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Mixed Signals

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Kyoutani’s youngest sister, Keiko, is six and she’s the sweetest kid Yahaba’s ever met. Her hair is always a mess and her shirts always have different kinds of sea creatures on them. She and Kyoutani have the same eyes.

Kyoutani’s other little sister, Mitsuki, is thirteen years old and she’s knee-deep in rugby and all the drama that comes with being a middle schooler.

Kyoutani’s dad is a man of few words; the few times he and Yahaba have talked, he has been soft-spoken with a smile just as gentle as his tone. Yahaba’s never really known his own dad, but he thinks if he ever met him he’d want him to be like that, too.

Kyoutani’s mother is the opposite. She’s loud, her smile is about ten gigawatts brighter than that sunshine monster #10 from Karasuno, and Kyoutani looks just like her; they have the same eyes, the same nose, and the same single dimple, too, Yahaba realizes when he sees Kyoutani flash a proper smile as he watches Yahaba be yarded into his mother’s arms for a hug. She has to stretch up on her toes to do it, but she smacks a loud kiss right on his forehead like he’s her kid too.

Yahaba doesn’t really know when he and Kyoutani started being friends, let alone when he became a regular dinner guest. He finds out that Kyoutani goes by Ken at home and the first time he hears Yahaba say it he turns so red that Keiko pats his ears while she asks him if he’s okay, and Mitsuki laughs so hard that water comes out of her nose.

They have two dogs named Woof and Artemis that sleep in Kyoutani’s bed every single night. He learns that Kyoutani is an avid reader and his bookshelves are organized by genre, then by author. Kyoutani speaks English almost fluently and almost all of his comics are American.

It’s gotten to a point where Yahaba is at Kyoutani’s house somewhere around three times a week, on average, because if he doesn’t come over at least twice, Kyoutani’s socking him in the arm and telling him that his parents are asking about him, that Keiko misses him, the dogs miss him. He can’t say no to that.

Yahaba also learns that the permanent glare he sees on Kyoutani’s face at school is his more often than not just a thinking face. When he makes it at home, whichever family member is closest to him at the time will push their finger right into his forehead and offer a variant of, “Stop thinking about whatever you’re thinking about.”

That’s another thing Yahaba learns. Kyoutani’s family is touchy. Sometimes during volleyball practice it seems like a hand on the shoulder is enough to piss Kyoutani off. At home there are cheek kisses and hugs and high fives when they walk past each other. Yahaba always forgets how not-touchy his family is until he’s with Kyoutani’s. He and his mom are close enough, sure, but he doesn’t have siblings or a pets and there isn’t anybody that hugs him when he gets home or ruffles his hair outside of volleyball.

Kyoutani’s mother ruffles Yahaba’s hair, though and she hugs him every time he comes over. Keiko is always climbing up into his lap, patting his cheeks, holding his hand. So Yahaba shouldn’t be surprised when the tactility Kyoutani slips into at home starts to bleed into their friendship, because they spend enough time together for it to make sense. But he is. He’s really, really fucking surprised the first time that Kyoutani touches him so casually that it doesn’t even give him time to think about it before it’s over.

It happens when Yahaba’s over for dinner for the second time in four days. He’s in the kitchen with Kyoutani’s mom and she has him chopping a pile of carrots while she washes the rest of the vegetables. It’s comfortable in a way that’s still new to Yahaba, with some sort of soft acoustic guitar playing from the bluetooth speaker on the counter and Mitsuki settled at the kitchen table with her homework. Yahaba hears Kyoutani jumping down the stairs before he sees him coming into the kitchen with narrowed eyes scanning the counter. They land on Yahaba’s cutting board and Yahaba is instantly very, very aware that not all his carrot slices are the same size but Kyoutani just bumps him with his hip so lightly it barely jostles him, picks through what he’s already sliced, and pops a few slices into his mouth.

“Don’t let him steal from you,” Kyoutani’s mother says loudly to Yahaba, reaching out and smacking Kyoutani on the shoulder lightly with the first spoon she can grab. “He’ll eat everything. He’s a veggie fiend.”

“I am not,” Kyoutani grumbles as he peeks at what’s already been washed. There’s warm pressure at the small of Yahaba’s back and it’s Kyoutani’s hand pressing him out of the way so he can get into the bowl. Yahaba freezes up just a little bit.

“Hey!” his mother snaps without much heat. “Snack on those. I put them out for you.”

She brandishes the spoon again, this time towards a bowl of sliced cucumbers on the counter. Yahaba would have laughed if his heart wasn’t in his mouth.

“You okay?” Kyoutani mumbles to him while he reaches for the bowl. He’s got a celery stick hanging out of his mouth.

Yahaba nods. Kyoutani scoops up the bowl and shoves three slices into his mouth at once. His smile is ridiculous when he reaches for the carrots again and his mother catches him. She scowls and goes to smack him but he bolts to the opposite side of the room.

“You’re stupid,” Mitsuki says. She takes the cucumber slice Kyoutani offers anyway.

