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The first week of June.

Chapter Text

“Does everyone have their permission slips signed?” The excited chorus of positive responses Irihata gets from his students reminds him once more how much energy the young ones have.

“Alright, bring them here so I can check them, then get your stuff loaded onto the van.” The volleyball club was going camping. And not like a training camp, but actual camping.

It was a special event, one that took place in the first week of June, both as a bonding trip and a way to relax after troublesome exams and exhausting tournaments. The third years had organised everything, just as their senpai had done before them.

It had been difficult at first, since all four of them had their hearts set on different things. Oikawa had wanted to do a mountain climbing expedition, Iwaizumi had wanted to partake in a catch-and-release environmental programme, Matsukawa had wanted them to do cooking classes and the like, and Hanamaki was determined to do an adventure holiday.

In the end, it was Mizoguchi’s suggestion of camping that had won them over, seeing as it offered a little bit of what they all wanted to do.

“I’m picking the music!”

No!” Oikawa was wrenched back by the collar of his shirt, Matsukawa grabbing him just in time to stop him leaping into the minivan to hook up the AUX cord. He whined as Hanamaki walked past casually, flashing him a peace sign.

“Iwa-chan, tell them it’s my turn! I haven’t had a chance to play my music yet!”

“No chance in hell. I’ve seen your playlist.”

“... Which one?”

“The one eloquently titled ‘Travelling Torture’ with a shit eating kaomoji.”

“Geh…” Oikawa stops trying to fight his way out of Matsukawa’s grasp, and only once he’s resigned to his fate does Matsukawa release him.

“C’mon, let’s get everything piled up.” They join Iwaizumi at the back of the minivan, the doors opened and Iwaizumi checking off all the items on a list, making sure they have the general camping gear as well as their individual items.

They know Kunimi has a sleeping bag, at the very least, as he lies on it like a mattress in a patch of shade. Kindaichi sits next to him, rummaging through both of their bags like the responsible friend he is.

Watching Kindaichi ask Kunimi something, and then poke his ribs at a dry, but teasingly playful response, Oikawa can’t help but smile softly.

They’ve come a long way from the little middle school first years he first knew them as. They’ve even come a long way from the beginning of the year, when they had turned up at Aobajousai like they’d been through trauma in the later years of middle school.

To them, it probably had been. And they still had a long way to go.

Whilst Oikawa is mulling on his somber thoughts, the second years arrive as a trio, Watari and Yahaba dragging a reluctant Kyoutani along. He scowls the entire time, despite the fact he has the same packed bags as everyone else.

“5 minutes until we leave, if you or your belongings aren’t in the van, we’re going without!” Mizoguchi grins as the children burst into activity, abandoning any sense of organisation and responsibility as they sling bags and equipment into the back, and bustle in to claim their seats.

“I’m Captain, I get the front seat!”

“Tough shit, I called dibs first.”

“Oi lovebirds, you do know you can share, right?”

“You’re not making this any easier, Makki. Hey, Iwa-chan! That’s not fair, I was distracted!”

“You snooze, you lose.” Iwaizumi’s dazzling grin disrupts the chaos for a moment, and the other members slip into the closest available seats, transfixed. It’s not a stretch to say they’ve all had a crush on him at some point - or still do - and that boyish grin could charm thousands.

Even Oikawa is stunned, and he sees that expression quite commonly, having been Iwaizumi’s best friend since they were toddlers.

“Set to go?” The coaches slide into the driving section of the van, Irihata in the driver's seat and Mizoguchi in the passengers, printed map on his lap. Just in case the Satnav tries to lead them astray like last time.

They really hadn’t meant to end up on a beach instead of at the training camp.

Oikawa looks over his shoulder to check everyone is buckled in, settled down, and ready to go. He also pays careful attention to Yahaba, making sure he has his travel sickness pills and a bag close by - just in case. Delighted, he turns back around to face forwards.

“We’re ready, Coach~!” The minivan rumbles to life, and just as it leaves the school courtyard, the boys leave behind their restraint. Technically, they’re no longer on school grounds, and no longer have to behave like model students.

Hanamaki cranks the music up to far too loud, but the coaches can still hear their team chattering and squabbling and laughing. They’re having fun.

It’s important they have fun, making memories together that they can one day look back on, and realise life had its shining moments. Irihata himself regretted not doing enough when he was young and capable. Maybe coaching was his way of making up for it.

“Ow, ow, ow! Stop yanking my arm!”

“Then stop pulling my hair!”

“Hey, Oikawa, I’ll pay you to bite him!”

“Do not-! What the everloving fuck, Shittykawa?!”

“Mattsun said he’d pay me!” Hanamaki and Matsukawa laugh loudly, Iwaizumi shouting at Oikawa, whilst the Captain demands his payment. Of course it would be the third years making a large percentage of the ruckus.

They always have been the noisy ones, ever since they walked into the gymnasium as first years, eyes shining wide with awe, and admirable respect for their senpai. They’d ended up being little monsters within the first week, which was probably a school record.

The second years were much quieter. Kyoutani was slouched in his seat, and Mizoguchi had half a mind to tell him off for putting his feet on the back of the chair in front, but with his own headphones on, there wasn’t much chance Kyoutani would hear him.

He seemed pretty absorbed in a book anyways.

On the other hand, Yahaba seemed to flick his interest around to anything and everything, fidgeting and fiddling, trying to take his mind off his travel sickness. Watari kept smacking his hand every time Yahaba went to tug at the rubber seam around the window.

Asides from that, Watari took great glee in watching the third years, laughing at them as well as with them, and ready to intervene if things went too far. The second years were the least of Mizoguchi’s concerns.

Especially in comparison to the third years.

He has to shuffle upwards in his seat a little to see the first years, the duo sitting right at the back of the minivan, a large space between them and the others. At first, he thought maybe it was so they were further back from the music blasting out the front speakers, but he quickly realised they were sitting away from everything.

Kunimi was attempting to nap, head on his best friend’s shoulder, and Kindaichi was leaning against him, his cheek pressed into Kunimi’s hair. They probably weren’t used to being up so early with such an exhausting team.

It might take a while for the enthusiasm to spread to them.

“Sadayuki, which exit am I taking at this roundabout?” Mizoguchi jolts around to check their position on the map, finding the instructions for the next roundabout.

“Uh.. Third one, so you want the left lane going into the middle.”

“Left lane into middle…” The indicator clicking underneath the music reassures Mizoguchi that even through the noise, there’ll be moments of peace...

“Oh shit, I got a karaoke album on here! Who wants some Claris?!”

… He hopes.

That hope fades and his dreams of peace and quiet are turned to dust half an hour later, when Hanamaki finds he has many more karaoke albums in a dusty corner of his music collection. At some point, Yahaba and Watari join in on the caterwauling, and Kyoutani gives up on trying to listen to his own music.

“You’re not going to shut up, are you?”

“Nope! Don’t be so grumpy, Kyoutani. It’s more fun when you just let yourself go.” He seems to think about and seriously consider Watari’s advice before he shakes his head and turns back to his book. If the corners of his lips twitch up when he hears the rest of them burst into terrible screeching in unison, then that’s his own business.

“There’s a service station just ahead. We’ll stop there for a few minutes.” There’s a beat of silence after Irihata’s announcement before Matsukawa breaks it in a completely deadpan tone.

“Oh thank god, I really need to shit.”

“Matsukawa-senpai, that is too much information!” He grins at Yahaba, more of a smirk than anything else, obviously just wanted a reaction. And a poop. He really needs to poop.

When the minivan pulls into the service station and parks, he’s the first one to leap out, flinging asides the door and breaking out into a run across the car park. Irihata swears under his breath as the student leaps over a hedgerow, only to run straight into a bollard and slide down to the floor with a groan of pain.

Hanamaki does what any best friend would.
He laughs.

He cackles and snorts so loudly that a middle finger raises from above the hedge, holding still for comedic affect, and slowly lowering before Matsukawa pushes himself back up and strolls off towards the building sensibly this time.

Oikawa and Iwaizumi break into a race to catch up with him, Hanamaki on their tails, knowing full well that service stations mean food. Irihata sighs, wondering why the oldest of the team are the most childish.

“Yahaba, I’m trusting you to supervise them…”

“Thanks, but no thanks. I’d rather not deal with that responsibility.” Hands on hips, Mizoguchi intervenes, sensing the rising urge to quit in his superior.

“Does that really sound like something the future captain should say?” Yahaba rolls his eyes and pockets his phone, fighting to hold back a grimace.

“I don’t mind being responsible for anyone else, but when those four are together, they’re impossible to keep out of trouble.”

“Yahaba’s right. Let the morons and Iwaizumi-senpai be responsible for themselves.”

“... You do know Iwaizumi is one of them, right?” Kyoutani shrugs, ignoring how Watari pokes him teasingly in the ribs with a grin.

“The difference is that he knows when to stop. The others push it a little too far. Testing boundaries or whatever.” Whilst Mizoguchi tries to talk the second year trio into babysitting their senpai, shepherding them towards the building, Irihata remains with the van.

There’s precious cargo inside. Not just the very expensive camping equipment that they can’t risk anyone stealing, but also their youngest. By some miraculous stroke of luck, the first years had somehow fallen asleep and stayed asleep through all the music, and squabbling, and karaoke.

It was a blessing, really. Irihata had been expecting them to add to the ruckus and stir things up even worse. Kindaichi had a habit of shooting himself in the foot when he flustered, and the others loved to tease him to that point. Kunimi had a gift of words, and his carefully constructed sarcasm could rile up anyone.

Lately, he seemed to have been targeting Kyoutani, and Irihata really did not want to deal with a very angry Kyoutani trapped in a relatively small minivan. Not when they still had a large portion of the journey to go.

If they were lucky, maybe the third years would wear themselves out and follow in their underclassmen’s footsteps. The second years were pretty quiet when they didn’t have any bad influences.

Namely Oikawa, but Hanamaki was almost the same level, and Matsukawa seemed to do the worst he possibly could at the most unsuspecting of times. Iwaizumi was a difficult one to figure out, because sometimes he was the voice of reason, and other times he was a mischief menace like his best friend.

“Sensei…”

Oh no.

If he’s quiet, maybe Kunimi will drift back to sleep?

