Yamada Hizashi has never considered himself a particularly self-conscious person.
However, he can’t deny a certain sense of nervousness that keeps on growing in his chest with every passing minute as he waits by the gates of the brand new amusement park at the outskirts of town, perched on the edge of a bench, searching the crowd for a familiar head of dishevelled black hair.
With its opening day falling on a bright Saturday morning just about a week into summer vacation, the park is practically buzzing with visitors and for a moment Hizashi wonders whether it had really been a good idea to invite Shouta somewhere this loud and busy of all places.
After all, he’ll only get one chance at a first date.
He’s planned out their day together in meticulous detail, from his outfit that he’d spent just about two hours selecting, down to all the new rides they’ll try together, the lunch and ice cream he’ll insist on treating Shouta to and the best way to impress him at the arcade, conveniently ignoring the fact that when he’d asked Shouta to come out here with him, the word date had never quite made it across his lips. Nonetheless, Hizashi can’t help hoping that by the time they’ll reach their last stop, a gigantic ferris wheel, overlooking the entire expanse of the park, Shouta might let him hold his hand for a little.
He’s lost in his own head, daydreaming about Shouta resting his head on his shoulder as they’re quietly taking in the view of a thousand lights spread out in front of them against the backdrop of the starlit night sky when he finally spots him, watching him slowly weave his way through the groups of people scattered all across the plaza.
Objectively speaking, nothing about Shouta’s appearance is particularly striking, or at least that’s what their classmates rarely miss a chance to point out. Most of the time, his face is set into a nearly permanent scowl, eyes dry and half-lidded, lips chapped from biting them too much, hair a dark, uncombed mess on top of his head. He slouches his shoulders and drags his heels, and yet he never fails to draw Hizashi’s complete, undivided attention.
Aloof as Shouta may be, Hizashi had always seen him through different eyes.
To Hizashi he had always been perfect.
He fidgets with the worn strap of his neon green backpack that’s loosely slung over his shoulder, his heart racing out of his chest at a hundred miles an hour. In comparison, Shouta seems relatively unimpressed as he comes to a stop in front of Hizashi, mumbles a quiet hi somewhere into his general direction and sets down his own bag, bending over to fish for his wallet.
“ Ah no , don’t worry about it!” Hizashi blurts out the second he realizes what Shouta is doing, maybe a little too loudly if the way Shouta jumps at the words is anything to go by, “I’ve already taken care of our tickets.”
With that, he pulls a pair of day passes from his back pocket, proudly dangling them in front of Shouta’s face. By Hizashi’s standards they had cost a small fortune, but he can’t think of anything that he’d rather have splurged on than this.
“You didn’t have to—”
“But I wanted to.”
For a moment, Shouta stares up at him with that dark, unreadable gaze of his. There’s a complicated flicker of emotion shimmering right beneath the surface, or maybe, Hizashi thinks, he’s just imagining it.
The spell between them is broken merely a second later when Shouta tears his eyes away and quietly accepts his ticket, lightly grazing Hizashi’s fingers with his own. It’s such a small touch, insignificant to Shouta, who is already leading the way to the park’s entrance without looking back, seemingly expecting Hizashi to follow, yet it leaves him reeling like a fool.
Crushes , he can practically hear Nemuri’s voice chuckle in the back of his head, make people idiots .
As it turns out, she hadn’t been too far off the mark.
Hizashi can barely contain his excitement as he points up to where a boat, packed to the very last seat with shrieking passengers, is currently being carried up to the final, steep drop at the end of the water log flume looming above them. He’s queueing up behind Shouta, stealing a quick glance over at his friend’s profile and finding him eyeing the surging current of water with mild, barely concealed distaste. The way he scrunches up his nose at the lightest spray of water drizzling down onto his bare forearms makes Hizashi’s lips quirk up into a teasing smile.
“Don’t tell me that you’re going to be a baby about a little bit of water?” he taunts cheerfully, unphased by the half-hearted eyeroll his comment earns him.
The line inches forward again, so Hizashi places both of his hands firmly on Shouta’s shoulders, urging him to move.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Shouta drawls in response, but to Hizashi’s delight he begrudgingly lets himself be guided towards the edge of the artificial river. After about twenty minutes, they have finally made it to the front of the queue, waiting for a group of people to climb out of their log and make room for them to hop on in their place.
“It’s a pain, walking around in drenched clothes all day, that’s all.”
