Yukimura stretches out along the couch, lazily twisting Sanada's hair in his fingers. Their latest matches play side by side on the television, Yanagi's notes sitting in Sanada's lap. They both cringe multiple times, exchanging looks of disbelief as the series of events leading to their respective losses unfold on the screen. When the DVD ends, Sanada tosses the notebook next to the stack of tapes they need to watch and leans his head back against Yukimura's thigh.
"It could always be worse, Genichirou," Yukimura says softly, with reassurance, although he is also disgusted with how they have been playing. It still comes back to him thinking he should be winning tournaments already, right now, with total destruction, but Sanada is right about this mindset, as he often is. They aren't ready. Yanagi's compilations of their matches underline the point quite succinctly. It is depressing to think about.
Sanada groans. They both have already put in their lot for the men's singles draw; changing to doubles is nigh impossible now. He knows they would win for sure, but then again, the success would be bittersweet. They both want their first wins to be in singles, too stubborn to accept anything else.
"Akaya's birthday is soon," Yukimura mentions, cutting through his thoughts.
"We should spend the day with him."
"We have to train."
Yukimura tugs his hair sharply. "Not the entire day," he says, acutely aware of how weird that sounds coming out of his mouth. "We can train in the morning and spend the evening with him. He would love to spend some time with 'mom and dad.'"
Sanada rolls his eyes at the nickname, regardless of the practical truth of it. "I'm not paying for him to go to the arcade."
"You don't have to," he says. Not that he would either. It is well-known that Kirihara can spend an exorbitant amount of money in those establishments and despite their meager earnings from their successes, he was not going to pay for their kouhai to ignore them while playing video games. "I got him a ticket to Rakuten."
"Hn." Sanada had used his complementary tickets for his nephew and Yanagi, figuring his parents weren't terribly interested in attending his first tournament back home. Maybe when he was actually winning them on a regular basis...
"He'll be sitting with my mom," Yukimura continues. It is a guarantee that the youngest member of the Rikkai tennis regulars will be on his best behaviour.
"Does he know this?"
Yukimura smiles, twisting Sanada's hair so that he is forced to look up at him. "Of course not. Where would the fun be if he knew?"
"Renji will think you are exacting cruel and unusual punishment. He did win Nationals after all."
"Akaya will be fine."
"If he can keep his mouth shut," Sanada supplements, shifting his position on the floor to not strain his back further.
"True." Yukimura hums, sitting up and placing his legs on either side of Sanada. He leans forward, sliding his hands down Sanada's chest and torso. Smiling, he stays there, closing his eyes, relishing in the quiet and the steady sound of his boyfriend's breathing. In only a week, they will be opponents again, facing their friends and possibly each other in hopes of winning the entire tournament. It is best to enjoy the peace before things get rocky.
"Seiichi," Sanada says quietly a few short minutes later, voice barely above a whisper. It sends a small shiver down his spine as he opens his eyes.
His little sister stands in the doorway of the family room, face aghast at the scene before her. He sighs before unhinging himself from Sanada and slipping off the couch to lead her away to a room where she can yell at him without anyone hearing, but it doesn't come. She just stares at him, eyes still wide with shock, her jaw slack.
There isn't much he can do about this now. He could have, before things got too serious, but he didn't and now he will have to deal with the consequences. Yukimura would apologise except for that he really isn't that sorry. Sanada liked -- no, loved -- him and he wasn't about to tell his little sister that her crush was going to be more than that.
"You know better than to walk into a room without knocking," he chides playfully. He looks around for his parents before remembering that they are out for the day, more than happy to let Yukimura take over babysitting duties.
"Do mom and dad know?" she finally asks.
"Yes, they do," he answers honestly, remembering the semi-awkward conversation over Skype where he told his parents that he and Sanada were together. Neither of them had been terribly surprised, much to his and Sanada's shock. Maybe if he said Akaya it would have been different, but they had been treating Sanada and Yanagi like extended family for years though, so really, he should have known they wouldn't have been bothered by it.
"Oh," she says quietly, face softening into a light sadness.
He frowns. If Sanada didn't like him, he probably would have eventually asked her out. Maybe. Possibly. He isn't quite sure of where his boyfriend's interests lie outside of tennis, swords, kendo, and him. Easy for gift-giving, but frustrating for most everything else.
"Are you happy?" she asks, raising her head to look up at him.
Yukimura's frown turns up into a smile. "I'd be happier if I was winning tournaments."
"I meant with him."
There is no diplomatic way to answer this. No wording he can use to make it any easier on her. "If I wasn't, we wouldn't be together." It is a loaded answer. They were apart for months, but not really. The underlying currents of their relationship making it practically impossible to fully separate.
Her face lights up. "So there may be a chance after all!"
Yukimura doesn't want to dash her dreams just yet, so he shrugs. He doubts Sanada would be with her -- ever -- but it isn't his place to tell her so. She could keep her fantasy intact for now. "Perhaps."
The response is apparently good enough for her and she darts off, leaving him to pad back to Sanada and situate himself against the other tennis player.
