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When Breathing Gets Harder

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It’s fine. It’s fine. It’s fine.

Tamaki’s lungs strained with effort, his chest heaving. There was nothing to fear. They were on a lunch period, absolutely no signs of villains or danger, yet his body reacted as if he had to run, run for his life, run until his lungs gave out.

The park bench in the courtyard felt a safe distance away, away from the drone of so many voices. There were only a few in particularly that bothered him more than others.

He’d overheard a girl from the support classes readying herself to confess. Her note had been in a cute little envelope, sealed with a heart sticker. It wasn’t hard to guess who she’d be giving it to, judging by the person her eyes followed so diligently.

And yet his body had reacted intensely, the moment she stood in front of his best friend, in front of Mirio, his fight or flight switch had slammed over into ‘flight’.

The air outside made him feel marginally better, though a nice firm wall would’ve been preferable.

“Does it hurt?” Mirio asked in an excited whisper in the shell of Tamaki’s pointed ear, startling him more than anything else. The bright-eyed bushy-tailed blonde must’ve seen him  leave in a hurry and followed—after he’d shaken off his noisy entourage. Being friends with Mirio meant watching others fawn over him. And that was alright. Usually.

It didn’t take much to overwhelm Tamaki, the same way it didn’t take much to make Mirio smile.

Tamaki’s eyes caught the delicate white petal pinched in between Mirio’s fingers. He hadn’t felt it, more like tugging a thread from his shirt than anything else. The little white flower growing from his nape still stood at attention despite her petal being plucked, leaning obstinately in Mirio’s direction.

Of course it would, Mirio was the shining star in Tamaki’s universe, the warmth that he crowded around. Of course his traitorous body would do the same.

“Doesn’t hurt…” Tamaki mumbled self-consciously, turning away to hide his pink cheeks. He pressed a hand into the flower, shielding but not crushing. It was funny, he often had more respect for parts of his body when it was borrowing the shape of something else, birthed from his Manifest quirk.

“You’re pretty great, Tamaki.” Mirio said brightly, clapping a hand on his gloomy friend’s shoulder, careful to miss any flowers as he joined Tamaki on the park bench. Lunch was one of the few times they’d get to speak so freely, so it should have come as no surprise Mirio would seek him out—gone were the days of spending all afternoon playing Last Fantasy VII. Any time together was precious now, considering their work studies. “I’m impressed you’re sticking to a diet even while working under Fat Gum! He’s usually got the best snacks.”

Ah. So they weren’t going to talk about why Tamaki had left the classroom so suddenly. He wondered briefly if that confession note was curled in his blazer pocket that very moment.

Don’t think about it. Don’t think about it. Don’t think about it.

If Mirio wasn’t going to acknowledge it, neither was Tamaki.

“I-It was Fat’s idea,” Tamaki admitted, looking over his bento box full of nothing but strawberries. Diced strawberries, strawberry garnish, strawberry flavored milk, strawberry dango as a treat. “He thought I should try more plant life for Manifest, but we only had strawberries at the office.”

Strawberries, fragaria ananassa, the symbol of Venus. It had done little to change Tamaki’s appearance via Manifest, besides the swath of tiny white flowers that seemed intent on growing at the nape of his neck like a rash.

Mirio seemed to be enjoying the sight though, his smile turned up to 120%. It was enough to make Tamaki shrink back, embarrassed by all the attention—it was one thing to stare at the sun, but another thing altogether to have the sun stare back.

“Mirio, leave him be, before we have a vegetable garden on our hands.” Nejire admonished as she plopped down to the left of Tamaki, trapping him in the middle. Now he’d have absolutely no peace.

“Fruit garden,” Mirio corrected, leaning forward to see Nejire better while addressing her. They talked aimlessly about not much of anything, and though Mirio kept trying to meet his timid gaze, he didn’t try to force Tamaki into the conversation—he must’ve been feeling merciful today.

Still, Tamaki wished he’d been born with a quirk that allowed him to grow smaller, or disappear entirely. Mirio’s thousand watt smile, the warmth of Nejire’s thigh against his own—actually Mirio felt quite warm to his right as well, the tickling breeze of his breath on Tamaki’s strawberry flowers. So close. Too close.

