Ren knew he was selfish, refusing to give up the mound despite everyone wishing he would, but they didn’t understand! He couldn’t, he loved baseball! And he worked hard to try and be a good ace for the team. He wasn’t just on the team because of nepotism, he wasn’t! He would prove that to them, he swore he would after the first time he had heard one of the outfielders mention it to the others when he thought that Ren had already left.
He practiced and practiced for the sport, refining his control, and trying to do the same to his fastballs, but none of that even seemed to matter to any of them. It never did, but he hoped that it was just because they never noticed that he was working on it. That was okay though! He didn’t mind, really! It was probably better that way, because now he could surprise all of his team when he got better!
He just wished that he could improve before they realized just how useless he currently was, forcing all of those great players to continuously carry his dead weight. He really was awful.
Recently, things had been getting worse for him at Mihoshi, and while he was making progress little by little, that didn’t even seem to make any type of impact! They still were losing most of their games, and while some players were getting disheartened by that, Ren just comforted himself with the fact that they still had most of the season left.
Not that they seemed to realize that, their effort to win the games soon dwindling until they were hardly even playing. But that was okay! He knew that once all the agitation from the recent, rather brutal, defeat they got served from a nearby middle school simmered down they’ll bring their A game again.
Unfortunately, until then he was stuck being “accidentally” shoved by his classmates for losing another match and eating lunch alone in either a bathroom or abandoned janitor closet that was dusty enough to leave dark gray smudges on his uniform and to make his mother shove allergy medicine down his throat when he came home still sneezing.
It would all work itself out though, right?
Everything was getting worse, nobody except him would try anymore. Hatake, his catcher, wouldn’t even give him the signs anymore! He refused to work with him at all, instead choosing to work with Kanou during practice, leaving him to pitch at one of the nets and hope that he was still making improvements on his techniques
Everything was falling apart slowly, and the worst part? It was all his fault.
It was halfway through the season when it happened, the tensions finally boiling over.
They lost another game, the second one that week, and once again it was all his fault. His pitches were too slow, like they always were, and the batters were able to hit them with practically no effort. They lost 0-7, and coach was furious, giving them a lecture that sent Ren into tears with an embarrassing speed.
And yet, that wasn’t even the worst of it, that honor came after the coach stormed out of the locker room. He can’t even really remembered what exactly happened, one minute he was changing out of his dirty uniform and the next he was shoved back into the lockers with a force that sent the back of his head smacking into the locker above his. He remembers his vision blurring in and out of focus and then sharp pain blooming over his ribs and stomach until it was all just one big ache. He thinks he passed out soon after what he believes was another punch connected with his temple.
When he woke up, he was crumpled on the ground and felt as if he’d been hit by a bus, the artificial lighting sending dull throbs to his already pulsing headache. When he stumbled his way home that night he went straight to bed, not bothering to wake his mother.
The next morning he woke up to his mother freaking out over him, and when she asked what happened he made up a story about being mugged, but only when they found he had no money on him they decided to rough him up in retaliation. He didn’t return to school until the next week when he finally convinced his mom that he was okay, only thing is, the whole time he was convincing her, it almost felt like he was trying to convince himself too.
Ren didn’t know what to do anymore, it’s been about a week since he returned to school and it had been...different. Things went on like they normally did, no one mentioned what had happened. He was conflicted on whether that was a good thing or not. It was almost as if nothing had ever happened, like no lines had been crossed, and that would’ve of been fine... except that it had happened, a line he previously didn’t even know existed had been crossed.
Some part of him, some deep, mostly buried side to him wanted to be angry at them, wanted to yell and scream until they understood that it was not okay, that he was not okay.
It was horrible, and he didn’t know what bothered him more, the fact that it happened or the fact that he let it, still is letting it, happen.
Hatake hit him again today, and somehow, with just one punch that he had a sickening familiarity too it he knew, he knew without question that it was Hatake who attacked him last too.
Ren doesn’t even know what he did, he was just making his way to the janitor closet that was quickly becoming a constant in his life and then Hatake, flanked by Kanou and a centerfielder he barely knows, was in his face knocking the food he nabbed from the cafeteria to the floor.
