What surprises Koushuu the first time that his senpai falls asleep in his presence is not the fact itself. No. Koushuu is aware that Sawamura Eijun, despite always being overflowing energy on the field, in the practice and, well, practically everywhere, he has the habit of falling asleep when he is exhausted or bored. It isn’t an extreme case like Furuya’s, who can sleep anytime anywhere, but its incidence is frequent enough to have archived some apology letters (for sleeping on places that he shouldn’t) inside of a yellow folder on the coach’s office. Besides this strange peculiarity from his senpai, Sawamura hasn’t slept well last night and is pitching against Norikami was explosive. Surely his pitching drained any energy that his senpai had packed inside him to compensate his poor sleep night. Anyway, what surprises Koushuu the first time that his senpai falls asleep in his presence is how tight he holds his leg.
Koushuu sits on Sawamura’s left side, just a little bit behind him even when his senpai doesn’t like it, simply because he can. But, internally, he is waiting to talk with him as they did after their first tournament match. However, this can’t be because of his ace accumulated tiredness. Kanemaru tries to wake him up, but the captain impedes it, and the team obeys him. They just sit on the grass and watch the game.
Koushuu thinks that it would finish there, however, when Koushuu adjusts his posture due to the tingling in his legs after being several entries on the bullpen in the same position, Sawamura turns around to hold his right leg like a teddy bear.
Koushuu tries to break the grip, but it only makes that the ace wraps his arms tighter around his knee. Koushuu is tempted to wake his senpai up just to make him stop that embarrassing scene. Koushuu is also tempted to stand up, waking his senpai up very abruptly, and simply run to the dormitory while he tries not to think about the expression on Sawamura-senpai’s face and how warm his grip is. Even when Koushuu wants to do it, he stays in his place. He allows his senpai to hold his leg.
Koushuu inclines his body in a very weird position, which is bad for his back, just to cover Sawamura from the sunlight. It’s not that Koushuu doesn’t like his senpai’s golden skin, but he prefers that he hasn’t a sunburn that wasn’t given by playing on the field.
Koushuu stays in that position for a few minutes, acting casually, like there is nothing wrong, and trying to, although failing, analyze the Sousei’s game that is elapsing in front of him. The glares, whispers, and little giggles that his teammates give him make Koushuu’s ear tips turn red, but he keeps his stoic face and pretends he is fine, just a little bit heated for the middle day sun.
When Taku catches his look. He raises his left eyebrow with curiosity but Koushuu simply ignores his friend. That doesn’t mean anything. Koushuu just allowed his senpai to sleep because his performance on the field was phenomenal. Yes, it was not perfect; he was nervous and waste energy when he shouldn’t do it, but they won. The result was everything. He proved, once again, why he is their ace. He deserves to rest. That is all.
“Two outs…” Sawamura murmurs in his dreams and turns his body to the right, letting Koushuu’s leg being free. He is in the same position as in the beginning. His extended extremities make him look like a starfish. Koushuu laughs internally. Even in his dreams, Sawamura plays baseball.
The freedom of movement leaves Koushu confused. Although his back is grateful that he doesn’t need to act like a beach umbrella, he feels cold.
Before he could notice it, the game is over. All the team is standing up and starting walking to get on the bus. Koushuu asks himself how to wake up his senpai. Would he wake up? Maybe he would need to carry him… Koushuu’s thoughts are interrupted by Kuramochi’s laugh, who stands next to Sawamura, projecting his shadow over them.
“Kyahaha! Time to wake up, Bakamura .” Kuramochi says, kicking his roommate’s thigh. This movement leaves dirt on his white pants. Sawamura removes while leaving the dream’s land and incorporates into the real world. “If ya don’t wake up right now, we’ll leave you here!
Kuromochi kicks their ace one more time before starting walking where his captain is waiting for him. Koushuu looks at Miyuki and he perceives an evil gaze. His captain waves his eyebrows as he is laughing at him. Koushuu’s instincts actives in face of this, but before anything can happen, Sawamura jumps completely awake. He takes his backpack and runs after his roommate while shouting about how painful was his kick.
Apparently, Sawamura doesn’t remember holding Koushuu’s thigh minutes before. Koushuu frowns and stands up slowly. Yui stares at him, but he ignores his teammate and keeps walking. If Sawamura can act as nothing happened, he can do it too. It only was a unique event. It’s not like his senpai would sleep next to him in the future. Koushuu is sure that it won’t happen again.
