This all starts with the sound of a pencil breaking in the early evening.
It’s not a totally weird sound, but it still startles Kuramochi from where he’s sprawled half asleep on the couch, beer in his slipping grip, the television playing something quiet in the background. The noise is as loud as a gunshot against his half state of consciousness and his eyes snap open to no murderers or robbers or whatever idea his head came up with him wanting to defend against, but just. His living room, Ryousuke beside him with his headphones in, tinny rock music just loud enough to be heard over the baseball game he’d fallen asleep during.
Ryousuke, with a pencil in his hand, snapped in half, staring at it as if it’s personally offended him.
In his six years of dating Kominato Ryousuke, two years of cohabitating with him and one year of being married to him, Kuramochi has gotten pretty good at reading the levels of Ryousuke Kominato’s Murderous Intent, and this one tops out the charts. Kuramochi feels an involuntary shudder associated with the word “punishment” shake its way down his spine, accompanied by flashbacks to Seido’s baseball field way back when, and he regards Ryousuke as one would regard a dangerous wildcat. “Uh,” Youichi starts, elegantly, and tries to school his expression beyond sleepy, baffled and a little scared. (And maybe a little turned on: he never claimed not to be a masochist.) “Ryo-san?”
Ryousuke probably can’t hear him over his headphones, but he looks up anyway, as to be expected, and pulls one out of his ear. His phone, which Kuramochi had yet to notice, buzzes on the notebook on Ryousuke’s lap, a surprisingly violent sound of vibration that continues for two buzzes, three, four. When he peers over, he spots the name flashing across the screen. Kominato Haruichi.
“It seems,” Ryousuke starts, voice a garrote, permanent smile lifted at the corners, “that my little brother is going to bring someone home for Christmas.”
Kuramochi’s stomach lurches, and though he doesn’t mean to say it out loud, he mutters, “Oh, fuck.”
The train ride from practice facilities to Haruichi’s big brother’s apartment is only three stops. Haruichi knows this way like the back of his hand—his big brother had the place through university and fell in love with it as he went through graduate school, so he knows these streets like he knows the back of his hands. On a nice day, he walks back from the batting cage—but his pink hair is noticeable, and having people catch on to who he is is troublesome enough on the subway, let alone on the streets where anyone can see him. These three stops take approximately eight minutes with a minimal amount of bumps, and Haruichi can usually put in his headphones or check his phone, and before he knows it, he’s off the train. It’s familiar and routine.
Today, it feels like the furthest thing from it.
Part of that is the person standing beside him, and Haruichi looks up to his companion out of the side of his eye. Furuya is standing stock straight with his hand on the subway handholds over their heads, Haruichi’s small hand resting delicately on the inside of his bicep to act as a handhold he doesn’t have to reach for. It’s a thoughtful gesture, and Haruichi warms a little with it, mouth curling up a little in a smile as Furuya’s grey eyes flick in his direction for a moment before they move away. He’s like a human wall, immovable even with the swaying of the train, but Haruichi knows better.
He’s always known better.
Furuya is an open book. His tense shoulders and ramrod straight spine have nothing to do with the presence of other people who might be staring at his commanding presence, wondering if he’s the ace of the national baseball team. (Normally, he’d be glowing at the recognition.) No; he’s nervous. He’s scared.
Haruichi doesn’t blame him, he thinks, looking at the carefully prepared Christmas cake in a box at his feet and soothing his hand over Furuya’s bicep again. His brother’s reception to Haruichi’s dating prospects has been chilly at best, downright terrifying at worst, and this isn’t just dating prospects. This is something more permanent, Haruichi wanting to hold onto the warmth that pools in his stomach when Furuya quirks a smile at him in the morning for the rest of his life. This is not just an approval, this is The Approval, because he knows his mother and father will love anyone Haruichi chooses to bring home.
This is a trial, and it’s not an easy one, either.
Haruichi sighs, a little thing through his nose, and squeezes Furuya’s arm. Well, he thinks, looking up at the ceiling of the train as if it could help him,maybe I’m overreacting a little.
