The weight of last night crashes over Kaito's head when he awakens.
Which is to be expected. The man Kaito fixated on for ages, fantasizing about, gazing up to in wonder. Wanting. Pining. Waiting. That man not only asked to cuddle with him, but kissed the back of his hand oh-so tenderly. Kaito stared at the wall all night that night in shock. Every time he willed himself to sleep, the returning thoughts would shake him awake once more. That wasn't some dream or a figment of his imagination. Gakupo kissed his hand. A million platonic excuses flooded his head, justifying his predicament. Gakupo was sleep-deprived and delusional, it was an intense moment of friendly bonding, friends can kiss each other's hands when they're cuddling, Gakupo didn't mean anything by it.
His stupid optimistic idealism shot the rational thoughts down, one by one, with a single question. But what if Gakupo did mean something by it? What if, in the middle of all this, of meeting in a group home, graduating, and being roommates for three semesters, Gakupo had grown to enjoy Kaito's company. More than a friend could. Or should, he reminded himself, because this wasn't a good idea. He thought of it as childish and naive to imagine the whole "childhood lovers" concept to be anything but a farce. That was from cheesy anime and the rare doujin manga Kaito would buy and keep absolutely 100% hidden from Gakupo-- because he didn't need to know about that, thank you very much. Those were works of pure fiction, and the world would present him a cruel reality in the face of his true desires.
Kaito could ruin a friendship. Could ruin his future. This is the man he loved more than anything, and if he lost Gakupo, he'd lose his main source of stability. Of familiarity. Of normalcy. Gakupo wasn't some crush, he was there at Kaito's lowest moments and was the first person to not freak out when he saw Kaito rolling up his sleeves in the group home. He didn't care about scars or baggage or other dumb shit Kaito carried with him, and even offered to share the burden.
And Kaito shared Gakupo's burdens in turn.
Imagine losing that. Over a crush.
Kaito is gay, Gakupo is gay, but that doesn't mean they're together. It doesn't make them destined to be a couple. Gakupo will find some other fantastic man one day, one that will dazzle him and delight him for years to come. And on that day, Kaito will rejoice with him, and begrudgingly let his own desires subside. He looks forward to it, in a way, because he can let this all go. All of it. He will only have to be a close friend.
Kaito couldn't talk about this, he decided an hour after giving the drywall an unblinking death stare.
Gakupo mumbled in his sleep and flipped himself over to face Kaito. He wrapped an arm tight around Kaito's torso, and nuzzles his face into Kaito's shirt-- right against his sternum. He mumbled Kaito's name into the fabric.
And he arrived back to square fucking one.
It's cloudy outside, so the sun doesn't filter through the window like it usually does. The campus could receive the gift of extra rain, which would mean even more thunderstorms. Terrible for Gakupo, but that also means more cuddling, so Kaito felt a small pang of guilt for wishing for bad weather. Really, he wants to help Gakupo overcome this fear, so he will not need assistance. When that happens, Kaito will return to his own bed and continue to hug his pillows at night the same way he used to. Though, now that Kaito had the real thing, he can't imagine holding a bunch of cotton as better than the love of his god damn life.
He yawns and tries to wiggle away. Gakupo has him in a sleepy death-grip, his nose whistles quiet in his slumber. He doesn't know he's doing it. Gakupo bends a leg and wraps it around Kaito's, which secures him in place.
This man is going to fucking kill Kaito one day. Even in sleep he's making his life a nightmare of resisting urges and trying desperately to not get excited in some way. Kaito hisses under his breath as his face turns red. Naked grandma, naked grandma, he conjures uncomfortable images in his head to keep himself from arousal.
"Gaku. Wake. Up." He growls through gritted teeth.
"死ねばいいのに、ね。。。" he says to himself with a hint of hysteria, since he knows Gakupo can't hear a word.