It happens again.
The second time that Sawamura falls asleep is on the train after they watched the Inajitsu versus Seiko, and Ichidan versus Sensen games.
The available seats on the train are disposed of in a way that one of the baseball players will sit alone since on the right line there are only two available seats and one on the left line. Koushuu waits for his senpais election. He would take sit in any of them.
Nabe, the reliable senpai who accepted them to join him to watch the game and to recollect data, sits on the left seat. Therefore, Koushuu sits next to Sawamura. He’s nervous and he doesn’t know why. It’s not that he hates that position; actually, he likes this formation but that would mean that they would be really close…
He’s not wrong. Sawamura talks about the games while his left thigh and arm touch against his. Sawamura’s warmth is palpable and Koushuu would be grateful to be next to this human heather in winter, but it’s not very refreshing on that hot summer day. Despite this, Koushuu doesn’t move and stays in his seat, listening attentively to everything that his senpai says. He nods in agreement and commentates when it’s necessary. He likes the idea about buy ice cream and popsicles before going back to the practice.
After two stations, Sawamura’s energy decreases dramatically, and he lets his head rest on Koushuu’s shoulder. Koushuu tenses but he doesn’t move. He stays immobile due to his senpai’s actions.
Koushuu went to watch that games to know what he could do as a catcher, and what he can do now is support Sawamura and the other team’s pitchers. He needs to keep them calm and in a good shape in the bullpen and on the practice. In that way, they would feel confident and prepared for the upcoming challenges.
Twenty minutes pass them by in a flash, they are on the point of arriving at their station, so Koushuu gently shakes his senpai’s rough hand. The pitcher sits up, grumbling, and looks at Koushuu.
His breath gets stuck in his lungs because of the soft gaze his senpai is giving him. Sawamura’s brown hair is flattened in the side where his head has been resting, his cheeks are red and a string of saliva travels from his lips commissure to his chin. Koushuu could find that look unprofessional and disgusting, but he doesn’t, instead of that, his heart starts to beat with an unknown emotion.
Koushuu clears his throat.
“Sawamura-senpai, our stop is a minute away.” Koushuu says.
Sawamura sits up, more awake, and rubs his eyes. Nabe is already waiting in front of the train’s door. Koushuu waits for his senpai to fix his hair and clean his cheek before starts walking. Both stand up when the speaker indicates that the doors are about to close. Sawamura’s eyes open comically in panic. He takes Koushuu wrist before starting to run. Koushuu’s backpack hits a man in a suit, who tells them a bad word, but they get out just in time. The door closes behind them. Both sigh in relief.
Nabe-senpai tells them to hurry up. Sawamura lets his wrist go and Koushuu doesn’t think about the warm mark that his senpai left on his skin.
He definitely doesn’t think about it.
They are the winners. They’ve done it. They’ll go to Koshien. Seido is the winner of the west of Tokyo.
Seido’s hymn sounds strongly in Koushuu’s ears; some teammates are singing it at the top of their lungs. Some are laughing. Some more are crying. The movement inside the bus is like a whirlwind. Everybody is walking side to side, hugging each other, distributing tissues, and celebrating the most remarkable game’s plays. Happiness is contagious, that’s the reason why coaches don’t reprehend them.
Koushuu is exhausted. Now that the adrenaline has rushed out of his body, his extremities feel like jelly. Koushuu doesn’t sing, but his frown is relaxed and his heart happy. They’ll go to Koshien and will be able to prove their ability with the best teams. Koushuu is excited about the idea of being able to catch Sawamura‘s pitches in that scenario.
“Wolf-boy!” his senpai exclaims sitting down in the free seat next to Koushuu. Taku has gone with the other first-years to celebrate. “We won! We won!”
Sawamura pounces on him and Koushuu freezes in his place. Sawamura hugged him when the game was over. Then, all the team has hugged him. More hugs from his bleacher’s teammates, from his graduated senpais, his coaches… He even let his captain pat him on the back. Koushuu thinks that he has exceeded his hug-limits but for Sawamura, he could make an exception.
When Sawamura moves back to his seat, Koushuu sees that his face is covered with tears.