"She okay?" Sanada asks, snaking an arm around Yukimura's shoulders.
"Right as rain," he answers. "Still convinced she has a chance at marrying the great Sanada Genichirou."
Yukimura won't admit it out loud, but he doesn't want his little sister to marry Sanada. Not that she doesn't deserve him, but because Sanada is his and no one else's. Yanagi would call this textbook jealousy, but he doesn't care. It took him long enough to realise everything, he wasn't about to let it go without a fight.
"I told Akaya we were going to spend some time with him tomorrow," Sanada says eventually.
"You called? I'm shocked."
"No, I texted," he explains, pulling Yukimura into his lap. "I didn't want to deal with the spazzing and the loss of hearing when he yells."
"Point taken." Yukimura buries himself in Sanada's chest, attracted to the heat radiating from his body. He feels Sanada's arm wrap around him and he closes his eyes.
"He agreed to tennis," Sanada whispers into his hair and Yukimura can hear the smugness seeping through his voice, but he doesn't get onto him for it. Tennis against Kirihara, against them, is something the baby of the team always wants. It is a good gift for the captain who just won Nationals. Yukimura hums. There is time to discuss it in depth later, but for now, there isn't anything else he wants to do except for this. Yanagi would be proud of them.
When Sunday afternoon finally rolls around, Sanada has pushed Yukimura to a tie-break that rivals the one from the French Open. They are tied at ninety-three all when Yukimura's phone rings, Orange Range sounding loudly across the court. Both of them shoot death glares at the offending device, forgetting who it belongs to for a brief moment, the shrill rock ruining the sanctity of their match. Remembering who it is, Yukimura sighs and pads over to the device quickly, picking it up right before it goes to voicemail.
"About damn time, buchou," Marui says. A bubble pops loudly on the other end. The volleyist would never change. Yukimura supposes he should be thankful for that. He would hate coming home to his friends being anything different than who they were. It just wouldn't be worth it.
"I was in the middle of a match," he says softly. "Just about to win too."
"Bullshit, Seiichi," Sanada yells, tugging his hat down and crossing the court in a few long strides.
Yukimura sticks his tongue out and secures the phone against his ear with his shoulder, putting away his racket. He knows the reason for the redhead's call. Kirihara must be getting impatient. They would have to be quick.
"Is 'match' a euphemism for getting fucked or were you actually playing tennis?"
"I should give you fifty laps for your mouth. Actual tennis, Bunta."
Sanada joins him near the bench, unzipping his tennis bag. His cell has five texts and four missed calls, all from Kirihara. He holds it up for Yukimura to see. The former buchou groans, switching the phone to his other ear.
"Can't make me anymore. Plus, you love me."
Yukimura chuckles. "Anyway, we've paused and are packing up right now."
"Good. Cause I don't really wanna keep hearing the baby whine any more. He's being stingy as hell. He won't share his birthday cake with me. It's a damn travesty, Seiichi. I don't know how much longer I'll be able to survive."
Yukimura rolls his eyes. Leave it to Marui to only think about the food side of birthdays. He hears shuffling on the other end and he pauses in his movements long enough that Sanada takes over and finishes, pulling both bags over his shoulders.
"You still there Yukimura?"
Jackal. Patient, kind, wonderful Jackal. He is so thankful at the moment that he just smiles, following his boyfriend out of the court.
"Yes. Is Akaya with you? I'm afraid he might have drained his battery with how much he's been pestering Genichirou."
Sanada's hand slips effortlessly into Yukimura's as they walk away from their old school towards his house. Yukimura's voice is animated as they turn the corner on his street. It isn't Kirihara, otherwise he would be holding the phone away from his ear. He isn't stern either, so it definitely isn't Marui or Niou. He ticks off the other members until he comes to Jackal.
"Tell Akaya we'll be there in around an hour. We need to shower, then we can meet at your father's restaurant."
The answer is most definitely an affirmative as Yukimura hangs up, slipping his phone into his pocket. They arrive not long after, showering quickly, and dressing just as fast. Yukimura slips the ticket to Rakuten into his pocket and waits for Sanada to grab Kirihara's other gift. It isn't large, but it will make Kirihara speechless and everyone from Rikkai grateful for the quiet.
"We're going to be late," he says, pulling Sanada out of the house. The restaurant isn't terribly far away, but the sooner they get there, the quicker festivities can begin.
"He needs to learn patience anyway."
"Not today," Yukimura chides. "It's his birthday. Cut him some slack."
Sanada grumbles "tarundoru" under his breath. The current Rikkai buchou won't last on the pro circuit if he doesn't learn some of the trait. Yukimura smiles, poking him in the cheek. It is a not-so-subtle order to relax and have a good time. He sighs as the restaurant comes into view.
"He's throwin' a fit in there, buchou," Niou drawls.
"We'll take care of it," Yukimura says nonchalantly, walking past him into the establishment. He is immediately met with a familiar mop of curly black hair and scrawny arms wrapping around him.
Yukimura pats his head, laughing loudly. "Happy birthday, Akaya."
