way back to the apartment, Sawamura had gushed about how pleased he was for his friends. And how his plan (his? Plan? They’d decided not to challenge Sawamura on that particular delusion) had finally brought the two together.

It had been cute to watch Sawamura with Haruichi, telling him about all the double dates they could go on.
Meanwhile Kuramochi still looked so stunned that this was even real, that it was happening, Miyuki couldn’t help but tease him a little about it.
“So. Should we invest in soundproofing the walls now or-?”

“Should have done it years ago!” Kuramochi quipped back. “I’m scarred by the things I’ve heard. I should at least repay you for it.”
Miyuki grinned back.

And as Miyuki watched Sawamura with Haruichi, he felt his own heart swell. Somehow his own love and appreciation growing as he watched Sawamura’s excitement for his friend.
Yes. Tonight had gone even better than planned.

--

It was just kissing. Just. Simple kissing.
Even though they were laying together on Kuramochi’s bed, their bodies close but not quite touching. It was still. Just kissing.
And yet Kuramochi felt light headed and… Just slightly overwhelmed. His heart beating fast.

Because wasn’t his what he’d wanted? Hoped for? But never thought would happen.
Because he didn’t think he deserved the right to like Haruichi. To hope for Haruichi.
Because… (Because of what he’d been with Ryosuke.)

And yet. Haruichi liked him too? Had liked him all this time? And…
And now he was allowed this?
He was allowed to be with Haruichi?

Kuramochi’s hand reached out, fingers brushing at Haruichi’s hair, pushing it back. Finding simple pleasure in how soft that hair felt.

Haruichi edged closer, kissing a little deeper. His hand catching at Kuramochi’s shirt, pushing it up, letting his hand trace up Kuramochi’s stomach and chest.
Kuramochi winced, torn between telling Haruichi to stop, and wanting more.
Of course he wanted more but… This was their first night together. They’d only just confessed, surely they should-

“Youichi.”
Haruichi’s voice cut through his racing thoughts.

He opened his eyes, and found Haruichi looking back at him. “Don’t be afraid to touch me. We’ve both-“
Haruichi paused, a blushing smile creeping up on his face. “We’ve both waited a long time for this, haven’t we?”

Slowly, Kuramochi nodded.
And then he kissed him again. Pulling Haruichi closer, Kuramochi allowed himself to relax a little, his hand creeping up under Haruichi’s shirt, glancing over his back.

And hands continued to explore and touch and try. Clothes slowly, carefully removed. It didn’t even feel like they were being sexual. Just curious. Sating that curiosity they’d both held onto for years already.

How does it feel to touch him there?
How does this patch of skin taste?
Does that feel good to him?

Eventually, both naked with the covers lightly thrown over them.
And Haruichi laid out on his back, encouraging Kuramochi on top of him.
Kuramochi looked down at him, frowning just a little. Wondering… What Haruichi’s intentions were. Because surely he wasn’t-

“Youichi.” And Haruichi’s voice was soft, yet heavy with want. “I’ve… Waited for you…”
And Kuramochi knew the implications to those words.
It wasn’t just that he’d waited, like Kuramochi had waited.
He meant…

Haruichi was saying he was a virgin.
And he’d waited for Kuramochi, to be with him.

Kuramochi opened his mouth to say something. But found the words stuck in his throat.
What could he say to that? What was he supposed to say to that?
He couldn’t say he’d done the same.

Haruichi’s hand was on his cheek, reaching up. And only then did Kuramochi realise he’d closed his eyes.
He opened them again. And saw Haruichi smiling, just a little.
“It’s okay.” Haruichi said. “I- I know.”

His eyes going wide, Kuramochi’s heart beat harder than ever.
He knew?
Haruichi… Knew?
“I know and… It’s okay. I- I love you…” Haruichi’s voice went softer, quieter.
“I- I’m sure about you, Youichi. I- want this. I want to be with you and- And I want this with you! I’m sure, Youichi so- So don’t let anything. Anyone… Make you think twice about my decision about you!”

There was a fire in Haruichi’s eyes.
And Kuramochi remembered that it was one of the things that had made him fall so utterly for him.

Leaning down, Kuramochi kissed him, deeply, enough to make them both gasp.
“I’ve been waiting too.” Kuramochi said. And though it was different to Haruichi. Although it wasn’t virginity that he could offer, he hoped, hoped it gave a similar message.
I’m sure.
I’m sure too.
I’ve been sure for so long.

But then. An awful realisation came over him. And Kuramochi swore, softly.
“Ah- I don’t… I mean. It’s not like I’m… Uh. Prepared for this?”

Haruichi grinned, just a little wickedly.
“What is that?” Kuramochi asked, catching the grin and unable to hide his own in return.
Haruichi shrugged. “… Might have snuck a couple of things out of Miyuki’s room earlier…”

Kuramochi’s eyes went wide, and then he laughed out loud. “He will KILL me if he finds out!”

Another shrug and Haruichi continued. “Him and Eijun are so well stocked I’m pretty sure they won’t even notice a couple of condoms gone missing…”
Kuramochi frowned, just a little. “What about… Uh. I mean. You didn’t take any-“

“Like I said. They’re well stocked. I’m sure they’re not going to miss one tube of lubricant either.”

Kuramochi couldn’t help but laugh again. But then he looked up, brushing at Haruichi’s hair.
“Okay so… We’re really going too…”
Haruichi looked up at Kuramochi.
Eyes open, in all sense of the word.
“I trust you… To be careful with me.”
Kuramochi nodded, taking in the full force and meanings.
Kissing Haruichi, gently.

“I promise.” He said.
“I’ll take care of you.”

Chapter Text

Sawamura was awake first that morning. Not exactly surprising, he’d always been the earlier riser out of him and Miyuki.

Earlier in their relationship, Sawamura would wake Miyuki as soon as his own eyes were open. Eager to share the morning with him.
Now, and especially since all the trouble had started, Sawamura let Miyuki sleep longer.
Allowing him the rest he needed.
Plus, Sawamura liked seeing Miyuki like this.

Curled up gently, and this morning he was close to Sawamura, his head slightly tucked in.
Cheeks looking soft and slightly pink. Hair mussed, falling over his eyes.
While he still wore an eye mask to sleep mostly, usually Sawamura would remove it if he woke up in the night. He liked seeing Miyuki’s eyes as he woke up slowly.
Last night Miyuki hadn’t even gotten to putting the mask on.
They’d fallen asleep facing each other, neither quite sure who had fallen asleep first.

Something had been. Hesitant? About Miyuki the previous night.
While Sawamura had been giving all the signals that everything was okay, Miyuki seemed to pull back too easily. If his hand gripped Sawamura even a little tightly, he’d let go. If he kissed him even a little forcefully, he’d stop. But he hadn’t pressed Miyuki on the matter. Not wanting to make him more conscious of what he was doing. Certain it would be temporary.

Sawamura reached out, touching gently at a love bite he’d left on Miyuki. A way he’d tried to tell Miyuki that it was okay to let go a little.
Or, maybe part of him wanted to leave Miyuki with something to continue thinking about him.
Equally though, Miyuki had been even more affectionate than usual.
Kissing every inch of skin he could reach, stroking Sawamura’s hair, holding him close.
That had more than undone the uneasy feeling in Sawamura’s stomach.

I’m here.

Sawamura’s head had buzzed with the words.
I’m here. I’m here. I promise I’m here with you.
“Always here.”
Sawamura said it out loud now, stroking back Miyuki’s hair, admiring his sleeping face.

He looked younger like this, maybe it was also because he didn’t have his glasses on.
It reminded Sawamura of when they’d first started dating, at Seidou. Those mornings when they’d wake up together and it felt like something they’d stolen, but in the best possible way.
And the morning after they’d first slept together. Still at Seidou, though Miyuki had been so close to leaving then.
Sawamura had been the first to wake that morning too. So soon aware of Miyuki curled around him, wondering why it felt different, and then noticing the ache, and remembering what had happened the night before.
He only told one other person about his loss of virginity, and he’d done so that very morning, once Miyuki had left his room.

Haruichi. He’d gone and found Haruichi, and told him.

And Sawamura told him he didn’t know why he was crying.
And Haruichi had said it was because he was happy.
“You’ve been waiting a long time to be with Miyuki, Eijun. Of course it’s overwhelming.”

He’d been glad he’d been understood. Haruichi always seemed to understand.
Haruichi!!

Haruichi had stayed the night! After confessing to Kuramochi during their ‘not a date but really is a date’, he’d stayed over!
Sawamura should go and check on him. See how he was feeling after Kuramochi had not only accepted but also reciprocated his confession.

A swift kiss to Miyuki’s cheek, and Sawamura got out of bed, hurriedly dressing. Opting to properly dress for once since there was actual company here, not just Kuramochi, who had seen Sawamura in so many various stages of undress that he no longer cared how he was seen (though Kuramochi would much prefer he WOULD care).
Heading into the living room, where he expected to find Haruichi still asleep, or just waking up on the couch, he instead found him emerging from the kitchen, two cups of coffee in hand.
At first Sawamura smiled, ready to offer him a morning greeting.
But the words died on his lips as he took Haruichi in more carefully.

Haruichi was wearing a t-shirt and not much else. Which, Sawamura supposed wasn’t surprising in and of itself.
But the fact that it was not HIS t-shirt, and in fact that it was most definitely Kuramochi’s t-shirt made Sawamura’s eyes go wide and his brain temporarily short circuit as he tried to make that make sense.
Haruichi clearly saw the cogs in Sawamura’s brain slowly shifting, piecing it together.
Carefully, he set the coffee mugs down on the table.

“Now. Eijun. I know this might-“

Sawamura dashed back into the hallway, and unceremoniously threw open the door to Kuramochi’s room, the sound of his entrance making Kuramochi sit up, startled.
Hurriedly trying to gather the bedcovers over himself.