“Come now. Here, don’t cry…” Koushuu says slightly annoyed, extending a pack of tissues.
Sawamura takes them and blows his nose loudly. Koushuu looks at him tenderly. However, when is about to congratulate his pitcher for his great performance, Kominato appears.
“Eijun-kun!” the pink-haired exclaims and Eijun pushes Koushuu to leave a free space for the second base.
Koushuu listens to their exchange mindfully and tries not to think about how close Sawamura is. After some minutes more between sings, laughs and weeping, the atmosphere is calmer and more relaxed. Koushuu feels relaxed too. However, not as his senpai, who is already sleeping. His head is resting on Koushuu’s shoulder, again.
Koushuu wakes up from his stupor and carefully adjusts his senpai head in a way that he won’t have a neckache when he wakes up. Kominato stands up with a graceful movement, leaving his space free. Koushuu nods with gratitude and his senpai just gives him a smile that can only be described as diabolical. The second base goes back to his seat, leaving them alone.
His senpai performance was phenomenal. Furuya’s too. Inajitsu scored just one point and they three. The game was really grueling. Koushuu must admit that was a moment back then when he believed that they wouldn’t make it, but Sawamura Eijun, their ace, clear that storm clouds in their minds and hearts and lead the team. Koushuu is very proud of him.
He doesn’t know the complete story between Seido and Inajitsu, but, with this victory, they can have a new beginning.
Koushuu looks at Sawamura, who is sound asleep, and smiles. “I’m very proud of you, Eijun…” Koushuu murmurs in his brown hair. “-senpai.” He finishes. That felt weird but not bad. His ear tips turn red because of the embarrassment, but his chest feels warm.
Koushuu doesn’t think about this more. He just gets carried away and, even when he’s not sleepy, closes his eyes.
This summer is really hot.
Clothes adhere to his skin in a very uncomfortable way due to the sweat that emerges from his body even when he hasn’t trained properly. His mouth feels dry despite he drunk half of the water in his bottle before starting to bat.
Koushuu sighs and dries his sweat up with a towel. Despite when he doesn’t want to be exposed directly to the midday Sun, it’s one of the few opportunities that he has to practice his batting. He would prefer to do it at night, as some of his teammates do it, but he will be playing as the main catcher in the next day’s game, so he needs to go to bed earlier.
That will be the first time that Koushuu will be opening a game for the first time. The first time that he will be catching Sawamura-senpai’s pitching in an official tournament. He must be in good shape if he doesn’t want to be replaced by Ono-senpai, Yui, or worst, the captain. Koushuu can’t allow that. Perhaps he couldn’t take Miyuki’s position, but he wouldn’t give his position back now that the coach has given him a chance.
Koushuu stops batting and walks to the stone bench where he left his bottle. The blonde drinks water like he was in the middle of a desert. Koushuu closes his eyes and stays under the cherry blossoms’ shadow a little bit more.
“Wolf-boy!” exclaims a known voice.
Koushuu turns around and his throat dries up again. His senpai’s shirt is drenched in sweat and it sticks to his torso, exalting his muscles. Koushuu drinks water again avoiding eye contact.
Yes, Koushuu accepted recently that he has a little ( Yes, just a little, Taku. ) crush on Sawamura. Honestly, who wouldn’t? Yes, he is a little bit annoying, lively, boisterous, and moody but he is inspiring, devoted, committed, kind, and handsome too. But accepting it doesn’t make it easier. The day after Koushuu accepted his feelings, he avoided Sawamura like a plague. That very childish action almost makes them fight again because Sawamura thought that he did something to offend the catcher (again). Koushuu denied it and apologized. Everything was normal since then, but Koushuu could help blush when he sees Sawamura like that.
“So hot!” Sawamura says, standing next to him.
Koushuu just nods. His senpai takes his silence as an invitation to talk, so he starts to describe everything that he saw on his three-kilometer run around the city. Koushuu listens to him thoughtfully, looking at his face and not his wet shirt.
“Oh, don’t move.” Sawamura interrupts his own speech to run his fingers through Koushuu’s hair, who suffers a short circuit due to the contact “You had a petal. Look!” His senpai points, showing the little rose petal on his palm.
“Thanks” Koushuu says with red cheeks.
“Hey!” Sawamura says and gets closer to Koushuu. With their faces just a few centimeters away, he can see the little gold specks in his senpai eyes. “Are you okay? Your face is all red!”
