Light is still showing in the front windows of the Sakanoshita Shop. It looks empty, though, and the sign has been flipped to the "closed" side, so Takeda can't help feeling relief when the door yields to his touch. Ukai might, on occasion, leave the lights on all night but he would never leave the shop unlocked.
Sure enough, his voice comes from the back room: "Sorry, we're closed—oh," he breaks off as he appears and sees Takeda; and then, as his gaze falls to the bottle in Takeda's hand, "Ah!" He grins as their eyes meet this time. "In that case, we're definitely closed. Just give me a minute to finish up. Get the door, will you?"
Jangling as it leaves Ukai's hand, the key ring spins through the air. Takeda takes a deep breath, holds out his hand the way Ukai has shown him, and allows himself an easier breath when he feels the keys slap into the cup of his palm. Ukai's approving grin makes the heat rise to his face and Takeda turns quickly to lock the door. It's not as if he's completely uncoordinated: he'd only dropped the keys that first time because he hadn't expected them to come flying at him; and then the second time because he'd been thinking about the first and made himself nervous, thereby creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.
"Are you sure it's not too late for you?" Takeda asks as he turns back around, untucking the bottle from where he'd stashed it under his arm. He wasn't expected, after all, and Ukai might have early morning responsibilities, either with the farm or the team—or, more likely, both.
But Ukai's grin only widens as he counts out the register drawer. "It's never too late for saké."
Takeda can't help grinning back. He hadn't known Ukai could smile like that until the first time he'd brought a bottle over. That smile had been enough to make him want to bring a bottle every time—but there's a difference between purposeful persistence and self-indulgence. Tonight is special, though, or at least tomorrow will be. So he allowed himself to give in.
"Come on back." Done with the register, Ukai motions over his shoulder without looking as he starts towards the back room. It's comfortable enough there, with some chairs and a small table that's just as useful for strategy meetings as for an evening of drinks.
But, well—"It's a nice night," Takeda hears himself say. Ukai turns back, brow cocked. "I thought we could go outside. If you don't mind drinking straight from the bottle, that is..."
Ukai snorts. "Like I'd mind something like that. But isn't it cold out?"
Takeda raises the bottle. "That's what the saké is for!" He thinks there's something pleased in the grin Ukai returns, though whether it's more for the saké or for him, Takeda can't be sure.
Not that it really matters, of course, and he leaves that line of thought behind as Ukai continues towards the back. "All right, then. We can go out this way anyhow." He's slipping into his coat when Takeda catches up. Leaving it unbuttoned, he picks up a well-worn scarf that looks to be hand-knit. Takeda wonders who made it, how long it's been a treasured item... "What do you think?"
Recomposing himself, Takeda smiles. "Ah—better to have it and not need it than to want it and not have it."
With a grunt of agreement, Ukai drapes the scarf around the back of his neck, tossing one end over the opposite shoulder in a loose loop as he leads the way out.
It's mild for January, though still cold enough that their breaths are visible, each exhale thickening as it meets the night air. Not thick enough to obscure the stars, though.
"Where did you have in mind?" Ukai asks as he locks the door behind them.
"Oh." Takeda looks down from the sky. "I didn't have anywhere special in mind." Even as he's saying the words, he chastises himself for not thinking this all the way through. But if he had done that, they probably wouldn't have made it this far. Nothing for it but to push on, then. "I was just thinking we could share a drink under the stars..." It's a little too fanciful, maybe, and his mouth slides up on one side. "Unless that's too sentimental—"
"Not at all!" Ukai claps him on the shoulder. "That's what the night before a tournament is for. Sharing a moment you'll never forget. Sharing the hopes and dreams of everything that's about to come." Takeda didn't know Ukai had such words in him. He's distracted from thinking about it more by the grin Ukai flashes him then, so infectious that he can't help catching and returning it.
Ukai pockets his keys. "In that case, I know a good place." There's a path behind the shop, wide enough for two; they fall into step as they start up it. Takeda knew it was here but not where it leads. He's not going to find out tonight, though, because Ukai turns off it after a few minutes. There's no snow on the ground but the grass crunches underfoot as they climb a rise to the top of a small hill.
The ground is surely too cold to sit on but Ukai folds his legs as he lowers himself to it. The sharpness of Takeda's inhale as he sits beside him is involuntary but he already feels the chill yielding to his body temperature as Ukai turns to him.
Before Ukai can ask if he's all right, Takeda hands him the bottle. Ukai doesn't bother to peel back the label before unscrewing the cap, which he pockets. He lets out a complimentary sigh after the first sip, looks at the label, nods and takes a more generous swig before offering the bottle to Takeda. Their fingers graze against each other lightly during the hand-off, as they have on other occasions; as usual, Takeda thinks as he steals a glance, Ukai either doesn't notice or doesn't think anything of it.
Taking a sip himself and feeling warmer already, Takeda looks up at the stars again. He holds out the bottle without looking, feels another brush of their fingers, relinquishes the bottle as he feels it steady in Ukai's grip.
"You're looking forward to it this much, huh?"
Takeda looks down from the stars, brows raised as he turns to Ukai.
"The tournament." Ukai passes him the bottle again. "That's what's making you smile like this, right?"
