A/N: This is a kink meme fic and a response fic to "Autopilot, Autoheart", also on the kink meme. It was requested by a fellow reader who, like me, wanted to see them get a happy ending.

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Disclaimer: All belongs to Higuchi Asa.


They graduate high school, not as friends, not as a battery. Abe has long since left the team, and Mihashi is on to bigger things that Abe only knows of from the snippets of conversation he hears during lunch hour.

Sakaeguchi still talks to him, sometimes. They don't talk about baseball, and Abe is fairly certain Sakaeguchi doesn't let the others know they keep in touch. Abe is the traitor; he left them when they needed him, when Mihashi needed him.

But there was a point where it was simply too much. The sight of Mihashi, a sight he was confronted with every day at practice, made his heart race and clench, his fingertips itch to find soft, wild honey-colored hair. To work so closely with him, to work on Mihashi's pitches and their signs and their communication…

It wasn't healthy. Mihashi would never walk away from baseball—but someone had to do it. For both of them. Because they wouldn't get over this if they had to see each other every day.

Abe muses idly, flipping through the pictures on his camera of today's events, that for him, at least, it has not gotten any better. Maybe it has for Mihashi. He'll never know. He doesn't want to.

He comes to a picture that makes his mouth go dry. Abe's arm is around Shun's shoulders, but this is not what grabs his attention: in the background, blurry and almost unnoticeable, is a mop of messy orangey-blonde hair.

Abe's finger immediately finds the delete button, hovers over it, draws back. He stares at the picture for an hour, until his mother comes in to tell him that dinner is ready.

College is a time to forget. He forgets himself in studying, in alcohol, in the loose girls who climb into his bed and let him fuck them on their hands and knees. He examines pale skin, feminine hips, and his brain supplies him with pictures of the hard planes of an athlete's back, arms that are strong and sun-browned.

When a Seibu Lions game is on television, Abe turns his set off and on and off and then on again, pressing his face to the screen to see Mihashi better, to see how much his windup has improved, to see all the ways he has changed and all the ways he hasn't. He still flushes with nervous pride after an out. Smiles like he's afraid he'll get caught.

He does not, anymore, nod at every sign. Abe isn't sure whether to be comforted or not.

Abe is sitting alone at a bar and is on his fifth shot of sake when a hand finds his shoulder. He jerks away on instinct, then turns his head to see a familiar face, one that is full of freckles and characteristically bland.

"Izumi," Abe says, and his words are drawn just a bit too long.

Izumi raises an eyebrow. "I always wondered," he says, not bothering with a greeting, "what you did on game days." He nods at the television mounted on the wall, which Abe is not currently paying attention to because Mihashi is in the dugout. "I don't know what I expected, but somehow I'm not surprised."

Abe wants to reply with something equally snarky, but his mind is clouded with alcohol and with the ever-present reality that Mihashi will always be as untouchable in life as he is right now, on this television screen.

"What do you want?" Abe slurs instead, tipping the bottle of sake to fill his cup.

"Thought I'd say hello to an old friend." Izumi slides onto the stool next to him. Abe snorts.

"We haven't spoken since our second year of high school."

"And whose fault is that?"

Abe purses his lips. Hanai's, for making him doubt his relationship with Mihashi. Tajima's, for hating it so much. Izumi's, Momo-kan's, Shinooka's. Abe's.

He doesn't want to talk about this, but Izumi is gazing at him intently, unrelenting. "I couldn't be around him. That's my fault," Abe says with a shrug that doesn't quite achieve the nonchalance he was hoping for.

"He was crushed, you know. It took Tajima about three hours to get him to come out of his room after he found out you quit."

Abe winced. Tajima was a sore spot. Tajima had, in many ways, taken Abe's place. Abe didn't want to think about how many ways.

"He still talks about you," Izumi added, and Abe nearly drops the cup at his lips. "In interviews even, sometimes. You ever watch them? 'My catcher in high school taught me to be an ace,' 'I wouldn't have been able to do this if it weren't for his training and support.'"

