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Big Bro Tajima

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       Mihashi was off his game today. His arm was sore from over-pitching at practice yesterday, so he wasn’t as accurate as he had wished to be.   
 
After missing the strike zone for the fifth time in a row, Mihashi slumped slightly, staring at the ground.

Abe glared at his pitcher in disgust, his top lip curling into a dissatisfied scowl.
“That’s it, I’m done.”

He threw his glove on the ground and began to walk toward the dugout to remove his gear.
“W-what?”

“I said I’m done, Mihashi!” Abe snapped, “See! This is your problem! You never listen to me!”

“I-I listen to you p-plenty! I never shake m-my head at you-“ tears started to well up into the pitcher’s eyes as he stuttered out his reply. 

       As if Mihashi couldn’t be more mortified, Abe started to laugh at him. “And he’s crying again as usual! Who could’ve guessed!” 
The catcher threw his gear off hastily, chucking it onto a bench.

“Abe wait!”

“Why, Mihashi? Why should I stay for someone like you? Sure, you have good control…” the catcher trailed off, “Your speed is inconsistent, your curves are barely accurate anymore, not the mention that you’ve almost hit me in the face three times today!” 

Mihashi couldn’t reply, he could only stare at the ground in shame. Abe was right.  

“Hah, your performance is just all the more proof that they only chose you to start cause of your grandpa.” Abe said with a sneer, “I’ve seen zero improvement in you, so I’m done wasting my time.” 
 
“ABE!” Mihashi cried, watching his friend walk away from him in anger, “ABE PLEASE DON’T GO!

       Mihashi awoke with a start, gasping quietly. What the hell was that? Did Abe really leave? Was it really because of him?

The blonde looked around to see nothing but darkness, minus a single white light in the corner, courtesy of Mr. Shiga.

Where even was he? What’s going on?

As the pitcher carded a hand through his hair, he braced himself on the fluffy ground beneath him.

Fluffy ground…?

That’s right! The team was back at the house for another training camp!

So he was just dreaming?

Thank goodness… Mihashi’s had this dream before. And when he did, Abe was right next to him and holding his hand securely! His breath quavered a tad as he tried to shake the feeling; doing so quite literally by whipping his head back and forth.

Everything would be fine!

The pitcher reached over to his left, gently feeling around the space next to him. He was half expecting to accidentally slap his partner in the face.

“Abe…?”

To his horror, Mihashi felt nothing but an empty futon beneath his hand.

Wait a minute… His dream was… real?

Upon this realization, Mihashi felt his heart drop, yet also rise to sit uncomfortably in his throat. His eyes were wider than his mouth, which was desperately panting for air. His eyes quickly flushed with a deluge of uncontrollable tears.

Abe was gone, and it was his fault.

       “Abe!?” the pitcher was able to choke out as he frantically felt around the futon. “Abe please… c-come back!”

But the empty blanket next to him seemed to only mock him.

“Abe please!” Mihashi’s voice rose in volume, more than likely waking up the room full of his teammates, “ABE PLEASE COME BACK! I’LL BE BETTER! I-I-I’LL BE M-MORE ACCURATE! ! PLEASE!”

It didn’t matter that he was in a room full of other boys, he just wanted his partner- no, best friend, back.

“ABE Y-YOU CAN’T LEAVE ME LIKE THIS…ABE PLEASE! I CAN’T DO THIS W-WITHOUT YOU!” The broken plea escaped Mihashi’s lips as he sobbed desperately. “TAKAYA!“

       Tajima, among the others, awoke with a jolt after hearing his friend calling vainly for his partner. At first, he was shocked. He didn’t know what was going on, but he knew that he had heard something.

“Mihashi…?” he asked groggily. As he re-entered the world of the awake, his senses were shot by the poor boy’s cries, “Hey, Mihashi talk to me!”

The pitcher failed to reply, only shouting Abe’s name, through fits of sobs, he would continue screaming until his voice was hoarse and sore.

Truth be told, Tajima had seen Mihashi cry a plethora of times. But never like this…

The pitcher seemed like he had no idea where he truly was, as if he couldn’t deduce dream from reality. The anguish in the poor boy’s cry shattered Tajima’s heart on the spot.

All of the team stopped and gazed in shock, never having seen Mihashi look so hurt and terrified.

       As the pitcher started to hiccup through his pleads, Tajima’s body moved faster than his brain did.

“Don’t stare at him! He isn’t a circus freak!” Tajima hissed, scrambling to his feet and padding quickly across the room.

“Mihashi, Mihashi, Mihashi. Come here… come here. You’re okay.” The cleanup hitter smiled as terrified and teary eyes met his secretly frightened ones. He grabbed the pitcher’s hands firmly, squeezing tightly to show that he wasn’t dreaming. “You’re okay.”

