It’s not like Youichi holds any real belief in karma. Day-to-day life is simple and straightforward enough to live through, particularly at Seidō, and all in all, he has no interest in taking stock of unnecessarily complicated concepts and principles like divine causality. Still, a small part of him is starting to think that maybe the universe is somehow attempting to balance itself out, owing to all the dirty glimpses he’s taken of his underclassman’s phone in the past.
Because that’s essentially where it all begins. Nothing else is different: everyone’s woken up with some degree of bleary-eyed rebirth at their usual chosen times of the morning, Sawamura’s determinedly out the door before anybody else to do his own laps in the crisp daybreak cold, and Youichi’s managed to spare himself ten minutes before early practice to nose through his kouhai’s phone for potentially delicious messages from that humble childhood friend back home. Just a regular Tuesday morning.
And that’s when he notices, with surprise, that the inbox is inundated with messages that’d been sent not by Wakana, but by Miyuki of all people, each one having been time-stamped at some ungodly hour of the night before. That’s bizarre; he hadn’t even known that the two of them communicated in this particular way - only a handful of meters of distance separate their living quarters and they practically see each other daily anyway.
Youichi thumbs one mail open inquisitively, and it reads: Mmm, good. Show me more?
Sawamura’s response is a level retort: You first. Fair’s fair, Miyuki Kazuya. An evidently self-timed photo is attached – in the glow of pale torchlight Sawamura is sitting back leisurely on his bed, soft hair falling over a mellow gold gaze and the pad of a slender thumb pressed to the corner of barely-parted lips; his pants sit low on his hips with ease, unbuttoned the entire way down, and he’s got one lean hand discreetly slid into the front of his underwear, curved knuckles tantalizingly straining its waistband downward in the promise of more, I’ll give you more.
Youichi’s mouth runs dry.
So he’d been sound asleep in the upper bunk at the time that the messages were exchanged, blissfully unaware of anything going on underneath him. Sawamura had just brazenly lolled about at two o’clock in the morning, sexting.
Youichi rolls the word languorously around his tongue to remind himself that it’s real, because now he has to wrap his brain around the fact that his roommate is actually capable of answering to the call of his own dick like a stereotypical teenage boy would, and isn’t just some boisterous, overconfident, glossy-eyed dumbass whose mind is crammed only with thoughts of baseball.
Enlightenment is a strange thing, the way it tips worlds on its sides and casts rays of light on shadowed cracks and corners. He hadn’t even known that Sawamura and Miyuki had some thing – or whatever the hell it is that’s going on between them. All the messages are gone from Sawamura’s phone the next morning, however; he’d probably simply been stupidly late in eradicating the evidence. Youichi can almost happily convince himself that it’d all been a wild hallucination, except he knows it’s not, because all the lewd photos that he’d seen can seriously never be unseen and they’re branded way too vividly into his eyeballs now to simply be figments of his imagination.
Yet even the dirty pictures don’t prepare him for actually walking in on them – nothing in all the world can cushion that blow – during his laundry day, when he’s carelessly slinging his bag of grubby clothes over his shoulder, a tuneless whistle blowing through his lips; and he spies Norifumi sitting on the ground outside the dormitory’s laundry room when he gets there, his own forgotten basket of clothes laid by his elbow, dark hair innocently disheveled and mild misery carved into the lines of his face.
‘Nori,’ Youichi blinks. ‘Everything alright?’
‘Yeah,’ answers Nori modestly, seeming to straighten himself out. But then he deflates with hesitation, murmuring: ‘Just – don’t go into the laundry room for now. I tried going in, too. It’s totally occupied.’
Youichi curls his mouth askew at that. ‘By who? I thought no one else did their laundry on Thursday afternoons apart from me and you?’
He steps up to the door, taking no notice of Nori’s sudden flustered squawk, and slides it open halfway – and that’s the exact moment that the tightness on his face falls away and he regrets everything.
Because Sawamura’s hoisted up onto one of the washing machines, seated languidly at its edge; he’s completely unclothed from the waist down, lean legs splayed up and around Miyuki’s pelvis, thighs warmly cradling the faint jut of Miyuki’s hips. And Miyuki’s standing nearly flush against him, pants undone and slid halfway down the curve of his otherwise bare ass, droplets of sweat following the arched dip of his lower spine; his fingers are lightly divided over the hollow of Sawamura’s waist, a single thumb brushing across the soft lines of his ribs, his pale white teeth flitting delicately around the shell of Sawamura’s ear. Sawamura’s fingers move to curl around the taut muscles of Miyuki’s upper arm and Miyuki shifts his hands lower to dig blunt fingernails firmly into the bones of Sawamura’s hips, all while they’re rocking steadily against each other, into one another, hitching breaths low and heated, keeping their unwavering rhythm steady as Sawamura exhales Miyuki’s name into his hair.
