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It starts sometime during winter. Shintaro remembers thick coats and scarves, and missing Juri’s presence by his side. It usually went like this: Juri would complain about the cold and stick to Shintaro, because he always said Shintaro was warm. Shintaro would try to push him away and fail miserably, because Juri wasn't stronger than him but he was more cunning, and maybe Shintaro didn’t mind having him pressed by his side that much.

The winter comes, with the cold and the snow. But Juri isn’t searching for Shintaro’s heat this time.

In the end, even Shintaro can't ignore the multiple “Hey, get a room,” and catcalls that Juri and the other person are getting about every time they are together.

"You and Hokuto?? As in you're dating Hokuto?”

"Hey, not so loud!" And the way Juri smiles, a bit embarrassed but not at all distressed, does funny things to Shintaro's insides. In a bad way.

They are in a small family restaurant where Shintaro is used to eating his weight in ramen, but he feels suddenly full. With food and feelings he doesn't completely understand.

"Well... are you?" Shintaro insists, staring intently at Juri’s face because he just has to know if Juri is messing with him, because he kind of hopes Juri would crack up and laugh and tell him it’s a joke.

"We are not dating exactly..." But Juri blushes a bit when he speaks, toying around with his chopsticks as he does, and that about confirms it for Shintaro.

He doesn't particularly understand how this ‘not dating’ thing works. Juri is spending time with Hokuto and they do... things... and how is that not dating?

He forces the food into his mouth, even if he is no longer hungry. At least that way he doesn't have to talk.

The next day, when Juri pokes his head shyly into the practice room where they are pole dancing, Shintaro tries to come to terms with how he feels at his friend not being there to visit him, but then he loses track of Hokuto and Juri's whereabouts while he is doing stretches and even though that other kid is still there, Shintaro feels like the loneliest person in the universe.

***

It's not that he doesn't like Hokuto. Because Hokku is a terrific guy and a wonderful friend, and he doesn’t treat Shintaro any different just because now he is ‘not dating’ Shintaro’s best friend. It’s strange but this is something Shintaro really appreciates.

It's just that he'd prefer Juri to spend most of his free time with him. As it used to be.

***

They are trying to double dutch. Trying being the operative word. It was easy at first, but then the staff gave them the ropes to take care of and everything went pretty much to hell.

“Okay, I need a break,” Hokuto all but howls as he throws the ropes he is holding as far away as he can, which is not that far as his arms are visibly tired.

This is usually Hokuto’s code for “I need to fool around with someone for a while,” as Shintaro discovered the hard way. He is still trying to unsee Hokuto’s enraptured face and his fingers tangled up in Taiga’s hair from that time, long ago, when they were still filming Bakaleya and Shintaro opened the door of the wrong room.

Shintaro has come to dread these moments, he doesn’t know why; the turmoil and uneasiness he feels deep in his stomach only growing as days go by, and he really, really hates the way Taiga looks at him when Juri stands up and all but runs to the door after Hokuto, the way Taiga searches for Shintaro’s eyes like he wants to find something there, some sort of camaraderie Shintaro doesn’t understand. It makes him want to crawl out of his skin, makes him want to scream; it makes him want to grab Taiga by his shoulders and shake him until he explains to him what the hell is going on.

“It’s just a fling,” Taiga rushes to say, hushed into Shintaro’s ear, when Hokuto an Juri are no longer in the room and Shouki is trying to practice alone with the ropes, as far away from them as he can.

“I know,” Shintaro says, as noncommittally as he manages. “They are not dating.”

Taiga’s eyes are too sad as he pats Shintaro’s back, so he has to run away somehow.

Shintaro walks to the wall, steps one foot forward and takes impulse, easily pushing himself up into a handstand. Long ago his brother told him that this was the only way Shintaro could make blood get into his brain so he could think, but his brother can be a tool sometimes, and he’d got it wrong anyway. Standing upside down on his hands like this makes Shintaro’s mind blissfully clear, his whole body focused on keeping his balance, on breathing, on keeping control. It calms him, reassures him, makes him feel he is on top of everything even if he knows he is not.

He bend his arms a little, feels the way his whole body quivers with the effort, the way all his muscles shift and strain, and then he pushes himself up again. And there’s no trace of anything confusing in his mind, not at all.

