Hopelessly Devoted: Part 2, ch 1

The Last Page of a Carefree Life

°o°o°o°o°o°

The phone was ringing again.

Well, it was more of a tweeting, a particular beep that let Mihashi know he had a new email.

Mihashi shuffled his weight back and forth between his knees nervously on the bed, afraid to look. But ignoring it wouldn't make it go away, and Abe would be here any minute, so he had to confront it.

As he'd feared, the email was from exactly who he thought it would be from. He quickly silenced the gadget and thrust it down on the bed, jumping down just in time to hear the downstairs door open and his boyfriend announce his presence.

Mihashi scrambled down the stairs, but Abe was intercepted by Mihashi's mother first.

"Abe-kun, welcome. Are you staying for dinner?"

"Your husband is home tonight, right?" he said politely, pulling off his shoes, "I wouldn't want to be a bother."

"Don't worry about it," she said, turning back to the kitchen, "You'll stay for dinner."

"Thank you," he called.

"Thank you, mom!" Mihashi called after her when he reached the landing.

Suddenly her head appeared back out of the kitchen.

"Boys?"

"Yes," they called in sync.

"You know the rules," she said, dissapearing as quickly as she'd reappeared.

The two boys blushed. Not because "the rules" boiled down to keeping the bedroom door open at all times and not having sex in her house, but because the phrase evoked the day those rules were put in place, and getting caught half naked and humping was not the ideal way to come out to one's parents.

"Yes ma'am," the two eked out, hands clasping just before Mihashi yanked Abe up the stairs to his room greedily.

It really hadn't been all that bad, all things considered and excluding the getting caught part. Mr. and Mrs. Mihashi were pretty open minded people for a middle class Japanese couple, maybe because they had worked so hard and knew what it was like to be in love. The subsequent four way "talk" boiled down to Mr. Mihashi asking if (1) Mr. and Mrs. Abe knew, (2) whether they protected themselves, and (3) whether they had any idea what would happen to them if they were caught in the same bed together under their roof again.

(It turns out, the answers were "God, no," "Hell yes," and "Yes, sir," respectively.)

In the end, it was way more awkward for Mihashi's parents than it was for the boys, the former having a couple extra cups of sake that night to shake off the terror of the conversation.

But the minute Mihashi pulled Abe through the threshold into his room, their lips were locked. The kisses were sweet, and laced with smiles and I-missed-yous. It had been ten months since they began dating, the spring semester just beginning again, a time of year when all significant beginnings seemed to blossom. Tomorrow would be the first day of practice, with new freshman, new personalities, new cheerleaders. The year would be busy, and would hopefully culminate in Koshien, finally. They were close, in the spring tournament, but just not close enough.

Mihashi was the first to break away, blushing and stammering, fingers teasing the edges of the sleeves of his too-long shirt because he knew that Abe thought it was cute.

"Do... you have the paperwork?" he asked.

"Yeah, I got it from Hanai just a little while ago," he said, running a hand through his hair and walking over to the kotatsu.

"Ah, good," Mihashi replied, following to the other side. "I've got that worksheet from my math teacher, too."

"That means you haven't started it yet, right?" Abe said, gruffly.

"N...no," Mihashi replied.

Abe rolled his eyes and he unzipped his bag. Some things didn't change.

Very suddenly, a beeping filled the room. Mihashi tensed up, and fruitlessly pretended not to notice.

"Ren, your phone."

Mihashi sat tight, eyes darting around a little. "It's...okay," he said, as the beeping persisted.

Abe let his paper-filled hands fall onto his thighs and gave Mihashi a hard look.

"Answer your phone, Ren."

Mihashi didn't move, and the beeping continued.

Abe sighed, put the papers down on the table, and got up to grab the phone himself.

That did it.

Mihashi was up and on top of the phone so fast, all Abe saw was a blur of blonde hair and white shirt, and then the beeping stopped.

Abe heaved a sigh once again, irritation rising, but he didn't show it. He kneeled in front of Mihashi calmly and looked him in the face.

"Alright. What's going on?"

"It's...I...well..."

