Yuki is the first person to notice.
Even if the residents at Aotake became athletes with necessary diets and an organized training regiment schedule that Haiji graciously made for them, they still celebrated birthdays the only way university students know how to do it.
Everyone of legal age raise their beer can up high in good wishing then take a long, satisfying gulp in the over crowded room. Junk snacks and home cooked appetizers litter the tables as everyone shares with chopsticks in one hand and their beer, or tea, in the other.
“Do we really have to celebrate this?” Yuki raises a brow.
“We get to drink so don’t question it.” Nico-senpai replies lazily next to Yuki.
“Yeah, he deserves it, look how happy he is!” Jota points across the table and everyone stares.
At the other end, near the door, Nira sits patiently, tail wagging, smiling proudly while he wears a small birthday cone hat with a bone pattern design to complete his look.
“I guess.” Yuki takes a sip of his beer and despite his protest, he’s glad that he can drink again after the athletic schedule he’s grown accustomed too, especially when he knocks out at night sooner which means less partying and clubbing.
His eyes wander the table over the loud chatter between the excited Jo twins, Musa calming down an overtly red Shindo who drank more than he should, and King shouting answers at the trivia game show he’s watching, completely ignoring everyone. Everything’s normal during this Aotake celebration and he believes it at first, but does a double take at Haiji and Kakeru who sit by Nira.
Haiji has Kakeru pulled close to him, whispering in his ear as Kakeru flushes redder the longer an obviously drunk Haiji keeps talking to him. Yuki would have instantly called him out on sexual harassment because he’s a future lawyer and it’s shit like that he’s extremely good at calling out. But as he’s about to raise his voice, mouth already open, he freezes in his spot when his gaze fixates themselves on their left hands. Haiji’s fingers dance around in Kakeru’s palm in a much more intimate fashion than normal and his eyes twitch. He’s only seen this type of move played out in clubs when two people start flirting at the bar.
Yuki considers himself incredibly smart and observant. He has noticed that the most experienced runners of the bunch have been spending the most time with each other lately so being close was one thing, he just didn’t realize the prospect that being close may have led them to be romantically involved too.
No one’s paying attention to them except for himself. Everyone’s preoccupied in their own little world and conversations just like the Haiji and Kakeru as well.
“Nico-senpai, hey.” Yuki nudges the older man, already warm and buzzed, “Are they dating?”
“Who? What are you talking about?” Nico-senpai’s lack of concern makes Yuki glare at him, meaning his eyes leave Haiji and Kakeru for a second. “I’m talking about those two idiots.” Yuki’s thumb points over by the door and Nico-senpai squints with confusion.
“Did you drink too much? That’s illegal.” Yuki is offended at the comment and tries to point again but he turns and watches Haiji, now alone and Kakeru-less, rub and scratch Nira affectionately. The door is open behind them and Kakeru comes waltzing back in, holding a tiny cake on a plate with a candle. He kneels down on the other side of Nira and places it in front of him.
“Happy Birthday. Nira-san,” Kakeru awkwardly says, “I made this for you.”
“Haha, you used honorifics on him!” Joji burst out with laughter.
“Nice, nice! Very nice, Nira-chan!” Haiji continues to shower Nira with attention as Prince's ears perk at the phrase. “See, I told you it would be ok, Kakeru. He loves it!” Nira sniffs the tiny cake in front of him in delight. “Kakeru’s hands were sweating so much! He thought you wouldn’t like it, Nira.”
“Maybe you need new glasses, have you considered that?” Nico-senpai tries to reach for them, but Yuki slaps the back of Nico-senpai’s head before he could. He slaps it once more for good measure.
Jota is the second person to notice.
With the meal Hana made last time, Jota and Joji are determined to learn the basics of cooking because god knows when is the next time Haiji will be away and there will be nothing… but Hana’s cooking. They admire the petite, sweet, outgoing, and supportive sub-manager-like member of the team but the twins have been living in fear of that day ever since. Their bathroom… has never been the same. So after practice, the Jo twins manage to flag down Haiji before he goes into the kitchen and asks if they could help prep dinner with him and teach them how to cook.
