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Muscle Hustle

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It's not that Haruna's loitering. There's still a fair amount of time before the drawing's set to start, anyway. Shimizu has already read him the riot act on representing the team, and Haruna can't quite understand how this whole batch of underclassmen got so impudent, but he lets it slide. They've certainly helped with whipping Akimaru into shape, at any rate. Haruna grins to himself as he shifts his weight against the wall. It's going to be a very interesting summer.

And there, finally. Well, not like he was keeping an eye out here on purpose for a particular person. He just happened to be relaxing there and someone interesting happened to come along, he tells himself, and it’s almost convincing. In any case, he kicks off the wall and crosses the hall, entering the same men's bathroom he'd gone in with Akimaru at this same time last year.

Mihashi doesn't notice him at first, occupied with his business at one of the stalls. Haruna studies his back. The second-year is still small, sure, but he's definitely more substantial than the last time they played. Haruna had been disappointed when they hadn't faced each other in the spring, and is hoping summer will award him the chance for the rematch he's wanted since fall.

He's glad that it looks like Mihashi's gotten in some strength-training in the off-season at the very least. It's good that Nishiura's coach is competent enough to take care of him properly. Last summer, when Haruna felt Mihashi's shoulders after losing the match against ARC, he'd been pretty much skin and bones. Haruna had barely been able to believe anyone could pitch at all with a body like that, let alone well enough to hold down Tousei's regulars.

But then of course, Haruna had gotten to experience Mihashi's pitching himself in the fall tournament. Sure, that jerk Takaya had provided his pitcher with a skillful lead, but Takaya aside, there was something about Mihashi's pitching that drew Haruna's interest. Even without speed or a menacing presence or anything really flashy at all, he still had it.

Maybe only fellow pitchers could recognize that special intangible quality, even if they couldn't put it into words. All Haruna knows is that he wants to see more, wants to discover what kind of deceptively effective pitcher Mihashi can become. With more training, more guidance, more practice… It’s definitely something he’s been excited about. And this summer will be his last chance in high school baseball to potentially go up against Mihashi himself.

Haruna feels the muscles in his body tense up, thinking about it, looking at Mihashi's back. Then Mihashi finishes up and starts to turn around, and Haruna feels a small jolt of energy as the younger pitcher jumps about a foot in the air.

"Ha-Haruna-san!" Mihashi almost looks like he's vibrating, his mouth flapping up and down wordlessly.

Somehow, seeing Mihashi so flustered makes Haruna feel even more tense himself, even though he was supposed to be the one doing the surprising here. "H-hey there, Mihashi," he says, grinning a bit abashedly and rubbing his palms antsily against his thighs. "Well, it looks like we're meeting in a bathroom again, huh?"

Mihashi lets out a few stammered incoherent noises, and Haruna wracks his brain to figure out where to take the conversation.

"So, uh. Have you been working on your backspin?" Huh? What is he even saying? That's definitely not the reason he made sure to track Mihashi down today. It's not even something he should be asking a fellow pitcher. They're about to face off against each other in a tournament; it makes it look like he's trading on Mihashi's admiration of him to get intel on his team.

Mihashi probably realizes the inappropriateness of this topic too, as some extra beads of sweat spring up on his brow, and he wrings his hands together while stammering his non-response.

"Wait." Haruna brings his left hand up to his own face, then closes the distance between them and grabs Mihashi's shoulder with the other. "No, sorry, I shouldn't have asked you that."

There. This feels better, holding onto Mihashi like this. Haruna gives him a slight reassuring squeeze, enjoying the feel of Mihashi's muscle under his hand. It wasn't just his imagination; he's definitely bulked up compared to last year. "I've actually been looking forward to seeing you again. I hope we get to face each other in the tournament." He smiles. "It'll be nice to get my revenge."

"Re-re-re..."

Mihashi's face is pink, and he might be glowing, and possibly about to float up to the ceiling. His reaction makes Haruna's face heat up a bit himself. Well, it's not like he's exaggerating or being overly nice or anything! Sure, a lot of it had hinged on Akimaru's terrible performance, but Nishiura had still legitimately defeated them. And even if Akimaru has improved a lot since then, along with the rest of the team, he's sure Mihashi and his teammates have as well. He might not have been totally serious the first time he met Mihashi in this bathroom, when he clasped him on the shoulder and told him "Let's do our best!", but there's no jest in his words or feelings anymore.

But still, seeing Mihashi so easily pleased by the slightest bit of perceived praise, he can't help but affected by it. It's… a nice feeling. Something pleasant and maybe a little bit exciting. Something akin to what he feels when he's out there on the mound. And it feels a little bit more charged at the point of contact between his hand and Mihashi's shoulder.

The sound of voices floats in from out in the hall, and before Haruna can think about what he's doing, he hears himself saying, "Here, hold on, just a minute, in here…" while backing up and tugging on the collar of Mihashi's dress shirt.

Mihashi babbles out a broken stream of "Wah, ah, um," but stumbles after him as Haruna pulls the two of them into a stall. It's even more awkward to maneuver the smaller pitcher around in order to close the stall door and once it's finally done Haruna ends up crowded in close to him, Mihashi's back stiff against the closed door behind him.