Hizashi just snorts at that.
However, his easy confidence begins to waver considerably upon closer inspection of the empty boat in front of them, gently rocking back and forth on top of the water. Even though it surely looks sturdy enough, one crucial component appears to be missing.
“Hold on for a minute, there’s no seatbelts ?” Hizashi yelps, the words coming out a little more high-pitched than intended. Frozen to the spot, he watches in horror as Shouta jumps down into the front seat with a small huff and no sign of hesitation. While his closed-off expression usually doesn’t betray a whole lot of emotion, Hizashi swears that he can make out a spark of amusement behind Shouta’s bored facade.
Shouta simply raises his eyebrows at him, questioning, daunting, making the tips of Hizashi’s ears flush crimson red.
“So who’s being a baby now?”
“Don’t tell me that you’re seriously comparing your squeamishness about getting a little wet to me having some concerns about how we’re all going to freaking die .”
“Hizashi,” Shouta sighs, the ghost of a cocky smirk falling off his face at the sound of Hizashi’s voice beginning to tremble with the effort of suppressing his growing unease, “You’re not going to die. There’s no seatbelt because you don’t need one with your weight and gravity holding you in your seat. They wouldn’t let you get on the ride if it wasn’t safe. And besides...”
For a moment, Shouta pauses, his inner conflict written all over his face, but in the end he tentatively reaches out his hand to Hizashi in a silent offer to help him down into the log.
“You’ll be right behind me, anyway, won’t you? You can hold on to me if you want.”
At this point, Hizashi is sure that he must be outright gaping at his friend, who is quick to avert his eyes when Hizashi stutters out a string of weak protests, mumbling something about the person in the front being the most exposed to any splashing water. Apparently, though, judging by the way that Shouta is stubbornly staring straight ahead, face half-hidden by a few strands of tousled black hair, the conversation is over.
It merely takes Hizashi a heartbeat to weigh the risk of falling down into the water from a fifty feet drop against the prospect of being pressed up against Shouta’s back for the entire duration of the ride, and decide that this whole ordeal will clearly be worth it.
When he gingerly settles down on the bench behind Shouta, the only thing that keeps him from panicking over the sensation of the ground suddenly swaying underneath his feet is the thought that at least he’ll finally have an excuse to hug Shouta tightly and find out if his hair actually feels as soft and fluffy as it looks. So, after a moment of nervous contemplation, he awkwardly places his hands on both sides of Shouta’s waist, careful not to unintentionally cross any boundaries. Where Hizashi has always been a very tactile person, Shouta appears to be more reserved, almost uncomfortable with any kind of unexpected touch, but then he had offered, hadn’t he?
“You might want to work on that grip or you will fall out of the boat after all,” Shouta teases, as if on cue, voice laced with an unexpected softness that instantly makes up for the sarcasm in his words.
Driven by a new, sudden surge of confidence, Hizashi easily goes along with the joke.
“I always thought my prince in shining armor would be a little bit more of a gentleman,” he pouts against Shouta’s shoulder, letting out a dramatic sigh.
There’s no bite to his tone, yet Shouta seems to stiffen up ever so slightly in his embrace. It makes Hizashi wonder if somehow he had already managed to mess this up, been just a tad more flirty than Shouta was willing to tolerate. Even if Shouta had simply taken his reply the wrong way, thinking that he‘d actually been complaining, he decides that attempting to do some damage-control is most likely his best bet right now, so he leans in a bit closer.
“Oh well, since you’re literally asking for it, I’ll take this as permission to cling onto you in fear - you better be ready for this,” he rushes to add as casually as he can manage to divert from his previous slip-up, tightening his hold for emphasis.
Before Shouta gets the chance to come up with another sassy response, though, the boat gives a slight jolt forward and their wildwater ride begins, taking them down a dimly lit tunnel.
To Hizashi’s credit, he does try to appreciate the shipwreck-themed scenery set up all around them, but in the end there’s really no point in pretending that he has eyes for anything or anyone but Shouta. The thrill of their physical closeness and Shouta’s comforting warmth makes the thought of nuzzling his face into the crook of Shouta’s neck all too tempting. It doesn’t help that staring at the back of Shouta’s head for an extended period of time is giving him ideas about much he’d like to run his fingers through those messy curls, playfully wrap them around his finger and—
“If you scream into my ear, I’ll push you out of the boat,” Shouta warns over his shoulder, crudely interrupting Hizashi’s rapidly derailing thoughts.
