This was influenced by my friend! (Also, because i love this name thing going on and it is very very promising!)

DISCLAIMER: I OWN NOTHING!


"Ren!"

Mihashi jumps higher than he ever has before, his back going rigid and the expression on his face depicts the definition of the word 'terrified.' He hunches in on himself, and shakily turns around to see the person who called his name.

"Ren," Abe says gently, stopping right behind him as he turns all the way (not missing the way Mihashi slightly flinches at his name), "you ready for pitching practice?" he asks, trying his best to keep his voice leveled and the irritation he's feeling out of his voice.

Mihashi nods quickly, and turns around to look at a slightly shocked Nishihiro, who he was playing catch with before Abe interrupted. Nishihiro gives them a little smile before waving and running off, probably to get in line for batting practice.

After that, the two boys gravitate to their rightful spots, Mihashi on his mound and Abe perched behind home plate, tugging his faceguard on properly. They both take a minute to shift, to get comfortable, to basically get their lives together, before Abe sets up his mitt and Mihashi starts his windup.

They fall into a rhythm. Windup, pitch, catch, throw, catch. Over and over and over. It almost becomes mechanical, but not really, because Abe can feel the force and integrity of every ball sinking into his mitt, can see the tiny tug of a smile on Mihashi's face as he pitches a ball that was particularly tricky to place. Abe can't help but smile behind his faceguard too, because he knows they've come such a long way from where they started.

The sun starts to set behind Mihashi, illuminating him to the point that he looks like he's born from the sun (which wasn't really that far off) and it looks like a halo was formed behind his head (also not very far off).

He shouts for one last pitch, and when it sinks into the palm of his hand, he stands and almost groans at the shift. He was used to it by now, and he barely ever felt sore anymore, but the transition from squatting to standing takes him a moment to get used to every time it happens. A second later, he pulls off his faceguard, letting it sit on top of his helmet, and he smiles over at Mihashi.

"Nice pitching!" he says, almost triumphantly as Mihashi comes plodding over, his mitt tucked underneath his arm and the ball in his other hand.

"A-Abe-" Mihashi starts to say, before the catcher completely cuts him off.

"Takaya," he corrects. "I told you to call me Takaya, remember?" He knows that he's asking for something big, something that for some reason Mihashi couldn't get his head around, but he had to. They had to. If they wanted to get better as a team, if they wanted to get to Koshien and win, then they needed to be closer. Calling each other by their first name was the first step, right? Or one of them anyways.

Miahshi nods. "T-Thank you…" he manages to stutter out, not looking up at him and instead staring holes into his shoes. Some part of Abe clenches, because it shouldn't be like this, although it's been like this since they met. They have gotten better, but for some stupid reason, at this moment, he was expecting something a bit different than a vague declaration of gratitude.

He doesn't know why he does it, but he slips Mihashi's mitt out from under his arm, and plops it on top of his head. The noise Mihashi makes, something between an indignant squawk and a shocked scream, paired with the expression on his face as he looks up, causes Abe bite back a rare smile.

"Sure," Abe says, trying to tell Mihashi that he had nothing to thank him for without actually invalidating the fact that he said it. Because he knows that whatever Mihashi says, he has a reason for it, and just ignoring it would put them back at square one all over again. "We should probably get ready to go. It's getting pretty late," he notices, looking back out at the sky, which was dyed with brilliant oranges, pinks, and yellows.

Mihashi whips around, the mitt on his head (the one he had forgotten was there) slipping off and he fumbles to grab it. When he's successful, he blinks up at the sky, almost like he's either never seen a sunset like this or because he never noticed how quickly the time flew. When he turns back around to face Abe, he has this sort of determined expression and the catcher can't explain for the life of him.

"Y-Yeah, let's go!"


"Ren-Ren!"

"Yuu-kun! Don't call me that!"

Yuu laughs hysterically before noticing the rare annoyance on Ren's face as he turns and glares, a blush rising on his cheeks. "Okay, okay! Fine! Don't be mad at me, I'm sorry!" Yuu pleads, throwing an arm over Ren's shoulders and pulling him closer to him.

"I wasn't… mad," Ren articulates, sagging a little before Yuu lets him go.

