Shouta hunched his shoulders higher and put his back to the wind. He was waiting on a corner that was relatively quiet, but it left very little places to wait out of the cold. His winter coat did very little to hold out against the weather - the elbows were almost worn through and it tended to soak up water instead of repelling it. Nemuri pointed out a new hole in it every time she saw it, but at this point, he’d had it for ten years; he’d gotten a little attached.
He clenched and unclenched his hands. Even though they were shoved into his pockets, he couldn’t seem to get them warm. The cold tended to sink into his joints, making them ache and creak like the hands of an eighty-year-old. He wished he’d remembered his gloves - although those, too, were worn through...
He turned around sharply, dislodging his scarf and letting in a rush of cold air against his chest. He tucked the scarf’s straggly ends in and re-settled it around his neck absently, watching as Hizashi jogged up to him, face flushed with cold and exertion, breath clouding around him like puffs of smoke. He was wearing a bright orange knitted scarf of his own, and fingerless gloves to match. The scarf’s edges were still a little wobbly, but the knit was much tighter. Shouta nodded at him.
“I am?” said Hizashi, not understanding. Shouta reached over and tugged on his scarf.
“Looks good. The gloves, too.”
“Oh!” said Hizashi, and his face got impossibly pinker. “Do you like them? I’m glad, because — ” and here he dug in his bag and pulled out a little parcel with a flourish, “ — I made you these!”
Shouta undid the twine that held the brown paper wrapping and revealed a pair of black, fingerless gloves.
“Thanks,” he said, and made to put them on, but paused when he saw Hizashi’s mouth quirk mischievously.
“...What is it?” he said, eyes narrowing.
“Nothing. Put them on, I want to see if they fit. Your hands and fingers are wider than mine.”
Shouta tugged on the left glove, then went to lift the right- and stopped again when he caught a flash of pink. He turned his hand over and looked at the palm. Hizashi burst out laughing.
“Beans!” he managed to get out, gasping for breath at Shouta’s expression. “Little kitty beans!”
Shouta pulled on the other glove and tucked the packaging into his pocket. Hizashi immediately reached over, picked it out and shoved it carelessly into his bag, hardly taking his eyes off Shouta’s face.
“Do you like them?” he asked, after a moment. “I can unpick them and make them plain, I just thought…”
Shouta finished inspecting the little paws; he made eye contact with Hizashi while pointedly tugging them more firmly onto his hands.
“I like them,” he said, bluntly. “You’re not getting them back.”
He busied himself with rearranging his scarf again, pulling it higher to cover his chin, but didn’t miss the way Hizashi’s face lit up.
“Thanks, Shouta,” he said, pressing his hands to his cheeks and heaving a sigh, breath clouding once more. “It makes me nervous, you know, when I give the stuff I make away. I always think it’s going to be like that first time-”
“You know better now,” said Shouta, interrupting him before he told the story over again for the hundredth time. He’d noticed that Hizashi would tell the story of his first knitting project like it was funny, but he always seemed ashamed or embarrassed afterwards.
He began to walk, knowing Hizashi would follow him. “It was a beginners mistake, but you were just that - a beginner. Now you’re not, and you remember to tie it off so it doesn’t unravel. Not only that, but the stitches are a lot tighter and the quality is greater overall. Like I said, you’re really getting a lot better. And you’ve only been doing it for a couple of months, so it’s impressive to see you improve so much in such a short period of time. Don’t apologise or feel embarrassed to give me a gift you’ve made, especially if you made it just for me.” Shouta paused, hardly realising how soft his voice had gotten. His face felt a little warm. “It makes me feel happy, knowing you thought of me and wanted to make me something.”
A door slammed behind him and he closed his mouth sharply, almost biting his tongue, suddenly aware that his words were running away from him. Had he said too much? Had he revealed too much about how he felt? Would Hizashi notice? Shouta glanced over at Hizashi and saw he had his shoulders held high, almost to his ears, and his face buried in his scarf.
“Do you want to go to a café instead?” he said, slowing slightly. “We don’t have to go to the park if you’re cold.”
Hizashi reached over and poked him in the shoulder.
“Just because you’re lazy doesn’t mean you’re getting out of this! I want to walk through the park. We can go to that nice coffee shop down the hill at the end of the park, the one you like.”
Shouta hummed in agreement. He knew the one Hizashi meant. Good coffee, good cake, and it had a shop cat. Honestly, the coffee could have been terrible and he’d still have gone there.
“You’re not cold?” he said. “You’re all hunched up.”
Hizashi lowered his shoulders slowly, looking oddly shifty. His eyes didn’t seem to want to stay in one spot, and he turned away from Shouta quickly.
“No, I’m, ah. I’m fine. Really. Look, there’s the park entrance. Let’s go!”
They turned in, past the gates, passing by a young couple who were squashed together on a bench, murmuring to each other and laughing. Shouta watched as one of them lifted the other’s hands to her mouth and blew a breath to warm them, making her partner sitting on the bench blush and glance away. Their words were too quiet to hear, but Shouta’s lip reading was good enough to see what the girl had said.
