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with strings so fragile

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There’s something to be said for a person’s ability to perceive their surroundings and react to it accordingly. It’s admirable, even. So much so that the easy way Takao puts his arm through his makes Shintarou want to cry a little.

In reality, it shouldn’t be that difficult at all. He knows what’s expected of him, knows what people would like for him to do. He would like to do it too. It would be so easy, to put a comforting hand on his senpai’s shoulder after a particularly terrible loss, to say words of encouragement to a teammate, to pull Takao into a hug when he looks like he could use cheering up. All he needs to do is reach a little bit further--something that he’s been doing for as long as he can remember. What he does instead is stuff his hand back into his pocket and push up his glasses, waiting for the sting of regret to build up inside him.

Even their unconventional courtship had culminated into something like this:

“You like me too, right?” Takao had asked, mouth quirking up into a grin.

Shintarou had done nothing but stared, heart in his throat, actually petrified at the prospect of a love confession. Moments passed before he nodded slowly and Takao had laughed and said “You could at least look happy about the reciprocated feelings.”

He was, though. He was--is happy. He just didn’t know how to tell him that, couldn’t find it in himself to even smile. All he’d done was wait until Takao leaned in and pulled off his glasses to kiss him softly. He hoped that the eager way he carded his fingers into his hair and sighed when Takao sucked on his lip conveyed it better than he ever could with words. It’s just that Shintarou knows that there are some things that have to be said, and sometimes he lies awake at night, staring at the screen of his mobile, typing out countless drafts of everything he wishes he could tell Takao.

Approximately 87 drafts sit in his phone, all along the lines of I love you and You make me happy and I saw a headband at the store today and wanted to buy it for you. His thumb hovers over the select key when the option for “delete all” pops up on the screen, but he never does. Shintarou hopes that if he keeps them there long enough, maybe he’ll actually have the courage to send Takao one of them. They’re sitting on his bed one Thursday afternoon when he finally does.

He doesn’t actually mean to send it. The text message was already typed up and he had been staring at it while Takao went to the bathroom. Unfortunately, he wasn’t fast enough to hide his phone and had to pull his phone out of Takao’s reach.

“Who are you texting? Is it your other secret boyfriend?” he teases, leaning in close.

Shintarou frowns. “What are you talking about? It was no one.”

“Uh huh,” Takao says, in an infuriatingly knowing sort of way. Shintarou has to wonder if he knows exactly what he’s doing. But then he’s locking the door and climbing into his lap, kissing his ear and his neck and the tip of his nose, and Shintarou doesn’t wonder anything at all, only gives into sensation as Takao holds his face and smooths his thumbs over his cheeks.

“Shin-chan,” he breathes, and Shintarou nods before pressing their lips together and kissing back, phone long forgotten in his hand. Maybe that’s what prompts him to hit send, or maybe it’s the fact that Takao kisses like he plays basketball: sharp and quick, teasing like he knows exactly what he wants, but doesn’t want to give it up just yet.

It’s with horror that Shintarou realizes just what he’s done and when he feels Takao’s pocket vibrating against his leg, he kisses harder, licks the seam of his mouth and nips on his lip. The vibrations don’t stop and Takao pulls away with an obscene wet sound, muttering something under his breath about putting it on silent. He opens his phone and Shintarou counts down to his death.

Takao freezes. “Um...Shin-chan?” He looks at his phone hesitantly, like he’s made a mistake. “Did you just send me 87 texts?” Takao raises a brow at him and he finds himself thinking that he’d like to kiss it.

He grits his teeth and says, “”

When the skepticism on Takao’s face doesn’t go away, he makes a distressed sort of noise and slumps against him, buries his face in his shoulder. This really isn’t how he wanted to tell Takao these things, and now he’s reading embarrassing text messages on his mobile while sitting in Shintarou’s lap.

“Takao...” His voice is muffled into his shirt and he has no energy to take the phone away. “Delete them.”

He pays him no mind and continues reading them. Shintarou wants to wither away into dust and maybe find a nice fireplace to inhabit for the rest of his existence. If he’s fortunate enough to buy at least twenty of tomorrow’s lucky item, Takao won’t bring this up ever again.

“Are these...” Takao trails off, still reading through them. “You think my smile is nice?”

Shintarou doesn’t straighten up, choosing to stay exactly as he is. He slowly nods. “Yes.”

There’s a hand in his hair as Takao reads them over again. His face is burning and he doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do now that Takao knows and he’s still woefully unprepared to articulate himself at all.

“Aw, Shin-chan thinks that my butt is cu--”

Shintarou sits up then and claps his hands over Takao’s. “I never wrote anything like that, don’t fool around!” He scowls at Takao, who smiles sunnily.

“Do you mean these?” he asks.

His jaw clenches as he contemplates his next action. He can say something he doesn’t mean, but Takao looks a little bit hopeful, and Shintarou thinks about all those nights he spent, drafting and redrafting each one. His throat goes tight thinking about how overwhelming his feelings get sometimes, because Takao makes his pulse jump, and makes him want to do stupid things like look up his horoscope in the mornings and buy him things.

Instead of nodding this time, he opens his mouth and makes himself keep eye contact. “I do, obviously.”

Takao’s smile turns wide and warm and it makes his stomach swoop inside him. He wants to tell him that he’s been thinking about sending these for ages, that he’s contemplated running into homeroom after lunch and telling him exactly how he feels about him, but he opens his mouth and words don’t come out. So he sits there a little helplessly and concentrates on the warmth of Takao above him.

“What are you frowning for?” Takao tilts his head.

“I just...” he murmurs, staring at their hands.

It’s as if Takao knows exactly what he’s trying to say. He nudges Shintarou’s shoulder with his own and grins. “I know it’s hard,” he says, and then he doesn’t say anything else, just turns off his phone and leaves it on his nightstand.

Shintarou swallows thickly before he lets Takao lean in to kiss him again, wraps his arms around his neck and slants his mouth hotly over his. He rests his hands against his thighs and listens to Takao hum against him. He shivers when Takao pulls off his glasses and pushes him back onto the bed.

“Takao,” he whispers, and when Takao kisses his chin, he feels warmth flood inside him.

“Yeah,” he breathes, and then kisses him some more.

Even when Takao leaves to go home, Shintarou still hasn’t said anything else on the matter, but he smiles at him and tells him he bought him tomorrow’s lucky item, and he thinks that maybe everything will be okay. He has plenty of time to practice after all.