The first pitch isn't to his mitt, yet Koushuu feels the sound vibrating through his chest as if he was the one kneeling on the batter box down below.
"It's a good sound," he hears Takuma comment beside him, eyes fixed on the unknown catcher currently screaming on top of his lungs from the center of the diamond. "He's not the ace but he's interesting, don't you think?"
Koushuu didn't answer him. Takuma doesn't need him to anyway.
The second one doesn’t either, but it goes through him nonetheless. This pitcher is either completely fearless or completely dumb, to be able to throw without the slightest fear against Yakushi's fiercest batters. And maybe he should give half of the credit to the catcher too, for making such rash calls that would surely kill rather than deal the game.
But by the end of the inning he decides it doesn't matter.
What matters, however, is that he's now more than a hundred percent sure he will be catching those pitches by springtime come.
The third pitch is still not to his mitt, but Koushuu isn't rushing anyway. Or at least that's what he tells himself, as he tries to ignore how his right hand shakes into a fist beside his legs; aching to slip into a mitt instead of the plastic red cheering cone.
Sawamura Eijun is everything and nothing he has ever imagined. He's brash, he's loud, he pushes forward, he fights back. He's the kind of guy Koushuu wouldn't want to get involved daily with, but at the same time the kind of pitcher he would want to spend the rest of his high school career sharing a battery with. Sawamura Eijun voices his opinions out loud whenever something's not up to his liking, but listens eagerly whenever he's ordered to. He would do the most embarrassing thing one can think of, only to show a completely different side whenever he stands on the mound.
"He's what people call an enigma, I guess." he overhears someone beside him talk as they walk back to their bus. It's another win for Seidou, and it's honestly a no brainer with how good their team has been the past few weeks. The rest of the Second String kept going on and on about the recent match, and Koushuu settles silently on his chair in the back corner with Takuma by his side, thoughts mute on everything but a certain pitcher and how to figure him out.
(He'd swallowed the bile in his throat at the fourth, silent blue eyes watching as the ball rolls gently off the net. He wonders how could this person let Seidou treat him this way; wonders how could Sawamura Eijun lets himself gone to waste on the side while he could've been shining in the center of the diamond where he belongs. Wonders how he could just smile and push himself forward.
Another ball joins what seems to be hundreds pilling on the floor, followed by a fist thrown to the air and a litany of ‘Oshi!’s and Koushuu wonders why the only thing he can think of is "I will make you shine.")
The fifth and the sixth isn’t really a pitch, but the impact sends his breath away anyway. Sawamura Eijun had simply been in the wrong place, in the wrong time, and Koushuu isn't really in his best mood (he had been glaring at the small lump of rice and is torn between cursing it to oblivion or flinging it to his own face for putting himself on such a deal against his senior roommate the other day). The words roll out before he's able to stop himself, and he regrets snapping almost as soon as they left his lips.
Sawamura Eijun looks at him with fire on his eyes, as if he dares him to say anything else, and Koushuu would give him exactly that, a strange desire whispering “More, give me more.” in the back of his head, but the moment passes as quickly as it appears, and soon he’s left with nothing but another strange, uncomfortable feeling in his chest.
Now Koushuu is never one to take his words back, but he knows when to swallow his pride and ask for help. His senior roommate is the last person he would ask for a hand (and Koushuu would months later learn the exact reason why Miyuki Kazuya gets on his nerves even by breathing) but if this person can help him then so be it.
..he doesn’t (much).
But Koushuu manages to say the word — “throw to me” — and get what he wants. Sawamura Eijun is once again mere inches before him, so close he can feel his warmth ghosting against his skin. The same fire is on his eyes; the kind of pretty glow that Koushuu would tell himself not to fall for (too much), but this time there’s no trace of anger behind them. Instead, there is excitement and curiosity, mixed with doubts and a glimmer of hope.
“Are you willing to make this work between us?” He demands, the tip of his fingers on his chest, and he’s oh so, so close and Koushuu feels like he could burn. “Do you really mean it? Would you commit yourself to create a work of art with me?
Koushuu doesn’t remember his exact words. What he does remember, though, is having to crouch exactly 18.44m across the pitcher; hand outstretched, mitt waiting for a pitch he knows he’s been waiting for.
The seventh pitch is the first one he didn’t manage to catch, but oddly enough it sends excitement rushing through his entire being.
This is it.
This is the Sawamura Eijun he wants to catch for.
The Sawamura Eijun he chases after.
The ball makes a dull thunk as it hits the net behind him, and everyone, including Sawamura Eijun himself, are suddenly talking; saying how it’s such a mess; how much the ball flies away from its supposed course, “Is that the best you can do?” — “Shut up, Miyuki Kazuya!” but Koushuu hears none of that.
