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30 July 2017 @ 05:57 pm
[Daiya no Ace] Miyuki/Sawamura: send me the miles  
TITLE: send me the miles
FANDOM: Daiya no Ace
CHARACTERS: Miyuki/Sawamura, featuring Haruichi, Furuya, Raichi, Chris, and a few other familiar faces
RATING: PG
SUMMARY: Postcrossing AU. Sawamura regularly writes postcards to connect with new people around the world; Miyuki, on Chris’s recommendation, decides to try the Postcrossing site out and receives his first postcard from Sawamura. They develop a friendship through their correspondence, which eventually leads to seemingly unrequited romantic feelings. (8,100+ words)
NOTES: This was written for the Misawa Reverse Bang, inspired by the art and prompts of @kanakotakaya-theshipper. You can also find it on AO3.


{ send me the miles }


Hello there! My name is E. Sawamura, and I’m an art student from Japan. When I’m not working on exhibits for school, I spend time exploring the neighborhood, discovering secret nooks other people often overlook. I’d like to travel the world someday, but as I’ve never yet been out of the country, I’ll do my best to sketch my favorite places in town first. One is this beautiful riverbank a few minutes from the local convenience store, where I work part-time. I keep all my drawings in this sketchbook I haven’t shown anyone else. Anyway, how are you today? What’s it like where you’re from?


Most of the time, when someone asked, Miyuki would smile in response, say that he was enjoying a great opportunity, and that he could always go home later. Maybe next month. Maybe next year. By the time he realized he’d been living in America for three years already, all he could really say then was that the sport took his mind off everything else. He lived and breathed the game, worked on conditioning the pitchers – both old and new – day in and day out. He was much too busy, much too enthused, ready to hop up on to the next step in his career, to look back.

In the midst of all that game talk, whomever he was speaking to would trail off, be pulled along by his practiced charm, by the distraction. Forget they asked him at all. There were other questions, more important ones. But then, privately, Miyuki would pull his cap lower over his eyes, his other hand perched on his hip. And his smile, that willfully carefree smile, would melt away. Because the truth is, as insignificant as it might appear, he did think about it often. He did count the days, months, years. He did miss Japan. It was an ache he felt all the way to his core, a throbbing, pulsating beat. It sometimes gave him a cold sweat.

He gets why it’s called homesickness. Gets the nature of it, feeling the way he feels, given the chance to study it and be painfully aware of his situation. Understands the longing, the almost irrational pull of needing to see or hear or feel something he has actually, admittedly, never missed before. All because that something grounds him, roots him to another much deeper concept, sometimes tangible, sometimes just out of reach – like his family (especially his dad), or an old haunt he would frequently visit growing up, or a familiar melody he would listen to on the radio.

This is perhaps what draws Chris-senpai’s attention, what prompts him to approach Miyuki. What convinces the senior catcher to suggest a change of pace. It’s a no-pressure activity, he had smiled, granting Miyuki a bit of leeway to say no, as he checked his clipboard. (Miyuki isn’t really sure if he was doing this on purpose or not.) It’s a way to get his mind off of this sense of displacement, a way to meet new people without having to really meet them. No actual commitment involved, besides the first time. Because Chris, too, understands how tiring it can be. Understands how burnt out Miyuki is. Even he sometimes calls to listen to his father’s nonsensical ramblings every now and then, just to listen to the sounds of home, the sounds of familiarity, a soothing kind of white noise, to keep himself from sliding off the edge.

This is how Miyuki finds himself pulling a postcard out of his mailbox a month later. How Miyuki finds himself reeling from the unmistakable thrill of encountering the unexpected, a small change in his systematically mundane world. He has never noticed before how measurably small it is. He turns the card over, barely registering the words at first. Marvels at the print on the other side. It’s a dotted painting of a riverbank at sunset, the sky a sweltering orange, transfixing him in place. He feels like he’s seen this river before, or seen one just like it. Feels a strange sort of comfort. As if it were fate. And, like fate, there is neither rhyme nor reason. He flips it over again. Pauses as he mouths the address included beneath the stamp. This is probably fate as well, calling him home.

“From Tokyo, huh?”

The sender, an E. Sawamura writes about life in university, how his days are spent prepping for exhibits, how he works a part-time job at a local convenience store. How he dreams of seeing more of the world someday. The common shtick. But, for now, in this moment, he’ll enjoy the soothing view of the nearest riverbank, a few minutes away from his apartment. He enjoys the short walk from the train station, Sawamura adds. Enjoys exploring the neighborhood and discovering new secrets he never noticed before. Documents his findings in one of his sketchbooks. Hasn’t shown it to anyone else yet. It is then that Miyuki realizes that the postcard was handmade, carefully painted on, encasing a moment which can never be replicated. And Sawamura had thought to send it to him, to share said moment with him. He can’t keep his grin from widening.