"Awesome! I'm glad to hear it! Wanna know why?" he asks, practically vibrating with anticipation as he looks expectantly at Ren.

"Yes!" Ren says almost immediately, making Yuu's smile widen.

"Because I was talking to my mom yesterday, and she said that it was okay to have a couple people from the team over for some practice on Saturday!" Yuu announced, nearly yelling, but Ren didn't care as much, seeing that he has that excited expression on his face, somewhere between extremely happy and about to burst into tears. "So I was thinking, you, duh, Takaya, maybe Kousuke, depending on if he wants to come or not, and maybe Azu- I MEAN! Hanai!" Yuu lists off, and amends himself at the end, smiling brightly at Ren.

"Sounds good!" Ren says, just excited to be going back to Yuu's house; its been a while since his last visit, and he was sort of craving some food that he didn't have to microwave first in order to eat it.

"Yeah!" Yuu agrees, pumping his fist into the air. "So, I'll talk to Hanai about it after school, so maybe you could talk to Takaya about it then, too?"

"Me…? A-Abe-kun w-wouldn't…"

"Takaya," Yuu interjects lightly, giving him a little look. "Takaya wouldn't what?"

"W-Wouldn't… maybe… agree if it's… me asking," Ren voices, and Yuu almost bursts into laughter for the second time in this conversation.

"You're kidding!" he nearly screeches, shaking Ren's should lightly. "Takaya letting you practice without his supervision? That's like saying the plague didn't kill lots and lots of people!" Yuu says incredulously. "There's nothing for you to worry about," he adds, seeing the worried expression on Ren's face, "I'm sure he'll say yes. Just ask him, okay?"

Ren nods, and just to make it up to him, Yuu shoves him his phone to play with. Ren brightens almost immediately.


Ren knows he messed up the minute the ball left his hand. He cringes when Abe has to move his mitt across his three zones in order to catch it. He's already a shaking mess by the time Abe drops his mitt, takes off his helmet and storms towards him, but he flinches when Abe barks out his name, almost like he threw a punch at him instead.

"Ren, what the hell is wrong with you today?" Abe asks, grabbing his shoulders a lot lighter than his voice projects he would, and shakes him slightly. "That was the third misplaced pitch you threw today. Are you not feeling well or something? You know you're supposed to tell someone when you're feeling ill!" Abe berates, dropping his hands of his shoulders and folds them across his chest instead.

"I-I'm… n-not sick… I'm okay!" Ren manages, still feeling the last of the tremors ebb away, but he knows he won't fully recover from the scare for at least a couple minutes.

"Then why did you miss those pitches?" Abe asks, almost sourly, giving him a look that expects answers. Ren gulps and tries to breathe deeply, because he knows it'll only help him calm down in the end, but all he manages is a couple shallow gasps for air.

"…distracted…" he finally mutters, looking at Abe's catching gear instead of his face. So, of course, he doesn't catch Abe's surprised expression, and then ones of guilt and worry directly after it.

"Distracted by what?" Abe asks a second later, and the sudden shift in his voice makes Ren look up. "Are you alright?"

"'M f-fine, it's… it's just that…" Ren says, before stopping. 'What if Abe-kun really doesn't want to go? I don't think that he would stop catching for me if I asked him, but what if I make everything awkward by asking him and then basically forcing him to decline? I know he's trying, and I am too, but I feel so useless because I can't call him Ta-'

"What?" Abe prompts, basically snapping at Ren for trailing off in the middle of a sentence.

"Yuu-kun wanted me to ask you!" Ren says, spitting it out before he could let his stupid thoughts drag him back. "I-If you wanted to… p-practice at his house… S-Saturday?" he says, ducking his head so he looks more like a scared turtle than anything else. Ren's gaze is skittering, but he still sees Abe's two slow blinks, his sigh, and a bored looking expression dominate his face.

"Ren," he says, breaking the momentary silence and making the pitcher go stiff again, "were you really distracted by that?"

"Y-Yeah…" Ren answers, nodding a little bit.

