NOTE: First Big WindUp fic, so this was something a bit new for me. Forgive me if it horrible. It's in Tajima's POV… because he's my favorite character… or for some other reasons. Sorry if the pace is too fast or anything like that. I tried, and that's all I could really do. Thanks for taking the time and reading. I do hope you can enjoy. Happy reading!
That number one.
It was all I ever seemed to see.
From where I stood in the field, the pitcher seemed so far away.
If I was the catcher…
I'd always get to see his face.
That wasn't how things worked though.
I wasn't his catcher.
I was just the cleanup.
"I have to go run a errand real quick, so Tajima will catch for you while I'm gone," Abe's voice caused my body to perk up and turn towards him without notice. "That's okay, right?"
I smiled. "Yeah, of course. I don't mind helping out."
Even though Mihashi had nodded in agreement to what Abe had said, I could see he wasn't interested in pitching to me. It was only Abe who could give him that confidence when it came to throwing a baseball. My hands weren't meant to catch his balls or touch up against him. All I was supposed to do was hold onto the bat and hit the balls that came towards me as hard as I could. The idea wasn't as thrilling anymore. Not when it placed me so far away from our pitcher. Our ace. Mihashi…
When we got to the field, I didn't bother to put on all the equipment like Abe would have. I knew that Mihashi and I would probably just toss the ball back and forth in no special way. I wasn't like Abe. I didn't know what signs were right to give. I didn't even know if Mihashi would listen to me. We would just stand a few feet apart and throw to one another. There was nothing special with the training. It wasn't even something we could even call that.
Somehow, I found myself moving my glove to different places. Each move I made, Mihashi threw the ball right to it. I didn't even have to move the slightest bit. His control was amazing. It was something everyone, myself included, already knew, but I was still in awe.
"Mihashi," my mouth began to speak without my notice. "How come you don't have much confidence with a different catcher?"
He instantly hesitated and tensed up. Fumbling with the ball in his hand, he showed me his normal, wavy smile. "I dunno. Abe just… he's really good… and makes me a better pitcher."
"That's not true!" somehow, I was becoming angry. Why was he so set in believing it was Abe that made him a great pitcher? Abe isn't the one who's placing the pitches perfectly each time. Abe isn't the one who is always working hard to be worthy of being the ace. He was just there to call what Mihashi threw. That didn't mean Mihashi was useless without him. He was just relying on him way too much.
Trembling. The poor guy was trembling just because of my little outburst. He was always like that though. Even when he thought Abe was going to yell at him, he would cower and cry like a little baby. It probably makes me a bad person, but I sort of find it cute. Still, him crying because of something I did, that was pushing it for me.
"Mihashi, hey, listen," I tried to move closer to him, but he instantly tried to protect himself with his hands up to his face. "Hey, sorry, man. I didn't like mean to upset you."
"No, it's fine," I could see that he was trying to be strong. His sniffling wasn't helping him though. Still, I felt bad. "Abe should be here soon… so… you can… go do your practicing now…"
"Sorry about that. I'll take over from here!" Abe called over, cutting off my words. Right away, Mihashi perked up and smiled. Seeing him this way, it made me know that Abe was special to him. It wasn't me. No matter how many times we smiled or laughed together, it wasn't enough. Even if he took my outstretched hand to pull him up, Abe was still the one on his mind. Thinking this way was just depressing.
"Thank you for the help, Tajima," he showed me that wavy grin of his.
"Yeah, no problem. Anytime, man," I returned the gesture and let them be.
As I walked off, I looked back just once. It was enough to see Mihashi blushing while he was speaking to Abe. My heart felt like it was being squeezed with each step I took. Mihashi, I considered him one of my closest friends, but this feeling… it was different. Ever since that game against Tosei, my mind was thinking in odd ways. In class, I would find myself watching him. It was really weird. I would notice all these things that I never saw before. Like the way he would sometimes chew on the end of his pencil. It was kind of attractive to me. Sounds crazy, I know, thinking another guy is attractive, but it's the truth. There even were times I would go out of my way during practice matches to see his face when he would be pitching. I enjoyed the way the ball spun away from his finger tips. I swear, it's like I'm completely infatuated with him without any real reason to be. I needed to dunk my head under cold water before my thoughts got too much of a hold on me.
I had decided to work with Hanai after Abe returned. It was half because I always complained to him and half because he wasn't really doing anything. As one of the reserved pitchers, I often used him to help me with batting practice. He was never overly willing, but I forced him anyway. Hanai wasn't a bad guy, really. Sometimes he was just annoying… like Abe. I shouldn't be thinking about my teammates in that way though. We're supposed to be friends and close to each other. I just really didn't care about any of them. Only Mihashi. My mind was filled with Mihashi. It's like he's some sort of addicting drug that I can't get a hold of anymore. Something is seriously wrong with me.
A baseball hit me in the leg. I had stopped paying attention to Hanai throwing them. It was because I was distracted with my thinking. My mind was clouded. This wasn't good.
"You okay?" I could hear that Hanai wasn't too happy about what happened. "Did you just stop paying attention or something? You stepped right into the ball."
