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In Principle

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It's no secret on the team that Tajima's favorite pastime, after baseball, is most definitely masturbation.

Abe doesn't object in principle. After all, he has...needs. He's a growing boy, and it would be hypocritical for him to censure Tajima when he himself spends a judicious amount of time (but only after practice, if his homework is done, definitely not until after all the lights are out in the house, and only if he doesn't have a test or a game the next day) doing precisely what Tajima insists on blabbing about to the entire locker room.

So really, he doesn't object in principle. He does, however, specifically object to Tajima filling Mihashi's all-too-vulnerable ears with that kind of unrestrained nonsense. Tajima has no sense of the proper place or time, and god knows Mihashi doesn't need any distractions. It's all Abe can do to convince Mihashi to eat and sleep regularly, in addition to his grueling training regimen. He certainly doesn't need Tajima convincing Mihashi to direct his attentions away from the field to something which, surely, ought to be private and infrequent and sensibly controlled.

Abe can only grit his teeth when he sees a cluster of his teammates listening avidly to Tajima, including an irritatingly spellbound Mihashi. Although he wants to stomp over there and pull Mihashi away, he decides that it's best to wait for the right moment and give Mihashi an overdue lecture.

He can wait. Abe hasn't gotten where he is by being hasty.

***

The right moment, Abe decides, it just before practice, when he can talk to Mihashi alone before their teammates arrive.

"Listen, Mihashi," he says, and then stops.

Mihashi's eyes are darting from side to side, his fingers fluttering in his customary panic.

"I'm not yelling at you," Abe says gruffly. "I just want to say something."

Mihashi stills, at least as much as he ever does, but Abe can still see the shuddering rise and fall of his chest, can follow the movement of Mihashi's throat as he gulps.

He realizes, after a moment, that he's been tracking a bead of sweat moving down Mihashi's cheek, instead of saying anything. "Listen," he says again. "Do you..."

Mihashi stares at him, his eyes wide and centered on Abe.

Abe scrubs at the back of his neck. "I just mean to say -- it's all right, but you know, you shouldn't..."

"Abe-kun?" Mihashi says, but there's so little sound behind it that it's more of a breathy exhalation.

Abe really has no idea what he was about to say. "You should--"

"Mihashi!" Tajima crows, throwing an arm around Mihashi's shoulders. "Time for practice!"

Mihashi's mouth works in a jumble of silent syllables, but Abe just shakes his head and sighs. "Let's go get changed," he says, momentarily defeated.

Even with Tajima pulling him to the locker room, Mihashi continues to crane his neck back at Abe, his eyes full of questions.

***

It's late at night, after everyone's gone to bed. Abe listens to the sound of the wind against the metal sliding shutters, a distinct rattling that doesn't abate in the slightest with the oncoming typhoon. The dripping, smothering heat of late August is tempered by the artificial chill of the air conditioning, but even so, boxers and a light sheet are all he can bear.

School doesn't officially start again for a few days. There's no good reason not to give in.

He eases his hand under the waistband of his shorts, pausing for a moment to listen to the mostly silent house. And then he closes his eyes, sighs softly, and takes himself in hand.

It never takes very long. Maybe if he did it three times a day like Tajima claims to, he wouldn't always be in such a hurry by the time he finally gets around to it. And maybe if Tajima would shut up about it, Mihashi wouldn't stare at him like he was preaching the gospel about jerking off, he wouldn't--

Abe gasps slightly, his hips rocking up. He can feel a bead of sweat making its way down his face, remembers watching a drop making its way down Mihashi's cheek, down to the hollow of his neck that moved with Mihashi's panting, shuddering breath, remembers standing so close he could almost feel the warmth of Mihashi's skin, he could almost--

His toes curl and he bites out a choked moan, shoving the sheet out of the way just in time.

He's hotter than when he started, but he feels almost weightless, the tension draining away with each second that passes. The only sound in the room is the tinny rattle of the shutters and the rasp of his slowing breath.