“Y’know Mihashi, I’m getting real sick of you,” Hatake had growled. “You never know when to quit do you?“ He glared, a weak, almost crazed chuckle escaping him. “It almost as if you like getting hurt.”
“I—“ Ren had tried to choke out, too freaked out to string together a coherent sentence—“What, no—“
“H-h-huh? W-wh-w-what?” Hatake mocked his stutter. “God, you’re annoying, you can’t even talk right,” He had scoffed. “Why do we even put up with you? Oh, that’s right, we don’t have a choice, you’ll probably just go running to good ol’ grandfather won’t you?”
At this point Ren was already crying, unable to help himself.
“Look at him, blubbering like a baby!” The outfielder, Hiiragi he thinks, crowed.
It wasn’t long until the blows started, Hatake and Hiiragi taking turns testing who get the biggest reaction out of him, whether through punches, kicks or insults.
The whole time Kanou just stood there, his face blank, and for some reason that hurt the most, because while the others where hitting him, he thought that Kanou was his friend. And the realization that he wasn’t did more damage than any fist ever could.
“Don’t even bother coming to practice,” Hatake spat out once they finished, leaving his trembling body beaten black and blue as they turned to leave, the lunch period over. “You’ve caused enough trouble for today anyway,” Ren heard him mutter as he went to his next class.
Ren didn’t bother going to any of his own afternoon classes, choosing instead to struggle to his feet and stumble home while he pondered just how he was going to explain the fresh bruises he certainly didn’t have this morning to his mother.
Once home, he made up his mind, not wanting to worry his mother even more, he snuck into her bathroom and stole a little bit of her makeup to cover the more noticeable marks and the ones on his face, the rest he could pass as him being clumsy or from a rough practice.
It was fine, he was fine, it would all be okay... it had to be, he had to be.
If you asked him at the beginning of the season what his favorite thing in the world is Ren would’ve of said baseball, no hesitation at all, just baseball.
Now though, over halfway through season, if you asked that very same question he would hesitate for at least a minute, debate internally for an acceptable answer (maybe cooking with his mom because that was always fun? Or perhaps sleeping because then he didn’t have to think anymore?) He would do this before inevitably give up and say what he always used to share with conviction, but now only replied with a resigned “...baseball”.
And he hated that it has changed, because he loved the sport, still loves it! He relishes in the feeling that hearing the ref call out a “strike!” loud and clear gives him (no matter that he hasn’t received such a thrill since Hatake stopped giving him the signs, because “if your really such a great pitcher, why do you even need them, Mihashi?”). But all of that wasn’t enough to drive away all of the the bad connotations his team slowly started to decorate the words baseball, and even pitcher, with, both meant pain, hidden bruises and cruel remarks regarding just about every part of him, those words meant lying to everyone who just wanted to help, because dammit, he still couldn’t give up the mound.
His stubbornness might have got him into this mess, and it might be the last thing tethering him to it, but don’t let it be said it wasn’t a worthy opponent. His stubbornness was the only thing giving him the strength to get back up after grueling practices that are only made worse by the mottled canvas of purple, blue and reddish brown that is now his skin. His stubbornness is what kept him hoping that everything will be just fine, it will get better with time.
Sometimes, Ren wishes he wasn’t so stubborn, that he could just walk away, he’d probably be better off that way.
“Dammit, Mihashi, can’t you just take the fucking hint!” Kanou screamed at him, his hands clutching his shirt collar tight enough for his knuckles to turn a stark white. “Do you think I like seeing them treat you like this, huh?! If you just quit they’d back off, don’t you realize that your just making it worse?!” He continued to yell, shaking Ren violently.
“Kanou, please stop—“ Ren managed to stammer out through the jarring motions the reserve pitcher was putting him through.
“Do you understand that?!” Kanou cut him off before he could finish. “You could just quit! It would be that easy!” He was turning almost hysterical trying to get his point across.
“Kanou—“ Ren tried again.
“No! Do you even get it?! Things are only going to get worse! Why are you refusing to see this! Do you know what they’re going to do to you if you keep this up?!” The taller boy continued to scream at Ren, his eyes wild and frantic.
“Kanou, what are you talking abou—“ Ren was trying to keep calm, despite the tears that were welling up at seeing his former friend in such a state.