Shintaro is sweaty and on the brink of exhaustion, and on his ninth round of crunches on the floor, when Hokuto and Juri come back to the room. Juri’s hair is a mess and Hokuto reeks of nicotine, and Shintaro feels sick to his stomach because since the incident with Ryutaro he really can’t stand cigarette smoke and much less its smell all over the room.

***

“Are you still not over him?” Shintaro is unable to look at Taiga’s face, but the barely concealed snort lets him know he heard Shintaro’s question.

“I don’t know what you are talking about, we never had anything going.” Taiga’s answer is curt and his voice steady, but the mere fact that he knows exactly who they are talking about is a dead giveaway.

“So you were not-dating Hokku too…” Sarcasm vibrates in Shintaro’s voice, because everybody treats him like he was six, but he isn’t anymore; and sometimes they need to know it.

“It’s just the way he does things,” Taiga sighs. “He’ll get bored soon enough.”

“So you are still not over him.” Shintaro can’t force himself to turn his head in Taiga’s direction, but he eyes him sideways anyway.

“I worry about you, actually,” Taiga retorts, looking at him with a deadpan.

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” Shintaro says, but he does know. Kind of.

***

The ropes are not cooperating, the choreography is not cooperating, the Universe is not cooperating and Hokuto is so frustrated with the failure of his team that for once in a long while he isn't paying any attention to Juri. Shintaro is happy in spite of himself, even if he doesn't quite know why.

“You all suck!” Hokuto moans miserably, rolling on the floor after getting tangled on the ropes once again.

“Our captain sucks…” Taiga counters, untangled but collapsing on the floor too, nonetheless.

“Fuck you…” Hokuto tries to hit Taiga, but he is too far away and Hokuto can’t be bothered to move.

“Miss me much…?” Taiga hisses, and Shintaro cringes, unable to assess if there is venom there or not.

“Could both of you please get it over with the wishful thinking and drag your asses up?!” Juri only half jokes.

The day of the showdown is getting closer and all of them are feeling the pressure, even Shouki, who doesn’t spend the entire day smiling nowadays.

“Okay that’s it… I need a break from you,” Hokuto gracelessly gets on his feet, looks at Juri and scoffs at his aggravated face. “From all of you,” Hokuto rectifies, reaching for the pocket in his bag that not so secretly hides his cigarettes before leaving the room.

Silence lasts for some minutes, but then Juri approaches Shintaro and smiles at him.

“It’s about synchrony,” Juri says, and Shintaro can only smile in response. Juri’s smile has had that effect on him since forever.

They begin by trying to synch their hands, then take the ropes and just move them around, but when they try to turn both ropes at the same time it gets messy, and the ropes tangle and Juri gets a laughing fit that is ninety percent frustration but manages to make Shintaro laugh too anyway.

“Hokuto is right,” Juri says, almost crying from laughter. “We do suck.”

“Hey!” Shintaro tries for outrageous, but his face breaks into a gigantic smile when Juri rests his face on his shoulder to keep from falling as he keeps on laughing. “Speak for yourself!” Shintaro insists, as he jabs two fingers under Juri's ribs.

Juri retaliates viciously, going for Shintaro’s most ticklish spots, and Shintaro tries to hold Juri’s hands still, but Juri is slippery and fast, and he turns and twists quickly, freeing himself before attacking him again and again. Shintaro tries to twist Juri’s arm behind his back to immobilize him, careful not to use all his force, because they are just goofing around and the last thing he wants is to hurt Juri, but the sneaky bastard manages to spin them around and then Shintaro’s own arm is twisted behind his back and Juri is somehow tying a rope Shintaro didn’t notice him picking up from the floor around Shintaro’s shoulders, and his laughter teases Shintaro’s ear, and this is suddenly not that funny anymore.

Shintaro pants, and drops to his knees, trying to escape from Juri’s nearness, but Juri’s been leaning on him too much and loses his balance, ending up draped on Shintaro’s back, all his sharp angles and warmth burning through Shintaro’s clothes, making goosebumps break on his skin when Juri laughs against his neck.

“Give up Shin, surrender,” Juri sighs, with a smirk Shintaro feels in the form of a shiver that runs down his spine and into every little corner of his body. Juri tightens his hold on the rope then, and Shintaro feels it digging in, with enough force for him to notice but not nearly enough to hurt or even hold him still. And he feels paralyzed anyway.