The current captain grins widely, only letting go of Yukimura when Sanada walks in with Niou. Kirihara runs, attempting to tackle the former fukubuchou. It fails spectacularly. He frowns, settling for an awkward hug instead.
"You're not as friendly as buchou," he whines.
Marui and Niou laugh. "Since when has he ever," the redhead cracks, doubling over his chair.
"Happy birthday, Akaya," Sanada says, reaching up with his free hand and ruffling ever-messy curls.
Kirihara eventually lets go of Sanada, eyes dropping immediately to the large envelope in his arms. There is a small stack of presents on a nearby table, but the birthday boy is focused on the closest one. If his Christmas gift from last year was any indication, then this one will be absolutely kick ass, even if it is just flimsy paper. He holds his hands out, making a motion with his fingers that Sanada should hand the package over immediately. Yukimura slips his gift into Kirihara's outstretched hands, immediately covering his ears. Everyone else on the team follows suit.
"ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!" Kirihara screams, eyes widening as far as they can do. He runs to every team member, holding up the ticket, mouth stretched in a grin so large his face is practically split in two. Out of breath, he pauses in front of Yukimura, enveloping him in a hug more bone-crushing than the last. "BEST GIFT EVER."
Sanada shakes his head at Yukimura. Clearly the teen had forgotten the Babolat from Christmas. Tarundoru.
"Akaya!" he snaps loudly and Kirihara lets go, turning to Sanada with rapt attention.
"We're about to be upstaged," Marui groans, leaning against the tall counter.
"Shh," Yukimura says. "You'll love the reaction."
Kirihara's hands shake as they grip the edges of the envelope, pulling it gently out of Sanada's grasp. In a quick motion, the outer casing falls to the floor. The restaurant is silent except for the sound of breathing and the occasional car that passes by the establishment. Yanagi shares a knowing glance with Yukimura who hugs the younger captain from behind.
"Do you like it?" he asks quietly, looking up at Sanada with a glint of victory.
The curly-haired player can only nod.
"Don't start bawlin'," Niou says. "No one wants saltwater flavoured cake. Well, except maybe Marui."
For the remark, he gets elbowed in the side by Yagyuu and a glare from the redhead.
"Wait there just a minute. Did you really just do that, Hiroshi? I'm offended!"
"I have no clue what you are referring to," Yagyuu says with a nudge to the bridge of his glasses. Marui sticks out his tongue and leans over Kirihara's shoulder.
"What did ya get-- Oh, wow. You two went all out this time. Is it like one of those couple's presents?"
"Shut up, Marui," Sanada barks, crossing his arms. His eyes soften as he looks upon their kouhai. "Akaya."
"How did you? When did you? Why?"
"Why not? Are you saying you aren't good enough?" Yukimura asks. "Of course, it's all dependent on whether you graduate, but you will, won't you Akaya?"
Kirihara nods furiously, setting down the gift to wipe his nose and his eyes. He immediately torpedoes Sanada in the gut, arms attempting to squeeze the life out of him.
"That's the longest he's ever been at a decibel lower than normal. I think that's a new record, dataman."
"On the contrary, second year middle school, July, is still in first place. However, this is second."
Niou tsks under his breath, sneaking a peek at the set aside gift. A low whistle escapes his lips. 'Mom' and 'Dad' knew how to pick out gifts, that was for damn sure.
"Make sure you say thank you, Akaya," Yanagi states.
A muffled sound comes from where Kirihara is buried in Sanada, followed by a quick nod. Yukimura closes the gap between them and rubs his back.
"Perhaps it was too much, too soon."
"If he can't handle it, he's tarundoru."
"You were quite taken aback when you got yours, Genichirou."
"Mine wasn't given to me by my senpai."
Yukimura smiles. "I'm glad you like it, Akaya."
Kirihara raises his head. His eyes are puffy and red, nose dripping slightly. Sanada frowns at the state of his shirt, motioning for Jackal to get some kind of wash cloth.
"I love it," he says between sniffles. "Best. Gift. Ever."
"More than your Rakuten ticket?"
"Uh huh," he says honestly. Kirihara never expected to have a sponsorship before he had even played one professional match or submitted his intent to go pro. It is clearly the best gift ever. There is no way, he thinks, that anything can top it.
"I'm glad. Genichirou and I worked very hard with Renji to get this for you."
"I took extra tape of you for a reason, Akaya. 'I just thought you were being a creeper', is what you were going to say, Niou," Yanagi says. "I sent it all to Genichriou and Seiichi to get you your gift."
The members of the Troika nod and a fresh set of tears stream down Kirihara's face. Yukimura pulls him into a hug, waving his hand to get everyone else to join him. Soon enough, there is a group hug, Kirihara's quiet crying in the middle.
"Don't take it for granted because we can't get another. The others you'll have to earn on your own."
"I won't let you down, buchou, fukubuchou, Yanagi-senpai."
"What about us, Kirihara-kun?" Yagyuu asks.
"None of you guys either. I'll show you all that I deserve this."
"Happy birthday, Akaya," the other members of Rikkai say in unison. Kirihara smiles through his tears.