Eight minutes pass in the blink of an eye, and Haruichi gives Furuya’s arm a shake as they approach the stop, watches him blanch a little as the doors open. If Haruichi’s nervous, he refuses to show it, even with the fluttery way his heart bangs against his chest as he considers the possible outcomes for this dinner—he has to set a good example here, and Haruichi has always, always, been Furuya’s support. Scooping up the Christmas cake box to set it on his hip, he keeps his hand in Furuya’s and pulls him off of the train, turning his head over his shoulder to throw him a small, gentle smile.
Furuya looks a little less anemic than he did five minutes before and follows Haruichi dutifully, through the subway gates and up the stairs, down one block, two. Ryousuke’s neighborhood is quiet, graduate students and young working adults, and the apartment complex itself is a sturdy little thing, three brick floors. Haruichi spots Kuramochi’s bike parked next to Ryousuke’s car, sleek and black and silver, and uses the familiarity of it all to entrench himself in the feeling of everything has to be fine.
Kuramochi will have his back. He used to have it on the field, and he’ll have it here too. It’s that much he’s confident in as he pauses at the door (Kominato-Kuramochi, it says next to their plate, and there’s even a wreath on the door, though there’s a tentacle wrapped around it, which makes Haruichi smile a little) and looks up at Furuya.
“It’s going to be fine,” he repeats, out loud this time, turning to face Furuya and setting the box down to take his hands. Haruichi loves Furuya’s hands, that they’re big and powerful, furious with fastballs and gentle with his cheeks and their dog, and he lets the warmth from that fuel him as he curls their fingers together. “It’s just my big brother.”
Furuya gives him a look and mutters, “Just…” as if his brother were in fact a giant squid or something, aiming to eat them the moment they entered the threshold; it makes Haruichi giggle, though it may be from nerves more than the hilarity of it all.
“Just my big brother.” He repeats, more definitively, and gives Furuya’s hands a squeeze. “If he doesn’t like it, it’ll…it’ll be okay. It won’t stop me.”
Haruichi watches that realization of that bloom across Furuya’s face with a kind of muted delight, and he gives his hands a third squeeze. Furuya ducks down to kiss him and Haruichi goes to meet him halfway, rising up on his tiptoes and craning his neck back a little, just one for the road—
“I don’t believe we put mistletoe on our threshold, did we, Kuramochi?”
--and Ryousuke’s voice washes over his back like ice. Haruichi jumps at the same time Furuya does, jerking backwards instinctively as his face blazes bright red, and sure enough, there is Kominato Ryousuke, dressed in a sweater, with a pen sticking out from behind his ear, hands clasped behind his back as if he were an angel of the Lord himself.
Haruichi can't help but smile as the delight at seeing his older brother overtakes the majority of his nerves, and he tries for a smile at Ryousuke, who is staring up at Furuya as if he were considering a way to take his head off from the front stoop.
“Aniki—“ he starts, taking a step forward, but Ryousuke hums, stopping him.
“If it isn’t the monster rookie,” he says, with an air of false confusion, head tilting to the side a centimeter, smile still in place, “How strange to see a celebrity or two in our midst.”
There’s a beat of silence, two.
“Well then,” says Ryousuke, and his smile turns up at the corners, “Come in, we do have a dinner to eat.”
As Haruichi deflates, the thought crosses his mind that maybe he hasn’t overreacted after all.
Kuramochi is a little behind as their guests arrive and realizes it with his hands still in his hair, sticky with pomade—his gaze flicks up to the mirror just in time to see Ryousuke open the door and winces a little mentally. It’s already becoming clear that the battle lines have been drawn, and Kuramochi stares at his reflection and merits not coming out for a brief moment. He’s been in the center of a number of Kominato spats in his long lifetime intertwined with the two second basemen, from Ryousuke’s achy hickies left on his neck after Haruichi shifted up into his spot in the lineup in high school (appreciated) to a cold war over whether tomatoes were fruits or vegetables (not so appreciated) and none of them have ended well for any third parties involved. Kuramochi’d rather not turn this into another iteration of the tomato cold war: he’d had enough tomato juice to last a lifetime.
Still. He can’t leave Haruichi—or Furuya—out in the cold. He’d be lying if he said he hadn’t seen it coming, once the two of them were drafted to the same team, both straight out of college, but he’d wisely kept his mouth shut, content to distract Ryousuke in any ways possible from what might be happening right underneath his nose.
