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Solstice

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Asahi rang the doorbell and tried not to shiver. He had a bag of rice crackers in his hands he'd probably crushed on his way here. His schoolbag was over his shoulder just for show - Daichi would be annoyed if he came empty-handed. Asahi tended to prefer it when Daichi was punching him on the arm or throwing a grin over his shoulder.

Asahi's middle warmed at the thought.

The front light turned on, and the door opened. Daichi stood there, eyebrows raised. His gaze flickered first to the bag of rice crackers, and then Asahi's schoolbag.

Lastly it went to Asahi's overnight bag, strap tightened in his other hand.

Daichi beamed. "Why're you shivering?" he asked, moving aside. Asahi stepped in and took off his shoes. He set his overnight bag on the ground and shoved his hood off.

"W-What do you mean, why am I shivering?" He clenched his teeth to prevent the shakiness. "It's snowing! And cold."

"If you dressed warm enough, you wouldn't have a need to shiver."

But Daichi was helping him out of his jacket, especially when Asahi fumbled with the zipper, still wearing his oversized mittens. Daichi got it down easily, and Asahi wriggled it off.

"Thanks," he said as it fell to the floor.

Daichi picked it up and hung it on the staircase railing. "Sure," he said.

He turned around as Asahi was getting a pair of spare slippers on. Asahi glanced up the staircase worriedly.

"We're not going to wake them up," Daichi said, before he could say anything. "We've slept over here how many times now?"

About twenty times since first year, but Asahi didn't say that. Instead he said, "I know, I was just thinking."

"'Course you were," said Daichi, but he was smiling and didn't sound sarcastic, and as soon as Asahi had righted himself he pushed him into a playful headlock. Asahi yelped and easily wrung himself free. Daichi was still smiling.

"C'mon, before Suga gets lonely," he said, heading out the hall.

Asahi joined him, pulling his schoolbag over his shoulder, leaving his overnight bag in the parlor. They made their way to the living room, where Suga was, looking like he hadn't moved since Asahi had last seen him - that was about a week ago. He didn't look up as they walked in, but he did say, "Hi, Asahi."

"Hi Suga." Asahi sat himself at the table. Daichi had gone to the kitchen, which was conjoined behind them. "How's the studying?"

"Studying," Suga answered plainly.

Daichi came back, with two glasses of water. "Thanks," Asahi said, as Daichi settled down next to him, placing the glasses on either side of his spot.

Asahi reached for the one closest to him, but Daichi kept his hand on it. "Hey," he said. "Who said that one of these was for you?"

"I-I mean." Asahi quickly pulled his hand back. "I assumed--"

"You made conclusions about my actions."

"Daichi," Suga cut in, before Asahi had a chance to respond.

Daichi sighed, and pushed the glass nearest Asahi to him. Asahi smiled and took it. Suga was still reading his textbook.

"I did get it for you," Daichi said, after a beat.

Asahi rested his glass down. "I know."

"I know you knew, I just wanted to let you know myself."

Suga poked his head out from his book and said, "I know you guys are having a fascinating conversation, but if you want it to continue, do you mind taking it elsewhere?"

Daichi and Asahi glanced at each other and shut up. Suga returned to his book, propping it in front of him so his face was shielded from view.

After another minute, wherein Asahi stared into space and Daichi chugged down his water while reading his textbook, Suga put his book back down. "You made me want water too," he said, glaring at them.

Asahi shrugged. Daichi was still focused on his textbook and shrugged like he hadn't noticed, but as soon as Suga had gotten up and left the table, Daichi turned to watch him go.

"He's stressed more than usual," he observed. "Do you want to help him study?"

Asahi picked up his glass and gulped down the rest of his water. "Sure," he said. "I'd rather do that than my break homework, anyway."

Daichi narrowed his eyes at him. "Do your break homework, too," he said, but Asahi pretended not to hear as he moved his cushion from Daichi's side over to Suga's.

When Suga came back, he stared at Asahi. Asahi stared back.

Suga shrugged and sat next to him.

Asahi asked, "Do you want me to help you study?"

"As if I'd say no to that." Suga pushed his textbook toward Asahi, and placed a hand over the side of his face. "Quiz me on some of the stuff you read."

Asahi did, pulling the book into his lap and cutting off the sentences he read for Suga to complete. After several Suga pointed out that he could read the book from his lap, so Asahi lifted it up and read for Suga that way. At one point Suga answered a question Asahi had thought was wrong, until Suga insisted that he was right and took the book from Asahi and pointed to the sentence he'd read wrong. Asahi snatched it back and said, "I'm the question maker!" and Suga laughed and reached over Asahi's lap to get the book again. He fell onto him and Asahi pulled the book even further out of reach from him and laughed.

Daichi closed his book shut. "Now who's distracting whom?" he said to the both of them.

They stopped. Suga sat back up, and Asahi tried to hand his book back to him. Suga shook his head and lifted his palm.

"It's not my fault Asahi's so distracting," he said to Daichi.

Asahi's cheeks flamed. "Sorry - "

"Not," Suga continued, "as something you have to apologize for."

"You don't," Daichi agreed, when Asahi glanced over to him as well. "I guess we're both just stressed and easily distracted."

Suga nodded.

Asahi turned over the book in his hands. He asked Suga, "Do you want me to continue quizzing you? Or?"

Suga was peering over, probably to see the kitchen clock. "I can take a break," he said, and started up again.

Asahi watched him. "Are you sure? I mean, your exam's in a couple of weeks - "

"Asahi." Suga swiveled around. Asahi clamped his mouth shut. "Don't worry about my own exam for me." He smiled, and then extended his hand. "Did you eat dinner yet?"

Asahi took his hand and followed Suga into the kitchen. "I mean, I did, but it was a while ago," he said, watching as Suga browed through the refrigerator.

Suga poked his head out from behind the door. "If you want to eat you can just say it."

"Right," Asahi said, and watched as he browsed through his refrigerator shelves.

Suga pulled out a few containers of tupperware, as well as a bottle of juice. Asahi was surprised until Suga said, "Daichi brought this," and placed them on the counter.

He got utensils for Asahi and didn't ask as he began to get cups; Asahi popped the lid off and started eating. Suga had always liked that Asahi liked eating leftovers cold. Asahi thought Suga was weird. Daichi thought that the both of them were weird.

When Suga finished pouring him juice, Asahi said, "Thanks," and picked up his cup. They headed back to the living room and sat back across from Daichi. He glanced up at them for a moment.

"Is that my juice?" he asked, looking at Asahi's cup.

"The communal juice," Suga answered.

Daichi said, "Communal my ass," but went back to his book. Asahi thought he saw a smile at the corner of his mouth and wondered what it was for.

He pushed his cup forward. "Do you want some, Daichi?"

"Nah." Daichi shook his head. "I had plenty earlier."

Suga had taken his book back and was now reading from it intently. Asahi suppressed a sigh, before going to pull his own schoolwork from his bag. That was the nice thing about when their futures didn't quite align - they were still sitting here, studying, together.

Asahi had read about forty pages from his Japanese literature textbook before his eyes started to get droopy. He blinked and had to read the same kanji about five times before he actually understood it. Just as he was about to move onto the next sentence, he heard the book next to him snap closed.

Suga was holding his book spine-down, each hand on either cover. After a second, he said, "Bedtime, I think."

"Yeah," said Asahi, slowly moving to close his book too.

Daichi turned around to the clock. "I didn't realized it'd gotten so late," he said. "I don't feel tired at all."

"You probably will when you get up." Asahi was bending his legs upright, going easy on his spine. His mother had always told him that he hunched over a lot. Daichi and Suga frequently told him so too. As did Nishinoya.

Daichi raised his eyebrows, closing his own books. "We'll see about that," he said, standing up immediately.

As soon as he did so, he let out a yawn that even if he tried to push back he probably couldn't. Asahi giggled as he picked himself back up, pushing on the table for support. Suga was already stretching, the hem of his sweater rising and falling to show a sliver of his belly.

"Alright," said Daichi, waving the yawn out of his body. "You win, Asahi."

"You're the one who'd challenged him in the first place." Suga pulled at his forearms, letting out small cracking sounds from his elbow that Asahi cringed at.

Daichi did, too. "Can you not do that?" he asked.

Suga grinned and cracked his knuckles by Daichi's ear. Daichi jumped back and shivered.

"That's how you get more flexible," Suga said practically.

Daichi said, "That's a lie, I'm pretty sure it's bad for your body."

"And I'm pretty sure you're wrong, Daichi."

"Can't we look it up?" Asahi pulled his schoolbag, now dry, to his shoulder. He placed his book back into it. When Daichi and Suga looked at him, he added, "You know, on the internet?"

"A groundbreaking idea," said Suga. "Truly."

"When we do," said Daichi, reaching for his own bags which had been sitting at the side of the coffee table, "we'll see that I'm right."

"We'll see that you're wrong, you mean." Suga stuck his tongue out as he ran out of the room.

Daichi started toward him but Suga said, "Asahi, fend him off for me!" Daichi began to run as soon as Suga did, but Asahi put himself in Daichi's path, blocking his way.

Daichi grumbled. "Let me go," he said, but he sounded kind of defeated, like he knew that Asahi would rather let Suga get away than let them lead into some sort of tackle and wrestling thing. Daichi usually instigated and won at those, anyway, even against Asahi.

Asahi shook his head. Daichi shrugged and said, "How much studying did you get done anyway?"