Once again, it took Sawamura’s brain a few moments to catch up.
The clothes on the floor, a messy jumble of Kuramochi and Haruichi’s.
The unused condoms as well as the opened wrapper of the used one on the bedside table. The lubricant also on the table.
Kuramochi’s obvious state of near nakedness, as well as Haruichi’s current attire.

“Kuramochi!” Sawamura snapped. “What did you do to Haruichi?! How could you take advantage like-“
Before he could continue, and before Kuramochi could defend himself, Sawamura was silenced by a familiar chop to the head.

“EiJUN!” Harucihi said, clearly cross. “Quiet down and-“

“Haruichi…” Sawamura turned to him, reaching out to him. “Are you alright? Did he-“

Haruichi narrowed his eyes at Sawamura, then pushed past him to stick his head in the doorway to Kuramochi’s room.
“Youichi, coffee’s made. Please come get it when you’re ready.” He said calmly, before heading back to the living room.
Sawamura stared after him.

“What’s going on?”
Miyuki asked, emerging from his room, rubbing at his hair and pulling on a t-shirt at the same time.

“Ask Kuramochi.” Sawamura said, darkly, before following after Haruichi.

Miyuki, confused yet curious, poked his head in Kuramochi’s room.
One look around and then he nodded.
“Ah.” He said.
“… Not one word from you…” Kuramochi grumbled, hurriedly dressing under the covers.

Miyuki raised an eyebrow as he spotted the items on the bedside table.
“Don’t steal my stuff. Buy your own.” He said, before leaving to see what was happening in the living room.
Kuramochi glared after him, but followed once finally dressed.

Haruichi stood there, feet firmly rooted on the spot as he glared at Sawamura. And still all Sawamura could focus on what that Haruichi was wearing Kuramochi’s t-shirt. He was staring, and he knew it.

“I am 20 years old, Eijun!” Haruichi snapped. “I’m a grown-up capable of making my own decisions.”

“B- but-“ Sawamura stuttered.

“But nothing!” Haruichi interrupted. “You forget, Eijun. You forget I know you lost your virginity to Miyuki when you were 17!”

An unexpected sudden hush fell over the apartment with those words.
Miyuki’s quiet chuckling suddenly silenced as he realised what had been said.
And he began retreating back towards the hall, hoping to go unnoticed.
But Kuramochi suddenly turned his head in Miyuki’s direction, pinning him in place with a wide-eyed stare.
“You said…” Kuramochi started.
“Look. In my defence…” Miyuki said.

“He was going to graduate soon!” Sawamura snapped at Haruichi. “I didn’t know if he was about to move half-way across the country or something! How old I was had nothing to do with-“

“Wait!” Kuramochi interrupted. Still staring wide eyed at Miyuki.
“Are you telling me it happened in the dorms? At Seidou? In MY dorm room?!”

Miyuki shrugged and rolled his eyes. “It wasn’t really your dorm room at that point anymore. We just asked Asada to room with someone else for the night and-“

“You’re all missing the point!” Haruichi talked over all of them. He didn’t even have to raise his voice to get everyone’s attention. “My point is. Eijun. You knew, at 17, that Miyuki was right for you, right? That you were ready for that level of… Commitment?”
Sawamura blinked, slowly, taking this in.
Then he nodded once, surely. “Yes. I did.”
Haruichi smiled, nodding slowly. “Do you… Get what I’m trying to say… About Youichi?”
Sawamura took a few moments to take this in, to really think about it.
Then he nodded.

Kuramochi had turned bright red, unsure how exactly to take this little revelation.
Haruichi was sure about him? Commitment level sure?
Okay, yeah, maybe he had realised that, maybe he’d understood the way Haruichi had worded things last night.
He’d known, had made sure he was fully aware and remained fully aware that he was taking Haruichi’s virginity, and everything that that meant.
But somehow it still made him blush to hear Haruichi put it like that, in front of everyone.

And in the time that everyone was distracted, Miyuki had successfully made his exit.
And yet.
Even as he returned to his room, Miyuki found the words followed him.
‘You knew he was right for you.’
‘You were ready.’

Miyuki sat down on the edge of the bed, and let himself fall backwards onto it.
Right. As far as Kuramochi had known before now, Miyuki and Sawamura’s first time had happened in this room, and not even right after moving in.

It had taken a few more months, and even going past Sawamura’s 18th birthday before they finally slept together again. Not because they hadn’t wanted to, but because they didn’t see the need to rush, now that they knew that being together was going to still be easy.

But their first time.
Their real first time.
That had happened at Seidou.

Miyuki had already moved out of the dorms at that point, but Sawamura still had another whole year.

They’d only gotten together a few weeks, only just nearly a month previous. And graduation was looming ahead of them, and Miyuki still hadn’t made his final decisions on where he was going to go.

Maybe they had rushed. Maybe it had been too soon.
But at the time, they’d been completely sure. And given the chance? Miyuki still would never go back on their choice.

It was probably one of their most serious conversations at that early stage of their relationship. Discussing, making sure they both wanted the same thing.
Miyuki should have absolutely not still been staying in the dorms anymore. But the truth was that since he and Sawamura had gotten together, he’d been finding it harder and harder to make himself return home.

It had started with him just staying a little while with Sawamura after practice. And then, as it got later, either he or Sawamura would suggest going back to Sawamura’s room.
The first few times, Miyuki couldn’t quite get over the strangeness of not finding Kuramochi there. It wasn’t like he’d spent a lot of time in Room 5, but whenever he had, the presence of his fellow third year had always been obvious. As well as something that Miyuki enjoyed.
He guessed this had a lot to do with the eventual decision that he and Kuramochi came to with living together.

The first-year inhabitant of Room 5, Asada, was a much quieter presence, but not a less welcome one. He never made a fuss or seemed to mind that Miyuki was so often there in the evenings.

And when Miyuki started staying the night, Asada never said anything (apart from of course offering a polite ‘good morning’ to Miyuki).

The first time Miyuki stayed the night had, in all honesty, been an accident.
He and Sawamura had stayed up late, well past lights out, talking.
About what? Neither could remember. But the one thing that stuck very clearly in Miyuki’s mind was the fact that he’d held both of Sawamura’s hands in his own, the whole time. Fingers stroking lightly over the back of his hand, his knuckles, his fingers, getting to know every little inch of those hands.

He’d woken up the next morning, still fully clothed, but with his glasses no where in sight or easy reach.
“Good morning.”

It had taken him a few moments to recognise the voice as Asada’s, and to realise that his glasses were being held out to him.
It didn’t take much for Miyuki to understand that Asada had saved both himself and Sawamura the trouble of broken glasses in the bed.

“Thank you.” He said, taking the glasses with only a slightly sheepish smile. Feeling like they’d been caught doing much more than simply falling asleep together.

When Asada smiled, with a small nod, and turned away to continue his own morning routine, Miyuki realised how grateful he was for the younger boys understanding.

Then he’d looked to Sawamura, it only just occurring to him that this was their first time waking up together. A milestone in its own right.
Sawamura had practically buried himself against Miyuki, his face pressed into Miyuki’s shoulder, his hand clinging to the hem of Miyuki’s shirt almost like it was a comforter.
He wriggled against Miyuki, perhaps sensing that the other boy was awake now, though he himself was reluctant to wake just yet.
Miyuki was allowed a few moments of peaceful awe at how sweet his boyfriend could be.

Then Sawamura had opened his eyes, just a fraction, and looked up.
A few seconds to register what he was seeing.
And then he jumped up, pulling away from Miyuki with such suddenness it nearly knocked Miyuki out of the bed completely.

“NOTHING HAPPENED!” Sawamura declared at top volume, though for whose benefit it was unclear.
Miyuki covered his ears, all the while laughing at the over the top behaviour.
The flip side of Sawamura’s personality which, it just so happened, Miyuki loved also.

After that first time though, Miyuki’s staying over was more frequent and less accidental.
Sometimes Asada would stay, but as he noticed the couple starting to hold themselves back due to his presence (and none too subtly either), he would leave for the evening and allow them some privacy.

One such night, when Asada was gone, the conversation happened.
Sawamura had picked up something of a frantic kind of kissing.
Each kiss quick, with a little too much pressure, and then moving to the next. He’d started trying to kiss Miyuki in different places, trying out his neck and collarbone, though always quickly returning to his lips, like he was never fully satisfied there.

His hands too were skittish, edging beneath Miyuki’s shirt, fingertips glancing over skin, never quite settling, almost like he wasn’t sure if he was allowed.
Miyuki would try to slow him down, hold his hands steady or press them against his skin.

“You can touch me, it’s okay.” Miyuki would tell him, softly.
Or holding him lightly by the chin to hold their kisses a little longer, encouraging Sawamura to take it slower, to savour it like Miyuki wanted to.
They’d been a little more intimate with each other only a couple of times. And usually late into the night, when it was dark and when they were pretty sure that nearly everyone else might be asleep.

It felt safer that way, and somehow Sawamura learned to slow down a little more.

It was that kind of time of night. And while clothes remained mostly on, hands had wandered, each into each other’s underwear. Just slightly unsure hands, still learning how the other liked it.

Miyuki’s free hand cradled the back of Sawamura’s head as he pressed close, face buried against Miyuki’s neck. Hot, moaning breaths against Miyuki’s skin.
“Feel good?” Miyuki asked, his voice low with his own lust.
Sawamura nodded.
“O-okay for you?” He asked back, tentatively.