“Sensei, where are we?” No such luck. Sighing, Irihata twists around where he sits on van floor, the doors open so he’s technically still standing on the ground. Kunimi looks more awake now than he ever has at practice, possibly because he’s only just woken up.

“The first of three service stations. This is the only one with multiple shops and cafes if you’d like to buy anything. Everyone else has already gone on ahead.”

“Ah. How long until the next stop?”

“Roughly 2 hours.” Kunimi blinks. Looks over at the building. And then starts wriggling out of his seat, trying to unbuckle his seatbelt and substitute himself for a pillow at the same time. It’s hard to do when Kindaichi is leaning fully against him, so deeply asleep that he drools a little.

“Gross…He dribbled on my shoulder…” Irihata chuckles softly, shaking his head in amusement.

“I’m sure there are worse things in the world~.”

“True. Ah, is it really okay for me to cross the car park unsupervised?”

“As long as you’re not going to throw yourself in front of a vehicle, then yes.” A flicker of impish intentions in his eyes, and a tiny, devious smirk on his lips, Kunimi tilts his head to the side like he’s an angel, pressing his fingertips together innocently.

“What constitutes as a vehicle, Sensei?”

“Anything that moves. Don’t test the limits, I will send you home if you try to get hit by any mode of transportation.” Kunimi hums under his breath, smirk growing a little more devious. He’s energized, which would be handy for matches, but certainly not long road trips where the only way of releasing that energy was sarcasm and winding the others up.

“I could be dying and you’d send me home instead of to hospital? Doesn’t that seem a little twisted?”

“Just go and catch up with the others, Kunimi.” With a self-satisfied smirk at having exasperated his Coach, Kunimi turns on his heel and walks slowly across the car park. As if to stress Irihata out a little more, he refuses to stick to the walkways, instead striding down the middle of the road and crossing in random places.

Irihata is sure that one day, he will get run over, and then he’d regret everything.

For now, he watches carefully to make sure his student makes it safely to the building doors and inside. He grimaces with pity as he thinks of Mizoguchi trying to herd together 8 of the team members, each one determined to make their lives as difficult as possible.

Honestly, they’re like toddlers.

He basks in the sun and flicks through a magazine as he waits, content to guard the van whilst he waits for everyone to return. And return they do, with shopping bags a plenty and grins of pure mischief.

Only Mizoguchi looks weary, as if questioning why he ever thought this was a good idea.

“What happened?”

“They saw a confectionary shop. And a bakery. And a toy shop.” Like toddlers, indeed. Irihata’s flat stare seems to get through to them, as Yahaba and Iwaizumi shy away guiltily, Watari mumbles an apology, and Oikawa forces a nervous laugh.

On the other hand, Hanamaki has no such thing as guilt in his repertoire.

“Look at this cool ass sword I got! Like, it’s plastic, but it still hits hard!” He swings it around and accidentally smacks Matsukawa on the arm with it, but turns his accident into a moment of success, grinning like he was demonstrating. Irihata sighs.

“... Why?

“It will be required in later quests.” He lets the somber statement hang in the air for a second, face completely serious, and Kunimi even claps his hands together and hangs his head as if mourning, before they both break it off in unison and head back into the van.

The rest of team follows, and Irihata hears a distinctive smack paired with a “Rise and shine!”, followed by Kindaichi’s yelp, and a whine that something wasn’t very nice. Probably the fact he’d been smacked awake by a plastic sword.

Dragging a hand down his face, Irihata wonders if they’ve made the right decision.

“Perhaps we should have picked a campsite closer to home.” Mizoguchi runs a hand through his hair, nodding in agreement.

“Remind me to never supervise them in a service station ever again.”

“I’ll watch them next time.” The sigh of relief that escapes Mizoguchi almost makes Irihata pity him. Almost.

Not quite, because he definitely wishes he hadn’t signed up to that duty. Watching over 9 kids in a service station when they’re now going to be fuelled by sugar. He thinks he can spot Matsukawa sipping an energy drink too, through a fancy twirly straw.

“... With any luck, they’ll go into sugar comas…” Another loud shriek followed by rambunctious laughter from inside the van, and the shadow of someone launching themselves at someone else, with the general screaming and idiocy Irihata expects from his team when they’re excited.

“Actually, I somewhat prepared for this.” Mizoguchi digs into his pocket, pulling out a small box of earplugs and receipt. Clearly, he’s only just brought them, but it’s more than Irihata currently has on him.

“May good things come your way, Sadayuki.”

Chapter Text

When the van ambles along the dirt road, turning into the secluded entrance of the camping grounds, it’s almost dark. A whole day of driving - Irihata and Mizoguchi exchanging every few hours - seemed to have done the trick in calming the children down.

Perhaps too efficiently, since the only two awake are the first years who slept earlier.

It’s going to be difficult to set up all the tents and equipment with just the four of them, but Mizoguchi can see that Kindaichi is practically buzzing in excitement, and even Kunimi has a gleam of anticipation in his eyes.

“Alright, we’re here. I’ll get us signed in. Why don’t you take the kids and start setting up?” Mizoguchi glances over his shoulder to see two extremely puppy-like faces waiting for his confirmation, and he gives Irihata a thumbs up with a half-smile.

“Sure. We’ll scout out the area, find somewhere to pitch.” Irihata nods, sliding out the car and into the reception area to register and pay.

Mizoguchi starts the engine, driving slowly so he doesn’t disturb the sleeping members of the team, content with how quiet it is in the back, soft breathing and gentle snores. He can hear the shushed whispering between Kindaichi and Kunimi, looking out windows on opposite sides of the van and pointing out things they see.

From the conifer forest on the west of the camp, to the grasslands on the east, and the lake in the centre, this campsite is easily one of the best, underrated sites in the country. It may have taken 14 hours of travelling, but it was so worth it.

There’s even a little wooden stand that serves different meals - and alcohol for the adults - at around dinner time each day. It’s a nice backup in case their camp-cooked meals don’t quite go to plan.

“Ah, sensei! There’s a spot there where we can set up campfires!” Glancing out the window, towards the lakefront where there’s a few trees stretching out towards the water’s edge, Mizoguchi spots the sign designating it as a safe area for lighting fires, and permission to collect their own firewood.

“Nice eye, Kindaichi. We’ll set up somewhere over here then.” He hears the soft, almost withheld squeal of excitement, followed by Kunimi promptly smacking his friend gently on the shoulder, voice full of amusement as he hushes him, pointing to their sleeping senpai.

Rolling his eyes and shaking his head softly, Mizoguchi pulls up in the nearby parking spot, just a gravel patch at the side of the lake, next to a small pier, and switches off the engine.

“Why don’t you two find a pitch site? I’ll watch over the others.” They don’t need telling twice. Kindaichi scrambles from the van, dragging Kunimi by the wrist over to the wooded area, and they start to investigate. Mizoguchi thinks he also sees Kunimi collecting things off the ground too.

“That better be sticks and not anything dangerous…” Muttering to himself, he picks up a magazine from the glove box and flicks through, keeping an eye on the first years in the wing mirror until they get too far away for him to see, following the forest along the curve of the lake.

The campsite is safe enough, so he’s not too concerned with hovering over their shoulders.

A few minutes later, there’s stirring in the back of the van. Mizoguchi lowers the magazine to check who it is, unsurprised to see it’s Oikawa. Although Oikawa sleeps heavily, he only sleeps in short bursts.

Usually he’d roll over and attempt to go back to sleep, but he seems to realise that the van isn’t moving, and he looks out the window, blinking in astonishment before his face breaks into a grin.

“We’re here!”

“Shh! You can go and explore if you’d like, but don’t wake anyone else.” Mizoguchi’s warning falls on deaf ears as Oikawa scrambles to unbuckle his seatbelt and clambers around, shaking Iwaizumi’s shoulder on one side and Hanamaki’s on the other.

“Hey! We’re here! Look, we’re by a lake!” The sunset colours and rising moon reflect in the still waters, painting a perfectly calming atmosphere that is shattered by Oikawa racing out the van in fits of laughter, Hanamaki and Iwaizumi on his heels.

Matsukawa and the second years are slightly more groggy from the rude awakening, Yahaba taking a second to register that he’s essentially being used as a human pillow, shoving Kyoutani off his shoulder and Watari off his lap.

“Gerroff, freeloaders.”

“No… Vicious pillow…”

“I’ll show you vicious!” Watari squawks as he’s pushed to the van floor, but rather than get up and do anything about it, he just lies there face down on the floor and picks at Yahaba’s laces.

“You’re a vicious pillow and a bad friend.” Yahaba rolls his eyes, climbing over Kyoutani to get away from Watari, and that’s the point where he trips over, laces tied together. Watari beams and sprints out the back of the van like he wasn’t asleep moments before.

Matsukawa snickers as he catches Yahaba in his lap, the setter letting out a growl of frustration before he pushes himself back up and bends down to untie his laces. Looking around, he notices a distinct lack of teammates on the bus.

“Where’d everyone else go, Coach?”

“Irihata is probably trying to find where we’re parked, Kindaichi and Kunimi are in the wooded area, Watari is currently racing towards the bathrooms, and the other three are on the pier- Nope, Iwaizumi and Oikawa are on the pier, Hanamaki has just been pushed into the lake.”

“Oho? Sounds like I need to avenge my best friend~.” With a smirk, Matsukawa slinks from the van and coolly saunters over to the pier. It really is beautiful out here, with greenery and the lake and the evening chorus of birds… A cool breeze ruffles his curly hair and he savours a deep breath before he charges towards Oikawa and Iwaizumi.

“Hold your breaths!” They have just enough time to snap their gazes in his direction, horror dawning on their ashen faces before he loops an arm around each of their waists and flings all three of them into the water at high speed, joining a laughing Hanamaki.

Iwaizumi surfaces first, spluttering and spitting out water, frantically splashing and attempting to paddle towards Hanamaki to grip onto him. As amazingly sporty as Iwaizumi was, the one thing he couldn’t do was swim.

Hanamaki moves within reach, holding out an arm so Iwaizumi can grab onto it, pulled into his chest whilst Hanamaki kicks his legs to keep them both afloat.

“Hey! Now you really do look like a pufferfish!”

“I’m going to kill you both.”

“You and Oikawa pushed me in first~.” Iwaizumi risks sinking a little bit to punch Hanamaki gently in the chest. At the same time, Oikawa and Matsukawa break the peaceful surface of the lake, full on tackling and wrestling each other, attempting to push each other underwater as they squabble.

