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Koushuu is sitting at his desk, one singular line penned down in his notebook, when Miyuki peers over his shoulder.

“You’ve been glaring at that blank page for twenty minutes now. What subject are you stuck on?”

Koushuu fights his instinct to pull the paper out of Miyuki’s sight because it’s pointless now - he’s already seen it. It’ll only seem more pathetic if Koushuu is trying to hide it.

That doesn’t mean he’s not extremely annoyed by the invasion of his space.

It’s Miyuki though. It’s par for the course with him. He’s always acting like he’s trying to help Koushuu. It’s gotten exponentially worse since Koushuu has started dating Sawamura-senpai.

Miyuki seems to think he’s some kind of relationship expert these days, which is utterly outrageous. Koushuu doesn’t even think Miyuki’s dated someone before.

He also acts like he’s an expert on Sawamura himself which is even more irritating. Koushuu knows how to handle his own boyfriend. Sort of.

“Oh,” Miyuki laughs lightly, seeing the three words Koushuu has written down at the top of his paper. “Oh, well then.”

Miyuki settles back against the edge of Koushuu’s desk, a smug little smirk playing on his lips.

“Sawamura’s birthday, huh?”

Koushuu’s eyebrow ticks at Miyuki’s presumptuous attitude. It’s not like Koushuu doesn’t have any ideas at all, despite the fact that he has nothing written down. The one singular idea Koushuu is considering with any seriousness definitely cannot be inked into existence.

They’ve only been dating for six weeks now, making it an awkward time for Sawamura’s birthday to come along. They’re still settling into whatever this new dynamic between them is all about.

Koushuu’s never been one to think about birthday presents with this much intensity before. If he knew someone well enough to want to give them a gift, then that meant Koushuu knew what they might like to receive. Honestly, there’s only a handful of people he’s that close to. And even in those cases, none of the gifts felt like they had this kind of …significance.  

For some reason this feels like a test. Like Koushuu will be graded, which is absurd, and he knows it. He knows Sawamura doesn’t care about receiving a present. Sawamura would be happy with a package of gum. He’d be over the moon if Koushuu wrote him a note that said “nice pitching today” with a little heart in the corner.

Sawamura is the kind of person that appreciates effort more than he appreciates outcomes. It sort of reminds Koushuu of their first kiss. Clumsy and awkward, he’d pressed Sawamura up against the shelves of the storage shed when they’d been the only two putting away equipment one evening. Koushuu knows it wasn’t a very good kiss, but Sawamura still talks about it like it was perfection. All Sawamura cares about is that Koushuu kissed him.

This is the same.

Koushuu just needs to do something. Anything. Sawamura will love it.

It’s the same.

Except it’s not.

Because Koushuu wants it to be just right. Koushuu wants to watch Sawamura’s face light up in satisfaction, wants him to grin at Koushuu like he wants to kiss him. He wants to see Sawamura happy purely because of something Koushuu has done.

Koushuu really doesn’t have time to be thinking about this. Not with his geometry homework piling up, with extra practice in the evenings, with meals still taking too long to finish.

He reminds himself of those facts when he’s up late at night contemplating the silly dilemma. Koushuu tries to convince himself to just get over it. Tells himself to give Sawamura the simple present he’s already purchased, the one that he knows Sawamura will like and just move on.

Then he’ll see Sawamura in the mornings. Cheerful, full of energy, yelling at the top of his lungs and cheering on all his teammates. He’ll squeeze Koushuu’s hand under the table at breakfast before he leaves the room. He’ll give Koushuu a sweaty hug at the end of practice before they both have to shower and rush off to class.

Sometimes he finds Koushuu during lunch, dragging him up to the rooftop. He’ll plop down next to him, resting his head on Koushuu’s thighs as he stares up at the clouds and tells Koushuu about his day. He’ll pester Koushuu with questions about his day, even though they’ve only been apart a few hours.

Koushuu can’t just give Sawamura new grip tape for his bat and act like that’s some kind of meaningful gift.

His blank paper mocks him, just as much as Miyuki’s dumb grin does. He doesn’t bother to answer Miyuki’s question because obviously it’s Sawamura’s birthday soon. The entire team knows it. Sawamura hasn’t shut up about the two days he’ll be the same age as Kuramochi-senpai for weeks now. He’s even got a countdown going, probably because Kuramochi’s jaw clenches a little tighter every time another day goes by.

Six days left, Sawamura announced at breakfast this morning.

Koushuu has six – five, really – days to figure this out.

And now Miyuki believes he’s going to help.

Even if Miyuki did have something helpful to say, which is doubtful, Koushuu doesn’t want to hear it. He wants to do this on his own. That way when Sawamura smiles at him, it’s for Koushuu alone because he’s earned it.

Koushuu may have some kind of deep-seated desire to earn Sawamura’s recognition. He’s come to realize that.

Unfortunately, not answering Miyuki doesn’t let him escape the conversation. “You want some ideas?” Miyuki offers.

Koushuu almost says yes. Not because he wants to listen to Miyuki’s stupid ideas but because he’s desperately curious to know what Miyuki thinks Sawamura might want. It could be hilarious because Miyuki is often horrible at social niceties. Or his input might be frustrating because sometimes Miyuki really does know how to read Sawamura better than anyone else.

“No thanks,” Koushuu says as politely as he can manage.

He’s tried hard over the past few weeks to not automatically assume Miyuki is being a dick all the time. In some tiny way, Miyuki is sort of responsible for the fact that Koushuu and Sawamura are together now. Koushuu is pretty certain that all of Miyuki’s teasing hints, veiled jokes, and slightly pointed comments about Sawamura’s interest in Koushuu were for one reason. He’d wanted to make sure Koushuu knew about Sawamura’s feelings in case he returned them.

Koushuu supposes that maybe, for once, Miyuki had done something nice on purpose.

So, Koushuu is doing his best to turn a new corner.

It’s hard though because Miyuki is mostly a dick.

“You sure?” Miyuki probes, his eyes glancing deliberately over Koushuu’s blank list once again. “C’mon, I know you know Sawamura better than that.”

“You wouldn’t get it,” Koushuu grumbles, compelled into responding. Miyuki has a way of poking at him until he gives in.

“Try me,” Miyuki challenges, eyes sparking behind his glasses. He looks way too happy.