"Enough," said Asahi, fumbling with his bag strap.

Daichi flicked the side of his face. He ignored when Asahi said, "Ow!"

"Just because you don't have to study as much as Suga and I do doesn't mean you can slack off," he said.

"I didn't, I haven't!" Asahi said indignantly. "I've been studying a lot this break, you know - I mean, nothing compared to you guys of course - but - "

Daichi's laugh interrupted him. His shoulders relaxed, the features on his face gentler than they had earlier in the evening. Asahi's nervousness unwound and he smiled.

"I always feel better when you're here," Daichi said. He was staring at the snow falling outside, so he didn't see the heat that crept up to Asahi's face. "I don't think it's because you're not as stressed as we are, but who knows?"

"Um," said Asahi, trying to tame the redness off his face. "I don't?"

Daichi chuckled and met his eyes. Asahi's cheeks were probably their normal tone again, because Daichi just said, "Don't forget your stuff," and pointed to Asahi's overnight bag sitting at the bottom of the stairs.

Asahi picked it up and followed as Daichi led them upstairs. Suga was already brushing his teeth in the bathroom, and walked out as soon as their feet hit the landing.

"You're sleeping in the middle tomorrow night," he said to Asahi, through his bubbles of toothpaste.

Asahi self-consciously brought his overnight bag to his chest. "What? Why?"

"Do you not like sleeping in the middle?" Daichi rolled his eyes. Every time they slept over at Suga's house, it was always on the floor with their heads next to each other, Suga's bed pushed out of the way. One time they'd tried with one of them turned the other way, but in the morning Daichi had complained about waking up to Asahi's smelly feet, and Asahi and Suga had complained about waking up to Daichi's.

Asahi said, "I mean, how are we sleeping tonight?"

"Whosever birthday is the next day is in the middle." Suga grinned, showing off his toothpaste foam. "So, Daichi tonight, tomorrow you."

"Oh," said Asahi. "Okay."

He went to Suga's room to unload his stuff. As he rifled through his bag, he felt like he was forgetting something and came back out.

"Hey," he said, to where Daichi and Suga sounded like they were talking about how they counted the time for their brushing their teeth. "I think I forgot a toothbrush."

Daichi rolled his eyes; but Suga was already opening the medicine cabinet. "You can borrow one of mine," he said, his mouth now toothpaste-free.

Daichi said, "That's kind of sharing germs, isn't it?"

"Technically toothbrushes are supposed to get rid of your germs," said Suga.

Asahi joined them in the bathroom. "But that means they get stuck to the toothbrush."

Suga and Daichi turned to him.

Asahi added, "Right?"

Daichi grinned to Suga. Suga said, "Shut up and brush your teeth."

Asahi did. Suga left, but Daichi pondered if he should take a shower, and Asahi said, "You mean when I'm done brushing my teeth?" Daichi said, no, he was going to now, and started pulling at his trousers. Asahi yelped and shielded his eyes and heard Daichi laugh, but when he uncovered his eyes again, saw that Daichi was still very much clothed and asked Asahi why he was afraid of his underwear. Asahi didn't know what to say to that, mostly because his ears felt like they were on fire, and when Suga came back to ask them what was taking so long, Asahi spit out the toothpaste from his mouth and said Daichi almost started stripping for him.

Daichi buckled over in laughter. Asahi's ears got even hotter. Suga told Daichi to shut up before they woke up his parents.

Eventuall, they'd changed into their pajamas with most of their dignity left (minus the part where Suga stole Daichi's pants and Asahi's shirt so they both smacked him with his own pillows until he'd give them back) and were nestled in their sleeping bags. Daichi insisted, "Suga, you should turn off the lights," but he was still standing while Suga was mostly buried under his covers.

"But you're up," he pointed out.

Asahi stayed silent in his own sleeping bag. He remembered that Suga and Daichi were going to look up that knuckle cracking thing, but decided not to mention it.

Daichi sighed. "But it's my birthday."

"Not yet."

So Daichi shut off the lights, and then wriggled between the both of them. Asahi was soft and warm before, but now it felt easier.

 


 

(The faint buzzing under his pillow woke him up. Asahi jerked up and shoved his hand under to turn it off. He quickly shut the bright screen that read 00:00 closed.

He poked the lump to his side. After a few more pokes, Daichi's voice drowsily said, "Huh?"

"Happy birthday Daichi," Asahi whispered.

He was only half-awake, but urged his eyes to find Daichi in the dark. Asahi was sure he saw him smiling.

"Go back to sleep," came Daichi's voice, so Asahi did, smiling too.)

 


 

In the morning Suga poked him awake, and put his finger over his own mouth and started creeping out of the room. Asahi scrambled up and followed. He heard Daichi grunt behind him and froze; but when he turned back around, saw that Daichi had just rolled over a little to where Suga's sleeping bag was. Asahi covered his smile and retreated out.

Suga's parents helped them make breakfast. When they heard footsteps upstairs and then the sound of a toilet flushing, they all stopped.

"Go," Suga said, waving his hands toward Asahi.

Asahi lifted up his dirty mixing spoon. "But - "

Suga took it from him. "Go," he urged again, before taking over Asahi's job.

Asahi wiped his hands on his shirt as he hurried out. Daichi was standing in the doorway of Suga's bedroom, turning every so often, like he wasn't fully awake yet and wondering why Asahi wasn't the last one there.

Asahi said, "Daichi!" as soon as he reached the top of the staircase.

Daichi said, "Oh, there you are."

"Morning," said Asahi, "er." He couldn't really say happy birthday again, since he already had last night. Instead he just bodily shoved Daichi back into Suga's room, and said, "Had a good sleep?"

Daichi frowned. "Yes," he said. "Were you just down for breakfast? Shouldn't we - "

"I wasn't." Asahi hurried and closed the door to Suga's bedroom. He stood in front of it.

Daichi narrowed his eyes.

"Asahi, move."

"Uh." Asahi glanced around. "No."

Daichi sighed. "Asahi, move, I know you were just downstairs making breakfast with Suga, and - "

Before he could continue, Asahi felt the doorknob jiggle behind him and quickly moved out of the way. Suga and his parents came in with Daichi's breakfast, and Asahi joined in with them saying, "Surprise!"

"Yes, what a lovely surprise." Daichi glanced up at Asahi, but his expression softened when he did. "Thanks."

As Suga's parents told Daichi what they'd made him and gushed about how the past three years had been, Asahi sidled by Suga. "That was quick," he murmured.

"Well," Suga said quietly. "We rushed, y'know. For show."

"Sorry," said Asahi. "I tried to keep him not suspicious, but I think he was as soon as he saw me."

Suga chuckled. "Don't worry about it, I'm sure he would've been if he saw me, too."

Suga's parents left them alone, and Asahi and Suga mooched off his plate as Daichi ate his breakfast. Daichi tried to bat them away until Suga said, "Technically it's all of our breakfasts," and Daichi said, "Yeah right," and Asahi dipped his bun in the soup and Daichi tried to elbow him out of the way, nearly knocking the soup over from the tray. After that, Daichi agreed to let them steal off his tray at sizable amounts.

 


 

They left to Daichi's after they got changed. Daichi mentioned in passing about Asahi being cold when he was out, and Suga offered Asahi one of his jackets. Asahi said, "I'm not really sure if it'll fit?" but both Daichi and Suga said, "Take it," at the same time, so he did.

It was a little tight across the chest, but Asahi shivered a lot less as they walked to Daichi's house. Suga said, "It's so nice of you to throw a new year's party on your birthday, Daichi."

"Isn't it his birthday party?" Asahi asked, the same time Daichi said, "Oh, be quiet."

Suga giggled at the both of them. "I wonder if any of the first years realized it's Daichi's birthday," he said. "Maybe they'll bring presents."

"They should get me a high score on our exams."

"Yeah, I could use that too."

Suga put his hands in his pockets and smiled. "They better do well on their own exams so they can stay on the team, though," he said.

Asahi nodded. "I think they will," he said confidently. The first years hadn't paved their way to nationals, but they'd certainly been a large piece, like a vital organ, the sunniest and rainiest parts of spring to bring a tree to fruition into the summer. It was winter now, but the photo in their school's clubroom, at Tokyo stadium, felt like the bright heat Asahi always looked forward to.

He clung to himself in his coat. Daichi and Suga had moved on to talk about the afternoon.

"My mom will cry if we break another mug," Daichi was saying.

Suga said, "Let's stay in the living room then. If anyone gets hungry I'll be the one to get them their food."

"And by anyone--"

"--Tanaka and Nishinoya." Suga paused for a second. "Maybe Kageyama."

"We'll have to eat the cake there, though," said Daichi. "I don't want to get the carpet dirty either."

Suga's eyebrows formed a worried line.

Asahi said, "What if we ate outside? I mean, I know it's cold, but everyone should have their winter stuff, and it could be fun. Or interesting," he added.

Suga bit his lip thoughtfully. "It could work," he said. "I mean, despite the snow, not much could go wrong."

They got to Daichi's, greeted by his sister tackling him and not being home to wake up on his birthday for the second year in a row, while his mother gave him more cheerful greetings. They spent most of the morning cleaning Daichi's house, which meant reshuffling what his mother and sister had already cleaned and pretending that they were being productive. Asahi got distracted by Daichi's sister's video games and after Suga joined him, Daichi only crossed his arms and watched them and complained that he'd already seen and played it so many times himself.