It’s only then that Hizashi realizes with alarm that they have made it to the conveyor belt that will carry them up to the great final drop of the ride. Instinctively, his death grip around Shouta’s waist tightens, body tensing up in nervous anticipation, fingers curling into the soft material of Shouta’s t-shirt as their log slowly approaches the peak of the ramp.
In the face of Hizashi’s genuine fear, Shouta’s typical blank expression softens a little, turns into something reassuring and gentle.
“Close your eyes and try to think about something calming.”
“I don’t know… Cats?”
“You’re so predictable, Shouta,” Hizashi snorts a split second before he’s thrown forward and pressed flush against Shouta’s back, a feeling of complete weightlessness knocking the breath out of his lungs.
The next thing he knows, they’re plunging down into the large pool at the bottom of the slide, water splashing upwards on both sides of the boat, just to immediately pour back down on them. The shock of the fall had been enough to stun Hizashi into silence, but once he slowly blinks his eyes open again it doesn’t take long for him to recover, bursting into laughter as he’s overcome with relief and a strong rush of adrenaline.
“Look who survived,” Shouta mocks him dryly while climbing out of the log, then grabbing Hizashi by the hand to help him onto the small platform near the ride’s exit.
On some level Hizashi understands that Shouta is probably just grudgingly playing gentleman to challenge the comment he’d made a few minutes ago, but he certainly isn’t complaining. His legs are still feeling slightly wobbly and, considering his luck, he’d probably have slipped and fallen straight into the river. Besides, he won’t turn down a chance to hold hands with Shouta, who he can hardly take his eyes off on a regular day, let alone in this moment when he stands in front of Hizashi with his black t-shirt clinging to his chest like a second skin and droplets of water caught in his long, dark lashes, shimmering in the bright sunlight.
Shouta’s never looked more handsome and part of Hizashi can’t help wanting to take his rare, lingering touches as a sign, an invitation for him to take a step forward, close the short distance between them and press a quick, awkward kiss on Shouta’s lips.
“Your clothes are completely soaked,” he mumbles instead, coyly looking down at his fingers that have started toying with the damp hem of Shouta’s shirt, “You can have my sweater if you want - it’s been in my backpack this whole time so it should have been spared.”
At first, Shouta doesn’t respond, just fixates him with dark eyes that don’t betray a single thought or emotion. Even though Hizashi can’t quite interpret the expression in his gaze, he feels a distinct sense of being analyzed, as if for some reason Shouta didn’t fully trust his intentions.
“Maybe later,” Shouta eventually deflects with a brief glance up at the cloudless sky, “The sun will probably dry me up in no time, though.”
Despite the mild sting of rejection, Hizashi tries his best to keep his brilliant smile in place.
About an hour and several consecutive rides on the largest of the park’s numerous rollercoasters later, Hizashi finds himself heavily leaning into Shouta’s side as they’re finally making their way down the stairs and towards the exit.
Needless to say, Hizashi hadn’t missed the perfect opportunity to overexaggerate his mild dizziness by tripping over his own feet and conveniently tumbling right into Shouta’s arms the very moment they had gotten out of the car. Shouta had kept his arm slung around Hizashi’s waist for support ever since, half-carrying him back down to the safety of the ground, where he carefully sets him down on a patch of grass to the side of the main path.
“We’re taking a break,” Shouta announces sternly, eyes narrowed at Hizashi in warning as if he didn’t quite trust that Hizashi won’t try to sneak back in line for a fifth round if left unsupervised.
“ Yes, sir ,” Hizashi retorts with a deep sigh of surrender. He smiles up at Shouta, patting the free space next to him.
“We should probably go and find somewhere to eat soon anyway. Pick whatever you want, it’s on me.”
While Hizashi knows better than to expect any major displays of excitement, the sceptical expression he’s met with admittedly does catch him off-guard.
“I can pay for my own food,” Shouta objects pointedly as soon as the words leave Hizashi’s mouth, awkwardly shifting in his spot, avoiding eye-contact until Hizashi purses his lips and gently flicks him in the forehead. The annoyed glare Shouta shoots him in return doesn’t phase him in the slightest.
“Are we really having this conversation again? I know that you can, but that’s not the point. I took you out today, I will treat you to lunch and I’m afraid you’ll simply have to deal with it,” Hizashi reminds him, tone cheerful, yet leaving no room for backtalk.
