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Breaking the Ice

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"I can't believe the guys put you up to this," Unsui said apologetically. "I really am sorry for the trouble, Yamato."

Yamato smiled. "Not at all, and please, call me Takeru," he said breezily. "When Suzuna told me that I'd be going on a date with you, I had thought it might've been a prank, but it's a refreshing change to see that it isn't one."

"You've got Hiruma on your team, not us," Unsui pointed out.

"Ah, true," Takeru agreed. "Still, let's make the most of it, shall we?"

They headed inside the restaurant and were shown to a table with the kind of efficiency that made Unsui wonder if Hiruma had indeed gotten involved in this whole affair somehow. Considering he hadn't heard from Mamori about Hiruma using more ammunition than usual, Unsui was fairly sure these blind dates were still relatively secret from Saikyodai.

After they sat down and Unsui took in the atmosphere, he turned to Takeru to find the young man watching him intently.

"So, why is it that we're on this date in the first place?" Takeru asked curiously, taking a sip of water. "Not that I mind at all, but it's interesting that your entire team set you up."

Unsui's jaw clenched. "Over the past few months, my teammates have been finding girlfriends. I'm guessing that one of them got the bright idea that everyone on the team needed to be dating someone, and since I was still a bachelor, they set their sights on me."

Takeru frowned. "You don't look happy about that."

"I'm not. We're not Koigahama University, for one," Unsui said, one of his hands clenching into a fist against his leg, "And secondly, they should have asked me if I wanted them to do this, not taking the decision out of my hands."

Takeru's eyes narrowed as he thought. "It sounds like your team cares about you."

Unsui shook his head. "They shouldn't have bothered," he murmured.

A long silence stretched between them, broken only by the waitress as she took their orders. Both young men smiled and thanked her, but when she was gone, the silence returned.

"Unsui, I realize this is probably inappropriate," Takeru said solemnly after a few minutes, "but I have to ask."

Unsui frowned, absolutely mystified. "What is it?" He found himself wondering if something had happened at Saikyodai, but he couldn't think of anything off-hand.

"Do I have permission to punch your brother in the face?"

Unsui blinked again. "...What?"

"Do I have permission to punch your brother in the face?" Takeru repeated himself calmly. "I realize that your brother can be difficult, but I'm reaching the limits of my patience with his attitude. I firmly believe that punching your brother in the face will do him a world of good."

Unsui blinked again before the full extent of his horror sank in. "Please don't." His voice might have squeaked a little.

Takeru frowned, looking more curious than annoyed at the reply. "Why?"

"Because he's my brother, and I don't want him to be hurt," Unsui replied, surprised by the question. "Wouldn't you want to defend your siblings from harm, if you were able to?"

"I certainly would, but given what I saw of him during the Christmas Bowl we played against each other, and the two years we've spent playing on the same team, there are very few times when he actually deserves you defending him," Takeru said. "What about you, Unsui?"

Unsui frowned. "What about me?"

"Don't you deserve to have someone defend you?" Takeru asked. "Someone who wants to take care of you?"

"A man is supposed to be able to stand on his own two feet, Takeru," Unsui replied. "If a man can't do that, what sort of a man is he?"

"Someone who knows his own limitations and isn't afraid to ask for help," Takeru answered. "If living in America has taught me something, it's that being a man doesn't mean you have to be alone to prove it."

"That's not why I'm alone," Unsui murmured.

"All right, then," Takeru said with a nod, "why?"

"Shinryuuji is known for following Buddhist teachings," Unsui explained. "It seemed easy enough not to be distracted by girls or relationships and being able to focus on my training." He took a long drink of water.

"You have a point, but gay sex doesn't break a Buddhist vow of celibacy."

Takeru might've had a point, but his usually good sense of timing must have abandoned him. Unsui's spit-take covered his face and shirt with water.

Takeru blinked a few times before reaching for a napkin.

Unsui stared at him in horror.

Takeru took one look at him and started laughing out loud.

One of the waitresses had scuttled over, offering more napkins, but Takeru waved her away, still chuckling to himself. After a minute, Unsui found himself smiling, before he too started laughing.

"I'm really sorry about that," Unsui offered, still laughing. "Can I make it up to you?"

Takeru grinned. "You're already doing so, Unsui." At Unsui's surprised look, he pointed at Unsui's face. "You look good when you laugh."

Unsui blinked, his laughter stopping. "I... do?"

"Mm-hm," Takeru agreed with a nod. "Suzuna telling me I was going on a date with you might've been intriguing, but if I can get you to smile like that more often, I don't think it'll be a hardship to keep this going."

Unsui felt his cheeks turn red, but he carefully took another drink to cover it. "Maybe it won't."