Nishinoya was the first to arrive, a little shy of noon. He tackled Daichi as soon as he saw him, yelling, "Happy birthday!" in English. He told Asahi that he would get his birthday hug tomorrow, and Suga asked, "What about me?"

"Okay you can get yours six months early," Nishinoya said, ran to him. Suga laughed as he caught him.

Daichi rolled his eyes. Asahi sidled next to him.

The others came soon enough, bearing gifts, or - "Tsukishima-kun has our gift," Hinata said, and Daichi arched an eyebrow. "We bought it together!"

"You did?" Suga said, clearly impressed.

Asahi was too. Kageyama nodded, and said, "Happy birthday Sawamura-san." He smiled when Daichi thanked him, and awkwardly went over to join Hinata at the couch. The rest of them were playing with Daichi's sister's video games now. Daichi huffed.

"Hey!"

Asahi turned around to see Suga tugging Tanaka away from the refrigerator just as the door to it closed. Tanaka whined and said, "I just wanted to see the cake! It looks good." He gave Daichi a thumbs up.

Daichi smacked him upside the head.

"We have a system," Suga told Tanaka patiently. "And most of that involves you not touching the food or dishes first. Now go join the others."

"Nah," said Tanaka, glancing into the living room. "I've played that loads of times at home with Noya."

Nishinoya was busy jumping up and down, trying to tell Hinata what to do in the game.

Suga pushed him anyway, and put a hand to his forehead. "This is like practices all over again," he said, as the doorbell rang.

The rest of the invitees arrived, a surprising amount for walking - or in Tsukishima and Yamaguchi's case - driving in this weather. Even Yui showed up, bundled and teeth chattering, voice more high pitched than normal when she wished Daichi happy birthday at the door. Asahi could hear them from the front as they talked. He thought about last night, and later tonight, when it would be the three of them back at Suga's again. He thought about tomorrow and Daichi.

Just short of noon and Daichi mentioned that they were going to eat outside, "For room and to keep the floor clean," he added when his mom opened her mouth. She pursed her lips together but didn't say anything. Asahi helped his sister take the cake out and put it on the table, and Suga warded off Nishinoya and Tanaka and Hinata as Daichi's mother handed him a knife.

Asahi backed away from him. "I feel wary about you with that," he said.

"Good." Daichi raised it in the air.

Tanaka, from behind Suga, inched away as well.

They sang and the cake was divided. Daichi and his family and Suga ushered them out, Asahi sidelining Nishinoya as he jumped around about the cake and nearly knocked himself into a wall. "Thanks," Nishinoya said, balancing the plate back on his palm. "This is what we're going outside for, isn't it?"

"Well not specifically," Asahi tried.

Suga came over and said, "Yes."

But Nishinoya laughed anyway and jostled himself outside. Asahi said, "We're all kind of chaotic," and when Suga shrugged, he added, "I mean, remember that one time you knocked over that photo frame?"

Suga hushed him violently and put his palm over Asahi's mouth. Asahi stared at him.

"Look," Suga whispered. "They still think it was a mouse, okay?"

"Still?" Asahi squawked, before Suga put his hand over his mouth again.

Against his palm, Asahi asked, "Did they call an exterminator?"

"Of course not." Suga rolled his eyes and took his hand off. "They just believed me and are going to for the rest of their lives. Or forget about it." He nudged Asahi's shoulder. "Now eat your cake."

Asahi did as he was told, watching as tiny snowflakes drifted onto it slowly, feeling much warmer now that the sun was out and he was with more people. Daichi and his sister were talking about something, as Tanaka tried to sidle his way into a conversation between Shimizu and Yui.

Asahi was about to take another bite when he felt something cold and solid hit his back. He yelped and turned around. Nishinoya was grinning.

"Noya!" Asahi cried.

Nishinoya just aimed another snowball, this time at the back of Tanaka's head.

Tanaka shouted, "What the hell was that?" When he saw Nishinoya tossing another snowball up in the air, his face broke into a mischievous grin.

"Oh god," Asahi heard Daichi moan as Tanaka dove for the ground just in time to miss Nishinoya's second aim.

"Ha! You didn't get - oof!"

"Keep your head up, Tanaka," Nishinoya teased. "Or down, I guess, but keeping it up makes for better aim."

"You guys." Asahi flailed, waving his hands between them. "Don't make a mess out of Daichi's party - "

He barely finished his thought when he was hit from both sides, one at his cheek, the other at his waist. Nishinoya said, "Ooh," the same time Tanaka yelped, "Head shot!"

Asahi covered his face and ran back towards the front porch.

The others had turned to them now. Daichi was stomping over; Asahi could see the exact moment Tanaka and Nishinoya noticed that Daichi was holding two snowballs, because the grins slipped off their faces.

"You guys," Daichi said, before pelting at the both of them.

It turned into a snowball fight for everyone, even Shimizu, Yui, and Tsukishima, though Hinata kept easily aiming his snowballs at Tsukishima's face and Yamaguchi commented, "This is one of those sports where being tall is a bad thing." At some point Kageyama began to toss snowballs to Hinata, which didn't work at all because Hinata would smack them and spray them both with the snow. Shimizu was low key hitting Daichi and pretending she wasn't. Asahi and Suga giggled from the front porch.

"I'd think you'd want to join the chaos," Suga said to him.

"Me? Really?" Asahi's neck got warm, and he wondered what in the world he must've said or done to make Suga think that.

Suga laughed. "By association, maybe," he said. "I suppose I could go in too." He perched his chin on a gloved fist and watched the others.

Asahi shrugged. "I'll go if you go."

"The question is," said Suga. "Do we assist Daichi or do we attack him?"

They ended up doing both - Suga, anyway. Asahi made three excellent aims, one of which was at Hinata's face, before he decided that he'd rather watch and laugh at the way Suga would glare whenever he got hit, and the way Daichi would just run through the field of snowballs to go for whoever was aiming at him.

Two plates ended up getting broken and when they went back inside, Asahi found that his underwear was very wet and that he wasn't alone. When the others whined, though, Daichi told them to go home. Once they were gone, Suga said, "I call first dibs on the shower," and Daichi said, "It's my birthday and my house."

Asahi joked, "What if we all went in at the same time?"

They both turned to him, then to each other, and then punched Asahi on either shoulder. Asahi squeaked in pain.

"He's going last," Daichi said.

 


 

Suga broke the silence with, "We're almost done."

It didn't feel like it. But it did, when earlier Narita had asked them how their studying was going and Asahi had shrugged while Daichi and Suga had moaned. It was their last time for a lot of things.

Asahi rubbed his hand over his stomach. Daichi and Suga were on either side of him, and from the corner of his eye he could see the slow rise and fall of their chests. Suga's bedroom ceiling had tiny glow in the dark star stickers that he'd bought on an outing with Asahi before.

Asahi watched how even after a little over a year and they still stuck and glowed. "I thought you didn't like being sentimental," he said.

He heard Suga's head turn to the side, probably to look at him. "Asahi," said Suga, but he sounded more fond than anything.

Asahi threw him a quick glance.

From the other side, Daichi whacked him, landing on Asahi's hands crossed over stomach. Asahi exclaimed, "Ow!" while Daichi said, "Let Suga continue."

"Thank you, Daichi," said Suga, but Asahi was still looking at his face. Suga was smiling, the wrinkles at the corners of his eyes shining in the moonlight. Asahi found his lips curving, too.

"I mean," Daichi said, from the other side of Asahi. "We are almost done. We are done, with volleyball."

"Volleyball," Asahi muttered, turning back to stare at the ceiling.

"I can't believe you guys have spent the last day of the past two years in my room." Suga had turned on his side again, but Asahi felt like he was trying to see past him to look at Daichi too, so he didn't face him back.

He felt Daichi glance toward the middle too. "I can," he said.

"I can't believe we lost two plates out in the snow today," said Asahi, and they both snorted from either side of him.

"Yeah," said Daichi, rolling over to face Asahi too. "All thanks to your brilliant idea."

Asahi sputtered. "It wasn't my - my fault - !"

"If I recall correctly," said Suga, "you were the one who suggested we eat outside."

"I didn't tell people to lose their plates though!"

"I don't think we'll do that again," Daichi said, and Suga laughed.

Asahi couldn't help himself. He laughed, too.

 


 

(There was a small jab at his back and the softest, "Hey."

Asahi cracked his eyes open. He was on his side, staring at Suga's sleeping face. The poke came again, between his shoulder blades.

Asahi turned over.

"Happy birthday," Daichi whispered.

Asahi smiled sleepily against his arm. "Happy new year," he said, and then, "You stole that idea from me."

"You started it," said Daichi, which in Asahi's brain didn't make any sense, but maybe he was too sleepy to make much sense of it.

"I," was all he could remember saying, and wasn't sure if he tried for any coherent words after that, because the sound of Suga snoring and the dim outline of Daichi's face was enough to put him back to sleep.)

 


 

It was Suga's idea to go, even though the university exams were in less than a week, and the snow piled on the roads even after they'd gone back to school. Asahi had said yes and Daichi said, "What about our exams?" and Suga asked, "Don't you care about tradition?"

"I care about the tradition of studying more the sooner an exam is," said Daichi. "Especially when it's on the day of the exam."

But he fell into step with them as they headed to lunch, so it wasn't exactly a no.

"Besides," said Suga, as they sat themselves at a table. "I heard that Tanaka was going to participate this year."