* * *

They start taking Kyoutani’s dogs for a walk every Wednesday night. Kyoutani ties both of the leashes to his belt loops and lets his hands swing by his sides. Most of the walks are quiet aside from the scuff of their shoes on the pavement and the dogs panting. It’s always after dinner and the late spring air is as warm as the sunset is beautiful and Yahaba tells himself that their hands brush because they have to walk close on the narrow sidewalk.

Another night, when they’re crowded at Keiko's tiny desk in her room, Yahaba finds himself leaning into Kyoutani’s shoulder, smiling when Kyoutani breaks a crayon or colors outside of the lines and turns to give him a heavy look before setting a palm over Yahaba’s face and pushing him backwards.

The first time Mitsuki has an evening game, Yahaba tries to insist he doesn’t want to intrude on family time. Kyoutani just bodily wrestles him into the car. He ends up crammed into the outdoor bleachers with the family, cheering loudly for Mitsuki and laughing at Kyoutani’s roars of approval.

Fridays are family movie nights at the Kyoutani household, and Yahaba’s usually invited. The entire family squeezes onto the couch with bowls of cubed fruit and buttery popcorn, and Yahaba always ends up next to Kyoutani, pressed together from shoulder to thigh, hands brushing when they both reach for something.

Kyoutani starts brushing a hand across Yahaba’s hair just because, starts setting a hand on his shoulder when he needs to squeeze past him.

After an evening practice in the middle of May, Yahaba learns that Kyoutani likes cleaning the house because it clears his headspace, that he thinks wasps are terrifying, and that he broke his arm in the third grade when he jumped off a swing.

The two of them crowd under a too-small umbrella while the clouds dump on them and Kyoutani’s hand is warm around his on the handle. Yahaba could hold it himself. He doesn’t try to.

School is almost the same. With the new school year came an entire new set of responsibilities but Kyoutani is trying to step up to the plate, take his place as the ace. He’s been making a genuine effort to be nice to the first years, and Yahaba’s caught him more than a few times staying back to help them. The two of them are meshing better, too, flowing easier and reading each other. Kyoutani’s high fives are sharp and quick, a slap that makes Yahaba grin every single time.

He’s still bristly but it doesn’t piss Yahaba off anymore; it’s kind of endearing. So he ruffles Kyoutani’s hair and squeezes his shoulders in front of the rest of the team, grinning when Kyoutani puts on a show of being grumpy about it. He stops jerking away when the other team members pat him on the back, though, so Yahaba counts it as a win.

Yahaba’s musing over the team’s progress, Kyoutani’s progress, while trying to make sense of the mess his locker has become when Kyoutani comes around the corner and jumps when he sees him.

“Jesus fuck,” Kyoutani breathes. “You’re a creep. I thought you left.”

You snuck up on me,” Yahaba replies. He swings the key in front of Kyoutani’s face. “Also, I have to lock the clubroom, dumbass.”

“Yeah, fuck you,” Kyoutani says, batting Yahaba’s hand out of the way. “It’s been a few days, so.”

The sentence trails off and Yahaba grins.

“If you want me to come over just say the words! Sweep me off my feet!”

Kyoutani makes a frustrated noise and reaches out to grab Yahaba’s hair.

“You fluffy haired bastard,” Kyoutani growls, but he’s got a tiny smile on his face and his hand isn’t nearly as rough as it should be when it lands in Yahaba’s hair. He only rubs his knuckles into his scalp a little bit and he lets Yahaba twist away.

“Don’t be mean, Ken,” Yahaba says with a huff. “What would your mom say if she finds out you’ve been bullying sweet little Shigeru?”

“You’re the devil,” Kyoutani snaps, lunging for Yahaba again. “I don’t know how she hasn't noticed.”

Yahaba just laughs and catches Kyoutani’s wrist as he goes to tweak his ear. His hand lands on the side of his head, cupping it more than smacking it and Yahaba instinctively leans into it, squeezing Kyoutani’s wrist gently.

“I’ll come over,” Yahaba says quietly. He doesn’t know why. He just feels like it’s a quiet type of thing to say with Kyoutani’s hand on his face like this. “Only because I want to see how Mitsuki’s practice game went the other day. I’ll meet you at the gate after I lock up."

Kyoutani holds both middle fingers up behind his back as he leaves. Yahaba’s doing a double check through his bag when he gets socked in the shoulder. Hard.

He jolts up and Watari is standing in front of him, smirking.

“You didn’t tell me you and Kyoutani were dating,” Watari teases, putting his hands on his hips.

“Why the fuck do people keep sneaking up on me today?”

“You’re at his house like six out of seven days a week,” Watari continues, ignoring the question and pointing a finger at him. “You’re never online on Wednesdays when I want to co-op because you’re with him. You guys, like, hold hands on the bus to practice matches. Which, by the way, is really obvious.”

Yahaba’s about to slam his locker door closed on his head when Watari grins and shrugs. “It’s kind of adorable.”

“We’re not—It’s not like that,” Yahaba sputters. “We’re friends, okay? I’m not even at his house that often, maybe twice a week. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t even swing that way.”

Watari rolls his eyes and shoulders his bag. “Okay, Yahaba. You’re right. Even though you’re into him and you haven’t asked and you’re totally assuming and he was literally just holding your face like he’s your lover-boy, he’s straight. Actually, you’re straight, too. Screw it. Everybody’s straight. There are no not-straight people in the entire world.”

