Aotake was mayhem. There were packing boxes everywhere, piles and piles of shoes in the genkan, and while Shindou and Musa were doing their best to corral the newbies, there wasn't much they could do about the noise.
Kakeru sat glaring at the page of a manga volume he'd been failing to read for the past forty minutes. A particularly loud crash in the hallway made his shoulders hunch, and Akane looked over with a commiserating grimace.
"I'm sure they'll be done soon," he offered.
"Haiji-san would've had them moved in and organised in about ten minutes." Akane shuddered. "It wouldn't have surprised me if his dad turned out to be an army general."
"He was a soldier," Kakeru offered. He seemed to remember Haiji revealing something to that effect after one too many beers.
Akane snorted. "There you go."
Kakeru nodded in agreement. He glanced over at Akane, who was lying on his stomach with a book propped on his pillow. "Thanks for letting me hide in here."
"No problem," Akane said, his eyes cutting across to Kakeru briefly, a faint smile on his mouth. "We should go somewhere tomorrow, escape the mayhem."
Kakeru responded with a terse nod. The thought of getting out of Aotake was appealing, even more so to be in Akane's company.
There was another series of crashes in the hallway, followed by a burst of raucous laughter. Kakeru blew out the air in his lungs harshly, and dropped the manga volume into his lap.
"Or we could go now," Akane suggested.
"Yes," Kakeru said, his jaw tight.
Akane nodded. He stuck a bookmark in his own volume, and dragged himself to his feet.
The two of them made their way downstairs, picking their way through the chaos, and slipped on their shoes. Akane pulled on his jacket and a thin scarf, while Kakeru merely zipped up his hoodie. Nobody noticed them go, too preoccupied with the complexities of moving in six rowdy new housemates, and they slipped out into the cool evening.
The sky was clear, and the sun was just dipping below the horizon, casting everything in the haze of dusk. It was exactly the kind of night that made Kakeru long for his running shoes, but he was happy to settle for the quiet, reassuring calm of Akane's company instead. As they turned out of the yard, Akane suggested they walk to the internet café near the campus, and Kakeru agreed.
They walked through the quiet streets, while Akane described a book he was reading for class. The tension between Kakeru's shoulder blades finally began to unwind as he listened to Akane talk, and watched him gesture dramatically to accompany his words. He'd agreed to the outing to escape the mayhem, but he didn't mind the chance to spend time with Akane, without the pressure of other people.
"Have you heard from Haiji-san?" Akane asked suddenly, and Kakeru jerked his head up in surprise.
"I—no?" he said. It was only a couple of weeks since they'd last seen Haiji, at the farewell party for the graduating fourth years. He had the vague idea that Haiji would be staying with a friend until he'd recovered from his surgery, but Haiji was fairly tight-lipped about it. "Have you?"
Akane shook his head. "I thought you two might have been in touch. You're...close, right?"
Kakeru frowned. Were he and Haiji close? He supposed they were, although it wasn't something he'd given a lot of thought.
Noticing that he was struggling, Akane spoke again, lowering his voice. "I mean—you like him?"
"...yes?" Kakeru ventured. Then, his eyes widened as he caught on to Akane's meaning. "Wait—no! Not like that."
"I see." Akane looked sideways at him. "So there's nobody you like?"
Kakeru's heart pounded. He'd never confessed to anybody before, and he certainly hadn't planned on doing it tonight. "I—"
He stopped walking as they rounded the side of a convenience store, and Akane turned to look at him. His hair was tied back, but his messy fringe still fell over his eyebrows and framed his face. He was so attractive, it made Kakeru nervous.
"The sky is beautiful tonight," Akane said quietly, lifting his head to look up.
Kakeru frowned up at the sky, bruise-coloured with light pollution. There wasn't a star in sight. "Really?" he asked, doubtfully.
"Mm," Akane hummed. "It's not the only thing that's beautiful."
When Kakeru lowered his gaze again, Akane had moved closer, stepping into his personal space. As Kakeru instinctively backed up a step, Akane reached out and planted his hand against the wall beside Kakeru's head, but he misjudged the distance and slipped forward. They crashed together, Akane falling against his chest and knocking him back against the brick.
"Sorry!" Akane said, extricating himself clumsily. His face was pink. He righted himself, and straightened his clothes. After a moment, he glanced sidelong at Kakeru, then he laughed and ran his fingers through his hair. "I messed that up, didn't I?"
Kakeru blinked at him. "What were you trying to do?"
Akane flushed more deeply. "I'm—I was trying to be romantic! Didn't you read Ore Monogatori yet?"
Kakeru shook his head.
"Well…what about Otomen?" Another shake. "Kuragehime? Kamisama Kiss?" Akane's voice was getting more desperate now.
"Sorry," Kakeru offered. "I had exams."
The look on Akane's face was almost as desolate as the first few times Haiji forced him to run. "Not even—Ouran?"
Akane's shoulders slumped, his face falling. "Oh."
"I could read one later…"
"No, no, it's no use now," Akane said mournfully.
Kakeru frowned. "I want to."
Akane shook his head. "What's the point?"
"It's important to you, so I want to," Kakeru insisted.
Akane looked up at him, eyes widening. "You do?"
Kakeru nodded. "I don't really…know the rules, uh."
"What rules?" Akane asked, but too late, as Kakeru was already moving closer, lowering his head to press his mouth clumsily against the other boy's. Akane's mouth opened under his with a quiet gasp, and Kakeru felt the soft, wet heat of his tongue for a split second before they broke apart.
"Oh," Akane said, staring at him.
Kakeru clenched and unclenched his fists at his sides. "I like you," he said, and paused to lick his bottom lip. "Um, a lot."
Akane blinked slowly, long eyelashes catching the light. After a moment, he laughed under his breath, then he put his hand against Kakeru's chest. "Alright," he said, with a faint smirk. "I guess we'll do it your way."
Kakeru's second kiss followed swiftly on the heels of the first, but he could happily call it an improvement. Akane kissed him softly at first, then he slid his hand up to cup Kakeru's jaw and parted his mouth, stroking their tongues together slowly.
They didn't part until they heard the creak of a gate nearby, at which point they finally sprang guiltily apart. Looking around shyly, they straightened their clothes, and Akane smiled at him.
"Still want to head to the café?" he asked.
Kakeru nodded. As they turned to walk, Akane's fingers brushed against the side of Kakeru's hand. It happened a few times, until finally Kakeru withdrew his hand with a muttered apology and tucked it in his pocket.
Akane laughed softly. "This is going to take some work," he murmured, as he reached into the pocket of Kakeru's hoodie and threaded their fingers together.
A hint of a smile touched Kakeru's lips. That didn't sound so bad to him.