Watching the faintest dusting of pink begin to spread across Shouta’s pale cheeks, Hizashi realizes that this must have been the closest he’s come to verbally admitting that he can’t stop fantasizing about them being on an actual date, not merely a casual trip to check out the new amusement park with his best friend. If only he’d had the courage to ask Shouta directly when he’d had the chance...
“Gyoza,” Shouta abruptly interrupts his train of thought.
Hizashi blinks at him in confusion.
“Buy me gyoza then,” Shouta mumbles so quietly that Hizashi might have missed it if his ears weren’t already fine-tuned to picking up Shouta’s low muttering by now.
If anything, the triumphant, borderline smug smile on his lips irks Shouta even more, or at least that seems to be the impression Shouta is trying his hardest to give off as he’s taking a reluctant bite of his freshly fried yaki-gyoza shortly afterwards. This time, however, Hizashi refrains from making any more teasing remarks and instead contents himself with silently enjoying the small victory, chin propped up in his hands, observing.
Eventually, with way more difficulty than he’d like to admit, he tears his gaze away to take another look at the large map of the park that’s spread out on the picnic table in front of him. He pushes his glasses back up on the bridge of his nose, contemplating how to convince Shouta that trying out the drop tower right after lunch isn’t actually as terrible of an idea as it may sound.
“How about we give this bad boy a go?” Hizashi blurts out, tapping on the tiny picture of the tower to catch Shouta’s attention at the same second that, out of nowhere, Shouta mumbles, “Are you feeling a little better?”
Hizashi’s eyes widen at his surprisingly open concern. It’s not like he doubts that Shouta cares for him in his own quiet way, if not romantically, then at least as a friend. Usually, Shouta simply isn’t the type to be so forward about it.
A warm, giddy feeling begins to spread throughout his entire body and he catches himself bashfully running his hand through his gelled-up hair as he assures Shouta that he’s fine.
“I can tell by how eager you are to drag me straight onto the next hell ride right after lunch,” Shouta snorts.
He pops another dumpling into his mouth for emphasis.
“Trying to excuse your way out of this one, huh?”
“Actually, I’m trying to spare you and everyone else the experience of me throwing up into your lap mid-ride,” Shouta corrects him dryly, one eyebrow raised in challenge.
“Or maybe you’re just scared.”
When Shouta doesn’t dignify the taunt with a response, it only eggs Hizashi on further. He insists that it’s going to be fun, that he’ll even let Shouta hold his hand, which Shouta instantly deflects with a wary thanks, I’ll pass .
As it turns out once they’re strapped into their seats, awaiting their fall from 250 feet above ground, Hizashi’s earlier remark hadn’t been too far off.
Shouta’s sitting to his left, back ramrod straight, lips pressed into a thin, tense line, each hair on his arms standing on end. Out of the corner of his eye Hizashi can see him carefully avoiding to glimpse down at the world spread out beneath them.
Hizashi is about to remind Shouta that his offer still stands, but Shouta beats him to it, grabbing his hand and nearly crushing it in his own larger one as the car gives a small start before plummeting down towards the ground at breakneck speed. He’s never expected to hear Shouta scream like that and, judging by the startled look on Shouta’s face as they slow down a few seconds later, Shouta probably hadn’t either.
He doesn’t speak for a minute or two afterwards, refusing to look at Hizashi beyond one quick, worldless glance that clearly conveys the message, ‘If you ever tell anyone a single word about this, you are dead.”
What he doesn’t know is that Hizashi is in no state to come up with as much as some half-decent retort right now, despite Shouta giving him the perfect opening - not with their fingers remaining loosely woven together even after their seatbelts unlock and they’re released from their seats. Pulling his bottom lip between his teeth, he tries to play it cool, act as if tje prospect of holding hands with his crush while casually strolling through the park side by side wouldn’t turn his entire world upside down.
Does this mean—
His skin starts prickling with anticipation, but in the end he doesn’t even get to finish the thought.
Instead of keeping their hands entwined as they’re following the train of other passengers back to the main path, Shouta lets go of Hizashi after only a couple of blissful seconds. The sudden loss of contact effectively breaks Hizashi out of his wishful thoughts, leaves his heart heavy with disappointment where he’d been walking on air just a moment ago.
He tries to keep his expression neutral, tries not to feel discouraged because of one minor setback. Or two, counting his failed attempt at sharing clothes earlier.
