Long, Like Memory

Four moments when Miyuki actually thinks about his hair, often to keep from thinking about something else. Drama with Angst and mild UST, I-3

Pairing(s): Chris/Miyuki

His mother always combed his hair for school.

“Kazuya! Breakfast!”

He thumped down the stairs, dragging his book bag behind him by one strap. “Coming!” He scrambled up into his chair at the table, across from his dad who had the morning paper folded beside his plate, and grinned up at his mother as she set his smaller plate in front of him. Her eyes danced when she laughed.

“Oh, Kazuya.” Cool fingers smoothed back his hair, which he’d splashed water on this morning to try to make it lie down flat. It had… kind of worked. “Hold still for a moment, sweetheart.”

He stuffed a piece of toast in his mouth first, but then held obediently still while the comb tugged gently through his hair, smoothing the top down and the sides back so they didn’t fluff out. He could never figure out how she did it. Even his dad couldn’t do it; the time he’d tried, when Kaa-san had been too tired out to get up one morning, Kazuya’s hair had stuck up all over, and they’d both had exactly the same helpless look in the mirror, and his mother had laughed and laughed when he’d gone to say goodbye before leaving, even though it made her cough.

So he sat still every morning while she combed his hair and finished with a pat. “There you go! Eat up, now, so you have energy for the whole day.”

Kazuya promptly shoveled rice into his mouth. “Thank you, Kaa-san!”

“Swallow before talking,” his dad directed, completing the final morning step with a shake of his head and a tiny quirk at the corner of his mouth. It got a little bigger when Kazuya swallowed and smiled back at him, wide and happy.

Kazuya liked mornings.

(He never did figure out how his mother had made his hair so neat, and eventually he stopped trying. Maybe it really was the pat that did it.)

The first time Kazuya put on a catcher’s skull-cap, it flattened his hair right into his eyes.

“You’re going to need to push your hair back as you put it on,” the coach said, and Kazuya could hear the laugh the man was holding down under the faint wobble in his voice.

A few tries to swipe his hair back fast enough to get the helmet over it and the coach was coughing unconvincingly into his fist, so Kazuya relieved the poor guy by laughing himself. “I’ll practice at home!” he promised, reaching for his water bottle. Water was pretty much the only way he’d ever gotten his hair to lie down, even a little.

He ignored the stares on the train home. The older kids had already had a good laugh over how his hair was sticking up, after practice. At home, he carefully followed the directions in his mother’s old cookbook to make dinner the way she couldn’t any more, standing on the step-stool and pinning faintly stained and heat-stiffened pages under two cups. After eating, he carefully wrapped his dad’s portion for when he finally came in from the workshop. And then he took the odd, brim-less helmet upstairs to practice in front of the bathroom mirror. The helmet was a lot heavier than his cloth cap, and he couldn’t duck into it quite the same way. His forehead was a little scraped up by the time he thought he had the hang of it. But that was okay. He’d learned how to doctor his own scrapes lately, and he thought he was getting pretty good at it.

After a few months of having the catcher’s mask get caught in the hair sticking out the sides of the skull-cap, he asked Fukuda-san, the barber, if he could make the sides shorter and answered the man’s jovial comments about growing up and paying attention to his looks with a wide grin. It kept most people from wanting any more of an answer. Frankly, he thought the way Fukuda-san trimmed and fussily shaped the hair in front of his ears looked a little silly, but it did get rid of the clumps over his ears when he was wearing the catcher’s equipment, so that was fine.

(He only thought once about how brightly his mother would have laughed to see, and then he made himself not think about that again.)

“You should do something with your hair,” Kuramochi said out of the blue on afternoon, as they waited for the math teacher. He had turned around in his chair and was squinting rather judgmentally at Kazuya’s hair. Which, admittedly, was probably sticking up a bit from where Kazuya had his fingers shoved into it while he leaned his head on one hand and tried not to fall asleep. Batting angles and distances were doodled in the margins of his notebook around last week’s far more boring details on how to calculate the missing angle of a quadrilateral.

“Mm.” He turned the area equation around to calculate diameter and made a face. What good was this to know, anyway? What really mattered was the angle and spin of the ball as it came in…

“Seriously, you look like an upside-down mop most days,” Kuramochi prodded, and Kazuya finally slouched back in his seat with a snort.

“You’re the last one I want to hear that from, Hair Cream-san.”

“Hey!” Kuramochi ducked the class rep’s dirty look and hissed, “I do not use hair cream!”

“Not anymore,” Miyuki agreed sunnily, and stifled a laugh at Kuramochi’s growl. The guy should know better than to play this game with Kazuya, especially considering the photographic evidence passed around by Kuramochi’s third-year roommate and foresightfully secured by Kazuya. “Besides,” he added, more to the point, “why should I bother when I spend all my time with my hair mashed down under one helmet or another?”

“There are some times we’re not playing,” Kuramochi said, but only half-heartedly and Kazuya didn’t dignify it with an answer. They both knew that time boiled down to class hours and not much else. It was one reason Kazuya was at Seidou, after all.

