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Light Up Sketchers

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Kazuya stands in front of Eijun’s dorm feeling like a whole idiot.

Really, he doesn’t even know why he’s here. Holding a stupid box with a stupid present and a stupid card and–

Maybe it’s fitting. Eijun is an idiot, after all. Kazuya doesn’t know why he’s freaking out. Like, what’s the worst that will happen? Eijun smiles too brightly? Is too pleased that Kazuya remembers his birthday and even got him something? It’s not like he’s going to look at Kazuya and suddenly, by some miracle, figure out Kazuya’s been in love with him. So, really, what’s the big deal?

Except that it’s all a big deal, to Kazuya. He’s not great with acknowledging his feelings, worse at processing them. To express them, even in a roundabout way, is practically uncharted territory for him. But this is Eijun. Kazuya can’t find it in himself not to do something for him.

He can practically hear Kuramochi laughing at him for this, and he hasn’t even knocked yet.

 

It’s all his fault that this happened anyways. When the team was out and about in the city, Kuramochi was the one who dragged them into the shoe store because he needed new shoes for school.

While he tried on shoes, the rest of the team wandered or just sat around. Eijun, of course, wandered. Haruichi beside him, he looked at anything even remotely interesting. Kazuya wasn’t walking with him or anything, but if he was consistently in the same aisle, that was no more than a coincidence.

After about ten minutes of wandering, Eijun gasped. His eyes were lit up like he struck gold, and he was staring in awe at… light-up Sketchers?

“So cool!” he shouted, picking them up.

“Eijun-kun, not so loud,” Haruichi chided softly.

“They light up!” Eijun continued, not minding his volume.

“You’re almost seventeen, Bakamura,” Kazuya drawled, “and you’re looking at shoes for little kids?”

“They light up,” Eijun repeated, turning to face him. He slapped the sneaker in his palm as if demonstrating.

“But they’re – they’re light-up Sketchers, for children.”

“But they light up,” Eijun said with a sense of finality. He turned away from Miyuki, sighed, and set them on the shelf. “I don’t need them, so I won’t waste my allowance on it.”

“Maybe you’ll get some for your birthday, Eijun-kun,” Haruichi offered in an attempt at comfort.

Birthday? Kazuya wondered. Come to think of it, Kazuya didn’t know when Eijun’s birthday was, but if Haruichi was saying that, it must have been soon.

 

After much too long, Kazuya gets the nerve to knock. His knuckles barely touch the door before it swings open.

Kuramochi looks far too amused. “You know, Miyuki, after the first three minutes of you staring at the door, I thought you were just going to leave!” He laughs, and it makes Kazuya want to punch him. But then, what else is new?

“If you saw me, why didn’t you open the door?” Kazuya doesn’t expect an answer to that because he already knows why.

“Bakamura isn’t here,” Kuramochi says, straight to the point. “He’s with Haruichi and Furuya. I’ll tell you where if you tell me what’s in the box.”

Kazuya rolls his eyes. “I’ll just leave it here, then. It doesn’t matter.”

“Oh, you and I both know that it matters.” Kuramochi crosses his arms and leans against the door frame, smug and knowing. “What’s in the box?”

 

Caring about Eijun’s birthday was embarrassing enough; standing at Kominato Haruichi’s dorm room door to ask what day Eijun’s birthday was, however, was in a league of its own.

Haruichi looked amused, but he didn’t say anything. It was refreshing, because if this were a year ago, and if Kazuya had to ask Ryousuke, he would’ve gotten an earful. Or at least a much smugger look.

“I was just – well, you said something about stupid Sawamura’s birthday earlier, and I was wondering if it was coming up or something,” Kazuya said. His pride was hard to swallow, but his embarrassment was the thing that would choke him.

“Oh, sure, Miyuki-san,” Haruichi replied with a knowing smile. “It’s on the fifteenth of May. Were you going to get him something?”

Kazuya didn’t answer. Haruichi smiled wider.

“I wish I could, but I don’t have enough weekly allowance to give him anything all that nice. I might just buy him something from the vending machine at school,” he said, cheeks flushed as he scratched the back of his head.

