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“Shōta?”

The noise is a rude awakening, and Shōta grumbles something impolite, attempting to bury his face deeper into his arms.

“Shōta!”

A hand reaches out to shake him. It’s not enough to make Shōta open his eyes, though, keeping them stubbornly shut and instead reaching out to bat away the hand tugging at his shoulder. But unfortunately, it doesn’t dissuade the person trying to wake him, and Shōta finally cracks his eyes open when the person yells, “Shōta!” at a volume that’s a little too loud for comfort.

Shōta hates waking up to see Yamada Hizashi looking down at him, if only because the sight of Hizashi’s bright green eyes always makes his heart skip a beat.

It’s terrible to experience half a heart attack right after regaining consciousness.

“What?” Shōta grumbles, his voice a little muffled by his arms.

“Class is over,” Hizashi says, removing his hand from Shōta’s shoulder. A part of Shōta wishes he’d put it back. “The chime just rang.”

Shōta sighs, but drags himself into an upright position, stretching his arms. His shoulder cracks loudly and Hizashi makes a face, wrinkling his nose, and Shōta tries not to find it cute.

He fails miserably.

“You shouldn’t sleep in class so much,” Hizashi says as Shōta busies himself with shoving his books into his bag. “You’ll fail the next round of exams if you keep this up.”

“I don’t sleep during anything important,” Shōta snorts. He stands up from his desk and slings his bag over his shoulder, before starting towards the classroom door.

“You sleep during English all the time!” Hizashi protests, as he falls into step next to Shōta.

“Like I said,” Shōta drawls, giving Hizashi as unimpressed look, “nothing important.”

Also not paying attention during English class gives him an excuse to study with Hizashi. It’s much more interesting to hear Hizashi explain relative clauses while pressed up next to him in a cramped family restaurant booth – not that he’d never admit that particular motive.

“You know, I’m going to tell Arakaki-sensei you said that,” Hizashi huffs. “Also, I can’t believe picking parts for the cultural festival play wasn’t interesting enough for you to stay awake for!”

“What did I get?” Shōta asks.

“Set design,” Hizashi answers as they come to a stop in front of the shoe lockers. “Which means you get to paint wooden trees all day.”

Shōta makes a satisfied noise and digs his shoes out of his locker, setting them down on the ground.

“You know, some people wanted to cast you as the princess,” Hizashi says, narrowing his eyes at Shōta. “The only reason I was able to veto it was by pointing out that I’d have to be the one to kiss you.”

Shōta finds himself frozen for a split second, halfway through putting on his shoe.

“What role did you get?” Shōta asks, trying to keep his tone steady, watching Hizashi’s expression out of the corner of his eye.

“The prince,” Hizashi answers, shooting Shōta a rakish smile that does uncomfortable things to Shōta’s insides. “So the main character.”

“Congrats,” Shōta replies dryly.

“Ryuto’s the princess,” Hizashi adds, once he’s finally finished slipping on his shoes. He pauses, scrunching up his nose, and adds, “Well, prince, I guess. I don’t think they’re going to make him wear a dress or anything. It was almost Tensei, but he decided he’d rather be the king, probably because he didn’t want to memorize that many lines.”

Hizashi rambles on about play, a steady stream of noise that Shōta’s long since grown accustomed to tuning out. Unlike Hizashi’s voice, though, he’s unable to ignore his own thoughts as he wonders what would have happened if he had actually been cast as the princess and been forced to kiss Hizashi.

After all, it would have probably been the only opportunity he’d ever get. Maybe he should have stayed awake after all.

“I guess Ryuto’s kind of cute, though,” Hizashi muses, bringing Shōta back down to earth.

“It’s just a play,” Shōta snorts as they pass through the school gates. “It’s not like the kiss means anything.”

“Well, yeah, but I’d still rather kiss someone cute than someone ugly,” Hizashi replies, looking over at Shōta with his lower lip pushed out into something dangerously close to a pout.

“Then I feel sorry for Ryuto, if he has to kiss you,” Shōta says dryly.

“Hey!” Hizashi squawks, indignant. “I’m plenty cute!”

Shōta is well aware of this fact, but he still shoots Hizashi his best skeptical look.

“I’m so cute that two people have confessed to me this year,” Hizashi huffs, crossing his arms over his chest. “And Kayama-senpai called me cute once.”

“She called me cute too,” Shōta snorts.

“I mean, you are,” Hizashi replies. His tone is matter-of-fact as he says it, big green eyes innocent as he looks at Shōta, and Shōta can feel heat creeping up his neck at the casual proclamation.

“I’m not cute,” Shōta finally manages, hoping his voice comes out more annoyed than flustered.

“Sure you are!” Hizashi replies, a grin spreading over his face. “Just look at your adorable face!”

He reaches out to pinch one of Shōta’s cheeks, still a little pudgy with baby fat, despite the way the rest of Shōta’s body is steadily growing into adulthood. Shōta bats his hand away, trying to ignore how red his face has flushed, and shoots Hizashi a glare, but the reaction just makes Hizashi laugh and go back in for another assault against Shōta’s chubby cheeks.

Things dissolve from there, and soon enough they find themselves in front of the train station. Shōta’s hands throb slightly from the effort of slapping Hizashi’s own hands away from his face, and he tries to ignore the rapid thump of his heart in his chest, heartrate elevated from messing around with Hizashi, even if it was nothing more than childish play-fighting.

“So, are we doing this at your place or my place today?” Hizashi asks, breaking Shōta abruptly from his thoughts.

It takes a moment for Shōta to figure out what Hizashi is referring to.

“We can study at yours,” Shōta answers, searching around for his wallet as they head for the station entrance. “I need help with English.”

“You know, you wouldn’t need help with English if you’d stay awake during class,” Hizashi huffs, waiting for Shōta to wipe his train pass over the scanner, before repeating the action with his own card.

“Your explanations are easier to understand,” Shōta says simply.

“That – ” Hizashi sputters, and Shōta’s amused to see the tips of his ears turn slightly pink. “Flattery will get you nowhere.”

Shōta arches an eyebrow at Hizashi in reply.