Daichi raised his eyebrows and unwrapped his food. "Tanaka? Really?"

"Well it's not that surprising when you think about it," Asahi said.

"I thought they had age limits for those kinds of things." Daichi took a sip of his drink. "Don't they?"

Suga shrugged. "I don't know, but I hope this means you're going," he said to Daichi, waving his chopsticks at him. "Even if it is just to see Tanaka half-naked in the winter."

They didn't exactly have the best of luck that Dontosai fell on the same weekend of the university admissions test. Asahi texted them good luck in the morning, and Suga replied that he hoped to see Asahi later that evening. Asahi asked if Daichi was coming, too.

He better, or else I'll kick his ass tomorrow.

Asahi figured that Daichi would, mostly because he'd always suspected that the both of them were much more sentimental than they let on. He'd already told his parents, who were delighted to go, and his siblings kept giggling ever since Asahi mentioned the half-naked people. The moment they arrived at the shrine, Asahi received a text from Daichi saying, Where the hell are you? Suga and I are already here.

They managed to navigate their way through the crowd to find each other and their families. Asahi beamed once he saw them; Suga looked snug in his scarf, while Daichi looked disgruntled.

"We literally have an exam tomorrow," he was saying to Suga. Asahi suspected that's all he'd been saying since he'd gotten here.

Suga said, "Asahi!" instead and beamed at him.

Asahi beamed back. "How did your exams go?" he asked.

Daichi and Suga glanced at each other, and then said, "Let's not talk about it."

"How was your exam-free day?" Daichi asked.

Asahi wondered what the correct answer was. "It was... exam... free...?"

Daichi rolled his eyes, but Suga clapped Asahi on the shoulder and said, "Glad to hear it." Asahi gave him a trying smile as the parade started.

Tanaka was not in the line of half-naked people, but he did find them, his own family in tow. "My sister wouldn't let me," he grumbled as Suga opened his mouth.

Saeko called from behind him, "Wait a little longer till you've got muscle to brave this weather, Ryuu!"

"I've got plenty of muscle," Tanaka called back, and the rest of them laughed.

They followed the line, past the street vendors to the shrine, straggling every so often when one of their siblings (usually one of Asahi's) got distracted by the displays or the food. At one point Saeko had stopped to buy herself some barbecue and everyone panicked for about five minutes until she came back, delightedly gobbling the meat on her stick. Tanaka barked at her for not saying anything and proceeded to try to steal some of her barbecue, but she jerked it away with one hand, hitting her brother on the head with the other.

When they arrived at the bonfire, their parents broke away to talk and to keep Asahi's siblings from the fire, while the rest of them headed towards it, carrying their families' decorations. Daichi's and Tanaka's sisters paired off to talk as well. Asahi watched as the flames licked against each other and crackled.

"If I'm going to wish for anything," said Daichi, "it's just for exams to go well."

"Same." Suga was swinging his family's lantern at his side, gaze fixed on the fire.

"Y'know what I want?" said Tanaka. "To go to nationals again next year. And win!"

They laughed. Asahi hadn't been very cold before, but now he felt even warmer, with the fire so close to him. Or maybe it was his friends by his side. But it was probably the fire.

Suga turned to him. "What are you thinking about, Asahi?"

"Oh," said Asahi, and the heat rose to his cheeks. "Mostly just, uh, you guys. Going off and stuff, y'know."

Suga laughed. Daichi said, "You sound worried, Asahi," and Asahi stuttered, "N-No, I'm not!" because he wasn't, he was glad that they were here now, with him, before they left.

Tanaka said, "There's nothing to worry about," and pat him on the back.

"Tanaka, remember to keep your grades up next year so you can go to nationals again," said Daichi.

Tanaka quickly stiffened. "Yes Daichi," he said.

Suga said to Daichi, "Don't make me call you Negative No-beard."

They each took their turns throwing their decorations in the fire. Asahi went last, feeling kind of weird for burning his family's lamp, but mostly because his parents let him pick it and now it was burning into darkness in front of his eyes. Asahi watched it catch fire as soon as it hit, and fizzle away.

He stepped back to join the others. Suga nudged him from the side.

"Hey," he said. "Don't think too much about us leaving, okay?"

It was kind of hard not to when it was soon. Asahi knew it wasn't the end of the world, but it was the end of - something. But right now was the end of something too.

He turned from staring at the bonfire, and smiled at Suga. "Okay," he said.

 


 

Asahi had figured for a while that it was best for him to not do anything after high school, at least immediately. Mostly because he wasn't quite ready to leave, and partially because he'd rather help his family out at home. He continued helping out at volleyball practices, even though Daichi teased him for looking even older for being the only somewhat active third year on the team. Asahi blushed but told himself that it didn't have to be a bad thing.

The prefectural tournament was in March, and by that time they would have all graduated already. At one of the practices, after Asahi had spiked gracefully over the net and Tanaka and Nishinoya and Hinata showered him with loud congratulations, they heard a voice from the doorway say, "Don't get used to it."

They swiveled around to see Daichi standing there, in his school uniform, bag over his shoulder.

Asahi exclaimed, "D-Daichi!" while Tanaka and Nishinoya ran over to him.

Nishinoya asked eagerly, "Are you going to join us too, Daichi-san?"

"It's been so long," Tanaka moaned, grappling at his legs.

Daichi kicked him off. "It's been a day since you last saw me," he said.

"Yeah, but not since you last practiced with us!"

"I just said don't get used to him." Daichi nodded over to Asahi. Asahi rubbed his arms self-consciously. "Are you sure that's a good idea?"

"Yeah!" said Nishinoya. "We can play a four-on-four or something. I'll be on your team!"

Daichi glanced over to Ennoshita, who was watching a little ways off. "What do you think, captain?" he asked.

Ennoshita smiled. "They could use more practice," he answered.

He divided them up, Nishinoya and Tsukishima with Daichi and Asahi, while Ennoshita, Tanaka, Kageyama, and Hinata were on the other side of the net. Asahi had been practicing lately to help Nishinoya with his setting even more, and they'd improved drastically since he'd started, even though for a while Nishinoya knew only how to set to him. But he'd been learning how Tsukishima and Tanaka spiked, and despite being horribly out of sync, he and Hinata had been practicing, too.

Asahi and Daichi won, though not by much, both teams breaking into the twenties for both sets. Daichi was panting more than usual when they were done. Nishinoya clapped him on the back, and Asahi offered him his water bottle.

"That's the most workout I've done in a while," Daichi said, accepting it. He chugged a good portion down.

Asahi caught himself staring at a trickle of sweat from Daichi's ear down his neck. "You always told me to stay in shape when I wasn't practicing," he said, turning away.

Daichi bumped Asahi's shoulder with the end of his water bottle. "I did," he said, handing it back.

Tsukishima and Nishinoya were going to the other side of the net, where Ukai-san had called them over to give them pointers from their practice game. Asahi took a swig from his own water bottle.

Daichi sighed, but it sounded more relieved than anything. "The path we paved," Asahi heard him mutter to himself.

"We," said Asahi, after swallowing his water. "You mean the collective 'we', right?"

Daichi rolled his eyes. "No, by 'we' I meant 'I,'" he said, and it took Asahi a moment to realize that Daichi was being sarcastic and thought he meant something else.

"No, I mean," Asahi said. "'We' as in the team? Or - ?"

"Oh," said Daichi, and grinned. "I mean, the team did do a lot, and it's not like we could've done this all on our own. Especially without Ukai-sensei. But," he said, "we've been here since our first year. I think we deserve some credit."

Asahi's heart leapt at the proud way he had his arms crossed, watching the first- and second-years and Ukai-san and Takeda all on the other side of the net. He hadn't seen them from this angle before.

"Yeah," he agreed.

 


 

They spent the last couple of weeks of January cramming, getting out from school even later than they had for volleyball. Asahi cried twice because of the stress, and Suga patted him on the back while wiping his own face. He knew that these were the last exams he'd have to take in a while, but he didn't exactly want to end on a bad note.

As soon as their exams and January were over Asahi wanted to cry again. Daichi said, "Really," when he saw Asahi come out of his classroom, but he had his nose crinkled too, like he was trying not to cry out of his own relief.

Dignity be damned, Asahi ran over and threw his arms around Daichi. "We're done!" he cried. "We're done and I'm alive! We're alive!"

"You," said Daichi, patting him on the back with one hand, "need to calm down." But his hand rested around him like he was returning the hug.

Asahi felt the emotions welling up again.

"Where's Suga?" he asked when he pulled back.

Daichi jerked his thumb behind him. "Restroom," he said.

Suga came out a few minutes after, eyes red-rimmed but expression breaking into a glow when he saw them waiting outside. "You guys," he said, raising his hands; Asahi and Daichi went in for a high five, but instead Suga slapped Daichi upside the head and punched Asahi in the shoulder.

"We did it," he said, while they rubbed at the spots where he'd hit them. He slung his arms over their shoulders.

Asahi caught Daichi's eye from Suga's other side and they exchanged a grin.

Then they heard Shimizu say, "Suga, Asahi, Daichi," and it was the tears all over again, even for Daichi.

For the days that followed it was weird to not wake up early to his alarm, even from the past few weeks of cramming. But Asahi liked watching the way the sun rose while he was still in bed, waking up at twenty minute intervals, getting his body to a schedule that was no longer aligned with a routine that he used to have. He imagined that Suga and Daichi had begun packing for university; they hadn't asked him to help out, and Asahi was glad. He wasn't sure if he could handle it.