“He’s going to break your arm, Mihashi! Since you won’t stop pitching, he’s going to make sure you can’t!” The reserve pitcher screamed, shocking Ren into silence. “If Hatake even knew I was warning you about this he’d probably break mine too! Please, Mihashi, just quit now, while you can, please!”
Ren didn’t know what to say, even as Kanou stopped shaking him, instead choosing to let his tears silently run down his face. He sunk to his knees the moment the other boy let go of his shirt, he doesn’t remember how long sat there on his knees crying. Knowing that everything has finally came to a head, and knowing what he had to to.
That night, he came clean to his mother, let her hold him while she sobbed, promising that she’d help him, that they’d find a better school, that everything would be okay. And while he’d been telling himself that it’d be okay since the beginning, somehow it was different, more meaningful when his mother said it.
The next morning, he got to school earlier than normal and tracked down his coach to tell him that he was quitting. It was painful to both his heart and pride to do so, but he knew it was what he had to do.
He spent the rest of the school year as a ghost, drifting between his classes and going unnoticed by his classmates. He had to remind himself everyday that it was better this way.
His old teammates never did bother him again, except for baleful glares directed his way in passing. But it was alright, next year would be different, new year, new school, and a new people.
How bad could it be?
I’m back! And I’m really sorry for my late update, things have been kinda hectic for me. Plus, this chapter was surprisingly harder for me write, it was weird trying to figure out how to balance things like canon interactions and dialogue vs. my own spin on it, but I think I did a decent job on it! (Let me know if you want more/less canon in the comments pls.) Anyways, despite this chapter being longer (around 4,500 words I think) I didn’t make it through the whole first episode just because honestly I’m way to lazy to fit all that in a singular chapter. Sorry in advance for any typos I didn’t catch!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Ren let out a shaky breath as he took in Nishiura High, his school for what would be the next three years. He hoped his time here would be fun, or at least decent, like the stories his mom would tell him of her own high school years, but in his experience, school just wasn’t for people like him.
To be honest, Nishiura was a little overwhelming, the rowdy public school was so different from the strict atmosphere of Mihoshi. All around him there was people yelling and catching up with friends or advertising clubs. One girl in particular seemed quite... enthusiastic with her campaign to get more members to join.
“Have multiple personalities?! You’d be perfect for the Drama Club!” She called out to the people around her, seemingly not noticing how she was frightening some with her antics. Ren had watched another freshman run away in tears after she cornered him, he had quickly steered clear of after seeing that particular performance.
Ren glanced down at the map he had managed to snag from a nearby administrator, only to have a small double take as he saw an area marked “Baseball Field” as clear as day tucked away in the corner of the page.
He will only take a peak, he’d be in and out, it’s probably unused anyway.
With those thoughts playing as a mantra in his head, Ren started making his way to where the field was supposedly located. It wasn’t a long way anyway, probably only ten minutes give or take.
See? Everything’s alright, he tried to calm his, for whatever reason, racing pulse.
Well, he knew the reason, Ren just tried to avoid thinking about it. He hasn’t been on an actual field since he quit, the one time he gathered the courage to go check out the public one, his ex-teammates had been there too. Once Ren saw them he just froze up, practically paralyzed until panic-induced adrenaline kicked in, causing him to spin back around and practically run out of the park. He hadn’t even try’s to be subtle, Ren just ran and hoped like hell that they were too invested in the game to notice him.
“Wow..” The pitcher breathed out as he came up to the fence around the area, it wasn’t the best field he had ever saw, but it was clearly in the midst of renovations. He could already picture the finished product and it would be beautiful.
Suddenly a heavy hand came smacking down onto his shoulder, forcing an humiliatingly high pitched squeak out of him. Turning his head, and almost getting whiplash in the process, he realized it was a, rather intimidating, woman behind him. She laughed softly at his reaction before grabbing ahold of his arm and dragging him off somewhere, while, for reasons he couldn’t comprehend, looking delighted.
Even with Ren flinching and protesting the whole way, she never lost her smile, “I found another one!”, the lady called to a group of boys gathered by the dugout.
