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There's an envelope on the table with her name on it.

The handwriting is familiar, of course, but it's much neater than usual, which means he was mind-numbingly nervous about writing it.

Anything that would make that guy nervous enough to fail to even crack a joke about it makes her equally cautious.

Tsukishima Aoba, it reads, haphazardly thrown on top of a stack of open medical textbooks.


"It's definitely a trap," she grouses to Akane, sloshing a glass of beer around in her inebriation. "Whatever's inside of it is definitely going to ruin my life."

Her beautiful neighbor giggles and flicks a piece of hair behind her ear. "You say that about anything he gets you."

"Well, what proof do you have that his previous gifts won't ruin my life in the future?" Akane smartly hums and laughs. Aoba huffs. "Just because your life is bliss doesn't give you the right to laugh at my misfortune."

"As always, it sounds like the two of you are happy in your own little world." Aoba flushes and grumbles, stifling her embarrassment in her glass of beer. "How long has it been since he left it there?"

"Two days," the younger woman grunts. "Two days! He hasn't said a word to me in two days. Can you believe that?"

"No wonder you came over tonight. You must be really depressed, Aoba-chan."

Her skin flushes deep red and her gaze drifts. "I just wanted to see you and Akaishi-senpai."

"One day you'll have to call him Osamu-san." Akane grins as Akaishi comes in from the kitchen with more drinks and snacks. "I could be an Akaishi before too long."

Aoba perks up at that, face splitting into an enormous smile. "Akaishi-senpai! Why didn't you tell me the good news?"

Her old baseball senior flushes and nearly drops the tray. "I—um, it's—a long story, Tsukishima."

"God, I can't believe it! You're getting married." Aoba leans back on her palms and sighs dreamily. "You're so young."

"I'm already twenty-four, Aoba-chan. Your sister got married at about the same age." Akane flashes her ring since the secret is out. "Speaking of, how is her son?"

"Energetic, of course." The younger woman rolls her eyes. "Little snot wants to beat his uncle's batting record in the future."

"Good for him," Akaishi comments lowly, opening his first beer of the evening. "Still, Tsukishima, I've gotta say, I'm more surprised that you don't have a ring on your finger yet."

"A certain someone isn't like you, Akaishi-senpai, much to my eternal regret." Aoba snorts. "I'll probably be long gone from this world before he'd ask."

He hums around his can of beer. "I think you're probably underestimating him."

Her deep blue eyes wander to the television in the corner of the room, despite how much she's been frequently avoiding looking at it. "Who knows?"


Four days after its' appearance on her desk, she opens the stupid envelope.

Inside, there are two tickets and a picture of a baseball in the sand on a beach.

Much to her chagrin, she grins like a fool upon reading the destination.


Customs runs both of them ragged. It's off-season for them, so they dress as casually as they can manage.

They walk to their terminal hand-in-hand.

He sports a lazy smile and she tries her best to fight one off of her face as well.

Once they take a seat and wait for boarding to begin, she mumbles, "I can't believe you remembered."

"Remember what? I saw an ad online for a discount resort there, and it's off season, so I figured there was no better time than the present."

His hand twitches in her palm, which means he's lying. She'd ranted to all of her family members, but mostly Wakaba, about how much she'd wanted to run on the beaches and play catch there since she was five.

But that's okay. It's a silent rule that they don't call each other's bluffs.

She has something up her sleeve, anyways. Fair's fair.

Aoba sighs dramatically. "This is why you only have three friends."

"That's plenty."


Kou softly runs his fingers through her hair when she's dozing on the plane.

Maybe he knows she's not sleeping; maybe he doesn't.

He whispers that he loves her and leans into her warmth.

Hours later, she does the same thing to him.


They land in a country far from home, fumbling their way to their hotel.

Once they get there, they go for a jog together on the beach that turns into a splash fight on the shore. They grin easily and get soaked to their bones.

She sneezes first and then declares a race back to the resort.

He pats his hair dry and offers her the first shower. Once they're clean, they smell the same and curl up in a bed twice the size of their futon at home.

"Weird, huh?" Kou murmurs into her hair.