There’s a moment where they stare at each other, daring the other to crack first. Yahaba does, with a loud snort of laughter that doubles him over and makes his stomach ache. He’s still laughing when he gets to the gate and Kyoutani gives him a weird look.

Their hands brush the entire way home.

At dinner Kyoutani’s foot is pressed against his underneath the table. When Kyoutani’s socked toes drag up the inside of his ankle Yahaba bites back a smile and listens to Mitsuki tell the family about practice. Yahaba stretches his other leg out and traps Kyoutani’s foot between both of his, wiggling his toes. Kyoutani twists his foot out of the way, setting it back down on top of Yahaba’s and wiggling his toes back.

* * *

The next day at lunch Yahaba’s barely set down his bento before Kyoutani is pulling something out of his backpack and shoving it at him. It’s a piece of paper folded up way too many times. He gives Kyoutani a questioning look and Watari leans forward, “What’s that?”

“Fuck if I know,” Kyoutani says with a shrug. “It’s from Keiko. She told me to give it to you.”

Yahaba feels a grin split his face when he gets it unfolded. It’s a picture. He brushes his fingers across it. There’s a stick figure of him (he can tell by the hair) standing next to Kyoutani who has a bird on his head. Keiko is standing on the other side of Kyoutani, and the three of them are holding hands. There’s messy writing at the top and Yahaba has to tip his head to make it out. It says something about love and something about special bird houses.

“That’s so cute,” Watari says. “You guys are holding hands.”

Yahaba laughs and looks up at the two of them. Kyoutani’s ears are red and he’s got that glare on his face again. Yahaba wants to smooth the furrow out of his brow with his thumb but instead he folds up the note, sets it aside, and pops the lid off his bento. He pushes it into the neutral ground between him and Kyoutani and tips his head in a for you motion. Kyoutani narrows his eyes at the bento and Yahaba wants to smack him upside the head. Kyoutani is familiar with their routine by now, but he still acts like this when Yahaba goes to trade his bento. And Yahaba woke up early to chop those vegetables, damn it, and he refuses to let Kyoutani disrespect all his hard work.

Yahaba firmly pushes the bento closer to Kyoutani. Kyoutani goes in for a cucumber slice and Yahaba snags Kyoutani’s bento from where it’s sitting on the other side of Kyoutani’s arm—there are significantly less chopped veggies, which is fine with Yahaba—and starts eating. It’s quiet for a minute, and when he looks up, Watari is watching him like he’s just grown a third head. Yahaba mouths, “What?” but Watari just shakes his head and resumes the conversation they were having after morning practice about the new episode of that superhero show he likes.

They’re walking the long way to afternoon practice after class that same day when Kyoutani’s pinkie catches Yahaba’s and doesn’t let go. Yahaba’s heart stutters and Kyoutani doesn’t even look at him, just keeps scowling ahead like nothing’s happening.Yahaba wants to go all the way, twine their fingers and hold his hand properly. He doesn’t. He just slips another finger into the hook of Kyoutani’s pinkie and tries not to grin. They let go before they walk into the gym but the sensation lingers, and his hand feels tingly.

Yahaba feels the urge to toss every ball to Kyoutani for the whole practice. He doesn’t, though. He tries to send the ball to Kyoutani an appropriate number of times because it feels like if he sends one too many that the entire team is going to know that they almost-maybe-barely held hands a tiny bit on the way to the gymnasium, which is ridiculous. But still, he tries not to give Kyoutani any special attention.

He does a good job, he thinks, of making sure he doesn’t toss to Kyoutani too many times even though he really, really wants to.

He thinks about it the entire way home, all the way through his shower, all the way up until he’s climbing in bed and grabbing the book Kyoutani let him borrow from the floor next to his bed. He reads a page, sets it down on his chest, takes a deep breath.

Feelings for Kyoutani are definitely a thing he’s having. It’s not really a surprise. There’s not going to be a big crisis or anything. It’s just...Kyoutani of all people. Yahaba kneads his temples. It’s frustrating, which doesn’t really make sense because if he’s being honest Kyoutani is really sweet. He’s family oriented and he prefers novels with female leads and he’s in all honors classes. He’s handsome, too, in a non-traditional way. He kind of has a big head, totally has a big smile, definitely has a big heart. His eyes are nice, he’s got that dimple. He’s a secret softie and his laugh gets wheezy when he thinks something is really funny. Yahaba groans and rubs his fists into his eyes. He grabs his phone off the side table.

OK I think you were right about the Kyoutani thing

It’s a split second later when Watari replies.

Hahahaha obviously dude. I can’t believe you guys bring lunches for each others( ˊᵕˋ )♡.°⑅

Yahaba locks his phone. They didn’t bring each other lunch, they just traded lunches that both happened to be filled with things that the other person liked. Totally different. He thinks about Kyoutani’s stupidly pink ears and how he’d pulled out his English notes to go over them while they ate. Kyoutani likes studying during lunch, grunting answers when prodded and nudging Yahaba for a second opinion on something. There's no way he won't get plenty of offers from different schools. Yahaba wonders how the family will take him being gone if he goes somewhere further away for university.

