Sanada/Yukimura -- two boys desperate not to let the other down.
His breath slowly clouds the window to white. It's kinder that way. "Sanada," he says, "let's go outside."
Sanada sits awkwardly on Yukimura's small, plain hospital bed, his hands tucked politely into his lap. His face looks like a statue's: handsome, resolute and unmoving. Yukimura wants to tickle him. "Surely you wouldn't begrudge a dying boy's last request," Yukimura jokes lightly, moving away from the window, but Sanada's words halt his movement.
"Don't talk like that."
Yukimura closes his eyes slowly and opens them, and suddenly feels as sick as he looks -- the humiliating green of his hospital pajamas hanging heavily on his skeletal body, his eyes peaked with unhealthy brightness. "I remember when you used to smile."
When Sanada's form blurs back into focus, Sanada is staring so fiercely at Yukimura's left ear that Yukimura can tell he's trying not to cry.
Yukimura regrets a lot of things.
` ` `
Kirihara thinks about killing Sanada sometimes, but his rational side says, wait, wait until you've beaten him/. Kirihara's not a bad guy, really, but Sanada's in love with a dying boy, and Kirihara respects that and all, but /God did it take the stick that was already shoved in the fuko-buchou's ass and cause it to grow barbed thorns and, in Kirihara suspects, twist perpetually.
"Unacceptable," Sanada says flatly to Mauri's sprawled form. "This isn't a game."
Mauri touches a finger to his cheek and winces. "Hai hai, Sanada-fuko-buchou."
Sanada eyes each of them, and his voice resonates with finality. "We will win Kantou, and then we will win Nationals. No one will lose a match -- not even a practice one. Anyone who cannot obey this, leave now."
Kirihara wets his lips and speaks up. "So you wanted Bunta and I to play, but you didn't want either of us to lose? How the hell does that make sense?"
"Akaya --" Yanagi-senpai warns, but it's too late.
Sanada ignores the rules of physics and is in Kirihara's face before Kirihara can blink; his shirt is suddenly choking him as it is lifted easily. "Shut up, you piece of shit," Sanada whispers, his voice hot on Kirihara's face. "You wouldn't be on this team if Yukimura weren't --"
"I guess I'm just lucky, then," Kirihara gasps with a smirk.
Yanagi uses all of his strength pull Sanada off of Kirihara, and by then, a steady stream of blood is pouring down Kirihara's face, staining his yellow shirt. Sanada sports a cut under his left eye, and Yanagi looks at him like he's a stranger. "What would Seiichi think?" Renji hisses.
Sanada's face is expressionless as he straightens his cap. He walks calmly off of the courts.
When he reaches the bathroom, he slowly opens a stall door, and locks it quietly behind him. He hurls and hurls until all that comes out is air that tastes like acid, and unshed tears are burning in the pricks of his eyes.
He wipes his mouth with a handful of toilet paper and flushes it all down. Goes to the sink, gargles and washes his face. Goes back out.
"Fifty laps," he barks, and everyone listens.
` ` `
"Where'd you get that?" Yukumira asks, touching his fingers to the Sanada's cheek, and Sanada doesn't flinch.
"A tree branch."
Renji had already told him, but Yukimura had wanted to hear it come from Sanada's lips. Yukimura won't believe that he's making his team fall apart. He won't believe Sanada's letting that happen. I should be better/, he scolds himself, /I should be there.
Sometimes, Yukimura spends hours just remembering how things used to be. When he had been free from doctors and nurses and sterile, dead rooms, he would have said that such a pastime was a waste; now it is all that keeps him from losing hope.
He remembers playing Sanada for the first time, playing him until his hands shook, and the absolute joy of winning, and winning and being the very best. He remembers walking onto a court and everyone whispering his name under their breaths like he was a god. He remembers laughing so hard that he had been in stiches, remembers Renji and Genichirou trying to hold him up, but they had started laughing too, and they'd all fallen down. He remembers walking home with Sanada, and Sanada stopping and going quiet, and Sanada kissing him and pulling away, all blushing, stammered applogies until Yukimura had silenced him by kissing back.
When he sees Sanada now, he wants to say, /I love you/, because right now, he's scared, and this will probably be the closest he'll ever get to it anyway. He tries not to be so selfish.
Instead, Yukimura makes a dirty joke with wood innuendo, and presses his lips to the straight line of Sanada's serious ones. Sanada tastes scared. But he holds Yukimura, and for now, it's enough.
` ` `
When the team loses Kantou, Sanada doesn't want to meet Yukimura's eyes. There are no words he can give Yukimura; appologies would cheapen his sincerity. The only acceptable repayment would be the Nationals. He will win the Nations. He will win them if it kills him, and Sanada does not make declarations he does not intend to uphold.
"It was a success, Genichirou," Yanagi says softly, and the team lets Sanada go into the room alone.
Sanada smiles, and to Yukimura, it feels like victory.
` ` `
Yukimura's first day back at practice is really a party, and Sanada doesn't object only because he'd played a match with Yukimura that moning. Mauri arranges (with Jackal's help) two long tables of ice creams of over fifty different flavors in the courts, and they got some of the first year twirps to make banners. Yukimura declares he'll try a bit of all of them, and steals a lick of Sanada's peanutbutter and coffee sugar cone.
After the party's over, Mauri cleverly decides that they should take turns inhaling helium from the balloons they'd brought. Niou -- or Yagyuu -- or actually, it was probably Niou -- does a scarily accurate and non-Engrish Mickey Mouse impersonation before Kirihara grabs the balloon, and gets on his knees, waddling up to Yukimura and Sanada. "Watch out, Yukimura! I'm Echizen Ryoma and I make Sanada-fukobuchou wet the bed at night! Mada mada dane!"
Yukimura bites the back of his hand and Sanada's expression grows increasingly constipated. Renji tenses, ready to intervene, but Yukimura shakes his head -- it's not necessary.
Sanada snatches the balloon away from Kirihara and takes in a big gulp of helium. "Fifty laps!" he squeaks in a high-pitched voice.
The team laughs until their sides hurt, and they try to hold each other up, but they're all falling down.
It feels /good/.
` ` `
The night before the finals of Nationals, Yukimura picks the lock on Sanada's window and climbs through, prompting Sanada to errupt in a girlish squeal before he realizes who the intruder is. Yukimura giggles, and takes off his slippers and jumps into Sanada's bed.
"You're wet," Sanada accuses lamely. "You'll catch a cold."
"It's raining," Yukimura explains, a fey light in his eyes as he leans forward to draw Sanada into a kiss. Tonight/, he thinks, /I'll tell him that I love him.
He pulls away laughingly, and begins to crawl back out of the window. "Come on," he says, wet strands of hair curling around his pale face, "let's run in the rain."
Sanada shakes his head, smiles, and follows.