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Converging Love Statements

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It started in elementary school, if Gintoki really thought hard enough. 

He had always been bisexual—at least, he'd always been open to the idea. He wasn't sure when he figured out, but it was probably because he was best friends with Katsura Koutaro. The long-haired guy was the most LGBTQ-supportive person Gintoki knew (even if he currently had a girlfriend) and so it never seemed like something "weird" to him, as the other boys his age would call it. Anyways—Gintoki figured that it started in elementary school.

His big, fat crush on Hijikata Toushiro. 

The ravenet had transferred to Gintoki's school when they were 9 or 10, and the whole class was interested in him because he'd come from a small town that nobody knew of, along with two rambunctious transfers, Okita Sougo and Kondou Isao. Gintoki didn't really care that he came from wherever he came from; he was just interested in the colour of the boy's eyes. And, that slowly turned into him being interested in the boy's perfectly V-shaped hair, the cat-like shape of his eyes, and how his face would turn pink when he was embarrassed. 

At the time Gintoki wasn't sure what he was feeling. He'd never had a serious crush before—had thought once or twice that some girl was pretty—but it was never like this. He found himself thinking of Hijikata and how he was smart, worked hard, and was good at gym class (because that was incredibly important to kids his age). He mistook his feelings of admiration for jealousy, and the more he thought about Hijikata the more he was bothered by it, wondering what kind of messed up trick the guy was playing on him to be able to stay on his mind. 

Gintoki hadn't liked how Hijikata was good at everything. They hadn't even talked before, but Gintoki felt as if his character was being personally offended. 

So of course, the first idea he had was to tell Hijikata about it. Indirectly. On a piece of paper. 

The next day, it was spread by Sougo throughout the school that somebody had put a note in Hijikata's locker that read the simple words: "get out of my school". 

And of course, the only time Takasugi—fucking bastard he was—decided to talk was when he chimed in that the handwriting was Gintoki's. 

That was how Hijikata had confronted him in an empty classroom after school, and when he'd glared and asked Gintoki if he wanted to fight, afternoon sun shining on his face, Gintoki realized that he found Hijikata pretty. When Hijikata threw the crumpled up note on Gintoki as some pre-teen declaration of battle, his furrowed brows and almost pouty face painted an uncharacteristically cute image to Gintoki. The permhead subsequently realized that what he had was a crush.

"Sakata Gintoki, I hate you," the male proceeded to say.

"I hate you too," Gintoki had blurted out, and he'd probably never forget how Hijikata's face flushed—out of anger, embarrassment, whatever else—before he as well blurted out.

"Good, because I won't forget about this."

Gintoki never thought that Hijikata would pull through with his words.

For the rest of elementary school, every interaction he had with Hijikata was one that sparked fights and sarcasm. Gintoki had never really wanted to fight, but it was strangely easy to do so with Hijikata. Everything became a challenge, from who could take the track and field medal to who could skip rocks better on the puddle behind the school. 

When high school rolled around it was harder to find Hijikata, much less fight with him. They only had one or two classes together for the first three years, and they never sat near each other for any of them. However, whenever they did interact it was the usual insults and bragging, mostly in the hallways as they made it to their next classes.

It was a habit now; to fight with Hijikata and make the guy's life as much of a living hell as possible. But, that never made Gintoki forget his actual feelings for the guy. The feelings that—most likely—continued growing with every exchange. It fucking sucked that as the days went on Hijikata became better at everything he did, and every time Gintoki saw him next he'd be more attractive than the last. 

And, to be honest, Gintoki liked the guy a lot, so to a bystander it was a wonder why he hadn't made a move yet. It wasn't that he was shy, nor was he lacking confidence. There were just a lot of factors that he had to keep in mind—like the flock of people at their school liking Hijikata just as much. Hijikata was, also, straight. But surprisingly, the worst part of it all for Gintoki was that little incident that happened in elementary school. The fact that they were supposed to hate each other. 

It'd be difficult holding a civil conversation with the male, much less try to get the guy to see him as a potential partner. 

So that was Gintoki's bullshit origin story for his crush on Hijikata. A terrible one, but luckily for him, one that would at least bring him to the climax of his story with Hijikata.

 

-

 

At the beginning of that year, his last as a higher schooler, he figured he should do something about his crush. Confess, or something like that. Sakamoto Tatsuma said that holding back feelings was just as detrimental as holding back diarrhea. And Gintoki had never been a rational guy. That would be obvious to anyone, what with his first significant interaction with his childhood crush being a note telling the guy in child-speak to get the hell away from him.

He hadn't grown much.