Youichi flings the door shut so impressively fast that it’s a miracle it doesn’t snap off its hinges.
Blood pumps rapidly like drums in his ears and heat washes over his face like a curtain of steam; he squeezes his eyes closed tightly and takes a deep, slow breath because now he feels filthier than his dirty laundry, and also what the hell.
Nori gives two hesitant pats to his back in sympathy, but at least has the good grace not to say a word.
He’s almost tempted to think that Miyuki must be doing this on purpose.
Miyuki Kazuya’s frequent grins are all teeth. Wide, near-feral, brilliant rows of white, white teeth that look like they’ve sprouted from the deepest, nastiest core of his bones. It fits in seamlessly with every other part of him like a piece of a puzzle – firmly rooted in that usual twisted personality, full of self-satisfied smirks and unbearably cocky glee which, generally speaking, does tend to end up grating on everyone’s nerves eventually. As far as Youichi’s concerned, adding shameless deviant to his classmate’s repertoire of characteristics may not be too farfetched, at this point.
He's especially convinced of this when he’s the only one left doing swings right before dinnertime on Monday afternoon, which actually also means that he’s the only one left to head back to put his bat away afterward; and maybe he should’ve been smarter about what he hears in the equipment shed, but he’s always had a lot of faith in Miyuki – a sentiment that he’s quickly coming to regret, especially in situations like this.
‘… It’s making me dizzy. It’s too strong,’ Sawamura’s voice rings out in complaint from behind the door.
‘Moron. Of course it is,’ is Miyuki’s reply. ‘Look over them.’
Every muscle in Youichi’s body freezes momentarily and warning sirens blare in his head, because it’s those two inside the shed, and he’s already seen plenty in the last week to put him off for a lifetime. It’s enough of a miracle that he’s been able to get any sleep at night with one of the two guilty parties sleeping in the bunk underneath him. But then again, he hears no moaning or gasping in there and the conversation sounds pretty innocent – right?
He carefully slides the door open just a hair’s breadth.
Sawamura’s backed up against one of the shelves, and Miyuki’s almost thoroughly pressed up against him, painfully intimate, his curved fingers grasping at Sawamura’s waist; they’re both still in their practice uniforms, but Miyuki’s switched back to his eyeglasses – and his prescription sports goggles are lightly poised on Sawamura’s face.
Slender pitcher’s fingertips reach up to take hold of the outer frame of the goggles, and Sawamura slides them down, down, slowly, like it’s a dance, never breaking that gleaming gold gaze away from Miyuki’s eyes; he pauses when they’re close to halfway down the bridge of his nose, tilting his head just barely, almost unnoticeably, with a mild questioning quirk smoothing in at the corner of his mouth.
‘Yeah,’ Miyuki rasps out breathlessly, pleasure coloring his voice. ‘God, that’s perfect.’
Youichi rolls his eyes so far backward that he nearly sprains an optic nerve. Somehow it’s not unbelievable at all that Miyuki has some weird-as-shit goggles fetish.
A sigh rolls tremulously off the tip of Miyuki’s tongue, and he starts leaning in toward the side of Sawamura’s throat; but Sawamura quickly presses a single finger against his mouth, halting him.
‘Senpai,’ he states openly, frowning. ‘You’re being awfully eager, aren’t you.’
Miyuki’s mouth unfolds little by little into a smile, deceivingly soft like the roll of water on sand and as sharp as the jagged edges of rough pebbles, and his hand reaches up to curl around the one that’s being pushed in his face; he gently pulls the hand away, pupils dilating, and Youichi barely even has to take more than one glimpse of that keen stare and that familiar brief flash of teeth to suddenly be uncomfortably aware of where this may be going.
‘Didn’t catch that,’ he drawls, sounding electrified. ‘Say it again?’
Sawamura lets out a genuine sigh of exasperation, but there’s a touch of knowing in the crinkle of his eyes. ‘It’s tough imagining you being unable to catch anything. You’re as nasty as usual,’ he leans forward, roughened fingertips brushing over the junction where Miyuki’s neck and shoulder meets, his lips moving to Miyuki’s tender earlobe. ‘… Senpai.’
And, apparently, that’s all Miyuki can take. He shoves Sawamura back against the shelf, hard enough to bruise, almost merciless in his force; and then they’re kissing, rough and roused and heated, hands fumbling urgently to undo each other’s belts, and that’s about enough for Youichi, yeah, goodbye.