“You could give him a rock you found in the street and he’d still shit rainbows that you were thinking of him,” Kazuya pointed out. The biggest challenge yet was to keep the fondness from his voice.

Haruichi giggled. “You’re right about that. Still, he seemed really excited about those light-up sneakers. You know, he’s wanted them since he was little, but his parents never got it for him.”

“Okay?” Kazuya tried to sound disinterested. He was certain that Haruichi saw through him.

Haruichi hummed. “They thought he’d be stomping his feet to make them light up all the time. Which is probably true, but he still really wanted them.”

Kazuya snorted. “Yeah, that sounds like him.” He turned to leave, but Haruichi said one more thing.

“Oh, Miyuki-senpai. Eijun’s shoe size is a twenty-seven.”

 

“Just something,” Miyuki mumbles. “It’s none of your business.”

“You got him the shoes, didn’t you?”

“Shut up, tell me where he–”

Kuramochi laughs, his loud ugly laugh, doubled over as he shakes his head and wipes away a few stray tears. “You’re so, pathetically whipped for him, Kazuya.”

“Fucking– never mind.” Kazuya shoves the box at Kuramochi. “Make sure he gets it, okay? I don’t care.”

Kuramochi stops being an asshole for long enough to roll his eyes and take the box. “You know, he would’ve been perfectly happy if you just offered to do some extra practice with him.”

Kazuya knows that. He also knows he could’ve given Eijun a birthday high-five and he would’ve been over the moon. No one is more aware than Kazuya of how this is over the top, ridiculous, and borderline sappy of him.

He knows that.

“I really think you should be the one to give it to him. They’re all in little Kominato’s room, if you–”

“Later, Mochi.” Kazuya turns and heads back to his own dorm. He can’t. He’s too embarrassed, too stupidly emotional over it.

Eijun won’t even know that it’s because of his feelings, but it doesn’t matter. Kazuya will know. And he’ll know when he looks into that big, dumb, overjoyed smile, and he’ll know every time he sees Eijun skipping happily with his stupid shoes that light up, and…

Really, everyone but Eijun will know. And it’ll be like the first time Kazuya realized it, because everyone else realized it right along with him. They all looked at him with a sad smile, all, Poor Miyuki Kazuya, whipped for the sunshine southpaw, and he will get that look forever now.

And Eijun won’t even know.

 

Eijun sits with Haruichi and Furuya, on a video call with his friends in Nagano. They made a birthday cake in his honor, and he’s giggling that they held it up to the laptop for him to blow out the candles.

“I thought for sure he’d try,” Wakana sighs, laughing along with him. “You must be getting smarter, Ei-chan.”

“Wakana,” Eijun whines through his laughter. “Don’t be mean, obviously I know you can’t blow out candles through a webcam!”

“You tried to last year,” Haruichi points out, smiling cheekily.

“I was tired from practice, Harucchi!” Eijun protests. “It’s my birthday! You all can’t be mean to me today! It’s against the rules!”

“What rules?” Wakana asks. “We’re always extra mean to you on your birthday. It keeps you in line.”

“I can’t believe the bullying! If I wanted this treatment, I’d have stayed in my room with Kuramochi-senpai,” Eijun pouts.

“I bet Kuramochi-san would be nice to you today if nii-san asked him to,” Haruichi muses. “Maybe that’s too underhanded, though…”

Eijun opens his mouth to reply, when a soft snore comes from beside Haruichi. “Furuya-kun! How does he fall asleep like this all the time!”

Haruichi just shakes his head and smiles fondly. “We should let him rest.”

“Fine. I suppose if I’m getting bullied anyways, I can just go back to my dorm.” Eijun feigns a pout, then turns back to the laptop. “I’ll text you later, okay!”

His friends wave goodbye, and they end the call.

“Happy birthday, Eijun-kun,” Haruichi says for the hundredth time today.

Eijun hugs him tight. “Thank you, Harucchi! I had a lot of fun hanging out today. Thank you for the surprise with my friends back home and–!”

“Eijun-kun,” Haruichi laughs. “It’s nothing. I wish I could’ve done more for you.”