"Idiot," Abe says, and suddenly there's a hand in Ren's hair, rubbing at it so aggressively that Ren squeaks in protest. Then, as soon as it arrived, it disappeared, and when Ren looks up at Abe, there's a coy little smirk in his face that makes Ren want to either run away or see it upturn into an actual smile. "Of course, I'll go. You didn't have to be distracted by that," he says, almost like it's a fact. Ren just blinks at him. "Let's finish up, alright?" Abe says, smacking his shoulder lightly and turning back towards home plate. "And don't be distracted!" he shouts over his shoulder.


Before any of them knew it, Saturday rolled around. Yuuichirou and Ren waited for Takaya, Yuuto and Kousuke before taking the short walk over to the Tajima residence. From then, it was first names and setting up a place to practice, stretching, tossing, pitching, counting, running, and basically whatever else they could think of to work up a sweat.

It was… actually kind of productive, seeing how all of them worked their hardest, tried their best, and, with the encouragement of Yuuichirou's family, found themselves doing a lot more than they thought they would.

Yuuichirou's mom calls them in once all their gear is put away and the space they used was clean, telling them it was time for dinner. They nearly trip over themselves in their haste to get inside, and after sitting at the table, they yell, "LOOKS DELICIOUS!" before digging in.

They all sag when the food is gone, full bellies and tired bodies, and Ren actually falls asleep right there on the floor.

"Thanks for having us over, Taji- Yuuichirou," Yuuto corrects himself, smiling a little bit.

"Ah, no problem!" Yuuichirou says, waving a hand almost as if to brush off the thanks. "We should do this more often! It's fun! We should find somewhere bigger so we can have the whole team over, though," Yuuichirou says, sighing dreamily.

"Wouldn't that be kind of counter-productive?" Kousuke asks, raising his eyebrows at the cleanup's suggestion. "We're already in one place when we practice on the field, so there's no point in going anywhere else," he continues, looking at the three of them. Ren stirs a little in his sleep.

"It's a good idea, though," Takaya pipes up, shifting his eyes away from Ren's sleeping form. "We could do more things as a team, other than studying and practicing."

"Takaya, that's unlike you!" Yuuichirou says, leaning over the table and extending his hands, looking up at Abe on the other side. "Suggesting that we should all hang out!"

"Oi, he's sleeping! Don't be loud!" Yuuto hisses gently, nudging Yuuichirou in the ribs.

"Oops."

"He's right, though," Kousuke says, a yawn breaking his sentence. "I think it would be cool to just go out and do whatever we wanted to."

"Parties!" Yuuichirou whispers excitedly.

"No," Takaya says immediately.

"Well, maybe like movie nights or something," Yuuto says, thinking about it. "That would be fun, right?"

"Yeah…" Takaya said.

"Oh shit," Kousuke mutters as soon as he looks out a window and sees how dark it is out there. "I should get going," he says, standing up and going in search for his things.

"Oh man! I totally forgot! My parents are going to kill me!" Yuuto says, mimicking Kousuke in finding his things. "I'll see you guys on Monday!" he says, bowing out. A couple seconds later, his voice rings out again, thanking the Tajima family for having him over, before he finally leaves.

"Ren," Takaya says lightly, shaking the sleeping boy's shoulder. "Ren, wake up. C'mon, it's time to go." Yuuichirou blinks a couple times at the soft tone of Takaya's voice, expecting him to snap any minute now, but he doesn't. "Ren-" Takaya starts again, when the pitcher's eyes flutter open. "Oh, you're awake…" Takaya says, surprised.

"S-sorry for falling asleep…" Ren says, sitting up and rubbing his eyes tiredly.

"It's fine. It's late, though, so we should be going home," Takaya says.

"Alright, I'm leaving. Night, guys," Kousuke says as he bows out.

"Night!" Yuuichirou, Takaya, and Ren respond.

"I didn't really expect you to fall asleep like that!" Yuuichirou says, grinning widely. "It was kind of funny, though. Had a nice nap?"

"Y-yeah," Ren says, nodding. He's still slightly disoriented, but he gets to his feet, steadies himself, and goes over to his bag. Takaya's not too long after, flinging his bag over his shoulder effortlessly and holding onto his catcher's gear in his other hand.

"G-good night!" Ren says, bowing a little before leaving.

"Night!" Takaya says.

"See you guys on Monday!" Yuuichirou shouts as they leave.


