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“I’m in love with you, Mirio.”

 

“I’m in love with you, Mirio.”

 

“I’minlovewith you , Mirio!”

 

Tamaki probably said it a hundred times, in a hundred tones and inflections– and it still didn’t sound right. Not loving enough, not genuine enough, not brave enough – every single word uttered with an enthusiasm that was clearly forced. The words sometimes don’t even come out right – he’ll stutter over the word love , and then, even in the mirror, in his empty room at 12 PM on a Sunday afternoon, he’ll go red and shaky. His ears would turn pink, and his lips would wobble ever so slightly, and his knees would feel like stilts that he could never walk on, let alone get down from.

 

Fuck .

 

Tamaki squared his shoulders, watching the oversized red shirt that was certainly Mirio’s straighten out. He straightened his back, he picked up his chin, insisted that if he just faked the confidence, mirrored it in his stance, then maybe the words wouldn’t sound so scary.

 

No , too formal. Too… stiff… awkward, uncomfortable… small, shaky, unimpressive...

 

Still, he tried, willing his chest to unclench. “I’m. In love. With you. Mirio.”

 

He wasn’t sure how it was supposed to sound, but that was also not his biggest concern right now. More important than how it sounded, was why the fuck was he saying it?

 

Tamaki shook his head. Was this even a good idea? What if the worst happens, if Mirio hates him for it? What if this is the final straw on their friendship, the final action that finally decides for Mirio that this just wasn’t worth the affirmations, let alone enough to turn into a relationship .

 

Tamaki shivered at the thought, but then shook his head again.

 

This was Mirio. This wasn’t a villain, this wasn’t someone he met this school year, this wasn’t a heartless person who would laugh in his face. This was Mirio. This was beautiful, happy, loving Mirio, who holds him up when he can’t do it himself. Who lets himself become vulnerable, who shares his fears with him, who holds Tamaki through not just the bad and awkward and anxious, but through the positive and happy and elation. 

 

This was Mirio . His Mirio. This wasn’t something to be scared of.

 

That, it would seem, was easier said than done.

 

He’d made up his mind weeks ago – yes, he’d say his feelings, but he wouldn’t state them with expectation. It might be during a morning walk, or one of their game nights, or when he’s tutoring Mirio and they lock eyes after an especially corny joke…

 

 He might say them over lunch, when Mirio is handing him a snack that he got him out of the kindness of his heart, and he’ll be smiling because that’s all that dumb doofus ever does – and then it’ll be a statement of fact when he says “Thanks, Mirio. I love you.”

 

And then that would be it, but mostly because Tamaki could never get past that point in his mind – no amount of imagination ever wanted to dwell on the aftermath, because his imagination was a little too good at worst-case-scenarios and he doesn’t think he could handle that, even in the fiction of his mind.

 

Tamaki looked himself up and down and then quickly away, because that alone felt counterproductive – why pick apart your flaws just hours before a planned… confession.

 

Tamaki didn’t like that word. It implied huge grand gestures, it implied that he was waiting for a response, and nothing could be further from the truth. If anything, he just wanted Mirio to know . He wanted to be the person who could, just once, wear his heart on his sleeve, and be proud of it without the fear of thinking he’d be rejected in every sense. And Mirio didn’t have to do anything – he didn’t need to say it back, he didn’t need to smile, he didn’t have to have some sort of positive response at the ready that would ease his nerves, settle his shaking fingers. All he wanted was that he wouldn’t hate him. That’s all.

 

Is that too much? Is he asking too much? Would this be too much for him and end up ruining everything they have? Is love worth risking that?

 

“I-I’m in lo–”

 

But the shake in his knees was so distracting, so utterly upsetting, it made Tamaki hate himself in that moment, and yeah, he might not be able to do this.

 

How do I do this?

 

Maybe not like this. Maybe this was too much planning, and that the real, most genuine and loving way he could say his feelings is if he doesn’t plan at all. 

 

That’s what he tells himself as he turns from the mirror, shoulders slumped a little more than they normally are —

 

Yes, he’ll do it later. When? He doesn’t know. How? He doesn’t know.

 

He lays down on his bed, eyes his homework on his desk, and pushes the thought away to be dealt with another time.

 

~

 

It was pathetic, right? He models himself after being as brave as he can despite how scared he is, yet three words is enough to end his world.

