When you’ve been friends for years like Kaoru and Kojiro have, a lot of things tend to go unsaid. Kojiro never needs to ask if Kaoru wants to spend the night, Kaoru never has to wonder if Kojiro needs help with his English homework, and neither of them have to talk before tossing their books aside in favor of playing video games instead. It’s a good arrangement, a great arrangement, even. There’s only one downside: Kaoru never talks about his crushes.
It’s part of their unsaid agreement, Kojiro guesses, which is why after five minutes of Kaoru fidgeting and checking his phone, Kojiro decides to speak up.
“Y'know,” Kojiro said, drawing Kaoru's attention, “Adam's been eyeing you a lot, lately,”
“Y'think?” His voice pitched slightly. He was trying so hard to sound nonchalant, luckily Kojiro knew him better than that.
“For sure, I think he'll probably ask you out soon,” Kojiro, unlike his friend, was excellent at sounding nonchalant. Kaoru's pencil stopped for a second. When the scratching picked up again, Kojiro noticed there weren't any real words being written, only vague scribbles that imitated writing. Kaoru hummed, chancing a glance up at Kojiro.
The quick flash of yellow veiled behind long eyelashes was enough to make Kojiro's heart skip. He swallowed against the lump in his throat. Kaoru wasn't going to bring this up on his own, and, well, if Adam made him happy, then that was enough, right? Right.
A few beats of silence passed before Kaoru spoke again.
“I don't really know much about dating,” his voice trailed off towards the end, pencil abandoned in favor of picking at his nail polish.
“It's not that hard, most of it comes naturally,” Kojiro said, trying to appear confident. He wasn't, obviously. He was actually quite sick to his stomach, but Kaoru didn’t need to know that.
Kaoru scoffed, picking up his pencil again and turning his notebook away from Kojiro. He was scratching more intently now, short, practiced strokes that filled the whole page. He was quiet for a moment, and Kojiro let him have that. It was normal for Kaoru to shut down for a bit, gathering his thoughts, finding the right phrasing, before eventually putting his practiced sentences into the world for all (but mostly Kojiro) to hear. It was a byproduct of the anxiety, probably, so Kojiro never rushed him.
“That's easy for you to say; you have,” he lifted a hand from his page, wiggling his fingers playfully, “practice,”
It was Kojiro's turn to scoff, sounding more like a snort. Kaoru wrinkled his nose, but otherwise stayed transfixed on his project.
“What if you did?” Kojiro asked, voice lilted and smooth (or at least he hoped it was). Kaoru sent him a confused glance.
“Did what?” He asked. The tip of Kaoru’s tongue was poking out of his mouth in concentration. Kojiro almost lost his train of thought. Almost.
“Practiced, for Adam, I mean.” Now this, this was a risk. Kojiro didn't even know what he was proposing, not fully, but the tongue that was poking past Kaoru's teeth swiped across his lips, and suddenly the comfortable silence seemed weighted.
Kaoru's eyes slid up from his notebook, fixing on Kojiro's. He was analyzing him, squinting, picking apart any loose thought that slipped from Kojiro's brain. It was almost predatory, if only for a moment, before Kaoru's gaze fell back onto his paper. The sound of pencil scratching filled the room once more, and Kojiro let himself breathe.
“Practice what?” Kaoru said and, huh, that one actually did sound nonchalant. He was getting better, although his tense shoulders still gave him away.
“Y'know, dating stuff. Holding hands, small talk,” Kojiro paused, biting his lip, “kissing,”
Kaoru dropped his pencil. Kojiro's heart started racing, he opened his mouth to backtrack, to play it off as a joke, to say something, anything, to make sure he didn't fuck up the one good thing in his life. Kaoru beat him to it.
“Okay,” he said, and Kojiro almost didn't hear him over the pounding in his ears.
“You- what?” He sputtered, sitting up straighter. No way he heard that right, there was no way-
“I said okay,” Kaoru paused, locking eyes with him again, albeit more hesitantly this time, “you were offering, right?”
Time stopped for a moment. Kojiro wasn't a particularly religious person. He visited the shrines with his family every new year’s, said his prayers before eating whenever he stayed at his grandma's, but he wouldn't say he exactly believed most of it. Now, however? Now he was thanking every god he'd ever wished on for gifting him this opportunity. He let a relaxed grin spread over his face.
“Sure, if you want,” boom. The ball was in Kaoru's court now.
“Tch,” Kaoru tucked his pencil into the binding of his notebook, shutting it softly before tossing it with the rest of his school stuff, “you were the one who suggested it in the first place, dumbass,”
Kojiro laughed, raising his hands in mock surrender.
