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Mirio is late. Class is starting in less than a minute, and he still has to find an open seat in the jam-packed biology lecture hall. He’s already tried all the back rows, but they’re full—too many students who want to get away with goofing off on their laptops during class. And then, he spots it: a single open chair in one of the middle rows, right near the center. The only trouble is that he’ll have to walk through the narrow aisle, stepping over legs and backpacks to wedge himself into the seat.

Well, he thinks. Beats standing the whole lecture.

“Sorry, can I squeeze by?” he says to the person on the end, who tugs their backpack in half an inch but otherwise makes no move to help. Okay, that’s fine. Mirio can manage. He turns sideways, readjusts his snapback, and starts forcing his way towards the seat.

He manages to make it almost all the way there, just one seat away from his destination. Then a backpack strap catches on his shoe. He loses his balance, tries to stabilize himself on the arm rest of the seat but misses, and suddenly he’s sprawling into the lap of the poor guy sitting next to the empty seat.

“Oh, shit, sorry!” Mirio exclaims. He tries to right himself again quickly, but stops suddenly when he sees the guy’s face.

He just fell in the lap of the most beautiful guy he’s ever seen.

The boy has black hair with bangs that sweep over part of his face. He’s staring down at Mirio with the most adorable wide-eyed expression, his hand frozen halfway between his fold-away desk and Mirio’s shoulder as he bites his lip. The shirt he’s wearing is just a simple black band t-shirt, but Mirio immediately thinks that it suits him perfectly. They stare at each other for several charged seconds.

“Um,” Mirio flounders. “Sorry. Again.” He scrambles to his feet and swings into the open chair next to the boy who’s probably going to end up being Mirio’s biggest crush of the semester. Then, before he can overthink it, he sticks out his hand. “I’m Toogata. Toogata Mirio.”

“Amajiki,” the boy replies. He stares at Mirio’s hand for a moment before belatedly accepting the handshake. His wide-eyed expression hasn’t changed since Mirio fell on him. “Amajiki Tamaki.”

Shit. Even his voice is cute.

Mirio smiles. “Nice to meet you, Amajiki Tamaki,” he says.

And then the bell rings, and class begins.

 


 

Amajiki has the cutest thinking face, Mirio finds.

Although Mirio tries to pay attention to the lecture, the boy next to him is infinitely more interesting than any biology concept the professor could be explaining. Amajiki isn’t doing anything remarkably distracting, it’s just that he has this adorable way of tapping his pen against his bottom lip when he’s thinking, and his eyes narrow just a little, and it’s—it’s enough to make anyone smitten, Mirio’s sure.

He’s also cute when he’s taking notes. Mirio keeps sneaking glances at his notebook, and sees that his handwriting is neat and even, unlike Mirio’s own chicken scratch. He also likes to doodle on his page—tiny, adorable octopi that line the outside of the sheets, their little faces smiling up at him. Amajiki catches Mirio looking at them at near the end of the lecture and tries to use his arm to cover them. Mirio feels kind of bad. The last thing he wants is to make Amajiki feel embarrassed.

When the bell rings at the end of lecture, Mirio taps a gentle finger on Amajiki’s shoulder. “Hey,” he says, smiling bright and nonthreatening—he hopes. “Your drawings are super cute. I really like them.”

And if Mirio didn’t mess up before, he’s definitely messed up now.

Amajiki’s eyes go huge, and he looks down quickly, his hair covering up most of his face. He mutters something that might be “Thank you”, or maybe “Goodbye”, quickly gathers up the rest of his things, and bolts from the lecture hall.

Fuck. Mirio really embarrassed him.

Amajiki’s probably going to avoid him for the rest of the semester.

 


 

Except fate has other plans. The following week, the professor has them partner up for a worksheet activity. “Even rows! Turn around and partner up with the person behind you,” she says.

Mirio turns around—and comes face to face with the dark-haired boy of his dreams.

“Hello again!” Mirio says, because he really can’t help himself. He’s excited. Thankfully, Amajiki’s eyes have only widened a little bit—his expression just seems a little resigned, if anything.

“Hello, Toogata-san,” Amajiki says. Mirio feels a little glow in his chest that Amajiki remembered his name.

A TA comes around and hands Mirio a double-sided worksheet, which he immediately passes up to Amajiki. “If you don’t mind writing, I think you have much better handwriting than me,” he says, letting out a little self-deprecating laugh. “The TAs can barely read mine most of the time.”

“I don’t mind.” Amajiki takes the sheet and sets it on his desk. Mirio leans forward to take a look at the first problem.