 

Mirio happens to be that world, so that’s not a completely outrageous statement – something going wrong with Mirio would be the domino that topples everything else, and it’s not even about reliance, it’s about his best friend removing himself from his life. Even if it doesn’t ruin this friendship, it might hurt it, or warp it into something unrecognizable and stiff – and what’s even worse, is that Mirio might be too kind to tell him.

 

Maybe. If he really thinks about it and uses logic, and not that senseless feeling in his stomach that is quick to suggest the worst, he knows that that doesn’t sound like Mirio. The Mirio he’s scared of is not a Mirio that exists, after all.

 

He says what he means, and he’s kind, and he likes Tamaki. He liked him from the very start, when there was nothing to like or dislike. Tamaki just has to remember that.

 

Tamaki puts ear buds in and listens to the sound of nature in favor of his hearts gradual increase of pace. He returns to his text book because he’s helpless, but he has grades to maintain despite that.

 

~

 

He’s not helpless, he’s Suneater. The sun just happens to be sitting across from him on their park bench, and the way he’s focused on his text book, with scrunched brow, was so insanely cute that he could barely ignore the butterflies stirring within him.

 

Even like this, you make me feel alive. 

 

Mirio stirs that pool of what if in Tamaki, the one that also makes him scared of losing – scared, but so alive and warm on this bright September day.

 

~

 

Tamaki returned from his patrol rounds around 11 pm, and normally he’d be passing Mirio on his way back to the dorms, either on his way back from his own patrols or sometimes with snacks he sneaked in for the two of them. Tonight, this didn’t happen, and Tamaki thought he must already be in bed, or maybe he’s still out on patrol on this late night…

 

He wants to text him but something stops him — that growing unease that took residence in his mind, the one that insists he’s bothering his friend, that he’s weak and doesn’t deserve to —

 

“I’m not weak, I’m just scared.”

 

That’s what every… hero is, right? Just scared? 

 

Tamaki knows this. At first it was said to him by Mirio, but that seed that had been planted was tended to by Tamaki and even now, he can say that to himself and most of the time believe it. He’s proud he can acknowledge it within him, but he’s still filled with shame that there are still mental blocks he can’t climb over, no matter how hard he pushes.

 

Tamaki disrobed quickly after shutting his door and took a bath, ready to scrub the mildly successful, ultimately embarrassing day from his skin. He sat down in the hot water, hair soaped up, with his phone set on the side of the tub in a weird tension that he couldn’t quite explain.

 

He was waiting for his conditioner to set while a single tiny tentacle from his pinky wiggled in the water, passing time like he normally does. But then he looked back over to his phone, too close to the ledge, and immediately decided fuck it .

 

“This is ridiculous.”

 

He types out a quick message and sets the phone face down on the porcelain.

 

[11:33 pm] I hope you’re being safe. let’s watch a movie tomorrow.

 

Before his stomach had the chance to curdle with anticipation, the chirping ringtone came fast.

 

[11:33 pm] of course i’m being safe!!!

 

[11:33 pm]  What kind of hero would i be if i weren’t? A HORRIBLE ONE

 

[11:34 pm] let’s get food and watch something in your room! My treat!

 

[11:34 pm] this will be fun!!

 

Tamaki pressed his pink face into his palms, letting out a deep sigh before trying to find the right way to respond to this level of enthusiasm.

 

[11:40 pm] you’re so excited

 

A minute later, if that:

 

[11:41 pm] of course i am, i get to relax and eat food with you!!

 

Tamaki almost says it right then and there, but something just doesn’t feel right about saying it over LEDs, with a touch screen between them. If he was going to say it, he was going to say it the right way — even if that meant in person, even if that meant that it was scary, and he might even embarrass himself.

 

He just sends a smiling emoji and tells him to sleep well, while he himself would do anything but that.

 

~

 

I probably shouldn’t ever say it. Why say it? There are more important things happening in our lives, this is nothing…

 

It’s true, the world is turbulent – with All Might retiring, the world on edge that everyone is feeding into the palpable stress in the air, with so much uncertainty in every aspect of life…

 

It’s so dumb, right? To say it? All it would do is give Mirio another thing to stress about, to worry over in the midst of not only school, but the line of duty. What if it’s distracting? Regardless of how he takes it, what if it weighs on Mirio’s mind and makes it hard to live his life?

 

Tamaki stares up into the ceiling, at the little splashes of light that made it through the curtain rings from campus. His chest clenches, and that by itself is familiar and something he can deal with –  it’s second nature, dealing with the racing thoughts and the way he bounces his left heel against his bedding in resignation of knowing he wasn’t going to sleep well. But then came the embarrassment of thinking he would warrant such a reaction – that Mirio would care enough to –

 

“Oh my god, shut up,” Tamaki said aloud, to his stale-quiet room, because he exhausts himself with his own brand of dumb logic. “Shut up.”