He stood abruptly, a bundle of nerves set to burst. Mirio’s eyes were on him, they always were, that impossible blue hue watching the way his chest trembled, heaved, tight. Panic came so naturally.

“Breathe, Tamaki.” Nejire reminded him, soothing, a sort of kindness a normal person might appreciate. Tamaki wasn’t normal, he never had been. It felt demoralizing, having to be reminded to do a simple thing that came so easily to everyone else. “Maybe you’d benefit from a service dog. Have you heard of deep pressure therapy?”

Mirio shot her a look, his expression indecipherable to Tamaki. A warning? Tamaki couldn’t be sure. Nejire returned the stare in kind, challenging, firm. The thought made his heart plummet. There were already so many moments like these, where Mirio looked at Nejire and something unspoken passed between them, liked they’d learned to read each other’s mind, like they’d grown that close. Being that close felt like a dream and a nightmare all at once. Tamaki hated attention, did all that he could to avoid it, yet the thought of having Mirio’s attention, all of his attention—actually, it was all so overwhelming. Never mind.

“Or maybe,” Nejire said, “Mirio could try it on you.”

“Sounds painful.” The words came out mumbled, clipped, that crushing feeling in his chest squeezing harder. He lowered into a crouch, holding himself at the elbows, self-soothing, his chest heaved.

Mirio was still smiling, though Tamaki could see it had dimmed substantially, cautious, concerned. “Tamaki knows Tamaki best, we don’t need to—“

“It’s not painful,” Nejire assured, ignoring Mirio entirely, smiling down at Tamaki with what must’ve been worry, pity in her face. How pathetic he must look to them, a fledgling hero with debilitating anxiety—what a joke. “You have one of those weighted blankets at home, don’t you?”

Weighted blanket, Tamaki loved those. He nodded, finding a bit of comfort in the familiar.

“Then it’s perfect, it’s just like that! Mirio, why not take him home and show him how it works? He lives close by, right?”

“This is an awful idea!” Mirio smiled, a fearsome smile that did not put Tamaki at ease in the slightest. It wasn’t directed at him anyway, he was pointedly smiling at Nejire, like there was something more he’d like to say. Another conversation Tamaki wasn’t privy too; his chest felt tighter, suffocating. Nejire fussed with the corner of her skirt, pretending not to notice. “But let’s do our best anyway, I guess!”

Mirio’s hands were on him a moment later, his body crowding him, lifting him with ease up into his arms like some sort of damsel in distress. He wasn’t given the opportunity to complain or object, Mirio’s legs were pumping at lightning speed, off campus, away from Nejire’s prying eyes, away from responsibility, away from the pressure of being ‘normal’ or ‘strong’.

 


 

“Wh… What exactly is this supposed to do?” Tamaki asked, his anxiety momentarily rekindled at the thought of this unknown, private technique, something they’d needed to come all the way home to perform. He still lay splayed where Mirio had deposited him, belly up on his bed, they hadn’t even removed their shoes.

“Hold on just a sec,” Mirio said brightly, tactfully ignoring Tamaki’s question entirely. He unlaced Tamaki’s shoes and removed them one by one, tossing them harmlessly back towards the front door—the perks of a tiny studio apartment was that just about everything was in reach no matter where you were. It suited Tamaki, who had moved out the moment an opportunity presented itself.

A moment later, Mirio was crawling onto the bed, all hulking muscles and big hands, demanding Tamaki’s immediate attention and receiving it in kind. He all but climbed Tamaki’s body until his blonde head made it to Tamaki’s slender chest, electing to drop himself entirely, all 100kg’s of muscle pinning Tamaki to the bed.

“Wh-What are you—“

“It’s deep pressure, its supposed to give you a feeling of security, having a lot of pressure put on you.” Mirio murmured simply into Tamaki’s clavicle, allowing himself a moment to adjust, his body slotted between Tamaki’s sprawled legs comfortably.