“Oh gosh. I’m definitely supposed to know how to do this one,” Mirio says. “We covered it last week, right? It’s about DNA replication. Maybe?”

“Um,” Amajiki hesitates, his voice soft. “Not…not quite. I think…I think that’s what problem four is…” He taps the fourth problem with his pen.

“Oh. Crap. I really don’t know what I’m doing.” Mirio rubs the back of his neck. Shit. He’s too nervous to think properly, and now Amajiki’s going to think he’s dumb—or worse, intentionally playing dumb to get out of doing the work. Shit. “Um. I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine,” Amajiki murmurs. His eyes wander back to the paper, and he taps his pen a couple more times. “For the first one, you’re supposed to match the different nitrogen bases...” He works through the question on the worksheet as he explains, talking through it step by step. When he finishes, he stops talking abruptly and bites his lip. “Sorry. It was mentioned in the reading, but she didn’t really go over it much in lecture.”

“That explains why I can’t remember it,” Mirio says. “I’m not very good at keeping up on the reading. It makes sense when you explain it, though.”

Fuck. He really needs to stop talking before Tamaki determines that he’s a total free-loader.

Luckily, Amajiki doesn’t seem to jump to that conclusion. Instead he stares a little, a slight frown tugging down the corner of his lips. “I’m not…I’m not really that good at explaining.”

“Sure you are,” Mirio says immediately. Because he is.

Amajiki just looks down at the paper again, his face disappearing behind his bangs again. “Um. Should we…the second? I mean, the second problem?”

“Yeah!”

They continue through the rest of the worksheet, answering each one methodically. Mirio actually does understand most of the questions, but for the ones he doesn’t get, Amajiki explains them more patiently than any of the numerous study buddies Mirio’s latched himself onto in the past. He doesn’t sound patronizing at all, either. He sounds completely natural, and the more he talks, the more confident he seems to become. By the end of the worksheet, Amajiki is even smiling a bit, which—wow. He’s so cute.

Mirio is definitely smitten.

With Amajiki’s expert tutelage, they finish the worksheet a little earlier than everyone else. It’s the perfect opportunity to strike up a conversation, Mirio thinks. So he tries.

“You really like biology, huh?” Mirio says. Amajiki blinks, then looks sideways and nods.

“Yeah. I’m majoring in it. And I’m trying to get into research with the school,” he replies, hanging his head like he’s embarrassed about being passionate about something. Mirio frowns.

“I know I don’t know you very well—” yet, his brain adds, “—but for what it’s worth, I think you’ll be a great biologist. I meant it when I said that you’re like, really good at explaining this stuff. You could probably be a TA.”

“I don’t know…” Amajiki murmurs.

Mirio is not having this. “You could!” he insists. “I’ve definitely learned more from you today than I have from any of them this whole semester.”

Amajiki starts fidgeting in his lap, and—oh no. He’s definitely embarrassed him again. Mirio’s brain frantically starts trying to put together an apology, but luckily for him, Amajiki speaks up before he gets the chance.

“Thank you,” Amajiki says. Then he smiles—a real smile this time, more than just the hint of it he’d seen earlier. It takes Mirio’s breath away.

When the TA comes to collect their worksheet five minutes later, Mirio notices a small pair of tiny octopuses in the upper corner of the page. His heart stutters in his chest.

Fuck. He’s head over heels.

 


 

They begin sitting next to each other regularly after that. Mirio makes a point of showing up to class early every day to make sure he can get his spot next to his Amajiki—who, after a couple classes, quickly grants Mirio permission to call him Tamaki instead. Which is just the best.

“Tamaki.” He says it all the time now. “Tamaki, Tamaki, Tamaki.”

It takes a while longer for Tamaki to start calling him Mirio, but the first time he does, it makes Mirio’s entire week. Just the memory of his name in Tamaki’s quiet voice is enough to make him grin uncontrollably at the most random times—grabbing lunch at the dining hall, walking between classes, doing his laundry. People around him probably think he’s super weird.

Oh well. He’s in love. He gets a free pass on being weird.

A week before the midterm, the professor has them all get into groups of three for a review worksheet. That’s when they meet—

“Hadou Nejire!” she says, extending both her hands at once for them to shake. “It’s nice to meet you two! I notice you guys sitting next to each other a lot. Are you friends? Are you study buddies! Oh! I need to find a study group before the midterm. If you guys are in a study group, can I join?”