“You know, I’m going to collect on this eventually,” Hizashi huffs as he tries to keep up with Shōta’s strides. “The next time I need help, you better be there!”

“Your grades are practically perfect,” Shōta snorts, giving Hizashi an unimpressed look. He pauses, and then adds, “Unless you want me to correct your shitty hand to hand techniques?”

Hizashi grimaces and says, “I’ll think of something.”

Shōta’s pretty sure he’ll forget about it in less than a week.

---

Hizashi sighs for what seems like the millionth time in the past hour.

Shōta tries to focus on his math homework and ignore it, but he’s never been particularly good about keeping his mind off of Hizashi, and he can’t quite stop himself from sneaking a glance over at him.

They’re studying at Hizashi’s place again, sitting on the floor around the low table in the middle of Hizashi’s room. Hizashi has an elbow propped up on the table, chewing absentmindedly at the end of his pencil as he stares off into space, and Shōta finds his eyes lingering for a moment too long on the way the pencil presses into Hizashi’s plush lips.

Maybe it would be better if they didn’t study alone in Hizashi’s room, while his parents are out. Not that anything would ever happen between them, but at least the presence of other people in the house helps keep Shōta’s dirty imagination from running wild.

“Hey, Shōta.”

Shōta freezes as he meets Hizashi’s bright green eyes and realizes he’s been caught staring.

“What?” Shōta huffs, trying his best to sound annoyed at being interrupted from his studies.

“You said you’d pay me back for me helping you with English, right?” Hizashi says, thankfully oblivious to Shōta’s ogling.

“Yes,” Shōta replies, eyeing Hizashi a little warily.

Hizashi hesitates, but then says, “So for the play, I have to kiss Ryuto. But I’ve never actually kissed someone before.”

The confession makes Shōta blink at Hizashi for a moment.

“You haven’t?” Shōta blurts out, the words spilling past his lips before he can stop them.

“It just – I just haven’t had the chance, okay?” Hizashi sputters. His cheeks turn a little pink and Shōta tries not to find it cute. “It’s not like I’ve ever dated anyone.”

“Why not?” Shōta asks, his forehead creasing slightly and the corners of his mouth turning down in a frown.

“Why not?” Hizashi repeats, giving Shōta a strange look.

“You’re popular,” Shōta clarifies. He breaks eye contact with Hizashi, looking back down at his math homework, and adds, “And attractive.”

“You think I’m attractive?” Hizashi blurts out, and Shōta’s heart pounds in his chest as he wonders if he’s just given himself away.

“Objectively,” Shōta replies. He keeps his tone as steady and nonchalant as he can manage.

For a moment, Hizashi’s quiet. In fact, Shōta’s just starting to panic, wondering if he’d gone to far with that comment, when Hizashi says, “So you’d kiss me, then?”

Shōta’s head snaps up in surprise and he stares at Hizashi for a moment.

“If you think I’m objectively attractive, I mean,” Hizashi adds. His face has turned a frankly alarming shade of red, and it’s a little fascinating. “Like – as practice?”

It takes a second for the last of Hizashi’s words to finally sink in, and Shōta’s forehead creases as he repeats, “Practice?”

“You know, for the play,” Hizashi explains, rubbing his hand awkwardly against the back of his flushed neck. He peers across the table at Shōta, pretty green eyes framed by thick framed glasses instead of his usual sunglasses, and Shōta’s heart skips a beat. “So that way I won’t have my first kiss on stage and embarrass myself in front of the entire student body.”

“You want to practice kissing with me,” Shōta says slowly, trying out the words in his mouth.

“I help you with English, you help me with making out?” Hizashi asks, a small, slightly nervous smile tugging at his lips.

“I’ve never kissed anyone either,” Shōta replies. His brain still feels like it’s short-circuiting a little, wires mixed up enough that it’s somehow making him hallucinate Hizashi asking to kiss him.

“Then we can both learn!” Hizashi announces, as if this is trying out a new game and not making out with your best friend. Platonically.

“I – ” Shōta starts, but then cuts himself off. Part of him wants to say no, because kissing Hizashi can only make his hopeless crush worse, but instead he finds his eyes glued to Hizashi’s mouth, lips a little red and plump from when he’d been playing with his pencil earlier.

“You don’t have to if you don’t want to,” Hizashi says, biting his lower lip nervously. It definitely doesn’t help Shōta concentrate on the conversation at hand. “I guess I could ask Tensei or someone – ”

“I’ll do it,” Shōta interrupts, mouth moving faster than his brain.

“Really?” Hizashi asks, eyes going wide.

“People will start spreading weird rumors about you if you go around asking people to kiss you,” Shōta huffs, trying to ignore the rapid beating of his heart in his chest.

Hizashi blinks at him for a moment, but then a knowing smile spreads across his face. Shōta freezes as he wonders if he’s been caught, but instead Hizashi says, “It’s okay to admit that you’re curious too, you know.”

“I’m not curious,” Shōta huffs, although he can feel his face turn even redder than before.

“Really?” Hizashi asks, arching an eyebrow at Shōta.

Before Shōta can retort, though, Hizashi pushes himself up onto his knees and leans over the table, pressing into Shōta’s personal space. Whatever Shōta was going to say vanishes from his mind completely, his heart pounding so hard he’s almost worried it’s going to beat out of his chest, and idly he wonders if he’s going to die from a heart attack induced by Yamada Hizashi kissing him.

In the end, the kiss is so feather-light that Shōta almost misses it.

It’s barely a brush of lips, tentative and brief. In fact, Shōta almost wonders if Hizashi had actually kissed him, or if he’d just knocked their faces together.

“That’s it?”

The words spill past Shōta’s lips before he can stop them, and Hizashi blinks at him owlishly.

“Did I do it wrong?” Hizashi asks, his forehead creasing as he looks over at Shōta.

“I thought kisses were supposed to be more…” Shōta says, eyeing Hizashi’s endearingly confused expression. “… involved.”

“Oh,” Hizashi replies.

For a moment, the two of them fall into an awkward silence. The longer it stretches on, the more Shōta starts to wish he hadn’t said anything, and was just content with stealing Hizashi’s first kiss, no matter how brief and unspectacular it had been.

