Tsukishima Kei has made his decision. Today is the day.
It’s been weeks since Yamaguchi Tadashi woke up on his couch and moaned, “Oh, God, I’m so sorry—did I say anything stupid?” And it’s been weeks since Tsukki replied simply, “No, you were fine.” No love tacos—no confession at all. And Tsukki had thought, great, cool, I’ll ignore this; we’ll go back to being friends.
Which was a great plan, except that it didn’t work.
Tsukki has been finding that you can’t unsee love tacos. Once you go love taco, you never go back, and other shit like that. He’s started to notice things, like the way Tadashi lights up when he sees Tsukki arrive, and the painstaking attention he pays to any statement Tsukki makes. Tsukki has also started to notice things about Yamaguchi, which had always sort of occurred to him, on some basic visual level: freckles, the dramatic scrunch of his nose when dealing with an especially frustrating problem, his tendency to knock things over when he gets too excited. He eats meals one food at a time; once he got a splinter from a cheap chopstick and spent ten minutes sucking on his finger and whimpering about it, which was really… uh, well. You can’t unsee love tacos.
That’s why today is the day.
He does a few errands first, drops off his résumé at a couple of shops near his apartment, including (grudgingly) Nekoma Books. It’s not like he’s actually got any loyalty to Crow Street—of course not—but losing one’s job is annoying and so Nekoma annoys him. But it’s the same distance from Tadashi’s school as Crow Street was, which works well today. He leaves the store and walks three minutes to the elementary school; there are kids hollering in the yard.
He’s been here a couple of times before to see Yamaguchi, so the security guard just points him in the direction of the teachers’ offices.
The room is empty, but it’s nearly lunchtime, so Tsukki makes himself comfortable at Yama’s desk and slips on his headphones, ready to wait. Only the bell rings a second later, the sound overwhelming his music, and he slips his MP3 player away again as a din of children’s voices floods the hallway outside. Soon there are teachers returning to their desks. Some nod at him, others don’t, he ignores them all.
When Yamaguchi finally arrives—Tsukki feels he has aged several years—he’s holding a water gun and has a giant smear of red paint down the front of his shirt, and doesn’t even say hello.
“I cannot believe that kid,” he spits, slamming the water gun on the desk in front of Tsukki. “He squirted me with this during math. Just out of nowhere! I was trying to teach multiplication tables!”
“Where’d he get it?” asks Tsukki. He picks up the gun, made of transparent green plastic.
“No idea. And then, as you can see,” Yamaguchi indicates his ruined shirt, “art class happened.”
“This kid sounds like a nightmare.”
“He is! A nightmare.” Sighing heavily, he leans against the desk. “I need to run home and get a new shirt or they won’t learn anything this afternoon, they’ll just be—giggling at me.” Tsukki nods. “Do you want to come? I can make us lunch.”
“My place is closer. I’ll lend you a shirt.”
Yamaguchi agrees to this plan happily, and they leave together, walking the short distance to Tsukki’s. He makes noodles while his friend changes, emerging in one of the nice dress shirts Tsukki has never really worn, given that you had to bum around in a t-shirt if you wanted to work in the Crow Street café. “Keep it,” Tsukki tells him, and they watch television while they eat, mostly talking over the program. He gets a full laundry list of water gun boy’s evil deeds, including the possibility that this demon child murdered the class hamster, an accusation demanding the lengthy explanation of Yamaguchi’s suspicions. After a while the conversation turns to Tsukki’s job search. They take their dishes to the sink, shut off the television, leave the apartment and head back to school.
Tsukki walks him up to the teachers’ offices and says a quick goodbye, since the bell is about to ring.
He’s halfway down the stairs when he remembers, and turns around, taking the stairs two at a time.
When Tsukki returns, his friend, his only one, stands over his desk, green water gun in hand. “Yamaguchi.” Tadashi looks up, frowns.
“Did you forget something?”
“Yes. Why I came to the school this afternoon.” He’s out of breath from the stairs, and has to inhale before he can continue. “I was going to ask—do you want to go out on a date with me?” He’d almost forgotten they weren’t already dating.
Making a noise that’s half-gasp half-shriek, Yamaguchi shoots him square in the chest with the water gun. Tsukki looks down, where the liquid has darkened a huge wet spot on his shirt, and then back up at Yamaguchi.
“Is that a no?”
“Sorry, Tsukki!” he squeals, and starts grabbing tissues to wipe at the wet spot. “Oh, no, I’m really sorry.”
“No, it—you asked me out and I shot you, so it’s really not fine.”
Tsukki gets an unusual feeling around his mouth—a smile, he realizes. “It’s fine if you say yes.”
