Three Strikes, You're Mine!
Hinata Hideki considered himself to be a pretty good player, really. He couldn't say he was professional, not yet, especially not as the child he was, but he had his dreams and that was what was important.
His laid back attitude on his playing, however, did allow for some off days.
This was one of them.
Hinata traced the baseball's trajectory with his eyes and felt his lungs creep into his throat. It was going, going, falling, falling...
"Ow!" The little girl at the crosswalk shrieked, hand instinctively going to the point of impact on her skull. She spun around so fast Hinata didn't even have it in him to think about running, hiding, or ducking for cover. The sudden absence of warmth at his side told him his practice-buddy didn't have any such problems.
The only word he could use to describe the girl he'd hit was pink. From her neon pink sandals to the very top of her head was pink. Her hair, her eyes, her tank top, her skirt, her socks. The overall picture made her look over the top girly, but Hinata met her angry eyes and saw a spirit that couldn't be tamed by the limits of her appearance.
"Did you hit that ball?" The girl shrieked at him. Her bespectacled friend beside her glared at him, looking just about ready to scold him until his head exploded, but she didn't step forward. The offended, though, looked just about ready to snap his neck and save him the trouble of a good finger-wagging, anyway.
Hinata was stuck with two choices: take responsibility for what he'd done, like Mommy said to, or deny it all the way.
When the girls' eyes locked onto the baseball bat his fingers limply clung to, he realized that his two choices were merely an illusion.
The girls enraged proclamation was cut off by the red sports car that sped down the street at a reckless, breakneck speed. Both girls lost their angered expressions, her friend's face falling short of any emotion at all, but the pink girl's expression betraying a twinge of terror.
Hinata didn't know those two girls. Those two girls didn't know him. But all three of them realized what had happened.
"If we hadn't stopped..." the pink-haired girl murmured, her back to the street, eyes wide, taking the boy before her in with a new light.
"...that could have been really bad." Hinata finished with a harsh exhale. He hadn't realized he'd been holding his breath.
The two girls' near-accident made him very aware of his heart beating, of every slow, full breath he took.
"...I suppose I should thank you."
Hinata blushed slightly. "Um, you don't have to-"
The girl in pink suddenly smirked something awful. "I said I should, but I'm not going to. That ball really hurt, you know!"
Her voice was strong, not a trace of her earlier trepidation remaining in it, but somehow, Hinata knew she was covering it up. He wasn't like his mother, couldn't read people like her, but he knew, somehow, that she was a mess of confusion beneath her exterior.
"Perhaps we should go, Yui-nyan..." her friend coaxed, gently pulling on her friend's arm. The girl in pink, Yui, for Yui-nyan couldn't seriously be her name, seemed a little hesitant before she nodded.
Before they left, however, Hinata watched Yui pick up the baseball. She examined it for a second or two before that wicked, unruly glint resurfaced in her eyes.
He may not have been able to cover for himself earlier, but he somehow managed to scrape up some sense to avoid the baseball zipping towards his face.
"That's strike one! If you get three strikes, you are mine!"
Hinata Hideki really, truly, hated his off days.
"Man, you really gotta stop doing this," his friend commented dryly. The both flinched when the baseball connected with the glass, flinched harder at the cracks that spider-webbed across its surface, and flinched hardest when the glass ultimately shattered.
Years ago he'd hit a girl with a ball. He figured his off days wouldn't be so horrific now that he had entered high school.
"Ah, crap!" Hinata screeched, throwing the bat down onto the plot of land with more force than the tool required for use.
"You hit the ball, you go get it."
Hinata really, truly, hated his friends on his off days.
He wasn't sure if the walk to the victimized house being short was a curse of a blessing. On one hand, he wouldn't have long to stew in his own guilty, fearful thoughts, but he was also cut short on time to think of a way to lessen the fury of the house's residents.
He knocked with stiff knuckles, steeled for the eruption about to overtake him.
There were footsteps behind the door. Hinata braced himself and silently said a prayer. When the door opened, Hinata cautiously looked up at the woman before him with her pink hair and pink eyes that looked almost eerily familiar.
She looked surprised to see a teenage boy at her door, and asked with curiosity and weariness in her voice, "I'm sorry, we're a little busy over here. Is there a reason you stopped by?"
Hinata would have loved to just walk away. This lady didn't realize that they were probably busy cleaning up after him, and he could walk away, free as a bird.
"What is this?"
"M-mom...um...the guys from the team gave it to me..."
"No. No! How long have you been taking this?"
"O-only a couple of times."
"You told me you weren't...Stop. Don't take them. Please don't. If you do, I'll...I'll make you quit...My baby...my baby can't..."
He refused to lie anymore. Making a grown woman cry was inexcusable, and if a simple lie had the power to bring such a strong woman to her knees, Hinata would stop.
"I'm sorry, ma'am. That's...that's probably my fault." Hinata wanted to sink into the flower-decorated welcome mat.
"It's...because of the baseball, isn't it?"
The woman's eyes grew wide and nostalgia struck him again. "Did you break our window?"
Hinata bowed deeply. "I'm so sorry! I really didn't mean it! I'm usually not so sloppy, I didn't know I'd hit your house!" The apologies spilled passed his lips with incredible speed. He almost wished he could hit a ball as fast as he could eke out embarrassed apologies.
The door opened wider. Hinata looked back up to see the woman smiling warmly at him. "I'm glad that you would come in person to apologize. What might your name be?"