February meant that the snow would only start to melt before it would start falling again. Asahi sighed as he woke up one morning to flurries batting lightly against his window, the walkway that he'd paved yesterday covered with a fresh white coat. He got up, pulled on his waterproof trousers and jacket, and started toward the storage closet.

"Oh," he said as he pulled out the shovel and it fell to the ground, what had once been the handle still in his hands. He must've worked it too hard yesterday. He picked the shovel up and tried to fix the socket back on, but it wasn't that style - it'd simply popped off from yesterday's force and was too loose to repair.

Asahi sighed and headed toward the trash can. His mother scolded him when he explained what happened, and a couple of his siblings oohed from the dining table. Asahi told her that he could go out and buy a new one, and his mother handed him some money and told him to be careful when he walked.

Asahi tried. It was easy in the snow, damp and cushiony, so as long as he didn't start too fast. As soon as he got to the road he concentrated on his feet. It wasn't even that icy, but he found himself wavering every once in a while, like he was about to fall.

He was so focused on staring at the ground that he didn't look forward enough when his head hit against someone. "Sorry," he said, but as he looked up, he lost his balance and flailed.

Daichi caught his arm, apparently the person he'd bumped into. "Look where you're going, Asahi," he said, though not with venom. He grinned. "Where are you going?"

"Into town," Asahi answered. "I accidentally broke the shovel that we use for paving our walkway."

"Of course you did."

Asahi didn't ask what that meant. The smile remained on Daichi's face.

"Well I need to go into town too, to buy some measuring tape and all that," he said.

Asahi asked, "What for?" before he remembered, oh, right, the packing up for university thing.

"I'm moving in a few months," said Daichi, traces of amusement in his voice. "Don't tell me you forgot already."

"I-I didn't! I just remembered."

They made their way into town, Asahi a little more steady on his feet now that Daichi was with him. As they walked past the shop windows, pink lights and heart decorations glowed at them from inside the glass. Asahi practically jumped when he realized the date.

"Oh," he said. "It's Valentine's Day."

"Hm." Daichi pulled out his cellphone and flipped it open. "You're right."

Asahi chuckled. "Being on break is weird," he said. "I haven't lost track of time this quickly before."

Daichi thumped him on the back. When Asahi jumped, he said, "Don't slack off," and Asahi said, "Okay, okay, I won't!" But Daichi stayed close by him and under the Valentine's Day decorations, Asahi felt his body warm.

They found the appliance store and walked in, greeted by a worker. As they browsed the walls, Daichi said, "I can't believe we don't have measuring tape in our house."

"Me neither," said Asahi, following him to where the toolkit items were. "Maybe you did and just lost it?"

"That's possible." Daichi was pulling packs off the shelves and reading the labels on the back.

Asahi did too, until Daichi shot him a sidelong glance and said, "What are you doing?"

Asahi hastily put back the roll that he was holding. "Helping you?" he tried, raising his shoulders.

"I know what I'm looking for, don't worry." Daichi waved him off. "You go look for your shovel. And look for a type that you won't break as easily."

"Yeah. I mean, I will," said Asahi, and rushed away.

He found the shovels after asking an employee who seemed happier to help than annoyed that Asahi had missed them in an obvious place. Asahi was grateful and stared at the shovels, wondering which one he should get. The ones with sockets wouldn't do - Asahi might just break the handle off again. He eyed the wooden ones for a bit, before realizing that if Noya's body weight could splint wood, then his upper body strength might as well. The more he stared at the shovels, the more fussy he got, and he was berating himself for getting fussy when Daichi appeared into the aisle.

"Got your shovel?" he said, before, "I guess not."

"I'm trying to find one that I won't break," said Asahi, and wrung his hands.

Daichi took a metal one without a socket and said, "How about this one?"

"Oh." Asahi's cheeks warmed, and he took it from him. "Thanks."

They paid and headed out the door, to be met with a face full of snowflakes and cold air. Asahi yelled as Daichi glanced up at the sky.

"It's getting heavier," he observed.

Asahi clung to the shovel in his bag. "I know," he said, shaking the snow out of his face.

Daichi chuckled and patted some of the snow from where it had caught in Asahi's eyelashes. Asahi yelled again and said, "You poked my eye!"

"Close your eyes, I'm trying to help."

Asahi did as he was told. Daichi cleared up his face, before wiping at his own.

"C'mon," he said. "I live closer, we can stay there for a bit until it lets up."

They tried to walk against the wind, but it just got stronger by the minute. After a couple of blocks, Daichi nodded toward a bright pink glowing shop and said, "Let's stop in here." Asahi nodded and, arms and bags across their chest, they ducked in.

Asahi shook himself off. Daichi was gazing around. They were in a corner store, decorated for the holiday. Daichi pointed to some baubles hanging from the ceiling and said, "Interesting."

Asahi shrugged. "I hope we get home soon." He clung to the shovel in his hands.

Daichi glanced at it. "Oh, c'mon, it's not that bad," he said, pointing out the window. "It'll let up soon. It's not like your family's gonna be locked inside your house if you don't pave the walkway."

But even though Daichi said it, the snow didn't let up at all. In fact, it seemed to get worse, along with the wind which they watched knock over a pedestrian on the sidewalk. Asahi wanted to go out and help, but Daichi called him stupid and blocked his way and said that if he went out now, he would get hypothermia in five minutes.

Still, though, the wind continued, to the point where the lights in the corner store began to flicker. No one paid them any mind until they went out, drenching the store in darkness.

There was a high-pitched scream.

"Oh my god," Daichi said, swatting at Asahi. "Calm down."

Asahi leapt out of his way. "That wasn't me!"

The manager had come out from the back and was now climbing onto the counter at the front. "Due to electrical issues," he shouted into the fray, "we are now closing. Please exit the building."

There was a chorus of groans and complaints. Even Asahi couldn't help himself from glaring as he and Daichi pushed their way out the door. The good thing about him holding the shovel was that not a lot of people wanted to push in front of him, so they were easily among the first out.

Asahi turned back as the wind pierced his face. Now that the electricity was out, the store looked kind of ominous, with the unlit decorations and dark hearts everywhere.

"Alright," said Daichi, tightening his arms around himself. "We're going to have to sprint to my house."

"Okay," Asahi agreed.

They started down the road, caked with snow, trying to find the balance between not falling and not getting too much snow in their shoes while running as fast as they could. Asahi fell first, which was not a surprise. Daichi straggled back to help him up.

"Keep your knees up," he shouted over the howl of the wind.

Asahi shouted back, "How's that supposed to help?"

He watched as Daichi kept a good space between his feet as he jogged. Asahi thought for a second there was something to it, until Daichi fell flat on his face as well.

This time Asahi went to help him up. "Maybe we should just run as fast as we can," he suggested.

Daichi spat out the snow that had gotten into his mouth. His eyes were tight, and he batted the snow from his face and said, "Good idea!"

Asahi clung to his shovel as he ran. "You know," he said, next to Daichi. "I could just try to shovel all of this out of the way."

Daichi threw his head back and laughed. "Good idea," he said against the snow. "It's not like it'll just blow back into place."

"You can shield it while I shovel," Asahi said, and Daichi laughed again.

"Hey," he said, after a loud whistle nearly knocked the both of them over. Asahi couldn't feel his nose or cheeks or even his ears, which were drenched under his hair, anymore. "We should race to my house."

"What?" Asahi squawked, but Daichi cackled and started away. He ended up falling over after several paces, and Asahi jogged up to him to help him up.

"Our shoes don't have any traction in the snow," he said, while Daichi brushed himself off. "Are you sure you want to race?"

Daichi grinned. "Definitely," he said, and took off again.

Asahi usually didn't give into bait for races, especially from Daichi of all people. But maybe it was the lack of feeling in most of his body and the snow whipping around them and the need to get more heat in his body that made Asahi chase after him with all the strength he could. As soon as he fell down and started picking himself up, it occurred to him that it could just be Daichi, too - Daichi, pink-faced and turning back to glance at him every once in a while and falling just as often as he did.

Asahi tripped and nearly hit himself between the legs with his shovel. Daichi laughed at him a second before landing on his own face over himself.

"That's what you get!" Asahi tried to yell, but he couldn't tell if Daichi was grinning back because of the taunt or because of the race.

"This is unfair," Asahi called, as Daichi sprinted, "I'm holding a shovel!"

"You agreed to this," Daichi said. His house was in view, but he kept looking at Asahi. Asahi fell over again.

"It's not like," Asahi panted, "your measuring tape is obstructing your ability to run."

"Too bad," Daichi shouted back.

Asahi put his hands on his knees to catch his breath, and then diverted his focus to his feet. He started again, this time making sure each step he took was steady, and didn't fall over in just a few steps like he used to.

"Oh, you caught up," said Daichi's voice, somewhere next to him.

Asahi didn't look at him. Instead he pushed Daichi lightly, hearing him sputter and land in the snow with a small thump! Asahi hid a smile behind his glove - he'd only meant to throw Daichi off, and not very literally. Evidently it was easy for Daichi to lose his balance.

"Hey!" he heard Daichi yell, and Asahi took off again, falling like he usually did. He looked over his shoulder to see Daichi had as well, and scrambled back up and headed toward Daichi's house.

