I'm not making any money off of this fan fiction. Also, I don't own the series in any way, shape, or form.
Rating: PG (some language, perhaps innuendo)
Mihashi/Abe fluff [Ookiku Furikabutte
Summary: When Abe gets sick right before the final game, Mihashi finds himself at loose ends. How can he possibly pitch without Abe there to catch for him?
--- Next to Me---
"Mihashi… are you okay?"
"Teacher! Mihashi's passed out!"
"GAH!" Mihashi bolted upright, panting and looking around frantically. "I-I-I'm okay! I'm okay…!" His voice faltered as he panted and noticed the dark features of his teammates. He… he hadn't cost them the game, right! He was okay! Was he-
"Mihashi. Come back to the dugout." Momoe's command did not sound like she was pleased with him at all. Slowly, shaking all over, Mihashi stood up and stumbled his way over to where she was waiting for him. The rest of his teammates resumed practice after some awkward silence, though they all kept an eye on him.
"This is the second time in as many days that you've fallen asleep on the practice field. Why aren't you taking proper care of yourself?" admonished the coach as soon as he was in the shade. "Here, sit down and take some water. Now… why are you suddenly so out of it? You know we have the final game of the season in two days, right?"
Mihashi nodded as he sipped at his cup of water. He knew, and he felt like the scum of the earth because of his failures. But…
"A-A-A-Abe's…" he faltered, flustered. There wasn't a good way for him to explain it…
Momoe sighed. I thought as much, though I didn't want to believe it… Luckily for us, Mihashi's pretty easy to motivate, once you understand how he works – just tell him he's necessary and that we have to win at all costs, and he'll get fired up in no time.
"Listen, Mihashi… I know Abe's absence is really unnerving you. But you've got to keep going. You want to pitch this game, right? We can't win without you."
He nodded slowly, but there was no change in his demeanor. Momoe was stunned for a moment. Why wasn't he perking up? Did Abe's absence really bother him that much? Of all times for the kid to get sick with the flu...
"A-A-A-Abe s-said… said he'd never… get sick…" stuttered Mihashi. "He said… he said he'd always catch for me!" and he burst into tears.
Of course. They're so close, and Mihashi's definitely the dependent type... what could have possessed Abe to make such an impossible promise? Her expression softened as she watched Mihashi sob quietly. After all the games they had been through, each one intense and barely won, Mihashi and Abe had grown to trust each other to the point where she couldn't imagine a stronger battery could exist. They were completely co-dependent. Because of that, if one half was out, the other couldn't function… and the whole team would suffer.
We have to get Abe back by tomorrow. But if we can't, how do we help Mihashi get a grip and pitch like he's supposed to? Of all the times for the catcher to get sick, it has to be right before we get to the finals! She sighed.
Mihashi started and began to fidget in panic. She was mad at him, as she should be, and she was going to tell him he couldn't pitch in the big game! He wanted…
He stopped squirming. What did he want? Did he want to pitch? Of course- baseball was his life. There was no doubt there. But before that, before pitching… he wanted…
"I… want Abe back…" he whispered, and promptly began to writhe and sob all over again.
Such a delicate, confusing person… no wonder Abe yells at him so often. I would if he didn't. Momoe sighed again, searching for inspiration. There had to be a way…
Tajima approached Momoe after practice was concluded for the day. Mihashi was dozing on the bench next to her, a small line of drool escaping his mouth. He thought it was adorable and oddly fitting for such a spastic person.
"Excuse me, coach, but I have a suggestion," he said abruptly.
"About?" Momoe hid her surprise. Tajima rarely had ideas outside of practice- baseball prodigy he may be, but he certainly wasn't an academic heavy-weight.
"Could Mihashi and I visit Abe tomorrow during our lunch break if he doesn't come back? I think it might help our pitcher regain his senses a little."
Tajima, you're unexpectedly brilliant sometimes! "Of course, provided you both come back on-time."
"Well, I will, but I don't know about Mihashi," admitted Tajima. "I think it might be good for him and Abe to talk without anyone else around."
Momoe frowned. That didn't make much sense- sure, they were closer to each other than anyone else, but what could they have to talk about that couldn't be in the presence of one of their teammates? However, knowing how intuitive Tajima could be, she decided to trust him. "Then drop him off and let him use his lunch break to talk to Abe. I'm not letting anyone come back late for any reason. There's too much at stake."
"I understand. I'll let Abe know. I guess I'll tell Mihashi on the walk home," he said. With an affectionate look at his friend, he left to pack up his gear.