“Sure, if you’d like. I’d be happy with the help.”
In the kitchen, the Jo twins watch in amazement at how fast Kakeru is at slicing the vegetables. He piles them on the cutting board and hands them to Haiji. He takes them with his hand to pour them into the pot for tonight’s curry while he stirs it around with the other hand.
“Kakeru, you’re fast at running and cutting too.” Joji’s mouth waters at the smell of simmering, hot curry. “I should learn too, give me the knife, I’m going in!”
Kakeru carefully hands Joji the knife and they switch places. Joji cuts the leftover peeled vegetables Kakeru has yet to cut for tomorrow's bento side dish and breakfast.
This leaves Jota to watch. Joji offers to switch, but Jota encourages him to keep going, watching on as his brother slowly cuts chunks of veggies. Cutting is just a part of cooking so he focuses his direction on Haiji instead, opting to learn how to season and properly cook. They are twins and with teamwork, they could pull off cooking faster if they each do half the work.
Jota is about to ask Haiji but stops himself when he sees him talking to Kakeru.
“You don’t usually make curry.” Kakeru states.
“It’s a pretty heavy dish, but it’s nice to have once in a while. Do you want to try?” Haiji asks and Kakeru nods his head.
Jota, wanting to be part of the taste test too, wants to jump in but stops himself. He stops himself because he watches as Haiji and Kakeru get immersed in their own little world.
Kakeru comes closer to Haiji and he rests his head on top of Haiji’s shoulder. He waits as Haiji picks up the wooden spoon stirring the curry and uses his index finger to swipe a streak of curry sauce. What Jota doesn’t expect is for Haiji to offer his finger back to Kakeru who casually takes the tip of his finger into his mouth to lap up all the sauce.
“It’s good. It has a nice kick to it.”
“It’s been a little cold lately so maybe everyone might like a spicier curry.”
Kakeru stays in his position and Jota just continues to stare on like he hasn’t just witnessed such an intimate act happen between his housemates. He thinks, not everyone does this, it’s not a normal act, at least he assumed.
Without any hesitation, Jota also takes a giant swipe of curry sauce on the spoon with his hand that Haiji’s still holding out and proceeds to shove a fist in Joji’s mouth.
“Is it good?!” Jota screams.
Their screaming ensues amongst them and all Haiji could do was watch with an unfazed, listless Kakeru.
“Why did you lick my finger?” Haiji asks.
“Did I do that?” Kakeru questions back.
“I was checking the consistency and you just went for it.”
“I’m way too tired.”
“I told you to sleep instead of going to practice.” Haiji scolds. “And it’s your fault for pulling an all-nighter for a last minute report.”
Musa is the third person to notice.
It’s the afternoon, classes are done for both Musa and Shindo today so they meet up and walk home together. As they pass through the shopping district they run into Haiji who was buying ingredients for tonight's dinner, holding two bags full of meat and fresh produce.
“Shall I carry the other bag, Haiji-san?” Musa offers but takes the bag from him anyway. Shindo takes the other bag from Haiji as well leaving the older runner bagless.
“Thank you. It’s nice that I ran into you guys.” Haiji pulls his phone out to type a message and immediately puts it back into his pocket. “I actually have one more stop to go to if you guys wouldn’t mind.”
“That’s no problem,” Shindo replies.
Musa and Shindo wait outside for Haiji who has gone in to buy some things inside the convenience store. As they wait, they notice Kakeru come into view towards the direction of the house and he jogs right over to the two of them.
“Hey.” Kakeru greets them casually.
“Kakeru, what are you doing here?” Shindo asks.
Haiji walks through the automatic doors. He’s holding a bag in one hand and two magazines in the other. “Oh, Shindo, here’s the magazine with the article about the running techniques I told you about.” He hands it over to Shindo who graciously takes it.