Eijun pulls back to look at him. “It was perfect. The best birthday ever!”

“If you say so.” Haruichi smiles. “You should get back.”

Eijun nods. “I know… thank you.”

He skips the whole way back to his dorm, heart alight with happiness. There’s a twinge of sadness, homesickness, but it’s okay. It’s not as bad as last year.

And not even Kuramochi can ruin Eijun’s mood now!

He opens the door and finds Kuramochi waiting for him, with a box – a present?? – sitting on his lap.

“This came for you,” he says plainly, handing it over.

Eijun takes it curiously. “It’s not from you?”

“No. I do have something for you, though.”

“Really?!”

“Yeah, you stupid brat. Go on and open that one first.”

“No, I wanna see what you got me!” Eijun sets the other gift aside. “If Kuramochi-senpai cared enough to get me a gift, it feels polite to open it first!”

Kuramochi huffs and reaches over to his desk. It’s a much smaller box with a little ribbon tied around it. “It’s really nothing special, so don’t make a big deal about it. Or else I’m throwing you out and locking the door on you.”

“You can’t do that!” Eijun shouts. “It’s my birthday!”

“Then don’t make a big deal about it!” Kuramochi repeats, reaching over to rub his knuckles on Eijun’s head.

“Fine, fine, let go of me.” Eijun glares at him before sitting down and undoing the ribbon.

Inside the box, there’s just a little pin, but it’s a baseball, and it has Eijun’s name on it. He tries to keep in his feelings, but tears well up before he can even think to stop them, and he hugs Kuramochi tight.

“Kuramochi-senpai! This is so nice! Thank you so much! I’ll put it on my backpack and–!”

“Bakamura, you’re making a big deal of it,” Kuramochi mutters, wrenching himself free. “You’re welcome. It’s nothing, really.”

“Who’s the other one from!” Eijun asks, picking the first gift back up.

“Read the card, stupid,” Kuramochi laughs.

Eijun tears open the envelope, narrowly missing tearing the card as well. It’s just a simple Hallmark card, with a cheesy pun and a happy birthday. No signature.

“They didn’t sign it!” He frowns and looks all over the box. “Kuramochi-senpai, you have to tell me who it’s from!”

“Open it.”

Eijun huffs but does as he’s told, eyes widening when he sees what’s inside. “Are these–?”

“I don’t know what they are because it’s not from me,” Kuramochi reminds him.

Eijun pulls the shoes out of the box and stamps one on his hand. It lights up, just like the one he saw in the store a few weeks ago. He doesn’t notice, but he’s full-on crying now.

He turns the box upside down, searches every corner trying to look for a sign of the sender, but finds none. Which is stupid, because this is the best birthday gift he’s ever gotten, and he can’t even say thank you!

“Kuramochi-senpai,” Eijun whines, “who left this for me??”

Kuramochi looks annoyed enough at the lack of identification on the package that he relents, and he gives Eijun the information he asks for.

 

Kazuya has bathed, and he’s nearly ready for sleep. It’s a bit early, but he hardly slept last night, so he doesn’t mind. Stupid nerves, eating him alive while he thinks about whether or not he should give Eijun the gift.

And good thing he didn’t! He saves himself some embarrassment and suffering this way, not having to see the pitying look of all his teammates while he pretends like it doesn’t matter even though it really, really does. Good riddance. Let the southpaw be excited for the anonymous gift and leave Kazuya’s feelings out of it.

Naturally, there was one thing he forgot: Kuramochi Youichi cannot keep a secret to save his life.

This thought, unfortunately, doesn’t strike Kazuya until his lights are all off and the night is silent, except for a shout coming closer to his door like the sirens on an emergency vehicle.

MIYUKI KAZUYAAAAAA!”

Kazuya holds his breath and contemplates acting like he’s not in his room. Maybe then, Eijun will go away, and take his problems away with him.

Eijun pounds on the door. “I know you’re in there, Miyuki Kazuya! Open the door!”

Kazuya feels small. He wonders just how much Kuramochi told Eijun.

“I’m trying to sleep!” he yells back finally.

