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The summer air had thankfully cooled down considerably since the sun had set, a slight breeze making it almost nice to be outside. Almost. Toudou’s borrowed jersey was still sticking uncomfortably to his skin, so he’d definitely have to wash it before returning it, but right now, he genuinely couldn’t care less. His entire body felt like it had been set on fire anyway, bursting with energy and a range of emotions he couldn’t hope to fully understand.

Maki-chan was back in Japan. Despite telling Toudou the opposite when he’d asked months ago, Makishima had come to watch the Inter-High. Finally, after an entire year, Toudou had gotten to race him again.

Despite the late hour, he knew there was no way he could go to sleep now. He hadn’t even lasted five minutes after Makishima left to get back to his former teammates, he just had to text him to at least find another place and time to meet before Makishima would inevitably go back to England. Preferably outside of watching the race, because there’d be too many other people. Racing had been Toudou’s top priority after he heard Makishima was back, so he genuinely hadn’t minded Onoda’s presence, but he really needed some alone time with his boyfriend.

They’d met in person after an entire year apart and he hadn’t even gotten a kiss! Unacceptable.

Makishima must’ve come to the same conclusion at least, because he not only texted back within minutes, he agreed to meet back up almost immediately. As in, Toudou had found a nice secluded park bench at the edge of the city, and Makishima was currently on his way there.

Toudou sat quietly, listening to the cicadas as he waited. He looked calm on the outside, but he was straining his ears for the sound of an approaching bike, ready to jump up at any time.

After what seemed like an eternity, but according to his phone amounted only to a little over ten minutes, the sound of a road racer gliding over asphalt disturbed the relative silence. Toudou sprung up from his seat, enthusiastically waving Makishima over. Makishima was already headed in his direction, but he gave an awkward wave back to acknowledge the gesture.

Unlike during their race, he seemed a bit unsure and refused to meet Toudou’s eyes as he got off his bike and leaned it against a tree to stop it from falling over. Toudou chose not to worry about it too much, Makishima was always thinking about a lot of unnecessary things, like how awkward it was that they met up again after just a few minutes even though he’d said he needed to leave. Instead, Toudou tackle-hugged him the moment his hands were free, with enough force to almost send both of them tumbling to the ground.

But Makishima kept them upright, reflexively going rigid at the sudden contact. He didn’t return the hug, but he made no move to resist it either. “It’s, uh, it’s good to see you again, Toudou.”

He was at least looking directly at Toudou now, his cheeks visibly flushed even in the darkness. Toudou felt his heart swell at the sight. Makishima was just too cute, and it had been too long since he’d seen his face without pixels and lags obscuring his expressions, too long since he heard his voice without the distortions of electronics.

“I missed you so much, Maki-chan,” he replied, his voice sounding sappy even to himself. It felt like he had the stupidest smile on his face too. But Makishima’s expression softened in response, and that was all the invitation Toudou needed to turn a little to the side, lean forward a little and press his lips against Makishima’s.

After a second, Toudou could literally feel the tension leave Makishima’s body as he returned the kiss and finally put his arms around Toudou as well. They stood like that for a while as Toudou relished in finally being able to touch his boyfriend again. He was warm – almost too warm considering the outside temperature, but he couldn’t care less – his lips were soft, and so was his hair.

Makishima broke the kiss first, but he didn’t let Toudou go. His cheeks were still flushed, but his smile looked a lot more comfortable now. “You smell like sweat,” he said, making Toudou pout.

“So do you!”

Makishima laughed at his indignant tone, patting him on the back comfortingly. “I really missed you too, Jinpachi.”

The sudden honesty rendered Toudou speechless for a moment, his heart racing a mile a minute while he stared blankly at Makishima. Finally, the excitement spread to the rest of his body, and he beamed, squealed “Maki-chan!” and leaned back in for another kiss.

While their last kiss had been almost motionless, just the both of them pressing against each other and refusing to move back even a little, this one was a lot more active. Now that he’d had a taste, Toudou felt like he just couldn’t get enough. He readily opened his mouth when he felt Makishima’s tongue against his lips, glad he wasn’t the only one not satisfied with what he’d gotten so far.

It’d never be enough, and yet Toudou was starting to feel like it was becoming too much. When he pulled away, both of them were breathing hard. Toudou rested his chin on Makishima’s shoulder and groaned. “Dammit Maki-chan, if you’d told me you were coming earlier I would’ve gotten a hotel room for myself!”

Makishima laughed, as if it wasn’t entirely his fault that they were both sharing rooms with their former teammates and didn’t have a chance at privacy.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, but it’s not like I’ll be going back to England right after this.”

Toudou perked up. “You won’t?”

“Well, if I came back here and didn’t even visit my family they’d probably be pretty mad at me… I have to spend some time with Tadokoro’s family too because they’d also be mad at me if I didn’t visit… But I don’t have a return flight yet and my brother told me I needed to take a break, so after that I could stay with you for a while. Only if you don’t mind of course, I know your apartment isn’t that big and you’ve got studying to do…”

Toudou couldn’t believe his ears. Or his luck. “You’re coming to visit? Really? I’ll show you around then and introduce you to everyone, and of course treat you to some original Toudou family hospitality! I can get you a bike too and show you the mountains I’m training on now! There’s so much we could do, you really should’ve said something earlier, so I could’ve planned it out better.”

“It’s fine even if we don’t do anything. Or we can just figure something out.”

