Eijun took a deep breath, inhaling the calming scent of the freshly cut grass on the field.
Then he took another.
A few more for good measure.
Yet no matter how many he took, Eijun couldn't slow the beating of his heart or the crawling feeling of anxiousness arsing in his stomach. Two weeks, two weeks into the semester and Eijun was only just now allowed to join the massive group of strangers at his new university. If that wasn't bad enough, he was already in his second year and would be transferring in, having no previous knowledge of the campus or it's student body.
It was one of the few times Eijun was conscious of his own nervousness, and he hated every minute of it as he made his way onto the field, looking for the one piece of familiarity he had in his vicinity. The only reason he'd chosen to attend this school was because his friend from rehab was on the baseball team and had recommended it to him. Frankly, Eijun had wanted nothing more than to turn tail and head back home until he'd spotted who was looking for.
The fourth-year was sitting on a bench outside the field's fence, busy taking off his catcher's gear when Eijun approached. It had been a few weeks since he'd seen the upperclassman, and he looked the same as always, with his hair combed back save for the two strands hanging above his eyes. A small grin spread across his face when he saw Eijun, and he rose from his seat to greet him.
"Sawamura, I was wondering when you were going to show up."
"I'm sorry! It took longer than I thought to tie up all the loose ends!" He explained vaguely, clapping his hands in a slight bow of apology. The bag on his shoulder slipped when he bent over, and he let it slide down his arm until he grabbed the handle with his hand. "But I'm ready to start! Actually, just put me right on the mound!"
Patting Eijun on the shoulder, Chris began to herd him toward the gate to the field. "It's been a while since you've played with a team, or even really pitched for that matter. Are you sure you're ready?" He asked, and Eijun smiled at his question. Was he ready? It had been more than two years since he last played on a team, and while he was scared out of his mind at the concept of it, he was also itching to get back on the mound, to feel the rush of adrenaline when he faced a batter...
So he nodded, despite the tinge of fear he felt beneath his bravado. "Definitely," he continued. "But shouldn't you be putting your gear back on? If you're gonna catch for me," he added, looking up at his friend with begging eyes. But his hope was crushed when Chris shook his head, as he lead Eijun further into the grounds, toward what Eijun thought looked like the bullpen.
"Unfortunately, I will not be catching for you today," he stated, ushering Eijun into the empty space. He couldn't help but feel disappointed that Chris wouldn't be catching for him on his first day, but he wouldn't return all of the kindness Chris had shown him with complaints. So, he'd suck it up and look on the bright side of things, and that was that they still had a year left to play together since both of them had finished their rehabilitation successfully.
"So if you're not catching for me, who is?"
"Miyuki, who should have been here waiting for you... But, since you're already dressed, you can start stretching while I go find him," Chris said, only sparing Eijun a quick wave before leaving him alone in the pen, completely surrounded by unknown territory. He set his bag on the ground, next to the mound closest to the fence separating him from everyone else.
He brought his left arm across his chest as he worked through the tension in his shoulder and surveyed his surroundings. The grounds for the baseball team was larger than Eijun had imagined, despite knowing it was a first rate baseball school. There were what, three, four fields? All complete with their own bullpen, pitch-back nets, and dugouts. It was massive and daunting for someone who hadn't been on an actual field for so long.
Eijun tried to put it out of his mind as he continued to stretch out his arms and shoulders, despite the fact he'd already done so before arriving at the field. He instead wondered if he would get along with his teammates, and if it would be difficult joining the team a year late. Those in their second-year had a whole season to get to know each other, and Eijun would be popping in trying to mingle with those who'd surely already formed their own groups of friends.
Not only that, but he'd wondered how they'd all treat him knowing his situation...
He was starting to feel nervous again.
"Oi, are you the new guy?"
With a voice dragging him from his terrifying thoughts, Eijun turned his attention to the boy standing at the entrance to the bullpen. Eijun's gaze drifted over the catchers gear he was wearing momentarily, before focusing on his face. Although his dark hair was hidden under the helmet cap he wore, his curious expression wasn't.
"Yeah, I'm Sawamura Eijun."
The catcher walked toward him, his gait awkward with the large pads on the back of his shin guards colliding with each other. Eijun stood near the mound awkwardly as he waited for the player to approach him. "I'm Miyuki Kazuya, a third year," he said, and he pulled a baseball out of the glove he previously had tucked under his arm. He handed the ball to Eijun, who could tell he was being studied by Miyuki's unsettling analytical gaze.
"So... you're a second year?"
"And you're just now transferring in?"
"Because of extenuating circumstances?"
At the look Miyuki shot him, Eijun sighed. "The injury. I had school work to catch up on and a lot of physical therapy to get through before I could start attending school," he explained, wondering why Miyuki was asking. Surely he'd been informed of his situation?
Miyuki had tapped his mitt against his chin. "Chris did say you met back when he was in rehab for his shoulder... That was like five years ago, though. You've been in therapy the whole time?" He asked, and Eijun realized he was trying to piece together Eijun's story one by one, as he picked up new vague information about him.
Eijun could immediately tell Miyuki was going to get on his nerves.
"No, I've been in and out," he said, placing the ball Miyuki gave him into his own mitt. "I'm back in top shape, in case you were wondering. That's why you're here, right? To catch my pitches?" Miyuki looked as though he was about to ask something else, yet he only smirked. He spun on his heel, and walked across from Eijun to the plate.
"That's right," he confirmed, turning back to face Eijun before squatting down, holding out his mitt toward Eijun. "Since you seem so eager, why don't we get started?"
Miyuki had thought that the transition into his third year was going to be a smooth one. He'd already gotten used to the everyday craziness that that came with university life by his second year, he was getting along well enough with his teammates and had secured a spot on the first string roster alongside Chris, and after working with Furuya for a year, Miyuki had learned how to handle all of his regular pitchers.
What he hadn't expected was for a new, bumbling second-year transfer student. Having had two weeks to adjust to their new rosters and evaluate the first-years, the team was beginning to meld together- at least, until Sawamura Eijun showed up and ripped apart their plans by the seams. It was like setting up dominoes only for someone to come and knock them down.
But perhaps that person could rebuild the set, with a more intricate design. After all, Eijun had blossoming talent, outlined with a variety of breaking balls, moving fastballs, and a flexible pitching form. Miyuki could only watch in suppressed awe at the way Eijun pitched, with the late release of his arm and the odd way he planted his foot in the ground, after having lifted it impossibly high.
While it was all entrancing, Miyuki couldn't forget the fire in Eijun's golden eyes as he pitched.
No matter how many balls he threw to Miyuki, he still looked like he hadn't thrown enough, even after about fifty pitches. He remembered what Chris had told him earlier, about how it had been a few years since Eijun had really played baseball. Miyuki figured Eijun had to truly love baseball to be so hungry for it after being on hiatus for so long.
Honestly, Miyuki was surprised at how skilled Eijun was, considering he was coming off a serious injury by the sound of it. If Eijun was able to train and become this talented a pitcher during his time in rehab, he wondered how many more abilities Eijun would have had if the injury hadn't taken up so much time.
"So uh... How'd I do?"
Miyuki eyed the southpaw, noting the change in attitude since he stopped pitching. He looked nervous again, completely out of his comfort zone. Was he worried about how his pitching was since he'd just come off an injury? "All things considering, you did well," Miyuki admitted, hoping some praise would raise his mood. "You were a bit shaky in the beginning, but I'll contribute that to lack of recent pitching."
Eijun watched him for a moment before breaking into a smile. "Really? Ah, it felt so good to be back in a bullpen! Just between you and me, I almost fell like ten times, but hey, it's a work in progress!" He gripped the ball in his hand, his fingers running along the seams. "It's definitely better pitching to a person," he said, and Miyuki paused at that.
"How long has it been since you pitched to someone?"
Laughing nervously, Eijun rubbed his free hand at the back of his neck. "Well, I wasn't allowed to do anything with my leg for a while, so I used to just have to sit in a chair and pitch into a net. And even when I was allowed to actually pitch, the only person who could really catch for me was Chris-senpai, and he's been really busy recently, so it's been like... two or three months?"
"Months?" Miyuki questioned, and Eijun nodded. He was able to pitch to someone that well after not having done so for months? And he mentioned his leg... so that was what he injured? Miyuki wouldn't have guessed from the way he pitched he had a bad leg. Although, now that he thought about it, Eijun did have an odd form when he landed on his right leg...
"Really, you're so..."
Eijun looked up in thought for a moment as if he was considering the validity of Miyuki's response. "And I'll embrace that weirdness, thank you very much... Wait, are you gonna be my catcher from now on?!" Eijun asked, as if he just then realized who Miyuki really was. Well, he seemed a bit dense and somewhat loud, but Miyuki didn't particularly dislike that about him.
"Well that all depends," Miyuki said, smiling. "Chris and I will be your catchers if you make the first-string. Good luck, by the way, we're a big team. Miyauchi-senpai and some first-years are on the second string, so I guess they can catch for you if you want." Actually, Miyuki figured Eijun would make first-string almost immediately, but he didn't have to tell the pitcher that just yet.
Because there was still something Eijun had to do before he could even think about advancing up through the ranks...
"In fact, why don't we put your skills to the real test? If you're ready for it, that is?"
Eijun smiled excitedly at the prospect of another challenge. "I'll take anything you throw at me," he proclaimed, and Miyuki returned his grin. If anything, Eijun had a lot of potential, and while Miyuki would normally wait a day or two to throw Eijun into the lion's den, he found himself wanting to test out Eijun's skill in a real match.
So, he led him throughout the grounds, giving him a small tour on the way to the second practice field. Miyuki showed him the field for official games, pointed out the multiple equipment sheds, and explained the ranking system for their first and second strings. Eijun had listened intently, his eyes never leaving Miyuki as he spoke.
"I forgot to ask... are you staying in the dorms?"
"Yes! My family owns a small farm in Nagano, so it's too far to commute everyday. It'll be my first time having roommates, actually."
"You didn't dorm in high school?"
"I played locally, so no."
"I see. Have you met your roommates yet?"
"What's your room number?"
"2F, I think."
So he was on the same floor as Miyuki, only a few doors down and around the corner. And in his room were...
Eijun's concentrated expression quickly turned to worry. "What's that mean?" He asked, and Miyuki ran a hand through his hair. "What. Does. That. Mean?" Eijun questioned again, grabbing Miyuki by his collar.
"Nothing! Nothing bad, I'm sure you'll get along fine with them! In fact, you're about to meet two of them now."
And Miyuki was speaking the truth- it wasn't bad to be in 2F, just... troublesome. At least, for some people. But Miyuki figured Eijun's personality would fit in well with that group, and one teammate in particular.
"Hey Miyuki! You're late again, you jerk!"
"Speak of the devil," Miyuki whispered under his breath as the shortstop approached him and a confused Eijun. He stripped his batting gloves from his hands, tapping them against his palm while he stares Miyuki down. "I'm not that late," Miyuki said, placing a hand on Eijun's shoulder. "Besides, I have an excuse."
Miyuki watched as the shortstop's gaze swept over Eijun as he studied his figure. "Who's this?" He asked, and Miyuki muffled a laugh as Eijun saluted him.
"I'm Sawamura Eijun! I'm new to the team so I look forward to working with you!" At Eijun's loud introduction, the other players soon noticed their presence on the field. Miyuki watched as the other held out his hand for Eijun to take.
"Kuramochi... Youichi," he answered, cocking his head to the side. "Sawamura, huh? So you're our new roommate?" At Kuramochi's words, Eijun straightened his posture in nervousness. Miyuki watched their exchange, feeling some pity for the southpaw who was no doubt about to be grilled by the now grinning Kuramochi.
He had wanted to watch over him a bit longer, but the coach was already waving Miyuki over from his spot at home plate. So he gave Eijun a reassuring pat on the shoulder before heading over to speak to the one who ultimately decided Eijun's potential. Yuki, who had just been batting, and Chris who had been catching, waited by the coach rather than joining the others in teasing their newest teammate.
"So what do you think?" Kataoka asked, and Miyuki didn't miss the knowing smile behind Chris's mask. As the one who'd apparently worked with Eijun the most, he had a better understanding of Eijun's skill, and no doubt already filled Kataoka in on his various talents. But Miyuki was also a catcher for the first string, and he was glad to know the coach valued his opinion as well.
Eijun had everything Miyuki wanted in a pitcher, both personality and skill wise. As a player, he had immense potential considering the time in therapy taking away from practicing cultivating his pitching. Even so, he was a southpaw with breaking balls no one else on the team could throw, and would no doubt help curve out their pitcher relay. But most of all, it was the passion in his eye's Miyuki saw, his thirst for the mound Eijun had been fighting for...
"I want him."
Those words were all Kataoka needed to quickly set up a batting scrimmage to see Eijun's skill for himself against actual batters. While Miyuki wanted to test Eijun as well, he couldn't help but think it was a bit cruel to immediately put him against some of their first string batters. Although Kuramochi, Haruichi, Masuko, and Yuki were backing up Eijun, the rest of the players were either in the outfield or batting against him.
The batting lineup consisted of Kanemaru, Ryousuke, Toujou, and finally Chris, which initially worried Miyuki. He had told Kataoka that Eijun hadn't had much recent in-game experience, and that his performance would most likely be a bit rusty. Kataoka then responded saying that was fine, he truly just wanted to see Eijun's pitches themselves.
Yet Eijun had already taken out the first three batters, and gotten two foul tips off of Chris.
Kanemaru had struck out on a change-up that actually curved into his chest, Ryousuke had grounded out to second on a cutter, and Toujou hit a pop fly to third base with a fastball. Right away, Eijun had shut down some of their teams most skilled batters, proving his desire for the mound was making up for lack of experience. Miyuki couldn't help but wonder what sort of training he had gone through while in rehab to be able to play at this level right away.
"You look like you're having fun," Chris noted as he took his position in the batter's box once more.
"He's full of surprises," Miyuki answered, smiling at the look of excitement on Eijun's face.
"That's an understatement."
"What do you mean?"
"You'll see," Chris said quietly, receiving a huff of frustration from Miyuki. If he was going to be cryptic, then Miyuki wasn't going to go easy on him. Even if Chris was Eijun's mentor, he'd have to shove those feelings aside and put everything on trying to get him out. And from the look on the southpaw's face, he was on the same page as Miyuki.
So with everyone getting in their positions, Miyuki called for the next pitch, a fastball to the lower outside corner. He watched in anticipation as Eijun took a few deep breaths, his left leg stepping back as he lifted his right one. The ball flew from his fingertips as his foot slammed back into the dirt, aimed straight to the corner of the plate...
Chris had anticipated what Miyuki would call.
At the crack of the bat, the ball shot out at a terrifying speed, right back toward their newest player. Miyuki could only watch in horror as the ball took a bad bounce off the mound, flying up into Eijun's right shin. It struck with an odd muffled sound, but Miyuki hadn't cared to pay it much notice, as he was already running to the mound to check on the second year.
There were people shouting for ice and calling for the coach, but Eijun's voice stood above them all. "W-What are you guys doing?!" He questioned, confusion taking hold on his face as he was surrounded by his infielders. He bent over and picked up the baseball at his feet, seemingly unfazed by the hit that probably could have fractured bone had it hit head on.
"I still could have thrown it and gotten him out!"
"Who cares about that, idiot?!" Miyuki exclaimed, quickly pulling off his mitt and kneeling down in front of the pitcher's presumably hurt leg. "How does it feel, can you move it?" He asked, but Eijun only watched him, his face momentarily expressionless before rolling his eyes.
"Oh very funny. You should be a comedian."
"Who's joking here? Is your leg okay?!"
"Hasn't been for the past eight years, but thanks for checking."
But as Eijun stared at him, he seemed to realize that Miyuki was beyond lost at his words. So to clear up the surrounding confusion, Eijun reached down and lifted his pant leg, while simultaneously lowering his sock. And there, from beneath the knee downward, was a prosthetic limb, the sun now reflecting off the cool metallic coloring.
"Holy shit," he heard Kuramochi mutter, causing Eijun to grin.
Well, that explained a lot.
Eijun tapped the side of his shin with his knuckles. "I didn't even feel it, this thing's built like a brick," he explained, and Miyuki studied the pitcher's expression as it changed from triumph to shock. He quickly spun back around, focusing on something Miyuki couldn't see until he stood back up. "Chris-senpai, how could you?!" Miyuki followed Eijun's line of sight to see that Chris had continued running through the bases and was rounding second, completely ignoring the situation at the mound.
"You just complained you could have got me out," Chris said while jogging to third, smiling at the frustration he had caused Eijun. There was mumbling, swearing, and a few indistinguishable noises coming from Eijun as he realized all of his infielders had come to the mound to check up on him, and there was no one to toss the ball to. Without a time out having been called, the ball was still in play, and Chris was heading for home.
Apparently Eijun didn't like that and had decided to go after Chris himself. He pushed passed Miyuki, sprinting down the mound and after the batter. When Chris saw Eijun was after him, he picked up his pace, sliding into home just in time for Kataoka to call him safe. As Eijun yelled at Chris, Miyuki stared at the sliver of metallic peeking out from under Eijun's uniform.
"The injury," Eijun had said.
He had meant an amputation.
The late entry into school, rehab with Chris... Years before that, Eijun had lost his leg. The extent of the damage, Miyuki didn't know. But nonetheless, the fact Eijun was standing on the mound now showed Miyuki that he had more guts than any player on that field. And that made him someone Miyuki was looking forward to working with. Ignoring the millions of questions in his mind, Miyuki walked back toward his position behind the plate, not missing the smirk behind his coach's mask.
Miyuki could see it in Kataoka's eyes.
He was already fitting Eijun into their roster.
Eijun slammed his fist into the bunk above him until he heard the resounding silence afterwords. "Senpai," he said quietly, trying to rub the tiredness from his eyes despite the fact he was trying to sleep. "What are you mumbling about up there? You're keeping Asada awake!"
"I- I'm fine," Asada answered meekly from his bunk across the room. When Eijun only heard more muttering from the bunk above him, he hit the ceiling of his bed once more.
"Kuramochi-senpai, what are you doing?"
"I'm coming to terms with having a skeeving roommate!"
"Huh?! Who's skeeving?!"
"You are!" Kuramochi answered, and Eijun slid over to the side of his bed and hung his head over the side to look up at Kuramochi, who also moved over to look down at Eijun. "You show up out of the blue with no experience playing on a team-"
"-I have some-"
"-and you show off all these fancy pitches! There's no way you were in rehab as long as you said!"
"What, you think I'm lying?"
Eijun could tell Kuramochi was narrowing his eyes at him even in the darkness of his room. "Are you?" Kuramochi asked skeptically, but Eijun could only smile. He knew that Kuramochi meant no harm, but more than that, Eijun was happy that Kuramochi thought he was skilled considering his time off the field. It proved to Eijun that his late night practicing hadn't been a waste after all.
"I'm not," Eijun admitted as he crossed his arms. "Although..."
"Miyuki warned me about you," he said. "He told me that being in this room would be... interesting. I'm pretty sure now that he was talking about you." Eijun could hear Kuramochi grunt in disapproval from above him, and Eijun's smile widened. He didn't think there was any bad blood between Miyuki and Kuramochi, but they certainly had a very intriguing relationship.