Yamaguchi’s hands pause, clamped around the damp tissues. In the midst of a crouch, he peeks up at Tsukki. “Of course yes,” he says, just as the bell rings.
It is strangely difficult to speak, but he manages to get out, “Cool.” Which sounds dumb and he feels kind of dumb, watching the beaming Yamaguchi straighten up. He’s embarrassed. First he’s smiling, now he’s… blushing. “I have to go change my shirt,” he blurts, and Yamaguchi takes one look at his face before bursting into laughter. Tsukki escapes, leaving his friend to work, but the sound of delighted laughter stays with him for the rest of the day.
Another day, another spectacularly failed job interview.
And Noya had managed to keep his tie on the entire time for this one, but no, it wasn’t meant to be, none of them were—either he’d answer some question too frankly (why did he want this job? Because he’s “fucking poor, that’s why”) or delve into an eager interrogation of the interviewer (did they have a significant other, and if so, how had they wooed said significant other? Had they ever been married, or permanently long-term, and how had that even happened? Did they have any tips?) or let it slip that he thought the offices seemed “soul-sucking” and found the other employees “depressing.” How is it that so many truly ordinary, boring people all across Japan go to jobs like this everyday, and he (an extraordinary, opposite-of-boring person) can’t even get himself hired?
This particular interview had been at a marketing company, and he’s unbuttoning the collar of his stupid shirt the second he’s out of the building. They had told him there were no more available openings at that time and he had told them to go fuck themselves, and so his exit is a speedy one.
He stops on the sidewalk to roll up his sleeves, and is reunited with the intricate glory of his tattoo. It’s a bummer to think that soon he might have to cover it up everyday. People are so strange, the way they make up rules like no tattoos in the office and use your inside voice and don’t jump on shit. Like it’s hurting somebody and not just making life more interesting.
He’s starting to forget why he even wanted one of these terrible bland jobs in the first place, except that the thought of working in another coffee shop makes him nauseous. Working in a coffee shop sort of ruined his life—personal, professional. He’s developing an aversion.
Thinking of coffee shops, he spies his watch, and curses under his breath—it’s Thursday and Asahi finishes at five on Thursdays, which means he needs to make it to Nekoma in half an hour to leave the day’s note.
He writes it in the subway, rattling toward the bookstore, having to pause with the gyrations of the train or else decimate his handwriting. He shields the note from the woman sitting opposite him—she has prying eyes.
I quit smoking five years ago but I still think about it all the time.
Even writing this makes his fingers itch for a cigarette. Lately, he’s been feeling something that’s like sadness and like stress—but he doesn’t get sad, not him, never. Not within his emotional vocabulary. But this thing that’s like sadness… he buys a carton of cigarettes and sits on the front stoop of his building, just holding one between his fingers for a few minutes. Sometimes he sucks on it, unlit, then throws it away and gives the rest of them to a homeless guy he’s befriended. But he’s not like, depressed or anything, because that would be weird. Noya folds the note and sticks it in the front pocket of his shirt.
A few minutes later he’s entering Nekoma—miraculously, even after weeks of doing this, he still feels that strange flutter in his stomach when he turns into the café and sees Asahi behind the counter. It’s ten minutes to five, just in time to be his last customer of the day. He spots Noya coming in and ducks his head right away, typical. Noya has learned to steel himself; it’s okay that he doesn’t want to see me. I can make him understand. I can make him understand. Over and over. He’s unsinkable.
Oddly enough, Asahi seems to be the only one working. None of the other employees with whom he’s become acquainted are lurking behind the counter. That might make him nervous, not having a buffer, if he weren’t immune to nerves. Instead he bounces right up to the register and gives the same order he always gives, “A small cappuccino, please!”
Asahi’s face is redder than usual, and he almost knocks over a stack of cups trying to remove one from the top. Having successfully freed it, he writes in permanent marker on the side, hands shaking. It’s a routine Noya has witnessed and performed thousands of times, but somehow watching a flustered Asahi stumble through the rite gives the whole dance a lovable fresh spin. It’s cute. He’s cute, and also giant and handsome and hot. Noya finds himself grinning painfully.
Asahi makes the cappuccino in a series of familiar motions; Noya stands with his arms on the counter watching like he always does, trying not to admire Asahi too openly, instead focusing on the careful contours of his hands as he works. Nice hands, he has some pretty good memories of them, and the thing that’s like sadness nips at him.
Asahi finishes up the drink and Noya pulls the note from his pocket, to tuck it into the tip jar—Ennoshita demanded he stop leaving cash after the second week.
And he’s about to stuff it in when Asahi’s hand appears over the opening, blocking him.
He looks up. Asahi stares at him, pink, preventing him from doing what he’s done everyday for weeks.