They moved to the bench now that they’d settled into talking, but Makishima kept one hand around Toudou’s waist, who in turn leaned against his shoulder and played with strands of his hair. “No, no, no, Maki-chan, what kind of terrible host would I be if I just kept you inside my cramped apartment the entire time? You should see something of Japan now that you’re back! It’s not like I’m saying we need to be out and about all the time, I’d definitely leave some spaces open for… some alone-time.”

Toudou could feel his face heating up as Makishima snickered next to him. He tried covering it up by switching the topic back to things they could do outside of his apartment, suggesting a myriad of possibilities while Makishima mostly listened and only voiced his opinion if he thought it was a really good idea or a really bad one.

This was their routine through the year they’d spent apart and even before that, but it felt infinitely better with Makishima right next to him. And while a lot had happened in the past year, that had never changed, and being together instantly felt natural again.

Eventually, Toudou heard his phone vibrate in the back of his jersey just as he was taking a quick break from talking to catch his breath, and a quick look confirmed that it hadn’t been the first time and that it was way past midnight by now. Toudou had told Shinkai he would just see if Manami was doing fine on his own real quick and then hadn’t come back or answered his phone for hours, so he was understandably worried. Not only had he totally forgotten to call, he hadn’t noticed time passing at all. He sent a couple texts quickly explaining the situation and told Shinkai it’d be fine if everyone went to bed since he had a key. Shinkai responded “Have fun” with a finger gun emoji, so Toudou figured he was fine on that front until tomorrow.

It did however bring up the topic that he had to get back at some point, and probably soon. He needed sleep, he couldn’t afford to look anything short of perfect when Hakogaku would hopefully reclaim its rightful throne tomorrow.

But he didn’t want to let go yet. He was still just as unwilling as he’d been the first time this evening that Makishima had announced to leave, except this time there was nobody around to witness Toudou being clingy, so he had nothing to lose.

He should really bring it up, but instead, he put his phone back and resumed playing with Makishima’s hair. He should, but instead, he said: “You have split ends.”

Makishima snorted. “Well, seems like you’ve run out of interesting things to say, time to head back.”

“Nooooooooo,” Toudou whined, catching his boyfriend in an embrace, “I’m sorry, don’t leave me!”

“It’s late Jinpachi, I’m tired and still jetlagged, and we’ll see each other tomorrow anyway. You went an entire year without seeing me and it turned out fine, you can take a couple more hours that you’ll mostly be asleep for.”

Toudou pouted. “Just because I survived and waited for you doesn’t mean I didn’t constantly miss you. I knew no distance would be too far for our love to overcome, but I still didn’t like it.”

Now Makishima’s face was positively glowing red. “Are you even listening to yourself? Don’t just go and say something like that out of nowhere! Sheesh. You didn’t even have any way of actually knowing that.”

“Well, I can’t look into the future, so I didn’t know, technically, but I was sure. You get it, right? You knew too.”

“I… no? I honestly didn’t think we’d make it this far.”

“Huh?” Toudou felt like the floor had been pulled out from under him. Makishima had left for England, thinking their relationship wouldn’t survive. He had that little faith in him? In them? After the initial shock, Toudou had never thought of the distance as more than a necessary temporary inconvenience, while Makishima thought it was enough to end it all?

The shock must’ve shown on his face, because Makishima raised his hand defensively. “I was hoping, of course, but if you look at it realistically, plenty of long-distance relationships don’t last, almost nobody stays with their high school sweetheart nowadays, and we were both going to new places full of new people and new experiences so of course we’d change…”

A tiny part of Toudou happily registered that Makishima had just called him his sweetheart, while the rest was still not satisfied with the explanation. “I know all that, but it doesn’t really matter, what other people do has nothing to do with us. But I knew from the very first time we met you were special. The first time we raced, I felt a connection like never before. You did too, right? And we grew, and our relationship evolved but as soon as we were back on the road, I could always feel that same connection, just like the first time.” Toudou jumped up, too agitated to stay sitting down. “Maybe even stronger! Even just now, with borrowed bikes and no stakes and glasses following us, even with a year apart, it was right there! You can’t tell me you didn’t feel it too! I know you did! You… you did feel it, right?”

Toudou’s voice cracked a little bit at the end. Makishima made an alarmed face, then got up too and grabbed Toudou’s wrists to stop him from gesticulating wildly and to rub soothing circles into his palms. “I did. Try and calm down a bit, I’m not saying I don’t love you. I’m just… I just usually try to expect the worst-case scenario so I don’t end up disappointed. Especially with things that really matter. I don’t even do it on purpose, it just happens.” He’d been looking Toudou straight into the eyes the entire time, but now he averted his eyes. “You were right, though, so maybe I’ll try to start believing we’ve got a decent chance of making it another year… Maybe even longer… I’m sorry I don’t believe in forever yet, but I’ll still try to make it happen.”

“That’s… that’s more than enough,” Toudou croaked out before pulling Makishima in for another kiss. There were still tears prickling in his eyes, but he was too tired to even try and figure out from what emotion exactly. Love? It was probably love. He was just too in love. His chest felt like it was bursting, he had to say it. But he didn’t feel like breaking the kiss, so he just murmured an almost incomprehensible “I love you so, so much, Maki-chan” against his lips.

When he got an affirmative hum back, the tears started flowing and he felt even more in love, which he’d thought impossible just a moment ago. Even when they’d inevitably part ways for the night, he was sure it wouldn’t go away. Not any time soon. Not ever, if either of them had a say in it.