“It’s not about giving him a present he’d like.” Koushuu taps his pencil against his notebook thoughtfully, already starting to ignore Miyuki. He needs to focus. He only has ten more minutes before he has to focus on finishing his assignments for the evening. Meanwhile Miyuki has somehow finished all of his homework for the next few weeks. His habit of front-loading all his work means that Koushuu now has several more reasons to dislike him.

Miyuki’s frowns at Koushuu’s cryptic response, the inner cogs of his brain spinning furiously, Koushuu is certain. He’s given him a mystery and Miyuki hates not having all the answers. “What do you mean?” Miyuki asks after a contemplative pause. “Gifts are always about giving someone something they’ll like.”

Koushuu waves a hand dismissively at Miyuki. “See, I told you that you wouldn’t understand.”

Miyuki only laughs at his rude reply. “You’ve gotten even worse now that you hang around Sawamura all the time. He’s a terrible influence on you.”

That might be true. Koushuu has come to realize that Miyuki loves the informal and casual way that Sawamura and Kuramochi treat him. He’s far more comfortable around that kind of behavior than anything else. Koushuu’s just doing Miyuki a favor by acting this way.

“I need to concentrate,” Koushuu says with finality, turning away from Miyuki.

Miyuki snorts humorously, pushing away from Koushuu’s desk to pull on his batting gloves. Since he doesn’t have homework, he can do that. Koushuu almost growls. “Well, since you’ve got it all figured out, I’ll just take off then,” Miyuki says slyly. He gives Koushuu a small wave, then shuts the door to their room.

Koushuu does have it all figured out.

Or he will.

There’s still six days.

----

Taku – as usual – is the only one who really gets it. He doesn’t even have to ask. He can tell that Koushuu is preoccupied and he’s smart enough to know why. They’re at the dinner table. Mostly everyone is gone except for the two of them and Asada. They’re all still trying to finish up dinner.

Maybe Taku gets it because he’s had a few girlfriends over the years. He understands the strange filter of importance that has somehow become layered over something small and silly.

“You wanna talk about it?” Taku offers because he’s a better friend than Koushuu deserves.

“No,” Koushuu answers mutinously, shoving another bite of rice into his mouth and chewing mechanically.

Asada looks back and forth between them. “Is this about Sawamura-senpai’s birthday?” He tests cautiously, obviously not a fan of the topic. Koushuu tries to imagine living with both Sawamura and Kuramochi. He doesn’t know how Asada manages it.

“Sort of,” Koushuu says.

It’s the truth. His problem isn’t actually about birthdays and gifts. It’s about the fact that Koushuu has no idea what he’s doing in a relationship.

The thing is… Koushuu does have an idea. He just doesn’t know how it will come across. He doesn’t know for sure if Sawamura wants the same things as Koushuu because he’s always so earnest and easygoing. Sawamura leads Koushuu plenty, his boundless optimism dragging Koushuu along wherever Sawamura wants to go.

That’s not the case in one single matter.

When it comes to physical affection, anything beyond small kisses and hugs and hand holding – Sawamura always waits for Koushuu’s signs.

Koushuu had never really expected that. He’d been prepared for Sawamura to be a charging bull.

Now Koushuu can’t stop thinking about timing and things he wants but hasn’t asked for.

He really can’t talk to Taku and Asada about it either. Even if he wanted to, which he doesn’t, there is no way he could bring himself to say it out loud. Especially not over dinner.

Asada looks at him with sympathy in his eyes. “Well, Sawamura-senpai seems very excited about his birthday. I don’t really think you can go wrong as long as you don’t forget about it. Which would be sort of impossible with all of his reminders.”

Koushuu knows Asada is right – he really can’t go wrong.

Maybe he’s just…nervous.

That’s not an emotion that Koushuu wrestles with very often. He’s the kind of guy that makes up his mind and remains resolute, no matter the situation. He’s not one to waffle around with decisions, debating the merits of both sides.

It’s petty, but it’s remembering Miyuki’s arrogant question of “You want some ideas?that helps Koushuu settle into a decision.

If Koushuu gives Sawamura something that Miyuki could give him, then he’s going about this all wrong.

----

Koushuu is in Room 5 a few days later helping Sawamura restitch his glove. They’re sitting together on the floor, leaning against the bed frame. Sawamura is a warm heat pressed into his side, his head close enough that his hair brushes softly along Koushuu’s cheek. He smells good – really distractingly good.

Koushuu is tempted to tilt his head to the side just the slightest and fit his lips against Sawamura’s. They hardly ever have time alone, and it leaves Koushuu a wanting mess sometimes.

There’s something compelling about Sawamura. He’s impossible to look away from. He’s always attracting Koushuu’s attention no matter what he’s doing. Even the things about Sawamura that should annoy him have turned endearing. He still annoys Koushuu on occasion, but it’s with a fond exasperation more than anything else.

There’s an energy to Sawamura, one that’s magnetizing. Everyone around him is attracted into his orbit. Everyone has experienced what it’s like for Sawamura to fall asleep on their shoulder on the bus or knows what it’s like for Sawamura to pay attention to them, sparkling, excited eyes totally fixated on them.

But only Koushuu gets to do more than that. Only Koushuu gets to enjoy the way Sawamura kisses, with delight and mischief and happiness. Only Koushuu gets to enjoy the way it feels to straddle Sawamura’s lap, the gentle way Sawamura will run his hands through Koushuu’s hair.

That’s for Koushuu and absolutely no one else.

When they’re alone, that is.

Kuramochi is in the room with them tonight, cursing at video game enemies and texting someone on the side.

Koushuu wonders if his own room is empty right now. Considers how weird it might be to drag Sawamura down the hall and up the stairs, simply so he can get his fill of Sawamura’s mouth on his.

Instead, he takes a steadying inhale and goes back to focusing on the glove in his hands. This is not a task that needs two people. But they pretend otherwise for the next fifteen minutes, Sawamura acts like he’s helping pull the leather strings taut, when it’s just an excuse to touch Koushuu’s palm, the back of his hand, his fingers. It’s unbelievable that his heart races from the way Sawamura smells and some wayward touches along his hands, of all things.

And that’s with the background noises of dying monsters from Kuramochi’s video game.

When they’re done, Sawamura doesn’t move right away. His arm sneaks across Koushuu’s shoulders in an abbreviated hug. If Koushuu turned just two inches to his right, he could bury his face in Sawamura’s neck and breathe in deep.