He stares at his reflection again. Kuramochi hasn’t changed much from high school—neither has Ryo-san, and he doubts little bro and Furuya really have either. It’s going to be totally fine. Four former teammates meeting up for an impromptu Christmas dinner.
…yeah. Kuramochi snorts at how stupidly fucking ridiculous that sounded as he pulls his hands out of his newly coiffed hair and drops them down to wash them in the sink, shaking his head. Furuya’s probably gonna die today, and he figures, he’d probably help Ryo-san bury the body.
He pauses long enough at the door to hear Ryousuke say his name in the saccharine, innocent way that promises a slow and painful death to come and books it back out into the hallway, appearing behind Ryousuke in an instant and leaning on the door, grin stretched wide. It is good to see Haruichi, and Furuya too, and he lets some of that cheer effuse his voice in hopes of defusing Ryousuke a little. “—yo, Haruichi, Furuya! Took you guys long enough! Jesus, did you get taller, Furuya? Quit fuckin’ growing!”
Ryousuke steps to the side to open the door further and allows Kuramochi to greet the two of them, holding it open, and Kuramochi gives Furuya a good kick in the ass into the doorway to reiterate that everything is going to be Completely Normal and Fine if it kills him.
Furuya better appreciate this when he’s not dead in a ditch later. Kuramochi can think of five separate favors that come with a checkbook as big as his as a thank you.
It starts with the cat.
Haruichi’s long since familiar with Ryousuke’s cat, Lovecraft—he’d been the one with him when he brought her home, a tiny little gray kitten plucked from the shelter and brought in to be the companion of Ryousuke’s grad school career—and he’s known her to always be, well… much like his brother. Lovecraft’s clever antics have been the story at many a family gathering, but no matter what she does, she can almost always be found curled up in Ryousuke’s lap as if she’d never done a thing wrong in her life by the end of the day, purring like a motor and making his older brother look for all the world like an evil Bond villain.
Lovecraft trips Furuya the minute they come in the door.
He stumbles magnificently when the cat winds through his legs and Haruichi reaches out with his free hand to grab the back of his shirt, reflexes sharp from years and years of Eijun wrangling, yelping out a, “Furuya-kun--!” as Ryousuke steps out of the way.
Furuya stops midway through the air with Haruichi’s tight grip, blinking face first into a glass case in the hall containing Ryousuke’s first edition copy ofRosemary’s Baby, and there’s a moment of silence in the front hall, broken only by a tiny meow from the perpetrator, who wraps around Ryousuke’s legs until he picks her up.
“My,” says Ryousuke, cheerfully, cradling the cat as if she were a particularly adorable baby, “That was close.”
Haruichi breathes for the first time in a minute and lets go of Furuya’s shirt as he straightens back up, looking a little traumatized (and maybe a little betrayed by the tiny, cute fluffy thing that had started all of this), and Kuramochi laughs, more awkward than his usual hyena chuckle. Haruichi shoots him a grateful look, once more considering the merit of his former fielding partner who always seems to come through in the clutch, and soothes his hand over Furuya’s lower back.
“Yeah, jeez. C’mon, let’s go eat, I’m starving.” Kuramochi’s awkward laughter did in fact help to break up the tension, and he adds an extra, “Ryo-san?” as he passes by, glancing down at Ryousuke, who is still looking over at Furuya. Haruichi can literally feel the pressure from his brother’s stare, but Furuya holds up valiantly against it, and the tension breaks as Ryousuke hoists Lovecraft over his shoulder and hums an affirmative, turning on his heel.
Furuya melts in an instant and mutters a low, “I think your brother made your cat evil,” as if the very thought of being betrayed by a cute animal hurts him (it probably does), though Haruichi has a feeling his grumping is just from the feeling of being terrified.
Still. He looks up at Furuya, determined to make this work out fine, and offers him a smile. “It could have gone worse…?”
Furuya gives him a look, and Haruichi can’t help but laugh, dropping his head and shaking it once before he gives Furuya a pat on the back, a bit of mischief in his voice. “You could have been Eijun-kun and broken the case, too.”
Furuya snorts beside him, and he watches his entire aura change at the satisfaction of getting to (lovingly) make fun of his rival—Haruichi gives him a pat on the back and starts to walk forward into the apartment proper.
There’s another meow from the kitchen, a bell ringing into the foyer, and Haruichi’s sure he didn't imagine his brother’s “Good girl~” when he steps inside.
