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Of Bore and Drizzle

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“Mihashi has been acting awkward lately.”

Upon thinking this, Abe Takaya almost wants to reprimand himself for such an obvious remark. Yes, of course Mihashi has been acting awkward - that is his second nature, after all. However, that probably isn't exactly what his brain meant when the thought hit him, no, but that he had been acting even more awkward than usual. Such a thing sounded almost impossible, but on Tuesday, it was almost as if Abe was being outright avoided, judging by Mihashi's lame excuse to avoid practice (on the day they were supposed to practice together the most, no less!); and, by Thursday, he was barely looking Abe in the eyes. "Yeah, whatever." Abe forced himself to think at first, but that wasn't cutting it. Something was certainly different from the usual. To such an extent that Abe himself wasn't sure if he should probe or yell at Mihashi for that, as his vibes were just a different kind of awkward, and he wouldn't want to make the boy fall apart in case there was something serious going on with him. "That would be too much of a hassle", Abe told himself. Eventually it occurred to him that Tajima might have a clue about that, and maybe it would be alright to ask so as to avoid losing anymore practice days.

On Friday, right after class, Abe hurriedly drove towards the door to the nineth classroom. From there, he could peek at Tajima and Mihashi talking and packing their bags to leave. Unlike Mihashi, who had his back turned to the door, Tajima noticed Abe and waved at him; and, unlike Mihashi too, he didn't seem sad or startled at the presence of the older student. For an answer, Abe signaled that he'd be waiting at the door, and laid his back on the wall outside. "I must have done something bad to him again...", Abe thought.

After what seemed like a lot of time, Mihashi and Tajima left the classroom, both of them noticeably frantic. As they did, Abe turned to them.

- Oh, hey, Mihashi, Tajima.

- Hey, what's it? - Tajima asked bluntly, and Mihashi looked kind of... happy? Eager? And just the usual awkward. Nothing too off. He had planned on asking right away if there was something going on with Mihashi and, particularly, if he himself had done anything wrong this time to the awkward light-haired boy. But there wasn't anything too wrong about the way Mihashi was behaving, no (just weird, maybe) and he even seemed to be in good spirits today, so Abe chose to go with plan B and ask to meet with Tajima elsewhere so that they could discuss the matter without disturbing Mihashi's apparent peace of mind.

- Are you in a hurry? You're going to practice today, right?

- Um. Yeah, we are. Right, Mihashi? - and Mihashi just nods.

- Ah, okay. Is it alright if we see you there later, Mihashi? I wanted to talk to Tajima about something... regarding practice... - He notices his argument probably sounds weak, but that was too late. - But we will be there shortly, really.

- Oh, um, okay. - Mihashi looked a bit startled, and maybe a bit lost. He glanced at Tajima, who seemed to be just as puzzled, nods and answers before dashing off.

- I'll be waiting for the both of you!

- I- We'll be there soon! - Tajima screams at Mihashi, and then turns to face Abe with a serious face. - So, what's wrong?

Abe makes sure Mihashi has left already before speaking to Tajima, almost whispering, and makes a movement with his finger so that both start walking together to the opposite side of the corridor.

- That's what I should be asking. What is going on in Mihashi's brain now?

- Huh? What do you mean?

- I mean... You know. He skipped practice on Tuesday. He seems to be more ticklish than usual, is all.

Tajima smirks slightly at Abe's remark, making him even more confused. - You sure do know him well, huh?

"That's a first", Abe thinks.

- I mean, it's really apparent.

- Well... - Tajima folds his arms in front of his chest, closing his eyes, and makes a self-assured expression before speaking. - If you really want to know, maybe you should ask Mihashi himself. - Abe twists his eyebrows as if wondering if Tajima isn’t just dismissing it, prompting him to finish his sentence. - I mean, there is something he wants to talk to you about... And you have to promise to not, like, yell at him or anything like that.

"Oh? That’s rich, too. Mihashi wants to talk about something?", Abe thought. He had planned on taking Tajima to the courtyard; however, instead of following Abe there, Tajima stopped midway, looked around to make sure it was a quiet place, and breathed in before speaking to the taller guy, who had just noticed he wasn’t being followed anymore. But Tajima speaks seriously, even though Abe doesn’t yet gets any of it.

- Do you promise you won’t yell at, curse at or attack Mihashi for it?

- Oh, sure. I won't do any of that. - "Why does he ask? Well, as long as this will fix things, that's okay", Abe thought. But then, if it wasn't his own fault, maybe... had Mihashi done anything so terribly wrong that he refused to look Abe in the eyes? Of course, Abe thought it was probably something very silly anyway because he knew who they were talking about. Maybe Mihashi had borrowed a spare anything from Abe's locker.

- You won't? Promise?

- Yeah. I, uh, promise I won't. - "Am I that violent on the daily?", Abe couldn't help but wonder, but... oh well. 

- Fine. Then, just wait here, I'll go fetch him.

Tajima immediately turned around and rushed back to where they had just come from, as if knowing exactly where Mihashi ought to be now. And Abe, of course, still had no idea as to what was going on. In a short while, the boy who clumsily found his way to the spot where Abe stood... wasn’t accompanied by Tajima at all. He came on his own, fidgeting and looking downwards at first, but then raising his head, which seemed to be beaming with joy, as he found Abe standing just where Tajima had told him.

- Abe!

- Oh, hey Mihashi. “For someone who is going to admit to his wrongdoings, surely Mihashi looks kinda... happy.”, Abe thinks, and just as he does, Mihashi stands excitedly in front of him. Hands crossed in front of his body, feet close together, he throws his best gawky smile at Abe’s face, who finds the way he shimmers blinding.