Ren involuntarily let out a whimper when he saw them, his anxiety skyrocketing.
“Whoa, kid you alright?” The lady asked, letting his arm go, genuine concern lacing her voice, and while the gesture was nice he almost had a full blown panic attack then and there because he had no clue what to do.
Oh God, they expect me to speak now don’t they? He realized when he noticed they were still all focused on him.
Apparently the look in his face said enough because the woman started speaking again,“Hey, it’s alright, take it easy, can you tell me your name?”
“M-Mihashi,” Ren whispered, still panicking despite his attempts to do the breathing exercise he was taught in the therapy sessions his mother had forced him to. “And I’m— I’m fine ma’am, thank you for asking.”
The lady in front of him laughed while she wrote down his name in a little notebook, “Well aren’t you a polite one.”
He blushed at her comment but didn’t reply, not sure if it was really a question he was meant to answer.
“Are you sure your alright though? I’m pretty sure you just had a panic attack, I’m Coach Momoe by the way.”
You still practically are, she thought, watching his eyes nervously flick his eyes between her and the other boys.
“I-I’m fine ma’am, yeah, I’m alright.” Ren nodded, almost more to himself.
“Well, if you’re sure...” The coach agreed skeptically.
“I am!” He reaffirmed, sending her a shy smile to try and reassure her.
“Okay then! Do you have a position? Or are you a new player?” Momoe inquired, she didn’t fully believe him, but she decided to let it slide for the time being.
“I—uh, um, I used to play pitcher, though I, um, I haven’t played in a while, and I was never very good,” Ren whispered hesitantly, eyed trained one the ground, dragging his foot back and forth lightly over the ground before quickly smoothing over the the line his foot drew in the dirt before doing the whole process over again.
Hmmm, there has to be more there, The coach thought, watching him move around nervously.
“Oh that’s perfect! And don’t worry, we’ll see what you got and there always room for improvement!” Coach Momoe said, a grin taking over most of her facial features. She was careful not to let any of her thoughts slip onto her face, she didn’t want the young pitcher to think anything was wrong, she rather liked him, he was respectful and didn’t seem to have any sort of dislike to her being a female coach.
Besides, she reasoned internally. He was rather cute.
“Okay boys, gather ‘round! This is Nishiura High’s first year of doing hardball, so we decided in order to start small, this will be a freshman only club!” The coach started. “When I was a student here, and even when I graduated, Nishiura was only in the rubber ball league! I’m your Head Coach, Momoe Maria, and over there in the dugout is the faculty supervisor Mr. Shiga. And now that Mihashi’s here to act as our pitcher, we have a complete team!
“Okay, let’s go over our lineup! To the left of Mihashi we have Abe, our catcher, and an infielder, Sakaeguchi. Both Abe and Sakaeguchi have the advantage as they’ve been practicing here since spring break, but don’t worry, whatever shape you’re currently in is fine, you’ll catch up! Both of them know quite a bit about hardball, so if your knew try and learn a little bit, I’m sure they won’t mind answering a few questions.” She finishes, taking a pause to let the two introduce themselves, once the two boys did she continued, “Great! Next we have our third baseman—“
“Oh! That’s me! I’m Tajima! I play third and I also bat cleanup!” Tajima interrupted, seemingly too excited to help himself.
Ren couldn’t help but repeat the boy quietly, trying to calm his nerves, “You play third and you also bay cleanup.”
The other player chuckled at him but thankfully he didn’t seem angry, Ren felt as if his face caught fire with the amount of heat that was radiating off his cheeks. He ducked his head, hoping no one else heard him, or saw him for that matter.
Aww, he’s blushing, Tajima thought with a grin, he has a new mission, he’s going to become this cutie of a pitcher’s friend, he sure looked like he needed one.
“I’ve batted cleanup too, but I changed my mind, I don’t think I’m going to play any more.” A tall boy in a beanie caught their attention as he stretched.
“What, why? You’re on my list, aren’t you Hanai?” The new coach was immediately over there.
He must be good if he’s acting this confident, Ren thought, unknowingly sharing the same thoughts with a certain catcher.
Who is this guy? I don’t recognize him, but he must be decent to be acting like this is so far beneath him, Abe was already running through everyone he knew that the player could possibly be.