This is it, thinks Noya. He may never see Asahi again and he makes a quick careful study of his face—smoothness of the brown cheeks clouded with stubble, the downward sweep of the nose. Noya has mentally rehearsed being kicked out a dozen times, and he knows he wants the last image of his first love to be a vivid one.
In a weird twist, Asahi doesn’t move his hand, but he does hand Noya the cappuccino. Which he doesn’t accept, not at first.
“You don’t want the note?” he asks. Asahi just thrusts the coffee at him, his hand shaking hard enough that some liquid splashes past the lid.
“Please take it.”
Swallowing the scream of agony that wants to tear from his lungs—a scream for Asahi, for the two of them, a scream at himself for fucking up the greatest thing that’s ever happened to him—Noya slides the note back into his pocket. He takes the cappuccino, and then he sees it.
What Asahi wrote. It’s not SWC—small whole cappuccino. It’s not an order, it has no lingo at all.
It says, I miss you.
He lifts his chin to look at Asahi over the counter between them. The big guy sucks in deep breath after deep breath, his shoulders trembling and his eyes round, afraid. It’s incredible how he can look like he’d easily throw you a hundred meters but also vulnerable to a point where you feel it is your one dearest responsibility to protect him from the world, from any sort of harm—but that’s Asahi. He’s special, and the dopey way his mouth falls open is the most attractive thing Noya has ever seen.
“Nishinoya…” he blurts, “I read the—”
But Noya has already started climbing the counter and is wrapping himself around Asahi’s neck, cackling, ecstatic in the way that makes him seem like the biggest person in the room despite his stature.
“You are violating somany health codesright now,” is what Asahi would have shrieked, if Noya hadn’t swallowed those words by shoving their mouths together. It’s a desperate thing, it’s been too long since they kissed, and Noya happens to think that this corporate bastard bookstore-café is blessed that they’ve deigned to make out all over it, because it’s a real honor, what with them being the most beautiful couple in existence.
Noya sits his ass down on the counter while they’re at it, until Asahi breaks them apart, gasping. “Don’t do that again, don’t—”
“No lying, never, I won’t—” He brushes his lips against Asahi’s cheek, and then his ear. “I was so… sad.”
“You were sad,” echoes Asahi, puzzled.
Noya nods. It’s strange to say that, to feel that sentence on his tongue, but it’s—true? The like sadness, he’d been afraid to call it what it was, before—but Asahi should know. With Asahi sad is sad and happy is happy and Nishinoya doesn’t coat it in his defiant philosophy, or any of that.
“Don’t be sad,” Asahi mutters. This is the most inappropriate place to be having this conversation and Noya loves it.
“I deserved to be sad,” he insists, shaking his head, and then he takes Asahi’s face in his hands. “I deserved it for making you feel sad—but never again, never never, I swear to fucking—”
Asahi lifts him up by the waist and he cries out in strangled surprised, clinging to Asahi’s neck for support. “No more swearing,” Asahi declares, and thanks to the authority in his voice Noya feels himself nodding along without a second thought.
“Whatever you want,” he agrees, as the realization strikes him that he is going to get to be with Asahi for-fucking-ever.
Asahi giggles. It’s great, a beautiful beautiful noise. Have you ever met anyone as perfect as Asahi? No, you fucking haven’t, because there isn’t anyone else like that. “I like your tie,” Asahi says, “I know you thought it was going to look funny, you in a tie, but it doesn’t, it looks really good.” Noya grips Asahi’s upper arms, where there’s actually more muscle than his hands can hold. They need to get home, or into a broom closet or something.
“Where are the people taking over for you?”
Asahi lowers him to stand on his own two feet, but they don’t let go of one another. “Oh, I… I kind of sent them to the back when I saw that you were coming in. I had a feeling you were going to ambush me.”
“A love ambush!”
“A love ambush,” Asahi concedes, and he covers the grin on Noya’s face with a kiss.
“Tsukishima, of all people,” says Suga, shaking his head.
“He’s good at doing those little flowers on top of the drinks,” Daichi explains, and he lifts his coffee toward Suga. “Personally I think this would taste a lot better if it had a little flower on top of it.”
Sighing, Suga throws back his head, letting the sun hit his face. It’s beautiful today and so they took their drinks outside, walking a couple of blocks to a park bench—a park bench they’ve frequented over the past three weeks, for early morning coffees and conversation. “I didn’t even think Tsukishima liked making coffee.”
Daichi shrugs. “When Ennoshita asked him why he wanted to work for us, he said, ‘the location is convenient.’”
“I suppose he does live near there.”
“And he does seem to take long lunches,” Daichi laughs. Suga can feel the other man’s eyes on his neck, and he smiles to himself. “How are your other ex-employees fairing?”
