Mihashi woke up screaming for the 7th night in a row.
Their training camp had been coming to a close, and the team would only be at their clubhouse until tomorrow afternoon. Everyone was trying fit in as much sleep as they could due to their early wake-up time.
One boy, however, was fed up with being kicked and audibly woken by his bunkmate…constantly. Abe looked around at the sleeping teens; they were out cold, obviously. Hell, they could sleep through a freaking earthquake, the catcher mused.
Back to the topic at hand, Abe returned his gaze to face the trembling pitcher, who was now sitting upright and sniffling.
"Mihashi," Abe whispered, lightly grabbing the pitcher's shoulder.
As expected, the young golden-haired boy squealed and turned to face his catcher.
"Mihashi, you've done this like, a thousand times. Why do you keep screaming?"
The pitcher just looked that the ground, or any place he could without making eye contact.
"That's it, let's go." The catcher grabbed Mihashi's wrist and dragged the poor boy out of the sleeping room against his will.
"Mihashi, I want you to be able to sleep and be rested, but I can't even feel awake in the mornings because you keep thrashing in your sleep!" Abe did his best to keep his voice down, but since they were outside where they hung their uniforms to dry after a wash, there was really no need to be quiet.
"I-I'm sorry, A-Abe-kun…" Mihashi stuttered, looking down at his twiddling thumbs.
The catcher sighed. "Mihashi, is something wrong?" Before Mihashi could even begin to shake his head, Abe's voice cut through his thoughts. "Don't lie to me."
"N-n-ni…" Mihashi muttered softly.
"Nig-nigh…" Mihashi attempted again, only a dynamic louder.
"Speak up, man!"
"Night…Nightmares!" The pitcher choked out.
Abe really wasn't surprised. He had expected something along those lines, but what could possibly scare Mihashi while he slept? Wasn't that the only time Mihashi could feel "safe"?
"Well, what happens in your nightmares?" the catcher asked.
Mihashi whimpered. "Mi-Mihoshi…"
"What about Mihoshi?" Abe questioned further.
"Hatake…and my old team…with bats a-and…rocks…my arms…" Mihashi spluttered these phrases like noodles that fall out of one's chopsticks.
That's grim, the raven-haired teen thought, that someone would want to do something along those lines to a kid like Mihashi. "We beat those guys and they even apologized to you. Why are you still afraid?" The golden-haired boy shuddered. "Is there anything that helps you get to sleep?" Abe vocalized. "…Something that will prevent thrashing?"
"Well…I used to s-squeeze a heated stuffed animal or c-cushion when I was little…" Mihashi said, clearly embarrassed. "B-but my mom took them away without me knowing…"
Abe sighed. "Is there anything here that you could squeeze?"
The pitcher shook his head.
Abe ran his hand through his jet-black hair and sighed. I was hoping to avoid this, Abe thought, but I guess this is my last resort. "Mihashi," he said as he opened the sliding door to the crammed bedroom, "come with me."
The pitcher apprehensively trailed behind his catcher, carefully picking through their sleeping teammates until they were back to their futons. Abe instructed his pitcher to go back to sleep, but facing towards him rather than away.
Mihashi gently laid himself down next to Abe and found his gray eyes boring into his hazel ones. Mihashi began to shake.
"Mihashi," whispered Abe, "move closer to me."
The smaller boy did as instructed, and before he knew it, the catcher had wrapped his arms around him and pulled Mihashi into a tighter hold, his face in Abe's chest.
A shocked Mihashi slowly tilted his head up to see an already dozing Abe. He brought his head back to his catcher's chest and began to breathe more steadily. Mihashi felt very strange; a fluttering in his chest, hot flushing in his face, and a small feeling of content, as if he never wanted to get out of this position.
For a moment, Mihashi felt safe in Abe's embrace and began to drift off into slumber.
"Th-thank you, Abe-kun." Abe faintly heard the pitcher mutter before sleep also crashed the catcher like a black wave.
When Abe woke up early in the morning, he found Mihashi's arms around his waist. Gentle, calm breathing was observed by the catcher, as well as an innocent smile on the pitcher's face.
"Congrats Abe, you managed to get the pitcher to sleep safe and sound." Sakaeguchi laughed. He was behind Mihashi, peering over the sleeping boy's figure, grinning.
Shit, the catcher thought.
Over the next few days at their regular school practices, Abe began to notice his pitcher's throws become gradually slower (than they already were) and a decrease in his accuracy became more and more noticeable with each pitch. At first, Abe thought he was just tired from the training camp, so he let it slide.