I scratched the back of my head while gripping the bat in one hand. "I did?"
"Tajima, you haven't been yourself lately. What's up?"
"Oh, it's nothing," grinning, I tried to shoo him away as he was coming closer. "I'm going to go see the coach. Later."
He was catching onto my carelessness. Everyone probably was. I really loved playing baseball and this team. Just, lately, what Hanai said was true. I wasn't myself. With how I was, I didn't deserve to be considered the team's cleanup. Being allowed on this team was pushing it even. When on the field, I could only see Mihashi's backside. Though, he could never see me. Only Abe. All he ever looked at was Abe. The only way he'd be able to look at me was if I was catching. It would never happen though. Abe would always be the one in all that equipment and squatting by the batter. I'd be better off if I just quit the team. The coach wouldn't go for that though. I was needed. We all were. Not that Mihashi would miss me.
Shaking off the thoughts going through my mind, I slipped away from practice. I didn't bother to find the coach or say goodbye to the others. Getting my things, I just left. Being there wasn't doing anyone any good. If I needed to, I could probably just practice on my own. If I could swing harder and get the ball to fly farther, maybe I'd be able to impress Mihashi. Nah. That's kind of stupid. Mihashi is kind of simple. I'd rather just get him to like me for other reasons. Reasons outside of baseball. I didn't have any other talents though. Well, maybe eating a lot. I do like to eat. And sleep. That's not really the point though. I wanted him to like me for who I am. I wanted him to like me like I liked him. Even if I still didn't understand these odd feelings.
I had some trouble sleeping that night. My mind was racing with thoughts of Mihashi. When I did sleep, my dreams were filled with him too. Like, the dreams started off pretty normal with us just talking in class or tossing some balls, but they always turned, well… naughty. I guess that would be considered normal for a teenage boy. More so with girls though. Mihashi was cute like a girl. He was fragile and petite. I wanted to touch him and hold him. I wanted to be like we were in my dreams. My great grandpa might end up in the hospital again if he knew I had these thoughts about another guy. Actually, my entire family might end up there. With how my mind was going on and on, it was no wonder I had a restless nice. Practice wasn't going to be easy this morning.
I'd be pointing out the obvious by saying I was yelled at for leaving early the day before, but I was. And it wasn't just by the coach. Hanai and Abe both lectured me too. Apparently, to all of them, I was a valuable to just be skipping parts of practice. It was kind of one of those things that just went in one ear and then just right out the other. Though, the coach made sure to watch me extra carefully today to make sure I didn't leave. It was kind of creepy with her staring at me all the time. At the same time, I didn't mind because Mihashi was pitching to us today. This was the only opportunity where I got to hit the balls he throws. I got to see his face too. That made me automatically smile.
"Strike," I heard Izumi's voice call out.
"Huh?" I looked down to see the ball in Abe's mitt. Across on the pitcher's mound, Mihashi was in a position that told me he already threw the ball. To cover up my embarrassment, I laughed. "Sorry about that."
"It's okay," Mihashi smiled as he caught the ball Abe tossed back to him. When I readied myself and Abe gave him the signals, Mihashi put all his effort into his pitch.
When it came towards me, I swung forward as best I could. Making contact with the ball, it began to soar out. To me, it went out further than I had ever managed to hit a baseball before. I was in awe with my own swing. Everyone else seemed to be as well. It surprised us all, I think.
"Wow! That was super cool, Tajima!"
Blushing, I nodded. Praise coming from Mihashi always got me worked up. "Yeah. Thanks. Good pitching."
"It wasn't me. It was… ah…" Mihashi averted his eyes and shook his head. "Yeah…"
Talk about awkward. Mihashi made it obvious that he was still nervous about what happened yesterday. It didn't leave a nice taste in my mouth either. And it wasn't like there was anything I could say to make him feel better. I couldn't go up to him and give him a hug or take his hand like Abe would. That would probably just freak the guy out. Still, I'd jump on the opportunity to give him a helping hand.
"Get it together guys. Next batter," Abe barked. Thanks for spoiling my moment like always. Oh well. I could at least be happy with the hit I made.
I moved aside and allowed for the others to get a chance to hit Mihashi's pitching. My focus was all on him though. I never once noticed where the ball flew if hit or who was even up for bat. I only had eyes watching the pitcher. The way he would lean and balance on one foot. The way his arm would be outstretched as he let the ball go. That was the only thing I could pay attention to. Then, suddenly, without much of a warning, my heart started to beat more rapidly in my chest. Even though Mihashi was clumsy, up there, he was so graceful. I wondered if his hands were warm. I'd never be able to know though. Abe was the only one. He was the one who knew everything when it came to Mihashi. My eyes averted away from practice. I was becoming jealous. More jealous than I even realized I could be. Abe was lucky to be close to Mihashi. I was just his classmate and teammate. Nothing more. Nothing less. Even though I've gone over to his house to eat multiple times, it wasn't anything special. It was just food. Half of the time, Izumi would be over too. I wasn't the center of Mihashi's attention. I could do all the cool tricks and show off, but it wouldn't really matter. We were just friends. That's all he would see me as.
