Senda hears Ko talk about Wakaba Tsukishima once.
It is on one of those hazy summer nights before their last year of high school. Senda can hear the sounds of the festival behind him, the lights and the laughter. But after being turned down so unjustly, Senda isn’t really in the mood for staying at the festival. Forget it, things were starting to get boring anyway.
Senda mutters, “Bah, she doesn’t know what she’s missing. Senda, the lady-killer of Seishu, approached her. She should be flattered!“ He kicks at a pebble sullenly and - misses.
Senda looks backwards, left, and right to make sure nobody saw the fumble, but there’s virtually no one walking back on this road with him. (He wouldn’t be leaving so early either, if that girl hadn’t rejected him, or if he had friends to go to the festival with in the first place.)
Narrowing his eyes, he kicks the pebble with determination this time, and it rolls down the hill to his left. The hill, where there happens to be a body lying on the grass? He peers over the edge of the road cautiously, and look who it is – Ko Kitamura.
Senda sneers. They may be teammates, and Kitamura may have led the Seishu to the championships, but that doesn’t mean the two of them are buddy-buddy. In fact, the opposite is true.
Ko Kitamura is always stealing his thunder – he’s good-looking (not as good-looking as Senda, of course), gets decent grades, and has a tight-knit group of friends who would go to great lengths to protect him. Senda is good with the ladies, that's already been established, but Kitamura has both Akane and Aoba, the two hottest girls in their grade, after him. Does he have to be the best damn pitcher Senda has ever met in addition to all that? It's just inconsiderate, is what that is.
Said inconsiderate pitcher is currently sprawled on the grass with several beer cans littering the ground around him, staring blankly at the night sky.
Senda makes a decision. Walking down the hill towards Kitamura's supine figure, he calls out, "Lame, Kitamura, did your girlfriends ditch you?"
Kitamura ignores him, and that is just not on. Senda plops down a foot away from him and jibes, "You're all alone on the night of the summer festival. A little pathetic, don't you think?"
Normally, this is where Kitamura would make a sarcastic comment. This time, the pitcher gives him a withering look, then turns his gaze back up at the stars, still silent.
"Where's your girlfriend?" Senda prods again persistently. Don't ignore me. Look at me.
He can hear Kitamura mutter under his breath, "So annoying," but the boy finally responds. "Not that it's any of your business, but Akane and I broke up a while ago."
Senda beams. "She finally realized that you're a bum, huh? Well, if she's looking for a rebound, tell her to come find me and I'll show her what a real man is like."
"Yeah, I'll tell her," Kitamura replies deadpan. At last, he's looking at Senda. (His eyes are dark and wide and a little sad.)
The shortstop decides to try his a luck a little further, "What about Aoba?"
Kitamura counters immediately, "What about her?"
"Where is she at?" Senda asks impatiently. Why isn't she with you, is what he means.
"Aoba is with Azuma. They came to the festival together."
Azuma? Now, Kitamura is bad, but Yuhei Azuma is the biggest jerk Senda knows. Azuma thinks he is so cool, just because he can slug a few balls. Giving the foxy Aoba to him? The universe is so unfair. Senda tells Kitamura as much.
The pitcher laughs, but his smile fits strangely on his face. "Yeah, well, the world isn't a fair place," is all he says.
"Didn't you and Aoba have a thing going at some point? How does it feel to have your rival and your childhood sweetheart dating each other?"
For a moment, Senda thinks Kitamura has had enough of his prying questions. He seems genuinely irritated. But the alcohol, or perhaps something about the atmosphere, loosens the pitcher's tongue. "It's not like that, asshole," Kitamura says.
Senda is actually really curious about the relationship between Aoba and Kitamura (friends, lovers, enemies?), so he keeps quiet and waits.
"Her sister, Wakaba, she was the one who -," the short-haired boy admits, and stops.
Senda's mind is whirring in overtime. He would have remembered a sister of Aoba Tsukashima; good looks ran in the family. Maybe this Wakaba chick already graduated? But that doesn't make any sense - nobody has ever mentioned an older sister named Wakaba.
"She. She would have been in the same year as us."
Would have. Would have - oh.
Oh, and Senda suddenly remembers a news event that occurred one summer in the neighboring town when he was in fifth grade. There was a girl his age who had drowned trying to save another girl. His parents had tutted their tongues, clucking what a shame, what a shame, and switched the channel before talking about where they would travel for their next anniversary. (They never took Senda with him; they left him with the nanny while they visited Denmark that year.)
"Aoba used to get so pissed at how close me and Wakaka were." Kitamura huffs. "Mega sister complex, that girl."
Well, that explains a lot about Aoba and Kitamura's tempestuous interactions. A dead sister would definitely complicate things. Senda doesn't say that aloud though; he is an asshole, but not that much of an asshole.
Kitamura covers his eyes with his forearm. "You know, Wakaba wanted to see me go to Koshien. She wanted an engagement ring for her twentieth birthday. She wanted-"
Kitamura is breathing heavily. "I wanted to give everything to her," he finally grits out.
Senda isn't quite sure what compels him to do what he does next.
It could be that he feels sorry for Kitamura (because he is dampening the crook of his elbow with saltwater right now, Senda knows it). Maybe it's gratefulness that Kitamura has been so unexpectedly open tonight.
Or maybe it is the street light flickering on a beautiful boy's face, and the pain that echoes in his voice, and the talent that is carved into muscle and bones.
People may call Senda a delusional, narcissistic fool, but he is the kind of delusional, narcissistic fool who goes for what he wants.
Senda leans over, so that he is hovering over the blind Kitamura and kisses him underneath the watchful stars.
Kitamura's eyes pop wide open. The subsequent "What the hell are you doing?" is muffled into Senda's mouth. Senda pulls away, annoyed.
"I'm comforting you with my superior romance abilities," he informs Kitamura, whose eyes are indeed wet, and then kisses him again.
Slowly but surely, the messy-haired boy relaxes beneath him. It's actually kind of nice, even if Kitamura isn't anything close to a girl (the muscles flexing under his navy blue yukata can attest to that). He smells like freshly cut grass and soap, and he tastes like the neapolitan at the cafe. Then Kitamura kisses back, and Senda takes back "kind of nice," this is hands down the best kiss he has ever experienced.
Senda doesn't know how long they stay on that hill just kissing. At some point, though, they hear the chatter of people returning from the festival. The crowds will reach their spot on the hill any minute now.
Kitamura breaks off their kiss, drawing a forlorn sound from Senda. The pitcher's eyes are a little less dark now, but his cheeks are as flushed as if he had just run ten laps.
"Thanks," Kitamura says simply before leaving.
Senda blames his inaction on being distracted first by those bruised lips and then by the figure Kitamura cuts while jogging away. By the time he comes to his senses, the pitcher is just a dot on the horizon.
Senda remains sitting on the hill for a moment and then yelps, "I just made out with a guy!"
"I just made out with Ko Kitamura!"