He suffers in silence, and manages to make it through without a boner-- a minor fucking miracle. Gakupo stirs from his slumber a half an hour later, when Kaito finally grew comfortable with the position. Gakupo shudders and presses closer to Kaito, whom immediately wishes a death sentence upon himself and for this muscled bastard. Of course this happens when he just got used to it.
"It's so damn cold. Did you kick off the sheets?"
"That was you, since you can't stop tossing around for five minutes" Kaito shoots back, not in the kindest of moods since he's half-awake and without coffee. As kind hearted as he might be, a morning person he sure isn't.
"So it was you," Gakupo smirks with his eyes still shut. Little shit. "I forgive you because you helped me last night, though. In my infinite mercy…"
"I…really do owe you though. For last night. Thanks," Gakupo finishes, his smirk softens to a smile.
Gakupo doesn't put any thought into petting Kaito's hair, but it's context is so different than before last night. Kaito is really going to lose his mind, isn't he? Gakupo's hands feel so nice massaging his sensitive scalp. Kaito remembers Gakupo being the only one in the group home who could help get stubborn knots out of Kaito's incredibly thick hair.
Back then they were just getting to know each other, but now, that feeling is replaced with…
He leans into his touch and smiles with Gakupo. He can't stay grumbling and rude for long, not when Gakupo makes him soft. Maybe that's the key to solving this. If he can't beat the feelings, he has to embrace them. Gakupo fills him with warmth, with joy, with love, so much love. He can't ignore it. He has to say something, do something, confess something, or he might explode, his heart can't stop pounding in his chest and rattling his ribcage, god dammit--
Gakupo leaves him all too soon. Kaito's left wanting. He grips onto his dignity with an iron-first, all he craves is extra physical contact now that he's not a blushing mess and he wants to plead for more attention. No, he reminds himself, he's desperate, but he can't ask for more. Not now.
Maybe later. Hopefully later.
He blinks away the sleep in his eyes. By the time he sits up, Gakupo is in the shower and the bathroom door is locked shut. Okay, he can let out that breath he didn't know he held in for so long. He stretches his arms and legs, and makes his way to the kitchen. It's the Saturday, so breakfast was made hot and fresh by Kaito. It's routine. Besides, he loves to cook. Or, rather, cooking is a hassle and tedious, but he loves seeing how happy Gakupo is to eat a good meal.
Kaito cracks open eggs and stirs them in a bowl with chopsticks. His mind wanders to Gakupo discussion off-hand about what it was like to go hungry as a kid. He lived off ramen and cheap vegetables, sometimes even less if his mother didn't get tipped well that evening. Since then, Kaito determined he'd let Gakupo taste as much good food as he could manage to make.
Kaito greets Gakupo with a bowl of omurice and leftover miso soup after his brief shower. Gakupo bows his head and thanks Kaito, then offers to turn on the kotatsu. It's small, since they couldn't fit a giant one into the dorm room. Gakupo insisted on the purchase after spotting it in the gigantic Asian market across town. Kaito was loathed to spend extra money, but did see value in the purchase over time. Southern California housing is built usually to resist heat, not maintain it, so it made what they considered frigid cold winter nice and toasty.
Kaito pulls the blanket up to his shoulders and stares down at his personal bowl of miso. He's not hungry. The tension fried his nerves and destroyed his appetite.
Or at least he feels his own tension. Gakupo looks more than content, relaxed as he tore into the omelette with a fork. Kaito used to tease Gakupo for being a "がいじん", what with never using chopsticks, before he noticed Gakupo's chronic shaking hands. Forks are easier to grip.
That's easier to focus on. Another story of the past, rather than figuring out what the fuck to do now. He didn't realize his gaze moved to Gakupo's hold on his utensil.
"What? Are you gonna make fun of this again?" Gakupo asks when he notices Kaito's thoughtful stare.
"Mm?" Kaito blinks from confusion. He doesn't realize what Gakupo's implying until Gakupo wiggles the fork side to side in his hand. Oh, that's what he's talking about, Kaito was watching that intensely.