To be honest, I was getting frustrated with myself. It wasn't really my style to watch everything pass me by. Why couldn't I just confront Mihashi and get it all over with? This is ridiculous! And that's why I finally made up my mind. After practice, I would talk with him. There was no way I could just keep going like this. If I did, I'd go crazy. I might only get to see his backside during games, but I could at least see his face outside those games. That would be more than Abe, right? I didn't need to be his catcher. He didn't have to want to pitch to me. As long as he just wanted me in general… yeah… that would be fine. Maybe I wouldn't be the one to check to see if his hands were cold or if he's gained any weight, but I could at least be that important person.
When practice ended, I went to change. Mihashi wasn't around, and I hadn't noticed Abe either. Hanai said that they had stayed behind. Extra practice, I guess. I could still pull Mihashi aside. I could still talk with him. It wasn't like Abe would stop me. He's my friend too. I sighed and slugged my bag over my shoulder. Waving goodbye to the others, I headed back for the field. Now or never. Only one chance. I could do this.
Mihashi was out on the mound, and Abe was close in front of him. I tried to make any sounds when I approached and instead observed what they were doing. It was probably just Abe lecturing him or something like that. That was all Abe ever seemed to do when it came to Mihashi. It was annoying, and I thought Mihashi should stand up for himself more. It wasn't like Abe needed to yell at him all the time. Abe wasn't perfect. He didn't need to treat Mihashi like he was stupid. I could have always spoke up and told him to stop, but I didn't think of it as my place to do so. I was just the side character.
"Abe… um…" I could just barely hear Mihashi talking.
Abe's voice was too soft for me, but I watched as he pressed his index finger against Mihashi's mouth. He then said something again and leaned in closer. I had to look away at the last second, right before their lips met with each other. My heart sank. I didn't feel like myself. Shaking, I covered my eyes and turned around. I had to get out of there. I should have known that there was something between Mihashi and Abe. They were so close. They were…
I tripped over my footing and hiccupped. My presence was noticed. There was no way for me to hide my red eyes or embarrassment. I should never of come to see Mihashi.
"Tajima?" Abe's annoyance came right out in his voice. "What are you doing?"
"Spending some time with the ground…" I mumbled.
"Um… I… uh…" in the background, Mihashi kept uttering things I couldn't understand. He knew what I saw though. He was just as embarrassed, I was sure of that much.
"Come on. We should get going," a hand tried to help me up, but I pushed it away. I didn't want Abe's help. I didn't want to be anywhere near him. If my legs would have let me, I would have already ran out of there as fast as I could.
"A-are you… alright?" Mihashi showed concern. It didn't shock me though. It was just how he was.
I shook my head. "I'm fine. Go ahead of me."
"You're stubborn, Tajima," Abe growled and pulled me up. "If you have something to say, just say it already."
"Treat Mihashi well!" I ran off. I ran because I was scared. I didn't want to face it anymore. My heart was racing. If I hadn't left like I did, I was sure to say something I was going to regret. If Mihashi was happy, that should be enough for me. If he could smile, I should be happy. That's what mattered the most. That's what I wanted to believe.
Slowly, Abe and Mihashi seemed to show their affection more and more. Just like the rest of the team, I acted as a support and wished them the best of luck with their relationship. Somehow, though, I felt like they only admitted to it because I saw them kiss that day. It was like Abe was telling me to back off. I did. I kept my distance most of the time and avoided unneeded conversation. Mihashi was still in my dreams though. Even though Abe would hold his hand and be the one next to him, he was always in my dreams. I couldn't let him go no matter how hard I tried. It was impossible. Then, after rain kept us from practicing on evening, I saw Mihashi standing on the pitcher's mound. He stared up at the clouds with a look of defeat. My feet instantly looked for a way to get to him.
"Mihashi, man, what are you doing? It's pouring out here," I scratched my hair. "You're all wet."
He didn't turn to me, but I could see his trembling lip from his profile. "Ta… ji… ma…"
"We were only good together as pitcher and catcher. That's what he told me…"
It was obvious he was talking about Abe, and I was almost certain that Mihashi was saying that they broke up. I thought it would have made me feel better, but my heart squeezed tighter. Mihashi wasn't smiling. He wasn't happy. Neither was I.
"I'm here for you, Mihashi… if you need anything," my words, even though true, didn't seem to be overly right to say. I wanted to say something better, but I had nothing.
"Thanks," Mihashi wiped his eyes with his arm, but they continued to stay wet because of the rain. There was a faint smile that I noticed though. "We should get home."
"Yeah. Want me to walk with you?"
His backside was all I ever seemed to see.
That number one and wrinkling shirt.
The pitcher was far away from me on the field.
It wasn't like that when not playing baseball though.
We were classmates.
But, most importantly, we were friends.
I still had unanswered feelings for Mihashi, but I was happy with how things were.
As long as we could smile together.
As long as we could be happy together.
It didn't matter anything else that was between us.
I was fine just like this.