Something occurs to Shōta and he hesitates.

“I guess it’s good we’re practicing.”

The statement makes Hizashi blink at him, still looking lost. It’s a frustratingly cute expression and just makes Shōta want to kiss him more, and almost before he knows what he’s doing, he makes his way around the table to press up into Hizashi’s personal space.

Although this kiss isn’t exactly intense, it’s still more than the last kiss was.

Hizashi freezes up upon first contact, his eyes open wide, but they slowly slide shut as Shōta maintains the kiss instead of pulling away. Of course, Shōta’s still not entirely sure what to do beyond pushing their mouths together, so he tries shifting their position a little, getting up closer into Hizashi’s personal space.

In the process, Shōta finds himself bracing his hand against Hizashi’s thigh. It makes Hizashi twitch, jumping under Shōta’s fingertips, and Shōta starts to pull away, wondering if he’s gone too far, but before he can, Hizashi makes a soft noise at the back of his throat and starts pushing back against Shōta, eager for more contact.

The action catches Shōta a little off guard and he unwittingly parts his lips. The startled noise he was going to make gets caught in his throat, though, as Hizashi opens his own mouth, turning the kiss into a sticky, wet clash of mouths.

It’s unbearably warm, and Shōta’s only able to maintain the contact for a few moments before breaking away.

Shōta blinks blearily at Hizashi, panting as he tries to catch his breath. It’s not as if they’d kissed long enough to actually require Shōta’s full lung capacity, but his breathing has sped up to match the rapid beating of his heart in his chest, shallow and quick. His lips tingle with the phantom sensation of Hizashi’s mouth against him, and they’re unbearably wet, sticky with what must be a combination of Hizashi’s saliva and his own, lingering proof that Hizashi had just kissed him.

Or, well, he’d kissed Hizashi, technically.

“Is it supposed to be that, uh,” Hizashi says, his voice gratifyingly breathy, “wet?”

“I don’t know,” Shōta answers truthfully.

For a moment, the two of them fall into silence again.

“Maybe we should try again?” Hizashi suggests, looking over at Shōta with those pretty green eyes of his.

Instead of replying verbally, Shōta leans in again.

---

Shōta has been trying to ignore Hizashi for the past half hour.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t been working very well.

Then again, he’s never been terribly good at ignoring Hizashi, and it’s even harder than usual right now, with Hizashi actively seeking attention, standing onstage and reciting lines in a clear, resounding voice.

“Fair prince, I would traverse unhospitable mountains and battle ferocious monsters just for an audience with you, for the hope that I could win your favor – ”

Shōta grits his teeth and glares down at the wooden tree he’s painting an annoyingly cheery shade of green. Not for the first time, he wishes they could work in the art room instead, but it’s already been taken over by class B, making the sets for their haunted house.

So Shōta is stuck listening to Hizashi recite sappy lines to an annoyingly pleased looking Ryuto.

At least they won’t have to kiss until they get most of their lines down, and are able to move on to proper staging.

The thought of Hizashi kissing Ryuto takes Shōta’s mind in an uncomfortable direction, and his face heats as an image of Hizashi, lips red from kissing, pops into his head. They’d kissed for far longer than they should have the other day, in the name of “practice,” and part of Shōta wants to huff about Hizashi making ridiculous excuses to make out, but, well, in Hizashi’s mind it probably does make sense.

After all, as well as Hizashi hides it, he’s ridiculously self-conscious. Having his first kiss in front of a crowd of people is probably his worst nightmare, for fear he’d mess things up and reveal he’s never been kissed before.

Messing up in front of Shōta doesn’t matter, though. Shōta’s pretty sure Hizashi hasn’t actively tried to impress him since first year, and they’re halfway through their third year by now.

Then again, it got him Hizashi’s first kiss, so maybe it’s not entirely bad.

“Hey, Aizawa, you haven’t fallen asleep again, have you?”

Shōta shoots Matsumoto a mild glare as he slaps another glob of green paint down on a bare section of wood. A bit of paint splatters down onto the floor and he grimaces, but thankfully someone had had the foresight to lay down a tarp, so it doesn’t really do any damage.

“We have five more trees to paint,” Matsumoto continues, hands on her hips. There’s a smear of brown on her cheek which blends in almost completely with her skin tone, and green on her fingertips which does not. “You can space out in history class instead.”

“Are you trying to get Fujita-sensei to kick my ass?” Shōta huffs, but he dips his brush in the can of paint next to him again.

“I mean,” Matsumoto replies, the corners of her lips quirking up into a smile, “it would be interesting.”

Not for the first time, Shōta wishes his classmates were still intimidated by him, like they were when he’d first transferred from gen. ed. This is probably Hizashi’s fault, he thinks, by sticking to him relentlessly enough that everyone else figured they could get away with it to, at least to a certain extent.

Then again, he can’t really say he regrets letting Hizashi badger him into friendship, even if it’s come with the unfortunate side-effect of a massive crush.

Shōta focuses back on painting the tree and Matsumoto goes off to do whatever it is she’s supposed to be doing. Also painting trees, probably.

Still, even if Shōta tried to avoid zoning out again, it’s hard to remain focused when all he’s doing is slathering a piece of lightweight wood in green paint, with Hizashi reciting lines less than half a room away.

“Have I won his highness’ favor?”

The soft tone of Hizashi’s voice breaks what little concentration Shōta was attempting to hold onto, and before he can stop himself, he glances up at the stage.

Even though they’re just supposed to be reciting lines right now, apparently Hizashi’s incapable of tuning down his natural drama, and has dropped down on one knee in front of Ryuto. He reaches out to take ahold of Ryuto’s hand, delicately grasping his fingertips, and gazes up at Ryuto in a way that makes Ryuto’s face turn a frankly improbable shade of red.

Shōta actually kind of pities the guy. He’s been on the other end of that look often enough to know that Hizashi’s stupid baby face is nothing short of angelic when he breaks out that sweet, pleading look.

Of course, Shōta’s pity for Ryuto doesn’t entirely erase his jealousy.