If Tajima does this three times a day, it's a wonder he gets anything else done. Abe definitely has to get around to telling Mihashi that he shouldn't do this. At least, not very often.

***

Abe is a little uncomfortable when he sees Mihashi the next day, because it only occurs to him much later who he was thinking about when he was...doing it. Normally, he doesn't think of much of anything. It was probably a fluke, an unfortunate bit of timing.

He corners Mihashi before practice again, determined to get it over with.

Mihashi's less anxious than the day before, but his brow is furrowed and he looks a little lost. And before Abe can open his mouth, Mihashi uncharacteristically beats him to it. "Abe-kun, y-yesterday, you..."

Abe takes a deep, preparatory breath. "Yesterday, I wanted to say -- that is, about Tajima, do you..."

"Tajima-kun?" Mihashi repeats, sounding puzzled.

Abe's going to get through this if it kills him. "You -- you know, you shouldn't always listen to what Tajima says."

Mihashi blinks at him uncomprehendingly.

Abe clenches his jaw for a moment, and then forces himself to relax. "I just mean to say -- you have a lot on your shoulders. We're all counting on you. So you shouldn't..."

"Shouldn't?" Mihashi echoes.

Abe curses mentally, because he can hear the rest of the guys arriving. He's taken too long again. There's nothing for it but to postpone. "Nevermind," he says. "We should get going."

Mihashi's head tilts to the side just a bit, but he obediently follows Abe to the locker room.

And then Abe has an idea -- he wouldn't keep being interrupted if he didn't keep trying to have this conversation at school. "Mihashi," he says, without looking back. "Stay over at my house tonight."

He hears a thump and realizes Mihashi has stumbled into the doorframe. "Be more careful, would you?" Abe says, but even he can hear how gentle his voice is underneath its long-suffering tone.

Under Abe's steadying hands, he can feel the heat of Mihashi's skin through his clothing, but it's nothing compared to the warmth of Mihashi's eyes when he says, "Okay."

***

At dinner, Abe's mother frets and fusses and tries to feed Mihashi everything in sight -- for all that Mihashi has put on some necessary muscle, he's still thin and gangly. Abe sometimes worries about what will happen to Mihashi's control when and if he gets a major growth spurt, but there's no use in borrowing trouble.

Afterwards, they retreat upstairs to Abe's room, and Mihashi pulls the sports magazines that he brought with him out of his bag, and they stretch out on the floor side by side to read through them. When it's just the two of them, when it's just Abe and Mihashi and baseball, Mihashi loses some of his habitual nervousness. He talks to Abe, his voice low and coming in fits and starts, sometimes tripping over his own tongue in his excitement about this pro or that pro, and what does Abe think of this game, and wouldn't it be great if they could strike a player out like that?

Abe turns the pages carefully, and though he dutifully reads along with Mihashi, most of his attention is centered on the graceless tumble of Mihashi's words. This closeness, he thinks, is central to their battery -- for no one else does Mihashi unwind like this, for no one else does Mihashi expose his more thoughtful side. Not even Tajima.

Which brings Abe back to his original intent. His hand stills on the magazine page in front of him, and he clears his throat. "Mihashi, about earlier," he begins.

Mihashi turns his head a little to look at Abe.

Abe considers and discards several statements, before he blurts out, "Just because Tajima does it all the time doesn't mean you should."

"Does what?" Mihashi asks in earnest confusion.

To his horror, Abe feels heat rising in his face. "You know. Masturbating."

Comprehension fills Mihashi's face, shortly followed by a fierce blush. His lips move, but it takes him a few tries before Abe hears something like, "Not all the time."

"Oh," Abe says, taking a deep, cleansing breath. "Well. That's fine, then."

They mutually stare at their hands resting on the magazine in front of them for one long, excruciatingly awkward moment.

He hears Mihashi swallow beside him, and can't resist looking at Mihashi out of the corner of his eye. Mihashi is still staring blindly at the glossy pages in front of him when he wets his lips, swallows again, and then hesitantly says, "Abe-kun, when do you--"

It's Abe's turn to gulp. "At night. When we're not -- when we don't have anything the next day."