"N-no, never! I know your hands shake, I don't think that's funny, Gaku."
"Good, my mom wouldn't let me hear the end of it. Back in the day." Gakupo's little smile eased the tension.
Kaito nods back to Gakupo. Okay. Stare somewhere else and think about how to present this. Should he be objective about it? Joke about his love? Flirt? Kaito would rather flirt with anyone else in the world right now. If he attempts to with Gakupo, he will stumble over his wording and melt into a dumb homosexual puddle on the ground. Bad idea. He can present it like a business inquiry. Hello, Mr. Kamui, you create deadly fire that burns in my loins, and often I find myself wanting to dip you in my arms and kiss you under the moonlight, please sign and initial here and I will be your boyfriend.
That almost sounds weird enough to work with someone like Gakupo, but no.
He can't be honest and gushy and risk pushing Gakupo away either. God, did Gakupo even like him, or were these just the normal boundaries he had with tight-knit friends? He's never seem Gakupo kiss someone else's hand, or cuddle with them, or do their hair, but it's a possibility. He's projecting. Kaito just wants to be loved back. This isn't real-
"Not in an omurice mood?" Gakupo interrupts Kaito's internal downward spiral.
"I..." Kaito clears his throat. "I guess I'm not very hungry this morning. I might be sick."
Gakupo puts down his fork. "You made coffee, right? I know you get headaches without it." He ruffles Kaito's hair and stands up from the table. "I'll make you some."
It's the tiniest gesture, but the unexpected physical contact stuns Kaito.
Is Gakupo getting bolder?
Kaito zones out harder than before, fading into a foggy mist until a mug appears in front of him, along with a Gakupo with his hair up in a ponytail once more.
"That should do the trick. I added hot chocolate, I know you like it that way."
"Thank you-, I-, uhm, thank you," he stumbles over his words. He pays attention to how I like my coffee?, he thinks to himself as he cradles the chipped red mug in his hands.
"You'll eat now, right?"
"I will. In a minute or so…"
"'Kay. I just worry."
"You… have concerns?"
"Sometimes. I know you don't eat when you're upset."
God, Kaito feels like a giant idiot. He suspected that everything goes over Gakupo's head when it comes to his habits, but here he is, able to unravel Kaito's root coping mechanisms without him ever once speaking about it.
"I'm not upset, I swear. I'm a little nervous about midterms, you see."
Gakupo looks at him, sympathetic with crinkled eyes. He doesn't look like he buys it, but he nods to Kaito anyways.
"If you ever want to talk, I'm here for you. Only a few inches away, most of the time," Gakupo says with a giggle. Gakupo's cheeks turn red, and Kaito cannot recall ever seeing anything so adorable in his entire existence on this gay, gay earth.
"You always are," Kaito agrees. He finishes off his coffee.
Okay. Deep breath.
"What's going on?" Kaito asks, plainly, not confrontational.
"Eh? What do you mean?"
"I don't understand what has been happening lately."
"There's something happening?"
"Ma-maybe," he stutters. Well, there goes his line of thought. He wanted to imply vague about what had happened, then for Gakupo to take notice and follow along. But he's oblivious to everything. So Kaito stops talking.
"You forgot to button up the rest of your shirt, you know." Gakupo says as he reaches across the table. He fixes the buttons, and adjusts Kaito's collar.
"Gakupoooo…" Kaito whines in defeat as he slumps forward. "You're killing me." This is absolute torture.
"Huh? Did I hurt you, or…?"
"You're doing this on purpose, aren't you."
Gakupo's eyebrows furrow. "Should I stop?"
"No. Maybe? Nnh… fuck…" Kaito doesn't curse this often, so Gakupo knows outright that something is wrong.
Gakupo sighs. He crawls out from under the kotatsu's blanket and over to Kaito's side of the table. He sits on his knees next to Kaito, and pokes his shoulder.
"Oioi, sit up. Just for a second."