“What are you, an old man?! It’s not even eight o’clock! Open up, you shitty senpai, or I’ll just break in myself!”

Kazuya curses under his breath and throws a pillow at the door. “You’re not smart enough to break in,” he mumbles, already standing up.

Eijun must hear him stand, because he doesn’t say anything more.

It takes five deep breaths for Kazuya to feel in control of his expression enough to open the door; when he does, he’s greeted with the sight of a sobbing Eijun. Holding those damn light-up shoes.

“You bought these for me,” Eijun says, looking up at him with those big, watery, puppy eyes, and Kazuya can’t look at him directly.

“I don’t know what you’re–”

“Kuramochi-senpai already sold you out,” he presses on, determined. “You should’ve given them to me in person, if you weren’t going to sign your name on the card, you shitty senpai! How was I supposed to thank you?!”

“Sawamura, I don’t see why this is such a big deal. It was nothing.”

“It was something,” Eijun argues, poking Kazuya in the chest with too much force. “You heard a conversation I had with Harucchi and decided to get me exactly what I wanted for my birthday, Miyuki Kazuya!”

“Stop using my full name,” Kazuya huffs.

“All you had to do was catch for me a little extra today,” Eijun says, just like Kuramochi did. As if Kazuya doesn’t already know that. “That would’ve been enough without being anything special.”

“I know.”

“Then, why?”

Kazuya didn’t notice how close Eijun got until just now, but the second year was looking up at him with those big eyes, all hopeful and still crying, because Eijun always cries, and–

“We’re friends,” he grits out, and it’s not really why, but it’s part of it. And it’s something he’s never told Eijun before.

Eijun nods and wipes furiously at his tears before launching himself at Kazuya in a bone-crushing hug. “Thank you,” he murmurs against Kazuya’s neck.

Kazuya stands there, arms raised awkwardly while Eijun squeezes the living hell out of him. This is why he didn’t give the gift in person. He knew that Eijun would get emotional, would hug him, would make him able to hear his heartbeat in his ears, would knock the air out of his lungs, would–

Eijun finally pulls away. He doesn’t look upset, so Kazuya figures that he understands that not pushing him away was Kazuya’s form of hugging him back.

“Is that all? Or are you going to keep me awake even more?” Kazuya asks, forcing himself to sound annoyed.

Eijun is completely unfazed and pushes his way into Kazuya’s room.

“You act like an old man, Miyuki Kazuya! Going to bed before the sun’s even down, cranky all the time.” He sits on Kazuya’s bed, all smiles despite the fact he’s sassing his senpai and his captain.

Kazuya huffs and slams the door. “I thought everything was already said.”

“For someone who calls me stupid all the time, you really are an idiot, Miyuki!”

“That’s no way to talk to your senpai, Bakamura.”

“But it’s how I talk to my friends, Miyuki,” The shit-eating grin was wide enough that Kazuya couldn’t even tell Eijun was crying just moments earlier.

“You’re really going to make me regret saying that, aren’t you?” Kazuya grumbles, flopping onto his bed as well.

“You don’t regret it,” Eijun says, the smug look in his eyes interrupting whatever thoughtful expression he’s trying to give. “But I think you’ll regret what you’re not saying.”

Kazuya narrows his eyes. There’s no way Eijun knows about that, is there? Unless Kuramochi told him, but– no, even Kuramochi wouldn’t stoop so low. Would he? Did he already? Oh, fuck, does Eijun know? Well, there’s no way that Kazuya can just come right out and say it, so–

“Miyuki, you look constipated,” Eijun laughs. “It’s just three words, isn’t it?”

I love you.

Oh, fuck. He knows. How does he know?

No going back now. Kazuya shuts his eyes, leans his head back against the wall, and mutters, “I love you.”

At the same moment that Eijun is saying, “Just happy birthday, Ei– what did you just say?”

Happy birthday, Eijun.

Three words. Three words that Kazuya hasn’t said today. And has been so caught up in his thoughts that he didn’t even think that Eijun would be referring to the obvious. Because of course Eijun doesn’t know!

Well, he didn’t. Until just now.

“I said, happy birthday, Bakamura,” Kazuya says, sitting back up while trying not to panic.

