... The last few weeks had been very difficult for me. And yet all of you had taken the time to review and message me to tell me such kind and encouraging words. Thank you. Without you the situation would have probably become much worse, and it was through your advice that I managed to gather my courage and confront my problems.
This is a direct result of my emotions and feeling at that time, and also my gratitude for you all who had stuck with me, some from the very beginning, and others who have come to support me along the way. I tried my absolute best to write this, I'm sorry if it's not as good as others, but my feelings are genuine. There are no words to say how thankful I am for all of you, but please believe me when I say that my gratitude is sincere and heartfelt.
This oneshot is very long and Pre-Alpha, and there would be a sort of sequel to this. It would be a parallel somewhat to what had happened, and is eventual result. Yukimura would be very OOC, since this is written similar to what I've experienced, but still, please read through it.
Warnings and Disclaimers are the same as always.
"There is a 97% chance of the weather being unfavourable for morning practice tomorrow."
It was Yanagi's words that made Yukimura pause in his dressing, his hand staying perfectly still for one short moment before resuming its previous action on buttoning up his shirt. "Unfavourable how?" He asked lightly, casual. He already had an idea on what the brunet was trying to say, but he still wanted to hear it, nevertheless. He resumed his actions, seemingly on autopilot, but intent on the words that he knew was going to be said next.
"... There's going to be a thunderstorm tomorrow." Yanagi was finally compelled to say, looking at the captain carefully, gauging his reaction. Yukimura seemed to accept it as it was, nodding, putting the final touches to his school uniform, face so carefully blank that it was somewhat worrying. The data master already knew that it would one of the reactions from the many he had predicted, and this reaction...
This reaction was the one that he dreaded most of all.
"Will practice be directly interrupted?" Yukimura asked, tone still the same as before, but his eyes had flickered towards the rest of his teammates, who were both dressing and letting off some excess energy at the same time. He put his blazer on, adjusting his tie, looking at his reflection in the small mirror in his locker. He looked the same as always, though, if one looked more closely, his face was a shade paler than usual. "What time?"
"In estimate, no. The thunderstorm will come around the time when we are finishing up practice and most likely it will last throughout the morning." And Yanagi, as always, was able to note the difference. His face changed into once of concern. "Should we cancel practice tomorrow?"
"No. Continue with practice as usual," placing his uniform in his tennis bag properly, Yukimura zipped it up and slung it over his shoulders, which were straighter, squarer now, unnaturally ramrod stiff. "If it's not going to interrupt directly during that time. We can't afford to lose a day."
Yanagi frowned at this. "But Seiichi–"
"I'll be fine, Renji." Yukimura closed his locker door with a sharp snap, slamming it a bit harder than usual. A quick look told him that the others hadn't noticed, and he turned back to his best friend, smiling apologetically, knowing that he had snapped a bit. "I'm sorry, but I'll be all right. Really."
Yanagi placed a hand on the captain's shoulder, following his gaze to the others, before centring back on the blue-haired teen. "... You know that they are not going to think of you any less even if they find out." He said gently, nodding towards the rest of their team.
"I know, Renji." Yukimura touched the hand, squeezing it reassuringly. Soft, blue orbs lingered on one person, who had come just in time to break up the party, holding both Akaya and Marui by the scruff of their necks and threatening to make both of them run laps until nightfall if they didn't stop. "But still, I don't want to stop practice on my account. Please."
"... All right." Yanagi finally conceded, letting his hand fall, but the worried look in his half-opened eyes never disappeared.
"And I'm sorry; Genichirou and I won't be able to join morning practice tomorrow. The Student Council has arranged an emergency meeting and all of the committee heads are obliged to attend it."
"So I'll be running the whole club alone tomorrow?" Yukimura accepted the explanation graciously, forcefully pushing down the feeling of uncertainty welling up in him, knowing that it was a completely legitimate and excusable reason. It was, after all, due to Yanagi's actions that the tennis club had the budget that it had right now. That, and they were producing satisfying results. "Anything else?"
In one short moment, Yanagi's eyes opened fully, darting from the captain's face to another person just coming up behind them, before closing again, patting Yukimura's shoulder once more. "... Just don't be alone tomorrow." And Yanagi as loudly announced his early departure, prompting their youngest to dress back in his school uniform in five seconds flat so they could walk home together, the brunet passed by a certain teenager, who, after seeing his two closest friends talking closely and rather seriously, decided to include himself in the conversation.
"What was that about, Yukimura?" Sanada Genichirou's brown gaze followed the data master, before turning back to the captain, voice gruff, but with a layer on concern. "Is there anything wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong, Sanada." Yukimura answered easily, a little too quickly, adjusting his hold over his tennis bag, seeing that the vice-captain was already dressed and ready to leave. "He just told me that both of you won't be coming in to morning practice tomorrow." After making sure that his locker was shut tightly, he turned to the raven and nodded. "Shall we go now, Sanada?" Yukimura asked, smiling.
