Tsukishima's mother knocked on his bedroom door, making him wake up with a jolt. His alarm was going off right next to his head and he groaned as he rolled over to shut it off.
"Kei? Are you awake?" She opened the door and cautiously peered inside. "You're going to be late for school."
Tsukishima sat up and scrubbed at his face. "I'm awake now."
"You look terrible," his mother said pleasantly.
One corner of Tsukishima's mouth quirked up. "Thanks." He stretched his arms above his head, grabbing one elbow with his opposite hand and making his back pop. "I didn't sleep well, I don't think."
His mother looked sympathetic. "Another growth spurt?"
Tsukishima winced. "Maybe. I hope not." Sure, he liked intimidating people with his height, but he hated how his skin and bones hurt whenever it happened. The last one had him taking baths at three in the morning, just to soothe the ache. He struggled to remember what kept him awake. "I think I had a bad dream," he said eventually.
That's when it came back to him in a blur, Yamaguchi shouting and blaming him for… something, walking away for good, like Tsukishima had been waiting for since they were kids. It had been a couple of years since Tsukishima actively tried to speed the process along, but that didn't mean he didn't still think about it. His subconscious definitely knew that.
"Well, get ready and I'll get you some breakfast you can take on the way," said his mother. "You don't want to make Tadashi-kun late for school, too."
While he was getting dressed and getting his practice gear together, Tsukishima thought how funny that wording was, that his mother just assumed that Yamaguchi would rather be late waiting for him than just go on ahead to school without him. She might have been right about that, too, and that knowledge made Tsukishima's stomach flip with anxiety or excitement or some mix of those. Maybe one day he'd sit down and try to sort out what those feelings meant, but knowing Tsukishima, probably not.
"Tsukishima, you look terrible!" Hinata said after morning practice, slapping Tsukishima's back just as he finished buttoning his gakuran.
"Thanks." Tsukishima stepped sideways, dislodging Hinata's hand and making him stumble forward. "I thought I'd try matching you today."
Yamaguchi laughed, hiking his bag up on his shoulder as he hovered near the doorway. But once they were outside and out of earshot, he said, "You do look pretty tired, you know. Are you getting enough sleep?"
"I appreciate your concern, Captain." Tsukishima only called Yamaguchi that when he wanted to see him get flustered and embarrassed, like now. Sometimes it even distracted him from the subject at hand.
"I'm allowed to worry about you," Yamaguchi complained, once his face faded back to its normal color.
"You are?" Tsukishima asked.
"Yes," Yamaguchi said, with emphasis. "And you're not allowed to question it."
"Oh, I see." Tsukishima suppressed a smile.
Yamaguchi yanked the school door open, bumping it with his hip so Tsukishima could follow behind.
"I slept sort of crappily," Tsukishima admitted as they walked into their classroom and slid into their seats. This was the first year they were assigned to the same row, Yamaguchi right in front of Tsukishima, which meant that Yamaguchi could turn around and gauge Tsukishima's reactions to in-class things whenever he wanted. Tsukishima pretended to be annoyed because that was what was expected of him, but he knew Yamaguchi knew he didn't really mind.
An alert flashed on Yamaguchi's phone screen then, just as it did every day at the same time, reminding them that there were 324 days left in the school year. 324 days until they were finished with high school and went off to university, probably separately, and maybe everything Tsukishima knew just ended.
He hated that reminder.
"Interhigh qualifiers are coming up," Yamaguchi said. "Maybe you're not sleeping well because I'm not working you hard enough in practice." Tsukishima opened his mouth to reply, but Yamaguchi's eyes went suddenly wide. "Or maybe I'm working you too hard. I'm a terrible captain!"
Tsukishima shook his head. "Only the vice-captain gets to say that," he said. "In fact, I think we decided that's my only official duty."
"You decided that," Yamaguchi said and Tsukishima shrugged.
"If you'd like, I could also stand behind you at practice and glare at the first years."
"You already do that." Yamaguchi wagged a finger at him. "And don't try to distract me. Why didn't you sleep?"
Tsukishima shrugged again. "Nothing serious. Bad dream." And he didn't have to offer up anything else because their teacher cleared her throat to start lessons for the day.
This was one of those dreams that Tsukishima knew was a dream. How annoying.