Miyuki didn’t answer, instead reaching his hand down, into his own underwear to join Sawamura’s hand.
He wrapped his hand, just a little tight around Sawamura’s hand, increasing the grip on his erection. “A little tighter.” Miyuki said. “It feels better a little tighter.”
He let go, returning his hand to Sawamura’s hair, stroking at it softly. “I don’t mind it like that.” Miyuki continued, reassuringly. “But I… Prefer…”
A soft moan escaped him as Sawamura’s hand moved on him, at just the right amount of tightness, and he pulled Sawamura closer to him as he did.

“Damn you feel good…” Miyuki moaned into Sawamura’s ear, not really paying attention to the words he used.
Sawamura gripped at the back of Miyuki’s shirt, seeming to still be searching for some closeness that they didn’t already have. His hips moved in perfect sync with Miyuki’s hand, while Miyuki found himself unconsciously doing the same.

It was in near perfect unison that, like an unspoken agreement, they both reached for each other’s underwear, pulling them down, awkwardly wiggling out of them all without stopping the mutual masturbation. Kisses, hot and drawn out passed between them.

Miyuki shifted, moving over Sawamura, encouraging him to lay on his back, all the while still kissing him as they moved together.

And then Miyuki was on top of him, and while Miyuki’s hand still worked on Sawamura’s erection, Sawamura’s hands were both covering his mouth, trying to hold back the ever-noisier moans escaping him. His legs guided apart by Miyuki’s hand, and the oh so obvious hardness against his thigh. If Miyuki minded that he wasn’t being touched anymore, he didn’t show it, and he certainly didn’t hold back on Sawamura, seemingly fully focused on him as he sort to bring the younger boy to his climax.

“M- Miyuki-“ Sawamura stumbled over his words. “Ka- Kazuya. I want- want-“

“What is it?” Miyuki asked, his voice soft but lust heavy in Sawamura’s ear.

“I want. I want to have sex with you…” Sawamura’s voice was small as he said it. And it was lucky for both of them that his orgasm came almost immediately after those words because Sawamura felt so embarrassed to have said it, and Miyuki was so shocked he had no idea what to say in response.

Miyuki was quick to finish himself off, trying not to be too distracted by what Sawamura had said as he did.
And then he sat on the end of the bed, leant up against the bed frame as he allowed them both some time to cool down.
Sawamura’s words hung between them. And they both knew it wasn’t something that could simply be ignored.

Sawamura slowly, slowly sat up, though he was still panting just a little, his breath not quite completely back.
His underwear slipped back on before he drew his knees up to his chest.

He didn’t look up at Miyuki, but even as he tried to hide his face, Miyuki knew his cheeks were heavily blushed.
“Eijun…”

“You’re graduating soon.” Sawamura said, his voice hard, though it was obvious the harshness was only there to keep him steady. “You’re graduating, and then- then you won’t even be around the school grounds and you won’t be able to come to the dorms, let alone stay the night and- and-“

Sawamura looked up, his gaze somehow perfectly finding Miyuki’s even in the darkness. “It- it’s taken this long for us to finally get together and now- now you’re already… You’re leaving! Leaving Seidou- leaving- leaving m-“

Miyuki had moved across the bed quickly, arms wrapping around Sawamura, pulling him close, not letting him finish.
“I’m not leaving you.” Miyuki said, softly.
Sawamura nodded. “I know but it still feels like-“

“I know.”

“… Is this…” Miyuki was hesitant with his words, even as he pulled back, wanting to see Sawamura’s face. “Is this the only reason you want to have sex? Because… I’ll be honest. It feels… Kind of. Fast?” Miyuki didn’t like admitting that he was a little scared by the idea.
It was such a big step, wasn’t it?
Sawamura shook his head.
“Not just that.” He said.
“Because I know… I’m certain about you, Miyuki Kazuya.”

“I can’t imagine ever being with someone else.”

They’d talked a while more, and eventually fallen asleep together, as normal.
And even though it wasn’t exactly put into so many words, they both knew they’d come to an agreement.
They were both nervous, both a little overwhelmed by the idea. But equally, they were both certain of each other.
They’d been certain about each other long before they’d admitted it after all, hadn’t they?
And they agreed on something else. This had all begun at Seidou. So, it was only right that they ‘consummated’ their relationship while they were still at Seidou, right?

A few days later, Miyuki found himself in a store, further out than the one frequented by other students.
As the older of the two, he’d taken the task on himself to make sure they were properly prepared.

Miyuki’s mind had reeled as he found himself in an aisle, staring at too many shelves of possible options.
‘How can there be these many types of condoms out there?’ He found himself wondering, all still in a state of shocked stillness.
Miyuki’s eyes darted from shelf to shelf, feeling far, far too out of his depth.
‘Maybe I’m not as ready for this as I thought...’ Miyuki thought to himself, a little despairingly. ‘If I can’t even figure out what condoms to buy how am I possibly ready to-‘

Yeah he realised he was panicking.

And it took him a little longer than he would like to admit to finally bite the bullet, grab a pack that didn’t say anything too intimidating (why were there flavoured- OH!) and then make his hurried way to the counter.

It was only when he was half way down the street that he remembered he was meant to also buy lubricant too. And, not wishing to have yet another day where he spent the whole time gearing up to it, Miyuki forced himself to turn back around and go back to get it.
Only this time ‘disguising’ his purchase by picking up a few other things in the store that he told himself were absolutely necessary as well.
He was just glad there was another cashier that served him the second time. But it didn’t help his raging scarlet blush as he was rung up.

--

He thought that the ordeal of going to get the items was tough enough. But then Miyuki was surprised by his nerves to show Sawamura what he’d bought.
A couple of nights after their original conversation, and it was obvious that it still hung between them.
Sawamura starting to wonder if he’d really been understood and taken seriously.

Both of them ever aware of the passing time.
Simple kisses shared turning hotter, and Sawamura’s hands already wandering in their usual curious way. Hesitant but obvious in his wants.
Miyuki was even more hesitant.

Weighing everything over in his head. Thinking it through.
Now? Was now a good time? Should they wait? But what exactly was he waiting for? What was ‘the right moment’ anyway?
Sawamura’s fingers edged beneath Miyuki’s underwear, obvious in the want to take them off.

Miyuki grabbed his hand, making Sawamura gasp, softly, stilling beneath him.

Eyes closed tight as he made the decision, Miyuki rolled Sawamura so he was laid out on his back.
“Wait a moment, please?” Miyuki said, before getting up off the bed.
Sawamura sat up a little to watch where Miyuki was going.

Since they’d stopped pretending that Miyuki wasn’t staying over, Miyuki had taken to bringing an overnight bag when he intended to stay the night with Sawamura (which was becoming increasingly often).
He watched as Miyuki rifled around in said bag now, before returning to the bed.
Miyuki sat up, unusually upright and almost formal for the situation.
Curious, Sawamura sat up more too.
“Miyuki?”

His gaze followed Miyuki’s own, to his hands. And Sawamura realised that Miyuki was holding something.
And Sawamura could almost see Miyuki’s blush in the darkness.

“I… Picked these up a couple of days ago. I was… Waiting for a good time. But…” Miyuki fumbled over his words a little, before setting the two things on the bed between them, pushing them very slightly towards Sawamura as he did.

At first, Sawamura wasn’t sure what he was looking at.
Then, catching on, his eyes went wide.
Box of condoms.
Tube of lubricant.

Sawamura blinked, rapidly.
“Y- you- “

“I’m not trying to say it has to be now!” Miyuki said, hurriedly. “I just. Thought you should know! That I’m… Prepared. For when… We might…”
Miyuki gasped, surprised as Sawamura was suddenly close, grabbing him by the shirt to pull him into a quick but slightly harsh kiss.
His own wide eyes met Sawamura’s bright eyes as they pulled back from the kiss.

“Kazuya.” Sawamura said, quiet but serious.
“I’m certain.” He said, repeating his sentiment from a couple of nights ago.

Miyuki blinked, slowly, taking in everything that those words meant.
Then he nodded, a slow smile spreading warmly as he reached his hand out to Sawamura’s face, fingertips glancing gently.
“So am I.” He agreed.

Soft kisses as they laid back down. Hands moving smoothly to fully undress one another.
Pausing, looking over each other, fully naked. Realising they’d never taken the time to do so before.
Just looking, taking each other in like that. Aware of each others breathing as it came slightly heavier.

“Kazuya.”

Sawamura’s voice the first to cut through the silence, his hand reaching out, wanting to draw Miyuki close again.
Miyuki nodded in reply, moving closer, moving on top of Sawamura now. Both gasping softly into their kiss as skin pressed against skin. Bodies slotting together even in such a simple way as this.
This already felt so intimate.

And somehow, it just made them more, even more sure.
Neither quite knew what to expect. So naturally, when first trying to ‘prepare’ Sawamura (as he’d read was absolutely vital), and Sawamura cried out in pain, Miyuki panicked.
“D- did I do it wrong? Did that really hurt? Should- should I stop?“

Sawamura shook his head, panting into the pillow he had hugged beneath him. “I’m sorry. Just… Slower?”

Miyuki nodded. His brow pinching slightly in concentration.
He added more lubricant to his fingers, carefully coating Sawamura’s hole, before slowly, slowly pressing in with one finger. All the while glancing up and checking on Sawamura.
Little by little. They got there.

And by the time Sawamura was open, loose, Miyuki realised how hard he’d gotten, how ready he was for this, physically.
Emotionally, he was still overwhelmed. But no less sure.

Sawamura rolled back over onto his back. Watching Miyuki as he got out one of the condoms.
Fingers shaking slightly as he tried to open it.
“Miyu- Kazuya.”

Funny. Even now they were still getting used to using first names.
Sawamura was sat up, holding out his hand.
“Let me?” He offered.

Considering, carefully. Miyuki nodded, handing over the unopened condom, laying down to make it easier for Sawamura.
This too, felt an odd kind of closeness. Sexual and yet not. Intimate in a whole other way.
They were trusting each other with their bodies. Completely.

