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“Hey, Nao?”

“Yeah?”

Their voices echoed in the quiet of their empty classroom. The school day was over and everyone had left except for Naohiko, who had been caught in an errand for their teacher, and Eiji, who disappeared somewhere once the final bell rang—

“I think I got a black eye.”

—and apparently got caught in a fight before returning to the classroom.

Naohiko had to pause at that. He turned his attention away from his school bag that he was packing up and towards his friend. His friend with a very bruised face. His friend with a very bruised face, leaning against their classroom door nonchalantly like it was nothing.

He visibly cringed at the sight—that had to hurt.

Naohiko crossed the classroom and stopped in front of his friend, asking, “What happened?”

Eiji flashed him a lopsided grin in return, something sardonic. “Remember that girl with the curly blonde hair in 2-C?”

Naohiko blinked. “The one you’ve been flirting with for a couple of months now?”

“Mm, yeah. She wanted to talk with me after class, in the courtyard. Ended up confessing to me and I turned her down.”

“So she punched you for it.”

“Nah, that was courtesy of her friend. Said I led her on,” he muttered, gaze turned downwards.

“Okay, yeah. Backtrack. I thought you did like her, but you still rejected her?” Naohiko folded his arms across his chest, his brow raised. “Can’t say I blame her friend for socking you in the face.”

“Hey, I never said I wasn’t at fault here,” Eiji retorted, as though he was making a valid point with that. “I just didn’t think her friend would hit this hard. And, y’know, I didn’t actually like her. She was always the one calling out to me—I was just trying to be nice back.”

And it was true. Someone else had his heart—and had it for years. Even if they didn’t know. Even if they were all the way across the country, living their life without ever giving him a passing thought. Not anymore.

Belatedly, he added, “I’m not the same as I was back in middle school, Nao.”

This caused him to snort. “It’s hard to tell sometimes.”

“That’d hurt if not for the fact that this black eye actually, physically hurts,” Eiji huffed with a roll of his eyes.

Naohiko’s posture relaxed in response and he reached forward, his hand brushing against Eiji’s face. His thumb grazed over his marred skin, gentle. Eiji winced.

Eiji winced, and tried not to reel back at how close Naohiko was now.

“You okay?” Naohiko asked, quiet, concern laced in his voice.

Eiji felt himself stutter, “I’ve—been better.”

He was close, still, and his hand was warm.

Naohiko sighed. “Of course you have. It hurts me to see you like this too, you know?”

His mouth felt dry and he wasn’t sure what to say. Eventually he opted with a, “Thanks, Nao. You’re good—a good friend.”

Naohiko let out an exasperated sigh. “And you don’t make it easy being your friend.”

“Hey, you haven’t given me a black eye yet at least, so I consider that a win.”

“Yet,” Naohiko echoed.

“Yet,” Eiji repeated.

At that, Naohiko pulled back and suddenly, Eiji missed his touch. Missed the warmth of his skin against his own, the delicate way he held his face, even how the calluses on his fingertips felt.

Eiji knew he sought out Naohiko first for a reason. He could have gone anywhere else after his injury: could have gone home, could have gone to the infirmary, could have nursed it on his own.

Instead, he went to Naohiko. Because Naohiko was always there for him without fail, there for him in a way that Izumi never was despite how much he wanted her to be. Because, even though there would always be a place in his heart carved out for Izumi, there would always be a place for Naohiko by his side too.

And, he wanted there to be a place for him.

So he leaned forward and brought his lips to Naohiko’s.

Oh, shit.

He was still delirious from that punch in the face, wasn’t he?

Before Eiji could pull away, he felt a hand grip his wrist, stopping him. Felt Naohiko’s mouth move against his own.

Oh.

His heart thrummed against his chest as he slid his tongue along Naohiko’s lips until he eventually opened his mouth, allowing his tongue in. He tasted of something earthy yet citrusy, and Eiji found himself wishing he did this much, much earlier. Eiji deepened the kiss, trying to taste more, trying to taste all of him. Naohiko eagerly reciprocated, seemingly trying to do the same.

Finally, they broke apart. Naohiko watched him quietly, eyes lidded and gaze darkened. For a moment, neither of them said anything. Just breathed, hot against each other’s necks, until Eiji felt his pulse slow back down to normal.

“Hey, Nao?” He closed his eyes, ignoring the pain that still lingered.

“Yeah?”

“Think I’ll get another black eye if I kissed you again?” he breathed.

He couldn’t stop himself from grinning as Naohiko pressed his lips against his once more.