As they also said their goodbyes and walked home together, the raven-haired teenager didn't notice the light tremble in the long but thin fingers, the paler shade of the captain's skin, nor the unnatural brightness of those blue-coloured orbs.
The next day was not looking good for any type of outdoor activity. Swirling grey clouds loomed overhead, turbulent, almost violent, sweeping over the heavens, the sky's death God. The threat of a storm approached, creeping closer, overtaking the whole Southern Kanagawa region.
In Rikkai, the tennis club members looked up worriedly, but nevertheless continued with morning practice, having a strict protocol about suspension of training unless the weather actually turned for the worse. Their captain was alone today, they noted, seeing him in the middle of the courts, directing and maintaining order, as always. They didn't dare slack off even if their vice-captain wasn't present; their captain was just as strict, and thought of more creative punishments than the usual slap and laps usually given. There was once a time that the whole club had to walk around the courts with only their underwear on because of an unsatisfactory practice, and it was something that went down as legendary in Rikkai's school history. Yukimura Seiichi could handle the club perfectly by himself, seemingly having eyes everywhere, and most of them wondered why he had a vice-captain in the first place if everything could be run smoothly by his lone efforts.
But that morning, most of them noticed something... off about the captain. It wasn't something that you would see at once, but when one looked more closely, the captain seemed to be... less serene than usual. It was subtle, but he seemed to be more easily startled, as well as distracted. He looked at his watch more often than not, his voice taking on a soft, but audible strain and somewhat higher pitched. He was steadily getting restless, always walking from one court to another and seemed to snap at completely random times.
The regulars were watching him with some wariness and growing concern. They noticed the peculiarity much earlier than the other members did, and as it steadily grew worse, culminating with a second-year completely losing his senses when he lost his match, they thought it better to interfere, stopping in their various activities to stare at Yukimura worriedly.
"Hey, Yukimura." Jackal was the least likely person Yukimura would be hostile to, and so he was unanimously voted by the rest to ask and see what was going on. "Are you all right?" And as he lightly touched the captain's shoulder Yukimura suddenly jerked away, his head whipping quickly to the side, back taut and tense as his eyes gradually registered the person who touched him.
"Hm? Oh, Jackal." Yukimura sounded a bit breathless, smiling a little, brittle and somewhat forced in the Brazilian player's point of view. "I'm all right. I'm just a bit uneasy about the weather." His head edged to the side almost imperceptibly, as if waiting for something and bracing himself on instinct. He was breathing slowly, a little too deeply, as if trying to control the air that passed through his lungs. His explanation completely stood to reason, but the Brazilian player couldn't help but feel that there was something more that his friend wasn't telling him.
"Are you sure? If you're that worried then we could always cancel and make it up another day." Yukimura wasn't behaving normally, and it both baffled and concerned him. The captain never showed anything like this as far as he could remember. Even when Yukimura was hospitalized he had never been in this jumpy, almost paranoid state, as if he was–
"No, there's no need." Yukimura's surprisingly sharp voice cut through his voice like a knife. "Practice is almost over anyway, and it's good training to play in any kind of condition, just in case it happens in an official tournament." Seeing the other teen's stunned expression he visibly softened, now aware that he had once again taken out his anger on unsuspecting people. "I'm sorry. Just that..." He raised his hand to grasp the jacket that rested on his shoulders, squeezing, fingers now visibly shaking as he struggled for control. "I'm not feeling my best today."
"Yukimura–" Jackal was cut off with a short flash of light from the sky and he looked up, the wind starting to pick up speed as thunderclouds steadily neared. He didn't see Yukimura's reaction as he did; the already white-coloured skin turned a shade paler, and the captain's face visibly blanched for a moment, before once again returning to its unsure, uneasy expression.
"This is bad. The rain's going to fall soon. We should pack up." Jackal squinted against the sky before turning back to the other teen. "We should–"
"Everyone! Practice will be cut short today! I want everything cleared in ten minutes!" Yukimura's louder than usual voice carried over to the whole courts, now with a slight tremble that could be clearly heard. "Clean up immediately! We don't want to be caught up in the storm!" He waited for the rest to start working before going to the clubroom, moving with a speed that were a few shy steps from being a complete run. The rest quickly followed while others finished their designated jobs with almost frightening speed. The courts had been cleared up, nets puts down and tennis balls accounted for, and all the members shuffled back to the club room to change quickly and go inside the school building before the rain starts.