He’s already sent his own first postcard, assigned through the Postcrossing website, a hastily written note to a person he doesn’t know in Norway. And, to be fair, he doesn’t know Sawamura either. But, at the same time, in a strangely warm, mysteriously fascinating way, Miyuki does know him. Knows him through his almost clumsy words, gushing out sans filter, like the river he has depicted. Knows him through his portrait, through the brushstrokes, the intimate way he has chosen to reveal himself. Knows him in a feverish daydream of home, of Japan. He might be losing his mind a little. But he decides to respond anyway, decides to file the card away, the information on it too precious to leave by the front door of his apartment.

*

I was just thinking I needed a change, and seeing your artwork is the perfect way to take my mind off of things. Thank you for that, Sawamura. I’d love to see your riverbank someday. Do you know the feeling where you’ve rushed into things too quickly and forgotten to breathe, and suddenly when you’ve remembered to stop, you’re not sure where you are anymore? That’s sort of how I’ve been feeling. I wonder if I’m just being selfish, if I’m that spoiled. But I do also wonder if this is all there is. – K. Miyuki


Eijun figures it’s because of displacement, a sense of wanderlust, a general curiosity. He remembers when he was younger, Youichi, the older boy next door, had picked it out of the air, pressed his thumb and forefinger together, pulled as if he were untying a long, invisible ribbon, the word best used to describe what Eijun had: an obsession. But it was and still is, arguably, a harmless obsession, and no one ever actively tried to do anything about it. Everyone needs a hobby, after all.

So, here he was a decade later, rifling through his mail, separating the bills from the postcards, setting the latter aside. He’s entertained the thought of getting a basket or tray specifically for his project. Or maybe a corkboard to map out how many countries he’s collected. Has imagined the exasperated look on You-chan’s face, the I-told-you-so waiting to happen. Shakes his head, grabbing at the pile and settling on his couch, tucking his legs beneath him.

He looks through the cards, mentally sorting through the new ones and noting a few familiar addresses. Friends he’s made over the years. There are a number of late postcards as well, sent belatedly because there were other things going on at the time, mentions of the holidays and various special occasions, wedding announcements, baby showers. Eijun chuckles, seeing photos of the little ones. Sometimes, it feels like he’s in another world altogether, communicating with people beyond the veil. Well, maybe not that veil but a veil. He’s never met any of these people before, and although he knows, logically, that they’re real, breathing human beings, he has wondered from time to time. Wondered if the connection itself is real. Wondered if it’s loneliness that keeps him doing what he does, feeding his obsession.

His eyes linger on one particular card, from K. Miyuki, the address hitting home. He’s written to this person recently, less than a month ago. A new friend through the Postcrossing site, who, as it happens, is Japanese like he is, but is living in America at the moment. His fingertips drag along the curves of Miyuki’s hiragana, printed neatly, not the least bit rusty. Eijun wonders what he does over there. Wonders what Miyuki has seen, for Eijun has never been out of the country before. Wonders if Miyuki’s just as curious about the world as he himself is.

Miyuki talks about needing a change, says that he’s glad that he’s gotten a particularly colorful one in the form of Eijun’s painting. Adds that he’d like to see that riverbank someday. There’s a small dot between his supposed last word and the next one, as if he had wondered if he should write the next bit. As if his hand had faltered, had weighed itself down while he was trying to decide if it would be appropriate. If he was revealing too much too soon. Miyuki has been feeling restless as of late, unable to settle, the card continues. He talks about wondering if there is more to life – more to his life – than this.

As his curiosity has gotten the better of him before, Eijun pulls out his desk seat, guiding his cursor through the open pages. He finds the site and pulls up the messaging tab, searching for the right reference number, then clicks on the profile listing. And, once it finishes loading, quickly types Miyuki a greeting. Lets Miyuki know that he has received his postcard, appreciates that Miyuki thought to write to him in their mother tongue. Understands what Miyuki’s mentioned about anxieties. Promises to send him another card. Soon.

*

I have this friend I met through working at the convenience store. He’s a lively person, who seems to always know what he wants out of life. I admire him for that. We take turns making each other dinner, since right now we’re on the late-night shift. I fear I haven’t been getting enough sleep lately, Miyuki. What should I do? – E. Sawamura


Raichi gives Eijun a funny look, eyes wide, lips pursed, head tilted at an angle. They are seated in their usual spot across the street to the convenience store, the corner of a freshly trimmed hedge hiding their favorite yellow bench from view. Sometimes, Raichi prefers to sit atop the concrete border behind them, dangling his legs over the side, and Eijun would have to pull him down. Knock at Raichi’s knee, the closest one to him, to keep it from tapping his back. Caution him to think of the children.

“And you’ve gotten how many?” Raichi asks, forgetting to put his hands together to give thanks – Eijun does it for them both, “Itadakimasu!” – and instead, instinctively, reaching out to nab one of his friend’s sweetened egg rolls. (Because the three stuffed in his own bento aren’t enough. They never are.) Eijun sighs, swiftly pinching the skin between his thumb and forefinger. Holds his container away. Relents, as he always does, when Raichi concedes defeat with a thoroughly righteous huff. Places the extra egg roll on top of Raichi’s rice. Entertains the notion of not preparing any eggs at all, as punishment, the next time it’s his turn to make dinner.

