Warning: Mention of sexual dreams. Nothing specific.
Oddly enough, it's not gradual. It's sudden and completely unexpected and red-gold-glorious and when Abe wakes up, panting like he's just finished a desperate dash to home with everything on the line, he stares down at the blanket tangled around his thighs, and mutters, "Oh."
He doesn't blush that day during practice, but instead eyes Mihashi curiously, wondering what induced his brain to come up with such a ridiculous thing. If he asked Shiga-sensei he'd probably get a lecture all about hormones and habit and other things a math teacher has no right to know about which would explain everything, but that would require narrating the dream. So instead he just goes on as usual throughout the day, and when he flops onto his bed that night in exhaustion, poking at sore muscles and worrying that Mihashi is still practicing even now, Abe decides if it doesn't happen again tonight he'll label it a fluke and forget it.
But it sparkles in his veins and Mihashi stutters and slides through his fingers, and Abe feels warmth flush through him until it scalds. He twines his fingers through that curly reddish-blond hair and thinks mine with not a hint of shame and kisses Mihashi firmly on the mouth, and Mihashi melts back and whimpers and then there's moans – and heat, skin and it's just – it's –
Abe wakes suddenly once more, this time in the middle of a long sigh as his entire body goes limp with pleasure. It takes five minutes to recover, by which time he has ascertained that this is most definitely not a fluke, and perhaps is worth being ashamed over. He also decides that he's glad his mother stopped doing his laundry years ago, as he is not Tajima and would much rather not broadcast such things to the public or even his own household.
Twelve minutes later in the shower, tiny feelers of that warmth come back, imagined memories of Mihashi's flushed face, all closed eyes and open mouth and he had licked at it and started another wet kiss which was broken as Mihashi lurched into this whimpering shudder, and – urk. Abe gulps, decides to think about this later, and briskly readies himself for morning practice. The cool outside air helps.
In a convenient but strange twist of events, the sight of Mihashi at practice is nothing awkward. Abe acts perfectly normal, as yesterday, and it's only during class breaks that he pretends to be sleeping. Really he thinks about the fear that hits him so strongly sometimes, of letting Mihashi down or losing him in any way or not being needed, liked, wanted back – and for the second time, he grumbles an irritated, "…Oh."
In other words, this has not been building up or anything because Abe has never even begun to think anything like this before, let alone dreamed it in full surround-sound and Technicolor, but clearly it's not going to go away now that it has occurred to him. He is dependent, as simple as that, and it's only mildly relieving that Mihashi is dependent on him too.
Tonight, when he gets home, Abe skips right over wondering whether this really exists and straight to pondering what he should do about it. At some point in the evening he takes out his cell phone and starts flipping it open and closed repeatedly.
Would Mihashi agree? The answer is clearly yes, but Abe still has the fear that it won't be a voluntary agreement so much as one made out of fear and respect. He doesn't want that – the mere thought feels a bit like someone is using a metal clothes hanger to stir around his internal organs. But he's never really understood Mihashi, and as such has never been quite sure what the guy thinks of him outside of the team.
He likes that phrase, though, outside of the team. It makes him feel a little flushed and think of eating curry on Mihashi's floor, crosslegged and just the two of them with the TV blaring. Mihashi would be stuttering every other word and Abe would be annoyed, but with no Tajima to easily, conveniently, irritatingly translate, he'd have to do it himself.
And – this part is new – perhaps he would lean over and rest his fingers on Mihashi's, check their temperature. They would be cold and Mihashi would shut up abruptly when Abe leaned over even more to grip his neck and pull him up and forward a little. Abe would work his jaw and tongue, and his mouth would feel wet and slightly sticky when he pulled away, and he'd lick curry spice off his lips. Mihashi's eyes would be wet too, his shoulders slumped, but his hand would be warm and Abe would forget about the curry and TV.
It takes a sharp rap on his door and a call for dinner to snap him out of it, and Abe flicks his phone shut with a snap. He flushes brightly, and the absent thought runs through his head that he really should take care of this issue quickly since it feels more embarrassing the longer it's around.
Accordingly, after dinner Abe grips his phone too tightly and types in the following: We need to talk tomorrow after practice. Wait for me in the locker room.
The reply takes an hour, during which time Abe studies very productively and ignores the lightness and choking in his stomach and throat. When his phone finally buzzes, Abe reaches for it with a little too much of an edge to be calm, but controlled enough that he can still respect himself.
The answer reads: Yes. Okay.
Abe can hear the hour that was put into it, the stuttering and self-doubt, and it is echoed in his pulse as he lies flat on his bed, staring at the ceiling. It's not that he wants to remain perfectly still so much as it is because he's not sure his legs will support his weight.
He feels steadier the next day, though not any more pleasant; it's an iron sort of firmness, a stiff leaden weight in his veins. Every movement feels slow, overly deliberate, and it's all the confirmation Abe needs that resolving this is a necessity. It has clearly sunk deep into his cranium to the point where it's affecting the rest of his nervous system as well, until he feels creaky like a rusted suit of armor. And even if no one else has commented yet, Abe knows his current state is not conducive to good baseball. More important than anything else, he needs to be able to play good baseball, and if walking into the locker rooms after practice has ended and telling Mihashi, "I like you," is the way to do that, then so be it.
Mihashi is, predictably, surprised. Also: wobbly. "W-w-wh… I- I like Abe-kun too."
Abe sighs. This is no good. If anything, the fizzling feel of bile sloshing up against his stomach walls only increases in intensity. Mihashi is too dense. But then again, he does do badly in all his classes. Abe shouldn't have expected any better of this guy.
"I know that," he says, much more patiently than normal. "But I like you more than you like me." Mihashi looks absolutely horrified at the thought, and Abe reconsiders.