He slides the door back to a close and shakes his head incredulously, fingers coming up to pinch the bridge of his nose, because evidently Miyuki has a kink for class seniority-related dirty talk as well, and that’s still not a surprise.
And he seemingly never learns the lesson to avoid being the last to do anything anymore, even after the equipment shed ordeal, because Friday night rolls in way too quickly and Youichi’s the last one out doing personal practice again. He’s penned in an additional two hundred swings to his daily schedule since the start of the week, because after all he’s been through, he’s all but submerged in a frustration that itches and prickles almost as badly as a burning rash; sweeping his bat firmly through thin air in repetition seems to be the only thing that’s giving him any kind of catharsis at this stage.
So he’s the last one to go get himself cleaned up, and it’s the one thing that he’s been looking forward to the most for the end of the day – to let his thoughts and body go loose in the soothing wash of hot water and steam, all relaxed and pretty much poised with ease on the cusp of heaven: a tantalizing prospect. It’s already late and the sky is dark out when he walks over to the communal bath with leisure, the mild evening air swirling across the skin and hairs of his bare upper body, his towel wrapped laxly around his waist for convenience.
He’s already right outside the bathing area when he hears the heated murmur of ‘Please.’
But the nerves and bones of his hand work faster than his brain, and he opens the door and immediately hates everything in his life.
It hadn’t previously crossed his mind that just because he’s the last one to get to the bath, doesn’t mean that everyone else is done. Because of course his fate will have it that Miyuki and Sawamura are still there, soaking in the tub; Sawamura’s perched on Miyuki’s lap amid the lingering steam, his back flush against Miyuki’s chest, slim fingers seemingly coiled around himself just beneath the water’s surface and pumping collectedly at a warm, measured tempo. Scantly parted lips trace whispered words at the base of Sawamura’s nape, and the two of them are slowly, rhythmically shifting together, hips firmly ground, moving steadily against each other within the calm resistance of the water; Sawamura lightly tilts his head back, quiet long sighs of Miyuki, Miyuki rolling off the edges of his teeth, and Miyuki moves in like the pull of gravity, trailing the wet softness of his tongue sensuously across the curved angle of Sawamura’s jawline.
The muscles on Youichi’s face droop dismally like he’s lost control of them. Those two dumb shits are fucking in the bath. They’re actually fucking in the bath, the bath that literally everyone on the team uses. He’s already starting to think about whether or not he ever wants to bathe in it again.
There’s a little boy living inside of him that’s dangerously close to sulking. And, as if to spite him, the towel around his waist suddenly loosens and plops to the ground like a wrinkled old dishrag. He lowers his head, staring at it blankly while he’s left in nothing but his cotton boxer shorts.
He goes and swings a hundred more times, and makes sure to passionately fly-kick Sawamura the very moment the other boy returns to their shared dorm room.
The pitch soars past him while he’s at-bat; the call of ball four is distantly voiced somewhere in his surroundings. Long fingers slacken, and the bat rolls away from the bends of his knuckles and onto the dirt, its metallic clank a hazy and faraway echo. Dust rises slowly in its wake, accompanied by nothing but a heavy quiet; and then, as if everything’s snapping violently into place, it all just bubbles up suddenly inside him out of nowhere.
‘What did I ever do?’ he complains loudly, almost petulant.
Ono demurely requests a time-out in the middle of their practice game, and Nori compassionately and understandingly comes off the mound to give him two more awkward pats on the back.
The social conversation rumbling across the dinner hall during that night’s mealtime revolves around how, for some puzzling reason, Youichi seemed to have lost his shit over being walked.
‘I’ve seen things,’ mumbles Maezono at practice a few days later. Dark circles flourish like blooming flowers along the undersides of his eyes and his lids droop heavily with lack of sleep, and he generally looks like shit, which would be relatively comical to some extent except that Youichi’s carrying his own fresh battle scars and has since somehow developed a lot more empathy than usual as a result.
‘What,’ Youichi scoffs. ‘Like Miyuki and Sawamura, you mean.’
A weighted, knowing silence immediately blankets everyone within a ten-meter radius of him, and that’s the moment he realizes that karma isn’t singling him out: Miyuki and Sawamura have simply, and comfortably, become damn shameless to a degree that seems to surpass normal shameless people, because evidently he’s not the only one who’s seen things.
He eventually thinks it may be a good idea to talk to Miyuki about this, because he is a somewhat-friend who cares and it could be Rei or a teacher or the coach walking in on them one day – and because his sanity will probably thank him for it once he’s not seeing more of their grinding naked bodies than he has to – so he makes his way over to the spare communal study room adjacent to the dorms, where Miyuki had briefly mentioned he’d planned to be to comb through scorebooks, and sweeps the door open without much ceremony.