“Oh, it’s lovely,” said Hizashi, next to him, and he turned his head to see- sunset?
An explosion of reds and oranges greeted him, peppered here and there with a green leaf yet to turn. The park spread out down the hill, making it seem like where they stood at the very top was almost floating above the trees. Beside him, Hizashi spread his arms out and turned in a circle, grinning widely.
“See? This is why I wanted to walk through the park with you!”
Shouta gazed at him. Hizashi’s blond hair had slid out of his hat and was blowing slightly in the breeze. His pointed nose was red from the cold, and his eyes were squeezed almost closed with how wide his smile was. Shouta’s heart turned over in his chest. He dropped his gaze, eyes sliding over the battered skeletons of dead leaves spread on the ground, trodden into the asphalt.
“Yeah,” Shouta said, throat tight. “It’s beautiful.”
The walk down the central walkway took about half an hour, but Shouta found that, afterwards, he didn’t remember much of it, only an overall impression of Hizashi’s face, staring upwards in wonder at all of the changing leaves, the light through the leaves staining his face gold and red in patches, his fashionable brown coat and scarf fitting right in. He looked like a model, he looked like an angel, he looked way out of Shouta’s league.
Shouta rubbed his thumb against the knitted pawpads of his gloves and chewed on his chapped bottom lip. They were approaching the park gates - he could see them in the distance, just over the intricately carved bridge that spanned the small river that ran through the park from one side to the other. The natural beauty of the area made it a popular destination for dates, but it seemed as if the cold of the day had driven any prospective lovers away. They stepped out onto the deserted bridge, listening to the rush of the water beneath them. Shouta paused momentarily, watching as Hizashi passed him. His heart began to pound.
Now? Shouta asked himself. What if you ruin it?
“Hizashi,” he said. Ahead of him, on the apex of the bridge, Hizashi turned. The blue of the sky behind his head made his hair look like a halo.
What if he says no?
“Wait,” he forced out.
What if he says yes?
Shouta closed the gap between them. Hizashi had half-tilted his head, a soft smile on his lips. Shouta could tell he was about to make some remark about how odd Shouta was being, or tease him about how he must surely want to hurry to the café to play with the cat, or some other nonsense that would only demonstrate his seemingly encyclopaedic knowledge of Shouta’s wants and needs.
Shouta reached out and brushed his fingers against the trailing end of Hizashi’s scarf. He opened his mouth to speak, but the words didn’t come. He swallowed.
Hizashi had stepped a little closer still. He’d stopped smiling and his brows were beginning to furrow. Shouta closed his eyes.
“Sorry,” he said thickly, shaking his head. “I- tried to think of something to say, but it’s even harder than I imagined it would be. I’ve never- I’ve never had to do this, so I- I’m at a loss, I think.”
Hizashi’s hands wrapped around his own. Shouta felt them being lifted up, pressed against something soft... then a rush of warmth, through his chilled fingers, sinking into his bones and making his scalp tingle in a pleasurable response.
“Hizashi,” he said, pleadingly. He couldn’t open his eyes.
“Shouta,” said Hizashi. His best friend, his closest confidante, his crush. How juvenile, and how appropriate, thought Shouta. He couldn’t even make himself say the words ‘I like you’. Juvenile was right. But perhaps, at this point, words were pointless...
“Shou-ta~,” Hizashi murmured, sing-song, and somehow impossibly closer than before. Shouta’s back was pressed against the bridge and Hizashi was standing so, so close to him. Shouta still didn’t open his eyes. He didn’t have to; he knew how tall Hizashi was. If he just tilted his head, like this...
After a few seconds, he leaned back, letting their lips part, and opened his eyes.
“Happy birthday to me,” breathed Hizashi, looking rather dazed.
“Your birthday’s in June,” said Shouta blankly, wondering if his heart rate would ever settle, or if this was just the way it was going to be for him from now on.
“Is it? Feels like it’s right now. I just got the best present ever.”
Shouta opened his mouth and took a breath to reply. Immediately Hizashi interrupted him with a kiss. They broke apart after a moment.
“I forgot what I was going to say,” said Shouta.
Hizashi stuck out his tongue and stepped back, pulling Shouta after him.
“Come on,” he said. “The café’s close, and you can give me the rest of my present there.”
“The rest?” repeated Shouta, trailing after him, their fingers entangled. He felt oddly light, as though if Hizashi were to let go of his hand he might float off into the sky. (Some small voice in the back of his head chided him for being so fanciful, but he found that he simply couldn’t bring himself to care.)
“Yeah,” said Hizashi, glancing back at him over his shoulder. “You didn’t think you’d get away with only two kisses, after all, did you..?”
Shouta’s mouth appeared to be stuck in a grin. He shook his head and gripped Hizashi’s hand tighter. He’d give him as many kisses as he wanted - and more.