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Three Strikes

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    “Listen up, team,” Captain Yamato says, his face deathly serious, “we are going to murder these guys. They are going to be sent home in body-bags. They’re the enemy, and we’re gonna slaughter them.”

    Kakashi glances over at the other team. They look like a bunch of sweaty high-school kids, same as them, though their baseball uniforms look like they’ve seen better days. Or months. Two messy brown-haired boys are passing around a joint, a douchey-looking kid with silver hair is blatantly screwing around on his phone, and another is straight up sleeping on the bench. Their Captain is facing them, hands on his hips as he tries to rouse his teammates, ponytail bouncing at the effort. It seems a lost cause, just like their chances of winning. 

    “Even their parents aren’t going to be able to identify their remains.”

    Yamato’s doing that thing again where he gets too serious and starts creeping everyone out. Kakashi looks over at Coach Minato to see if he’s going to put a stop to this, but he’s too busy giggling and sexting his wife to notice. As usual.

    “Kakashi, we’re counting on your pitches to really massacre them, got it?” Yamato fixes him with that soul-killing stare, all blank and dead-eyed.

    “Mmm,” Kakashi hums noncommittally, his lower face hidden behind his catcher’s mitt. He finds the smell comforting. Also, Asuma is sitting next to him, and reeks of a nauseating combination of B.O., cigarette smoke and Kurenai’s perfume. As if they’re fooling anyone by claiming to be ‘just friends’. 

    “Can we hurry this up?” Genma cuts in, snapping his gum. “I have a hot date in, like, two hours.” 

    “I’m sitting right here,” Raido states. “You’re so fucking embarrassing.”

    “Love you too, babe.”

    “Where the hell is Gai?” Asuma asks, glancing around.

    “He ate too many protein bars again. He’s in the can.”

    Kakashi can’t wait for this to be over so he can go home and chill with the dogs. All eight of them. He makes a mental reminder to pick up some more Milkbones on the way home. 

    The thing is, Kakashi is damn good at baseball, even though he loathes it. He’d drop it in a heartbeat and spend all his free time playing CoD, except his father insists he play a sport to ‘round out his resume’. As if his straight A’s since Kindergarten and 160 IQ wasn’t enough. Kakashi’s pitches are precise, powerful, and virtually unstoppable. The ball almost seems to move as if he controls it himself. He strikes everyone out with 99.9% accuracy, able to analyze an opponent in a single glance and determine their weaknesses. It’s the reason their team has made it so far, despite his teammate’s determined efforts to goof off. 

    The two coaches finally get their shit together and shake hands (the other coach is an elderly man who winks at Asuma for some reason, who groans). The game begins, and Kakashi takes his place on the pitcher’s mound, rolling the ball soothingly around in his hand. The other team’s Captain is up first. After adjusting his ponytail under his helmet, he walks to the plate, taps the ground with his bat, and looks up at Kakashi just as he winds up to throw.

    He’s a nerdy looking kid with gangly arms, a scar over the bridge of his nose, and a determined scowl on his face. 

    He’s the most gorgeous thing Kakashi’s ever seen. 

    The ball slips off his fingers, goes spinning off in a corkscrew, and clocks a drink right out of a bystander’s hand. Soda sprays everywhere, thoroughly coating a good portion of the meager crowd. 

    “Foul!” the umpire cries. The boy blinks in surprise, then squares up again, bat waving tauntingly. Kakashi gets another ball and winds up.

    This time his ball hits a car in the parking lot, the burglar alarm wailing away. The car’s owner wails even louder.

    “Foul!” 

    Kakashi throws another foul. And another. 

    “Ball!”

    The boy walks. He glances at Kakashi as he trots by him, confused. Kakashi keeps his eyes on the ground, cursing inwardly.

    This will not happen again.

---

    It happens again.

    And again.

    And again

    It’s not so bad when the boy’s on second base, because then he’s directly behind Kakashi and out of his line of sight. But when he’s on first or third, he can see him out of the corner of his eye, and his gaze is naturally drawn to him, concentration wavering. It’s even worse when he’s on the bench, because then Kakashi can see him in his natural state, smiling and chatting amicably with his teammates. 

    But nothing compares to when he’s up to the plate, standing ready for the pitch. The intensity of those deep brown eyes is staggering, making his legs weak. He walks each time, Kakashi’s near-perfect pitches always spinning out of control and destroying something of value. He’s just glad he’s hit mostly inanimate objects and not people. 

    After several innings of this, Captain Yamato has had enough, and he calls a time-out, dragging Kakashi to the side of the dugout for a polite chat. 

    “Kakashi, the fuck is going on? You’re throwing the damn game! Literally !”

    “I’m sorry,” Kakashi mumbles, miserable. “I...I don’t know-”

    “Are you feeling alright?” Captain Minato has decided to finally do his job and actually act like a Coach, walking over to join them.