Abruptly, he’s reminded of Hizashi calling Ryuto, “kind of cute,” and he finds himself wondering if maybe the whole “kissing practice” thing is less so that Hizashi doesn’t embarrass himself in front of the entire school, and more so that he doesn’t embarrass himself in front of Ryuto.

Shōta clenches his teeth and glares back down at the wooden tree, pressing his paintbrush against it a little harder than necessary. Hopefully Matsumoto won’t come back to yell at him about ruining school equipment.

Maybe he really should have taken the part of the princess.

---

“Hey! I’ve been looking for you everywhere!”

Shōta looks up from where he’s been trying to scrub the paint out from under his fingernails for the past ten minutes.

“You could have just staked out the entryway,” Shōta says, grabbing the bar of soap and coating his hands one last time. “I would have had to come through it eventually.”

“Well,” Hizashi says awkwardly, “yeah.”

“Or you could have just headed back by yourself,” Shōta continues, washing the soap off his hands. It looks like it helped the greenish tinge of his skin a little bit, but maybe that’s just wishful thinking.

“Actually, I was, uh,” Hizashi replies, shoving his hands in his pockets and rocking back on his heels nervously. “I was kind of wondering if you wanted to, you know. Practice. Again.”

Shōta gives him a blank look.

“For the play,” Hizashi clarifies. The tips of his ears have turned a little red, and it’s annoyingly cute.

Shōta blinks as he processes Hizashi’s statement.

“You want to practice kissing again?” Shōta asks, trying to ignore the way his heartrate increases at the thought. A small, secret part of him had been hoping that Hizashi would want more than one “training” session, but he’d expected Hizashi to take a little longer to bring it up, if he ever did.

“Don’t say it out loud!” Hizashi sputters, looking around the bathroom, as if he’s expecting someone to pop out from around the corner ask, “Wait, you guys kissed?”

For a moment, Shōta hesitates.

After all, while part of him had been hoping for this, the logical side of him knows that he shouldn’t go along with it. He shouldn’t have kissed Hizashi that first time, for that matter, because it can’t possibly be good for his emotions in the long run, kissing Hizashi so that Hizashi can go kiss someone else.

Unfortunately, though, thinking about Hizashi always seems to drown out the voice of logic in his mind. Maybe it’s a secret ability of Hizashi’s quirk.

“You want to kiss me again that badly?” Shōta drawls as he shakes his hands dry.

“I didn’t mean it like that,” Hizashi protests, his flush spreading from his ears to his cheeks. “I just need more practice. I mean, what if I go in too quick and, like, smash our foreheads together and give Ryuto a concussion or something?”

“So it’s okay if you give me a concussion in the name of practice?” Shōta asks, giving Hizashi an unimpressed look.

“You have much better reflexes than Ryuto,” Hizashi replies, returning Shōta’s look with a grin. Shōta actually feels a little flattered by the sort-of-compliment.

For a moment, Shōta hesitates, but in the end, his desire to kiss Hizashi again wins out.

“Fine,” he mutters as he turns to head for the bathroom door. “But you’re treating me to ice cream sometime later this week.”

“Like convenience store ice cream or real ice cream?” Hizashi asks, sticking to Shōta’s heels as they start down the hallway.

“A parfait,” Shōta answers.

Hizashi grimaces, but doesn’t bother to protest.

Which, consequently, is how Shōta finds himself frozen in the doorway to Hizashi’s room as Hizashi plops himself down on his bed. Somehow, he’d been expecting to do this on the floor again, kneeling against the soft green rug spread out over the wooden flooring, but now that he thinks about it, there’s no particular reason why they wouldn’t use Hizashi’s soft, comfortable bed.

Except for the fact that Shōta is now uncomfortably aware of the fact that Hizashi’s mother isn’t home and he’s had more than one inappropriate dream about study sessions in Hizashi’s room migrating to the bed instead.

“Having second thoughts?”

Shōta blinks, broken abruptly from his thoughts.

“You know, you don’t have to do this if you don’t want to,” Hizashi says, rubbing at the back of his neck awkwardly. He doesn’t meet Shōta’s eyes. “I promise I’ll back off if you tell me to, and like I said, I can always see if someone else – ”

An ugly, dark feeling coils in Shōta’s chest at the thought of Hizashi kissing someone else, and he bites out, “I’m fine.”

With that, he marches across the room, drops his bag down onto the floor and climbs up onto the bed next to Hizashi. Hizashi’s face goes a little pink, and Shōta wonders if it’s in anticipation of what they’re about to do.

For a moment, neither of them move, sitting on the bed awkwardly.

It occurs to Shōta that except for that first, brief brush of lips, he’d initiated all of their kisses last time. The realization makes his heart beat fast in his chest, palms going sweaty if he wonders if Hizashi had noticed, and if he did, if he’d made anything of it.

“Shouldn’t you be the one initiating the kiss?” Shōta finally asks, breaking the silence. He tangles his fingers in Hizashi’s bedsheets, searching for something to ground him.

“Me?” Hizashi asks, frowning slightly as he looks at Shōta.

“Isn’t the price supposed to sweep in and kiss the princess?” Shōta clarifies, arching an eyebrow at Hizashi.

“Prince,” Hizashi corrects. “It’s two princes now.”

Shōta gives him an unimpressed look, and it actually makes Hizashi fidget slightly. He bites his lower lip, peering over at Shōta from under his glasses – the thick-framed nerdy ones he’d replaced his sunglasses with upon getting home – and it makes Shōta want nothing more than to lean in and bite Hizashi’s lower lip himself.

Instead, he stays put.

“Well, I guess if you want a kiss from me that much,” Hizashi says, but the smirk he flashes Shōta is a little strained.

In the end, he presses into Shōta’s personal space with more confidence than Shōta had been expecting. It’s not a fast encroachment, but there’s something deliberate about the way he closes the distance between them, maintaining steady eye contact right up until their mouths touch, finally letting his eyes slip closed.

The kiss starts out light, almost as gentle as the first kiss they’d shared.