Kuramochi can say that the cat was an accident, that Lovecraft was a little bit ornery and didn’t like strangers, similar to her owner. Dinner? Dinner seems like less of an accident. Though Ryousuke’s murderous aura has calmed down a touch, it doesn’t seem to change the fact that he’s staring at his chopsticks and meriting the strength of his shoulder and the distance to Furuya’s eyes. It’s unsettling even for Kuramochi, who had been the one to order curry from Ryo-san’s favorite takeout place to try and temper his flames a little. (Ryo-san was a terrible cook, and Kuramochi was barely good enough to get by for two of them—takeout had seemed like the safest and least likely to be poisoned option, accidentally or on purpose.)
Kuramochi slides into the seat beside Ryousuke and Haruichi moves in across from him, the two of them working in tandem in a way that they hadn’t since they themselves were the sackmates; Haruichi helps Furuya fold himself down to the floor, holding his hand and smiling up at him, his expression warm as he makes sure he gets settled. The way Furuya looks back at him is soft, even if it’s green around the edges, and Kuramochi watches the whole thing silently.
It's cute. It’s really, disgustingly cute.
Maybe this’ll go fine. It’s kind of obvious that Furuya’s as stupid over Haruichi as Kuramochi is over his brother—these Kominatos have some kind of absurd charm around them, and it’s painfully easy to see how well they’re related. These are the thoughts occupying his head as he moves to take a bite of his curry, the four note “thanks for the food” having echoed around the table already, and he looks up with his mouth full of rice to Ryousuke, ready to open his mouth to say something, but Ryousuke looks a little perturbed.
Well, more than he had before.
He’s holding his chopsticks in the air, chewing on his food, brow slightly furrowed in the cute way he gets when he’s thinking about something. Kuramochi shakes his head from staring at his spouse when there’s a cough from down the table, and he jerks over at the same time Haruichi asks, “Furuya-kun, are you okay?”
Furuya, as it turns out, is starting to turn red, his cheeks flustering violently and a bit of sweat dripping down his collar. He looks like a first year hot off the mound again, having to be half dragged off in the Tokyo heat, and Kuramochi connects the dots while Furuya’s face turns an increasingly alarming shade of scarlet, chopsticks still clenched in his big hands.
Ryousuke tilts his head, looks down at his plate. “My food’s awfully bland.”
“Ryo-san--“ Kuramochi hastily reaches forward to snatch Furuya’s plate, because he only knows one person in the entire world who is capable of eating their curry at the five alarm levels of spice that their local curry place provides, and that would be Ryousuke—Kuramochi swears up and down once he took a bite and it singed his nose hair clean off. He starts off with a, “Sorry, I think that’s—“
And he pauses, because Furuya stubbornly scoops up another bite and stares at Ryousuke. He looks like he’s going to die, and Haruichi looks like he might have a coronary beside him, but Kuramochi watches as Furuya lifts up the bite and swallows it, never once breaking eye contact, practically flaring up with the intensity of not backing down from the challenge.
“ …Ryo…-san’s.” Kuramochi trails off, staring at Furuya with a mix of awed respect and this guy is a fucking idiot. “Holy shit.”
To the surprise of everyone at the table (but no one perhaps more than Furuya), he swallows the bite and sets his chopsticks down, holding perfectly still and progressively starting to sweat, more and more. Kuramochi stares at him. He really, really tries not to laugh.
The sound of Kuramochi’s laughter breaks the room again and Haruichi scrambles to his feet, jumping up and scurrying to the kitchen gasping, “Milk, milk, milk,” under his breath, and it’s only Furuya and Ryousuke who sit unmoving. Furuya stares Ryousuke down valiantly, with Kuramochi practically wheezing with laughter in the seat beside him, his “Oh, shit, Furuya, oh my god, you look—like you’re gonna die, oh my god—“ punctuating every now and then, until Furuya wobbles a little.
Ryousuke clucks his tongue and gets up just as Haruichi returns to the room, pressing a glass of milk into Furuya’s hands: while he downs it, the elder Kominato gets up and swipes the plate from him, replacing it with his own, his smile prim as he returns to his seat and takes a bite. Kuramochi wheezes and sits back up, clapping a still red-faced Furuya on the back before he digs his chopsticks back into his food, still chuckling about Furuya every couple of seconds.