His desire to suck a mark into Sawamura’s neck must be showing on his face, because Sawamura’s expression intensifies, his eyes dropping down to Koushuu’s lips. “Wanna go get some drinks?”

In other words, go find a far-off vending machine with no one around and a bench to sit on. He’s about to agree when Kuramochi’s sock hits Sawamura in the back of the head. Kuramochi turns around, facing them for the first time. “I’ll take a drink too.”

Sawamura points an angry finger in Kuramochi’s direction. “I never offered to get one for you!”

“Well, go get one for me anyways,” Kuramochi demands, looking rather serious.

Sawamura huffs, standing up, then grabs Koushuu’s hand, starting to pull him up too. “Fine. We’ll be back in a little while.”

Kuramochi shoots a grin in Sawamura’s direction. “Actually, I could use another person to help me beat this level. Okumura, come help me out.”

It’s peculiar because Kuramochi-senpai never asks Koushuu to play his games, although occasionally Koushuu is forced into watching as a bystander when Sawamura gets roped into something.

Koushuu doesn’t necessarily hate that, because frequently Sawamura rests against the edge of the nearby bed, sandwiched between Koushuu’s legs and will rest his head on Koushuu’s knee.

This is different though. It’s made stranger by the impish look in Kuramochi’s eyes.

Sawamura directs a nasty glare at Kuramochi but, surprisingly, doesn’t argue. He drops Koushuu’s hand, throwing the sock still next to him back in Kuramochi’s face. He tries anyways. Kuramochi is anticipating the move and catches it perfectly. “You’re paying then!” Sawamura shouts before grabbing Kuramochi’s wallet off his desk. He winks at Koushuu before he leaves, like he’s leaving Koushuu behind to bond or something.

Koushuu looks over at Kuramochi, who tosses his game controller on the floor in front of him. “It’s Sawamura’s birthday in a few days,” Kuramochi points out bluntly.

Koushuu isn’t sure what to say in response to that. Ignoring Kuramochi the same way he does Miyuki doesn’t seem like the best idea. “Yeah,” Koushuu finally says. “I know.”

There’s no telling what Kuramochi is trying to get at, but his eyebrows raise at Koushuu’s matter of fact response. “You make any plans?” Kuramochi questions.

They’ve never really talked about Sawamura directly like this before.

When they have it’s been mostly baseball related, though once or twice Kuramochi’s come up to Koushuu during practice and subtly hinted that he thinks Sawamura needs attention. 

Kuramochi sees Sawamura more than most, so he knows when Sawamura is struggling and needs a listening ear.

Sawamura tends to wear his heart on his sleeve, so it’s not usually hard to know when something’s bothering him. But he’s not one to go around talking about his problems. He mostly tries to work through things by himself. Sawamura opens up well enough if asked, and Koushuu has no problem asking straightforward questions of his partner.

Kuramochi asking about Koushuu’s birthday plans for Sawamura is an outright question about their relationship and that’s new. He doesn't know what to make of it.

Koushuu considers his answer. He sort of has a plan for Sawamura’s birthday. He absolutely refuses to say it to Kuramochi-senpai though. He couldn’t even bring himself to tell Taku. “Yes,” Koushuu finally answers, deciding that vague is the best approach.

Amazingly, Kuramochi doesn’t look away when he next says, “You want the room?”

Koushuu stares at Kuramochi, in confusion and disbelief, not sure he’s understanding correctly. “What do you mean?”

“This room,” Kuramochi replies, rolling his eyes at being asked to clarify. “If you want, we can clear out for the night. You and Sawamura can have the room to yourselves.”

Koushuu continues staring, dumb-founded this time, at his senpai. He’d been a little frustrated that Kuramochi had stopped the two of them from leaving together a minute ago, but he can’t really be mad about that anymore.

Kuramochi clears his throat at the continued silence growing awkwardly between them. “Hey, maybe I misunderstood things. Not trying to put any pressure on you or anything. Just figured you might want some time alone to hang out. I didn’t mean anything was gonna—”

“Yes, leave,” Koushuu interrupts, then realizes how rude that sounds when Kuramochi is offering him the best opportunity ever. “I mean, that would be nice.” He doesn’t ask if Kuramochi is sure because Koushuu is worried he’ll change his mind if he does.

Kuramochi waves his hand in the air as if his offer is no big deal, then picks up his controller again. “Alright, then. Just don’t tell Sawamura until that day. I don’t wanna deal with his over-the-top lovey shit for two days.”

Koushuu still can’t quite believe the turn his evening has taken. “Thank you, Kuramochi-senpai,” he says, finally remembering his manners.

“Don’t mention it,” Kuramochi answers, turning back to his game and unpausing it. “Seriously, just. Don’t talk to me about it,” Kuramochi says with his high-pitched laugh. “The less details I hear the better.”

“Understood,” Koushuu says solemnly, just as Sawamura opens the door, several drinks in his arms.

Sawamura hands Koushuu his favorite soft drink with a sweet smile on his face. Then he tosses Kuramochi’s drink to him without warning. “Think fast,” he yells, laughing as Kuramochi yelps, scrambling to catch it.

If looks could kill, Sawamura would be a goner after that stunt. “Dammit, Sawamura – you don’t deserve me,” Kuramochi gripes, setting down his drink that’s too fizzy to open now. “What a rude underclassman you are.”

“I’m the one being nice,” Sawamura shouts while opening up his own drink. “What have you done for me lately?”

Koushuu elbows Sawamura in the ribs, giving him a stern look. If only he knew. Sawamura looks down at him in confusion. “What?” he says, bewildered at Koushuu’s jab. “Tell me I’m wrong.”

“Just drink your juice, Sawamura-senpai,” Koushuu murmurs. Sawamura simply shrugs and does as Koushuu says.

----

The night before Sawamura’s birthday, Koushuu is in his bunk listening to music, thinking.

Or trying to. That’s before Miyuki leans into his bunk when he comes in late that night. He looks like a dork with a purple headband keeping his fringe back - he’s probably just finished washing up. Miyuki stares at Koushuu until he pulls his earbuds out.

“So, what did you decide for tomorrow?” Miyuki asks.

There’s something about his tone of voice that sets Koushuu on edge. He’s been wondering if Kuramochi would say something to Miyuki. This makes it seem like he probably has.

“What’s tomorrow?” Koushuu says, because Miyuki deserves it for interrupting him. Koushuu doesn’t go around bothering his roommates when they have their headphones on. It’s the universal sign for ‘do not disturb’ in a dorm room.