"Ren, please, whatever it is, it's fine."

Mihashi looked at the face of the phone.

"I didn't..." he began, looking up at Abe earnestly, "I didn't call him, I promise."

Abe raised an eyebrow and took the phone, flipping it open. There were four unopened emails from Kanou Shuugo.

"I...didn't!" Mihashi yelped.

"Ren! Give it a rest, it's okay!"

Mihashi stopped shaking. "It's..."

"Ren," he said, standing up and tossing the phone on the bed next to the pitcher. "He's your childhood friend. You're allowed to talk to him."

Talk was emphisized, sternly, and they both knew why.

The invocation of Kanou Shuugo brought back hard memories for the two of them.

It happened a little over three weeks after they'd broken down and become a couple, and come out the next day to the entire team without saying a word. Abe's family was going on a trip for the weekend, but Abe couldn't go on account of a practice game. It was the perfect opportunity for them to do what any hormonal teenagers wanted to do when their house was vacated- have sex. It would be their first time going that far.

And it happened quick, Mihashi crucifying himself in that daft, Mihashi-esqe way. They were prepared, slicked, and ready to go through with it, when Mihashi froze over his prostrate catcher before entering him.

"What's wrong, Ren?" Abe had said, not thrilled to be drawing out the suspense, and accustomed to Mihashi being unhesitant (rather uncharacteristically) about sexual activity.

"I...I haven't done this part before...so..." he stammered.

"This part?" Abe said, a little too sternly. "As in, all the other parts you've done before?"

And the moment was effectively ruined, Mihashi limp and crying and begging for forgiveness, Abe confused and still a little sore from the whole part with the fingers.

Abe told him that he wasn't mad, even though he was, because he couldn't get the image of the little bastard sucking his boyfriends dick out of his head, and it had happened only three weeks ago, and Abe was feeling a bit possessive because apparently Mihashi and Kanou had fooled around all throughout their childhood. He was a little depressed to know that the little Mihoshi dickhead probably knew more about turning Mihashi on than he did.

And because they loved one another, even though Abe said he wasn't angry, Mihashi knew that he was. Mihashi didn't even try to vindicate himself with the excuse that they weren't technically dating at the time, because really, that would have just been petty.

They spent the weekend effectively not having sex because Abe was grumpy and Mihashi was terrified, and they were stupid teenagers. Then they went about their practice game and daily lives a little dejected but otherwise unaffected, until on day three, Tajima hit them both on the back of the head and told them to make up already, they were depressing the whole God damned team.

But that was nine months ago.

"Reading his emails isn't something you have feel guilty about," Abe went on.

"I...know," Mihashi whimpered.

"If you're afraid you'll be tempted, Ren,-" Abe said, voice rising.

"No! No! Never!" Mihashi begged. "I wouldn't! It-" he paused, "it just brings bad memories."

Abe's expression softened and he sat down next to Mihashi, throwing an arm around his shoulder.

"Let's read them together," he said. "Then you have nothing to feel guilty about."

Mihashi smiled. His face glowed a bit, and he nodded. He was happy that Abe had matured a lot over the past year.

But as he went to flip the phone back open, it rung suddenly in his hand and he fumbled it onto the floor, loudly.

"You don't need to be afraid of it," Abe said, exasperated, as he leaned down to pick it up. His eyebrows raised when he looked at the screen. He turned it for Mihashi to see.

"It's from Sakaeguchi?" Mihashi said.

"Do you want to read that one first?" Abe asked, finger already over the green 'accept' button. Mihashi nodded.

Sakaeguchi Yuuto/17:25/ Don't worry! I already told Ruri that inviting Kanou was a bad idea. I didn't say why, though, so you should probably give her a call.

"What?" Abe said aloud. Mihashi shook his head frantically, just as perplexed, and Abe scrolled down to Kanou's first message.

Kanou Shuugo/09:15/ Hey! Ruri wants to go on a double date on Sunday. You free? I assume you are if Sakaeguchi is.

Abe and Mihashi looked at each other for a moment. That explained it, certainly. Abe clicked through to the next message.