“Ten now,” Eijun replies, munching on a crisp piece of broccoli. As his thoughts focus on Miyuki, his new penpal, and there’s a particularly delightful ring to that, he can’t help smiling, his gaze drifting off. Wandering. This is, also, something Raichi notices. He decides to press on.

“You guys have been writing to each other for half a year now, right?”

“Just about,” Eijun pictures each postcard in his head, flipping through them with deliberately careful, invisible fingers. They’ve had minimal contact through the Postcrossing site as well, their messages short and vague, simply confirming that they’ve sent or received the next card, continuing to play along with the mystery. As if they were living in a time without the internet, without the instant accessibility. Lately, however, Eijun’s begun to feel different. Impatient. He’s never thought that the bit of space behind the postcards, where they share snapshots of their lives, write about precise moments in their day, was too small. He’s never needed more, until now. Never thought to watch the size of his letters, pack his handwriting, count his sentences. Until now.

He’s also never tried to paint as many postcards for one person before, usually settling for edited photos or personalized graphics. But it started when Miyuki had expressed how interested he was in hearing more about the places Eijun visited, the world he saw in front of him. And Eijun just didn’t want to disappoint him. The interest, Miyuki’s genuine interest, was contagious.

“I don’t know how you do it, Sawamura,” Raichi muses, leaning back against the seat, sucking noisily out of his juice pack. “I don’t think I’d be able to. I’d want to see their face or hear their voice, you know?”

“But it’s not like that,” Eijun shakes his head, closing his eyes. Begins sketching what he thinks Miyuki might look like, follows the hazy lines taking shape. They drift around in loops and strokes, before vanishing like smoke. Like a half-remembered dream, the wisp of an unfulfilled wish. Because he’s never asked. He’s never needed to; it’s always been part of the allure of exchanging postcards. And, in any case, Miyuki hasn’t asked either. It would be weird.

“What is it like then?” He hears Raichi’s movements, hears his friend lean in closer, the bench creaking slightly beneath them. He doesn’t know, really. Doesn’t know if it’s just him and should it even matter. Had it been because of the timing? Because of how Miyuki had written him back? Had it been because of all the little details – how he had been feeling at the time, the sense of familiarity? The common coincidental thought that they were both probably just lonely? Eijun’s brows furrow.

“That better not be my karaage.” Raichi freezes in response. Pouts.

Though he shrugs it off, the idea follows him home, all the way to his apartment. Nudging Eijun repeatedly as he sits at his desk. The site is already open on his browser, Miyuki’s user profile in the next tab. Eijun bites his lower lip, chews on it, his palm hovering above the mouse. He exhales. Counts from one to three. Switches to Miyuki’s tab.

Would Miyuki like to exchange letters, he writes. Longer ones?

*

I hope you’re getting enough sleep now, Sawamura. Tell me more about your friends. It’s great that you’ve got a place where you can get away from the rest of the world and just be yourselves. I think that’s what I miss most about Japan actually – the culture and the feeling that I’ll be safe no matter where I go. It’s not that I don’t feel safe here, but it’s different, you know? Home always is. – K. Miyuki


“How’s Raichi-kun?” Haruichi asks, sipping at his iced tea. Eijun smiles, following the almost sneaky way the breeze plays with Haruichi’s bangs, revealing long lashes and dusty pink cheeks beneath. Rests his chin against the back of his palm, instantly charmed by the sight. There’s a giggling pair seated in the booth next to theirs, he recognizes them from his university. They’re upperclassmen from the Sculpting Department. Or was it the Restoration Department? Tall, beautiful, leggy women with their fair share of admirers. He at least remembers that. Yet they are quite openly staring at the friend seated across him, possibly wondering if he is male or female. Eijun chuckles. This isn’t the first time it’s happened.

“Same old, same old. Still a baseball-loving idiot.”

“You’ve always preferred soccer, haven’t you?” Haruichi laughs, voice measurably soft and properly pleasing to the ears. “There was a time you tried basketball as well.”

“I tried watching it for a time, yes,” Eijun nods, thinking back to when he’d visit the gym behind their high school building, sketchbook of the month in hand. Watching practices and games had always been a way for him to refine his process, study poses and map out contours, collect references for the future. It wasn’t hard to fall into specific sports, as the other boys in his neighborhood had been interested in them, too. You-chan had even been named point guard in his third year. Eijun remembers being invited to watch his games.

As if reading his thoughts, seeing right through him, Haruichi asks to take a look at his current sketchbook. The edge is already peeking out of his satchel, his friend gestures, the traitorous thing. Eijun is used to this, used to Haruichi’s pointed curiosity. And, also, his concern. His kindness. Steels himself as his friend leafs through the pages, pausing from time to time at specific intervals, lightly dragging his manicured fingertip down to trace the strokes of a familiarly narrow jawline.

“I feel like I’ve seen this one before,” Haruichi notes, nonchalantly, holding the sketch up for confirmation. Eijun lowers his gaze. Remembers the moment vividly. Precisely. As if it happened yesterday.