"Sort of," she hums in agreement. "Nice to be out of the spotlight for a few days, though."

"That's right, MVP of the women's national team, setting a new record of no hit-no run's last season."

"No, no, I'm sure my press coverage pales in comparison to the great pitcher who led the Japanese men's team to victory in the world series last year."

"Oy," he grouses, huffing against her ear. After a few minutes of silence, he kisses the back of her neck and lets his arm go slack.

Aoba relaxes against him and murmurs words she would never say if he were awake.


They go sightseeing, stay in shape, and take plenty of pictures. Aoba makes wireless calls to her family in the evenings, and Kou checks in with his friends. At night, they lie back to back and read manga in silence until they're ready to sleep. Then, they turn off the lights and mess around until they get too tired to do that.

Aoba is still horribly embarrassed even after all this time, but Kou assures her that she's the most wonderful girl in the world.

Maybe she's just used to him, but she hates how much he genuinely means that, rather than feeling like he's lying to her.

The last day on their vacation nearly makes her heart fall out of her chest.

In the middle of the restaurant, where their fumbling English has gotten them a meal more extravagant than they've had in a long time, the stupid idiot grabs her hand and slips a ring onto it. Once it's settled comfortably there, although she's too stunned to answer, he picks up his champagne flute and holds her gaze.

She finally snaps out of her stupor and hopes that her cheeks aren't burning red. "You knew my size?"

"I may or may not have asked Momiji." He takes a sip ever so casually. Really, he's a faker through and through.

She knows he's probably trying not to crap himself from nerves—Aoba knows she's about ready to fall out of her chair. "Aren't you going to ask for my response?"

"Should I?" Kou pushes his food around his plate, unused to using a fork and knife.

They sip at champagne and eat excellent food and their server congratulates them—or so they think, anyways. It's hard to understand. The guy is all smiles, so they assume it's a fair guess.

Neither of them sleeps much that night.


The morning of their return trip, Aoba wakes up early to find Kou sitting on the ledge of their hotel window.

After she watches the ocean breeze tumble through his messy bangs for a few minutes, she starts speaking.

"I don't remember when this started."

Kou scoffs. "Hey now, it's our anniversary. You're gonna make me depressed."

"Waka-chan knew," Aoba continues quietly, "way before we did."

He's floored and she knows it, but he only hums in response.

Silence falls between them for a long time. They start packing up, make their way through another hellish session with customs, and end their trip much like they started it, holding hands as they walk to their terminal in an airport.

"I loved Wakaba," Kou shares quietly at the gate while they wait for boarding to begin. "I really did, with all my heart. But I hope you won't get mad at me for saying I've loved you all these years way more than I could've dreamed to love her."

She's the one to be shocked this time. Aoba grumbles in response. "I really hate when you're like this."


Once he's settled into his seat on the plane, she carefully whispers, "I love you too, stupid, and probably have a hell of lot longer than I ever wanted to admit."

Kou laughs so loudly in response that it jostles the row they're seated in. Aoba flushes hot. "Hope you don't mind turbulence, since kind words from you almost always spell disaster."

Aoba punches him in the shoulder, but he doesn't stop grinning, even in his sleep.


Nakanishi, Akaishi, and Azuma congratulate him with slaps on the back as soon as they can get together in town. The pro leagues take up most of Kou and Azuma's time, after all.

Azuma is the first to smile and mock his friend. "It's about damn time."

"Oh, shut it," Kou shrugs. His phone background has been changed to a particularly stunning picture of Aoba on the sunny beach in Australia, and the group hasn't let it slide all night.

"So, how was the trip?" Akaishi hands Nakanishi more crackers and sake when he reaches his hand out.

Nakanishi elbows him in the side. "You know how down time goes. I'm sure the two of them just flirted like morons for a week."

"Yes, yes, let's all make fun of my relationship for the millionth time." Kou smiles despite his grousing. His eyes wander from them as he recalls. "It was really good for us. What else can I say?"

"Ugh. Just because you and Akaishi wound up with your high school sweethearts doesn't mean you have to rub it in."