“Boys! Get out of there!” Irihata’s return sees the end of their fun - much to Iwaizumi’s relief - and they drag themselves onto the pebble shore with guilty grins, leaving trails of water behind them as it drips from their sodden clothes.

At least they have the decency to look sheepish.

Pinching the bridge of his nose with a sigh, Irihata waves a hand in the general direction of the van.

“Get some dry clothes and go get changed. I will not have you getting sick.” Quiet mutters of agreement dissolve into giggles the split second Irihata starts walking off, before the four trudge over to their bags in the back of the van.

Dark gold eyes blink at them. The flicker of surprise vanishes after a heartbeat, and Kyoutani paints on his usual scowl, watching them from the seating area of the van. He’s only just really woken up, taking his time to rise slowly.

“What the fuck happened to you idiots?” With a voice dripping in sarcasm, Matsukawa answers, short and sweet.

“Sea monster.” Behind him, Hanamaki and Oikawa are having trouble trying not to crack up with laughter, especially as Kyoutani raises an eyebrow in blatant disbelief.

“A sea monster? In the mountain region?”

“Yup. Real ugly thing. Black hair, green eyes, 179 centimeters-”

OI!!” A fist impacts Matsukawa’s arm, just enough to make his shirt give a damp squelch, and that’s when all three of them burst into laughter, Iwaizumi fighting back a warm chuckle and trying to keep scolding them, but in the end, he’s in too good of a mood to pretend to be angry.

Even if Matsukawa did miss that very important 0.3 centimeters.

Rolling his eyes, Kyoutani slips past them, carefully not to be dragged into the impromptu little ‘fight’ that consists of slapping each other with wet clothes as they change. There are no other campers in the area, so it should be okay.

Shoving his hands into his pockets and slouching, Kyoutani heads into the wooded area. He kicks a pinecone around, eyes following it and not concentrating on where he’s going. He hears the shuffling of leaves, a twig snapping, and he whips his head around.

What can he say? It’s dark and he’s in the middle of a forest. Of course he’s going to react to any noise that wasn’t made by him.

A loud, high-pitched scream echoes on their side of the lake. Yahaba and Watari, having been investigating the restaurant and bathroom buildings, share a look before they sprint in the direction of the scream.

“Kyoutani!” Breaking through the shubbery, their panic instantly fades, Yahaba with the most deadpan expression he can muster and Watari pressing his lips together as his cheeks puff out with spluttered laughter.

Because in front of Kyoutani, who is now sprawled on the floor having fallen backwards in fright, is an unimpressed Kunimi with a torch held up to his face.

“... I didn’t even have to say boo.” Kyoutani sighs, partially with relief and partially with frustration, pushing himself into a sitting up position. He points accusingly at Kunimi.

“You. Are such a little shit.” Kunimi shrugs, finally lowering the torch from his face, but there’s a crash and Kindaichi bursts through the thicket before he can say anything.

“Kunimi, what did you do?!” Yahaba sighs, wondering how often Kindaichi has had to say those words to his best friend, knowing full well the trouble Kunimi can cause. His masterful poker face hides a true mischief maker.

“I did nothing.” The corners of Kunimi’s lips twitch as he speaks, betraying that he was definitely going to do something. Kindaichi gives him a dry, exasperated look before turning to Kyoutani and offering him a hand up.

“Are you alright, Senpai?” Kyoutani grunts in affirmation as he’s pulled to his feet, then points at Kunimi accusingly once more.

“Devil.” The label assigned, he points to Kindaichi instead, though his glare is still fixed on Kunimi, who wrestles back a shit-eating grin.

“Angel. How the fuck does he put up with you?” Ignoring Kindaichi’s embarrassed spluttering, Kunimi simply holds the torch up to his face again with a wicked smile.

“Hypnosis~.” Watari bursts into laughter, leaning against a tree to keep himself upright as Kyoutani flies through a series of expressions, from baffled to pissed off to plain done.

Yahaba sighs again. This is his team. This is the team he’s going to have to lead once the third years graduate, and there’s going to be first years added in - possibly just as troublesome as he can imagine.

Still, if he’s going to be captain, he wouldn’t trade this team for the world. They’re like family by this point.

“Alright, let’s head back to the van. I’m sure the coaches are worried.” The mention of the coaches seems to snap Kindaichi out of his flustered blushing haze, though his cheeks are still rosy and eyes alight when he excitedly exclaims;

“Oh yeah! We found the perfect place to pitch! Kunimi marked it with a huge pile of sticks and pinecones, it’s just over that way!” He gestures in the direction he’d come from, confidence wilting a little at the squashed part of the thicket where he’d crashed through. He probably hasn’t realised he’s wearing half of it in his hair too.

“Um… Oops?” With a highly amused yet sympathetic smile, Watari pats his arm. He starts picking out the leaves and twigs from Kindaichi’s hair, making the blocker lean over slightly so he can reach the very top.

“Don’t mind, don’t mind~.”

“You think anyone will notice?”

“Oh, definitely.”

“... Am I going to be in trouble with the campsite owners?!”

“Probably not, it’s just one bush.” Kindaichi still glances at it guiltily, so Watari rolls his eyes and tugs him back in the direction of the van. Since Kunimi led Yahaba and Kyoutani to the prospective pitch site, someone has to go back and inform their coaches.

As soon as the lake comes into view, they break into a jog, heading over to where the third years and coaches are unloading bags from the back of the van.

“Sensei! Sensei! We found a good place to-!!!” Tripping over his own feet, Kindaichi goes down, flailing as he falls and grabbing the closest thing - incidentally Watari - to drag down with him.

Nobody rushes over in concern, well acquainted with Kindaichi’s clumsiness off court. He’s like a newborn giraffe at the best of times. Iwaizumi does walk over, however, offering them both a hand up.

“I’m guessing this means we have somewhere to camp~?” Watari nods as he brushes himself off, ignoring the repetitive “I’m so sorry!”’s from his side. He isn’t upset in the slightest, but it’s best not to respond or Kindaichi will work himself into a fluster, almost like he’s guilty. The best solution? Distraction.

“Yeah! I haven’t seen it yet, but Kunimi took Yahaba and Kyoutani to go check it out. Kindaichi can lead us there.”

“Ah, is that so?” With a kind smile, Iwaizumi claps the first year on the shoulder, stopping him from descending into a self-depreciating pile of apologies. Instead, Kindaichi stutters over his words, before he takes a deep breath to compose himself.

“Mhm! It’s in a clearing just big enough for all our tents, and it’s elevated, so you can look down and just about see the lake through the treetops.”

“Sounds awesome. Let’s grab the equipment and go.” Situation smoothed over, Watari and Kindaichi are greeting by friendly shoves to the shoulder and ruffled hair, each passed a good amount to carry.

Since they have to carry Yahaba, Kyoutani, and Kunimi’s stuff too, they’re a little weighed down.

That does nothing to affect their spirits, trekking on through the woodlands, speaking quietly amongst themselves and laughing together. They’re relaxed, having burnt off some energy earlier.

Mizoguchi is still convinced they won’t fall asleep before midnight.

“Hey! There they are!” Yahaba waves with both arms from a plateau just above them, a small muddy slope leading up to them. Oikawa is the first to scramble for it, but as competitive as ever, Iwaizumi is right behind him and they jostle up the curving slope until they tackle each other in unison at the top.

“No fair, Iwa-chan! I wanted to be the first!”

“You wouldn’t anyways! The others are already here!”

“The first one of our group, duh!”

“Should’ve moved faster then!” Their pointless argument and tussling is interrupted as Hanamaki and Matsukawa scoop one of them each up from under the arms with matching deadpan expressions.

“Oi, Matsukawa. You owe me 300¥ now.”

“No way. You bet their first fight would be the first day. It’s night now.”

“That’s a lie! Just because it’s dark, doesn’t mean the day’s over!” Placing Oikawa back down on the ground, Matsukawa flashes a peace sigh Hanamaki’s way and then slinks off, leaving Hanamaki to drop Iwaizumi in the dust and give chase.

“... They were betting on us…” Dumbly, Oikawa stares after their vanishing forms, Matsukawa effortlessly dodging Hanamaki’s lunges with a calm grin that looks closer to a smirk than anything else. Like the cat who got the cream.

A soft hand pats Oikawa’s back, and he twists around to see Yahaba giving him a sympathetic look, offering out a hand to take one of the bags from him.

“Hanamaki-Senpai’s right though. It is dark. We should set up quickly.”

“Mhm.” Exhaling slowly, it’s like a complete change comes over Oikawa as he slips into Captain mode, clapping his hands together twice to draw everyone’s attention. The serious aura he gives off commands respect, and the team immediately crowds around him like they do at practice.

“Iwa-chan, Yahaba, you two are on groundsheets. Makki, Kyoutani, Kunimi and I will set up the tents. Mattsun, Kindaichi and Watari, I’d like you to set up the equipment. Everyone okay with that?”

“Yes, Captain!” The team split into their assigned groups, doing as instructed. It doesn’t take long to lay out and peg down the four groundsheets, so Iwaizumi and Yahaba quickly move onto helping with other things.

Namely, trying to stop Kyoutani from fighting the tent poles.

Of the four tents, there are two types of tent. The ones where the poles are threaded through the material and wrestled into peg holes, or the ones where the frame was set up first and the canvas attached by hooks.

Currently, Kyoutani had set up the pole-type tent and was struggling to get all four legs into the holes. Every time he got one in, the pole on the opposite side popped out again. It was so frustrating!

The solution ends up being hammering one peg into its hole, and then the three of them bending the others to fit all at the same time. It’s not elegant, but it works.

“Someone needs to light a fire!”

“I can do it!” Concerned glances are sent Kindaichi’s way, an enthusiastic hand in the air as he volunteers himself. The only one who doesn’t stare at him like he’s completely crazy is Kunimi, who separates the pinecones from the twig pile. He tosses a box of matches to Kindaichi with a grin.

“Go for it.”

“Wait, no- Uhh… Maybe- Maybe we should let one of the coaches do it?” Hanamaki’s concern is palpable. Kindaichi’s track record for accidents off court grows every day. Allowing him to literally start a fire seems way too dangerous.

