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The first time Reki hears about him and Langa being an italicized thing is at S. Langa’s just won a beef against Joe for the second time — barely, Langa won by a fraction of a second — and is riding high because his board didn’t break this time.

 

Reki’s just as happy. Langa’s still using the board from when he beat Adam, proving that it’s the most durable one Reki’s made so far.

 

Joe congratulates Langa before he promises to beat him next time, his little fan club practically salivating all over themselves because Joe’s so mature and not a sore loser and something about wanting to have his pecs for breakfast. Cherry waltzes over like the well-timed diva that he is and proceeds to tell Joe how he could’ve won had he adjusted his cinnamon sugar flavored tan line fifteen degrees to the left when taking a particular turn.

 

Cherry fans within earshot agree, though Reki isn’t sure if it’s because of the calculations or because of the implication of Cherry knowing the flavor profile of Joe’s body. Reki, for his part, wonders if Cherry’s having an off day, because his dig at Joe wasn’t nearly as vicious this evening.

 

“Eh. It’s better than bronze pile of muscle,” Shadow says.

 

“Is it?” Miya asks, skeptical.

 

“You’ll understand when you’re older, squirt.”

 

Shadow really does set himself up for failure, Miya immediately honing in on the when you’re older part to say, “I don’t need to be geriatric to understand sexual innuendo.”

 

“I’m putting you to bed, brat!” Then Shadow proceeds to chase Miya around like he’s trying to shoo away a cat(boy). Miya laughs and sprints off, wiggling his tush to make the tail attached to his outfit wag defiantly at Shadow.

 

Reki’s laughing so hard he’s nearly breathless but adjusts his priorities when Langa walks over. He’s got that victory glow going, the falling snow vibe making him look like some ethereal creature who wandered into S by mistake. He smiles as onlookers congratulate him on his win, but that smile turns into something softer, more fairytale-esque, when he stands in front of Reki.

 

Reki smiles back at him, his cheeks getting warm in the process. His cheeks always get warm around Langa, always have, because Langa is the kind of person who makes your heart do funny things — skipping beats, Reki thinks it’s called. “Congrats, man! You were great out there!”

 

“Thank you.”

 

The dap comes next, the motion so practiced that they could look into each other’s eyes instead of at their hands. Their hands always find each other, knuckles touching, almost shyly, when they close out on the infinity symbol.

 

“They’re so cute!” It’s a poor attempt at whispering because Reki hears it. If Langa hears it, he doesn’t say, still focused on the amber of Reki’s eyes.

 

“I heard that Reki taught Snow how to skate.”

 

And he makes his boards.”

 

“Oh em gee, that’s so CUTE!”

 

It’s a whole lot better than being seen as the red head groupie — and yes, Reki knows what that means now. Still, those girls make it sound like he and Langa are…

 

“We should head back,” Langa says as he pulls his hand away. “Grab food before we head home.”

 

“Think Shadow mentioned that burger place. Are Joe and Cherry coming with?” It’s sort of a nothing question. Those two never come with, both conveniently having plans for the evening that, coincidentally, require that they leave together even if Cherry mentions that being around such a moldy hippopotamus (an upgrade from gorilla, perhaps?) is a disgrace to his reputation. 

 

They’re both so obvious.

 

Wait, are he and Langa as obvious as Joe and Cherry? Is that why those girls were squeeing like plush toys that make noise when you hug them? That would imply that he and Langa have something to be obvious about when they really are just friends. 

 

That’s how Langa sees it, too.

 

Right?

 

“Joe and Cherry have plans,” Langa says. “As always, so it’s just us four… assuming Shadow hasn’t killed Miya.”

 

“He won’t kill him. The stench of death would be bad for business at the flower shop.”

 

The two share a laugh together and, to Reki, it feels like they’re currently inhabiting their own little world. 

 

Shit.

 

There is something between them.

 

Isn’t there?

 


 

 

The second time Reki hears about him and Langa being a bolded, italicized thing is in the comfort of his own home. He’s eating breakfast in a hurry, like always, because he doesn’t want to keep Langa waiting for too long.