“I won’t play for a woman,” The replied with calm voice not fit for what was coming from his mouth.
Ren’s head snapped up at that, blush renewing itself in anger at the misogynist words, why was gender always such a big deal? His own mother fought against people like Hanai everyday, constantly being underestimated or assumed incompetent by her coworkers, despite doing the very same work as they did to get to where she is now.
“Mihashi, sweetie, I’ve got this, It’s alright,” Momoe addressed him, causing another flush to spread across his cheeks, adding to the pigment lingering there, only this time from embarrassment, he hadn’t even realized he stepped forward!
Great job, Ren, now everyone thinks you want to start fights with them, he scolded himself in his mind, it totally isn’t like most of them could step on you. It truly wasn’t fair, they were all so tall, and he... he just wasn’t, thankfully though, none of the other players seemed angry... were they smiling at him? Some were! The heck is going on?
Seems like Coach has already gained her own guard dog, Izumi couldn’t help but think, but taking another look at the still blushing boy he reconsidered, or maybe a protective puppy is more accurate.
“Your a girl trying to manage a bunch of boys, it’s practically unheard of!” Ren had to give it to the other boy, he was either incredibly brave or inexplicably stupid to up against the coach, even Ren was slightly frightened by her and, so far, she’d been nice to him!
Hanai even looked remarkably comfortable, leaning back and closing his eyes as if nothing was wrong. Or, well, he did, up until the soft, repetitive taps finally caught his attention, then he was in the same boat as the others: slightly uneasy but all sharing a sense of awe as the watched their new coach bunt the ball up into the air over and over again. Not once did she drop the ball or falter in her stance.
What? How is she that?! Hanai couldn’t help but think to himself, uncomfortably wobbling on the line that separates awe and fright like a tightrope, None of my other coaches could do that!
“Abe, heads up!” Coach Momoe called out suddenly, startling them out of their shock, some were eager, but more were nervous, to see what she would do next, and, as if feeling all their eyes trained on her didn’t affect her at all, she just smirked and bunted the ball one last time and then, in a perfect pop up, sent it straight into Abe’s mitt.
“Whoa...” They all seemed to collectively breath out together.
“Oh! I almost forgot, does anyone want orange juice? It’s fresh, I promise!” She seemed to vibrate with energy, and frankly, after seeing her last display, it was to be expected, but still a little alarming how the inconspicuous statement had them all flinching. To be fair though, Ren was sure from the start that she had a few tricks up her sleeve.
His thoughts were proven right as she carried out a bag that was no doubt packed full with oranges based on its logo. Scarier was that he was sure that the sack was extremely heavy, he struggled to carry them into the house any time his mom bought them anyway.
“Hanai, do you want some? You look thirsty.” She went on to single Hanai out, Causing the others to wince in sympathy, well, most of them, Ren couldn’t help but feel like the other deserved to be called out.
Ren hoped that Hanai would apologize after this to Coach, because even if she didn’t seem affected by his words, years of experience of comforting his mother after similar incidents gave him an insiders view. While the others might not, he saw how her shoulders were tensed, and how her back immediately straightened to try and show a picture of confidence.
Ren was pulled out of his thoughts by the sound of nervous murmurings all around him, and the pitcher couldn’t stop his jaw from dropping when he saw his new coach. She was standing in front of a silver bowl with an orange in each hand, seeming to wait for something. She took one last deep breath before gritting her teeth and squeezing, her muscles bulging with effort. Ren stood there, jaw practically touching the ground in his disbelief.
Hanai couldn’t believe his eyes, this lady was scary, one minute she was all popping veins and protruding muscles, now she was humming happily as if she had not just terrified the living hell out of ten teenage boys, and somehow, that quick change was the scariest part.
“Here you go, make sure to drink up!”
“Uh... thanks?” Hanai gulped, nervously peering over the rim of the cup into the liquid.
“Is he really going to drink it?!” One of the boys next to Ren who didn’t get to be introduced questioned in a whisper, “I’m Izumi by the way, I play centerfield.”
“Hi, I’m Mihashi,” Ren replied, fidgeting under the friendly stare of the taller teen.