But before he can intervene, Kindaichi holds a lit match to a single pinecone then gently nestles it in with the others. As it starts to glow with scarlet embers, he builds around it with sticks, starting with the smaller and thinner sticks, building up to the larger logs.

With just enough space left between the logs for air to circulate, he fans it gently and blows on it. With a crackle, the flames catch onto the wood and stretch out, giving off a warm campfire glow.

Kunimi smirks at the stunned faces on the rest of the team, proud of his best friend.

“We go camping together every autumn and winter, solo camping in spring, and family camping in summer~.” He laughs outright when Kyoutani gestures between the two of them in a stunned manner. Kindaichi is oblivious to the reaction behind him, tending to the fire responsibly.

With great amusement, the Coaches watch from where they’ve set up a small kitchen area. It’s a couple of foldable tables, with matching plastic chairs, and a cool box underneath. On top of the table there’s a few cooking instruments, including a portable gas cartridge stove, a hot pot set they can place on a tripod over the fire, and a mini barbecue grill.

For tonight though, once the tents are set up and all the equipment sorted, the team will feast on sandwiches brought along for the first night.

“Why didn’t you tell us you were camping pros, Kunimi-chan?!” Staring his captain dead in the eye, Kunimi sticks his tongue out cheekily, holding up a peace sign and refusing to answer. At this point, Kindaichi laughs shyly and glances away from the fire to answer.

“We didn’t want to upset you if you’d chosen camping because you’d never been before.”

“Well… It’s true that this is mine and Iwa-chan’s first time camping, but there was no need to keep it a secret!”

“Mhm. It’s kind of a relief to have people who know what they’re doing.” As Iwaizumi says this, he slides a playful glance over to Watari, who seems to have turned a pair of relaxing chairs into one massive… Thing…

“Don’t blame me, I tried reading the instructions!” As the team delves into teasing and playing around with each other, the camp practically set up, Irihata checks his watch.

Almost 10pm.

“Alright kids, get your sleeping arrangements sorted - three to a tent - and then get to bed. Lights out at 11, understood?”

“Yes, Coach!” Irihata sighs as he sinks back into a deck chair, reaching for a beer from the cooler under the table. Mizoguchi already nurses his own drink, a slightly less alcoholic peach schnapps, cross-legged on a cleared patch on the ground.

“I was expecting a lot more chaos than this, if I’m being honest.” He rests his chin in hand, fondly watching over the team like they’re his own kids, listening to them squabbling beneath the hiss and bubble of Irihata opening his beer.

“I’m sure they will be, once it sinks in that this is a holiday, not some kind of training camp.”

“Pfft, once they learn that, we’ll have less control than in the van.”

“Dark times approach, Sadayuki.”

“Ah, there’s the old man attitude. I wondered where that had gone~.”

“Why you-!” Mizoguchi holds back a laugh as Irihata harmlessly swats at the back of his head, trying to hide the small smile on his lips. Even though there’s 20 years between them, they'd been coaching the Aobajousai volleyball teams for six years together, and it feels like they’re brothers at this point.

Not to mention that the good mood of ‘their’ boys is infectious.

“All in favour of separating Oikawa and Iwaizumi, raise your hands!” Oikawa splutters and Iwaizumi pouts as everyone asides from them raises their hands, Yahaba grinning cockily.

“Sorry Senpai, but we would actually like to sleep overnight, and you two together make so much noise.”

“That- That’s because Iwa-chan is a brute who snores loud enough to wake the dead!”

“Oh yeah? Well, you keep putting your cold feet on people’s legs!”

“You move around and slap whoevers closest!” Iwaizumi turns an interesting shade of red, shoving at his best friend lightly.

“That was an accident!”

“Oh what, like that time you had me in a headlock? I couldn’t breathe, Iwaizumi.” He whirls around on Matsukawa, who stands there slyly with a smirk, watching his friend metaphorically melt into a pile of embarrassment.

The third years are well acquainted with each others sleeping habits, having had so many sleepovers that it’s like they have four shared homes instead of one each.

“No one else burps in their sleep like Makki though~!”

“... What the fuck, Oikawa. What did I ever do to you? Why would you betray me like this?” Despite his theatrical voice, his face is completely deadpan, giving away the fact that he’s not affected by the accusation - or rather, the truth - at all.

“Sorry, Makki~.”

“You’re not sorry in the slightest.”

“Nope! Just making sure we’re all aware of each other’s sleeping habits. We need three people to a tent, so maybe we should arrange it to have one deep sleeper, one fidgeter, and one noise maker.”

“Is that really fair on those of us who are light sleepers?” Arms crossed, Watari looks pensive for once, and maybe a little annoyed at Oikawa’s suggestion. He certainly doesn’t want to lose sleep just because someone else tosses and turns.

Iwaizumi pats his back supportively. He sighs and thinks deeply before clearing his throat to speak.

“Why don’t we draw straws or something?”

“Do we have any straws?” Yahaba starts rummaging through his personal bag, picking out a small container of cocktail umbrellas. He only brought them because they kept wasps out of unattended fizzy drink cans. Plus, they looked fancy as fuck.

“Pick an umbrella. Blue or green is the first tent, yellow or orange is the second, pink or red is the third.” Hands reach towards him, and he darts in to get first pick, letting the others slap each other asides in their fight to get there before anyone else. Kyoutani makes a mental note of who is in which tent.

Tent 1: Iwaizumi, Oikawa (so much for separating them), and Yahaba.
Tent 2: Matsukawa, Kunimi, and himself. (Thank god, it should be quiet enough.)
Tent 3: Hanamaki, Watari, and Kindaichi. (There was bound to be some kind of clumsy accident.)

Dragging his bag into the second tent - the one he’d been fighting earlier - Kyoutani finds his sleeping bag and unrolls it, leaving it unattended for all but four seconds to find his pyjamas.

“Hey, that’s a pretty fancy sleeping bag! Ooh, temperature regulated too. Get you.” He sighs in exasperation, catching Matsukawa flopping over his sleeping bag and reading the label. Kunimi peers over in interest.

“Ehh, a Hi Gear Spirit? You’re not a first time camper, are you, Kyoutani-senpai?” Caught off guard, Kyoutani shakes his head.

“I go with my dad once a year. Have done since I was six. We usually go to the sites where you can hook up to electricity and there are shops nearby though.” Humming in interest, Kunimi unrolls his own sleeping bag, and Matsukawa’s attention is completely stolen.

“What the fuck is that!? That looks like pure luxury!”

“A Rab Ascent 500~. It cost over 30,000¥, so luxury might be the best way to describe it.” Brushing a hand over it in awe, Matsukawa is hit by another thought.

“Is this what all you obsessive, hardcore campers have?” With a small laugh, Kunimi tucks a pillow into the head part of the sleeping bag, and slides a cooling patch down to the bottom of the bag where his feet will be.

“Nah, I’m just picky. Kindaichi’s was much cheaper, only 23,000¥ something. He was limited by choice though because doubles aren’t so common…”

“Doubles?”

“The name is self explanatory, Senpai.”

“Yeah, I get that, but why?”

“Long limbs and crushing claustrophobia, that’s why.”

“Ah…” Matsukawa quietens in guilt, turning to his own extremely cheap brought-at-the-last-minute and totally-on-clearance sleeping bag. Kyoutani takes the time to slip out of the tent, and he would have gone unnoticed if not for the sound of the zipper.

“Kyoutani! Are you heading to the bathroom block too?” He nods at Yahaba as he emerges from his own tent, washbag hung over his arm and towel slung over his shoulder. Whilst there aren’t hot springs on site, there are still the traditional Japanese baths.

“Great! Let’s go together.” Walking side by side, Yahaba sticks much too close, bumping their shoulders occasionally and looking around at any noise whatsoever, whether it’s the wind in the trees or the bunnies scattering through thickets, or fish eating bugs on the surface of the lake.

There’s only one explanation.

“If you were scared, why the fuck didn’t you bring a lantern?” With a whine in the back of his throat, Yahaba clings to Kyoutani’s arm as something rustles in the darkness all around them. He hisses under his breath with the same amount of sass he usually carries, but his voice shakes in fear.

“Do I look like I own a lantern?! This is my first time camping, y’know!”

“... Isn’t it just common sense to pick up a lantern when it’s dark?” A fist impacts his upper arm, roughly but not unkindly. It doesn’t even hurt, and Kyoutani is well aware that that’s just how Yahaba automatically reacts to being criticised.

“Shut up. Why didn’t you bring a lantern?”

“Because I’m not a total coward.” Yahaba pouts grumpily, keeping his tight grip on Kyoutani’s arm until they reach the artificial light of the bathhouse. He relaxes under the pale blue glow, sighing with relief like they’ve reached a safe zone.

As they enter, about to go into separate areas, Kyoutani takes pity and grabs Yahaba’s wrist.

“I’m only brushing my teeth and getting changed. If you’re taking a bath, either be quick or wait for someone else.” As harsh as it sounds, Yahaba knows. He can decipher the kindness within the abrupt words, and his lips twitch up in a small smile.

“Thanks, Kyoutani. Oh, you’re still an ass though.”

“Dick.” On those parting words, they step into different areas. As much as he said otherwise, Kyoutani slows down immensely, stretching out his tasks for as long as possible to give Yahaba time to relax before they head back together.

He almost laughs when he sees Yahaba waiting for him in the doorway in baby blue duckling pyjamas. Yahaba does laugh at Kyoutani’s bright neon orange pyjama bottoms with equally bright and garish green stripes. Horizontal stripes.

“What the fuck are those~?”

“Could say the same to you.”

“Well, mine are obviously pyjamas. Yours look like bootleg trousers from a charity shop.” When Kyoutani stays silent and averts his gaze with the beginnings of a blush around the edges of his eyes, Yahaba bursts out into laughter so hard that he cackles.

“Oh my god, they actually are!”

“Shut up!!! I’m colourblind, asshole!” Yahaba instantly stops laughing, too shocked to make a sound for a whole three seconds.

“Wait, so… You can’t- You can’t see colour?” Sighing with an aggravated tone as he leads Yahaba back towards the pitch, Kyoutani is grateful that their conversation is at least distracting the setter from being too scared.

“I see some colours, and mistake some for others. These pyjama pants just appear two different shades of yellow to me.”