Kanou Shuugo/13:01/ Hey! Don't ignore my message!

...and the next.

Kanou Shuugo/15:05/ Look, if you're afraid I'm going to do something dirty again, I won't.

That was encouraging. Abe clicked open the last email.

Kanou Shuugo/17:19/ On the other hand, and I'm just saying, if you wanted me to, I wouldn't be hard to convince. -_^

Abe's thumb almost pressed the 'cancel' button straight through the phone.

Mihashi trembled as he watched the color rise in Abe's face.

"That...cheeky...little...fuck..." he hissed.

Mihashi gingerly lifted the phone from Abe's hands and tossed it across the room.

When Abe looked up, Mihashi planted a thick kiss on his lips, and smiled sheepishly.

"You should be my date, okay?" he said.

Abe sighed defeatedly, grinned warmly and nodded. After a pause, he added,

"But you didn't have to throw the phone."

°o°o°o°o°o°

"Oh God, we're playing Tosei today?" Abe said, reviewing the practice game roster pinned to the wall of the dugout on Friday morning.

"Abe, where has your head been?" Hanai asked. "We scheduled this weeks ago. Besides, what does it matter who we're playing?"

"Aggh," Abe replied, "cause we agreed with Momoe that in the Tosei game, Chibitani could pitch in the first half and then Kumai could catch in the second."

"Seriously?" Hanai said. "Are you guys that addicted that you have to mope every time your battery is broken up?"

"Oh, shut up," Abe said, pinning the roster back up. "Like you don't get-"

"RIIIIIOOOOOUUUUUUUUUUUU!" Tajima suddenly erupted, running and tackling the enemy catcher as he and his team came through the gate.

"Get what?" Hanai droned, staring exasperatedly at the melee.

"Fuck it. You're all gay, every one of you, so you can all go to hell," Abe replied with a dismissive wave as he walked away.

"Ah! Abe-kun!" Sakaeguchi shouted from a few meters away, where he was stretching his legs with Mihashi.

"Sakaeguchi-kun. Hey," he said as he put his hand on Mihashi's neck, massaging it a little.

"Mmm," Mihashi purred happily.

"I'm excited about this weekend," Sakaeguchi said.

"Oh? Yeah, I guess you would be, huh? You don't get to see Mihashi-chan very much."

"Ah ha ha...no..." he said a little wistfully. "I'm sorry that Kanou-kun got involved..."

"You had nothing to do with it," Abe said, massaging Mihashi's shoulders with little digs above the blades, "besides, he never really did get as far as 'involved,' so..."

Mihashi was mumbling little happy noises and had seemed to have melted into a happy, mushy pile of pitcher, so Abe slapped him hard in the center of the back.

"Eep!" he shouted, reforming instantly.

"You don't pitch until the 4th inning, so be sure to coach the freshman on the pitch selection until we switch out, okay?"

"Y...yeah!" Mihashi said. He was happy to have grown to be a part of the team that could do more than pitch, and to have other responsibilities.

On the other hand, there were eight new freshmen. Each one a little more unruly than the last.

"Tajima, you'll be-" Hanai started, "TAJIMA GET OFF OF THE CATCHER WE'RE HAVING A BRIEF HERE."

The cleanup rocketed back to the dugout, only a little apologetic.

Hanai exhaled hard. "I was saying, Tajima, you're sitting out the first half so that Murakami can get some practice, and then Suyama, you'll switch with Sato in the second half, okay? Pay attention so we don't have to remind you when it comes time to switch out, guys!"

The team agreed in a unified shout.

"Chibitani is pitching in the first half. Support him so that we can get some outs, and Chibitani, pull your arms in when you bat."

Said pitcher nodded.

"Kumai will catch in the second half, take this opportunity to develop your own pitch selection with Mihashi, okay? Don't worry about your batting, it's good, and besides, Tajima will be back in."

"Yes!" Kumai confirmed.

"Alright, any questions about the roster?" Hanai asked.

No one on the team spoke up, and Hanai clapped. "LETS GO! FIGHT!"

"FIGHT!"