“Thank you, Haiji-san. You didn’t have too.” Shindo thanks and opens the magazine right away, scanning the contents from eagerness.
“It’s thanks for helping me carry the groceries.” Haiji waves him off. “And Musa, this has an article about the author also from Tanzania you were interested about.” Musa is more than grateful and thanks Haiji repeatedly. Then Haiji glances at Kakeru. “I thought I texted you that you didn’t have to come anymore.”
Musa wonders why too but opts to ignore it because maybe Kakeru was still willing to help in some other way. And with the magazine, he flips through the pages to find the article he wants.
“Yeah?” Kakeru answers Haiji.
“That’s my shirt.”
Musa gets a better look at Kakeru’s outfit, and just as Haiji says, Kakeru is not wearing his own t-shirt, but a grey long sleeve Haiji usually sleeps in and when he looks at his bottoms, his eyes notice that he also wearing his track pants.
“Did you just wake up?” Haiji asks him.
Woke up? Where did Kakeru wake up? In Haiji’s room? Why would Kakeru wake up in Haiji’s room? Or did he wake up in his own room and just casually use Haiji’s clothes?
“You borrowed them again.”
Again?! This isn’t the first time?! Do friends always borrow each other's clothes?! Actually, that sounds completely normal as Musa mulls it over to himself. Yes, it is a completely normal occurrence. Unless it’s of course what Musa thinks it is, but he doesn’t say it. Not out loud, he doesn’t want to assume right away that it’s a-
“Boyfriend shirt.” Musa whips his head and stares in shock at Shindo saying the words he thought about right out of his mind.
“What?!” Musa exclaims, but Shindo’s still has his eyes on the magazine,
“This girl says she wears her boyfriend’s t-shirt when she runs. Say’s it helps her run better, interesting.” Shindo answers Musa.
The other day in Musa’s class, his classmates were discussing things they loved their girlfriends doing and the topic of wearing the boyfriend's clothes was highly praised by them. Musa learned a lot of what goes into a ‘boyfriend shirt’ because he’s never heard the term before until that day. He’s realizing now that this may be one case of it as he stares at Kakeru.
There were two points he learned about the infamous ‘boyfriend shirt:’ One, the person wearing the article of clothing feels like a piece of their significant other is always with them. And two, the sexual appeal the boyfriend finds when the other wears their clothes.
And Musa knows. He really doesn’t but he’s not surprised that his two housemates may be an actual item. Within a short time, he has noticed the two being around each other more often than the rest of the team outside of practice. He watches the two converse, not paying attention to the true reason for their predicament.
“You have to do your laundry tonight, Kakeru.” Haiji scolds. “You can’t keep borrowing my clothes.”
“Sorry, but I finally bought detergent this morning,” Kakeru tells him with a guilty expression. “I wanted to pay rent first before I knew how much money I had left.”
Prince is the fourth person to notice.
Being a literature major means a lot of research papers, writing essays, and reading tons of textbooks and novels. He’s always prided himself in writing and how easily it came to him, or how fast he can read in a day switching from assigned novels for discussion work to the newest volume of JUMP. But like most university students, the workload can be overwhelming and procrastination peaks when the going gets tough. So then, Prince takes recluse to finish his work in a place he’s surprisingly not too familiar with ー the library. Maybe because there’s a lack of manga which he usually prefers to read in comparison to all the lengthy novels that he doesn’t really associate himself as a library person. Definitely more of a net cafe person.
Prince enters the library, lugging his heavy, crammed-to-the-brim-with-books-and-papers backpack with him as he settles into an empty table by himself. He whips out the various novels and textbooks that have been marked and tabbed for reference as he begins to draft an outline of his eight-page research paper ー due tomorrow.