"You can't trust anything that weasel says," Kuramochi responded, one hand lowering to point at Eijun's face. "He is the devil in disguise, Sawamura. You can't trust him off the field."
Off the field? Eijun's curiosity was officially heightened. That implied that Miyuki was someone to trust and respect in relation to baseball, but as a person he was someone Eijun should be cautious off. "Why is that?" He asked in interest. "He didn't seem that bad to me. A bit sarcastic, yeah, but I like that."
Kuramochi lowered himself even closer to Eijun, who was worrying that he'd fall off his bunk. "That's what everyone thinks at first. That he's just a pretty face who's maybe a bit standoffish towards people and in perpetual joke mode..."
"That's a nice word, senpai."
"Quiet! Miyuki is even more skeeving than you."
"I'm not skeeving!"
"Then you should be worried," Kuramochi continued as he moved back onto his bed and out of sight. Eijun followed his example and crawled back toward his pillow. "Miyuki will take advantage of your innocence. He's the type to get you when you least expect it," He said, and Eijun could tell he was finished saying his piece.
Eijun only wondered what that meant for him since he'd be working with Miyuki the next day.
"Two and Four seam fastballs, cutters, split-fingers, changeups, palmballs, and great control... anything else I should know about?"
Eijun hesitated in telling Miyuki the one pitch he was working on since it was still imperfect. "No," he answered instead. "That's about it." He was waiting for Miyuki to say something to knock him down a peg, but when he only nodded approvingly, Eijun was glad that Miyuki seemed impressed with his repertoire of pitches.
"Did you have a pitching coach or something?"
"Why do you ask?"
"It's just an interesting arsenal, is all."
"Well the closest thing would be Chris-senpai," Eijun answered. "He's the one that worked with me on my stance and grip and everything while I was in rehab." Actually it took weeks of begging to get Chris to agree to teach him anything, and even then Chris had started him out on simple core exercises in order to rebuild some of the strength he'd lost in his upper body while he'd been focusing on his lower body.
But after he'd successfully completed all of Chris's regimens, he began teaching him control and breaking balls. "I had a really messy form," he continued as he helped Miyuki remove his chest guard. "But according to him, the flexibility in my shoulder and the way I released my pitches was a good weapon to have. So after changing a few things, he helped me to perfect my moving fastball."
Miyuki smiled as he handed Eijun his chest guard. "Yeah, that sounds like Chris. If anyone can work out a weapon like that, it's him." While Eijun hung the chest protector over the railing of the dugout bench, Miyuki leaned down to unhook his shin guards. "If we incorporate inside and outside pitches with the breaking balls you have, you'll really have a chance on the first string."
Eijun knew he probably looked overly happy at Miyuki's praise, but he couldn't help it. He hadn't really worked with another pitcher aside from Chris in such a long time, so he was excited to get input from someone other than his friend. "Can I ask you something?" He asked, and Miyuki shrugged. Assuming that was a cue to continue, Eijun asked him what else was on his mind.
"What's with you and Kuramochi?"
"What do you mean?"
"He told me not to trust you," he said flatly, not bothering to sugar coat his words. "That you'd get me when I least expect it." Unexpectedly, his words caused Miyuki to laugh- a sound that was surprisingly pleasant to listen to. Miyuki took off the last of his guards and tossed them on the bench before facing Eijun again.
"He would say that."
"So what about it? Are you untrustworthy, Miyuki Kazuya?"
Miyuki smiled before answering. "Untrustworthy? Probably not. Will I 'get you when you least expect it?' Who knows? But if I were you, I'd be more concerned with Kuramochi than me." Eijun arched a brow at his words. That wasn't exactly the answer he was looking for.
Eijun could even finish his sentence when he heard a voice yell at him from a distance. Before he or Miyuki could even react they were suddenly doused in water. "What the hell was that?" He asked, holding his arms out to watch the water drip from his hands. Miyuki scowled as he reached his hand up to Eijun's head and behind his ear. Miyuki's fingers ran through Eijun's hair for a moment before pulling something from the back of his head.
Miyuki looked at whatever it was he found before showing it to Eijun. It was a small stretch of blue rubber, and Eijun took it from Miyuki's hand. "Is this what I think it is?" He asked, and Miyuki nodded.
"Water balloons," he confirmed as he grabbed Eijun's shoulder while keeping his eye on something behind Eijun. "We might want to go change before something else happens." Eijun allowed Miyuki to lead him away from the field, waiting to ask his question.
"What else could happen, exactly?"
"Knowing Kuramochi, probably glue. And feathers. Pink feathers," he said before glancing down at Eijun's leg. "Are you okay? Did your prosthetic get wet?"
"Huh? No, it's fine- wait, wait, backtrack just a second. What just happened?"
Miyuki sighed as he took in Eijun's soaked appearance. "Sorry about that," he said honestly. "Kuramochi is big on pranks and I'm the usual target."
"Why is that?"
Miyuki grinned. "Because I'm really the only one who retaliates. And I- no, we will get revenge."
"I'm going to get back at Kuramochi," Miyuki said. "And you're going to help me."
Seido was vastly different from what Eijun had expected.
He knew from Chris and from campus tours that Seido was a big name school when it came to university baseball. That their practices were long and rigorous and the team was intensely focused on their training. And while Eijun could agree that it lived up to it's name in baseball potential, he would have to question the attitudes of his teammates- not that they were lacking any passion for the sport, but...
Eijun expected everything to be baseball-centric.
He hadn't expected the constant, for lack of a better word, shenanigans.
Outside of practice there was always something going on in the dorms or between teammates. Whether it be a party or a movie night- or as it was, a prank war between Kuramochi and Miyuki that Eijun had somehow been recruited in. According to some of the second years, Haruichi and Furuya, the two were always at each others throats, although apparently in some sort of playful manner.
Eijun appreciated that his teammates didn't draw constant attention to his leg.
What he wasn't sure he appreciated was being drawn into their antics.
Part of him felt like it was something he should avoid in order to focus on catching up to his peers, but the other part of him wanted to engage in the fun. It was something he felt he missed out on in high school, and now he had a chance to have real fun with his team. At least, if you could count setting up his roommate to be covered in flour fun.
"Miyuki-senpai, is this really how you want to get back at him?"
"Sawamura, he attacked us first. In broad daylight during practice. It's only fair that we repay the favor," Miyuki said, as he handed Eijun the flour-filled balloon. Eijun immediately felt the weight difference between it and a baseball, and wondered if Miyuki's plan would even work.
"I don't know if I can even get this across the plate."
"I know it's lighter, but it's made of a different material so it should work. And if it doesn't, I'll take the blame."
"How can you take the blame if I'm the one throwing it?"
"Oh come on, Sawamura, don't you have anything you want to get back at him for?"
Eijun recalled the day that Kuramochi had kept him up all night in order to play some stupid wrestling video game. He had gotten to practice late the next day, and was scolded by Kataoka. "Okay," he said with his new determination.
Miyuki grinned in excitement as he handed Eijun the bucket of baseballs. "Hey, Kuramochi! Come here for a minute!" Miyuki called out, and Eijun watched as Kuramochi jogged over from the outfield to the mound where they were standing.
"We're testing out a new pitching combo and we need a batter to test it out on. Care to help out?"
"Why should I be your guinea pig?"
"It's okay, you don't have to. I get it if you think you can't hit off of Sawamura, he is really talented after all," Miyuki said in an attempt to goad Kurmamochi into accepting his challenge. Even if it was just to trick Kuramochi into saying yes, Eijun couldn't help but blush in embarrassment at Miyuki's praise. According to Chris, praise from Miyuki was actually pretty rare, so he should except it when possible.
"I'm not scared of Sawamura, bring it on!"
Eijun wasn't surprised Kuramochi had accepted the offer, but he was surprised that Miyuki recruited the other members of the first string to field for him. While Kuramochi was getting ready at the plate, Eijun talked to Miyuki on the mound. "Miyuki this is turning into an actual practice! WHY?!"
Miyuki rolled his eyes as if Eijun asked a stupid question. "Because he's going to actually be hitting some real baseballs, and we need fielders. This is good practice for you too," he responded, and Eijun lightly hit him in his arm.
"I wasn't ready for this!"
"You did fine on your first day, what's different?"
"I was hyped up on adrenaline or something, I don't know! I don't think I'm ready for an audience!"
Miyuki put a reassuring hand on Eijun's shoulder. "Sawamura, if you weren't ready you wouldn't have been put on the first string. You can do this," he assured him, although Eijun wasn't quite sure if he was talking about the prank or his pitching. He figured it didn't matter since it settled his nerves anyway.
"Okay," he said, and Miyuki smiled before taking his spot at the plate.
Eijun had mixed the balloon in with regular baseballs, so even he wouldn't know when he was going to throw it until he picked it up. So he started out slow and simple, according to Miyuki's signs. He threw Kuramochi multiple fastballs in different locations, a few of them having been hit to the infield. After a while, He mixed in some changeups and cutters, of which Kuramochi had more difficulty making contact with.
He threw about a dozen pitches before reaching the ball Miyuki had given him. When he fit it in his mitt, he nodded toward Miyuki to show him that he'd gotten to the right ball. Miyuki took a few steps back from Kuramochi to show Eijun that he understood what he was saying.
"We're trying a new changeup, Kuramochi, so it's going to come in slowly. You better be ready to smack it."
"Is that really something you should be saying as a catcher?"
Miyuki shrugged. "We have to keep Sawamura in his place." Eijun watched as Kuramochi eyed Miyuki for a moment, and Eijun thought that he was on to them. But in the end he took back his position at the plate and waited for Eijun to pitch. So, he gripped the ball as tightly as he could without breaking it and began his windup.
Please forgive me, Kuramochi-senpai!
Eijun threw the ball as hard as he could in order to get it across the plate. He could tell that Kuramochi instantly knew something was off about the way the ball came in, but Eijun figured he attributed it to being some sort of changeup, as Miyuki told him. Kuramochi didn't even notice that Miyuki had completely backed off from the plate before he swung the bat, making direct contact with the ball.
The second Kuramochi hit the ball it exploded, creating a large cloud of white powder around Kuramochi. By the time the flour cleared, he was completely covered in white. Eijun could hear the sounds of his upperclassman laughing, and Eijun almost felt bad-
Until Kuramochi started laughing as well.
He clapped his hands and watched as the powder flew up from hands while Miyuki returned to the plate to clap him on the back, sending more flour into the air. "Revenge is sweet, my friend," he said, and Kuramochi wiped his hands on Miyuki's jersey.
"I am so getting you back for this."
"And I'll be waiting."
Eijun himself had even started laughing until Kuramochi looked his way. He walked up to the mound and stood in front of Eijun, who was worried he was about to get the beating of a lifetime. But instead, Kuramochi only placed a hand on his head, ruffling his hair and spreading the powder to Eijun.
"See?" He said quietly. "I told you that you were skeeving."
Miyuki was on his way to grab a drink from the vending machine when he ran into Eijun, literally. He had been sitting on the ground, just around the the corner in a spot where Miyuki hadn't seen him until after tripping on him. "Sawamura? What are you doing?" He asked, wondering what had him moping around on the floor.
"Nothing," he said quietly as he scooted closer to the machine and out of the way before he tripped anyone else. "I was just thinking."
Taking out a handful of coins from his pocket, Miyuki began to put them into the machine while glancing down at Eijun. "Thinking about what?" He asked, hoping he wasn't upset about having him help in his payback with Kuramochi. It might have been a little unfair to recruit Kuramochi's roommate into his plan for revenge, but in all fairness Eijun had been hit too.
"About Seido, I guess..."
Honestly, Miyuki hadn't expected Eijun to actually answer. When he heard his drink fall into the opening, he leaned down and pulled it out. "Okaaaay, what about Seido?" He asked as he opened his can.
"Just... about it. Like the team and the dorms and stuff."
After seeing the look on Eijun's face, Miyuki felt like he couldn't leave him alone if he was going to sit around and pout. So he slid his back down the wall until he was sitting side-to-side with him. "It's only been a week, but do you like it here?"
"I love it."
Miyuki nudged him with his elbow. "Then why do you look like a lost puppy?"
"I do not!"
"I don't! I'm just... wondering if I can fit in here," Eijun answered, and Miyuki didn't miss that his gaze lowered to look at his leg. Was he thinking of himself as an outcast for some reason? Because of his leg? Or was it just that he wasn't used to being on a team with people he didn't know?
"You're already in the dorms, so you have just as much right as anyone else on the team to be here," Miyuki said. "Granted, I don't know you that well yet, but I'm pretty sure you worked harder than anyone else to get to this point. No one here is looking at your leg as some sort of weakness- they only care about your baseball talent. And take it from me, you have a lot."
"And if you're worried about fitting in or something, stop. The team already loves you," he stated, handing his drink over to Eijun. "Kuramochi's already bragging about you like a doting brother, and you seem to be becoming friends with the other second years." Miyuki could see the start of a smile forming on Eijun's face.
"They make it pretty easy," he answered, hugging his knees tighter to his chest as he gratefully accepted the drink from Miyuki. "There's still so much I have to do here, though. I've missed so much with all the time I took off..."
"Then make up for it now."
"Fit all the things you possibly missed into this season. Make up for lost time ten times over with this team. Your team."
"... Hey Miyuki?"
"Kuramochi-senpai was wrong about you."
"That you were skeeving and standoffish. But you're secretly nice, aren't you?"
Miyuki smirked as he climbed to his feet. "Don't tell anyone," he said as he started back down the hallway.
"There was one other thing he said!" Eijun called, causing Miyuki to turn back and face him.
"And what was it?" He asked, and Eijun smiled.
"That you have pretty face."
"Ah, and the lies continue," Miyuki joked, knowing that his words were probably taken out of context.
"No," Eijun answered quietly. "I'm thinking that part is true."
Miyuki only muffled a laugh before heading back to his room.
me: this is a serious story that covers deep emotional stuff
also me: *has kuramochi launching water balloons at his teammates from across the field*
im fake there's nothing serious happening ever in this story
Eijun decided he loved Seido.
From the excessively huge grounds to the teasing roommates and long practices, he loved his team. He thought it was well worth the wait, the years in rehab and times of doubt. While it was different from playing with his friends back home, there was still the same feeling of exciting warmth when standing on the field with his team, and he though he'd never trade it for anything.
Although now, he wasn't so sure he still felt that way.
He peered around the corner of the bullpen, checking to see if anyone was heading his way. With the coast seemingly clear, he sighed in relief and slid his back down the side of the nearest solid wall. "I can't take much more of this," he whispered, praying no one would pass by while he was taking a break. If anyone did, he would be taken out...
Because his water gun was running on empty.
The closest place to get more ammo was the water fountains just outside the gate- on the other side of the field. The only shelter he had between where he was and where he was going was the shed at the halfway point.
Ugh, where the hell is my team?
Having had a night off of practice, Kuramochi had suggested a water gun fight between the first string. How he'd convinced everyone to agree to it, Eijun didn't know. However he did figure Kuramochi was the type to try and make such events happen regularly for the team. Even in the short time they'd been roommates, Eijun felt as though he and the energetic shortstop had similar personalities, which allowed them to get along fairly quickly (despite the upperclassman's constant teasing).
He had the group of those playing split in half randomly, on teams red and blue. Kuramochi and Ryousuke, those Eijun had pegged as probably the biggest troublemakers on Seido, were no doubt running around wrecking havoc from being together on the blue team. And Furuya, the other second-year pitcher, was probably off somewhere sleeping if Eijun had to guess.
But where was Chris? Or his classmate Kanemaru, for that matter. Even the loudest of them all, his senpai Jun, was nowhere to be seen, and Eijun expected him to be making the most noise. Maybe I'm the last one alive?! The sole survivor of the red team! He glanced back around the corner of the wall, deciding if there was still no sign of anyone, he'd make a run for the shed. Seeing no one in sight, he gripped his gun close to his chest before rising to his feet.
"Three... Two... One!"
Running as fast as he comfortably could with the pressure in the socket of his prosthetic, Eijun sprinted up to the side of the shed, pressing his back up against the wall. Clutching his gun still tightly in his arms, he slowly lowered himself to the ground and closed his eyes. He felt the beat of his heart quickening in nervousness, still unsure of where his enemies lay.
"This is exhausting."
"You're telling me."
Eijun didn't even bother opening his eyes to see who was with him since he knew that criticizing voice all too well. After all, he'd heard it plenty in the last two weeks.
"Miyuki-senpai, I was wondering where you were. I haven't seen you all game," he remembered, turning to face the unenthusiastic catcher. Just as Eijun suspected, it looked like Miyuki hadn't even used his gun once. His gaze drifted down to Miyuki's dirt covered pants, figuring he must have been sitting on the ground behind the shed the whole game.
"Well I'm not really the kind of person that normally joins in on this kind of thing."
"You don't say?"
"Are you back-talking your senpai, Sawamura?" Miyuki asked, a teasing grin forming on his face.
"I wouldn't dream of it," Eijun answered, setting his water gun in the dirt. After running a hand across his forehead to wipe away the sweat, he couldn't help but return Miyuki's smile. "This is fun though... Is Seido always like this?"
"Annoying, you mean? Because if so, then absolutely."
"Has anyone ever told you that you are incredibly difficult to get along with sometimes?"
"Never," Miyuki answered sarcastically, his gaze sweeping over Eijun's leg for a moment. "And especially not in so many words."
Eijun followed Miyuki's eyes down to where his right leg rested in the sand. He had learned to ignore the stares his leg received once people realized it was a prosthetic. When he was younger, those stares caused him to pick fights with those who had looked at him with pity. But after having come to terms with the fact there was no going back, Eijun had learned to accept it as a part of himself.
If someone had an issue with it or pitied him, that was their problem.
Yet he didn't see the pity he'd come to expect in Miyuki's eyes, or any of his teammates for that matter- only ever curiosity and awe, after the initial shock.
"So uh... is Kuramochi-senpai normally the ringleader of this kinda thing?" Eijun asked while fiddling with his water gun. He heard Miyuki sigh from his spot next to him as he tossed his gun to the ground.
"Most of the time, yeah. He says the reason is because he wants everyone to take a break and remember that 'it's college and we should be having fun.' But I think that's only half the reason."
"What's the other half?"
"He just wants to goof off."
"Is that so?"
Both Eijun and Miyuki stared at one another, neither of them having talked after Miyuki's words. Miyuki had also recognized that last voice, Eijun could tell by the look on his face. As soon as Miyuki reached for his gun, both he and Eijun were soaked with water from above.
"Dammit, Kuramochi!" Miyuki exclaimed, immediately taking his glasses off in hopes of keeping them dry. Eijun smiled, looking above him to see Kuramochi and Ryousuke's heads peeking out from the top of the shed.
"How'd you know where we were?" Eijun asked in curiosity, and Ryousuke shot him with water again in response.
"We saw you running across the field," he said while resting his head on his arm as he gazed down at Eijun. Of course they did, Eijun thought. He should have known they were watching him. They'd been running around the fields like ninjas, Ryousuke especially. Eijun felt like he was the kind of person who knew everything about everyone.
"Okay okay we're out!" Miyuki said while scrambling to his feet to try and brush the dirt off his pants. "Great, now I'm soaked," he muttered. Eijun then heard the sounds of Kuramochi and Ryousuke climbing down off the shed roof, and he had to wonder how they got up there so silently in the first place. Although he supposed it didn't matter now that he and Miyuki were out of the game. So he held his hand up for Miyuki to take.