If nothing else, at least he has the whole remaining day left to court Shouta.
It takes Hizashi about an hour and five crushing defeats at Mario Kart Arcade GP to recognize the pattern.
They’re wandering up and down the arcade’s crowded aisles in search for a new game to play when Shouta comes to a halt next to an enormous claw machine that’s nearly halfway filled with squishy, oversized plush toys, pretending to scan the room for their next destination. However, Hizashi doesn’t miss the way Shouta not so subtly side-eyes the display of cute prizes for the umpteenth time tonight.
“You want to try grabbing one of those plushies?” Hizashi encourages him enthusiastically, taking a step forward and brushing past Shouta to inspect their options from up-close. “Look, they even seem to have a cat!”
He points at a black and white, marshmallow-shaped toy that’s lying face down on top of the pile, surrounded by a couple of pastel colored sheep.
Visibly tensing up at the suggestion, Shouta turns to face him with a blank, unreadable stare. Hizashi can’t help but notice that it looks a little strained, inexplicably different from Shouta’s usual impassive demeanor.
“I don’t care,” Shouta responds with a shrug.
“You were sure taking a lot of peeks at it all afternoon for someone who claims not to be interested.”
“Plush toys are for kids,” Shouta stiffly deflects the accusation, only heightening Hizashi’s suspicion that, even though he’ll likely never get his friend to admit to it, Shouta shamefully wishes he could get his hands on that soft, big cat.
As expected, Shouta doesn’t grace him with a response, just continues to stubbornly glower at the screen of a fighting game straight across the aisle, where a small crowd has gathered around a pair of older boys competing against each other in what seems to be a pretty tough match.
“Geez, Shou, relax,” Hizashi laughs, inserting a bunch of coins into the machine and grabbing the joystick. “Just live a little!”
He narrows his eyes and bites his lip in concentration as he carefully adjusts the claw’s position until it appears to be hovering straight above the plush he’s aiming for.
If he’s being entirely honest, the feeling of Shouta’s gaze on him, critically analyzing his every move, is making it quite hard to stay focussed on the game. He pulls himself together anyway, keeping in mind that he has a reputation to maintain and a crush to impress. Hizashi may be a lost cause at Mario Kart, but he will never forget how, for a split second, Shouta’s eyes had widened in awe when he’d absolutely destroyed him throughout several consecutive rounds of DDR. Hizashi can’t think of a whole lot of things he wouldn’t do to see that look on Shouta’s face again.
Unsurprisingly, his first attempt at scoring a prize for Shouta doesn’t go as smoothly as he’d have liked, though.
Although he’d done a fairly decent job at placing the claw, the cat ends up slipping out of its grip and back onto pile, rolling a few inches further to the side. Next to him Shouta lets out a small sigh of disapproval.
“You do realize that claw machines are totally rigged, right? You’re gonna end up wasting all your money and—“
Silencing him with a bright, unwavering grin, Hizashi starts the game over with unshaken determination. A single failure isn’t going to unsettle him - after all, he still has a few tricks up his sleeve.
“You just watch and wait.”
Shouta shoots him an incredulous glance, crossing his arms in front of his chest, muttering, “Don’t come crying to me later and tell me that I didn’t warn you.”
Ever the optimist, Hizashi takes Shouta’s blatant skepticism as a challenge rather than letting it chip away at his confidence.
In the end, seven times appear to be the charm tonight. When the fat cat plush finally drops into the chute, Hizashi hears a quiet, yet unmistakable sound escape Shouta’s lips, the release of a breath that he’s sure Shouta hadn’t even realized he’d been holding. Shouta jumps back from the glass that he’d been pressing his palms up against less than a minute ago as if the incriminating noise had broken him out of his trance.
Equally thrilled and relieved by his own success, Hizashi laughs a little as he bends down to retrieve his prize and experimentally squishes it between his fingers. It’s the softest thing he’s ever touched, big enough to be used as a pillow.
“Here, this is for you,” he cheerfully offers the toy, holding it out to Shouta, green eyes shining with excitement and pride.
When Shouta makes no move to accept the gift, Hizashi takes another step forward, closing the distance between them and gently pushing it into his arms.
“Why?” Shouta reluctantly demands.
Something about the underlying distrust in Shouta’s voice makes Hizashi’s smile crack at the edges. His face falls as he forlornly looks down at the plush in his hands.
“It seemed as if you liked it?” Hizashi says, and then, after another beat of awkward silence, “I can carry it for you if you don’t want—“
“ No .”
