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Kiss Me on the Mouth (and Set Me Free)

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They’re six when Tooru first says it.

“Iwa-chan! Kiss me!”

Hajime tears his attention away from his Godzilla toys and screws up his face in disgust. “Ew, why?”

Tooru kneels in front of him, hands on his knees. He leans forward earnestly, eyes sparkling, mouth grinning. His two front teeth are missing, which makes his words whistle sometimes. Hajime’s still waiting to lose his. Sometimes life isn’t fair.

“I asked Okaasan why she and Otoosan kiss sometimes, and she says it’s because they love each other! And I love Iwa-chan, and Iwa-chan loves me, so I want a kiss!”

“Yeah, but they’re married. I can’t kiss you if we’re not married.”

“Oh.” Tooru’s face falls, before he brightens again. “Marry me, then!”

Hajime reaches out and flicks Tooru’s forehead. “Baka, we’re not old enough to get married!”

Tooru rubs at his forehead, pouting. “But I want Iwa-chan to kiss me.”

Annoyed, and knowing Tooru will keep making a big deal about it if he doesn’t give in, Hajime leans forward and gives Tooru’s round cheek a quick peck.

“There. Happy?”

Tooru wrinkles his nose. “That’s not a real kiss.”

“I’ll kiss you for real when we’re older. Now stop being annoying and play with me.”

Tooru looks at Hajime’s toys and jumps to his feet. “I’ll go get my aliens!”

“Godzilla doesn’t fight aliens!” Hajime calls after him, but Tooru ignores him. Hajime sits back and waits for his friend to return, his promise already forgotten.

***

They’re thirteen when Oikawa brings it up again. It’s Christmas, the Iwaizumis spending the day with the Oikawas like they do every year. Hajime, who’s keenly feeling the awkwardness of puberty, is in the living room, hiding from the grown-ups in the kitchen who want to fawn over how tall and handsome he’s getting. It’s embarrassing, though Oikawa always gobbles up the attention. It’s not fair how he’s already growing into his looks with allegedly minimal effort in self-care. Hajime always seems to be battling some kind of acne, while Oikawa has near perfect skin.

It’s irritating.

Oikawa finds him brooding in front of the TV, not really watching the festival playing on the news. Hajime feels his best friend jump him from behind, wrapping his arms around his neck and nearly knocking him over.

“Merry Christmas, Iwa-chan!”

“Get off me. You’re heavy.”

Oikawa slides to the side, keeping one arm wrapped around Hajime’s shoulders. “Don’t be grumpy. It’s Christmas!”

“I’m not grumpy.”

“Mmm I have a present for you,” Oikawa says, and his eyes are glittering in a way Hajime absolutely does not trust.

“What is it?” Hajime asks warily.

“Ta-da!” Oikawa whips out a sprig of mistletoe and dangles it between them with a mischievous grin.

“How is this a present for me?” Hajime asks, narrowing his eyes.

“Mean, Iwa-chan! You said when we were older you’d give me a proper kiss!”

“I’m pretty sure I never said that.”

“You did!”

“Prove it.”

Oikawa pouts and wiggles the mistletoe. “Come on. Kiss me. You have to. It’s tradition.”

“I don’t want to. Kissing your best friend is gross.” Hajime tries to ignore the blush that’s starting to burn the back of his neck. A quick glance at Oikawa’s lips has him wondering what it’d be like to actually kiss him, but he’s pretty sure that it’s best to rein in his curiosity.

“Kissing me could never be gross.”

“Kissing you would be the grossest of all.”

Oikawa lowers the mistletoe, sniffing disdainfully. “Fine. I was going to let you be my first kiss, but if you don’t want my present I can always give it to someone else.” He taps his chin in thought. “Maybe Hana-chan from my class.”

Hajime frowns. “Why do you want to kiss her? She’s got braces.”

“So? She’s cute.” Oikawa grins. “Much cuter than Iwa-chan. And I bet she’d kiss me if I asked.”