They are not alone, even if Shouki is taking a cat nap on a chair and Taiga is so pointedly not looking at them that is annoyingly plain that he is averting his eyes. Even so, this feels so intimate and embarrassing that Shintaro doesn’t quite know what to do, doesn’t know why his body is reacting like this to his friend’s closeness, why his heart hammers wildly in his chest and every breath Juri takes reverberates on Shintaro’s skin and he feels heated and cold, and torn inside out.

The door opens then, and the smell of cigarette smoke that precedes Hokuto makes Shintaro’s blood freeze in his veins.

“This is not what it looks like,” Juri says and cracks up laughing afterwards, but Hokuto only lifts an eyebrow and looks mildly amused at the display.

Shintaro tries to laugh along, but he has never been any good faking smiles and soon gives up.

“Okay everybody,” Hokuto rallies them with his best leader voice. “Let’s try to not suck that much this time!”

Juri takes his place to turn the ropes opposite to Shintaro, as they have been doing all day, but Hokuto halts them.

“Shouki,” Hokuto calls. “To the ropes, with me.”

There is some weird exchange between Juri and Hokuto when they look at each other, but none of them says a word as Juri lets go of the ropes and gets in line behind Taiga to jump. Shintaro follows him, close enough to hear Juri whisper “It’s all about synchrony, huh?” under his breath.

And Shintaro doesn’t know what to feel.

***

Shintaro never really understood before why people liked to hold each other’s hand, or hug or even kiss. It seems so gross and uncomfortable.

But then again, after they successfully go through the double dutch choreography from hell on the stage and the fans cheer for them, after all the exhilaration and the sense of accomplishment, Juri hugs him backstage, celebrating their victory over chaos, and Shintaro doesn’t really want to let him go.

Ever.

***

Shintaro’s phone buzzes annoyingly in the middle of the night, it’s enough to wake him up, even if he is anything but a light sleeper. And he wonders why he has fifteen missed calls from Hokuto’s cell phone just before the buzz starts again.

“If this is a prank I will rip your arms off, and you know I can,” Shintaro greets whoever is calling.

“We are at the door to your house,” comes Hokuto soft voice through the speaker, but he hangs up before Shintaro can even think of asking who is we.

Shintaro walks toward the door in a semi zombie state, cursing at every step and wondering why he has such jerks as friends.

For some miracle of life his brother is asleep and not playing some online game when he passes by his room, and his parents are sound asleep.

Shintaro opens the front door as silently as he can to find Hokuto holding up a clearly inebriated Juri. One of Hokuto's arms is wrapped around Juri's waist while he holds Juri's arm secure where it's slung across Hokuto's shoulders with his free hand.

“What the hell,” Shintaro manages to force out in place of a proper greeting, but Hokuto only stares sullenly at him.

“Here,” Hokuto says, disengaging from Juri’s arm and putting it around Shintaro’s shoulder with a gentleness that contrasts with his hostile attitude. “I’m giving him back to you."

“You are drunk too,” Shintaro hisses, indignation seeping through every pore of his skin, because Hokuto can be as much of an asshole as he pleases, but Juri should know better.

“Take care of him, Shin,” Hokuto drawls softly. “And sorry for the late hour. This won’t happen again.”

Shintaro is too mad to say anything as Hokuto walks away, nothing in the way he walks betraying his state, and Shintaro chooses to ignore that particular battle. Hokuto is old enough to take care of himself and Shintaro has a confused looking Juri to take care of.

Shintaro manages to drag Juri into his bedroom without any major incidents, and he sits him down on his bed while Shintaro himself crouches down in front of him on the floor.

“What are you doing, Juri?" Shintaro asks in a small voice. He kind of wants to punch Juri, or yell at him, but then he sees the trail of wetness down his cheeks and all he wants to do is make Juri feel better, no matter how.

“I’m sorry, Shin… I’m so sorry. I know I do everything wrong. Everything… and I’m so sorry…” Shintaro knows enough about life to know this could be standard drunk talk, but he feels his heart squeezing anyway.

Shintaro reaches out and plants a hand on Juri’s shoulder, trying to convey a little reassurance even if he still mad at him, but Juri leans into the caress.

"Don't be so careless..." Shintaro whispers and it sounds as tight as his throat feels right now. “You are supposed to get this, you are supposed to understand!”

“I do Shin, I really do…” Juri’s eyes meet Shintaro’s and there is so much pain in them that Shintaro can feel it, and it hurts.