The math teacher finally slid the door open and the class rep called “Stand!” Under the scrape of chairs and shuffle of feet, Kuramochi muttered, “You look like a little kid, still, as long as no one can see your eyes. It’s just weird.”

Kazuya was distantly glad that Kuramochi was sitting in front of him, and not behind. He had sharp eyes, and might have wondered about Kazuya’s stillness before Kazuya could get it under control again.

(He hadn’t even tried to comb his hair back for almost four years. Three years, ten months, and twenty-three days, actually, but who was counting?)

The first-years were gathered around one corner of their usual table, whispering over something, and Miyuki craned his neck for a look as he went past with his dinner tray. It was always good to know what they were up to, especially given Sawamura’s moments of amusingly bizarre behavior. Kazuya knew there was no way on earth the boy had been raised in a dojo, but sometimes Sawamura acted like he wanted to have been, or had maybe been raised on the movie set of one. There were really times that Sawamura’s dramatics reminded him of Mei, and he was saving up that observation to tell them both, so he could see what kind of fits they both pitched over it.

“…he looks so young!” Haruichi was saying.

“Well, it is from when he was in middle school,” Kanemaru pointed out, but trailed off at the end as if he too were struck by the apparent youth of whoever they were talking about.

“And he was amazing even then!” Sawamura sounded vastly enthused, but Kazuya didn’t put much weight on that. Sawamura usually sounded enthused over whatever he was talking about, including dorm chores. More usefully, his expansive gesturing made several other first-years duck and Kazuya caught a glimpse of the old paper they were gathered around. There was a large picture of Chris-senpai on the front of the section, looking very much as Kazuya remembered him from two years ago. He smiled a little to himself and strolled on. No harm in a little hero-worship now and then; if it weren’t Chris it would probably have been one of this year’s MVPs or something.

“What are the first-years up to?” Kuramochi asked as Kazuya sat down across from him.

Kazuya cast a quick eye over the third-year tables to make sure Chris wasn’t there yet before he smirked and said, clearly enough to carry to the first-years, “They’re discussing how cute Chris-senpai was in middle school.”

Sawamura’s outraged protest rose over the snickering, and even Kuramochi’s cackle, and Kazuya took a composed bite of his dinner. Every now and then he wondered if maybe getting a rise out of Sawamura was beneath him as too easy, but the kid’s reactions were great. It was like sugar candy—no nutritional value at all but still tasty. It was probably a doubly good thing Kazuya had turned Mei down, now he thought about it; he’d have gotten metaphorical cavities for sure, in a battery with Mei, who rose to the bait just as easily.

Chris’ entrance provoked another flurry, this time to hide the newspaper, and Kazuya snickered some more.

As dinner conversation turned to classes and practice, though, the image of a younger Chris stuck in the back of his head. Chris-senpai was actually looking a lot more like he had back then, now; aiming Sawamura at him had definitely been a good idea. The memory of Chris from their middle school match, of all that sun-bright talent and brilliant game-making, was so clear in Kazuya’s mind that it was actually startling to look up and see Chris pass their table, taller and broader, still with that shining presence but more dignified now, all his edges sleek and tucked-in.

The thought that Chris-senpai was the only one Kazuya would trust to comb his hair back, smooth and neat like it used to be, was so unexpected, sneaking past the things Kazuya didn’t let himself think about, that its arrival was like a shock up his spine.

He must have shown it somehow, because Chris-senpai paused and glanced down at him, questioning. “Miyuki-kun? Is something wrong?”

Kazuya shook himself and grinned up at Chris. “Nope, all good!”

Chris’ eyes held his for a suspended, breathless moment before he nodded quietly and moved on to the third-years’ tables.

“Guess the first-years aren’t the only ones with crushes, huh?” Kuramochi asked, grinning wickedly.

Kazuya rolled his eyes and flicked his hand dismissively. “Like anyone in this whole club, yeah.” He swallowed another bite and gave Kuramochi a toothy smile. “Not always on Chris-senpai, of course.”

Kuramochi glared, but they’d been holding Chris-senpai and Kominato-senpai over each other’s heads for more than a year and Kazuya knew neither of them would actually rat the other out. In his more honest moments he admitted, ruefully, that they were both obvious enough there was probably no point in doing so. They were probably lucky the senpai remembered their own little crushes and were relatively kind about such things, for values of “kind” that could be “not very” in Kominato’s case, and sometimes he really did wonder about Kuramochi’s taste. Youthful days of high school in a sports dorm, he supposed. It probably made them all a little crazy.

So he kicked Kuramochi lightly under the table and said, “Anyway, about batters for fall, has Zono noticed anyone new who’s a good contact hitter, besides Toujou?”

Kuramochi scowled at his rice. “Not really, and that’s going to be a pain. Asou might be a decent power hitter if he doesn’t drop out during summer training, but it’s going to be a weaker line-up at this rate…”

They traded names around mouthfuls of stew, and badgered Zono for more when he came back from getting seconds, and Kazuya settled back into dealing with things he knew were possible.

(He took the thought of Chris-senpai’s fingers moving through his hair and closed it carefully up in a mental box, and put the box on a mental shelf beside his mother’s.)

(Just because he didn’t think about some things didn’t mean he forgot them.)