I'd hate to think there's something going on between the boys in this team that I don't understand… but… I guess some things are out of the coach's boundaries to regulate. She glanced at her sleeping pitcher. Above all else, he's a delicate creature. Seems like most pitchers have quirks that cause them to seem like they're made of glass…
"T-T-Tajima, you sure he's expecting us? I mean, um, um, uh…" Mihashi fidgeted on the doorstep. "He's… he's not…"
"Don't worry, I told him, so he won't be masturbating or anything. Come on!" Tajima gave Mihashi his widest grin and rang the doorbell.
"Come in," came a call from the inside.
"Uh, uh, uh, ah…"
"You doofus, he wants us to go in!" Tajima grabbed his friend's hand and tugged him inside.
"R-right…" Mihashi bent down and fumbled with his shoes until he stood in the entry of Abe's house in his socks, inexplicably nervous.
"Alright! Have a good time, and be back within an hour!"
Mihashi only gulped and nodded as he feebly waved good-bye to Tajima. Why was he by himself? Why couldn't Tajima stay? Unless…
Abe wants to scold me in such a way that it would be inappropriate in front of other people!
"Come upstairs, Mihashi," Abe called.
He obeyed, and each step towards his teammate reinforced his sense of doom.
Abe knew that by the time Mihashi found his room, the boy would be in a miserable state of self-induced fear. He wasn't sure if he had the patience necessary to deal with him under the terms that Tajima had set – Mihashi was allowed to visit for an hour with Momoe's approval, but Abe was not allowed to yell at him under any circumstances.
I have no idea what Tajima's up to, but I don't think he has it in for either of us... he did say that Mihashi's been hopelessly lost without me for the past three days. This is probably his way of helping us both.
A soft, barely-audible knock on the door broke his thoughts. Here we go… please, whoever's listening, give me all the patience you can. "Come in, Mihashi."
As Abe expected, Mihashi edged into his room and stood there, half-in and half-out, looking like he was torn between bolting or having a nervous break-down on the spot. He sighed to himself and collected his nerves. "Close the door behind you, please."
Miraculously, Mihashi obeyed and came in, pushing the door shut until it clicked softly. Then he stood there, trembling, nervously glancing at everything but Abe himself.
I don't think my room's really that interesting- it's neat but bare. He's expecting… punishment? What the hell for? Abe waited to see if Mihashi would take any initiative, but was disappointed. Do I have to tell him to do EVERYTHING?
"Mihashi… come sit next to me." A light cough suddenly escaped and he covered his mouth. "I can't talk loudly."
"R-r-right!" He stood stiffly for a moment, then obeyed just as stiffly, reminding Abe of a rusted robot. He watched Mihashi carefully as his teammate came and sat next to his futon, still avoiding his gaze.
Resisting the urge to grab him by his shirt, Abe instead steeled himself, then asked in the calmest voice he could manage: "So, is my room really that interesting, or are you afraid of me?"
He IS, thought Abe angrily as Mihashi flinched, then flailed and started blubbering nonsense. Tajima, what did you tell him before you dropped him off! Or… he watched as Mihashi fought back tears as he continued to spazz out. Mihashi was so frail and delicate that it didn't take much to set him off, and more often than not, he self-destructed without any outside help. …Did you not tell him anything at all?
He suddenly sat up, nearly causing his teammate to have a full-blown panic attack. If I can get him to tell me what he's expecting, I can get rid of that fear and talk to him about the game we have in a few days…
"Mihashi, I'm not going to punish you, so what are you afraid of?"
"Guh… ah…. uh… ah… that is…"
Abe waited as patiently as he could, all the while resisting the urge to grab Mihashi by the shoulders and yell at him. Not that he could yell, still being sick, but he was feeling much better than yesterday…
"A-Abe… I… you're not… going… to hurt me?"
He stared at his friend, completely dumb-struck. WHAT THE HELL IS THAT ABOUT? he thought. More calmly, he asked: "When have I ever hurt you?"
"So, why would I?" It was so hard to keep the rage out of his voice!
"I… don't… know…" Mihashi looked down and fidgeted, tears welling up in his eyes once more.
Abe's eye twitched with irritation. You'd think he was abused at home or something, the way he acts…how do I handle this well when all I want to do is strangle him?
Suddenly, a suggestion of Tajima's from the night before came to mind:
"Try being nice to him," he had said. "Really nice."
Oh, what the heck, it can't hurt…
Without warning, he pulled Mihashi into an awkward hug. Abe waited for Mihashi to react, thinking: … That wasn't what I intended, but I hope it wo-
Without warning, Mihashi burst into hiccuping sobs.
