It was late, and the party had gone on long enough for all the younger members of the club to be sent home, and only the regulars and older players to be left.
Technically, Kite should have been celebrating their win at Regionals - it was his reign during which they had made it this far, after all - but somehow he was just tired and suspicious that perhaps Rin had put something in the punch. Something alcoholic. He didn't feel like being the mean coach/captain for once, and so he simply sat back in his seat and watched his happy team.
It was worth it, after all the hard work gathering together a team who was willing to do anything to reach the top, no matter what kind of misfits they were. It was worth the exhausting training sessions, the difficult balance between the Martial Arts club and the Tennis club, the accusitions of being a sell-out, the long nights spent trying to come up with a balanced team and a training schedual just to prove that Okinawa was worth paying attention to.
They weren't national-level by any standard, but they were his, and he was proud of them.
This resolve in mind, he tilted his head back and rested it against the wooden top of the couch. Next year he would have to leave his club behind and become, once again, just another faceless, nameless punk fighting his way up the ranks. It would be refreshing, but just as exhausting. His eyes drifted closed for a moment, and when they opened again someone was removing his glasses.
Only one person on his team had the audacity to do something like that to him.
"Ne, Kite-san, whatcha' doin' all the way over here by yourself?"
Blinking blearily at the blurry outline of his glasses on Kai Yuujirou's face, he summoned his usual frown of dissaproval - although it must have been weak, because Kai didn't give his glasses back, just took them off and tucked them into a pocket.
"Thinking," he replied finally, leaning his head back again in a refusal to acknowlege the presence of someone who would dare steal his glasses, leaving him defenseless.
And his brain refused to stop thinking, this time about Kai Yuujirou in particular. He had been Kite's vice-captain for so long now that he knew he would miss the comforting presence at his shoulder and would keep turning back to look for it. Right now, that presence rested beside him on the couch, holding a circle of warmth and weight that was impossible to deny. Many of Kite's strenious hours building the team and moving it up the rankings could not have done it without Kai. He knew this. He also knew that this was only a thin excuse for the reaon why he paid so much attention to the other boy.
Part of being a good martial artist is knowing yourself, and it was not long before Kite had figured out that he was attracted to this red-head hooligen with the impossible grip and the long arms that reached around his guard when he was busy staring into jade eyes. He was lucky that he seemed to be the only one who had the natural disposition towards the shukuchihou, otherwise Kai would have surpassed him by now.
...With his persistance.
Summoning some patience from who-knows-where, Kite opened his eyes and waited for the them focus again before glaring down at the person he would miss the most when he left this team.
"Are you going to miss me?"
Clearly his psycic abilities would also come in handy as next year's captain.
Sighing a little at being caught out in his own thoughts - was he really that predictable? - Kite leant a little closer and allowed his arm to rest on the back of the seat dangeriously close to the back of Kai's neck. There wasn't a twitch of deviation from the steady, searching gaze that was focused on his bared eyes.
"Yes," he said finally, looking away to hide a not-blush that definitely wasn't in character. "You are... Yes, I will miss you, Kai."
There was a long, frozen moment of comprehension as their gazes met, and Kite couldn't help the opposing sides of him that both hoped that Kai would understand and that he would walk away.
"Let's walk home, buchou. It's getting late."
Of course, Kai was always taken the paths that Kite hadn't even seen untill Kai treaded them, never realized the middle road even existed untill it was shown to him.
And then he realized that Kai never, ever called him buchou before tonight, and there was a dangeriously serious look in those eyes that he normally loved having fixated on him in a strong match, but now it only brought an unusually cowardly twisting of his stomach. He had a new appreciation for those who fought Kai without knowing the easy-going nature that hid beneath the ruthless exterior.
"Everyone is still here..." he protested weakly, reaching out to fumble his glasses from Kai's chest pocket, feeling the warmth of the body that was far too close under only one layer of fabric.
"You know you'd leave before them anyways, buchou. Come on."
So they leave the farewell party, waving and bowing and saluting all around. Kite doesn't want to hear the post-celebratory 'what if's and analysis. He knows he has failed to lead them to Nationals once again, and it is he who has failed them in this respect by being sub-standard.
