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Shortcakes

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“For the final set, I think we’re going to start off with Sugawara.”

“Got it.” those two words nearly didn’t get out of his throat.

It was the last set already, their team was receiving first. What’s worse was that they were going to start off with him. The pressure was crushing him, rendering every limb in his body numb. Willing his feet forward, he stepped into the court. He could practically feel the tension in the air, hanging very still. For a moment, he couldn’t breathe. It was nerve-wracking, and everything else seemed to throw him off. He couldn’t seem to get a hold of himself. He was on edge. Who wouldn’t be?

Kiyoko silently watched him push through. She could sense his worry emanating from his energy. Fierce determination. Eyes dead set on the prize. But the fear was still there.

Reluctant, he crossed the bench to head to where his team was at. The court seemed so big, yet so cramped up. Thick air started to make him choke, but he rarely let it show.

Everyone wanted to get through this. No one wanted to come home empty-handed. No one wanted to go their months of training go to waste. He didn’t want all their hard work to come to an end because of him. He wanted to play through the nationals before they leave the team for good. It wasn’t like they were going to stay there and play volleyball for the rest of their lives—unless some of them does—but that was beside the point. He didn’t want to screw up and yet he couldn’t stop his body from heating up.

Clammy hands balled into a fist, his head, bowed. This wasn’t the time to panic. One slip-up could mean the difference between a set point and their very match.

She wanted to reach out to him.

Her mind was practically demanding her to go to him, hold him, and tell him it will be alright. It wasn’t impossible. The question here is: can she?

Bringing his hands together, he pressed his eyes shut, trying to stop his hands from shaking.

Dammit! My body feels like it’s on fire, but my hands are freezing.

That was when he felt something warm holding his hands, his body burning more so. Prying his eyes open, he finds their precious manager looking right at him. Palms, incredibly delicate, encased his freezing ones.

Electric frissons shot up in his body, his cheeks turning a bright color of red. It wasn’t that he wasn’t used to having Shimizu around, it was that her touch felt soft and comforting, with her hands that he was so fond of. Not that he held them once, but he liked thinking of what it would feel like.

“I’m not ready to get married yet!”

“That’s fine. I don’t have any intention of marrying you.”

Sugawara could hear his heart break a little. Then, he remembered—they weren’t the alone in that court, he realized belatedly.

Cries of protest were voiced out, and the seniors burst in outrage. From a small distance, Kiyoko couldn’t help but smile.

The contact may not have been received well, or remotely fair for the rest of the team—him being the only one lucky enough to be blessed with her touch—but the gesture was deeply appreciated.

Sugawara couldn’t stop himself from thinking about what happened at that very hour. But that would be something he would have to deal with right after their match. Their short-lived touch was enough to fuel him up for the match. He didn’t want to embarrass his ass.

After everything, he feels fortunate.

He was given the special treatment, one which the rest of them didn’t. Extremely thankful, he wanted to thank Kiyoko about it. That was why they were outside, where no one would see them.

“What you said back then, did you really mean any of it?” Suga asked.

“Did you?”

And before anything else could be said, both raised their head up and laughed, as if it didn’t matter at all. Shimizu wiped a tear from her laughing. “The look on your face was so priceless! And what’s with the ‘Shimizu’s perfume might rub off!’ thing?”

“What? I don’t remember saying it like that. You must’ve misheard me.” Sugawara said in his defense.

It wasn’t that he didn’t want anyone else make her hold their hand. He just knew how flustered she gets when someone got too close to her. She didn’t like it when people do that, though Suga was an exception. He was the only person she could openly tell her feelings to, and he’s always there to hear her out. He looks after her, and she, in turn, cares for him but doesn’t show it—which he finds cute.

“Did I help make you feel better?” Shimizu asked, which made the setter blush.

Soft, fragile hands cradled his calloused ones once more. “I’ll take that as a yes then.”