Koushuu looks away, clearing his throat.
“It’s a very hot day.”
“Please, tell you won’t pass away like in the opening ceremony…” The pitcher laughs, remembering how Miyuki had to escort Furuya and him to the bench before they died because of the heat.
“Osh!” Sawamura exclaims and walks to the cherry blossoms’ tree. The brunette sits down and palms the grass patch next to him. “Come here, Wolf-boy! Take a break!”
Koushuu wants to reject him, but he’s almost sure that his negative would hurt his senpai’s feelings. Koushuu looks at the grass with narrowed eyes.
“C’mon!” Sawamura insists. “Resting is important! You should know it! I don’t want to carry my catcher back to the hotel…”
Koushuu cedes just not to think about him being carried by his senpai.
“You’ll see, a few minutes under this tree’s shadow will make you feel better!”
Koushuu thanks his senpai for being so considerate.
Both relax under a petal shower, watching how their teammates swing their bats. Koushuu enjoys the birds’ trills that drown the cars’ engines. The blond is about to say that he feels much better and that he should go back to practice before his turn is over when he realizes that the silence and calm that they were experimenting is because his senpai is sound asleep.
Koushuu sighs affectionately. It seems like who has tired was Sawamura and not him. Koushuu takes courage and gets closer to his senpai. With this movement, Sawamura’s head is now resting on Koushu’s shoulder. He thinks that he can rest a little bit more. Just until his captain arrives and yells at them.
If Koushuu inclines his head, it’s nobody’s business.
Koushuu can’t sleep, even when he wants to.
In a few hours, his first game as the principal catcher will happen. Despite all the reasons why he should be sleeping, his brain doesn’t share this opinion. Koushuu sighs for the fifth time in two minutes and twitches under his blankets. He resigns to not sleep, so he gets out of bed and, covering himself with a blue cardigan, leaves his room.
Koushuu walks through the quiet dorm’s corridors and goes down the stairs. Maybe drinking tea or a refreshing drink from the vending machine would make him feel better. Koushuu walks to that light in the middle of the darkness and, when he is just a few meters away, distinguishes a familiar silhouette sitting in front of the machine.
“Wolf-boy, you can’t sleep, don’t ya?” Sawamura Eijun asks.
Koushuu didn’t expect to find his senpai in that place at that time. If he has known it, he shouldn’t go to buy tea.
“You are nervous for tomorrow’s game, right?” Koushuu asks, even when he knows the answer. He inserts the coins and presses the green tea button and the pocari sweat button. Koushuu takes the drinks when they go out through the slit’s machine and walks to the wood bench. He offers the pocari bottle to his senpai, looking at his yellow hoodie and not his eyes.
“Thank you, wolf-boy.” He thanks, wrapping his fingers around the bottle. Koushuu never thought that he could feel jealous of a drink. “You are really kind, you know that?” Sawamura says playfully.
Koushuu growls but he sits next to him. He needs to do something, so he opens the can. He drinks tea and, successfully, doesn’t look at the nocturnal sky reflected on his senpai’s eyes. The liquid is really refreshing and makes his throat feel better. Koushuu knows that they shouldn’t be there on a cold autumn night before an important game, but there they are.
“You know,” Koushuu says, interrupting the silence between them. Sawamura turns his head, indicating that he is paying attention. “the first time I saw you-” Koushuu clears his throat, realizing what he was saying, “I mean, the team, was in the first game of the fall tournament.”
“Really?” The pitcher asks.
Koushuu nods. “I decided that I would go to the school that win the game.” Koushuu doesn’t know why he’s saying this. Sawamura is a very temperamental pitcher, and if he says something wrong, he could ruin his mood and, in consequence, his performance. But even when he knows all these things, he feels that he needs to express it.
“So, if we haven’t won, at this moment you would be catching for Teito’s pitcher?” He asks. Koushuu nods and Sawamura laughs again. “Yeah, I can’t see that.”
A vein in Koushuu’s forehead pops up. Is Sawamura-senpai making fun of me?
“You know why?” Sawamura continues, “I believe that you would have torn his throat apart with your wolf fangs.” He laughs once again.
“Ha?!” Koushuu exclaims, indignant.