 

Telling himself to shut up is surprisingly effective in quieting the doubt, but still, traces remain.

 

It’s enough, though. It’s progress, and he thinks Mirio would be proud of him if he knew.

 

~

 

“Do you think we could do something that’s not about school?”

 

Tamaki doesn’t know what that means, because that’s what they’re doing now… right? “What do you mean?”

 

Mirio put his hand on his back, rubbing it idly as they walk through the park. They had some time to spare that day, and usually that meant they’d spend it together. Nejire would have been there, but she was taking more time on the job and wanted to feel more prepared in her internship, so tonight it was the two of them.

 

It was nice, and yeah it would have been nice to see Nejire too, but he can’t find himself hating the way it was just the two of them. It was nice, and rare during certain parts of the school year.

 

Except… 

 

Mirio laughed, but it was the quiet type of laugh, the one appropriate for dusk and autumn. He rubbed the spot between his shoulder blades. “Like maybe we can go on a day trip somewhere!”

 

His heart shook a little at the contact, but he’d been getting used to the lingering touches Mirio gave him. It wasn’t so unusual, so Tamaki could predict it happening most of the time, and if his hands stayed somewhere a little longer than normal, he could handle it without feeling like melting.

 

“Oh… I see,” he said, shaking, melting just a bit. “Yes? I don’t know where to go though…”

 

It’d been that way for a long time – wanting to melt when Mirio is around, especially when Mirio is giving him so much attention. It’s just as much embarrassment and wanting to sink into the void as it was Mirio turning him into folded paper, into origami, at the brush of a finger, or the telling of a really stupid joke. It was a good feeling, even if it later left him a bit guilty.

 

Tamaki wants to lean into the touch, and he wants to sigh when it’s gone – two sides of the same coin.

 

Mirio hums, like he does when he’s thinking something through. “Well, I’m sure we can find something! I just want to do something, and I’m almost positive you’re as bored as I am.”

 

Tamaki loves that he knows this about him, and he didn’t need to ask to know it. “Yeah, a bit… routine has gotten a bit monotonous, and I’m sure if we got schooling and patrolling and all our responsibilities done early, it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad idea…”

 

“Taking time for fun is necessary!”

 

Tamaki can’t argue – not that he doesn’t agree, but even if he did, Mirio would have the perfectly crafted argument as to why it was necessary to spend time doing things for yourself, that it was good. He’d heard that exact argument whenever he pushed himself too harshly, too far, too much like he’s punishing himself. 

 

“I… yeah, that would be nice. We need to do things we like, too.”

 

Mirio beamed at him, and then pulled him into a side hug that also lasted a little too long.

 

~

 

Some days Tamaki can’t get rid of the guilt. They’re going on a day trip down to Kyoto, and he’s awake in bed at 2 in the morning, an arm over his eyes like that alone is enough to keep him from feeling dumb and like a bad friend.

 

You ARE a bad friend.

 

He’s aching, a coil of heat living deep within his stomach that won't leave him alone no matter what he thinks of – every thought that crossed his mind, like school, or trying to feel good about his last presentation, is eradicated as fast as it comes by the persistent image of his best friend. The sensory memory remains no matter what he does to push it out. It’s a cluster of thoughts, all floating around in his detailed memory, waiting for the right moment to resurface. They’re of how he casually touches him when they have lunch every day, how he once fed him a marshmallow and his fingers grazed his lips, or how earlier that day Mirio rustled his hair because he thought it looked fluffier that normal...

 

Mirio’s hands are so fucking big -- like they were meant to encompass his smaller, more delicate ones. They were so soft, so eager to be on him and yet so gentle despite their potential  – familiar, with a touch of familiarity that was so embedded in him, it was like returning home when they touched him...

 

Tamaki presses his forearm into his eyes, clenching his teeth against the whimper that wants to escape past them – like that’s enough to pretend his other hand wasn’t wrapped around himself in greedy hesitation.

 

Stop… 

 

He thinks of the time they fell asleep on Mirio’s bed after a particularly long study session, and how he woke up with his nose buried in Mirio’s chest. How it was so embarrassing and how he loved his warmth and how he felt safe…

 

How he had to turn around fast, had to run to the restroom because he was hard and there was nothing he could do to hide it.