Shouta defensively presses the cat to his chest. The deep blush creeping up his neck and all the way to the tips of his ears has Hizashi chuckling quietly, makes his heart feel a little lighter than it had just a second ago.
Apparently, his intuition hadn’t failed him after all. Shouta is simply being… Shouta, that’s all it is.
“This is going to be such a pain to lug around…” Shouta complains half-heartedly, as if on cue, turning on his heel and leading the way towards the fighting game he’d been eyeing earlier.
“Clearly,” Hizashi drawls with the hint of a smirk tugging at the corners of his lips.
By the time that they’re ready to leave the arcade and hop onto one last ride before taking the train home, Hizashi has almost managed to convince himself that maybe he’ll just have to learn not to be quite so sensitive.
There’s no point in lying to himself, Shouta hadn’t given him any conclusive signs indicative of the nature of his feelings towards him, whether he’d like for them to be more than just friends, but while he hadn’t really taken advantage of any of the openings Hizashi had been trying to create for them, he hadn’t downright rejected him either. Knowing Shouta, there’s a fair chance that he might not even have realized what Hizashi had been up to in the first place.
So he channels every last bit of his courage and determination, resolving that once it’s just the two of them, somewhere high up on the ferris feel under the star-bright sky, he will finally put all of his cards on the table, confess to Shouta straightforwardly with no room for doubts or misunderstandings.
Restless and filled with a sense of nervous anticipation, Hizashi slowly makes his way through the dense crowd of people mingling in the arcade’s entrance hall, Shouta following in tow, only stopping in his tracks as he catches sight of a row of photo booths lined up against the far wall over by the exit.
“This is perfect, let’s take some pictures to keep as a souvenir! Trust me, it will be fun, they let you add all kinds of cute stickers and stuff!” he shouts over his shoulder, light-headed with the idea of coming home with a strip of photos to commemorate what, with a little luck, may well end up being their first real date together.
Hizashi doesn’t bother waiting for a response, just takes Shouta by the wrist and excitedly drags him into the nearest booth. It’s tiny and cramped, the narrow plastic bench hardly providing enough room for two people and a huge cat plush, which is how Shouta somehow ends up sitting on Hizashi’s knee, the plushie covering a good portion of his face as he begrudgingly stares into the camera.
“Cheer up a little,” Hizashi begs him for the last couple of pictures, resting his chin on Shouta’s shoulder and hugging him tightly. Being this close to the boy he likes so much more than he knows how to handle half of the time makes it all too easy to put on his own most vibrant smile, the kind that reaches his eyes and still lingers on his lips long after the photo has been taken.
With one arm still loosely slung around Shouta’s waist, Hizashi picks up the pen that’s attached to the screen in front of them by a short string, decorating the pictures with an excessive amount of sparkly stickers and doodling a bunch of silly captions that he hopes will draw a laugh from Shouta’s lips.
The last thing he expects when he slips one of the two identical, glossy photo strips into Shouta’s hand is to see his expression close off within seconds, sad eyes gazing down at their smiling faces, Hizashi being all dimples and sunshine, Shouta looking a little lost, a little embarrassed, awkwardly quirking up the corners of his mouth into the hint of a shy smile.
Now that Hizashi thinks about it, something about Shouta had definitely been off today. Try as he might, he can’t really put a finger on it, yet he’d been feeling a distance between them that hadn’t been there before, that he can’t quite seem to bridge.
“You won’t show these to anyone, will you?” Shouta asks warily as he slides off Hizashi’s lap and Hizashi wonders if he’d been mistaken, if the sadness in Shouta’s eyes had been pity all along.
What if he knows that I like him? What if he’s worried that people could get the wrong idea about us and he’d have to explain...
Maybe , Hizashi thinks to himself, I’ve been setting myself up for heartbreak this entire time.
With a well-practiced, carefree smile in place and his pockets relieved of the last remnants of the cash he’d robbed from his piggy-bank earlier that morning, Hizashi hands Shouta a huge stick of swirly, pink and blue cotton candy, its warm, sugar-sweet scent heavily wafting through the night air.
On any other day, he’d put on his best, most irresistible pout until Shouta would cave in and let him get away with plucking off a tuft of the spun sugar every now and then. Thinking about the daring mood he’d been in not too long ago, he might even have gone as far as to lean in and snatch the candy with his mouth.
