Seven o'clock found Seiji awake and already dressed, on his way to the cafeteria to get some breakfast. After leaving Katsuro he'd been lying awake for the remainder of the night, too worried to fall asleep. It was so unlike the older boy, to have nightmares! Seiji wasn't sure why he was so unnerved – stress really did explain everything, after all. But for some unshakeable reason he couldn't ignore his concern. Maybe it was only child syndrome – Katsuro was the closest thing to a brother he had, and he kept trying to tell himself that it was only natural for him to worry about losing him.

The halls were rather quiet at the beginning of the hour, as most of the students were only just dragging themselves out of bed. Seiji wondered if he'd be the first person in the cafeteria, but as it turned out he wasn't. There was Akira, already seated with food and an open book in front of him. Seiji got in line behind a younger student he didn't recognize and contemplated what he was going to have for breakfast. There was no training today, so he was free to eat a little worse than usual.

Having decided that, he ordered a more typically American style of breakfast (with toast and sausages and eggs) instead of the usual Japanese breakfast Katsuro always used to insist he eat (because eating the greasy meat and salty eggs would clog his arteries and he wouldn't live as long). He took his tray and quickly went to join Akira, sitting opposite the boy and staring at him until Akira acknowledged him.

"Seiji, you're up early. I don't see Katsuro anywhere, so I assume you got up all by yourself?" Akira grinned and pushed his book to the side.

Seiji frowned and shot him an expression that said that he wasn't amused. "I couldn't sleep last night."

"That's why you shouldn't drink Coke before going to bed, dumb ass."

"I didn't!" iGeez, a guy makes that mistake at a training camp once and it haunts him for life!/i "I started out sleeping just fine. But then I got woken up in the middle of the night." He knew that maybe it wasn't such a good idea to tell Akira everything, but he'd told the other boy enough already that he figured maybe Katsuro wouldn't mind if he told him this too. Akira was pretty good when it came to hiding what he knew from people.

Akira studied Seiji's face, noting the distress. So, something was really bothering the younger boy then? He had a feeling that he already knew the subject of the worry, but he'd ask anyway and hope it was something else. "What woke you up?"

Seiji leaned a little closer to him over the table, as though he considered what he was about to say to be a secret. "Katsuro. He was yelling in his sleep last night, I think he had a nightmare." He sat back, looking guilty. There. He'd divulged the secret, and he hoped Akira would be smart enough to not say anything about it to Katsuro.

Akira frowned at the revelation. That was strange behaviour for the keeper. "Did he tell you what it was about?"

Seiji shook his head, looking miserable. "He wouldn't. I don't think he wants to bother me with his problems, you know how he likes to keep everything to himself. But I want him to tell me! He's always there for everyone else, you know? He needs someone there to listen to him too." Seiji felt kind of stupid saying it out loud like that, but he felt as though he needed to get it off his chest.

Akira studied the younger boy for a moment, feeling a little worried about him. Obviously Seiji was really bothered, because he hadn't even touched his food yet, instead needing to talk about their friend first. "Look, Seiji, you can't make someone tell you their problems. If he doesn't want to tell you, don't try and force it. And stop worrying about him so much. It's not good for you."

Seiji looked affronted. "What's that supposed to mean?"

Akira grinned and pointed at his plate. "I know how much you love sausages, and you haven't touched them yet. When something gets in between you and your food, I know it's really serious for you. It's fine that you're worried about him, but he'll be okay. He's probably just really stressed out about school, and probably worried to death about his sister. I'd probably be having nightmares too if I was dealing with everything he's dealing with."

Seiji frowned and looked slightly embarrassed. "You've got a point, I guess. I just can't help but worry, I don't know why."

Akira gave him an amused smirk. "It's because this whole thing is throwing your usual schedule off. You're the one waking up early now, while he's the one sleeping in. You can't slack off anymore."

Seiji smiled a little. Maybe that was a tiny little part of it, but he knew it was more serious than that. "I'm just worried about him not being able to cope with everything. I don't want him to have to leave school."

Akira smiled, understanding a little better now even though Seiji had barely said anything. "I understand, Seiji. I should have known, he's more like an older brother to you than just a friend. You're worried about losing him; that's really cute." He couldn't help but get a last little dig in at him.

Seiji frowned before picking up a sausage and shoving it in his mouth, whole. He chewed for a moment before speaking (though his mouth was still half full). "It's not cute! Don't make fun of me." He picked up a piece of toast and took a bite out of it. Now that he'd gotten his concern off his chest, his appetite had hit him full force.