With his mind on the family, his heart constricts a little bit and he presses a palm to his chest. Apparently he’s important enough to them that Keiko is sending Kyoutani to school with notes to pass along. His other sister texts him here and there, small updates on school, rugby, the captain of the boys basketball team that she’s thinking of confessing to. Kyoutani’s mother doesn’t even bat an eye when him and Kyoutani both stumble through the door after evening practice, just rubs a hand on Yahaba’s back or kisses his forehead and tells him to come help her with dinner. Her husband is as quiet as ever but sometimes they play chess in his office while everybody else bustles around.

It’s nice, really, to be a part of something like that. Something where he doesn’t have to worry that he’s too this or too that, not enough of this not enough of that. His phone buzzes.

From: Pupperoni (21:13)

To: Pupperoni (21:13)
No I'm fine. Why??

From: Pupperoni (21:15)
you sent kindaichi and kumini all your tosses today

From: Pupperoni (21:15)
୧(๑•̀ᗝ•́)૭ ?
^ looked on the internet for that

To: Pupperoni (21:16)
No im not mad i promise. I’m sorry abt the tosses. I’ll make it up to you!!

From: Pupperoni (21: 19)
ok . still spending the night tomorrow?

To: Pupperoni (21:20)
Sure thing pupperoni

From: Pupperoni (21:20)
I’m not a beef stick stop calling me that

“My bed’s big enough,” Kyoutani says as they shuffle to his room the next evening. “Don’t be weird about it.”

“If anybody’s weird, it’s you,” Yahaba replies, sticking his tongue out. The two dogs are already curled up at the foot of the bed. “Why does Artemis look like a horse?”
“Leave her alone,” Kyoutani says with a frown. “She’s beautiful.”

Yahaba slaps a hand over his face. Of course Kyoutani gets defensive. “No, yeah, she’s beautiful. But, like, she totally looks like a horse, right?”

When Yahaba peeks up at Kyoutani he’s crouched at the end of the bed, face stretched in a grin as he holds his dog’s face in his hands.

“It’s a Borzoi thing,” Kyoutani muses, pressing his nose against hers. “She’s beautiful.”

Yahaba rolls his eyes but he’s still smiling. He sits down on the edge of Kyoutani’s bed. A ball of clothes hits him in the face a few moments later and Kyoutani waves his hand, “I’m going to wash my face then you can shower.”

Yahaba brought clothes to sleep in but he squeezes the sweatpants to his chest and nods.

It takes him about six years to figure out how the hell Kyoutani’s shower works but he gets it eventually. When he comes back into the room, Kyoutani is in boxers and a chunky looking sweater, lounging the wrong way in bed with his head pillowed on one of the dogs. He’s got reading glasses on and a book tucked up to his nose but when Yahaba shuts the door behind him he peeks at him over the rim of them. They’re big and round and have a thin silver wire frame. He looks like an old man. Yahaba tells him as much.

“Fuck you,” Kyoutani says, rolling his eyes and turning back to his book. “Sleep on the floor.”

Yahaba climbs into the bed, sitting cross legged and reaching out to pet Artemis’s ridiculously long face.

“Don’t say anything mean to her” Kyoutani says. “She’s got a fragile self-esteem.”

Yahaba scratches the top of her head. “I like your sweater, by the way.”

He gets another look from over the rim of Kyoutani’s glasses.

“I’m serious,” Yahaba says, holding a hand out towards it. “It looks cozy.”

Kyoutani grunts and turns the page of his book.

Yahaba screws around on his phone for a little while, refreshing social media too often for anything new to pop up. He texts Watari back that no, Kyoutani hasn’t eaten him alive yet because what does that even mean? He waters the plants on the succulent app he isn’t sure why he still has. He grabs and flips through the comic that Kyoutani’s got on the bedside table. It’s American, something strange looking with three girls on bikes on the front.

“What’s this?” Yahaba asks, whapping Kyoutani on the stomach.

“It’s called Paper Girls,” Kyoutani says, resting his book on his chest. “It’s about these three girls who deliver newspapers but there’s time travel and stuff. The art is really cool. Characters that aren’t all straight, white people are cool.”

He sits up and crosses his legs. Their knees knock, and Kyoutani leans forward, peering at the comic.

“Is that why you like American comics?” Yahaba asks, going for casual and missing it by a mile and a half.

Kyoutani pins him with a calculating look, then he shrugs, “Representation is cool.”

“What do you mean?”

A frustrated noise bubbles out of Kyoutani and he waves a hand in the air, “You know, like, representation. People like me in books and shit.”

People like me. Yahaba’s staring, and Kyoutani’s eyes narrow thoughtfully. There’s a second of silence between them, and one of Kyoutani’s hands comes up from where it’s resting on his knee. It pauses, hovering between them, and his brows pulling together in an expression Yahaba can only place as confused before he goes to drop it again. Yahaba catches his wrist, though, and then doesn’t know what to do. It’s awkward. Kyoutani’s hand is outstretched like he’s about to be handed something. His fingers are pressed right into Kyoutani’s pulse.

“Eyelash,” Kyoutani says quietly.

He doesn’t try to twist of out Yahaba’s grip. He just reaches up to brush his thumb across the hollow below Yahaba’s eye.

