The way Miyuki meets him isn't all that extraordinary--another day at the bakery, another order of chamomile tea with a plate of microwaved chocolate brownies. Money is exchanged, a receipt is generated, and Miyuki turns to get a cup.
Today, however. Today is different, and it shocks him enough that the incident resonates throughout the cluster, and spreads to,
A park in Tokyo, where a camera snaps a picture of the solitary man looking this way, but doesn't show up in the photo library afterwards,
To a small, cramped apartment where a kiss is broken with a startled gasp, and loud thwack as skull and wall make sudden, unexpected contact,
To a large, warm garden, where the laziest of afternoon naps is briefly shattered by the sight of unfamiliar blue eyes and the faintest, sweetest quirk of lips,
And comes to a stop in one corner of the diamond, where Chris, overwhelmed by a sudden torrent of intertwined feelings, fumbles a throw for the first time in months, and brings the entire practice match to a screeching standstill.
"I'm fine," he says hastily, says it with a smile to offset the wave of concern surging his way.
"I'm fine," he repeats, this time with the faintest hint of impatience, as the team doctor runs through the familiar tests.
Ishikawa-sensei glares at him, hard enough that Chris ducks his head, chastised. "You'll forgive me if I don't take your word for it," she says, tone clipped, as she braces his shoulder with one hand, and lifts his arm with the other. "Unlike you athletes, I learn from my mistakes."
It's probably a testament to how far he's come that Chris only smiles at this, a tad sheepish, and is silent for the rest of the examination.
Later--after the endless "Are you okay?"s and the worried glances at his taped shoulder--Chris finally makes it back to his room, drained and bone-weary. In the surrounding quiet, his tired collapse onto the bed sounds loud, intrusive. Chris buries his face under the pillows, lets his thoughts wander,
and walks straight into a mental block so solid it sends him reeling back into his own mind, eyes squeezed shut against a brand new headache.
Chris rubs at his temple, and lets himself drift under once more.
He finds Tanba huddled in one corner of a small, tattered blue-red couch, in front of the tv screen. In the other room, he can hear the sound of running water, and the hum of a microwave.
Chris sits on the floor, close enough he can feel Tanba's warmth, watches the way Tanba's gaze flicks from him to the kitchen, and back again. "Did you see him?"
"I took a picture of him," Tanba mumbles, "I mean, I thought I did. You know."
Chris nods, props his chin in his hand. "Have you heard from Miyuki?"
In the other room, the microwave pings in success. Tanba shakes his head. "We've been trying all day. Noone's been able to get through."
"I think the popcorns's a little burnt," Manaka says, striding into the room and flopping down on the other end of the couch. He pops a few kernels into his mouth, and offers the bowl to Tanba.
"Thanks," he says, and unpauses the movie. He tilts the bowl ever so slightly to Chris, his gaze fixed on the screen.
Chris reaches in, takes a handful for himself. The caramel sticks to his fingers, seeps sweet onto his tongue. The taste fades in seconds; he reaches for another handful. "Do you think something happened?"
Without taking his eyes off the screen, Tanba shrugs, quick and brief.
"It must have been pretty drastic if he broadcasted it."
Tanba snorts, inelegantly; Manaka glances over from his end of the couch, looking vaguely puzzled. On the screen, a car explodes into vivid shades of red and orange, the sound thundering through the room. Tanba slides lower, tucking his chin in, and pulls out his phone.
I'm sure everything's fine, Tanba types out. And even if something was wrong, it's not like we can do anything about it, right?
Chris sighs. In retrospect, he should have known better than to ask. He pats Tanba's arm in farewell, and lets the connection fade, until he's blinking against his bedsheets once more. He rolls over onto his back, staring up at the ceiling, and thinks again of Miyuki. "Are you alright?" he asks.
"I'm fine," Miyuki snaps.
Kuramochi arches an eyebrow at him.
Shit, he doesn't say, clearing his throat. "Do you want something to drink or not?"
"Remind me again about customer service," he drawls. "Aren't you supposed to be all-smiles and politeness?"
Miyuki straightens, and puts on his--tried and proven--best winning smile. "Can I get you anything? We've got the best cakes and pastries in town. Our newest additions is fast on its way to becoming a customer favourite, and I can guarantee you won't find a better lemon cheesecake--"
"Alright, alright," Kuramochi says, slumping against the counter. "Just shut up and get me a cappucino."
"Really," Miyuki deadpans. "You walk into the best bakery in the whole province and all you want is coffee?"
"I don't have a sweet tooth. Not like yours anyway."
"What? I don't like sweet things either."
"Says the guy who chowed down three whole bars of chocolate in ten minutes."
The denial is already half-formed on his tongue when Miyuki catches himself, and really, there isn't much else he can say to that. Instead he turns away, and changes the subject.
He doesn't think about it again, not until dusk falls and darkens, and the last of the customers trickle out, the door clinking shut behind them. Miyuki finishes locking up, slips the key into his pocket, and begins the long, arduous walk home. The night air is chilly, has him huddling a little deeper into his coat, tucking his nose into the comfort of his scarf. When he looks up, the sky is bright with stars, not a cloud in sight, and then, only then, does he let himself remember
the smallest of smiles slanted his way, the sight of blue eyes softening under a curtain of dark bangs, and these murmured words: "Thank you."