- So, um, what I wanted to tell you... Please don't be mad at me. - Mihashi is containing a smile, sparkling, but clearly very embarassed too. Abe feels like there is something he should already have figured out by now, but his brain doesn’t seem to make anything of it in particular, so he just nods blankly.

- I won’t.

- That’s... - Mihashi stares downwards for a second, but then his eyes drift upwards, eyeing Abe’s chest and neck and sending him into a gulp, until finally fixating on his eyes. - I- l-l-like you.

- You what? 

Something inside Abe almost freed a snicker, but he restrained and sent that urge right back at his brain. “What does that mean? ...We are a battery, aren't we? So isn't it a given that we should like one another?” and Abe didn't even want his thoughts to wander to that one place, that place he avoided whenever the topic of "unwanted batteries based on a mutual unappreciation" came to him. Sure, even more so if comparing to that, he liked Mihashi too. But then what? Go ahead.

- Uh... Cool? I mean, I like you too.

Mihashi's eyes flung open for a fraction of a second and, as they did just before Mihashi quickly lowered them to stare into the depths of the underground, Abe realized his cheeks and ears were noticeably redder than the usual. It wasn't like he had just come back from practice or anything, so maybe he was... flustered about something? “Is he seriously trying to pacify me before delivering the blow and it was something a lot more serious than borrowing-” at that, Abe's train of thought is interrupted by Mihashi's strained, embarassed voice.

- Do you, Abe? I mean, I like... like you. - as Mihashi said that "like", dragging one syllable, still giving his best to stare at Abe but now less confidently so, he hoped to see more of a reaction from the older boy. However, Abe had simply narrowed his eyes at that, the undeniable emphasis on the like. Like,... like. “Like like”. Um. Now Abe had actually snickered, but he didn’t even know what for. What’s “like like”? That sounds funny.

- What are you trying to tell me, Mihashi? Just say it.

At this point Tajima, who had been (very clearly, but not to Abe it seems) hiding in the small shadow behind a column in the pathway, shows up and stands by Mihashi's side. Putting an arm around his friend's neck, he eyes Abe and, as if it should be anything blatantly obvious even to the birds chirping, says it coarsely. - Hey, Abe. He means he likes you as a boyfriend. - and blinks, completely stone-faced. That quickly turned into a doubtful face, and Tajima corrected himself. - I mean, that he would like to date you.

“... Date?” If it wasn't for their blunt expressions and the clear statement, perhaps Abe would have misunderstood again, or thought that was a practical joke or something. But that word was unmistakable, and they looked pretty serious. Even so, he glanced at both boys back and forth just to make sure. That wasn't a joke? No? At this point, his brain echoed "date..." with every glance, but he didn't even hear that. All he perceived was a sound confusion. His cheeks were probably blushing at the whole situation as well, but he didn't even feel that.

- ... Sorry, what? - His face looked pretty weirded out and, surprising even himself, Tajima had the urge to pet Mihashi's head so he wouldn't even try raising it now. Not that he would.

- What, “what”? What part you don't get?

Tajima sighed heavily, looking pretty displeased at that remark. "How about all of it for starters?" came to Abe as a passing thought, but he felt that wasn't an adequate way to react to that scene, and spit out his next thoughts.

- I, I think, uh, - "oh, come on, I'm sounding like this idiot" he thinks before breathing heavily and resuming. - What does this mean, exactly? Since when?

Abe thinks that’s not really what he wanted to ask, but still, he had to know how serious that was anyway. As Mihashi didn't make any motion indicating that he might want to answer or even raise his head, Tajima just kept speaking on his behalf, switching from glancing down at Mihashi to looking straight at Abe. In turn, he noticed Tajima now wore the most candidly annoyed expression he had ever seen on that face, which made the whole situation even more uncomfortable.

- Since forever, I think. There hasn't been a day since he met you in that his feelings wavered in any way. Isn't that right, Mihashi?

Tajima asks, again glancing at the boy who now had both hands in front of his downturned face, flush completely hidden by hands and arms and messy orange hair. And he nods slightly. At this point, Abe's jaw drops. And he's looking at Mihashi, hoping that any thoughts will come to him, but none do. A total blank. Tajima, finally noticing the strangeness of the whole situation and thinking that perhaps he had made a bad move, takes his arm away from Mihashi's shoulders and scratches the back of his head. But, of course, he doesn't know what would be "making a good move" right now.

- I mean, that's- just what he told me! Actually, I- we thought you wouldn't be so weirded out about it. Sorry if it surprised you that much.

Tajima kept staring back and forth at dumbfound Abe and ostrich-becoming Mihashi, sort of not really getting what should be so weird or surprising about it all, and about to say something in the vein of “Haha, man, that’s really...” when Abe suddenly spoke up.

- No! That's not it, but... - "Come on, Abe, that's exactly it. What are you gonna say now, 'I was just surprised is all blahblah'?" Abe was kind of annoyed at himself, but even more so at the whole situation. Come on, did he really have to be put through this? And with Tajima around of all things? - Sorry, I uh, think it wasn't... I wasn't expecting it. - he tumbles in his words and turns his embarassed head to the left as Tajima lets out a small chuckle.

- No, it's okay. As long as you're not too weirded out by it, I guess it’s fine. Right, Mihashi?