“You can—if you want,” Yahaba blurts. He can what? Yahaba wants to punch himself in the face.

“Nah,” Kyoutani says. He’s staring straight into Yahaba’s eyes and Yahaba doesn’t think heart problems run in his family but his might actually explode right fucking now if something doesn’t happen. “It’s your wish.”

“Okay,” Yahaba says too loudly. He hasn’t wished on an eyelash in years. What the hell is he supposed to wish for? Kyoutani’s eyes are still on his. Yahaba doesn’t know what he’s looking for but he can’t seem to find it. Their knees are still touching, Kyoutani’s pulse is under his fingers and Yahaba can’t help but tighten his fingers, press into it. It’s steady and slow. It’s quiet enough that Yahaba can barely hear Kyoutani’s slow exhales. I wish I knew what he wanted. I wish I knew what I wanted. Yahaba blows the eyelash off Kyoutani’s finger. They’re so close that Kyoutani’s nose scrunches when Yahaba’s breath hit his face. Yahaba doesn’t know what to make of that so he drops Kyoutani’s wrist and shoves his hands under his legs. His heart is pounding.

Kyoutani reels back a little bit and his lips turn down. Then he flops back down and burrows himself under the covers. He snatches his book up again and buries his nose into it. Yahaba tries to look at the comic but he doesn’t know English. He looks at Kyoutani. His body is a lump underneath all the blankets he has layered on his bed and only his head and forearms are sticking out. His hair is wet right at the hairline. His nose is strong and kind of ski-slope-ish and he’s biting at his lower lip while he reads. Yahaba sets the comic down and climbs under the covers, pulls his phone back up, and tries to distract himself with Twitter. It’s hard, though, with Kyoutani laying next to him all domestic, reading a book with those dumb glasses and his feet making little tents in the blankets. Just being this close to him makes Yahaba feel jittery and calm all at the same time.

“Stop staring at me,” Kyoutani says, eyes still on the book. “Go to sleep.”

Yahaba just scoffs, “I wasn’t! I’m just thinking.”

Kyoutani snorts and covers his face with the book, definitely too close to read. Yahaba smiles and pulls up that stupid succulent garden app again. Maybe he’ll show Kyoutani when his plants are a little less dead. Yahaba glances at the actual succulent garden Kyoutani has on his desk and frowns. They’re so healthy. Yahaba can’t keep real plants alive.

He’s halfway through a video of a budgie destroying a keyboard when Kyoutani jolts awake. Yahaba didn’t know he’d fallen asleep. He’s bleary eyed when he looks at Yahaba and murmurs, “Light.”

Yahaba reaches over and clicks off the lamp. Kyoutani shoves his glasses at Yahaba and he sets them on the bedside table.

By the time his head hits the pillow again he’s asleep.

It takes Yahaba a long time but eventually he sets his phone on the bedside table and falls asleep to the sound of Kyoutani’s breathing, and the old dog snoring.

It feels like ten seconds later when he wakes up. He’s so fucking hot. He sucks in a deep breath and blinks a few times. Kyoutani is, apparently, a sleep cuddler. His palm is like a brand, a scalding point of contact low on his back where his arm is wrapped tight around Yahaba. He feels like he’s in bed with a Goddamn furnace. Kyoutani’s mouth is smashed against Yahaba’s neck, open and drooling if the slice of coolness he feels is anything to go off of. Woof has moved up to the head of the bed, feet pressed into Yahaba’s back as he stretches out in his sleep.

“Ken,” Yahaba croaks. “Ken, I’m hot.”

Kyoutani makes a soft noise and squeezes Yahaba closer.

He can’t move. It feels kind of nice, though, even though their legs are tangled together and it’s way too hot to be comfortable. He wraps an arm around Kyoutani, curls his fingers into short hair. He’s so hot that he feels like he’s sweating out of his own skin but Kyoutani’s breath is huffing out against his throat, wet and warm. Yahaba goes back to sleep.

When he wakes up the second time Kyoutani is still dead to the world, snoring into Yahaba’s ear. It’s still too hot. One of the blankets is kicked to the foot of the bed. The curtains are half open and a beam of sunlight is washing over the foot of the bed.

When Artemis’s head pops up she looks like a little angel. Yahaba can’t help but wonder what it’d be like to wake up like this every morning.

He waits as long as possible before forcing himself out of bed and going to the bathroom.

When he comes back in, Kyoutani is sitting up. He’s got weird lines on his cheek from the way his face was smashed into Yahaba’s hair. Keiko is sitting at the foot of the bed with a book and a blanket covered in stars.

“Morning, Ken,” Yahaba says softly, sitting back down on the bed. “Morning, Keiko.”

“Good morning!” Keiko chirps, climbing up to Yahaba and sitting between his legs.

Kyoutani grunts and scratches the side of his head. “Cold.”

Yahaba opens his mouth to point out that he’s already wearing a sweater but Kyoutani grabs a fistful of his pants and tugs and Yahaba can’t say no to a sleepy face like that, to Kyoutani pillowing his head on Yahaba’s thigh and turning his face away from the sunlight.