 

Tamaki moves his hand because he’s lost all control of it at this point, and if he’s going to do it he might as well get it over with so he can sleep through the guilt sooner.

 

He doesn’t say Mirio’s name, not when the sound of his wet hand starts to get louder and faster, not when he concentrates on the memory of his strong arms and how they must feel around him, surrounding him – how they could pin him down or barricade him or –

 

He starts to say his name, as quiet as possible because he can’t risk anyone hearing – what would they say? What would they think? What if someone tells him the truth, that he’s pining after a hopeless love with his only friend and of course he’d ruin that relationship too, because it’s what he does?

 

Or, even worse, what if Mirio hears? What if he learns about Tamaki’s feelings, but not from a text or a conversation or anything respectable, but because he was whispering it into his palm while he got himself off?

 

He can’t think on that too much – 

 

“Mirio…”

 

His toes, they curl into his cold sheets, his thighs shake, knees wobbling as they’re spread in a way he imagines Mirio would fit between them; the way his weight might spread them apart, force him to be exposed and vulnerable in the way he could only ever be with Mirio...

 

“Hnnngg,” he gets a bit louder, cause the rubber band in him is about to ricochet, and he’s close enough to snapping that it drives out the shame and embarrassment and memories and – 

 

His phone chooses that moment to go off. In the sheets beside him, tucked under a pillow, there’s a bubbly text sound that makes itself known through the cotton. It’s the sound it makes when it’s Mirio’s number, and even in his state, even with his aching and shaky thighs and his relentless fist as it squeezes, he recognizes it. Because he always does, he always hears it, even in his most exhausted naps.

 

Tamaki stops so fast, mid stroke, and feels himself go cold. His clean hand, the one white knuckling against his lips, shakily reaches out and fishes his phone from the sheets.

 

The tone goes off again, and there’s several messages waiting for him when he finally finds it. 

 

[2:31 am] you’re probably asleep but i just wanted you to know i just got back!!

 

[2:31 am] from patrol, i mean. I know you worry if i’m out later 

 

[2:31 am] so i don’t want you to worry! And

 

[2:31 am] also you better be asleep!! Heroes get their REST

 

[2:32 am] also because we have an amazing day tomorrow!!!!

 

[2:32 am] goodnight suneater! :)

 

Tamaki doesn’t know which feeling to feel , so he just feels them all at once and tries not to name them. He’s still hard and still aching but the guilt drives him so far beyond arousal, he removes his hands and pulls his shorts back up from their bunching at his knees, and tries not to let his eyes water too much.

 

Look at what you’re doing to yourself. 

 

His hearts calming down, but he’s not.

 

You think he’d appreciate this? 

 

His face is hotter than ever.

 

Friends don’t think about friends with their hand on their dick. They don’t.

 

He doesn’t reply, he just fakes falling asleep.

 

~

 

Tamaki can’t look at Mirio – it’s not the first time it’s hard to match his gaze, but somehow it’s different this time. Maybe it’s the nature of getting kind-of-sort-of caught jerking off in the middle of the night, and how you can’t quite live that down no matter what the circumstances are. Maybe it’s because Tamaki is just Tamaki and the normal thing to do is not look at Mirio too long, cause it’ll just make the feelings of falling in love that much more real.

 

Mirio notices he’s off , obviously. It’s 7 in the morning, and they’re boarding the train, surrounded by businessmen and people going to work. The door closes and the train takes off, and that’s when he decides to bring it up.

 

“Tamaki, you okay?”

 

Tamaki anticipates it, and he’s sort of ready for it. He still looks off to the side of Mirio’s head, toward the window and the passing buildings as they bask in morning sun. “Yeah, I’m good.”

 

“You sure? You seem… tired? Well, I don’t know exactly what, but you seem like you’re up in your head!”

 

“Oh I… I slept poorly… that’s all.”

 

Mirio looks a little regretful or guilty, but he recovers quickly and smiles. “Well, we can stay here! We can find something to do and not have to leave, if you want.”

 

Tamaki feels a little sick, because what on earth did he do to deserve a friendship like this? “No, no, lets do this,” and he looks him in the eye because he wants to, despite everything. “I’ve looked forward to this.”

 

Mirio smiles, and they’re standing a little bit closer now since the doors just opened and let in a new round of passengers. He pulls Tamaki closer by the hand, like he might get separated from him in this tiny train cart to Kyoto. “Thank you Tamaki! I know it’s not always easy to do stuff like this and I’m glad you’re here with me.”