Sawamura laid back down, and Miyuki moved over him again, re-positioning Sawamura’s legs beneath him, parting them carefully.
“Is this… Will like this be okay for you?” Miyuki asked.
Sawamura nodded.
“It’s just. I heard that… Uh. For first time? It’s easier if we-“

“I want to see you.” Sawamura said. His voice almost, almost stern. “I want to see you.” He repeated, softer.
Miyuki smiled, nodded in understanding.
He preferred it like this too.
Sawamura cried out again, covering his hands with his face as Miyuki first pressed inside him. And again, Miyuki panicked, pulling back out immediately.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry! I- I maybe I-“

Sawamura reached down with one hand, grabbing at Miyuki’s hip, pulling him back close again.
“Don’t stop! J- just keep going. Please? I- I just need to get used to it.”

Worried and still so unsure, Miyuki did as Sawamura said. Pressing, moving inside of him. Unable to hold back his moan of pleasure, feeling how hot and tight it felt inside.

He opened his eyes, saw Sawamura’s eyes closed tight, tears dripping from his lashes, and immediately felt guilty.

“Is it really bad?” Miyuki asked, his voice wavering slightly.

“P- please. Keep going.” Sawamura repeated with gasping breaths.

So Miyuki moved out slowly, pushing back in carefully. Not too deep, though noticing it coming slightly easier each time.
Finally, Sawamura’s arms reached up, wrapping around Miyuki, pulling him close.
He gasped, softly, then, finally, finally let out a breathy moan.

“Feel good?” Miyuki asked, hopefully.

Sawamura nodded. For once, was robbed of words to express himself.
But. Miyuki thought he got it anyway.

A hand in Miyuki’s hair, fingers caught up in it. Miyuki’s lips hovering over Sawamura’s as his breathing came heavier.
“Eijun-“
He thrust in maybe a little too deep, causing Sawamura to yelp in surprise, as Miyuki came.

He was still just hitting his own climax as he reached between them, taking Sawamura in hand, jerking him off to his orgasm too.
Miyuki found himself reluctant to move off of Sawamura, and certainly to pull out of him, even as he grew soft again.
I want to stay like this.

Finally, reluctantly. Miyuki moved off, laying beside Sawamura, pulling him close.
Shocked to find him shaking.

A finger tipping Sawamura’s chin up. Seeing tears tracking down his cheeks.
It was the third time that night that Miyuki panicked.
“D- did I hurt you? Does something feel wrong? D- did I-“

Sawamura shook his head.
“Idiot!” He said, through tears. “I just love you so much! That’s all!”

Miyuki blinked, shocked.

Then he pulled Sawamura close, letting the younger boy curl up against him.
“I love you.” Miyuki said. “I love you so much too.”

Chapter Text

Monday night, and with Sawamura and Haruichi now returned from their weekend adventures, the two of them and Furuya found themselves back in Haruichi’s room.
“You seemed so focused today, Haruichi.” Sawamura said, trying to sound teasing. “When me and Kazuya first-“

He stopped, abruptly, blushing slightly.
He’d somehow gotten them back to the subject of sex and first times.
While Sawamura had, eventually, accepted that Haruichi’s decisions were his own and the four of them had had a nice weekend together, Sawamura still felt awkward, discussing sex lives like this.

The fact that he’d been sleeping with Miyuki the past few years had been assumed by his friends, correctly so, but never really discussed. And their first time had been an occasion only discussed with Haruichi on the morning after itself. Never since.
Well. Not until this weekend anyway.

“Eijun.” Haruichi said. “You shouldn’t be embarrassed by your sexual relationship with Miyuki. The two of you are clearly very affectionate and comfortable with each other.”

This only made Sawamura blush more.
Because Haruichi had seen.
But also because… This weekend hadn’t even really been like it was usually.

First there had been the Friday night, and all of Miyuki’s holding back. And then the Saturday night. Sawamura had almost worried they were going to have a repeat of a few weeks ago. Miyuki clearly uncomfortable and frustrated.
But then when they had had sex, finally, it was like nothing was wrong.
Sawamura was trying to keep up, trying to understand what was going on in Miyuki’s head. How he could help.

“And I certainly don’t intend to be embarrassed about mine and Youichi’s relationship.”
Haruichi paused, blushing a little in spite of his bold words.
“We’re… Still learning what each other likes. I think I’m. Still learning what I like, honestly.”

Sawamura nodded.
He knew that part, remembered that part of becoming intimate.
To be honest, he thought they were still learning, years later.
You could know every inch of skin of your partner yet still find something new that you both enjoyed.

“Haruichi.” Furuya interrupted. “Was this your first time?”

Again. Haruichi blushed, just a little. Then nodded.
“I was… I’d kind of pinned my hopes on Youichi. It’s. Really only ever been him I’ve wanted.”
Furuya nodded to this.
“So I guess I’m the only one still a virgin then.”

Startled by the statement, both Sawamura and Haruichi looked at each other, wide eyed.
And then they started talking over each other.

“Oh I’m sure there’s someone you’ll-“

“There’s no rush, Furuya!”

Furuya smiled, just slightly at them both.
“… What’s it like?” He asked.

Both Sawamura and Haruichi turned bright red.

“I- I mean. What’s it like to… Want to have sex with someone?” Furuya asked, fidgeting on and with the rug beneath him. “I’ve never… Felt like that about someone.”

“No one?” Haruichi asked, tilting his head slightly.

“I didn’t realise I wanted to sleep with Miyuki until we were dating!” Sawamura offered, helpfully. “I only ever thought about kissing him, and even then I-“

“I’ve never wanted to kiss anyone either?” Furuya said.
Haruichi frowned, going to say something.

“Well admittedly I didn’t realise it was wanting to KISS Miyuki. Sometimes I got a little muddled and thought I wanted to slam him against a wall just because I was annoyed at him, not because I actually wanted to kiss him until we were both dizzy.”

“Eijun.” Haruichi said, laying a hand on Sawamura’s shoulder. “Sush, please.”
Sawamura nodded, possibly looking a little relieved to have the excuse to stop talking.

Haruichi returned his attention to Furuya.
“What about Kaoru?” He asked, meaning the catcher from Seidou who was a year younger them.
“He confessed to you, didn’t he? And you were close from later in our second year onwards. I always thought- “

“He did like me.” Furuya admitted, looking away. “And. I liked him. We. Kinda of dated but. I don’t think I liked him the way… He liked me.”

Furuya paused, sighing. “It was nice. Being. Close with him. Holding hands. But. I never wanted to… Go further.”
He fidgeted, uncomfortably.

“Do you think the person you’ve had the strongest feelings for was Kaoru then?” Haruichi asked, gently.
Furuya thought about this. Then he nodded.

“I don’t get it… When you talk about Kuramochi being attractive, or the way Eijun talks about Miyuki. I- I’m happy for you both. But. I can’t imagine me… Ever thinking about someone like that.”

Haruichi slid down off the bed, kneeling down in front of Furuya.
“Satoru.” He said, gently. “There’s nothing wrong with that. You don’t have to feel like you have to be a certain way…” Haruichi paused, thinking. “Would it be more comfortable for you if me and Eijun… Were more careful about how we talk about Miyuki and Kuramochi?”
Furuya looked up, then shook his head. “No, no. It’s okay.” Then he smiled, nodding. “It’s okay, now I know there’s nothing… Wrong with me for not getting it.”
Haruichi smiled back at him, encouragingly. “Of course there’s nothing wrong with you.”

Sawamura sat, watching the conversation unfold, frowning slightly as he listened.
“So… Is it like. You don’t think you’ve found the right person yet or-?” Sawamura asked.

Furuya considered this, then shook his head. “I don’t think that’s it either.”
“So, what? Like you’ve never seen anyone, even in passing and thought they were attractive?” Sawamura pressed.
Now Furuya frowned. “Why would I consider a stranger as attractive or not?”

Sawamura’s eyes widened. “But- I mean- even just-“

“Eijun.” Haruichi interrupted. “Not everyone experiences attraction like that. Even you admit you didn’t recognise your feelings towards Miyuki until much later.”

“But I still knew I thought he was hot!”
Immediately Sawamura’s cheeks burned red, as he remembered the confusion and denial in his head associated with that feeling, right at the very beginning. How he’d think about Miyuki a certain way and convince himself he was just hung up on the idea of playing with him. And that more intimate situations showing up in his head was just a sign of his frustrations.
Frowning, considering this, Sawamura asked. “So are you saying you’ve never… Even had… Ideas. Like. Passing ideas about kissing someone? Or- or- more than that?”

Furuya shook his head. “I understand it, on some level. I know about sex, obviously. But. No. I’ve never considered… Being an active part of it.”

“Not even accidentally?” Sawamura pressed.

“Eijun. Can we not discuss your sex dreams about Miyuki right now?” Haruichi said, simply.

“That’s not what I’m getting at!” But the redness creeping to Sawamura’s ears spoke a different story.

“No.” Furuya said, answering Sawamura’s question. “Not even accidentally.”
“But-“

“A lack of sexual feeling doesn’t mean a lack of emotion or even a lack of wanting other forms of intimacy.” Haruichi said, continuing in his careful, straight forward tone.
He glanced at Furuya, looking for his approval to keep going.
Furuya nodded, looking grateful that Haruichi was able to put these things into words for him.

“And it doesn’t mean that Furuya will end up alone, either.”

Haruichi smiled at Furuya. “You’ll meet someone who is just right for you. I have, Eijun has. There’s no reason you won’t.”

