notes - writing this was a lot harder than i'd anticipated. it took me about a month and two weeks? maybe. err, i blame mamura - the manga doesn't exactly offer much from his perspective and it's hard to tell what he's thinking (since this is from his point of view). anyway, hope you enjoy this.

It's not as if he hasn't thought about it. He has, plenty of times, actually.

It's usually a fleeting thought, particularly when he's lying in bed in the middle of the night, tired and restless from another on-consecutive dream he's had of her. Peeling open the curtains and watching the stars don't help - he can see her there too, in the sky, peeking up at him from beneath her chestnut bangs, mouth parted in a little more than just wonder.

The thought itself is enough to make him bury his face in his pillow and pull the covers over his head, shut his eyes tight and fight down the heat tickling his neck, frustrated beyond reason that this country girl, that (t)his braided idiot can't even grant him two measly hours of sleep without haunting him.

"Is everything okay in there..., Daiki?" his father asks one night. "I heard a noise." He's standing on the opposite side of the door, but Mamura doesn't need to see to know that he has one hand on the door knob, ready to come inside at a moment's notice and check on him - 'just in case,' he always says.

"Everything's fine," is his gruff reply.

There's an awkward pause, and then, "You sure?" Mamura can hear the knob jiggle.

"Yes," he nearly yells, throwing his pillow, hard, at the door to drive the older man away.

His father doesn't say another word, but Mamura can hear him chuckling on the other end. Nosy old man, he thinks, padding across his bedroom floor to retrieve his pillow, frustrated and completely breathless. She's invaded his dreams again - he recalls it perfectly, too perfectly. It's etched into his brain, like one of her half-put-together answers to her equally half-done homework.

He walks her home in his dream, allowing her to swing their hands, back-and-forth, like an overjoyed child. Everything's hazy up until the moment where he guides her to the gate of her house. One minute she's mouthing something, lifting their hands between them, smiling, and the next, he's leaning down, roseate eyes shifting between hers and her lips, and then-

Mamura buries his face into his pillow, unable to think anymore, wanting to yell, wanting to smother himself and his blushing face into oblivion.

He's not ready to kiss her, he thinks, and he probably won't ever be.

"Man, you still haven't done the deed yet, have you?"

Mamura continues to watch Inukai dominate the basketball court during gym, half-interested, half-bored.

"What deed?" he questions, turning to face Sarumaru. "What are you talking about?"

Sarumaru raises an eyebrow, but Mamura simply stares back at him, utterly confused. His mouth hangs open in sheer disbelief. "Have you kissed Yosano yet?" he breathes exasperatedly, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.

Mamura instantly colors, widening his eyes. He resists the urge to raise a hand to cover his face.

"So...," Sarumaru drawls, "is that a 'yes' or what?"

"That's," Mamura breathes slowly, scowling, "none of your business."

Before Sarumaru is able to prod him for information, the coach blows his whistle and signals for him to switch out with one of the players. Mamura immediately stands from his position against the gym wall and makes his way onto the court, ignoring Sarumaru's nagging voice and Inukai's wondering eyes.

They've been dating for a little over a month now, and the closest they've gotten to kisses are pinching, teasing, punching, and hand-holding - the usual stuff.

Yuyuka calls them 'barbaric' - everyone agrees.

It's all he can handle before he's a blushing, brooding mess of averted gazes and labored breathing.

They're in his bedroom the second time their 'almost kiss' happens.

He's bent over his desk, alternating between surfing the web and composing a new list of songs to download, while she's sitting cross-legged near the foot of his bed, reading his newest edition of manga - it's a shoujo called 'Kimi ni Todoke.'

He takes her teasing jab - 'Mamura likes romance?' - in stride (blushing, of course), but he doesn't tell her that the main reason he'd bought it is because there are still things he doesn't quite understand about dating and girls and dating girls.

The silence that reigns between them is not uncomfortable; however, it doesn't last very long.

Suddenly, Suzume's standing and crossing the floor after having just speed-read two volumes of 'KnT,' peeking over his shoulder with enough curiosity to rival a two-year-old. He tries not to let her proximity bother him, but the hairs on the back of his neck have a mind of their own, and suddenly he's fighting the urge to fold in on himself. He almost breathes a sigh of relief when she starts talking.

"Hey, Mamura, can I listen to your music?"

It doesn't even sound like a question.