“Okay, okay,” he dropped his hands beside him, propping himself up on the bed, “you got me, what do you wanna work on?”
Kaoru rolled his eyes, leaning against his headboard.
“I already know how to hold hands and do small talk, what do you think I wanna work on?” His voice was condescending, doing a spectacular job at making Kojiro's eye twitch. Amazing, how someone so pretty could be such an asshole.
“Alright, I hear ya,” Kojiro scootched forward until his knees were touching Kaoru's, “Y'know, if you wanted to kiss me so bad, you could've just asked?” He was teasing, but Kaoru bored holes through his brain.
“I've changed my mind. Get out of my house.” Kaoru deadpanned, causing Kojiro to laugh again. He noticed Kaoru's lip twitch upwards. Dumbass.
“Okay,” Kojiro's voiced evened out. He locked eyes with Kaoru, the mood in the room shifting with his gaze. "This'll be your first, right?" Kaoru nodded, “no problem, we'll go slow, okay? If you wanna stop, push me away or let me know somehow, got it?”
Kaoru nodded again. Kojiro noticed his hands twitching in his lap. On a whim, he grabbed one, lacing their fingers together. They fit perfectly, knuckles lined up, forming an arch. Kaoru 'tch'ed in front of him.
“I told you, I already know how to hold hands,” he said, any trace of nervousness hidden by an impatient tone. Kojiro bit his lip, holding back a smile. He was so cute, god.
“Calm down, Kao,” he teased, pulling Kaoru's hand closer. He pressed a chaste kiss to the back of it, maintaining eye contact as he did so. “This is just the first step,”
Kaoru swallowed; vision trained on Kojiro’s mouth lingering over their joined fingers. Kojiro used his other hand to gently tilt Kaoru’s face upwards until their eyes met. He smiled, dropping his hands to Kaoru’s thighs, and tugging him closer. Kaoru let himself be pulled onto his friend’s lap, keeping his gaze locked onto Kojiro, unrelenting in its interest.
Kojiro was holding onto Kaoru’s hips to keep him still, and the feeling was intoxicating. Something in the air had shifted, making his throat thick with anticipation and something heavier. He swallowed it down, lifting a hand to cup Kaoru’s jaw, urging him forward. He rubbed their noses together, giving his friend a chance to get used to the proximity. Kaoru huffed.
“I don’t have all day, ‘jiro.” He said. His voice sounded heavy too. Kojiro smiled, leaning up to graze his lips against Kaoru’s, who enthusiastically returned the gesture.
Kojiro pulled back, his smile turning into a laugh when he saw Kaoru’s pout.
“okay, good first try, love the dedication,” he said tilting his head to catch Kaoru’s gaze. Kaoru turned away.
“I told you I’ve never done this before,” he hissed, forcing Kojiro to stifle another laugh.
“right, right, I know,” Kojiro brushed down Kaoru’s cheek with his thumb, resting beside his mouth. Hesitantly, he skimmed the finger over his friend’s lips, applying just enough pressure to separate them. Kaoru let the movement guide him, turning back to face his friend. This time, it was Kaoru who took the initiative, bracing his hands on Kojiro’s shoulders and leaning forward. Kojiro moved his thumb out of the way just in time.
Kaoru kissed hesitantly, almost as if he were scared of hurting Kojiro. Kojiro smiled at the thought, canting his head slightly to fit their lips together. Kaoru sighed through his nose and Kojiro could feel the air on his face. He pushed forward, parting his mouth just enough to suck Kaoru’s lower lip between his. Kaoru made a noise that was somewhere between in inhale and a whine, moving his arms to wrap around Kojiro’s neck, pulling him closer.
The kiss was progressing faster than expected, Kaoru was a quick learner, and they were approaching territory that even Kojiro was unfamiliar with. He tried to coax his friend into a slower pace, but Kaoru had been paying attention. Kojiro felt teeth graze against his upper lip as Kaoru coaxed it into his mouth, drawing a guttural moan from his chest. Kojiro’s head was spinning, and he was starting to feel dizzy; a sensation that doubled when Kaoru started playing with the longer hairs at the back of his neck, twisting them around his delicate fingers.
It was too much and not enough, Kojiro could feel himself falling headfirst into Kaoru’s orbit, content to circle around him forever if it meant five more minutes of this. Every touch, every sound, every twist of his stomach sent Kojiro hurtling further. He was traveling at lightspeed, now, eyes closed and arms wide open, losing himself completely to all that Kaoru was giving him.