He’s been through this routine countless times already and although he should fix it, he’s found some semblance of productivity when he does it last minute. But who doesn’t when you’re under a certain time constraint for a temporary grade to pass a class you won’t think about again in the future. Nope, Prince hasn’t thought about this before, of course not.
As soon as he finishes his outline, he takes one of the many small breaks he’ll have to stay in the library for the next couple of hours. He stretches his next a bit, moving it from side to side and he feels the stiffness from practice creeping in. Luckily for him, there’s no practice tonight so he has time to finish his work and read manga right away as soon as he’s in his room.
Prince doesn’t notice them at first, but he looks up from his spot and just a table away he sees Haiji and Kakeru sitting with each other in the same predicament as him, books and papers splayed all over the table. Kakeru is sitting next to Haiji, concentrated on whatever he’s writing while Haiji reads through a textbook.
Just like Prince, Haiji is a literature student. He’s seen the brown-haired leader a few times passing by the literature department, but he’s never actually seen him doing any work. Right now may be the first time. He’s not sure when he’s able to study with the workload of managing the team, cooking Aotake’s meals, and even caring for Nira. He’s not sure how school fits into his schedule because he secretly thinks Haiji’s already graduated with everything else going on. He’s not a senior in university anymore, he’s become the mother of Aotake instead.
The library is quiet, he can hear just about everything from pencils scratching away at papers, students flipping pages of text, and the rustling of backpacks being zipped open. He can even hear the conversations of students within a ten feet radius of him.
“You feeling ok, Kakeru?” Prince doesn’t mean to eavesdrop, but he can hear them so clearly, even if they were trying to whisper.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Just thinking over this question.” Kakeru responds, and turns to Haiji, “I’m the one who should be asking if you’re ok.”
“I’m fine, why?” Haiji asks curiously and Prince has no idea why he keeps listening from afar, “Is it because of last night?”
“Yeah, it doesn’t hurt anywhere?” Prince raises a brow, maybe Haiji got hurt yesterday. “Maybe it didn't feel good as you thought, usually it does.” And Prince doesn’t think that’s the case anymore. “Because I felt good.”
“No, I’m just glad we were able to do it.” Prince peeks through his bangs, his heart’s thumping because he remembers what Musa was talking about the other day. You just don’t lend your clothes to just anyone, Prince recalls. “I also felt really good too.” He can see Haiji smiling at Kakeru, that’s no normal smile, he’s read enough shoujo to know.
“I was worried,” Prince holds his breath when Kakeru responds in a lower, much softer tone, “it was your first time.” And he buries his face into his arms.
The idea of them dating never bothered him when he overheard Musa mumbling about a boyfriend shirt and Kakeru and Haiji to himself when they had all gone to the bathhouse. Prince does believe that they have something the other has, they compliment each other in ways he doesn’t think they realize yet. The relationship between them has been growing and bringing them closer together ever since they started working together to lead the team to Hakone. It’s admirable. The thing that has him cringing though is the fact that right now, he may be learning more than he needs to know.
“I’m a lot stronger than you think. Besides, I’ve done something similar before so you didn’t have to worry too much.” Prince grits his teeth and puts his hands over his ears when Haiji replies. ‘No more’ he thinks, who the hell talks about such an intimate topic like that in public. He’s glad no one’s sitting near them.
“Then let’s do it again.” Prince heard it anyway and he wants it to stop. Now. “Tonight.”
It’s one thing to know you’re roommates are together, but it’s another thing to know your roommates are also ‘doing it’ together. He knows Kakeru’s room is under his and have probably done it there. They could have done it in the bathroom too, he’s not sure but he sure as hell doesn’t want to know.
Prince gathers his stuff quickly and a little too loudly. He’s stuffing the books, the papers, the notes and makes haste to exit the library. But of course, when he tries to make a beeline without being noticed, it’s really just Kakeru and Haiji watching Prince run for five minutes through the library to the door.
“Was that Prince?” Haiji asks.
“Yeah, but he seemed in a distressed rush,” Kakeru says still watching Prince make it to the door. “I hope he’s ok. Should we check up on him?”