Pressure was something Tamaki often crumbled under.

“Bad.” Tamaki mumbled, his cheeks burning hot. “This is bad.”

Mirio smiled up at him, an encouraging smile, one always prejudice in Tamaki’s favor. “We can’t give up yet! Let’s give it a bit more time, I’m sure something will happen, probably!”

Something was already happening, to Tamaki’s absolute horror. The press of a human body was a frightening thing, and the situation was made worse considering who’s body it was pressed against him—his sun, his stars, that which he wished to consume and be consumed by. His body betrayed him, blossoming for Mirio like some blushing girl on her wedding night. The tight new petals of the flowers, now running wild across his neck and chest, they unfurled gladly, turned their heads to see the golden haired man, their favorite person on this earth (Tamaki’s favorite too).

Mirio was used to being adored, cherished, fawned over, he’d always been in that sort of situation, especially after he’d cut his hair. Yet it was something different here entirely. He’d always had the attention of many, but now he’d earned ALL the attention of one, Tamaki’s traitorous body aware of him from every angle, with every sense he had.

“You smell amazing,” Mirio said in wonder, extending his neck just the slightest to take a deeper sniff of the field of flowers spilling out from Tamaki’s shirt. The sensation sent goosebumps flying through Tamaki in an instant. “You smell like a strawberry smoothie.”

“D-Don’t,” Tamaki mumbled miserably, wishing for a second time that day that he had a quirk able to make him disappear.

“Don’t what?” Mirio teased.

“Don’t… say something like that when I can’t get away.”

“I like praising you like this, these flowers make you so honest.” Mirio suddenly barked out a laugh, “See? You just grew a whole strawberry!”

Indeed he had, a single, fat strawberry hung heavy off a stem now right off the column of his throat, the soft petals had fallen away.

“You think it’d be weird if I ate it?” Mirio asked conversationally, just in time to get a face full of Tamaki’s hand, pushing, pushing, holding him at bay.

Don’t you dare!” Tamaki cried, beginning to push and squirm, just short of thrashing to get his blonde friend away. In truth, he knew nothing would happen, it was just a simple strawberry not unlike a real one grown from dirt… yet the implication struck a chord he wasn’t quite ready to hear just yet. Mirio, his best friend, the only person in the world he trusted so unconditionally, who’s kindness and shining warmth had encouraged him to be a hero… the thought of that man taking a part of him (though artificial) into his mouth, consuming, appreciating the taste on his tongue— oh god, stop thinking!!

“I get it, I get it, calm down. Oh—” Mirio said with the breath of a laugh, though a bit off… nervous? Embarrassed? “Should I move? I’m… well, I’m very flattered, but you’re stabbing me in the belly with your…”

Tamaki froze. He’d been so caught up thinking about his flowery appendages that he’d barely registered that another part of him now standing at attention for Mirio as well. This was awful, horrible, very no good.

“Tamaki?”

Tamaki nodded, watching Mirio prop himself up on his hands and knees, no longer crushing him. It was strange how much he missed the sensation when Mirio’s body left him. Tamaki rolled left, and as if reading his mind, Mirio used Permeation on one of those arms that had been trapping him in place, so he could pass right through Mirio’s arm without any trouble. He pressed his forehead firmly to the wall his bed ran alongside, appreciating the cool drywall. Mirio’s body had been so warm, so stifling, so wonderful—

“I got confessed to earlier.” Mirio said quietly, quick to change the subject. Whether it was for his comfort or Tamaki’s, Tamaki wasn’t sure. The subject was not one Tamaki preferred, considering it had been the origin of his panic earlier.

He’d rather not dwell on why that is.

“I see.”

“I turned her down.” Mirio clarified when it became apparent that Tamaki wasn’t going to ask. “I may have been a bit rude… I turned her down in a hurry when I saw you leave, I knew something must’ve been troubling you, for you to leave without saying anything.”

“Sorry.” Tamaki murmured, his fist clenched tight by his side.

“Do you think it helped?” Came Mirio’s voice behind him, sheepish.