"Help me up."
"Huh? Why should I?"
"Because you're supposed to help out your underclassmen, it's in your job description!"
Miyuki watched him for a moment before letting out a defeated sigh and reaching for Eijun's arm. As soon as Miyuki had pulled Eijun to his feet, Eijun had felt his back become soaked with water. "Miyuki did you just- seriously?!" Eijun spun around to see Miyuki's water gun in his hand pointing at Eijun.
"You deserve it for getting us caught."
Scowling, Eijun reached for his own gun and pulled the trigger only to see that Miyuki hadn't even flinched.
"You're out of water, remember?"
Eijun took a step back.
"Now Miyuki-senpai, we're on the same team!" He said laughing, carefully inching back as Miyuki walked toward him.
"Not anymore," he said, aiming his gun toward Eijun. "We're out, remember? That makes this a free-for-all." Apparently Miyuki didn't appreciate getting wet. Saving that bit of information, Eijun decided his best chance to make it back to the dorms alive was to run away as fast as he could. He quickly spun on his heel and ran, all the while begging for mercy from Miyuki.
Eijun decided he loved Seido.
Eijun's impact on the team had happened strangely fast, Miyuki thought, as his eyes glanced over Eijun's right leg as the pitcher ran from Kuramochi, who was trying to spray him with the hose rather than watering the field. Although two weeks had passed since Eijun joined the team and everyone had gotten over the initial shock of his situation, Miyuki's mind still returned to Eijun's leg on occasion, awed at how he never could have guessed what the pitcher had gone through had he not been told.
But more than that, Miyuki was surprised at how charismatic Eijun was.
With two days, Eijun had secured a spot on the first string.
With two weeks, he had secured the heart of the team.
In such a short amount of time, Eijun's electric personality had affected the entire mood of the team, and he had quickly made friends with everyone as though he'd been with them from the start. Even Miyuki couldn't help but return Eijun's smile when their eyes met, the southpaw having been soaked with water by their shortstop.
"Did you manage to actually get any on the field, Kuramochi? Besides, didn't he get enough punishment with the water gun fight?" Miyuki asked, just before a gust of wind blew up the sand from the field, dirtying Eijun's soaked uniform. He watched as Kuramochi rubbed the sand out of his eyes, cursing as he did so.
"Apparently not," he muttered, trying to hand the hose to Eijun. "Sawamura, you finish this!"
"What?! No way, that's your job!"
"I'm your senpai so you have to listen to me!"
"Actually," Miyuki started, breaking their banter. "Sawamura's uniform is ruined, thanks to you. So our precious rookie is going to have to change before the practice game." He reached his arms out, pushing on Eijun's back to herd him toward the dorms. Before Kuramochi could complain, Miyuki added "and I have to warm up the pitchers, so I can't do it either! Have fun!"
Hearing Kuramochi's mumbling about how first years should be doing the menial labor, Miyuki turned his attention back to Eijun- and his sleeve which was now wet from being wrapped around Eijun's shoulder. When he removed his arm from the southpaw to dab at the soaked sleeve, Miyuki noticed Eijun gaze slide to his forearm. "Sorry about that," he said, stealing one of Furuya's rags off the railing as they passed the bullpen.
Eijun handed it to Miyuki to dry his sleeve, before glancing down at his own attire. "Perfect, now I gotta go change. I am so gonna get him back for this," he said under his breath. Miyuki nodded in thanks for the rag, looking over Eijun's ruined uniform. Seeing Eijun's clothes soaked brought a question to Miyuki's mind, one he couldn't stop himself from asking.
"Can it rust?"
"Erm... your leg... is it, I don't know, waterproof?" Miyuki asked, scratching the back of his head awkwardly. Was it okay to ask that or was it completely rude? He had no idea and was somewhat worried he'd offended the pitcher by the look of confusion on Eijun's face. But Miyuki only ever found himself curious about Eijun, wondering if it was because they'd lost a year of playing together due to Eijun's late transfer.
But Miyuki instantly felt relief as Eijun grinned, tapping the side of his shin with his hand. "Well, I probably shouldn't swim with it on, but it's okay to get a little wet like this. At least I hope, this thing cost an arm and a leg but I got it half off," he added, his smiling widening.
Was he supposed to laugh at that? That would be rude, wouldn't it? But Eijun was standing there smiling at him! If Eijun made the joke, it would be okay to laugh at it then, right?! What exactly were the rules on this? Naturally he felt those types of jokes were taboo, but...
Why do I have to be in this situation?
Miyuki's stance stiffened as Eijun muffled a nervous laugh. "Oh your face was priceless! Honestly, I love saying that kind of thing around people who aren't used to it, they get all awkward because they don't know what to do. And then they- yeah! They make that face!" He exclaimed, pointed at a now scowling Miyuki. What the hell, he was genuinely worried he'd offended Eijun.
How could he make a joke about something like that?
"Isn't it hard?"
"Well yeah, it's made of metals and-"
"Kidding, kidding," he said, putting his hands up defensively. As he looked down at his leg, his face fell for only a moment before a wistful smile took place. He glanced back up at Miyuki, watching him from under the edge of his hat. "Not anymore."
Eijun had done better in-game than Miyuki could have ever anticipated.
It turned out his skill more then made up for his lack of experience, although truthfully Miyuki wasn't sure how long that would last. But against a low-seeded team, Eijun had managed to get through his first three university innings without allowing a single hit, let alone a run. While it was amazing in Miyuki's eyes, he knew that Eijun needed more practice games before the tournament in order to try and catch up to those in his year.
So he'd gone off in search of their southpaw, finding him barefoot on the dorm's second floor balcony, covered in dirt and holding a watering can. His white and red baseball tee was caked in mud, and he wore a pair of hideous ripped khaki shorts, showing off his prosthetic. It was the first time Miyuki had seen the entirety of Eijun's leg unobstructed, and his gaze was instantly drawn to it knowing full well it was a rude gesture.
But he couldn't get over the idea of Eijun still being able to play despite his condition. Miyuki had heard of many athletes being forced to retire early due to injuries, and Miyuki would have expected something as serious as an amputation to fit the bill. Yet here Eijun was, making first string at a top sports university...
Grinning, Miyuki opened the door to the rooftop garden. "You just couldn't resist your farming urges, huh?"
At the suddenness of Miyuki's voice, Eijun dropped the can he was holding. But when he saw that it was Miyuki talking to him, he only rolled his eyes. "Oh, it's just you," he said, squatting down to pick up what he dropped. "Don't scare me like that, I have a fragile heart!" Miyuki watched as his prosthetic bent with ease, and he couldn't help but wonder how it was even able to do so.
"Nothing about you is fragile," He responded, receiving a cheeky grin from the southpaw.
"I'm glad you noticed," he said, standing back up to continue watering the flowers in front of him. "But you're right," he continued. "The farm boy in me just couldn't stand the neglect these plants were facing. What's the point of having a garden if no ones taking proper care of it?!"
"We take turns watering them," Miyuki said.
"That's not what I mean!" Eijun exclaimed, gesturing toward some sort of cactus-like plant. "That one's being over watered," he explained, before walking toward a large, leafy plant. "This one wasn't planted deep enough in the dirt. That one," he said, pointing toward a different flower. "Isn't potted in the right kind of soil! And I don't see one bag of fertilizer! What's wrong with you people?!"
"Well, I'm sorry I wasn't raised on a farm," Miyuki joked, and a small pout formed on Eijun's face.
"Apology not accepted," he said while walking back toward Miyuki. He handed him the watering can while grabbing his arm, pulling him toward a corner of the garden. "But you can start making it up to me by watering this guy," he said, pointing to a potted plant to his left. Miyuki grinned, giving Eijun a small salute.
"Aye aye, captain."
Miyuki tilted the can over the designated flower, steadying his hand as he watched Eijun move out of the corner of his eye. Listening to the tapping of Eijun's prosthetic, Miyuki's gaze immediately drew to it. It had a dark blue reflection in the sunlight, and were Miyuki in a science fiction novel, he'd say it almost looked robotic. Although, he supposed there were robotic aspects to it, he figured it worked on some sort of ball joint function, judging by the way the foot moved.
He didn't know how long he had been watching by the time Eijun's voice reached him.
"Are you going to ask or just stare at me?"
"... How'd it happen?"
Eijun smiled at the ground before spinning on his good heel to face Miyuki, taking a seat on the ground, patting the area in front of him for Miyuki to sit. "Once upon a time," he started, earning a grin from Miyuki as he sat across from him. "Something that wasn't part of an amazing tale happened- I wasn't wrestling sharks or in any sort of accident. It's a fairly boring story actually," he said awkwardly.
"I was a just a kid wandering through my family's barn- yes we had one, don't laugh," he added as Miyuki's smile widened. "Anyway, it was filled with all this ancient farming equipment that belonged to the previous owners of the land, and I was walking through to find a shovel so I could dig up some worms and go fishing. There was this huge rusted tractor that we never used because we had such a small property and had no need for it. Anyway, I'm walking passed it and I cut my leg on this piece of metal that's sticking out from it."
He pointed to his left leg, drawing an invisible line across his lower calf. "It wasn't that deep and didn't hurt too badly, so I cleaned it up and bandaged it. But after a week or so it was only getting worse."
Eijun gripped his good leg tightly, refusing to meet Miyuki's eyes. "So we go to the doctor, because the pain was spreading away from the cut, which was only getting more disgusting to look at. So they check it out, run some tests, give me some pain killers... And get this- I have tetanus."
"Tetanus? Didn't you get vaccinated for it?"
"Yeah, but there were a bunch of, to use your words, extenuating circumstances. I missed a booster, the vaccine didn't cover the type I contracted- one that had developed into localized tetanus," he explained. "And what that infection brought me was weeks of painful, uncontrollable muscle spasms in my leg. I didn't cry though- if it happened to me today I would be bawling like a baby, but I was a tough kid."
Although smiling at Eijun's words, Miyuki couldn't help but imagine a young Eijun, writhing in pain in a hospital bed. "I thought you could treat tetanus?" Miyuki asked, wondering how it led to Eijun needing an amputation. "What happened?"
"Well, under medication you can manage the symptoms, but mine was only getting worse and worse and was beginning to spread. Rather than let it progress and transform into another, possibly fatal, form of tetanus, it was decided that chopping off my leg was the best option. I was a kid, so I had no say in it, but looking back, I'm glad my parents made the decision I couldn't."
What decision was there for you to make? You were just a kid...
He watched Eijun as sympathy built in his chest. Miyuki recalled his earlier words about how Eijun wasn't fragile at all... And he wasn't, Eijun was infinitely stronger than Miyuki could ever hope to be. And knowing some of what he went through explained the fire in his eyes when he pitched. "How long were you in rehab?"
Eijun looked up in thought at Miyuki's question while reaching into his pocket. "In total? I'm not even sure... four or five years, I think." That was a long time to be in and out of a hospital, Miyuki thought. He knew that all too well.
From his shorts Eijun pulled a crumpled rag, and he reached toward the watering can, using it to dampen it. "It was spaced out though... I went for a few years around the start of high school and the end of it. I changed the type of prosthetic a while back, which is why I started school late. Got a scholarship out of it, though."
Placing the rag on top of his leg, Eijun carefully ran it over the metal, cooling it in the summer heat. "Damn thing burns up in the sun. The company that made it is working on making a proper material that won't heat up like this, but for now I'm stuck with it. What I give up for a proper prosthetic," he complained, clicking his tongue at the end of his sentence.
Miyuki smiled at his silver lining attitude.
"Am I crazy, or is that one different from the one I saw on your first day?" He asked, gesturing to Eijun's leg.
Eijun shook his head as he tossed the rag off to the side. "You're not crazy. I have a few different ones and the one you saw then was the one I usually wear when I play. That one has better functionality for ankle functions and is designed to look like an actual leg. This one is... just a pole."
"Miyuki! Sawamura! Here you two are!"
At the suddenness of Kuramochi's voice Miyuki accidentally kneed the watering can, spilling it's contents onto the roof floor. Cursing, Miyuki picked the can back up before more could spill. "What do you want, Kuramochi?" Miyuki asked through his teeth, and Kuramochi gave him an unimpressed look.
"We've been looking for you two," he said, nodding toward the door he just walked through. "Coach set up a practice game and wants us to go over the details about the other team."
"What? But that's so boring!" Eijun exclaimed.
"You're gonna pitch," was all Kuramochi had to say to get Eijun off his feet and out the door.
"I'll meet you two there!" Miyuki only heard before Eijun was out of sight, no doubt sprinting down the stairs. Miyuki shook his head before getting to his feet, ending up face to face with Kuramochi.
"What were you two doing?"
"We were plotting our revenge against you."
"I don't know about that," Kuramochi said with a cheeky grin. "You two sure seemed pretty cozy."
Miyuki rolled his eyes. "Keep talking like that and you really will have to watch your back. Revenge, remember?"
Kuramochi watched Miyuki as he followed him out the door.
"What is with all of the water lately, is it a theme we have going or something?"
"It's your gloomy personality attracting it."
"Wow. Thank you Kuramochi. Remind me why we're friends again?"
"Because I'm the only one who can tolerate your ass."
"That's... so kind of you."
"I know, I know- I have a bleeding heart," Kuramochi as he quickly ducked under the dugout ceiling. Miyuki followed behind, taking cover from the rain before it could fall any harder. He pulled his gloves off and tossed them on the bench in hopes of them drying some before the game resumed, wanting to at least have some portion of his body dry while playing.
Miyuki could honesty say that he hated rainy games. The ball was hard to grip when throwing down to second, his pants got abnormally dirty from crouching in the wet sand, and his back was soaking wet while his front was completely dry- thanks to the chest guard. If there was one thing Miyuki hated more than being completely soaked, it was uneven levels of dampness on his body. The only positive thing about it was he had a way to clear his glasses of water, even if his shirt wasn't really the right material for it.
"Hey Bakamura, make the sun come out already," Miyuki heard Kuramochi say in the middle of his internal complaining. Looking over to see the pitcher in question, he was surprised to see that Eijun was performing some sort of... odd dance in the corner of the dugout.
While covering his amused grin with his palm, Miyuki approached Eijun with Kuramochi at his side. "Sawamura... what uh... what're you doing?"
"Miyuki-senpai! I'm just ya know, hoping the sun comes out!" He explained awkwardly, immediately ending his apparent anti-rain dance. "With the rain and all I just... well, I hope it stops soon." Ending his sentence with a light sigh, Eijun slipped on his batting gloves for his warmup swings.
"Really? I thought you'd be the type to be prancing around in the puddles, screaming from the mound that rain couldn't affect your pitching," Miyuki pointed out. If it was Eijun, he surely wouldn't worry about a little rain. But the split-second look of nerves on Eijun's face wasn't reassuring Miyuki.
"Haha yeah! I guess it's just because it's my first real game or something!" He explained, and Miyuki couldn't argue against it. It was Eijun's debut playoff game, and Miyuki couldn't hold it against him he if was nervous to play after the time in rehab.
"You yourself said you were in top shape," Miyuki remembered, hoping to instill at least some confidence into the southpaw. "Don't doubt that now, especially before the game even begins."
"Yeah Bakamura, do you think I'd play behind someone who couldn't hack it?" Kuramochi chimed in, and Miyuki wondered if he had a soft spot for their newbie.
"Miyuki-senpai! Kuramochi-senpai! Thank you for your words of encouragement!" Eijun exclaimed, leaning into a deep bow which causes the third years to step back. "The boss gave me this chance and I don't plan to waste it!"
Boss? Was he referring to Kataoka?
Well, whatever the case, Eijun's mood seemed to have improved which was good enough for Miyuki.
"You'd better not!" Kuramochi added with a kick to Eijun's backside, sending him tripping out the dugout. "Now hurry and go warm up with Chris in the bullpen!"
Eijun responded by raising his right hand to his forehead in a salute towards Miyuki and Kuramochi. "I promise to strike out every batter in this game!"
"Impossible," answered Kuramochi.
"I promise to strike out almost every batter in this game!"
"Yeah, not happening."
"Then I promise to-"
"Sawamura!" Miyuki cut in. "Just go already!"
"Right! I'll do my best!"
"Yeah yeah, go break a leg!"
He did not just say that.
He did not just say "break a leg" to the guy with a prosthetic of the very limb in mention.
In that moment, Miyuki wanted to stand on home plate and just tell the pitchers to go at it, just peg him with baseballs because he did not just say that. He could have said good luck. He could have said to relax and try his best.
Miyuki also could have just shut his fucking mouth.
"Oh my god, Sawamura I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to- I wasn't even thinking- oh goddamn I feel shitty," Miyuki muttered, only able to apologize at the look Eijun was shooting him, with his lips lowered into a foreign frown and his eyes glaring into Miyuki's.
Even Kuramochi was speechless as he glanced between the battery- at least until he started laughing, with Eijun soon joining in while Miyuki look on in bewilderment.
"Miyuki-senpai," Eijun finally started after what felt like eons to Miyuki. "You... really should see the look on your face. I've never seen you so apologetic!"
"This is the second time this happened!" Eijun continued, a grin quickly taking form on his face as he crossed his arms. "I mean, last time it was me who made the joke but still! When are you gonna learn?!"
What is he- wait a minute.
Miyuki had completely forgotten about the arm and a leg joke Eijun had made back when they were watering the field. So what, did Eijun just not care about jokes like that? Was his skin really as tough as his heart apparently was?
"Hey, you're the one who said I'm not fragile," he noted, throwing Miyuki's words back in his face. "Don't worry about what you said- I know you didn't mean anything by it," Eijun added with a laugh. "Jeez, loosen up a little! You guys are all so sensitive about my leg! All dodging around the subject, it feels like you all are the ones missing a limb instead of me."
Kuramochi smiled at Eijun's words. "I've gotten used to it," he said. "The guy makes jokes like that all the time in the room. Takes a while, though."
Miyuki watched Eijun as he let out a deep sigh, before jabbing his index finger straight into Miyuki's chest, his expression turning serious. "I'm not made of glass, you know."
Having said his piece without interest in Miyuki's reaction, Eijun left his upperclassmen alone in the dugout as he went to go meet Chris in the bullpen. Not knowing how to respond, Miyuki only stared after the southpaw in awe. Of course Eijun wasn't made of glass, Miyuki had never thought that of him even knowing about his leg. The only thing running through his mind then was regret of having made Eijun feel as though he were.
"That was kinda hot," Kuramochi muttered under his breath.
"Shut up," Miyuki said while ramming his elbow into the shortstop's side.
"Kidding, I'm only kidding!"
Eijun had to ignore his nerves and doubt.
He had been excited to learn his efforts in rehab with Chris had payed off- that ending his high school baseball career early hadn't been for nothing. Because even after playing on and off for years between his extensive therapy programs, Eijun had managed to re-enter the world of baseball, hopefully for good, and was even on the first string of a top university. Seido was a big name in college baseball, and initially Eijun wasn't sure if his skills were up to par for a top tier team, considering all the gaps in his experience.
But the crash course Chris had worked with him on the months before he transferred in had done the trick, especially combined with all the training he'd done together with his rehab sessions. With his leg having been out of commission for so long, Eijun had practiced tweaking every other part of his pitching form that he could.