This is the Sawamura Eijun he goes to Seidou for.
And he wants more.
The eighth pitch is a muffled thump against his mitt, a broken sound like he’d never heard before. The Okumura Koushuu from months ago would have demanded his pitcher to throw harder, to roar louder, but he raises his head and sees a picture of a broken heart.
The sudden rain had forced the entire team to head to the indoor training ground, but the euphoria from last week’s win against Ichidai is still so high in the air that most of the players decide to take the rain as a small gift to take a break. Soon everyone clears out, leaving no one but the two of them in the now empty ground.
And Koushuu thinks it’s funny, because he’d gotten used to compare his battery the sun (something he’d accidentally thought of one day and sadly had stuck), and now seeing him standing there, framed with the rain behind him, he can’t help but think he looks disturbingly like a beautiful painting of a dull, setting sun.
Sawamura Eijun is now a picture of a losing battle. An image of defeat. Gone is the loud exterior he’s been holding all afternoon, what’s left is nothing but a shaky grip of his left hand and tears that just won’t fall.
The Okumura Koushuu from months ago would have told his pitcher to suck it up. Would have leave private matters at any chance available because he doesn’t need that shit.
But that’s before he met Sawamura Eijun.
He’s careful to choose his words (doesn’t he always?), how to ask, how to begin, how to offer — does he even need one, anyway? But Sawamura Eijun beats him to it (doesn’t he always?):
“I want.. to get better.”
They end up skipping the training after that, the hours being spent on listening to his upperclassman’s stories from his previous months in Seidou, but as his knee brushes against his pitcher’s while they huddle close in the small bench beside the vending machine, the blue light casting such an unfair glow on his face, Koushuu can’t think of a better way to spend his night.
“I want to get better.” Sawamura Eijun tells him once again.
“I’ll help you.” he vows.
He’s a bit embarrassed to admit the ninth pitch being the best pitch he’s ever caught, and he’s blaming all these thoughts on the ridiculous amount of time he’s been spending with his seniors. It’s the bottom of the seventh, and quite possibly the last pitch Sawamura Eijun would throw before he has to pass the ball to Furuya Satoru. The crowds are roaring, but out of the corner of his eyes he can see the entire Seidou team holding their breath.
And he knows exactly why.
The batter is Shirakawa Katsuyuki.
He directs his full attention back to his front, expecting to see him showing signs of fears or uncertainty like what his senior roommate had warned him the day before, but finding none of that. What he sees instead is that burning glow he’s gotten used to admire.
“Let’s have fun, Okumura-shounen .” those eyes say.
Koushuu makes his call and raises his mitt towards the lower part of Shirakawa Katsuyuki’s legs, his breathing growing hard as the excitement builds up and up. From the center of the diamond, his pitcher grins.
And have fun they did.
The tenth pitch is an echoing streak through the silent Training Ground A. Most of the team are sleeping away in the cafeteria, what’s left of the adrenaline finally left them lying spent between the remnants of their ‘We’re Going to Koshien Again’ celebration. The ones with more coherent thoughts had already retreated away to their dorm rooms, wanting nothing but to rest after a whole day akin to a roller coaster ride. But here he is crouching back in their diamond, arms still outstretched even though the ball has already settled right in the center of his mitt, not moving a single inch until a scream break through the night.
“That was so much fun, wasn’t it?” Sawamura Eijun jogs to him with a satisfied grin on his lips, not a single hint of exhaustion in sight even though he has definitely been pushing his body past the limit.
“Yes it was.” He gives a curt nod as the pitcher unceremoniously settles himself beside him, completely unminding the mixture of dirt and chalk sticking to his back as he lays down. Koushuu let his eyes lazily follow his movement with amusement, and finally did the same when he gets beckoned to join below. It’s been weeks since he found out that there’s some sort of calmness in being together side by side and hearing his senior’s stories flowing through the quiet night.
(Or maybe, simply, a sense of pride in knowing there’s this side of the usual loud-mouthed Sawamura Eijun that exists, and the possibility of him being the only one who knows about it).
“..and that was really amazing. I still can’t believe I did that, y’know? Thought I’d mess up again somehow, but strangely enough I felt so calm. Like I can do anything. And then the ball flies, and…”
Koushuu didn’t notice he had stopped talking, mind too clouded with the feel of finally laying low and letting the exhaustion washes over him (dammit, he just want to close his eyes and sleep, to hell with the fact that they’re still out in the field), but when he did, he turns his head to find Sawamura Eijun staring at him.
“Thank you, partner.” a gentle voice, an equally gentle smile, and a bump against his shoulder. And Sawamura Eijun closes his eyes, the smile never leave his lips. “I couldn’t have done this without you.”
The only thing Koushuu can think of is he wants to kiss him.
And so lean forward he did.