“T-Tajima??“ Mihashi’s grip loosened on the latter’s hand as he felt another player’s hand on the small of his back. He turned quickly to see a deeply concerned Hanai showing his support.

Sobs began to rake the poor boy’s frame once again. His shoulders heaved as he felt his lungs contract once more, “Oh god… p-please, Tajima… Hanai… Y-you can’t…I-I-I I can’t- please! D-Don’t leave m-me too!”

The cleanup hitter’s heart sank to the floor, “Mihashi what? What are you talking ab-“

“T-Tajima you c-can’t leave me too! Abe’s gone b-because of me!”

       Finally the cleanup hitter understood, “It’s okay Mihashi, I’m not going anywhere. You’re okay and I’m okay. I’m not leaving.” Tajima replied in a hushed voice, wrapping secure arms around Mihashi’s trembling figure. “Shh, shhh. It’s okay, Ren. You’re okay. Shhhhh. It was all a bad dream.”

The pitcher latched onto Tajima, desperately clawing at his back, as if he was afraid that this teammate would leave too. The cleanup hitter gently guided Mihashi’s head into the crevice of his shoulder, and used his other hand to rest securely on the small of his back.

“I won’t leave you. I’m right here. S’okay, Mihashi.”

Tajima sat flat on the floor and rocked the terrified boy back and forth in his embrace. It took every fiber of his being to not cry alongside his teammate. Hearing the distressed wailing that was muffled by his shoulder completely broke him. Mihashi continued to blubber out deprecations against himself as the situation escalated.

The cleanup hitter’s anxiety grew as Mihashi’s cries failed to falter. He began to hum a song he had heard on the radio, trying desperately to keep the pitcher calm.

“A-Abe’s GONE, Tajima! I-it’s all my f-fault!” The blonde boy yelped, “A-All the things he s-said were true!”

“No, no no! Shhh Shh, it’s okay Mihashi. It’s just a bad dream, I promise you. Y-you’re doing so well and we’re all very proud of you!”

“T-then why d-did he lea-ve us?”

“He didn’t leave, Mihashi I promise you. And he won’t leave because you’re doing so well here. He’s proud of you, buddy.”

The team watched in despair as the one who always encouraged them was reduced to nothing but a puddle of panicked tears.

       Tajima coughed gently to gain the attention of their captain, “Go find Abe.” He mouthed. “Everything’s gonna be okay. Abe would never leave us, you know that, don’t you?”

At a calm pace, Hanai was on his feet and quickly padding around the house to find their catcher.

“I-I- I don’t-“

“It’s okay Mihashi, don’t speak. Shhh Shhh Shhh, you’re safe with me, okay?” Tajima whispered in a sweet voice, gently running his hand along the boy’s hair, “Abe’s around here somewhere, I just know it.”

‘Please hurry, Hanai. I can’t bear this…’ 

As soon as Hanai was out of Mihashi’s earshot, he desperately bounded around the house in his socks. His speeding figure slipped on every corner as he tried to find Abe.

Boy was Hanai happy that coach had him run all of those laps the other day, since he was dipping in and out of rooms to find the missing catcher.

He wasn’t in the bathroom, but he called for him anyway.

He wouldn’t be in Coach Momoe’s room, but he called anyway.

He wasn’t in the storage room, but he still called for him.

He wasn’t outside; his calls were now a little panicked.

What if Mihashi was right…?
No sense in giving up yet. Hanai ran to the other side of the house. “ABE?” Hanai rose his beckoning voice just a tad.

In the kitchen!” A tired voice replied.

       As it turns out, Abe had woken up and had an awfully dry throat. So, the catcher went to the kitchen for a glass of water. He was completely oblivious to the events happening on the other side of the house.

The captain skidded his rushing feet to a stop, clutching the doorframe of the kitchen and panting. “ABE! YougottagetbacktotheroomMihashiis-“

“Woah woah, Hanai.” Abe set his glass down and lifted both hands, as to steady the boy before him, “Slow down. What’s going on, man?” Abe took hold of his shoulder.

“Abe you- you gotta get back to the room.” Hanai said between desperate breaths, “Tajima’s with Mihashi, and I-I don’t know how much more h-he can take with the poor kid. M-Mihashi’s freaking out. He had a really b-bad dream and he… he thinks you quit. A-And he thinks it’s his fault.”

“Damnit… this one again.” He muttered, “Alright Hanai, lead the way.” Abe followed anxiously behind his co-captain, terrified for what he would be met with.

       As the two boys got closer to the room once again, they could hear that Mihashi’s anguished cries were yet to stop. Abe felt his heart snap in two and quickened his pace, all the more desperate to reach his partner.

Tajima’s desperate attempts to calm the pitcher down had only been an outlet for the boy, to dump his insecurities.

