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“I can do this,” Izumo told himself, trying to sound as confident as he wanted to feel. “I can totally do this. Right? Right. Not that hard. It’s just words. Open mouth, speak, wait for answer. Easy!”

His feet paced another circuit around the living room carpet without his brain noticing, too occupied with the same thing that had been on his mind for years. After all this time he was finally going to do it. Definitely going to do it. He was going to ask Kotetsu once and for all if there was any chance for them to become more than best friends.

“Oh my god I can’t do this!” he wailed, stopping in his tracks to crumple down on to the floor.

“Not with that attitude you can’t,” Iruka noted calmly from the couch. His other friend had started reading the newspaper fifteen minutes ago when he realized the blather coming out of the panicked idiot’s mouth was only going to repeat itself endlessly and never say anything new.

“Please tell me I don’t have to do this!”

“You don’t have to do it,” Iruka repeated dutifully. “If you want to spend the rest of your life not knowing, that’s fine too. Your decision.”

Izumo groaned piteously and buried his face in the rug.

For all the times he’d imagined finally being able to hold his best friend the way he truly wanted deep in his heart, he’d never thought actually getting to that point would be so hard. It shouldn’t be so daunting just to ask one person a simple question. All he had to do was form the words. His mother had always said he needed to be the change he wanted to see in the world and this was definitely one thing he would like to change.

But instead of actually doing that he was here in his own living room pacing circles in to the floor while Iruka ignored him. The traitor. He’d invited their mutual friend over because he thought maybe Iruka would be able to help him brainstorm ideas for how to say what he needed to say. So far all the man had done was poke fun and read the newspaper. Izumo was in the middle of considering whether or not he should just give up on this whole thing for now and maybe try to drop a few more hints first when his train of thought was derailed by the sound of his front door opening.

“I’m home!” Kotetsu called in to their shared apartment. Izumo scrambled to his feet and spun around to face Iruka.

“You said he would be busy for hours!”

“And he was. It’s been hours. Have fun, ‘Zumo!” Folding up the newspaper, Iruka waved and murmured a few hellos as he passed Kotetsu on the way out.

Which left Izumo alone in the middle of the room with panic on his face and his heart ready to leap straight out of his chest. He nearly fainted when his best friend came in to the room, the man he’d been sharing an apartment with since they were seventeen, the man he’d been in love with since the day they both turned twenty-one. Kotetsu smiled at him and the panic only rose. He wasn’t ready. This wasn’t how he wanted to do it.

“You would not believe how much paperwork the Godaime can get through when Sakura-san and Shizune-san are both there to glare over her shoulder and make her do it,” Kotetsu sniggered, tossing himself down in his favorite armchair. “What did you get up to with your day off?”

“Me?” Izumo pointed at him, playing dumb to buy time.

“No, the other person here. Yes you!”

Opening his mouth, Izumo froze. It should be so easy just to say the words. But was he really ready to take that risk? If he was mistaken this could change things between them in all the wrong ways and Kotetsu was too precious to him to lose for anything.

“I didn’t do much,” he said eventually. “Just hung out with Iruka for a bit.”

His friend saw nothing wrong with that and immediately took off babbling about all the ridiculous running around he’d done at work that day. Izumo did his best to smile as he forced his body in to stillness, slowly lowering himself on to whatever chair was closest as he very carefully packed his feelings away in a box and put them aside for now. Kotetsu was the most important part of his life. As much as he wished for more the risk was just too great until he was more sure that the answer would be yes.

There was still time. It wasn’t like Kotetsu seemed in a great hurry to fall in love with anyone else. Izumo felt the tension flow out of his body as he let that familiar voice wash over him like a soothing balm. Maybe tomorrow. Or the next day. He could spend the week dropping hints and ask a few hypothetical questions. But not now. Right now Kotetsu was laughing and that was more important than anything hidden away in his own heart.