Hajime turns back to the TV. “Great. Whatever.” He tries to ignore the tightening of his chest at the thought of Oikawa getting his first kiss from someone else.

Oikawa stares intensely at him. Hajime does his best to ignore him, knowing Oikawa’s just trying to get a rise out of him so he’ll back down and give in. Well, Hajime isn’t going to let him win. He keeps his eyes on the TV, trying not to blush, until finally Oikawa sighs and stands. He returns to the kitchen, leaving behind the mistletoe.

Hajime shoves it away from him and tries to forget the entire conversation.

***

It's February and cold. It's coming to the end of their third year of middle school, and Hajime has to admit he's pretty excited about getting into Aoba Johsai with Oikawa and continuing volleyball with him. He knows it's a difficult school to get into, but he knew Oikawa would make it. What's surprising is his own acceptance, though Oikawa tells him he should've expected it.

"They knew they couldn't split us up!" Oikawa declares, even though there's no way the administrators could've known that they were best friends. "We're at our best when we're together." He drapes his arm across Hajime's shoulders with a grin.

"I guess," Hajime mutters. He tries to be his best for Oikawa, be there right when he needs him to be, on the court as well as in life, but he's not sure he succeeds all the time.

They arrive at Hajime's house first, and Hajime starts to turn toward his front door, when Oikawa's hand suddenly grasps him tight, keeping him close under his arm. Confused, Hajime turns to look at his friend. His confusion grows when he sees Oikawa is watching him like he's an opponent on the other side of the net he's trying to size up. It's unnerving, and Hajime leans away.

"What's wrong with you?" he asks.

"You're happy you're going to the same school as me, right?" Oikawa asks, gaze sharp.

Hajime wonders why this feels like an interrogation. "Of course I am, dumbass," he says, rolling his eyes and shoving his hand against Oikawa's side. "Let go of me, I gotta get inside before my mom yells at me for being late."

Oikawa shakes his head, tightening his grip. "You gotta kiss me first."

Hajime freezes. "What the hell?" he says, feeling his neck grow warm.

Oikawa breaks eye-contact then, looking past Hajime to the house beyond. His lips twitch upwards in a half-smile, and when he looks back at Hajime he grins, eyes glittering with mischief. "I'm not gonna let you go until you kiss me~"

There's something off about this. It doesn't feel like Oikawa's normal teasing. Hajime's stomach flips over uneasily, and Oikawa's wearing that look he does when he's trying to hide how nervous he is. What is with him and this kissing thing? He keeps asking for one, always as a joke . . . what gives?

"I'm gonna punch you," Hajime growls, holding up his fist as a warning.

Oikawa's grin widens. "Iwa-chan is so violent! Over a little kiss? Are you afraid it's going to turn you gay or something?" His grin turns sharp, and Hajime knows he's missing something, but he can't put his finger on it and it's making him uncomfortable.

"No, I just don't want to kiss my gross best friend with the bad breath," Hajime says, placing his palm on Oikawa's face and pushing it away from him. He ducks beneath Oikawa's arm, spinning away from him and hopping back a step out of arms reach. "You're so weird." His heart is pounding too fast to be normal.

"If you want a kiss as proof that I'm happy when I'm with you, that's stupid," Hajime says, crossing his arms over his chest. "I wouldn't even hang out with you if I didn't like you, dumbass. We're best friends."

"I know that," Oikawa says quietly, and he looks small suddenly, standing there at the end of the driveway with his hands at his sides.

Hajime rubs his arms absently. "So just . . . stop trying to make me kiss you. If you're ever not sure about things just talk to me. Stop playing games."

Oikawa looks like he wants to say something else, his lips part, but in the end he just nods. Hajime turns half-way toward his house, hesitating. Something niggles at the back of his brain, telling him he's forgetting something. But after nothing comes to him, he lifts his hand in a half-wave.