It was probably why, up to date, the words "I like you" have passed his lips a total of 20 times. He had been keeping count. 

The locker closed with a metallic thud, and Gintoki watched in amused delight as Hijikata flinched when he finally noticed the other's presence. 

"Don't you have a test to go and fail?" Hijikata instantly said, as if he was waiting this whole day to say it. Gintoki pushed off the lockers when Hijikata didn't give him a chance to reply, following the male who had turned to walk to his own class due to start in a few minutes.

"You know me, Hijikata-kun. I need my daily interaction with you."

"Oh fuck off." Gintoki could tell Hijikata had rolled his eyes after that, even if he could only see the back of his head as they walked down the corridor.

Gintoki pursed his lips. "I like you, Hijikata."

He could hear the snickers from the hallway dwellers as they tuned into Ginhiji's daily fight of the day. They would recall the previous arguments they'd heard from the two, and then say things about how Gintoki's new catchphrase of confessions was to get a rise out of Hijikata. Gintoki would ignore them because this was never any of their business.

Within a heartbeat, Hijikata replied, "Yeah, yeah, get out of my school, bastard." 

A smile twitched on his face, and Gintoki watched fondly as Hijikata slipped into his classroom, feeling a strange sort of warmth at the reference only they knew. 

Two months ago, when he'd first confessed to Hijikata, the male's reaction was the complete opposite to this. He had frozen up, opening and closing his mouth as he evidently grasped at things to say in response. There hadn't been much of a build up to the confession that day—none at all, really, considering that Hijikata just insulted how his freshly washed gym clothes smelled like strawberry shortcake. They'd left the locker room early, into the quiet section that connected the hallway and the gymnasium. Hijikata had been adjusting his school uniform's tie when Gintoki paused, turned to the man, and said the three words. 

And then, "I like you," he repeated it for extra measure. 

Hijikata seemed to wince when the words finally punctured his temporal lobe. Maybe it was because of how impromptu it was, or because it was coming from Gintoki. "I hate that," the dark-haired man soon choked out, and Gintoki at first didn't know what he meant by that. He didn't have the chance to ask for an explanation because Kondo and Yamazaki came walking out, to which Hijikata immediately changed his demeanour, looking away to join the two. 

It'd only occurred to Gintoki that he'd been somewhat rejected when his fifth period ended and he connected the word "hate" to the word "rejection". But, he'd reasoned, Hijikata didn't outright reject him, and Gintoki needed that to move on. 

So, the next day, he said it again, with the intention of having Hijikata look him in the eye and tell him straight out (hah) that he 1. Wasn't gay, 2. Didn't give a shit, and 3. Just wasn't interested in Gintoki. 

But he didn't do any of that. Instead all Gintoki had gotten was a light scoff, a small acknowledgement before he continued on with his daily routine of insulting Gintoki to hell and back. It was weird that Hijikata hadn't said anything more to it, so Gintoki tried again. This time it was before school. The next time was during lunch. The next, the parking lot. 

Every reaction that he'd gotten from Hijikata was one of annoyance, but not the type that escaped their realm of usual banter. Gintoki figured that he'd have to say it until the male figured out that he'd have to respond if he wanted Gintoki to stop. 

Thus, it became a sort of ritual to confess to Hijikata whenever it popped up in Gintoki's mind. Like he removed his brain-to-mouth filter, and whenever he saw something that made his chest squeeze a little or his heart rate increase, the words were tumbling out of his mouth. 

(Like when Hijikata snorted a little too loud in the library at one of the inappropriate insult Gintoki had told him, or when Hijikata rolled his eyes and had that little curve to his lips, when Hijikata got frustrated that Gintoki kept beating him in basketball to the point that he called cheats.) 

Gintoki just couldn't help himself.

I like you, I like you, 

"I like you."

"—Not the time!" Hijikata hissed, "Help me get this—fucking—mess cleaned up!"

Oh, right. They were currently in the middle of putting 3000-pound books back into the storage next to the library. Had been told by their teacher that, "since [they] like fighting so much, [they] can fight about who puts the most books away" (English class. November 27, 2020. Prof. Benson.)—as quoted in MLA format, probably wrong because Gintoki was barely passing.

That was the 37th time Gintoki'd confessed, by the way.

He picked up three books and shoved some other ones away, putting it on the shelves inefficiently.

"God," Hijikata griped, shouldering Gintoki to make it further into the room. "Can you do anything right?" He rearranged the books Gintoki had just placed down, making space for at least a couple more.

"I can get on your nerves," Gintoki answered.

The other rolled his eyes.

"Then get off."