‘Hey,’ he starts casually. ‘I was—’
He’s greeted with the sight of Miyuki sitting at the study desk, slightly hunched over with a mild flush dusting the hollow of his cheeks and low breathing coming out in uneven pants, firm fingers gripping far too tightly at the rim of the table and an unabashed flare of thrill searing in the brown and gold flecks of his eyes; and it’s a testament to exactly how much Youichi has seen in the past couple of weeks that he’s not even affected or surprised by this anymore.
‘Yo,’ Miyuki breathes out unsteadily, boldly eyeballing him with a gratified, lopsided smirk.
Youichi tonelessly answers: ‘Yo.’
He can’t see Sawamura, but he turns his gaze toward the general direction of Miyuki’s lap, obscured from view by the tabletop, and he lets out a long, loud sigh.
There’s a small, wantonly wet sound of tongue and lips and teeth from beneath the desk, a little rustling of fabric and the awkward shifting around of limbs, and then a relatively guilty voice biting out: ‘… Hi, Kuramochi-senpai.’
How Youichi’s managed to stay completely unnoticed by the two of them throughout the past few weeks is a mystery to him, considering he’s more or less been as subtle as they’ve been; but weirdly enough, now that he’s been seen, he’s flooded over with a perversely strange relief to know that there’s no escape this time.
The thing is, nothing’s actually changed since all of this had started, as far as he can tell. They’re all young and they wear their hearts on their sleeves on the field – tightly weaving themselves, like intertwined fingers, into a gripping romance with a sport that they’ll offer all their helpless love to for three years. Miyuki’s steadfast dedication to his captaincy and his team is still unwavering, and his catching and calling work is still admittedly top-notch; Sawamura’s golden-hearted enthusiasm and support for his teammates is still clearly sincere and present at every turn, and his pitching work is still confidently, determinedly energetic and improving with every throw. In many ways, the two of them have definitely been a little more touchy-feely during practices than before: an arm playfully slung over shoulders here, a single temperate pat on the back there, but Youichi doesn’t exactly sense any petty favoritism or preferential treatment in their gameplay. So maybe, he thinks – and he’s surprised at how easily the layer of ice cracks apart and melts, a warm answer to a mouthed prayer of patience – it’s all fine. Everything’s good and as it should be, no matter what.
But he’s leaving the dining hall to go back to his dorm room after dinner that evening, and light footfalls still chase after him regardless: a faint fluttering of fledgling wings beating against the concrete.
And before he knows it, Sawamura’s fallen into step beside him, panting lightly, a juvenile mess of long, gawky limbs and carelessly wrinkled clothes. It’s so basic and youthful and pure, in a way; this idiot’s managed to openly engage in the filthiest, most obscene stuff without ever sparing a thought to getting caught and is still somehow brimming with an unguarded earnestness and a wholehearted innocence to him that Youichi doubts he himself will ever have.
Sawamura rubs the back of his head unusually placidly, and states: ‘Look, about Miyuki-senpai—’
Well, then. Youichi pauses right where he is on the cement path and pivots on his heel to look at his roommate with a pointed stare, and Sawamura, seeing this, follows suit.
‘… I’m going out with him,’ he says.
Youichi openly peers at him like he’s stupid, because this is quite possibly the most redundant conversation starter he’s ever been involved in. ‘I never would’ve guessed,’ he deadpans.
‘Yeah. And, well—’ Sawamura breathes thoughtfully, ‘I’m sleeping with him.’
‘I know,’ answers Youichi with emphasis, kneading the space between his eyebrows incredulously. ‘You guys have no goddamn shame. You know how many times I’ve walked in on you two? It’s really hard to miss.’
At least Sawamura has the decency to look a little apologetic at that. ‘Ah – I’m sorry,’ he mumbles with a barely-there trace of awkwardness, lowering his head.
Youichi shakes his head dismissively and flaps his hand in Sawamura’s direction. This ridiculous exchange is already starting to turn his insides into melting butter, sickeningly soft, which isn’t the least bit acceptable; he thinks he may have to go swing a bat a few hundred times to feel fearsome and rough around the edges again.
‘… But I’m also not sorry,’ Sawamura then declares without nonsense, resolute gold eyes unexpectedly rising again to meet Youichi’s gaze. ‘Because – as gross as it is to say this, because it’s him – I kinda actually really, really like him. Just about as much as I hate him. And, well, I know he really, really likes me too. It’s pretty disgusting and weird and embarrassing, but … I don’t know. I wouldn’t give it up for anything. We’re happy.’