"I'll see you tomorrow. Okaasan will make you breakfast if you come early."

Oikawa grins faintly. "Okay," he says, already looking more like himself. "Bye, Iwa-chan!"

"Bye." Hajime waves and starts up the driveway.

"AND I DON'T HAVE BAD BREATH!" comes the call after him.

Hajime snickers, as he opens the front door. He knows he's late for dinner, so he runs upstairs to throw his book-bag on his bed and hurry back down to the kitchen.

He completely misses the bright red 14 written on the top page of his tear-away calendar.

***

They’re seventeen, about to leave for their separate universities. Oikawa somehow sweet-talked Hajime’s mom into letting him spend the night, despite the fact they both have early trains the next morning. Of course they end up staying up late (something Hajime knows he’ll definitely regret when his alarm goes off at 05:00), but it feels nice to hang out one last time.

Oikawa spends the first part of the night in almost manic high spirits. He bounces from activity to activity, talking Hajime into building a blanket fort, then baking cookies, then making hot cocoa and popcorn and marathoning terrible old alien and Godzilla movies, which he talks through mostly, pointing out trivia for each alien movie and dragging the horrid effects of the Godzilla ones.

Hajime’s pretty sure he knows what’s going on, but he plays along until Oikawa finally starts to lose steam around 01:00.

“Iwa-chan! let’s go up on the roof and look at the stars!” he says.

“We need to sleep, dumbass,” Hajime points out. “I gotta get ready for my train in four hours.”

“Just for a few minutes,” Oikawa insists, wrapping his hand around Hajime’s wrist. “For old time’s sake?”

“Fine,” Hajime says with a sigh, though he doesn’t truly mind.

He follows Oikawa upstairs to his bedroom window which opens to a part of the roof that juts out from the rest. It’s always a bit risky stepping over from the window, but they’ve done it so many times while growing up they make it over with ease. They lie down then, side by side, and look up at the sky. For the first time that night, Oikawa is quiet. It’s somewhat disconcerting, but Hajime doesn’t try to pry. He knows Oikawa will speak when he wants to.

“We should make this a new tradition,” he says after a few minutes. “Every time we come home for vacations and holidays, we should spend at least one night up here. I’ll tell you about all my girlfriends, and you can tell me how jealous you are, and I’ll tease you about your unibrow. It’ll be fun.”

“I do not have a unibrow, Shittykawa,” Hajime grumbles, reaching up to check just in case. He’s relieved to find that he’s right.

Oikawa laughs, but it sounds somewhat hollow. His usual vitality is missing. Glancing over, Hajime finds Oikawa looking back at him, biting his lip anxiously.

“What?” Hajime asks, his stomach flipping uneasily.

Oikawa shifts closer, and when he speaks his voice is so soft, Hajime nearly misses the question.

“Kiss me?”

Hajime’s heart starts beating faster. “What?” This again? It's been years . . .

Oikawa props himself up on his elbow, gaze turning off to the side. “Just once. I could live with it being just once, as long as it’s real and you mean it.”

Wait, what? There was something definitely romantic about that statement. This isn't Oikawa looking for proof or reassurance of Hajime's friendship. This is asking for something more.

Hajime’s heart has worked its way up into his throat. He swallows it down as best he can. “What . . . about all your girlfriends?” he finds himself asking weakly. He feels stupid, but Oikawa’s earnestness has him off-guard.

Oikawa shakes his head. “I’ve only ever wanted a kiss from Iwa-chan,” he admits quietly.

That's the truth then. Hajime can see it in his face. This isn't a game; this isn't manipulation. This is Oikawa's heart laid bare before him, and Hajime feels so incredibly stupid. How long has Oikawa felt this way? How long has Hajime been blind to the signs? He feels guilty, wondering if he’s ever said anything accidentally insensitive or dismissive of Oikawa's now apparent feelings. His mind is going back through years of conversations, when he notices Oikawa looks like he’s about to cry.