Hadou is a lot. At first, Mirio worries that maybe she and Tamaki might not be very compatible in a study group setting, since Tamaki seems to get overwhelmed by too many questions at once. In the end, it turns out that Mirio’s worries are unfounded. Hadou is naturally disarming, to the point that even someone like Tamaki is quick to relax around her. After just a couple class sessions, he’s answering her questions one by one, methodically, and just as patiently as he answers Mirio’s.

Gosh, Tamaki is so amazing. He really needs to give himself a bit more credit.

 


 

On the first out-of-class study group meeting with Tamaki and Hadou, it rains like hell.

It’s a short walk from Mirio’s dorm to the campus library, but even those couple blocks leave him soaking wet from head to toe. His white t-shirt is clinging to his skin uncomfortably, and his hair keeps flopping down onto his forehead. So much for all the styling he did this morning.

As soon as he drips into the library, Hadou quickly flags him down. “Toogata-kun!” she calls, probably a little louder than one should speak in a library during midterms season. Mirio gives her a bow and a salute anyway.

Behind her, Tamaki is staring at him with wide eyes, his lips slightly parted. Oh jeez. Tamaki’s cute when he’s surprised. He gives Tamaki a small wave, and Tamaki responds in kind, if a little belatedly.

“You sure got soaked!” Hadou comments when Mirio takes the seat they saved for him. “Wow, I can see right through your shirt!”

“Oh.” Mirio looks down. She’s right. He chuckles a bit and shrugs. “Oh well. It’ll dry soon.”

Tamaki is still staring at him. Mirio really isn’t usually a self-conscious guy, but even he feels his face get a bit red at all the attention. “Um,” he says. “Should we start reviewing?”

Although Tamaki stops outright staring, he keeps stealing glances at Mirio all through the session. It’s enough to keep Mirio’s cheeks warm, despite his rapidly cooling damp clothes. He’s lucky Hadou’s there to keep them on task—otherwise, he might be too distracted to get anything done.

Towards the end of the session, he catches Tamaki biting his lip, glancing at Mirio one more time—or more accurately, at Mirio’s chest, and half an idea begins to form in Mirio’s mind.

Is Tamaki… checking him out?

No way. He wouldn’t be doing that. It’s probably just wishful thinking. Right?

He tries not to let himself dwell on it.

 


 

Despite the many distractions at play, the midterm study session serves its intended purpose; Mirio gets an even better score on the midterm than he’d hoped for. As soon as they get the tests back, he holds it out to Tamaki and says, “This is all thanks to you, just so you know.”

Tamaki blushes, but doesn’t reject the compliment like he might have a few weeks ago. It makes Mirio feel amazing, knowing how far he and Tamaki have come in the short time they’ve known each other. Mirio loves that something he says can make Tamaki feel good about himself instead of just embarrassed. Tamaki deserves it, after all. He really is talented.

During the next class session, Mirio manages to get to class early enough to beat Tamaki there—though not quite early enough to beat Hadou. He greets her, finds his seat, and starts taking out his notebook.

“Say, Toogata-kun,” Hadou prompts, resting her chin in her hands and giving Mirio a thoughtful look. “Do you like Amajiku-kun?”

Mirio almost drops his whole backpack. “What?” he says, but there’s no point in lying—Mirio is probably the worst liar there is. “Um. I mean. I do like him a lot, I guess.”

“And I mean like like, you know,” Hadou adds. “Like, you have a crush on him, don’t you?”

Mirio rubs the back of his neck and nods.

“I thought so!” She grins triumphantly. “I noticed the way you two were looking at each other during the midterm study session? And I thought, ‘Wow! There’s a lot of staring going on!’ And then I thought, ‘Their faces are really red even though it’s kind of cold in here!’ So I was able to guess from that!”

Mirio is still stuck processing her first couple sentences. “You noticed Tamaki looking at me, too?”

“Yup!” Hadou smiles. “Amajiki-kun stares at you all the time, actually. Especially when he thinks you’re not looking. I’m pretty sure he likes you, too.”

Mirio’s heart skips a beat. “Yeah?”

“Yeah!”

It feels too good to be true, but he had noticed Tamaki watching him the other night. So maybe? He bites his lip, holding back a grin. He likes me back. He likes me back.

“Oh! Hello, Amajiki-kun!” Hadou says brightly. Sure enough, Amajiki has just entered the lecture hall. “We were just talking about the reading for today’s lecture! Did you do it?”

Hadou is occasionally capable of discretion, it seems. Mirio is grateful. He needs a bit more time to think.