“Well.” He sits up and starts to list, clawing his memory. “Tanaka’s sister got him hired at the bar where she works. Hinata is applying to universities.”
“We see a lot of Hinata at Nekoma.”
Suga snorts. “That’s not surprising.” It’s nice to know he didn’t tank Kageyama and Hinata’s fledging relationship; they’re just the right amount of clueless for one another. “Yachi started her new office job a few weeks ago, and she texts me everyday.”
“Do you text back?”
“Of course!” Daichi raises an eyebrow. Suga glares. “Sometimes. I’m busy.” There are only so many ways to agree that Kiyoko is beautiful.
“Yes, you seem busy.”
Suga shoves his shoulder gently. “Shut up, you’re supposed to be listening. You lost these people their jobs, remember?”
“Yes, go on,” Daichi replies, clearly biting back a grin. He’s sitting with one arm over the back of the bench, facing Suga, while Suga looks out at the park. There’s a noisy playground, a large lawn suitable for picnics, and a fenced garden a little ways along. The people watching and the weather are exceptional.
“So—Tanaka, Yachi, Hinata. Oh, Nishinoya.” Out the corner of his eye, he sees Daichi smirk. “He’s interviewing. I think the job hunt may have lost some steam, though, since…”
“He’s distracted,” Daichi snorts. “So is Asahi.” Suga nods, lowering his voice.
“They’re like rabbits, aren’t they?”
“I would never overindulge like that,” Suga declares. He makes sure to look out at the park when he says this, otherwise it would be too tempting to stare at Sawamura’s crotch, which has been happening… too frequently, of late. He likes to tell himself it’s just physical, and then to pray his friend’s “project” will be over soon so he can get laid and stop with… whatever this is.
He hears Daichi laugh and glares at him sideways, suppressing the urge to smile. Daichi’s moods are infectious—he’s probably a good boss. Not that Suga knows, it’s just a feeling he has. “Sure,” says Daichi, shaking his head. “I bet you’ve never even had sex.”
And then they both laugh, a laugh that starts quietly and then grows when they lock eyes. It’s nice, Suga feels the hilarity bubbling out of him. They have to stop for breath.
“And what about you? What’s next for you?” Daichi asks, his face still glowing.
“I’m… I don’t know.” Suga fiddles with the hot sleeve on his drink, suddenly embarrassed and not wanting to meet Daichi’s eye. Truthfully he’d been spending his days in front of a word processor, but he would need to do something for money, sooner rather than later. It’s hard to think about work when he hasn’t entirely accepted that Crow Street isn’t just on hiatus, but gone forever.
When he finally glances up, Daichi greets him with a smile, and nods. “Not knowing is good too.” Suga blushes.
“I’m writing,” he admits.
Daichi brightens. “Seriously? I didn’t know you wrote.”
“Always a little. But you know who got me started thinking about trying for real, it was—”
“Sendaireader1?” Daichi asks. He is not quite smiling, but looks riveted nonetheless. Suga pulls a face at him.
“Yes. How do you always know?”
Daichi shrugs, and he leans away from Suga. “You like the guy. It’s not hard to guess.”
A little while later he walks Sawamura to the subway, like has become their routine, talking about their most recent favorite books—they talk about books an almost comical amount. If Suga went on about books with anyone like he does with Sawamura, he’d have no friends, but Sawamura matches him at every intellectual stride and even extends their conversations. So it’s good he usually has to go to work, otherwise they’d talk until their voices gave out.
Sawamura descends into the metro, turning back to give Suga a last wave at the foot of the stairs. Suga waves back, and his new companion vanishes into the underground station. Suga wonders what he’s gotten himself into.
He has nowhere to go, nothing to do, so he takes a long stroll back to his apartment. He cleans for a little then settles down with his laptop, stiffening when he spies a new message from sendaireader1. The feeling that seizes him isn’t the opposite of the delight he used to get, seeing Inbox (1), but it’s that delight now mixed with confusion and uncertainty. Nothing has changed within their interactions, objectively speaking, but Suga is being… pulled in a different direction.
I think I’m ready… it’s time for us to meet. I’m sorry it’s taken so long. What are you doing Friday morning? There’s a garden in a park I know. We can meet by the daisies—huge patch, can’t miss it. It’ll be perfect.
He is having a dream he’s in one of his games—not a game he recognizes, but in the weird logical certainty of dreams he knows he’s played this dozens of times. Except now the enemy is Shouyou for some reason, and Kuroo is there too, but on his side, like a companion character. Shouyou keeps screaming about not being called short and grows into a sword-wielding giant, twenty meters tall. Kuroo yells over and over again, the throwaway line demanding a player’s action, “Kenma, Kenma, what do you want to do? Kenma! What do you want?”
