Start words from here.
Everything clicks suddenly, startlingly, into place.
One minute Ian is annoying and gets under Souji's skin for no reason and is always doing something obnoxious like riding a loud motorcycle or hanging off some lady or wearing too much leather. The next minute Souji is sitting in the middle of math class and realizes that the reason Ian is annoying him so much is because Souji likes him, and he even likes the motorcycle and the leather.
"Uuuuugh," says Souji.
"Yes, I do appreciate that quadratics are challenging," Souji's math teacher says, "but perhaps we could keep our teenage angst on the inside the for rest of the lesson, Rippukan-kun?"
Everyone giggles and Souji mutters an apology, cheeks pink, but honestly his math teacher did him a favor because know he can't stop thinking about the leather and the motorcycle and how Ian always seems to be eating or drinking something with his mouth, so the blush isn't going anywhere anyway.
"Amyyyyy-saaaaan," Souji whines, cheek pressed flat on the stone table in the Spirit Base.
"Now, now, crushes are a part of growing up," Amy says, turning a page in her magazine and patting Souji's head without even looking up. Utsusemimaru is also there, trying to coax Souji into having some soothing green tea, but Souji is having none of it.
"But it's Ian," Souji protests. "It's scandalous! I'm a high school student and he's a…a…" He can't even bring himself to say it and just whines again.
"Experimentation is perfectly natural at your age," Amy says, and then to make everything worse, adds, "I have some manga volumes around here that you might find informative."
"They indeed are informative," Utsusemimaru agrees. "In particular King-dono seemed to enjoy—"
"NO," Souji interrupts, because come on, really? "Ucchi-san, it's great you and King are…well whatever, but I don't want to know any details, okay?"
"I would never kiss and tell," Utsusemimaru says primly. Amy snorts. Souji wonders who taught him that phrase, but again, wants no actual details.
"Just confess and get it over with," Amy advises Souji. "You won't feel better until you do, that's how crushes work."
"I can teach you the proper ways to approach such a situation," Utsusemimaru offers. He sounds remarkably excited by that prospect, much to Souji's increasing distress.
"Nothing about this situation is proper!" Souji snaps.
"Nonsense, you are at exactly the age when such a mentorship provides the best instruction," Utsusemimaru says. Amy is snickering into her magazine, but Utsusemimaru doesn't seem to notice either that or Souji's black glare. "While I will admit Ian-dono's morals are a bit…well, perhaps the relationship would be good for both of you. I'm sure he has much to teach you."
Amy can't take anymore, breaking down into unstoppable giggles. "He's gonna teach Souji all kinds of things, all right!"
"Ian isn't going to teach me anything because I'm not telling him!" Souji shouts, horrified.
"Tell me what?" Ian asks, because of course he and Daigo have just appeared on the teleport pad behind them, unnoticed.
"That Souji-dono—" Utsusemimaru's reply turns into a wheeze. "Amy-dono! Why are you kicking me?"
Souji ignores their bickering, hoping that it looks like he's staring at his tea while he tracks Ian strolling over to his lounge chair and flopping down.
"Ohhh," Souji hears Daigo say. "He figured it out, huh? Finally." Souji looks up to find Daigo grinning at him knowingly, and realizes that Daigo already knew, just the same as Amy and Utsusemimaru claimed to have known.
Souji braces himself for more questionable advice, or for Daigo to just announce it in front of Ian bluntly, but Daigo only thumps Souji's shoulder on the way by to charge his batteries. Amy and Utsusemimaru also occupy themselves rather than continue the conversation, and Souji heaves a sigh of relief.
Homework is enough of a distraction, the others leaving Souji to it after a while. If Souji finds himself glancing Ian's way after every other math problem, he feels safe enough doing it once Ian's eyes are closed and his breathing steady. While half his brain toils away at the hated quadratics, the other half wonders idly why Ian, of all people. Why not Amy, the obvious and pretty choice? Why not Utsusemimaru, with his admirable training and battle experience, not to mention sharply beautiful features? Why this questionable, big-mouthed playboy?
"Something you want to say?" Ian asks, and Souji realizes that he is not at all asleep, and also that Souji had been caught plainly staring. He shakes his head, frowning deeply. Ian climbs out of his chair, stretching, and sits down at the table on the next bench over beside Souji. "Looks like you figured it out, hm, boy?"
"Ehhh," Souji hedges, because what he hasn't figured out is what he's going to do about it, and he wasn't prepared for Ian to force his hand.
"Believe me, it wasn't my idea either," Ian says, eyeing Souji's expression. He reaches over to brush a thumb over Souji's cheek. "Although you're cute enough for a high school student, I suppose."
"M-me?" Souji stammers. His cheek feels like it's burning where Ian touched him. He's not getting called out, he realizes, he's being confessed to.
"Apparently." Ian chuckles, but it sort of sounds like it isn't funny at all. "So what should we do, hm? Any thoughts?"
"Amy said it's normal to experiment," Souji answers, almost on autopilot because he can barely sort out what's happening. "Ucchi said I'm at the right age for you to teach me things."
"Teach you," Ian snorts. "And I guess King would tell us to be brave, right? But what do you think? That's what I'm asking."
"I think…" Souji starts, then leans over the corner of the table and kisses Ian squarely, if inexpertly, because he has no idea what he thinks. Ian makes a muffled noise of surprise, barely starting to kiss back before Souji pulls away, eyes glued to the ground. "I think you're annoying, and your motorcycle is too loud and your leather jacket is too stupid, but none of that seems to matter."
"Is that so?" Ian laughs, apparently finding all of this much funnier than Souji certainly does. "Then I guess we'd better get started, boy, because at least one of us needs a lot more practice."