"You were the one who just teased me about it," Kou chides.

Azuma chimes in, saying, "Technically, Kitamura and Tsukishima have been together since childhood."

"We weren't dating until the end of high school, though."

"Ugh," Nakanishi groans. "Azuma, work with me here. We're the only the bachelors left. Our two best friends are getting married, for god's sake."

"Well, I'm not getting married, but I am seeing someone." Azuma's face softens. "So, I can't be in the remaining bachelors' club for now."

"Damn you, popular guys!" Nakanishi pumps a fist and chugs the rest of his beer. "Screw you and your happiness. I'm drinking my problems away tonight and you all have to suffer with me. The lone bachelor's decree, as of right now!"

They all laugh and indulge him, getting drunk and laughing through stories of college and everything afterwards.

Kou relishes in the sense of safety he has with them, even though he can feel Akaishi's prying eyes following him most of the night.


Akaishi offers to walk the overwhelmingly drunk Kou home.

He has a feeling his friend's behavior is more show than anything, though.

"So," Akaishi starts, grateful for the night breeze. "How'd it really go?"

Kou slows his laughter and gives the taller man a steady look. "It really was a great trip."


The pitcher scuffs his heels. "I was so surprised, by a lot of things. I guess I just didn't know what to expect or what to say."

"Surprisingly honest of you to say."

"I'm a little drunk here. I'm allowed to speak my mind more than I usually might."

Akaishi blinks. "Thought you were pretending, actually."

Kou's lips tilt up. "I am. I only had four beers all night."

His friend sighs in exhaustion. "I just wanted to talk."

"I wasn't lying," Kou replies quietly, glancing up at the stars. "I don't know what to say."

Dark eyes study him before he smiles slightly. "That so." Once they reach the front door to Kou's apartment, Akaishi slaps him on the back. "Congratulations."

Tsukishima opens the door and fusses at Kou immediately. She bows to Akaishi and softly closes the door behind them.

She doesn't say anything about the finely polished ring sitting on her finger.

He doesn't ask.


"Marriage…" Aoba plays catch with her nephew for quite some time until Ichiyo calls her for dinner. Junpei catches her mumbling and grins, sidling over to her.

"So," he flashes his teeth and ruffles his son's hair as he scurries into the bathroom to wash his hands. "Kou-chan finally popped the question, huh?"

Aoba's eyes grow wide and Ichiyo stops in place in the kitchen, a smile creeping across her face. Immediately, her younger sister groans and curls into herself. "It doesn't feel real."

Junpei cheeses and points to the ring sitting solidly on her left hand. The sunshine glints off of it merrily. "You can't imagine that kind of thing, Aoba-chan."

"For once, I actually agree with him," Ichiyo chimes in, tapping her sister's shoulder. "Congratulations."

"You know, I must've sworn I didn't want to be related to that guy a hundred times."

"I kind of thought that was moot," Ichiyo hums as Aoba makes her way to the table. "Seeing as how you've been dating for, how long now?"

"Oh, shut it," Aoba grumbles. "This is totally different. He caught me off-guard."

Her sister smirks. "For all your fussing, you look pretty pleased."

Aoba smiles just slightly before her face falls. "I just keep thinking, 'it could've been Waka-chan'. I'm wondering if it's okay to be this happy with this idiot every day. What she would've said if she were here."

"Congratulations," Ichiyo replies. "She would've said congratulations, Aoba."

Her chopsticks go through the motions, but she doesn't eat much that evening.


Nearly a month after their anniversary trip, after the proposal, after years of teasing and quiet understanding, and a relationship that has worked amazingly well despite how stupidly alike they are (or maybe it's worked so well because of that), they lie in bed after a hard day's training.

Kou voice comes across clear over the noise of the cicadas outside. "We should get married on her birthday."

"I'm not giving you two presents every year."

"I wasn't expecting you to," he replies, pulling her closer than he usually might. "I don't need anything."

"Don't want to forget?"


Aoba pulls herself closer to his chest, entangling their legs underneath the comforter. "We haven't asked for her blessings yet."

"You're right."

