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take my hand and i'll keep you close to my heart

Chapter Text

Mihashi’s skin is soft.

That’s the only thought going through Takaya’s head right now, and it’s not exactly helping the rapid beating of his heart. It’s after dinner, the rest of the team inside playing cards or reading manga or doing whatever it is that high school boys do in their free time at training camp, but here he is, sitting under the stars with one nervous pitcher. 

Mihashi has been quiet all day, which is usually a warning sign that he’s thinking something ridiculous again, but his pitching was fine, and he answered to Tajima’s yelling with as much stuttering enthusiasm as he always does. Takaya assumes this means he’s fine, but he doesn’t miss the way the pitcher would zone out in the middle of a conversation.

So here they are, sitting on the bench outside the cottage, with the intention of cooling down and, in Takaya’s case, figuring out just what the heck is bothering his ace. But somewhere in the middle of their slow process of communication, he was distracted by an eyelash, so, naturally, thoughtlessly, he leaned in, and now he’s hovering in front of Mihashi’s pink face with his hand on the other boy’s cheek.

Mihashi’s skin is soft. His nose is slightly sunburned, but other than that, his skin remains pale and easily flushed. His face glows healthily from the physical exertion the camp demands of him, and after the bath they took after practice it’s like touching a newborn baby’s skin; smooth, warm, and so incredibly soft. Takaya knows from experience that Mihashi’s hands are the opposite; they look soft, fragile, but in reality they are rough and calloused from years and years of stubbornness and hard work. So when Takaya’s fingers made contact with Mihashi’s cheek, he freezes from the unexpectedness of it all.

“A-A-Abe-kun?”

This close, Takaya can see the smattering of freckles that spreads across Mihashi’s pale skin. He finds himself comparing them to the map of stars above them, and instantly feels himself turn as red as the boy in front of him. Mihashi’s eyes glint gold in the moonlight.

“Eyelash,” he manages to say, pulling his hand back to show Mihashi the evidence on his fingertip.

“Oh,” Mihashi squeaks, blinking owlishly at his finger. He glances up and meets Takaya’s eyes, once, and then back at the eyelash. He leans forwards, and before Takaya can register the movement, he blows the eyelash away. Mihashi gives Takaya a shaky, sheepish smile. “A w-wish, right?”

It takes Takaya a few seconds to find his voice. When he does, it’s gruff, barely concealing the sudden embarrassment and strange… nervousness he’s feeling. His heart is pounding very fast; he wonders if he’s coming down with a fever. 

“Right. I, ah. I hope your wish comes true.”

Mihashi’s smile is suddenly too blinding for the night. Takaya can’t find it within himself to look away. “Me, too, Abe-kun!”

Chapter Text

They’re walking home after practice with the sky darkening above them when Takaya finds himself staring at Mihashi’s hand. Or, more specifically, the space between Mihashi’s hand and his. 

Mihashi doesn’t notice his sudden quiet contemplation, chattering away about some joke Tajima and Izumi told him. Takaya’s glad that they’ve reached this point, where Mihashi feels comfortable enough to babble on about mundane things without fear of Takaya blowing up. Because he won’t, even if Tajima’s jokes are kind of dumb and Mihashi’s favourite subject seems to be food. Takaya won’t admit it out loud, but he really likes the sound of Mihashi’s soft voice carrying them through the long walk home.

Mihashi’s shut up now, sending him that startled bird look every few seconds. The Takaya from a few months ago would be grabbing his head and telling him to spit it out, but the Takaya now is a more patient boy. It’s Takaya’s own fault, really.

They walk on in silence for a bit more, before Takaya gathers up his courage and decides that whatever Hanai and the rest of the boys might come up to tease them when they hear about it the next morning (because knowing Mihashi’s tendency to babble to everyone he’s comfortable with, they will hear about it), it’s definitely worth it.

Takaya reaches out and takes Mihashi’s hand.

“A-Abe-Abe-kun?” 

“Is this okay?” Takaya asks, keeping his voice low. He makes sure to make eye contact, like Momokan says to when he’s trying to get a point across.

Mihashi stares down at their hands for a moment. Then he nods, almost frantically, until Takaya tells him to stop. Both their faces are red, but neither lets go.

They don’t let go until they reach the intersection where they separate. Takaya smiles the whole way home.

Chapter Text

Ren spends a lot of time thinking about Abe’s hands.

He knows that they are calloused, rough from years of training and love for baseball like his own. He knows that they are warm, Abe’s palm slightly wider than his own, so when they press their hands together before every match, Ren feels safe, grounded. 

Abe’s hands are strong, steady, always sure of where to throw the ball and what to do. They’re familiar when Abe grabs his head and ruffles his hair after a successful shutout. They’re welcome when Abe clasps his shoulder in a wordless, You did good. They’re soothing when Abe touches his forehead to check his temperature after a long summer practice.