"Oh," Mihashi says, almost soundless. "Like tonight?"

Abe feels his eyes widen.

***

It's between them for the rest of the evening, thick and humid and sweltering with promise like the coming typhoon. Abe turns Mihashi's words over and over in his head, because they don't mean much by themselves, but he can't shake the feeling that something was decided, without Abe saying anything at all.

Abe pulls a guest futon out of the closet, one Mihashi has slept on before. The swirling blue paisley shows through the thin white covering sheet, and even though it must have been a while since it's been aired out, it still smells like a warm, lazy afternoon. His bed frame is low, so it's not like there's that much difference between the height of his mattress and Mihashi's futon.

Still, he lies on his back in the dark and stares up at the ceiling, feeling tenser that ever. Mihashi doesn't seem to be much better off, and Abe rolls onto his side to reach over, to reassure Mihashi--

And Mihashi's hand meets him halfway.

Mihashi's grip is comforting for a moment -- this is something Abe understands, something Abe depends on. The strength of Mihashi's hand is something that Abe believes wholeheartedly in. So when Mihashi's grip changes, and pulls slightly, Abe slides from his bed down into Mihashi's futon without a sound.

Mihashi's exhalations draw goosebumps where they brush Abe's skin, and Abe clutches Mihashi's hand tighter, because it's all he's certain of. They lie there quietly for a moment, until they arrive at some wordless, mutual decision once more, and Abe awkwardly presses his lips to Mihashi's.

He doesn't know what he's doing, and obviously, neither does Mihashi. Their lips move against each other, slowly at first, as careful and deliberate as the first pitch Mihashi ever aimed at Abe's mitt. Their hands still clutched together, Abe shifts his weight so he can lean over Mihashi a little, to move his mouth a little more boldly over Mihashi's. Mihashi's skin is warm and a little slick with sweat where their chests touch. It's only long moments later, after Mihashi gasps into Abe's mouth when he works up the nerve to slip his tongue inside, that their hands separate and come to rest on one another's hips.

It's the work of a minute to shove their boxers out of the way, and it's not as strange as Abe might have thought to press against each other, their hands joined once again, this time around their erections. Mihashi makes a noise Abe's never heard before when he strokes them together, and he says, "Shhhh," but he doesn't really mean it. Abe definitely wants to hear that shivering little moan again and again, even if it's muffled by his lips.

Soon their hands are moving faster and Abe is panting into Mihashi's ear, even as Mihashi is stifling hitching gasps into Abe's shoulder. Mihashi shudders and tenses and grips Abe's bicep with that startling, grounding strength of his, and that's it, that's more than enough -- Abe trusts that strength and will follow it, no matter what.

Abe collapses to one side, and they both catch their breath. He nearly thinks Mihashi is asleep when Mihashi says softly, "Not all the time?"

It takes Abe's brain a minute to make sense of that, but his mouth is moving on some kind of unsanctioned autopilot when he says, "Not all the time. We need some kind of schedule."

He can feel Mihashi nod beside him, as though that were a completely reasonable statement, when it is, in fact, quite possibly the most idiotic thing that's ever escaped Abe's mouth.

Idiotic or no, his mind is already jumping ahead and planning, considering and discarding and arranging and improvising, until he drops off to sleep, between one moment and the next.

***

The violent rattling of the shutters brings Abe awake, and he knows without checking that there will be no practice today. The typhoon has arrived.

Mihashi is still sound asleep beside him, face relaxed and mouth slightly open. They won't be leaving Abe's house today -- Mihashi should wake up and call his mother soon so that she doesn't worry.

But he doesn't want to wake Mihashi up just yet. Mihashi could use the extra sleep, and left to his own devices, he'd run himself ragged. Maybe it would be just as well if Abe could attempt to regulate yet one more part of Mihashi's life.

He never objected to it in principle, after all. Nor does he, as it turns out, in the specific.