- Um. - Mihashi nods awkwardly once more, before peeking from the top of his lowered to check just exactly how mad Abe looked. And yes, he was somewhat annoyed, but his look surely was more one of confusion at it than annoyance. If anything, Abe thought that it was annoyance at himself for how confusing things had become, and that maybe was his fault somehow. “What? Is that why Mihashi had been skipping practice and avoiding me? Is that really it?”

- Sorry, it’s just... - biting his lips, the sideglancing Abe was still feeling more of a lightheaded dizziness than anything else, as he couldn’t make sense of the many of thoughts that hit his head like a small ship sailing adrift in a thunderstorm. Finally, it was Mihashi’s turn to raise his head and speak up, looking straight inside Abe’s eyes.

- Sorry, don’t take it so hard on yourself. - Mihashi threw an embarassed, half-sad and half-understanding look at Tajima, and both nodded.

- Yeah! Just... pretend it never happened, okay? - Tajima smiled exhasperately, and Mihashi looked satisfied... before he resumed - But, well, ... maybe you should consider it?

- What? I won’t, but thanks. - a very confused Abe blurted out in a rather angry voice, looking exactly as irritated as he would if Mihashi had just thrown a ball right at the bat, and in turn, Mihashi shivers and looks as if he is about to cry. That’s when the final realization really came to Abe, who still wasn’t really sure what was going on: okay, maybe they hadn’t been playing Truth or Dare or anything like that. Maybe that really had been a love confession. - Sorry, I didn't mean it like this either.

Abe is really annoyed at himself too, but hey. What was he supposed to say. "Haha, sure, I will!"? He had never dealt with any of this before, and, even if he had, he still wouldn’t know how to react this time. As if simply being bad at dealing these... things, wasn’t enough... Well, it’s Mihashi, and that made it all the more difficult. He couldn’t even outright reject him or anything. He was really skating on thin ice here.

- No, it’s okay. Forget it. I don’t think you could deal with that either. We’ll see you later in practice. - Tajima threw a vexed glance at Abe just after throwing his arm around Mihashi again and walking away with his friend. - Hey, forget it. Let’s just go get an ice cream! Woohoo! - Mihashi nods to that, throwing a conflicted look at Abe and lowering his head as both of them walk away.

And Abe is still standing there, dumbfounded.

Chapter Text

On that afternoon, coach Momoe noted that both Mihashi and Tajima were absent, and asked all of the club boys if anyone knew the reason. She was furious at the fact that Mihashi had skipped practice twice in a week, even though there weren’t any upcoming tournaments in the next few months, and Abe haphazardly explained that they had to attend something and would explain themselves maybe tomorrow, but didn’t want to go into details. Coming from Abe himself, Momoe was tempted to excuse it as an urgency, but instead, she opted to give an irritated nod.

- Tell them not to forget to talk to me on Monday before practice.

Abe wasn’t sure how he would tell them that, but he’d try. 

He pretended to be completely fine during practice, even if their absence upset him a lot; after all, Mihashi wouldn’t skip two days in a week over a prank or anything minimal, right? Surely not. So, it did bother him, even more so when he took into account that might be his fault. But even if he were to call, what should he say? He had thrown around “sorry” a few times already, but that didn’t seem to suffice. For the second day in a week, practice was quite pointless for Abe too. It’s not as if practicing with Oki was totally fruitless, for it did serve as a physical workout for both of them, but tactically? It was just aimless ball-throwing.

 

Everyone left the mould in due time and, after reaching home, the first thing Abe does after greeting his parents is walk into his bedroom. Falling in bed, he unusually indulges in the comfort of his sheets before changing his clothes. As there weren’t any official competitions nearing, Abe had an off-day on that Saturday, which seemed like a blessing. He figured he would be able to take his spare time to think about what had happened on that morning, and just set his mind free from whatever disturbed him before he had to see Tajima or Mihashi again. And until then, he had to think of a good excuse, or else... maybe Mihashi wouldn’t want to play with him again, ever?

And that’d be troublesome. Gulp. “What if he leaves the club because of that?” Abe tortured himself with such ideas, and that made him cling tightly to the pillow. He didn’t want to hinder the hard-earned harmony that they had found, the strong battery they built through so much effort no matter what. And hell, if any of that was true, maybe he would even take on “dating” Mihashi, whatever that meant, if it would make them work any better together. But Abe also realized back then, from the pained look in Mihashi’s eyes, and the anger that Tajima felt at his reactions, that a wrong move might mean destroying not only all of Tajima’s but also all of Mihashi’s trust in him; and even if he had little conscious idea of how much that’d make him crumble, the sting he felt in his chest was a good indicator of it.

As Abe was lost in thoughts, possibly prompted by their parents, Shun had come into the bedroom asking to play.

- Hey, Taka, let’s play videogames! - Abe pretended to be asleep, but that didn’t discourage the younger sibling. - ... or I’ll tell mom you’re ignoring me!

- Hey, Shun, come on. I’m tired today. It was a tiring day. - Abe refused to even move his head from the pillow in which he rested comfortably.

- Ohh! How was practice today? Was Tajima there?

"No, Tajima wasn’t", Abe thinks, and that sucks. Everything was kind of messy right now, and Abe wanted to cry at being pestered so much, but not in front of Shun at least. But was there anything he could’ve done, or can do now, to handle that better? Or should he act all self-defeating about it as if nothing can be done at all?

- Sorry, Shun, I’m tired. I’m free tomorrow so we can play all day.

- Oh, okay! I’ll remind you of that.