He had strengthened his core and completed far too many regimens for his upper-arms. There were new grips for pitching he'd learned, including ways to change his moving fastball in conjunction with his breaking balls, which were all taught to him by Chris. In fact, if Eijun hadn't met Chris, he probably wouldn't be playing on the first string, let alone attending Seido at all.
Eijun owed everything to Chris, which was why he didn't want to let him down when he finally received the chance to pitch to him in a playoff game.
Kataoka had decided to try out his new pitcher relay, despite each individual pitcher having the skill to open and close by themselves. Furuya had only pitched the first two innings since he pitched in a game the day before, and Eijun was to pitch from the third until the fifth. Tanba and Kawakami would finish out the game.
They had accounted for a few bumps in the road, but not for the sudden downpour caused by the imminent heat wave.
Eijun had been pitching well until that point. He'd only allowed two walks and one hit in the third and fourth without any of the runners scoring. There was already one out for the fifth inning, having struck out the first batter with the change-up Chris called for. Although the second and third batters did make in on base, Eijun was ashamed to admit.
But even with the rain his grip wasn't weakening.
But the dirt packed around the mound was.
The rain, although only lasting for a short while, had drowned the mound with water, turning the ground surrounding him into a loose pile of mud and sand. Eijun had been ignoring why that could pose an issue until his foot slipped during a pitch, twisting it at an odd angle that caused him to fall halfway into the splits after releasing the ball. Yet even with his form having gone to shit, he still managed to pitch a strike to the inside, albeit a bit slower than usual.
Eijun regained his footing, putting all his weight on his left leg so he could actually feel the ground beneath him. He heard Chris call for a timeout, and Eijun looked up to see Chris coming toward him. "Are you alright?" He asked, concerned as Eijun lifted his right leg up, stretching out the area he'd strained in his fall.
"Well, I'm not sure I'll be able to have any kids after that, but I think I'm okay," he responded, thankful he stretched well before the game. He set his leg back on the ground, pushing into the socket of the prosthetic to make sure his leg hadn't broken anywhere on the fall. He didn't want to lift his pant leg to check while on the mound, afraid his opponents would see it and try to exploit his amputee status as a weakness.
"Can you still pitch?"
"Did you think I'd quit over one slip up?! Of course I can still pitch!"
Chris returned Eijun's grin, patting him on the shoulder with his mitt. "Just be careful," he said, stomping his foot into the dirt in hopes to solidify the mound more. Afterwords he returned to his position behind the plate, followed by cheers of encouragement from his teammates.
Jun was shouting that he'd allow Eijun to give up one run, any more and he'd kill him.
Kuramochi was saying he wanted to win the game already, before he too slipped and busted his balls.
Ryousuke wanted to see after the game if Eijun could do the full splits.
Masuko gave him a thumbs up, followed by a "you can do it, Sawamura-chan."
Yuki only nodded at him, saying "take your time."
There were shouts from the dugout, as well, and Eijun could make out the voices of Kanemaru and Toujou yelling "good luck" at him. Haruichi was handing Furuya a towel, but not before they both cheered Eijun on. And then there was Miyuki, who was leaning against the edge of the dugout, probably pouting because he wasn't playing. Eijun laughed at the thought of Miyuki acting childishly, only to realize that Miyuki was looking back at him now.
The catcher stuck his index finger up and his thumb out, pressing the back of his hand against his forehead.
What is that? I don't get it- wait... Is that an "L?" What's that mean, Bakayuki?! I'm terrible at English, how am I supposed to-
He remembered a few nights ago, when he'd ran into Miyuki while getting drinks for his senpai. Miyuki had done that same gesture toward him. "Loser," he'd said in English, before explaining in Japanese. "It means you're an idiot."
What the hell, Miyuki?!
Accepting it as payback for the earlier joke, Eijun tore his gaze from the catcher, but not before sticking out his tongue at him, saying "yeah well, which of us is on the field?!" Miyuki laughed at that, as Eijun turned his attention back to the batter. He didn't have time to deal with Miyuki, he was in the middle of a game, and his teammates were putting their faith in him.
Baseball wasn't a game he could play by himself even if he wanted to. He'd more than had enough of sitting by himself in the therapy center's gym, throwing a ball into a net for hours on end. He was here now, on Seido, on a team, and he wasn't going to give that up, not again.
So he waited for Chris's sign, taking a deep breath before raising his leg. A pitch to the outside corner. Eijun extended his leg out, slamming it into the ground as he brought his arm around.
His knee buckled.
Catching himself before he fell, Eijun brought his good leg forward, disguising his stumble as the end to his windup. The pitch was called a ball, but only barely, and Eijun sighed with relief that the throw hadn't gone wild. Chris tossed him the ball back, telling him to ring it in a little, and Eijun nodded as he stepped onto the rubber.
Something was wrong.
He threw another pitch, this one a cutter that was called a strike, but only on a swing.
He slipped again.
Eijun took a step off the mound, glancing down at his leg. When he checked it earlier, he hadn't noticed anything wrong with it. But when he lifted his leg once more, this time grabbing his heel, he realized what the issue was...
The ankle joint had broken.
His prosthetic was designed to look and function like an actual leg, which was much easier to accomplish for people like Eijun, who had a trans-tibial amputation beneath their knee. That way, he still had his knee and could bend his leg properly, but there obviously was still no way to move the foot on his own, since he couldn't feel it.
To compensate for that, the prosthetic had a rotating joint in the ankle, allowing the foot to move in correlation to the angle the leg was in. It was a high-end prosthetic, built for the functionality athletes and physical laborers needed. Without the joint working properly, his foot would just dangle when his leg raised, and it wouldn't land properly when he set it down.
That's what was causing Eijun to slip.
On that first fall his joint must have snapped, and now when he raised his leg for the pitch, the foot lowered at a bad angle, and wasn't planting right in the dirt. It was a definite problem for Eijun, and would mess up his every throw. And if he did that, not only would his pitching worsen, but he'd be switched out and his weakness would be discovered.
He didn't want to be taken out, yet he also didn't want to let his team down.
Eijun had to think about what he could do.
He could continue pitching as is and hope for the best, that he would be able to recover upon slipping. He could tell Chris the issue and be taken out of the game and be replaced by Tanba. Or... he could find a way to work around it.
Luckily, a broken joint was a somewhat familiar issue for Eijun, having had it happen once before. Although he had never tried to pitch while in that condition, he at least had some knowledge as to how the foot now moved. It would take some tweaking, but if he could lower the height of his leg a bit, and kick his leg out with more force when he stepped to throw, he would hopefully be able to offset the affect of he broken part.
All he needed was one more strike and then one more out to finish his inning. So he calmed himself as best he could before throwing his next pitch, a fastball to the inside corner. Now that he was aware of the problem, Eijun could feel the shift in the socket of his prosthetic when his foot landed wrong. Having released the ball from his fingertips, Eijun watched as the batter swung at the pitch, hitting it straight to Ryousuke's chest.
Eijun waited for the next batter to take his position. He wasn't paying attention to the cheers of his teammates or the risk the wet sand posed. He only watched Chris's mitt, focused on throwing to wherever Chris told him. Eijun planted his feet against the rubber and took a deep breath before pitching once more.
There was a ball.
And a strike.
A curve ball to the inside the batter fouled.
Just like that, Eijun had the batter in a corner. He only hoped no one could tell he too was in one as he threw his next pitch, one that went wild and into the plate. Eijun cursed under his breath as Chris threw the ball back to him. Just one more pitch was all he needed, and he couldn't even pull through...
"I thought you said you were in top shape?!"
Eijun whirled around, hearing Miyuki's voice from the dugout. He was standing on the top step with his hands cupped around his mouth, his eyes hidden behind his dark hair. Eijun scowled, wondering how many times Miyuki was going to throw that back in his face. What would it take to satisfy him?
"You yourself said you were in top shape. Don't doubt that now, especially before the game even begins."
Eijun had always talked a big game to make up for his insecurities about his pitching. Even though he had worked as hard as he could, there was no doubt he was lacking in at least some skill and a lot of experience when it came to the others his age. The years in rehab had set him back a great deal, Eijun had thought. But maybe more than that, Eijun's way of thinking was holding him back even more so.
Instead of thinking about what he couldn't do, he should've been thinking about what he was able to do.
Maybe he was new to having a team, having others rely on him...
But pitching was something he always had, the one thing he shouldn't be doubting.
Internally cursing at the prospect of needing to thank Miyuki after the game, Eijun turned back to Chris with a new mindset, watching as Chris decided on a pitch.
Eijun shook his head at the number Chris was making with his hand, no doubt shocking Chris and the rest of the team for disagreeing on the sign. But Eijun waned to close his inning, not showing the others any weakness. Even if that meant unveiling his secret weapon.
Eijun shook off the sign once more. He knew what he had to throw, despite having little practice with it. The pitch was by no means perfected, but the other team had no idea he even knew how to throw it. It was a rare style even in professional baseball, but also one Eijun believed would be helpful in the situation he was currently faced with.
Once Chris had cycled through all his usual signs, he stood up and asked the umpire for another time-out and walked out to the mound.
"I... I want to try that."
Chris shook his head. "It's too unpredictable. You haven't had enough practice with it yet, and even the coach doesn't know you can throw it."
"That's the point!" Eijun insisted, covering his mouth with his mitt. "If Boss doesn't know, neither do they," he said, nodding toward the other team's dugout. "I know it's a bit early to show it off, but even if it fails, it'll still be in their heads that I can throw it."
Chris sighed, one hand resting on his hip as he contemplated Eijun's words. "I don't know... If it gets by, the runners will advance."
Eijun closed his eyes for a moment, debating whether or not he should tell Chris about his condition. It was possible Chris would want him switched out, but... It could also help convince him to let him pitch what he wanted. "Do you remember why I tried to learn the pitch in the first place?"
"Because it was easier for your leg and you had better balance. You didn't have to lift it up, only step out."
"Yeah, and that would be really helpful right now!" Eijun said, adding on at the end a quiet "because my leg broke."
"... What was that?"
"The... joint in my leg broke at the ankle."
Chris glanced down at Eijun's leg for a moment. "Sawamura... how are you still pitching?"
"Will power and the strong desire to not be taken out," Eijun said, pressing his mitt to Chris's chest guard. "I can do this. I won't be arrogant and promise a strike, but I won't let it go wild. I just need to shake him up, and if it's a strike, great. If not, I'll pitch what you ask."
Eijun met Chris's gaze with as much bravado he could muster, intending to show that he wasn't planning on backing down. After a moment, Chris released a defeated sigh as he rolled his eyes. "Okay. But you have to tell the coach after this inning, deal?"
Chris turned around and headed back to the plate while Eijun watched on in increasing nervousness. He never thought he'd even attempt to pitch it so soon, let alone in a playoff game with runs on the line. But he didn't want to risk his leg slipping again, and this pitch was his best bet.
He took a deep breath, remembering the feel of the windup- a far and quick step out, low to the ground. His back leg would barely rise as him arm dipped low to the ground, amplified by the flexibility in his shoulder. Truthfully, this was a pitch that was generally for side-arm pitchers like Kawakami, and it often was the main pitch for those types of pitchers.
It was a pitch Eijun had never intended on learning until after he lost his leg. Not only was it because it helped his balance, but because throwing underarm was easier when sitting in a chair and throwing into a net over and over. It was a pitch he learned only because he had lost his leg, and one that he intended to strengthen over time...
It was something people focused on perfecting for years, intending for it to be their main, specialized pitched. Eijun wasn't planning on becoming a submarine pitcher, but having it in his repertoire for moments like these was a fairly good plan, he liked to think. So he focused on Chris's mitt as he stepped as far out as he could, planting his foot firmly into the ground to avoid it from slipping.
He could tell the instant he changed how he put his leg out the batter was caught off guard. After all, it was a completely different pitching style from what he'd been throwing. And as he threw his arm out at a lowered angle, almost to the ground, Eijun made sure to slow the speed in order to gain more accuracy. He didn't need speed on a rising pitch if he had the element of surprise.
Eijun could tell the moment he let the ball go that it was going to be high and not where Chris wanted it. But to his surprise, it came in at the batter's chest- after he had swung and missed. The sudden change in Eijun's pitching style and speed had caught him so off guard he had panicked and swung at the pitch, despite it being a ball.
He closed his eyes at the sound of his teammates cheering as the third out was called.
"I can't believed that- AH!"
Suddenly there was a foot in his back, causing Eijun to stumble forward on his leg and fall to the ground face-first. He flipped over onto his back to stare up at Kuramochi, who was grinning mischievously at him. "So," he said in a low tone. "It looks like you were hiding something from us, Sa-wa-mu-ra."
"It's not like that senpai," Eijun said cautiously, as Chris helped him up from behind. "I've barely practiced it I mean, I wouldn't even say I can pitch it! It was pure luck, I swear!"
"Let's save this for later and get your leg looked at," Chris said, holding onto Eijun's arm as he herded him back toward the dugout.
"What's wrong with his leg?" Ryousuke asked, as he and the rest of the infield joined them on their way.
"He broke it," Chris said flatly.
"Huh?! And he kept pitching?!" Kuramochi questioned, although whether it was in shock, anger, or admiration, Eijun couldn't tell.
"It's not that bad," Eijun said as they reached the steps and Chris finally released his hold on him. "I think I just messed the joint up! It made me slip a bit but it's fine!"
And Eijun wasn't lying about that, if the problem truly was just a wrecked joint the fix wouldn't be too complicated. He hoped they wouldn't make a big deal out of it all- at least until he saw Kataoka and Miyuki's faces upon entering the dugout.
"I think we need to have a talk."
"A submarine," Miyuki said coldly as Eijun knelt in front of him.
"Y-Yes," Eijun answered meekly.
"You knew how to pitch a submarine... and didn't tell me."
"Well," Eijun started, and Miyuki was sure he wanted nothing more than to crawl in a hole and stay there for the rest of the game. "It was just something I messed around with while I was in rehab... It was easier to pitch from a chair than a fastball, or anything thrown overhand. I never intended to use it in a game! At least, not until I had more practice with it."
"Then why did you use it?" Kataoka asked after having given his sign to Kuramochi to bunt. Miyuki watched as Eijun crawled up off the floor and onto the bench, lifting his right pant leg up.
"The rain," Eijun said dejectedly, gripping the base of his heel to rotate it around. "It made the sand around the mound loose, and when I slipped on it the joint in my leg broke." Eijun proved his words by twisting his foot at angles that would be impossible were it not broken. "It's not easy for me to pitch in these conditions since I can't feel the ground with my foot to steady myself- you could call it my weakness."
Miyuki couldn't say anything against Eijun having a weakness since every pitcher had one. Miyuki just hadn't considered what it was like for Eijun to pitch every game. From what Miyuki knew, Eijun's amputation was made beneath the knee, so his foot rotation and balance relied entirely on the angle his leg was at, and on the joint he had broken.
"That pitch is easier on my leg for balancing, so I thought I'd have a better chance with it than trying fastballs with a broken ankle." Miyuki shook his head at Eijun's words before glancing over at Kataoka. He was facing the dugout entrance, giving the batters their signs as they got on base.
He hadn't looked over at Eijun until then.
"Was that the only reason?" He question, examining Eijun's face for a reaction. To Miyuki's surprise, Eijun didn't even hesitate at his question.
"I didn't want to let the team down," Eijun said. Miyuki heard the quiet chattering of his teammates die down as Eijun spoke, as they all noticed the hint of an approving smile on Kataoka's face. Even he couldn't argue if Eijun's strategy was done in order to help the team, especially if it succeeded.
It was the quality of an ace, after all.
"You have to get your leg looked at," the Kataoka stated, waving their manager over with his hand. "I'll sub you out since that was the plan anyway. Miyuki, I want you to accompany him to his doctor."
"What?! Screw that, I'm not leaving in the middle of a game!" Eijun exclaimed, and Miyuki could see the desperation taking shape on his face. "It's not that urgent to get it looked at, it can wait!"
As Eijun pleaded with Kataoka, Miyuki watched as their coach took his all too familiar stubborn stance. With his arms crossed and his jaw set, Kataoka was intimidating even Miyuki despite being a bystander. Even so, Miyuki had to agree that he didn't particularly want to go to the hospital. He'd spent enough time there as a kid for his mom, and wasn't looking forward to going back if he didn't have to.
"Sawamura, do you remember what we agreed upon when you first came here?"
Miyuki stilled at that. He hadn't known there was some prior arrangement between them. "... Yes," Eijun answered dejectedly. "That... that if there was ever a problem with my leg, I'd get it checked out immediately because repairs could set back my availability to pitch," he said quietly, a light sigh escaping his mouth.
When Miyuki considered his words, he figured that an arrangement like that made sense. Granted, he knew nothing about prosthetics and what went into repairing them, but if they took an extended amount of time, Eijun could be ineligible to play for a while, at least until his leg was fixed.
"I know... I know I have to go today. I'm not arguing that," he continued, and Miyuki could see the tension in his shoulders running down into his fists. "But let me stay. At least until the end of the game. I... I want to be here for the team even if I can't be on the mound," Eijun stated, his eyes finally looking up from the ground and at the coach. "I'll support them from the dugout if necessary, but don't make me leave until the game is over, coach."
Miyuki didn't bother trying to hide his grin. Even he knew the coach couldn't reject Eijun's offer, not when Eijun wanted to stay and support the team when unable to play. Despite the fact it was only his first playoff game, he had already well earned a spot on the team. As soon as Kataoka released a defeated grunt, Miyuki knew Eijun had the coach wrapped around his finger.
"As soon as the game ends, Rei will take you and Miyuki to the hospital."
Cringing, Miyuki held up a finger. "Uh, is it really necessary for me to go?"
"I'm fine on my own," Eijun said, pulling his pant leg back down. "I'm used to going alone." Miyuki eyed him from behind Kataoka. He went to his appointments alone? Sure, he didn't doubt that hospital visits were fairly common for him, but always going alone seemed... well, lonely. It made Miyuki remember his want for company when he went as a kid...
"I'd rather someone accompany you," the coach answered, apparently refusing to take "no" for an answer.
"It's fine," Miyuki sighed, regretting his words even as he spoke them. "I'll go and make sure Sawamura doesn't bail on his appointment- which he should probably go make." At Miyuki's words Eijun rolled his eyes, climbing to his feet when Kawakami approached with crutches. "Thank you, Kawakami-senpai!"
Miyuki watched as Kawakami followed Eijun out the back door, not being able to help wondering what they were talking about. He only hoped Eijun didn't wander too far and get caught in the eyes of a reporter or rival team member...
Great, now he was worried.
"Nori's with him, so I'm sure he'll keep Sawamura out of too much trouble."
Chris's voice came suddenly, causing Miyuki to flinch. "Make some noise when you walk, please."
Laughing, Chris handed Miyuki his shin guards. "There's a whole stadium of people cheering, I don't think it would matter. But you should put those on, you're in next inning." Miyuki had forgot he was finishing out the game when he accepted the coach's offer.
"Miyuki can you hand me the crutches?" Eijun asked the instant he climbed out of the backseat of Rei's car. Miyuki leaned over in his seat and picked the crutches up off the ground, carefully handing them to Eijun.
"What, you mean you don't want to hang onto me the whole time?" Miyuki joked, stepping out after Eijun. "I'm offended, really." Shooting Miyuki a confused look, Eijun set the crutches upright, placing one under each armpit to balance himself.
