Haruichi curled under his blankets, hands pressed against his ears.

'I heard he chased his brother here.'

'Seriously? What did he think that would do?'

'Pissed Kominato-senpai off I bet. Tried to get away, but little brother had to follow. Wanting him to notice him or some shit like that.'

'Oh he noticed. Noticed how his little brother made the team lose.'

'Must suck to be his older brother. Having someone cling to you like that all the time, and having to share everything? No thanks.'

'Not to mention he only got that spot on the regulars because of his brother.'

'He's so useless. He's not even good at baseball. Wasting everyone's time trying to be like his brother.'

'We would have won last year if he hadn't been on the team. Ruined it for everyone.'

'Even his big brother blames him. I heard him say if it hadn't been for his brother, they would have won.'

'Hopefully they'll kick him off the team this year.'

'I heard that idiot Sawamura talking about how he was sick of having to deal with him. Rumor has it he and his roommate are planning on driving him out of the school if he's not kicked off the team.'

'Good riddance.'

Squeezing his eyes shut and pressing against his ears harder as the conversation replayed once more, Haruichi felt his throat tighten and eyelids burn. Swallowing the urge to cry, he slowly let go and took deep breaths, forcefully pushing the conversation away.

It couldn't be true. It couldn't. His brother wouldn't think like that. And Eijun-kun was his friend. Slowly sliding off his bed, he slapped his cheeks and slipped on his shoes. He would think about it later, but for now he had to get to dinner.

Silently standing in line, Haruichi couldn't help it as his eyes scanned his teammates, always feeling like someone was watching him but never seeing anyone staring at him. He felt jumpy, and was glad that Eijun and Furuya's attentions were on Miyuki rather than him. He didn't feel like talking to anyone.

He violently shoved back the conversation he'd heard as it started to bubble to the surface, his grip almost tight enough to break his chopsticks. Forcing himself to take deep breaths so as not to draw any attention, he continued forcing himself to eat, not hungry in the least.

He continued eating faster, sweat beginning to drip down the back of his shirt. It felt like someone was staring at him, but he didn't want to turn around and find out it was nobody again. And if someone was staring at him, he didn't want to confront them. He was afraid about what they'd said.

Ducking his head down lower, he heard snatches of the conversations going on around him, his mind twisting them into different versions of the same words he'd heard earlier. He tried to block them out, but the more he tried the more his mind pictured his brother and teammates – his friends – saying those same words.

It was his fault they'd lost. It was his fault they hadn't made it to Koshien. He was weak. He was useless. He was bringing the team down. He wasn't good at baseball, and was just a sad and pathetic copy of his older brother.

Feeling his eyes burn again and knowing he wouldn't be able to stop the tears this time, Haruichi quickly dumped the rest of his food and returned the tray, making his way outside. Heading to his room, he grabbed his bat and gloves, hurrying towards the empty space around the corner from the vending machines.

It was cold, with winter break coming up in a few days, and nobody else was practicing, but Haruichi needed to be doing something. He couldn't sit still or the voices would come back. Stretching to warm up his muscles against the cold, the second year started his swings. It was rather peaceful, with nobody else around.

It was cold, but the exercise was soon warming him up and making him sweat. Feeling his breathing begin to labor, he frowned and paused. His brother's voice floated into his mind, 'Tired already?' He grit his teeth against the mocking voice, swallowing even as his throat burned.

Gripping his bat harder, he continued to swing. His arms grew heavier with each swing, but he ignored them as he continued. Pausing only when he was drenched with sweat and couldn't feel his arms, Haruichi headed towards the vending machines for a drink and shivered as the cold night air hit his sweaty skin.

He paused at the corner as he heard voices, his chest tightening. He'd wait until they were gone and then go get something to drink. He still didn't want to talk to anybody. He squeezed his eyes shut as he recognized Eijun as one of the voices, the other who shushed him was undeniably Kuramochi.

"Are you sure about this senpai?" Eijun whispered, the two crouching next to the vending machines nearby where Haruichi was hiding.

"Of course I'm sure! Now shut it! We need to make sure nobody's following before we meet the others."

"But this seems mean."

"You don't want him here either."

"Well…yeah, but-"

"No buts! He's horrible and doesn't know what the fuck he's doing, so we're getting rid of him. End of story. Now let's move before someone hears us!"

Haruichi felt his knees buckle and hit the cold ground, mind no longer registering either the pain or the cold. He wrapped his arms around himself. So it was true. They really were trying to get rid of him. Hugging his knees to his chest, he bit his lip as hard as he could to keep silent while the tears streamed down his face.

He couldn't believe this. He'd thought Eijun was his friend, and he'd looked up to Kuramochi. Yet the two thought he was horrible and were planning on getting rid of him. Tasting blood, he wiped his face and stared at the blood on the back of his glove.

Wiping his eyes, the second baseman made his way to the payphone, slipping in the correct amount of coins and dialing the number for his older brother's phone that had been a graduation gift from their parents. Ryousuke would tell him if he was being stupid or not.

Listening to the ringing, he cleared his throat in an attempt to keep it from sounding like he was crying. 'Hello?'

"Aniki? I-"

'This isn't a good time right now Haruichi. I'm busy. Call me back later.'

Blinking as he heard the dial tone, Haruichi felt his shoulders slump and slowly hung up the phone. Going back to retrieve his bat, he headed back towards his room to put it away and gather up his bathing supplies. His roommates weren't in, as per normal, which he was thankful for.

Making his way towards the bathroom, Haruichi had never felt so alone. His teammates hated him and were planning on getting rid of him, and his brother didn't have even a few seconds to spare for him. Haruichi didn't care anymore as he let the tears fall. He never should have gone to Seidou.

Yeah...so this made me sad to write. Yes, I'm planning on continuing. I can't just leave it like this. Well, I can, but I have other plans for this story. Let me know what you thought!