“Oh my god, he’s drinking it!” Someone whisper-shouted, turning their attention back to Hanai, watching as he timidly took a sip.
“Does anyone else want one?” Coach Momoe asked, popping up from seemingly nowhere.
A flurry of no’s (and even a stuttered “I think I’m allergic!”) and the frantic shaking of their heads was her only answer.
“Now that you’ve had a minute to think, do you think you’ll be able to overlook the fact that I’m a woman? What do you say, Hanai?” The coach asked with an easy smile, crossing her arms.
“Fine! I’m not making no promises though! Let’s just see how today goes, okay?!”
Hanai’s words had left Ren bristling, but the female coach had just brushed it off, chirping out her reply. She was apparently gone with how it had turned out, after all she did get him to stay, but Ren wasn’t able to shake off his anger like she was. He was fed up with people like that, people who thought that gender had anything to do with skill. And maybe it wasn’t that smart, considering that Hanai was a good half foot taller and definitely stronger that him, but then again when did he ever go with the smart option?
“You...you never apologized,” Ren stammered out, fighting to keep his head raised, ignoring the surprised looks the others were sending him.
“What?” Hanai questioned, looking genuinely confused at what he was talking about.
Ren took a deep breath, steadying his nerves, and quieting his anxiety that was telling him to just back down, “You never apologized to Coach Momoe for what you said,”
“What do you mean? I already agreed to see how today goes didn’t I? What else is there to do?”
Ren’s eyes narrowed on their own accord, “Oh I don’t know! Maybe apologize for judging her solely on your own personal ideas of what her gender can or cannot do?” He snapped, sarcasm dripping from his voice with a confidence that he could only wish he could carry with him in every day life, but was only truly able to when he had a fit of, what his mom called, righteous anger.
None of them could believe what they were witnessing. The shy, anxious pitcher they were introduced too had disappeared, leaving behind a sassier version that was admittedly adorable in his anger, like a growling puppy.
“Uhh... I’m sorry?”
“You should be! Now tell her instead!” Ren demanded, glare still set on his face.
“I’m, um, I’m sorry?” Hanai tried again, this time taking care to direct it to the coach.
“Thank you, Hanai,” Momoe said, fighting (and losing for the most part) to keep the laughter out of her voice as she watched the scene that was unfolding in front of her. Hanai was leaning away from Mihashi with blatant confusion on his face as the smaller teen, at least a head shorter, glared up at him, or, she thinks that was what he was trying to do, because in reality it was more of a disapproving pout than anything.
Slowly the other boys, led by Tajima, began to clap for their new pitcher, unintentionally giving him the shock of his life as he had actually, somehow, forgot of his, hopefully, future team’s existence.
“Oh—um, hi?” Ren blurted out, slipping back into his shell in an instant.
Abe couldn’t help but take pity on the boy, he was interesting, and it left him wondering just how the boy who just made a mini speech in gender equality was also the one who just barely manages to stutter out a greeting.
“Mihashi, right? I’m Abe, I’ll be your catcher, why don’t you go grab a mitt so that we can see what you’ve got?”
“Oh—I, um—I uh, I’m no—,” Ren tried to say, though at this point even he had no clue what he was trying to say before he just gave up and sighed, “I’m sorry.”
You can’t even talk right, what makes you think you’d ever be a decent pitcher?! You know what’s going to happen if you stay here, it’ll be Mihoshi all over again, why are you so selfish?! His mind was a screaming at him, the internal monologue leaving tears that he desperately hoped wouldn’t get a chance to fall.
“Did I say something to make him cry?” He heard Abe ask someone, making him feel even worse.
You’re absolutely amazing, now you even got Abe blaming himself for you being a crybaby!
“I’m— I’m sorry, but I don’t think that— that I can do this, I’m not what you looking for.” Ren had never hated the anxious, broken way down he spoke more than right now.
“Look, man, no ones expecting you to be amazing or anything, were you a relief pitcher?” Abe asked, trying his best to sound comforting.
You should of been, the little voice in Ren’s head said with a venom that left him flinching.
“Uh— I,” Ren tried to speak, wincing as his vocal cords didn’t seem to agree with his mind as to what he should say, “no, um, I wasn’t a reliever.”