Not tonight, though, not with his stomach feeling tight and twisted, the thought of food making him queasy, the fear of Shouta’s expression turning back into one of awkwardness and discomfort keeping him at a safe distance.
Hizashi had been looking forward to their ride on the ferris wheel all day, but now that they’re finally about to climb into the narrow confines of their gondola, he realizes that for the first time today he’ll truly be alone with Shouta, far away from the noise and bustle of the amusement park below. He isn’t sure what to say, or whether to say anything at all, whether to act like he had never made of fool of himself trying to flirt with Shouta, or just give Shouta some space.
At least one of the countless questions that are running through his anxious mind in rapid succession soon answers itself when Shouta, instead of taking the far seat across from Hizashi, flops down beside him on the cushioned bench, their bodies barely separated by a couple inches, knees lightly bumping together the moment that the wheel starts turning. Something about Shouta’s posture, the way he’s slumped into the seat with his eyelids drooping, gives away the exhaustion he’s visibly struggling to hide.
“Don’t fall asleep on me now,” Hizashi jokes as they’re slowly ascending to a magnificent view of the park, stretching out into all directions like an endless sea of sparkling, colorful lights. Having long turned a deep shade of midnight blue, the night sky plunges the interior of the dimly lit cabin into semi-darkness.
The atmosphere is cozy, almost romantic, and even though Hizashi tries to prevent his mind from going there, to spare himself another gentle let-down, he can’t fight the urge to tentatively, almost protectively put his arm around Shouta’s shoulders, steadying him.
“I’m not sleeping,” Shouta protests drowsily, voice heavy with exhaustion, and Hizashi’s breath catches in his throat when Shouta turns into his embrace to gingerly rest his head against the crook of his neck, “just closing my eyes for a second.”
He doesn’t, though, just slowly blinks up at Hizashi as if there was something still holding him back, something else that he was yearning to do, yet couldn’t quite bring himself to make a move. Searchingly, Shouta’s gaze darts across Hizashi’s face, from his mouth to his eyes and back down to his parted lips, where it lingers for a minute too long, sending a shiver down Hizashi’s spine.
The next thing he knows, it’s like his body starts moving of its own accord.
He gently cups Shouta’s cheek, leaning down to press a quick, tender kiss to his forehead. Shouta lets out a small gasp of air, but otherwise remains completely still, doesn’t flinch away or push at Hizashi’s chest to indicate that the touch wasn’t welcome.
Finally throwing all caution to the wind, Hizashi lets down whatever’s left of his crumbling guard and brushes his thumb over Shouta’s bottom lip, his trembling hands betraying his nerves as he silently waits for permission.
Shouta’s eyes widen at the contact, the intimacy of the gesture lighting a spark of hope in his gaze that’s at such a stark contrast with his next words, it has Hizashi reeling with confusion and the bitter taste of disappointment, only an instant after he’d allowed himself to believe that maybe, just maybe, he does actually stand a chance.
“Don’t,” Shouta whispers, covering Hizashi’s hand with his own to pull it away from his face. He doesn’t let go, though, instead inexplicably tightens his grip around Hizashi’s fingers.
At this point, Hizashi isn’t sure if he can trust his senses, if his mind is playing tricks on him. It could all be wishful thinking, and yet it seems like Shouta is at war with himself right now, barely able to restrain himself from craning his neck and pressing their lips together in a shy kiss.
“I’m not interested in messing around. If this is some sort of joke or bet…”
There’s something to Shouta’s voice, hidden under layers and layers of false composure, a deep, raw sadness that makes Hizashi’s heart constrict painfully in his chest.
“Shouta, I have no idea what you’re talking about. I—”
“I think you know exactly what I’m talking about, so don’t make me spell it out for you.”
“Spell out what , Shouta? Please…” Hizashi practically begs, no longer caring about keeping up a put-together appearance. If he’s making himself look like an idiot right now, then so be it. He’s certainly been feeling like one more than once these past few hours.
Meanwhile, Shouta’s staring up at him with dark, doubtful eyes, scrutinizing him. Eventually, after what can’t have been more than a minute, but had felt like an eternity, he quietly admits, “That you and I play in different leagues. That there’s no way you’re genuinely interested in dating me.”
To be entirely honest, Hizashi doesn’t know what he’d expected Shouta to say, but it sure as hell hadn’t been this . Shocked into silence, he plays their entire day over in his mind and suddenly all the puzzle pieces fall into place.