Ren can feel the purpose and certainty in Abe’s hands when the catcher massages his throwing arm after practice. It’s calming, the way Abe’s hands move along his skin without hesitation, and Ren imagines them against his cheek, softer, gentler. He imagines Abe’s hands trailing down his face, feather-light touches that leaves him flushed and eyes fluttering shut. He imagines them sliding around his waist, soft steady pressure, pulling him closer, slowly sliding lower until they slip just under the hem of his shirt and up his bare skin—-

Shaking his head furiously, Ren tries to clear his head before things get a little too excited downstairs. It’s bad enough he already spends too long being distracted by Abe’s hands, but these thoughts will only lead him to feel guilty.

He glances at the catcher, standing over by the dugout talking to Momokan. As if feeling eyes on him, Abe turns, instantly catching Ren’s eye. He waves, his face softening into a half-smile. Ren flushes red, barely managing to wave back before spinning around to face Tajima again.

He sighs. He only has to wait another two hours before he can walk home together with Abe. Then, he can ask to hold hands, and then, Abe would agree. 

Chapter Text

At a quarter to one in the morning, Takaya answers the door to find a giggling, wobbling Ren. He’s holding onto the doorframe to keep himself from falling over, his face flushed red and eyes half-closed. Takaya sighs.

“Did you go out drinking with Tajima again?” he scolds, ushering the other inside. “You should have called me, I would have picked you up.”

Mihashi warbles something, nearly faceplanting onto the floor when he tries to kick his shoes off. Takaya grabs hold of him, helping him out of his shoes and down the hall to the bedroom.

“You’re ridiculous when you’re drunk, I hope you know that,” he tells Mihashi while helping him change into pajamas. The other isn’t even paying attention, instead gazing sleepily off into space and giggling every couple of seconds. Eventually, Takaya manages to wrestle him into bed, where Mihashi blinks in a stunned manner for a bit while Takaya goes and retrieves a glass of water.

When he comes back, Mihashi’s sitting up again, waiting for him. He passes Mihashi the water. Obediently, Mihashi gulps it down, eyes squeezed shut and an air of satisfaction when the glass is empty. Takaya takes the glass back, smiling slightly. Even after all these years, Takaya never tires of Mihashi’s exaggerated expressions.

“Okay, now, time to sleep,” he says, sitting down on the edge of the bed. “Goodnight, Mihashi.”

“A-Abe-kun.” Mihashi grabs hold of Takaya’s hands, blinking slowly. His giggling has petered off, and he sits staring at Takaya with a serious expression. “I need to tell you something.” 

“… What is it?”

Mihashi shakes his head, tugging Takaya closer. “It’s—it’s a secret. Only—only for A-Abe-kun.” He tugs again, looking a bit disgruntled now.

Humouring him, Takaya moves closer until Mihashi is satisfied. He leans in, and Mihashi wraps an arm around his shoulder to reach his ear. 

“Abe-kun,” Mihashi whispers, and Takaya shivers slightly at their close proximity. “Abe-kun, I… I like… you… a lot!”

Takaya blinks, pulling back to see Mihashi’s round hazel eyes boring into him meaningfully. “Okay,” he says. “Thanks, Mihashi.”

“Do you… do you like me—like me back?” Mihashi’s eyes are impossibly round by now, waiting for an answer as if his life depends on it. His hands are warm on Takaya’s shoulders.

Takaya smiles. He reaches up to pat Mihashi’s hair. “Yeah,” he says, watching the way Mihashi’s eyes close with every pat. “I like you, too. I like you a lot, Ren.”

Mihashi’s face blooms into a soft, beautiful smile. He leans forward, his arms slipping around Takaya’s middle as he smushes his face into Takaya’s chest. “I like you,” he mumbles, “I like you… I like… Takaya…”

Takaya, probably as red as Mihashi’s flushed cheeks are, buries his face into Mihashi’s neck. Drunk Mihashi always seems to forget that they’ve been together for years now, but it never fails to do things to Takaya’s heart. He likes this boy. He likes this boy a heck of a lot.

Chapter Text

Somebody is tapping his shoulder, lightly, hesitantly, like they’re uncertain but not enough to stop themselves. Takaya groans, swatting at the hand blindly.

“Ta-Takaya-kun,” he hears above him, and the familiar soft voice finally snag the cogs in his mind. He opens his eyes, squinuting through the dark.

“Ren? What’s wrong?”

Mihashi’s hand retreats to clutch at his own shirt. He shifts on his feet, wide eyes already flitting to the side, a nervous habit he never really grew out of. Takaya rubs his eyes, trying to wake himself up a bit more. Usually, Mihashi’s out like a light before him, and dead to the world until morning. If he’s awake this time of night, there must be something.

“T-Takaya-kun,” Mihashi says again, hazel eyes flickering back to Takaya’s face. “Y-you said that I should… I should come to you i-if, if I’m, um… If I’m not, if I’m—I’m sc-nnngh.” Mihashi’s hands squeeze his shirt, and Takaya’s awake enough now to see the slight trembling through Mihashi’s scrawny body.