“We can ask him about it when we go back to Aotake.” Haiji goes back to writing.
“You’re right, we need to get back so I can get the ankle weights.” Kakeru agrees. “Then, you can try night running again.”
King is the fifth person to notice.
Compared to everyone else on the team, King had the least amount of training put into running when he skipped the first few practices when they started. He’s noticed the difference when they run and wonders if he’s holding back the team. No one thinks that, but he’s believed that he should do something about it anyway. So King decides to practice alone in the morning.
He wakes up a little earlier, taking his shoes, wearing an extra layer because of the cold weather, and he’s out the door running along the usual route they take.
King slows down when he sees the river come into view as he rounds the trail. Still running, he spots two other people by there. With the familiar colored tracksuits and one head of black hair and the other brown, he knows exactly who it is because of course, those two have woken up even earlier than everyone else, before practice too. He thinks they truly were crazy about running. Yeah, he definetly thinks they’re insane.
Kakeru is faced away from King so all he could see is the younger males back while Haiji stands in front of Kakeru discussing whatever it is running maniacs talk about. Haiji’s head is the only thing King can see since they were standing so close to each other. He chooses to meet up with them as he gets closer and then they can see how much he’s improved as a runner.
He’s about to call out to them, but Haiji takes a step closer towards Kakeru, closing the gap and leaning his face towards the younger runner.
Surprised, King trips and falls face flat onto the street. His face burns up not just from pain, but maybe from seeing something he wasn’t supposed to witness. They woke up earlier than everyone else not because they wanted to run, but so they could make out?! King didn’t even know they had that kind of relationship. Who else knew, he wonders. Was there something else they were hiding from him? If he knew they were doing something like this in the morning then he would have avoided at all cost to never run so early in the morning. And he feels worse that he almost ruined their little running date.
Then, it hits him, maybe they were trying to keep it a secret! That must be it, they probably don’t want to come out to everyone at Aotake ー at least not yet. And there’s a swell of pride that builds up in King’s chest, a sense of justice, dignity, and integrity that he will, shall, keep this secret with him until they were ready to tell everyone at Aotake. He looks back up at them with a smug smile.
“Don’t worry, lovebirds. Your secret is safe with me.” King leaves the scene before either one of his roommates notice him.
And as soon as King’s gone, Haiji steps back from Kakeru with something pinched in between his fingers.
“Yeah, it was definitely lint stuck in your hair.” Haiji flicks it off somewhere.
Besides Haiji and Kakeru, everyone is stretching and warming up in front of Aotake as they wait for the runners who are still inside. For some reason, the two are taking longer than usual and everyone gives off suspicious and curious looks to each other the longer they wait.
“I’m just going to say it,” Yuki breaks the silence, “they’re probably fucking right now.”
“Don’t say that!” Prince practically yells, catching a few of them off guard with the assertive claim. But they don’t understand, Prince thinks. They’ll never understand.
“How insensitive, Yuki.” King calls him out, “Just leave them alone, they have a lot going on. Let them have this.”
“I don’t believe it, it’s actually true,” Musa says mostly to himself, relieved.
“Thank god you think so too! I thought we were the only ones that knew!” Jota jumps up from his spot.
“What the hell are you guys talking about?” Nico-senpai asked dryly.
“Kakeru and Haiji are a thing.” Yuki explains, “I told you this before, you didn’t believe me.”
“They were literally just sitting next to each other.” Nico-senpai sighs out, rubbing the temples of his head for an oncoming headache as he readies himself to argue back
with Yuki. “They sit next to each other one time and you think they’re dating.”
“You don’t get it, you didn’t see what I saw that day!” Yuki reasons and Prince cover his ears because he’s thinking about it again. He’s thinking about his room, above Kakeru’s.
“Like how lovey-dovey they are.” Jota shivers at the thought, “I’m annoyed and happy and jealous of them all at the same time!”