Miyuki laughs. It’s what he always does, all the time, so it’s not a surprise. “You’re a riot,” he says to Koushuu, then has the gall to sit on the edge of his bed. It’s such an entirely gross breach of personal space that Koushuu is tempted to kick him.

It would be juvenile, but it would feel good.

Instead, Koushuu looks away. “Nothing special.”

Miyuki raises an eyebrow. “You’re lying.”

“Obviously,” Koushuu responds. “Congratulations on figuring it out.”

“You know, you can just say ‘I don’t want to talk about it,’” Miyuki tells him. “I’m just asking. You don’t have to tell me anything.”

That’s easy then. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

Miyuki laughs again, as if Koushuu has told a joke. “Ah, so it’s private then.” The way he says ‘private’ is definitely meant to be a euphemism.

Koushuu sits up, looking over Miyuki’s expression critically. “So Kuramochi-senpai did tell you.”

Miyuki shrugs. “I would have noticed you not being in the room for an entire evening, you know.”

That’s a valid point that Koushuu hadn’t really considered. He’s just been thinking about being alone with Sawamura, doing something kind for him, falling asleep together. He hasn’t thought at all about the fact that Miyuki and Kimura would wonder where he was at.

“Besides,” Miyuki continues, “where do you think Kuramochi’s gonna sleep? He’s gonna crash here. Of course, he had to tell me.”

Koushuu really hasn’t cared about any of those details. He’s been more focused on his own plans. He just assumed that Kuramochi had it all figured out. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have proposed the idea.

“Oh,” Koushuu says thoughtfully. “Don’t make it sound all…” he pauses, thinking over Miyuki’s wording and leering tone. “Lewd.”

That time Miyuki laughs so hard he clutches at his stomach. “God, I can’t think of another person old-fashioned enough besides Chris who might say the word lewd.”

Koushuu glares at Miyuki.

Miyuki wipes a tear from the corner of his eye. “Whatever, Okumura. Have your fun. You and Sawamura belong together, everyone can see that – no one cares what you guys get up to. I was just wondering what kind of present you got him.”

“A massage,” Koushuu replies, just to get Miyuki to leave him alone. He doesn’t even care anymore. “We have a game tomorrow, and his shoulder will be sore.”

Koushuu expects Miyuki to laugh at him again. Or maybe tease him, make some jokes.

None of that happens.

Something amazing happens instead.

Miyuki blushes. He opens his mouth to respond, then closes it again. The process repeats itself. Miyuki has been rendered speechless.

Koushuu is suddenly delighted with his decision to tell Miyuki about this idea.

“That’s…” Miyuki stutters. “That is private! Don’t tell me those kinds of things. That’s too much information. Way too much information.”

As funny as the situation is, Miyuki’s reaction makes Koushuu pause. “Is that too much? Is it too forward? I was just thinking it was a nice gesture.”

“Don’t ask me!” Miyuki answers, panicked at being consulted over this particular topic. “I don’t know. Especially when it comes to Sawamura. That guy interprets everything differently all the time. I have no idea what he’s going to think.”

Koushuu rests his chin in his hands. Miyuki seems hopeless when it comes to socializing and romance, so Koushuu shouldn’t worry about his interpretation too much. Maybe he should have asked Taku about this after all. “What about—”

He doesn’t get to finish his question. Miyuki stands up, hands held out. “No more questions about this. You do you, Okumura. You’re already dating Sawamura, you obviously know what you’re doing.”

That’s not true. Not even close.

Miyuki’s very finished with their conversation now, putting his back to Koushuu and getting ready for bed. Kimura’s been in his bunk for a while now, probably already asleep. He’s learned to sleep through nearly anything it seems like.

Koushuu puts his earbuds back in, staring at the wooden slats above him.

He has a plan. It’s a pretty good one, he thinks. Asada’s friendly words ring in his head. I don’t think you can go wrong.

He falls asleep without worrying about it.

----

They win their game the next day, the ultimate present for Sawamura. Absolutely nothing can top the way he probably feels right now, having pitched a great game during the innings he’d played closing out the game.

Now he’s flopped down in the grass as they wait for the next match to start. There’s a huge smile on his face; he’s radiating pure joy.

Koushuu always sits next to Sawamura after games but today he sits a little closer than he usually does. He can’t help it. He really wants to lie down next to Sawamura, right here in the grass. Soak up the rays of sunshine with the feeling of Sawamura’s arm around him and the damp grass below him.

It’s not always easy to watch Sawamura play when all Koushuu wants is to be the one out there catching for him. He’s always happy for Sawamura, always interested and rooting for the team, but Koushuu wants to claim his spot 60 feet and 6 inches away from Sawamura and hold his mitt out. To be across from Sawamura’s blazing eyes and mischievous grin and win together.

Some day.

For today, this is enough.

Koushuu scoots closer to Sawamura, then pitches his voice low. “Happy Birthday, senpai.” He’s already said it once. He just likes the way Sawamura looks at him when he says it. He gets what he wants when Sawamura’s head tilts to the side, eyes opening up, taking in the sight of Koushuu next to him. Sawamura is almost always happy, but the light in his eyes today is on another level.

Sawamura’s hand snakes through the grass to grab onto Koushuu’s fingers, squeezing, only for a second, before he pulls back. “Kuramochi-senpai told me about his present.”

Oh.

Kuramochi’s offer to vacate the room makes more sense now. A present.

“You sure?” Sawamura asks.

He can be oblivious sometimes with certain subjects, but not anymore when it comes to Koushuu.

Right before they’d started dating, Sawamura had started paying more attention to Koushuu. He’d noticed the way Sawamura’s eyes would follow him around, tucking away little details, staring at him from across a room until Koushuu would look over and catch his eye. Sawamura would just smile, enjoying being caught.

Now that they’re together, it’s different. Sawamura notices far more about Koushuu than he used to, spending time observing the little things that Koushuu does or doesn’t do.

He notices when Koushuu isn’t as sharp in the bullpen because he’s having a bad day. Sawamura has learned that Koushuu likes to talk about his problems, not ignore them. He’ll pull Koushuu into a corner, behind a building, anywhere slightly private and make him talk about his problem. His responses are always optimistic trite drivel but the hugs Sawamura gives him actually do make him feel better.

