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been waiting for you, too

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"Hero, you've got a stain right here," Ross said, deliberately poking him in the chest. Looking at Ross' bland expression then down at the direction in question, he was met with an uppercut to the face.

"THAT'S NOT HOW IT GOES."

"Oh, so you know it goes? I'm shocked. Hero, you're into some weird stuff."
"Are YOU seriously saying that to me?"
Alba swallowed a sob as he nursed his jaw. There should be a limit to how much a person can hurt in jest, but Ross crossed the line, went back, and stomped it underfoot. He didn't hold back punches, figuratively and literally.
At the moment, they were hanging out in Alba's cell. Ross had waltzed in earlier, and while Alba was initially warm to the gesture, he was seriously starting to regret his earlier state of mind. He always seemed to forget how much Ross enjoyed kicking him around.

He hoped Ross had enough for today. After all, they only got to see each other once a month. He just wanted to get the lesson over with so he could hear about Ross' journey with Crea so far. There was always something interesting to hear, and much more so after being stuck in the cell for so long.

But of course, Ross seemed to have other plans. He stuck his hands in his pockets and leaned forward, smirking right in the Alba's face.
"Are you crying, Hero?"
"No... I'm not."
"It's okay if it hurts, you can tell me."
"You wouldn't heal me anyway!!"
Ross smiled in satisfaction. "That's true."
Alba groaned. This was going nowhere. "Please," he said defeatedly. "Let's just get on with it today.'

"Oh. Well, there's not much we can do today."
They stared at each other, one bored, the other confused.
"What do you mean? Don't you have a lesson planned?"
"I've taught you just about everything I know. And you seem to have everything under control anyway. Congrats, Hero. The lessons are over."

Alba stared at him hard. When he realized Ross wasn't joking as per usual, he seemed to sink back in his seat at his desk.
"For real? There's nothing left to teach me? Not even, I don't know... Maintaining control? Concentration?"
"I've taught you those already. As long as you've been practicing them while I've been gone you'd be fine. And it looks like you're doing fine."

He gave Alba one of his rare, real smiles and reached out to pat him on the head.

Alba froze. He should be happy, shouldn't he? Usually Ross put him through the grinder during these visits. There wouldn't be anything to look forward to. Just a lot of pain, pokes at his self-worth and then lingering exhaustion afterwards. It was finally over, he was done. There was nothing to look forward to.

"Alba? Did you short-circuit? Ugh."
Alba remembered to focus. He could feel his chest clench in pain and resisted the urge to grab it.
"No, I... I'm glad. Glad it's over. Y-yay. You can go back to adventuring now."

There was nothing to look forward to, except-

"Ahhh. I see. You're so happy your brain just melted, huh? Just can't wait to get rid of me?" The hand that was initially gently rubbing Alba's head started pushing down, and Alba cried out in pain as he fought to stay upright.

"That's right! Just leave already!"
"You know, something tells me you aren't telling the truth."

Ross grabbed onto Alba's hair none-too-gently and dragged him up until they were about eye level. Alba gave him the dirtiest look he could. The space and pause between them was charged with an almost tangible energy. Ross asked him a question that made his mind sputter.

"What do you want from me, really?" His stare made Alba uncomfortable, It was heavy with a feeling Alba didn't want to think too hard about, because if he did, Ross would find out somehow and probably beat him up. A contradictory feeling, considering it was coming from Ross himself.

"Stop, I don't-"
"Where's your bed?"
"...my what?"
"Bed. Are you stupid? Unless you sleep on the floor. Then, my condolences."
"Shut up! I do have a bed, it's just really dark at the back of this cell."

With minimal directions, Ross dragged Alba towards the back, then flung him onto the bed when he found it. Ross followed, climbing on top of Alba and pinning down his arms and legs to prevent him from leaving. That didn't stop Alba from squirming, so he put up a fight.

"Calm down, you idiot."
"Y-you! What are you-"
"I'm seriously gonna slap you if you don't stop moving."
That shut up Alba quickly. He stopped moving long enough for Ross to let go of his arms.

Alba really tried to stay calm. Ross stared down at him with a pressure he could feel. There it was, that heavy feeling again.

"Tell me the truth. Oh, don't worry, I already know how you feel. I just wanna hear it in your own words."
"What do you even mean? There's nothing for me to say! You can leave now. After all, you have nothing left to teach me."
"Quit lying to yourself. Think about it, stupid. Say what you want to say now. We won't see each other for another month after this."

Alba felt his heart sink. He felt terrible. Ross was right, but all he could do was lash out at him. After a moment, he decided it was okay to say what was on his mind.

