"You want me to what!?"
Izumi's voice echoed in the near-empty classroom.
Abe hadn't wanted for it to come to this, but he was out of options, and something had to be done.
Something had to be done, mainly for the good of the team. It had been okay to let the two bumble through their strange partnership for a while, somehow communicating the absolute bare minimum amount possible for two people who were supposed to play as a unit. The fact that Mihashi had chosen to ignore his message, and respond to Tajima's was unacceptable. Not after all they had been through together already. Not after Abe had come to realize the extent of his feelings for Mihashi.
It was these thoughts that had led Abe to this very moment, where Izumi was staring at him as if he had lost his mind.
"I'll repeat myself," Izumi said. "You want me and Mizutani to do what, exactly?"
"Shut up, okay! I didn't even want to come to you in the first place," Abe snarled.
Izumi's eyes narrowed in amusement. "We-ell," the center fielder drawled. "That's not exactly the approach you should take when asking a favor of someone now is it?"
Abe crossed his arms and pondered a few choice expletives before gritting his teeth and slamming his fist down on Izumi's desk in frustration.
"Please," Abe muttered.
Shocked, Izumi looked up at Abe. If he hadn't known better, he would swear that there were tears at the corner of the catcher's eyes.
"I don't know of anyone else who would understand," Abe continued gruffly.
Izumi was struck by Abe's sincerity and loss of composure. He suspected that it had something to do with Mihashi's attitude earlier that week, when the four of them had stopped by for curry. Despite Abe's desperation, Izumi was still very reluctant to help. He didn't particularly like butting into other people's lives, especially their romantic ones.
"Why don't you ask Tajima and Hanai? They seem a lot more suited for something like this, Tajima especially," Izumi finally said.
"Yeah, and while I'm at it, I'll have Tajima filling Mihashi's head with all sort of perverted thoughts and Hanai looking disapprovingly over my shoulder the entire time. No freaking way."
Izumi sighed. "Did you ever think that it's your rude manner and abrasive attitude that need work?" he asked. Gulping slightly under Abe's glare, Izumi sighed once more before standing up and pulling a neatly wrapped bento box out of his desk.
"Fine. I'll ask Fu- I mean," Izumi colored a bit at his vocal slip-up, undoing the knot on the bento so that a checkered cloth unfolded itself neatly on his desk. "Mizutani after practice. But if he says no, I'm not going to push it."
Abe smirked. "So you two are on a first name basis now? Did the idiot left make you that bento too? It has the best-looking octopus sausages I've ever seen," he teased.
"Need I remind you that I'm doing you a favor?" Izumi said, coloring slightly. He picked up a piece of rolled omelet and jabbed the air with his chopsticks. "You. Owe. Me."
"Heeeyyy Abe! What are you doing here?" Tajima called from the doorway with Mihashi trailing behind him like a shadow.
"A-Abe. H-h-hi," Mihashi stuttered.
"Hey Tajima, Mihashi," Abe said gruffly, nodding and blushing slightly. "See you two at practice." He quickly left Izumi's desk and strode out purposefully.
"Hi Izumi! What was Abe up to?" Tajima asked, dragging the hapless Mihashi with him.
"I-i-i-is Abe m-mad?" Mihashi whispered softly. As always the 'at me' was implied.
Izumi sighed. Even if the two were desperately in love with each other, getting them to communicate better was a daunting task to undertake.
"No, Mihashi. He's not mad at you ok? He just needed to borrow something from my…hey! Tajima! That's my lunch!" Izumi quickly swiped back his bento from Tajima's grasp.
"Oi! Hamada! Wake up!" Tajima yelled, bopping the sleeping blond in the next desk over. "Check out Izumi's lunch! It looks neater than my mom's!"
Hamada quickly snapped out of his bleary stupor when he saw Izumi's bento. "Who-a! Mizutani sure knows how to cook! I'm going to have to get lessons from him sometime."
"Ooh! Me too! Me too!" Tajima crowed. "I'll be the taster! We both will be, right Mihashi?"
"Y-yeah. I m-m-mean, if M-Mizutani is alright w-w-w-with m-me. I'll t-taste!"
Izumi blushed and sank down in his seat, fondly remembering the few precious moments of quiet he had had earlier, before Abe had burst into 1-9 and started asking ridiculous things of him.