Asahi burst through the front door, his mind immediately going to Daichi's bedroom, where sometimes they used to sleepover with Suga and any combination of the others. In retrospect he should've headed for the bathroom, but then he was in Daichi's room, thinking about getting warm, realizing that it wasn't like he could shake Daichi off in his own house, did he even want to anyway, oh, there was Daichi's nice warm bed where he could get the blankets cold if he dove in.

He didn't get the chance to, though, because Daichi slammed the door open, because Asahi hadn't had the mind to shut it. He let out some weird sort of yell and said, "I got you!" and tackled Asahi into his bed.

Asahi laughed. He was panting, and even though Daichi was on top of him he managed to roll over. "You," he said, the same time Daichi breathed out, again, "I got you."

Daichi was grinning and Asahi was laughing and somewhere in between that the gap between them closed. Their mouths slotted together and Asahi felt the adrenaline pulsating through his body as Daichi licked at him, not quite opening his mouth, and Asahi parted his lips, because Daichi tasted a little bit like leek and soy sauce and Asahi was sitting back up as Daichi gasped into him, hand on one of Asahi's thighs as Asahi instinctively brought his own to Daichi's shoulder, and--

Kissed.

Asahi broke away. He could feel the energy draining from his body as his senses focused on his tongue, and he tasted Daichi in his mouth again. Daichi's eyes were still half-closed and his mouth was half-open, and he opened his eyes and closed his mouth.

Asahi stood up.

"I should go," he said.

"What?" Daichi still looked dazed. But when he saw Asahi heading toward his door, he said, "Oh - wait."

Asahi turned around.

"I," he said.

Daichi's lips were dark. Asahi didn't want to think about how he was the one who did that.

"It's," Daichi said, "bad outside. You need to shower, and get warm, at least wait until the--"

"N-No." Asahi was opening the door now. "I really. I need to go."

His throat was constricting. The adrenaline returned, but this time in his middle, pressing against his chest, making it hard for him to breathe. Daichi was still staring at him, and Asahi didn't want to think about what he might be thinking - that he'd kissed him, that Asahi had kissed him back, that they were - that this was -

"Asahi," Daichi said, instead of some sort of fake insult.

Asahi turned and ran, not really looking, tripping twice on his way downstairs. He ran back out into the blizzard, trying to feel the cold in his face. But it lay somewhere in his middle, squeezing his stomach, like he'd left the heat back in Daichi's bedroom.

 


 

It wasn't nearly as cold on the day of graduation. The snow was starting to melt for longer periods, and it had today, gleaming on the wires outside of the school.

When Asahi arrived, he tried to find his class before he found Daichi and Suga. It didn't work. He saw the both of them sitting next to each other in their homeroom class, and it felt like his insides were twisting and tightening together.

He tried to divert his attention to the classes behind them. One of his classmates started talking to him, and Asahi pretended that he wasn't looking at someone else from the corner of his eye.

The ceremony started. When Asahi's name was called up, he smiled at the sound of whooping from the second years. His eyes found Daichi's all too easily. He pretended he was looking at Suga instead.

The same whooping came when Daichi and Suga were called up - doubled in noise, when it was Shimizu's turn. Asahi clapped and flinched when Daichi's gaze met his. But it wasn't hard. Asahi wasn't sure how to read it.

He knew he couldn't get away once the ceremony was over; Suga came over to him, Daichi trailing behind, and lifted up his diploma victoriously. Asahi laughed and hit it with his own.

"Congratulations to the two of you," said Suga, and brought them into a hug.

The top of his head that bumped against Daichi's burned. "You too," said Asahi, trying so hard to meet Daichi's gaze, except not.

"Yeah," said Daichi.

Asahi wished he could tell what part of him Daichi was looking at.

"Look," said Suga, and both of them shot their heads up. Aside from Yui and Shimizu and Yachi, who were talking and slowly making their way towards them, the rest of the volleyball team was heading towards them as well.

Asahi wondered if he was the first to notice that Daichi disappeared to talk to a classmate who walked by. Nishinoya had jumped on Suga, yelling, "CONGRATULATIONS EX-THIRD YEAR," while Suga was laughing and hitching his arms under Nishinoya's legs.

"You guys are so old," Hinata said, staring at their diplomas with glittery eyes.

Kageyama nudged him. "Don't say that, they're not that old."

"We're," said Asahi, as Hinata went to retort. "We're still the same amount older than you as we were before."

Nishinoya jumped on Asahi this time, and Asahi let out a small cry. Suga was dragging Tanaka away from Shimizu, something about an "older women" comment.

Nishinoya said into Asahi's ear, "You better come to the prefectural tournament," and Asahi whined, "Don't talk so loud."

As the gym fizzled out, the first and second years said goodbye and headed back to their class. Suga grinned at Asahi for a moment, before saying, "Where's Daichi?"

"Oh." Asahi looked around and shrugged. A few other graduates were lingering, talking with their teachers. Asahi's grip tightened on his diploma. "I don't know."

"Oh well," said Suga. "Hey, do you want to get lunch?"

"Sure," said Asahi, and fell into step with him. As they headed out of the auditorium, he said, "Like a last meal together or something."

Suga shot him a look. "We're not dying," he said, and pushed his way through the doors first. "We're just getting lunch."

"I know," said Asahi.

Suga scoffed. They made their way out of the building; the ground was damp and there were small piles of snow still waiting to melt. Precipitation clung to the grass like it was dawn. Asahi didn't want to think about summer.

"Do you know when Daichi's leaving?" he asked, and Suga shook his head.

"We can ask him if he comes to lunch," he said, and waved his cellphone. "I just texted him."

Asahi's stomach did a funny flip. "Oh," he said. He tried not to think about last times, times that he thought would be last until he remembered graduation. Tried not to think about not meeting Daichi's eyes, Daichi not being here now.

When they got to the place where Suga wanted to eat, Suga's phone dinged. He picked it up and frowned.

"Daichi says that he already made plans," he said. "I'm going to ask when he's leaving since I wanna know too." He typed on his keypad, and then pocked his phone away again. "I didn't realize our Daichi was so popular."

"I," said Asahi. For a second he thought about saying something, and then decided not to. "Maybe he has plans with his family."

"I wouldn't be surprised," said Suga.

They ordered and went to sit down. As they did, Suga said, "You can help me pack and whatnot until I leave. We can get lunch then too."

"So this won't be our last time together?"

Suga rolled his eyes. "Of course not. You weren't planning on just saying goodbye to us and then not seeing us off, were you?"

Asahi tried not react to the word us, and smiled a little through his drink. "Okay," he said, because it made Suga smile too, and they began on their food.

Daichi didn't text Suga back during the meal, but Asahi quickly forgot about that - Suga started talking about how he'd scoped out his apartment for his university, and the shops and restaurants nearby, and how Asahi should visit and Asahi said that he wanted to, even though he wasn't sure if his parents would let him now that he was helping out with his siblings. Suga said, "That means I'm coming back for all my breaks, doesn't it?" and there was a happy warmth at Asahi's stomach.

It continued as Suga texted him over the next couple of weeks, even though he didn't need Asahi's help with anything during that time - apparently he and his parents were working out more university things, and Asahi smiled whenever Suga sent him a message of complaint or a declaration of victory. He frequented Karasuno in the afternoons to help the first- and second-years practice, and watched as they just barely lost to Datekou in the prefectural games. Most of the time he was running errands for his parents, though, taking care of his siblings, running into old classmates every once in a while, like he had back in February. It snowed again, a week after they'd graduated. When it just began to melt, Asahi got a text from Suga telling him to come to the train station.

The others were there as well, including Daichi. Asahi watched as he drew himself into a conversation with Yui.

Suga never seemed to notice. But he was Suga, so he probably did and just didn't say anything. Tanaka and Nishinoya were with Shimizu and Yachi, holding out boxes.

"Kiyoko-san!" Nishinoya said, nudging his into her hands.

"We're so lucky to see you." Tanaka was beaming. "Once after Suga-san invited us and we saw that it was White Day, we went out to get chocolates!"

Asahi's stomach dropped. He almost looked at Daichi and instead to the pillar behind him. From the corner of his eye he noticed that Daichi was quiet as well, though maybe it was because Yui was in the middle of talking to him.

Shimizu took the chocolates and looked at the both of them. "Thanks," she said, which was more than how much she usually said to them the past couple of White Days.

Tanaka and Nishinoya clung to each other and cried. Shimizu handed her chocolates to Yachi.

When it neared time for Suga's train to arrive, Suga started going around hugging them. Asahi's heart leapt. Suga had started with Yui, and when Daichi went in for one, he said, "Wait."

He went around to the rest of them. Tanaka cried again, into his shoulder, and Nishinoya clung to Suga like a koala. Suga laughed and said, "Summer break."

"Summer break!" Nishinoya exclaimed.

When the rest of them had gone around, Suga went over to Daichi and dragged him by the wrist to Asahi. Daichi was smiling, faintly, and Asahi ignored the way it didn't meet his eyes.

"You two," said Suga. "Don't get into trouble."

"What are you looking at me for?" Asahi said, because Suga was.

Daichi chuckled. It sounded more real than anything about him had in weeks, and Asahi missed it, as Daichi said, "Because you always get yourself into trouble."

"I don't," said Asahi, but he was looking at Daichi now. Daichi's eyes were at a spot behind his shoulder.

Suga said, "You do, but that goes for you too, Daichi." He elbowed him sharply. Daichi clutched his side, and Suga managed to bring them both in for a hug.

"Don't miss me too much," he said, before letting them go, as his train came in.