In it, Yamaguchi was happy. He clutched Tsukishima's hands and told him how happy he was at his new school, how moving far away was the best idea ever. He was amazed that everyone liked him, that he had so many friends and had been on so many dates, and that he was flourishing. He actually said it like that, too, which was another reason Tsukishima knew it was a dream: Tsukki, I'm flourishing!
And Tsukishima tried to say that he was happy for Yamaguchi, tried to force the words out of his throat, even though it felt like a watermelon seed had taken root in his stomach and started to grow.
I'm happy for you, he thought hard. I'm happy for you, but no words came out and the smile slowly faded from Yamaguchi's face before he turned around and walked away.
Tsukishima opened his mouth to shout after him, but all that came out was a vine.
A moment later, Tsukishima sat upright in bed, gasping for breath and covered in a cold sweat.
Ugh. This was all so ridiculous. Just playing the dream back inside his head felt ridiculous. He wiped his forehead with his shirtsleeve and lay back down, staring at the ceiling.
First, obviously he wasn't growing a watermelon in his stomach and even knew why he'd thought of it. Akiteru used to tell him that he would when he was small, half because his brother was being a jerk and half because Tsukishima sometimes got overenthusiastic about watermelon and swallowed seeds in his excitement. But he wasn't six and didn't believe the stupid stuff his brother told him anymore.
Second, Tsukishima was a good liar. He absolutely could pretend to be happy for Yamaguchi if it came to that. He'd faked it just fine when Yamaguchi dated that girl in class two for a month last year, before Yamaguchi broke it off because he said they had different interests. Sure, Tsukishima hadn't really bothered to learn her name, but he would have if she stuck around long enough. Besides, it wasn't like he'd been dating her. He even tagged along on one of their dates once because Yamaguchi asked, even though he knew it was going to be awkward, which it was.
Third, it wouldn't really be that bad if they didn't go to school near each other. There was texting, there was social media, there were at least eleven different apps for video calls, all of which Yamaguchi had put on Tsukishima's phone already. And Tsukishima would have his own classes, his own interests, his own new friends. It wasn't like no one ever spoke to Tsukishima. Plenty of people made overtures, too. If he wanted, he could flourish just as easily.
He tried convincing himself that last one was true, just kept repeating it like a mantra, because if he repeated a lie often enough sometimes he started to believe it.
Tsukishima sighed and rolled onto his side, resigning himself to looking like shit for another day.
"Another bad dream?" Yamaguchi said sympathetically the next day. Tsukishima hadn't even made it all the way to their meeting spot yet.
Tsukishima yawned and nodded. "Do I look that bad?"
"You never look bad, Tsukki!" Yamaguchi chirped, overly bright. So that was a yes. "What was it about?"
They probably had ten minutes alone before they saw anyone else they knew, which meant that the odds were bad that Tsukishima could get out of saying anything. "I don't remember," he said flatly.
Yamaguchi didn't answer right away, and Tsukishima knew that if he looked over, he'd find himself on the receiving end of a doubtful look. But eventually Yamaguchi just said, "Okay. If you say so," and let it pass.
Tsukishima hoped Yamaguchi hadn't heard the small sigh of relief that followed.
Kageyama came into their classroom at lunch with a question about scheduling for Yamaguchi, so Tsukishima propped up his head on his chin and stared out the window while he ate. About five minutes later, Hinata came bouncing in and Tsukishima rolled his eyes when he plopped down into the empty seat next to him.
"Hiya," Hinata said, leaning over to steal what was left of Tsukishima's bento. Tsukishima swatted his hand away. "Ow! What was that for?"
"Shoplifters will be executed," Tsukishima said.
"Harsh policy," Hinata replied, reaching over again and crowing in victory when he succeeded this time. He shoved a rice ball into his mouth before Tsukishima could take it back. "You know," he said around the mouthful of food, his cheeks so full he looked like a chipmunk, "I dreamt about you last night."
Tsukishima tried not to look interested. But there was no way Hinata's dream was like his anyway. Hinata didn't have dark circles under his eyes, and it was unlikely he'd care very much if Tsukishima walked away and never spoke to him again, so long as volleyball wasn't on the line. "No one cares about other people's dreams," Tsukishima said.
At that, he caught it when Yamaguchi glanced in his direction. Briefly, their eyes met and Tsukishima looked down at his desk.
"No, it was good!" Hinata assured him. "You and me were playing volleyball together, but it wasn't at Karasuno, it was years later!"
"Sounds like a nightmare," Tsukishima drawled.