And he opens his mouth and no sound comes out. He has a sudden sense of being nothing, of missing some essential piece, like he is attempting this game with no controller. Kuroo’s voice comes louder, and closer.
That—that voice isn’t in the dream, and Kenma stirs, eyes sticky with sleep. The light is on in the living room, and Kuroo casts a long shadow from the bedroom doorway. Just Kuroo, not a home invader. Kenma inhales and lets his head fall back to his pillow. Rain pounds against the darkened windows.
“It’s the middle of the night, Kuro.”
“It’s eleven-thirty,” says Kuroo, sounding… unusual. Kenma squints at him, trying to make out his expression in the darkness.
“What are you doing here?” Their last encounter left Kenma feeling sour and he hasn’t forgotten that frustration; there’s an edge of it in his tone, but mostly he’s too sleepy to act defensive.
“I needed to talk to you.”
Kuroo’s voice is heavy and hoarse, disconcertingly so, he doesn’t sound himself. Kenma didn’t work that day—had something happened at Nekoma? He struggles through the grogginess to sit up in bed. “What’s up?”
“May I come into your room?”
Kenma considers that he might still be dreaming, with how his friend is acting. Kuroo respecting boundaries—you can’t make that shit up. He doesn’t know what to say.
“Are… are you joking?”
“No,” Kuroo coughs, leaning on the doorframe. Kenma considers him for a moment, has an unsettling thought.
“Are you drunk?”
Kuroo takes a solid step into the room, and then another, and another. “I’m not drunk, Kenma.” At the edge of Kenma’s bed, he towers for a moment, his face a black blur, and then falls to his knees. Head down, he inhales deeply and lets out the breath with a shudder.
Kenma feels his heart stall in his chest—something about the sight of smug, solid Kuroo kneeling and hunched before him. Kenma can see the kid who used to drag him outside to play when they were seven or eight, the twelve-year-old who hung out behind the grocery on Saturday nights just so some high school first years would think he was cool, the teenager who earned himself twenty stitches through a failed skateboard trick. The twentysomething who would ruin all those moments they’d shared over the years to… to get off, Kenma remembers; he has to swallow his disappointment. Maybe in a secluded part of his mind, he’d thrived on the notion that the two of them had something special. A connection, a privileged bond. He concedes that he wants one of these, has for a long time—that’s why it hurt like hell to watch Shouyou find his so easily.
“Kenma,” Kuroo breathes, for what feels like the hundredth time in two minutes. An inkling of what might be nervousness crawls over Kenma, as he twists to face his friend, one leg dangling off the side of his bed and the other tucked beneath him. On his knees, Kuroo is shorter than him, smaller, for once.
“What’s with you?”
Kuroo turns his head and Kenma sees his face for the first time, caught in the beam of light from the doorway. He’s wet, his messy hair flattened and smooth and sticking to his forehead. He looks young and plain and completely vulnerable; he swallows and his Adam’s apple bobs. “I think you’ve got the wrong impression about how I… about what’s been going on.”
Kenma narrows his eyes. The wrong impression. “You’re saying you don’t want to sleep with me.”
“I…” A muscle in Kuroo’s jaw twitches. His eyes have gone glassy with stress. “I’d be lying if I said that I don’t think you’re…” Instinctively, Kenma recoils a little—he doesn’t want to talk about this while he’s sitting in bed and Kuroo is there on his fucking knees and starting to shiver from the damp. His friend senses his discomfort and tenses, reaching out to say don’t worry. “It’s not just that, it’s not—” He sighs and starts to run a hand through his wet hair, over and over, the gesture sort of manic as his gaze roams the floor. “I think everyone thinks all I do is eat and drink and fuck, like I’ve never read a fucking poem or—or cared about another human being before. But you, you’ve known me my whole life, you’re not supposed to think that.”
With the growing suspicion that something is coming, Kenma swallows and wraps his arms around his own torso protectively. “I don’t think that.”
“So what do you think of me, Kenma?” Kuroo asks, looking up at him.
“You’re my… friend,” he replies slowly.
“You think of me as a friend? Just a friend?”
His pulse has started throbbing at his wrists, and he curls his arms tighter around himself. “What are you trying to ask me?”
Reading Kuroo’s expressions comes easy for Kenma—he’s not a particularly fluent study when it comes to expressions, nor is Kuroo an easy nut to crack, but after so many years of getting along (and sometimes not), he barely sees the veneer of his friend’s toothy grins and smugly squinting eyes. Instead there’s just Kuroo, and Kuroo is plain as day—and the day on Kuroo’s face now is a day that dawns after a long rainy night. Clean and smacking of insight, of clarity. He reaches out a large hand; without a thought, Kenma offers his own hand, smaller in the pale clammy palm of Kuroo’s.