"You're coming with? You don't have to do that, so go back with Rei."
"Thanks but no way, I'd rather be with you than listen to Kuramochi try and rope everyone into a victory celebration of Mario Kart. Been there, done that."
Eijun smiled as Miyuki shut the car door behind him, waving Rei off as he did. "Did you win?"
"Haruichi beat us all by a lap, but he destroyed Kuramochi's pride in the process so it wasn't all bad."
"Haha, sounds about right," responded Eijun. Miyuki watched as Eijun used the crutches to help himself walk, wincing in sympathy at the uncomfortableness he remembered them being. "We're going to the fourth floor. That's where outpatient prosthetics is," he said, and Miyuki held the door open for Eijun who nodded his thanks.
Miyuki spared a glance down at Eijun's leg, where his foot dangled at a worrying angle- at least what would be, had Miyuki not known it was a prosthetic. As he listened to the tapping of the crutches on the hospital floor, Miyuki wondered what he could say to break the silence between them. "So... how long do you think the repairs will take?" Miyuki asked, and Eijun looked up in thought for a moment.
"A week at most, depending on how busy they are," Eijun answered as Miyuki pressed the button on the elevator to go up. As Eijun talked, Miyuki watched the commotion of the hospital passing them by, occasionally moving Eijun out of the way of a passing gurney. "If the problem is what I think it is, then it's happened once before. It only took about a week back then, so hopefully it will be the same now."
"Really? What happened?" Miyuki asked while ushering Eijun inside the now vacant elevator.
"I broke the joint during the chicken incident," Eijun muttered just loud enough for Miyuki to hear. Eijun slammed his index finger into the four button as soon as Miyiki stepped on the elevator. "I don't know where they got the chicken or how, and I kind of don't want to know after all this time."
Miyuki laughed at Eijun's mixed expression, looking as though he were angry and pouting at the same time.
"A... chicken? You really embraced the farmer stereotype, huh?"
"No! See, that's the thing!" Eijun suddenly exclaimed, whipping around to face Miyuki once the doors closed. "My family didn't have chickens, Wakana's family didn't have chickens, no one I knew had chickens! I have no idea where they got it from!" Eijun shoved his head against the elevator wall while Miyuki covered his smile with his hand.
"So what happened with it? How did your joint break because of it?"
Eijun's face reddened in embarrassment at the question.
"All I'll say is that they are faster then you think."
When Miyuki choked back a laugh, Eijun hit him in the shin with his crutch. "Ow! That hurts you know. You can't treat your senpai like this."
"I can if its you."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing, nothing at all, Miyuki-senpai."
Once the elevator reached the fourth floor, the two of them stepped out and Miyuki followed Eijun to the right down a long and bare hallway. There weren't any people running around in a frenzy, unlike the near the entrance of the hospital. Only a few people were wandering the halls aside from themselves- a few nurses, a girl in a wheelchair and her parents, and an elderly couple, all of whom paid him and Eijun no mind as they walked passed.
As they reached the end of the hall and were standing outside of the prosthetics office, Eijun pointed to a chair a little ways down the hall. "You don't have to come in with me," he said, and Miyuki wasn't sure if it was because Eijun was uncomfortable Miyuki accompanying him, or if he thought Miyuki would be uncomfortable with it.
"I want to go in," Miyuki responded, pulling on the door handle to open it for Eijun. Well, he didn't want to be in a hospital, but he did want to go with Eijun. He was curious about Eijun's deal with his prosthetic. "Unless you don't want me to?"
"No!" Eijun exclaimed as he meandered his crutches through the doorway. "No, it's not that, it's just that it'll be super boring and I wasn't sure if you wanted to go and find something more interesting to do..."
"Well I'd say you're more interesting then a nasty cup of hospital coffee," he answered. It was half true if Miyuki was being honest with himself. He would rather be with Eijun then get disgusting hospital cafeteria food... But he also didn't want to be left outside, staring at the same white walls for as long as it took for Eijun's appointment.
He'd done that enough as a kid.
Eijun only smiled meekly as he continued into the office with Miyuki in tow. They walked up to the receptionist's desk, where they were met with a friendly middle aged woman in scrubs.
"Sawamura-kun! It's been a while!" She said, leaning over the desk to look down at Eijun's leg. "What on Earth did you do?! Isn't that a new one?"
"It's not new," Eijun whined, dangling his foot higher for the receptionist to see. "Besides it's not that big of a deal."
"It is! I want to stop seeing you in here!"
"Aw, but who else would brighten your day?"
She smiled at his words, giving Eijun a pat on the arm before noticing Miyuki's presence. "Who's this? I don't think I've seen you bring anyone with since you were a kid."
Eijun released his grip on one of his crutches to scratch awkwardly at the back of his head as he laughed. "This is my friend Miyuki. He's my teammate from school."
If Eijun never really brought anyone with him to his appointments, it made Miyuki wonder why Eijun had agreed to let him come with. The thought made Miyuki acutely aware of his proximity to Eijun. Even if Eijun didn't want the subject of his leg do be stepped around like broken glass, it was still an intimate part of his life...
And Miyuki was suddenly apart of it.
"So you made the team?! Oh, congratulations! I'm sure the doctor wants to know how it's going so why don't you head in, he'll be there in a minute."
Eijun nodded his thanks before leading Miyuki down a widened hallway. He walked behind Eijun in silence while observing the rooms they walked by, taking note of a rehab facility through the windowed walls. Eijun took notice of Miyuki pausing to look inside the room and frowned.
"Where you went for rehab..." Miyuki guessed.
"Part of the time, at least. Otherwise I was downstairs pestering Chris-senpai." He continued back down the hall, checking back behind him to make sure Miyuki was still following. "It wasn't all bad," he said quietly, taking the next left they reached. "There were fun times too. Like being able to travel to Tokyo, meeting Chris... And it's thanks to him I joined Seido, so I'd say it was worth it."
Miyuki would have to agree.
Not waiting for a response from Miyuki, Eijun stopped in front of an examination room. "Finally," he said, entering the room as Miyuki followed behind. Miyuki was somewhat disappointed to find that it looked like any old examination room, although he wasn't sure what he expected. Eijun immediately made himself comfortable by hopping up on the table and tossing his crutches to Miyuki, who almost dropped them.
He sat in a chair across from Eijun while Eijun removed his right shoe.
"Sawamura, what're you doing?"
"I gotta... um... take my leg... off..."
Well that was a sentence Miyuki could never have imagined himself hearing. Nonetheless, Miyuki wanted to slap himself in the face. Of course he had to, why didn't Miyuki connect the dots? Why was he such an idiot?
"Right, right I knew that."
Miyuki only heard Eijun's laughter since his eyes were focused on Eijun's hands, which were rolling up the bottom of his pant leg. He didn't want to stare, really he didn't. But his curiosity got the better of him, so he watched as Eijun lifted his pant leg above his knee. For the first time Miyuki could see where the prosthetic ended as Eijun began to remove the leg.
There were clips and straps in so many places to keep the leg in place that Miyuki wasn't even sure how Eijun knew how to remove it. But once he managed to unhook every thing, he was able to slip his leg out of the socket, removing the prosthetic from his leg. Eijun set it on the other half of the table he sat on, while removing the cover from his knee.
Once everything had been removed, Miyuki could see the stretch of skin rounding out a few inches beneath Eijun's knee, only a bit of slight scarring was in view from Miyuki's angle. His gaze only left Eijun's leg when he heard the pitcher curse. "Look at this damn thing," he said, dangling the prosthetic in front of him. The foot rattled back and forth as Eijun shook it.
"Top of the line my ass! Look at this piece of junk!"
"You're the only person I know who'd call something expensive like that a piece of junk."
"Hey, if you were in here as much as me you'd complain too!" Eijun said, tossing it back onto the examination table. "I'm here for therapy and measuring and repairs! It's a pain!"
"Yeah," Eijun said quietly. "You know, every time I grow an inch the leg has to be resized. Actually, it's been a while since I had it measured... I wonder if I've grown much since then." He fell backwards onto his back, staring at the ceiling for a moment. "Some times I wonder if it would be easier to just not play, you know?"
That wasn't something Miyuki had ever expected to hear from Eijun's mouth. "It would be easier, but as if you'd let yourself quit," Miyuki answered. There was no way Eijun could quit baseball, not when he had the passion Miyuki saw every time he pitched. "You'd miss it too much."
Eijun smiled, lifting his head up enough to look at Miyuki. "I think you'd miss me. Who else would make the team so lively?"
"Kuramochi," Miyuki answered without any hesitation.
"Okay, but who would personally go out of their way to mess with you?"
"Fine, but he can't educate you on proper plant care!" Eijun said, his head falling back onto the table as Miyuki smiled. "You can't talk to him about pitches, either!" Miyuki watched as Eijun kicked his legs out while speaking, like a child throwing a tantrum.
"What, are you saying you're better than Kuramochi?"
"... No, that's not it," he answered quietly, his legs stilling. "Does me being on Seido make a difference?"
"What do you mean?"
"I... I left my hometown. My team, my friends... everyone who was with me and helping me when I lost my leg. I came here instead of staying with them, but... does my presence here even make a difference on the team? Does it even matter that I came here?"
Miyuki hadn't expected Eijun to be the kind of person to be having such doubts, let alone to be sharing them with Miyuki. If Eijun was comfortable enough to share those thoughts with him, then Miyuki figured he shouldn't take it lightly. He didn't want Eijun to regret his choice in joining Seido. He wanted Eijun to love being on his team, just as Miyuki did.
"Do you like this team?" Miyuki asked.
"Do you have fun here? Do you like playing on a team with everyone?"
"Well, yeah it's fun, but does that matter? The team wouldn't be any different if I wasn't here."
Miyuki sighed, leaning further back into his chair. "That's not true," he said softly. "I don't know what brought this on, after all the work you've put in in order to help the team, but... You lift everyone's spirits when you're around, even if you don't see it yet. You're still in your first year here, but your pitching had strengthened the team more than you'll know, more than you'll probably see until after the fourth-years graduate... You've made this team your home already."
"So if part of the team was missing, if our home wasn't complete, don't you think that would make a difference?"
"... Hey Miyuki?"
"I'm going to become the ace."
"I'm looking forward to it."
Eijun took a piece of popcorn out of the bowl and leaned over the couch, carefully placing it atop Kuramochi's head while he was preoccupied with the video game in front of him. He held his hand out behind him, waiting for Furuya to put another piece in his hand. There were already five pieces balancing on his head, and Eijun was just waiting for Kuramochi to move and for all of them to fall.
So, instead he hide some in the hood of his sweatshirt before Kuramochi jumped off the couch.
"Who threw that blue shell?!"
"I think it was Haruichi," answered Ryousuke without taking his eyes off the screen.
"Thanks for ratting me out, brother," Haruichi responded, obvious to Eijun he resented being thrown under the bus.
"He has the lead now! Do something Tetsu-san!"
Yuki looked down at his controller for a moment after Kuramochi passed him the torch. Eijun watched Yuki as his gaze moved back to the screen, and Eijun noticed that his cart was moving in reverse. "Leader is really bad at this," Eijun whispered to Kanemaru, who was pinching the bridge of his nose in frustration.
"It's painful to watch," he said, and Eijun laughed.
Kuramochi spun around to glare at his roommate. "What's so funny Bakamura?" He asked, but Eijun only shook his head quickly, deciding it would be better to keep his mouth shut. When Kuramochi brought one foot up on the couch cushion as he stepped toward Sawamura, another piece of popcorn fell off his head, this one landing in his line of sight. When Eijun tried to hide his laughter, Kuramochi picked the piece back up and threw it at him.
"It's your turn for a drink run."
"What?! It's Toujou's turn!"
"Fine, but don't blame me when you find popcorn kernels in your pillow tonight."
Eijun feigned a shocked gasp as he covered his mouth with his palm. "You wouldn't." But Kuramochi only narrowed his eyes at him before turning his attention back to the flat screen. Smiling, Eijun headed out of the rec room and down the hallway, but not before grabbing the shopping basket on his way out. There were more than a dozen people in that room and there was no way he was going to carry all of the drinks in one go, or make multiple trips.
So he continued his way down the hallway and around the corner, thankful that the rec room and the kitchen were on the same floor. He finally approached the heavy double doors and hip-checked one open, only to have it slam back in his face. "What the heck?" He wondered allowed, stepping to the side to open the other door. When he walked through, he discovered the reason the door had shot back at him.
"Holy crap, a-are you okay?"
Standing there was Miyuki, and by the redness of his face and the drink that had spilled on his shirt, Eijun figured he was the reason for it. "I didn't know you were there! Does it hurt?!" He asked, walking over to the nearest table to set his basket down before checking back on Miyuki. He hadn't moved since Eijun entered the room, so Eijun slowly removed the drink from his hand.
He was hoping to avoid being alone with Miyuki, at least until Eijun could come to terms with some things. But he also couldn't leave Miyuki alone, not after literally slamming a door in his face. "Hello? Miyuki?" Eijun waved his hand in front of Miyuki's face in hopes to get a reaction. "Jeez, just how hard did I hit you?"
"Hard enough that I bit my tongue," Miyuki answered finally, looking over at Eijun who was standing next to him. "Is my nose bleeding? It feels like it's bleeding." Eijun rolled his eyes at Miyuki's dramatics and grabbed him by the arm, leading him over to the table.
"Wait here," Eijun ordered. He walked to the other side of the room and went around the cafeteria counter, grabbing a stack of napkins from the counter. As he headed back to Miyuki, Eijun tried to ignore the sound of the metal of his prosthetic clicking against the linoleum flooring. Seeing that Miyuki had been drinking from a cup of water, he set the drink down and dipped the tip of one of the napkins into it.
"Hold still," he told Miyuki, who flinched when he reached for his head.
"What're you doing?"
"Checking for blood."
"It hurts, don't touch it."
"What? Quit being a baby and let me look."
"I'm not a baby, I just don't want you making it worse!"
"Oh be quiet, it's just a bloody nose," Eijun mocked, placing his right hand on Miyuki's head to push him down on the seat of the table. Once he was sitting, Eijun brushed back his bangs as he tilted Miyuki's head back with his other hand. "Now hold still," he said as he slowly inched the napkin toward Miyuki's nose. He lightly pressed it above his lip to wipe at the blood, and Miyuki grabbed at his hand.
"Hey, be careful! I'm in pain!"
"So am I! Your whining is giving me a headache!"
He heard Miyuki stifle a laugh, so Eijun pressed lightly on the side of his nose. Miyuki let out a wimpy cry in response, causing Eijun to return his laughter. "There's barely any blood," he explained as he pressed the napkin to Miyuki's nose. "Hold this for a second." Eijun waited for Miyuki to grab the napkin before Eijun grabbed another off the table, ripping off a small piece to spin it into a small roll.
Eijun took the napkin back from Miyuki and traded him the rolled bit. "Stick that up there for a little while," he said while he walked over to the garbage can by the door. He tossed the bloodied napkin in it and walked over to the vending machine, digging out some change from his pocket. He pushed them into the slot and selected his drink before returning to Miyuki.
Sitting down across from him, Eijun slid the drink over. "If it hurts that much, put this on it."
Miyuki eyed the can. "Can it heal my pride?"
Eijun smiled as he reached over to open the can. "Probably not, but at least it tastes good," he answered truthfully, and Miyuki smiled in thanks as he took the drink from him. Eijun shifted his legs so his feet went under the table, careful not to kick Miyuki in the process.
"Is that your new leg?" Miyuki asked after taking a sip from the can. Eijun shook his head before taking the can back from Miyuki and drinking some of it himself. He tapped his leg against the floor a few times, listening to the sharp echo it caused in the empty room.
"No," Eijun said, stilling his leg. "I actually have three. This is kind of like my backup one for when I'm doing something physical and the other need repairs- I was going to change it after practice but I got distracted."
Eijun studied Miyuki as he glanced under the table to examine Eijun's leg. Since he was wearing his pajama shorts, nothing was left to Miyuki's imagination. Honestly, he felt a little embarrassed knowing that Miyuki was directing his attention to it. Not because Eijun was self-conscious about it, but because he wasn't used to talking to people about it.
It wasn't that the subject was taboo, but that didn't mean others were necessarily comfortable asking him about it. Eijun figured they had thought it was rude to ask it, so they tried to avoid the topic when possible.
"Why is it curved like that?"
"It's for running," he explained, pressing it against the floor as Miyuki watched. "It's hard to explain how it works- I don't really know much myself, but it's kind of like a spring I guess? With less of the actual springing part."
Miyuki nodded in interest while he listened to Eijun talk, before returning his gaze to Eijun himself. "Sorry," he said quietly, the mood around him suddenly changing. "I didn't mean to pry or anything."
"You've gone with me to an appointment, you've seen the rehab center... I think we're a bit past that," Eijun said, causing Miyuki to laugh.
"I guess we are," he said as he took the drink back.
"Can I ask you something?"
"It's only fair."
"Are... are you okay?"
Miyuki hesitated in taking a drink. "Why do you ask?"
"You just seemed a little off," Eijun admitted, not sure why he felt the need to bring it up then. He had noticed Miyuki looked... unsettled when they entered the hospital, but Eijun didn't want to think it was because of his leg. "I guess I was just wondering... I mean... I-If my leg makes you uncomfortable, that's okay, I'm not offended."
"What? What makes you think anything about you makes me uncomfortable?!" Miyuki asked, his voiced getting unexpectedly loud.
Eijun shrugged and started fiddling with his fingers. After they met with Eijun's doctor, Miyuki had remained silent for the entire trip home, barely speaking a word. Eijun had been worried that Miyuki was freaked out by seeing the facilities, or his leg, or something. "You just seemed off after the appointment, I assumed-"
"It wasn't you," he said, meeting Eijun's gaze. "I promise."
Nodding awkwardly, Eijun tore his sight from Miyuki's. He was being unusually sincere and Eijun hadn't prepared himself. "D-Do you mind if I ask what it was? You don't have to tell me if you don't want to, though..." Eijun didn't want to invade his privacy, but he found himself wanting to know more about Miyuki. And if Miyuki was willing to tell him, it was all the better.
He heard Miyuki sigh from his seat across from him, and Eijun saw Miyuki cross his arms, leaning down to use them as a pillow. Figuring the conversation was continuing in a serious direction, Eijun made himself comfortable as well, resting his head in his hand.
"It was the hospital," Miyuki explained, and Eijun had to resist laughing.
"Are you afraid of doctors or something?"
Miyuki smiled. "No," he said as he drummed his fingers along the table. "First of all, I'm not afraid okay, I'm not five years old."
Eijun held up his hands in defeat. "Okay okay, so what's the issue?"
Miyuki paused again.
"It's my mother."
"... Is she sick?"
"She was," Miyuki whispered, locking eyes with Eijun. "I spent most of my childhood in and out of hospitals, visiting her as much as I could between school and baseball. I just hate being there and seeing the same white walls everywhere I turn. Reminds me of being there as a kid."
Eijun mirrored Miyuki's position as he laid his head on the table, his head opposite Miyuki's. "What happened?"
Miyuki shrugged his shoulders weakly. "She didn't get better," he continued. "Passed away before I started high school."