- Yeah, bye. “It will be good to free my mind of these worries anyway”, Abe thinks, and ends up sleeping without a bath. In his sleep, he ends up dreaming of Mihashi and Tajima paying a visit to play with himself and Shun, and it takes a while, after waking up, for him to remember that might not be possible so soon. The realization seems to hurt the most in the morning.

The day passes by in uneventful happenings. Eating his mom’s food, playing videogames with Shun and watching baseball games with his dad would be some of them. Abe had laid down on the sofa to watch the baseball game, but as he observed the different tricks for communicating between battery players, his mind seemed to wander somewhere totally different. Maybe that was just because he wasn’t sure if he’d ever be able to do that with Mihashi again, but it was getting to him again. "He would like to date you.” A twitch. "Maybe you should consider it?" Another twitch.

He realized his face must have looked reasonably angry, because his dad was startled when he got up from the sofa.

- What's up?

- Nothing. Just going to the toilet.

But even though Abe had really meant to do it, he finds his mom and Shun in the kitchen on his way, and decides to ask. “Perhaps it will sound too blunt”, he felt, so he had to figure out how to ask it in a discreet manner. He thinks for a bit of how to phrase his question so that it won't be a given, and mulls over it for a few seconds before deciding to ask.

- Hey, mom.

- Yes, Takaya? - She turned quickly to look at him before going back to cutting fresh carrots.

- Just wondering, but did dad ever confess to you? Or you confessed to him?

- Eh, did a girl confess to you?!

If a twelve year old boy quickly saw where this was going, perhaps Abe wasn't good at hiding his intentions at all. Or maybe that’s Tajima’s apprentice for you.

- No, I swear that's not it. - He wasn't lying. - Just, uh, I was wondering about it.

His mom contemplates that question for a bit as she keeps cooking, and Shun watches. - Well... your dad did confess to me when we were in school. But I didn't share the feeling at first. - She kept slicing vegetables as the sons carefully listened to the story of how their parents met, and chuckles. - I thought he was burly and a bit brash. He wasn't really my type. He had known me for a while, but I hadn’t noticed him at all... And, in our first meeting, he says he had noticed me in the audience and thought I was special! 

She throws the sliced carrots in a bowl as both children keep eyeing her curiously. 

- At first I dismissed him. But then I considered his feelings for me... And, well, I fell in love.

"Consider"... that word rang in Abe's ears. That's what Tajima had asked him to do, after all. He then goes back to dismissing it.

- Oh, I see, that's nice. It's really nice to know, that's a beautiful story. It’s just, it was weird to imagine... Thank you, mom.

- You're welcome. - She says, with a smile.

Unfortunately, it seems that Shun’s curiosity wasn’t satisfied. - Come on, come on, Taka! Who is it?

- I am telling you there isn't anyone! - He was lying about this.

 

Without much of a concern, Abe went to the toilet, did some thinking, flushed and then went straight to his bedroom to do some more thinking. If neurons actually burned, light smoke would certainly emanate from the top of his head by now. Somehow, these thoughts were weighing on him more than they probably should by now. Everything just felt... so wrong.

Just thinking too long about the possibility of losing Mihashi, not only as a pitcher and a worthy baseball partner, but also as a trusted colleague (and even... friend? Almost-friend?) made Abe’s head hurt and his chest ache. It wasn’t something he wanted to think or even talk about at all, but he couldn't be selfish or egotistical about it either. So, yeah, sure he hadn’t considered it before. But maybe he could consider it now? Dating Mihashi wasn't an idea that had ever crossed his mind, and it felt a bit uncomfortable, to say the least, to even think of it at first. “What did he mean by dating? Did he mean... like, holding hands? Or maybe... kissing...?” At this point, something presses harder on Abe’s chest and he starts coughing. “Oh. Okay. People dating kiss. Usually. Right... But does that mean Mihashi wants to kiss me?” It was all so confusing to Abe, who had never thought of this possibility even as a joke. He keeps staring at the ceiling, not really wanting to think any further than that. Abe prided himself in being able to analyze and foresee many different kinds of events. Just not that.

Or maybe Abe was just fantasizing? In fact, he thought it almost felt too... nice, to be real. If it was, he should probably be more disgusted at it, right? No, that can’t be. But if it was true, it probably made sense for Mihashi to, well, like him in that way? Or, in his own funny and uncertain words, like... like him. The whole idea seemed a bit unconceivable before but, after reflecting upon it for a while, Abe begins to see all the signs. Yes, it did annoy him loads, the fact that Mihashi seemed to get moderately well in his own clumsy ways with anyone but him. The boy wasn't exactly unsociable, just somewhat shy, or hurt. And Abe used to think that might've been because he himself was too aggressive, and that was a big issue for Mihashi, but both Mihashi and Abe got along just well with everyone else... Well except maybe those people, and also maybe that other person, but. Anyway, maybe it was simply that they had utterly incompatible personalities? But even so, they were starting to be able to function well as a battery. "So then why?" was a thought that would bother him on and off, but he had eventually settled on "whatever, let's make this work somehow". And now this. So Mihashi had admitted to “liking liking him”, vocabulary on which Abe had settled on, and maybe that should've made Abe want to puke.

Instead of puking, however, giving way for his mouth to express itself freely made Abe more likely to smile than frown. That was kind of... cute, maybe? Mihashi wanted to kiss him, was that... it? Maybe that should be disgusting in a way, but he didn't really find it all that disgusting after musing for a while. He was more... flattered, really. However, even though it urged Abe, yelling "thanks!" at Mihashi’s face didn't seem to be the proper way to go about it. And he was sure that he had to do something about it, only, he didn’t know what. And he wasn't likely to ask his mom, either, thanks to Shun's earnestness to find out more about it. “Wow, what a strange situation I put myself into”, Abe thought.