“Do you really?” Shintaro’s voice has barely any depth. “Then don’t do this again.”

Juri just looks at him, and there is something deep and scorching in his eyes, something Shintaro can’t name but he can feel it in his gut, in his bones; a shiver, a pull, something that he can only define as longing even if he doesn’t fully understand what that means.

Juri lifts one of his hands, reaches out till he almost touches Shintaro’s face, but then he just shakes his head and looks down, lowering his hand and breaking their visual contact.

“I’m sorry,” Juri says again, and Shintaro feels disappointed for some reason.

Shintaro helps Juri undress in silence, after making sure he drinks a glass of water and that he won’t throw up all over his bedroom. He has seen Juri change his clothes enough times, has even shared showers with him, but he has never looked at him as he does now, drinking in all of Juri’s slightly golden skin as he helps him out of his clothes, a tingly sensation that begins at Shintaro’s fingertips and expands all over his body.

Juri has a small tattoo, too low on his hipbone to show even on a racy photo shoot, and though it doesn’t look too recent, Shintaro has never seen it before. It’s the kanji for humility in an elaborate, beautiful calligraphy. It is also the first kanji of Shintaro’s name, and some uncanny force moves Shintaro to softly trace it with the tip of his index finger, a strange tremor deep down on his lower belly expanding like a wildfire all over him, destructive and confusing and making his heart roar and stop beating at the same time. Dread in equal parts as something that could be yearning.

Juri stops Shintaro’s hand, covering it with his own.

“Don’t,” Juri pleads.

“Why?”

“Because…” Juri forces out, but he doesn’t explain, he only takes Shintaro’s hand away from him, gently, and dives under the covers.

Shintaro turns off the light and gets himself into bed, his back against Juri’s back, and this strange emptiness inside him.

There’s another piercing on Juri’s ear the next time that Shintaro sees him, but Shintaro doesn’t make any comment about it.

***

Juri is evading Shintaro, but that is absolutely okay, because Shintaro doesn’t particularly wants to talk with Juri just now.

He is confused, and he doesn’t know what to do with all the feelings inside him. Because the happiness and relief he felt when Taiga told them Hokuto and Juri weren’t an item anymore is not normal, and neither is the possession that soars in his veins when he remembers Juri’s tattoo.

“And what the hell was that about anyway?” Shintaro asks. It sounds rhetorical, and maybe it is, but Taiga is beside him and he answers anyway.

“Maybe he is just committed to humility and restraint in his life,” Taiga deadpans, and Shintaro huffs in frustration. “Or maybe he wants in your pants and that’s a painful reminder that he’ll go to jail if he indulges in that. Because you two have never...?”

“No!!” Shintaro’s outrage makes Taiga snicker.

“Do you want to…?” Taiga wiggles his eyebrows provocatively, and Shintaro huffs again.

“You are useless and gross,” Shintaro says, gluing his eyes to the ceiling.

If he is honest with himself, he maybe kind of wants to be near Juri in the way Taiga is implying, but talking about it with Taiga makes him feel uncomfortable.

***

“Taiga says you want in my pants but are afraid to go to jail.”

Shintaro is in Juri’s room, because a week after the fact Shintaro is just fed up with the avoiding games and with not understanding anything and he just had to come here and confront Juri.

“Taiga needs to shut his mouth and mind his own business,” Juri says after almost choking in the middle of a yawn.

It’s Sunday and Juri had been taking a nap, and his bed hair and confused demeanor are breaking havoc in Shintaro’s system.

“Is he right?” Shintaro presses, and when Juri looks down to break their visual contact Shintaro steps forward and lifts his chin with two of his fingers. His free arm comes naturally to rest around Juri’s waist and suddenly they are closer than he intended them to be and Shintaro’s heart feels like it wants to hammer its way out of his chest.

“Shin, stop this,” Juri whispers, but it sounds heated and eager, and all in all like Juri doesn’t really want him to stop, especially when Shintaro drags his fingers up from Juri’s chin and begins to trace his lips, possessed by some strange impulse and unable to restrain himself.

“Is that why you have been avoiding me?” Shintaro manages to say over the roar of his blood. And then a more sinister idea ignites his brain, and words get out of his mouth before he can stop them. “Is that what that whole fling with Hokku was about?”