Kuroo smiles a rare one, a smile without pretense, a smile that billows around the curve of his lips and settles there, genuine and sad for being so genuine like he expects the honesty to be his downfall but can’t help being happy. He speaks, sounding ever more like himself even as he recites old words, “I do love nothing in the world so much as you. Is not that strange?”
“That’s Shakespeare,” mutters Kenma, narrowing his eyes, wishing he could see better. “You’re just going to quote Shakespeare at me? You’re supposed to be witty, can’t you—”
“I don’t know how to make it sound like I mean it.”
“Mean what? Kuro—”
“I want you to believe me. I don’t want it to be cliche, or stupid, or...” Kuroo shakes Kenma’s hand, curled into his own. “I want it to sound like the greatest fucking thing anyone’s ever said when I tell you that I love you, because I do, I love you, I’m in love with you.”
Funnily, Kenma’s first thought is, it’s about time.
He might be smiling. Something is happening around his mouth and cheeks, a tingling, that’s all he knows. His heart thuds against his ribcage and harder, faster, as Kuroo rocks up and forward on his knees and takes him by the elbows and their foreheads meet; the wetness of his old friend’s skin against his own burning face feels cool and good, and he smells faintly of the cologne Kenma has always liked. It’s heady and delightful. The intimacy makes him woozy, the calm euphoria of adrenaline makes him sigh.
“I don’t want to…” he manages, and he can’t bring himself to say the words—sleep with you—but he doesn’t need to. It’s evident that words aren’t their medium. Kuroo laughs, nudging against him in the motion, Kenma’s knees knocking at his chest.
“I don’t care about that, it’s…”
“I can manage.”
“I don’t want you to manage, I want—”
“I don’t care, Kenma.” Kuroo exhales noisily and Kenma feels the grip on his elbows tighten. “Don’t want you to worry about me, just—it’s worth it, okay?”
Kenma pulls away—Kuroo makes a tiny disappointed whine, Kenma could tell him he’s an idiot but he smiles instead and cups Kuroo’s face, running the pad of his thumb over the cheek, pushing back the messy swaths of black hair. It’s a good face, handsome, glowing earnestly in the yellow backlight. Kenma loses himself somewhere between why didn’t I think of this before and I’ve been thinking of this forever, and bends down to kiss his friend lightly.
Kuroo either chuckles or sobs against him, Kenma isn’t sure, the way his cold lips open to the warmth of his mouth is distracting. He’s pulled down, taking half the sheets with him when he slides into Kuroo’s lap. Long arms snake around him and he shivers, at first he thinks from the kisses being frantically peppered along his jaw, but then he feels dampness seeping through the fabric of his shirt when Kuroo hugs him tightly and presses their chests together.
Kenma whimpers and struggles against the embrace a little, having been so nice and warm and dry a second ago. “You’re soaking wet!”
Kuroo keeps clinging to him, mumbling into his neck. “I love you.”
“I’m sure I have a shirt of yours in a drawer somewhere...”
“I love you.”
“If you change you can stay in my bed tonight.”
“I love you.”
“If you don’t change I’ll put you out in the rain.”
“I love you, Kenma.”
“I love you too,” he mutters, and stops struggling, letting himself melt back into the hug and feeling Kuroo sigh happily under him. “Now, please change your clothes.”
Kenma has to haul him off the floor in order for this process to begin, and even then it’s a sloppy dance between the two of them, Kenma dodging giggly kisses to peel off Kuroo’s shirt, Kuroo toweling off and then stuffing the wet cloth in his face, Kenma letting out a yell, Kuroo grabbing him around the waist and twirling him, nearly knocking over the dresser. Kenma ceasing to dodge the kisses. By the time they fall into bed together they are dry and snug and the softness of the pillows and blankets feels especially decadent when they’re wrapping around one another, too.
Kenma finds that he fits perfectly in the curve from Kuroo’s elbow to his shoulder, and that an old t-shirt with the heat of a chest beneath it feels incredible against his cheek. With each of Kuroo’s inhales and exhales he’s lifted up and then sinks down a little, like he’s floating. He’s about to say something, maybe mention how nice that feels, to be floating, but when he glances up Kuroo’s eyes are closed—fast asleep. He remembers how they used to have sleepovers and Kuroo would talk a big game about staying up all night, then pass out at nine-thirty.