Haruna listens for a moment, but it seems like no one else has entered the bathroom after all. He breathes out and relaxes a little, his hands splaying open against Mihashi's collarbones. "Sorry," he says. He presses his weight against Mihashi a little, and rubs his thumbs in small circles. He can feel his warm pectorals through the cotton material. "Sorry," he repeats. "I didn't mean to jump you, I just, uh." His thoughts seem a little bit scrambled. What was his plan with all of this? "You've gained some muscle since last time we did this…" he mumbles.

Haruna's whole body feels hot and itchy. Even if he compares this to the time after the match with ARC, it's not really the same as back then, and Mihashi can surely tell that too. So far Haruna is the only one of the two of them doing any touching, but then slowly, Mihashi's body seems to release, relaxing under his hands. Haruna keeps his eyes trained on the stall door over Mihashi's head, feeling too embarrassed to look down as he says, "Y-you know, I've put on even more muscle since then too. If you want to feel it."

Mihashi's hands start on the outside of his arms, at first touching him lightly, and maybe trembling a little, but once he makes contact his grip firms up, and Haruna feels a little jolt of excitement at that. Like his deceptively skillful pitching, Mihashi's hands travel up his arms with care, sliding around them to thoroughly caress both his biceps and triceps. Haruna shudders, then moves his own arms out of the way to allow Mihashi access to his torso. He ends up stepping forward a bit while doing so, and in trying to figure out where to put his hands now, ends up hooking them around Mihashi's back, first rubbing at his scapula, then clasping his hands together and drawing their bodies closer together.

The position doesn't make it very easy for Mihashi to get at Haruna's back, so after feeling along his traps and skirting over his clavicle, Mihashi drops his hands down and squeezes Haruna's pecs lightly.

Haruna's breath hitches, and Mihashi stammers out, "I-Is… Ah… Oh…" Haruna looks down at him and is surprised to find Mihashi staring right back, though the second year darts his eyes away after a second, but looks back again just as quickly. He looks nervous, and his hands may be fluttering ever so slightly, but the look in his eyes is one Haruna is more than used to seeing on the diamond. It's determination.

Ah. This is what I wanted.

"It's fine," he answers Mihashi's question. "It's, it's good." With this encouragement, Mihashi squeezes again, a little more firmly, and his thumbs brush against Haruna's nipples. Haruna's breath catches and he shifts his weight, tightens his arms around Mihashi. He unclasps his hands and slides one of them into the small of Mihashi's back. Stretches out his pinkie finger, thinks about what would happen if his bent down a little, slid his hands down further.

"F-feels…" says Mihashi, one of his hands still on Haruna's chest, one dipping lower to stroke over his abdominals.

"Yeah?" asks Haruna, then clears his throat, his voice having grown hoarse. "How does it feel? Is it good?"

"Good," murmurs Mihashi in assent, cupping his hand around the side of Haruna's hip. Mihahi's body sways a little, and he leans his head in very close, pressing the side of his face to Haruna's chest. "S-soft. Warm…"

Everything feels very dizzy, and it's only when Mihashi's hand starts to tug Haruna's dress shirt up out of his slacks that alarm bells—one that sound very much like Shimizu—finally start going off in Haruna's head. Shit. How long have they been in here? Has anyone actually come into the bathroom since they've been doing this? (Haruna kind of stopped paying attention to the world outside the stall.) Does the lack of traffic mean the ceremony is starting soon? He'll never hear the end of it if he's actually late.

"Mi-Mihashi," Haruna says, and he hates doing it, but he grabs the sides of Mihashi's shoulders again and pushes their bodies apart. Mihashi emits a soft little "oh" when he does so, and it shoots directly into Haruna's body, but he's a third year now and he has to be the responsible one here. Baseball comes first, and after the tournament… Well, maybe he'll finally get Takaya to actually give him Mihashi's cell number.

"We should probably get going," Haruna says, even though he knows neither of them wants to. Mihahsi's expression is still a little bit foggy, but then Haruna continues, "We can't leave our teams alone in the ceremony without their ace pitchers, can we?"

It's a different kind of exciting, but one just as good, seeing the expression in Mihashi's eyes replaced with a mixture of excitement and admiration and joy. Even though they haven't actually spent that much time together, Haruna feels like he's grown to understand Mihashi pretty well, somehow. Maybe it's just something about being pitchers that allows them to feel this type of closeness. Maybe it's seeing the same drive to win reflected back at him even if the reflective surface is a person so completely different from him in so many other ways. But the proof of how hard each of them has worked is there in their bodies and in the pitches they throw.

Haruna can't help thinking there's something left to say as they extricate themselves from the stall and straighten out their shirts. But he's not sure what, as the two of them make their way together to the main hall.

It's Mihashi who finally says it just before they enter the doors, hands balled into fists at his sides as he stammers out, "Ha-Haruna-san. Let's… let's both…"

And Haruna grins at his rival, and says, "Yeah," and the two of them walk in together just as the lights dim and the music swells over the beginning of another summer of baseball.