 

“You should slow down, sweetie,” Masae says, always the doting mother. She’s busy making sure that Nanaka and Chihiro are situated, arming them with utensils so they don’t try and eat with their chubby little hands - a lesson she learned the hard way many months ago.

 

“Can’t. Running late. Meeting up with-”

 

“Langa. We knooooow.”

 

Reki doesn’t have to look away from his plate to know that Koyomi’s doing that thing with her face where she looks like her brother is the greatest inconvenience in the hemisphere.

 

“You know, dear, Hasegawa’s not going anywhere. He’ll always be there waiting for you.”

 

Reki blinks and looks up at Masae. There’s something about the way she said “always” just now, something knowing and... endearing? He can’t put his finger on it, but whatever it is, it makes his grandmother chuckle. 

 

Why is his grandmother chucking? 

 

“What’s so funny?” He dares to ask.

 

“Oh, nothing dear, nothing at all,” which just makes the eldest Kyan’s eyes light up, the wrinkles, somehow, making her feel more mischievous. For some reason, the way she’s sipping her tea is making Reki feel like that nothing is definitely something.

 

“You better hurry, Reki, or Laaaaaanga will start to miiiiiss you.”

 

Okay, now see, Koyomi? Reki knows how to read her. As her older brother he’s studied her mannerisms, has had to for his own protection against annoying little sisters. He knows playful teasing when he hears it and knows that if Koyomi kept those dolls she used to ask him to have tea parties with, she’d be making two plastic boys kiss right now. 

 

“Shut up! It isn’t like that.”

 

“Isn’t like what?” Koyomi asks, blinking up at him. Ugh, to think there was a time when he was happy about having a little sister.

 

Reki, wanting to leave the scene as quickly as humanly possible, realizes he has no choice but to call on some help. “Mom!”

 

“Don’t tease your brother, dear,” Masae says. She’s gone back into the kitchen now, always on the move when it’s time to feed the family. “Let him finish breakfast so he can meet up with his friend.”

 

“MOM!” Because there was something about the way she said “friend.” He knows he’s right because Masae giggles after hearing her son bellow out that mom call. 

 

“Fine fine,” Koyomi says, choosing to ease up on her big brother harassment in favor of eating toast. 

 

Reki eyes everyone at the table suspiciously before muttering, “You all suck.”

 

“SUCK SUCK SUCK!”

 

Masae is immediately in the room, glaring at Reki for introducing the twins to the word that’s now being chanted, like the girls are trying to summon something into their house. Reki stands up and says, “Welp, gotta go! Bye everyone!”

 

“Reki!”

 

“Sorry mom!” Then he’s out the door, a huge grin on his face as he skates off. Serves her right for teasing him so much, now she’s going to have to find some new word for the girls to fixate on. 

 

Honestly, what is with everyone lately? Was there always this whispered secret between his friends, family, and general public about his supposed relationship with Langa? 

 

Do the two of them share such a deep connection that everyone just assumes that they’re- “REKI!”

 

Reki stops and looks back, frowning when he sees the worried expression on Langa’s face. To the average person the reaction to Reki skating by Langa without kicking off their signature dap is a bit overdramatic, but it’s been proven that the two can’t truly start the day until they greet each other in their own way. “Sorry man, guess I just spaced out,” Reki says, already knowing he’ll need to come up with a better explanation than that.

 

“Spaced out? About what?”

 

“Ah, it’s not important.”

 

This, unsurprisingly, causes Langa’s lips to shift into a frown. “Reki, if it’s bothering you, it is important.”

 

“Langa-”

 

“Did I do something?”

 

What? “H-huh?”

 

“I just... want to make sure...”

 

Reki laughs, the sound warm like the cookies his mom has to keep away from the twins. “Langa, what could you have possibly done to upset me?”

 

Langa hesitates, blinking toward the sky above as if it has the answers. “I… nothing, it’s just that… last time…”

 

Oh.