"I'm so sorry, Miyuki. If I knew I never would have let you come," Eijun said. Had he known about Miyuki's past, he never would have let Kataoka talk him into coming. Eijun couldn't even imagine what it was like for Miyuki to lose his mother- there were no words Eijun could think of. Instead, he brought his hand up to the table, slowly reaching for Miyuki's head.
He cautiously ran his fingers through Miyuki's hair, unsure if the contact was welcome. When Miyuki said nothing, Eijun continued to try and comfort him.
"It's not your fault," Miyuki said, and Eijun thought they must of looked ridiculous in their position. Miyuki still had the napkin up his nose and was still drenched in water, and Eijun was probably covered in popcorn from Kuramochi. "I wanted to come, I just didn't expect it to affect me so much. It's not like I planned to play a mime on the ride back home."
Eijun laughed quietly as he brushed the bangs out of Miyuki's eyes. "You did a good job of it," he complimented. "It could be a backup career choice for you, I think."
Miyuki smiled, and Eijun was suddenly aware of how close they were becoming. Not just physically, but emotionally. He had shared things with Miyuki that he hadn't even told his closest friends. And he had a feeling that Miyuki didn't make the news of his mother a public matter either. One one hand, Eijun was happy to know that he was someone close to Miyuki.
Yet on the other, it made him nervous.
"Anyway, I think the two of us have seen enough hospitals for one lifetime," Miyuki said.
Eijun couldn't agree more.
By the time he had taken off his prosthetic, gotten his crutches, and returned to the rec room, the team had long since gotten bored with video games and was sitting in a large circle, with everyone having a card taped to their forehead. "What's going on here?" Eijun asked, having had Miyuki carry the basket of drinks at his side while Miyuki opening the door for him.
"Bakamura! What took you so long?!" Kuramochi questioned, only sparing a quick glance at his leg. As his roommate, Kuramochi was probably more accustomed than anyone with seeing Eijun without his leg attached. Normally Eijun kept it on unless he was bathing or in his dorm for the night, but with the type of prosthetic he had been wearing, it was more comfortable to sit cross-legged without on.
"I picked up a straggler," he answered, gesturing to Miyuki.
"Miyuki? Are you finally going to join us for a game?"
"I guess I am."
Kuramochi smiled, telling Haruichi and Furuya to shift over to make room for Eijun and Miyuki to sit down. He tossed his crutches off to the side before plopping down on his butt, tucking his legs beneath him. Miyuki handed the drinks to Kuramochi before sitting down next to Eijun. But before Eijun could even ask what they were playing, Kuramochi scribbled something on two cards and slapped them onto his and Miyuki's foreheads.
"Ow! Wait, what's this, what's happening?!"
"Settle down Sawamura," Chris said from across the room. He pointed to the card on his own head, and Eijun had to squint to read it from a distance. It had the name "Kawakami Norifumi" written on it. That only confused Eijun more, as he looked around and noticed everyone had a name on their card. He looked to Miyuki, only to be unable to make out the name on his.
"Okay," Eijun said. "I'm confused."
Haruichi laughed on his left as he nudged his arm with his elbow. "Haven't you ever played this game before, Eijun?" He asked, and Eijun shook his head.
"You guess the name of the person on your card," Furuya explained vaguely next to Miyuki, who looked as confused as Eijun felt.
Sensing the confusion, Toujou spoke up. "You ask a question to narrow it down. Like if the person has glasses, black hair, what position they play- just whatever you can to try and figure out who's on your card." Eijun nodded slowly as he started to understand. "We haven't started yet, so you can figure it out while someone else goes first."
"I'll show you how it's done," Ryousuke said, clearly already having figured out what to ask. When no one objected, he asked his first question.
"Do I play infield?" He asked, and everyone shook their head. Eijun couldn't see Ryousuke from his seat, so he remained silent.
"Do I have dark hair?" Again, no.
"Do I have a beard?" When everyone nodded, Ryousuke tossed his card into the center of the circle, ignoring the shouts of that being a cheap question from Jun. "I'm Isashiki Jun," he said, and Eijun saw an empty soda can fly across the room at Ryousuke.
"You're too good at this game!" Kuramochi complained. "You always get it in like two questions! You're a freakin' cheat!"
Eijun heard Ryousuke laugh and Kuramochi's accusation. "What, you think I saw the reflection in Miyuki's glasses or something?" He asked, causing a can to go flying at Miyuki. Eijun covered his mouth to keep from laughing when it wet his shirt, there apparently having still been some drink in it.
"Dammit Miyuki! Take your glasses off!"
"You can't blame my eyesight for him winning!"
"I can and I will!"
Laughing, Eijun took a drink out of the basket as it finally made its way around the circle. He passed it to Miyuki, who took a quick look in it before handing it to Furuya. "Not thirsty?" Eijun asked, and Miyuki shook his head.
"I've had enough spilled on me today. I think I've lost my need for liquid forever."
"Let me know how that goes."
"So," Yuki started, effectively quieting the room. "Who's next?"
"Make Miyuki go for ruining everyone's chances at beating Ryou-san!" Kuramochi cheered, a few others joining in on his antics. Eijun wondered if Miyuki would accept Kuramochi's challenge, although considering their pranking history, he wouldn't be surprised.
"Fine," Miyuki said. "But if I get it in under five questions, you take my cleaning duties for the week."
"And if you don't?"
"Sawamura's your slave for the month."
"What?!" Eijun exclaimed, wanting to copy Kuramochi and throw something at Miyuki. "You can't bring me into this!"
"Deal. But no obvious physical descriptions," Kuramochi added. Eijun glared at his roommate from across the room before trying to get a look at the card on Miyuki's head. But Miyuki turned from him to talk to Ryousuke before Eijun could get a look.
"First question," Miyuki said, leaning forward to rest his head in his hands. "Do I have brown hair?" Those who could read his card nodded, and Miyuki looked up in thought for his next question. "Do I play in the infield?" Heads were nodding again while Eijun tried to get a look at his card.
"Am I usually quiet?"
Heads were shaking a little too quickly for Eijun's liking.
"Am I strong willed, perhaps a little too much?"
The team shared glances with one another before nodding. Miyuki smiled, grabbing the card from his forehead and tossing it in the middle. Eijun saw Kuramochi groan from across the room as he flopped on his back, and he tried to get a look at what was written on the card.
"I'm Sawamura Eijun."
He stopped crawling toward the card to look back at Miyuki. "Huh?" He muttered, glancing back at the card. Sure enough, his name was crudely etched into the paper. Eijun sat back on his butt as the others told Miyuki he was correct in his guessing. Miyuki hadn't even looked at the card when he tossed it, having kept his eyes on Eijun.
The team thought he was strong willed? Eijun wasn't sure what to think of that. Was it a compliment? It sort of felt like one, though he wasn't sure he like the part about being too strong willed. Nonetheless he appreciated that Miyuki thought of him as such. Although how he guessed it was Eijun from just those four questions, Eijun wasn't able to figure out-
"Wait a minute."
"Are you calling me loud, Miyuki Kazuya?!" When Miyuki laughed, Eijun felt his face heat up. "I am not loud! Stop laughing!" Eijun could see tears at the corners of Miyuki's eyes from laughing so hard. "It's not that funny! Shut up, you're the loud one!" Eijun angrily took a drink from his drink before looking back at Miyuki to continue his lecture.
But when he looked in his eyes he saw something he didn't notice before. In the reflection of his glasses, Eijun could see the name written on his card, just as Ryousuke had. He leaned back on his hand as Miyuki finally started calming down. "What's that look for?" He asked upon meeting Eijun's gaze.
"I can win without asking one question."
"Prove it," Miyuki prodded, skeptic of Eijun's words.
Smiling, Eijun began listing off his person's traits.
"I have brown hair, play infield, and wear glasses. I'm a total baby and cry over the smallest nosebleeds, and I have to bring sarcasm into every conversation or I would literally die," he teased, happy to see Miyuki's intrigued expression. "I have nice eyes and a pretty face according to my teammates, and I totally admire Sawamura Eijun."
"That's very funny."
"I am funny! You're good at this game, Miyuki," Eijun said, causing Miyuki to roll his eyes.
"Are you going to say who you are? Or just keep rambling about how perfect he is?"
Eijun took the card off his head as tossed it into the center without giving it a second glace.
"I'm Miyuki Kazuya."
shout out to that one anon last year that gave the idea for the second half of this chapter
"What do you think of Seido, Harucchi?"
"Hm? It's fun, isn't it?"
Eijun cocked his head to the side as he examined his friend's face. Haruichi was sitting across from him, one arm tangling over the side of the weight machine Furuya was sleeping on.
"Why do you ask?"
Smiling, Eijun slipped his bag off his shoulder and into his lap. "I was just curious what your first thought was when you think of Seido," he explained while rummaging through his bag. Haruichi had the same line of thought Miyuki did, and Eijun as well. "I haven't been here as long as everyone else... Even the first years had a few weeks on me. But I love this team."
"What brought this on?"
"Something I was talking to Miyuki about," Eijun answered, recalling his conversation with his catcher. He still wasn't sure what had brought on his sudden thoughts of doubt, or why he felt he had to share them with Miyuki. But he ended up being happy that he had talked to him about it. "I left behind the friends who had stayed with me while I was recovering so I could play here. I was wondering if I came here only looking to make a name for myself as a player...and if it was worth losing my team over."
He heard Haruichi sigh as he shifted his position, crossing his legs underneath his body. While he mentally prepared himself for the lecture he was in no doubt about to receive, Eijun pulled out the marker from his bag he had been looking for.
But before Haruichi could respond, another voice chimed in.
"Whatever team you were on before doesn't matter here. You're a part of Seido. We are your team now."
Eijun turned his head to see Kanemaru standing in the doorway to the weight room, with Toujou a foot behind him.
"You really are an idiot, aren't you?" He asked as he walked toward Eijun and Haruichi. Eijun scowled at that, uncapping his marker and putting it to Furuya's face, drawing a circle on his cheek.
"You're the idiot," Eijun muttered in response as he continued to draw shapes on Furuya's face as he slept. Toujou walked up in front of Kanemaru and squatted next to Eijun, taking the marker from his hand. He carefully and lightly drew fake eyes on top of Furuya's eyelids while Kanemaru talked.
"Do you not think of Seido as your team?" He asked Eijun, who only rolled his eyes.
"Obviously, I wear the jersey, don't I?" Eijun retorted.
"How can he not wake up from all this?" Toujou asked quietly before facing Eijun. "Then what's the problem?"
Eijun sighed, pressing his back up against the machine. "I don't know," he answered honestly. "Do you just... ever feel like you being here doesn't change anything? Like, would the team have been any different then if you weren't here? Is there something on the team only you can do?"
Kanemaru took a seat next to Haruichi, crossing his leg underneath his body. "Everyone feels that at some point. I think that when you're feeling that way, you should resolve to become a player that's irreplaceable on the team, so you wouldn't have to feel that way again."
"That's... actually really smart, Kanemaru," Haruichi said.
"Of course it is!" Kanemaru exclaimed, "Don't insult me!" Ripping the marker from Toujou's hand, Kanemaru handed it to Haruichi, who began scribbling on Furuya's palm. "But... I wouldn't have expected you to say this kind of thing," he pointed toward Eijun.
Shrugging, Eijun stretched his legs out in front of him as he fiddled with his thumbs. It was true he wasn't sure why such thoughts had suddenly entered his head, but he had felt that way nonetheless. It wasn't that he disliked playing with Seido, in fact, he loved it. Yet he had to admit that some times he felt as though he made the wrong choice in coming to Seido, that he should have stayed home to be on a team with his friends.
They were the ones that had stayed with Eijun and cheered him on throughout his recovery. In some ways, he felt as though he had betrayed them, even though they were the ones who most wanted him to attend Seido.
"Besides," Kanemaru continued. "What're you complaining for? You and Furuya actually get to play regularly."
"Right. Sorry, I hadn't thought about that."
"It's fine," Toujou said. "Even if we don't really play, we're still on the first string. That means we'll have our shot next year, when the fourth years graduate."
"We'll be third years," Eijun thought aloud. He hadn't really though about it before, but coming in as a second year... he was robbed of one year of playing with everyone on Seido. The fourth years were preparing for graduation, a few of them planning on going pro after school. And once they were gone, Miyuki and Kuramochi would be in their last year...
Which meant Eijun only had one more year of playing with Miyuki.
He had told Miyuki that he would become the ace, but would he be able to do it in time for his graduation? After all, Eijun had to compete for the number with Kawakami and Furuya. If he could, he wanted to show Miyuki progress as a pitcher before he left. "That's not enough time," Eijun said as he climbed to his feet.
"What's not?" Haruichi asked.
"One year isn't enough," Eijun answered. "I told Miyuki that I'd become the ace. One year isn't enough time."
Haruichi smiled as he capped Eijun's marker and tossed it to him. "You're determined to prove to Miyuki-senpai you can be the ace?"
"Figures," Kanemaru said while Toujou nodded in agreement.
"What? What figures?"
"That you care about what Miyuki-senpai thinks of you," Haruichi answered. "You two are pretty close, aren't you?"
"Huh?! Who's close with that jerk?!"
"You two are always together!" Toujou laughed, nudging Kanemaru with his elbow. "Miyuki-senpai," he mocked in a high pitched voice. "Can you meet with me after practice? I have a new pitching technique I want to sure you."
"Meet me in the bullpen after dark," Kanemaru teased in a deep voice. "I'll catch whatever you throw to me."
"Shut up!" Eijun yelled, waking Furuya in the process. He could feel his cheeks heating up at his friends' laughter, denying any closeness with Miyuki. They weren't really perceived like that by their teammates, were they? And they weren't always together! Just when practicing, and during the water gun fight... when Eijun was on the roof, and when they went to the hospital...
Well, just because Eijun was around Miyuki more so than most of his other senpai, except for maybe Chris, didn't mean anything! Miyuki was just someone that Eijun felt he had to prove himself to, from a pitcher to a catcher. They were a battery, after all! When it came to Miyuki, Eijun just wanted him to accept him as a true pitcher! He wanted Miyuki to be proud of him, to smile when he saw Eijun, to be comfortable enough to tell him what was on his mind...
"There it is," Kanemaru laughed. "Accept it, Bakamura. You got it bad."
"What does he have?" Asked Furuya, now fully awake from all of their yelling. He sat up and rubbed at his eye, smearing the marker Toujou and drawn on him. Eijun choked back a laugh seeing all of the scribbles on Furuya's face. Even Haruichi was covering his mouth, trying not to laugh.
"Nothing! We were just... talking about how we should go put in some extra batting practice," Eijun said, grabbing Furuya's arm and lifting him to his feet. "Isn't that right guys? The upperclassmen should be finishing up, so the field will be all ours."
Furuya looked down at Kanemaru and Toujou, who were falling on each other in laughter. "What's with them?" He asked, and Eijun pulled him away with Haruichi in tow, looking toward the ground to hide his smile.
"They have it bad, apparently," Haruichi said, causing them to stop their laughter. Eijun smiled, patting Furuya on the back, pitying the confusion on his face. The poor guy had slept through their whole conversation and was out of the loop.
"Come on," Eijun said. "I'll teach you how to bunt, and you teach me how to hit a home run!"
"I don't think I can do that," Furuya muttered.
"Don't be a buzz-kill, Furuya."
Miyuki knocked on Eijun's door, waiting for an answer.
He didn't know why he had agreed to be the messenger for the upperclassmen, but there he was, standing outside Eijun's door. Why Kuramochi hadn't just brought Eijun along, Miyuki didn't know. "Sawamura? Are you there?" He waited to hear Eijun's voice, and upon hearing nothing, he knocked again. "Are you sleeping?" Without hearing an answer, Miyuki turned the doorknob to find it unlocked.
"I'm coming in!"
He opened the door and stepped inside, seeing that the room was completely devoid of life, except for the small potted plant sitting atop one of the desks. Miyuki found himself drawn toward it, and noticed that next to it was a brown and worn out leather bound book with yellowing pages. He picked it up, knowing full well he shouldn't be snooping, but he was unable to resist the temptation.
So Miyuki told himself he'd just see what was inside, what its purpose was, and then he'd place it back on the desk like he'd never even noticed it was there. Yet what he found inside wasn't at all what he'd expected.
On the first page were the words "Eijun's Progress Diary," written in somewhat sloppy handwriting that led Miyuki to believe it was written by a kid. He flipped the page carefully, not wanting to add anymore rips and crinkles to the aging pages. On the next page was a date from eight summers ago, and beneath it was a picture of what had to be a young Eijun, judging by the size of his grin.
He looked to be about twelve, if Miyuki had to guess, with the same mop of messy brown hair and golden eyes. He was wearing a blue muddy shirt with the sleeves rolled to up his elbows, and Miyuki could see an expansive tree line in the background of the photo.
Smiling to himself, Miyuki flipped the page once more, only to find the next page had lost the happy tone the previous one held. At the top was a name scribbled in black ink that read "Wakana," and Miyuki recalled that was the name of Eijun's childhood friend. Assuming she was the one who put together the book, he read the dreary entry written beneath her name.
"Eijun-kun hasn't been feeling well since he went to the doctor. He says his leg is really hurting him, and his mom says they're going to run tests on him so he can feel better. He told me that it's going to be okay, but I haven't seen him smile much since he hurt himself."
On the page across from her words was a picture of Eijun, lying in a hospital bed with a group of friends surrounding him. There were bags under his eyes and an exhausted look on his face, despite the small grin he had, as he tried to hide his pain from his friends. Miyuki quickly flipped the page to read on.
"He's back from another visit to the hospital, and I asked him how he felt. He said it doesn't matter what the doctors say, we're going to play baseball together until we're adults. But when he said that, his mom started crying, and he won't tell me why."
There was no photo with this entry, just a doodle of a sunflower with Eijun's name etched beneath it in pencil, with the next paragraph having changed authors, as this one was written by Eijun and not Wakana.
"I don't know why she wants me to write in this stupid thing. But the doctor says I might not walk again. That I can't play baseball again. I said I'd play in a wheelchair if I had to. Wakana says writing this down will make me feel better, but it can't give me back my leg."
Miyuki swallowed at that.
Between the last two entries, Eijun had gone through the amputation of his leg. He was still a kid, and he was being told he wouldn't be able to accomplish his dreams anymore. That he should give up, accept what happened to him and move on. In the corner of the page was a small drawing of a baseball, and Miyuki stared at it before turning the page to see the writing was Wakana's again.
At the top were the words "Eijun's first day of therapy." And under it, a picture of Eijun, a bit older than in the previous photos, sitting on the floor as he wrapped some sort of padding below his right knee where the amputation was made.
"The doctors told Eijun if his body was strong enough, he can get a new leg! He's going to train really hard from now on because he wants to be a pitcher for the Giants!"
Miyuki flipped the page.
"He's falling down a lot, but he always gets back up!"
A picture of Eijun in a wheelchair, on the sidelines of a game his friends were playing in, his baseball mitt resting in his lap.
"Eijun-kun's having a bad day again. Even the watermelon we brought him isn't making him smile. I hope he gets his new leg soon so he'll be happy again."
The words were Eijun's once again.
"I'm tired of all this training, I just want to get back on the field! The doctor is making my leg for me, but it's taking too long!"
A picture of him sitting at a table in a hospital gown playing cards with his friends accompanied this one, before it switched back to Wakana's writing.