“There are different kinds of colourblindness?”

“Mhm. 7 or 8 types.”

“... What type is yours?”

“Protanopia. It’s a kind of red-green colourblindness. I can’t see red at all, it just appears black to me.” Yahaba hums in awe, then holds out his tiger print towel in front of Kyoutani.

“What colour is this?”

“... Black and beige?”

“Y’know, that’s actually kind of cool. It’s orange and black, like a tiger.” He recieves a bland look, like he’s completely dumb, and that’s when it clicks.

“Oh. Right. Colour blind. Tigers are black and beige to you.” Kyoutani rolls his eyes. At least Yahaba isn’t laughing at his pyjama pants anymore. The light of the campfire and lanterns come into view, and Yahaba darts off back to his own tent, hoping that Oikawa and Iwaizumi haven’t poked through his stuff.

They’re incredibly nosy and spur each other on to do bad things. Bad things.

Mizoguchi appears to have taken up monitoring the fire, poking it occasionally to make the flames dance whilst he holds a closed pan over it at a safe distance. The sandwiches inside sizzle in a deep layer of lard, the bread absorbing it as it melts.

The smell is phenomenal, but Hanamaki knows that’ll be nothing compared to the taste. Sandwiches cooked in lard over a fire are the best. He knows this from multiple experiments to achieve the best sandwich.

Most people think Hanamaki is obsessed with baking and cream puffs and pastries, but the truth is, he’s an all-round foodie. (Sure, he has favourites, but doesn’t everybody?)

“How long until it’s done, Coach?”

“Not long.” Hanamaki groans impatiently, drowning out the growl of his stomach. Why does food take so long to cook? At least the sandwiches were already made so there wasn’t prep time on top.

“I’m calling dibs on the cheesiest one there is!”

“Makki, no!”

“Hanamaki-senpai, please remember you're lactose intolerant!”

Chapter Text

When Iwaizumi rises at the crack of the dawn, the first thing he notices is that this definitely isn’t his bedroom. The only thing that stops him panicking for more than a heartbeat is the familiar tangle of Oikawa’s limbs around his body.

Really, he’s like a barnacle.

Wriggling out of his sleeping bag and prying off Oikawa’s death grip, Iwaizumi crawls over to unzip the tent, lying on his stomach to gaze out across the campsite. With golden beams just breaking through the mist rising from the lake, it looks magical.

The stillness of the lake water shimmers with the sunrise colours, and the dawn chorus sings sweetly through the pine forest. From the other tents, he can hear soft breathing, snoring, murmuring, and slight shuffling, suggesting that someone else will stir soon.

He’s proved correct when the second tent unzips, and Watari squeezes his way out through a small gap, trips over a tent rope, and promptly plants his foot in the wet, dirty ashes of last nights fire. Iwaizumi can’t help but laugh.

“Rough morning, Watari?” The libero fixes him with a deadpan glare, gesturing to his foot in the firepit. Iwaizumi laughs harder.

“I’m dying, senpai. Lack of sleep is going to kill me. It’s impossible with those two!” He gestures back towards his tent by waving his arms, and Iwaizumi leans forwards a little more to catch a glimpse of the other two, still sleeping.

“Why? What did they do?”

“Hanamaki-senpai talks in his sleep! He shouts in his sleep, and it doesn’t even make sense! I think I had about five heart attacks from him suddenly shouting something just as I was drifting off…”

“And Kindaichi?”

“Despite having a double sleeping bag - a double sleeping bag!!! - he still managed to wrestle himself out of it and take up way too much space. I was cramped in the corner all night…”

“Don’t mind, don’t mind~.” They fall into contented silence, Iwaizumi resting his head on his arms and watching the sun rise from the horizon, whilst Watari wipes the muck off his foot with a flannel from his washbag.

The peace and quiet continues as he settles in a camping chair - salvaged from the wreck he created yesterday - and they watch as wildfowl flock to the water to eat the bugs on the surface. It’s a little chilly, but it’s pleasant nonetheless.

Until that peace and quiet is interrupted by a leech, crawling up Iwaizumi’s body to savour his warmth and placing a chin on Iwaizumi’s head, nestling into his bed-head.

“Iwa-chaaaaan… It’s morniiiiing…”

“Congratulations, you can tell the time.”

“Don’t be mean. I just woke up.”

“I’m allowed to be mean. You’re squashing me!”

“Mhmm… I’ll let you off with best friend privileges.”

“Jerk.”

“Neanderthal.” Watari watches them argue like a tennis match, but despite their words, there’s no harshness whatsoever. They’re not fighting, they’re not truly arguing, and it’s more like routine for them at this point. Iwaizumi doesn’t even push Oikawa off his back.

“What time even is it…?”

“Sunrise.”

“Very informative, Watacchin, but not an answer.” Rolling his eyes, Iwaizumi reaches for his phone, flicking on the lock screen just to check the time.

“A couple minutes before 5.” Oikawa’s gargantuan groan echoes in the silence of the morning, sending birds off in a flock of screeches, sending leaves and bugs and twigs raining down on their tents noisily with the dewdrops.

The silence shattered, it doesn’t even take a full 30 seconds for shuffling as someone awakes, followed the unzipping sound of the third tent, and Matsukawa to gesture out as if questioning “what the fuck” without words.

Oikawa chuckles nervously, holding up a hand in guilty apology as Iwaizumi and Watari both point towards him as the culprit. Matsukawa gives him a glare of disgust before wriggling back into his tent, slowly zipping the flap closed - unrealistically slowly - as if to make a point.

The dramatics ensure that laughter follows, and only once Watari is wheezing, Iwaizumi hiccuping as he laughs, and Oikawa crying, does Matsukawa reemerge with a smug grin on his face.

“I’m guessing you all slept well?” Calming down, Iwaizumi nods, finally moving to shove Oikawa off his back. Oikawa simply presses against his side instead.

“I slept like a rock! I never thought groundsheets and sleeping bags were so comfy!” He makes his point by pulling his sleeping back up to tuck the hood over his head, just letting it fall over him. Iwaizumi nods in agreement.

“I had to kick Oikawa away a couple of times, but it was okay other than that.” When Matsukawa turns to Watari, he’s met with an uncharacteristic scowl.

“Don’t. Even. Ask.”

“Yikes, okay, I won’t. So are we getting up now or what?” Oikawa groans, retreating into his tent until only the fluff of his bed head pokes out to the tent flap. Watari and Iwaizumi look over to the coaches tent, pitched up in the area next to theirs, and look at each other with confusion when there’s no signs of life.

“I guess we’re allowed to lie in?”

“I mean… They didn’t say anything about an early morning…”

“Mhm. It’s not like we’re at school or training camp, either. This is a holiday.” The second Iwaizumi’s words leaves his lips, he instantly regrets it. Because as it sinks in, Matsukawa’s face stretches into a grin so wide that it must hurt.

“I’m gonna sleep aaaaaaall day~.”

“Matsukawa, no!”

“Senpai, please. I need someone to suffer with me.”

“No one said you can’t sleep all day either.” Oikawa snores softly, having drifted off against Iwaizumi’s shoulder, and that’s when he registers that he is well and truly outnumbered. Sighing, he runs a hand through his hair.

“Fine. Go back to sleep. I’m going to take a walk around the campsite, maybe relax on the lakeshore.”

“In your pyjamas?” He shoots Matsukawa a half-hearted glare.

“What’s wrong with my pyjamas?!”

“Seriously, Iwaizumi?” Not wanting to get involved, Watari takes the opportunity to crawl back into the second tent, shoving Hanamaki and Kindaichi over to give him space, and settles back down to snooze.

“There’s nothing wrong with my PJ’s. They’re comfy, modest, and cool as fuck.”

“They’re patterned like scales.”

“Like Godzilla scales.”

“That… Is exactly the point I was making.”

“Oh, fuck you!” Laughing, Matsukawa recedes back into his tent to grab as much sleep as he can. With a heavy sigh that fogs in the cool morning air, Iwaizumi pulls himself away from Oikawa and finds his slippers to place just outside the tent opening.

Shuffling out into the open air, he curls his toes in his slippers, takes a deep, refreshing breath, and carefully zips up the tent behind him. If he mutters a small ‘moron’ in an affectionate voice as he makes sure Oikawa’s hair doesn’t get stuck in the zipper, no one needs to know.

Wrapping his arms around him to keep warm, Iwaizumi starts his descent through the pine forest towards the edge of the lake. It’s so peaceful. Usually, at this time of morning, he’d go out for a run and return home just in time to get ready for school.

But this? This was so much better. Less invigorating, but it felt like it was relaxing him down to his very soul.

Everything about the morning is still asides from the mist rolling over the grasslands plains on the opposite side of the lake, and the waterfowl that graze in the bulrushes, reeds and lily pads. Iwaizumi stops to watch some moorhens feeding before lazily strolling along the path made of trodden grass and a few stone chippings.

The pathway circles the whole lake, only changing into decking near the pier and the facilities building a short walk away. Part of the deck hangs over the lake, little barista tables set up for people to enjoy, and Iwaizumi takes a moment to sit at one of the chairs and watch the landscape become more daylit.

Ah, it would be twice as enjoyable if he had a hot drink.

“Senpai.” He turns his head at the quiet interjection, and it’s like his mind had been read. In plain lilac boxers and a white shirt with a volleyball slogan on, Kindaichi holds out a steaming cup of coffee.

With a soft nod that conveys his thanks, Iwaizumi takes the offered one and sips at it as he turns his gaze back across the lake. Kindaichi remains standing, leaning against the wooden railings, staring into the steam dancing from his own cup.

After a few minutes and half a cup, Iwaizumi finds his voice again.

“Coaches awake yet?”

“Only Irihata-sensei.”

“I’m guessing breakfast is soon then.” Kindaichi nods enthusiastically, his lips turning up into a grin.

“Yeah! He said we’re having a fully cooked Japanese breakfast!”

“Wait, seriously? Whilst camping?”

“Well, we have the grill and propane stove, so it can’t be that hard! And it’ll probably have a different taste to it!” He seems so enthusiastic that Iwaizumi can’t bring himself to question it, instead chuckling warmly and pushing himself from the chair.

“We’d better get back and offer some help, then~.” He doesn’t miss the little wiggle of Kindaichi’s shoulders, like his excitement is brimming over and he has to physically move or he’d burst.