After a moment, it intensifies, Hizashi pressing against Shōta’s mouth a little harder. Shōta’s stock still, his heart pounding fast in his chest and his hands clenched into fists against the mattress, but then Hizashi parts his lips slightly.

It’s a tentative movement, unsure. He repositions his mouth a little to suck on Shōta’s lower lip, and it finally makes the tension drain out of Shōta’s body, a soft noise slipping out of his mouth before he can stop it. Apparently the reaction makes Hizashi bolder, and he sucks on Shōta’s lip a little harder, making it sticky with saliva in a way which should be unpleasant, but somehow isn’t.

Hizashi moves further into Shōta’s personal space, knees bumping together as the kiss devolves into something sloppier. Shōta’s mouth has fallen open a little, and Hizashi’s given up on sucking on Shōta’s lower lip in favor of moving their mouths together as instinct dictates, the contact so warm and overwhelming it makes Shōta dizzy.

Their noses knock together, clumsy as they shift their position a little. Hizashi’s glasses are in the way too, Shōta thinks idly, their bulky frames pressing up against his cheeks and the tip of his nose.

Shōta can feel Hizashi’s teeth, now that their mouths are open. It’s a strange sensation.

Eventually, though, they have to break apart.

Hizashi’s glasses are a little skewed and his breathing has gone heavy, lips still parted and mouth obscenely pink. It sends a rush of heat through Shōta, somehow even more so than the actual act of kissing Hizashi, and suddenly all he can think about is the fact that they’re sitting on Hizashi’s bed.

“If you kiss Ryuto like that on stage, you’ll probably get chewed out by half the teachers,” Shōta finally manages, his voice embarrassingly rough.

“What?” Hizashi asks, broken out of his daze.

“When you kiss Ryuto,” Shōta clarifies, trying to ignore the way his chest tightens as he says it, “you should probably keep your mouth closed.”

“Oh,” Hizashi replies, a little absently. His eyes are fixed to Shōta’s mouth, and Shōta wonders if his mouth is as swollen as Hizashi’s is. “Uh, yeah, I’ll, uh. Keep that in mind.”

Shōta nods curtly, his teeth pressed tight together.

For a moment, Hizashi hesitates, but then he asks, “Can we try with my glasses off?”

Shōta’s not sure he’ll survive it, but he says, “Okay,” anyway.

---

“This is,” Shōta says as he blinks down at the menu, “fancy.”

“Hm?” Hizashi asks, looking up from the glossy, laminated sheet of specials he’d been examining. He’s wearing contacts for once, although his trademark sunglasses are hooked into the neckline of his fitted t-shirt, and Shōta tries not to think about the last time he’d seen Hizashi barefaced like this.

Lately they’ve been practicing… a lot. More than they need to, probably – not that Shōta has any desire to point that out to Hizashi.

“I mean, you said I had to buy you a parfait, right?” Hizashi replies, looking back down at a expertly photoshopped picture of a cinnamon apple parfait that looks almost larger than his head. “Figured we might as well go out for the good stuff.”

“As long as you’re paying,” Shōta snorts, burying his face further into the menu.

Ever since they’d set foot in the restaurant, he’s been uncomfortably aware of the number of couples at the nearby tables. Of course, it’s not as if it’s entirely couples – there’s a gaggle of college age girls not far away, and what looks like an older brother with his two younger siblings nearby – but at least half of the customers look like they’re on a date.

Shōta tries not to think about how he really wouldn’t mind if this outing was a little less platonic.

“The cinnamon apple parfait looks really good,” Hizashi muses, propping his elbow up on the table and resting his cheek on his hand. “I’m not sure I could eat all of it, though.”

He looks over at Shōta expectantly, and Shōta narrows his eyes.

“I’m not sharing a parfait with you,” Shōta replies, fixing his eyes back on the menu.

“Awww, come on,” Hizashi protests, his lower lip pushing out in a pout. It’s a disgustingly good look on him.

“You said you’d buy me a whole parfait, not half of one,” Shōta says, doing his best to remain unmoved by Hizashi’s protests. Part of him is actually tempted to share with Hizashi, to make this outing even more like a date, but at this point he should probably be trying to set boundaries.

Also, he wants all the ice cream he can get.

“Fine,” Hizashi huffs, cheeks puffing up in indignation.

It takes a few more minutes for the two of them to decide on parfaits, and a bit longer for them to order and get their food. Shōta resolutely avoids looking at the couple seated next to them, both pressed together on the same side of the table and making embarrassing doe eyes at each other as they share a cinnamon apple parfait.

Shōta tries to convince himself he doesn’t at all regret rejecting Hizashi’s offer of sharing a parfait.

Thankfully it’s easy to lose himself in his conversation with Hizashi, though. Hizashi’s always been the talkative type, and Shōta finds himself suppressing a smile more than once as Hizashi recounts an incident with his neighbor’s cat, hands waving around as he overexaggerates what was likely a completely mundane interaction.

And if Shōta’s eyes happen to linger on Hizashi’s mouth for a little too long as Hizashi licks the remaining ice cream off his spoon, well, no one has to know. If anything, it’s Hizashi’s fault for having such an oral fixation.

“So,” Hizashi says, after they’ve paid for their parfaits and step outside the cafe. He runs a hand through his hair, an uncommonly nervous gesture, and Shōta frowns as he wonders where this conversation is going. “Would you wanna go see a movie?”

Shōta blinks at him slowly.

“The new All Might film is out now,” Hizashi rambles. He starts to comb his hand through his hair again, but then catches himself and shoves it in his pocket instead. “Or there’s also that horror flick, if you’d rather see that. The one with the cursed necklace or whatever?”

“I thought you were going to see the All Might movie with Tensei,” Shōta replies, frowning slightly as he studies Hizashi’s expression.

“I mean, I can go twice,” Hizashi says, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.

For a moment, Shōta hesitates, but then he says, “Let’s see the horror film.”

“Hey, like I said, I’m fine with seeing the All Might movie twice,” Hizashi protests, following after Shōta as he starts in the direction of the theater. “You don’t have to hold back on my account.”

“I don’t like the new actor they picked to play All Might,” Shōta replies. “He doesn’t have the right build to pull it off.”