Then, Abe recalled what his mom had told him. How she had not really thought of dad as "her type" at first, but then she considered the intensity of his feelings... Pondering about it, he also thought that he might want to know the intensity of Mihashi's feelings. For Mihashi to even consider approaching Abe and telling him how he felt, despite his fears, and not wavering even in front of Tajima who confirmed the gravity of it, to the point of almost crying when Abe was honestly confused about it, just wanting to make sure, and skipping club activities... Abe didn't think that was something he could do, any of it and that's why it was kind of amazing to him. It was almost... too lucky, having someone care that much. And to think Mihashi was so embarassed about it that he just let Tajima say “forget it” and walk off...

“What an idiot.” Abe thought, and smiled warmly just before falling asleep.

Abe ended up sleeping very early again. He woke up in the middle of the night, and picked up his cellphone so as to set the alarm. It's just past eleven in the night. As he did, he looked through Mihashi’s old SMS messages. All of them were very casual; stuff like, “let’s meet in practice tomorrow!” and “ohh, did you watch that game yesterday?”, but Mihashi always found a way to contact Abe about the most frivolous of things, and Abe was never angry about having to answer it. In fact, it was so comfortable that he had gotten into the habit of sending Mihashi random messages as well. But it had been 3 days since their last exchange, and Abe was missing that. He really wanted to share his thoughts on today’s game, and Mihashi would be the person he’d normally resort to it, but the way things were right now...

After amusing himself with Mihashi’s emoji talk and exaggerated exclamations, Abe put down the phone and started rolling in bed, unable to sleep. Eventually, he chose to message Mihashi to ask about it. It was just past eleven, but it was a Saturday, so maybe Mihashi would still be awake? And even if he wasn’t, well... it was unlikely that he’d wake up in the middle of the night just for an SMS anyway, so maybe that wouldn’t be a problem. Of course, he must've been pretty out of it for giving in to that impulse. Abe starts typing. “What did you think of the game today? Did you see the way the battery from Yomiuri signaled to eachother? That was really cool. We ought to try that. Sorry I didn’t message earlier. I slept right after it.” Send.

And he just stared at his phone, not really hoping for any answers now. Much to his surprise, however, the phone rang in the next minute, and he found himself overconscious about answering it, as it was a call from Mihashi’s number.

- Hello? - Abe didn’t know what to say really, or what brand of Mihashi would be on the other side of the line, so he was anxious.

- Hey, what time do you think it is? Do friends usually message eachother that late?!

Abe wasn’t feeling very comfortable with the odd voice on the other side of the call at first, and it took a few seconds for him to realize that was actually Tajima.

- Tajima? What are you doing there?

- Of course, I came to Mihashi’s house so we could play games and have fun aaaaall weekend.

Even though Tajima was clearly just attempting to make it sound like they were having lots of fun together and Abe wasn’t necessary for Mihashi’s happiness at all, that lame attempt worked better than he had expected for Abe, who suddenly became really worked up over it. Actually, the older boy had to admit he was beginning to feel something like a tiny bit of hatred at Tajima. There. Come on, that pervert had pretty much confessed to Abe supposedly on Mihashi’s behalf, and then told him to “forget it”, and now... "What’s all of this about?", was the question Abe had settled on. 

- Hey, Tajima, cut that out. Just let me speak to Mihashi.

The phone was silent for a while, but Abe could hear sounds of spaceship shootings and explosions in the background, so he knew the other boy was listening.

- You don’t dare making him cry again!

- What, I won’t. - The sound of his voice was more one of confusion, not quite affirming to anything. What did Tajima mean by “make him cry”? Just how bad had he inadvertently hurt Mihashi? - I just want to talk to him about today’s game.

- Hmph. Fine. - Tajima’s voice grew farther, and Abe heard him say something like “hey, Mihashi, talk to him”. After a while, Mihashi answers the phone.

- H-h-hi, Abe. Why do you want to talk to me? Aren’t you mad at me? - His stuttery words still sounded like they had been rehearsed for long hours for an audience of thousands of people that would hear those lines.

- Mad? No, how or... why should I be. - Abe didn’t know how to go about it all still, so he thought it was probably better to be sincere at least. - Did you watch the game today? Yomiuri’s battery really is something else, huh? - He wanted to recover the mood of their casual, everyday chitchats, so he put on a smile hoping that Mihashi would follow him.

- Huh. D-do you like me, then? Like... l-like?

“Oh, no, it seems that he’s still at it.” Abe thought weakly, but he was resolute in pushing the conversation forward.

- Yeah. I told you already, I like you. - He didn’t say “like like”. However, he did utter a bashful, dragged like, as if mocking himself for saying that. And didn’t give any time for Mihashi to react. - Just, um, don’t get the wrong idea. Is Tajima still there?

- Yeah, he is listening.

- Can’t you tell him off for me? That’s annoying.

Abe was legitimately too annoyed at that. Surprisingly, he hears Mihashi saying something on the background, which he was pretty confident sounded like “Abe told me to tell you off”. Abe smirks at that small victory for his team. He can’t hear Tajima’s reply to that, though.

- T-T-Tajima told me to say “same to you”... Sorry...

“Oh.” But then Abe considered that, well, maybe that “sorry” meant two points for his team? - A-anyway. - Abe himself didn’t know what else to say, but he couldn’t let the silence grow between them, but... he wouldn’t want to say anything in front of Tajima either. - That, um, is Tajima going to sleep in your house today?