Eijun is eyeing his face carefully, and it’s unnerving to feel so analyzed by someone who usually looks like he’s having an aneurism if he thinks too hard about anything.

It’s painful, watching Eijun’s concentration turn to confusion, and then to realization. His eyes widen, only a little, and he blinks at Miyuki. His mouth is open, but only a little. Like he’s going to say something. Except, he doesn’t. He doesn’t say anything. Kazuya is pretty sure that this is what being rejected by Sawamura Eijun must feel like, until there’s a hand covering his own.

“Me too, Miyuki Kazuya.”

Kazuya looks down at their now-joined hands. He can’t help the look of bewilderment on his face. Eijun must not have heard him right.

“Bakamura, you know that I said that I love you, right?” he verifies. His frown intensifies the longer he looks at their hands.

Eijun huffs a laugh. “Well, I wasn’t saying happy birthday to you, now, was I?”

“Well, I don’t know,” Kazuya says, looking up at Eijun’s face again. “You’re kind of an idiot. I bet you said ‘happy birthday’ to a lot of people today after they said it to you.”

“Only once, and it was first thing in the morning, and–!” Eijun puffs up his cheeks in indignance. “I don’t know why I say anything to you, Miyuki Kazuya, because talking about feelings is impossible. I was trying to have a moment here, and you just ruined it by being– hrrgh!”

Kazuya raises an eyebrow. He doesn’t know what to make of that, but it doesn’t sound bad.

“I love you too,” Eijun tags on at the end, cheeks bright red. “So. Whatever. Yeah.”

Kazuya hums and leans against the wall again. They sit in silence, until he turns to Eijun and asks, “Do you want me to catch for you a little more?”

Eijun lights up like those stupid shoes. “Would you?”

“I guess. It is your birthday, after all.”

That’s all it takes for Eijun to hop off the bed, pulling Kazuya up by their joined hands. “Every toss tonight will be perfect! I can feel it!”

“I sincerely doubt that,” Kazuya says, but there’s no real bite to it.

“Can I call you Kazuya now?” Eijun asks, looking at Kazuya once again with those stupid, hopeful, big eyes.

“Not in front of the team,” Kazuya mumbles, because he might die if their suspicions are confirmed in such an embarrassing way.

“You can call me Eijun, you know! I don’t even care if it’s in front of the team! Oh, and you’d better take me on a real date, Miyuki Kazuya, because even though I know you say baseball makes you too busy for dating when you’re rejecting girls, I have the same schedule as you which means that I know when you’re free because it’s when I’m free!”

Kazuya laughs and rolls his eyes. “Any other demands, your highness?”

“Yes!” Eijun stops and turns to face him. “I want a birthday kiss.”

Kazuya looks him over, considering, and pointedly ignoring the way his own face heats up. He’s never kissed anyone, because it was never important.

“Okay,” he decides, “but only once you’ve given me five perfect pitches in a row.”

“I’ll give you fifty perfect pitches in a row!” Eijun declares, running for the baseball diamond like it’s his life on the line. Kazuya follows behind, smiling fondly. It doesn’t matter; no one’s around to see it, anyways.

Maybe confessing to Eijun wasn’t the worst thing in the world. And maybe those shoes weren’t a terrible idea.

“Miyuki Kazuya! You walk too slow!” Eijun yells, hands on his hips while he waits impatient.

Pitchers… so demanding and self-centered. Kazuya sighs and shakes his head. He doesn’t walk any faster.

“We’re only staying out here for thirty minutes, understood?” Kazuya says, because confessions aside, he still has to take care of his pitcher and make sure Eijun doesn’t overwork himself like an idiot.

“Fine,” Eijun sighs, heading for the mound. “I’ll make it the best thirty-minute practice we’ve ever had!”

“Yeah, I’m sure,” Kazuya laughs.

 

Eijun throws five perfect pitches, not in a row.

Kazuya decides that he’ll be merciful today, and he kisses him anyways. And it’s awkward, and Kazuya’s glasses get crushed into his nose. But it’s nice.

And Kazuya most certainly will not thank Kuramochi for the fact that this is happening.