Kaito stays put, and mumbles into his arms. "Why did you kiss my hand last night? I can't stop thinking about that."
"Sit up and I'll tell you," Gakupo replies. Kaito has no idea what to expect, but he obliges. Gakupo cups Kaito's jaw in one hand, and plants a kiss on his forehead.
"Gakup-" Kaito sputters in frustration, not another god damn kiss that meant nothing, please, anything but that. Gakupo cuts him off.
"I like you, Kaito."
Kaito swears to god, the entire earth stood still for a solid minute. He froze in silence. He heard that correctly. Gakupo, the friend a million miles out of his league, just confessed. Before Kaito had the chance to say it first.
Gakupo takes the silence as rejection, and slowly slinks away.
"It's alright, you don't have to feel the same way. I understand."
"I-I..." Form coherent sentences, he begs himself, think and speak, he thinks you don't like him back. His eyes open wide and he already misses that hand that held his cheek moments ago.
"Really. It's cool. There's nothing wrong with that."
"Gakupo." Kaito snatches Gakupo's shoulder as he tries to turn away, and keeps him in place. It's now or never.
"Kiss me already," Kaito demands. He's sick of waiting, and refuses to dance around the subject anymore.
"We don't have t-"
"Stop making me feel like an idiot and kiss me. I want to be able to kiss you back."
Gakupo gulps. Kaito spots the guilt in his eyes. Gakupo only now came to the conclusion that Kaito liked him back-- and he had put so much strain on Kaito up until now.
Gakupo's lips are plush and soft against his own. They have to be, after all, Gakupo obsessively applies lip balm, especially during the fall when it's windy. Gakupo sighs through his nose, and that tickles Kaito's cheek. Kaito snakes his arms around Gakupo's waist. Gakupo nips at Kaito's lower lip, light and playful. Kaito gasps and pulls out of the kiss. He tries to look upset, but he can't help but grin.
"You're such a piece of work," he chides Gakupo.
"And you love it." He boops Kaito's nose with his pointer finger. "C'mere."
Gakupo lies down on the carpeted floor, and pulls Kaito on top of him. He pulls the kotatsu's blanket back over both of them.
Kaito has died and gone to heaven.
They lie there together. The silence this time is coupled with comfort, not a strained choking atmosphere like before. Kaito rests his head in the nook of Gakupo's shoulder, and relishes the warmth of their chests pressed flush together. He should had said something earlier. Months earlier. They could had been doing this the entire time.
"How long?" Kaito asks in a hushed voice, like they aren't alone.
"Three months after meeting you."
Kaito's heart jumps into his throat. That was more than two years ago. Was Kaito being selfish by not confessing for so long? Did he make things stressful for someone he loved so dearly? Did they spend all this time bouncing around a confession that would have made both of their lives easier?
Gakupo tucked a strand of hair behind Kaito's ear. "You're worth the wait. So it's okay."
"Is that true?"
Gakupo chuckles. "Yes, of course it is. I wouldn't fall in love with just anyone, since I'm such a catch."
Love. He said love. Kaito presses his head further into Gakupo's shoulder to hide his blush.
"We've practically been dating this entire time. But I guess you need more of a conformation than me cuddling you last night, huh?" Gakupo pushes Kaito up so he can look at his face. He squishes Kaito's cheeks in his hands. "You're super needy~."
Kaito rolls his eyes. "You're so mean," he says, though he grins at the same time.
The next kiss seels the deal for Kaito. This is everything he wants, everything he fantasized about, everything he dared to dream for. Gakupo wasn't just some friend, and he hadn't been for years. They both knew it, but couldn't speak of it. It was a little dumb, but they both made it to this part without any scratches. Relationships don't have to be loud and toxic and angry, even though that's most of what they both witnessed as children. They are safe in each other's arms, as long as they speak their minds.
Kaito falls asleep once more in Gakupo's embrace, this time, knowing it's the embrace of someone who loved him back the same way he had loved them for so long.