“It’s from before I moved out,” He acknowledges, knowing he doesn’t have to. Haruichi has been to the Kuramochi house before; his older brother, Ryou-san, had been Youichi’s classmate in high school. And the four of them had regularly hung out, the coincidence of them all being friends acting as a sort of gravitational pull. It had been easy and natural, and Eijun could always be called over at a moment’s notice. He would see them from his window, either way, as it faced You-chan’s bedroom window directly. This is where the redrawn sketch is from, from which angle it is copied.

He can tell from the way Haruichi’s eyes linger across the page, that his friend is trying to place the words together. Trying to find the best possible combination. Trying with all his might not to hurt Eijun, not if he can help it. But it’s an act of folly, him having to be careful or to walk on eggshells. Haruichi has always been the straightforward sort where Eijun is concerned. Has never needed a filter when dealing with him.

“Just tell me,” Eijun sighs.

“I don’t think this is good for you,” his friend replies, without missing a beat. As if he only needed permission. Needed to hear it specifically. Because Eijun would have told him that he’s never needed to mince words with him. “If you still have feelings for Youichi-san—”

“I don’t,” Eijun interrupts, shaking his head, “I mean, not in that way. Not anymore. It’s been years.”

“Two years, Eijun. It’s been two years,” Haruichi fiddles with the napkin next to his plate, “And Youichi-san was your first love.”

It’s not as if he can forget. It’s not as if he’s in denial. Really. But he also understands why Haruichi feels the need to remind him. Feels the need to point it out. It had been a devastating first love, after all. As far as devastating goes. The kind that dragged on for too long, without anything being done about it, before it boiled over, before it shattered glass. Before it grew into a crutch. You-chan had been his childhood companion, his constant. The first picture he had drawn was probably one of them, a family portrait which included the boyishly charming nii-san next door. It was only natural to grow attached.

And when it had come to a head, You-chan was nothing but kind. Had claimed that he loved Eijun as well, in the same way. Even if he didn’t. Simply, as Eijun later came to realize, because he didn’t want to break his favorite kid’s heart. Couldn’t possibly do that.

“You don’t have to keep protecting me,” Eijun says, finally looking up to meet Haruichi eyes, “I’ll always be thinking of him in some way, of course – I admit that. But I’m fine now.”

When Haruichi doesn’t immediately respond, Eijun reaches over. Ruffles his hair. Pulls him out of the moment before giving him a chance to overthink. Because that can’t be good for Haruichi either.

“I promise, I’m fine.”

Later, after they’ve ordered dessert – a strawberry shortcake for Haruichi and a chocolate sundae for himself – and had time to gather their thoughts, his friend asks about his postcard project. Asks about Miyuki who he’s already heard so much about. (Raichi messages him with random updates every other week. You’d think they were friends from high school.) Eijun settles upon hearing the question, loosens his shoulders. Crosses his ankles under their table.

“I don’t know, something about him drew me in. Something about the first postcard I received,” Eijun smiles. Haruichi is momentarily taken aback by the way the light catches his eyes, by the sudden change in him. The way he positively radiates warmth. The way the topic puts him at ease.

“And you’ve been writing letters regularly since then?”

“Yep! I was nervous about asking him if we could. But I guess I really shouldn’t have worried,” Eijun scratches at his chin, his cheeks reddening. Haruichi files the moment away, decides to keep the tidbit to himself. It’s almost ridiculous how his friend is so enthusiastic about snail mail, about the prospect of connecting with someone he met through a postcard. Then again, Haruichi ponders, saving his strawberries for last, written words carry a certain magic with them. Free for interpretation, heavy with proposed meaning and sentiment. He really ought to be less jaded, seeing as he’s thinking of majoring in Comparative Literature. He doesn’t tell Eijun that either, not yet.

“Postcrossing, huh? Maybe I should give it a try.”

*

I sometimes watch people while I’m on the train. I guess that sounds a bit creepy. But I do it, and I try to guess what they do or what kind of life they’re living. And then I try to portray these guesses – these hopes and dreams – in my sketches. I’m thinking of making a project out of it for school. What do you think? – E. Sawamura


Furuya Satoru has always posed something of a challenge. On the one hand, Miyuki could read him quite well, his moods, his desires, his wishes. They were apparent from the first day he arrived, having been recruited a year after Miyuki. Despite his habits of keeping to himself and generally staying out of everyone else’s way when not on the mound, a stark contrast to his stubbornness at wanting to be in games for as long as he could, Miyuki can tell the kid is way more honest than people seem to realize. (Chris-senpai is, unfortunately, the only other person who shares this opinion.) On the other hand, however, just because he understands how Furuya’s mind works, this doesn’t mean Miyuki can always get through to him. One reason being that the kid himself hates having to rely on him any more than necessary.

“Miyuki-senpai, you’re doing it again,” Furuya says, softly, coming up behind him. He feels the hand on his shoulder, is about to lean into it. Until they hear the rest of the team pile into the locker room after them, Sanada’s voice leading the charge. It’s probably another joke about bananas. Miyuki rolls his eyes.

“Doing what?” He asks, turning to meet Furuya’s gaze.