But still, something nagged at Sawamura. “But… You don’t. You don’t want to have sex. So you’ll never… Get that experience… That closeness…”
And there was something sad in Sawamura’s voice. And truthfully, he was thinking on his and Miyuki’s first time again. Imagining not having that, not experiencing that.
And also considering how Miyuki was lately. Withdrawn, hesitant. Knowing it was a sign that Miyuki was hurting and worried. Believing it would pass. If they could just get past this difficult bit, everything would be okay.

“It’s not something I’m sad about.” Furuya said. “And. I think. I think there are other ways to be close.”

Sawamura looked up, struck by Furuya’s words.

Thinking about holding hands with Miyuki.
Curled up on the couch with him. Or curled up close in bed. Sharing warmth.
Of morning routines and arms curling around waists to press cold hands against warm skin.
Quiet moments just being close.
Listening to the shift in breathing as awake moves to sleep.
Watching a movie together.
Eating a meal.

Just. Being close.

And Sawamura considered that there were many kinds of love. So maybe, just maybe he could relax a little about him and Miyuki.
The butterflies were still there.
Everything else could be worked out with time.

--

He knew he had to have this conversation, but that didn’t mean that Kuramochi was happy about it.
To be honest, it had been a relief when he’d finally gotten a call from the older Kominato brother. The waiting had been killing him slowly.

“I hear congratulations are in order.” Ryosuke had said, bypassing usual greetings after Miyuki had handed the phone over to Kuramochi.

“Ryosuke. It’s good to hear from you.” Kuramochi had said, trying to hide his nerves in familiarity.
Ryosuke had been straight to the point, as usual.

Was Kuramochi free tomorrow?
And did he know the coffee shop just down from the station?

They arranged their meeting for just after 11am.
The next morning, Miyuki waved him off brightly.

“I’ll send out a search party for your remains if you’re not back by tonight!” Miyuki teased.
“Shut up…” Kuramochi grumbled.
Even though, honestly, he was a little afraid that Miyuki’s prediction could end up being correct…

Ryosuke was already there when Kuramochi arrived, exactly on time.

“Sorry.” Kuramochi said, with a smile he couldn’t quite help.

It had been a long time since they’d seen each other. And his fondness for the elder Kominato brother had never quite dimmed.
“I… Hope I didn’t keep you waiting?” Kuramochi asked, a little anxiously as he settled into his seat. His eyes flicking up nervously at Ryosuke.

Ryosuke shook his head, smiling that familiar smile. The one that made you feel like he could see right through you, but also that he understood you completely.
Kuramochi had always kinda been a sucker for that smile.

“I was a little early.” Ryosuke replied, calmly. “I ordered for you already, I hope you don’t mind?”

Kuramochi couldn’t help a slight grin. “Is that meant to be a nice gesture or are you power playing me?”

Ryosuke shrugged. “Maybe a little of both.”

Kuramochi allowed himself to feel a little more relaxed. It was how it had always been with Ryosuke. Even if the reason for their meeting was serious, he could take a little comfort in that much.
They waited until their order came in.
Ryosuke had ordered for Kuramochi perfectly, naturally.

“So. You and Haruichi?” Ryosuke said, calmly as he took his first sip of black coffee.
He paused, assessing the taste, then nodded, before setting the cup down and looking up at Kuramochi.

For his part, Kuramochi hadn’t yet lifted his own cup, looking down at it as he tried to figure out where to go with this.

Kuramochi nodded, making a quiet, affirmative noise as he finally raised his own coffee to his lips, tasting it (but not really able to taste anything through his nerves).

“He’s had a crush on you since his first year at Seidou. Did you know that?” Ryosuke continued, still in that calm way.

He had to set the cup down carefully so as not to drop it.
Kuramochi glanced up again.
“He… Didn’t mention that, no.” Kuramochi said. “Not exactly, anyway. He said he’d liked me since high school but not-“

“I don’t think it was love at first sight.” Ryosuke continued, talking over Kuramochi. “But certainly by the time he started taking over my place in the field.”
Ryosuke looked straight forward at Kuramochi, leaving him feeling pinned down. “Once he started really playing with you, he was smitten.”

Kuramochi blinked, unsure what to say.
That he hadn’t realised?
Surely that much was obvious.

“His second year.” Kuramochi said, mostly into his coffee. “His second year, my third. That’s when I-“
“After I left, you mean?” Ryosuke said, with a slight grin.
Kuramochi winced. “Well, yeah but-“

“Youichi.”

Eyes widened as he jolted at hearing his name.
Ryosuke so rarely used his first name. Especially situations like this. It was a shock to hear it.

“I’ll be honest with you. At first I thought that Haruichi only developed a crush on you, as a way to continue to follow me.”
Kuramochi closed his eyes, not liking where this was going at all.

“It was only when I realised how serious he was about you that I knew I was wrong.” Ryosuke continued.

“That and… I realised he had no way of knowing about…” Ryosuke paused, holding his cup to his lips a few beats before continuing. “You and me.”
Kuramochi could feel his cheeks were hot, that his entire body felt hot.

He’d known this was coming, and yet he’d hoped this wasn’t going to go this way.
Ryosuke sipped at his coffee, and Kuramochi could feel his gaze on him.

He heard the soft clink as Ryosuke set his cup down on the saucer again.

“I didn’t fall for him because he’s your brother.” Kuramochi said, quietly, but steady enough to make himself heard.

“I should hope not.” Ryosuke said. “Haruichi deserves better than that. And. I know. You deserved better than what I gave you.”

Kuramochi closed his eyes, tightly. “Ryo-“

“Youichi. This might be selfish of me but. I wanted to ask you…”
The first sign of hesitation that Kuramochi could ever remember from Ryosuke.
“Don’t tell Haruichi about us. He doesn’t need to know that I… Slept with you knowing that he liked you too.”

And there it was. Perfectly laid out on the table between them. The unspoken finally spoken after all of these years.

Their first kiss, somewhere in the height of summer. The memory of it was hazy from heat.
Inside after running fielding practice, both Kominato brothers had been on the field again that day. But now it was just Kuramochi and Ryosuke, inside, getting their breath back. Trying to cool down.
Ryosuke’s hand placed on Kuramochi’s thigh. Kuramochi had assumed it was an accident, so said nothing.
Then Ryosuke had leaned into him, getting closer despite the heat.
A hand that grabbed Kuramochi’s practice shirt, pulled him closer into a searing hot kiss.
“You’ve been staring at me all day. You’re so obvious.” Ryosuke said, matter of fact as he let Kuramochi go, then stood to leave.
Kuramochi just continued to sit there, staring as Ryosuke left.

What Ryosuke hadn’t said was that he’d seen Kuramochi watching Haruichi too, and that it was driving him insane to see it.

They’d fooled around a bit, mostly in Ryosuke’s room. Ryosuke always teasing and chastising Kuramochi for his lack of technique, his lack of experience. Clearly enjoying it when that riled the younger boy up even more.
And eventually they’d slept together. Kuramochi guessed in a similar situation to Miyuki and Sawamura, it had happened not long before Ryosuke had graduated.
Only instead of a hope that they’d stay together after, they’d known that it was a signal of their relationship coming to an end.

Now, in this café, with Ryosuke sat across from him, Kuramochi closed his eyes, allowing himself those memories he’d buried for a long time.
Then he looked up, and his voice was calm, but with just a hint of something like protective indignance.

“Ryosuke.” He said.

“No offence. But I’m here because of Haruichi. I care about- I love Haruichi.
As far as I’m concerned, whatever was between you and me, that’s the past.
Haruichi is my now.
And. I hope my future too.”

He watched Ryosuke’s face, gauging his reaction.
And then, slowly, a smile crept across his face.

“You know.” He said, sipping at his coffee again. “That’s exactly what I hoped you’d say.”

--

They talked a little longer. Kuramochi relaxing more now that the hard part was done with.
Kuramochi decided against breaking it to Ryosuke that Haruichi had already known about their relationship at Seidou. Clearly Ryosuke didn’t realise quite how closely his younger brother watched him.
But telling him that would serve no purpose, only make Ryosuke concerned.
So Kuramochi left it, and let their conversation drift.

Of course to Seidou, to baseball.

And, eventually, just an inevitably as their original conversation, to Miyuki.

“How is Miyuki? You’re still living with him?”

Kuramochi nodded. “He’s… Okay? He’s Miyuki so you know that means he tries to deal with everything by himself but.” Kuramochi paused, grinned. “I’m not letting him get away with that.”

Ryosuke nodded. Setting his cup down again as he frowned, thoughtfully. “His press conference worried me.”
Kuramochi glanced away. It worried him too. Still did, even now, this much later.

“Kazuya was never very good at being who everyone wanted him to be. A little too good at hiding his real feelings too.” Ryosuke said. “That press conference… It was everything bad for him. Forced to be a certain way, and yet showed his emotions too plainly.”

Kuramochi looked up again then.
Yes. That was it. That had been exactly what had been worrying, nagging at Kuramochi since he saw the live feed.
He nodded. “Yes. That’s… That’s what bothered me, too.”

Trust Ryosuke to pinpoint it and put it perfectly into words.

“I take it Eijun is still in the picture?” Ryosuke asked. “The fact that they’re ‘just friends’ was just the unconvincing lie that everyone thinks?”

Kuramochi felt himself go cold then.
Unconvincing?
Well, sure for those who know Miyuki it would be unconvincing but was Ryosuke saying… Everyone was unconvinced? Everyone would see through it?

If so… Didn’t that leave Miyuki in worse trouble than before he’d said anything? Was that why he was still being held back?

“… Ryosuke. When you say ‘unconvincing’, do you mean-“

“Anyone who knows Miyuki will know, of course.” Ryosuke clarified. “But. I’m sure those who had already made up their minds that Miyuki is gay, and therefore a smear on pro baseballs good name, equally will not have been convinced.”

Ryosuke paused. “The only people who will believe it, are the ones who want to. And they’re not the ones Miyuki needs to be worrying about, are they?”