It was Kaoru pulling away that brought him back to Earth. His eyelids fluttered open, taking in the heavenly sight before him. Kaoru was still sitting cross-legged in his lap, but he was leaning heavily on Kojiro, one arm still wrapped around his shoulders. He wiped his mouth with the other, catching his breath as he leaned back against his headboard. His chest was heaving from exertion and, Kojiro hoped, desire. He was looking at Kojiro behind heavy eyelids, his bright eyes almost fully engulfed by blown-out pupils. He was the most beautiful thing Kojiro had ever seen.
“uh-um,” Kojiro struggled to form a coherent sentence, blinking away the fantasies popping up in his head, “yeah, you- uh, you did good,” he coughed awkwardly into the hand that was previously cradling Kaoru’s jaw, “just like that, um, and you should be fine,”
Kaoru was watching him in that careful way of his, making Kojiro feel like a particularly difficult math problem.
“right,” Kaoru drawled, dropping both arms to rest in his lap, “still,” he said tilting his head to the side and picking at his nail polish, “I’m not a hundred percent sure what Adam’s going to expect from me, I’m down for whatever, but…” he glanced back up at Kojiro, “I might need more practice, is that okay?”
Kojiro swallowed thickly, breath getting caught in his throat. Kaoru was looking at him, long eyelashes fluttering. He’d be a fool to say no.
“yeah, no, of course,” he stuttered, scratching the back of his neck. He plastered his most confident smile over his face, “I mean, if you like kissing me that much-”
Kaoru groaned, shoving Kojiro’s face away. He pushed himself off his friend’s lap, ignoring Kojiro’s laughter.
“you’re impossible, I hate you,” he said, reaching for his bag to pull out his notebook again. Kojiro swatted his hands away, stifling back the rest of his laugh.
“no, hey come on,” he said, coaxing Kaoru away from his homework to lay down next to him instead, “we gotta practice cuddling too, it’s the rules,” he was teasing now, earning an eye-roll from his friend.
“I already know how to do that, fuck off,”
“prove it then,” Kojiro taunted, “c’mon, I wanna take a nap,”
“we’ve got homework-”
“we’ve got all weekend,”
Despite his protests, Kaoru let Kojiro drag him down and curl against his chest.
“your hair’s in my face, dumbass,” Kaoru said, turning his head so he wouldn’t suffocate.
“your hair’s always in mine,” Kojiro mumbled into his shirt, tossing an arm over Kaoru’s waist, “we’re even now,”
Kojiro heard his friend’s weary sigh. He smiled, burying his nose into Kaoru’s collarbone, savoring the feeling of thin fingers scraping against his scalp. It was just practice, Kojiro knew that. Still, he couldn’t help but imagine that it wasn’t practice, that those kisses weren’t fake, that the hand in his hair belonged to someone who actually loved him. He felt himself drifting off, sleep ebbing and flowing with each drag of Kaoru’s fingers.
It had barely been a week before Kaoru was pulling him in again, shoving their books off his bed to make space for wandering hands. It’d been hard to ignore the glances Kaoru kept sending his way, the subtle, lingering looks that bordered on leering after a few days had passed. Adam had taken notice too, cocking his head at Kojiro during a race, eyes heavy with questions. Still, ignoring it had been exactly what Kojiro had done. He was Kaoru’s first kiss, and it was a hell of a kiss. It made sense for Kaoru to be physically attracted to him now.
And that was all it was, physical. Kojiro wasn’t delusional enough to think that Kaoru actually liked him. Kojiro was a fad, a passing interest in the long list of men Kaoru liked to check out. He told himself that, repeated it like a mantra. There was no room for doubt, no room for hope. If he let himself believe that he was anything more than a weekend fling, he’d get his heart broken in no time, and Kojiro didn’t want to make his already rampant heartache worse.
Even now, with Kaoru pressing him into his bedsheets, hovering over him and pulling soft sounds from his lips, Kojiro refused to let himself drift off. Instead, he pushed back, mapping out the planes of Kaoru’s back with his hands, smoothing the tension out of his friend’s shoulders.
Kaoru had parted his lips slightly, and Kojiro feels rather than hears him hum into the kiss. The vibration sends a thrill down his spine, urging him forward to bury his hands in Kaoru's hair. Kaoru sighs, tilting his head slightly to pull them closer.
Kojiro feels lithe fingers travel over his shoulders and down his chest, fisting at his shirt. The scrape of Kaoru's nails through the fabric is enough to drive him insane. He pulls away to catch his breath, pressing his forehead into Kaoru's to take in the view.