The words summoned a joke in the permhead's mind, and he was saying it before he could even think about how Hijikata would react, smirk on his face. "If I can get on you," he placed his forearm on the shelf before Hijikata, blocking him in his path to grab more books, "Then sure."

He was expecting for Hijikata to brutally roast him like usual, perhaps force his way past and spit out some colourful language. Instead, even through the dim and dusty light of the storage room, Gintoki saw a faint blush cover the highest parts of his cheeks. He subsequently pushed Gintoki's arm away, lacking the usual strength because of his evident fluster. 

And that was what always made Gintoki so confused. That reaction was not completely new. Though they were rare and far in between, sometimes Hijikata would go silent and sport a blush, or he'd hesitate, trip over his words, mess up whatever he was doing. It always made Gintoki think that there was something there—an inkling that perhaps he had the same feelings for Gintoki, no matter how fractional. 

It made Gintoki desperate. Kept on his toes, these moments made him want to push harder. Until whatever they had between them finally broke and Hijikata revealed what was making him react that way.

Gintoki stared after Hijikata who had only shaken his head (he always had to reply in some way, else he lost), picking up the dumb blocks. 

"I like you," he said, quieter, tenderly. 

Hijikata pushed the spines of the books into place.

 

-

 

"Probably."

Gintoki heard a voice from around the corner as he was walking to the exit of the school on the second last day before Christmas break, bag lazily hanging over his shoulder. He recognized the voice immediately, knowing that it was Hijikata's. As he was thinking of what to say to mess with the man today, another voice interrupted his thoughts, revealing who Hijikata was hanging out with.

"Yes! You're the best, Hijikata!" It was Kondo, and that fact was further strengthened as Gintoki turned the corner and saw the guy holding Hijikata in a headlock, knuckles digging into the latter's scalp in a noogie. 

"What—stop it!" the ravenette complained, but he was choking out laughter as he said it. 

The sight of Kondo and Hijikata touching so easily; a testament to their long-time friendship and interaction that Gintoki will never have, made him feel a spark of uncomfortable jealousy that he was barely allowed to have.

"Oh, Sakata," Sougo spoke up, and it was only after his words that Gintoki noticed Sougo was even there. 

"What's up," Gintoki spoke casually to him. The exchange alerted the other two of Gintoki's presence, prompting Kondo to stop the assault on Hijikata's head. Hijikata looked up, hints of a smile still on his face when he made eye contact with Gintoki. Of course, those disappeared the moment after, instead replaced with mild curiosity and his usual facade of annoyance. 

"Kondo just convinced Hijikata to go to the New Year's mixer," the brunette supplied, being the middle man between the trio and Gintoki. 

"The one hosted by Shigeshige?" (An attempt at being a plebian, since the guy was incredibly rich and every one knew of it.)

"Yep. Are you going?" 

Gintoki moved his gaze back to Hijikata, who was frozen in the headlock since Kondo had no intention of letting up. 

"Sure."

"That's great. Kondo, Otae needs to have her car washed, or did you forget?"

"How could I forget?" the gorilla questioned, finally letting go of Hijikata, "She finally asked for my help."

"You paid her to let you wash her car."

The two quickly left with the discussion of what being a simp means, and Gintoki knew he'd probably have to thank Sougo one day for being a wingman in situations such as these. 

Hijikata was fixing the collar of his shirt, patting down his hair once that was finished.

"So you're going?" Gintoki questioned, "To the mixer." He tried to keep his voice level, but it was obvious how much jealousy poured into his words.

"I said probably," Hijikata reiterated, feigning disinterest, avoiding looking at Gintoki. "You're going," Hijikata pointed out.

"Because you might be going."

"Huh?" he paused, finally looking up.

"Because I don't want you to find a partner."

"Oh, yeah," Hijikata drawled, though there was a tension behind it that in hindsight, Gintoki should have noticed was often in his words. "You can't handle me getting a girlfriend before you do."

"That's not it and you know it."

Hijikata scoffed, turning and taking a few steps to his locker to open it, keeping busy, probably avoiding confrontation. "Right, my bad. You can't handle the thought of me being happy, I get it."

Gintoki felt irked. It was undoubtedly because of his prior envy towards Hijikata and Kondo, his jealousy at the thought that Hijikata was going to look for a partner, and now—how he refused to acknowledge that Gintoki wanted the man to himself. Even acknowledging it as a joke would sit better with Gintoki, since it now felt like he couldn't even fathom the thought.

When Hijikata pulled open his locker, Gintoki closed the distance between them, placing a hand on the metal to then slam it closed. He watched as Hijikata turned to him, opening his mouth to complain before being cut off.

