Chapter 1: I Want You
Abe had a good internal clock, so his eyes were fluttering open at 5:30 AM, like they always did, about a half hour before Mihashi would have to get up to start his day. And also like always, Mihashi was in some ridiculous position across the bed, all limbs tangled in sheets (when they were still on the bed at all,) mouth hanging open and the fingers of his right hand interlaced with Abe’s. Awkward as he looked, still looked after all these years, Mihashi was still beautiful- strong arms from pitching, and skin light despite the long days he spent under the sun in the middle of the infield. Abe always had the same problem now – when he started watching Mihashi, really looking at him as he always did at the start of the day, for a brief moment of stillness he wouldn’t see again until they settled down for bed at some ungodly hour – he wanted to touch him. He wanted to run his hands over Mihashi’s skin, hug him breathless and kiss him silly. But every minute of sleep his boyfriend could get was precious, was vital to his health and performance, and he needed to keep his hands off.
And he could. He always did, because the day wasn’t so long, and there was a reason they didn’t go to sleep until some ungodly hour, after all.
Chapter 2: I Miss You
Mihashi was only going to be gone for three nights. But it had been twelve hours and Abe was already pacing around the apartment, alternating between trying to sit and watch TV and opening the fridge to find that everything inside was exactly the same as the last time he had looked, and he still didn’t want any of it. Abe flipped open his phone and scrolled through the messages on it, as if a new one was going to appear miraculously. Alas, his emails were as constant as the food in the fridge. He read through the existing messages, which were all unsurprisingly similar, ”I miss you,” ”I’m thinking of you,” and most pointedly, ”When was the last time you left the apartment?”
Chapter 3: I Trust You
Since Mihashi was a professional baseball player, and Abe was a student (almost a doctor, though, and in another year and a half and he would be a qualified sports pediatrician,) Abe found himself home alone quite a bit. He also found himself the recipient of emails that said ”Have to go drinking with Maeda-san tonight” and ”Don’t wait up, going to dinner with the guys.” He knew that sometimes Mihashi would hang out with women, and sometimes with other men, all much better-looking than Abe (despite eating healthy and staying moderately active, the shadow of his father’s figure was emerging in him since the day he stopped playing baseball, which caused him unending grief,) but Mihashi always came back. Sometimes at odd hours of the night, sometimes smelling of alcohol, but never like a woman, never like someone else’s perfume. Even when Abe turned out Mihashi’s shirt collar to find a lipstick stain in the shape of a carefully planted kiss, he just shrugged and asked Mihashi if he had any other shirts he needed taken to the cleaners.
Mihashi’s team’s manager thought she was awfully funny, sometimes.
Chapter 4: I Love You
It was hard to be a secret. Granted, they’d been honest with their parents (Mihashi’s first, and then Abe’s with a little extra tugging and a few extra “It will be fines,”) and many of their friends knew (Tajima had claimed to have known since high school, Hanai was weird about it for a while, and still was, but only in a way that allowed Abe to ruffle him with a little too much information.) It was hard for Mihashi to make excuses for not having a girlfriend to his team, and it was hard for Abe to maintain that a 29 year old doctor who made as much money as he did could still be happily single. It was hard not to kiss in public. It was hard not to dance at weddings. Hard to know they’d never have a wedding themselves.
It was hard, and it was sad, but not for a single day since he grabbed Mihashi’s hands at high school graduation and told him he wanted to be near him for the rest of his life did he regret it. He’d never wanted a different life. And the way Mihashi smiled gently, peacefully, head fallen against Abe’s shoulder on the couch after a long day, always reminded him that Mihashi never regretted anything, either.