The doors to their locker room open with a loud sound as they all try to get inside at the same time exhausted from their rehearsals and speeding through the process of getting rid of their clothes and get the best shower.
It’s when Hokuto returns to his locker and opens it that he notices the small paper note inside. He wipes his face from the water before hanging the towel around his neck, picking the note.
Good job today.
It makes him happier than he thought to receive something like this. He folds it carefully and puts in back into his locker before anyone else (stupid nosy group members) see.
“Someone got a secret admirer,” Jesse’s voice pops up from behind and he almost knocks the taller boy over with his towel when he turns around.
He throws his towel at Jesse anyway and distracts him for a good few minutes because he can’t get it off his face. Hokuto doesn’t know how Jesse manages to turn the smallest inconveniences into world disasters but he guesses that’s just a special skill the taller has.
While he finishes up changing and drying himself, he thinks back to the post-it and he knows who wrote it. He knows - because there’s no one else with such pretty handwriting.
Nobody in the agency is a match for Kyomoto Taiga and Hokuto finds it kind of cute how the older is unable to give him praise directly. It’s not the first time he’s gotten some kind of written affection from Taiga. It’s always been easier between them to put it into written words than spoken. It always turns out less messy this way.
Although, they’re older now. They have grown up and turned into somewhat decent adults. They’re not raging, hormonal teenagers anymore. They’ve found themselves.
But their way of communication remained. Barely there.
He pulls out the note later when he’s on his way home, trying to smooth the folded lines as he reads the words over and over again. It’s such basic praise, something they should be saying to each other every day - and they do, but it’s always general praise, to them all, not to each other.
Simple words like this mean even more than a poetic message of fate, love at first sight, and how the stars are aligned for them to end up together. It doesn’t make his heart beat faster really, not even skip a beat, on the contrary, it makes him calm down. It makes him feel safe. It’s like putting his feet into the water on a sunny day, going downhill on a bike, or gulping down a bottle of water after an intense workout.
The day after, when he arrives, he puts the note back into his locker.
He wonders if Taiga will give him another note today too.
And he does.
The day after that too. The notes keep coming every day they share rehearsals or at least the dressing room. He doesn’t say anything to Taiga, nothing. Not even when Taiga starts to add the adorable but weird illustrations to them.
Your voice is like music to my ears.
Sometimes I think of you when I’m alone at home.
Your eyes are like jewels to my treasure.
How do you manage to look good even when you wear a horrible combination of clothes?
I don’t know what’s hotter; you half-naked or you in normal clothes.
You’re my inspiration.
Your smile is like a breath of spring.
Today I wanted to kiss you so bad.
I want your hands to run through my hair and tell me everything is okay.
Do you ever wonder why feelings are so complicated? Because I do, and I wish I could say it to you directly.
You make me strong.
You’ve been staying late lately, don’t forget to go home and rest too.
I have a thing for your laugh, maybe I should make more jokes?
Dreaming of you keeps me asleep. Being with you keeps me alive.
If you could see yourself the way I see you, I think you’d fall in love with yourself too.
I love the way you look when you eat.
I’ve always been treated special, but you never did, and I love you for that.
Will we continue to walk beside each other in five years? I’d want that.
I only need you by my side.
You kept me awake all night after tonight’s performance.
The way you move your body is enchanting.
When we held hands, I thought the time stopped.
When I look into your eyes, I tend to lose my thoughts.
He stares at the pile of notes in his locker, wondering what he should do with them. Should he say something? Should he approach Taiga? If he’s being honest, he doesn’t know what to say. He doesn’t know how to approach the subject. Taiga is being overly affectionate in his messages with each note and Hokuto wants him to say it to his face. He’s not even sure he wants Taiga to know he knows.
He imagines how it’d end up if he confronted Taiga about it; if the older would acknowledge it or deny it. To say he’s scared is an understatement but he’s also not sure if he’s ready to face Taiga.
What should he say? What is he supposed to say?
He got so much he wants to say, but words are not enough. He commends Taiga for being able to put his feelings into words like this and wonders how hard it’s been for the other. Words do come easy for him but only when he’s writing and there’s nothing to hide.
Does he struggle too? Does he also get scared? Does he also wonder what it’d be if they could just talk?