“You seriously think that I took you here and kept on making a complete fool of myself, trying to romance you even though you were giving me horribly mixed signals at best , for what, some stupid dare ? Even if I wasn’t head over heels in love with you, I would never toy with your feelings like that. I can’t believe this is what you think of me—”
“In love with me…” Shouta mutters bitterly, directed more at himself than Hizashi, before raising his voice back to a normal level, “This is not about what I think of you , Hizashi.”
“ What does that even mean? ”
“Look at this,” Shouta cries out in frustration, voice tinged with a mixture of anger and hurt as he thrusts the strip of photographs they’d taken together at the arcade at Hizashi, fingers trembling so much, it makes it hard for Hizashi to make out whatever it is that Shouta is trying to make him see, “Look at yourself and then look at me and tell me what someone like you would want with someone like me when we both know perfectly well that you could have anyone .”
For one terrible fraction of a second, Hizashi simply stares.
Mouth agape, he scrambles for something to say, anything to express that he has never heard something so outrageous, or ridiculously backwards in his entire life. It’s not often that Hizashi finds himself at a loss for words, yet Shouta’s rare emotional outburst leaves him feeling like all the breath has been knocked out of his lungs.
He wants to scream, or cry, or laugh, or all of it at once, only to eventually realize that none of these things are what Shouta so obviously needs to hear from him right now.
He swallows around the nervous lump in his throat as he reaches out to brush a strand of messy black hair back behind Shouta’s ear, who is now shamefully averting his gaze to look at his feet.
“I think it’s cute, the way you always look a little sleepy. Unless something really upsets you and you get that determined look in your eyes, which can honestly be pretty intimidating. You’re really strong too, you know, and not just because of your awesome quirk. I know I always come up with some stupid excuse to join your practice, but the real reason - apart from obviously wanting to spend time with you whenever you’ll tolerate me - is that from the very start I’ve been impressed with how hard you work for your dreams, the skill and grace in your every move when you fight. I’m sorry if this sounds cheesy, but I’ve liked you for as long as I’ve known you and I really couldn’t care less about anyone else.”
Before Hizashi gets the chance to rant on, or, God forbid, await some sort of a verbal response, Shouta shuts him up by awkwardly crashing his mouth onto Hizashi’s, kissing him hard and with surprising urgency, one hand curling around his shirt to pull him down and firmly keep him in place.
“I guess you aren’t half-bad either…” Shouta concedes with quite the delay, looking a little dazed, lips red and puffy from literally kissing Hizashi senseless.
“Hmm… I could get used to that,” Hizashi teases back with a pleased smile on his face.
“Don’t get cocky. Now where’s that sweater you said I could have, it will probably be freezing outside when we get off the—“
“You know that my boyfriend doesn’t need to make up excuses to wear my sweaters, right?” he cuts Shouta off cheerfully, a storm of butterflies rising in his stomach, wildly fluttering against his ribcage as he retrieves the sweater from his backpack and watches Shouta pull it over his head.
Shouta doesn’t say a single word about it on their entire way home and he doesn’t really need to.
After all, the fact that he happens to forget to give it back when Hizashi walks him all the way up to his front door later that night, hand in hand, shoulders bumping together with every other step, is answer enough for him.
When Shouta arrives at school the first morning after summer break, the amount of wrinkles in his borrowed clothes indicating that he was probably making a habit out of going to sleep in them, their whole class collectively lets out an amazed gasp.
Up until this moment, Hizashi hadn’t quite been able to figure out his boyfriend’s stance on whether to keep their relationship private or just be open about it. All he’d known was that he’d been dying to shout his joy from the rooftops for weeks now, impatiently waiting for Shouta to set the pace, make the first move, give him a free pass to let everyone know how stupidly happy he’s been lately.
Seeing Shouta shamelessly wear his sweater in public, silently shoving the news in peoples’ faces as if Shouta saw no reason to keep it a secret, has Hizashi smiling so widely it hurts.
“Don’t push your luck,” Shouta complains warningly, yet doesn’t bother doing anything about the way Hizashi plops down on his desk in front of him, feet dangling in the air, fingers absently playing with the strings of Shouta’s hoodie while going off about the weekly Oricon charts with unmatched enthusiasm.
“Tell me, would stealing a kiss count as ‘pushing my luck,’ or—?”
Flushing bright red, Shouta slaps his hand away at lightning speed.