It's part of Shin's routine.
by Mina Lightstar
Shin Seijuro is the product of persistence. Once he was small, quiet, the kind of boy one wouldn't easily take notice of. Now he is still quiet, but he is large and people notice him because... because it's impossible not to feel the powerful aura he generates.
Shin has a routine, and is dedicated to it. Shin rises early every morning to stretch, warm-up, and jog. He eats balanced, nutritional meals and neglects neither sleep nor study, practices diligently and pushes himself constantly. He recognizes his strengths and weaknesses, and works to improve on both.
The equipment at the school or local gym are familiar to him. It is with the help of these machines combined with his own determination that he grows taller, stronger. He spent one summer practically living in one gym, packing on muscle to go with his growth spurt. He received compliments for his progress; ten pounds became fifteen, fifteen became twenty, twenty became thirty.... He came back from summer break and discovered that things had changed: Shin was leading and Sakuraba was following. A gap appeared between them, and it only widened as the year went on.
He remembers when Sakuraba was the taller one. In some ways, he misses that. He misses the afternoons spent at one or the other's house, the practicing in a muddy backyard, and the endless hours watching footage of official league games.
Most of all, he misses the content expression that used to be on Sakuraba's face.
When Shin wakes up at promptly five o'clock, Sakuraba Haruto is still sound asleep. Shin stands and stares for a moment, debating, but then proceeds to pull on his jogging suit and prepare for his morning run. He doesn't worry about waking his friend's parents, because they are not home.
Shin completes his morning jog and returns to make use of the shower. He is almost as familiar with Sakuraba's house as he is with his own or the gym; he is allowed to do what he wishes -- except operate any electrical appliances. This freedom comes from many a weeknight he spent glued to Sakuraba's side.
These days, Shin stays overnight because he helps keep Sakuraba on track with assignments he's either missed or is falling behind on. Between school, football practice, and his job, Sakuraba has little time to spare.
Shin wants to say it is the modeling career that put more distance between them, (/"I'm sorry, Shin, I'll have to leave in fifteen minutes,"/) but he knows that isn't the only thing.
When he finishes tidying up the washroom, Shin returns to Sakuraba's room wearing nothing but a towel. He changes in the dark, not even opening the blinds to let the dawn light creep in.
These days, Sakuraba doesn't have a routine. He goes to school and then goes to practice and then lets Jerry-Pro and the media play tug-of-war with him. When they let him go, he comes home and does his homework, and he almost always keeps an eye on his cellphone, as though not believing it can ever be silent for very long.
"Sakuraba, you've stopped copying formulas."
"Oh -- sorry."
Sometimes Sakuraba jogged with him. That doesn't happen anymore. Shin isn't really sure if his friend exercises in the mornings he hasn't stayed overnight, but when Shin goes about his routine, Sakuraba remains in bed, sleeping with his mouth wide open.
Shin doesn't know how much sleep Sakuraba gets any given week, so he doesn't wake his friend until forty-five minutes before they have to leave for school. It is part of his routine: He sits in the chair by the desk and waits for Sakuraba's alarm clock to ring.
While he waits, he watches and savors -- because in sleep, Sakuraba's expression is tired, but not sad.