“Thinking too much,” the kid clarifies, getting up to offer Chris-senpai his seat. Their senior offers Furuya a full bottle of water as thanks. Miyuki would like to tell him that he only ever thinks too much when it’s an issue that concerns Furuya. Would prefer to discuss these things with him out in the open, rather than play guessing games. But he keeps his mouth shut, hums in response for Furuya to know he heard him.

“Miyuki, are you still writing to that friend you met through Postcrossing?” Chris-senpai asks, when most of the team has finished changing and announced they’re going out to grab dinner.

“Yeah, I am,” Miyuki smiles, absently reaching down to check that his shoelaces are properly tied. It doesn’t take long for him to expound, to mention that Sawamura has gotten into baseball recently as well (mostly because a friend of his keeps dragging him to local games). He promises he’ll show Chris-senpai some of Sawamura’s sketches next time. Adds that he doesn’t know much about art, but feels that there’s a sincerity to Sawamura’s works all the same. A reminiscent familiarity he hasn’t quite been able to pick out.

He looks up to see Furuya listening to their conversation, already in his jeans and a casual sweater. Realizes that he might’ve made the kid wait too long. Apologizes as he stands to meet him in the doorway. Furuya shakes his head, tells him that he enjoys hearing about Miyuki’s life outside of the team. Takes Miyuki’s hand in his and asks him if he’d be interested in having dinner at Furuya’s apartment. Miyuki grins in response, allows himself to be pulled along. Tells the kid they can talk about making adjustments to his training menu after.

*

There’s this guy. He doesn’t know that I know, but I’m aware he stares a lot. Probably because he admires me. And I admire him, too, especially how he pitches. He’s especially honest when he’s on the mound, winding up, and ready to fight for his team. He reminds me of when I first started catching myself. I think he’s going to have a great and successful future ahead of him. – K. Miyuki


Miyuki doesn’t think there’s anything amiss, doesn’t think that there’s anything to worry about, until a full week later. They’re at his apartment this time, lounging on the couch, settling in for a late night movie, when the kid turns to him, openly staring. This isn’t that strange; Furuya’s often stared at him before and, whether or not it makes him feel uncomfortable, Miyuki’s never been able to stop him. Not that he’s ever meant to. It’s just one of those quirks. It’s kind of adorable, actually, the way he’s extra attentive, extra observant. Meaning to please, to notice something about Miyuki no one else on the team knows. Use it to his advantage in some way. It does wonders for his ego, if nothing else. But then this stare is heavy, heavier than usual, almost probing. As if he hopes his senpai will get the words out for him. Miyuki is used to that as well. Hits the mute button on the remote. Meets his gaze.

“What’s wrong?” He asks, his expression even, betraying nothing of the unease he actually feels. He searches Furuya’s eyes, nudges him, foot against the kid’s waist. This appears to do the trick, as Furuya looks down, finally, lips parted.

“Miyuki-senpai, I don’t think this is working,” Furuya says, solemnly, brokenly, his voice so soft, Miyuki wonders if he imagined it. But he didn’t, if the kid’s trembling shoulders are any indication. He extends his arms, takes Furuya into them, asks himself what now. What is he supposed to do? And somewhere, in the back of his mind, this is what Miyuki knows, what he understands: they fell into each other too quickly, right after Furuya arrived from Japan and made his debut. It was easy, to be led around by the shiny new pitcher, to follow his pace, to give him room to do what he wanted.

He had been so quiet at first, so unsure of himself. A guppy who had been swimming around in a small pond for too long, when he was clearly meant for an ocean. Meant for greater things. And they had probably fed off of each other’s uncertainties as well, found comfort in knowing they were going through the same circumstances, the same growing pains. It was easy to give in to him, to be the first person who understood him. To be the reliable, supportive senpai. To be the catcher he wanted to form a battery with.

“You’re happier now than when we first started going out,” Furuya breaks his train of thought, moving forward so that he can cradle Miyuki’s cheeks in his hands. “Happier than when I first asked you.”

Miyuki isn’t sure what he means, leaning into his touch, brows furrowed. He is about to ask when Furuya beats him to it.

“Lately, it seems that you’re happier when you’re replying to a letter or an e-mail from your friend, than when you’re out on the field.” Miyuki can see, from the expression on the kid’s face, that Furuya is daring him to deny it. Daring him to imply that Furuya doesn’t know him better than anyone else. That he hasn’t been watching Miyuki all this time. He thinks back to being asked about Japan, about home. Thinks about shrugging the question off. Thinks about how exhausting it is. He’s been focused so much on the game, that he’s forgotten to enjoy it. Forgotten to return to that feeling when he first started, first picked up a catcher’s mitt. Realizes this is what Chris-senpai meant when he said that Miyuki was burnt out.

He wonders what Sawamura would do if he were in this situation. Wonders what Sawamura would tell Furuya. What Sawamura would tell him if he knew of Miyuki’s predicament. And again, Furuya understands him, perfectly. Almost poetically. Presses a light kiss to Miyuki’s cheek, pulls back to his end of the couch. Looks to him pensively before asking. Asks if Miyuki would tell him a little bit more about his friend, this person he writes to frequently. This person he feels a connection to, while living half a world away from.