Sawamura always seems to know exactly what to do to cheer Koushuu up, always going out of his way to offer up sweet gestures that might make him smile. Sawamura takes dating seriously, and if there’s one thing Koushuu knows Sawamura cares about it, it’s making sure he doesn’t make Koushuu uncomfortable.

“Of course, I’m sure. It means we get to spend the whole evening together,” Koushuu answers with a frown. Does Sawamura really not get that Koushuu wants to spend time with him?

Sawamura flushes at Koushuu’s comment and he suddenly realizes how his words sound. “I didn’t mean it like that,” Koushuu hisses, making Sawamura laugh at his horrified expression.

“Uh-huh,” Sawamura says, grinning widely. “Sure, you didn’t.”

He’s just teasing Koushuu, but he still feels his cheeks grow warm.

“Shut up,” Koushuu says without any force.

“Alright,” Sawamura replies agreeably.

“I mean it,” Koushuu repeats, this time with a tiny bit of strength in his voice.

“Sure,” Sawamura answers, nudging his foot into Koushuu’s leg. “Whatever you say.”

“Stop flirting, birthday boy. You’re too loud,” Kanemaru gripes from behind them.

“Yes, sir!” Sawamura shouts, but he doesn’t move his leg at all, keeping the small point of connection between them.

----

Sawamura opens the door to his room, barefoot and smiling. “Hi,” he greets Koushuu, like they haven’t spent all day together.

He can’t help smiling back in the face of Sawamura’s heavy charm. “Hey,” Koushuu responds. He pulls the drawstring bag over his shoulder up, trying not to come off awkward or too eager. He steps into Sawamura’s room, taking his shoes off.

It’s still early in the evening, only an hour after dinner. A lot of their teammates are hanging out together, playing video games, eating snacks, reading magazines. Miyuki’s probably watching game footage with Nabe in the club room. And for the first time ever, Koushuu is in Sawamura’s bedroom – alone – with his boyfriend.

It’s almost surreal, leaving him unsure of how to proceed. Sawamura seems to feel no such hesitation, tugging on Koushuu’s hand so that he comes further into the room. “What’s in the bag?” Sawamura inquires curiously.

“Gifts,” Koushuu informs Sawamura, then laughs at the enthusiastic expression Sawamura gives him. “What, you thought I didn’t have any for you?”

Sawamura shakes his head, coming off almost demure. “I didn’t know what to expect.”

Koushuu is a little insulted. He’s spent weeks thinking about this. He shoves gently at Sawamura’s shoulder. “I thought you had a better opinion of me than that.”

Looking at him through half-lidded eyes, Sawamura’s gaze grows darker. “I have a very good opinion of you. Never worry about that.”

Sawamura is truly the biggest flirt with him these days. It’s especially pronounced when they’re alone. Sawamura loves to give praise, probably because he likes getting it for himself so much. He thinks it must be what everyone wants, so he heaps it on Koushuu all the time.

Koushuu swallows thickly at the way Sawamura is focused on him now. “Sawamura-senpai, can we sit in your bed?”

“Oh,” Sawamura breathes out, eyes widening. Koushuu’s surprised him, but he gets over it fast. “Yeah, c’mon.”

They sit cross legged facing each other. Koushuu’s imagined this, but the reality feels different. There’s a fluttering in his stomach. It’s not nerves though - it’s anticipation, satisfaction.

Koushuu pulls his bag into his lap, ready to open it, but Sawamura puts a hand on top of his, stalling his movements. “Wait, I never even got to—” Sawamura pauses when Koushuu looks up, suddenly recognizing how close together they are.

“Got to what?” Koushuu questions, licking his bottom lip. He knows what Sawamura’s thinking.

“To say hello,” Sawamura murmurs, leaning forward and bringing their mouths together. It’s a pleasant, soft kind of kiss. One where Sawamura’s lips move gently over his, tender movements that leave Koushuu aching. Aching in a good way, where his gut clenches because Sawamura’s every action is steeped in care and devotion. Koushuu can feel a nearly tangible sentiment behind it.

Sawamura sits back after a moment, his features relaxed and slightly playful. “Okay, you’re good now,” Sawamura says, waving his hand at the bag, indicating that Koushuu can keep going.

Instead, Koushuu wants to follow after Sawamura on all fours and kiss him more deeply, really show Sawamura how much he appreciates him. He doesn’t though. Koushuu has plans, but it’s hard to remember them when he’s in the warm comfort of Sawamura’s bed.

Koushuu takes a wrapped gift out of his bag, handing it over to Sawamura. Sawamura delights in ripping off the paper, eager to discover the surprise even when it’s obviously a book from the shape. It’s the newest volume of a manga Koushuu knows Sawamura’s been reading.

“You found it?” Sawamura says in disbelief, his hands running covetously over the spine of the book.

Koushuu shrugs, as if procuring it was easy. The truth is that he’d had to ask his mom to special order it and mail it to him a couple of weeks ago.

It looks like Sawamura might start reading the manga right then and there. “That’s not all,” Koushuu points out, putting his hand over the cover, blocking it from view to redirect Sawamura’s attention back to him.

Sawamura meets his gaze, eyes dancing with happiness. He leans forward and kisses Koushuu again, another chaste, lovely meeting of their lips. “Thank you,” Sawamura says against his mouth, before settling back into his own space again. His lips are a tad shiny from their kiss and Koushuu has a hard time looking away. “I’m really excited to read this one!”

Koushuu clears his throat. “The next present is…” he stops, thinking about how to bring up the idea. He hadn’t thought about this part. “I thought you might like—” He stops again, then thinks to pull out the tube of anti-inflammatory cream from his bag.

Sawamura looks at the cream, then at Koushuu, then back at the cream. Koushuu can’t seem to make his mouth work the way he wants to just yet despite Sawamura’s confusion. Sawamura smiles at him. “Sure, I can always use more of that stuff,” Sawamura says good-naturedly.

His response is proof that Sawamura would have been fine with a pack of gum. Koushuu exhales sharply, irritated with himself for not being straightforward the way he normally is. It’s a little harder than he expected. “I thought you might like a shoulder massage. Since you’re probably sore. That way you can properly relax tonight.”

Sawamura freezes, completely unmoving. It would be comical if Koushuu weren’t feeling like his skin is too tight for his own body.

“You want to give me a massage?” Sawamura repeats finally, his voice raspy and low instead of his normally loud, boisterous manner. “As a present. In my bed. Right now.”