He sighs, frustrated at himself for being such a coward, wondering why Taiga even bothers with him because he’s far from the perfect human. He’s moody, he’s a loner, an introvert, has two friends he bothers to put in his contact information, he rather read a book than hanging out in a party, he’s good with words but he can’t put them to use, too competitive, and he doesn’t even know how to open his heart to even the people closest to him. He just doesn’t see why Taiga would bother with him because Taiga could have anyone - anyone who’s not Hokuto. Everything about himself screams all the things he believes hurt Taiga rather than raise him up.
Of course, he could be wrong, maybe there’s more to himself than he thinks. He tries to think about all the things Taiga has written about and even if they bring a smile to his lips and tug at his heart, he can’t find himself to reply to them. He can’t find himself to match anything Taiga says and he deserves so much more.
Is he being negative and looking down on himself? Yes, he is, but it doesn’t change the fact he appreciates Taiga’s words. He just.. doesn’t know how to say it.
He’s just Hokuto and Taiga is Taiga.
I prefer it when you smile.
Today’s note hits harder than he initially thought it would and he spends a few minutes in the corner of their dressing room reading a book, glancing over the edges to look at Taiga.
The older is goofing around with Shintarou and Jesse and when he laughs, Hokuto grips his book harder, thinking that Taiga is wrong.
“It’s your laugh that is music to my ears,” he whispers to himself, eyes trained on Taiga as he smiles at something Jesse says, that small smile where his eyes disappear and he tries his best to contain his laughter but fails and just loses it. Even with Jesse’s roaring laughter, Hokuto can easily filter out Taiga’s.
He’s about to put his bookmark in his book when today’s post-it note falls out of his pocket and Juri walks by in time to pick it up.
Hokuto shuts his book close, snatching the note out of Juri’s hands, afraid the other will say something out loud.
“Wasn’t that Kyomo’s handwriting?”
He bites his lip, not sure if he should say the truth or not, but Juri is faster, brain working the fastest when it comes to the group.
“Oh my God Hokku,” Juri breathes and tries to conceal his happiness. “Oh my God.”
Juri puts one and one together on his own and Hokuto can’t stop him. He figures it can’t be helped and the only thing he’s afraid of now is Juri intervening and screwing everything up. There’s not much to screw up but at this point, he doesn’t know how much longer Taiga will keep writing the notes.
“You should talk to him about it,” Juri tries to say when he notices Hokuto is not freaking out anymore. “Don’t make sure a sad face, he’s waiting for you to say something. Trust me, he’s been looking at you as much as you’ve been looking at him.”
“There’s nothing to talk about,” he whines back, and his words hold a small truth though. There’s nothing to talk about because both he and Taiga know exactly what the other mean. He knows what Taiga means and wants. He also knows that he’s too scared to face Taiga. For what reason, he doesn’t know. He’s just scared.
“Ok? Then, what about you grab him by the shoulders, push him against the wall and kiss him senseless? That’s easier, right?”
He almost wants to choke on air, waving his book at Juri as the other just laughs at him. Sometimes he hates Juri (no, he doesn’t). His idea is nice though, maybe not the best, but nice nonetheless. Maybe another time.
When Juri finally leaves him alone, he walks over to his locker, stares at the pile of notes before throwing them all into his bag.
He bids his goodbyes to the others and Taiga only smiles sweetly at him, wishing him a safe trip home, and Hokuto wishes he had followed Juri’s suggestion and pushed him against a wall and kissed him.
Then, suddenly the notes stop coming. At first, he thought Taiga just missed a day, it’s fine, they’re all busy, but the next day, there was none either. Not the day after either. He doesn’t know why (he does) but he misses them. He misses the way his heart races when he opens his locker, the way the corner of his lips curve upward, the way he finds himself more sure of his own feelings with every note. Yet, he still can’t find himself the courage to say it out loud to Taiga.
What if he’s wrong after all? What if he’s been reading it all wrong?
Maybe Taiga only intended it to be a fun thing, nothing serious, nothing more than that.
All the what if’s.
He’s so deep in his thoughts that he doesn’t notice the footsteps behind him, and he jumps when someone clears their throat behind him.