“Shit, sorry,” Hajime says, shaking himself out of his thoughts. “I was just . . .”

Oikawa gives him a tremulous smile. “You don’t have to if you don’t want to, Iwa-chan,” he says, voice gentle and full of understanding.

This frustrates Hajime, because it’s not that he doesn’t want to. He just never really stopped and considered . . .

Oikawa’s pulling away, shutting down. He can see it in his face. Panicked, afraid he might lose his opportunity to make things up to Oikawa and give his own confession, Hajime reaches out and grabs the back of Oikawa’s neck, bringing their faces together in order to place a hurried, completely uncoordinated kiss on Oikawa’s lips.

It’s, frankly, terrible.

Their teeth clack together, as Oikawa had just been about to speak again and had his mouth open, their foreheads bump, and Hajime’s pretty sure he drooled a little. Oikawa puts his hand on Hajime’s shoulder and pushes him back.

“Iwa-chan, I know you’re a brute and it’s unlikely you’ve kissed anyone before, but do try to have a little grace.”

Hajime’s too embarrassed to retort. He wipes at his mouth with a grimace. “Shut up, at least I’m trying. You didn’t even kiss me back.”

“That wasn’t kissing. That was . . . mouth groping, I don’t know.” Oikawa’s cheeks are flushed, though, and there’s a happy look in his eyes.

“Fine. You show me how it’s done then,” Hajime says, frowning.

Oikawa bites his lip, suddenly seeming nervous. He reaches up to smooth out Hajime’s forehead with his thumb, his fingers trailing down the side of his face to cradle it in his palm. He shifts closer then and very carefully leans forward to kiss Hajime’s mouth.

Hajime inhales shakily, his heart thudding wildly in his chest. The kiss is soft, gentle. Oikawa’s lips glide over his with ease, pressing just the right amount. Hajime does his best to return in kind, though his hands are shaking. It feels like they’ve only just begun when Oikawa pulls away, eyes lowered.

“Thank you, Iwa-chan,” he says, lifting his gaze then to give Hajime a faint grin. “That one was nice.”

“Is-is that all you wanted?” Hajime asks, bewildered.

Oikawa tilts his head. “I don’t want to push you into anything you’re not comfortable with,” he says slowly, giving Hajime a quizzical look, like he’s not sure why Hajime asked in the first place.

“You’ve never had a problem making me uncomfortable,” Hajime says pointedly.

“But with something like this . . . I mean, I know you’re straight so—”

“I’m straight?” If he’s honest, Hajime’s never really felt completely straight, or completely gay for that matter. He’s never really felt any sort of sexual attraction to anyone, but he does know that he enjoyed that second kiss, and he wouldn’t mind doing it more, if it was with Oikawa each time.

He’s known for a long time there’s no one else he’d rather spend his life with, no one else he'd rather have by his side. He just never thought it possible that Oikawa could feel the same way about him.

Oikawa blinks at him. “You’re not?”

“I don’t know. And I don’t really care,” Hajime admits. He glances at his phone, grimacing at the time. “We really need to go to bed now.”

Oikawa looks dazed, but he nods and doesn’t protest. Hajime turns toward the window, pausing to glance back at Oikawa.

“Also . . . I wouldn’t mind making that a tradition too. You know, for vacations and holidays.”

Oikawa suddenly grins brightly. “Awwwww, Iwa-chan is such a sap!”

Hajime’s neck burns, and he quickly turns back toward the window. “Don’t make me regret that,” he grumbles, making his way back into his room.

Oikawa follows, and soon they’re ready for bed and tucked into their futons. Oikawa passes out almost immediately, no-doubt exhausted from being so high-strung throughout the evening and night. Hajime finds himself staring up at the ceiling, listening to Oikawa’s snores. Before he drifts off himself, he smiles at the memory of the kiss, guessing it wasn’t so gross after all.