Hajime Shino is in love with a lot of things – flowers, for example, and starry night skies. He’s in love with the smiles of people in love, their eyes that light up when they catch sight of their special someone, their hands that fit together as if they’re two halves of a greater whole. He’s in love with the concept of love itself, with how it changes people, makes them sweeter, brighter, happier, how even the iciest of hearts can be melted by the warm touch of love.
He’ll admit he’s always been a bit of a hopeless romantic.
Perhaps that’s why his heart is pounding so hard right now. It is Valentine’s Day after all, and he is alone with the boy he maybe, possibly harbours something a little bit more than just platonic feelings for, with a plan that could maybe, possibly ruin their precious friendship of four years. Strangely enough, he finds he’s not actually that nervous – not nearly as much as he should be, anyway – and when Tomoya takes his hands in his, it’s like any last remaining shreds of doubt still floating around in his head just disappear.
“Are you okay, Hajime?” Tomoya asks softly. “You look like you’re on another planet.”
He nods, shifting his grasp on Tomoya’s hands so that their fingers are intertwined. “I’m fine, Tomoya-kun, I promise.” And for once, he really means it. As long as Tomoya is by his side, he can’t be anything but fine.
“Good… I’m so glad.”
They’d sneaked off together, just the two of them, after Ra*bits’ Valentine’s Day performance earlier that day. Hajime still feels a little guilty about that, but he doubts the others will mind; Nii-chan seemed like he was busy talking to Anzu anyway, and Mitsuru had long since wandered off with his track club seniors. Yumenosaki’s Chocolat Festival is still in full swing, and if 1-A’s otherwise empty classroom is anything to go by, most students are still over at the auditorium, watching or participating in the evening’s live shows. With another twinge of guilt, he realises he should probably be there too – he should cheer for his friends who had supported Ra*bits earlier, after all – but then he notices Tomoya lean in ever so slightly so that their foreheads are just touching, and suddenly they might as well be the only two people in the world.
It’s like a scene out of one of his sister’s shoujo manga. The golden light of the sunset flooding the classroom, the sweet scent of chocolate lingering in the air, and Tomoya, lovely, princely Tomoya, holding his hands, gazing at him so fondly… There’d never be a more ideal opportunity to set his plan in motion. Everything had fallen into place so beautifully, so perfectly, it almost felt as if the universe itself had lined up specifically to bring this moment into existence.
“What are you thinking about?” Tomoya asks, and Hajime can feel his warm breath on his lips. “You can tell me about it, you know… If you want.”
He does want.
“I… have something I want to give you,” Hajime says.
“Oh?” Tomoya looks mystified, even more so when Hajime reluctantly releases his hands and reaches into his pocket. From there, he retrieves a small, heart-shaped box, tied neatly with a pretty red ribbon, and then offers it to his friend.
“Happy Valentine’s Day, Tomoya-kun.”
An odd little noise somewhere between a gasp and a squeak escapes Tomoya’s lips, and Hajime can’t help but giggle a little. He really is so cute…
He gives himself a little shake. He can’t let himself get distracted, not now, not when he’s gotten this far and doesn’t know if he’ll ever get a chance like this again.
“Um!” he continues, “This is… This is to say thank you for everything you’ve ever done for me. Really, I don’t know how I’d do anything without you here, always supporting me and helping me so patiently… You’re so special to me, Tomoya-kun, and I really, really wanted you to know that! Th-That’s why…” He pauses for a moment, steadying himself, absolutely not allowing his anxiety to get a hold on him today. “That’s why I’m giving you these chocolates. They’re, um, a bit different to the ones I made for the ChocoFes guests. I made these especially for you, and I added an extra secret ingredient…”
He takes a deep breath. It’s now or never.
“It’s my love for you, Tomoya-kun! Because I… I love you so very much…”
He feels like he might faint, or perhaps float away, and desperately wishes he was still holding onto Tomoya to keep him tethered to the ground. And Tomoya, sweet, perfect Tomoya, seems to read his mind as always. He reaches out, not yet taking the chocolates but instead gently cupping both of Hajime’s hands in his – and only then does Hajime fully register Tomoya’s flushed cheeks and his trembling hands and his mouth hanging open as he stares at him incredulously, eyes wide with amazement.