 


 

A new rhythm of classes begins. At the start of the semester, Mirio had made sure to try his best to hide his crush from Tamaki; he didn’t want to make him uncomfortable, and having Tamaki as a friend was more than he could ever ask for, anyway. But now, knowing that his feelings might be reciprocated, he feels braver—more daring. He begins testing the waters, as subtly as he can. Which is to say, probably not very subtly at all.

“That jacket looks wonderful on you!” he compliments Tamaki one morning as he walks into class. Then later that week, “Your smile is the best part of my morning, Tamaki!”

He thinks he might earn a couple blushes from those, but he can’t be sure. The lighting in the lecture hall is always a bit dim. Either way, Hadou gives him a thumbs-ups behind Tamaki’s back.

He also begins a mission to make Tamaki laugh as many times as possible during their remaining time together. He puts out his best stuff, his most crowd-pleasing jokes, and even though not all of them are winners, he certainly does get Tamaki to burst out laughing more than once. It’s the best sound he’s ever heard.

He considers inviting Tamaki to do something outside of class that isn’t class-related—maybe lunch at one of the dining halls or something. In the end, he decides that could be too ambiguous. Would it be a date? Would Tamaki think it was a date? What if Mirio thought it was a date, but Tamaki didn’t? That would be so awkward.

But then again, he’s running out of time. The semester is rapidly reaching its end, and he only has a few more classes left before he won’t have an excuse to see Tamaki without putting in some extra effort. It’s a really difficult problem.

He needs to decide soon.

 


 

The day of their final arrives seemingly out of nowhere, even though they’ve had enough study sessions for him to know he’s plenty prepared. He sits nervously in his assigned seat—the only time this semester they’ve had assigned seats—and bounces his leg under his fold-away desk. The test will start in seven minutes. He lets out a tense breath.

“Mirio…” says a soft voice behind him. He turns, and Amajiki is standing in the aisle, shifting from foot to foot.

“Hello, Tamaki,” Mirio smiles. “Ready for the test?”

Tamaki nods. “You?”

“I think so!”

Tamaki nods again, a few more times than strictly necessary. He fidgets for a second, stares out across the room, and finally, meets Mirio’s eyes. “Good luck, Mirio.”

And then he’s gone before Mirio can wish him the same.

Mirio decides, right then and there, only a few minutes before his final exam, that as soon as this test is over, he’s going to ask Tamaki out.

Making the decision leaves him almost giddy, and the nervousness from before vanishes altogether, leaving behind a new kind of restless energy that is helpful rather than distracting. As soon as the tests are passed out, Mirio gets to work. His focus yields confidence. He actually finishes the exam on time, which is a first for him, and he feels better about his answers than he ever has on any test in his life. As the bell rings and time is called, he stands and turns in his test at the front, thanking the TAs and the professor for a great semester.

Finally, he turns back to look at the students filing out of the lecture hall, scanning the room for a familiar head of dark hair. He looks again. Starts over. Looks a third time.

Oh shit. Did Tamaki already leave?

Mirio hurries out of the lecture hall and starts peering down the corridors for any signs of Tamaki, but to no avail. He does, however, find Hadou. She’s buying a candy bar from a vending machine near the main entrance of the building.

“Hadou!” he calls. She turns and smiles brightly.

“Toogata-kun!” she beams. “That exam wasn’t so bad, huh? How do you think you did? Do you think all the studying we did together helped?”

“Yes! The studying definitely helped. I think I did okay,” he answers quickly. “Have you seen Tamaki?”

“Yeah, he sat sort of near me? A couple rows down? He finished early and left before time was called. Why, are you looking for him?” She gasps. “Are you going to confess?”

“Um. I’d like to. If I can find him,” he rubs the back of his neck. “But if he already left…”

Tamaki’s probably long gone by now. He must have gone straight home after the test.

The light feeling that had buoyed him through the exam dissipates, leaving him lost and a little empty. He didn’t really get to say goodbye, did he? “Good luck,” isn’t the same.

“I’m sorry, Toogata-kun,” Hadou says, touching his arm. “Maybe you can call him?”

Mirio’s heart sinks even further. “I don’t have his number.”

“Oh no.” Hadou’s eyes are wide, and she pats his shoulder a couple times. “I’m sure you can find him another way though, right?”

“You’re probably right.” He tries to give her a smile, but he can’t seem to make it as reassuring as he wants to. “I’ll check. Good luck with the rest of your finals.”

They say their goodbyes, and then Mirio is alone.