Miyuki smiles back. Laments that he got lucky when he met Furuya. That he was lucky because he happened to be the catcher in the locker room that day. Tells him he isn’t necessarily happier and that they shouldn’t compare then and now so cheaply. Tells Furuya, seriously, that he did make him very happy. Decides to pull the bundle of postcards and letters out from underneath his coffee table. Gingerly places them in Furuya’s lap. Asks if Furuya would like to see the sketches.

*

When I think of home, I remember the window of my bedroom, which directly faces our neighbor’s. He used to pull his curtains back a lot, and so I could easily see into his room. I’d see him studying for exams, playing video games on his console, and a lot of the time he’d wave back and invite me over. He’s my oldest friend and it was difficult moving away from him (and everyone else) when I decided to apply to university. I still get to talk to him on the phone every now and then though, and he makes time to visit when he’s in town. – E. Sawamura


Thirteen months after the first postcard Eijun sent, Raichi tells him there’s going to be an invitational baseball match the following Sunday. The visiting team is from America, his co-worker gushes after plopping Eijun’s bento on his lap. The latter isn’t really listening though; his stomach has been grumbling for hours, and he’s happy to finally be getting something in it. By the time he’s gathered his thoughts and processed the information he’s been given, Eijun realizes that he’s already promised to attend the game with Raichi. Figures he can probably get some more sketching done there. Ponders that he can, also, probably send these sketches to Miyuki.

“And there’s this pitcher I’ve been meaning to see – Sanada Shunpei!” Raichi exclaims, pumping his fist in the air. Eijun can tell that he’s feeling particularly gung-ho about the guy, since he’s not-so-secretly able to steal a mini sausage from Raichi’s pack. He pauses, chopsticks poised against his lips, recognizing the name.

“You’ve been a fan of his for years!”

Raichi nods, explaining that Sanada actually grew up in his hometown, and this is part of why he looks to him. It’s admirable how he was able to make something of himself, especially in another country. Eijun agrees, reminded of how Miyuki has probably followed a similar path. But this is in a realm he doesn’t quite understand, as he and Miyuki never really talk about baseball. They’ve never really talked about anything concrete, actually, like specific information on where they work or where they live, names of people in their lives. It’s only ever about themselves and their opinions, musings about life and the future. Like artworks you pick apart by the brushstroke.

Eijun has noticed some details, admittedly. Knows for a fact that Miyuki is dating someone younger than him, someone he enjoys taking care of. A kouhai who watches him constantly. On the rare occasion when he does speak of baseball, Miyuki never fails to mention the prodigy pitcher who rarely joins in but values the team above all, and the wise senpai who introduced him to Postcrossing. And these are moments Eijun looks forward to, because, at the very least, this means Miyuki isn’t alone. It felt that way for a time, felt like Miyuki couldn’t really talk to anyone else about his worries and his homesickness.

But, recently, there’s been a change. He’s sounded less tired, less uncertain. Sounded like he’s begun to enjoy playing again.

*

Has it really been only a year since we started writing to each other, Sawamura? I feel like I’ve known you longer than that. Maybe it’s because we e-mail each other now, too, and we’ve technically seen each other’s faces. Do you think we’ll ever get to chatting? Or perhaps meeting in person someday? – K. Miyuki


“Have you thought about it?” Chris-senpai asks Miyuki, once the plane is steady and they are able to unfasten their seat belts. In the row behind them, through the space between their seats, he can see Furuya dozing off, his head bobbling lightly. Miyuki thinks he’d like to get a photo, or a short video of that. One of the team’s managers has taken to posting random little shots on her Snapchat feed, and it’s become quite popular with the fans.

“Yes, I have,” he replies, leaning back. Over the year since they began corresponding, it’s tempted him time and again to simply look Sawamura up, figure out which art school he’s attending. Maybe pull up a Facebook account or Twitter handle. But, at the start, they had stressed how important it was to keep up the mystery. To act like they were living in a time when they couldn’t do those things, skip steps ahead. And that would make sure it was always fun. They’d made slow progress since then, finally gotten to exchange photos – which Sawamura had suggested they send through letters rather than by e-mail. He imagines it’s because Sawamura finds it romantic, though he’s never asked outright.

Miyuki knows other things, too. Things Sawamura has let slip. Like how he was in love with his childhood friend and that, while it did bother him for a time after things ended, it’s now become a dull ache he thinks about every so often. Miyuki understands this, understands said ache. It’s similar to how he feels about Furuya, how he’ll always think of the kid fondly. But they’d dealt with their closure long before he planned to meet Sawamura.

And he was going to, as soon as their game ended. He just hadn’t told Sawamura yet.

