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there wasn’t a sound in the room save for the pair’s soft breathing, and the occasional faint shuffling and fidgeting of limbs. the silence wouldn’t have bothered them at all had it not been for what had been left unsaid for too long now.

it would have been completely comfortable, but the echo of astral’s lips grazing his weeks before and the lingering looks of longing afterwards hung in the air. their feelings had always remained unspoken – but the kiss.

the memory of 96′s resentments and glares attempted buffer the thing rising up in yuma’s chest, as though just the thought of his lover acted as a vicious guard against this , the space he shares with astral, this seed that can and has, unwittingly, grown between them.

it’s unclear whether or not astral had paused their tutoring session, the professor having allowed yuma to work out the questions from his textbook on his own for nearly twenty minutes now, deigning to cease explaining anything or asking if their student needed additional help and instead easing back. at first, astral had been scrolling through their own datapad, but for most of the time since the two of them stopped talking, they’d leisurely watched their favorite student work – this young man who had been a best friend to them when they were both younger; astral’s favorite thing, their everything.

yuma finally noticed the attention, and astral could tell. he met their stare only to back down first, a flustered look feigning focus towards his schoolwork. under astral’s desk, yuma’s foot started to bob again from tension. he looked so good in their home.

astral wanted to make him stay. “do you like it when black mist calls you baby?”

he sputtered, but in all, he didn’t seem too surprised by the question. the first time that the silence that had kept shut this part of their bond had been broken was by astral’s lips, and then again, at that moment, by astral’s words. it had only been a matter of time.

still, yuma found himself hesitating, delaying, rubbing the flesh of his neck in a nervous habit. “what? w…why do you ask?”

astral didn’t answer what was so obvious, so much so that even yuma knew, though he still couldn’t admit it out loud. but everything else in yuma, his body language and tone and the way his eyes kept flitting back to the intent in astral’s expression with a fascination of his own, told astral that he recognized what was happening. it told astral his answer too.

but despite their surety, astral themself hesitated as well, familiar with the flightiness yuma has always been capable of in situations such as these – in love. the trait had been a part of why astral had held back for so long from advancing what the two of them already had, from taking another step with yuma.

astral had regretted stopping themself before. they push through now, stumbling past subtlety; yuma has grown up enough himself, had enough of his own experiences, that astral thinks, he can handle this .

“i want to call you my baby.” astral said softly, balancing out what may be more boldness than what yuma was used to from them with the volume of their voice; like edging closer to an jittery animal. “do you think you would like that if it came from me too?”

yuma’s voice left him. he stared back at astral with eyes bright and brimming with a reflection of what astral themself was feeling. they wondered if yuma was always like this – with their cousin – whenever more intimate subjects were brought up between them. they wondered if yuma always seemed to quiet, his whole form subduing with just the power of his partner’s words and admiration, if his eyes always glowed like this over blushing cheeks, if his mouth always parted just so.

“what else does 96 call you?”

“96…” somehow, astral wasn’t deterred by the way yuma’s eyes finally fell and slid from their locked stare, from the name of someone else leaving his lips. it was enough for astral, at this delicate point in their relationship, that their boy was willing to just be with them at that moment, alone and like this, with little resistance and no fight.

“in your time together,” astral broached, having known the effect their tone had on yuma, nudging him to look back up and see them, “they must have called you an angel too, at times. am i right?”

yuma had rolled the pen in his hand until it inevitably escaped and fell, clattering to the floor just loud enough to have made yuma jump slightly in his frazzled state. astral strode close to pick it up, but yuma was quicker, and when he sat back and looked up, astral stayed where they were looming over him. they observed the way he instinctively curled slightly into himself then; not in a way that was fearful, yet he trembled. keep him.

instead, astral allowed yuma to answer them when they asked, “do you want me to stop?”

he calmed quickly after astral touched and held his arm, a familiar gesture shared between yuma and many of his friends. some part of astral was aware that, in some sense, they were learning how to play him – what words and actions would produce what reactions and emotions in him. some part of astral was aware that, in some sense, they’d always been learning, quietly meaning to, and maybe all for it to lead up to this; all for yuma to surrender to a type of seduction specific to one person: him, like this.

astral knew the answer before he spoke it and was ready for it. “y-yeah…” he was slow to compose himself. “i–… yeah…”

it felt much like the kiss, astral thinks. haphazard in the first second, and then all at once heavy and warm, burning them both at a gradual enough pace that before astral knew it, one of them would need to back out for air. they stroked the skin on his arm, catching his goosebumps, before releasing him.

they remembered that yuma had eventually kissed them back when astral had finally made their move, and decided to wait once more – be it another week or more – for yuma to come to them, somehow, as well.

“alright.” they acceded, and sat down beside him. in the space between them, astral could still feel a hint of yuma’s warmth and hear his steadying breaths. they stayed in an easy arm’s reach.