It was the fourth time that the video was playing. He was analyzing every little detail,every little sign that could explain to him how they managed to lost. And there was always one thing that stood out: that dead ball right on Shirakawa's helmet. Normally, he would have called for a time and check on Sawamura's condition. If he had done it, the mood of the team wouldn't have been broken, Sawamura would have been able to switch gears in his head... and their senpais would...
He was munching nervously on his thumb, completely exhausted, but yet he couldn't go to sleep, he had yet to finish the menu for the pitchers. His goggles still on his face -his glasses were somewhere in his room, forgotten- he was now absentmindedly looking at the screen, lost in his thoughts.
1 week had passed since the final against Inashiro, but he still wasn't mentally past it. He had been named captain and cleanup hitter, and he had to manage the new team. Honestly he would be lying if he said he hadn't except the coach to choose him as the new captain, but it was still shocking to him, because he had to take after Tetsu-san, their unwavering pillar.
He needed to work harder than ever in order to not waste everyone's efforts. He needed to...
“You need to stop looking at this freakin' video, Miyuki.”
Miyuki snapped out of his thoughts to be greeted by the sight of his green-haired vice captain.
Kuramochi didn't look pleased at all. Maybe because it was past midnight and they were supposed to sleep. The catcher put on his usual grin and looked up at him. Kuramochi didn't buy it one bit.
“I'm damn serious. This thing kept you awake almost every night for the past week. It's useless at this point to watch it, you're only losing precious sleep time.”
“It wasn't like I could sleep either way, so...”
“So what? You're punishing yourself or something like that? It was the whole team's fault and you know it...”
“It helps me keep my head on my shoulders, though.” he replicated almost immediately. “I can say the same thing to you Kuramochi, why aren't you asleep?”, Miyuki said, with his trademark grin.
“Don't try to change the subject, we're talking about you asshole!”
“ Eh~ You're worrying about me?” the smirk still in place.
Kuramochi was glaring at him, frustrated. That guy couldn't be honest with others or himself for once?
He sighed. There was no point in getting angry at him. Miyuki was automatically shutting himself off from him, because he didn't want to deal with any kind of crappy emotions he was feeling right now. In fact, if the shortstop wasn't sleeping yet, was because he was indeed worrying for his captain. But that idiot kept on pushing him and the team for the past week, trying to deal with the issue by himself. Like he always did. He could fool the others by his words, his cocky attitude, but his movements were betraying him. He wasn't as sharp as he was before the match last week, and he was dozing off from time to time. Even if he was the Miyuki Kazuya, he was nonetheless a human being, and every human has a breaking point. And the most likely to notice that, was Kuramochi.
The latter stood straight in front of where Miyuki was sitting and said:
“Yeah, I'm worried about you. So what? I can't?”
The smirk on his face had been wiped off. Miyuki was taken aback. He didn't expect his friend to be that straight forward with him.
As expected, Miyuki wasn't quite able to deal with such honest words, so Kuramochi left it here. It was too late now to begin such a conversation. Kuramochi put a hand on his friend's shoulder and looked straight at him.
“If you're not in your bed in the next ten minutes, I'm gonna drag you to it myself. And I'm fucking serious.”
A little smile spread on Miyuki's face.
“Got it, Mom;”
“Tch! Good night, you asshole captain.”
Miyuki looked at him as he walked to the door, the smile still on his face. It faded right after Kuramochi stepped out of the room. He let out a long, exhausted sigh and turned the TV off.
Crap. He didn't finish the pitchers' menu.
Well... He'd rather be killed by Kuramochi than the Coach, for not finising his duty as a catcher, so screw it all. He picked up the notebooks and headed to his room: he was going to finish his work in bed, so Kuramochi wouldn't be able to complain about the fact that he didn't do as he was told.
With a final yawn, he switched the lights off, and let the darkness hide his emotionless face.
“Kuramochi-senpai! Cheetah-sama! Are you awake?” shouted Sawamura, in the dorm room number 5.
“Shut your mouth, moron, of course I am. It's already past 6:AM, I'm already dressed.”
“Ah! That's not fair!” said Sawamura, straightening himself from his bottom bunk so that he can be face to face with his senpai.
