The first time Kita Shinsuke touches him, and he’s sure it’s more than platonic, Ojiro Aran isn’t certain what’s happening at all.
They’re at a holiday party, thrown by Kita’s grandparents, in celebration of a bountiful harvest and a year of good fortune. Kita steals him away, with the promise of stolen liquor - if Aran was Atsumu, he'd say something like ‘how scandalous, captain, what if we get caught? ’. He isn’t Atsumu and he isn’t that annoying, so he takes a sip of his fruit cordial and follows Kita to his bedroom.
It isn’t like he hasn’t been here before, but for some reason it feels different when someone might notice their absence at a moment’s notice. Aran tries not to think about what he could be so afraid of someone interrupting, when it’s just him and Kita alone together.
Kita seems to be on the same train of thought, however, with the way his eyes keep glancing at the door every few seconds. Aran knows that he and Kita are the youngest here, save for Kita’s siblings, by several decades. It’s like they’re brought closer together, by that fact - Kita could have invited anyone here. A date, perhaps, or more of their teammates than just Aran alone, but no - Kita wanted Aran, and Aran alone, to be his sole companion at something so important to his family.
Aran lets his mind wander a little. What would Kita’s relatives say if they caught Aran and Kita alone together in Kita’s bedroom? Would they yell? Would there be a knowing smile and a “come on, boys, get back to the party”? Or is Aran overthinking this entirely?
Before he can find out whether or not he’s making a mountain out of a molehill in regards to the situation at hand, his brain short-circuits as a result of Kita.
Kita, beautiful and brazen in the privacy of his bedroom, cups Aran’s cheeks. The warmth of his palms burns Aran’s skin, and he thinks he honestly might be dying. He feels the rush of blood to his head, and the way his eyes water - he’s never been touched so tenderly and with such care in his life. He doesn’t know how to handle it.
As quickly as Kita’s hands cupped the planes of his cheeks, thumbing at his cheekbones, was the touch removed. Kita’s hands rested in his lap, fidgety as the sanctity of his bedroom was tainted by the sound of his younger brother entering the room and announcing that their grandmother was looking for them.
Aran was barely coherent, blinking away the salty tears that had formed in his eyes as he tried to re-centre himself in the present.
“Well, looks like our cue to go.”
It’s the only thing Kita says on the matter, and Aran tries his best to forget about the incident at all - but it’s hard when all he craves is to look into Kita’s eyes once more and feel that burning warmth of his palms on his skin.
The next time Aran feels Kita’s burning touch is during a game. Or rather, right before a game starts.
They’re both off-court, discussing tactics before the game commences. It’s comfortable and familiar, and Aran can’t imagine what it would be like to plan tactics with anyone else - though he’s not sure he wants to try.
Aran speaks with passion, but in hushed tones - his words are just for the attention of Kita, about how they’re going to win. Kita smiles up at him, his unwavering faith clear even in the silence. Aran thinks about Kita’s trust in him, reminding himself not to mess up or let anyone down. Even still, there’s a part of him that’s just happy to have someone with such unrelenting support even after all this time.
Aran thinks about that sometimes.
In the privacy of his room, he thinks about the way that Kita is always there when he needs him, the way that Kita always knows what to say - whether that comes in the form of an old proverb, likely passed on from his grandfather, or from something that can only be described as a Kita-ism. He likes it either way, and doesn’t want to think about how in a few months, they won’t be playing together, or living down the lane from each other, or saving each other from encounters with the Miya twins.
So when Kita, right before the start of the game, wraps his arms around Aran’s middle in a hug so brief and tight it feels like Aran’s being tackled, it completely ruins him. Aran has to take a minute, citing a protein bar that had gone bad for his discomfort as he hurried to the bathroom. Instead, he splashed water on his face, muttering softly to himself to try and calm down.
Calm down, Aran. Breathe. It’s just Kita, ya moron.
He squeezes his eyes shut, again, and just like before, he squeezes away the salty tears that brew inside him.
He plays well, that day, but not well enough to win. Kita says he’s proud anyway. Aran cries when he tries to go to sleep that night, thinking about the honesty in Kita’s eyes.
The third time, Aran isn’t prepared at all. He’s feeling under the weather, he has an exam in the morning, and he’s very close to committing a crime against at least one of the Miyas.
