It feels more like acceptance than an epiphany when Hanazawa Teruki, aged fifteen, finally comes to terms with his feelings for a certain Kageyama Shigeo. There are no fireworks going off, the world doesn’t change, and all Teru’s managed to do is put a name to that tightening in his chest whenever Mob’s near him.
Except, now that he’s realised it, he’s all too aware of it; and there’s no easy way to hide behind the pretence of admiration. Because Teru knows what it means now: the way his heart sometimes beats too fast, the way his breathing can speed up when Mob smiles at him or stop altogether when Mob laughs.
Teru knows all this, and the last thing he wants is for Mob to know.
Kageyama-kun, Teru has discovered over time, is incredibly sincere, guileless, pure-hearted; he’s been told he exaggerates, but truthfully, Teru thinks he’s yet to find a word to describe Mob. And what Teru also knows is that with someone like Mob, who would probably never see him as anything more than a good friend, he can’t be honest in the way he wants to.
They don’t go to the same high school, but it’s close enough that they sometimes wait for each other at the other’s school gates.
It’s Mob that waits for him today, clutching at the straps of his book bag, and Teru nearly wants to hang back for a bit because Kageyama-kun looks really cute when he’s feeling awkward. But Mob spots him, raises his hand in a small wave, and it nearly sets Teru on a jog towards the other boy.
“Kageyama-kun, you’re early today,” Teru greets. Mob only shrugs in return.
“Ah, I didn’t have anything else to do. And master said he didn’t need me until later.”
“What’s Reigen-san up to?” Teru asks, and when Mob snorts in answer, he can’t help but wonder how many people get to see this side of Mob, relaxed; guard down.
They’re older now, more discerning, and even as Mob tells Teru about how Reigen somehow convinced a group of tourists to buy charms that fend off the spirit of a centaur, Teru knows Mob still has the utmost respect for the older man. (And if Teru is being honest, so does he.)
“Hanazawa-kun, you’re quiet today.” Mob says, gently nudging his shoulder and it shakes Teru out of his daze. They do this every week, this isn’t anything new, act normal Teruki he has to remind himself.
“I’m alright; I just remembered something that happened today.”
Shit. “Oh, I forgot again.” Teru stutters, and Mob laughs loud and free. It makes him laugh; it makes him smart with guilt.
“I forgot my umbrella,” is all Teru can offer as explanation when Mob opens the door to Reigen’s office.
“Hanazawa-kun, couldn’t you have used your psychic powers to keep dry at least?” Mob scolds even as he ushers him into the office. There’s a trail of water dripping behind him and Teru feels just a little bad for whoever would have to clean it up after. (He would offer to, anyway, and Mob would reject it because that’s just the type of person Mob is.)
“I didn’t think of it,” Teru says, honest, as he accepts the dry towel Mob hands him. “Reigen-san isn’t here?”
“He went out on a job; he said he could handle it on his own.” Mob answers. “Do you want anything to drink?”
Teru doesn’t hesitate to follow Mob into the kitchen. He’s been here enough to be comfortable with the place, with Mob, and Mob doesn’t really bother waiting for an answer when he pours them milk into two mugs.
Everything is so familiar, comforting, natural, and Teru is just a little terrified it would slip out his hands if he were to say the wrong thing, breathe the wrong way. He’s handed the green mug in the midst of his musings, the red one has always been Mob’s, and there’s a split second where he has to remind himself to breathe properly when Mob props himself on the counter next to Teru, close.
“Here, give me that,” Mob says, pulling at the now-forgotten towel around his neck. And Teru is so very sure he’s going to put it away, he’s nearly dry after all and he’s not dripping a puddle where he stands; but Mob starts drying his hair for him.
Too close Teru can’t help but think and he doesn’t know where to look, fixating instead on the space between Mob’s eyebrows, trying not to visibly shiver from the way Mob’s fingers feel, running through his hair; and when Mob’s tongue peeks out, just a little, to wet his lips, Teru is grateful for the way he’s kept his mug up to his lips, covering how red his face must surely be.
“Are you alright, Hanazawa-kun?” Mob asks, stepping back when he finally stops and Teru misses it, the warmth of Mob so close to him. It takes Teru every last bit of strength he has to manage a nod.
This time, it’s Teru waiting for Mob at the gates and Mob, for some reason, is unusually quiet on their walk back. But Teru is used to talking enough for the both of them; knows that despite Mob’s silence, he’s still listening and that whenever Mob wants to, he would tell Teru.
“I was wondering, Hanazawa-kun, how do you know when you like someone?” is what Mob finally says when there’s a lull in Teru’s speech.
“Is this about Tsubomi-san?” Teru has to ask, wishing immediately that he could take it back when Mob’s expression changes, just a little.
“No, just, in general.”
“I’m not really sure I know how to explain.” Teru admits, and when he sneaks a glance sideways at Mob, he’s a little thrown at the way the other boy is looking at him.
“Ah, I suppose Hanazawa-kun has never really liked anyone before then?” Mob laughs, hollow and contained; and Teru never wants to hear him laugh like that again. “It’s not like it was with Tsubomi-chan, it’s a little different.”
“Different?” Teru probes, but there’s a chill spreading through his veins at this confirmation, sort-of confirmation, that Mob has someone that he likes. It was bound to happen, Teru reminds himself; that he doesn’t know everyone that’s entered Mob’s life, can’t expect to know. And ultimately, Teru remembers having decided a long time ago, all he wants is for Mob to be happy, content.
“Different.” Mob confirms, and Teru’s a little jealous that someone out there managed to turn Mob’s ears that shade of red. “It feels like, maybe, it’s less of a pipe-dream, an infatuation, and more like, I want to cherish them, perhaps.”