"Yeah, I lied. There's no way you're done teaching me, I still have a lot to learn."
"You say some pretty embarrassing things, you know? But that's not it."
"Huh?"
"You can't be this dense. You have a brain right? Use it. I don't care if you have to bore me to sleep. You're allowed to waste my time today."

Ross ended his sentence smirking. Alba had never wanted to wipe that smile off his face so badly before until that very moment. He tried to sit up again, but he suddenly felt too tired to move. He gave up and put his arms over his face. He could still see Ross' questioning face behind closed eyes. He sighed deeply and tried not to stutter.

"I...I don't want you to leave. Not yet. I want to train more with you. It's not the same when you're not around. It's- haha... It's lonely when you're gone. Even when I'm being visited by others it's lonely. It's so dumb."

There was a crushing silence afterwards. Alba waited for the deep-cutting comment, but it never came. It felt like forever until he moved his arms away, just to see Ross' cheeks tinted pink. Before he could say anything, Ross spoke first.

"You're right. You're dumb."
"Hey, wha- That's not what I said!" He successfully sat up this time around, elbows supporting his upper body.
"Yeah, yeah. I missed you, too, Alba."

Alba couldn't even flinch as Ross bent close to brush their chapped lips. And just as unexpected as Ross' lips touched Alba's own, he moved away. It was like he had touched a hot stove.

"Ah... That was my first kiss." Ross sat back on Alba's legs. If he looked disoriented, Alba felt like he got hit by a tornado. Of all the things that brought him closer to death, this was now at the top of the list. Ross brushed his fingertips along his mouth sullenly. Alba's head felt dizzy with pressure, as if blood was rushing upwards to strangle his brain.
"You, I... I don't believe you..." He squeaked a little when Ross turned his full attention back on him.
"Haah?? You think I go around just kissing anyone, Hero?"
"N-no! No way!" But Alba was starting to see why. No self-respecting person would go near such a scathing mouth.

"...Look at me when you say those things. You stupid idiot."

Ross reached out for Alba's face. Out of reflex, Alba flinched- he'd been punched one too many times in the past not to. He noticed Ross' face and hands twitch suddenly and feared for his life. But instead of being hit, his face was gently grabbed by two rough hands.

"Look at me."

Ross kissed him again, deeper and warmer than Alba imagined kisses could be. This time he slipped his tongue in right away, scraping the top of Alba's mouth and tracing indents. After a momentary hesitation, Alba went with it, moving his own just so along Ross'. The unexpected action made Ross shudder in relief and pleasure. He pushed into Alba's face to try and reach deeper with his tongue, and Alba held onto his forearms for dear life. When Alba moaned a little, and the vibrations tingled at both of their throats. Ross was the one to let go first at the peak of breathlessness. His chest flooded with warmth when he noticed Alba try to follow his lips.

Taking a moment to assess the damage done, Ross quietly thumbed Alba's reddened cheeks as the younger boy fought to get his breathing back in control. All it took for Alba to come undone once again was a kiss to the corner of his mouth. His chest lifted and his mouth fell open. Ross unhurriedly swiped his tongue across the line of Alba's teeth, wanting to go back to making out, but Alba was pushing him away, trying to say something.

"You're not gonna stab me or anything, right?" Ross huffed. That question would have totally ruined the mood if Alba didn't look so disheveled.
"Why, do you want me to? Are you into that?"

Alba looked surprised, then burst into short laughter.

"Alba? You're crying."

Alba raised his hands to where Ross' were a short while ago. His cheeks were damp and his vision blurred.

'Oh...?"
"What, you're freaking me out here. Why're you crying?"

Alba wiped his eyes. He found that his chest felt lighter and it was easier to smile, despite the tears.

"It's always been kind of difficult to get close to you so... This was really nice. I guess I just really missed you, huh?"

Ross looked a little sheepish. It made Alba want to touch his face. Or kiss him again.

"Why do you think I came here if I had nothing left to teach you? It's not like I'm leaving forever. I'll be back next month."

After a pause. Alba burst into laughter again. In the end, there really was nothing he had to worry about. Ross stared at him with a mixed look. Before Alba could catch his breath, Ross was pinching his side. The sharp pain made him stop and whine, which only urged Ross to kiss him again. It was a brief touch of lips, much like their first kiss. Right after, Ross collapsed on top of Alba.

"I'm tired, Let me sleep here."
"Wha... Is that why you wanted to know where the bed was?"
"Did you think it was for something dirty? Alba, that's sick."
"...Ross, you're heavy-"
"Don't change the subject, you masochist."

Ross left an arm over Alba's chest. It was heavy, warm and safe, familiar and unfamiliar with all the experience he carried. As Ross drifted off to a dreamless sleep, Alba shut his eyes.

The things he looked forward to, the way things would be from now on- they were all hazardous to his health. He needed to reassess his life.