Hizashi blinks at him, apparently caught off guard, but then a grin spreads across his face, and he says, “Uh huh. Your celebrity crush is showing.”

Shōta shoots him a glare, and then increases his walking pace.

Which, consequently, is how he finds himself tucked away in the back of a darkened theater next to Hizashi. The movie has been out long enough that there aren’t many other people, and other than him and Hizashi, the back few rows are completely deserted.

Shōta pops a piece of caramel popcorn into his mouth and watches as the haunted necklace sucks the blood out of the man on screen, leaving him a withered husk.

Next to him, he hears a strangled noise.

Shōta glances over to find that Hizashi’s sunk so far down in his seat that Shōta wonders if he can actually see the screen anymore. The way he’s covered his face with his hands probably isn’t helping either, despite the way he occasionally peers through the small openings between his fingers, before snapping them closed again.

“Aren’t you supposed to be a hero?” Shōta asks, once he’s swallowed his mouthful of popcorn.

Hizashi startles and almost falls out of his chair.

“I – ” Hizashi sputters, his face red as he looks over at Shōta. “Heroes deal with, like, normal villains! Not cursed necklaces!”

“There could be a villain out there with a quirk that lets them drain people’s blood via necklaces,” Shōta replies, unmoved by Hizashi’s protests.

“Are you trying to give me nightmares?” Hizashi groans, burying his face in his hands again.

“You agreed to see this movie,” Shōta points out, although truth be told, as cute as Hizashi is when he’s terrified of mediocre special effects, Shōta feels a little guilty about dragging him into this.

For a moment, Hizashi’s quiet, but then he mutters, “You wanted to go to it.”

Shōta’s torn between punching something and combusting on the spot, in order to deal with his feelings.

Instead of doing either, though, he says, “Do you want to leave?”

“What? No!” Hizashi blurts out, dropping his hands slightly, so that his face is a little more visible. “I’m fine.”

Shōta gives him a skeptical look.

“I’m just gonna, uh,” Hizashi mumbles, sinking down lower into his seat, “cover my eyes for a bit.”

Part of Shōta wants to insist that he really is okay with leaving halfway through the film, but unfortunately, he’s well aware of how stubborn Hizashi can be, and he doesn’t particularly want to have a drawn-out argument in the middle of the theater, no matter how few people are in it.

Still, it’s hard to focus back on the movie. Shōta finds himself hyperaware of Hizashi next to him, curled up in his seat and flinching at small noises. Shōta’s not exactly sure how to help, though, beyond just dragging Hizashi out of the theater, and he chews on his lower lip as he searches for a solution, only half paying attention to the hysterical woman wielding a kitchen knife on screen.

Something occurs to him.

“Hizashi,” he says, leaning over the armrest in between their seats. Hizashi peeks out at him from between his fingers, and Shōta reaches up to gently push away Hizashi’s hands, revealing his face.

Then, he leans in for a kiss.

Hizashi stiffens up for a moment, clearly caught off guard, but after so much time spent “practicing,” it doesn’t take long before he instinctively relaxes back into the kiss. Shōta reaches up to cup Hizashi’s cheek as he slots their mouths together, brushing his thumb gently over the curve of Hizashi’s cheekbone as he presses against Hizashi’s lips, nothing particularly involved, but a steady pressure.

It’s a little strange to not feel the occasional contact of Hizashi’s glasses frames against his face, and idly Shōta wonders how Hizashi feels about his stubble, if he enjoys the scrape of it or is bothered by it.

Instead of asking, though, Shōta parts his lips slightly and deepens the kiss.

He can feel Hizashi let out a soft, shaky sound against his mouth, but it gets swallowed up as Shōta kisses him, slow and wet. Hizashi trembles under his fingertips, but it’s a good sort of trembling, more like an overwhelmed, anticipatory shiver than anything else, and Shōta takes it as permission to drag things out a little more.

Shōta kisses Hizashi slowly, every movement careful and deliberate. As ridiculous as the notion of “kissing practice” is, he can’t deny that it’s improved his technique, changing it from an awkward, wet clash of tongue and teeth into something softer and more intimate.

And, when he finally feels like Hizashi’s steadied himself again, he pulls away.

Hizashi seems too dazed to pay attention to the rest of the movie.

---

Despite all of the “practicing” he and Hizashi have been doing, somehow Shōta had almost forgotten that Hizashi would have to kiss someone on stage.

They’ve moved past script reading by now and have most of the stage directions down. So far, Hizashi’s only had to practice dipping Ryuto, instead of doing the actual kiss, and although Shōta can’t say he likes it, he’s mostly desensitized himself to Hizashi spewing out cheesy romantic lines while staring into Ryuto’s eyes.

However, he nearly drops his paintbrush when he hears the director say, “Okay, let’s start rehearsing the kiss now.”

Shōta’s heart pounds in his chest as he stares down at the rosebush he’s been painting an uncomfortably bloodlike shade of crimson.

“Should I put my hand on his lower back or upper back?”

It’s Hizashi’s voice, smooth and unperturbed. Shōta frowns, forehead creasing as he realizes that Hizashi’s hands only ever stray to his hips while kissing, and never to anywhere as delicate or vulnerable as his lower back.

“Let’s try one hand on his lower back and one on his cheek,” the director replies.

Shōta dunks his brush back into the bucket of green paint with a little more force than is strictly necessary.

“Good, like that,” the director continues. “Ryuto, try to relax a bit.”

“I don’t bite,” Hizashi quips, and Shōta can practically see the winning smile he’s shooting at Ryuto.

Liar, Shōta thinks. He can still feel the phantom sensation of how Hizashi’s teeth had dug in to his lower lip the other day while practicing, a little too rough to be entirely pleasant, but not so much as to squash the low simmer of arousal in Shōta’s stomach.

“I’m going to kiss you now,” Hizashi says, his voice impossibly gentle. “Is that okay?”

Apparently Ryuto nods, because the stage goes silent for a moment. The slap of Shōta’s paintbrush against the wooden rosebush feels far too loud, but at least he doesn’t hear any of the wet, viscous sounds of intense kissing, which he’s become far too familiar with recently.