Shaking with silent laughter, Kenma lowers his head and snugs tighter against Kuroo’s side. “Goodnight, I guess,” he murmurs. He takes a moment to slide the flat of his palm from Kuroo’s sternum to his stomach, feeling the definition in spots and the softness in others, unable to stop himself from smiling. He’s still smiling when he shuts his eyes for the night, and a quiet moment passes where he begins to doze, before he hears a little laugh from over his head, and lips brush his forehead.
Daichi whistles. “Today?”
“Right after you leave me, you’ll...”
Suga nods. “Go home and change, and then I’m meeting him. Finally.” He squirms in his seat on their bench just thinking of it. He can see the very garden, not too from them, all in bloom on what’s turned into a glorious summer day.
“It’s really happening,” says Daichi, grinning. Suga scans him for a hint of jealousy, but he seems resolute in amusement, at least for the time being.
They toss out their empty coffee cups and begin the walk to the subway, along tree-lined paths and sidewalks.
Daichi meditates for a moment, and then declares, “What a clever guy.”
“What do you mean, what a clever guy?”
“Well, he’s got you right where he wants you, doesn’t he?” Suga scoffs, but Daichi shakes his head, explaining, “No, really. He’s worked you into this place where you believe he’s the only man you could ever possibly be with, right?” The look that Daichi gives him when asking this question—well, it’s not quite jealousy, not like Suga knows jealousy. No, this is sadder, and darker, and it makes Suga turn away, staring up the street instead.
“I don’t understand!”
“I love when you get all upset and pretend not to understand something.” Suga blushes, now refusing to meet his eye. “So endearingly stubborn, Suga-san.”
“You too, but it’s not so endearing.”
With Daichi laughing, they come to an intersection where normally they’d turn for the metro—but Daichi makes to cross the street, and stopping only when Suga tugs his arm. “Oh,” he says, smiling even as the laughter’s died down, “No, I’m not going into work until later. Let me walk you to your apartment.”
So they move down the block together; it’s quieter here, a calm little residental corner of the neighborhood. Suga has always appreciated the still street on these hot afternoons—he leaves his windows open, lets the breeze filter through the place.
“Suga,” says Daichi, as they near the end of the block.
“Do you ever wonder,” and they pause at the front steps of his building, “what would’ve happened, if—you and me.” Suga’s gaze drifts from his door to Daichi, whose smile has changed, grown wistful. “If I didn’t have Nekoma, and you didn’t have Crow Street.” Embarrassment swells in Suga’s throat, sympathy for Sawamura, longing for himself. “If I’d run into you at a cafe or a bar or... or a bookshop that wasn’t important to either of us.”
“I know,” he exhales, eyes fluttering shut, relieved that they’ve acknowledged this tension. The probability of another universe, where they started out right.
“I would have begged you to go out with me.” Suga opens his eyes in time to watch Daichi swallow hard, and slide his hands into his pockets. “I wouldn’t—I mean, I’d never stop thinking about you. I’d make an idiot out of myself to win you over.”
“Daichi,” he cautions, trying to say, don’t do this to yourself. But Daichi shakes his head, barrels on.
“I’d write you really... really shitty poems, and bring you breakfast in bed, and there wouldn’t be any fighting. No competition.” He breathes out slowly, the hesitant smile, the one that wants to imagine, tugs at his lips. “The only thing we’d argue about would be where to get dinner. Once you’re sick of my shoyu ramen.”
Suga laughs in surprise, hardly expecting a joke. “What a silly thing to argue about.”
“You’re right. Who could ever get sick of shoyu ramen?” Daichi steps toward him, inhaling sharply. “And the only thing I’d ever want would be to spend the rest of my life making you happy.”
Oh. Well. There’s... that.
“Daichi...” Suga ducks his head, turning toward the door. He wobbles, needing something to lean on, to catch his breath. “I have to...”
“Right, your friend,” mutters Daichi, moving away. Yes, his friend, his friend is waiting and here’s Suga on the sidewalk with Sawamura doing whatever—whatever Sawamura is doing with his dark eyes so intent and serious and his mouth smiling softly. “It seems... I don’t know. You forgave him for standing you up, almost breaking your heart, and you can’t forgive me for that—little thing. Putting you out of business.”
Suga opens his mouth to say goodbye but nothing comes out. Is he a fool? Is he the world’s biggest fool?
Daichi blinks a few times, then lowers his gaze, and turns to go. “I’ll see you later, Suga-san.”
So he watches Daichi walk away, a spring in his step that wasn’t there before. It’s strange, and he doesn’t know what’s just happened, he only knows... he only knows that Sawamura Daichi is a good man. That you don’t meet men like that very often, who are truly good. Suga’s heart hurts. He drags himself up the front steps and into his building.