“I’m not afraid of going to jail! I’m trying to protect you!” Juri almost squeals, but Shintaro can see he hit home, see it in Juri’s eyes.

“From what?” Shintaro asks as he holds Juri closer, feeling all his blood head south when Juri gasps. “What do you have to protect me from?”

There is a telltale tingle between Shintaro’s legs but, unlike any other time he has gotten a random erection that was annoying as hell, this feels good, it feels right. So he moves forward, parts Juri’s thighs with one of his and enjoys the heat that is pooling down there, terrifying as it might be.

Juri is thin, but there isn’t anything fragile or helpless about him, and Shintaro knows Juri could free himself from his grasp if he wanted to.

“Shin… what the hell are you doing…?” Juri asks, but he can’t hide the fire in his eyes, not at this distance and with their bodies so close.

“I don’t know,” Shintaro answers, because he doesn’t, not really. He just wants to feel Juri, to revel in the way Juri’s body is always cooler than his and feel it all over his skin. He wants to make Juri feel pleasure, but most of all, most than anything in the world, he wants to kiss him.

So he does.

It is Shintaro’s first real kiss, and it doesn’t feel nearly as gross as he used to think it would be to kiss someone. And Juri doesn’t fight him; after some brief seconds of reluctance, Juri kisses him back, and Shintaro suddenly understands why the hell people keep kissing all the time.

He feels a little embarrassed about the butterflies in his stomach, because he is not some teenage girl, but when they break the kiss and he looks at Juri blushing he just doesn’t mind anymore.

“Do you want me?” Shintaro asks, point blank. He doesn’t really know how to do things if it’s not this way.

“Don’t ask me that…” Juri whispers, but his body is answering in its own way, and Shintaro can feel it, feel the way Juri is hardening through the fabric of his sweats, right against Shintaro’s upper tight.

“Is it so bad?” Shintaro asks, because this is really confusing for him. “To be with someone, I mean. Is it so bad that you have to protect me from it?”

“What?” And now Juri looks as confused as Shintaro feels.

“You want me, and I want to be with you. Why do you have to be such an idiot about it?”

“Do you even know what you are talking about?”

Shintaro doesn’t answer, not with words. He just kisses Juri again, his tongue breaching through Juri’s lips into his mouth as his hands roam Juri’s back restlessly. He is not twelve, he hasn’t been twelve for a long, long time now, and maybe Juri needs to know it.

He backs Juri down until they get to the bed and Shintaro feels a rare kind of joy when they fall on it, when he covers Juri’s body with his and they move clumsily around until they are comfortable.

Juri’s hands aren’t still for much longer and Shintaro hears himself gasp and hiss as Juri explores the skin under Shintaro’s T-shirt. They get fed up with clothes soon enough, though, at least Shintaro does, and he gets rid of Juri’s tank top that keeps getting in the way when Shintaro only wants to touch Juri’s chest, and his shoulders, and every bit of skin that makes him feel good.

And then Shintaro’s hands roam further down, to the waistband of Juri’s sweats and below, under, in between, to find Juri half hard and swelling fast, and Juri chokes on a moan and it’s the most beautiful sound Shintaro has ever heard.

“We can stop,” Shintaro whispers, because Juri’s frown could mean anything right now and he is kind of whining.

“Don’t… please don’t stop,” Juri hisses, and Shintaro’s hand closes around Juri’s erection almost by its own will.

“Okay…” Shintaro breathes out, as he begins pumping Juri slowly.

He stops only to help Juri kick off the rest of his clothes and Shintaro removes his own sweats and boxers in one swift motion. He gasps when he lies down and can finally feel Juri completely against him.

“I don’t know how to do this,” Shintaro sighs, as his hips begin moving against Juri’s by mere instinct.

“How do you want to do it?” Juri asks, biting back a moan that reverberates all through Shintaro’s body.

“I don’t care. If it’s you I don’t care either way.”

Juri groans, his hips thrusting against Shintaro’s roughly. He then stretches his hand and dives it under the mattress.

“You keep that kind of stuff under the mattress?” Shintaro asks, more scandalized about the location of the lube and condoms than what’s about to happen. “And your mom has never found them?”

“She has five sons, Shin. She knows she never has to look under the mattress.”

Shintaro smiles, and this seems to finally make Juri relax a bit.

“Do you really want to do this?” Juri asks then, serious and intense.

Shintaro nods. “I trust you,” he says.