"Shut your face," Hinata said happily. "Anyway, I knew we were older because I was definitely taller. We were on a travel team together and we were kicking the other team's ass, and you were, like, relaxed and happy and I think you even laughed one time. That's how I knew it was a dream! It was really cool."
Tsukishima closed his eyes and counted to three before opening them again. "Are you done?"
"Yep!" Hinata grinned, unbothered. It had been a long time since Hinata had been genuinely troubled by anything Tsukishima said. He was losing his edge. "Kageyama, are you done?"
"Yeah, let's go," Kageyama said, and they both stood up. As they left, Tsukishima overheard Kageyama ask, "Did I get to play volleyball in your dream, too?"
"Of course!" Hinata said. "You were on the team that was losing."
"Dumbass," Kageyama muttered, and they disappeared into the halls.
"So, Hinata's dreaming about you," Yamaguchi said, turning around in his chair.
Tsukishima nodded. "He's obviously in love with me," he said. "It's sad, really, when you think about it."
Yamaguchi looked amused. "That's what it means when you dream about another person, huh?"
"Oh yeah." Tsukishima yawned, then pushed his glasses on top of his head and closed his eyes to rub at them. The rest of the day was going to be a slog. "It's the only obvious answer."
"Hmm," Yamaguchi said, and Tsukishima opened his eyes again to watch Yamaguchi's blur. "I dream about you sometimes, too. So I wondered," he said, as he turned back around again. Tsukishima put his glasses back on and blinked at the back at Yamaguchi's head.
Practice that afternoon went okay, though Tsukishima felt like he was playing through a thick fog. But he didn't make any major mistakes and tired Tsukishima was one of his default states, even when he wasn't actually sleepy.
Ukai-san and Takeda-sensei told them all good practice afterward, and Yamaguchi clapped his hands together and told everyone to take a cooldown jog outside.
"Kageyama, can you lead the run?" Yamaguchi asked. Kageyama adopted his most serious expression, which bordered on comical, and nodded. "Thanks! Vice-captain, can you stick around for moment?"
Tsukishima raised his eyebrows at Yamaguchi. One of the second-years let out a wolf-whistle and he heard another say, "Tsukishima-senpai is in trouuuuble," but the dirty look he sent their way didn't have a lot of impact because Hinata slapped them both upside the head.
"Out!" he shouted, putting his hands on his hips. "Get outside and run. Follow the leader."
Kageyama led the crowd outside as Takeda-sensei asked Yamaguchi to lock up once everything was all wrapped up, leaving them alone in the gym. Gym 2 always seemed a lot bigger when it was empty, the squeak of their volleyball shoes echoing off the walls as Yamaguchi and Tsukishima threw stray volleyballs into the bin and took down the net in silence.
"You know we have first years for this," Tsukishima eventually pointed out, uncharacteristically breaking the quiet, as he and Yamaguchi wheeled the ball bin into the storage room.
"I know," Yamaguchi said. He closed the door to the storage room behind him, with him and Tsukishima still inside, which was unusual. Then he put his back to the door and leaned against it, like he was trying to keep Tsukishima in, which was also unusual. "I just needed to talk to you."
Tsukishima blinked. "We talk all the time," he said carefully, feeling a little like he was trying to soothe a wild animal. He wondered if he was about to get yelled at. It wasn't like Yamaguchi shouted a lot, just when something was really important and he'd been holding it in for a long time, like all of Yamaguchi's biggest emotions were hot magma bubbling just below the surface and sometimes the pressure made the volcano erupt. The fact that Tsukishima was often the cause of those cataclysmic events probably shouldn't have made him happy, but it did. He rubbed his arms out of anticipation or anxiety, he wasn't sure which.
"I know," Yamaguchi said again. "Listen. Earlier." He stopped and pressed his lips together hard, turning them white, looking to the side and not at Tsukishima.
"Earlier when?" Tsukishima said. His feet were telling him to step forward, step closer to Yamaguchi, to stop hovering by the ball bin like a huge nerd and figure out what was bothering his best friend, but he stayed glued to the spot.
"When I said I dreamt about you sometimes."
"Oh." Tsukishima actually had to curl his toes inside his shoes to stop from moving. "That earlier."
"Yeah," Yamaguchi said. He turned his head so their eyes met. Tsukishima swallowed and willed himself not to look away. "Ah. Did that bother you?"
Tsukishima was shaking his head no almost before he realized he was doing it. "No, it didn't," he managed. Then he laughed, and Yamaguchi looked at him like he was crazy. "I didn't think that was what you were going to say."