 

Reki and Langa have had a grand total of one major disagreement. At this point, they’ve more than made up for it, but Reki supposes that the mere thought of it happening again is enough to get Langa to ask about his well-being when it feels like something’s off.

 

Reki isn’t sure if smiling is the appropriate reaction, but he can’t help it. It’s nice to have someone worrying about his feelings, especially when that someone is Langa. “We’re good, Langa.”

 

They’re so, so good.

 

But, maybe, they’d be better if they were more than good?

 


 

 

The third time Reki hears about him and Langa being a bolded, italicized, all caps THING is shortly after he fumbled his morning greeting with him. They’re supposed to be walking to class, but they are, of course, skating on their boards to first period. They’ve both perfected the fine art of stepping off their boards before a teacher can catch them, sitting at their desks as they get ready to watch skateboard videos while pretending to read.

 

“Reki will know, I’m sure.”

 

Reki glances up at his classmates and tilts his head, curious. “Reki will know what?” He asks.

 

A casual arm around the shoulders followed by a teasing smirk, then, “How many dates before you... you know?”

 

“You…” it takes a couple of seconds for the gears to turn in Reki's head before he realizes what that you know implies. It takes an incredible amount of willpower for his cheeks to not flare up into a red that out-reds his hair. “W-what???”

 

Langa, alerted by Reki’s near pterodactyl screech, glances over at his desk where the gaggle of boys are snickering amongst themselves, much to Reki’s mounting discomfort. “Or maybe we should ask Hasegawa,” one of them says.

 

“Ask me what?”

 

“NoTHinG,” Reki croaks, voice so high pitched that it could break glass if it really wanted to. “They’re just messing around!”

 

“Come on, you two have been dating for how long? Why are you so flustered about this?”

 

And there it is, out in the open, everything that Reki's caught whispers of being said directly in front of Langa.

 

Reki supposes that it’s a nice gesture that his friends don’t even bat an eye about the possibility of him dating a boy in their class. That being said… “Why do you think we’re dating???” Ugh, he still can’t get the extra question marks out of his dialogue, especially when Langa’s face is so… LANGA about the situation — quietly blank with no plans to enter the conversation and, instead, listen on as if he isn’t the topic of discussion.

 

“Um… hello?” The one with his arm around Reki says, appalled that it’s even a question. “You two are together all the time, eating lunch, ditching class, you whisper to each other about hanging out at night-”

 

“You also haven’t spoken to us since Hasegawa joined our class,” adds another boy, more amused at Reki ignoring their friend group then upset by his negligence. Sometimes it just be like that when you're in love with the cool new boy in class.

 

“T-that’s not true,” Reki sputters out, but he knows he’s lying when he says it. Truth is he did kinda fall headfirst into everything that is Langa Hasegawa. Did he even introduce him to these guys? Did he really just monopolize all of his time after one day of knowing him?

 

Langa, being ever so helpful, decides to state these facts out loud. “We do spend a lot of time together, Reki. We even have plans tonight.”

 

Reki feels his soul wither away, the boys clearly interpreting that as something more than it really is. “Oh, are you? Maybe we should be asking you how many dates before-”

 

“Why do you even want to know?!” Reki shouts, wishing he could turn down the volume on himself.

 

“We were just curious, that’s all.”

 

“So, it’s not because one of you has a date?”

 

Ouch. Reki knows he wanted a change in the conversation, but did Langa have to be so brutally honest? The group of boys deflate faster than a birthday balloon on a rainy day while Langa, well, does his Langa thing by blinking innocently at them as if he hadn’t just shattered their universe.

 

“Whatever! Just answer the question!”

 

“Reki and I haven’t done anything like that,” Langa says. Reki doesn’t know why his heart feels disappointed but decides to ignore it. He can attempt to sort that out later.

 

“Wait, seriously? Then why are you two… I mean… there’s no way you’re just friends!”

 

Part of Reki wants to try and put a stop to this, but honestly? He kinda wants to hear how Langa’s going to respond. Langa’s never been one to express himself all that much, at least that was the case when he first moved here. But now he’s more honest about a lot of things, more honest than Reki will probably ever be.