Abe thinks about the many times he has thought he felt his heart breaking in his chest over the last six years. Now he knows better. Nothing, nothing compares to this feeling, this painful clenching, the sickness in his stomach that is quickly rising in his throat.

"We all still keep in touch, the old team. Since we graduated I can't count the number of times Mihashi's said how much he wished he could talk to you."

"Why," Abe growls, "I don't want to hear this—"

"I have his number and his email. There's a get-together in a couple weeks, too. I'll give you a ride, if you want."

"No one wants to see me," Abe says quietly.

"Mihashi does."

"I don't want to see him."

"That's a lie."

"It doesn't matter."

Izumi gives a little frustrated sigh and scribbles something on a napkin. He shoves it into Abe's hand, and Abe looks down at it. Two phone numbers, one with Izumi's name written by it and one with Mihashi's. "You're coming. You don't have to be miserable, Abe."

"I pushed him away. I left the team. I left him alone with an inexperienced pitcher. I told—" Abe's voice drops to a whisper. "I told him I didn't love him anymore."

"Come to the party," Izumi insists. "At least call him. It's been six years and he still misses you. Abe." Izumi grabs his shoulder and gives him a hard look. "You and Mihashi aren't in high school anymore, and Hanai can't tell you what is or isn't good for you. So what's the problem?"

"I hurt him," Abe snaps. "I hurt everyone."

"Six years ago. Because you felt pressured and scared and because you wanted to keep him safe."

Abe doesn't reply, doesn't know how to. He returns to his sake, now on his seventh glass.

"Need a ride home? You're tipsy."

"I'll call a cab."

"Suit yourself." Izumi gets down from the stool. He pulls Abe around and tucks the napkin into Abe's coat pocket. "I'll see you in two weeks."

His stomach is trying to climb out of him through his mouth, Abe thinks. He has no idea why he agreed to this. Probably because Izumi showed up at his apartment—how he knew Abe's address is a mystery—and dragged him bodily out the door and down to his car. Now they are walking up the steps to Mihashi's apartment.

Izumi knocks. Abe's urge to run away triples. There is shuffling inside, then the click of a door handle, and the door is swinging open.

Mihashi's face forms into a little "o" of surprise, eyes wide. Izumi has pushed past into the apartment without either of them noticing. Mihashi's many television appearances, all of which Abe struggled to watch and to not watch, have not done justice to the way his hair shines in light or the pinkness of his lips. He knows he is staring but cannot bring himself to look away from those shining amber eyes.

Mihashi speaks first, a tiny, whispered "A-Abe-kun," and Abe pulls Mihashi firmly against his chest, arms wrapped tightly around shoulders that don't feel quite as frail as they did at sixteen.

Mihashi's arms find their way around Abe's waist, tentative, like he's afraid Abe's not really here. Abe's afraid too. He's afraid he's going to wake up with no Mihashi and no encounter with Izumi and no number in his phone that connects him to the person in his embrace when no connection has been possible since the day they graduated.

"Abe-kun," Mihashi whispers again, "Abe-kun." Abe looks down but doesn't let go, doesn't want to ever let go, because he knows what it means to let go now. Letting go means six years of drowning himself in alcohol that makes him sick and memories that make him sicker. Letting go means bringing girls home because their hair is almost, almost the perfect shade of light brown. Letting go means trying to forget things he doesn't want to forget and will never be able to.

Mihashi's eyes are delighted and terrified. "Abe-kun… is here."

"Yeah," Abe says hoarsely. His throat feels dry.

"Abe-kun… missed me?"

There is an invitation in this statement, and Abe takes it. Because even after six years apart, he can hear what Mihashi does not say, and this is enough to convince him that this can work. He and Mihashi both know what it means to work hard for something. They'll work hard for this.

When their lips meet, it is perfect and familiar and warm, and the world is in order in a way it has not been in a long time.

"Abe-kun said… Abe-kun said he didn't—"

"I know," Abe says quickly. "I—I should never have told you that. It wasn't true. I didn't stop, I never stopped."

Mihashi's eyes are brimming with unshed tears. "Me too," he whispers.

Abe leans down for another kiss. And when it ends, it does not feel like an end. It feels like a beginning.