Shōta resolutely does not look over at the stage.

“Not bad, not bad,” the director says, presumably after Hizashi and Ryuto have pulled apart again. “Although Ryuto, you still look kind of stiff. This is supposed to be a fairytale kiss, sparks flying, birds singing, all that jazz.”

“Sorry,” Ryuto replies, a little too quick and a little too nervous.

“Hey, don’t worry,” Hizashi laughs. “Practice makes perfect, right?”

Shōta nearly stabs a hole through the rosebush with his paintbrush.

The director calls for another run through of the scene, and before he can stop himself, Shōta abruptly stands up. Matsumoto will probably chew him out later for neglecting his glorified gopher duties, but the pressure in his chest is so heavy and intense that he’s sure if he sticks around to see Hizashi kiss Ryuto again, he’s going to do something stupid.

So with that, he turns on his heel and marches out of the auditorium.

He doesn’t leave with any specific destination in mind, so he makes a couple of awkward loops around the third year hallway before finally heading over towards the training fields. There’s no one out here at this hour – everyone’s probably too occupied with their own class’ preparations for the cultural festival – and Shōta finds himself standing awkwardly on the edge of the grounds for a moment.

Then, he breaks into a run.

He’s still in his uniform, but it seems like too much effort to go change into his gym clothes now, even though he’s sure his clothes will be soaked in sweat by the time he’s satisfied. Honestly, he’d rather work out his mess of emotions by punching something, but there’s nothing for him to hit out here, and even if there was someone he could spar with, right now, he kind of wants to be alone.

Running, he supposes, is the next best thing. The longer he goes, the more his lungs ache, respiratory system struggling to keep up with his steady, intense pace. It downs out a bit of the pain deeper in his chest, though, and the lack of oxygen helps his mind go a little more blank, a little more detached from the image of Hizashi kissing Ryuto like it was nothing.

Shōta’s not sure how long he runs for, in the end. Long enough to stain the back of his shirt with sweat, at any rate, and long enough that his throat starts to feel dry with dehydration.

He collapses back against a tree at the edge of the training grounds, chest rising and falling with heavy breaths. He grimaces as a few dark specks encroach on his field of vision, and he wonders idly if he should drag himself back inside and find a drinking fountain, or if he should just rest here for another few moments.

“Shōta!”

Shōta blinks the spots from his eyes and looks over to find Hizashi jogging towards him, his lips twisted down in a concerned frown.

“Hey, what happened?” Hizashi asks as he comes to a stop beside Shōta. Shōta catches a glimpse of his reflection in the dark lenses of Hizashi’s sunglasses, and he grimaces. “Matsumoto says you ditched all the sudden.”

“Needed some air,” Shōta mutters, tearing his eyes away from Hizashi. “The paint fumes were getting to me.”

“Oh,” Hizashi says. He pauses for a moment, and then adds, “You still should have told someone, though.”

“I thought you said set design would let me slack off,” Shōta snorts, shooting Hizashi an unimpressed look.

“I mean,” Hizashi replies, a little awkwardly. “You still have to do something.”

For a moment, the two of them fall into silence. Hizashi hesitates, fidgeting slightly, but finally he plops himself down onto the ground next to Shōta, sitting cross-legged in the grass. He opens his mouth as if to say something, but then closes it again, biting his lower lip and fiddling with the hem of his uniform pants.

Finally, he says, “So, uh. Did you see my kiss with Ryuto?”

Shōta grunts an affirmative.

“How – ” Hizashi starts, uncommonly uncertain. “How was it?”

There’s a few bland platitudes on the tip of Shōta’s tongue, assurances that Hizashi didn’t embarrass himself in front of the whole class, but the he looks up to meet Hizashi’s eyes and the words get caught in his throat.

Instead, he drags himself over to Hizashi and slides into his lap.

“You need more practice,” he mutters, voice low and rough.

If Hizashi has any indignant protests, they get swallowed up in the ensuing kiss.

---

The cultural festival passes in something of a blur.

Hizashi continues to kiss Ryuto during rehearsal, light, family friendly pecks on the lips that somehow still make Shōta paint set pieces as aggressively as if they’ve insulted him, and he’s trying to cover up the smug looks on their faces.

He and Hizashi still practice kissing, though, sprawled out on Hizashi’s bed in increasingly inappropriate positions. It’s hard to argue that what they’re doing is actually preparation for the play, when more often than not it ends with Shōta hobbling to the bathroom to take care of the uncomfortable situation in his pants.

Of course, they’ve never taken anything further. Shōta’s not sure if he’s disappointed or relieved.

The play itself creates a similar tangle of conflicted emotions within Shōta. As a member of the set design crew, he doesn’t have anything to do during the actual performance, beyond watching from the audience. It’s amusing to see Hizashi strut around the stage in his elaborate costume, cape swirling behind him and gaudy crown shimmering on his head, even though Shōta’s heard the lines recited so many times he almost has them memorized by now.

The kiss is less entertaining. Despite the briefness of it, or maybe because of the briefness, it seems infinitely more romantic than any of the kisses he and Hizashi have shared, stolen away in secret places like the confines of Hizashi’s bedroom, or the darkness of the back of a theater.

The wolf whistles that erupt from their classmates in the audience certainly don’t help Shōta’s jealousy either.

However, somehow, it’s not until Shōta’s sitting in English class on the Tuesday after the cultural festival that it occurs to him that he no longer has an excuse to kiss Hizashi, now that the play is over.

“You’re not sleeping with your eyes open, are you?”

Shōta glares at Hizashi as he’s abruptly broken out of his thoughts.

“Why do you always assume I’m sleeping?” Shōta huffs, gathering up his things from his desk.

“Because half the time you are?” Hizashi suggests, arching an eyebrow at Shōta.

Unfortunately, Shōta can’t really argue with that, so instead he occupies himself with cramming his books into his bag.

“Hey, so do you wanna come over to my place and study?” Hizashi asks, leaning against the side of Shōta’s desk. For a moment, Shōta’s heart skips a beat, but then he remembers that now that the play is over, study sessions in Hizashi’s room really will be just study sessions.

