Kuwata woke up mid-morning the next day still exhausted to feel a warm body curled up next to his. He blinked sleep away and half-sat up.
Sakurai's blue eyes burned into his.
Kuwata blinked again. "I'm dreaming."
"No, but I was. And it wasn't good."
"What happened?"
"I went back to school and ball and being miserable. After two weeks I jumped off of a tall chair with a short rope around my neck. Funny thing was, I managed to show up at the funeral and was looking at my own corpse when I realized you weren't there. So I went to 3-Slam and found you hanging from the hoop. Don't do something like that. Ever. I woke up scared to death." Sakurai shivered. "So I came in here to make sure I'd woken up and you were still here."
"And you decided to jump into bed with me?"
"I couldn't go back to sleep in the other room. I was worried."
Kuwata hugged him. "I won't commit suicide, I promise. Even if you leave. Now go back to sleep. I know I'm still tired." When he let go, he found himself lost in those marvelous eyes. Such a beautiful blue. "Sa- Sakurai-kun." His heart thudded in his chest.
Sakurai studied him for a moment longer, then slowly got up and went to the door. "Sorry I woke you." He left.
Suddenly Kuwata found himself out of bed and pulling Sakurai backwards into his arms. "No- don't go. I didn't mean it like that. I just thought... you..."
"I what?" A world of hurt was in Sakurai's voice. Kuwata cringed.
"You... were just... teasing me, making fun..."
"You think I would do that?"
"Sakurai!"
"What do you want from me?!"
"What do I want?" Kuwata whispered. He would never have hurt Sakurai for the world, and unknowingly he'd done it anyway. "A smile. All I want is that beautiful, happy smile. But Sakurai, I'll take anything you'll give me. Even your hatred."
"How the hell could I hate you? I've never hated you. I don't think I know how to. If nothing else you're my teammate, my friend-"
"Then the better question is, Sakurai, what do you want from me?"
The question hung in the air for the better part of an eternity as Kuwata steeled himself.
"I... I..."
So slowly Kuwata reached up and turned Sakurai's face so he could see him. A diamond tear was trickling down Sakurai's cheek. Kuwata leaned close and kissed it away. "I'm sorry," he said softly, and then, "I love you."
Sakurai just looked at him for a moment. Then he took Kuwata's hand, pulled him back into the bedroom, and jumped into bed. "Let's go back to sleep," he said with a smile. "You're still tired."
Kuwata got into bed and laid his head against Sakurai's shoulder. "I remember you saying you were going to leave at dawn."
"And then you said if you let me."
"I can't make you stay, Sakurai-kun-"
"Like hell you can't-"
Kuwata put a fingertip to Sakurai's lips. "But I can make it really difficult for you to want to leave." He removed the finger and replaced it with his own lips. "Go to sleep. We'll settle this later."
Sakurai kissed him back. "Sooner than you think."
After that provocative line, there was no way on Earth Kuwata could go back to sleep, so he watched Sakurai's breathing deepen and his lips part ever so slightly. He smoothed the long tousled hair out of Sakurai's face and removed the glasses he'd forgotten. For all his handsomeness with them, he was incredible-looking without them. A pair of contacts and a pair of jeans- for Sakurai always looked the scholar in his ever-present khakis- and no so-inclined man or woman would be able to resist him.
Kuwata smiled and shook his head. He was fantasizing when he should be sleeping. He nuzzled into Sakurai's body, closed his eyes, and fell asleep.
When he woke up he found himself alone in the bed and sat up quickly, searching. Finding no one in the room, he got up and went into the main room.
Sakurai was sitting on the window seat, wearing the slacks he'd worn the day before, but without the sweater. Kuwata stopped cold. He'd been able to joke and be playful before, when Sakurai was not only on his back but fully clothed, but now...
Kuwata stood and let his eyes move slowly over his longtime love's body. Basketball had been so good to it. Sakurai was muscular in the way most serious b-ball players were, with long thin muscles and broad shoulders. His chest was a little too skinny.