Yukimura just barely managed to enter the clubroom without drawing too much attention to himself, face a sickly white, cold sweat dripping from his forehead. He collapsed along the lockers, his heart racing, chest being squeezed tighter than a barrel drum. Calm down, he told himself continuously, glad that the room was bright, trying to gain control of his erratic emotions. He could feel it starting, that familiar, sickening feeling in his stomach that made his intestines turn and his head swim in circles. He braced himself against the metal, forcing his thoughts to go through some rational ideas, anything to distract and push away the rising feelings that he knew were about to overflow.
Not here. Not now. Especially not in front of his whole team.
Calm down, calm down, calm down, nothing had happened yet, everything was all right... the words repeated themselves in his mind like a mantra, and eventually the light-headedness ebbed away, just in time for the clean up to be finished and the members to trickle into the room to shower and change back into their school uniforms. The regulars entered first, too distracted about their captain's current condition when they saw him practically run away from the tennis courts.
"Yukimura-kun, are you sure that you're feeling all right?" Yagyuu touched the captain's arm, his expression hidden by his glasses, but the captain knew him enough that behind those opaque lenses were sharp brown eyes narrowed down at him in concern. "Shall I accompany you to the nurse's office? You look pale..."
"I feel much better now, Yagyuu. I'm all right." He nodded jerkily, taking a few breaths to quickly compose himself. He could hear the steady buzz of conversation in the room, filled with students, the familiar, usual habits settling him down into a more relatively calm state.
He managed a small smile. He knew that Niou was scrutinizing him, and Akaya and Marui were glancing at him at the corner of their eyes. It was better if he established his stability right now, so they wouldn't look into it so much, his concern for his friends taking the front seat in his mind. "I wasn't able to sleep very well last night." The one thing he learned was that it was for the best if you say things that were a close, but not the complete, truth. He wasn't telling the truth, but at the same time, he wasn't completely lying either. He was much more successful in convincing his friends with half-baked truths than blatant lies, which they seemed to know, and telling them the real reason was completely out of the question.
"Buchou, we'll be leaving now! Thanks for the hard work!" And slowly the members dwindled out, saying their goodbyes, until only the regulars were the ones left. The regulars were almost always the last to leave, double checking the equipment and making sure that everything was in place before going off to their classes.
"Ah! The weather looks horrible!" Marui peeked out from the window, seeing the heavy and gray cumulus clouds settle, converge, diverge, a turbulence of heavenly waves. "It's going to rain soon, and we have to get inside the school or we'll get drenched."
"You all go ahead," Yukimura murmured, still not done checking everything, too preoccupied to think through his words. He still had to lock up, and he was used to being alone in the clubroom at times because of it. It wouldn't do good for his team to catch cold right now, since they were training for a tournament. "I'll catch up with you."
"But buchou, you're not even dressed yet!" Akaya protested, waving a hand towards the older teen, who was still dressed in his tennis jersey. "You're not feeling well too! We can't just leave you here!"
Yukimura smiled, patting Akaya's head in passing as he deemed everything was in order and went to his locker to finally change. "Still you should go. The rain will fall soon and you shouldn't get caught up in it. There's an umbrella here, so I'll be able to catch up. So hurry, before the rain comes."
"Sure you'll be okay, Yukimura?" Niou's hand was already on the knob, looking back at the captain one more time. He had wanted to protest initially, but Yukimura's tone had taken on that stubborn and determined edge; he knew that it was going to be an argument he would lose. "We'll go then first."
"Yes, I'll see you all in class later." Yukimura smiled and nodded them off. "Now go."
"Then catch up to us, okay?" One by one they left, until finally the door was slammed shut. And as the silence grew longer and heavier, Yukimura seemed to realize what he had done. He was completely alone. There were no voices, completely devoid of sound, other than the howling of the wind outside and his own careful breathing, which seemed to spike up erratically as the large clubroom suddenly seemed so small, suffocating.
A flash of light outside. Yukimura stiffened; his shadow illuminated against the lockers as a jagged streak of lightning tore the sky apart, followed by a rumbling crash of thunder. The four walls were slowly closing in on him as that horribly familiar sensation slowly sunk into his bones the same time the rain had started to fall, growing in intensity as the rain pounded harder on the rooftop.
He was starting to feel dizzy. Yukimura clutched his tightening chest as his breath shuddered and his skin was doused in cold sweat, pressing his damp palms against the handle of his locker door, hands shaking violently as it tried to open the latch again and again without any results. He was starting to hyperventilate, as the tendrils of fear snaked through his limbs, immobilizing him, finally catching hold of his palpitating heart and gripping it like a vice.
He had to dress and lock the clubroom. He had to get out, right now, or he'll be late for his first class. But it seemed that his body didn't want to obey his shrieking mind, the blood pounding in his ears as he struggled to get his anxiety under control, looking around wildly, blue eyes glazing as the lights overhead started to flicker.
