There is a warm feeling in Kaidoh’s chest, spreading slow and steady to his fingers and toes. He doesn’t know if it’s love, but he doesn’t know what else to call it. Inui’s glasses slide down his face, and the warm feeling grows hotter. Inui has two freckles on the back of his left ear. He doesn’t know they’re there, but Kaidoh does.
Kaidoh can’t remember when the unnamed feeling started, but he remembers that it was already there when Inui first asked him to play doubles. Why was it there, all the way back then? Was it the same warmth, or a different one? Inui puts a grateful hand on Kaidoh’s shoulder, and later, alone in the locker room, Kaidoh puts a hand on his own chest. There is a warmth there, growing hotter, creeping down his arms.
Kaidoh calls it love because he doesn’t know what else to call it. All the stories describe it differently, and none of them are quite like this, but if it’s not love he doesn’t know what else it may be. Inui smiles at him and Kaidoh feels like his heart might break. What else can he call it? Kaidoh puts a hesitant hand on Inui’s shoulder. Inui is breathing hard and the tip of his racquet is resting in the loose gravel of the court. Kaidoh can feel Inui’s pulse light on his fingertips, and the rhythm travels up his arms, into his chest.
Kaidoh tries to remember when this feeling started. He remembers a hand on his small wrist, only a year ago but a thousand years to a teenager. An older boy in square-framed glasses adjusts his grip on the racquet. His fingers are warm, and when he takes them away the warmth lingers there on Kaidoh’s wrist, seeps down to his fingertips, and up into his chest. He can’t remember the boy’s name, but later he sees a green notebook with a single character scrawled boldly across the cover. His chest feels hot
It’s a thousand years from now, and Kaidoh and Inui sit back to back beside the river. They are both breathing heavily. Kaidoh can feel their sweat mingling damply on his back. “I love you,” Inui tells him. Kaidoh doesn’t answer, but he takes Inui’s hand in his own and squeezes, hard. Their fingertips are searing hot. Kaidoh’s other hand goes over his own chest. He feels the thump of his heart beneath his damp t-shirt, and he feels the heat there. Kaidoh doesn’t know what to call it, but if love is anything more than this he doesn’t think he’ll be able to stand it.