The battle has long been over, but Souji can't stop trembling. Some things he's used to: the adrenaline rush, the snap decisions, the harmony of ferocity and control that fills him when he fights. But this - watching with horror as the monster dodges his blade and lunges at Ian with its weapon drawn - this is something new and terrifying. Souji has always known that his abilities need polishing, just like he knows that their battles are by nature dangerous, but it's the first time he's put two and two together and realized that his teammates could get killed because he's not good enough.
That Ian could-
Ian is all grace and composure when he flips his gun around to take out the monster, and for a second Souji thinks that maybe he's just overreacting to everything. But after the battle, when he's still telling himself that he's shaking from adrenaline and not fear, he notices Ian checking a new tear in his jacket with raised eyebrows and muttered English, and Souji knows that the monster got closer than even Ian anticipated.
"We shouldn't keep the others waiting," Ian says, smoothing over his expression with a lighthearted smile. "They might start getting ideas."
Even his wink looks genuine.
Souji is still a kid. He doesn't know how to keep his feelings under wraps, how to tuck away the fear and anger until an appropriate time or place come along. He grabs the front of Ian's jacket with both hands, silent for a moment while all the worry and frustration and panic gather as a lump that makes his words stick in his throat - which might be a good thing because he's pretty sure he's going to start yelling or crying any moment now - and he kisses Ian.
There's a soft thud as Ian's back hits the wall. Souji is positive his heart is pounding loud enough to echo through the warehouse, but he would rather hear that than Ian reassuring him that everything is fine. The last thing he wants to hear right now is how the near miss wasn't his fault, and he knows if he breaks down that's what Ian is going to say. Of course there are a million other things Ian could say in response to Souji kissing him, but Souji doesn't realize this until he's already doing it.
When his jaw starts to ache he lets Ian gently push him away.
"What." If they were the same age, he thinks, he wouldn't feel so resentful of Ian's patient tone. If they were the same age, he wouldn't have to worry that any compassion Ian shows him is condescension, or that even Ian would go easy on him for his mistakes. Or worse, offer advice, as though Souji is everyone's kid brother who's tagging along where he's not really wanted. Where he could make everything worse by his inexperience. If they were the same age, he could be as scared as he damn well pleased - or maybe if he were Ian's age he wouldn't be scared anymore. And he thinks this even though he knows it's a complete lie, because Ian gets scared of losing people and not being good enough, but he can handle it like an adult. And Souji's cheeks start to burn with shame because, really, what self-respecting adult tries to shut up his- his friend with a kiss?
Ian waves the torn sleeve of his jacket in front of Souji's eyes.
"I don't know what kind of allowance they give you, but you're paying to get this repaired."
"What?!" Souji looks up with a start.
Ian is watching him with a grin that is not charming in the least. "What do you mean 'what'? Last I checked, the Debo Monster isn't going to be footing the bill, and you don't expect me to walk around in rags, do you?"
"I... couldn't care less." There's a curious ache in his chest. He has to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from smiling.
"Well I care very much, and since I'm best suited to represent the team's image, you should care too." Ian slings an arm around Souji's shoulders and starts leading him towards the exit. They fall naturally in step with one another.
It's as simple as that. Honestly it's a little annoying that Ian can read him so easily, but Souji realizes that he likes it when Ian annoys him like this. Playful and infuriating all at the same time, and only Souji will be able to notice that the arm around his shoulders is there as much to irritate him as it is Ian leaning on him for support.
"I thought King was our image character," Souji counters, the smile finally reaching his lips, "and his clothes are always getting torn."