*

There’s a song stuck in my head, and it sometimes feels like it’s ringing in my ears. I haven’t heard it on the radio recently, so I’m not sure about the lyrics. I wish I could hum it to you. Maybe you’ll have better luck figuring out what it is. I guess I tend to fixate on tiny details easily. This one friend from high school says I overthink my decisions often, which is funny because he does the same. And, now, he’ll be able to use that as a skill, since he’s just told me that he’s planning to major in Comparative Literature. I think he wants to publish detective novels someday. Isn’t that cool? – E. Sawamura


Eijun and Raichi arrive at the venue early. They’re using one of the smaller baseball parks in the prefecture, as it’s going to be the start of a series of games for the visiting team. Like a summer training camp the high school brackets sometimes hold. He hears several fans whisper in excitement about how most of the players on the team are Japanese, and so it’s something of a homecoming as well. They expect the crowds to be much larger by the fourth and fifth rounds. It must be nice for the players, Eijun thinks, to be able to visit home after being away for so long.

While they’re buying their snacks at the concession stand, Raichi suddenly perks up and races off. As if he’s sensed prey and run off to catch it. Eijun is barely able to hear him say that he’s just seen the team arrive, and that he’s going to try and get Sanada’s autograph. (“I’m never going to have another shot at it, Sawamura!”) Shaking his head, letting out a snort, Eijun wonders if he’ll really be able to do it. Because as hyperactive and almost feral as Raichi seems to be, he’s actually incredibly shy around new people. He decides to follow after his friend to be sure.

He sees Raichi, completely red in the face, standing in muted rapture by the back entrance. And speaking to him with an easygoing, charismatic smile, reaching down to ruffle his hair, is Sanada Shunpei. Eijun recognizes him instantly from the photo Raichi keeps in his phone. This is, however, not what keeps him from walking over to join them. This is not what causes him to nearly drop their milkshakes. Another player, a bespectacled one, in uniform sans his catcher’s gear is approaching the two, calling out for Sanada to begin warming up soon. At the last possible second, he turns to look Eijun’s way. Raichi has pointed him out in the crowd.

Eijun figures he must be dreaming. It’s a trick of the light, or he’s possibly going through some form of sugar-induced withdrawal. Or perhaps the chemicals in his brain have somehow short-circuited. Because the letters and e-mails aren’t coming fast enough, not anymore. And maybe, just maybe, because he’s been longing to meet his penpal for months now, yet refuses to admit it aloud, he’s subconsciously decided to fool himself into thinking Miyuki is actually standing in front of him. Either way, he must be dreaming.

He’s seen Miyuki’s face. Secretly keeps the photo Miyuki sent on his nightstand, face down in case anyone comes to visit and makes it to his bedroom. He’s seen Miyuki’s face and memorized, with all his might, the edges and details and contours. Committed them to memory, so that he doesn’t have to keep the photo with him at all times. That would be worse than an obsession. He’s imagined the photo coming to life, moving, living. Breathing right in front of him. And it’s the shock that sends him running back the way he came. Away from what he determines must be an illusion. Raichi can come find him later.

Rationally, he also thinks it’s his fault. He had never asked what team Miyuki plays for, if Miyuki was planning to visit Japan any time soon. Had never tried to place himself in the vulnerable position of having to hear that Miyuki simply thought of him as a way to pass the time, or get himself back on track. That Miyuki had merely developed a fun, new hobby. What’s also is fault is how much Eijun had hoped in spite of that. How much he still hopes. And how much his hopes have come right back to bite him in the ass.

He had known that Miyuki was dating someone younger than him, had put the pieces together and inferred the person was another baseball player. But Eijun had not realized that the person was so close. That they were teammates.

In the split second before he turned away, Eijun had seen the person coming up behind Miyuki. (Yes, he’ll probably admit it now – Miyuki was real.) Had seen the person place their hand on Miyuki’s shoulder. Had seen in their gaze, in the way they looked at Miyuki, intently, lovingly, that they were the one. The prodigy pitcher who loves to stare. Miyuki’s constant.

And there was no competing with that.

*

I’ve often wondered what your voice must sound like. I wish we could talk on the phone. – K. Miyuki


It all happens in a matter of seconds, in a flurry of snapshots. Miyuki wonders if there is a god somewhere laughing at their expense. Wonders if it could have played out differently. In any case, the trigger is a sentence, a word, a breeze that carries a name over. He isn’t sure at first if he heard it right.

“I’m not alone. My friend, Sawamura is over there, waiting for me.”

Logically, it isn’t an uncommon name. Still, he looks over from double checking the equipment, absently handing the clipboard over to Chris-senpai. Sees Sanada nodding along with and entertaining a particularly enthused fan. Miyuki can tell, from how flushed his face is, that he’s about ready to fall over in a nervous heap. He decides to give him a break. He calls to Sanada to remind him to begin warming up, there will be time to mingle later. Notices the boy Sanada’s finishing up with pointing to someone in the crowd. He can’t help this either, turning his head to follow the gesture.

Hears the click as he zeroes in on a pair of wildly golden eyes. A gaze he’s seen before. A gaze he’s imagined looking into countless times in the past. A gaze he planned on meeting, planned on surprising. Planned on romancing. But plans fall apart all the time. Especially ones that haven’t been thought through. Ah, he should’ve called first or sent a quick message. There’s another click which no one else hears, as Sawamura bounds off. Another click as he registers Furuya’s hand on his shoulder, urging him forward. A push in the right direction. Quickly. Go. All arrows point to home.