As soon as she’s gone, he takes out his phone and confirms that he does not, in fact, have Tamaki’s phone number hidden anywhere. He also realizes that he doesn’t have Tamaki’s email address, since they arranged all of their study meetings while in class. And when he checks, he also can’t seem to find Tamaki on Facebook. Or LINE. He clutches his forehead, pacing the hall. There are probably other ways he could find Tamaki—student directories, friends of friends—but they’d make him feel kind of stalker-ish, and he definitely doesn’t want to freak Tamaki out.

Fuck.

He sort of feels like he’s made a huge mistake.

 


 

When he gets back to his dorm, he is able to find Tamaki’s school email address through a few biology department directories that only make him feel a little bit like a stalker. He starts writing an email to Tamaki several times, but always ends up deleting it before he can send it. He’s just not sure what to say. “Oh hey, Tamaki, remember me? Do you maybe want to date sometime?”

Plus, he doesn’t want to have to explain how he has Tamaki’s email address in the first place. He’ll feel a bit like a creep no matter what explanation he gives.

Two days later, he’s trying to write yet another email to Tamaki when he has a thought that stops him in his tracks: what if Tamaki didn’t give him any contact information on purpose?

He’s sure he’s overthinking, but it is strange, isn’t it? It probably should have come up in conversation at some point. He thinks back on their conversations over the last semester. What if Tamaki was just being polite, and hadn’t really wanted to talk to Mirio in the first place? He had been pretty resistant at first. What if he’d been forced into those study groups with Hadou, and was just waiting for the end of the semester to arrive so he could finally escape?

No. This is just Mirio’s overactive imagination making things up, feeding into his nervousness. He knows he’s overthinking this.

Still, the extra worries keep him from attempting any more emails for a couple more days, and before he knows it, the new semester has started. He walks to campus on the first day of class feeling tired and sluggish and more than a little sorry for himself.

He trudges into nearest café on campus, intent on grabbing a little caffeine before he has to put up with two hours of a Tamaki-free lecture. He really needs to remember not to sign up for 9:30 classes—especially in the winter. He pushes open the door to the café, closing his eyes for a second as the warm air indoors washes over him, and runs straight into—”

“Mirio…?”

 Mirio blinks. In front of him is Tamaki, wearing a dark coat with a gray scarf and looking just as cute as he did through the entirety of their shared biology class. Mirio swallows. “Hi,” he manages. “Um. How are you?”

How are you? Really? Is that the best he can come up with? Shit. He holds a grin in place while he mentally kicks himself.

“I’m fine,” Tamaki answers. “Classes are…fine.”

There’s an awkward silence. Mirio struggles for something to say—anything to say—but Tamaki beats him to it.

“I miss being in class with you,” Tamaki says. His voice is so quiet that Mirio isn’t quite sure he heard him correctly the first time—until he thinks about the words again, and…shit.

“Me too,” Mirio blurts. “I miss seeing you. And. I was wondering…” Now or never. “Do you want to go out sometime? Like, on a date? Maybe?”

Tamaki blinks at him, and there’s a short, terrible moment where Mirio is convinced that he’s misinterpreted everything, and has just scared Tamaki away forever. Then Tamaki’s expression shifts.

“Yeah,” Tamaki says. He’s smiling brighter than Mirio’s ever seen him smile before, and it makes his heart pound harder in his chest. “Um. I’d like that. Um. I was actually going to ask you out before. During the final? But I...”

“Oh.” Mirio remembers how nervous Tamaki had been when he’d come to wish him good luck. Gosh, Mirio really should have figured this out sooner. “I was going to ask you out, too, after the exam. I couldn’t find you, though.”

“I had to leave for another final,” Tamaki explains. “Sorry.”

The explanation makes perfect sense, yet it hasn’t crossed Mirio’s mind once until now. Mirio has been king of overthinking things lately.

“Maybe—tomorrow? We could get lunch?” Tamaki suggests.

“Sure, is one-thirty okay? I have a class that runs from noon to—”

“One-thirty is fine,” Tamaki says. “Maybe—the pasta place? Near the biology lecture hall?”

“I love pasta,” Mirio grins. “It’s a date?”

Tamaki runs his hand through his hair. “Yeah. I’ll…I’ll see you then?”

“Hold on.” Mirio isn’t making the same mistake twice. “Can I get your number?”

Tamaki smiles again, softly, and honestly if this keeps happening, Mirio’s heart is going to leap right out of his chest. “Yeah. Sure.”

They exchange phone numbers, and also LINE usernames just to be safe. Mirio really needs to get to class now, but he’s reluctant to go.

“Tomorrow,” Tamaki says, like a promise. “At one-thirty.”

“Yeah,” Mirio agrees. “Tomorrow.”

He can’t wait.