He gasped as a sharp crack pierced his senses, finding himself submerged in deep darkness as his tennis jacket finally crumbled to the tiled floor.
"Whew! That was close!" Akaya staggered into the building just as the downpour became worse. His clothes and hair were slightly damp, it had already been drizzling when they left the clubroom and it steadily fell harder until it became a rainstorm, the heavens pouring out its grief into the world. "We made it!"
"Yeah well, lucky for you." Marui was grumbling, hopping on one foot in an effort to take off his other shoe, which was completely soaked through. "My mom's gonna kill me for this..."
"We should all hurry," Yagyuu took a quick glance at the clock on the wall, "Or we're going to be late."
Slowly they trudged up the stairs, to the bridge that connected the various buildings together, Akaya saying his goodbyes first before following on to the second year floor level. And just as the rest managed to get on their floor they were greeted by Yanagi and Sanada, who were just coming out of the student council room.
Sanada took one quick look at the weather outside, seeing the rain splattered on the closed windows, and, as if to confirm his suspicions, a streak of light zigzagged across the sky. Brows immediately furrowed down and twin mocha brown orbs were quick to shoot Yanagi a sharp look, one that the other teen acknowledged with a small, quick nod. All of this was done in a span of a second, the interaction so fast-paced that their friends scarcely noticed it when they became close enough to talk to.
"How was practice today? Were you caught up in the rain?" Yanagi asked pleasantly despite the weather being his tone's complete opposite.
"We cut it pretty close. It started the moment we finished everything." Niou shrugged, the only one who saw the blink-on-an-eye exchange. It intrigued him, especially now that Sanada's eyes were roaming over his recently arrived teammates, looking for a familiar face among them.
"Oh, he's–" Marui looked behind him, only to see no one with blue-coloured hair going up after them. "That's strange..." He said, frowning. The recently arrived members followed the turn of his head and even looked over the staircase railing to make sure, and sure enough there was no blue head coming up the stairs. "He said that he would be following afterwards..."
Even in his still light tone, for the first time, an edge of uneasiness crossed Yanagi's features. "What is?" Sanada's eyes narrowed down considerably, looking from one face to another. The vice-captain was suddenly filled with a fresh sense of dread, amplified by the terrible weather, and he swallowed thickly, not letting his initial suspicions get to him.
The four Rikkai regulars exchanged looks, as if asking each other what they should say, what was important enough to be discussed. The last thing they wanted was to worry Yanagi, especially Sanada, since it concerned Yukimura directly. They all knew from experience how much their vice-captain could be so overprotective of his childhood, best friend. But Yukimura was clearly not at his best, and all of them reached a general consensus to tell each other everything when it concerned their captain's health.
"Yukimura's acting strange during practice." Jackal was the first to speak aloud, deciding that the truth was important in this situation. "He was more restless and more demanding that usual, and his voice was clearly strained."
"But he was okay afterwards, though," Marui was quick to add when the vice-captain's face darkened at the Brazilian player's words. "He said that he wasn't able to sleep very well and he felt tired."
"We had wanted to accompany him to the nurse's office at first." Yagyuu frowned, not liking the situation. There was something hovering in the air, a palpable tension that seemed to thicken as they continued to narrate what happened. "But he insisted that he was fine and was moving quite normally at that time."
"Then he waved us off when it was time to lock up, saying that he can do it alone." Niou picked up where his doubles partner left, still trying to analyze the other two's body language. "We didn't want to leave him alone, but you know how he gets. The rain was starting to fall, so we left him in the clubroom alone–"
And just like that, the tension seemed to snap in two as Sanada whiplashed his head to look at Niou sharply. "You WHAT." It was said in a harsh, clearly demanding tone, making the others flinch and unconsciously wanting to take a step back. Sanada had never sounded this outraged, even when they lost their matches. It was somewhat frightening.
"Like I said," Niou raised a hand to ruffle his hair in slight irritation, not knowing the reason why Sanada was making him repeat himself for no apparent reason. "Yukimura is probably still in the clubroom right now–hey!" Niou's shoulder was suddenly gripped and shoved back, causing him to lose balance as a dark blur went past him.
"Hey Sanada! Where are you–ow!" Marui found himself roughly pushed aside, and he had to clutch at the railing for dear life to prevent himself from toppling over when Sanada forced his way through and almost ran down the stairs, his heavy, hurried footsteps competing against the sound of the rain. "Sanada!" His cry fell on deaf ears as the vice-captain continued his decent, the dark head gradually getting smaller until it finally moved out of sight, and all of them had a good guess on where he was going.