But it kept getting worse.
One day, Abe was so fed up with this after he had to dive for a pitch and land on his side, he leapt up and ran across the bullpen towards his pitcher in rage.
Mihashi let out a squeal of fright. Abe grabbed the boy's collar before Mihashi could turn to run away and pulled him close.
"Why the hell has your pitching become more and more crappy over the week, huh?" The infuriated catcher shook the squealing boy more. By the time he had stopped, Abe noticed faint blemishes of purple under the pitcher's eyes; was he sleeping at all?
"Mihashi, how long did you sleep last night?" Abe questioned, releasing his grip.
Mihashi snapped his head around the bullpen, avoiding looking at Abe, spurting out incomprehensible words. Finally, after a bit of attempting communication, Mihashi finally answered.
"I a-actually fell as-asleep at f-four…Abe-kun…" The golden-haired boy expected an eruption in front of his face, so he braced himself for the worst.
"Well, I thought you'd be able to sleep better after the camp…"
Mihashi looked up at the raven-haired boy, who was now scratching the back of his neck, clearly confused.
"Sorry Abe-kun!" Mihashi blurted. "I-I just have t-trouble sleeping with-without something…"
Abe just stared at his pitcher, trying to process an idea that would prevent the dainty boy from having more (brutal) nightmares.
An idea struck Abe, and with good timing, too. Practice was just wrapping up, and once they had changed, the raven-haired catcher simply instructed Mihashi to take it easy as he rushed out the practice gate, but not to go home.
After the practice the next day, most of the team could tell Mihashi was practically about to faint from exhaustion.
"Hey Mihashi," Abe called the golden-haired boy over to him as he was putting on a clean shirt, "c'mere for a sec."
The pitcher monotonously trudged in dread towards his catcher, bracing himself for a lecture on his speed and control.
As soon as he was close enough, Abe reached into his locker and gently placed a gift bag into Mihashi's grip and walked away.
"Don't look inside until you get home. Good night!" Abe said as he headed out of the locker room doors.
Mihashi did as instructed. As soon as he got home, Mihashi headed upstairs and into his room, curiously dreading what Abe had left him. Is it his way of saying he hates me? Or saying he won't catch? What's in this bag? The pitcher thought as he peered into the bag, trembling.
There was an envelope resting on a nest of white tissue-paper. The envelope read on top: READ BEFORE OPENING. The poor boy almost had a heart attack, worrying this was Abe's form of a resignation.
Mihashi hesitantly opened the envelope to find a card, and opened it. In Abe's neat calligraphy, the card read: Mihashi, I am worried for your health. I wanted to do something that would help you get to sleep and help your pitching go back to its usual stellar performance (Mihashi turned red at this praise). So, I got you something that you could squeeze/sleep with. Hopefully your sleep cycle will go back to normal. If you don't use this, I'll know. Sleep tight! –Abe-kun
Mihashi felt a little bit more relieved as he dug through the tissue-paper and took hold of something soft and fuzzy and yanked it out of the bag.
Mihashi stared at the gift. A teddy bear…
Abe-kun really does care about me…he went out of his way to buy me something to help me sleep…with his own money!
Mihashi took his new teddy bear and lay down on his bed, wrapping it in his arms…remembering the feeling of Abe in his arms when he woke up that last morning of camp.
Before he knew it, the pitcher was out cold.
Abe yawned as he opened his locker to invest his bag inside of it. He habitually turned his head to see if anyone had arrived yet, and to his surprise, he found Mihashi standing at the opening to the crevice of lockers, looking at him.
Before Abe could even react, Mihashi had thrown his arms around his catcher's arms and buried his face in the raven-haired boy's chest.
Just like at the camp, Abe thought, clearly at a loss for words.
"Thank you, Abe-kun." Mihashi said into the catcher's shirt.
Abe immediately returned his pitcher's hug with the same intensity. "You're welcome, Mihashi."
They must have been clinging to each other for a while, because soon they heard the bickering voices of Hanai and Tajima enter the locker room, soon followed by many others.
Embarrassed and blushing, the two boys broke apart and head out onto the field before anyone saw their hug.
During practice in the bullpen, Abe noticed Mihashi's precision and speed (or lack thereof) had returned, better than ever. Oh yeah, Abe thought, I have my pitcher back!
Hey guys, I was taking a small break from the Tajima story and decided to write this. I will try to have the 3rd chapter uploaded as soon as possible, though. In the meantime, tell me if you like this story or not! R&R