Kid’s got balls, he thinks, slanting a look over at Haruichi across from them, who looks pale and is fanning Furuya lightly with his napkin—hell, he’s got his own fondness for the kid, and he thinks Furuya’s probably gonna fall asleep on Haruichi for half their lives, but he could do way worse than ace-of-the-national-baseball-team, certified idiot Furuya Satoru. He’s got Youichi’s approval; if this was some kind of Spartan tribune, he would have just had his trial by fire. Literally.
The idea makes him snicker, and he glances at Ryousuke beside him, who is eating his hell curry as if it’s mild, looking for all the world like a lion licking its chops after it’s torn apart an antelope. He smiles at Youichi, his expression unreadable as ever, but Kuramochi can read the mischief rolling off of him in waves.
Well, it was nice knowing the kid.
Dinner after that seems mostly uneventful. Kuramochi asks Haruichi about playing on the pro team, and he answers his questions with a reserved level of enthusiasm. Obviously, he adores playing on the team, and Kuramochi’s proud of him—he’s always seen him as Ryousuke’s kid brother, even as he started to come into his own as a player after their first trip to Koushien, but now he seems more grown up, and that has little to do with the star status he’s earned as the Tokyo Swallows’ starting second baseman. He knows Ryo-san is proud, too, can tell in the way he watches his brother, the smooth way he answers questions, and a little needling gets their silent guest to speak up a little too.
Ryousuke must have noticed that Furuya and Haruichi were holding hands under the table, but if he has, he hasn’t said anything. Kuramochi wonders if he’s earned any of his respect from the chaos with the curry earlier, or if Ryo is just plotting something—the latter is more likely. For now, Kuramochi redirects the conversation when it gets anywhere near the fact that the two of them are clearly dating and have been for a little while now.
“So,” Ryou says, when the curry’s mostly finished and Kuramochi’s taking a sip of his second beer, “What are your intentions with my younger brother, monster rookie?”
The entire room freezes again, and Haruichi squawks out an, “Aniki!” at Ryousuke as he lays out the question that Haruichi was sort of expecting all along; Kuramochi spittakes, choking on his beer, and Furuya blinks, stunned. This had been the underlying tone most of the evening, and he’d known that most of this was some kind of test to pass, but he wasn’t expecting him to just outright say it. He looks a little scandalized, his cheeks bright red, but Ryousuke doesn’t even pay him mind, looking steadily at Furuya diagonally from him across the table.
“You don’t have to answer that, Furuya-kun,” Haruichi starts, hastily, lifting both of his hands to diffuse tension and throwing a help me, please look at Kuramochi, who is too busy clearing his throat, thumping his chest with his fist so he doesn’t choke. Ryousuke slaps him on the back, once, never moving his gaze from Furuya, and Haruichi has to resist the urge to put his face in his hands, “You don’t, aniki’s just—“
“Dating him.” Furuya says, and Haruichi pauses, midway through his explanation, his hands starting to fall down. Furuya ducks his head, though, a little bashful, and adds a quiet, “…Kominato-senpai.”
Kuramochi and Haruichi both blink at each other across the table. Ryousuke hums. “Why?”
Now Furuya blinks at him, confused at the question, and Haruichi opens his mouth to stop him again, but Furuya shakes his head like he’s shaking a sign and takes Haruichi’s hand when he drops it back down, squeezing onto it like a lifeline. “Because I want to.”
“Uncreative.” Ryousuke says, harsh as ever; Kuramochi winces beside him, mutters a “Ryo-san” just loud enough, but neither he or Furuya are deterred. In fact, the ace pitcher seems to be burning a little.
“…Because, Harucc—Kominato-kun’s my best friend.” Furuya says, again, this time more definitively, this time like he’s on the mound, staring down a pitch. Haruichi goes breathless—the way his heartbeat flutters in his chest makes him feel warm all over, head to toe, and he tries to give another you don’t have to squeeze, but Furuya doesn’t back down from anything, be it batters or Kominato Ryousuke in a cozy looking sweater. He stops, corrects himself. “He was my first best friend.”