Kyoutani tosses an arm over Keiko and tucks it under Yahaba’s other leg, curling closer to leech heat like it’s not already a million degrees in the room. Keiko leans back against Yahaba’s chest and opens the book she’s brought along with her. She pats Kyoutani’s shoulder softly while she reads. Kyoutani’s already asleep again. Yahaba pushes his fingers through his hair. It’s getting longer towards the top. He’s probably going to bleach it in a few days. Yahaba sighs and Keiko pats his knee comfortingly.

“Don’t be sad,” she says in a whisper. “He wants to talk to you. He’s just a very sleepy boy in the morning.”

Yahaba hums and scratches at the base of Kyoutani’s skull. That’s fine with him.

* * *

One evening a couple of days later they’re watching a show called Too Cute! that documents the early lives of baby animals. Mitsuki is sprawled out on the floor, legs swinging as she taps away on her phone. Keiko is curled up in Yahaba’s lap on the couch, half asleep with her head tucked against the shoulder furthest from Kyoutani and her feet in his lap. Kyoutani’s arm is tossed across the back of the couch so he can pet her hair while she dozes off.

Yahaba’s concerned that the runt of the litter isn’t getting the hang of walking on tile floors when a hand slides up his shoulder, cups the back of his neck, and just rests there.

Kyoutani’s palm is warm and broad and before Yahaba can even react his thumb starts to drag in an arc. It’s automatic; a slow and steady back and forth.

When Yahaba peeks at him out of the corner of his eye he looks relaxed, slumped into the couch with his eyes on the television like he hasn’t even noticed that he’s touching Yahaba. The stroke of his thumb is lazy and soothing. It should be weird, right? It should be weird but it feels good and Yahaba is melting into it. When Kyoutani’s fingers curl and he starts scratching at the nape of his neck is when Yahaba shivers and leans into the touch.

Kyoutani’s head lolls to the side so he can narrow his eyes at Yahaba but his fingers don’t still. He just keeps dragging his blunt nails right across Yahaba’s hairline and Yahaba notices how close they are. There’s a minimal amount of space between their faces and Kyoutani’s look is impossible to read but then his fingers slide properly up into Yahaba’s hair and just keep scratching. Yahaba’s glad that Keiko is sleeping in his arms because if she wasn’t he would have no idea what to do with his hands. Yahaba just sighs and keeps looking at him.

“Gross,” Mitsuki says suddenly.

And Yahaba’s jerked out of the moment, turning to face Kyoutani’s sister. Her face is still tucked into her phone and she’s scowling at the screen.

“Apparently the shells of jellybeans are made out of bug poop.”

“That’s disgusting,” Kyoutani replies.

There’s amusement in his voice. His fingers are still in Yahaba’s hair. He can feel him tugging a small knot out. Yahaba turns back and Kyoutani is still looking at him. He’s struck again by the thought that this should be weird but as he watches Kyoutani’s eyes wander across his face it’s not weird. It’s centering. The knot comes free and Kyoutani huffs, satisfied at loosing it. His fingers slide low again, squeezing lightly the back of Yahaba’s neck before sliding up right behind his ear. The room is dim in the low, warm light of the lamp. The flashing television throws long shadows across Kyoutani’s nose, his brow.

“No, that’s disgusting,” Mitsuki says.

The two of them turn towards her again and she’s watching them, eyes narrowed and lip curled.

“I’m literally right here,” she says, waving her hand at herself and then at them. “At least wait until I’m gone. Or until Keiko isn’t asleep on top of you guys.”

Kyoutani rolls his eyes and pulls his arm back from around Yahaba, stretching both of them out in front of him and saying, “I’m gonna take Kieko to bed. Are mom and dad already upstairs?”

“Yeah,” Mitsuki replies with a frown. She’s already tucked back into her phone but she’s standing up and stretching her legs. “I’m going to go to my room. I should probably work on my stupid math homework.”

Kyoutani snorts another laugh, “You’re good at math. You’ll get it done. Then you can go back to texting the captain of the boys’ basketball team.”

Mitsuki gasps and fumbles over a few aborted words before spitting out, “Shut the hell up! Did you hear me and mom talking about that? Yahaba!”

“I didn’t tell him!” Yahaba sputters. “I swear!”

Keiko shifts around in Kyoutani’s arms when he picks her up and Mitsuki goes quiet, offering Yahaba a little wave and a whispered, “I’ll see you soon!” Kyoutani follows her up the stairs and Yahaba is left alone on the couch. He sags and puts his face in his hands. God, he’s fucked. He’s seriously fucked. His sister seemed okay with it, though, as much as a middle schooler would be seeing their brother with the person he liked (Yahaba uses that word tentatively. He still doesn’t really know if Kyoutani feels that way), which knocks the whole homophobia thing off the list of Reasons Why Yahaba Can’t Sleep At Night.

Still, are him and Kyoutani on the same page? Yahaba thinks they might not be reading the same book. How ironic. He’s contemplating actually bashing his head in on the coffee table when Kyoutani plods back down the stairs and flicks the hallways lights off.

He glances at Yahaba and then shoves his hand down in between the couch cushions. His face is twisted up in concentration. He resurfaces with the remote and plops back down on the couch next to Yahaba. Their legs don’t touch but Yahaba wants them to.