Between spluttering coughs and flashcards, Aran hears Kita entering his bedroom after making polite conversation with his parents.
Kita commands him to sit in bed, and Aran knows he won’t take no for an answer. He sighs, before complying with the request.
“Really? I have a Spanish final in the morning.”
“No, you don’t. You have a day of bed rest and recuperation ahead.” Kita responds, opening up a steaming tupperware of homemade broth. “Don’t worry about the test, I’ll handle it.”
“You’ll handle it?”
“I’ll handle it.”
Aran can’t argue with that, and he allows Kita to spoon-feed him mouthfuls of the broth with a steady hand. He sighs in content as he relaxes a little, and he swears he sees a smile on Kita’s face at the sight.
“Thank you, for this.” Aran mumbles, when the broth is all gone and Kita is forcibly tucking him into bed.
“My pleasure.” Kita doesn’t meet Aran’s gaze, but that burning touch is back again when his touch lingers on Aran’s ribs. He’s tucking the comforter under him properly, as Aran remembers Kita saying he used to do for his brother when he was younger. Aran likes talking about Kita’s family, he notes to himself. It makes him feel less alone.
That burning heat is too much when Kita draws a soft pattern on Aran’s ribs through the layers of duvet and pajama top - he may as well be singeing his bare skin, with the way his touch was affecting him.
Aran blamed his tears on the cold medicine this time, not holding them back like he did before. Kita never judged him for it, or even let on that he noticed the tears fall.
The fourth time, Aran knows he’s being a fool. He knows for a fact he’s lying to himself about his feelings for Kita, but he doesn’t know how to reconcile the fact that they’re going to be living completely separate lives soon enough with the fact that he doesn’t want to spend his days without Kita at his side.
It’s moronic, the way he hides himself to try and get through the next few months without breaking his own heart. He’s admitted to himself by now that what he feels for Kita is not the same as what he feels for any of their teammates, or even their close circle of friends. It’s not love, because love is a big, scary concept, and as an eighteen year old with a near-constant migraine, he doesn’t think he should have to deal with the burden of being in love.
But , he thinks, if it’s with Kita Shinsuke, it might not be so bad.
It’s when he’s spent a few days avoiding being alone with Kita, when he’s made sure that there’s no opportunity for Kita to touch him or for Aran to touch him , that he knows he’s messed up.
He sees the way Kita’s eyes seem more guarded than usual, the way his mood seems low and the way he grows impatient faster than ever before in his life. Aran knows it’s his fault, but he doesn’t know how to stop.
It’s Kita, again, that makes the first move. He corners Aran on the way home, making sure the Miyas are preoccupied with fighting each other in the parking lot with Suna recording it.
“What’s wrong with you, Ojiro?” Kita asks, his voice low.
He’s using his family name, which is never good.
“Nothing, Kita. Why?”
“Don’t give me that. Not when you’ve been avoiding me for days.”
“I’m just tired, okay?”
Kita’s the closest Aran has ever seen to anger, and Aran hates that it’s his fault. He wants to reach out for him, hug him, tell him it’ll be alright - but he can’t. If he touches Kita, he’ll ruin things.
“Just tell me what I did wrong, alright? I can’t fix things if you don’t tell me what I did, Aran.” Kita’s voice is quieter and it breaks Aran’s heart to hear it like that. Aran thinks it sounds like pleading, but doesn’t want to consider Kita feeling like he has to beg for Aran to come back to him.
“Nothing. You did nothing wrong, Kita.”
“Oh yeah? Then am I going insane, or have you been avoiding me for days?”
“No, you’re right.” The words are heavy in his mouth, and he feels a little ashamed admitting it. “I just needed some time. It’s fine now.”
“Are you sure?” Kita cocks an eyebrow, shifting his weight between the balls and heels of his feet as he waits for a response.
“Yeah.” Aran says, because he is. He knows now that avoiding his feelings and hoping they disappear isn’t going to work.
“Good. Also, because I was busy trying to chase you down, I forgot my jacket.” Kita says, and it’s an explanation for when he links their arms together. He presses himself neatly into Aran’s side, and Aran feels like he’s on fire. It’s dizzying, like every other time Kita touches him, but he doesn’t mind the way he feels like he could faint at a moment’s notice. Gradually getting used to touching others, getting used to being close with someone in such a way, he grips Kita’s arm tighter and they continue on their walk home.