"What's going on...!" Yagyuu had caught Niou in time, holding him steady as the Trickster remained nonplussed, staring after the direction the vice-captain had run to. Jackal had quickly pulled Marui back into safer grounds, pulling him over the railing, the redhead looking two beats away from a complete heart attack. "What's gotten into Sanada?"
"... There's something you're not telling us, Yanagi-kun." Yagyuu edged his head towards the taller brunet, who moved to the window the same time Sanada had left, and was now watching a shadowy form burst out from the floors below and charged through the rain. "And I would like an explanation."
Yanagi moved his now completely opened gaze to rest calmly on his teammates, a corner of his eyes still watching the figure move farther away. The rest looked back at him expectantly, though now they noticed that Yanagi's expression looked to be more serious than ever, and his opened eyes further amplified the intimidating effect.
A jolt of lightning illuminated his face for a short moment, making golden brown orbs flash momentarily in the white light.
Sanada struggled through the rain, fighting against the wind and the downpour. He immediately became drenched, the cold seeping into fabric and eventually skin, even with the minimal cover his already soaked blazer gave him. It fell down in thick, grey sheets, and he could barely see what was in front of him. It was only through his body's sheer familiarity around the school campus that he managed to find the tennis courts, and managed not to slam face first in the chain link fence. He went down the slopes to the clubroom not too far from where the courts were and the wind seemed to roar stronger, almost cutting itself into his skin, the thunder above cracking sharper than a whip.
Sanada gritted his teeth in complete defiance. He'll be damned before he lost against the weather.
Raising his arms higher, the blazer flapped recklessly over his head, and he was almost tempted to throw it away completely; he was already wet either way. But nevertheless, he finally arrived at the small building, slamming his palms against the door, short of breath and starting to feel the chill sinking underneath his flesh. He fumbled for the doorknob, finding it unlocked, and threw it open, almost stumbling into the room in his haste.
"Yukimura!" He shouted into the darkened room. What answered him was another flash of lightning, thunder following quick seconds after. The lights were completely out, the clubroom wasn't connected to the main buildings' generators. Willing his eyes to adjust quickly he looked for any sign of his captain's presence, but the lockers stood silent, the equipment laid untouched, with no sign of another person in the room.
This was bad. In Yukimura's condition, the clubroom was the absolute worse place to be in. Sanada barely stopped himself from jumping when a particular loud crash sounded above him. And if he was already this shaken, he could only imagine how Yukimura felt. He had to find Yukimura, quickly, or else–!
And then he heard it, almost inaudible compared to the thundering outside. A small, restrained scuffle, and a dull thud against something metallic, coming from the other end of the room. It was so faint that Sanada had to make sure that it was definitely there before moving, his own footsteps as loud as the blood pumping through his ears, his breath coming out on large, heavy pants.
He passed by the row of lockers, quickly darting his gaze through every gap, until he reached the very end, where he saw a pair of limbs peeking out from the edge. Sanada broke off in a run, finally founding what he was looking for, and the sight was enough to make his chest wrench tightly in almost physical pain.
"... Seiichi is deathly afraid of thunder and lightning."
"... Seriously?" Niou finally asked in disbelief when Yanagi spoke out. Of all the things they've expected the brunet to say, they didn't think that it was actually something like that. However, the explanation did make perfect sense, if they looked back on the captain's earlier behaviour today.
"He's had it for as long as he could remember." Yanagi said softly, finally tearing his gaze away from his teammates to the window outside, watching the rain slide down the glass in small droplets. "Seiichi has been trying his best to get over this phobia, with no successful result."
"But why doesn't Yukimura-kun act that way during classes? Or during after practices?"
"That's because Seiichi stays calmer if he's in the presence of other people and he's in a brightly lit room." Yanagi explained. "If he was left alone he would start panicking and hyperventilating. At the worst... completely catatonic." Yanagi tried his best not to remember that time he discovered the captain's deepest fear. It was the most heart-stopping moment in his life, and it was only through Sanada's help and intervention that they managed to bring the other teen back to normal at all. "That's the reason why we can't leave him alone, especially in weather like this. He would never admit something like that to you. He didn't want your pity or trouble you in anyway. He saw his phobia as a weakness, and treated it as such."
But before any of them could digest those words the morning bell finally rung, signalling the start of class. And as various students went back to their own classrooms, Yanagi turned to the bespectacled brunet, stopping him momentarily.
"Yagyuu, please tell the teacher that Genichirou wouldn't be coming to class... for half a day, at least." He requested, taking another look at the sky outside. "If asked, he's in the clinic because he wasn't feeling well. I'll take care of the rest." As a part of the Student Council Yanagi was well acquainted with the school staff, and wasn't beneath pulling a few strings for his friends. And he was sure that the both of them would appreciate the gesture.
"Will they be all right, Yanagi?" Jackal just had to ask before they were called in, the homeroom teachers coming out of the lounge to meet their classes.