“I said shut your trap!” growled Kuramochi, head chopping his kouhai.
Tch. What a crappy night. He did get some sleep, but he was still tired. He didn't stop thinking about the team's situation and all the burden that has been put on Miyuki's already loaded shoulders. Leading the pitchers was already a hard task, but he was now the fourth batter and the captain; so he had to watch over the entire team. Without forgetting his own training. Among all the other high school teams in Japan, they were only him and Harada-san from Inashiro to held all these key positions of a team. Maybe it's because the burden on Miyuki would be bigger than ever, that Kataoka kantoku appointed both Kuramochi and Zono to be his vice-captains.
Either way, the bastard is straining himself and he had to do something about that. For starting, he was going to watch over him during practice, analyzing his behavior, because the last thing they all wanted was to see him collapse on the field.
“Bip... Bip...Bip...Bi... crash!!”
Groaning, Miyuki threw the first thing he could put his hand on ( a baseball) at his alarm and broke it in the process. He cursed at it, and propped himself on his elbows. Great, a headache was showing the tip of its nose. He quickly got out of his bed and put on his uniform. He needed to swallow some coffee and fast, if he didn't want the headache to spread even more. Perhaps he should had taken Kuramochi's advice and go to sleep early, but work is more important, especially when it comes to his pitchers.
While walking towards the refectory, he tried to put on a more decent face but it was all in vain because as soon as he entered the refectory, he was greeted by a:
“You look like shit!”
A cracked laughter erupted from his lungs, half-genuine.
“Well, well, good morning to you too, Kuramochi-kun. You don't look so bad yourself.”
“Can't you speak to someone without sarcasms, asshole? Did you sleep?”
“.... I tried my best though.”
“So you didn't.”
Kuramochi sat besides Miyuki, watching him gulping his second cup of coffee. An awkward silence passed between them; Miyuki didn't know what to say while Kuramochi was boiling to say every thoughts that were banging in his head. He didn't had the chance because the first years, as always, came at their table to ate breakfast together.
They didn't talk to each other until the end of the training, principally because they were busy as ever, and the three pitchers were going through their own evolutions and problems; they needed as much time as they can have to train, and the only one able to gave them all of that was Miyuki.
The latter was, in appearance, perfect in everything he did: guiding perfectly Furuya and Sawamura, pushing on the right buttons to make them work hard but not too much, giving confidence to Nori... and with the two first-years, it was quite the deal to pace them.
The new team was slowly finding its mark, having lost most of the batting power was firing up the first and second years who were fighting to be in the roster. And yet, Miyuki was still having remorse, and they were pulling him back.
While thinking, Kuramochi was batting close to the bullpen so he could watch how Miyuki was doing. Well... he still looked like shit even though it was past 5:PM. But he was smoothly hiding the dark circles under his eyes with his goggles, and was wearing his helmet almost all the time, so the others didn't notice at all. What a great freaking actor he was...
Kuramochi was so deep in thought, he didn't notice that Nori was looking at him with concerned eyes.
“Ahem... Kuramochi? You look like you're going to shoot lasers from your eyes, are you alright?”
“Ah! What the... ah, it's just you Nori...”
The sidearm pitcher was looking at him, understanding the source of the other's concern.
“Actually, I thought it was my imagination but... You also noticed, right? That Miyuki is a little bit acting strange... more like trying to hide something from us?”
Surprised, Kuramochi turned his full attention to Nori. So he did notice something was off too?
Kuramochi dropped his bat on the ground and scooted closer to the pitcher in order to speak less louder.
“Yeah, the final has been a great shock for all of us, but I think it carved way deeper in Miyuki's mind.”
“And he's not the kind of person to talk about his problems, so he will not come to us of his own...”
added sadly the smaller one.
“Honestly, I thought time would be the best cure for him, but it's already been a week since then, and he's still as silent as he was on day one, so...”
“Do you think he would hear us, if we come and talk to him about it?” Nori asked, hopefully.
“Nope. Sorry, but that idiot is the kind of guy that deals with his problems when they are already to the point of no return.” Kuramochi said, while shaking his head.
“Eh?” A wide-eyed Nori was staring at him.
“That is to say, if he is sick, he would take care of himself just after collapsing and burning with a high fever. I hate that self-destructing part of him.”