And Juri kisses him.

Juri’s fingers feel weird when they enter him, but it’s not a bad weird and Shintaro might feel a little bit jealous that Juri seems to know exactly what he’s doing, but that is also a good thing, he supposes. So he just relaxes, and it helps a lot, especially after Juri’s third finger, when it burns like a bitch for a while before it starts to feel really good.

It should make him feel more embarrassed than it does, Shintaro thinks, to be touched so intimately by someone, but then he contemplates the rapture on Juri’s face, and his heart explodes, and there is no room for anything else anywhere in the world.

“Juri… now?” Shintaro pleads, and Juri nods and tells him to switch positions, and they almost fall out of bed in the process and Juri laughs and the Universe gets brighter.

Juri hovers above him as he enters him, slowly, carefully, and Shintaro is grateful and a little annoyed. It doesn’t hurt, not with all the thorough preparation and tons of lube. It feels good, and then Juri starts moving and it feels even better, so he tells him so, and Juri’s hips rock into him harder and deeper when he hears it, so Shintaro does it again, and again.

“Next time I want you inside me,” Juri pants, as he pounds into Shintaro more and more erratically. "Next time I want to feel you. All of you."

“Juri…” Shintaro moans, clinging to the syllables as he clings to his fleeting control. He is close, so close. “Touch me, please.”

Juri’s hand wraps around Shintaro’s cock then, and he only needs a couple of strokes before he feels his eyes rolling to the back of his head, pure pleasure taking over as orgasm sweeps through him, leaving him weak and tingly in the aftermath.

Shintaro hears Juri’s grunts and feels him ramming into him through the cloud of bliss, he pets Juri’s short, sweat soaked hair and smiles as Juri’s glazed over eyes meet his.

“Let it go, Juri. Come now,” Shintaro whispers, his strong fingers playing with Juri’s pierced lobe, and he swears he can feel the exact moment Juri twitches inside him, finally surrendering, before collapsing over him.

Exhaustion and the summer heat make both of them slow for cleaning up, and they tacitly agree to postpone taking a bath for later, much later.

Shintaro isn’t much of a cuddler, but Juri seems to be okay with that, so they just lie on their backs on the bed, their pinkies intertwined, and Shintaro can’t help but keep on smiling.

“I don’t want to not-date you,” Shintaro says, turning his head to look at Juri’s profile.

Juri seems confused for a very long time, but Shintaro just stares at him.

“Why?” Juri asks finally, and Shintaro just knows Juri doesn’t know what Shintaro is talking about.

“Because I like you,” Shintaro says, in a ‘duh’ voice that just seems to confuse Juri further. And they say Shintaro is the dumb one. “I want you to be with me, and only me.”

“You want us to be boyfriends?” Juri is suddenly propped on one of his forearms and looking at Shintaro like he just has been told that Christmas will happen twice this year.

Shintaro isn’t sure of which is his facial expression right now, because he is trying to nod at the same time he is trying to look nonchalant, but he feels awkward as hell and he just knows he is blushing, because this conversation is too embarrassing for life.

“Well… yeah,” he forces out, and Juri just pounces and kisses him, and he looks so happy that Shintaro knows he did just the right thing. And he feels pretty smug about it.

***

They are Bakaleya again for a little while, because the agency seems to enjoy taunting fangirls with things they can never have, but thankfully Hokuto isn’t the leader this time. No one is, and it just feels right.

They are practicing an old choreography they already used a couple of times, but now Yugo knows where his hips are and he is distracting the heck out of all of them when they hit certain part of the song. So, they call for a break so Jesse can attempt to tame him or die trying.

Shintaro is sitting on a corner, gulping down water and trying not to smile too goofily as he watches Juri practicing his rap, when Taiga flops down unceremoniously beside him. Shintaro eyes him sideways, and yes, that is a hickey on Taiga’s neck all right.

Hokuto is at the other side of the room, rolling on the floor for no apparent reason other than being Hokuto and forever in love with it, and Taiga is openly looking at him, with an obvious and unguarded lovestruck look on his face. The unguarded part is the only change, in Shintaro’s opinion.

“So, everything is all right because you get to not-date Hokku again?” Shintaro asks, a little bit of malice showing in his tone.

“Brat,” Taiga admonishes, but he laughs anyway, and he actually holds up a fist for Shintaro to bro-fist him.