 

He lets go of Tamaki’s hand, but their chests and sides are pressed together, making contact through various layers of sweatshirt and pull-over and scarfs. Tamaki looks to their feet, pretending it hides the blush blooming across his cheeks at the praise. Like Mirio doesn’t see how he affects him. “If… if it’s you, I can do anything.”

 

Mirio beams, his happiness as loud and as boisterous as every other emotion he feels. He can’t help but emote, can’t help but be honest and open about himself. It’s one of the things Tamaki loves dearly.

 

“Then I have to thank you twice, because you’re here for me.”

 

Tamaki doesn’t say it, but it’s so painfully true, it hurts.

 

~

 

They went to a shrine first, because it had been a while since either of them saw one. The bamboo forests were beautiful, and it was shocking to be in a place so close to home, yet so vastly different. The air was fresher, cooler – sun filtered down in delicate strips and grazed the ground gently like moonlight does.

 

It caught in their eyes as they walked, talked quietly in the sacred space – it made Mirio’s eyes glow, like they were catching fire.

 

Tamaki couldn’t stop staring, and thank god Mirio let him.

 

~

 

They found a ramen shop, and it was a blessing they didn’t have patrols or school to think about – Tamaki didn’t have to eat according to the needs of his duties. Yes, he loved calamari. But he had it one too many times this week, it was starting to taste like cardboard.

 

Mirio pointed out a fusion restaurant, the one Tamaki was eyeing from further down the street. Needless to say, curry and samosas and pakora was a delicious step off the well-beaten path.



Sitting across from each other, in the sparsely inhabited dining area of the little restaurant, Mirio was quieter than he had been.

 

Normally they get to a point where their conversation slows – comfortably, because every day trip reaches the point of restful quiet and thoughtfulness. This time, though, it seems a little different from just being tired or resigned to quiet contemplation.

 

Mirio is watching him, and sure, what else are you supposed to do when you’re seated across from someone… but why? 

 

It makes Tamaki squirm, but he tries not to. “Mirio, you okay?”

 

He smiles, gently, like the reflection off a lake. “Yeah, I’m good Tam.”

 

Tamaki’s already finished his curry, and he switches his focus to his samosas. “I’m…”

 

Mirio switches his attention back to his food, and Tamaki would normally have more questions, but all he can feel is sweet relief, no longer burning under his gaze. He quietly lets out his held in breath, wondering if there was something obvious he was missing. 

 

Mirio didn’t act like he wanted to say anything, and Tamaki knows what projection is so he doesn’t try to dig more into it, but there’s a feeling there that doesn’t leave...

 

It’s an intimacy, the quiet of this little booth; the food that Mirio paid for, the lack of pressure to talk or say certain things, the looks that Mirio gives off that are so gentle it makes him want to cry. It’s like being comforted but set on edge at the same time, being with the antidote and the poison and loving it all the same.

 

Tamaki doesn’t project, doesn’t fill the silence with baseless interpretation or pining or yearning, nothing that could turn friendly gazes into fantasy stories. He’s too prone to giving himself hope thing ripping it away in the same breath, that this time he chooses to not do it yet again.

 

“Thank you for the food... I’ve had too much sushi lately – this is nice…”

 

Mirio is still very happy, very tangibly happy, but it’s subdued, the type that gets saved for moments with friends. The type that simmers. “I sort of thought that…” He chuckled. “Having food and hero duty being the same thing is a weird combo, I bet!”

 

Tamaki chuckled, hand up to cover his mouth as he chewed. “Yeah, it can be…”

 

“Do you think you can turn your arm into a samosa?”

 

Tamaki shudders at the horrific image and shakes his head. “No, but probably like… the carrot inside it?”

 

“Vegetables are weird.”

 

“When they can grow from you, they are.”

 

“It’s still badass when you do it!”

 

Tamaki chokes. “It’s not really…”

 

“It is really.”

 

Tamaki was about to say something, to shut down the positivity that was being funneled into him by a powerhouse of positivity, but Mirio had other ideas.

 

“Oh! Oh! Tamaki!”

 

Tamaki blinks, then swallows after a beat. “Yes?”

 

He looks too proud of himself and whatever idea that popped into his brain. “If you eat corn, and we go to the movie, can you make us popcorn?”

 

Tamaki laughs, shakes his head, and feels so lucky in that very moment.

 

~

 

Even if making popcorn was possible, Tamaki didn’t do it. 