“You know, you almost bite me the first time we met…”
Koushuu blushes. His senpai will never forget that.
“But,” Sawamura goes on with a smile. “now we are good friends and teammates, isn’t it, partner ?”
Koushuu’s cheeks turn redder. He hides behind his tea.
“What I wanted to say before you interrupted me, senpai,” Koushuu says after drinking a big gulp from his can, “is just that you just should pitch like that day in the first game of the tournament. The way you always pitch.” Koushuu looks straight into Sawamura’s eyes. “I’ll catch everything that you throw to me. I swear that I’ll take you to the Koshien again and this time we will win.”
Koushuu knows that is presumptuous to say something like that because it’s not as easy as it sounds. However, he means everything what he said, and he will accomplish it as all the promises that he made to Sawamura Eijun since that rainy day.
“Osh!” Sawamura shouts and Koushuu dreads that somebody will hear them. “We’ll win all the games! We’ll make Seido the best team in Japan!” Sawamura laughs as he can see them with the trophy in their hands. His energy is contagious and Koushuu smiles. “Oh! You’re smiling!” Sawamura exclaims and Koushuu returns to his neutral face.
“Of course not.” He denies.
“You did! I saw you!”
Koushuu threatens to leave and Sawamura apologizes.
They fall into a comfortable silence.
“You trust me too, Koushuu,” Sawamura says. A chill runs through Koushu’s spine after hearing his name in his senpai’s mouth. “I’ll give you my best pitches. I won’t disappoint you, partner .” Koushuu blushes due to the penetrating gaze from his ace. They bump their fists. Sawamura smiles. “Now,” The pitcher says throwing his bottle to the dump in a spectacular arc, “don’t move and let me sleep.”
Sawamura rests his head on Koushuu’s shoulder and closes his eyes.
“You know that I’m not a pillow, right?” Koushuu asks but he gets no answer.
Even when they shouldn’t be sleeping outside before an important game, Koushu obeys and doesn’t move.
He is brave like he was before on that summer day and rests his cheek on the soft brown hair.
Koushuu sighs after a while and lifts his head.
“All the things I say,” Koushuu whispers to his senpai, his friend, his teammate, his partner, the person he loves because he loves him ( Yes, Taku, now leave me alone ) “I try to accomplish them. I keep my word and that’s why I’ll do anything to help you.” Koushuu pauses his speech. He can hear the soft murmurs from the wind and the vending machine’s motor. “Just pitch the way you always do. Just be yourself.” Koushuu pauses. “Just be the person who I sincerely and deeply love.”
Koushuu smiles and closes his eyes.
Eijun stands up from his bed and starts walking side to side. Is the fifth time that he repeats this routine in ten minutes. He can feel Asada’s gaze on his back. However, he doesn’t stop, he needs to let his nervous energy out from his body. If the next day wasn’t the final game, he would be running until his legs could carry him.
Okumura’s words repeat in his head repeatedly.
Just be yourself. Just be the person who I sincerely and deeply love.
Eijun blushes from head to toes. That happened because he was reading a shoujo manga and not doing his math homework. The love interest said something like what Okumura told him that night and his mind go wild. Maybe pretending to sleep next to the catcher wasn’t a good idea. Eijun avoided thinking about it and it work most of the time. He was really concentrated on the tournament, baseballs, mangas, and homework.
Eijun yells, frustrated.
“Sawamura-senpai,” Asada says, “are you alright?”
Eijun turns his head and sees his roommate’s face. He feels terrible for making him worried.
“No. I mean, yes. I’m good.” Eijun laughs but it sounds fake. “I’m alright.”
Asada frowns but before he can say anything, Eijun interrupts:
“Don’t worry about me, Asada. I just need to do something. You know what? I’ll do it right now! I’ll be back in a second!”
Without waiting for an answer from Asada, Eijun leaves his room. According to the people he knows, one of his worst qualities is being impatience and impulsive. Of course, he has matured, and he’s not like that anymore (well, just a bit) but this time will use this to face his problem. He will go with Okumura to confess his feelings.
Eijun runs through the corridors. He feels the autumn wind scratching his skin, but he doesn’t stop even when Kanemaru shouts at him. No, he shouldn’t stop.