“Maybe they’re doing it unconsciously,” Musa brows furrow in deep thought, “it comes so naturally to them because they have been dating for a while.”
“Dating? Haiji-san and Kakeru? Are you guys sure?” Shindo is skeptical but mostly confused. “It’s not good to start rumors.”
“They were flirting right in front of us, how could you guys not see that.” Yuki rubs his face to calm himself down. Why the hell was he working himself up over this?
“Did Haiji or Kakeru tell anyone that they’re dating?” Nico-senpai asks out loud. By everyone’s silent reaction he knows the answer clearly.
“Whether they are or not,” Shindo adds, “it’s really none of our business. If they tell us, then they tell us.”
“Or we can ask!” Joji exclaims loudly.
“Joji, it’s really not our place to pry-“ But before Shindo can finish his sentence, the front door to Aotake opens and the brown-haired runner comes out.
Haiji closes the door behind him casually but is caught off guard when everyone stares at him with a tense atmosphere floating about. He feels their eyes burning holes in him more than usual and he’s not sure what he’s done this time as Aotake’s demon. “What’s up, everyone?”
“Haiji-san, are you dating someone?” Jota blurts out and everyone, besides Joji, sighs audibly.
“Dating someone?” Haiji echoes.
“We saw how you two were, in the kitchen, making our dinner.” Jota accuses with Joji nodding alongside him.
“They did it in the kitchen too?!” Prince cries, settling himself into a fetal position on the ground.
“We were? Who is we?” Haiji asks, clearly confused.
“Kakeru.” Musa joins in, “He was wearing your clothes, Haiji-san.”
“My clothes? From last week? His allowance is sent out once a month and he used most of it on rent so he didn’t buy his necessities.” Haiji explains. “I let him borrow an extra pair of clothes because he didn’t buy detergent yet.”
“But you were all over Kakeru during the party for Nira.” Yuki puts his two cents in.
“Haiji does get touchy when he’s drunk,” Nico-senpai recalls.
“But I saw them kiss!” And King’s claim is the most pivotal, controversial point to out Haiji on. A Jo twin gasp, Musa grips Shindo’s arm tight, and Prince is having none of it. “By the river in the morning. It happened two days ago.”
“Two days ago?” Haiji reflects upon that morning, considering the different possibilities, ”The only time I got close to him was to pick something out of his hair.”
Once again, for the second time today, in less than thirty minutes, and everyone besides Nico-senpai and Shindo, is stunned silent. The tension isn’t awkward, but it’s also not comfortable. No one knows what to say.
“Where’s Kakeru?” Nico-senpai finally asks, breaking the silence.
“He has an appointment this morning so he’ll be missing morning practice. I was going to tell you we will be starting without him.” Haiji responds calmly.
“Oh,” Yuki replies breathlessly.
The door to the front door opens again and Kakeru comes out in casual clothes. “I thought you started practice already?” he asks Haiji.
“We just did, we’re leaving soon,” he replies back.
“Ok well then, I’m off.” Kakeru starts walking past a few residents, “Oh wait,” then he quickly turns back on his heel and comes up to Haiji. Kakeru’s hand snakes around to the small of Haiji’s back to pull him close and lean towards his face, giving him a brief, chaste kiss. “I almost forgot. Now I’m off.”
Kakeru either doesn’t care or notice everyone’s mouth drop at the nonchalant act of intimacy towards their team captain. And as the younger runner jogs away, everyone stares back at Haiji with the most betrayed expressions he’s ever seen on their face.
“Also, yes, I am dating someone and it is Kakeru.”
“Yuki noticed you playing around with my hand during the party.”
“That’s because I like your hands. But Musa noticed you wearing my clothes.”
“You said it out loud. Also, I like wearing your clothes I thought you liked it in the morning after we go to my room and-“
Prince screams when he passes by the kitchen and overhears the rest of Haiji and Kakeru’s conversation.