He sits up a bit, sliding over on his bed. Reaching out a hand, he waits until Mihashi slowly takes it to pull the other boy down onto his bed with him. “Nightmare?” he guesses. 

Mihashi gives him a small nod, sliding his legs under the blanket wordlessly. He settles onto his side quickly, facing Takaya.

“Do you want me to turn on the lights?” Takaya struggles to hold back a yawn as he waits for Mihashi’s shake of the head. “Okay,” he says, pulling the blanket back up around the both of them. “Okay. It’s okay, I got you.” Blinking sleepily, he puts an arm around Mihashi, sighing when he feels the other boy automatically slide closer. 

“We’ll go pitch in the morning, yeah?” Takaya yawns, patting Mihashi’s head absently. “Any pitch you want. Even your fastballs. Though we’ll have to count those, I don’t want you getting hurt before game season…” He continues talking about all the baseball they’ll do tomorrow until he hears the soft snores against his chest. Takaya sighs lightly, running a hand through Mihashi’s fluffy hair. He closes his eyes, and follows Mihashi into sleep.

Chapter Text

It takes a while before Takaya notices that Mihashi’s pencil hasn’t moved in at least ten minutes. He closes his book, lifting his chin from where he was resting against Mihashi’s shoulder. He’s just opened his mouth to scold Mihashi about slacking off his math homework when the other boy’s head suddenly leans to the left and knocks against Takaya’s own head.

“Ow, f—!” He extricates his arm from around Mihashi’s middle to rub at the bruise forming on his forehead. “Mihashi, what the heck—-” He stops, realizing his complaining is futile.

Mihashi is asleep.

He didn’t even stir at the painful contact their heads just experienced, instead sliding further into the kotatsu, his head lying on Takaya’s shoulder at an awkward angle. The pencil in his hand slips onto the floor. His hair tickles Takaya’s chin.

“You worked hard today, huh,” Takaya murmurs. He smooths a hand over the wild locks of Mihashi’s hair, even curlier after his shower. Mihashi shows no reaction, only gives a soft snore. Takaya chuckles to himself. He’ll never be able to understand how someone as anxious as Mihashi can sleep without a care in the world.

Quietly, trying his best not to jostle the sleeping boy in his arms, Takaya places their notebooks and pencils back onto the table, before pulling Mihashi out from under the kotatsu. Or at least, he tries. Mihashi isn’t really helping, letting out a grunt and promptly rolling off him, landing with a small thump on the floor.

“Mihashi,” Takaya whispers. He pokes the boy’s cheek. “C’mon, you should at least sleep in the bedroom.”

“Mmmm,” is all Mihashi has to offer.

Takaya sighs. A sudden yawn interrupts him. He decides that dragging Mihashi all the way up the stairs is too much effort considering the long practice they had earlier that afternoon. Momoe-san takes training very seriously. But Takaya wouldn’t have it any other way.

He pulls the kotatsu blanket up until it covers Mihashi, snoring away on a spare cushion. He spares a moment to take a photo of Mihashi drooling away like a child before another yawn escapes him. Turning off the lights, Takaya slides in the kotatsu next to his pitcher. It’s warm enough to make him release a long breath.

Mihashi rolls over, and Takaya watches him shuffle closer until his forehead bumps into Takaya’s chin. He laughs softly. He throws an arm around Mihashi, and closes his eyes.

“Goodnight, Mihashi.”

Chapter Text

Mihashi sets down a steaming mug of tea on the table, and Takaya hums an absentminded thanks. In moments, he’s lost again in the sea of words on his laptop, working through his essay slowly. The lines blur into each other occasionally, and he rubs his eyes to try and clear them.

Something warm burrows into his back, and he blinks over his shoulder. “Mihashi? What are you doing?”

Large hazel eyes stare up at him. “A-Abe-kun! Looks… a b-bit chilly—and tired. So, um. I thought? I thought m-maybe I could… stay… beside…” Mihashi glances away, cheeks turning a healthy shade of rose. He doesn’t move from his position next to Takaya though.

His brain is too tired from working on his assignment so many hours in a row. By the time Mihashi’s words make it through his head, said boy is already shuffling about, looking embarrassed. Something loosens in Takaya’s chest, and he lets out a sigh. This boy. Even now, years after their initial meeting on that shabby pitcher’s mound Takaya dug with his own hands, this nervous, earnest, beautiful disaster of a boy still manages to take Takaya by surprise. 

“Abe-kun?”

Takaya shuts his laptop, turning around enough to reach up a hand and ruffle Mihashi’s hair. Mihashi’s eyes squeeze shut as he dips his head to allow Takaya’s touch. A fond smile finds its way onto Takaya’s face.

“Thanks, Mihashi.”

At his words, Mihashi’s face brightens into that familiar, sunny smile, and Takaya doesn’t hold back his urge to pinch those soft, soft cheeks until Mihashi is squirming and giggling in his hands.