- Um, yeah! He asked his mom to stay the night.

- And when will he leave?

Mihashi was a bit disconcerted at their indirect bickering, but he couldn’t really bring himself to lead nor end the conversation now. - H-he is leaving tomorrow afternoon.

- Oh, okay then. I’ll call you tomorrow night, then. Is seven a good time?

- Um, yes...

- Don’t worry, it’s nothing too bad. I just don’t want anyone interfering. Is that okay?

- Ah, okay! - Mihashi was admittedly a bit startled at that sudden question, but he didn’t want to get his hopes up. And Abe just, well, didn’t know what he was doing all that much.

- Fine. Until tomorrow, then. Bye. Oh, and reply my message if you can.

- Yes! Yes! - He was nodding frantically on the other side of the line, and Abe could almost hear that. By the time Abe finished the call, Mihashi seemed to be blundering even more than usual. Yet, Abe really wanted to talk to him, even if he didn’t know what exactly he would like to tell him or talk about.

All he knew was that he had to tell Tajima off in person. That bastard.

“Tajima has nerves. Ugh, whatever...” Abe thinks, and soon manages to sleep soundly. On that night, he was pretty sure he dreamed of Mihashi, although he wasn’t sure about the contents of his dream.

 

He takes his time indulging in the drowsiness before getting up and ready on Sunday, especially because he knew Shun wouldn’t stop pestering him to play together; as he didn't, even while Abe brushed his teeth and got changed.

- So, are we going to play games today?

- Yeah, yeah.

They were supposed to have a nice and quiet breakfast, but no, Shun wouldn’t stop pestering him about yesterday’s topic, that one matter he was so curious about.

- Hey, bro, who is it? Who confessed to you? Huh?

- Quit it, Shun. You’re not hearing anything from me.

- Oh! So there is someone?

- Grr. - Abe gets extremely irritated at his brother’s curiosity, and resists the urge of kicking his leg under the breakfast table by getting up from the chair and washing the dishes. Their mom keeps cleaning the fridge even as brothers banter, and Shun had to tell her all about that too.

- Mom! Taka doesn’t wanna say who he is in love with.

“What the hell, in love?!” Abe thinks and gruffs as he throws an ravaging look at Shun for even just saying that. "How did he even reach that conclusion?! Me, in love?" Their mom didn’t seem too distressed over it, though, as she chooses to keep cleaning the fridge, only briefly glancing at her sons. - Oh, really? That’s unusual. Are you in love, Takaya?

Abe was just ready to tell the both of them to mind their own businesses, even if he knew that wasn’t something he could do. But upon hearing his mom’s words, he had to wonder. In love? Was he? No, he wasn’t, must not be it... Right? He was just eager to talk to Mihashi later that was all. But, well, that was just in hopes that they would go back to communicating naturally, and they could go back to their usual friendly relationship. It didn’t feel so absurd now, so yes, he was eager. But that was it. Yeah, sure, by now he thought Mihashi was kind of... cute. But was he... in love?

- Ugh, that’s... that’s not it. - But Abe wasn’t so confident in his own words. - Shun really doesn’t get it. That’s why he is still just a little kid.

- I may be a little kid, but at least I can recognize when I am in love!

“’When you are in love’? What are you even talking about, you little brat?” an enraged Abe thought as he finished washing the dishes, and he was hoping his furious glancing at Shun would have conveyed that at last, and end that conversation once and for all. “Love... I am not in love. I am just considering it, is all”, Abe reaffirmed in his mind, resolutely. Also, how come his little brother’s personality was turning out to be so different from his own, Abe had to wonder.

- Well... - the Abe household mom felt that she had to step in so that her children wouldn’t end up fighting, or leastly get into a heated argument. She was done with the fridge by now and rearranging the vases by the window, and that made her speech look even more dignified, as if that was coming from an expert somehow. - There are many different kinds of love, you two. As I said, I didn’t see your dad like that at first, but we have been married for sixteen years now, so... Sometimes, you have to wait for it to blossom. It’s not always what you believe at first. So don’t fight over something like that, right?

- Yes, mom. - both said in an almost unison, albeit in different levels of enthusiasm, and then leered at eachother before chuckling.

- Good. So, why don’t you two go play some games now?

- Yeah, whatever. Let’s go, Shun. - as Abe had just come to the realization that it sounded like his mom believed Shun somehow, he did want to beat his brother’s ass in whatever ways he could, really.

However, her emphasis on the “you” surely made Abe think for a little. And, well... maybe... wasn’t it that Mihashi might have seen something before Abe for once?

Around mid-day, almost as an afterthought, Abe went to bed and discreetly peeked at his phone, checking the message Mihashi had sent him yesterday night. “We watched the game. I thought the same. Can we try that next time?”, it read, and that came as a relief to Abe, who wasn’t sure Mihashi would ever be comfortable again about casually talking to him ; and he put the phone next to his chest as he shut it.

All day, Abe kept peering at the clock, and time itself seemed to be moving at a slower pace. Half an hour had passed. Now, ten minutes. Now, three. As the time they had agreed on approached, Abe could feel a turmoil bubbling up inside him. He didn’t really know what he wanted to talk about, after all that, but he did know by now that he wanted to clear up things with Mihashi so that they could, at the very least, go back to... their daily clumsy bantering. Surprisingly, Abe missed even that by now.

Around ten minutes before seven, exhausted of waiting, he decided to call Mihashi already. That was a good time for him, as everyone else seemed to be busy doing other things and probably wouldn’t notice his absence. Heart filled with resolve, Abe dials the same number that he had also called on the night before, and it rings three times before Mihashi himself answers. That was barely enough for Abe to prepare himself mentally.