Must be nice, thinks Youichi distantly, mouth in an unpleasant slant; he can feel tendrils of warmth unfurl across the inside of his ribcage, comforting and offensive all at once. Those two always did look like they felt complete. And there’s no mistaking the mild contentment in the tenor of Sawamura’s voice, the timbre of solace pouring from his lips. The sound of happiness.
‘God, stop it. You’re saying nauseating things. It’s mortifying.’
‘Yeah, I know.’ Sawamura’s clearly grossed out at himself; his nose wrinkles innocently like a prune and the edges of his lips turn into a frown. But then every corner of his face suddenly springs to life, the creases vanishing, and he laughs brightly – a cheerfulness as vibrant as the tinkling of bells.
Youichi rolls his eyes, reaches out and grasps firmly at Sawamura’s shoulder. ‘Seriously though, brat,’ he scoffs evenly. ‘You’re lucky it’s me and not the coach or the principal or some teacher who’s been walking in on you. I know that there’s no way in hell I’d be able to stop you guys, so just – use your brains, yeah? Stop doing it in weird-as-fuck places. Or at least barricade the door or something. Or get Kominato to keep an eye out for people coming, or whatever. And if you ever want me to clear out of our room for the night, just freaking come to me and ask.’
Sawamura’s jaw sinks open in wondrous disbelief at that, his stare mildly curious and luminously gold and impossibly round. ‘What – wait, are you saying you’d actually do that for us?’
Youichi immediately sweeps his hand over and coils his entire arm around Sawamura’s neck in a tight headlock, ignoring the other boy’s protesting squawks. ‘You owe all of your upperclassmen a hell of a lot of respect, you know that,’ he bites out with annoyance, thoroughly unimpressed. ‘And no one else needs an eyeful of you and that dumbass having your happy frick-frack time together.’
A few overenthusiastic wriggles on Sawamura’s part, and he miraculously manages to duck out from under Youichi’s arm, escaping the snug grip; he cheers noisily in victory, obnoxiously pumping a fist, hair in wild disarray and rising up in strange, oblique angles.
‘You’re actually being incredibly nice, Kuramochi-senpai. It’s so creepy,’ he teases knowingly, backing away, breathless with laughter.
‘Shut up. You’re completely to blame,’ Youichi snaps irritably. ‘Man, I’m gonna ask if we can set up a gaming session at Zono’s. I feel like I desperately need a horror game tonight to wash all of your sickly sweet shit out of my system.’
‘I’ll pass, thanks. You know I’m not good with horror,’ replies Sawamura with a curl to his mouth, apprehensive.
‘Next time, then. But most of us are probably gonna end up crashing there for the night, if it goes ahead. So if you feel like you just wanna stay back in our room – solo, or with company – or with your man,’ says Youichi with a pointed pause, ‘then it’s fine.’
How disgustingly soft-hearted. Any softer and fluffier than that, and he’ll be a circle of mold. At this rate, he’s not going to be surprised if Sawamura ends up calling him Marshmallow-senpai or something equally ridiculous at some point in the near future.
But one glimpse of Sawamura’s answering smile, vibrant and appreciative and filled to the brim with sunshine, and he thinks that maybe he can deal with it.
‘Kuramochi-senpai,’ Kominato says mid-walk, turning to him with a demure smile unfurling across his face, ‘you’re a remarkably generous person.’
The two sets of low, cheery voices and stirring movement audible from behind the door are as bright as falling stars, as intimate as quiet touches.
Youichi raises a single eyebrow at him in reply. ‘Too damn generous. A too-caring senpai, and a too-considerate wingman,’ he agrees self-indulgently.
A comforting pause sweeps across their path, a mutual silence filled in by the soft crunches of their footsteps against the concrete, and the rustling of the bags and light clanking of the drink cans that they’re bringing back to Zono’s. On top of that, a calm murmur of warm conversation and temperate muted laughter resonates in the walkway behind them, trickling out from behind the closed door of Youichi’s room.
‘They sound so revoltingly happy,’ he complains. ‘God, why don’t I have a girlfriend. I wanna get laid too.’
‘Good grief, senpai,’ chides Kominato, his face turning a shade of pink to rival his hair; a sparkling peal of laughter rings out from Youichi’s throat, deep-bellied and genuinely spirited and complete with a heartfelt hyahaha.
Miyuki says thank you to him on the way to breakfast the next morning, but his expression’s marked with an infuriatingly shit-eating grin that makes him look like he’s won something; predictably, it ends up annoying Youichi to no end.
He disrespectfully jostles his captain so fiercely that the latter’s glasses get knocked askew on his face, and damn if that isn’t satisfying as hell.