The deep pressure thing, Tamaki realized. He thought for a moment. His chest felt lighter, no longer tight and painful, nor desperate to run. Sure he’d still felt flustered, embarrassed as hell, but ‘gay panic’ felt a lot better than his usual panic. Everything felt better when Mirio was there. Honestly, hearing about him turning down the support class girl had raised his spirits far more, but he couldn’t exactly say that. “Yes. Thank you.” He answered quietly.

“I’m glad.” Mirio murmured, sounding genuinely relieved. What a guy. “When we were kids, you were always the one holding onto me, like I might disappear. It’s… nice to have an excuse to hold you too.”

“That’s normal, considering how your quirk works… but I’m not as scared that you’ll fall through the floorboards anymore.” Tamaki answered, cautious, glancing shyly over his shoulder at the blonde. He was curled on his side, facing in Tamaki’s direction, not touching, but not so far away that touching could be completely out of the question. “And… you don’t need an excuse. I-If that’s something you want.”

“It is.” And he said it like a promise he meant to keep.

Ungraceful, hurriedly, Mirio scooted closer, snaking an arm under Tamaki’s, taking care to hold him at the abdomen, around his belly, like a seat belt. His hips bumped against the curve of Tamaki’s ass a moment later, one muscular leg thrown across him. Worst of all was Mirio’s tickling breath at the nape of his neck, once again a gentle breeze on the strawberry flowers.

He’d never eat strawberries again after this, he’d never be able to forget the feel of Mirio’s body with that taste in his mouth. He’d have to beg Fatgum not to make him another bento.

“You know…” Mirio murmured, his grip on Tamaki’s midsection tightening. He pressed his face between Tamaki’s shoulder blades, breathing slow, controlled breaths. “I really wanted to kiss you earlier.”

What?”

“When I saw you sitting all by yourself... You looked lonely, like you needed a dose of vitamin me.” Mirio said, and suddenly he was laughing at his own joke, a nervous laugh that infected Tamaki. He could feel it reverberating in his own chest, like it was his own laughter, and soon it was, the two fledgling hero’s laughing themselves into hysterics over a corny line, over the ridiculousness of best friends kissing.

Though perhaps it wasn’t so ridiculous.

Tamaki turned then, emboldened by laughter and light-heartedness. A year ago, he could never, but now, bathed in the glow of Mirio, with his charming laughter in his ears, he realized he’d changed, he’d grown, just a little bit stronger, a little bit braver. Mirio caught his eye for just a moment, surprised, before Tamaki pressed their lips together.

Mirio returned the kiss with excitement, his hands rushing to hold Tamaki’s face in his hands, drawing him in close like they had a secret to share between them. Perhaps they did now. Their lips melted, parted, and came together again, a gentle push-and-pull.

Their dance went on and on, Tamaki could feel the heat growing between them, the warmth of his cheeks, the warmth of Mirio’s a centimeter from him. Someone made a pleased sound between them, but Tamaki’s brain was so caught up in their explosion of endorphins that he could barely register if it had come from his own throat or his lover’s.

Lover… is that what they would become one day? His heart was a firework in his chest, excitement, wonder, happiness beyond compare. Never in a million years would he have guessed they’d cross this boundary, travel into worlds unknown to their friendship—it was terrifying and wonderful all at once.

“Amazing…” Mirio murmured affectionately between their lips. “Even your tongue tastes like strawberries…”

Tamaki pulled back sharply, embarrassment getting just a bit too much for him now, his cheeks as red as the four new strawberries hanging off his neck. “I’m eating nothing but asparagus next time.”

Mirio’s nose crinkled in revulsion, but he was still smiling, always smiling for Tamaki, breathless. “I’ll still kiss you. Just don’t pee on me.”

“Mirio!! That’s just vile!” Tamaki cried out in alarm, but soon they were laughing again, kissing again, together they made for a perfect storm.

“It can’t be helped; you’ve ruined me.” Mirio murmured, smiling into Tamaki’s lips. “I’m going to need at least 4 kisses from you per day, 10 on the weekends. I hope you’re willing to take responsibility.”

“More than willing.”