Koushuu nods, unsure about Sawamura’s matter of fact statements. “Yeah. I mean. If you want it. I was trying to think of something…something only your boyfriend might do.”

Sawamura’s breath catches. His hand reaches out, finding Koushuu’s upper thigh and squeezing. He’s desperate for contact; Koushuu can see it in his eyes. “That’s the reason why? Really?”

“Yes. Do you want it?” Koushuu asks, his heart rate increasing as he comprehends that Sawamura really likes his idea. He can tell that Sawamura is eager and antsy already, moving too much in his seated position, burning with extra energy.

Sawamura’s face is a little red too. He looks away momentarily and Koushuu wonders if he’s overwhelmed Sawamura with his request. “I definitely want it,” Sawamura eventually confirms. “It’s just…you really surprised me, Koushuu.”

Koushuu looks down into his lap at the use of his first name. The first time Sawamura said his given name, Koushuu had pinched Sawamura’s forearm hard enough that he’d yelped. Koushuu remembers feeling like even the tips of his ears were burning bright that day. Sawamura had said it so casually, in front of everyone in the dining hall. Sawamura was lucky Koushuu hadn’t done worse.

Sawamura hasn’t said it again since, making Koushuu regret his reflexive embarrassed reaction that day.

“I can call you that, right?” Sawamura says quietly, leaning into Koushuu’s space. He brushes Koushuu’s bangs away, peeking at his face.

“Yeah,” Koushuu responds, his voice coming out almost like a growl. God, he really likes Sawamura. He closes his eyes momentarily, trying to recenter himself in the moment. He focuses back on the idea of making Sawamura’s birthday something special and his offer. “Take your shirt off, please.”

Sawamura almost chokes. “What?” He squeaks out, high-pitched.

“For the massage,” Koushuu clarifies weakly. “Remember?”

“Oh yeah,” Sawamura replies, almost breathless. “Alright.”

Koushuu moves away the slightest bit, putting his bag at the foot of Sawamura’s bunk. When he turns back around, the golden skin of Sawamura’s torso is in front of him. He’s seen Sawamura shirtless hundreds of times. Everyone has. Koushuu hadn’t thought seeing him like this would be a big deal, but he was wrong. This is not the same at all - this is intimate and cozy and vulnerable.

Koushuu hates to admit it, but Miyuki was right. This is private.

“Lie down,” Koushuu requests softly. He’s done a little research on the techniques for how to do this properly. However, all the videos he’d seen had been impartial. Professional and distanced.

The mood in the room is the exact opposite.

The sight of Sawamura, shirtless, eyes peeking at Koushuu from over his shoulder makes Koushuu warm inside and out. Koushuu moves until he’s on his knees next to Sawamura’s left side. He warms up a little bit of the cream in his hands, then hesitates – only briefly – before putting his hands on the skin of Sawamura’s back.

It takes Koushuu no less than thirty seconds to understand the situation he’s put himself in. And he’s grossly underprepared for it.

There are the firm muscles of Sawamura’s back, the pleasure of skin under his fingertips, the feeling of his scapula and rotator cuff and all the other miscellaneous bones he’d known the name of a few short seconds ago. The way Sawamura’s flesh gives a little under the steady pressure of Koushuu’s fingers, the way his hands glide easily over his shoulder with the aid of the cream.

There’s the press of Sawamura’s flank into his leg, the heat between them, the tension that thickens the air around him. There’s the sight of Sawamura reclined amidst his bedding, reminding Koushuu of the way he’s sometimes imagined Sawamura like this for a different reason.

Then there’s Sawamura’s reaction. At first his breathing grows ragged instead of relaxed. Choppy little pants as he presses his face into his pillow, his eyelids fluttering shut. Sawamura is practically vibrating with energy beneath him. He trembles under Koushuu’s simple touches and shifts closer, though there’s barely an inch to be gained.

That’s before the noises start.  

Sawamura is a verbal kind of guy. All of Seido knows that.

That is nothing compared to the tableau playing out right now in front of Koushuu.

At first, it’s little humming sounds of contentment. Those are a familiar – Sawamura makes sounds like that sometimes when they’re kissing, and they get a carried away. Then it turns into deeper groans when Sawamura starts to relax into the kneading motions and feel the effects of Koushuu’s efforts.

It’s a lot to take in. Koushuu finds that he’s a little breathless too. He doesn’t know if he wants to stop or keep going.

“Koushuu,” Sawamura moans lightly. Koushuu nearly shudders at the way his name sounds leaving Sawamura’s lips. “How the hell are you so good at this? Have you done this before?”

“I just watched a few videos,” Koushuu replies. He doesn’t sound like himself. “They were specifically for pitchers.”

“Hmmm, it’s a good present,” Sawamura tells him. “Too good, maybe.”

“How can a present be too good, senpai?” It’s a question Koushuu already has the answer to. The feeling of Sawamura’s skin will be imprinted on him for weeks now. He won’t be able to stop thinking about it.

“It’s too good when it makes you want more,” Sawamura says faintly, and Koushuu notices that Sawamura’s hands are clenched into fists around his pillow.

Koushuu pauses, making Sawamura object at the loss of sensation. “More?” Koushuu repeats because that’s all he wants. More, more, more.

Sawamura’s eyes open, glancing in Koushuu’s direction. “Hmm? Why’d you stop?”

“What’s wrong with wanting more?” Koushuu asks.

It’s what Koushuu always wonders when Sawamura pulls back before things get too heated. Sawamura will touch Koushuu plenty, he’ll deliver kisses day and night, he’ll hold his hand, give him hugs, but he always keeps everything at a surface level that leaves Koushuu constantly wanting the next thing. He never sees Sawamura lose his cool, not really. Sawamura doesn’t ever let either of them get that far along.

Sawamura pushes himself up on his elbows, looking at Koushuu through lowered lashes. Bare chested, broad shoulders, narrow waist, happy smile – he’s undeniably terribly attractive. Koushuu is sure Sawamura has no idea the picture he’s presenting for Koushuu. “Nothing’s wrong with that,” Sawamura responds, looking Koushuu over carefully. “Is that what you want?”

Koushuu isn’t totally sure what they’re talking about. Kisses or touching or something else. It doesn’t really matter though. The answer is the same for all of them. “Yes,” Koushuu answers firmly.

Sawamura laughs lightly, not looking away from Koushuu’s intense stare. “You’re really bold, huh, wolf boy?”