As a matter of fact, it's more of a statement than anything, and before he even has a chance to respond, Suzume's threading her fingers beneath the muffs of his - her - headphones, fingertips ghosting over the shells of his ears like a feather. He stops her before she can pull them completely off, catching either of her bony wrists with his hands in a nervous grip, and bends his head back from over his list to catch her gaze.

Suzume looks down, open-mouthed and wide-eyed. And close. Too close.

Mamura swears he hears her heartbeat - their heartbeats - as her bangs tickle his forehead. His ears feel as if they're on fire, and his throat goes dry, as if he hadn't had a drink of water in centuries. On instinct, he swallows, Adam's apple bobbing from the gesture, parting his lips in a brief gasp for air, unable to avert his gaze.

Suzume towers over him and... is it just him or is she getting closer?

He has half a thought to shut his eyes and turn away, to release his grip on her wrists and slam his face on his desk, to do something, anything to get out of this... this situation because he's not sure if he can handle her blue, blue eyes or her fish-mint breath or-

"Daiki and Suzume sittin' in a tree! K-I-S-S-I-N- gah!"

Suzume is on the other end of the room in an instant, feigning ignorance and hiding her face as she flips aimlessly through a random manga - he doesn't tell her that it's upside down - while he chases after Daichi in a mad sprint, thankful for the distraction.

He doesn't catch the disappointment in Suzume's eyes.

Their first kiss is an awkward, clumsy misfire.

Mamura's reminded of his dream - he walks her home; however, that's as far as reality takes it. They don't hold hands on their way back, because he can't bring himself to reach for it, and Suzume makes it near impossible, clinging to the ends of her shirt as if her very life depends on it.

He's used to quiet. Sometimes, he craves it when he's had too much of his classmates' obnoxious banter, but this particular silence is littered with tension, and he's not so sure he can handle it anymore. It's a result of their 'almost kiss,' he knows.

"W-well," Suzume manages to say, thankfully interrupting his wandering thoughts. It seems as if they've reached her home, he notes before sparing her his first glance since leaving his house. Her eyes are locked on the ground when she says, "I guess, I'll see you later."

She flashes him one of her obnoxious waves good-bye in an overly-enthusiastic voice before pushing open the gate leading up to her house, but Mamura doesn't let her get very far - because she won't do anything unless he says something - fingertips ghosting over the back of her hand before he can even think to stop himself. He flushes on contact, and even more so when Suzume meets his gaze.

Mamura swallows the nerves welling up in his throat, afraid that if he doesn't come clean now, he won't ever get the words out. He looks away, blushing, and says, "This might just be my imagination, but earlier..., before my brother came..., were you-"

"Suzume, you're back already?" Yukichi blurts, interrupting him, his head peeking outside of his front door. "Ah, Mamura-kun, what a pleasant surprise! Thank you for walking my niece home." He's all smiles.

It takes everything for Mamura not to glare at him. "No problem."

"Uncle, can you give us a minute?" Suzume asks, stopping him before he could even think to take the conversation further. He gives her a look, brows raised and eyes glittering with suspicion. She reddens, but she doesn't relent. "I won't be long, I promise."

Yukichi caves under her pleading, blue eyes and re-enters his house, but not without giving them an unnervingly long look. "Sure."

A full minute passes before Suzume finds the courage to turn to Mamura, skin still flushed. "N-now, what were yo-"

"Forget it," he quickly says, raising a hand to the back of his neck, ignoring the heat resting beneath his palm as he looks to the ground. His stomach is a nest of butterflies waiting to burst forth. "Forget it. It was nothing," he lies. "I'll see you at school."

He doesn't spare her another look, hiding his face behind a hand as he turns to walk away; however, he's caught in a strange role-reversal when Suzume grabs his free hand and tugs him back. On instinct, he angles his head to look back at her, and it's during this moment that she reaches up and kisses him, lips pressing against the corner of his mouth.

Something tells him that it's not what she aimed for, but he's too busy choking on butterflies to say anything.

Suzume pulls back quickly, ducking her head and blushing furiously; yet, she holds onto his hand like a lifeline. "See ya," she says hurriedly, giving his hand one last squeeze before rushing off in a flurry of red skin and brown hair.

It isn't until she's safely inside her home, slamming the door behind her that he finds the ability to move, but rather than walking, Mamura clutches at his neck with both his hands and squats, clenching his teeth. His legs feel like jelly.

"You idiot," he breathes.

The next day, when Sarumaru asks if he's kissed 'Yosano' yet, Mamura tells him 'no.'