There was something different about Mihashi, Abe Takaya realizes, as he watches his pitcher step out of the dugout and run back on to the field without him. It could be a trick of the light or a failure on his part to notice it earlier, but the other boy looks taller somehow, blocking out more of the sunlight and filling the air with more of his presence that he had before. Still, those shoulders were thin – too thin, too fragile to carry the weight of an entire team, with every member’s hopes and aspirations, on them.
It wasn’t that he hadn’t considered the possibility of getting injured at any point during his time with the team – it was that he had decided that getting injured simply wasn’t an option. Abe was stubborn about everything, especially when it happened to be keeping his word. When he promised Mihashi that he would not get injured, he had meant it.
Those words had echoed back to him as he watched his team struggle on the field without him. Later on, after they lost, he saw a bit of his pitcher’s face break and was reaching out for the other before he even realized it. He recalled, in that moment, the way Mihashi had looked up at him, when he had sworn. He was young and still had years ahead of him, for sure, but somehow he knew that he wasn’t ever going to see eyes that earnest and trusting ever again.
When his vision blurred, Abe told himself it was hot and he was sweaty and on hot, sweaty days that sort of thing just happened. He shut his eyes and buried part of his face into his pitcher’s shoulder.
Mihashi, of course, was too broken up to notice that something was wrong in the first place.