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Inching towards something more

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Tajima is always nice. They get Mihashi, even when she doesn't manage to speak, uncomfortable with her voice. Even if she stresses so much she stumbles over words. Even when she's anxious and doesn't know what to do or say. They help her, never asking for anything in return.

Maybe they're Mihashi's best friend at this point.

Tajima treats her to Popsicles after practice, talks for her when she gets scared, guides her away from loud noise and crowds if she panics...

Honestly they're the best friend Mihashi could ask for. She knows she may not deserve them, but she selfish enough to not care for once. She stands on the balcony of her room and reflects. Maybe she should do something, show them how grateful she is and how much she appreciates them...

Frogs croak in the distance and the summer heat is on the verge of bearable now that it's nighttime. Warm nights are Mihashi's favourite and, honestly, she wishes Tajima was there. They'd talk, Mihashi would feel more at ease with herself and happy to spend time with them.

She's always enjoyed lonely, quiet evenings by herself, so it's weird to feel... lonely. To feel like Tajima should be there. To want them by her side. She paces back and forth, slowly, trying to figure out why this suddenly...

Then she comes to a halt, as if struck by lightning, and oh.

Is this what people call a crush?

--

Tajima adores Mihashi. She's cute. She smiles the brightest out of anyone, Tajima knows. She's strong, especially on the field, but she's timid and damn.

They really want to protect her. They want her to always be happy. They want to pat her adorable redhead and buy cute clothes for her and be there for her when dysphoria hits and--

Oh. So they're crushing. They like Mihashi.

Tajima drops their phone on their bed and get up. They could have realized this sooner -- they've always had a soft spot for Mihashi, but now... they really wanna hug her -- not that they don't already do this. They wanna hold her hand when she's nervous -- okay, they've done that before. They wanna help her transition -- they've already gathered information on where to go for hormone replacement therapy and how to get it. They want to...

Again, oh. They must have been crushing for longer than they remember. How nice... so from now on, they can do even more for her! Maybe they'll buy her a popsicle tomorrow. No, they've already done that, too...

Tajima goes to sleep. Tomorrow will be great.

--

They spend the next day just like any other. They fuss about Mihashi, talk to her, hand their fresh towel to her because she forgot hers. Sit with her during lunch. Get waken up by her after lessons. Head to afternoon practice together. Rest in the shade after practice, then walk home together. Stop by a convenience store with her. Buy watermelon slices and share them with her. Continue the walk back home. Exchange goodnights and seeyoutomorrows as they part ways.

Tajima loves this routine. They like doing things with Mihashi. With or without other team members joining them. If they find themself stuck doing similar things day-by-day until college then heck.

They wouldn't mind at all.

--

Mihashi wishes she could feel awkward. But doing things together with Tajima feels like a second naure. They're always looking out for her, they're always kind -- and funny. She likes them, yes, but it doesn't scare her. Crushes have always scared her, she's always been afraid of rejection...

But with Tajima it feels like it's gonna be okay. Even if they don't feel the same, they'll surely not be mad. They'll surely stay her supportive friend.

Confessing her crush is something else though. She doesn't have one ounce of enough courage to do so.

What's she gonna do?

"Here, Mihashi!" Tajima approaches the mound, where she's having her inner monologue at, bottle of water in hand. "It's hot today, you gotta make sure you stay hydrated!"

Mihashi eagerly nods, takes the bottle with a whispered thanks and uncaps it immediately. She takes a drink -- it's nice and cool -- and sighs in satisfaction. She smiles up at Tajima. They grin back.

"Good girl." They say, taking her hand and tugging at it. "C'mon, we're taking a break. Gotta catch the shade for as long as we get to."

Mihashi allows herself to wrap her fingers around Tajima's, lets herself be guided into the dugout. Everyone else is already there, sweating and groaning about how it's too hot. Tajima sits down and takes off their cap, fanning themself with it.

They're still holding hands and Mihashi feels... mellow. This is how she wants things to be right now and for a long time to come.

Nice, calm, no pressure. She closes her eyes, listens to Tajima conversing with Sakaeguchi. Listens to their voice rather than their words.

She relaxes. Yes, just like this...

"Oh!!! Look at this!" Izumi chides in, Mihashi opens her eyes -- when has Izumi approacher her? -- and instantly gets nervous. Izumi is right in front of her, starting at Tajima and Mihashi's joined hands. "Are you guys a thing?"

A-A thing?

Mihashi shakes her head vigorously. No--

"Yeah. Why?" Tajima replies at the same time, voice carefree and blunt as usual.

Mihashi jumps - literally. How? What? Really?

She nervously looks at Tajima who stares back at her.

"T-Tajima listen," she points at herself then at them and slightly tilts her head. Tajima always understands, even if she only manages to gesture around. Tajima watches her, carefully, following every movement she makes.

Then they nod twice.

"Oh yeah." they say, as if realization only just hit them. "I never asked you out."

Mihashi copies Tajima and nods. It's true, they haven't. But were they thinking about the same thing as she did--

"My bad, Mihashi." they grin apologetically. "Wanna go on a date?"

"W-we... we do that every day... right?" she quietly asks, avoiding eye contact. "I want to... to continue."

Tajima opens their arms. Mihashi moves to let herself be hugged.

"Then this time, let's go with you as my girlfriend."