So what, if they take the longer route home to stay arm in arm a little longer?
Kita nearly kisses him. It’s midnight, it’s a week before they’re due to graduate high school, they’ve both snuck out of their houses, they’re running on adrenaline, and all Aran can think about how Kita is nearly kissing him.
Kita is close enough that Aran can feel his warm breath against his lips, and it’s absolutely maddening. They’re laying back, shoulder-to-shoulder in the grass of a neighbouring farm’s field. Aran feels less like he might die because of physical contact this time, and he wonders if Kita knows that he’s slowly been pulling Aran down the path that leads to soft, sweet affection.
He thinks about it - what would it be like to kiss Kita? He doesn’t have masses of experience kissing boys, or even kissing girls for that matter. He struggles being close to people in general. But he thinks - no, he knows - that kissing Kita would be good. Better than good, in fact. It would be right.
If either of them just tilted their head a little, where they’re laid out in the grassy field, their lips would meet in the tiniest of kisses. Soft, gentle, barely there - but they would both know that it happened. It would be their secret to share, two lovers sworn silent under the light of the moon.
Aran waits for Kita to close the distance between their lips, but he never quite does. Aran is okay with that, because he has to be - Kita has taken the first step between them so many times before, it’s not fair to expect him to take this leap of faith too.
Aran knows, in his heart of hearts, that it’s going to be him that kisses Kita Shinsuke first. Not tonight, maybe not even tomorrow - but one day, when he’s feeling a little less like a planet being crashed into by a meteor and sent hurtling off its axis.
The thought makes his face feel warm, and he’s grateful at least that Kita can’t tell in the pale light of early morning, right before dawn is about to break.
It’s the weekend after graduation. Aran realises that not that much has changed yet - he’d built it up into some life-altering event, wherein he would never be allowed to see Kita Shinsuke again. But, as they walk the hilly trails on the outskirts of the village together, Aran realises not that much has changed after all.
Kita’s quiet, he’s quiet. It’s comfortable, and Aran knows that Kita wants nothing from him other than his presence. It’s like a weight has been lifted, and he and Kita have been blessed with a little time together, just for them. It’s almost like that weird week between Christmas and the start of the new year, where time seems to be arbitrary and nothing happens at all, except it’s just the two of them together.
Aran sighs, deep and long, when they pause at the top of the hill. They take in the view together, like they always do, but this time, Aran isn’t looking out over their home.
His eyes are locked on Kita, memorising every way he reacts to the beauty of the vista in front of them. He thinks it’s sweet, that Kita looks like he belongs out in nature like this. He briefly considers if Kita was a sprite or a tree nymph in a past life, because of how at home he is here with the spring sun bathing him in its rays and the wildlife seemingly at ease in his presence. He thinks Kita is beautiful - no, he knows it.
Ojiro Aran is utterly entranced, and he doesn’t mind at all.
Inching closer to Kita, Aran’s mouth wraps around Kita’s name like it’s the sweetest treat he’s ever tasted. It’s soft, barely breaking the silence.
Kita trains his eyes on Aran, and Aran feels like Kita knows. Like Kita knows him, like Kita knows his feelings, like Kita knows everything. The look of fondness in Kita’s gaze doesn’t escape Aran at all, and he feels a little bolder than usual when he silently inches closer to Kita.
“Do you trust me?” Kita asks, but Aran doesn’t answer. Instead, he pulls Kita’s hand up, playing with those fingers he knows so well, still calloused from high school volleyball. He smiles a little as he lays Kita’s hand on his chest, right over his heart.
His heartbeat is racing, like it always is around Kita these days. Kita smiles, and Aran thinks it feels like the world is on his side.
He leans in. Kita smiles a little, his gaze flickering between Aran’s lips and eyes a few times. Kita doesn’t close the gap, because for once, it’s Aran’s turn to initiate the sharing of touches, the sharing of the sweetest kiss either of them can manage.
So he does.
There aren’t fireworks, like in the movies, but Aran feels the warmth of Kita’s mouth against his and thinks that this might be the closest he’ll ever get to an overwhelming, ecstatic high.
This is it.