“Oh, I understand.” Teru chokes out, clamping down on whatever it is that’s threatening to claw out of his throat. He doesn’t want to, but when Mob doesn’t respond immediately, Teru is compelled to explain himself.
“It’s not that, you know, I haven’t liked anyone. I do; I just didn’t know how to put it into words.”
“You do? So, right now?” Mob questions this time and Teru wonders how Mob managed to pick up on that despite him stumbling over his words.
“Kageyama-kun, I head that way.” Teru says instead, because it’s easier than what he wants to say; and because Mob is Mob, he doesn’t point it out.
But his smile when he bids farewell looks forced and Teru can only wonder if he had missed something.
“Hanazawa-kun, you’ve run out of milk.” Teru hears Mob call out from the kitchen.
“I’ll run down to the convenience store if you finish this question,” Teru says, and Mob shuffles out the kitchen, a small pout on his face. “It’s not that hard, Kageyama-kun.”
Mob sits back on the couch, legs folded under him and he looks so at home in Teru’s apartment, Teru wants to reach out, keep him here. And there’s a moment where he’s watching himself reach out, unable to stop himself, and his hands are so, so close to Mob’s cheeks that when he realises Mob is looking right back at him, it’s too late to pretend otherwise.
“I’m sorry; there was something in your hair.” Teru is quick to recover, pretending to brush something off Mob’s hair. (Mob’s cheeks are a shade of pink that Teru decides is his new favourite colour.)
“Remember that time I asked how you know when you like someone?” Mob brings up, breaking the silence that had followed, and he’s looking down at his maths homework so intently that Teru can’t quite read his expression. “I still don’t really know how you tell, but I think, ah I think, I might really like them.”
“Oh, really?” Teru asks, and his effort at sounding a little more cheerful falls flat. He considers being selfish, biting back and telling Mob to focus on his work; but it’s Mob, and Teru, regardless of the way he feels, still only wants the best for him. “You should tell them, then,” and it’s not getting any easier to force a grin on his face.
“If you want to.” Teru shrugs, hands gripping at the fabric of his jeans.
“Then,” Mob starts. “I think, I probably do like you.” It’s quiet, barely a whisper, but it’s loud enough for Teru to hear.
“Are you practicing, Kageyama-kun? I don’t think it matters as long as you sound sincere.” Teru points out, hoping he sounds encouraging enough, wishing desperately that it was him that Mob was saying those words to. And Mob’s hands are trembling, he’s clenching and unclenching them, and it’s all Teru can do not to hold them, to make the nerves go away.
“Practicing?” Mob blinks, and he looks conflicted. “Should I have practiced? Was it not... sincere enough?” He’s nervous, it’s obvious; but Teru doesn’t really think it’s possible to deny someone like Mob, doesn’t think Mob ought to be this nervous.
“I meant sincere to whoever you’re saying it to.” Teru tries to laugh, and it sounds far too empty, too hollow, even to him. He’s reminding himself not to hope, not to want, that Mob isn’t referring to him, that all Mob wants is advice from him, and –
“But I was talking to you, Hanazawa-kun.” Mob says then, interrupting his train of thought; and there’s a sudden rushing in his ears so loud that he’s sure he’s heard Mob wrong. There are a lot of things Teru wants to say like: “Kageyama-kun, could you repeat that? I think I heard it wrong” or “Kageyama-kun, is that a message you want me to pass on to someone?” but most of all “Kageyama-kun I most definitely like you too.”
“Maybe I should go.” Mob finally speaks, and the trace of defeat in his tone is enough to push Teru over the edge.
“Don’t go, Kageyama-kun,” and he’s grabbing at the hem of Mob’s sweater, nearly falling over in his urgency to get him to stay, don’t leave, and Mob listens, he always listens to Teru.
They’re face-to-face now, sideways on the couch, and Teru is still gripping on to Mob’s sweater, afraid to let him go. But Mob’s hands are stiff at his sides, eyes downcast as he refuses to look at Teru.
“Me too.” Teru mumbles at first, his voice hardly carrying over the short distance to where Mob is.
“I said, me too, Kageyama-kun. I,” and Teru needs Mob to look at him for this; he’s tilting Mob’s head upwards, one hand at his jaw, “really do like you too.”
Mob’s eyes are wide, his mouth agape, and he looks very much like he’d been caught unaware that it doesn’t take long for Teru’s insecurities to rear up again. “If that is what you meant, I guess,” he’s adding immediately, a little quieter, letting go of Mob.
And this time it’s Mob grabbing at him, hands curling around his wrist, and Teru doesn’t stop himself from leaning forward, pressing his lips to Mob’s. It’s clumsy; their foreheads bump together and Mob pulls back to laugh, breathless and Teru’s chasing after him, tilting his head this time.
Teru has never kissed anyone before this, and he doesn’t think he wants to kiss anyone else after this. He’s heard before, about how kissing someone could set fireworks off in your head, send sparks shooting through your body, but this, this is better. It’s like a cocoon of warmth, like being able to stay afloat, being able to breathe easier; and it’s like coming home to something familiar, Teru doesn’t think he could ever get enough of this.
They don’t pull away after; Teru is content to stay like this, nuzzling his nose against Mob’s cheeks and their hands are still locked tight together.
“Hanazawa-kun,” Mob says, and Teru hums in acknowledgement.
“I still need to finish this question, Hanazawa-kun. You said you’d go down to the convenience store if I did.” Mob reminds, shifting a little; and Teru doesn’t bother stifling his groan, pulling back to look at Mob carefully.
“What if, instead, I kiss you again?”
“...I’ll think about it.”