"It wasn't," Yamaguchi said, and slapped a hand over his mouth, like he hadn't meant to say that, either. "It wasn't, Tsukki," he repeated.
Now Tsukishima's feet apparently no longer cared what the rest of him thought because he lurched forward two steps, closer to Yamaguchi, who watched him move nearer with wide eyes. Which made sense. The storage closet wasn't very big and Yamaguchi had already put himself up against the door, so he couldn't really go anywhere if Tsukishima trapped him there. Tsukishima felt a wave of warmth flood his face as he thought about keeping Yamaguchi trapped where he wanted him. Was this where he wanted him? He wasn't even sure.
"Yamaguchi, what were you going to say?" Tsukishima asked. And then his feet took another two steps. One more step and they'd be pressed up against each other.
"You're so close," Yamaguchi murmured, almost to himself. He shook his head. "I wondered if you weren't sleeping well because – because of me."
"Oh." Yamaguchi lifted one hand and hovered it close to Tsukishima's jersey, not quite touching but right over his heart. Tsukishima could see that his hand was shaking. "Are they bad dreams?"
Tsukishima nodded, then shook his head. "Not always," he said tentatively. "Sometimes they're embarrassing."
Yamaguchi laughed, and that seemed to diffuse the tension in the room. "Mine, too," he said. "Sometimes bad, sometimes good. The good ones are the embarrassing ones. For me," he added. "You always do very well."
Tsukishima nearly choked at that. "Oh?" he asked.
"Yeah," Yamaguchi said. "I'll tell you about it sometime."
At that, Tsukishima closed his hand over Yamaguchi's hovering one and pressed it into his chest. He knew his heart was beating hard enough that Yamaguchi could feel it, but that was why he did it; he wanted to Yamaguchi to know. He wanted Yamaguchi to know everything.
"Tsukki," Yamaguchi said and kissed him. Tsukishima shivered and parted his lips, stroking the back of Yamaguchi's fingers with his. Now that his feet were where they wanted to be, and one of his hands was occupied, the other hand started moving on its own, creeping its way to Yamaguchi's waist, up his arm, and into his hair. "Tsukki," Yamaguchi said again, this time not much more than a buzz against Tsukishima's lips.
Tsukishima pulled away, only so he could get his mouth on Yamaguchi's throat, his jaw, his ear. He tugged a little at Yamaguchi's hair and was rewarded with a moan. Tsukishima moved in for another kiss, this one deeper and wetter and just more than before, and Tsukishima felt like the floor was about to drop out from under him and he needed Yamaguchi there to be his anchor.
That’s when other parts of Tsukishima's body started to want in on everything, and he guessed Yamaguchi's, too, since they were trying to press themselves even closer together, and open their mouths even wider. Everything felt frantic and important, and it took Tsukishima a moment to register it when heard the noise of the rest of the team returning from their run.
"Hell," Yamaguchi said, breaking away with a gasp. He took a look at Tsukishima and started to laugh. Yamaguchi’s face was red and his lips were redder, and Tsukishima guessed he probably looked about the same. "God, they're going to know everything."
"So? Let them," Tsukishima said boldly. He pressed their foreheads together.
Yamaguchi nodded. "I guess it's that or just live with you in the supply closet forever."
"No, wait." Tsukishima put his hands on Yamaguchi's hips and tightened them. "Is it too late to change my answer to that?"
"Tsukki," Yamaguchi said, and rolled his eyes.
Tsukishima slept much better that night, though he woke up at five with a plan. Later that day, during lunch, he slapped a map he'd printed out down on Yamaguchi's desk. Several locations were marked off with bright red circles.
"These are all the universities in Tokyo," he said. "You're smart, I'm smart, and these schools will have any programs we'd be interested in. We'll study our asses off and get in wherever we want to go."
Yamaguchi looked up at him. "Are you… asking me to go to college with you, Tsukki?"
Tsukishima just stared back.
"Thank god," Yamaguchi said, and let out a breath of relief. "I've been trying to figure out how to ask you the same thing for weeks." Then he leapt out of his desk and threw his arms around Tsukishima's neck, even though they were in full view of everyone left in their classroom. That felt different from traumatizing the volleyball team, somehow. But after a second, Tsukishima realized that no one seemed to mind. No one even seemed surprised.
So Tsukishima pressed one hand to Yamaguchi's back and just held him, too.