 

“That’s disgusting, you’d be eating bits of me.”

 

“Yeah but it’s technically food!”

 

“You can’t be serious?”

 

Mirio was mostly joking, and they sat in the movie theater with popcorn that Mirio bought

 

He felt stiff and awkward in the empty theater, the words he’s been wanting to say looming over him like his normal gloomy clouds. They were so loud, Tamaki was certain Mirio could hear them, even over the cheesy dialogue of the movie.

 

~

 

What’s stopping you?

 

ME. I’m stopping me.

 

~

 

The rest of their day turned into wandering and talking and a handful of photos, of Mirio treating him to little snacks and gentle platonic touches. It’s 9 PM before they hop the train back to UA, and they get to the dorms just before curfew. 

 

Tamaki’s heart beats too fast, and he gets quiet on the flight of stairs up to their floor. It’s just natural that he doesn’t want this day to end no matter how tired he is. What can he do to continue it? What if he says the wrong thing and seems unappreciative when they go to their own rooms? What if he says something dumb like I’m in love with you and then they stare at each other not knowing what to do?

 

It’s not that hard, though. They’re at their doors, neighboring each others rooms, and Mirio turns to him with this glowing smile that makes Tamaki’s knees weak. “I loved today, lets do this again!”

 

Tamaki’s heart fluttered around his ribs, made him want to kiss him despite not knowing how to. He smiles in spite of it because how could he not? “I – don’t want today to end.”

 

He felt dumb having said it, but not for long. Mirio gave him that same soft gaze, soft smile, and told Tamaki that it didn’t have to. They went into Tamaki’s room, changed into comfortable clothes, and put on a movie on Tamaki’s laptop as they sat on his bed.

 

Shoulders barely touching, laptop between their knees, they eventually fell asleep before the movie ended.

 

~

 

Tamaki is close to saying it again, cause Mirio keeps pulling him into his space and telling him nice things. He keeps brushing their legs together under desks, or resting his head on his crossed arms and staring up at him like he’s the stunning one.

 

~

 

They’re returning from their internships and they both look tired, but they’re mostly just smiley at the fact the other was there and well.

 

~

 

It doesn’t affect his grades, but the distraction of Mirio being just out of arms reach is starting to get to be too much .

 

He’s scared at the idea of being able to hold him and kiss him and – 

 

He blushes, but he still can’t bring himself to not want it. All of it, the lovely and scary and sweet and the Mirio .

 

~

 

Tamaki invites Mirio out next time. It’s not a date, but it’s a nice effort on his part because it’s usually hard to ask a question that he might be rejected for. Even if it’s justifiable, even if the reason why no is because of school or prior plans or whatever else, it’s still a rejection that begs the question but is it because it’s me asking?

 

Mirio never makes him ask that question, though. He looks a bit thrilled, honestly. Excited, like a damn puppy, when he looks up at him from his desk. “Yes! Oh, maybe we can do a movie again. I know the romantic comedy might be fun, I saw the reviews!”

 

Tamaki takes a deep breath. “Can I pay for it?”

 

Mirio looks a little confused. 

 

Tamaki continues, a little bolder now that his classmates and teacher had left. “I want to… get you dinner, too…”

 

Mirio sets his papers and book back down, hands hovering over them as he thought about it. Had Tamaki been too direct? Was Mirio processing it because it was dumb and he shouldn’t have asked? Does he think he’s ungrateful for all the things Mirio has done and gotten him and –

 

“Sure thing Tamaki! You always treat me so well, I don’t know what I did to deserve you.”

 

Tamaki looks into the depths of his backpack and pretends to organize the spill of pens in there. “I’m – It’s –”

 

“Don’t you dare say it’s nothing .”

 

He doesn’t.

 

~

 

It’s not a date and he has no right to think of it that way – who on earth thinks of going out as a date if the other person isn’t even aware of it? That’s kind of weird, right?

 

It’s weird because you’re weird.

 

It doesn’t stop his nerves from doing backflips throughout his mind and adrenal systems, though – because he still sort of thinks of it like a date. He feels like flight , like he’s overstepping some sort of boundary without quite knowing where the line was. He felt dumb, but not in any way that he could put words to if he were asked.

 

“It’s nothing… it’s not dumb… it’s just Mirio, and I’m…”

 

I’m fucked .

 

He knows the real reason behind his short-circuiting system if he’s bold enough to admit it. It’s the fact that the stupid feelings he’s been trying to hold back have been growing, and morphing, and becoming the greatest force of evil in his life that not even Suneater can fight. 