“H-Hajime… Hajime, you…” Without warning, he lets out a relieved, almost giddy laugh. “Hajime!”
Startled, Hajime takes a step back. Tomoya had just strayed from the script he had so perfectly planned in his head, and he’s not entirely sure how best to ad-lib his way through the situation. “Wh-What is it, Tomoya-kun?”
“You just— I was going to— Look, let me just show you.” Beaming, he quickly reaches into his pocket and produces a small, flat box, not unlike the one Hajime is holding right now.
He holds the box out to Hajime, still shaking slightly, and says, “You kind of stole my thunder, you know? Because I wanted to give you these first. They’re… nothing as amazing as your homemade chocolates. I had to buy them, because I’m not as good at cooking and stuff as you are, but!” He swallows. “They still have all my sincere feelings behind them, okay?”
“Feelings…?” Hajime breathes.
Tomoya’s blush deepens. “Yeah, this isn’t exactly, like, friend-choco… It’s more like… I wanted to tell you, ‘thank you for always being there for me.’ Whenever I’m with you, my heart and mind both feel so completely at ease, and you’re like, the only person who ever makes me feel like I’m special or even someone worth being… Honestly, you’re probably my favourite person in the world, and… I-I’m not really very good with words, and I know we’re both guys and all but… after all these years of being my friend, you probably know what I’m trying to say, right? H-Hajime—!”
In hindsight, he probably should have given Tomoya a bit of warning before throwing himself at him, almost knocking him into a desk as he sends both boxes of chocolates flying – but at that point he doubts either of them is thinking rationally enough to care. Of course he knows what Tomoya is trying to say, and it’s a hundred times better than anything he’d ever expected. His heart soars as he feels Tomoya wrap his arms around him, and in that moment, he knows he’s in love – truly, deeply, ridiculously in love – with the boy who’d seen something special in him when the rest of the world hardly bothered to spare him a second glance.
“Have I ever told you I think you’re the cutest person in the entire universe?” Tomoya asks breathlessly.
“I love you,” Hajime murmurs in response. It’s the only thing on his mind right now.
It’s strange, he thinks, that most people see Tomoya as plain. If only they could see him though Hajime’s eyes – illuminated by the soft light of the setting sun, that sweet, loving smile on his face – if only they could see him like that for just one second, they’d quickly realise that he’s the most beautiful person in the world. And how the sunset suits him; its light accentuates his faint freckles, brings out golden glints in his hair and in his eyes, bathing him in a glow that makes him look almost ethereal… He’s so radiant, just like a prince or perhaps an angel, that Hajime can scarcely help himself. In a moment of daring, he leans in and, ever so briefly, presses his lips against Tomoya’s.
It’s a feather of a kiss; so light and fleeting that Tomoya hardly gets a chance to react. Hajime jerks away so quickly, so violently, it’s almost as if Tomoya’s touch had burned him – and with how hot his face feels right now, it might as well have. There’s a lump in his throat and he swears his heart is doing somersaults and when he looks up and sees Tomoya gaping at him, blinking in surprise, the only thing stopping him from running is the fact Tomoya’s arms are still wrapped tightly around his waist.
“I-I’m sorry, Tomoya-kun!” he says, his voice cracking as the panic starts to set in. “I’m so, so sorry! I don’t know what just came over me! I just—”
“Hey, Hajime…?” Tomoya tentatively cuts him off. “Could you maybe, like… do that again?”
He must be a little delirious, he thinks, because there’s absolutely no way he’d just heard Tomoya right, and his voice comes out as a hysterically high-pitched squeak as he somehow manages to stutter out the word, “Wh-What?”
“Please, um… kiss me again, Hajime.”