It makes sense, if he loves camping so much, and gets to camp with the team that have become his family.

The enthusiasm is catching, and with a grin that could steal hearts, Iwaizumi claps him on the back and gives him a hearty shove back towards their pitch. He makes sure his slippers are on securely before stretching his legs and jogging forwards to where the decking meets the natural path.

“C’mon then. I’ll race ya!”

“W-Wait, Senpai-”

“Three, two, one, go!”

“Senpai, please! This is unfair! You have slippers!” Laughing, Iwaizumi takes a huge lead, considering that he’s practically a legend in his own right at school for athletics. It helps that he doesn’t have to tread carefully, because unlike a certain junior, he doesn’t have bare feet.

Slowing to a jog as he climbs the slope to their pitch, he’s surprised to see both Kunimi and Kyoutani awake. Although awake might be a stretch. Kunimi barely looks conscious, face down on the table and completely slumped over. Kyoutani scowls as he fights to keep his eyes open.

“What happened to you two?”

“Matsukawa happened.” Iwaizumi raises an eyebrow at the response, which gives him no information whatsoever, and Kyoutani rolls his eyes as if that didn’t explain everything.

“He kicked us out.” At this point, Kunimi raises his head just a little with a whine as if physically moving is far beyond his ability.

“He stole my sleeping bag…” His head thwacks back down on the table just as Kindaichi slides into the seat next to him, having paused to wash up the two cups from the coffee. His arm is quickly wrestled away to serve as Kunimi’s pillow.

“I’ll have a word with him.” Iwaizumi strides over to the third tent. He unzips it as quietly as possible so he doesn’t disturb the person inside. Surely enough, there in Kunimi’s temperature-regulated sleeping bag, is Matsukawa.

He snores. Loudly.

“Oi.” Iwaizumi waits to see if he stirs. When there’s no response, he smirks with dawning mischief. Crawling into the tent, he unzips the sleeping bag all the way round, gently tugs it so Matsukawa’s feet are visible from the flap, and steps back out the tent.

Then he grabs the ankles and drags.

“Boys! Knock it off!” Mizoguchi swats the back of Iwaizumi’s head firmly but gently, almost playfully, and his interruption halts Matsukawa’s screech at being awoken so rudely. He did deserve it, though.

“Morning, Coach~.” By the looks of it, Mizoguchi has already been over to the facilities to get washed and dressed, wearing a casual tracksuit not unlike his coaching one. His sharp eyes narrow at Iwaizumi, who only grins with self satisfaction as Matsukawa groans and picks himself off the forest floor, shaking pine needles out of his hair.

“Was that really necessary?”

“I wouldn’t have done it if it wasn’t.”

“... Okay.” Mizoguchi strides off towards the kitchen area to help prepare breakfast, and Matsukawa gawps between his back and Iwaizumi, mouth hung open.

“You’re gonna let him off with that bullshit excuse?! It was ‘necessary’?!”

“Was stealing Kunimi’s sleeping bag necessary?” Matsukawa is silent for three long, hesitant seconds.

“Fair point. But it’s temperature regulated.” Iwaizumi shakes his head and gives Matsukawa a friendly shove before heading back to the kitchen area to converse with those who are already awake. Matsukawa stands in the clearing for a moment, rubbing at the back of his head to dislodge a pinecone caught up in his thick tangles.

“Oooh, you’re in trouble~.” He looks down to see Hanamaki grinning at him from where just his head is poked out of the second tent, and sighs, placing his hands on his hips.

“And here I thought you’d always have my back, Hanamaki.”

“It’s not a true holiday until your best friend has had his ass beat by the Vice~.” Deadpan, Matsukawa nods without a second thought.

“True, true. I have completed a rite of passage.”

“My turn, I guess?”

“Oh hell yeah.” Matsukawa offers his hands to Hanamaki, helping him up out of the small unzipped space and to his feet. Sensibly, Hanamaki puts his own slippers on rather than going barefoot like a small collection of people.

Sometimes he questions their sanity. He might be mischievous and full of life, but at least he has basic common sense.

“Maybe later in the day. I’d like to have food first.”

“Your final meal…”

“... Please don’t make it sound that ominous.” Deadpan, Hanamaki elbows Matsukawa’s side just hard enough to elicit a chuckle, knowing he’s unsettled his best friend.

“Don’t worry, I’ll make sure all your weaboo shit is buried with you.” Hanamaki laughs, loud and carefree, before pointing at Matsukawa’s face with an expression that is trying to be serious, but he can’t stop smiling.

“It’s not weaboo shit, it’s rare collectables and special edition manga.”

“You spent almost 21,000¥ on an anime box set.”

“That’s a cold blooded lie. I brought two box sets.”

“... 21,000¥.”

“Okay, so maybe it was a rash decision, but they were both uncut, limited edition, with premium posters and unseen special features.” Matsukawa continues to stare until Hanamaki starts to blush, the tips of his ears burning read and his cheeks starting to colour.

“Shurrup…” As Hanamaki looks shyly away, Matsukawa pats his back sympathetically.

“I’m all for indulging in your personal interests, but as your best friend, I’m legally contracted to make sure you don’t go bankrupt on merchandise. Don’t overdo it, ‘kay?”

“Thanks, Matsukawa. But where the fuck is this legal contract so I can burn it?” Matsukawa leans closer and presses a hand against Hanamaki’s chest.

“It’s in your heart, dude. Cannot be burned, destroyed, or replaced.”

“Guess I’ll die.” Before Matsukawa can say anything in return, Hanamaki skips forwards to join everyone else at the foldable table, flinging himself over Kyoutani’s back, because apparently, Hanamaki fears nothing.

Honestly, between spending all his money on merch, and throwing himself headfirst into dangerous situations, Matsukawa is pretty sure Hanamaki doesn’t even fear death. He’d probably stare a shinigami in the eye and just carry on with his life.

“Who wants egg over their rice, who doesn’t?” Irihata jumps in before any arguments break out, Kyoutani looking like he’s about to murder someone, and Kunimi glaring daggers at the sleeping bag thief.

“I’ll go for egg. I’ll take Oikawa’s too, if he’s not awake.”

“Mean, Iwa-chan!” The faint cry from the tents has Iwaizumi roll his eyes, crossing his arms.

“Too late, Shittykawa.”

“It’s not too late if I steal yours!” Like a storm forming on the ocean, carried by typhoon winds, Oikawa marches out of his tent and plonks himself in the seat next to Iwaizumi, jutting his chin out competitively.

Scowling, Iwaizumi places an arm on the table, and Oikawa takes it. Kunimi sighs.

“Here we go again.”

“Makki! Start us off!” Knowing full well how this is going to end, Hanamaki places a hand on top of their enclosed palms, face devoid of emotions.

“In three… Two… One… Go!” He lifts his hand off at the exact same time the two start arm wrestling, pushing against each other and straining as they fight. They all know Iwaizumi is going to win.

Iwaizumi always wins.

But Oikawa isn’t weak at all, and for a moment, he seems to be starting to wear Iwaizumi down, until the Ace puts some real effort in, and their arms slowly move towards Oikawa’s side of the table, struggling the whole way.

“Dammit, dammit, dammit, NO!” The back of Oikawa’s hand touches the table and he spits out an impressive string of swear words - enough to make Kindaichi blush - and then pouts as he rests his chin on the table.

“Too bad, Oikawa.”

“Better luck next time, Senpai.” He huffs at Kunimi’s calm, uninterested voice, resting his cheek on his fallen hand in a completely pitiful display. It’s not that he’s a sore loser, it’s just that he lost to Iwa-chan, the best friend he’s always been unhealthily competitive with.

(Once, they both broke their legs at the same time on a ridiculous dare. But that’s another story.)

Iwaizumi holds his arm up in victory, showing off the muscles he’s proud of. Teasingly, Hanamaki reaches over and squeezes it hard enough to make Iwaizumi’s arm spasm, and he retaliates by smacking the back of his hand against Hanamaki’s shoulder.

“Breakfast is ready.” Irihata passes out the bowls of egg and rice first, making several trips to fetch the miso soup, the side dishes, and the tamago rolls for afterwards. It’s a large, traditional breakfast, but with 9 hungry teenagers, there’s no doubt it’ll be gone in minutes.

There’ll be plenty of washing up to do, but Mizoguchi is already heating up water in a kettle for that. The children deserve to roam and explore. It is, after all, a holiday week just for them.

They’d spent the 1st of June packing and preparing, the 2nd of June travelling and pitching the tents, so now, from the 3rd until the 7th, they deserved freedom.

“Hey, someone go wake Yahaba and Watari.”

“Yahaba-chan is already awake, he went to the washroom!”

“It’s probably best if Hanamaki-senpai and I don’t wake Watari-senpai. I, uh, I don’t think he’s very happy with us.”

“He’s not? What did we do?”

“... Do you seriously not remember shouting Doraemon theories for a full hour?!” Hanamaki stares blankly at Kindaichi, who seems heavily embarrassed and slightly amused at the same time. It’s an unusual expression. Hanamaki blinks dumbly.

“I-... What?”

“How do you not wake yourself up, Senpai?” By this point, the other third years are in stitches, no matter how much they try to hold it back. Kunimi snickers more at the plight of his best friend, rather than Hanamaki’s utterly shell-shocked reaction. Kyoutani… Is too busy eating to care. He’s laughing on the inside.

“B-But I-... I really-... I had no idea...” Through muffled laughter, Iwaizumi manages to pull together a somewhat coherent sentence;

“We told you that you talk in your sleep~.”

“You said talk! Nothing about shouting! And- And not about kids programmes!”

“No shame in that, Senpai.” Drying his hair with a towel and a casual air about him, Yahaba appears from absolutely nowhere. He’s fully dressed and completely fresh, ready for the day ahead.

“I thought you bathed last night already.” Narrowing his eyes at Kyoutani, Yahaba juts his bottom lip out like he’s looking down on him, although they both know that’s not the case. He’s just too sassy for his own good, and there’s abrasion between him and Kyoutani.

Or as Watari calls it, ‘potential friendship that you’re both to stubborn to admit is there’.

“I did, but it’s sanitary to have a quick shower in the morning too.”