Eijun arrives at Okumura’s room and asks himself for the first time if that’s a good idea. Now that is thinking about it, maybe it’s not. What would he say? Hey, Okumura, do you remember the night before our first tournament game? Well, I pretended to sleep and, accidentally, listen that you’re in love with me. And guess what! I love you too! Yes, that wouldn’t work. Okumura could get angry with him, deny it, tell him that his feelings have changed since that night, or maybe tell him that it was a joke. What would he say if that happens? Even when he has read more than eight series of manga shoujo, he hasn’t real-life experience. The truth is that Eijun hasn’t thought about a romance that wasn’t in black ink over a white piece of paper until that night…
“Sawamura-senpai,” Okumura says, interrupting Eijun’s thoughts.
“Okumura!” Eijun exclaims, surprised. He gulps after seeing the catcher.
The wolf-boy’s hair is wet after the shower and falls like a silver cascade.
“Did something happen, senpai?” Okumura asks with a frown.
“No, what could happen?” Eijun answers, laughing and avoiding eye contact.
Okumura looks at him, not believing him.
“Well, when I arrived you were looking at the door like it offended your whole family, so I thought something happened.”
Eijun blushes, ashamed.
“No, no.” he exaggeratedly denies with his hands. “It’s not like that. I’m alright. I just wanted to know if you,” Eijun gulps and looks at Okumura, who is waiting patiently with a towel around his neck . I wanted to know if you love me the same way I do. “I wanted to know if you have finished the manga I lend you last week.” He says instead.
Okumura snorts and walks the remaining steps to his door and opens it. Eijun walks behind him and invites himself into the room.
"Not yet," Okumura says moving over to his desk, rummaging through papers, notebooks, and books. "I've been busy with the tournament and school." Okumura pulls out a small, pink-covered manga and hands it to Eijun. "But if you want it, here it is."
Eijun thinks it's for the best. If he takes it and leaves, the whole matter will be settled, and he will be able to go back to his room to sleep and be ready for the final-
Eijun doesn't know what impulses him to say: "How about reading it together?"
Okumura's eyebrows rise comically and Eijun wants to laugh. It takes a few seconds for the blonde to speak.
"Okay." The wolf-boy agrees and sits on the floor, leaning against the edge of his bed. Eijun rushes over and takes a seat next to him.
Eijun takes the manga in his hands and opens it.
The story is simple but good. It's about a couple who don't get along at all at first (just like them) but eventually join forces to create the best school festival ever. It is very funny and cute and Eijun loves it. Eijun has already read and commented on it with Jun-san, but he thinks everyone should read it, so he doesn't bother to repeat it with Okumura.
Eijun turns the pages slowly, his right arm and thigh are touching Okumura's and he can feel the warmth of his skin. Eijun gives little comments and when there is a particularly funny or cute moment, Okumura mutters a hm or nods. Eijun immerses himself in the story and turns at a slow pace the pages of the manga, when they are about to reach the last chapter, Eijun turns his head to ask Okumura what he thinks when he realizes that he is asleep.
Eijun holds his breath and doesn't move a muscle, not wanting to wake him up. It was to be expected that he was tired, they had had a match that morning and the next day they would have the final of the tournament. Okumura had put in a lot of effort as the main catcher, catching in almost every practice session in every game. He was a brilliant and dependable player who proved every day that he isn’t in the shadow of his previous captain. And Eijun admired and likes that about him a lot.
He likes that about him….
"Okumura ..." Eijun mutters "Koushuu" he ends up saying and doesn’t know what he is trying to express but continues "I, I just want to tell you that I like-" Eijun swallows, Okumura's face looks relaxed, he seems very young and calm. "I like the way my balls sound when they reach your glove. Each one is different, you know, the grip changes, the strength, the speed, and the direction, but you can catch them all!" Eijun closes his mouth as he feels that he is rambling a lot. “But that isn’t the only thing I like about you. I like your frown, even when I am the one who puts that expression on your face. I like your blonde hair, your rough hands, your blue eyes… But especially, I like your determination, your intensity, the way you fulfill every promise you make… What I’m trying to say is that I love you too…” Eijun feels good to say it out loud. “And I will trust you in the same way that you trust me. We are partners, aren't we? "
Eijun finishes his speech, but Okumura doesn't answer him. It doesn't matter, they have all the time in the world. He will tell him all that again when he wakes up.
Eijun leans his head on top of his partner's and closes his eyes.