“So you were a starter?” Abe couldn’t conceal the surprise in his voice, grimacing when he noticed the teary boy flinch away from his, unintentional, rude words.
Looking around for help, the only help he received was the mild glares from his teammates.
“What?” He mouthed, being careful to do so without Mihashi noticing. His efforts were awarded with jerky motions towards where Mihashi stood, staring at the ground intently as if it was the most interesting thing he’d ever saw in his life.
“Hey, remember, no one here is expecting you to be great, okay?” Abe was trying, he really was, he just wasn’t very good at it, he wasn’t good at feelings in general, “What school did you got to?”
“M-mihoshi...” Ren said, eyes flicking between the ground and the team, his whole body tending instinctively.
“Yeah, I’ve never heard of it before?”
“Was it a private school?”
Ren was in shock at how no one knew his old team, his old coach had always yelled about how they were becoming infamous for there losing streak, but he couldn’t help but he pleased that no one recognized the name.
“Do you mean the private school over in—“ Great, Ren thought, blocking out the rest of the Mr. Shiga’s question, you just had to jinx yourself, didn’t you?!
“Oh, why are you going to school here then?”
“Did your dad get a new job or something?”
“Oh, that would make sense, I didn’t even think of that!”
Ren didn’t understand these people, instead of being angry they were speculating about why he was here?
“Uh—no, I... um, I just needed to transfer.” Ren winced, he might not be able to throw a half decent pitch but he could definitely butcher a simple sentence like no one else.
“Sorry, that sucks, your old team must really miss you!”
If only you knew, Ren thought wryly, and he hoped one day he’d have the courage to say things like that out loud.
“Uh... I’m sure they’re fine,” he said, subtly recoiling at the thought of just how much happier they were now, finally getting rid of him for good.
“Will you just stop it!” Hanai finally snapped, tired of Mihashi’s little act, “You were a starter so it’s obvious you aren’t that bad of a pitcher, quit your whining already!”
“Wha—no! I wasn’t, I swear!” Ren didn’t know why Hanai thought he was seeking attention, wasn’t it obvious how horrible he was just by looking at him?
Hanai growled before he stalked up to the pitcher, reaching out for his shoulders to try and calm him down from whatever state he had managed to work himself into to... only he never got to.
“No—please, I’m sorry!” Mihashi had babbled, instinctively falling to the ground as one arm going up to try and shield his face while his other curled protectively around his stomach.
The reaction was horrifying to watch, and there was no way someone could fake something like that. The only thought going through Hanai’s head was the petrifying recognition of I did that. He hadn’t meant to, he had just wanted the guy to stop fishing for compliments!
Oh God, I’m such a dick, he was suddenly struck with the realization, finally comprehending that Mihashi hadn’t been seeking attention or praise or even trying to throw a pity party, the pitcher legitimately thought of himself like that.
“Hey! What’s going on here?!” Coach Momoe barked, having just fake back from where she was talking with Mr. Shiga about whatever he heard from the rumor mill about Mihoshi Academy, they had walked away to try and keep Mihashi from hearing them talk.
She hoped nothing bad had happened, but seeing Mihashi hunched in on himself crying, and Hanai looking like he saw a ghost she really had her doubts.
The boys all shared a look, they really didn’t know themselves.
“Well?! Is nobody going to answer me?!” Momoe really hoped she didn’t have too but if no one came forward, they would all get in trouble, and seeing how they first meet went, hardball probably wouldn’t happen.
“Umm—“ Sakaeguchi started, sending pleading looks to the others to try and get some help explaining.
“We were unintentionally pressuring Mihashi, we accidentally sent him into a anxiety attack, we didn’t mean too, but still,” Tajima quickly cut in, more serious than they had ever seen him.
“Thank you, Tajima,” the woman muttered as she walked by him to crouch in front of Mihashi, at the woman’s presence the boy only seemed to get more upset, “Hey, it’s okay, you’re alright,” she soothed, gently pulling his arms away from there defensive positioning.
“I— I’m” Ren choked out, his words slurred as he tried to keep his head clear, though he couldn’t keep himself from trembling. He hated panic attacks (which really bc was rather unfortunate, as they seemed to like him, quite a lot actually considering how frequently they were appearing nowadays), the vulnerability they exposed was one of the worst things he ever experienced.