"Well," he amends, "maybe not. I guess it depends. Do you?"
He feels a little warm. There's probably still steam in the air leftover from someone's shower after practice. Of course, steam doesn't explain the doki doki going on behind Abe's ribcage, but he prefers his explanation.
Mihashi looks completely lost. Abe becomes aware, after a long pause, that he has been holding his breath. He lets it out at once, feeling foolish. It begins to dawn on him that Mihashi has no idea what he's talking about, and that his question was less than clear. He doesn't want to have spell it all out – saying "I like you" ought to be more than blunt enough. Perhaps if he gives Mihashi some time to think about it…
No. Abe would really like to, but it wouldn't resolve anything because even though Mihashi would brood over it obsessively, the guy thinks too little of himself to believe anyone could be… infatuated doesn't seem like the right term, but Abe can't think of a better one – with him. So not only would Mihashi not realize what Abe's trying to say, he would doubtless pitch terribly while trying to figure it out. Or ask Tajima for advice or something, which Abe definitely does not want.
So in the end, Abe just grits his teeth and says, "Come over to my place tomorrow. I… We need to have another studying session."
Okay, so even Abe is capable of wimping out. He prefers to think of it as a strategic retreat as he works out a game plan for this, but whatever. Mihashi's face sort of lights up, in a twitchy way, and Abe's stomach squirms.
"Everyone?" Mihashi asks, cocking his head about like some sort of nervous bird –and still twitching. Even though he's regressed to single words, the conversation is simple enough that Abe can understand him.
"No," Abe says firmly – perhaps a little too firmly, judging by Mihashi's flinch back, so he gentles his voice a little, like he's soothing a wild animal. "I… want to hang out with you. Is that okay?"
God, this is difficult. Mihashi's got this expression like the sun has come out for the first time in a month but he's sick and has to stay inside. Abe has no idea what that means. This is why he usually sticks to baseball, damn it.
"N… No!" Mihashi finally blurts, blushing.
Abe's insides turn to granite, but mostly he's just shocked that Mihashi is even capable of rejecting him at this point. It's probably good for the guy's mental health and all, but it makes Abe angry.
Through very gritted teeth, he manages a, "Fine, nevermind. Just, if you fail your next test, don't blame me." Then he turns and walks outside.
He feels hot and dry, extremely embarrassed. He's lucky no one else decided to stay late, because Abe is pretty sure he is actually blushing now. But it's not the shy sort of blush that would be really stupid, it's an angry red flush that goes along perfectly with the way his body feels too stiff to exist and his fingers won't unclench.
Well, it was always a possibility. At least he tried. Now he just has to put it behind him and focus: on strategy, training, health, baseball, Mihashi –
Abe doesn't put his face in his hands and groan, nor does he kick anything, but the urge is definitely there.
This time the dream is of math and Mihashi not getting it, so Abe gives up after a while when he gets irritated enough to make his pitcher cry. He's not regretful or romantic about it but the noise is vexing and the thing that makes the most sense is to yank on Mihashi's hair and fit their mouths together like jigsaw pieces, that's all, and the rest follows.
Abe wakes as flushed and sweating as ever, to the shrill ringing of his cell phone. Irritated, he answers it reflexively with a sharp, "What?"
There's a long pause. Chest still heaving slightly, palms itching to take care of the unresolved issue almost as much as his brain snaps at him to stop it already, Abe is more than ready to hang up. But then he hears a tiny sniffle and stops dead.
"Uh. Mihashi?" he asks, slowly. Another sniffle, then:
Mihashi's voice is quiet and hesitant and dripping with tears and insecurity. It's not a question but sounds like one, like something he'd say wide-eyed against a wall and Abe wouldn't bother to answer but would just push forward until Mihashi finally shut up except for quiet little gasps and wet noises half bitten-off, eyes squinched closed and Abe smirking –
A warm shiver skitters down Abe's spine, and he very deliberately keeps both hands above the covers. He's still not entirely awake, so that's probably…
"Yeah. Why're you calling?" he says, voice a little thicker than usual, then reconciles himself for a long wait.
"I- I just… Abe-kun said. Studying!" Mihashi squeaks, after the usual hesitation. Abe grits his teeth.
"Yeah. I did. You can… do it with Tajima or Izumi or whoever. It doesn't matter who, just don't fail anything." Abe rolls his eyes and checks his watch. It's only eight pm. He shouldn't have taken that nap after practice, but he was having unexpected difficulty concentrating on his homework.
"No!" Mihashi blurts, emphatic enough that Abe blinks. "I… wanted to. With A-"
"What?" Abe interrupts –a bad idea, since it generally only flusters Mihashi even more, but he always finds it hard to resist. And he sits up, gripping the phone a little tighter to his ear.
"With A-… Abe-kun!" Mihashi finishes, and then Abe can hear him swallowing nervously, about six times.
Abe really wants to know why the hell Mihashi said no then, but he's got a sinking feeling that the explanation would be incredibly stupid and annoyingly lengthy (due to stuttering, of course) and ultimately hinge on Abe himself misunderstanding something. He doesn't like the idea that the sharp roiling in his stomach for the past several hours has been completely his fault, but that's probably the case.
"Then, fine. Come over tomorrow, we don't have a long practice. You have an English exam next week, right? We'll work on that."
Abe waits. Mihashi says nothing further and eventually Abe realizes he too is waiting, for Abe to say something else. He sighs. "Goodbye."
Mihashi says an awkward goodbye of his own, and Abe promptly hangs up, holding his thumb on the red button long enough that his phone then turns itself off.
He stares at the wall for a while. His stomach hurts – he must be hungry.
Heading downstairs for a late dinner, Abe tries to keep his face blank as usual, but it's somehow challenging. The corners of his lips keep wanting to tilt up.