- ... Hello, Abe.

Chapter Text

- ... Hello, Abe.

Mihashi’s voice was low, but less shaky than usual. He wasn’t hiding anything from Abe anymore, and that, in turn, made him a lot more relaxed when speaking, down to his voice. On the other hand, the person who was now tripping in his own words was Abe. He badly wanted everything to sound just the same as usual, but he couldn’t bring himself to do that so cynically. Not when Mihashi sounded almost... regretful, for whatever reason. So Abe had to insist on the initial plan, of being honest to a fault if needed until things were cleared up and the sun could shine again.

- Hey, Mihashi... Are you alone already?

- Yes... Tajima has already left.

- Are you angry at me?

- N-no, I’m not... - Mihashi gulped as he said that, for he didn’t know yet whether he was going to get an even harder scolding than he had already gotten from Tajima for being low on spirits since Friday. 

- Hey. I... Don’t take this hard, okay? Promise you won’t yell at me, or cry or anything?

- I don’t know. But I will try. - He was confident and transparent about it, and it made Abe feel all the less secure in his stumbling words. And he nearly wavered in that resolve.

- I... it’s... I... Don’t know how I feel. - Abe says, and pauses for a moment, and hopes that it'll be for the best if he just starts spitting words without thinking too much. - I don’t want you to... Think I am downplaying your feelings or anything, that’s not it. It’s just, I really don’t know. When I said I like you, well, I really like you. I just hadn’t considered dating... you or anyone else, really. But... If I had to date someone, well... ah, I guess I'd like it if it was you, yes... 

Just after blurting out those words, Abe’s regular loud voice vanished as he realized “hey... isn’t that pretty much a confession, too?”. Mihashi didn’t seem too bothered by it, though, and until the last minute, Abe's feelings swayed, unsure if all of it had been a prank to get him to admit to something or what else.

- I am happy to hear that, Abe.

Both sides of the line went silent for a while, neither of the boys really knowing what to say now that any other interpretation was out of the way. But, again, it was Mihashi who had to go ahead and say it, inconspicously like gentle drizzle. - Does that mean you’ll go out with me?

An ashamed “g-go out?” crossed Abe’s mind for a second, but he knew that was it, and he was ready for it, right? He had been trying to get ready for it, yes. Come on, it’s not that serious, right?... Well, it is, but as long as he wasn’t lying about any of it... That would be okay, and that's what Abe had settled on.

- Yes, I guess. Oh, but I don’t know how to do any of that. Uh... Dating, I mean.

- It’s okay. I don’t know either. - Mihashi sounded relieved at that statement. That, and the fact that both were willing to learn. As for how... - But Tajima said he would try to help us if you accepted.

Just as he heard that, Abe felt a wave of fury pass through his body, and remembered he had something else he absolutely had to clear up. Was all of this talk only a byproduct of one of Tajima’s stupid ideas, in the end? Did Mihashi really... like like him, or was he just being swayed by Tajima’s wicked mind? And, well, he still needed to hear all about it from Mihashi’s mouth, anyway: "What did Tajima want, after all?"

- And what about Tajima, then? Why did he visit you and picked up your phone yesterday? - “Uh oh, I’m already starting to sound like some jealous freak.” Abe thinks, resentfully. Good thing Mihashi didn’t take that hardly at all, as if that was as natural as falling rain and crashing tides. 

- Well... he was trying to cheer me up. I didn’t feel like having fun.

- So... was it Tajima that suggested you should confess? - Abe was scorning, full of confidence in that disillusioned proposition. He was just waiting for that gentle drizzle to become a thunderstorm in no time. Wasn’t that bound to happen eventually, anyway? 

- Um... No, I wanted to confess myself.

- ... You did?

- Yeah.

That was when Abe finally saw sunlight. And, yeah, Abe really wanted to know more about the feelings of the youth who seemed to care so much about him.

- For how long?

- Eh?

- Mihashi... For how long have you liked... liked me, then? - Abe did feel a bit like a stupid baby speaking to Mihashi like that, but he just had to ask it clearly, and admittedly he still didn't have many words to describe such feelings in his vocabulary yet.

- Uh... Fourteen months?

"... Oh." That was precisely for how long they had known each other. That might not have been just an effect of Tajima's ill wind after all.

- Why did you confess only now, then? Were you wanting to k-kiss me or anything like that? - Abe realized a bit late into the sentence that sounded incredibly immature, laughable and perhaps even a bit conceited, but Mihashi didn’t seem to be disgusted by it at all; but perhaps he did feel a bit weary, at last, by the influx of questions and wild conjecture thrown at him.

- ... I wasn’t really thinking of kissing or anything. Tajima told me I should be honest, eventually... and I agreed, since we... aren’t too busy with games or tests, now.

Upon hearing that, the tears that had furtively formed in Abe’s eyes since the beginning of all those questions started falling. He realized he was... crying? “Oh, what are these tears for...” he wondered, but just then it struck him that, all the while, for months and particularly on these last few days, he had only been doubting Mihashi’s intentions... and feelings. Of Mihashi, who just had the purest intentions and feelings towards him, in the end. How stupid could he get? And, at that thought, Abe sobbed loudly, and Mihashi finally realizes he had been silent for he was crying too much. Instead of stuttering and trying to make things sound fine between them as he usually would, however, Mihashi is much more on point at that.