“He’ll… He’ll be okay. Right? I mean.” Kuramochi shook his head. “I’m not saying his team is amazing, but they won’t let anything happen to him, will they?”

“Look out for him, Youichi.” Ryosuke said. “And don’t let him start hiding things from you. You know where that leads to.”

Kuramochi settled back into his seat, trying to shake off the ominous feeling that had come over him.

--

“Oi, Miyuki. What in the hell is that?”

While Kuramochi was enjoying his day with Ryosuke, Miyuki was a practice, as usual..

Miyuki looked up, a little surprised to hear a voice other than Chris’s or Mei’s aimed at him.
The rest of the team hadn’t been exactly… Hostile towards him but.
They hadn’t exactly been friendly either.

Barely passing the barest exchanges to him.
Miyuki understood it, they didn’t want to be associated with him, lest it reflect badly on them too.
Because heaven forbid they were seen to be even talking to the gay catcher, huh? Didn’t everyone know that just talking to someone gay was basically like saying you were gay too, right?

Miyuki didn’t quite get what his teammate was glaring at.
Not at first.

And then he caught sight of the little mark on his shoulder.
A small, bruise like shape.
Miyuki couldn’t quite help from chuckling.

He hadn’t realised that Eijun had taken to ‘marking’ him lately. Even if it was quite a cute, small attempt for now.

“I believe it’s called a love bite.” Miyuki said, with a smile as he pulled his fresh shirt on. “I’m surprised you don’t know.”

His teammate scowled in response. “Can the attitude, Miyuki. You think it’s okay to just be casually showing that off? Tell your fucking boyfriend to stop being so gross and obvious, it’ll only-“

He stopped short just as Miyuki got to him.
Not close enough to be actually touching him. But surely close enough to be way, way in his personal space.

Miyuki’s entire demeanour had changed in an instant. From his usual, off hand and laid-back way that everyone was used too.
Now he was tense. Wound tight like a spring. The tension seemed to spill from him into the very air around him.
Miyuki’s gaze met with his teammate.

And it was fierce, with a cold, hard kind of fury.

“O-oi! Back off!”

Miyuki matched the step back his teammate took.
“Gross?” Miyuki echoed. “You call it gross because my boyfriend gave me a love bite? Does it really offend you so much?”

“W- well- Yeah! No one wants to see-“

“If it was from a girl it would be no problem though?” Miyuki continued, still calmly.
“I mean- Obviously.”

“Why? Why does it threaten you so much that my boyfriend left a mark on my body? I’m not doing anything to you, neither is he. So what’s the problem?”
Miyuki tilted his head slightly, awaiting an answer.

His teammate scowled in response.

“The problem is- You’re meant to be hiding that stuff! Not flaunting it! Do you have any idea how much your name has been dragged through the mud? Never mind this team! You were one of the most praised newbies, you were right up there! And yeah, I was jealous, but now your name basically means nothing, and you act like you don’t even care! It pisses me off!”
He stepped forward, pushing past Miyuki as he went to leave the locker room.

“If your ‘boyfriend’ cared about you at all, he’d make sure there was no hints or reminders that Miyuki Kazuya is gay.”

Miyuki was shaking.
Filled with rage.
Indignation.
Shame.

Why was it always the same? Always the same these days? Why was it every time he felt like he’d taken a step forward, something else pushed him right back.

“Miyuki…”

Even Chris’s soothing voice couldn’t calm him now.
He left the locker room without another word, and barely even a glance up.

--

Kuramochi was late getting back that night. Miyuki had already had dinner and was busy tidying the kitchen when he returned.

“Ooh! He finally returns!” Miyuki teased. “I was just about to get that search party set up if you were much longer.”
He smiled as he went into the living room to greet Kuramochi.

It was easier to smile, pretend like nothing had bothered him that day. Pretend like there wasn’t still some prickly heat that made him frustrated and annoyed at the words thrown at him by his team.
Because Kuramochi was here, and they could talk about easier things.

Like the roasting he was sure Ryousuke had given Kuramochi now he was dating Haruichi.

“So?” Miyuki prodded, throwing the tea towel in his hand back into the kitchen before settling down on the couch next to Kuramochi. “Did Ryousuke ban you from ever seeing his brother again, or did he insist you make an honest man of him already?” He grinned, too obviously enjoying himself.

Kuramochi was slumped on the coach, looking drained and exhausted. He’d forgotten that while he enjoyed Ryousuke’s company, his conversation tactics kept you on your toes. Never sure when or if you were about to mess up and fall into a trap.

Weakly and without much conviction, Kuramochi smacked Miyuki’s arm. “Shut up.” He grumbled.

“It’s fine.” Kuramochi said. “It’s all good. He’s happy with me dating Haruichi. I think…” Kuramochi frowned slightly, thinking over their conversation. “I think he’s… Pleased?”

Miyuki smiled at that, genuinely. “I can see that.” He said. “You were always close with both of them. I expect Ryousuke thinks Haruichi is safe with you.”
Kuramochi said nothing to that, only blushed. He’d had a feeling that was the case too.

“Well. I made dinner, wasn’t sure what your plans were, but I can heat it back up for you.” Miyuki said, getting to his feet and heading back to the kitchen.

“Oh! Yes, that’d be good. Thanks.” After a pause, Kuramochi looked back to Miyuki’s retreating back. “Hey, how was your day? Practice okay?”

He thought he imagined it, but did Miyuki’s back stiffen? Did he pause?

“It was fine. Usual.” Miyuki replied, glancing back only briefly to offer a grin Kuramochi’s way.

Before Kuramochi could ask any further though, Miyuki had disappeared into the kitchen.
Unconvincing, Kuramochi thought, going back over what Ryousuke had said about Miyuki, about him hiding things.

Kuramochi decided not to push it, not too much yet.
But he’d definitely be keeping a closer eye on Miyuki.
Ryousuke was right, Miyuki could hide a lot if you let him. The key was not letting him get started in the first place.

Kuramochi just hoped he’d be able to spot it when things got bad.

Chapter Text

Sawamura was already under the covers when Miyuki came into the bedroom from brushing his teeth.
Miyuki smiled.

This still felt normal. This still felt like it had been before everything started.
He liked that. It gave him comfort that this, at least, hadn’t changed.

Nearly three months had already gone by since those pictures had gotten out. And still Miyuki wondered when everything else would go back to normal again.
But here, at least, no one could reach him here. No one could pry and demand explanation of him here.

Here he could just be as he always was.

Not someone pulled between who he was, and who everyone expected him to be.

Miyuki settled on the edge of the bed, before getting in under the covers.
Immediately, Sawamura scooted towards him, drawn to him like a magnet. Arms locked around him, squeezing him tightly.
Miyuki kissed at Sawamura’s forehead, nuzzling at him gently.

Then, using his hand to encourage Sawamura to look up, he kissed him, softly.
He could feel Sawamura smiling into the kiss, and couldn’t help smiling too.

Their kisses stayed light, brief, sweet. Even as they edged closer, legs slowly entwining together, pulling them closer. Miyuki kept his hand gently on Sawamura’s cheek, thumb tracing his jaw as they kissed.

Sawamura’s hands wandered a little. Creeping under Miyuki’s pyjama top, gasping softly into the kiss as his fingers traced over defined muscle.

And then the kisses changed.
Sawamura pressed closer, kissing deeper, parting his lips and dipping his tongue past Miyuki’s lips.
One hand reached into Miyuki’s hair, pulling him in, gripping just a little.

His other hand edged down into Miyuki’s pyjama pants, touching him lightly at first, then taking him more in hand.
Miyuki gasped, sharply, surprised.
“It’s been a little while…” Sawamura said, keeping his voice low.

“I- I brought new l-lubricant to try out, since we didn’t like the other one so much. I thought-“

Miyuki opened his eyes, looking at Sawamura.
Seeing his eyes so earnest.
Yet just a little dark with wanting.

He had to look away from that gaze as he pulled back from Sawamura, pushing his hand away.

“Not tonight.” Miyuki said, as casually as he could. “I have a game tomorrow and-“

“It’s okay!” Sawamura said, quickly. “Only the once, please, Miyuki? I promise I won’t tire you out. I just want-“

“No.” Miyuki said, firmly, cutting Sawamura off. “The coach is very clear about-“

“The coach?” Sawamura echoed, his voice coming off hollow.
Miyuki winced, sitting up to further distance himself. “Yeah. I mean… He says it to all the guys, not just me so-“

He dared a glance at Sawamura.
And saw the furious look on his face.

“No, he doesn’t.” Sawamura said. “He means something different when he says it to you.”

Miyuki sighed, rubbing his hand over his face. “Look, either way I can’t-“

“What’s it matter, anyway?” Sawamura said, also sitting up now. He huffed, impatiently. “It’s not like they’re going to let you play. Might as well just wear yourself out with me tonight because it won’t make a difference one way or another. They’ll hide you away in the dugout the whole game again, even though they promised they’d let you play if you did that bullshit press piece and lied to everyone and yourself so-“

He hadn’t meant to lose it.
But he couldn’t stand what Sawamura was saying.
Most of all because he knew it was true.

Before he knew it, he’d pinned Sawamura beneath him, staring down at him furiously.

“Shut your mouth.” His voice was low, but dangerous.
“You have no idea. No idea how damn hard I’m trying, no idea how difficult it is to be-“

“Yes I do!” Sawamura snapped back. “You think it’s easy for me? You think it’s easy for me to watch this happen to you, and feel powerless to stop it? You think it’s easy for me to be the reason this is happening to you?!”

Miyuki let out something like a growl of frustration. “I’ve told you this ISN’T your fault!”