He opens his mouth to say something, he’s not sure what, but Kyoutani cuts him off.

“Shut up,” Kyoutani says, leaning back and tossing his arm around Yahaba’s shoulders.

He’s a little frozen and Kyoutani huffs an annoyed sound, shifting coser, tightening his arm around Yahaba.

“Fucking—” Kyoutani starts. He’s staring too hard at the television screen. “C’mere.”

Then Yahaba gets it. He lifts his feet up and sets them on the coffee table, shifting down so he can lean properly into Kyoutani, head rested on his shoulder. Kyoutani makes a low noise at the back of his throat and turns his face into Yahaba’s hair with a sigh.

Then his fingers are trailing up Yahaba’s arm, back down, back up while he flips through channels. He settles on a history documentary and Yahaba thinks that maybe his heart should be racing or that he should be nervous but he’s just comfortable. Kyoutani is warm and soft and Yahaba is almost positive that he’s tracing words on his arm but he can’t follow the characters.

He unfolds his hands from their place in his lap and drapes an arm over Kyoutani’s stomach. No reaction. He tips his head up from where its pillowed on Kyoutani’s shoulder. Kyoutani looks down at him and Yahaba’s breath catches in his throat.

Kyoutani takes a deep breath in through his nose and Yahaba’s definitely imagining it but he could swear that Kyoutani’s leaning closer, tipping his face a little bit—Yahaba says the first thing that pops into his head.

“I have to pee.”

Kyoutani’s face scrunches and he turns back to the television. “Okay? Go.”

* * *

The next week or so is weird. Kyoutani’s standoffish and agitated. He makes stupid mistakes at practice. He brushes Yahaba off when they pass each other in the hallway, he takes his bento and eats alone. It drives Yahaba up the wall, makes him feel like a spring coiled tight and anxious. All he knows is that Kyoutani definitely didn’t do anything, so it’s not like Yahaba’s shutting him out. If anything Yahaba’s been woefully (not really woefully, in all honesty) acceptant of whatever the hell sort of feelings he’s been having.

Yahaba gets a text when he’s in math on the following Wednesday. He hasn’t been to Kyoutani’s house in a week and he’s feeling weird about it, like there’s tension in his muscles that just won’t go away.

From: Pupperoni (09:52)
walk tonight? after homework

To: Pupperoni (09:57)

That evening when they’re out with the dogs, barely five minutes from home, the dark clouds that have been gathering all day finally dump their rain all at once. Kyoutani gapes up at the sky like he’s surprised that it’s raining and then shoots a look at Yahaba.They race home. All of that tension Yahaba’s been feeling fades away and he grins as Kyoutani peels down the sidewalk with the dogs at his side.

Kyoutani technically wins but they’re both soaked so it’s more of a mutual loss. They shove each other in the genkan and when they look up there are three pairs of eyes staring at them. Kyoutani’s mom narrows hers and then she’s up, heading to the linen closet, chucking towels at them and telling them how stupid they are. Kyoutani’s sisters are on the couch, giggling as she scolds Kyoutani.

“Track mud into my house and I’ll kill you,” she calls out as she plops back down on the couch. “Go upstairs and warm up. Shigeru, you’re welcome to stay over. I really don’t want you out in this weather.”

So they end up in the same place as a week and a half ago. Kyoutani stretched out on his stomach in bed the wrong way, Woof and Artemis taking up way too much space. His hair is properly wet this time, though, dripping down the back of his neck while he reads in bed. It’s a different book, something beat up and old that Yahaba’s seen him read at least twice since they started hanging out regularly. They’re decidedly not acknowledging the capital-T-Thing, which sucks. Yahaba wants to initiate a conversation but he wouldn't even know where to start.

Artemis is laying down at the foot of the bed and Yahaba tries to distract himself by petting her. Her ears are kind of too small for her head. Yahaba scratches behind them. She’s not too big on the petting thing but it’s either annoy the dog a little bit or sit on his hands to keep from grabbing Kyoutani and shaking some answers out of him. So, dog it is, but the longer they sit there in silence, the more tense Yahaba feels. He taps his feet together to try to get rid of the nervous energy.

Kyoutani’s grabs one of his feet and squeezes. It really doesn’t help the whole situation.

“Chill,” he says, using his nose to turn the page of his book. He rubs his thumb into the arch of Yahaba’s foot. He’s still facing away from Yahaba.

“I’m fine,” Yahaba says. It’s too breathy, though, and Kyoutani turns to look over his shoulder, gives him a pointed look before sliding his hand up and squeezing his shin.

“Relax,” Kyoutani says firmly.

“I’m relaxed” Yahaba says, pulling his knees up to his chest. Kyoutani’s hand slips off his leg and lands on the bed. He’s wearing Kyoutani’s sweatpants again. They’re a little short and his ankles are cold. Kyoutani looks at his hand and then back at Yahaba.

“Talk to me,” Kyoutani says. His brows pull together and he scowls like somebody just kicked him in the shin and then told him his dogs sucked. Yahaba wants to punch him right in the nose. He doesn't know what to say. He knows what he wants to ask, what he wants to admit, but he has no fucking clue how to get the words out.

He groans and puts a hand over his face, “Can I just die instead?”

