The Evening and the Morning

Yuuta is down, after Nationals, and Mizuki prods him out of his end-of-the-world gloom. Drama with Romance, I-3

Hajime’s shoulder brushed Yuuta’s, every now and then, as they walked in the suspended light of dusk. Yuuta walked silently, watching his feet on the pavement, and Hajime glanced at him every now and then, waiting for the right moment to speak, himself.

Finally, he decided there wasn’t going to be one if he didn’t make it and discreetly nudged Yuuta left at the next corner. “So, who’s taking over the team now?” he asked.

Yuuta twitched, half a flinch, and Hajime stifled a sigh.

“Ogata,” Yuuta finally answered, voice lower than usual. “I thought maybe Kimura, but Ogata is better at long-term thinking.” A faint smile. “And he can growl and snap with the best; he just doesn’t do it very often. It’ll be a good change of pace for the club.”

Hajime turned them north again and nodded. “It’s good that you think of these things, as you leave them.” Glancing over at Yuuta, he could see Yuuta’s jaw clench for a moment. One more push, he decided; but it would have to be the right one. “It was a good team this year. You brought each other further than anyone else could have.” He paused for a measured, contemplative moment. “With the possible exception of Mori-kun.”

A snort of laughter broke through Yuuta’s increasing gloom. “Mori is a pain in the ass.”

“Well, all things can be useful. Mori-kun is good leadership practice. Think of him as a variety of resistance weight,” Hajime advised.

This time, Yuuta’s laugh was quicker, brighter. “Tell me I never gave you and Akazawa-san that much trouble?”

“You were your very own brand of trouble,” Hajime informed him serenely. And then he smiled, taking Yuuta’s arm to steer him though a green fence of cypress trees. “But one I’ll be very pleased to have back.”

Yuuta stopped short, looking out over St. Christopher’s courts, which they had come out at the back of. “Oh,” he said, very quietly, eyes wide.

Hajime nodded to himself, pleased with this change of expression. And luck favored him today, because Yanagisawa was out alone, practicing against the wall of the club offices, and noticed them.

“Yuuta!” Yanagisawa batted the ball down and caught it and waved. “Look who’s eager! Here to start with your new team already?”

“I, um…” Yuuta’s eyes were still wide, and Hajime’s fingers itched to stroke his arm, to make some kind of contact and soothe Yuuta. But the point of this exercise was to for Yuuta to let this season go on his own. “I guess so,” Yuuta finally said, softly, and Hajime smiled.

Yanagisawa trotted over and rumpled Yuuta’s hair vigorously. “Good!” He leaned back, hands on his hips. “And you know,” he added, abruptly serious, “that was really good, taking your team that far in Nationals. Really good.”

Yuuta looked down at his feet again for a moment, but finally nodded. “I guess so.” When he looked up his eyes were fierce and bright again. “We’ll do better next year.”

Yanagisawa grinned. “Of course we will.” And then he grinned wider, and Yuuta braced himself, on pure reflex as far as Hajime could see. “So, you guys doing a double date or something? I saw Akazawa and Kaneda going by just a little while ago…”

Yanagisawa ducked and laughed as Yuuta dove for him, red-faced and growling, and Hajime shook his head ruefully. Things were definitely getting back to normal. A new kind of normal, perhaps. He caught Yuuta on his way past and twined their fingers together, smiling.

They would most definitely do better, this time.