Nori seemed to understand, a sad smile on his face.
“Yeah, I guess you're right. It would be better if just one person could talk to him.”
“Don't worry, I'm on it.”
Nori let out a little chuckle. Kuramochi was always complaining about Miyuki; how he has a twisted personality, how sarcastic he is, self-centered... but he deeply care for him. They're always together by the way.
“Either way, go practice in the bullpen Nori. Go make sure the first-years don't kidnap Miyuki after practice to pitch some more.” the shortstop sighed, scratching the back of his head.
“Yeah, count on me!”
He turned away, picked up his bat and continued his training.
If that idiot is also watching the video again tonight, he was so going to beat some sense into him.
6:PM. The evening training was finally over, but everyone was going to train on their own in the covered ground, like every night. Some of them were cleaning up the equipment, and the others like Haruichi and Zono were already doing their batting.
Furuya was already bathing, so it left just Sawamura to annoy Miyuki.
“Come on, Miyuki-senpai! I need to practice more on my change-up if I don't want to forget it!” Sawamura pleaded to his captain.
“We just finish practice, can't you let me breathe for a second?,” Miyuki smiled.
“I can't afford to loose my concentration!! Let's go!”
“Aye, aye, I got it, but 10 throws and then you go wash yourself, okay?” Miyuki sighed.
“Roger!” the younger one smiled happily.
“If you keep on asking for more, I'm gonna drown you in your bath, Sawamura!” Kuramochi yelled, from the other part of the ground.
“I'll be good! Spare me, leg ghost!”
Miyuki smiled. Honestly, he wanted to rest to make his headache shut up, but it was his duty, and the change-up was a new important weapon that he needed to polish more. So they headed to the second cover ground, to train in a more quiet atmosphere. While Sawamura was babbling frantically, the catcher swallowed down some dry medecine.
“Remember, 10 throws, alright?”
Sawamura put himself on position and Miyuki crouched, putting on his catcher mitt. The southpaw threw the first ball. Outside and low.
“Looking good. Next one, inside course!”
Second ball. Third. Fourth. When the eighth one came, Miyuki felt a wave of nausea running through him and his sight went blurry for a split second; he didn't see the ball coming his way but it went a little out of course and whizzed past his head, cutting him in the process. He stumbled a little backwards, feeling the blood dripping from his forehead to his chin. Strangely, it didn't hurt that much. A little stinging, that was all.
On the other hand, Sawamura panicked instantly, believing that he completely missed his throw, and came running to his captain's side.
“Miyuki-senpai!! Are you alright? I'm so sorry! I thought I threw it right but it hit you inside! I...”
“ Calm down idiot! It's not your fault, I wasn't fully focused either, and it's just a scratch. Don't sweat it.” Miyuki smiled, reassuringly.
“But, there is quite some blood...”
“Little wounds on the head can bleed a lot but it's not that bad. Don't worry.”
Sawawmura nodded, still a little on edge and helped his captain to get on his feet.
“Oi, what's the ruckus in here... Miyuki?!”
Hearing Sawamura's huge voice, Kuramochi came to check on them, to find his friend bleeding from the face, drops falling on the ground. He rushed to their side in all his cheetah glory and punched Sawamura on the head, lightly.
“What did you do, moron?!”
“Kuramochi, it wasn't his fault, I wasn't 100% focused and it's just a scratch.”
Head locking Sawamura, Kuramochi turned his attention on the other. He was really losing his focus then... was it because of the fatigue of today or...
“I'm going to patch it up, so don't kill Sawamura!”
“I'm going with you, wait.” Kuramochi said, releasing his poor kouhai.
“I can do it alone, you know. Are you my mom or what?” Miyuki teased.
“You will need to take off your glasses to clean it, and you will be almost blind without them, so I'm coming.”
“... Oh my god, you really are my mom.”
“Quit bitching, you are dripping blood everywhere!”
Kuramochi pushed the other on the back lightly to tell him to start walking. The two headed to Miyuki's room, saying good night to Sawamura. (Kuramochi said to be prepared because when he will come back, there's going to be some sparring. )
Sawamura just stayed here, thinking.
“Those two were that close to each other before?”