Ah. Takeda hadn't realized he was smiling but now he can't help doing so even more. Accepting the bottle, he takes a sip and savors the warmth that spreads through him as he swallows. "I was just thinking that I have a very good feeling about it."
Another brush of fingers. "Yeah?"
Takeda nods, watching Ukai swallow before turning his own gaze up to the night sky. "It's the Spring Tournament. And Corvus is in the Spring sky; he's here now."
"Corvus, the crow constellation—our constellation." He points out the stars one by one, drawing invisible lines between them.
He's not sure if Ukai is following until he hears a breathy, "Oh~" Takeda looks at him but Ukai's gaze is still upturned. "The crow shining in the night sky, huh?" He looked down then and holds out the bottle, taking another sip himself when Takeda declines with a polite shake of his head.
Takeda's gaze lingers another moment before he looks up again at Corvus. "The crow was Apollo's sacred bird in Greek mythology. The story goes that he sent a crow to fetch him water, but instead the crow stopped to eat some figs. When he returned without the water, the crow told Apollo that a snake had prevented him from obtaining it. The god was not fooled, though, and flung the crow into the heavens along with the cup." Takeda points to Crater. "As further punishment, he placed the cup just out of reach, ensuring that the crow would be thirsty forever."
Ukai makes a noncommittal sound and Takeda has to agree: that myth doesn't fit this night. "There's another story, though," he hears himself say. He reaches out and takes the bottle, takes a deep sip. A deep breath of cool night air chases the warmth he's just swallowed, mixing not unpleasantly inside him.
"Once." He takes another sip, another breath. "Once there was a crow who soared high and higher, until he fell out of the sky one day. Whether he was injured in the fall or in shock from it or for some other reason, the crow did not take to the sky again immediately. Instead he went about on foot for a while. By the time he tried to take wing again, he had forgotten how to fly."
Beside him, Ukai shifts; Takeda feels the gaze touch him but keeps his own on the stars as he continues. "He would look up at the sky and he could remember flying—but not how to do it. So he wandered flightless for years. His feathers became tarnished and many of those who saw him thought the crow would never fly again. But the crow didn't give up looking at the sky.
"Then one day the crow met someone who pointed up and said, 'Do you want to go there?' The crow said yes. Suddenly he felt himself lifted up, a thrill of exhilaration as he was propelled skyward—but then he plummeted again. The crow was sure he was going to crash into the earth like he had before. But instead of the harsh ground he felt hands, cradling him and then pushing him up again. Again he fell, and again he was pushed up. And again, and again—
"And then, the crow spread his wings—and soared.
"He soared for days and he soared for nights. The higher he flew, the more light he gathered from the sun and the stars, until that light became his own. And so the crow shines in the night sky even now."
Takeda falls silent. Wordless throughout the storytelling, Ukai is silent too, and Takeda feels a heat, different from the saké, flush his face. He wishes he hadn't spoken so spontaneously and tries to think of something to say now...
"That's just like us," Ukai says.
Grateful, Takeda seizes on it. "Yes! See, there's Kageyama," he points to Delta Corvi, sketching between them as he points next to Gamma Corvi, "and Hinata." He keeps going, naming the stars for their players until he runs out of stars. "Well," he says, because there are Karasuno players still unnamed, "those are just the ones visible to the naked eye. There are stars in Corvus you need a telescope to see."
"So the whole team is there." Ukai lies back, hand curled loosely around the bottle to keep it from falling. "But I meant..."
When he doesn't continue, Takeda glances over to see if maybe he's passed out or something. But Ukai is gazing up fixedly at the constellation.
Another moment passes wordlessly, and another after that.
Looking too long already, waiting for words that won't come, Takeda turns his gaze to his own breath as it drifts and dissipates into the night. He looks up at the stars too, each one shining with its own light, shining all the brighter for those invisible connections between them—
"So then." There was no telltale inhale or any other warning that Ukai was going to speak; the sound of his sudden words sends a shiver through Takeda. "... Am I the someone?"
Takeda's heart is beating faster than normal. He must still be startled by the way the silence broke just now. "What?"
"In your story, am I the someone who kept bumping the team up into the sky until it took flight?"
"Yes." The deep breath Takeda takes comes easier this time. He smiles.
"But then..." There's a hard knit to Ukai's brow. "Then where are you, Ittetsu?"
Maybe it's the saké, maybe it's the night, maybe it's the way Ukai has just used his first name. Takeda's heartbeat quickens again but the rush this time is warm instead of cold. "Right here."
"No, but I mean in the stars—" Arm outstretched to them, Ukai looks down as he sits up, and Takeda kisses him.
At first he thinks he might have read the moment wrong after all, that Ukai really was just asking which stars in the constellation were for them; but then he feels Ukai breathe into him, his breath so much warmer than the ones Takeda has drawn on his own from the night. He breathes back, sharing the warmth; slips his tongue into the space between them, into Ukai's mouth, welcomes Ukai when he follows Takeda back to his own mouth.
"About time," Ukai says when they part. Takeda adjusts his glasses; Ukai reaches and takes them off. He's close enough that Takeda can still see him clearly. He grins, that grin Takeda has never been able to resist and doesn't even try to now. "About damn time," Ukai says, and kisses him again.