What the hell.
He pulled back, trying his absolute best to look concerned and not annoyed. What was with this guy! The nicer you tried to be, the more scared he got! It was a miracle that Tajima understood him as well as he did, or else Mihashi might be alone in the world outside of his family. Really, a guy like Mihashi… how did he survive day-to-day life?
Suddenly, Mihashi threw himself on Abe, causing them to both fall back on to the bed. Abe started to protest and put his hand on his friend's head to push him away. Mihashi held on tighter, crying into Abe's shirt. Finally, Abe gave up, a little winded. He wasn't well enough yet to go through the effort of detaching a crying idiot. Instead he relaxed and let his friend cling to him, running through his next possible moves in his head.
Okay. He's behaving erratically now. How do I handle this? I can go against what Tajima said and yell at him as best I can. I can stay like this and wait for him to stop. I can try to comfort him. Either way, he's going to keep crying until he runs out of tears. Dammit, Mihashi, what's going through that scattered brain of yours? All I did was hug you, it's not like I kissed you or anything-
Abe flushed as the sudden image of himself and Mihashi kissing completely derailed his thoughts. He desperately tried to get back to the situation at-hand, but his mind was riveted on it, causing him to blush and flounder a little as a strange pressure started to build in his stomach. It felt like his heart was fluttering, he was light-headed…
Unaware of what he was doing, Abe put his arms around Mihashi and hugged him closer, using his hands to rub little circles in his back. His mind continued to wander further away from its original purpose as Mihashi, realizing something was wrong, looked up with concern.
Abe's face is… he's feverish… I've got to do something!
Mihashi scrambled away and thundered down the stairs to the kitchen, looking for water and a few hand-towels. Finding what he needed after some frantic searching, he went back to Abe and kneeled beside his friend again, gently placing a cool soaked cloth on his friend's brow. He watched quietly as Abe, still flushed, made soft moaning noises and began to make slightly jerky movements.
What have I done! I've made him worse… I shouldn't have come here… Abe, I'm so sorry… I don't deserve to be your teammate or your friend…
He started to cry again, softer this time. Abe had hugged him out of nowhere, and it had surprised him so much that all he could do was spazz out and cling to him instead of just relaxing and saying "thank you". Mihashi hated himself at times like these- he was always a tense kind of person, which made things awkward for everyone around him. His teammates had grown used to it over time, but they were far from actually understanding why he acted the way he did. Tajima was the only one who seemed to know what he was saying most of the time. A lot of times, he couldn't explain it himself, which left him feeling isolated and alone…
Abe came out of his reverie slowly as the feeling of something cool on his forehead slowly dimmed the fiery sensations running through his body. His mind sluggishly registered that Mihashi was crying again, and he willed himself to focus, forgetting the thoughts that had overcome his previous task. He still had three options- yell, do nothing, or comfort. While trying to decide between the three, Abe finally noticed the towel on his forehead. It was getting warm, but no doubt it had been cool when it was first placed there. Amazed, he opened his eyes a little, and found a bowl of water and some dry replacement towels not too far in front of him on the floor.
Mihashi was worried…I can't… I can't yell at him, not after this… Any rage Abe had left died away. The poor kid doesn't know what he's doing, but he's trying. I guess… Mihashi's not the kind of person who makes real friends easily, or keeps them for very long. It would explain why he doesn't know how to handle himself in so many situations…
He looked at Mihashi, who was still crying, oblivious to everything but his own perceived failure. If what he thought was true, it would justify everything that delicate pitcher did.
Mihashi…I yell at you a lot, even if it's just out of the desire to see you do your best and feel proud about yourself. But that doesn't mean I don't care about you outside of the team… I'll…
He placed his hand on the pitcher's thigh. Mihashi looked up, startled, and cried harder when he saw Abe smiling at him.
I'll be your "real" friend.
"Call me 'Takaya' from now on, okay?"
Mihashi hesitated, then nodded fervently. "I'm-I'm-"
"Ren-Ren, I know." He grinned wickedly as embarrassment and annoyance briefly flashed across his features. The pet-name that Mihashi's cousin called him by had stuck with the team, and they used it to tease him from time to time. "Hey, I'll call you 'Ren', alright? But only if you use my given name."
"… Okay." Mihashi was trembling, afraid of what was going to happen next. He had no idea what was going on, only that it wasn't something that he was used to.
He's not sure of what just happened…Abe scrutinized his friend, searching for an answer about what to do now. I'll start talking to him normally with his first name and see how he reacts to that. Better start slow...