"It's because I like you," Gintoki explained. He normally would have stopped there. Let Hijikata digest the words and pick out of his imaginary pool of responses what to say to Gintoki that day. But he was feeling off. The year was nearly ending, Gintoki had confessed more than 50 times, every day he fell harder, and every day it felt like it was getting more and more difficult to get to Hijikata. So, he continued with, "I've said it so many times, Hijikata. What else can I say to make you realize that I'm not joking?"

"Wha—"

"I like you," Gintoki pushed, "This is my 64th time saying it, and I'm not going to accept it being the 64th time you think it's a joke."

Hijikata blinked, once, a few times in fast succession, and then he backed away a step. He tried, desperately, "You're taking this bit a little far, Gin—"

"It's not a bit, or whatever the fuck else you think! I'm not doing this to annoy you or make you angry. I'm just—saying the truth. How else am I supposed to say it? What else will make you belie—"

"Confess under a cherry blossom tree or something, write me a love letter—I don't fucking know!" Hijikata exclaimed, "You're always so casual, you always annoy and bully me, how am I supposed to know—" he struggled on the words, "That you actual like me?"

At the man's outburst, Gintoki was put into a stunned silence, because those words definitely, definitely, said that Hijikata wanted to hear him confess. It was a little hard to process that fact, but he couldn't rule it out as untrue because of all the other hints that he was given throughout the years. The pauses and the little smiles, the obvious jealousy and irritation that Hijikata also had at the thought of Gintoki going to the mixer. Yeah. Gintoki could tell that much, but he just needed confirmation.

"You're—" Gintoki thought about the cliche cherry blossom scene that Hijikata was talking about—thought about how Hijikata suggested that he do it, a laugh escaping him that he couldn't hold back, "Unbelievable," Gintoki said.

Hijikata flushed and rolled his eyes, staring angrily at some spot on the locker, "See, you're doing it again."

"Hijikata," the permhead said, waited until Hijikata was looking at him again, before he continued with, "Tomorrow. At lunch time. Meet me at the cherry blossom tree in the yard."

"What the hell—"

Gintoki started backing away to the exit before Hijikata could make any of them change their minds, "I better see you there! You're gonna get exactly what you wanted."

"I did not—" Gintoki turned, walking faster in his excitement, wondering exactly what he should do to confess to Hijikata for the last time tomorrow, "Gintoki!"

Finally, he thought, his previous confessions would all converge into one, unavoidable, love statement.

 

-

 

The leaves on the tree were dead. 

It was to be expected, it being December 17th and all. 

That didn't stop Gintoki from standing right under it, watching as Hijikata made fresh footprints in the snow, walking up to Gintoki with his face buried in a scarf. 

"This is so idiotic," Hijikata choked out when he was finally standing in front of Gintoki.

"Yeah, but you're still here."

"God, shut up—"

"Hijikata," Gintoki began, aware of the eyes that were on them from the windows of the school, looking down onto the snowy yard through the whittled tree branches that provided little to no cover of this event. "I've liked you since I first got to know your name."

And it was obvious that Hijikata hadn't expected that one, eyes widening at the phrase. 

"I think you're smart, talented, hard working, attractive, hot, and you know," Gintoki chuckled, "It's funny how I've said I like you so many times but I've never told you this."

Hijikata seemed to want to say something, but Gintoki didn't let him do it, continuing.

"Even the only letter that I gave to you was because I liked you, but I don't think I realized it yet." Hijikata's expression very clearly showed that he thought Gintoki was bullshitting about that part, and it made Gintoki smile. "You're so cute," he said off-handedly, under his breath. 

Hijikata just shrunk into his scarf at the compliment, but he didn't look away.

"I really, really like you, Hijikata. And I think you need to read this."

He pulled out the love letter he'd painstakingly prepared last night, on nice paper, inside a nice little envelope with Hijikata's name on it. 

Hijikata took it and he let out a laughter of incredulity, because really, what the hell were they doing. 

Gintoki watched as the other opened it, taking care not to rip it, reminding Gintoki of just another part of Hijikata that he was so smitten by. He felt relief that his words were finally reaching the guy, and to be fair it was mostly Gintoki's fault that his previous confessions were seen as a joke. They'd been casual statements at random points in the day, and combining that with the fact that they were supposedly frenemies or whatever, it was Gintoki's bad. But at least, now, he found a way to make it serious. 

He never knew it would take a cherry blossom tree confession, but he decided that it was just as good as any other method. 

The folded paper was opened, and Gintoki held back a snort when he could tell that Hijikata's eyes read over the words:

"Please don't get out of my school."

"I fucking hate you."