- Abe. Didn’t you say I can’t cry? T-then... you can’t cry, either. - The way childish-cute Mihashi put it sounded almost like a parent playing “pinky promise”, and it makes Abe sob even louder, a strange mix of happiness and chest pains overflowing from his body through the dirty mess that was his crying face and his runny nose. - S-stop being stupid. How would I? - Abe lets out among sobs and sniffs. - Ugh... it’s your fault I am going to have a headache now... - Abe thought of just going back to his usual behavior at Mihashi, but realizing how stupid he had being all along didn’t help him at easing his loud cry at all. Both just had to stay silently on the line for a few seconds, and then minutes, Mihashi smiling painfully but gladly on the other side while Abe tried to recover his usual breathing pace, slowing down, so as to make the tears stop flowing.

- Ughh... Sorry...

- It’s okay, Abe. I love you.

At that single short sentence, Abe’s cheeks started burning so hard, the tears might as well have just evaporated? as he flinched, probably looking very stupid. Mihashi didn't let him indulge in any more shame than that, though.

- Can we meet tomorrow before class? There is... somewhere I wanted to go. With you.

“Somewhere? Go?” Abe thinks, but opts to just let Mihashi decide for the both of them for the time being. He clearly isn't in top shape for that. - Um. Yes. Let’s meet. The usual place?

- Yeah. We can talk about the game, too. And other things. - Mihashi says warmly, and both smile at their phones, on both sides of the line. - I miss talking to you, I just wanted to see you now.

“Oh, I probably won’t be able to take this 'dating' thing if it’s always going to be like this.” Abe thinks out loud, as he flushes wholly again.

- Ah, sorry!

- Wait, did I say that? No, no, forget it. It-it's okay. Really. Anyway... Let’s meet, yeah. I’ll be there twenty minutes in advance, alright? - and Abe really hoped Mihashi hadn't heard that, and that they could just talk naturally.

- Yes! - Mihashi answers gleefully before saying his goodbyes, sensing that Abe might want to end the call. - Thanks for calling me, Abe. I... am going to sleep so much better today because of it. Thanks, really.

- Uh, no, no way. - Again, Abe felt that he himself should thank Mihashi for being so considerate even though he had been quite stupid all the while. For fourteen months, actually. - Nevermind it. Anyway... 8:15, right? I will be waiting, them. Oh... Call me anytime.

- Yeah! I will be there. ...I think. - Classic old Mihashi.

- See you tomorrow, then.

- Yeah, see you tomorrow.

Neither of them really wanted to end the call. But Abe had started worrying that his family might notice how he had been taking his time, so he hangs up. Once Abe finishes the call, there's a brief second in which he gets to stare at his phone before his little brother, who had gone unnoticed eavesdropping behind the door, let it crack and screamed at Abe who pretty much jumped from his bed in a startle.

- Wait, was it Mihashi?!

- Shut up, brat! And if you ever tell anyone that- - Abe yells angrily, angrier than Shun had ever seen, at his brother who rapidly runs off. Before Abe can even finish his sentence, his brother is already in the kitchen, telling everyone the good news, and Abe has to get up from bed and run after the boy, even though his face was still swollen and he wouldn’t ever want to get out of bed and show up in that state. But that little runt had to pay.

- Oh, I’m so glad! - his Mom didn’t seem to be too fazed by it, and just smiled happily at Shun’s statement.

- Oh, is it? - his Dad said in a surprised tone, and Abe was very afraid of what kind of reactions he might get when his bloodshot eyes passed through the living room, but there his dad stood, simply smiling. - That’s good. Good for you.

- W-what are you talking about? Hey, Shun, you’ll pay... for this! - he didn’t have the heart to say “spreading lies” anymore.

- Wahahahaha!! Told you he was acting weird! - and Shun kept picking on Abe until he finally decided that was too much for a single day. Give it up. Go to bed.

 

On the next day, Abe and Mihashi met before class. Abe had waited for Mihashi by the school gates, as they had promissed, and Mihashi arrived late, not so unexpectedly. Both walked down the school entranceway together, talking about lighthearted matters. 

- So... See you after class, then?

- Yep!

Mihashi smiled sheepishly, and they parted ways after waving to eachother.

In the afternoon, however, in time for practice, both were nowhere to be found. The truth behind that was something that, for now, only Tajima knew. Though Momoe didn’t approach him because he knew the reason, no, but because there was something unattended between the two of them, and it was time to scold Tajima again.

- Tajima! Why didn’t you approach me first thing today?!

- C-coach Momoe!... Why? Should I? What’s wrong?

- Don’t “what’s wrong” me! Didn’t Abe tell you and Mihashi to speak to me today as early as you could?! Speaking of which... Where is Mihashi now, anyway? Is he giving up on baseball or what?

- Well... - Tajima scratched his head and looked downside and upside before having the courage to answer that. He quickly made up an excuse, something about an special training regimen or what have you. - He and Mihashi aren’t coming today, probably. Both had something important to atte- ...

Momoe didn’t even let Tajima finish that sentence, however. The uncompromising coach was already groaning full force at just that.

- Grrrrrrr... How do you guys expect to even go into Koushien like that?! All of you will sprint for 20 kilometers to catch up on missed practice days if I ever see those two again!

- Wahh! Come on, coach!!

That loud and angry roar surely reverberated through the whole school, and every student must have wondered what had gone into Momoe and the baseball club boys this time. At least, every attending student. However, it couldn't possibly be heard from the amusement park in the next town, where Abe and Mihashi celebrated the beginning of their relationship on that very moment. So, all was well for now.