°o°o°o°o°o°

The next day, practice seemed to go on for an eternity. When it was over, Mihashi and Abe waved to Sakaeguchi, and reminded him that they'd meet at 10:30 at the station.

"Do you need to call your mom?" Mihashi asked as they rode.

"No, I told them this morning that I would be staying over and going to Shibuya with some friends tomorrow."

"Ah, great!" Mihashi said, giving that beaming smile that was a rare treat for Abe to behold. His heart skipped a beat every time he saw it.

When they pulled up to Mihashi's house, the pitcher slowed to a stop awkwardly and stood for a minute, staring at the house.

"Ren," Abe said as he pulled up next to him, "what's wrong?"

"There's...a car..."

"A car?" Abe said, pulling forward. "AH!" he shouted, startling Mihashi. He hastily threw his bike against the fence and headed for the door.

"Takaya!"

"It's my dad's car!" he said, reaching for the door.

"Wait for me!" Mihashi said, attempting to compose himself enough to make the bike stand up next to Abe's so that he could follow.

"We're home!" Mihashi called cautiously as he opened the door, shoving off his shoes as quickly as possible. The two stumbled out of the foyer to find both of Abe's parents sitting across from Mihashi's in the living room.

"Abe's...parents?" Mihashi said out loud.

"Is something wrong?" Abe asked, his first thought being that someone might have passed away or that someone was sick.

"Ren, come sit with us, okay?" Mihashi's mother said.

"Abe, everything is fine," Abe's father answered. "We need to have a talk, okay? Come on over here."

The two boys looked at one another, terrified, and then proceeded on to sit on two pre-placed chairs in between the parents.

"What...what's going on?" Abe asked.

"Takaya, I over heard your brother on the phone today," Mr. Abe began.

Abe had already decided that he was going to kill Shun. He didn't care what he had said, really, but he knew he was going to be dead.

"...and don't get upset with him, Takaya. He didn't know I was there. He said to a friend that his brother was going on a date tomorrow."

Abe held his breath.

"Takaya, we called Mrs. Mihashi to ask who you would be going out with tomorrow. She said that you'd be going with Mihashi, that first baseman, Sakaeguchi, and Mihashi's cousin."

Mihashi hiccuped, trying to keep from crying.

Abe figured he knew where this was going anyway, so he gave in, and took Mihashi's hand, setting it on his leg with a squeeze. Mihashi looked up at him and blinked, surprised.

"That's right," Abe confessed. "It is a double date. Mihashi is my date."

Abe's parents only inhaled slowly, carefully, obviously already privy to that fact.

"I'm...sorry I didn't tell you, but...it's not...the kind of thing..." he said, tensing up.

"It's okay, Takaya. It's alright," his mother said gently. "We understand. It's not something you can just tell us, right?"

Abe nodded.

"How long have you been seeing one another, son?" she asked.

Abe gritted his teeth, but managed to eke out, "T...ten months."

Without warning, Abe's father stood up. "I'm going to wait outside," he said, proceeding to the door.

The room was silent until the door clicked behind him.

"Ren, honey," his mother said, "you understand it wouldn't be right for us to lie when we were asked, right?"

Mihashi nodded, his hand tight in Abe's.

"Why did...dad...leave?" Abe asked.

"Come here, sweetie, sit next to me?" his mother replied. Abe looked at Mihashi and let go of his hand, reluctantly, to take his place next to her.

She patted a hand on his knee, putting on her best forced smile. "Your father doesn't really understand what's going on," she said, in the most oblique way possible.

Abe put his face in his hands.

"Honey, he'll just need some time, okay? Just give him some time."

"I'm sorry, mother," Abe said, shaking a little.

Mihashi felt far away from Abe, the four feet separating them feeling more like a mile as he watched his lover shiver in grief.

"Don't be sorry," she said, hugging him. "Just be happy, okay? We will be fine as long as you're happy."

Abe nodded through his hands.

Mihashi finally gave in to tears, and he sat next to his own mother so he too could be consoled. She rubbed his back gently.

"Everything is going to be okay, honey," Abe's mother went on. "Your father still loves you, you know that, right?"