“It’s fuckin’ overkill, that’s what it is.” Spluttering, Yahaba tugs his towel around his neck, letting it lie over his shoulders as he slides into the spot between Kunimi and Kindaichi - not trying to seperate them, just sitting in the nearest available spot.

“At least I don’t smell like a 1997 charcoal briquette!” Kyoutani raises an eyebrow. Nobody says anything as they stare at Yahaba, and he pulls his towel up to cover his face with a low groan.

“I know, I know. That was stupid. First thing that came to mind.” Kindaichi pats his back in sympathy as Mizoguchi passes over the breakfast bowls, making sure to lift it over and out of Oikawa’s reach - since the Captain eyes any leftovers hungrily.

A food vacuum cleaner, that boy is.

Kunimi seems to tease him, eating painfully slow and making sure to show off how much he has left as he nibbles away. He wipes a rice grain away from the corner of his mouth, eyes flicking back to their tents.

“So… Who’s waking Watari?” The fearful task garners uneasy glances all around until Oikawa takes a deep breath and paints on his serious ‘game face’.

“I’ll do it.”

“I’ll make sure there’s good music at the funeral.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence, Iwa-chan.” Pushing himself away from the table, Oikawa waits until no one can see his facial expression to let the fear sweep in. Watari was generally a wonderfully nice person, sweet and golden hearted.

A sleep deprived Watari was a vicious, terrifying cryptid - Rarely seen, but his legacy held strong.

“Oh, Watacchiiiiiiin~. Wakey wakey, rise and shiiiiine~.”

Oikawa’s resulting scream goes completely ignored by those gathered around the table, placidly discussing the activities they could do. Irihata had, with great foresight, grabbed a variety of leaflets and brochures from the campsite reception.

“I’ve already booked the mountain hike and stargazing experience for Thursday evening, but other than that, you kids are free to choose everything. Make sure you compromise, no arguments.” He pointedly looks at Kyoutani and Yahaba, slowing down in drying up a bowl until they mumble their affirmatives.

“Hey, look! There’s a fireworks show in the town over toni- No, wait, that was yesterday. My bad.”

“There might be fireworks at the shrine festival ten minutes away Sunday evening… We could do that as an out-of-camp activity.”

“Sounds good! Festival food is always the best! Candyfloss, Kakigori, Ichigo Ame, Choco bananas, Karumeyaki-.”

“Trust you to think with a sweet tooth, Hanamaki-senpai.”

“Hey!” There’s warm laughter as Hanamaki grabs Kunimi in a headlock, ruffling his hair whilst the younger snickers and attempts to pull away playfully, jabbing his fingers into Hanamaki’s ribs.

“Ah! If it’s a summer festival, they’ll have grilled corn!!!” Pure, blinding innocence. Kindaichi seems to almost radiate sunshine and flowers, his eyes glittering and his hands bunched excitedly in front of his chest with the most puppylike smile. If he had a tail, it’d be wagging so fast, he’d strain it.

“I would die for you to have all the corn you can eat.” Matsukawa’s dramatic statement is only half-joking, because honestly? The third years are protective as hell over their first years, and spoiling the two rotten seems to have become quite common.

“E-Eh?” Kindaichi starts to turn an interesting shade of red, stammering and attempting to somehow convey that nobody ever has to go that far, but he’s always had trouble talking when nervous. Yahaba sighs and pats his shoulder reassuringly.

“Look what you’ve done, senpai.” Grinning slyly, Matsukawa shrugs. He accepts what he’s done, but he has no apology to give. In the meantime, Kunimi manages to pull away from Hanamaki as the latter becomes more interested in moving over to harass Watari - who drags his sleeping bag out with him like the hood is attached to head.

“If this campsite is anything like Shibireko, we should be able to hire boats on the lake.”

“Didn’t Kirigamine Highland have hot springs nearby? There might be some within driving distance.”

“When my dad and I went to Hottarakashi, we had Onsen Tamago… Would be cool if they did some here too.”

“Oh! Did you stop at Fuefuki park too? Kunimi and I got fruit sundaes there last year!”

“Mhm… I had some tart thing.” Whilst the three experienced campers talk amongst themselves - Kyoutani more involved in a conversation outside of volleyball than he’s ever been before - the rest are left baffled.

Iwaizumi looks up a few of the sites and mentioned tourist attractions just to keep up with them, marking the websites with bookmarks for potential future ideas. If all of them enjoy this camping trip, after all, there’s nothing to stop them doing another.

“Hey, what are your favourite campsites?” Three identical faces of excitement and nostalgia face him, and he only just manages to stop himself smiling at their enthusiasm. Especially Kyoutani, who’s come such a long way from refusing to show them his emotions and barely talking.

“Either Asagiri plains or Akiu Futakuchi!!!”

“Fumotoppara.”

“... Lake Motosu, but only in winter.” Oikawa’s nose scrunches up as he thinks of the bitterly cold Japanese winters, with thick snowfall, especially around a lake that would freeze into literal ice.

“What’s so great about winter camping?” Kunimi fixes him with a flat look, though something almost predatory flickers in his eyes.

“No screaming children, no drunk adults, nobody else around, no blood sucking insects, firewood isn’t damp, hot food tastes better, sleeping bags are more satisfying, the air is crisp-... Need I go on?”

“No, that’s quite enough.” Kyoutani grunts, pointedly looking away from Kunimi.

“Grassland campsites are the best.”

“That’s what I keep saying! See, Kunimi?! Senpai agrees with me!” In a complete rare moment that will be ingrained in the teams memory for life, Kyoutani grins and holds up a hand for a high-five, which Kindaichi eagerly returns, finding confidence in their bonding over a beloved topic that isn’t volleyball.

“You just don’t like lake campsites because of the summer those bugs made a feast out of you.”

“I looked like I had chicken pox!”

“Ha~.”

You just don’t like grasslands because I got footage of you with your leg stuck down a rabbit hole!” Instantly, like a demon awakening and breaking through the crust of the earth, Hanamaki’s eyes light up.

“Footage, you say?”

“Yup. A whole three minutes.”

“Kindaichi, don’t-!”

“Right here on my phone~.”

“Ooh, I’ll pay you to let me see.”

“I’ll show you for free.”

Kindaichi-”

“Deal!”

“I know where you live!”

“Anyone else want to watch?” Kindaichi holds his phone out of Kunimi’s reach, going on tiptoes and stretching his arms right up, screen facing the others and thumb hovering over the play button. The preview image shows Kunimi with half his leg down a hole, hands around his thigh trying to yank it out, and face scowling.

Much like his face now, although he’s more murderous at the moment.

“I know where you sleep.” Kindaichi innocently flashes a grin at his best friend before pressing the play button, and Kunimi sinks to the pine forest floor as the sound of him swearing at ‘fucking no good rabbits with their treacherous tunnels’ becomes audible.

Thankfully, the later half of the video is just Kindaichi’s absolutely rapturous laughter, the screen shaking so badly that it’s barely footage at all, although the occasional swear word can be heard.

Then, there’s an ‘oh shit’, a glimpse of Kunimi with a muddy leg storming towards the camera, and the screen goes black.

If the campsite was quiet beforehand, it’s the opposite now. Hanamaki, Oikawa, and Iwaizumi are in fits of equally ugly laughter, leaning against the nearest object, tree, or person to keep themselves upright. Watari and Yahaba guffaw, bright and clear, whilst Matsukawa snorts as he tries to muffle his laughter in his sleeve. Kyoutani hides his face in the sleeves of his crossed arms, but his shaking shoulders give away his amusement.

Even Mizoguchi looks to be holding back a laugh, and Irihata chuckles, shaking his head fondly.

“That’s not organising what to do for the day, boys~.”

“Kill Kindaichi.”

“No murder, Kunimi. Leave the bloodlust for when you’re not my responsibility.” The rapidly growing smirk Kunimi sends to Kindaichi has the blocker gulp, averting his eyes and feeling the heat rise beneath his collar. He suddenly feels like he could break out into a cold sweat.

Kunimi could easily ruin his life - in a friendly, playful way of course. Like the time he filled a taiyaki with a mix of chillies, fish eyeballs, water bugs, and what was perhaps the worst taste in the world to Kindaichi - Bell peppers.

It wouldn’t be an extent to say he had cried that day.

“Hey, you said we could hire boats on the lake, right?” Watari looks interested all of a sudden, peering over the leaflets and finding the official campsite one, affirming what had been said earlier.

“Yes?”

“Are we allowed in the lake without the boats?” A moment of silent consideration. Mizoguchi picks up one brochure and scans through it until he reaches the summer section.

“Says here the lake is open to swimmers from the 1st of May to the 30th July.” In a split second, Watari has ditched the sleeping bag, whipped off his pyjama shirts, and bolts down the slope as he wrestles his pyjama pants off to reveal swim shorts underneath.

“Last one in swaps tents with me!”

“Hey, wait-!”

“That’s not fair, you got a head start!” An outraged group of boys follows in Watari’s wake as he whoops with glee and sprints through the pine trees with the agility of a libero, leaping over a holly bush and sprinting into the water, splashing it everywhere.

He’s not alone for long, some of them still in pyjamas or plain underwear. The only two missing are Yahaba and Iwaizumi, although the former reappears in swim gear, and the latter remains hovering on the shore line.

“Not coming in?”

“I can’t swim.” Hanamaki, Oikawa, and Matsukawa already know this. But the second years look shocked, and the first years seem surprised.

“You can’t swim?” Yahaba doesn’t mean it unkindly, but the words come across that way, and Iwaizumi snaps back, crossing his arms insecurely.

“I’m sure there are basic things you can’t do either.” He holds his hands up in surrender as he wades towards the pebbled shore, stretching out a hand.

“C’mon, I’ll teach you, if you’d like.” The tension leaks out of Iwaizumi’s shoulders and his brows unfurrow, exhaling slowly. With a little hesitation, he takes the offered hand.

“I’d like that. Thanks, Yahaba.”

For the rest of the morning, until they grow wrinkly and bored, the team splash about and swim - or learn to swim - eventually competing in finding the coolest rock or shell on the lake bottom. With a keen eye, Oikawa wins with a rock that looks like a flower, right down to the fading shades around the edge of the ‘petals’.

The flower pebble is placed on the table, a physical memory of the extraordinarily fun morning they’ve had.