 

And, most devestatingly, not even Suneater will be able to keep him from saying stupid words about stupid feelings.

 

~

 

Mirio looks so cute. 

 

So pretty. He’s made of softness despite being a hero with a hero’s phisique, and he’s still pretty despite his questionable purple jackets that clash with dark green hoodies. It’s still cute, especially when he pulls him by the hand because they’re running late to the movie. 

 

Tamaki has to chew on the words and swallow them down like glass.

 

~

 

The movie was good, and the dinner was better, and Tamaki felt too fucking good every time he looked over to Mirio and saw him enjoying himself. Because he was having a good time. Because Tamaki asked him to do something, and they did it, and it wasn’t the worst thing in the world.

 

It wouldn’t be, right?  

 

They left the restaurant full and sated, and walked side by side through the sparse crowds on a  weekday night. They shouldn’t even really be out, not when there’s school work that could get done ahead of time, or when there was probably more training they could be doing if they wanted...but someone smart said that they should enjoy their lives too.

 

They’re shoulder to shoulder and their conversation naturally entered another tunnel of silence. Mirio was looking around them to the storefronts that were closing, the coffee shops that were glowing with soft, burgundy lights and warmth – looking to the lights of the storefronts and how it all was glowy and ethereal and dreamy.

 

Funny, since this street is one they’ve been down so many times, they could have navigated it blindfolded. Patrolling, going for a quick walk, doing little walks when the both of them were too amped up to go to sleep and instead decided to walk the energy off -- it was the same boring place they already knew. The only real difference was that there was something there , in the air, or maybe it was just between them.

 

Something, not like hope, not like wishful thinking, not like anxiety…

 

Tamaki doesn’t know what it is, but it’s like a little light in a dark tunnel – a flash of maybe . A flash, enough to give him some strength to look past what scares him. He doesn’t think what’s the worst that can happen? Because it’s not going to happen, because it’s Mirio.

 

His Mirio.

 

And his Mirio will forgive him for being a little shaky.

 

Tamaki reaches out to where Mirio had gotten ahead of him, tugging at the cotton of his jacket where it meets in the middle of his back. “M-mirio…”

 

They stroll to a stop, with Mirio turning around. Something in his expression tells Tamaki that he should speak first, that he’s on the same wavelength. He might not know what he’s going to say, but he’s going to give him the time and space to say it – with that same horrifyingly sweet gaze that stretches Tamaki taut and exposes every bit of him he thinks he can hide.

 

He’s tired of hiding from the one person he never wants to shrink from.

 

Still, he has to look elsewhere to do it – it’s too intense and too scary and just too much.

 

His eyes settle on Mirio’s chest, on the ridiculous color combo of his shirt and jacket. “I… I’m having a good time, and I guess…”

 

He has flashbacks to his first day at his new school, how he’s too quiet and too shy. “I want to... I mean, if you wanted…”

 

What is wrong with you? 

 

He’s starting to sweat now, and the sounds of people walking around them invades like a radio’s volume gradually growing and growing. Why did he choose here ? It’s so public, and they’re standing where people should be walking, and if he looks up Mirio is still waiting for him to say something.

 

God, he sounds so scattered and dumb and… “I’m sorry, I don’t know how to say… I’m not good with words and feelings, I can’t put them all together...”

 

God, what’s he doing? Why was this something he decided to do? Where was the strength he had just a minute ago, the strength that reminded him that it was okay and that Mirio would understand and that he’s not going to fuck up –

 

Mirio reaches to grab his hands, each one laced with the other. Tamaki swallowed, shocked, not just because it was a surprise, but because now Mirio can feel him shake, and that’s more mortifying than almost anything else.

 

“Hey, look at me,” Mirio says, gently and quietly. 

 

Tamaki can’t really say no to Mirio, so he does even though he really doesn’t think he can handle it. Mirio steps a little bit closer, smiling at him like a soft ray of sunshine through the trees, and squeezes their hands gently. “It’s okay! Just… say what you mean.”

 

Tamaki decides that that’s too much, so he steps into the half foot of space between them, hands still locked, and leans up to press his lips to Mirio’s cheek.

 

He lingers for just a moment, the feeling of his soft cheek and how nice it feels against his lips almost addictive . He doesn’t want to pull back, to retreat from his body heat, to face the consequences of his irreversible actions. 