"So, Ren, how's the team doing in practice?" he asked casually.
"Err, uh… uh… ah… err… we're… doing… okay…"
I have to keep going until he relaxes… "What's Momoe got us doing?"
"The-the usual… batting and drills and…" Mihashi trailed off, staring moodily at the floor.
…Is he upset about something with the team? "Anything out of the ordinary at all? We have a huge game in a few days."
"N-no. No." Mihashi began to blush and squirm.
He's hiding something… "Ren, what's wrong?" At the sound of his given name, Mihashi twitched and slowly looked at Abe without saying anything. However, his fearful/guilty expression told him more than enough.
He's not doing well because I'm not there. That little… Abe frowned and looked closer at his friend. Mihashi squeaked and made to scramble away, but he was quickly grabbed and re-seated on the bed, forced to look right into Abe's eyes by two strong pairs of hands.
H-He's gonna kill me…
Abe kept his hold on a wriggling Mihashi as he examined everything he could about the pitcher's body. He's got shadows and lines under his eyes, which means he hasn't been sleeping… he looks paler than usual, which means he hasn't been eating well… his hair's a little wild, but his teeth are clean, so he's been doing the bare minimum to keep himself tidy… Miha- Ren's really out of it. His eyes narrowed and he took in a stabling breath. Is it really because I haven't been at practice? Is my being ill really that distressing to him?
Abe flashed back to the beginning of the training season, when he promised Mihashi that he would never get hurt or injured for three years. He had known it would be an impossible promise to fulfill, but he thought that the pitcher would understand that too. But looking back on it, remembering the absolute trust in his eyes, Abe knew that Mihashi had taken him at his word.
… That little idiot, I thought he'd understand…though I guess I have to take the blame, since he's such a naive person. It's strange, but, I'm not angry... more... remorseful? Why do I feel like I've let him down somehow...?
Abe watched Mihashi's face flash with many conflicting emotions as the pitcher waged internal war with himself. Mihashi was skittish and insecure... he had known that but had made that stupid promise anyway. And now the idiot was an emotional mess because of it.
I can't change the fact that I haven't been there, but maybe I can make it up to him...
Abe sat up suddenly and gently rested his forehead on Mihashi's. The two of them stared at each other for a little, Mihashi prepping for the inevitable rebuke on his behavior, and Abe for what he had planned next.
Hopefully he won't have a heart attack. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He felt Mihashi tense and squeezed his friend's hand in a useless attempt to reassure him. Stop thinking, Takaya, and just-!
When Abe kissed Mihashi on the lips, the first thing the two of them noticed was the intensity of the act- even though Mihashi was too stunned to kiss back, they both parted with a deep blush on each of their faces. They were both panting a little too. Abe thought it felt like the bottom of the ninth inning, where their team had a one-run lead and had to strike out every batter, lest one get on base and ruin their win. It was exciting and dangerous. Invigorating.
Mihashi ducked his head and was very still for once, mulling everything over as best he could. He was at a complete loss- it didn't feel wrong, necessarily, but he had kind of been hoping for a nice girl some day... he looked up again at Abe shyly, and saw some of the same confusion reflected in his friend's eyes. They weren't sure, but they knew it wasn't a bad thing, at least...
Abe was visibly shocked when Mihashi awkwardly put a hand on his waist. He grasped for words that refused to reveal themselves - he didn't know what was happening. Why was Mihashi looking at him like that, a faint flame kindled in his eyes, leaning in slowly...? Why were his slightly parted lips and toned body suddenly so attractive?
Abe forgot about everything as Mihashi kissed him clumsily, and instead fell back and pulled his friend's trembling body close to his own. Mihashi pulled apart after a few seconds, blushing madly and barely whispering as he tried to stutter something. Abe guessed at what he was trying to say and tugged his and Mihashi's shirts off, suddenly feeling that it was too warm (at least, that was what he told himself later), and pulled Mihashi in again.
The electricity of their skin touching took his breath away and he panted, trying to master himself as something strained within him. He sensed that Mihashi was floundering, and he almost took advantage of the situation, but reigned himself in before something compromising could happen. Instead, he held the pitcher's body against his own, focusing on the quickness of their heart-beats and the warmth of their bodies.
"T-Takaya..." Mihashi whispered in his ear, sending pleasurable chills down his spine, "what's... h-happening...?"
"I don't know," he replied softly, and closed his eyes, trying his hardest not to give into instinct.
"I feel strange..." Mihashi was panting slightly. His muscles trembled, clenching and unclenching against his will, waiting for some kind of cue. "I'm... scared..."