    “M’fine.” Kakashi shakes his head, hiding his face behind his glove. “It’s just...I keep getting...distracted.” Yamato sputters indignantly, but Minato’s studying him, a thoughtful look on his face. He glances over at the other team, and Kakashi’s traitorous eyes follow, latching onto the boy, who is busy scolding his teammates again, cheeks flushed with frustration. Kakashi’s ears start to burn. Minato chuckles and he hurriedly snaps his gaze back.

    “...I think I see what the problem is.” He pats Kakashi’s shoulder with a knowing grin. “Listen, Kakashi...why don’t you sit this one out? Just...relax and enjoy the view.”

    It feels like Kakashi’s ears are going to burn down to nubs.

    “What?! He can’t sit out, we need him! How else are we going to bathe in their blood?”

    “Bathe in their- what ? Christ, Yamato, it’s just a game. Calm down. Are we going to have to have another talk?”

    Kakashi drags his feet back to the bench and plonks himself down. The others glance over at him in concern. 

    “What’s up, Kakashi?” Genma asks. “Constipated?”

    “Gai, give him some of your protein bars.” Raido elbows the other boy in the gut, who groans. 

    Nevermind, they’re just idiots. Kakashi cowers behind his mitt in shame. 

---

   The game continues, and his teammates manage to do remarkably well without him. Gai makes a surprisingly good substitute pitcher, although he screams “Dynamic Pitch!!” every time he throws the ball until Coach Minato tells him to cut it out. Asuma is jacked enough that he can hit a homerun every time he connects, and Kakashi is pretty sure the other team is terrified of Yamato and his intimidating stare. The game makes a quick turnaround, and in the blink of an eye, they’ve won. He’s been staring nonstop at the boy, too, so that might have something to do with the quick win. 

    Everyone cheers and high-fives while Kakashi quickly grabs his stuff, shoves it in his duffle, and scuttles off towards the bus. Coach Minato is suddenly next to him, blocking his way. 

    “Why don’t you go say hi?” he suggests, nodding his head at the other team.

    Kakashi can’t think of anything more horrible.

    “This was an away game,” Minato reminds him. “You might never see him again.”

    ...Dammit. 

    Dropping his bag in the dirt, Kakashi forces himself to turn around and walk robotically towards the boy, who is just wrapping up a speech to his teammates about how they’re still winners for doing their best, but no-one’s really listening. He turns away from them, shaking his head in exasperation, and blinks in surprise as Kakashi stops in front of him. He’s even cuter up close. Kakashi keeps his eyes on the ground to keep from being blinded. 

    “...Hi.”

    “Uh. Hey.” The boy regards him warily. “You alright out there? The Coach made you sit down.”

    “Oh, yeah. I’m fine.” Kakashi pauses long enough for the silence to turn painfully awkward. “I’m Kakashi, by the way.” 

    “Iruka.” God, even his name is cute. Kakashi scrambles to think of something to talk about. 

    “So, um. Do you...like baseball?”

    “Not really, no,” Iruka answers. “I’d rather be home playing CoD, to tell the truth.”

    “Oh my God, me too,” Kakashi slumps over, awash with relief. “Have you seen the latest updates? They have a new map that-”

    The next five minutes are incomprehensible gibberish to everyone but them as they debate the best maps, guns, and loadouts.

    “Iruka, let’s go!” a voice calls impatiently from the parking lot. 

    “Yeah, yeah, just a minute,” he calls back, waving at his teammates. Kakashi’s stomach tightens. 

    This is it. His last chance. 

    “Hey, uh...” He takes a deep breath. “You wanna...hang out sometime?” 

    Iruka stares back at him blankly. 

    “I live, like, twenty miles away from you.”

    “Oh.” Kakashi blinks. “Right. Sorry.” He feels like a complete idiot. Here he was, thinking he actually had a chance-

    “Here’s my phone number. Message me so I can friend you and we’ll play later.”

    ...Then again, maybe he did.

    They exchange numbers, Kakashi happily adding a dolphin emoji after Iruka’s name. 

    “So is this a friend thing, or a boyfriend thing?” Iruka asks, blunt as can be. Kakashi just gapes at him, wide-eyed in horror. His face feels like it’s on fire, and he desperately wishes he’d brought his glove to hide behind.

    “...Only...if you want it to be,” he croaks out. Iruka stares at him a beat longer, then breaks out into a blinding grin. 

    “Yeah, sure, why not. You were pretty cute out there, spazzing out every time I was up to bat. I’m surprised you didn’t hit a bird.”

    Oh my God. He knew. Oh my GOD. 

    “I have to warn you, though...” Iruka went on, grinning cheekily, “three strikes, and you’re out.”

    Kakashi has never been more in love. 

 

-End-