At that, Yanagi cracked a small smile, patting the Brazilian's shoulder in assurance.
"If it's Genichirou, then I'm sure that Seiichi would be just fine. 100 percent."
Yukimura was almost digging himself into the lockers, back hunched and curling in on himself, body breaking out on almost violent tremors. His head was bowed, buried in his knees, his hands clutching at his head, with fingers holding his ears so tightly that they're almost pulling on it. But what tore Sanada's heart apart the most was the quiet, almost indistinguishable heaves of his shoulders, the quick quakes of his chest, and the soft, suppressed gasps of breath that told more than words ever could.
"Yukimura!" He knelt down, clutching at the bare arms pimpled in gooseflesh, and hissed as it was only a few degrees warmer than his own. He gently pried off the shaking fingers with utmost care, holding Yukimura's hands in his own and making him look up, calling out in a firmer voice. "Yukimura!"
Sanada had started to feel helpless when the other seemingly wasn't able to hear him, the blue-black strands fanning over the crossed arms, messy and unkempt. Yukimura was completely lost in his own world and Sanada was quickly losing him, not knowing how to bring him back to them. Desperation creeping up inside him, Sanada did the first thing that came to mind, squeezing the smaller, softer hand in his own and spoke again, voice laced with a tinge of pleading and despair.
And just like that, the midnight-blue head tilted up, as Yukimura raised his face to meet his stare slowly. His headband was lopsided and his lips were parted open, visibly shaking as it struggled to contain its trembling exhales. Iridescent blue orbs were wide open, startled and surprised, now swollen and reddened at the edges.
And Sanada saw, with a jarring blow, the clear, pearly tears clinging to the long, curled eyelashes, edges filled to the brim, and threatening to overflow.
"S-Sanada...?" Yukimura finally asked in a small, broken voice, as if not believing what he was seeing at first.
Sanada made to answer but was quickly interrupted by the lightning and thunder, sharp and crackling, appearing so suddenly that both of them didn't know what to think. Hearing it so clearly now, Yukimura wasn't able to stop the short scream that rose to this throat, yanking his hands away from Sanada's grip to cover his ears again. Eyes squeezed themselves shut, the tears finally flowing down his cheeks, voice hitching and finally breaking down into a quiet whimper, followed by barely suppressed sobs. "Hnnng...! Haah...! Haa..!"
The captain was barely holding himself together, and it filled Sanada with such heart-wrenching agony, seeing Yukimura look so lost, so afraid, so vulnerable. Yukimura seemed so small right now, a little boy looking for help with nowhere to run to, and it instantly filled him with an irrational anger. But more than that, the feeling of protectiveness welled up in him, the urge to protect Yukimura from everything that threatened to hurt him or made him cry, so strong and tangible that his body was trembling from it.
Sanada gnashed his teeth together, eyes flaring in determination. And as the room lit up for a few seconds, he moved.
In one quick moment grabbed Yukimura's arms and pulled the captain to him, snatching up the tennis jacket on the ground, moving back a few steps until his back hit the opposite wall. They stumbled together, pressing Yukimura's head against his chest, throwing the jersey over Yukimura's shoulders. His arms wound around the shaking body, fingers threading through the blue-black hair, the heel of his palm partially covering the other ear.
Both of them slid down to the ground, Yukimura cradled against Sanada's chest, half-sitting, half-keeling in between his thighs. Sanada bowed his head, burying his face into the wavy locks, his hold tight, but not suffocating. He started to talk lowly, about the day they first met as children, his thoughts back then, tennis, their team, their relationship, everything and anything he could think of, to force Yukimura's attention away from the rage outside that tormented him.
While left unsaid, the vice-captain's message was clear.
Listen to my heart and my voice.
His cheek and temple felt cold. But Yukimura could hear it, the sound of Sanada's beating heart, faster than usual, but constant and sure. It pounded against his ear, thrumming in time with his own racing heart. And slowly and surely the captain felt being lulled into a deep calm, forgetting the chaos around him, only able to find the solace and comfort in the other teen's presence. And there was his voice, the usually rough-sounding baritone soft and tender, murmuring, words slipping through his ears like silk, the things he knew and didn't know, the stories they both shared and experienced together.
I'm here, and I'll protect you.
Thin, white fingers shook lightly as they grasped the front of a soaked shirt, clinging onto it, his breathing gradually slowing down and relaxing. Sanada felt so cold and yet so warm at the same time, the scent of the rain clinging to his skin, an intoxicating mixture that tamed his erratic, panicked mind. Yukimura hardly even knew what he was doing, instinctively latching on to the person he knew would keep him safe, only listening to his soothing voice, the constant, certain beat of his heart, and the rain pitter-pattering on the rooftop.