“Look who’s talking,” Koushuu says with a smirk.

“I’m not the one telling you to take your clothes off and lie down,” Sawamura taunts, winking at Koushuu.

“For a shoulder massage,” Koushuu emphasizes even though he knows Sawamura is just messing with him now.

“A good one too,” Sawamura says. “Thank you.”

Koushuu wonders if he’s blushing. He can’t tell but he’s still feeling far too warm.

“Hey, Koushuu.”

Koushuu can’t help smiling. “You’re really enjoying saying my given name now that I said it was fine, aren’t you?”

“Yeah. C’mere,” Sawamura requests, crooking a finger at Koushuu and turning onto his side. Koushuu doesn’t hesitate, lying down next to Sawamura, a few inches between them. The feeling of a thread stretched taut between them hasn’t faded. It’s pulling them closer and closer together with each passing day. It would be frightening if Koushuu cared about things like that. Instead he just feels victorious, like he’s winning an important game.

Koushuu puts his palm over Sawamura’s heart, something he’s seen Miyuki do before that irritates him. Miyuki’s never done it like this before. Bare hand to naked flesh, side by side in bed. Koushuu smirks wickedly when he thinks of Miyuki’s smug annoying face.

“God, what’s that look about?” Sawamura chuckles. “I’m a little scared.”

“No, you’re not,” Koushuu says. “You’re never scared, even when you should be.”

“Sure, I am,” Sawamura answers. “Seriously though – what’s up with that expression?”

Koushuu’s fingers sweep up, away from Sawamura’s pectoral, until he’s tracing Sawamura’s clavicle. He’s admired the peek of Sawamura’s collarbone from his unbuttoned jersey too many times. “Just thinking about the fact that nobody else gets to be with you like this.”

Sawamura smiles, reaching out to tug lightly on Koushuu’s bangs. “It’s always been kinda obvious you’re the jealous type,” Sawamura says, looking pleased with that fact. His hand follows the line of Koushuu’s cheekbone, the shell of his ear, the line of his jaw. It gives Koushuu goosebumps. Sawamura’s index finger tests the softness of Koushuu’s bottom lip. “Can I kiss you like this?”

Koushuu swallows at the request, his lips parting under Sawamura’s finger. His tongue pokes out wetting Sawamura’s fingertip. Sawamura’s visibly shivers at the provocation. “I’ve been waiting for it, senpai. You take too long.”

“You don’t have to wait on me, y’know,” Sawamura baits. “Maybe I’m waiting for you.”

Koushuu rolls his eyes. “You never wait for anyone.”

“I dunno, it’s kinda fun to see what you do when I wait,” Sawamura gleefully points out. “Look at that, you’re teaching me patience.”

On that goading note, Koushuu stretches forward, his teeth gently catching on Sawamura’s bottom lip. It’s a careful motion at first. He sucks on Sawamura’s lip pulling it into his own mouth, then tugs at the fullness of it with the edge of his teeth. Sawamura groans into his mouth, then shifts forward too, kissing Koushuu seriously this time.

The meeting of their mouths makes Koushuu lightheaded. Takes away his breath as Sawamura’s tongue sweeps into Koushuu’s mouth. It starts out simple, Sawamura truly exploring Koushuu’s mouth for the first time this evening. Sawamura’s tongue slides along his, trails along the edge of his teeth, tastes the corners of his mouth. It goes on for a long time, until their kissing becomes wet and messy and uncoordinated. Until they’re both meeting in the middle, eager for each other, for long, slow, deliberate kisses.

Koushuu really likes the way Sawamura kisses him. It makes affection curl through him, until he feels stupid with it. With the need to wrap himself around his senpai, find all the ways they can touch, all the points of connection and just hang on. Sawamura is like a ball of unstoppable energy – it’s impressive enough on its own but when that energy is focused on Koushuu and nothing else, he’s left wanting, longing, desperate for more.

Koushuu’s hand creeps up, away from Sawamura’s shoulder, resting over his throat. He can feel the tendons of his neck, the motion of Sawamura swallowing, the vibrations of the small sounds Sawamura makes when they kiss.

Kissing while lying down, in a totally private space, is vastly different from their stolen kisses elsewhere. There’s no threat of interruption either, no worry about being caught and no thoughts of stopping soon so that they can get back to whatever they were doing. Koushuu gets to enjoy it with no other thoughts for once. He can revel in the moment, absorb every sensation, bask in the feeling of being the center of Sawamura’s attention.

Sawamura’s arm eventually curves around Koushuu’s middle, his elbow resting on the curve of Koushuu’s waist. Sawamura’s fingers dangle against the small of his back, playing with the exposed skin where Koushuu’s shirt has ridden up a little. His skin prickles, tingling with sensitivity. It makes Koushuu move closer, closing the last of the distance between them, makes him moan shortly into Sawamura’s mouth.

Sawamura’s hand clenches into the fabric of Koushuu’s shirt when he hears the sound Koushuu makes. Sawamura breaks their kiss, panting against Koushuu’s cheek. “S’really good, huh? Kissing like this?”

“Yeah,” Koushuu manages, words shaky, his body quivering with need. He moves his hand away from Sawamura’s throat, following suit and wrapping his arm around Sawamura’s midriff too, fingers flirting with the skin he’d just rubbed down earlier. Koushuu is overwhelmed in the best way. Every nerve ending is too sensitive, every action feels monumental and important. “Yeah, it’s …I like knowing it’s just us right now.”

“Mmm,” Sawamura hums in agreement, brushing his lips against Koushuu’s again, delicately, their noses bumping sweetly. “I really like you, Koushuu,” Sawamura rasps out against his mouth. “A lot. I think about you all the time.”

“Senpai…” Koushuu huffs out, touched by the sentiment, his brain feeling hazy and foggy with desire and fondness and yearning.

Sawamura’s leg slides between his, a new kind of contact that makes his stomach clench with need. “Say my name,” Sawamura requests, pecking small kisses into the corners of his mouth. “C’mon, lemme hear it.”

For some reason, the invitation makes Koushuu’s heart race, his mouth going dry. “Sawamura-senpai.”