“Sure,” Shōta answers, trying to keep his tone cool and steady as he slings his bag up over his shoulder.

Hizashi grins at him, and as Shōta’s heart stutters in his chest, he wonders if his crush has somehow gotten even worse than before.

The train ride to Hizashi’s place proceeds as it usually does. Hizashi spends the entire time talking Shōta’s ear off about his newest radio show obsession, and Shōta does his best to make appropriate sounds of acknowledgement, while instead getting lost in the shimmer of Hizashi’s bright green eyes.

And like usual, Hizashi announces that he’s home to an empty apartment, his parents still at work for the day. Shōta slips off his shoes and follows Hizashi back to his bedroom, where Hizashi plops himself down on the floor, shrugging off his uniform jacket and then digging his textbooks out of his bag.

Everything is perfectly normal.

Shōta settles himself down on the floor across the table from Hizashi. He opens his own bag and sifts through the books inside, but although he lingers on his English notebook for a moment, in the end he pulls out his math textbook.

He needs something logical and straightforward, which won’t remind him of Hizashi.

“Oh god,” Hizashi says, his face screwing up in a grimace as he eyes Shōta’s math textbook. “Did I tell you how Ikehara-sensei took three points off my last math test because I ‘didn’t use the right format’?”

“At length,” Shōta replies dryly, flipping the book open to their current unit. “Although in his defense, the answer you gave didn’t perfectly prove what the question asked you to prove.”

“All the parts were there!” Hizashi protests, his cheeks puffed up indignantly. “See, this is why I like English better. If someone asks me, ‘How’s the weather today?’ there are a ton of correct answers to pick from, like ‘It’s sunny,’ or ‘It’s kind of hot, but the weather forecast said it should cool down later,’ or – ”

“Hizashi,” Shōta interrupts, his tone a little flat. “I’m trying to work.”

Hizashi falls silent and gives him a sheepish look.

Unfortunately, though, even though Hizashi’s gone quiet, Shōta still can’t fully ignore him.

He tries to immerse himself in the problems spread out in front of him, but instead he finds himself looking at Hizashi out of the corner of his eye, watching the way Hizashi’s forehead creases in concentration as he puzzles through his homework.

Hizashi starts chewing on the end of his pencil, and suddenly all Shōta can think about is how much he wants to kiss him.

Instead of acting on that urge, though, Shōta looks back down at his textbook. He can feel himself gripping his pencil too tight, an uncommon stiffness in his shoulders, and when he tries writing in his notebook, the lines come out dark with force.

The second time his graphite breaks, he clicks his tongue in annoyance, the noise coming out louder and a little more aggressive than he’d intended.

“You look tense,” Hizashi says, and Shōta stiffens even more as he looks over to find Hizashi examining him.

“I’m fine,” Shōta mutters, averting his eyes and breaking eye contact.

For a moment, Hizashi hesitates, but then he says, “You know, I’ve gotten pretty good at making you relax.”

The statement surprises Shōta into looking up again, and he finds himself caught in Hizashi’s gaze, pupils wide and dark, pretty eyes framed by light colored eyelashes. Shōta freezes for a beat before he manages to speak.

“The play’s over.”

The words come out curt, a little clipped. Hizashi blinks at him, caught off guard.

“Well, yeah,” Hizashi replies. He reaches up to run a hand through his hair, and it occurs to Shōta that it’s been a while since he’s seen this particular nervous gesture. “But it’s still fun.” He peers across the table at Shōta, worrying his lower lip with his teeth. “I mean, you like it, don’t you?”

“I,” Shōta says, haltingly, “just don’t want anyone to… get the wrong idea.”

Hizashi’s face goes suddenly, terribly pale.

“How – ” Hizashi starts. He cuts himself off, swallowing thickly. “When did you realize?”

Shōta frowns, forehead creasing as he tries to processes Hizashi’s question.

“Was it when I kept asking you to practice with me, even after I’d started actually kissing Ryuto in rehersal?” Hizashi asks, his hands fisted tight into the fabric of his uniform pants. “Or when I tried to take you out on a date, and sat through that whole horror movie just because – ”

“Date?” Shōta blurts out, before he can stop himself.

“Well, not really a date, because everyone involved has to agree that it’s a date for it to actually be a date, but – ” Hizashi rambles, color returning to his pale face, but this time in the form of a flush.

Shōta leans over the table and cuts him off with a kiss.

It’s a brief one, chaste. Almost as fleeting as that first kiss they’d shared, when Hizashi had pressed their mouths together in for the barest brush of lips.

When Shōta pulls away, Hizashi’s gaping at him.

“When I said I didn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea,” Shōta says, maintaining steady eye contact with Hizashi, “I meant me.”

“Oh,” Hizashi replies. He sounds a little faint.

“And if you’d told me that movie was a date,” Shōta continues, making his way around the table to press up into Hizashi’s personal space, “I would have said yes.”

“Oh,” Hizashi repeats, and Shōta hasn’t even kissed him properly yet, but there’s a gratifyingly breathy edge to his tone. Shōta also doesn’t miss the way Hizashi’s eyes dart to his lips for a split-second.

So Shōta leans in to kiss Hizashi again.

Hizashi makes a soft, needy sound as Shōta kisses him, and although Shōta’s heard it a million times already, somehow knowing what it means now makes something warm bloom in his chest. Although he wasn’t originally planning on taking this kiss too far, he finds himself parting his lips, making the contact wetter and a little more intense, and he tries to create even more contact than before, bringing a hand up to tangle in Hizashi’s hair and bumping his legs against Hizashi’s.

Hizashi reacts with eager enthusiasm, reaching up to wrap his arms around Shōta – but unfortunately, in doing so, it makes Shōta lose his balance, and he finds himself toppling down onto Hizashi, pressing Hizashi into the floor.

Their teeth scrape and their noses knock during the fall, and when Shōta pulls away and blinks down at Hizashi, Hizashi peers back up at him through skewed glasses.

“I, uh,” Hizashi says, cheeks a little pink, “think we need to practice more?”

Shōta snorts out a laugh and then leans in to kiss him again.