*

I’d really like for us to meet someday. I wonder when that’ll be. – E. Sawamura


Haruichi yells at Eijun – actually yells at him – over the phone. He’s never heard Haruichi make a sound like that before. Thinks to tell his friend that he should probably take some warm water later. Risks it. Haruichi ignores the comment though, asks him why he didn’t just go over and say hello. Why he didn’t just work things out, where was his gumption, his stubbornness.

“I couldn’t,” Eijun replies, setting the beverages down. He’s lost a lid and a straw, and he feels terrible for leaving Raichi to fend for himself. He sighs, “I don’t know. I saw him and I couldn’t believe it, and the first thing that came to mind was to run.”

“That doesn’t sound like you,” Haruichi says, after a pause, “That sounds cowardly.”

Eijun wants to tell him he’s right. To explain that he’s all messed up in the head and can’t think straight. But that’s still no excuse, and he should have just faced his anxieties down. The way he’s told Miyuki to do it before. He wants to say something. Anything. But he doesn’t. Runs a hand through his hair. Sighs again.

“Anyway, I’m in the area, so I’ll be there soon.”

He doesn’t know how long it takes, how long he’s been sitting in the shade, how long he’s been waiting for Haruichi, before Miyuki finds him. Before he sees the shadow on the ground and knows before looking up. Before he hears Miyuki’s voice for the first time.

*

My friend doesn’t know it yet, but he’s in love. – Spring


For the first time in Kominato Haruichi’s life, he manages to tackle someone into submission. Him, the kid everyone used to tease about looking like a doll. Granted, to be fair, the person didn’t put up much of a fight. But it also isn’t his fault, because he was in a hurry and Eijun had needed his help. It was also probably because of the adrenaline. So, when he saw the tall guy lurking behind them, staring at his friend as if he wanted and was ready to pounce, Haruichi knew no other way. He had to act fast, ask questions later. Think like Youichi-san. He had launched himself, head first, arms outstretched, and willed his body to maneuver them into the bushes.

The guy is looking at him now, incredulously, his lips slightly parted as if he were halted mid-sentence. Haruichi shakes his head, waving him off. Places a hand against his mouth, willing him to keep quiet, “I’m sorry, but I’m not letting you anywhere near them!”

Through the leaves, in a mildly secluded clearing, he sees Eijun getting to his feet, grip tight on his satchel. Eijun apologizes for running off, for not thinking straight. Acknowledges that he should have talked to Miyuki. That he was scared because how often did things like this even happen. Haruichi agrees with his friend whole-heartedly. In most cases, they would have been on the news. One of them would have been catfished. One of them could have been murdered. Haruichi frowns. But that’s not how this story is going to end.

“I have to tell you something before anything else,” Miyuki, the penpal replies, a small smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. He reaches out and scoops Eijun up in his arms, holds him firmly at the waist. It takes another second before Eijun reacts, before Eijun smiles back, before he slides his arms across Miyuki’s shoulders. Before he leans forward until their foreheads are nearly touching.

“Sawamura, I came to meet you. I’ve been wanting to for a very long time now, and I’m sorry that I’m a little late.”

Even Haruichi has to admit that he’s smooth. He lets out a sigh of relief. Turns and rests his back against the shrub, the shorter stems digging into his skin. Belatedly, remembering that he isn’t alone, he quirks his head. Focuses on the admittedly handsome guy next to him. Notices that he’s in the same team jersey Miyuki is wearing. Develops a cold sweat.

“Umm, I’m sorry,” Haruichi manages, lowering his gaze, faltering under the piercing way the guy is considering him. “I think I might have misunderstood. I thought you were the ex-boyfriend trying to interfere.”

There’s another tense second before the stranger answers him, a purposefully no-nonsense voice binding him in place: “I am the ex-boyfriend.”

+

They have about two more weeks before Miyuki has to fly back to America. Eijun extends an arm out to trace the framed edges of their first photo together, his fingertips brushing against glass. He chuckles, remembering the precise moment he witnessed Miyuki donning his gear, pulling his visor on. Raichi had whistled low, remarked that he wasn’t bad at batting either. He stops short when he feels Miyuki come up behind him with a blanket.

“Try not to overwork yourself, okay?” Miyuki whispers against his ear. He shivers in response. Pouts as Miyuki laughs. Settles in when he feels Miyuki’s arms coming around him again, holding him close. He replies that he needs to finalize the layout for his exhibit by tomorrow, but he’ll follow in a few minutes.

As soon as Miyuki disappears behind his bedroom door, Eijun uncovers the bundle he was hiding beneath his sketchbook, flips through them until he finds the postcard he’s looking for. He takes note of a name – Chris-senpai – before filing it away for later. They’ll have to get drinks with him before the trip. He’ll also have to coordinate with him for next time, for when he’s planning to visit Miyuki in America. Wonders what kind of adventures Miyuki will take him on. Wonders when the wanderlust will end. If it needs to.

~ OWARI?