Tomoya flashes him a kind, albeit somewhat bashful smile, and once again, Hajime finds that’s all he needs for every last one of his fears to just melt away. Its magical, really, that just one person has the power to make him feel like that – so warm, so loved, so safe – and as his lips meet Tomoya’s for the second time, he naturally finds himself smiling too. Neither of them really has any idea of what they’re doing, he realises, but it’s fine – more than fine – because he’s kissing Tomoya, and Tomoya is kissing him back this time, and he’s sweet and gentle and his lips are soft and it’s so much better than anything Hajime could ever have dreamed of.
They break apart and he barely has time to catch his breath before Tomoya’s lips are on his again – and then he finds himself wondering just how long Tomoya has wanted this. He wonders how long he’s wanted it. It’s been a while, he thinks; maybe a year or so of pining after his best friend, of holding his hand and desperately wanting more, of never knowing when or even if the day would ever come where he’d be in his arms, holding him close, kissing him – just like he is right now. He feels Tomoya awkwardly move one of his hands to cup his cheek, pulling him even closer in an attempt to deepen the kiss – but then registers the somewhat painful sensation of their noses and foreheads bumping together and quickly pulls back, stifling a wheezy laugh.
“T-Tomoya-kun, what was that?” Hajime asks playfully. He rubs his nose, vaguely aware of how much his face hurts – and it’s not just because of their little mishap just now. His cheeks are aching from smiling so much and his eyes are stinging with happy tears and every part of him is overflowing with such pure, unadulterated happiness that it’s actually starting to make him feel a little dizzy.
Tomoya, on his part, looks positively mortified. “Aah, I-I’m sorry… I just… got a bit carried away, and… Wait, are you okay? You’re not going to faint on me, are you? Hajime!”
“I’m alright,” Hajime says, unable to suppress a giggle. He is swaying a bit, or perhaps the room is, he isn’t sure – but either way, Tomoya’s arms are keeping him well off the ground. “Please don’t worry, Tomoya-kun! I’m just so, so happy right now.”
“Th-That’s… That’s good. Because I’m happy too, you know?”
“I love you.”
“I like, um…” Tomoya gives an embarrassed cough. “I love you too. I mean, you’ve probably already figured that out, but…”
“Probably,” Hajime says, giggling again.
“Oh shush, you.” Tomoya says, but his tone is fond and he’s smiling affectionately and once again Hajime feels his warmth envelop him as he wraps him up in another tight hug.
They stay like that for a little while, holding each other close, just feeling each other’s breathing and touch and heartbeats as a comfortable silence falls between them. It’s somehow even more intimate than kissing, Hajime thinks. They don’t need chocolates, or fancy Valentine’s Day decorations, or even words – they just need each other, and unspoken reassurance that things are going to be okay. He nuzzles into the crook of Tomoya’s neck, earning a contented little sigh – and in that moment the entire universe is reduced to just two boys hugging in an empty classroom, two boys secure in the knowledge that they both love each other beyond words, two boys who, since the moment they’d met, saw the world in each other even when the world had seen nothing in either of them.
A few minutes pass, and Tomoya clears his throat. “We should probably, uh, get back to the auditorium soon. People are going to start wondering where we are.”
“Mm…” Hajime assents.
They reluctantly let each other go, and Tomoya bends down to pick up the chocolate boxes that had previously been thrown so unceremoniously to the floor. In all honesty, Hajime had long since forgotten about them – he’s had much sweeter things to be thinking about, after all – but he takes his Valentine’s Day gift from Tomoya and pockets it, and then takes Tomoya’s hand in his. It’s a familiar gesture, something they’d been doing for years, but at the same time everything is so different that Hajime can’t help but feel a little thrill when Tomoya gives his hand a light, reassuring squeeze. As they exit the classroom together and start making their way back to the buzz of the school’s Valentine’s Day festivities, Hajime once again finds himself thinking about how he really is a hopeless romantic – but that’s okay.
Because, yes, Hajime Shino may be in love with a lot of things – but above all else, he’s in love with Tomoya.
And Tomoya is in love with him.
And right now, as the sun sets on Yumenosaki Academy and the best Valentine’s Day of his life starts drawing to a close, that’s really, truly all he could ask for to be happy.