"Yes, mother," Abe said, completely truthful. "I know."

"I love you too, Takaya."

"I guess I should come home with you, then?" Abe asked, raising his head.

paused for a moment.

"No, I think maybe you should go on with your plans. I understand that Mr. and Mrs. Mihashi have been watching over you two, so it would probably be best if you stayed here tonight. I'm going to talk to your father, okay? I'll make sure the house is a comfortable place for you to return to on Sunday night, alright?"

Abe's eyes began tearing up too. "Mother..." he said, leaning into her as she caught him in a hug. "Mother, I'm sorry..."

She shook her head as she consoled him. As a mother, she knew that this meant 'thank you.'

Mrs. Mihashi stood up to get some water for the boys.

When the door clicked closed behind , the weight of their situation finally came down on them.

Neither had necessarily considered themselves "gay," rather that they had become attracted to someone who ended up being of the same sex. They had skirted around it as a social issue until now, because the team seemed to understand this, and Mihashi's parents had treated their relationship no different then they would if it were a heterosexual one.

Abe's father was by no means anti-gay, and not necessarily unhappy with his son. But he was an older man, expectant of a wedding, and grandchildren, and wary of how his son's sexual preference would affect his future career. He had to readjust his worldview to fit a gay son into it.

And that's what they were, in the end. Gay sons. At this point, they could think that they were straight boys sleeping with another boy all they wanted, but they had a relationship, and technically, for all intensive and social purposes, they were gay.

"Come have something to eat," called after a few minutes, the boys hugging quietly in the foyer after had departed. "You'll need to eat," she added.

They ate in silence for a short while, and Mihashi was in deep thought about the difference between their families. Mihashi's father was young and small, never placing too much importance on the idea of being masculine, which may have come from being a relatively small guy. His mother was a working woman, and on top of that, they had eloped. They were a modern couple, and they weren't very traditional, explaining a lot of why the two boys had been comfortable there. But Abe's father was a tough fellow. Bigger, louder, and with a distinct idea about what it meant to be male. He had seen the two get into shouting matches- though they were never necessarily hateful- but shouting was something that never happened in Mihashi's house. Abe argued with his brother, was scolded by his mother for mistreating him. They all loved one another too, but they had a different dynamic.

A dynamic that Mihashi couldn't imagine having to return to.

"Thank you...for taking care of us," Abe said suddenly, looking down at his curry.

Mr and Mrs. Mihashi locked fingers under the table. "Don't mention it, Takaya-kun," said.

The rest of the meal was spent in silence.

When everyone was tucked into bed, and Mihashi heard the last light flick off downstairs, he sat up and looked down at his boyfriend. To hell with the rules, he crept down quietly and snuggled in next to Abe, pulling him into his chest tightly.

"I love you, Takaya," Mihashi said, gently.

Abe sniffed quiety, shaking his head in quiet anguish.

"I love you and I'll take care of you."

Mihashi held his lover tight until he fell still and silent, about an hour later. Only then, did Mihashi get up and tiptoe over to the window.

He looked out at the high moon, at the few sparkling stars that breached the glow of the distant metropolitan lights. He felt warm and whole, even as silent tears continued to roll down his own cheeks. He felt like part of the world, vast and scary and beautiful.

He felt like no matter what happened from then on, what he was feeling now was enough to make his life complete.

For Mihashi, this moment was the end of one chapter, one where he and his lover were carefree high school students for all of eternity, protected by caring parents and doting teammates.

Only he had the privilege of relishing this moment between the volumes of their lives, Abe still a chapter or two behind as the next one started.

They would have to face many new challenges over the next coming months, challenges that would test their relationship, their dreams, and their visions of the future.

But for now, Mihashi turned to his soundly sleeping partner and smiled, knowing, rightly, that from here on, they could handle any challenge, as long as they were together.

He didn't know that the most difficult obstacle of all would be finding a way to stay together.

°o°o°o°o°o°

End of Chapter 1

Next, a double date, a training camp, some important worksheets, and some sexy stuff on the horizon.

Reviews appreciated, thank you for reading!