"U-um, it's Hideki Hinata."
"Well, then, Hideki-kun, would you like to get your ball? Oh, and it was my daughter's window you broke, so I'm sure she'll have some things to say to you, as well."
The way she said that caused a current of fear to travel his spine, but Hinata choked it back and took a cautious step into the house, slipping out of his cleats and into a pair of guest slippers.
The woman led him to a room towards the back of the house and the first thing Hinata noticed, with a cringe, was the broken window looking out to the empty lot he often used to play at.
The second thing he noticed was a girl with pink hair, pink eyes, and just how well she blended in with the pink wallpaper.
"Yui, this is Hideki-kun. He's here to apologize for the window." When the girl looked affronted, her mother smiled. "Go easy on him, okay?"
The girl stood from her crouched position over the baseball-of-ruining-Hinata's-life and shards of glass. Her mother backed out of the room, leaving Hinata alone with her daughter.
"Yui..." he mumbled. The name and face of the girl was familiar, but he could hardly remember from where.
"You...you...you idiot! Look at my window! Look at my floor! Way to go, Captain Failure of the Failure High School Team of Failures!"
"Ah! I'm sorry! I didn't mean to, honest!"
And then Hinata remembered. He remembered a girl who seemed to be genetically all pink with a spitfire attitude. He also remembered how she could have died the day he met her.
"Um...do you want me to help you pick up?"
"Whaaaat? No way! You're an idiot, an idiot that's either just gonna stand there or leave. I can do it myself."
Could it really be her? Really?
Yui bent down again and began gingerly picking up the bigger shards and discarding them into a trash bin (pink, like the rest of the room, and adorned with stickers that matched the Girls Dead Monster posters along her walls).
"Hey...Yui-san, can I ask you a question?"
Hinata frowned. If she was going to be that way...
"Well, I think I can. It's not like I need your permission."
"Why are you still here, idiot?"
Hinata bent down next to her and removed his baseball cap. He began scooping up the smaller pieces of glass with the visor and dumping them into the bin. He'd have to remember to make sure he got all the tiny pieces out of it later. "When you were younger, did a baseball stop you from getting hit by a car?"
Hinata jumped and looked over at Yui, the girl having dropped all the shards she was holding, sticking her fingertip into her mouth. "Did you cut yourself?"
There was a pause before Yui nodded hesitantly. After another second she got up and crossed the room to a bedside table, pulling open a drawer and pulling out a box of band-aids. Hinata was surprised that the adhesive strip wasn't pink, but instead a baby blue.
"Hey...Hideki-kun, how did you know about that thing with the baseball?"
Hinata picked up his baseball and tossed it lightly at her after he saw the band-aid was applied. She caught it without preamble, but stared at him in question.
"Well, you see..."
"Oh my God!" Yui screamed suddenly. "It was you! You're the stupid punk that hit me!"
"Didn't I already apologize for that?" Hinata yelled back, consciously moving himself away from the scattered glass.
"You did not!"
Hinata felt something strike his head, hard, and for a moment he saw stars. "Ow! What was that?"
He looked down at the floor and saw his baseball rolling slightly before the carpet forced it to a stop.
Yui sneered at him, a fangy, smug expression that Hinata didn't like. "That's strike two!"
Hinata Hideki did not have any off days. Not since he joined the major leagues.
He swung the bat, warming his muscles.
"Just watch, you pink brat, I'll come out on top of every player when I get famous. And think, then you'll know a famous sports star. Maybe I'll get you free merchandise...if you're nice."
"Hinata, I'll go to your games, okay, but just know that you'll always be the stupid kid that sucks with a baseball to me."
"So mean. Even after all those years we spent trying to be friends in high school..."
"Shut up, we're not even friends! German suplex!"
"Ow! You're crazy, stop!"
"Hahaha! And Yui-nyan strikes again!"
"Enough with the Yui-nyan!"
Hinata grinned. He wondered if she would really show. Then, he wondered why it mattered.
He just knew that it did.
When he saw her out in the audience during the last inning, he noticed two things: he wasn't sure how he found her at all and that it was astounding that he did, and that any recollection of what he was doing was completely gone.
Under the gleam of the stadium lights, her hair and eyes seemed to radiate something wonderful.
"Hinata!" one of his teammates cried. He turned just in time to see the pitcher wind up.
When the ball began to soar at him, Hinata knew he had it in the bag.
He also knew he had an evil, ingenious idea.
Doing one last, quick calculation, he swung the bat.
And he ran.
Someone was suddenly shouting, "It's out of here and into the crowd! Home run!"
He smirked. "Yeah, definitely into the crowd."
He looked up just in time to see Yui rubbing her head, clutching a baseball.
When the game was long over, Hinata stood alone at the pitcher's mound, staring at the dead lights and the empty stands.
Something cracked against his skull.
He didn't have to look to know it was a baseball. He didn't have to look to know who threw it.
"Well, Yui-nyan, is that strike three? Guess that means I'm all yours."
He turned around to look at her. She looked dumbfounded for a moment, but then her eyes became suspiciously moist. Hinata knew that he hadn't done wrong, though, because she was smiling.
A/N: There, for all you YuixHinata fans. My sister likes to pair HinataxOtonashi and I'm like "WRONG." I have nothing against yaoi/shonen-ai shipping, certainly not, but after Hinata proposes to Yui, I wouldn't have it any other way.
Written listening to the first Angel Beats! OST and Survivor by DBSK.