But Kai ruins all his melencholy thoughts when he walks backwards, staring up at the sky, seemingly always in reverse from what anyone would expect, and comfortable that way. He captures Eishorou's attention and doesn't let it go.
"You can't give me laps any more for being inpertinant, right, Ki-san?"
It is a fond nickname that Kai only ever uses in private, after Kite once made the mistake of calling Kai during one of his affectionnate moments by his first name. The heirarchy instilled in his players from Martial Arts training is severe enough to keep Kai from doing the same to him, but it's close.
Even though Kite thought that Kai was merely making an observation, he is being looked at with that serious intensity that Kite has more often expected on the court. He didn't even know a game was being played.
"Yeah," he replied warily, slipping his hands into the pocket of his sweatshirt. Kai should be shivering in this cool weather, but he's not.
"Then it's safe to say I like you now?"
Kai shouldn't be leaning in that close, forcing Kite to smell the hormones, body, cologne and... cigarettes? that permiated his aura. He shouldn't be saying things that cut so close to home, and definitely shouldn't have his hand on Kite's arm, forcing him to stop in the middle of the road and look at him. He remembers the day that he realized Kai was within centemetres of his height, and feels those little bits intensely.
The gaze falters and Kai falters as well, heart falling down to the ground along with it.
"I'm sorry," they both say at the same time, except Kite is pulling his hands out of his pockets to hug his former vice-captain awkwardly. For the first time - ever.
There is a moment of surprise before arms move around his shoulders tightly, and a cheek presses against his shoulder, a nose into his neck.
It's muffled because Kite's heart is pounding in his ears as he slowly relaxes into the oddly familiar touch, resting his chin against the side of Kai's head in what he hopes to be an acknowleging manner. He thinks he can guess what Kai's going to ask, and wants to get in a word beforehand.
"I'll be your captain the year after, don't forget."
He's trying to be gruff and it's not working, because he wants to kiss him so badly instead. A breeze picks up and dust swirls around their ankles. He realizes they're standing in the middle of the road hugging in the middle of the night. He hopes no one is watching from their windows right now.
His kouhai's voice is shaking and Kite can't stand that kind of weakness, so he pulls Kai in front of him and kisses him sharply. His glasses get tangled in a different nose, and his lips are a little chapped, but all in all it's not too much of a disaster. There is a breathless pause after he pulls back and before he has a chance to say anything, and then Kai is kissing him in a way that Kite has only seen described in his sister's manga as 'passionnately' - not that he ever looks at such things. There is a hand messing up his hair, and another fisted in the side of his sweather as they move almost frantic together.
There is a momentary experiment with shockingly wet tounges before they both move apart as one, sensing how far this has gone beyond their original comfort zones.
Kite clears his throat and Kai shoves his hands in his pockets nerviously. They start walking again. Finally, he gets up the courage to say something to the ground, and does so quickly.
"I do like you too, Yuujirou-kun. I hope I am still able to spend some time with you outside of school next season."
It is a big offer from him, he who never searched out anyone to hang around with outside of school, who never had friends who were not part of the Tennis or Martial Arts clubs that he would see anyways. But he would find the time and - who knew - maybe Kai would come and visit him? They could practice together on the weekends.
"Kite Eishorou is not a bad guy," Kai replied finally as their approached Kite's house, a few blocks away from Kai's own. It was the advantage of living in a smaller city. "Kai Yuujirou would very much like to... spend some more time with him. Soon."
Kai is hunched over a little, looking up at him from a step below and Kite's heart softens just a little more. His hand reaches out and strokes a cheek tenderly, only make piercing green eyes blink once in the dark before leaning into his calloused hand.
"I'll call you tomorrow," he said quietly, surprising himself with how low his voice sounds in that moment. Kai's eyes glow with something that is maybe tears but probably not, and then he's walking down the path, waving and - blowing kisses? saluting? - before he's gone around the corner. Kite steps up the rest of the way to his apartment and welcomes a silent house to clear his thoughts in.