After a long pause, Aoba speaks again. "Is this really okay? Everything, I mean."

Kou waits for a long time to answer. "Are you happy?"

"That's a stupid question."

He chuckles. "Then it's okay."


They pray, clean the grave, and give Wakaba their regards.

The sun shines bright against their backs as they walk to their apartment hand-in-hand, and they take it as a blessing.


When the fall season picks up, the papers go nuts about the rings they take off for matches. Both of them have been a hot topic in the press for years now, but their engagement has once again put them front and center.

Still, neither of them comments on it.

They don't find it necessary.


As Aoba's twenty-fourth summer approaches, pictures of the two of them together are scattered across their apartment and she anxiously counts down the days until she will no longer be registered as a Tsukishima.

She's prayed for peace of mind from her closest sibling a hundred times; rambled to Akaishi and Akane and Ichiyo and Momiji and her father; bitten her nails down to the quick in private. But in public, she's always levelheaded, an excellent pitcher, and a harsh critic of herself and others.

In some ways, she wishes she had never gotten over her stupid internal reservations and fallen in love with Kou.

She can't imagine life without him now.

Her younger self would laugh to the point of tears.

Luckily, Kou is just as jumpy and restless as she is.

The ceremony is going to be quiet and fairly private and then maybe she'll be able to say, in something louder than a whisper, "Kitamura Aoba."


"What would you do if you had a rival, Waka-chan? I mean, not that anybody's gonna steal that stupid guy away from you, but I'm curious."

"Hmm…" Wakaba hums and puts a finger to her chin. "I guess I'd try my best. I love Kou, but because I love him, I want him to be happy, so if he really loved them, I'd back away."

"Oh, yuck! I so didn't want to hear that."

"You asked, Aoba."

"Well, lucky for you, there's no better girl than you in the world, Waka-chan! That stupid idiot isn't even close to deserving you, let alone some girl you'd consider a rival."

"You think so?" Wakaba snickers. "I think my rival is much closer than you think."

"What! There's no way."

She laughs and brushes Aoba's hair out of her face.

"Thanks for the vote of confidence, Aoba."


There's a box full of things for Tsukishima Wakaba that ends with something from the list at age eighteen.

He's given all of his energy and love and attention and everything he can muster to her sister. Kou can hug her and argue with her and he never gets tired and he wonders, in some dark way, if fate has tied them together.

Sometimes, he wonders if he keeps pitching to prove to Aoba that he's worth her time.

Other times he holds her hand and all his clever words slip out of his mind.

At the altar, she's a stunning beauty—of course she is.

He's not even a bit worth her time, much like he wasn't worth Wakaba's, but he wants to be worth it.

He kisses her after they say their vows and hopes that everyday he can keep showing her how desperately he loves her.


The first night of their honeymoon is full of quiet smiles and wandering hands.

"Happy birthday," she whispers, fingers tangled in his hair.

"Thanks," Kou breathes against her skin and she shakily smiles. When he kisses her temple, she barely holds back tears.

"Kou," she whispers against his skin, strong arms heavy on his back. "I love you."

"Thank you," he croakily responds, kissing her softly and fiddling with her pajamas. "I love you too, Aoba."

They wind up crying the whole night, holding hands and murmuring old stories and curling into each other like they'd rather die than be separated.


Married life is much like their previous experience of living together while dating. It's mostly quiet, filled with easy conversation and bickering and unspoken understanding.

They talk about life, dreams, happiness, and Tsukishima Wakaba, their goddess of fortune and love.

They build a life together with their memories of her, with new and old happiness, and more pleasure than they could've dreamt.

Baseball takes up most of their time, but at the end of the day, they're never too tired to play together, to hold hands, to enjoy gazing at the stars and imagining a familiar face on the moon.

Occasionally, Kitamura Aoba opens a box of keepsakes that she knows are sacred treasures and prays to them.

Others, Kitamura Kou pulls her out of her head and she returns the favor when need be, and they make it work, despite the odds.

After all, Kou loves Aoba more than any girl in the world—

—and the beautiful part of it is that Aoba loves Kou just as much.