Abe hugged him, using one hand to gently rub his head. "It's okay, Ren. Trust me." He stifled a gasp as Mihashi turned his head in and panted on to his neck. He doesn't know what he's doing and I don't know what's happening but I get the sense that it could get dangerous if we don't stop it soon...! But Abe didn't have the will to separate their bodies. Instead he let his other hand roam until his arm settled quite comfortably in the small of Mihashi's back. They laid like that for quite some time, trying to regain composure and something that resembled common sense, until Abe noticed that Mihashi's heartbeat had slowed and his breathing had evened out.
He isn't... Abe's suspicions were confirmed when he felt a drop of drool slide down his neck. The idiot fell asleep...
The sudden buzz of his cell phone startled him badly. Mihashi, completely dead to the world, didn't even stir as Abe removed his arm from his back to grab his phone.
Abe's stomach plummeted when he saw who was calling him: Momoe.
"H-Hello," Abe picked up in the steadiest voice he could manage.
"Where's Mihashi?" she demanded.
She doesn't sound upset, but... "He's here."
"He's supposed to be back at the practice field by now."
"I know, I know..."
He was glad Momoe couldn't see his grin. "He fell asleep."
She paused, then said: "Had better not be on the floor." The threat "or so God help you" remained unsaid, but it was implied.
"No, of course not. He's..." Abe blushed as he caught himself in time. Saying "on top of me" was worse than on the floor. Thinking quickly, he shifted out from under Mihashi until they were barely touching. He was almost falling off his narrow mattress, but now he wouldn't be lying. "Ren's on my futon."
Momoe's tone was intensely curious now. "Oh? And where are you?"
"... Same place," he mumbled, embarrassed. Why couldn't he lie?
"Alright. I expect both of you at practice bright and early tomorrow. We don't have much time to get you back in shape, Abe." The sudden switch to business threw him off a step, but he regained his composure quickly.
"Understood." The line clicked off, releasing him from interrogation.
Why was she so curious? I hope she doesn't think differently of me...
Abe jumped as his phone rang again. He didn't bother looking at who it was before picking up; his nerves were too frazzled.
"Abe! Where's Mihashi? Didn't I tell you he needed to be back at practice after an hour?"
Calm down, it's just Tajima... "He's next to me, asleep. I'm not waking him up."
"Ah, alright... so, you two work something out?"
"... Something like that." Abe was very thankful that no one could see how embarrassed he was at the moment. He guessed this must be something like how Mihashi felt nearly all the time.
Abe could hear some murmuring and sniggers from the other end of the line. Damn it, Tajima, what are you doing?
"Anyway, what happened, if you don't mind me asking?"
"Why?" More and more, I get the sense that...
"You're good friends of mine! And the rest of the team depends on you two working together. So, what happened?" Someone was trying to shush the others in the background. Hanai, probably.
"We talked and came to an understanding..." ... Ren and I...
"OOH! What kind?"
"That Ren and I are meant to be together!" ... were set up!
There was an explosion of cheers in the background as Tajima let out a whoop. Abe sulked and pulled a sheet up over his torso, willing his scowl to transfer through the wireless signal and chill the bones of his teammates. He was, however, unsuccessful.
I'll kill them all...
"I knew it! We've gotta get going, but give me details tomorrow! See you, Abe!" Tajima hung up with a fit of laughter.
Abe coughed lightly and turned his phone off, not wanting anything more to do with the baseball team. He huffed in indignation and turned on to his side, finding himself face-to-face with his friend, who was still in blissful slumber. On a whim, he began to talk:
"You're really an impossible kind of person, you know that, right? You cause so many problems and you're difficult to understand. Ren, I'm only just starting to know you as more than a teammate, so... please be patient with me. I promise I won't leave you by yourself again as long as you promise the same to me..." Abe stopped with shock as Mihashi opened his eyes and gazed at him blearily. "Ren...?"
"The guys are going to give it to us good tomorrow, you know that, right?"
"I don't care."
Abe was taken aback by Mihashi's uncharacteristically care-free attitude. "Why not?"
"'Cause you said you'd always be next to me." He smiled and closed his eyes again.
But it was too late- Mihashi had fallen asleep. Abe sighed with mixed frustration and respect.
He's the kind of guy who seems worthless until you get to the most crucial moments, and then he suddenly rises up and amazes everyone. Abe leaned in and kissed his forehead. I think I can like a guy like that...
A/N: I just finished Oofuri, being the slow-poke that I am, and this bubbled around in my head for an entire day. I couldn't take it any more! I had to write it out! I hope it's not terrible...