Kaoru is breathing heavily, shallow pants escaping past kiss-bitten lips. His mouth is opened slightly, shining from their combined spit. His pupils are blown wide, looking down at Kojiro with hungry urgency. His eyes dart to Kojiro's lips, manicured hands tugging at Kojiro's shirt. He looks seconds away from begging and, as entertaining as that would be, Kojiro is nothing if not indulgent.
Their lips meet again, Kaoru setting a desperate pace. Kojiro's hands end up fisted in his friend's hair, applying intermittent pressure to the long strands. Kaoru whines into him, alternating between nipping Kojiro's lower lip and licking into his mouth like a man starved. It's brutal and urgent and hot, and it's enough to send Kojiro into the very daze he’d been trying to avoid, losing himself to the feeling of his best friend groping at his chest and christening him with his tongue.
It hits him in waves, the realization, the self-admonition, the panic. He’s vaguely aware of his hands pushing back against Kaoru’s chest, his body squirming upright, his feet carrying him towards the door. He hears Kaoru calling after him, feels lithe fingers wrap around his wrist, but it’s as if he’s underwater. Everything is muffled and distant. It takes him a while to get his shoes on, and he doesn’t realize until he’s halfway down the block that it’s because his hands are shaking. He throws his skateboard onto the pavement, pushing off and letting muscle memory carry him the rest of the way.
Kojiro ended up at the skate park, sprawled out on the familiar pavement, chest rising and falling erratically as he tried in vain to control his breathing. His eyes were screwed shut, one arm shielding them from the evening sun. The pounding in his ears had gone down enough that he could hear the cars rumbling across the overpass. He laid there for who knows how long, monitoring his breathing until he felt confident enough to sit up. He was pushing himself to his feet when he heard the tell-tale murmur of a skateboard, the sound growing closer as the seconds passed. His chest seized again, he wasn’t ready to face Kaoru, not yet, not for a while, probably. He grabbed his board, eyes tearing through his surroundings, searching for an exit. The murmur slowed, replaced by the click-click-clicking of heeled boots. Kaoru didn’t wear heeled boots, Kojiro only knew one person who wore heeled boots, but there was no way-
“have you been crying?” Adam asked, his usual teasing smile playing across his lips, “I didn’t think gorillas had tear ducts, but,” he waved his hand dismissively, “the more you know, right?”
Kojiro wasn’t in the mood to deal with Adam’s shit tonight. He moved to leave, but Adam held out a hand, tutting in disapproval.
“now, now, no need to get touchy, I’ll play nice, c’mon,” he said, spinning around to set his board on the ground. He tossed a glance over his shoulder, challenge sparkling in his eyes. Kojiro couldn’t help the warmth bubbling in his chest, he never could turn down an opportunity to knock that cocky grin off Adam’s face.
The sun was setting by the time they stopped. Kojiro won three of their five races: a temporary win, but a win, nonetheless. Adam leaned back against the rusty railing, pulling a box of cigarettes from his pocket, not bothering to offer Kojiro one. He sighed, the flames from his lighter sending dark shadows flickering across his face. He looked like a fairytale villain, the type to hide in children’s closets and make spooky noises while they sleep. The thought was extinguished with the lighter, replaced instead by the heat of Adam’s all-knowing gaze.
“I'm thinkin’ ‘bout asking Sakura out tomorrow,” Adam said, gauging Kojiro’s reaction beneath hooded eyes.
“Oh,” Kojiro said, tongue heavy in his mouth, “that’s... good,”
Adam leaned closer, blowing his cigarette smoke in Kojiro’s face. He smiled, eyelids dropping into a slow blink.
“Bet that’d just kill you, huh, ‘jiro?" He sounded eager, voice breathy and dripping syllables like honey. Kojiro clenched his jaw.
“No,” he gritted, "if it makes Kaoru happy-"
"Oh, it will," Adam winked, “we'll have lots of fun together, don’t worry your pretty head about it,”
He took another drag of his cigarette, holding the smoke in before breathing out through his nose. He looked dangerous like this, less of a fairytale villain and more like a monster, smoke curling around his face, eyes glinting under the setting sun. Kojiro nodded stiffly.
“Right,” he said, turning around without acknowledging Adam’s lazy wave.
His heart was thumping wildly by the time he got home. His phone had been buzzing almost nonstop since he left, dozens of messages from Kaoru waiting to be answered. Kojiro turned his phone off instead, tossing it on his desk before turning towards the bathroom. He needed a shower, a hot one.
Kojiro skipped school the next day, holing up in his room and ignoring Kaoru’s calls.