 

“We’re just us,” Langa says, like it’s the easiest thing to admit to. “Reki’s important to me and has done a lot for me. I really value my relationship with him.”

 

Okay. This is a bad idea. Because Reki’s fairly certain that the entire classroom can hear his rapid heartbeats. 

 

“So no, we haven’t done that yet, so I can’t answer that question. But it did only take one day for me to start feeling attached to him.”

 

Reki tries his hardest to sink into his hoodie, pulling the hood up and tugging on the strings to hide as much of his face as he can. 

 

“Sorry,” Langa says. “I forgot how embarrassed you get when I talk like that.”

 

Reki isn't sure if Langa's being sincere about that apology.

 

Before Reki can say anything one of their classmates hisses at the other about asking invasive questions, as if they all hadn’t agreed on it earlier. Accusations are tossed around about someone being rude, the group shoving each other around as they return to their desks.

 

It’s here that Reki realizes that he can use this to his advantage. “Hey, don’t worry about it. It got them to back off, right?”

 

“Huh? Oh, yeah, I guess, but that’s not why I said it. I was being honest.”

 

Of course he was. Langa always is. “I-I get that, I just… it’s different now.”

 

“Why?”

 

Now would be a great time for the desk to come up and eat him, but as it stands all Reki can do is lower his head onto it, groaning in defeat. Does he really have to explain what makes this different? Knowing Langa, he probably does. “You heard them. They think we’re dating.”

 

“So? Everyone does,” Langa says, plainly, like it’s as common as the weather.

 

“What do you mean everyone does?”

 

“Reki, don’t tell me you don’t hear them at S.”

 

Oh, so Langa is aware of that whole thing. “No, I do…”

 

“And my mom’s been thinking we were dating since our fight.”

 

Reki’s head shoots up like a cannon and he pulls his hood down, eyes wide and frantic. He’s not sure why his gut reaction is to yank down his hood, maybe because he fully needs Langa to see how anxious this is making him. “She WHAT!”

 

Langa, who is very much aware of Reki’s theatrics by now, takes it all in stride and says, “I talked to her about our fight. She’s the one who told me to be honest.”

 

“And that talk made her think we were dating?!?!?!” Something about a parent thinking that just gets to Reki in a way he can’t explain, then again, his own grandmother has the same idea. He will never forget the image of her mischievously sipping her tea.

 

“Yep.”

 

Reki knows there’s not much time left before their teacher arrives, but he’s torn between trying to spin this in a way where he can prove without a shadow of a doubt that he’s not dating his best friend, or… “What… did she say? About us… dating?”

 

Langa smiles a little. “Nothing much different, actually. She wants to meet you sometime, officially, I mean, since she’s seen me sneak out to meet you, I guess.”

 

Reki thinks he should be working toward trying to get this cleared up, but he can’t help but laugh. “I knew she knew you were sneaking out. You’re not great at being subtle.”

 

Langa frowns at him. “Right, and you are.”

 

“My mom handles two teenagers and two toddlers, I’ve given up on being subtle,” and now that he’s said it out loud, he realizes why his entire family has caught on about his feelings for Langa and translated them into dating.

 

“Yeah. I think I have, too.”

 

There’s something so sincere about the way Langa says that. Reki isn’t sure if his face can get any hotter, heart no longer erratically thumping and instead just full-on melting. This isn’t the first time they’ve had a moment like this — far from it, actually. This is one of those moments where Langa looks at him with so much adoration in his eyes that every action feels heavy in the best way. Their dap, for instance, always feels like something special, like a comforting declaration of something warm, something important.

 

The rest of the world fades away in these moments, or at the very least, it attempts to, because their teacher has come in and everyone is told to turn their books to a particular page so class can start. Reki had fully intended on watching skateboard videos but now he can’t stop glancing over at Langa, whose eyes are still on him and him alone.

 

Reki giggles, promptly apologizes when their teacher takes notice, then goes back to pretending to read his textbook.

 

It’s the first time Reki feels that he and Langa are, simply put, a thing.