Cold Fingers and Hot Drinks

Yuuta and Mizuki train with each other over the winter and find their way toward an understanding. Romance with Drama, I-3

Character(s): Fuji Yuuta, Mizuki Hajime

Hajime’s hands were cold.

He didn’t bother telling himself it was because they were playing outside in the dead of winter. He knew better, and he did try not to lie to himself, at least.

He flexed his fingers around the handle of his racquet, breathing deeply, feeling the chilly air tingle in his lungs.

“Ready whenever you are, Mizuki-san!” Yuuta called cheerfully across the court. Hajime snorted.

“You’re always ready,” he called back. Before Yuuta could answer, before he could wind himself any tighter than he already was, he threw the ball up and served, hard and fast.

He watched Yuuta catch it, watched Yuuta like a hawk and stooped on the ball as it came back again. And again. And again. The ball would not get away from him; today he would not let it, no matter what. He heard Yuuta laugh, bright and exhilarated, across the net, felt the heaviness of the return straining at his arms and threw it back anyway.

This was terrifying.

Yuuta was a better player than he was. Not a better strategist or athlete or planner. But a better player; he had been for almost a year, now. And today, in defiance of all common sense and logic, Hajime was going to try to win an all-out match from him.

Again.

This was senseless. His hands would be shaking if the racquet wasn’t keeping them busy and the ball keeping them steady. He watched and dashed and dove for the ball and always, always sent it back, and felt like he’d taken hold of a live wire and now electricity was running through him, snapping and spitting. He was drenched with sweat, even in the cold, and wondered with every breath if he could keep going.

When they reached six all he wondered if he could stop.

And today whatever fire or fate ruled games like these favored him. The last point was his. Yuuta met him at the net, grinning, nearly glowing. He didn’t seem to mind Hajime’s victory; he never seemed to.

Hajime was just grateful to get inside and sit down and breathe air that didn’t seem to sparkle in his blood.

A clank, and the warmth of a can against his hand, brought him back to the world and he took the coffee Yuuta had brought him. “Thank you.”

Yuuta sprawled on the bench beside him, opening his juice. After a moment he said, “You’re getting better at that.”

Hajime sniffed. “I can read a scoreboard.” He knew he was getting better; that was half of what alarmed him. What if he let this passion, this openness, slip out at some other time and knock some delicate calculation or other awry? What if it ran away with him?

Yuuta smiled down at his drink. “I know. I just mean… it’s really great to play against you like this.”

Hajime regarded Yuuta ruefully. He sometimes wished he wasn’t starting to understand that. “I know.”

Yuuta traced a finger around the top of the can. “Mizuki-san…” Finally, softly, he said, “Thank you.”

Hajime tried to breathe slowly past a sudden tightness in his chest. “For what?” he asked, lightly. All right, so he was, in significant part, doing this for Yuuta—Yuuta didn’t know that.

Yuuta raised his head and looked back with such clear eyes that Hajime suddenly doubted his own thought. “For everything,” he said, quiet and sure. “For all of this.”

Hajime couldn’t quite look away, and thought for one crazy moment that he would drown in that living grey. When he spoke, his voice was huskier than he had thought it would be. “Perhaps I should be thanking you.”

Yuuta’s eyes widened and red stole over his high cheekbones. “Mizuki-san.”

One of them was going to have to look away, Hajime decided distantly. Otherwise they’d be here until full darkness fell to separate them. He traded one contact for another and reached out to rest his fingers on the back of Yuuta’s hand as he closed his eyes and drew a breath and told himself to be sane.

Yuuta started. “Mizuki-san, your hands are freezing!”

“That,” Hajime informed him with dignity, “is because I react like a normal person to winter: by getting cold.” Unlike Yuuta, who just seemed to get more bounce in his step the chillier it got outside.

It was his turn to start as Yuuta took his fingers and chafed them between his hands. “You should have said.” Yuuta wrapped Hajime’s hand back around his still-warm can of coffee.

Hajime hauled his breath back under his control and laughed softly. “Well, there was something outdoors I wanted.” He was secretly delighted to see Yuuta color again. Yuuta was so transparently sincere; it was enough to enchant a person, really.

Yuuta resettled his shoulders and lifted his chin. “So. You wanted another game, then?”

Hajime blinked at the riposte and finally laughed out loud.

“Yes, Yuuta. Perhaps I do.”

End