"See anything you like?" Sakurai's flippant question knocked Kuwata out of his scrutiny.
Kuwata considered a thousand replies, then shrugged. "You're too thin. Don't they feed you in college?"
Sakurai chuckled. "I ask you why you're studying me like a sculpture and you tell me I don't eat enough. Always a quick comeback."
"I'm serious. Come on, I'll make you breakfast. And you didn't ask why, you just implied it."
"Did I!" The blue-eyed man laughed and hugged Kuwata. "I never thought I'd know anyone who talked like me. 'Implied'."
Kuwata closed his eyes for just a moment. Sweet, soft skin. "I was just looking at you, to answer your question. Admiring the work of the courts."
"I'm not the best example."
"Would you stop that? You're always putting yourself down. You're damn gorgeous, Sakurai-kun. Why do you think I was standing here for so long?" Kuwata clapped a hand over his mouth.
Sakurai pulled the hand away. "If you're going to say it don't be ashamed."
"No, it isn't that. I don't mind saying you're hot. I mind that it'll probably start that little quirk of yours, the one that likes to tease me mercilessly until I say something really shocking and you shut up. Like last night."
"When was that?"
"When I told you that I'd toss you into the nearest alley and make passionate love to you."
"Oh, yeah. Different words, though."
"All amounts to sex."
"You never did it."
"You weren't serious." Kuwata untangled himself from Sakurai's loose embrace and picked up the phone. He dialed the hospital. "Yes, ma'm, I was just calling to check on two patients, Toru Naruse and Sawamura Masahiro? That's fine, ma'm, thank you."
His back was to Sakurai, so he didn't notice Sakurai sneaking up on him until that voice was breathing in his ear, "If I said it now, would you say the same thing?"
Kuwata struggled to stop the shudder that threatened to betray him. "Yes," he said in what he hoped was a normal voice. "Now you're doing it just so you can see how I'll react."
"You sure about that?"
"Sakurai, you did not just do what I think you- yes, ma'm, I'm still here."
Sakurai chuckled softly. "What if I did?"
Kuwata switched the phone to his other ear, half-hoping to smack Sakurai in the head with it, and took a few steps away. "Yes, rooms 311 and 309. I just wanted to make- ahem, excuse me. I just wanted to make sure that Naruse didn't slip back into that coma and- and Masahiro didn't do something stupid and break some other bones. No? They're both out of danger? That's great! Thank you, ma'm. Very much. Goodbye." He slammed the phone down, whirled around, pushed Sakurai into the wall a little harder than he meant to, and kissed him so hard that he split his own lip. Angry, he pushed himself away and glared at his surprised friend. "Don't ever do anything like that again or I'll do a lot worse next time." He turned and walked away.
If Kuwata hadn't loved him so much, wanted him to be serious so badly it made his heart ache, he would have thrown Sakurai out of the place.
"Kuwata," Sakurai said softly.
Pain. Please don't say I hurt you, Kuwata prayed and looked back.
"You're bleeding."
Kuwata touched his lip and looked coldly at the blood on his fingers. "Yeah. Doesn't hurt." He went into his room.
"What are you doing?" Sakurai followed him.
"I'm gonna take a shower. Then I'm going to make breakfast. After that I'm going to the hospital to visit the guys."
A pause. Then, "I'm sorry."
Kuwata leaned his forehead against the wall sighed deeply. "No, you're not. You're sorry I'm mad at you. You're not sorry that you were teasing me while I was checking on them." He grabbed a pair of jeans and moved past Sakurai, who was standing in the doorway.
Who grabbed him and kissed him with the same roughness, then shoved him back into the bedroom.
"What do I need to do to make you take me seriously?" Sakurai asked quietly. "What proof do you need, Kuwata? Or do you just want to keep believing I'll never want you?"
Kuwata stared speechlessly.
"Well?"