The words of that ring heavy in the room and Haruichi feels a twinge of empathy so strong in his chest he has to stroke his thumb over the side of his hand. He’s been turning redder and redder this entire conversation and Haruichi’s feeling a little lightheaded as he looks down at the table, furiously wishing for just a moment that he still had his bangs so he’d have something to hide behind.
Everyone’s quiet, Ryousuke and Kuramochi included, and Furuya nods, affirming his words. “Kominato-kun’s always been at my back, and I wanted to be at his, too.”
Of all of them, it’s Kuramochi who’s the first to speak, a low, “Shit.” His eyebrows are practically up off of his forehead, but Haruichi doesn’t even notice as he turns from his view to look up at Furuya like he’s made of solid gold, his breath caught in his throat. Furuya shrugs his shoulders and shrinks a little, his tall frame melting under what must be the same embarrassment that Haruichi’s feeling, but the younger Kominato resists the urge to ignore his brother and Kuramochi both and pull him in for a kiss right here and now.
Furuya wasn’t his first best friend—that honor belonged to Sawamura Eijun, who was the equivalent to the sun in Haruichi’s very life—but he was one of two, and he was one of Haruichi’s first real friends. He’d known he’d get close with Eijun, but Furuya had been something else entirely. Furuya was pitching practice and batting practice, side by side. Furuya was bonding over a shared love for cute animals and Christmastime, lonely pasts and baseball futures, striding towards the pros together step for a step.
He squeezes Furuya’s hand and Furuya flushes at the tips of his ears—it’s cute and Haruichi can’t help the smile breaking across his face as he turns his gaze across the table to Ryousuke, whose expression hasn’t changed.
Ryousuke turns his head to Kuramochi, though, and says, brusquely, “Well, then. Dishes, Youichi?”
Kuramochi nods and gets up from behind him, tossing one look back in Haruichi’s direction that says don’t make out in the living room, or you’ll regret it, but Haruichi barely takes his eyes off Furuya to respond. Once they’ve disappeared, he rolls onto his knees to kiss Furuya’s cheek, a feather light press of his mouth to flushed skin, and Furuya tips over towards him, listing a little so that Haruichi has to pick his hands up to keep him from crashing into him completely, giggling.
“You almost called me Harucchi,” he says, light as air, and it’s then that Furuya finally flushes red all the way across his face. Haruichi bursts into laughter and kisses his cheek again, pulling him down to equalize their height difference, and nothing—spicy curry, almost broken priceless artifacts or evil cats—can bring that kind of joy down.
Ryousuke doesn’t give Furuya a hug or a handshake when he and Haruichi leave the apartment hand in hand, simply a brief uptick of the head that might have been a nod, and Kuramochi hooks his arm around his waist when the door’s shut, pulling his former sackmate into his side with a wash of affection. In the end, all of that terror just came from Ryousuke loving his baby brother, though Kuramochi knows he’d sooner jump off a bridge than admit it.
He grins, drops a kiss on the top of his pink head. “He’s not so bad. Dumb as a sack of bricks, but not so bad.”
Ryousuke grimaces and it makes Kuramochi laugh, squeezing his arm around him. “Dumb, yes.”
“Really dumb for not seein’ ya switch the curry like that.”
His grimace turns up into a smile, and Kuramochi grins. “Oh? And did you see that, Youichi?”
“Not a thing, Ryo-san.”
Just like he didn’t see Haruichi kiss Furuya when they were in the kitchen, either. Kuramochi ducks in to kiss the annoyance off of Ryousuke's brow, and he sighs, put-upon, fingers curling in the front of his shirt. "I suppose he's not "that bad"."
Youichi can practically hear the verbal air quotes, the disdain in his voice as clear as day, but he'll take that one as a victory for Haruichi--and hell, for himself, as well. He worked his ass off to keep Furuya from getting murdered tonight, and it more or less succeeded. He laughs, hooks his arm around Ryousuke's shoulders instead of his waist. "That's a pretty high compliment, Ryo-san!"
"Don't push it, Youichi." Ryousuke delicately removes himself from Kuramochi's arm, and Kuramochi chuckles, chasing after him as Ryousuke waves a dismissive, flippant hand in the air and makes his way back towards the couch. "You and I need to have a talk about whose side you're really on in all of this, anyway."
Oh. "Fuck." Youichi mutters, for the second time that day, and considers another round of damage control.