And Kaoru did call. A lot. Kojiro almost felt bad. He knew about his friend’s anxiety, and if Kaoru’s panic attacks were anything close to what he’d suffered the day prior, he wanted nothing less than to be the cause of one. The idea of answering, though, of having to deal with Kaoru’s questions and tell the truth of why he stormed out yesterday was enough to make his hands start shaking again. He couldn’t deal with that. He’d rather wait it out, give himself time to formulate some excuse.
Besides, Adam was asking Kaoru out today. With any luck, Kaoru would be so excited he’d forget all about Kojiro’s stupid fears and things could go back to normal.
Yes, normal. Kaoru and Adam being gross, Kojiro pining after his best friend, being relegated to a third wheel, skateboarding and late nights and not kissing because there was no need to practice when Kaoru had an actual boyfriend now and-
Normal. That’s exactly what Kojiro wants.
His phone buzzed again, Kaoru’s caller ID casting new shadows in the hollows of Kojiro’s face. He watched as the call went to voice mail, letting out a breath he didn’t realize he was holding. It was late, his parents had gone to bed hours ago. Kaoru was never a night owl, meaning he’d stayed up purposefully, or maybe he was having trouble falling asleep.
Something long and thin slithered around in Kojiro’s gut. Maybe, maybe he’d been kept awake. After all, Adam had promised that he’d have fun with Kaoru, hadn’t he?
He was pulled from his jealousy by the sound of something hitting his window. He waited, watching, and was rewarded by another something hitting the glass again. A sound wafted up, strangely reminiscent of a frustrated growl. Kojiro stood up, peeking out his window.
Kaoru was outside, long hair pulled back in a messy bun as he tried his best to climb up the half-dead tree in Kojiro’s yard. Kojiro watched, amazed, as Kaoru stumbled on a branch, pulling himself up until he was positioned right outside Kojiro’s window. Their eyes met, and Kojiro felt the air rush from his lungs.
Kaoru pounded on his window, loud enough to wake his parents if he kept it up much longer. He maintained eye-contact, pointed and pleading.
Kojiro pushed it open, catching Kaoru as he stumbled through, staring wide-eyed at his friend’s rumpled appearance and heaving chest.
"Kao wh- did, did you run here?"
Kaoru shook his head, more to make Kojiro shut up than to answer his question.
“you weren’t, you weren’t answering my calls,” he said between breaths. His hands were braced on Kojiro's shirt, clawing at the fabric. When he looked up again, Kojiro noticed his cheeks were dusted pink. Kaoru swallowed, the rise and fall of his chest beginning to even.
“Adam, he-” Kaoru fisted Kojiro's shirt, “he asked me out, on a date” Kojiro felt his stomach twist.
"Oh," he said, every bone in his body rigid. He tried to smile, but it came out wobbly at best. "that's, I mean, that's great, Kao-"
"No," Kaoru cut him off, staring up at him intently, "I turned him down," he said, adding quietly, "I turned him down, Kojiro,"
Kojiro's world was spinning, but it was also so incredibly still. There was a trace of something flickering in Kaoru's eyes, something that made his heart flutter and his toes curl. He didn't want to let himself hope, and yet-
"Why?" He asked, voice wavering.
Kaoru let go of Kojiro's shirt, fingers twitching between them.
"Because, fuck," Kaoru buried his face in his hands before raking them through his hair, "because I like you, 'jiro,"
Kojiro wavered in place, knees suddenly weak. He dropped onto his bed, trying desperately to comprehend his best friend’s words. It felt like all of the air inside his body had rushed out, sucked into the collapsing star that was Kaoru, replaced with a warmth that spread through every limb.
"You," Kojiro looked up at his friend, noting the way his hands were fisted in the hem of his jacket, "you like me? Like, like me, like me?" Kaoru snorted, no more than a puff of air.
"Yeah, dumbass, I was surprised too," there he is. Kaoru smiled, signature smirk replacing any trace of anxiety on his face, Kojiro found himself smiling back.
He stood up, legs still a little shaky, and intertwined his fingers with Kaoru's, giving them a small squeeze.
"I like you too, Kaoru," he said, biting his lip.
"Yeah," Kaoru said, slipping into tease mode, "that one isn't as surprising,"
Kojiro laughed, a wet, emotional thing; headbutting Kaoru playfully before resting their foreheads together. It was a nice moment, quiet, still.
There were a lot of things that went unsaid in their relationship. Kaoru never told Kojiro when he was stressed, Kojiro never told Kaoru when he needed help with homework, they both just assumed the other would understand, and they did. It was nice, knowing things without actually saying them. But Kojiro was glad, standing here, arms wrapped around the boy he loved, that this confession wasn't one of those unsaid things.