When he turns around, he sees Taiga standing behind him, dressed in his usual casual attire of white t-shirt and black shorts. Somehow, he looks like he came straight out of a magazine, but Hokuto knows he came out of the showers because Taiga’s hair is still slightly damp on the tips, and his skin is colored pink from the heat from the showers.
“Here,” Taiga says, holding out a small piece of paper. Hokuto takes it, knowing exactly what it is, and his heart crawls up his throat as he reads the note.
It’s a big word, coming from Taiga, and somehow, it feels like he got all the answers now. The last, remaining piece of his puzzle.
He curls his hand around the note, looking up at Taiga, ready to say something when the older beats him to it.
“Why didn’t you tell me to stop?”
“Because I didn’t want to,” he replies, honest and it surprises him how easily the words come to him now. “I got happy about them, but I didn’t … know how to say anything…“
He watches how Taiga bites his lips, eyes glancing to the side, avoiding Hokuto’s glance, and Hokuto doesn’t know why because the other has been writing him a huge amount of things, cheesy, happy, cute, and embarrassing things even, but he can’t look him in the eyes for more than five seconds? (He shouldn’t be the one to complain because he can’t look Taiga in the eyes either.)
“At first it was just fun seeing your face light up at the compliments, the ones I never dared to say out loud in front of the others, to see that small smile after a long day at work, and you’ve been working so hard lately. I just thought it was a good idea to just let you feel appreciated too because you're one of us too.” Taiga speaks up, voice low but steady, and Hokuto doesn’t know how he manages to not tremble because he would have. Then again, Taiga has always been the stronger out of the two of them. “Then it gradually became like an addiction. I couldn't stop. I wanted to see more and more of that smile of yours. I wanted to see your reaction, how I made you feel. I don't know when you started to realize it was me but suddenly, the day didn't feel complete until I had written a note to you. Slowly I realized that I was falling for you, little by little, more and more. Maybe I was the one causing our friendship before to turn fragile, maybe not, I don't know. Maybe I'm stupid for hoping there could even be anything. I just know it's not impossible and I'm clinging onto that small hope. Hokuto, I'm so damn in love with you right now that I don't know what to do, so please just tell me to stop. Tell me to stop so I can get over you."
Then, he sees it. The insecurities, the fear, the doubt, the same emotions he's been feeling all along.
Taiga is on his way to leave him, already turning around, walking away but Hokuto stops him, takes ahold of his wrist.
"Let me show you," he says, heart beating out of control, and he pulls out the notebook he's been saving all the Post-It notes in, shoving it at Taiga. "Here's why I didn't tell you to stop when I noticed it was you, and why I don't want you to stop."
He lets Taiga go through the book, watching how his eyes widen at the memories when he wrote the notes, blush spreading as he reads the replies to each and every one of the notes. Replies that Hokuto never said out loud.
"Your own words back at you, all of it, I think the same about you," Hokuto confesses, feeling a bit braver than before, now that he knows that Taiga is serious, that he really feels the same. "You should have just told me all of this to my face goddamnit."
"You could have said something too!" Taiga retorts, obviously not that upset about it all, more flustered than anything.
"I didn't know how serious it was!"
"I thought it was obvious!"
They both groan at the same time, realizing how fucking stupid they are.
"So, can I finally kiss you now?" Taiga puts down the book, stepping closer to Hokuto, into his personal space, and it didn't feel weird.
"I don't know why you haven't done it already,"
Hokuto pulls at Taiga, all insecurities gone now, replaced with frustration because now that they're on the same page, why aren't they doing anything?
They lean in at the same time, hands finding each other, locking together as they brush their noses against each other, slow and gentle, feeling the breath of the other so hot and comforting. He should feel impatient, Taiga is so close, so near, their lips brushing, almost in a kiss but now, he doesn't mind it going slow. He wants to savor this feeling, remember it forever, lock it inside his heart and soul and forever claim Taiga as his.
There were no fireworks or butterflies when they finally kissed, only soft lips, slightly chapped from the rough day, but neither of them did mind it. They were finally together, finally finding each other.
They break away for air, letting Hokuto turn his head enough to pepper Taiga's face with soft kisses, just like how Taiga had written he wanted to do to Hokuto.
He feels like time slowed down, as if it took them into consideration, and made sure that they could make up for the lost time. He's fine with this. They have time now, time to get to know each other again, and this time, they'll last.