There was plenty of shame in the fact that Sasuke was squatting behind the bleachers, freezing, not quite able to bring himself to go back to the locker room where the rest of the basketball team was getting pumped for the game.
The game. Not just one game peppered in the season, but the final game; the one that would prove whether or not he was as good as his brother, Itachi, who had led the team to victory all three years he'd been captain. And while Sasuke was only a freshman and certainly not captain, expectations were high. And even though he had proven himself on more than one occasion, it was only this game that mattered.
It was February, and even though the sun was out, the weather was cold. Sasuke could hear the familiar sound of shuffling feet as students ran the track, and the high pitched tink of a metal bat striking true to a well-aimed pitch. All of the other sports seasons were just getting started, and his – his was coming to an end.
A loud crash jolted Sasuke from his thoughts, and his attention snapped sideways, watching as a baseball bounced up off a metal bleacher bench, up and over the top, and straight down to where he lingered. It huffed against the dirt a few times before rolling to a stop, and Sasuke rolled his eyes and pushed himself up so that he could grab it.
"And with that final hit, the crowd goes wild," a voice sounded, complete with mock cheering. Sasuke licked his lips, unamused as a student rounded the bleachers, dressed in full baseball attire. A baseball cap hid his face, at least until he glanced up, his bright eyes seeking out the owner of the shadow he's fallen into.
Sasuke's gaze deadened and, no holds barred, he threw the ball back with astounding speed. The other student took a few quick steps to the side in order to snatch it midair, and hissed when the impact resounded.
Instead of frowning, the boy smirked, his blue eyed gaze almost teasing. "Nice," he said, though there was a playful undertone in his voice. "Though I dunno, you're our star point guard – shouldn't your aim be better?"
"Go away, Naruto," Sasuke groaned, and he whirled around in an attempt to stalk away. A cold breeze brought goosebumps to his arms, and he was forced to halt, because there was a wall behind him, leaving him dead ended. His eyebrow twitched.
"What are you doing back here, anyway?" Naruto scuffled forward, and Sasuke turned to see him looking around, as if the answer was somewhere on the ground. Even though the winter months had been fairly sunless and overcast, he skin still managed to look tanned, and the blond bits of hair poking out from beneath his cap made him look like he'd been stolen from a beach and dropped too far north.
Sasuke didn't answer, he simply crossed his arms over his chest, impatient, and tapped his foot on the ground. It had always been this way between them. They'd been neighbors since they were kids, and Naruto never left him alone. He was always there, butting in.
"Wait, are you hiding?"
Sasuke stilled. "Why would I be hiding?"
"Uh…your last game is today, isn't it?" Naruto raised an eyebrow and started tossing the ball up, catching it with ease as it descended, without needing to follow it with his gaze. "You always get weird on final game days."
Deadpanning, Sasuke frowned. "I do not."
"You do, too."
"I do not!"
"Then why are you hiding behind the bleachers, in uniform, when it's only 50 degrees out?" Naruto eyed him.
"I was trying to focus!" Sasuke barked. "Get in the zone. You know, prepare to win, something I know you're not familiar with."
"Ouch." Naruto feigned looking hurt, and it only served to make Sasuke more frustrated. The truth was that their middle school baseball team hadn't lost because of Naruto. In fact, it probably only still existed because of him. As much as Sasuke had been proclaimed a basketball prodigy like his brother, Naruto would be holding his own with the baseball team – though Sasuke sincerely doubted that Naruto knew he was as good as he actually was.
It was frustrating, really. Naruto didn't have any shoes to fill.
"You're going to do fine."
Naruto's statement caught Sasuke off guard, and he was forced to snap to attention when Naruto tossed the baseball his way. He caught it easily enough.
"I know," Sasuke threw it back. "I always do fine."
"So stop worrying," Naruto sent the ball to him in an underhanded arc, and Sasuke had to take a step backwards to catch it. "Stop thinking, what would my brother do and just go do what Sasuke would do."
"Pf," Sasuke tossed the ball back. "And what's that?"
"Win," Naruto stated simply, as he caught the ball and gripped it tight. "I've been to your games. You're good at it."
Sasuke harrumphed as if that were obvious, but he still couldn't shake the anxiety in his gut. He'd never felt this way before a game - so why now?
"Remember when we were kids, and I'd always get sick before we did T-ball?" Naruto interrupted his thoughts, coming forward a bit closer. "And you'd always say -"
"Suck it up," Sasuke said, and Naruto finished with, "The game's coming whether you want it to or not. And then you'd do that thing -"
"Ugh," Sasuke slapped a hand to his forehead, which was a mistake, because when he opened his eyes, Naruto was right in front of him, pulling his wrists down, and circling their fingers together.
"Naruto…" Sasuke said warningly, and attempted to step backwards, but was met with the cold metal of the bleachers. Of course, Naruto didn't listen, and simply dipped forward, pressing his forehead to Sasuke's.
He felt too warm for such a crisp day, and Sasuke felt himself tense, only to feel suddenly relieved at the look Naruto was giving him. Their noses were nearly inches apart, and it was almost as if Naruto's confidence was catching, and Sasuke was soaking it in.
"Suck it up," Naruto told him, looking serious. "Because -"
"The game's coming anyway," Sasuke sighed.
"That, and," Naruto flashed a grin at him, "You have to come and see my game. It's later today. You should still be able to catch the second half by the time yours ends."
Sasuke felt guilty. He hadn't known that today was Naruto's first game.
"Don't give me that look," Naruto pulled back, and when his fingers slipped away, Sasuke almost missed them. "We're competing for first string today, and I'm definitely going to make it."
Sasuke didn't doubt it.
"Let's get you to the locker room," Naruto started ahead, and Sasuke followed, albeit at a slow pace. "I can't believe you were moping. Who mopes on their last game of the season?"
"I wasn't moping," Sasuke muttered.
"You totally were," Naruto held up a finger as if i was fact. "And the only way I won't tell everyone about it is if you come see my game."
Sasuke groaned. He hated baseball. Mostly it was because Naruto had always managed to kick his butt at it when they were younger.
"Promise me," Naruto said, his voice sincere. He even peeked over his shoulder.
Rolling his eyes, Sasuke waved him off. "Yeah, yeah."
He didn't miss the way Naruto's grin returned, and realized that he didn't mind Naruto butting in as much as he'd thought.