Sanada didn't stop the relieved exhale the escaped him when he felt the tension in the other's body disappear, bit by bit. He was starting to shiver from the rain, already soaked to the bone and any more, no matter how resistant he was, he would definitely catch cold if he stayed longer in his clothes. But he would never Yukimura go, not when he needed him the most. He willed his limbs to stop shaking, to keep his embrace firm, which was become easier now that they were almost skin to skin. Yukimura was warm, the lingering touch leaving an almost tingling feeling.
It might be ridiculous, even laughable for some people, but for Sanada, Yukimura's phobia had never been a joking matter, especially when he saw it happen for the first time when they were younger. It wasn't so bad now when it happened at times; Yukimura stayed relatively calm if he was surrounded by people in a brightly lit room. But back then, it was much worse, more so if he was alone, to the point of extreme catatonia if he wasn't found in time, or being completely hysterical when he snapped out of it.
Back then, Yukimura stayed over in their house when his parents needed to go out of town for the weekend, entrusting him to Sanada's parents, who were always willing to take care of their friend's son. And, during one of those times, the weekend was forecasted with a storm that would last the whole night, and all of them weren't aware of the boy's condition.
Once the rain started Yukimura seemed to disappear from the house and it took hours to find him, to the point that his parents thought that he was unknowingly caught up outside. And just as they got ready to brave through the downpour, his mother finally found him.
Yukimura was hiding in biggest closet in their house, huddled in the farthest, darkest corner, shutting himself in and with a comforter over his head. He refused to come out no matter how hard they tried to convince him to, a tiny, trembling mass of sheet and limbs, when he was eventually carried and brought out by Sanada's father.
When they finally wrapped him out of the self made cocoon, there he was, curled up in a small, shaking ball, hands clamped over his ears, and looking so completely, purely terrified that Sanada felt his heart almost aching physically in pain. At first he didn't understand why Yukimura was so afraid, nothing was going to hurt him if he was in their house. But he already knew, even back then, that he never wanted to see Yukimura cry again because he was scared. He wanted to see Yukimura smile and laugh and be happy, even if it made his stomach feel funny and turned his face red. And, unknowingly, as the first stirrings of protectiveness and affection came forth, he had started to fall to his soon-to-be best friend, right then and there.
Sanada didn't know how long they stayed in that position, continuing to hold on to Yukimura, smoothing down his hair and whispering in his ear, his only perception of time the rain falling over their heads. Sitting on the floor while slopping wet wasn't the most comfortable position in the world, but still he persevered, until his behind felt numb and his tailbone bumped painfully against the tiled floor. But, at long last, the rain eventually let up, softening to a drizzle and thunderclouds slowly moved away.
When sunlight peeked into the windows above, it seemed to take Yukimura back from his oblivion, faintly stirring in the vice-captain's arms. Sanada immediately paid attention, moving his head back the same time Yukimura turned his up, blue eyes disoriented and confused at first.
"Yukimura?" He asked warily, trying to make sure that the other teen was back to normal again.
Partly glazed orbs centred on his face, brows minutely furrowing, as if trying to connect the lines together. When it finally clicked in Yukimura's mind, his eyes flew open, startled and shocked, and sat up completely, making Sanada hiss a little in relief, now able to move properly, the pressure on his back and legs disappearing.
"Sanada!" Yukimura pressed his fingers against a pale cheek, gasping when it was ice-cold to the touch. "You're freezing!"
It was true. Now that his captain was all right Sanada finally noticed that his teeth were chattering. He was starting to feel lightheaded and a certain amount of pressure was forming on his forehead. He was regaining the sensation in his legs, though he found that his limbs were also frozen still. The cold had sunk in completely, and with the drafts coming in now and then Sanada was well on his way on catching pneumonia. "I'll be fine."
"You aren't fine at all!" Sanada couldn't see himself the way Yukimura did. The tanned skin was several shades lighter, his lips were almost blue and his body was breaking out in trembles. "Do you have a change of clothes?" Abruptly Yukimura stood up, helping the other teen up as well, getting more concerned when Sanada staggered and leaned into him, something he never would have done if he was feeling normal. Guilt and shame gnawed inside him, Yukimura knew that he was the reason why Sanada was in this state.
"In my locker." Sanada leaned against the wall, trying to stop the shuddering exhales that escaped his lips. He was starting to feel warmer than usual and it wasn't a good sign, though he didn't regret his decision. Seeing Yukimura move around, albeit in a more worried manner, was a huge relief for him.
Yukimura helped the vice-captain onto the bench before going to Sanada's locker, opening it without ceremony and searching for the extra clothes and towel he knew were stored somewhere inside.