 

He knows he’s dramatic, he tries to shake it off, but when he pulls away, he can’t even look .

 

Tamaki doesn’t have to wait in his anxieties for long, not when Mirio tugs him back into his orbit and wraps his arms around him.

 

“Oh man! I was going to do that!” He says into Tamaki’s hair, lifting him up just a bit and swaying. 

 

Whatever expectations for how this was going to go, that was not a scenario he had come up with. 

 

“Wait, what ?”

 

Is this real? Am I experiencing this?

 

Mirio’s enthusiasm was palpable when Tamaki was being held – every little shudder of muscle, the way his laugh shook his frame, all of it within reach – surrounding him so fully, he didn’t know if it was actually happening.

 

How?

 

“I wanted to kiss you first! But then again I didn’t want to chicken out again like last time and –”

 

Tamaki felt his heart drop immediately , down to his feet where any passerby could kick it away. He pulled back just a bit, flustered and overheated and shaky. “Wait, like last time? Since when?

 

“Since a long time! But I guess if you wanted to be more specific, last week!”

 

Tamaki just stared at him. Wasn’t he going to elaborate? “You can’t say that and then just leave it.”

 

Mirio runs one hand down from Tamaki’s shoulders to the familiar spot between his shoulder blades, and their torsos were still almost touching.

 

Mirio looked off, sheepish, but only a little. “I wanted to kiss you, in Kyoto. But I… well, I didn’t know if it was okay…”

 

Tamaki almost gasped, and Mirio continued, returning his eyes to Tamaki. “So I’m glad for you, because I don’t know if I would have been brave enough to do it…!”

 

Mirio, not brave? Tamaki balked and a noise caught in his throat, and he had no idea what to say to that because how ?

 

Mirio laughed, his warm hands contracting around Tamaki at the same time, pulling him in a bit more. And then they got really close, and Tamaki felt like all the noodles he ate at dinner. Their faces were close – not close enough to kiss, but close enough that there was nowhere else to look, nowhere to run, except into his beautiful eyes and magnetizing smile and loving tone of voice when he said his name. “Tamaki…”

 

“I… I wanted to say so much, but I can’t… can’t even say a part of it…”

 

“You don’t have to rush yourself!”

 

“But I want to say things, I just can’t !”

 

“It’s okay! Let’s kiss!”

 

Mirio!

 

This time, when he buried his head in Mirio’s chest, it was with complete elation and joy.

 

~

 

Mirio spends most of his free, non-hero time with Tamaki, and not a lot changes between them because that’s honestly how it’s always been. They’ve always been in each other’s spaces, sharing food and laughter and sometimes even sleep. They go to class together in the morning, they take lunch on the same side of the same table, and they still talk and banter and make fun of each other. Tamaki will still talk down on himself and Mirio will bring him up, and when Mirio has doubts or looks sad, Tamaki will do the same.

 

The big difference isn’t the love they already had for each other – looking back at it, Tamaki is floored that all the obvious signs were there and that he still didn’t see it. How did they go on dates and sleep in the same bed and share their fears and not realize their love was intense and burning and constant? How did he not realize that when he fell asleep and woke up with Mirio around him, it was love?

 

Nowadays, they wake up pressed close together and speak endearments into each others hair. They kiss, too, and that one was definitely something he wishes they could have been doing this whole time. 

 

They hold hands and kiss, and Tamaki shakes and feels embarrassed with his neediness before he realizes that Mirio is shaking too, just as needy and just as hard against his thighs. It’s still embarrassing but Mirio never makes him feel bad, he just whispers tiny things to him and kisses him, moaning loud into his mouth when their hands start to wander. Mirio makes him feel loved when he blushes into it, when he says his name around sighs of want and need that match Tamaki’s very own.

 

It emboldens him in ways he didn’t think possible, even if they both still have their clothes on and many more steps to make before they can start removing them. Their hands are capable and strong and intimate and Mirio sounds so beautiful, and even when Tamaki is embarrassed by his own sounds Mirio insists he’s also beautiful.

 

Tamaki has the nerve to say things he didn’t think he could say, to do things he didn’t think he could do, and when Mirio pulls the comforter around them and kisses him, it feels so natural to finally say it.

 

“Hey,” he whispers, kissing him for the thousandth time that hour. Mirio is lax, having came just a few minutes ago, and Tamaki wants to make it happen again. For right now, he just whispers, “I love you.”

 

“I love you too.”

 

Tamaki smiles despite himself, and wants to say those words to him forever.