“That’s dramatic,” Kyoutani says. He turns back to his book. “But sure.”

Yahaba tries to take a deep breath to calm his nerves but it hiccups on the way in and Kyoutani snaps his book closed and rolls onto his side, propping himself up on his elbow and glaring at Yahaba. There isn’t much heat behind it but Yahaba turns to look at the wall anyway.

“Your freaky breathing is annoying,” Kyoutani deadpans.

“Sorry.” Yahaba squeezes his arms tighter around his knees.

Kyoutani reorients himself so that he’s laying the right way in bed, shoves Yahaba’s knees. Yahaba scowls. Kyoutani shoves again, harder.

“Dick,” Yahaba snaps.

“Asshole,” Kyoutani replies. “Do you want to do the Japanese lit homework?”

“Not at all.” Yahaba groans, stretching his legs out and flopping backwards onto a pillow.

He glares up at the ceiling. He feels Kyoutani shift closer and turns his head and oh, there it is. Kyoutani is too close again. He’s looking down at Yahaba from where he’s propped up on his elbow and Yahaba only feels a little bit like a swooning maiden. That’s embarrassing and super, super lame. Kyoutani is literally just looking at him. Yahaba sits up and Kyoutani grunts, sitting up right after him and glaring.

“Fucking—are you serious?” Kyoutani asks. “You’re so fucking annoying.”

“What did I do?” Yahaba asks, holding his hands up. Kyoutani looks pissed. “You’re the one with the major attitude problem lately! You’ve been weird all week, and we didn’t even hang out.” It all comes out in a rush and Yahaba snaps his mouth shut immediately afterwards.

Kyoutani trips over the words .“Obviously there’s a fucking—! Every time I, like, you know, you—I keep trying to, like, fucking—and you just, like.”

Kyoutani makes a loud, frustrated noise and presses his fingers to his forehead.

“If you don't want me to kiss you, just fucking say it,” he snaps. His eyes are closed and he’s kneading his temples like he’s got the worst migraine in the world.

“What?” Yahaba asks. His mind is blanking. “Are you serious?”

“What? I’m serious. You’re sending so many mixed signals, dude.”

“Are you making fun of me?” Yahaba asks. His voice is getting high and he’s pretty sure his heart is going to break out of his ribs.

“No,” Kyoutani says more like a question. “What do you think I’ve been trying to do for, like, two weeks?

“So you do like me!” Yahaba says, pointing a finger at him.

“Holy shit,” Kyoutani deadpans. His shoulders slump. “Yahaba, you’re not serious right now.”

“What? How am I supposed to know?”

Kyoutani’s head tips to the side, “Did you think that, like, sleeping with dudes was a thing I regularly did?”

“I mean, no!” Yahaba sputters. “I just thought it was a thing, you know? Like, we’re friends so you’re touchy with me.”

“I tried to kiss you last time you spent the night.”

Yahaba groans and pulls his sweatshirt up over his face. The eyelash thing. It makes sense now.

“I’ve given you two of my sweatshirts. You’re literally wearing one right now.”

“I just thought that was a thing, too,” Yahaba says, peeking out just a little bit. “Like, hey, buddy, you’re cold. Here’s this!”

He can feel his face burning.

“I tried to kiss you last week,” Kyoutani continues, voice flat. “And you told me you had to piss and got up and left me on the couch.”

Yahaba actually laughs at that one, presses the heels of his palms into his eyes and tries not to die of embarrassment. Kyoutani is quiet.

Yahaba peeks up at him again and he’s got a guarded look on his face that Yahaba hasn’t seen since their second year and he absolutely hates it. He pops his head out of the hoodie and folds his hands in his lap.

“Okay,” he says slowly, staring at Kyoutani’s knees. “I do. Want you to. If you still want to. Kiss me. Like, now. Or later. Whatever works.”

"Seriously?" Kyoutani asks.

"If I didn't totally ruin it," Yahaba grumbles.

Kyoutani huffs a laugh and Yahaba feels fingers under his chin, warm and calloused and familiar. He lets Kyoutani tip his face up, lets him lean close and press their foreheads together. Yahaba squeezes his eyes closed.

"I like you," Kyoutani says.

“I like you,” Yahaba says. Finally. It feels like a weight off his chest. “A lot, a lot. Like, so much.”

Kyoutani’s soft exhale must be another laugh because when he presses their lips together it feels like he’s smiling. It’s soft, chaste. It's not fireworks and explosions, it's familiarity and something warm right in the middle of Yahaba’s chest. His hands come up when Kyoutani goes to lean back. He sets them on Kyoutani’s shoulders and mumbles, “One more.”

One more turns into two more, which turns into three, which turns into open mouthed kisses while they lay in Kyoutani’s bed, shirking off their homework and figuring out how long they can make out before Yahaba’s reeling back and sucking in deep breaths.

Kyoutani’s hands are warm and unsurprisingly slow. Yahaba feels light headed and giddy and a whole bunch of other of those really good adjectives while Kyoutani’s fingers drag across his lower back, his jaw, the back of his neck. And if Kyoutani punches him in the arm for being a dumbass while they’re climbing under the covers, then Yahaba smiles and takes it because he’s not wrong, really.