Akira grinned and sat back in his chair. "Couldn't help it, you really left yourself open for it. Honestly, though, it is a sign of true friendship and loyalty for you to be so worried. But you don't have to be, I'm sure he tells you that."

"A few times a day," Seiji admitted, still with a full mouth.

"See? If you're that worried, talk to coach Kirihara, I know he's helping him out. Maybe he'll be able to talk to Katsuro and figure out if something more serious is bothering him." Akira pulled his book back in front of him and took a sip of his orange juice.

Seiji didn't respond, instead he sat quietly, eating and considering what Akira had said. Maybe he should talk to Kirihara. He'd never quite had the bond with the older man that Katsuro had shared, but he hadn't exactly been as intimidated by him as everyone else had been either.

Forty minutes later, Seiji was just in the middle of trying to balance a tray full of food and open the door to Katsuro's room when it opened itself. Well, not by itself really, because Katsuro was standing there behind it, a look of slight shock on his face when he saw Seiji with the food.

"Seiji, you didn't have to bring me breakfast again." The older boy frowned a little. Was Seiji really that worried about him?

Seiji broke out in a wide grin, pushing past his friend into the room. "Oh, it's okay! I was awake early this morning, even without having to set an alarm! I think this early morning thing is starting to rub off on me." He set the tray down on the table and sat down on Katsuro's bed. "I sat with Akira and had a big breakfast, and since you hadn't shown up yet I thought I'd bring you some food. Save you time, you know. Breakfast is very important after all!"

Katsuro couldn't help but grin – this new responsible Seiji was such a change, but he was also still just as entertaining as irresponsible Seiji had been. "Well thank you. I just don't want you to inconvenience yourself, that's all." He went over to his desk, sitting down and looking over the food. Natto, miso soup, a sweet bun, an apple, and milk. At least Seiji wasn't trying to feed him bacon and sausages.

"Oh, helping you out isn't an inconvenience! Even if it was, you probably inconvenienced yourself enough times over the past three years with me. This is the least I could do to make up for it now." He grinned and leaned back against the wall. He wanted to bring up the night before, but so far things were so light and cheery this morning that he worried about bothering Katsuro. Still, he wanted to know if his friend had managed to get back to sleep last night, and if so, if he'd been able to sleep well.

Katsuro started eating, but kept his eyes on his friend. Though Seiji was still smiling, he did look a little bothered. He knew the younger boy well enough to understand his facial expressions, after all. "Something on your mind, Seiji?"

Not having expected the question, Seiji looked over at him, wondering if he really did look bothered enough for Katsuro to tell. He frowned a little, feeling guilty now even though he hadn't said anything yet. He wanted to deny it and launch into some funny story about training to keep Katsuro entertained while he ate, but he couldn't. "Well, I don't really want to bring it up again, but did you manage to get back to sleep last night?"

Katsuro had been expecting the question, and was surprised it had taken Seiji this long to bring it up. "I did, I actually managed to sleep pretty well. I know you're worried about me, Seiji, but you don't have to be. I'm okay."

Seiji smiled, wishing he could accept that. "I know, Akira was telling me I worry about you too much, actually."

Katsuro smiled and sipped at his soup. "You should listen to him, Seiji. He's right." Seiji frowned and was about to speak up when the older boy cut him off. "However, I do really appreciate your concern. It's nice to know that someone out there really cares about you." Katsuro went back to eating then, and Seiji couldn't help but smile. Even if everyone told him to stop worrying, he still would. As long as Katsuro took some level of comfort from it, that was really all that mattered.

hr

"So how did it go last night with you and Kojima? Please tell me you at least kissed her, right?" Shige ventured into the kitchen, not yet dressed and running fingers through his hair. By the time he'd gotten in last night Tatsuya had already been back and in bed. He wasn't sure if it was because his friend had been tired, or if it was because the date had gone badly.

Tatsuya looked up from his breakfast, his eyes taking in his friend and frowning. "Where did you go last night?" He'd been surprised to come home and find the house empty except for his mother.

"Oh, I was just out and about, nothing too exciting." He settled down onto the chair across from Tatsuya, putting his feet up on another chair. When all he got in response was a glare, he grinned. "Alright fine, I figured if you could go out on a date, then so could I."

Tatsuya looked surprised, as though that had been the last thing he'd expected to hear. "You had a date? With who?"

Shige put his hands behind his head and linked his fingers together, a smug smirk on his lips. "Maiko."

Tatsuya had taken a mouthful of orange juice and nearly spit it out upon hearing the name. "You're joking, right?" He hoped Shige was joking.