 


 

Asahi was putting one of his siblings down from the counter when his cellphone beeped. He said, "Stay down here," before leaving the room to check his messages.

His heart sank when he saw it was a message from Daichi. It settled slightly when he realized that it was an MMS, and that, like Suga just days before, he was telling them that he was leaving this afternoon. Asahi thought for a moment that maybe Daichi had added him to the message by mistake. But Daichi wasn't the type to do that, and if Suga were here and knew the full situation, he would still yell at Asahi for being pessimistic.

He wondered, as he decided that he would go, that by listening to his imaginary Suga meant that his subconscious thought Suga was always right. Suga would lord it over him forever if he knew.

Asahi changed and told his parents where he was going. His insides were doing all kinds of funny flips as he walked. It was wet, but because it'd recently rained; snow hadn't fallen since before Suga left.

Perhaps the part of him that thought Suga was right had also made him walk slower without realizing. When Asahi arrived at the train station, Daichi was in the middle of hugging Nishinoya, and people were already boarding the train in front of them.

"Hey!" Asahi shouted, before Daichi could turn to the compartment doors. He jogged over, seeing all the emotions that flashed across Daichi's face.

He slowed as he approached. They stared at each other, but the others were watching too. Daichi pulled Asahi by the shoulder.

Asahi let out a small grunt of surprise. "Um," he said, as Daichi hugged him.

Daichi released him. "Yeah," he said, and he smiled, and Asahi wanted to believe it was real. It was hard to remember, from Valentine's Day, to graduation, to seeing Suga off. Asahi tried to rack his brains. That was only four times in a little less than a month

"We," he said, and then stopped, because Daichi had to leave, so what more was there to say?

But Daichi nodded. And after he seemed to realize that Asahi wasn't going to continue, he did.

"Are good," Daichi said. "We're good."

Asahi nodded. It was only two words, but he couldn't stop himself from beaming.

It seemed to throw Daichi off. Daichi paused for a second, and then grinned back. "See you," he said, as he started toward the train. He turned back once, and his eyes met Asahi's.

Asahi didn't forget the way he looked as he left.

 


 

Spring broke in like the world had changed. It hadn't, really, since his last exams months ago, but it was a strange feeling that he had to rely on his phone to communicate with Daichi and Suga, and couldn't just meet up with them when they wanted to.

Asahi stopped visiting for afternoon practices when the new school year started - Tanaka and Nishinoya had bothered him during cram season, until Ennoshita found out that they were stealing away to hang out with him instead of attending their second year study sessions. It became easier when he reminded them that even though they were going to be third years, it didn't stop them from getting booted if their grades dropped. But they all managed to pass, even the first-going-on-second years, and Asahi congratulated them before they left for another training camp to go to during break.

Nishinoya told him about all the first years, and during Golden Week Asahi met them at a local festival. Apparently Nishinoya had told Daichi and Suga, too, because a couple of days afterward, Daichi texted him asking how they were, and Suga said that he heard Tanaka had stuffed a cake in his own face to impress Hinata and Kageyama again.

Since being seen off, Daichi talked to him like normal. Asahi replied like normal, even though it wasn't like he could really erase the memory from his mind. But it'd been a mistake, he told himself. On both of their parts. It'd been the adrenaline. They'd forget about it. Or Daichi would forget about it, maybe. Asahi wasn't sure if he could.

(Sometimes when he ate pork dumplings with leek in them he would remember how Daichi had tasted. That was what he'd had earlier, probably. Asahi didn't know what to do with this information.)

He visited Suga's and Daichi's families, and they delighted in his presence, letting him help out when his own house got too cramped and everywhere else felt emptily familiar. At Daichi's his sister mentioned Daichi almost forgetting to take a photo frame of the three of them to university. But when Asahi was vacuuming the dust in Suga's room, he saw a photo of himself, Suga, and Daichi, tacked to the wall. Most of Suga's room looked lived-in, though - the only things absent were some clothes and a handful of books. It was like Suga had taken the bare minimum to school and left the important stuff here. Asahi looked at the photo and wondered if Daichi's was the same one.

April rolled into May, and May rolled into June. After texts from everyone from the volleyball team - including Hinata, whom Asahi had never texted before - Asahi agreed to assist with the neighborhood association and play a practice game. When Takinoue-san and Shimada-san found out that he was still around, they both asked him if he wanted to work for them, before foraying into an argument. Asahi laughed nervously and said he would think about it.

He didn't watch the matches when the Inter High started, but mostly because he'd already agreed to run errands for Daichi's sister on those days. Nishinoya kept him posted, anyway, sending texts between sets, and sometimes apparently when he was on the bench. Asahi told him to focus. Then he told Suga, who presumably texted Nishinoya, and the texts stopped.

About a week after the Inter Highs, Suga texted Asahi and said that he was coming back for the weekend for his birthday. Something pattered happily in Asahi's chest, even though he texted Why? and Don't you have break in a month? But Suga's parents had missed him, he said, and he missed the rest of them.

Suga got back on the day of his birthday, which was a Thursday. Asahi was already at Suga's house when he arrived, talking with Suga's parents after he'd already cleaned Suga's room for him to come home. Suga raised his eyebrows when Asahi answered the door with them, and said, "I didn't know you got a new son."

Asahi blushed. "I'm not," he said, as Suga hugged his parents.

"Only because your parents already have custody over you," said his mom. Suga squeezed her until she complained about it.

"Happy birthday, by the way," Asahi said, as he followed him upstairs to Suga's bedroom.

"I know," said Suga, and he turned to grin at him. "I got that text last night, don't worry."

He made comments about his room made it look like he hadn't left, but he already knew about Asahi coming over to help. He was the grateful one while Daichi had called him and his own family weird when he found out. When Asahi asked, though, Daichi didn't tell him to stop.

"Daichi can't come," Asahi said, the same time Suga did when he turned from setting his bag on the floor. They both giggled a little.

"Schoolwork?" said Asahi, because that was what Daichi had told him.

"Yep." Suga sat on his bed, bouncing a little. "I'll go over to his next year for my birthday if I have to."

Asahi frowned. "But you both have school."

"That's no excuse."

Asahi wondered if Suga had told any of the others about him coming back for his birthday, but decided not to mention it. His parents had bought a cake that not even Asahi knew about, and they sat in the dining room and ate it for lunch. Suga was gazing outside, while Asahi picked off the excess frosting from his cake. Today was sunny and not too dry.

Suga asked, "Have you worked on the garden today?" He rolled his eyes when his parents said that they hoped he wasn't talking to them.

Asahi said, "No," and Suga said, "We should." He set down his empty plate, his slice he'd finished long ago, and started toward the back door. When he turned and said, "Coming?" to Asahi, Asahi rushed to finish his slice before getting up to join him.

Suga smiled as soon as they were outside. "Fresh air," he said, stretching.

Maybe he didn't notice Asahi was staring. Asahi glanced away when he realized, and said, "You like being back home, don't you?"

"Definitely." Suga grabbed some gloves and a spade from the bench before heading towards the garden. "I still have to break myself in at living so far away on my own."

Asahi kind of liked watching it, Suga trying to be gone but coming back.

He got the tools he usually worked with too, and they snipped away at the dying parts, pulled some stray weeds that had snuck in, picked the peppers that were fresh. Suga bit into one of the hot ones and offered it to Asahi, but Asahi maybe shrieked a little as his nose twitched from the spice. Suga laughed and continued chewing at it as they worked.

Asahi said, "Your mouth must be on fire."

"Yeah." Suga grinned. "I'm allowed to treat myself today."

When they were done, they put the basket by the porch and Suga said, "I'll get the hose, you can get the fertilizer." Asahi nodded. It'd been a while since he last restocked it in the garden.

They watered and added more fertilizer. Asahi stood up and wiped his brow with the back of his gardening glove.

"There," he said, feeling accomplished.

Instead of agreeing with him, Suga turned from where he was watering the last sprout and sprayed the hose at him. Asahi yelped, "What did you do that for?" and Suga laughed.

"I said it before," he said. "I'm allowed to treat myself!"

He sprayed him again and Asahi didn't know what to do - it was Suga's birthday after all. He stood there and let himself get doused when Suga stopped and pouted.

"It's no fun when you're not running," he said.

"Oh," Asahi said, and started away. He squealed when Suga sprayed him in the back, and continued running around Suga's back lawn until he couldn't feel the water anymore. He turned around and saw that Suga was far off, the hose nor the water stream reaching that far.

Asahi ran back. Suga hit him in the face this time, and he was laughing, but Asahi was too. Asahi ran straight towards him as Suga drenched him, and said, "This is my birthday present to you."

"What?" Suga laughed as he hit Asahi in the chest. Asahi just tackled him to the ground. "Letting me spray you with water?"

"Yep."

They both landed on the grass, slowly like they were letting each other. Suga turned off the hose and Asahi could feel the dirt clinging to his back. It was kind of gross, but he pulled up a few strands off grass and tossed them into Suga's hair. Suga shook his head and laughed.

"We're a mess," he said. "We should get up."

"Yeah." Asahi picked himself up. Gooseflesh ran over his arms, and he shivered. "Oh. I'm cold."

Suga lightly hit his chest and grinned. "And wet. You should shower when we get inside."

"Good idea." Asahi went back to the bench and took his gardening gloves off. When he turned back around, Suga seemed deep in thought. "Suga?"