Sawamura shakes his head, his mouth moving over Koushuu’s once more, open-mouthed, inflaming, inciting kisses. Koushuu is already barely controlling himself, wanting to tip his hips into Sawamura’s because they’re that close. He could do it. He wants to. He needs more contact, wants more of Sawamura any way he can get it. That’s before Sawamura’s lips move away from Koushuu’s mouth, skating over the skin of his neck, sucking and tonguing at the flesh. It’s all short bursts of sensation because Sawamura is being careful not to leave a mark, never staying in one spot too long. Koushuu is a little mortified by the sound that leaves his throat. It’s practically a whimper.

“That’s not what I meant,” Sawamura puffs against his neck. “And you know it.”

The heat of Sawamura’s chest against him makes him reckless, Koushuu decides. “Eijun,” he whispers into the space between them. He says it because he remembers the way fire courses through his veins whenever Sawamura says Koushuu in that drawn out, too sentimental way he has about him. He wants Sawamura to feel like that too.

It must work because the arm around Koushuu’s torso tightens, until he finally gets to experience Sawamura losing his composure. Their position changes a little, just the slightest, where they’re not quite side by side anymore. Instead, it’s Sawamura leaning into him, pressing him into the mattress, and finally, God, finally, he feels Sawamura pressed hard against his hip. There’s a lot of fabric between them. Koushuu barely gets to experience the feeling at all, he realizes in disappointment. Koushuu reaches up, threading his fingers through Sawamura’s hair using his gentle grip to pull Sawamura’s mouth back to his.

Koushuu can only blame their unrestrained kissing for his instinctual action of arching up into Sawamura’s frame. His own erection presses into Sawamura’s lower belly, the friction absolutely nothing and absolutely everything. He’s boxed in, the presence of Sawamura over him everywhere, his arousal clouding his judgement even more. It’s beyond what Koushuu has imagined. This reality is far beyond the few fantasies he’s let himself indulge in. Fantasies where Sawamura sneaks into his bed in the middle of the night, where they grind against each other until Sawamura reaches down, past the waistband of his pants to—

Sawamura suddenly pulls away, not just from their kissing, but from Koushuu’s hold entirely, putting space between them as he lies next to Koushuu. His chest is rising and falling too fast, like he’s just run for an hour.

Sawamura runs a hand through his hair, exhaling harshly. When he looks over at Koushuu, he’s no doubt taking in Koushuu’s messy hair, kiss-swollen lips, and flushed face. Sawamura’s eyes are dark and intense.

“Oh my God,” Sawamura groans, turning towards him again like he can’t stay away, his fingers brushing at Koushuu’s hair. “You look…wow.” He licks his shiny lips. “Amazing.”

“Why’d you stop?” Koushuu asks, echoing Sawamura earlier. He turns onto his side, facing Sawamura fully.

Sawamura lets out a stained laugh. “I don’t want to rush things. I like you too much.”

Koushuu blows out a breath, making his best attempt at finding clarity through the aching and craving inside of him for more.

Sawamura is right.

It’s way too soon for anything like what Koushuu has been thinking. This is good, more than good, and he’s happy with it. He rolls until he’s tucked into Sawamura’s side, burying his flaming face into Sawamura’s bare chest. He struggles to slow his breathing, his heart rate, the pounding of blood in his veins. Sawamura holds onto him, doing the same, stroking his fingers through Koushuu’s hair in comfort.

“I have one last present. Sort of present,” Koushuu says after long minutes of mentally wrestling with the fact that he wants to push Sawamura onto his back and crawl over on top of him. And that he’s not going to do that today.

Sawamura laughs hard enough that Koushuu shakes in his arms a little bit. “Please tell me I can keep my clothes on for this one. I can’t take anymore.”

Koushuu sits up, trying to find some inner calm. He tosses Sawamura his shirt from where it’s gotten buried next to Koushuu’s bag. “You take your shirt off after you pitch almost every day.”

“In the bullpen,” Sawamura defends. “Not in my bed with my boyfriend. Cut me some slack.”

Koushuu snickers as he digs through his bag for his phone and his earbuds. Sawamura has his shirt back on when he curls back into his side. He could really get used to the feeling of lying next to Sawamura, his arm wrapped comfortingly around Koushuu. He offers up one side of his headphones. They’re close enough that it’s easy to share. “We can take turns. You know, picking songs. I realized I didn’t know what kind of music you like.”

Sawamura’s face brightens. He loves cutesy couple things like this, learning about each other and sharing things and being close and discovering someone.

Koushuu sort of likes it too.

It only takes three songs for the last of the tension in the room to fade away, for the two of them to enjoy being close again without wanting desperately to do something more. They spend an hour listening to music, complaining about each other’s taste mostly, as they realize they definitely do not appreciate the same things. It takes a while but eventually they find a genre they can both agree on.

After another thirty minutes, Sawamura’s eyes are closed. He’s probably exhausted after playing today and running around being excited about his birthday. Koushuu wishes they’d thought to turn the light off earlier.

One last birthday present then. Koushuu will make the great sacrifice of getting up to turn off the light.

Sawamura’s moved when he climbs back into his bunk, facing the wall now. Koushuu settles down behind him, pulling the blanket over them. Then he wraps his arms around Sawamura, tucking his face into the crook of Sawamura’s neck.

When Sawamura snuggles back into him, Koushuu realizes he’s not quite asleep yet. “I really like you too, Sawamura-senpai.”

Sawamura exhales deeply in contentment, completely relaxing into him. “I know.”

Koushuu considers pinching Sawamura for the cheeky way he says it. Instead, he responds, “Happy Birthday.” It’s the last time he can say it for a year, after all.

“I guess I’ll have to look up some kind of massage just for catchers now when it’s your birthday,” Sawamura mumbles. “Wonder what that’s like. Quads and hamstring massage? Is that a thing?”

Koushuu’s breath catches at the musings. He squeezes his arms threateningly around Sawamura for the joke. Maybe joke. There’s never any telling with Sawamura.

“Just go to sleep, senpai,” Koushuu orders, the firmness of his words betrayed by the way his hand won’t unclench from around Sawamura’s shirt. Without conscious thought, Koushuu has tangled their legs together. Sawamura couldn’t move away from Koushuu right now if he tried.

“Okay,” Sawamura agrees easily. Then he falls asleep so fast it’s like flipping a switch.

There’s only one thing Koushuu reflects on as he closes his eyes. Koushuu’s own birthday isn’t until February. Sawamura knows that. February is a full nine months from now. Sawamura had implied they’d still be together like it’s an obvious, a forgone conclusion.

Maybe it is.