(A moment in time)
Lessons have ended for the day. The near-empty classroom is quiet, its walls painted the rich, warm brown of evening sun. Curtains dancing softly in the breeze, skirting teasingly near the last two occupants of the classroom. One has his arms folded over his notebook, his nose buried in the crook of his elbow, shoulders rising and falling in the quiet steady rhythm of sleep. The other has his chin cupped in one hand, pen tilted loosely in his fingers, his own homework forgotten as he loses himself staring.
Tanba drinks in the sun caught in Chris' hair, the play of shadows across his face, the gentle curve of his cheek bunched up against his arm. A quiet ache rolls steadily in his chest, and Tanba loses himself in all the times they've spent together, from that first day on the field, to that first day in the same class, to the present. He thinks about framing this one snapshot of time in his memory, a precious fragment he wants to hold onto forever.
Somewhere outside, someone laughs. The sound carries, loud and clear.
Chris shifts in his sleep, frowning slightly.
Tanba reaches over, brushes his fingers over the crinkle in his brow, and catches himself a moment too late. He freezes, incapacitated by horror.
Golden eyes blink at his hand, staring, before Chris slides his gaze towards him.
His heart lurches into his throat, and Tanba jerks away so violently that he bangs his elbow on the table behind him. Pain rings through bone and he hisses, face burning.
Chris sits up in his seat. "Are you alright?"
"Yes!" Tanba stands, stumbles out of his seat. "I--yes, I'm fine! Sorry, I didn't mean to," he says, gesturing at empty air with absolutely no clue what he's trying to say, desperately looking anywhere but at Chris. "W-we should probably go. It's getting late--"
"Wait," Chris interjects, "you hurt your arm, didn't you?"
"What--" he starts, making the mistake of looking at Chris and hastily dropping his gaze to the floor. "No, I just. It stings. A little. No big deal."
"That’s your pitching arm," Chris says. "Sit down. Let me take a look."
"My arm's fine,” he insists, still reeling from the burn of embarrassment.
A brief, hesitant pause before Chris says, "Sit down anyway."
Tanba looks up again--and this time he really looks, is surprised to spot the faint pink tinge in Chris' cheeks as their eyes meet.
He sits down.
Chris inhales quietly, raises his right hand and lays it on the table, palm up.
Tanba stares, feeling every second of confusion trickle by. When he finally catches onto Chris' meaning, his mouth goes dry, and he wipes his sweaty palm on his trousers, once, twice, before carefully placing his hand over Chris. Fingers close over the back of his hand almost instantly, and the small contact makes Tanba’s nerves sing. He holds his breath as Chris slides his other hand up, along the winding curve of Tanba's forearm, rubbing circles over the hard bump of his elbow.
"You know,” Chris begins, “I really thought I was imagining it."
Tanba doesn’t dare lift his gaze, tracking Chris’ thumb as it makes short, soothing sweeps over his knuckles, stealing a little more of his breath with every stroke.
"But I wasn't imagining it, right?"
Now, he looks up.
(This is how it happens)
The chair scrapes against the floor. The table creaks. The grip on his hand tightens a fraction. The barest whisper of warmth ghosting over his skin,
A quiver of pressure against his lips, the softest, sweetest sensation Tanba has ever experienced. Blossoms of warmth all over his skin, and when Tanba opens his eyes--when did he close them?--Chris is sitting back, his smile shy, tense. He only holds Tanba's gaze for a heartbeat, before looking away, cheeks tinged pink.
His face flaming, Tanba looks away too, heart hammering against his ribcage, ready to burst through his chest, his thoughts racing a hundred different directions at once.
But their hands are still folded around each other's, skin clammy, and neither of them are pulling away. Outside, the sun continues to set, the sky grows golden, the day ages.
They gather their things in discomfiting silence. Tanba picks up his bag, and hesitates.
Already, his hand feels empty, missing the weight of Chris' palm in his own. He glances over to where Chris is putting away the last of his books, catches his eye.
Chris straightens, stiff. "What is it?"
Tanba bites his lip, feels too small in his own skin as he raises a hand, palm up, fingers extended.
A brief pause--lasting only a breath's length, but long enough to make his stomach drop, his mouth dry--and then Chris is scrambling to hoist his bag over his shoulder, grabbing Tanba's hand in one rushed motion. Their palms clasped, Tanba looks to where Chris is smiling bright, so so bright, and feels his own lips stretch wide.
Chris tugs him towards the door, glancing back with shining eyes; Tanba follows, half a step behind, through the orange light pooling in the empty corridor, and out into the sun.