Title: The End
: #3 Ends
Rating: PG
Pairings: AbeMiha (+ Abe's imagination)
Warning: Some allusions to sexuality
Disclaimer: I don't own Oofuri, because if I did, baseball would become a metaphor for sex.
Notes: Previously posted at the Oofuri LJ community, but edited since you to all the kind people who commented on this there!!!

Chapter 1: The End

This was the end.

Abe knew it was the end because it couldn't possibly be the beginning.

He was not a naturally imaginative person. He took things as they came and didn't think about the 'ifs' and the 'maybes' of the world around him. Of course, this didn't stop him from the occasional indulgence of a Koushien daydream. But usually Abe was more interested in doodling lines and numbers relating to team averages than in fantastical thoughts.

He saw flaws in the team. Of course they were inexperienced. Everyone needed more time and more practice. Mizutani needed to pay attention. Tajima needed to get serious. These were were negligible, though, and they could be fixed through meditation and exercises. Shiga-sensei and Momokan knew how to smooth out the little wrinkles in their team.

Basically, they—he had one big problem: Mihashi.

In Abe's opinion, Mihashi was their greatest strength and their greatest weakness at the same time. He pitched perfections, but his interactions even within Nishiura were weak-willed and self-conscious.

Confidence. That was the key word. He agonized over it. Seeing someone walking toward him would trigger an interest in how they walked rather than who they were. Some had open, easy strides. Others walked to show off. Some shuffled across the floor and a few, like Mihashi, scurried like rabbits.

Confidence. What did it mean? Where did it come from?

If Abe had been asked before he met Mihashi, he would have said that confidence was something that you just had. If Mihashi was a reasonable person, Abe would be able to tell him, "You're a good pitcher. Have confidence in yourself," and it would all be fine. He'd tried that, though, and it didn't seem to work. Now he thought that maybe confidence was something you made for yourself.

It was pure accident that he was in the classroom that day, waiting for the end of lunch period. His head was on his desk, and he was thinking about confidence.

That was when he heard the magic word.

"…. so confident!" a girl behind him was saying.

"It's because she has a boyfriend," said another girl. "Having a cute guy always makes you feel sure of yourself!"

Abe's latent imagination was activated in an instant. Before he could even process the thought, an image of Mihashi clinging to the arm of a tall guy (who had a depressing resemblance to Mihoshi's pitcher) came to mind. He felt a blush irrationally spread over his cheeks, and he instantly changed the picture to the relaxing thought of a faceless runner on third.

It was a stupid idea. People didn't gain confidence because of a boyfriend or a girlfriend.

Besides, Abe was against love. Love distracted people from baseball.

But somehow, it was appealing. Anything to help Mihashi trust himself was appealing.

As soon as Hanai entered the room, looking disgruntled and carrying a mouthful of complaints about Tajima, Abe forgot all about Mihashi dating someone. He filled his mind with numbers and literature and foreign languages. After school, the team met, and when he looked at Mihashi, he felt like he was forgetting something. All too soon, shadows dragged across the sky and Nishiura's baseball team broke in sweaty bliss to go to their homes. Something lay at the back of Abe's mind, evading clear thought.

It wasn't until that night that he remembered.

He was just about to fall asleep when the picture of Mihashi holding that pitcher's arm came to mind again. Mihashi looked… confident. He was wearing a summer dress, and his hips were cocked jauntily to the side. Mihashi laughed, and the boy on his arm changed from the Mihoshi pitcher into Haruna.

Mihashi stood next to Haruna on the pitcher's mound, and they both pitched balls that curved simultaneously, Mihashi's popping up just before it reached Abe. His legs were bare and white against the red diamond dirt.

Abe thought, this is stupid. So Mihashi's dress changed into a baseball uniform. But he was holding Haruna's hand. And grinning. The scoreboard behind them showed a perfect game.

This was wrong. Why wouldn't Mihashi have a girl clinging to him? So there was Mihashi with Shinooka leaning on him. Only that was silly. The thought made him angry, although he didn't know why.

Then Mihashi's face was close to Tajima's. Their noses touched, fingers wove together, eyes drifting shut.

Abe sat up and stared at the shadowy form of his desk. This had to stop now. No more thinking about Mihashi with anyone.

Love ruined baseball. That was that.

When Abe finally fell asleep, he dreamed of Mihashi's thin arms under his hands as he shook sense into his pitcher. Mihashi's eyes were watering, like always, and then his face snapped up and Abe leaned in. Mihashi's breath was hot as sunlight on his skin.

The kiss felt like nothing. A heartbeat under his lips.

He woke feeling betrayed.

This was the end.

Because it couldn't possibly be the beginning.