The nervous rush of energy kicks in once he starts to get ready for his meeting, and he recovers from the emotional paralysis caused Sawamura’s almost-confession. By the time he leaves the apartment again, his eagerness is such that he has to stop himself from breaking into a run on the way to the garden. He’s changed into a billowy shirt of white linen, cooler than the one he wore earlier; he fiddles with the buttons while he walks, and with the strap of the messenger bag he threw together hastily, containing a few necessities. His feet don’t seem to touch the concrete beneath them.
So, on a very sunny day in Sendai, he arrives at the park he’d left only an hour ago. Avoids some cyclists. Throws a stray ball to kids playing catch.
The garden smells incredible, everything blooming as far as the eye can see. The heat of the sun on his head and neck distracts him from the blood rushing to his face, as he starts to open and close his fists reflexively around the strap of his bag. He’s walked by this garden enough but never stepped inside. It’s lovely, truly. He passes a family of three, with a little girl who points and smiles at him, and he mimics the gesture to her great amusement. The moment at least helps to steady his hands, but it is still with a churning stomach that he finds himself tiptoeing along the gravel paths, breath shallow, eyes roaming the flowers, looking for...
Like the one in Sawamura’s hand, where he stands with a sea of yellow-dotted white blossoms at his back, staring at Suga, who stops short.
Daichi lifts his shoulders and, with the softest look in his eyes, smiles a greeting.
There are those moments in a person’s life that are memorable, significant enough to stick with you—and then there are those moments in a person’s life that are unforgettable, that expand the very definition of memory, into a picture so perfectly vivid it rewrites you—so that whoever you are and whatever becomes of you, you can’t forget that moment, because it changed you forever. Who you are, what your time on earth means. Lifechanging, but it never feels like one word is enough for something that monumental.
Suga’s monumental, lifechanging picture is Daichi standing by the daisies in a quiet corner of a garden in Sendai, waiting for him with a single flower in hand.
There ought to be music playing, there ought to be planets aligning, fireworks going off; Suga thinks maybe he has never truly understood poetry until right now.
He doesn’t register that his feet have begun to move, but he drifts toward Daichi, and Daichi toward him, and they meet in the middle of the path.
Suga is choking back tears, and Daichi, gentle, puts a warm palm to his cheek. “Please don’t cry. I hate making you cry.”
“You...” Around a shaking sob, Suga reaches into his bag, and pulls out—he had only thought, maybe— “I brought you this.” The Selected Poems of Pablo Neruda. Daichi’s mouth falls open.
“Did you know?” he asks, Suga sliding the book into his hands.
“No, I... I didn’t know.” Suga breaths in, bites his lip. Tears wet his face. “I hoped.” Daichi’s eyes are wet too, he grins a grin so wide it barely fits his face, and he steps closer to Suga. “I wanted it to be you,” Suga blurts, winded. “I want it to be you so badly.” Daichi slips the Neruda back into his bag, and tucks the single daisy behind Suga’s ear, then wraps them together.
But it’s Suga who pulls him into the kiss this time, clinging to Daichi’s collar. Daichi responds with a satisfied sigh against him, sliding his tongue over Suga’s bottom lip, and it feels good, the wet and the warm and the sun on them, and the understanding that what Suga feels for this man is so deep and true and fated that he fell in love with him twice. Their noses smash sloppily, and he can’t tell if it’s his or Daichi’s tears when he tastes salt, nor does he much care. They must be quite the sight, two grown men kissing and crying in a public garden, and the thought only makes Suga cry harder. He cried at their last kiss, too, how funny—and he laughs into Daichi’s mouth.
They part lips but Suga doesn’t let another inch come between them, Daichi hovering near his mouth. “What’s so funny?”
“Nothing, I’m just—” Suga tugs at his sleeve. “Let’s go be alone somewhere. My apartment.”
“I have to go to work, I’m already late.”
“No, what about not putting business first! You said!”
Daichi starts to pull away, shaking his head, but Suga clings to him greedily. “Suga—Koushi—it’s the middle of the afternoon—”
“You’re too modest.” They’re both grinning, as they start to leave the garden, Suga still pulling at his arm. “Don’t you want to be alone with me?” he says, lowering his voice.
Daichi attempts to glare; it doesn’t quite land. “Okay, obviously I do, it’s just...” Suga raises a suggestive eyebrow, touching the daisy tucked behind his ear. “It’s just, shut up.”
“You love me!”
“I do,” says Daichi, and the humor dies from both their faces. He halts in the path, and Suga with him, as they stare at each other. How many letters had they signed with love, how many times had he considered himself to be in love, and here they were. Saying it outloud. And Daichi does say it, slowly, as though everything is slotting into place. “I do love you.” He offers Suga his hand, and Suga regards it for a moment.
“Then... we have plenty of time.” And they walk to the subway with their fingers wound together.