"Well, look who's back late," someone says as soon as Taka walks through the door, and when he looks up, he sees his father standing there. "You know, you nearly gave your mother a heart attack with you out this late," his father adds, and Taka ducks his head.

"Sorry. I should have called," he says, slipping off his shoes.

"Doesn't matter now, does it?" his father asks, chuckling a little. "How's Mihashi?"

"Ren's okay," Taka says, going around his father as he tries to head to his room.

"Ren?" his father questions. "You're calling him by his first name now, huh?"

"We're all trying to," Taka answers. "It's just something we picked up on."

"Is Mihashi calling you by your name, too?" his father asks. Taka clicks his tongue quietly, annoyed by how many questions he's being asked.

"No," he answers, gritting his teeth. He hates the answer, wishes it was the opposite, but this was Ren they were talking about. He'll get it with time, Taka hopes.

"And why is that?" his dad asks, and Taka huffs. "Is it because he's scared of you, like I told you he was? Or is it because he doesn't like you?"

"He is scared of me," Taka admits quietly, hoping his father doesn't hear, but he does.

"And you understand why, don't you? Your people skills really are terrible-"

"THAT'S NOT THE POINT, OKAY?" Taka shouts, and he wouldn't be surprised if he accidentally woke up Shun while he was at it. He heard his mom's sound of disapproval from the next room, but he chose to ignore it; he glares at his dad instead. "I know what I did wrong, and I'm trying to fix it! I'm trying to talk to him, and be more understanding, and… and just be more of a friend than a teammate! So just leave me alone!" He can't help how desperate he sounds, or how his eyes unconsciously water, so while his dad stands there, shocked by his outburst, Taka turns on his heel, marches into his room, slams the door, and collapses onto his bed.

He doesn't cry, but he does regret yelling at his dad. But it was true, he was trying, he was trying his best, and he knew it was going to take some time to fix the trust between them that he broke in the first place.

All he needed was a little bit of time, not some old geezer breathing down his neck who didn't even know what he was talking about in the first place.


"Ren! How much did you weigh this morning?"

"G-good morning!" No flinch in sight. "I w-weighed 56 kilos!"

. . .

"T-Ta…"

"Huh?"

"W-Would you mind playing catch with me?!"

"Not really. C'mon."

. . .

"Hey Ren! You want to watch a movie at my house after school?"

"S-sorry, Yuu-kun. Shintarou-kun is… going to help me study with Ta…k-ka… ya."

"WHOA, WAIT, WHAT?!"

"S-Sorry!"

"It's okay, Ren! I'm not mad!"

. . .

THWACK!

"Nice pitching!"

"N-Nice catching!"

Takaya tugs off his helmet and is up in an instant, jogging his way towards the mound. Surprisingly, Ren meets him halfway, a watery smile on the pitcher's lips. Takaya blinks a little, wondering at the slight change, before brushing his off.

"How're you feeling?" Takaya asks.

"Good!" Ren responds almost immediately.

"Good," Takaya repeats, only this time the word is meant as an affirmative. "Look, tomorrow's only a practice match, but I don't want to take any chances, alright? So that means no more pitching today, and to get enough sleep tonight, and-"

"Takaya," Ren says quietly, his voice shaking slightly, as he reaches out and takes Takaya's hand. The catcher gasps, and it has nothing to do with their hands because, for what feels like the first time, neither of their hands feel particularly cold. "I know," Ren continues, his slight smile widening a little bit.

It's almost sunset, the sky just barely making its transitions from bright blues and puffy white clouds to vibrant oranges, streaks of red, and delicate pinks, and Ren can see Takaya's eyes get shinier as the seconds pass.

In a whirlwind, Takaya removes his hand from Ren's in lieu of lunging forward, wrapping the pitcher in an unexpected hug. Ren squeaks in response, shocked for a solid three seconds, before slowing reaching up and hugging Takaya's torso back.

Both of them don't know how long they've been standing there, but someone sniffs loudly, breaking the silence between them.

"Takaya, are you… are you c-crying?!" Ren asks incredulously, worried, and as he tried to pull away, Takaya only hugs him tighter.

"No!"


I... I don't know what to say about this, but i hope you liked it! Thank you for reading! Please Review!

I love you! Have a good day!

-HB