"I…I…c-can't…"

Abe was going to strangle Mihashi.

Abe was going to strangle Mihashi and then dump the body in a river, just in case his indomitable will somehow managed to keep him alive in a semi-comatose state. After all, Abe begrudgingly admitted to himself, he'd never met anyone with a stronger will than Mihashi. This fact, or, though Abe would never verbally acknowledge it, admiration of Mihashi did nothing to stop the fact that Abe was scarily close to throttling him.

"WHAT THE HELL!!! JUST SPIT IT OUT ALREADY!!" he erupted, slamming his fist against the dugout wall.

As if on cue, Mihashi's eyes welled up with tears.

"CUT IT OUT!!! YOU'RE MAKING ME LOOK LIKE A PRICK!!"

Case in point, as necessary as a bad smell wafting in from a nearby alleyway, Taijima butt into their conversation.

"Hey! Quit picking on Mihashi!" Taijima stepped in front of the sniffling pitcher and attempted to stare Abe down.

"H-h-he's n-n-not…"

"I'm not!"

The battery responded in unison, causing Taijima's face to break out in its normal grin.

"Eh…I should have known better than to butt in between you two. You guys always solve everything in the end," Taijima said, patting Mihashi on the back. Mihashi jumped a bit, making a noise that sounded suspiciously like a whimper. Abe quickly focused his attention back on Mihashi as Tajima ran off onto the field, whistling.

"Mihashi, did you hurt your back?"

The pitcher shook his head violently, resembling a bobble-head figurine.

"Seriously, I'm not mad at you, did you hurt yourself earlier?"

"N-n-no." The words tripped and fell out of Mihashi's mouth and Abe clenched his fist, willing himself not to paste Mihashi up against the wall. Instead, he paused and waited, knowing that even if it took a century, the words would eventually come. They'd been able to increase their communication with each other that well, at least.

"I-I-I c-can't p-practice because of this!" Mihashi finally bowed and shoved a letter into Abe's hands.

Abe stared down at the white envelope and his heart began to pound. Mihashi, was giving him a love letter? His mind went blank, and then kicked into overdrive. Why would Mihashi give him a love letter? And why did he suddenly find himself feeling happy about it? Mihashi was just a really good pitcher that he had respect for, right?

Turning away from Mihashi for a moment, Abe paused and began to analyze his feelings. Was there a day that went by without thinking of Mihashi? Every morning they saw each other at practice. Abe would make sure that Mihashi had eaten a proper breakfast, ask if he gained some weight, ask if he'd had the time to study, gotten a good night's sleep, and then would help him stretch…

Abe began to panic, and sat down on the bench to collect himself. If he was being completely honest about his feelings, then his answer to Mihashi's feelings would be…

"Yes!" he said aloud, springing up from his seat and advancing towards his pitcher. At the same time Mihashi was finally finishing his disjointed thoughts, ending his sentence with something that sounded suspiciously like 'shoe locker.'

"It's okay, Mihashi," Abe said, attempting to sound relaxed. "These things are better taken care of in person anyway."

Mihashi's mouth froze in its typical diamond shape, and unshed tears welled up in his eyes.

"Ok-kay," Mihashi stuttered. "P-p-please tell…tell everyone I'm really sorry!" And with this, Mihashi bolted out of the dugout and back towards school.

"Wait! Mihashi! Where are you going? We have practice!!!" Abe called out after him.

"Dammit, Mihashi," Abe mumbled to himself. "Did you think I wouldn't say 'yes' or something?" Suddenly frustrated, Abe sat back down and began fiddling with his shinguards.

"Should I have gone after him? Is that what he wanted? Nah, then maybe he would have thought I was mad at him or something?" He shook his head in frustration, as he often did when trying to decipher the goings-on of his pitcher's warped brain.

"Hey Abe! Get your ass out here, Hanai's getting pissed! And where is Mihashi going?" Tajima reappeared over Abe's shoulder.

"Hell if I know what that idiot's thinking," Abe replied.

"Oooh, what's this?" Tajima snatched the white envelope off of the dugout bench and pulled a letter out.

"Hey! Give that back!" Abe reached out his arm wildly. Tajima neatly ducked underneath it and unfolded the piece of paper.

"A letter of challenge?" Tajima read aloud. "Who's challenging you, Abe?"

"Give me that!" Abe snapped and grabbed the piece of paper from Tajima's hands, quickly scanning the words that had been hastily scribbled on it.

"A letter of challenge…Ren Mihashi…behind the south school building at…that idiot! He'll get his ass kicked!" Abe crumpled the paper and threw it on the ground before taking off.

A/N: 'like a bad smell from an alleyway…" is paraphrased from 'Memoirs of a Geisha.' I love the metaphor…and Tajima.

Sorry this story is so bad. I'm a huge Ookiku Furikabutte fan, and this idea just kind of popped into my head, unbidden a little while back. Instead of working on my other fanfiction, I decided to spit this out on paper. There will be a chapter two forthcoming. Reviews/criticism/comments are always appreciated!