He could only vaguely remember what happened after the lights went out, but somehow he knew this time was different from the others. His episodes always occurred when he was younger and he would never remember any of it. While now they were only few and in between, it was intense, petrifying, and always left him completely exhausted afterwards. The next thing he would know he would be waking up lying somewhere with a tear-streaked face, or he would came to awareness only to find out that he had been unresponsive for hours.
Yukimura bit his lower lip in slight agitation. Why must he be so weak? How could he march into tennis matches without the slightest hint of hesitation, but run away the instant he saw the streak of white light from the sky? He cursed his one weakness, the helpless emotions that it inspired in him with the knowledge that he couldn't do anything to stop it. He had been trying so hard to get over it, god knew just how much, but every time a storm would start everything would just seem to freeze and the world would spiral down a drain until he would completely lose himself with no way of knowing how to escape from it.
The captain brightened up when he finally saw what he was looking for, folded up neatly and stored in the corner of the locker, and went to grab it, still lost in his own thoughts.
But now a hand reached out and caught him, pulling him back and kept him from falling into a deep abyss he wasn't sure he could climb out of. He teetered on the edge constantly, the depthless black void always in his sight, but every attempt was thwarted and he was held from behind by warm arms and a familiar voice, telling him to stay with them, that they could fight this together. It was the first time he felt so safe, so protected...
Yukimura's hands stilled the moment the thought crossed through his mind, pausing as he took the clothes out. Love? No, he shouldn't be thinking like this, but... was it possible that...maybe... Sanada...
A bright, pink flush suddenly filled his cheeks as he traced the tie and shirt with his fingers. That shouldn't be possible. Sanada was his closest, dearest friend, and nothing more. And besides, Yukimura didn't like the other teen that way...
... Did he?
The captain was brought out of his thoughts when he heard the cough and hurried back, taking a towel on the way. He sat on the bench beside the other teen, setting the clothes aside and taking the towel in his hands. "Here," He threw the towel over Sanada's head, briskly rubbing the black hair, to Sanada's immense surprise.
"I can do–"
"No. Let me." Something in Yukimura's tone made Sanada stop and let Yukimura do as he wished, bowing his head and letting the towel glide over his head and neck, drying up the moisture that still clung to the tanned skin. For a moment both of them were silent, trying to find words for the things they wanted to say. But when the gentle pressure went from his neck to his face, slowing down, Sanada glanced up to meet the other's melancholic expression, eyes glazing over and gazing to a place where Sanada couldn't reach.
"I'm sorry that I'm not strong enough." Yukimura finally said softly, his hand stopping where it rested on Sanada's cheek, voice full of regret and bitterness. "If I had tried hard enough, this wouldn't have to happen. You wouldn't be..." He trailed off, fingers clenching, unable to follow through, just stopping short of cursing himself for what had happened.
"Don't apologize. It's not your fault." Sanada mumbled, voice hesitant but firm, trying to express himself properly, but determined to say what he thought. "People can't always be strong, Yukimura." Mocha brown eyes held sapphire blue with an unsure, but calm determination that showed his unwavering resolve. He raised his hand up, to cover Yukimura's trembling own, pressing them to his cheek with a reverence that both soothed and made Yukimura's heart waver.
"And even if you're not strong enough, I'm always beside you."
They gazed into each other's eyes, searching, looking for an assurance that wouldn't result to broken promises, a hope that despite everything, the world would become right again even if it was turned completely upside down. Yukimura couldn't help but blush, cream coloured skin splashed with red and pink, heart speeding up again for a completely different reason.
I'll be your strength.
The spell was broken when Sanada suddenly sneezed, startling both of them, and the sheer ridiculousness of the situation started to make Yukimura laugh, lips tilting up in a small, genuine smile when Sanada's face reddened and he huffed, completely looking away and unable to meet the amused, cerulean stare.
But, most of all, I would like to thank Rei for being the most loving person that I've ever met, who's held my hand and stayed by my side through everything that's happened, who believed in me and what I could do, and for loving me more than I have loved him. If it wasn't for you and your courage I wouldn't have the confidence to believe in what we shared together, so I thank you, my love.
... I'm in a very sentimental and romantic mood right now. Don't worry, I will eventually tell you what happened, but not here. At Rei's encouragement I made a formspring where I could answer some of your questions, and some for Rei as well if you would like to. On hindsight it was a very good decision, since I couldn't always tell things about my personal life in FanFiction, but there you are free to ask anything you want, and I will try my best to answer.
I do, however, hold the right to not answer anything that I see as too personal, like my real name, location, contact information and pictures of myself, for personal and security reasons, which I hope you could understand. But otherwise, please stop by and ask, and I'll be happy to reply back. ^_^
formspring (place a dot here) me (slash) Mitsukai20
I'm looking forward to hear from you all. Please read and review, everyone.