"Nope, we went out. She even ditched her friends for me, Tatsu-bon. I think she likes me," after last night he had no doubt that she liked him.

"Really? Why does that idea really unnerve me?"

"Oh come on! She's not that bad. She's hot, and she's quite funny. She also doesn't take shit from anyone-"

"She's like a female version of you, that's what's wrong!" Tatsuya couldn't keep it in any longer.

Shige laughed at the comment. "You say that like it's a bad thing, Tatsu-bon. Don't you like me?"

Tatsuya glared at him and crossed his arms over his chest. "That has nothing to do with anything! One of you is all the world needs."

Shige didn't answer right away, instead choosing to watch his friend with an amused expression. While he hadn't been expecting Tatsuya to be overjoyed at the news of his date, he was a little confused as to why he was so bothered by it. But that wasn't the most important thing on his mind at the moment. "So you never answered my question. How was your date with Kojima? Are you acting all bothered right now because it went bad?"

Tatsuya shot him another glare. "No it didn't go bad! It actually went really well." In reality when he'd made it home last night, he'd chosen to not wait up for Shige because he hadn't wanted to tell him about it yet. He wasn't sure if Shige would tease him about it, and he'd wanted to go to sleep happy.

"You kissed her, right?" Shige's smirk softened into a smile. He'd been fairly certain last night that the date was going to go alright. He'd been reading the flirting going on between the two for the past few weeks and was pleased that it finally seemed to be turning into something more.

Tatsuya picked up his glass of orange juice and took a sip from it, debating how much he wanted to tell Shige. Maybe he'd just take it bit by bit. "I followed your advice and took her out for dinner after the game."

Shige smiled and had a feeling that he'd have to hear the whole story before getting any answers he was truly interested in. "See, I told you it was a good idea. Where did you guys go?"

"We found an Italian place near the university. It was really nice, actually."

Shige refrained from making the teasing comments he wanted to make, knowing that they would make Tatsuya shut off and not tell him anything else. It was tough, but his curiosity won out. "Did you walk her home afterwards?" He could, however, try to speed things up.

Tatsuya nodded and took another sip of his drink. It looked like Shige was actually trying to listen seriously about this, which was so uncharacteristic of him. Maybe he would tell him everything, then. "I did, she held my hand the whole way there too. Actually as soon as I asked her to dinner she grabbed it." He felt kind of lame admitting it, but in the end it was important to him, and he hoped Shige would realize that.

"That's cute," was all that Shige trusted himself to say at the moment. What he really wanted to do was make retching noises and pretend to be sick. But he felt that he ought to respect what was obviously important to his friend at the moment. He'd have plenty of time to make fun of his new relationship over the coming weeks.

"So we walked all the way back to her house, and to answer your question, yes we did kiss."

"On the cheek or the lips?" Shige could only contain so much before he had to make a joke of some sort.

Normally Tatsuya would have glared at him for the comment, but the memory of last night kept him from doing that. "Well, both."

"Let me guess," Shige sat up then, leaning over the table, "you kissed her on the cheek, and then she grabbed you and kissed you on the lips before suddenly running into her house. Am I right?" The look on his friend's face was all the confirmation he needed to know that he was right. "You two are totally something out of a movie."

Tatsuya ignored the comment. He couldn't be mad at Shige – he'd tried to be serious about it, after all. This was just the way he normally was. "So how did your date go with Maiko?" He decided to change the topic.

Shige grinned and shrugged. "It went very well, thanks for asking." He knew Tatsuya had only asked in order to get the focus off of him.

"And did you kiss her?" Tatsuya figured that if Shige could ask him, then he could pay his friend the same back.

"Of course. Apparently she's had a thing for me since last year, did you know that? She never said anything though because I hung around Kojima too much! But since they're friends now, she decided that she could talk to me. Girls are so weird about those things."

Tatsuya grinned and had to agree. "Yeah well, I guess it's a good thing now that they're kind of friends."

Shige nodded. "No kidding. Hey, we should go on a double date some time! I'm sure the girls would love it." He actually didn't think that was true – while he knew that he and Maiko would have fun, he felt that Tatsuya and Kojima would probably not enjoy it quite as much. But he also knew that they were both too nice to turn down the offer.

Tatsuya frowned, unsure about the idea at first. This had the possibly to go very badly. "Uh, we'll see, it might be a good idea."

Shige grinned and decided that as soon as he saw Maiko this morning, he would make the suggestion and have her set something up. She was much better at planning things out than he was. "Wonderful, it's a date, then!"