“T-Tajima, ‘msorry.” Mihashi said as he hiccuped, still sobbing furiously.

“You don’t have to be sorry, I’m right here, Mihashi. I’ll never leave you.” The cleanup hitter took a shaky breath.

‘Come on Hanai… please. This hurts so bad.”
 
The two arrived at the room and Abe immediately called out to his friend. “Mihashi? Hey, I’m here, I’m right here, man. You know that you can’t get rid of me that easily.” The catcher smiled and kneeled at his pitcher’s side and placed the gentlest of touches on his shoulder, as if the poor boy was made of porcelain.

“I just had to get some water. But don’t worry, I’m not leaving your side anymore.”

Mihashi’s eyes widened and he began to hiccup. Although he was relieved to see his best friend, he wasn’t clear as to whether or not he had escaped his dream yet. “A-Abe? it’s… I-is it r-r-really you? Y-you didn’t quit?”

“No, Mihashi I’m still on the team. I would never leave you, you’re my best friend.” The catcher replied with a sympathetic smile.

Mihashi’s grip on Tajima had reduced to none, and he fell forward onto his partner, who wrapped the pitcher securely in his arms.

“I’m right here, Ren.” Abe said softly, resting his head on Mihashi’s shoulder. “I’m right here. Shh Shh Shh. It’s okay. I’m right here”

       Shortly after, Abe sat criss-crossed on the floor with Mihashi in his lap, rocking ever so slightly back and forth. The boy was slowly calming down, but still crying quite loudly. Except this time, he was so relieved that he hadn’t driven Abe away that he couldn’t hold back.

The catcher held onto his pitcher in the same way Tajima did, a hand on the back of his head, and one on his lower back.

Except for Abe, the position of Mihashi’s head was different. The blonde’s head was resting gently against Abe’s chest, so he could listen to his heartbeat.

He felt that since it had always helped him calm down when he was little, that maybe it would work for Mihashi.

       Meanwhile, after Mihashi had released Tajima and latched onto Abe, the cleanup hitter retreated back to his futon and tried laying down. However, he couldn’t stop his body shuddering from the aftershock.

Hanai had made his way over to Tajima’s futon to check on him. “Hey man, how’re you holdi- Tajima? You okay, man?”

“Hanai…” Tajima said softly, “Please don’t make me do that again…”

“Tajima…?”

“Hanai, please.” he choked on his words as a whimper ripped out of his throat.

The captain knelt down next to Tajima and placed a gentle hand on the boy’s shoulder, “hey, hey, hey. Are you alright? What do you mean?”

“I-It was too much, Hanai. I-I don’t know how much longer I would’ve lasted having t-to listen to him cry like that. It was… it was… it was awful. My god, m-my chest hurt so badly, I-I thought my heart actually b-broke.”

“Tajima…”

“No, Hanai you-you don’t get it. A-after you left he just w-wouldn’t stop. To think th-that he really thinks that about h-himself…”

Hanai suddenly pulled the cleanup hitter into a gentle hug, the boy’s eyes widening in shock as he did so.

“You did well, Tajima.” Hanai whispered, squeezing the boy gently, “Thank you… thank you so much.”

Tajima squeezed his eyes shut as tears began to gently fall out of them, ‘thank god it’s all over.’
Hanai whispered sweet praises into Tajima’s ear as the boy whimpered and trembled in the captain’s firm grip.

Their teammates watched as the captains tried to calm down their sunshine boys, every one of them visibly exhausted.

       Nights like these were always a test for the Nishiura boys. Their road of trials to make Mihashi feel safe, secure and welcome only seemed to get worse as soon as they had a milestone. The team felt nothing but pure anger towards Mihoshi for inducing so much trauma into their teammate.

Well, it wouldn’t come easily.

And it wouldn’t come overnight.

But those boys would be damned if they would give up on their pitcher like that.

Three spaced out and heavy knocks broke everyone’s concentration.

“Hanai…? Do you want to explain why the hell I heard you yelling Abe’s name earlier? Do you know what time it-oh…” Coach Momoe’s lethargic voice immediately dropped as she took in the sight in front of her:

All of her boys, exhausted and visibly distressed.

Her two captains desperately trying to comfort her two, normally happy, players.

And her two happy boys, weeping in the arms of their partners.

“Do you want me to stay in here with you all?” She asked, quietly squatting by Abe’s side.

“I think we’re okay coach, thank you.” The catcher replied with a gentle grin, “But can you get me a glass of water for Mihashi? He’s had a rough night.”

“And one for Tajima too please?” Hanai’s gentle voice sounded from where he was rubbing the cleanup hitter’s back gently.

Coach Momoe smiled, “Of course, boys. Thank you.”

After some time, their coach returned with two large cups of water and great news:

No practice tomorrow, only board games and relaxation.