“Then stop making me feel like it is!”
The words came from somewhere deep inside Sawamura, his eyes closed tight as tears started to fall from them.
“I can understand you pushing me away when we’re outside, when there’s people who can see. I don’t like it, but I can understand. But I can’t… Kazuya… Why won’t you even let me near you here? Where it’s just us? Are you really… That ashamed of me?”

Miyuki blinked, shocked, slowly, slowly backing off from Sawamura.
“What?”

“You haven’t…You’ve barely let me touch you since… Since you were told you couldn’t be seen with me. You won’t let me… You’ve shut me out completely.”

Miyuki shook his head. “No. No we still-“
It couldn’t be right.
There was no way that was right.
Was it?

“Do you know how many times we’ve had sex since your manager said you couldn’t be seen with me?” Sawamura demanded.
“I- “ Miyuki stammered.
He knew. He did know. But saying out loud was-

“Once!” Sawamura snapped. “It’s been nearly two months now since that and you’ve been inside me exactly ONCE.”

Miyuki felt himself grow hot, and he turned away.
He knew. He knew that. He knew it like he knew that even though he still wanted Sawamura, badly, some part of his brain wouldn’t let him… Even consider it.
But what Sawamura didn’t know was that it wasn’t just Suzuki’s orders that was holding him back.
Subconsciously, Miyuki’s gaze darted to his bag by the door.
Thinking of the letters inside.
The threats they contained.
And how he wanted to keep the contents of those as separate from Sawamura as he possibly could.

“And the rest of the time.” Sawamura continued. “We kiss, we snuggle… But that’s it. That’s IT! Only things that can be easily denied, shrugged off. I hate it, Miyuki! I hate they you seem to hate me touching you now! L-like you can’t even stand it!”

No.
No that wasn’t it at all.
Surely he knew that that wasn’t the reason?
Miyuki didn’t hate being touched by Sawamura.
He just.
Couldn’t risk-

Sawamura pushed Miyuki away, then sat up, getting up off the bed.
“Eijun?”
Sawamura dodged out of Miyuki’s reach. “I’m going to sleep on the couch.” Sawamura said, snagging the spare blanket as he went.

“Eijun. Wait. Please?”

Miyuki got up off the bed, but only in time for Sawamura to slam the door closed on him.
He knew he should follow.
He knew he should make this right, now.
But instead he just stared at the door.
So.
Not even here was his safe space anymore?

--

He couldn’t sleep. Of course he couldn’t, how could he?
Sawamura hadn’t even really tried though. Still sat up on the couch. Blanket beside him.
Staring at the floor.
Staring at nothing.
He’d yelled at Miyuki.
He’d lashed out at Miyuki even though he’d sworn to himself that he wouldn’t do anything to make things harder for him.
How was it that he was still making stupid mistakes like this? Why was he still so selfish? Shouldn’t he have learnt? Grown up more by now?

Of course he was frustrated. Of course he wanted to be intimate with Miyuki, wanted to have sex with him. Wanted to touch and be touched.
But that was no excuse.
He was sure Miyuki wanted that too but, Sawamura could only imagine all the emotional stuff that might be holding him back. Not to mention the stress? They’d had this before, hadn’t they? When this had all started, and Miyuki hadn’t been able to…
What if it was like that? And Sawamura was just being completely inconsiderate and making Miyuki feel worse about it. He should be supporting him! Making him feel better! Not worse!
“Eijun?”
Sawamura jolted, looking up.

Seeing Miyuki in the doorway.
And he looked.
So upset.
So worried.
Without thinking, Sawamura got to his feet, hurrying to Miyuki, wrapping himself around him. Burying his face into Miyuki’s chest.

“I’m sorry.” Sawamura said. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean… I shouldn’t be making things more difficult for you.”

He felt Miyuki jolt within his grip, then slowly, slowly relax.
Miyuki’s hands reached up, stroking at Sawamura’s hair.
“I’m sorry.” He said, gently. “I didn’t notice what I was doing, and I was inconsiderate to you.”

Miyuki pulled back, kissing at Sawamura’s forehead. “I’ll try to be more aware, from now on?”

Sawamura shook his head. “It’s- it’s okay just…”
He trailed off.

Then continued, quietly. “Please. Don’t shut me out?”

Miyuki didn’t answer, instead leaning in, kissing Sawamura, softly, then all at once deeply.
He gasped as Miyuki picked him up, something Miyuki hadn’t done in a long time, and then dropped him on the couch.

Sawamura yelped, quietly, moving to sit up, but Miyuki met him half way, kissing again.
“M- Miyuki, I-“ Another yelp of surprise as Miyuki tugged at Sawamura’s underwear, his hand slipping inside, touching him, clearly looking to get him hard.

Sawamura winced, looking away. “Miyuki… I know you want to apologise but. What about…? Your game tomorrow? What if-?”

“Forgive me for being selfish.” Miyuki said, his voice low. “I don’t intend to do anything to make the possibilities of me playing tomorrow any more remote than they already are.”

Miyuki’s hand pulled down Sawamura’s underwear now, while his other hand gently pushed at Sawamura’s shoulder, encouraging him to lay down.

“But no one ever said anything about you not being allowed to come. So, I don’t think this counts as breaking any rules.”
Another kiss.

And then Sawamura watched as Miyuki moved down his body. Slowly understanding his intentions.

He couldn’t help looking away, blushing darkly as Miyuki kissed at his hip.

And he cried out loudly in pleasure as he felt Miyuki taking his cock into his mouth. Quickly, Sawamura clasped his hands over his mouth, knowing they’d both be in trouble if Kuramochi found out what they were doing on the couch.

Miyuki’s mouth felt hot and good. He knew what his boyfriend liked like this, and he used this knowledge well. Tongue glancing, almost teasing. No teeth. It made Sawamura feel too vulnerable and uncomfortable, so Miyuki knew not to use them.

Sawamura reached his hand down, stroking at Miyuki’s hair, pulling him a little deeper.
Miyuki pulled off him once, completely, only to place his own fingers in his mouth, slick them up before lifting Sawamura up just slightly. Enough to slip his fingers inside.

Not fully penetrating, just enough. Like his fingers were lightly playing with Sawamura.

And then his mouth again. Taking Sawamura in as much and as deeply as he could.
Sawamura’s hand was over his eyes now, while the other gripped at Miyuki’s hair.

Damn he was loud. So noisy. But Sawamura couldn’t hold it back.
He came, and while he tried, begged Miyuki to be mindful of it, Miyuki didn’t listen, letting him come in his mouth.

Miyuki pulled off, and Sawamura went pink at the sight of come and saliva on Miyuki’s lip.

Covering his face again, Sawamura found himself feeling very, very much like his 17 year old self, when Miyuki had first given him oral and he’d felt just as embarrassed.

“I’ve told you not to let me do that! I get embarrassed c-coming in your mouth! What if you think I taste bad, huh? What if you-“
Silenced by a kiss to his cheek, and the sweet, comfy feeling of Miyuki settling down beside him, snuggling next to him.

“I don’t mind it.” Miyuki said. “Maybe I even like it.” He teased, kissing Sawamura’s cheek again.
Sawamura blushed pink.

But when he realised that Miyuki had, quite peacefully, fallen asleep beside him, Sawamura realised that really, he was grateful.

After the way the evening had started… He was most of all grateful to have Miyuki sleeping, comfortably and happily beside him.
Taking off Miyuki’s glasses for him, and setting them on the table, Sawamura shifted so he could snuggle closer. Fast falling asleep himself.

And yes.
Kuramochi gave them both hell in the morning.

--

“Hey! Miyuki!”

Miyuki stopped suddenly at the sound of a familiar voice.

They were on their way to the changing rooms for their upcoming game, and yes, despite everything Miyuki still hoped that somehow he might still get to play today.

Beside him, Chris stopped too, looking back to make sure that Miyuki was okay.
Miyuki wondered what Chris had been hearing about, because he’d become increasingly protective of Miyuki lately.

Miyuki waved Chris off when he caught sight of who was calling him. “It’s okay, it’s okay.” He said. “I’ll catch up in a minute.”

And then he made his way over to the two old Seidou students, first years while he’d been third, and now pro players in their own right.

Miyuki grinned widely as he came up to Seto Takuma (who had been the one to call out to him) and Okumura Koushu.

He’d heard they’d been scouted together for the same team. Not that he’d been surprised, he’d seen how these two worked together, there was no way anyone would be crazy enough to separate them. And no way they’d allow anyone to try.

“Long time no see!” Miyuki said, holding his arms out wide. “How have you both been? Taking to pro life well?”

“We saw your press conference.” Okumura said, bluntly, even as Seto was going to reply back with enthusiasm to match Miyuki’s.

Immediately, and if only briefly, Miyuki’s smile dropped.
Then he, carefully, put it back in place, though not quite as bright as before.
“Ah. That…” He said, quietly.

“Koushu…” Seto grumbled, nudging the other boy.

“Have you broken up with Sawamura? Did they force you? Is that why you said he’s just a friend?” Okumura pressed on.

Miyuki looked away, laughing, nervously. “I- ah-“
And yes, whether he realised it or not, he was looking around. Checking to see who might be watching, listening.

“This isn’t really… Something I can talk about… Here.”

“I was disappointed to hear you deny him like that.” Okumura continued. “But I knew something must be wrong for you to deny yourself. You were always very comfortable with yourself at Seidou.” Okumura paused, frowning. “So it was a shock to see you. Like that.”

And that was the first hint that Miyuki got that maybe Okumura wasn’t actually trying to give him a hard time. More like… He was upset, and trying to understand.

“Koushu.” Seto said, almost gently. “Miyuki said he can’t talk about this right now… Maybe we should-“

“I wish you could have been allowed to be open. Maybe you could have… Made a difference.” Okumura said, still ignoring Seto.