"His new leg is done! He'll still be in the chair for a while, but the doctor says he'll be on crutches after that! Everyone says Eijun-kun's leg is really cool!"
With the photo next to this, there was a date written beneath it, indicating it had been well over a year since Eijun had lost his leg. And in the picture, Eijun had a much simpler prosthetic than the one he had presently. There was a padding that went above his knee, with a thick socket attached to it, extending halfway down his calf, where it turned into a thinner pole. That then stretched down a bit further until it reached the fake foot, where a special type of sock was covering it.
He was sitting in his wheelchair, surrounded by younger kids, all in hospital gowns, and a sign in the background on the wall said "Children's Ward." They had wrapped some sort of tape around his prosthetic, and we're drawing small pictures in marker on top of it. And Eijun simply sat there, a bittersweet smile taking shape on his face, one that matched Miyuki's expression while looking at it.
He turned the page.
It was Wakana's writing again.
"Eijun-kun has started learning how to walk again. I'm happy about that, because he kept running over our feet with his chair- he wasn't very good at controlling it. But he's having a lot of trouble walking, because he says it's uncomfortable for his knee. The doctor's are going to change the shape to make it better for him to walk."
This was written a few weeks after the previous one, and had a picture of a thirteen or fourteen year-old Eijun gripping two long bars, as he tried to walk using his new leg. Miyuki could see the familiar look of frustration on his face, and noticed the bruise forming on the knee of his good leg. He must have fallen many times, but he still got back up and began again...
He went to turn the page.
"Is it usual for you to snoop through your pitcher's things?"
At the sound of Eijun's voice cutting through his thoughts, Miyuki instantly slammed the journal shut, placing it back on the desk before turning to face Eijun. He was standing in the doorway wearing a wry smile and a green and white baseball tee, his arms crossed over his chest. Miyuki was so focused on reading that he hadn't even heard him come in. "I'm not, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to- I was looking for you and you weren't here and it was on the desk, I was just going to take a peek and got caught up in-"
Laughing, Eijun put his hands up in a reassuring manner. "It's okay," he said, walking toward Miyuki. "I don't mind, I just wanted to see if I could make you flustered." Well he certainly succeeded at that, Miyuki thought. Eijun moved to pull out the chair at the desk, taking a seat as he picked up the journal Miyuki has set down. "So what did you need me for?" He asked, flipping through the pages as he looked up at Miyuki.
"H-How's the new leg working out?"
"Same as the old one for the most part. They said they sized it up because I got taller, but I think they're just trying to make me feel better," he said, and Miyuki laughed awkwardly. After being caught snooping, he wasn't sure how much more he should pry. "Is that what you came here for? To ask about my leg?"
"Oh no. The senpai wanted you to meet them in Tetsu-san's room. Something about a nerf gun tournament?"
Eijun paled at that, closing the book and setting it in his lap. "I hope Kuramochi-senpai and Big Bro are on my team... They're like assassins when they play. Just like with the water guns, one minute you're ducking behind a shed, and the next they're shooting at you from the roof. I still have no idea how they got up there," he muttered quietly, getting up from the seat he just sat down in.
"Well, I better go meet them before they make me do a juice run. The only good thing as that now that we're in the tournament, there's less time for them to torture me... Are you coming?"
"No," Miyuki answered. "I'm going to go over some stat sheets for our next opponents." Yet at Eijun's dejected look, he added, "but I'll maybe take a rain-check." Eijun smiled, reaching out to set the book down on the table, where Miyuki's gaze instantly slid to. Eijun didn't seem to miss his glance, and hesitated putting the journal down. Instead, he brought it back to his chest for a moment before holding it out toward Miyuki.
"Here," he said. "You can look through it if you want."
"Are you sure?"
He nodded, placing the book in Miyuki's hands. "I know you're just dying to know what's in there. Besides, I may have told you a lot about what happened, but there's still stuff you don't know... that I want you to know. I mean, if we're going to be a battery, we need full disclosure- so I want to know about your dirty laundry some day too, okay?"
Before Miyuki could answer, Eijun had turned away from him and was heading out the door.
Miyuki wasn't able to process the information he had received for the first time since he became a catcher.
He had been up most of the night reading through Eijun's journal, the entries having been dated from his childhood up until recent days after having joined Seido. There were dozens of pictures of him throughout high school, some of him in rehab, and others of him with his friends on a baseball field. It had documented every change in prosthetic he'd ever had, even mentioning the scholarship he'd gotten as part of a study of athletes with prosthetics.
Miyuki had even seen pictures of Eijun with members of Seido.
The first was a picture of Eijun and Chris together on Eijun's first day on the team. The pages after that were of various locations- the fields, his dorm, even his classroom. There had been a picture of him, Kuramochi, and Masuko eating pudding while playing some wrestling video game. Eijun even had a picture of him, Furuya, Haruichi, Kanemaru, and Toujou posing in the stands at one of the second-string's games.
But what surprised Miyuki the most was a picture of himself he wasn't even aware Eijun took, from when Miyuki accompanied him to the hospital. Eijun was making a ridiculous face while Miyuki was sitting in a chair in the background on his phone. The text beneath the picture had the date as well as a message:
"Just declared my dream to be the ACE! Didn't exactly plan to do it in the hospital, but Miyuki said he was looking forward to it, so I bet he's marking it in his phone."
That was the most recent entry in Eijun's journal, with only a few more empty pages left in the book. Miyuki had thought about it when in the hospital, but...
Watching Eijun made him realize just how far Eijun had come, how far they had. A few months ago they were strangers attempting to form a functional battery, and now they were... something. Miyuki, who'd never been anyone's closest anything, was suddenly a hopefully good part of Eijun's life. From the look on Eijun's face when giving Miyuki the journal, he guessed that Eijun probably wasn't used to sharing it with someone.
It made Miyuki wonder why Eijun had decided to share it with him...
"Miyuki, you'll take Sawamura today."
He turned to see Chris staring at him from the other side of the bullpen. "You're with Sawamura today. I just finished with Tanba so you two are up," he said, pulling the mitt off his hand and holding it to his side. "I'll go wrangle him in from the batting cages if you want to gear up. Unless... you don't want to?"
"Why would I-"
"You just have a weird look is all."
"Yes thanks, Chris, that's my face."
Chris smiled while walking around the fence to meet back up with Miyuki on the other side. "Is something going on with you and Sawamura?" He asked quietly, looking over to where Eijun was yelling at Kanemaru to turn up the speed on the pitching machine. "You two aren't openly ignoring each other but... something's off."
"What makes you think that?"
"Because I know him and you- and the two of you as a pair. You're both acting strange around one another, so... You wanna talk about it?"
Miyuki shrugged while Chris handed him his gear. "There's nothing to talk about because we're not acting strange."
"But you are. You're avoiding him."
"I'm not avoiding him" Miyuki answered honestly. "I'm just... thinking."
"No offense, but you're always thinking."
Miyuki rolled his eyes as he slipped the chest guard over his head. The size was off after being used by Chris, but he didn't have the energy to care about adjusting it. He wasn't even sure he wanted to talk to Chris about Eijun, but Chris was a part of Eijun's life before Miyuki even knew Eijun existed. So he figured if anyone knew about Eijun's past, it'd be Chris.
"It's just... Sawamura gave me his 'progress diary.'"
"Ah, the journal."
"The journal," Miyuki confirmed. Chris handed him his left shinguard and he bent over to put it on, still trying to figure out where he wanted to go with his words. "So you've seen what's inside?"
Chris sighed before he spoke, running a hand through his hair, seeming as awkward as Miyuki did talking about it. "No, I have not," he admitted. "I know the general content, but for someone so who's normally so forthcoming about himself, Sawamura is surprisingly... closed off when it comes to his past."
"But you're part of his past."
"I met him in high school, Miyuki," he said as he handed him the last shinguard. "The roughest part of his life happened before we met. I know Sawamura is... open and confident about his situation, but I think there are some things he'd just rather not relive."
Miyuki stomped his foot in confusion and frustration, feeling as though he was a child again. "Then why tell me? You were the one who helped him through rehab, who brought him to Seido so why?! Why entrust me with his past?!" Miyuki knew he sounded absolutely ridiculous, but he was just... confused.
Chris's smile didn't help to uncomplicate things.
"Why indeed? Maybe you're special?"
"Seriously? Getting cryptic now of all times?"
"I can push you toward it but I'm not throwing you off the damn cliff," he muttered, and Miyuki had to do double-take. Aside from the fact he had no idea what Chris was mumbling about, the fact he heard him swear was alarming. When Chris was in a situation that called for... coarse language, he normally went with passive aggressive word choice.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing," he answered, turning away from Miyuki. "I'm going to go get Sawamura."
Miyuki watched as Chris walked away without another word, heading toward the batting cages to fetch Eijun. Miyuki began to fiddle with the straps on his chest guard as he went into the bullpen. "Maybe you're special?" He repeated, wondering what Chris could have meant by it.
He and Eijun were teammates and battery partners- friends even, as Eijun said at the hospital. And while he did like spending time around Eijun, he wasn't sure if that necessarily qualified him as being "special." Even if he was, what exactly did it mean to be special to Eijun? What was their southpaw's definition of special?
"Miyuki Kazuya! So you're my catcher today?"
Eijun was waiting by the entrance with his mitt at his side with his batting gloves still on his hands. Miyuki could see the terrible helmet hair he'd developed from being in the cages, so when Eijun approached him, Miyuki couldn't resist trying to flatten it out. "Don't you wear your hat under your helmet?" He asked as he ran his hand through Eijun's hair to straighten it.
"Hm? M-My hat?"
"Yeah, you just flip it backwards and it fits under the helmet." Miyuki reached up and took his own hat off, placing it atop Eijun's head. By the time his hand was back down at his side, Miyuki could see the embarrassment on Eijun's face. Chris's words about rang through his ears.
"Maybe you're special?"
Apparently, being special meant he was comfortable enough around Eijun to touch him without thinking. That he was infinitely more happy to have Eijun as his partner than the other pitchers on the team... That he loved being with him both on and off the field. It was that sense of intimacy Miyuki had felt back in the hospital, the sense that he might not be the only one thinking of someone as being special.
He couldn't think about this now.
Miyuki gestured to Eijun's hands.
"You wanna take those off so we can get started?"
Ignoring Eijun's uncharacteristically soft voice, Miyuki headed over to the closest plate and waited for Eijun to get himself situated. Miyuki didn't have time to get his personal and professional relationships with Eijun mixed. In the bullpen, he was Eijun's catcher and nothing more. "I've been thinking," Miyuki started, reaching for the mask Chris left behind.
"About what?" Eijun asked.
"The submarine," Miyuki responded after putting his mask on. "I want to take a look at it from behind the plate."
"But it's... rough."
"Not as rough as you think. It managed to shut down a skilled team."
"That was pure luck!"
"Partially, yeah. But you can make it a real weapon if you actually bother to practice it."
"I have!" Eijun admitted, and Miyuki noticed his fingers were tapping along the side of his thigh. Wondering if he just found Eijun's nervous habit, he looked back up at his face as he talked. "A little, I mean... After the game, Nori-senpai asked me to show him how to pitch it." Miyuki had wondered what Kawakami had been talking to Eijun about after the game, but he hadn't expected that.
Although, maybe he should have.
"A submarine would be good for him to learn since he throws side-arm. Although I'm not sure you're the person he should be asking about it."
"Hey! I was the perfect teacher!"
"I'm sure you described how to throw it with sound effects."
"That's- shut up!"
Smiling, Miyuki bent down into a crouch, holding out his mitt toward Eijun. "Humor me and pitch me a few. It doesn't have to be perfect, but at least try to keep me from having to get up to catch it." He heard Eijun mock a few of his words before taking his stance at the mound. It was an odd style of pitching, one that Miyuki had never attempted to catch for. Seeing Eijun's low stance was odd and his hand dipping to the Earth was even stranger.
His pitch started low even for a submarine, amplified by the flexibility of Eijun's shoulder. The way it rose from the ground was even later than expected even if it did end up above Miyuki's head. The low angle and the sharp rise was actually incredible considering Eijun said he didn't have enough practice with it, although he seemed to have trouble keeping it low enough.
Miyuki instructed Eijun to pitch another dozen, and after each pitch Eijun relaxed more and more, his caution quickly fading as a smile formed on his face. Miyuki had noticed that the more relaxed he was and the more fun he was having helped keep his pitches lower, the best of them coming in at the very top of the strike zone. "I have to admit," Miyuki said, pulling off his mask to talk to Eijun. "I'm impressed, all things considered."
Eijun lit up at his words, his trademark grin spreading across his face in excitement. "Really?!" He asked as he looked down at the ball in his hand. "I mean I know it's not perfect, but getting your seal of approval is better than I expected." Eijun laughed as he tossed the ball up and caught it a few times. Miyuki noticed that he too was smiling after seeing Eijun so happy.
"I don't know if I'd call it my seal of approval."
"What?! You can't take back your praise, I'm keeping it!"
"Aw, does my praise mean that much to you?"
"Yes, it does."
He hadn't expected for Eijun to actually agree to his words, although he felt good about Eijun wanting his approval. "Let's work on something else. How about your change-up?" Eijun nodded in agreement as he took his position back on the mound, still grinning in excitement. When Miyuki held his mitt up, Eijun hesitated.
"Your mask, Miyuki."
Miyuki glanced down at his feet to see his mask sitting in the sand. "Thanks," he said quietly, reaching down with his free hand to pick it up and slide it over his head. When he looked back at Eijun, the happy expression was gone, replaced with something Miyuki couldn't quite identify. "Something wrong?" He asked, and Eijun's mouth opened and closed a few silent times, as if he wanted to say something but didn't how.
"Yeah um, yesterday... Yesterday I... I got a..."
"You got a what?"
"A... Nothing. It's nothing, I'll tell you about it later."
"Yeah," he answered softly, and gone was the previously nice atmosphere around them. It was clear to Miyuki that something was troubling Eijun but he didn't want or know how to talk about it. As Eijun began pitching to him in silence, Miyuki's worry increased. It wasn't like Eijun to be so quiet in the bullpen, and obviously whatever he was about to tell Miyuki had changed his mood drastically.
He was about to ask him again when Yuki interrupted them.
"Miyuki, the coach wants to talk to you."
He glanced over at their captain before locking eyes with Eijun again. "I'll be back in a minute," he said after taking his mask off once more. "And whatever it is bothering you, we're going to talk about it." Eijun looked surprised for a moment, but nodded nonetheless.
"Right," he said. "Later."
Miyuki hadn't been able to ask Eijun what was wrong. By the time he'd got back from talking with Kataoka about the approaching graduation of the fourth years, Eijun was gone from the bullpen. It wasn't until the next day that he saw him again, and even then he was already preoccupied. So Miyuki watched, waiting for him to finish his little race.
Eijun was running around the field at a steady pace with his tire dragging behind him. "Are you guys slowing down already?!" He called out, watching as the first years and Furuya dragged their own tires behind him. Furuya was trying to keep pace alongside Eijun, but the others were starting to lose their stride. "You first years need to keep up with your senpai!" He teased in an attempt to get a rise out of one underclassman in particular, Miyuki knew.
"You might be out senpai, but you're a first year too, technically," Koushuu said as he tugged at the rope around his waist.
"Huh?! What'd you say to me, Okumura?!"
"He said you're an idiot," answered Furuya when he pulled ahead of Eijun.
"Furuya get back here! Race me to the bullpen!"
"Do you want me to get back there or race you?"
"Just shut up and run!"
Eijun sprinted after Furuya, ignoring the others who had joined them on their workout. There wasn't much distance left between where they were and the bullpen so Eijun needed to pick up his speed if he wanted to win. Furuya had remained quiet until Eijun started taking back his lead. "Be careful with your leg, we don't need you breaking it just to try and beat me."
"I'll break it over your head if you think I'm gonna give up because you're scared to lose!"
"I am not."
"Yeah you are!"
Miyuki muffled a laugh at their childish exchange.
They had ended up running neck-and-neck passed the bullpen, stopping as quickly as they could to go back and ask for the winning vote. "N-Nori-senpai!" Eijun called while trying to catch his breath. Kawakami had been exiting the bullpen as they ran passed and Eijun hoped he had seen who had been in first. "Which of us got here the fastest?!"
"Me and Furuya! Which of us got here first?!"
"I don't know, you were both pretty fast."
"But who was first?" Furuya asked as he untied himself from his tire, and Eijun followed suit.
"It was too close to tell," Kawakami answered, obviously trying to get them off his case. Eijun grunted in frustration as the first years finally caught up to them.
"Miyuki-senpai, who won?!" Eijun asked, suddenly turning around to face him. Miyuki didn't think that Eijun had noticed he was watching their race.
"It was a tie," he answered, happy to get a rile out of the second years. Koushuu, who was Miyuki's roommate, walked up to him.
"You're just trying to pit them against each other," he observed, setting his calculating gaze on Miyuki. "Why?" Miyuki rolled his eyes at his underclassman's question, wishing he didn't have to second guess every one of his moves. He knew Koushuu was trying to pick up on how Miyuki handled the pitchers, but if he couldn't tell what he was doing he had a long way to go.
"Multiple reasons, Okumura," Miyuki answered. "It's better not to pick a side, it's good for them to have a bit of a rivalry, it's fun- pick one, it doesn't really matter."
"You know, you're kind of evil."
"I take pride in it, thank you," he teased, watching as the slightest trace of a smile took shape on Koushuu's face. But when Miyuki turned his attention back to where Eijun had been, he found that the southpaw was missing.
Miyuki began to wonder if Eijun was intentionally avoiding him. "Furuya, where'd Sawamura go?" When Furuya shrugged, Miyuki turned back around to scan the field. If Eijun was possibly skipping out on practice, Miyuki wanted to know why. So when he spotted Chris laughing at something Kuramochi said, he ran over to where they were.
"Have you guys seen Sawamura? He keeps running off before I can talk to him."
Chris's smile faded.
"You... haven't heard?"
me, crying: there's only one chapter left bc 25k of this was written in the last month and i ran out of time to actually properly develop everything bc everyone knows im lazy af // ill talk again at the end of the next chapter to answer Questions of Continuity and stuff so until then my friends
He knew exactly where he would find Eijun. He'd be on the rooftop garden, surrounded by his plants and covered in dirt, with the newest volume of some shoujo manga sitting on his knee. Miyuki figured out that whenever Eijun needed to think about something, the roof was his where he'd end up, whether Eijun himself knew it or not.
So he walked through the opened balcony doorway, stepping over the watering cans and bags of fertilizer to make his way over to the wall Eijun was leaning against. Miyuki placed his hands on the bricked railing, looking down at the grounds below. "You know... pro offers are pretty awesome to get."
"I'm sure you were flooded with them in high school," Eijun muttered, not bothering to dig his nose out of his book. "You and the other senpai."
Miyuki smiled, leaning over to rest his head on his arm. "Not flooded, but... yeah. Me, Chris, Yuki, Ryousuke... a few of us got an offer or two to go pro after graduating. Yet oddly enough, we all decided to continue our education before doing so."
"And you all ended up here. Lucky Seido."
"Sawamura, what is the problem?" Miyuki asked glancing down only to see that Eijun had turned away from him. "I thought you'd be running around showing off to everyone you could find that you'd gotten an offer! I thought you would have ran to me, rubbing it in my face! 'Cause I mean who cares about being an ace if pros want you?!"