"Hm? Ah, right," said Suga, and started putting their gardening tools back. "Maybe I'll shower too."

They went back inside, facing Suga's parents scolding them, and naturally blaming Suga until he pointed out once again that it was his birthday. Asahi joined him in giggling when his parents relented. He and Suga went upstairs, and Suga said, "Being a year older truly has its privileges."

As he dug through the hallway closet for a towel for Asahi to borrow, Asahi said, "Wait, what am I going to wear?"

"Your clothes." Suga walked to his bedroom and pushed the towel into Asahi's arms. He went to open his closet door, and pointed to the upper shelf. "I can't even begin to count how many times you've left your own clothes at my house."

"Oh." Asahi stretched up to grab what appeared to be an old t-shirt. "I didn't even realize some of these were mine." He'd vacuumed the inside of Suga's closet and seen slivers of so many of them before. Now they were starting to look familiar for different reasons.

"Yeah, I have some of Daichi's, too," said Suga, and pointed to the other side of the shelf. "You guys," he sighed, but he sounded fond, so Asahi didn't feel too guilty about it.

Asahi went to the bathroom and took his shower. Even with the number of times he'd come here already, this felt far more intimate than just sitting around and helping Suga's parents redecorate the kitchen. When Suga wasn't here, he usually dropped by midday and left before dinnertime. That was what he'd planned on doing today.

But after he'd toweled himself off and changed, Suga said, when he walked back out, "Are you sleeping over?"

"Oh," said Asahi, because Suga was looking at him like he expected him to. "I mean, if you want me to."

"With the number of times you have and you're still saying that." Suga grinned as Asahi finished drying his hair. He offered out his hand and Asahi tossed the towel to him. Suga threw it in his empty laundry hamper.

He showered next, so Asahi went downstairs and grabbed his knapsack from the living room. He was reading one of Suga's books when Suga came back, and Suga was whistling as he walked in.

"Sorry about this," Suga said, and Asahi realized that he was half-naked with a towel wrapped around his waist. He was browsing through his closet. "I forgot to get my clothes."

"It's," said Asahi, after it felt like some time had passed. His voice was kind of croaky. "It's okay," he said, clearing his throat.

Suga left again. Asahi tried not to think about the way heat spread across his chest and over his cheeks, too. He returned to the book, but was kind of terrible at getting the image of half-naked Suga from his mind.

When Suga came back, Asahi stood up with his hands on the straps of his bag. But Suga was faster, and said, "I can sleep in my bed and you can use my sleeping bag if you want."

"Oh," said Asahi, and nodded. "But if you don't want me to use your sleeping bag, I can go back to mine - "

"If I minded that you're going to use mine, then I wouldn't have offered in the first place." Suga grabbed his sleeping bag from the hallway closet and spread it on the floor. "At least you didn't leave yours over here."

"Yeah," Asahi said. And before he forgot, he said to Suga, who was still straightening out the sleeping bag, "Uh, Suga, I have a gift for you. Do you, er, want to open it?"

"Oh!" Suga looked surprised as Asahi pulled out the small packet from his bag. "I thought you were serious when you said that thing about you getting hit with water was your present for me."

"Of course not," said Asahi, but he cracked a grin. Suga did too, and took the packet from Asahi.

"Hm," he said, shaking it by his ear. "I wonder what it could be."

Asahi fumbled with the straps of his bag. "It's really not much," he said, "just - "

Suga ignored him and tore it open. His brow furrowed when he saw it.

"A photo frame?"

"For, uh." Asahi pointed to a photo that was tacked to his wall.

Suga continued staring at the frame. Then he got up and took the photo, and slotted it in.

"Don't tell me you came to my room beforehand to make sure it fit," he said, as the photo slid in smoothly and hit the inner edges.

Asahi shifted. "I didn't?" he lied.

Suga dropped the frame on the desk and jumped to hug Asahi. His smile was brighter than the one in the photo. "You're making me feel embarrassed," he said against Asahi's shoulder.

Asahi tried to stammer out an apology. Suga ignored him and said, "Thank you."

Suga's parents cooked his favorite food with the peppers they'd picked earlier, so naturally Asahi took a couple of bites out of politeness and then ate the tamer versions that were prepared. Suga told his parents about Asahi's gift, and they joked that that was the only reason Asahi had come over in the first place, to check the measurements of the photo. Asahi thought about Daichi and his photo at his own university, sitting on his desk like Suga's was here. His insides did a little flip.

They watched a kaiju movie to Suga's insistence, and Asahi ended up with his knees curled to his chest as he peeked up every once in a while to pay attention. Midway through Suga said, "Ennoshita should write a kaiju movie," and Asahi immediately responded, "No," because Ennoshita liked making his movies complicated and that would just make the whole monster thing scarier.

Suga stood up from the couch when it was over. "I was worried I'd end up sleeping all day from the traveling," he said, stretching.

Asahi went over to turn off the tv box. "I hope you had a good birthday," he said, admiring the way Suga slouched and huffed when he was done.

"'Course I did." Suga shot him a thumbs up. "Tomorrow let's go back to Karasuno. I need to congratulate them on the Inter Highs in person."

"Oh, right," said Asahi.

They went upstairs. Asahi wasn't sure why Suga hadn't bothered going to the school today, but he'd enjoyed himself, so Asahi decided not to wonder too much or ask.

Asahi settled into Suga's sleeping bag while Suga went to turn off the lights. "You have enough room on the floor, right?" he asked as he padded back to his bed.

Asahi nodded. There wasn't nearly as much space as when they pushed Suga's bed to the side, but it was enough for himself. "I don't need much," he said.

Suga climbed into bed. "Yeah, 's just new and all." He yawned, rippling his blankets over himself

Asahi made a noise of agreement. Even when it was the two of them, they pushed his bed out of the way anyway, because Asahi had his sleeping bag all those times. Asahi presumed it was the same if it was just Suga and Daichi, too.

"Night," Suga murmured, up from his bed, and Asahi echoed the sentiment.

 


 

Asahi tightened the blankets over his shoulders as his consciousness was vaguely prodded awake. The windows were open and Asahi lifted himself up in the sleeping bag, and, shivering, closed them. He heard Suga make a muffled noise from his bed.

Asahi lay back down. His mind was groggy, but his hands clammed together as his teeth chattered, even cocooned like this.

He stood back up.

"Suga," he murmured in the darkness. Suga made a sniffling noise, but Asahi could recognize that he didn't stir.

He kneeled on the bed through the sleeping bag and, with one cold arm, tried to shake him awake. "Suga," he tried again.

There was the sound of a deep inhale, and then Suga's croaky voice. "Yeah?" he said, rolling over. Asahi could see him blinking lazily in the dark

Asahi poked his side. "I'm cold," he whined.

"Oh," said Suga, took another deep breath, and rolled back away from Asahi. "But it's the summer," said his voice, while Asahi stared at his back.

Asahi poked him for a third time. "But I'm cold." It was getting better that he was standing. "The floor's cold."

Suga made a muffled noise in his blanket. Asahi wanted to ask him what that meant, but Suga shifted over some more and said, "Here."

His voice was clearer now. Asahi's was too when he said, "Thanks," and shuffled in beside him, still wrapped tight in his sleeping back. He nestled himself comfortably on Suga's mattress, and sighed in content.

Suga turned again. Asahi peeked an eye open to see Suga staring at him.

"What are you doing?" Suga asked.

The warmth at Asahi's back was tugging him back to sleep, like slow waves in the morning. "Sleeping," he whispered.

He felt the tugging again. It took him a moment before he realized it wasn't the sleep, but Suga, at the hem of his sleeping bag.

"Take this off," Suga said, pulling it down.

Asahi was happy with the heat at his back. He said, "Okay," and shuffled the sleeping bag off. He'd barely kicked it to the foot of the bed when suddenly his front and side were covered with warmth, too. Asahi nosed into the polyester.

"Is this better?" he heard a voice say.

Asahi made a small pleased noise, before drifting back into unconsciousness.

 


 

The next time he stirred awake, dim sunshine peeked from behind the window blinds. It was cozy enough for him to fall back asleep, like a gentle summer surrounding him, nestled into his arms.

It'd been the movement in his arms that had woken him up. It moved again, and Asahi found his knees tucked behind another pair. There was a small yawn from the other side of the bed.

"Mrgh," said Asahi, maybe as an indicator that he was awake. The warmth he was holding shifted once more, and Asahi moved his arm.

Suga turned around to face him. His knees disappeared from in front of Asahi, and Asahi was almost thrown off by the closeness of their faces.

Suga smiled sleepily when he saw him. "Good morning," he said.

Asahi let out a small exhale from his nose. "Good morning." He didn't move his head.

Suga did. He tilted forward, ever so slightly, and Asahi could feel the heat from his breath, a vague spice from yesterday's dinner, the moisture of his mouth -

It disappeared suddenly, and then Suga was jostling to the side, tangled in his covers for a moment, and nearly fell to the ground. Asahi shot up to make sure that he was okay, but Suga was up in an instant. He had his covers wrapped around himself, and didn't shake them off like it was intentional.

"Uh," he said, and Asahi said, "Uh."

"Let's," said Suga, because Asahi didn't know what else to say. "Let's not talk about this."

Asahi wished he had a chance to ask why. But Suga ran out of his bedroom with his blankets wrapped around him and no explanation. And he'd said that they shouldn't, so when he came back and they had breakfast and walked to the high school together, Asahi didn't.