“You made a difference to… Some of us. At Seidou. You know? But I suppose that all of Japan is a little bigger stage.”
Miyuki jolted, looking up.

Looking at Okumura. Looking at Seto.
And. For the first time noticing.
Their hands were joined. Okumura’s hand tight on Seto’s.
He looked up at them both again.
It made sense. Hadn’t he wondered about them after all?

Okumura and Seto were together. A couple.
And likely they were still trying to make sure their relationship didn’t get out.
Likely they’d seen the pictures of Miyuki and Sawamura, and hoped that maybe, maybe they wouldn’t have to try so hard anymore.

And then Miyuki had done the press conference.
And set everything back.

“I’m sorry.” Miyuki said, quietly. “I didn’t… The situation was. Is. Difficult.”
Okumura nodded, silently.

“We get it. It’s okay.” Seto said. “We shouldn’t- we don’t mean to put more pressure on you.”

Miyuki shook his head, smiling once more. “It’s fine. It’s good to see you guys again. Oh! Are you playing my team today?”

Seto nodded.
“Watch out, Mei is really on a roll at the moment. Like someone lit a fire under his ass.” Miyuki said, with a grin.

“Are you catching for him?” Okumura asked.

Once again, Miyuki looked away. “Ah- well. That…”

“We’ll get the chance to play you some day soon, I’m sure.” Seto said. “I’m looking forward to it! I like that challenge.”
Miyuki nodded.

“Taku.” Okumura said, tugging on Seto’s hand. “We should go. They’ll wonder where we went.”

“Oh! Right.” Seto laughed. “Last time Koushu got lost, and I went to find him and-“

“TAku!” Okumura repeated, more pointedly.
“Right, right.”

They hurried off, and Miyuki watched.
Something… Tugged at him as he watched the couple drop each others hands as they got closer to their teammates.

They were hiding. Still hiding.
Miyuki couldn’t help but wonder how many others there were hiding.

Had he set them all back? By putting himself back in the closet, had he done the same to others as well?

He hadn’t thought about it before. But the idea rattled him. Leaving him distracted. Suddenly glad that he wasn’t expected to play today. He wasn’t sure he would have been able to focus properly if he had.

--

There were another two disturbing letters in with the rest of his fan mail the next day.
One spoke of keeping his guard up at games, as if he didn’t already know that.

He felt the animosity steadily growing with each passing game. From opposing teams, from fans.

Whispers about him. Stares and glares sent his way.
What the hell had been the point of doing that press conference if people were still acting like this?

And if he was getting these kinds of letters… Clearly. Clearly not enough people believed what he’d said anyway.

(Was it bad that a small part of Miyuki was glad for that? He knew that from the point of view of getting Suzuki to let him play, it was bad. But. A very small part of him was happy that people didn’t completely believe him.
It meant that he hadn’t totally betrayed himself, and Sawamura after all.)

The other letter though.
The other one he received.

At first Miyuki had genuinely thought that it was a regular fan letter.
Complimenting him, and saying that they were a new fan.
But it darkened quickly.
Bringing up the pictures of him and Sawamura. Saying how they were jealous.
How they’d be much better.

And proceeding in graphic detail what they wanted to do to Miyuki.
Very little of it made it sound like Miyuki had a choice in the matter.

Miyuki closed his eyes. Trying to rid himself of the ill feelings the letter had left him with.
While also slightly worried that the first one had barely bothered him.

Was he getting numb to it? Already?
He hoped not. The last thing he wanted was to become used to these threats. For them to seem ‘normal’.

Miyuki put it down to how disturbing the second had been, and decided not to think too long on it.
It never did any good to dwell on these letters.

Going into his bag, Miyuki unzipped the inner pocket and slipped the latest two letters inside.
He counted.

These two new ones made it five now.
He counted them, just to make sure none were missing. Because bigger than his fear of the content of these letters, was the idea of anyone, anyone seeing them.
Closing the zipper again, Miyuki replaced his bag and headed back outside to try and see if Narumiya was free yet.

Narumiya would help clear his head at least. Not like Narumiya let you focus on anything but him when you practised anyway.
Miyuki paused, looking back and making sure his locker was closed.

Though he could see that it was, he went back to it and physically checked.
Only when he was satisfied the lock was properly secure did he finally turn and head back outside.

--

Miyuki was with Narumiya, again for practise.

He was glad that he was still getting a chance to practise his catching. If one thing scared him as much, if not more than the threats he was getting, it was the idea of letting himself get rusty. For his catching to fall down or crumble.

That would be worse. Worse than anything.
If he lost that then…
Miyuki couldn’t let himself go down that path. He knew only darkness laid there.

So he was grateful to Narumiya. Because he knew that Narumiya understood that fear of Miyuki’s, saw it without Miyuki having to say a word. And while Narumiya could easily pass it off as himself being selfish and wanting Miyuki to catch for him, Miyuki knew he was also doing it for Miyuki’s sake too.

The coach was coming over to them. And both tried, really tried to ignore him.

They continued as they had been. Narumiya was trying to work on something, and though Miyuki was catching it fine, they agreed there was something about the pitch that bothered them. Was it the way it broke? Did it make it too easy to track? Something wasn’t right, and they wanted to work out the kinks.

Coach Matsuda stood a while, watching them.
Then, finally he spoke.

“Narumiya.”

Narumiya ignored him entirely, throwing again to Miyuki.
Miyuki paused before throwing the ball back again. Eyeing Matsuda warily, noticing how the Coach kept his eyes on Narumiya, ignoring Miyuki completely.

“Narumiya.” Matsuda repeated. “Aida has been asking to catch for you. He says he wants to get used to your pitches more.”
He paused. “He says you shake him off too much in games and he wants to know how to call for you.”

“If he doesn’t know how to call, maybe he shouldn’t be catching for me.” Narumiya replied, simply.

“He knows how to call a game, just not for you. Let him get used to your pitches. I promise it will be worthwhile.”

“Worthwhile.” Narumiya echoed, hollowly.
Then he turned, looking towards Matsuda finally. “You know what would really be ‘worthwhile’? If you’d let Kazuya back in the games. He knows me already! He knows my pitches already, I TRUST him to make good calls for me.”

Matsuda sighed. “Narumiya… You know I-“

“You know you’re screwing Kazuya up but not letting him play!” Narumiya snapped. “You have the best catcher in Japan on your team and you’re not using him!”

He was pointing at Miyuki now, his cheeks pink with anger.

And Miyuki was just… Trying not to get caught up in this.
He knew what the Coach’s answer would be.
He knew this was a useless conversation.
Until Suzuki changed his mind. This was all useless.

“Aida is also a good catcher-“ Matsuda tried to reason.

“Exactly!” Narumiya said. “’Good’ is not Kazuya! Let Kazuya catch for me and stop giving me a poor substitute who ought to be serving a few more seasons in the bullpen!!”

“Narumiya… Please…”

“I refuse! Tell me I can have Kazuya back in a game then I’ll consider letting that amateur catch for me at practice.”
Miyuki watched. Narumiya looking at their coach with obvious fury. Matsuda not looking at either pitcher or catcher in front of him.

“You know I can’t do that.” Matsuda said, finally, quietly.
He looked so lost. Torn.

Miyuki could almost. Almost feel sorry for him.
Almost. But not quite.

Narumiya turned away, facing Miyuki again. “Then I’m staying here with Kazuya.” He said.
A silence, a pause in conversation. In which Narumiya threw yet another pitch.

The force behind it as he caught it surprised even Miyuki.

“At least Chris then.” Matsuda said, finally. “At least go and practise with Chris. He’s our starting catcher, and you haven’t practised with him for weeks now.”

Narumiya paused. “You’ll stop asking me to go to-“

“We’ll work something out with Aida.” Matsuda said.
“Then what will you have Kazuya do?”

“I’ll figure something out for Miyuki, I just need you working with catchers who will actually be-“ Matsuda trailed off, knowing his next words could only lead him into trouble.
‘Catchers who will actually be playing.’

Narumiya closed his eyes.
And Miyuki knew how hard this was.
Loyalty told him to stay with Miyuki.
Duty to his team told him to practise with Chris.

“It’s okay.” Miyuki offered, trying to make his voice light, bright as he said it. “It’s about time Chris had a turn with you anyway. I’ll be alright the rest of practise.”

Narumiya looked at him.
And Miyuki knew that he saw right through him.
Knew Miyuki was putting on a front, making things easier for Narumiya.

He was angry about it, because Narumiya didn’t want Miyuki making things easy for him.
Not when things were anything but easy for Miyuki.

Finally though, Narumiya agreed, and went to find Chris.

Matsuda lingered after.
“I’m sorry Miyuki.” He said, eventually.

“It’s fine.”

“It’s not.” Matsuda insisted. “The worst part is… I agree with him.”

Miyuki said nothing.

“Aida isn’t ready to be on the line up. Even as Chris’s back up. He SHOULD still be on bullpen duty during games. He’s a newbie we took a chance on this year and no way is he on your level.”

Miyuki closed his eyes, feeling a headache coming on.
Didn’t Matsuda know this only made it worse? To be complimented on his baseball skills in this situation only acknowledged the unfair reason he was kept off the line up.

Matsuda turned, looking to Miyuki for the first time.
Not just today, but for a long time it seemed.

“It’s not where you should be… But. If I can at least get you in the bullpen for next game… How would that be for you?”

Miyuki looked up, surprised. “I- But… Are you sure?”

Matsuda nodded. “It’s not out on the field so… Suzuki should allow it. I hate keeping you on the bench, Miyuki. The bullpen isn’t where you’re meant to be either, but it’s better than the bench at least.”

Still shocked, Miyuki nodded, automatically. “Yes! Yes that’s fine!”

It wasn’t quite where he wanted to be. But it was a start. Finally. It was a start at least.