"So that's the gist of it," Izumi finished explaining several hours later. He assumed that the incredulous look his boyfriend was now giving him mirrored the one on his own face earlier when Abe had interrupted his lunch period.
"Abe wants us to what?" Mizutani said, pulling on a sweater over his buttoned-down shirt.
He and Izumi were the last two of the Nishiura baseball club to leave the premises after afternoon practice. Mizutani had missed a few catches and had been required by Momokan to run extra laps around the field. Izumi had volunteered to stay and keep him company. Hanai had tossed Izumi the key on his way out, telling him to lock up the clubhouse before leaving, and Tajima had made some lewd sexual comments complete with hand gestures that had earned him a well deserved punch in the arm from Hanai.
"I don't think Abe exactly knows himself," Izumi said sagely, placing the book he had been reading while waiting for Mizutani in his bag. "He suggested that I start eating lunch with you and asking Mihashi to keep me company."
Mizutani laughed. "And conveniently Abe will be there to keep me company?"
"I guess so." Izumi shrugged.
"You know," Mizutani said thoughtfully, gathering up the remainder of his things. "It could be kind of…fun?"
"Fun? Are you serious?"
"I dunno," Mizutani continued, blushing. "It's kind of cute in a way."
Izumi snorted. "Yeah, real cute. Cute in a sad, pathetic way. Come on, let's go." Izumi walked to the clubhouse door and turned, realizing that Mizutani was still at his locker, gazing dreamily into the middle distance.
"Fumiki. You can't be serious. You really want to help set up Abe and Mihashi? I've seen cats and dogs communicate better than those two."
Mizutani's only reply was to look sheepishly at the floor. Izumi walked back towards him until their faces were inches apart.
"You are really serious," Izumi said. "But why? I thought you were terrified of Abe, ever since he started calling you the 'idiot left.'"
Mizutani blushed and shrugged, suddenly averting his eyes from Izumi's. "Don't you think," he trailed off. "I mean, we did find each other and all, but I dunno. Wouldn't it have been nice to have someone to talk to about it? I mean before Tajima caught us, we didn't even know if anyone would be cool with it…I dunno."
Izumi's shocked expression softened. Smiling, he held up his hand mockingly. Mizutani laughed and reached out his palm until the two touched. Both hands were equally warm.
"I guess we can help them out," Izumi said, intertwining his fingers with Mizutani's. "But you get Mihashi!"
"No way, Kousuke!" Mizutani laughed. "Besides, you're in Class 1-9 with him. It wouldn't make sense for me to take Mihashi."
"But you're so much more patient than I am," Izumi protested, his voice approaching a whine.
"Honestly, I think Abe is going to require more patience to deal with," Mizutani continued. "First of all, you have no idea how much that guy obsesses over Mihashi on a daily basis. He'd better tone that down if he wants to have any sort of actual relationship."
"At least he talks," Izumi retorted. "Half of the time I try to say 'hello' to Mihashi he looks like I'm going to beat him up or something."
"Half the time you try to talk to Abe he bites your head off and then stares at you with his creepy half-shut eyes."
"Mihashi can't make it through a conversation without stuttering."
"Abe has been known to use violence when necessary, or whenever he feels like it."
"I need Tajima to translate what Mihashi says!" Izumi thought he had won with this one until Mizutani spoke again.
"Abe has a diary that catalogues Mihashi's height, weight, pitch speed, and who knows what else!?"
"Wow, that's messed up," was Izumi's reply.
"Told you," Mizutani said smugly.
The two lapsed into a comfortable silence for a minute before Izumi shifted his weight from one foot to the other and stretched lazily.
"We should get going," Izumi finally said. "My parents have been concerned that I've been coming home later and later." He finished this sentence with a pointed look at Mizutani.
"It's not my fault that I'm so irresistible," Mizutani said, waggling his eyebrows.
"Maybe if you spent as much time on your baseball as you do on your hair, and looking cool with those headphones you wouldn't have to stay late, causing me, who is only concerned for your safety, to stay late."
Izumi was rewarded for this statement by a punch to the gut. The two boys exited the clubhouse, squabbling playfully, their hands still tightly clasped.