"It's not like-"
"But I found out from Kuramochi! Turns out, I was the only one who didn't know about it!"
"I'm sorry! It's not like I intentionally kept it from you!" Eijun exclaimed, slamming his book closed as he whirled around to face Miyuki. "I wanted to tell you but didn't know how! And once Kuramochi-senpai found out he, of course, went out and told everyone he could find! He's like a doting big brother..."
"That's one way to put it," Miyuki said, reaching his hand out to help Eijun up off of the ground. Eijun hesitated a moment before taking it and letting himself be pulled to his feet. He sighed, walking toward Miyuki before hopping up on the ledge in front of the railing, moving his butt back until he hit the pole. Having claimed his new seat, he finally met Miyuki's gaze.
"It's just... I didn't know what to think of it."
"Well, it's amazing for starters," Miyuki said, wanting to speak honestly. "Even in university, it's not common to get an offer. Especially for someone like you, who never made a name for himself in high school, and just... showed up, ready to pitch better than any other rookie."
"I'm not better than every rookie, Miyuki."
"You're definitely the best southpaw in your year. And as for every rookie pitcher I've seen debut in my three years... yeah, you pretty much wipe the floor."
Although Eijun rolled his eyes, Miyuki didn't miss the hint of a smile on his lips. "It's bad practice to lie to your underclassman, senpai. Although it is appreciated." Eijun began tapping his feet against the brick beneath him in a steady rhythm while Miyuki tried to find the words he felt he should say. But in that moment only one question came to mind.
"Are you going to take it?"
"The offer... Have you thought about taking it?"
"I... I don't... If someone told me a year ago that I'd be getting offers to go pro, I would have told them they were crazy," he said quietly. "In my mind, the pros were so far off, so far out of my reach that I never even considered it."
"And now?" Miyuki asked, curious to Eijun's thoughts. He could understand the offer was seemingly daunting to Eijun, as someone who'd lost so much time playing because of his injury. Yet that in itself showed just how amazing it was that Eijun, despite his inexperience, was seen as talented enough to be recruited by scouters only a year into his big Tokyo debut. Miyuki was happy for him, really, he knew what a big opportunity it was for Eijun.
But he also didn't want him to leave.
"I thought about it," Eijun admitted, looking down at the palms of his hands. "I'd be the talk of the town back home... But... Do I really deserve it? Have I even worked hard enough for it? I've only got like two years of playing under my belt between high school and college. Am I really the type of person who could go pro yet?"
Miyuki bit back a smile as he reached for Eijun's left hand. He felt Eijun tense up at the moment of contact before relaxing under his touch. Miyuki ran his thumb across Eijun's palm, before trailing across his index finger. Miyuki could feel the roughness of his hands, calluses having built up from years of pitching. "Someone who's hands are this rough from throwing thousands of pitches isn't someone that hasn't worked hard for everything they've accomplished. I mean come on, they- they feel like sandpaper."
Eijun smacked him in the arm. "They do not!"
Miyuki grinned, feeling more daring to enter Eijun's space as he pushed closer, unable to miss the embarrassment on his pitcher's face. "And this?" He asked, his free hand reaching down Eijun's leg. "I don't know anyone who could go through what you did and still be as determined as you are to keep playing." His hand came to a rest just below Eijun's knee, where Miyuki felt Eijun end and his prosthetic begin.
"That's... It wasn't always like that," Eijun whispered, his right hand gripping at Miyuki's sleeve. "It's not like I never let it get me down. There were times where I swore I'd quit, where I just wanted to give up because... it would be easier. I watched on the sidelines as my friends continued on without me, like it didn't even matter I wasn't playing with them."
So that was why Eijun had said what he did at the hospital...
Watching his friends, his team, carrying on without him as though his presence had never made a difference to them had planted seeds of doubt in him about if he was ever really needed. He was worried about that happening with Seido, now that he'd a finally found himself a team again.
"None of that matters, Eijun. You kept playing, even when it was hardest to do so. That is what makes you a great player, that is what makes you worthy of being on Seido, that is what got you that pro offer." Miyuki let a sigh escape from his mouth, feeling as though he was losing Eijun. "Don't decline the offer because you feel like you're not good enough. Don't let it break you, it's an amazing chance."
Eijun met Miyuki's gaze, their foreheads almost touching now that their heights were almost even. "Do you think I should take it?"
"I think you should do what you want."
Only if it means staying here.
"Let me rephrase... Do you want me to take it?"
Of course not, how could I?
"It's your chance, Eijun, not mine. What I want doesn't matter."
"It matters to me."
"The team would be sad to see you go."
"I didn't ask about the team, Kazuya."
Oh, using my name is playing dirty.
"Do you, Miyuki Kazuya, want me to leave?"
"No," he answered, his breath catching in his throat when Eijun's hand found it's way to Miyuki's hip.
Miyuki didn't know who initiated it nor did he care in that moment, because suddenly there was teeth and tongue and Eijun's lips against his, and he could confidently say that nothing had ever felt better. He felt Eijun's hand that had been in his own pull him closer, guiding Miyuki's arm around Eijun's back until they were pressed together close enough that Miyuki could feel Eijun's thighs against his hips. His grip around Eijun's leg tightened when he felt the hard touch of the prosthetic curl around him, only decreasing what little space was left between them.
"Wait- wait, Eijun stop."
Eijun pulled back, golden irises meeting Miyuki's.
"Sorry... do you not want to?"
"What? No, no! I mean, yeah I do, I definitely do but does-" Eijun temporarily silenced him with another kiss, almost making him forget his question.
"Does this mean that you're not taking the offer?!"
Eijun hummed against his mouth before trailing his lips across Miyuki's cheek. "No," he said, pulling back to meet Miyuki's gaze. "You said this was my home, so why would I leave it?" Eijun's hand glided across Miyuki's stomach where it rested once more at his hip, Eijun's thumb brushing back and forth over the bone. "I knew I probably wasn't going to accept it, but... I wanted to know what you thought," he admitted as red flooded his face, reaching to the tips of his ears.
"I'm glad you want me to stay."
Miyuki grinned at the scene of a flustered Eijun on the backdrop of a blue sky. "So if Kuramochi wanted you to stay, would you be doing this with him too?" He teased, trying to hold back a laugh at Eijun's panicked expression.
"What?! No, that's not- stop laughing!"
Miyuki's hand traveled across Eijun's body until it found it's way to the back of Eijun's neck, slowly tangling his fingers in the dark locks. "You... you know it's different with you, right?" Eijun asked, only causing Miyuki's smile to widen.
"Yeah," he answered. "I do." His gaze didn't have to leave Eijun's to know he was smiling- he could see it in the rising cheeks and playful glint in his eyes. Miyuki pressed his lips to Eijun's again, but was unable to keep himself from laughing. "You know, it's hard to kiss you when you're smiling like an idiot."
"I can say the same to you!" Eijun exclaimed cheerfully as he tilted his head, allowing the both of them to have better access to the other. There was nothing perfect about bumping teeth and chapped lips, nor the dirt from Eijun's hands and clothes finding its way onto Miyuki, but it hadn't mattered to either of them. Not when Miyuki's hand was in Eijun's hair, playing with the soft strands as they filtered through his fingers; or when Eijun's leg was pressed into the small of Miyuki's back...
A reassuring pressure to make sure contact between them never broke.
"I think it's stupid."
Laughing at his childish comeback, Miyuki leaned over Eijun's shoulder to see the pictures in his hands. In his left was a photo of all of the fourth years who were graduating standing together, and in his right had the entirety of the first and second strings posing together for a team photo. Eijun had taken them the day before and printed them out to put in his journal.
"Sawamura are you into scrap booking by any chance?"
"Oh haha, very funny."
"I mean, do you even have any space left on your phone after all of the photos you had me take?"
"Hey they were important! I need pictures to remember everyone by once they're gone..."
"You make it sound like they're dying," Miyuki joked, earning a punch in the arm from Eijun. He taped the corners of the pictures and placed them on the same page, and Miyuki watched as Eijun quickly scribbled the dates beneath the pictures before writing who was in them.
"They're going to visit us, you know," Miyuki said in an attempt to cheer Eijun up. He'd been moping around the entire week once he's realized graduation was approaching. "Tetsu-san and Ryou-san both have brothers on the team, so they'll definitely come to see our games. And Chris-senpai and Jun-san are both playing on teams in Tokyo so they won't be far either."
Miyuki's words had Eijun sighing in defeat once he had finished monologuing in his journal. "I know," Eijun answered as he flipped through the most recent additions in his book. Miyuki noticed Eijun had just about filled up the last of the pages in his journal.
"But I love this team. I just wish we could keep playing together."
"You don't want it to change."
"Yeah... Even with you, there's only a year left until you're gone too."
"Again, you sound like you're killing me off," Miyuki said, hesitating only a moment before he slipped both his arms around Eijun's shoulders, embracing him from behind. Physical contact like that was still new territory for the both of them and he wasn't always sure what was welcome. What he was sure of was Eijun sulking even without looking at his face. "Why are you worrying about me leaving now? We still have a year together."
"We could have had more time if I finished therapy sooner..."
"What? Sawamura, you didn't exactly have a choice in when you were able to come back."
"Yeah I know... But that doesn't mean I can't be upset about it!" He exclaimed, turning the pages in his journal back until he landed on the picture of him and Miyuki in the hospital. "I told you I was gonna be the ace," he said, his fingers tracing the words he wrote beneath the photo. "But one year is so short."
"Technically it's more like a year and a half."
"Sorry, you're right. It is a short amount of time, but I wouldn't praise your pitching so much if I didn't think you could do it."
Eijun tilted his head back into Miyuki's chest until he could see his face. "You think so?" He asked, his left hand reaching up to intertwine with Miyuki's right hand. Miyuki could see the playfulness in Eijun's eyes as he talked, and Miyuki could tell he was already planning his training out for the next season. "I'll have to be better than Furuya and Kawakami, plus the soon-to-be second years and first years."
"Just don't expect me to play favorites."
"Oh, so you're saying that if you could, I'd be your favorite?"
Miyuki smiled, leaning down to place an awkwardly angled kiss on Eijun's lips. "No," he said. "Nori is my favorite." When he felt a sharp pain in his arm and he pulled back from Eijun. "Did- did you just pinch me?"
Eijun grinned before reaching for his phone on the desk after it started vibrating. Miyuki couldn't see what the message said, but whatever was said had wiped the smile from his face. "What's wrong?" Miyuki asked, but Eijun only shook his head before rifling through a stack of photos punched to the back of the desk.
"So then what're you doing? Shouldn't we go meet up with the others?"
"Just... give me a second. I want to finish this before they leave."
Every couple of photos Eijun would pull out a picture, setting them into a separate pile next to his book. He continued to do so until he had three pictures set off to the side. Miyuki watched on in curiosity as Eijun picked up the first picture and taped it to the next open page in his journal. The photo had him and Furuya sitting together on the ground, with Tanba and Kawakami standing behind them. Eijun scribbled the date underneath, and wrote "Seido's pitchers."
Miyuki noticed that there was only one page left, just enough to fit a picture on the front and back of it. Wondering what the last two pictures were going to be, Miyuki watched as Eijun grabbed the next picture. That one was of only the first string, Kataoka, Rei, and the managers. He taped that one vertically to the page before writing a message beneath it about it being the best team Seido will ever have.
The final picture had been flipped upside down, so Miyuki didn't see what was on it until Eijun went to the last page in the journal. He turned the picture over and taped it to the page, and once Eijun's moved to grab the pen, Miyuki saw what was on the photo. It was from when him and Eijun were on the rooftop, long after they'd had their eventual confessions of what the other had meant to them. Part of Miyuki wanted to forget what they'd said out of embarrassment, and the other part of him would never let him forget it.
The word "love" had never been used- at the price of sounding like some romantic poet, it was like a fragile, growing flower- one that neither of them wanted to cut and preserve before it had fully bloomed. The idea of he and Eijun being something more than friends or teammates or a battery was something new and unexplored, and while eager to to give it a try, it was something they decided to take slow.
However, the word boyfriend was used quite frequently by Eijun, and Miyuki didn't deny he liked the sound of how it rolled off Eijun's tongue.
And everything they were feeling was caught in that picture. Eijun was still sitting on the brick railing, with Miyuki's back leaning against Eijun's chest. Miyuki remembered Eijun begging him for a picture together, only to drop the phone after Miyuki finally agreed. He had been the one to take it, in order to get as much of them in the shot as possible. So there they were, with Eijun's arms wrapped around Miyuki's neck, practically choking him as Eijun placed his head atop Miyuki's.
Miyuki had one arm grabbing onto Eijun and the other outstretched to take the photo. When Miyuki had taken it and seen the grin on both of their faces, he'd immediately sent it to himself before giving Eijun his phone back to admire the picture. Miyuki had never expected that photo to end up in Eijun's journal at all, let alone it being the last one. So his gaze returned to Eijun's hand, where he had begun to write his final entry.
Only gone was the usual long ranting in the lines beneath, replaced by two separate dates. There was one in the top corner of the page, the number showing that it was the day the photo had been taken. But the other, the one beneath the photo in large print, was dating a few months back.
"The day I joined Seido," Eijun finished as he gripped the back cover of his journal. "I've had this thing for years... Originally, it was just some stupid diary Wakana had started around the time everything happened, and then somehow she and the doctor had me start using it as some kind of coping mechanism."
Eijun flipped through the pages as Miyuki listened to the crinkling of the aging paper until he stopped once more on the final page. Miyuki could see how thick the journal had become with all of the pictures Eijun had put in it, and wondered just how many there were. He had read it himself, but hadn't thought to ever count how many entries Eijun had made.
"After a while, once I had... accepted everything, and decided to keep playing baseball, I continued to write in it. It became less about coping and more about... what I went through, I guess," Eijun said, twirling the pen in his hand as though he wanted to write more. "But... I think I'm done. I don't need to add to it anymore, and not because I'm out of room, but because... it just feels complete."
Miyuki smiled, but stopped Eijun from closing the book. "So if Seido is what led this to completion, don't you think you're missing something?" He asked as he grabbed the pen from Eijun's hand. Without waiting for an answer, Miyuki leaned over Eijun's shoulder once more so he could write in the journal. Beneath the date of Eijun's first day, Miyuki wrote only one word, yet it was one that carried more meaning to the two of them then anyone else who could ever see it there...
Eijun wasn't in a hurry.
He'd already felt like the months since he'd joined had gone by too fast, with so much happening in such a short amount of time.
So he didn't need to be in a hurry.
If there was a way to slow the process down, he would have done it long ago. Miyuki had joked with him that they could always try to get the upperclassmen held back in order to keep them on the team longer. But of course, that wasn't really an option. He knew that they had to leave, and one day Miyuki would too.
So would he.
Because that's how it went.
They played together. They ate and cried and slept and laughed together.
But they wouldn't all leave together.
And that was okay, Eijun decided. Because even though they were losing part of their team, a part of his home, they would never forget their time at Seido. There were pro offers being tossed out windows in order to experience what Eijun had felt being on the team. After being on his own for so long, Eijun was glad he got to find himself a place he belonged in. And once his time there was done, he'd find another team, a pro team, that would become his new home.
Even if it wasn't exactly Seido, so long as there was something or someone there to remind him, Eijun figured he'd be content as long as that person was Miyuki...
"Sawamura are you seriously crying right now?"
... Or maybe not, if he didn't fix his attitude.
"Shut up! Is it so wrong that I'm going to miss Chris-senpai, Bakayuki?!"
"You're only going to miss Chris? I feel offended," Ryousuke said in the middle of giving a headlock to Haruichi.
"Obviously he doesn't care about us like he cares about Chris," Yuki said, and Eijun couldn't tell if he was joking or not. Either way, he felt bad and immediately apologized.
"I will miss all of you greatly! Especially you, Leader! Miyuki won't be able to fill your position even if he cloned himself," Eijun said, receiving a scoff from Miyuki.
"From his own boyfriend, that's so cold, Sawamura... I like it," Kuramochi said as he pulled Eijun away from Miyuki. "I still won't entrust my precious roommate to you!" He aimed at Miyuki, who only grinned. Apparently he appreciated the challenge of dealing with Eijun's unofficial older brother.
"Well I'm going to have to do the opposite."
Eijun turned to see that Chris had rejoined their little goodbye hug fest. "I'm leaving him to you, Miyuki," he said, and Eijun could see the slightest trace of a blush cross Miyuki's face, if only for an instant.
Leave it to Chris to be able to embarrass Miyuki.
Eijun pulled away from Kuramochi and went to stand in front of Chris. He owed so much to Chris, and Eijun hadn't ever been able to repay his debt to him. "Have I ever thanked you?" Eijun asked, and Chris arched a brow.
For being his friend.
For teaching him everything he knew to be able to survive rejoining the world of baseball.
For taking him to Seido.
Chris smiled, placing a hand on Eijun's shoulder. "The help was mutual, Sawamura. Seeing you continue to grow will be thanks enough."
"Ugh, Chris-senpai you sound like his dad," Kuramochi said, earning a laugh from Ryousuke.
"Upset he's trying to take your role from you?" Ryousuke teased.
"What?! Who wants to be Bakamura's dad?!"
"It's fine, Youichi. I'll be the mom and Haruichi can be Sawamura's brother."
"Please leave me out of your weird fantasies," Haruichi begged quietly.
Eijun only laughed.
He felt a hand wrap around his, and he noticed Miyuki had made his way to Eijun's side. Miyuki's thumb brushed alongside Eijun's, and he was grateful for the contact. "I'm going to miss this," Eijun whispered as he watched his teammates laugh with one another.
"They'll be back," Miyuki answered, his grip on Eijun's hand tightening. "It's not over, it's just... changing venue for a bit."
"Only until you leave."
"I'm not going anywhere."
"I'm counting on that."
Because Eijun had lost something.
He'd lost a lot, actually, over the course of only a few years, and everything that left had gone in different ways. Yet in the process he'd gained so much more than he could have ever imagined, some of which never would have happened had he not lost some things in the first place.
He used to imagine what it would have been like or what would have happened had he not wandered into the barn that day, had he not continued his therapy, had he given up on playing baseball. But all those questions now led to new ones, asking where he'd be if he hadn't met Chris, or if he hadn't joined Seido and found himself a home where he could play in tournaments during the day and have water gun fights with his friends at night...
Where he'd be and what he'd be doing if he hadn't met Miyuki.
So Eijun decided he didn't need to ask himself those types of questions anymore.
Because even if he could, Eijun wouldn't change a single thing.
*cries* i tried my best to wrap it up nicely but hey what can you do when behind on a deadline! this has been a crazy ride and my only regret is that i couldn't put everything i wanted in here (eijun and chris's past, more team bonding and baseball and miyusawa stuff, etc)
that being said i really want to add to this and write what i couldn't fit so maybe there'll be a prequel/sequel/spin off type deal in the future!!! bc im disappointed with the outcome since this has been in my head for a year lmao
either way im excited to see all of your thoughts in the comments! let me know what you liked and what you want to see if i write more (which might not be for a little while since i have my other stories to pick up again)! i'm gonna respond to all comments on this chapter since it's the last, at least for now ;)
don't forget to check out kur0hina's art for this if you haven't already, it's amazing!!!