Panic attacks always left him drained and shaky, the first time he had one hurt had honestly thought he was dying, whenever one decided to shore up it always left him feeling like his throat was closing while his heart was racing, seeming to struggle to keep up with his hyperventilating breaths. They were horrible, plain and simple.
“Shh, it’s okay, if you don’t feel like talking you don’t have too, don’t force yourself, can you try and breath with me though?” Momoe really hoped she was helping Mihashi and not making it worse, she was trying to remember whatever she’d learned about anxiety attacks and how to help them.
All Ren could do was offer a shaky nod, trying to ignore the pins and needle that crawled all over his arms and the pulse racing in his ears.
“Thank you, Mihashi, you’re doing so well, try and match my breathing okay?”
He didn’t even bother to reply, too busy watching the exaggerated rise and fall of his coach’s chest and trying to match it.
“You’re doing great, sweetie, just keep trying to match me,” the coach murmured, her thumb rubbing gentle circles against his wrists.
Ren slowly started to feel himself calm down, his racing heart finally calming down, and the pins and needles gradually lessening. Unfortunately, with the panic receding, the embarrassment was able to rush forward and forcibly take its place. He was mortified! All he did was screw up around these people, he was sure that they must all think he was some sort of freak, just like his old team had. Why did he always have to burden people like this?
“I-I’m sorry,” he slurred, wishing the nausea would go away so he could focus.
The other boys were sure they were hearing wrong, ever since Mihashi showed up it felt like they were forced into a state of constant disbelief, they sent the guy into an anxiety attack and he was the one apologizing!
“Oh no, sweetie, you have nothing to apologize for!” Coach Momoe was quick to assure, “Right, boys?” She glared to get her point across, daring them to object.
“Yeah, man, it was our fault not yours!”
“Don’t worry about it, Mihashi! It happens to the best of us!”
They were all quick too chime in, causing a little pool of warmth to fill his chest, his cheeks were quick to flush from their easy acceptance. Is this what it’s like for the regular people? Ren couldn’t help but wonder, For those who earn their spot?
“How are you feeling?” His coach questioned, the concern in her eyes making him feel equal parts food and bad: bad for her, but he felt good because she cares. This woman hadn’t even know him for a full day, and yet here she was, making sure he was okay. He wasn’t sure if he should, but he felt special, only his family had ever really been this nice to him!
“I’m—I think I’m good,” Ren answered, hoping his eyes showed the gratefulness he was trying to project, “thank you, really, thank you.”
Momoe was taken aback, nothing she did was worth thanking. Hell, it was barely worth mentioning! All she did was her job, part of coaching was making sure all her players were okay, whether it was baseball related or not.
“None of that now, sweetie, you don’t have to thank me.” Momoe frowned at him, Who hurt this kid? she thought.
“No, really! Thank you, I—um, I really appreciate it!” Ren exclaimed, his earnest expression almost making Sakaeguchi and some others melt with their need to just—to do something! He was adorable, and Sakaeguchi could already tell, if he did John their team, he gave them ask asked sleeping his little finger without even trying.
Momoe really couldn’t find it in herself to try continue to ignore his gratitude and potentially upset him again, “Well... while it was nothing, you’re welcome.”
Mihashi just smiled, this time a hesitant grin that made her just want to aggressively hug him until he acknowledged the facts that she had already determined to be the truth. He was going to be the Nishiura’s baseball team pitcher, and with guidance and a little more self confidence he’d be their ace.
Yes, she thought, coming up from her crouch and helping the pitcher up off the ground, this is our ace, now it’s time for him to begin acting like it.
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Chapter 3: Not a chapter!!!
Hi, I’m sorry this is not a chapter but an author note. I just want to apologize because it had became apparent to me that this story will have inconsistent updates, mostly due to my lack of motivation. I’m not saying that this fic will never be updated, but I also cannot promise that it will be. I’m really sorry to whoever enjoyed this story, but I just wanted to put this out there so I don’t just go MIA. I hope all of you stay safe and happy, and I hope nobody is mad.
- Geeky Writer