Chapter Text

“It’s… Too hot…” The midday sun reduces the teenagers to a group of whining, sweaty bodies, slumped in the shade around the trees, using unzipped sleeping bags to protect them from the forest floor.

“Wanna go back to the lake?” Oikawa’s suggestion is met with groans. The lake had been a grande idea, until the sun had taken hold and they’d all released they’d forgotten suncream. A dangerous and bad misfortune, in hindsight.

Every single one of them had burns. Iwaizumi on his shoulders and nose, Matsukawa from the neck to his waistline, Oikawa all over his face, Hanamaki was flaking all over, sobbing to himself.

Watari had caught it on his back, Yahaba had it back and shoulders, Kyoutani was slightly pink from the shoulders down, having spent much time out of the water and jumping in off the pier.

Much like Hanamaki, Kunimi had suffered. Aftersun had been pasted all over his shoulders, stomach, back, face, neck and arms, but it didn’t soothe the burn much at all. On the other hand, Kindaichi had done a lot of underwater swimming and diving, so he was spared except from a bright red strip across his face and cheeks. His forehead had been saved by his fringe.

“We should have brought, like, an air con machine…”

“Those only work in closed rooms, Watari.” He makes a sound of disgust, wiping away sweat from his brow.

“... There’s air conditioning in the van, right?”

“Iwa-chan, you fucking genius.” Despite the revelation, none of them make a move for it. They’re too hot and sticky and moving is so much effort… Mizoguchi places water bottles down at each of their sides.

“Stay hydrated, you idiots! And next time, wear suncream for goodness sake!”

“Oh yeah, we’ve learned that one the hard way.”

“Don’t sass me, Matsukawa. I’m the one with the car keys.” Patting his pocket to make the keys jingle, Mizoguchi turns around smugly when he’s answered with obedient silence. He almost trips as hands wrap around his ankle.

When he looks down, he meets a feral gaze from Kyoutani. The desperation for air conditioning is starting to drive them all mad.

“Keys. Now. Or I can snap this in one of 4 ways.” He couldn’t - and wouldn’t - seriously break his teachers ankle, and the threat is half-joking, but Kyoutani is desperate for that key. The longer they sit without air condition, the longer they suffer.

He’s doing this for the team. Rolling his eyes, Mizoguchi reaches into his pocket and drops the keys on the ground in front of Kyoutani, shaking off the hands around his ankle.

“Go wild, kids. But don’t break anything!” That’s all the permission they need to finally bolt from the shade - Hanamaki wincing the entire time as he peels away from his sleeping bag - towards the van. Kyoutani unlocks it quickly, and chucks the keys to Iwaizumi.

Since he’s almost 18 and had a few lessons, he’s their best bet for knowing how to work the air conditioning. Slipping into the driver's seat, Iwaizumi turns the key in the ignition, just enough for the van to thrum to life, and fiddles with the appropriate dials to set the air con.

It takes 30 seconds for the first cooling gust of air to filter through, and Kunimi - who bagged the front seat thanks to his advanced sunburn - sighs in relief. It takes a little while for the cool air to circulate the van, but when it does, the entire team relaxes.

Oikawa even dozes off after a half hour, taking another one of his infamous naps. That’s not a particularly good idea when Matsukawa has a set of colour marker pens under his seat, and passes them round for everyone to add a little doodle.

So far, Oikawa has a wonderful blue handlebar moustache, a little red goatee, a green monocle, orange cheek swirls, his eyebrows have been extended via brown marker, and only one remains to be added.

Kindaichi shuffles nervously, the pink marker in hand uncapped, but he doesn’t seem to know what to draw or write. The others wait eagerly in anticipation as his tongue pokes out the corner of his mouth, and he writes.

‘Shittykawa’, followed by a little poop is bound to be mistaken for someone else’s mark, but when Iwaizumi laughs first and it landslides the other into giggles, Kindaichi grins and finishes it off by colouring in the artistic poop.

“Oh man, this is going to be classic.”

“I have a question though, Senpai.” Hanamaki tilts his head towards Yahaba curiously, wincing when it strains the tightening skin on his neck. Yahaba has his lips pressed together in consideration, facial expression void of… Well, expression.

“Where’s he going to find a mirror?”

“... Oh…” The tiny, defeated sound from Hanamaki prompts Watari to laugh loudly, jolting Oikawa out of his light doze. Markers are thrown back towards Matsukawa for him to hide again, though he drops a few on the van floor.

Hopefully, Oikawa will just think that’s there from yesterday’s journey.

“Ngnn… Let me sleep... I didn’t get much last night…” From the front, Iwaizumi scoffs.

“That’s because your ‘regular routine’ is just a fuckton of tiny naps. Try sleeping all night whilst we’re here.”

“Aww, Iwa-chan, you do care~.”

“Shut up. Of course I do.” Oikawa grins victoriously, unaware that the amused faces all around are a direct cause of something he can’t see.

Not until that evening.

WHO DID THIS?!?!” The mirrors in the facilities are what tipped him off, and those in the baths - Kyoutani, Watari, and Matsukawa - can hear the distant screams, shrieks and laughs of an enraged Oikawa towel-whipping anyone within reach.

Luckily, the marker comes off easy, but he’s still angrily muttering as he goes in for his turn in the baths, accompanied by Yahaba, Iwaizumi, and Kindaichi. Hanamaki and Kunimi had turned it down for tonight, too burnt by the sun to consider getting into hot water.

Best to let their flaking, peeling skin heal over for at least one night before they try that. It could be extremely painful, if the bath wasn’t the right temperature, and both of them were rather sensitive.

Thanks, summer sun.

Sinking into the warm water, Yahaba exhales and leans back against the edge in luxury, enjoying the steam and heat. It’s not quite a hot spring, but heated baths of this size are rarely the temperature he loves them at, so this is a rare treat. If only there were bubbles…

“I don’t have bubble bath, but I do have lavender body wash, if you’d like some.” Jolting and opening his eyes wide, Yahaba stares at Iwaizumi. Ah, he had spoken aloud.

“Are- Are you sure?” Iwaizumi shrugs, passing over the body wash.

“Consider it payback for teaching me to swim. … Even if I still sink like a rock.” Oikawa covers his mouth as he snickers.

“Just like your namesake, Iwa-chan~.” Yahaba rolls his eyes, lathering up the body wash, whilst Iwaizumi swats a hand around the back of a very self-satisfied Oikawa. But perhaps the most surprising thing is that a hideous guffaw breaks out from their left, Kindaichi having remained silent and a little distance away because of his shyness around his senpai.

Oikawa’s eyes light up, glee flooding him at having reached a massive breakthrough. As a responsible Captain, he’s always trying to bring his team together and connect with them, whether on the court or off it. When Kindaichi muffles his joy and mumbles a small apology, Oikawa immediately sets off trying to worm him out of his shell again.

“Doncha think it’s funny that we’re pitching camp in a pine forest with Matsukawa!” A snort and an averted gaze, but that’s it.

“Hey, hey, maybe tomorrow, we can give Hanamaki some flower crows~.” A hissing giggle that cuts off with a squeak, threatening to turn into a laugh.

“... This bath is kind of… Watery.” The sheer ridiculousness makes Yahaba throw up his hands in surrender, smacking them back down on the surface of the water, whilst Iwaizumi audibly groans and pinches the bridge of his nose.

That, however, is completely drowned out by the same ugly, unrestricted laugh as before, and Oikawa glows with pride as their youngest finally - finally! - drops his guarded walls. He’s laughed around them before, sure, but it never felt truly genuine. Always muted, like he was holding back.

This is completely new, and as hideous as the guffaw mixed with snorts and wheezing sounds, Oikawa can’t help but think this is a beautiful moment. It’s like he’s destroyed anything Kageyama left behind, when he had made Kindaichi and Kunimi wary and closed off to their teammates, constantly holding back and restraining themselves.

Kunimi had come out of his shell a couple of months back, won over with a trip to the ice cream parlour in town, and a very sarcastic discussion with Matsukawa, Yahaba and Hanamaki that had left him knowing he was safe to be himself around them.

Kindaichi had been a lot harder, a real challenge that none of them knew how to approach, because he was just so kind and sweet, open to them in some ways but completely closed off in others.

This right here was a victory, and Oikawa mentally marked the 3rd of June as a grand success story. He hears Iwaizumi exhale with soft amusement, and catches Yahaba smiling out of his peripheral vision. It’s the second year that catches glimpse of the clock on the wall first.

“Alright, bedtime. Ah, Iwaizumi-Senpai, weren’t you swapping tents with Watari?”

“Hm? Oh yes, I lost the race…”

“Wow, I never thought I’d hear you say that!” Iwaizumi punches Oikawa’s shoulder playfully, a boyish grin on his lips.

“Never thought I’d have to say it!” They towel off and dress in pyjamas quickly, heading back towards the campsite with a lantern at the front of their group, led by Iwaizumi. Yahaba still clings to Oikawa’s sleeve, hesitantly glancing at the darkness.

“Don’t worry, Yahaba-chan~. Your great Captain will protect you!”

“Actually this area is pretty safe anyways. The worst thing to look out for is geese, but they’re diurnal. You’re safer at night.” Yahaba hums worriedly, pressing his lips together and clinging tighter to Oikawa before looking back at Kindaichi.

“... How do you know that?”

“Kunimi and I camped here before! Not this exact site, but the one further up the volcano.”

“V- Volcano?!”

“It’s dormant! Perfectly safe, Senpai, I assure you!” Unsure, Yahaba looks more ashen now than before, mumbling to himself and picking at the dead skin on his lips. Oikawa sighs and pats his arm comfortingly.

“Now, now. Kin-chan and Kunimi-chan are experienced campers. We can trust them on this matter.”

“So there’s no bears?”

“Nope!”

“Snow monkeys?”

“Nu-uh.”

“... Japanese Macaques?”

“Those are the same as snow monkeys, Senpai.”

“What about Giant Hornets? Vipers? Cockroaches?”

“There’s no hornet nests in the pine forest, the vipers prefer the plateaus eastwards of here and won’t come this far, and cockroaches aren’t inherently dangerous. Your groundsheets will keep you safe from any bugs during the night anyways.”

“And if they get in the tent, I’ll remove them.” Iwaizumi gives Yahaba a reassuring thumbs up, a twinkle in his eye. Oikawa sighs knowingly.

“If you caught a bug, you’d spend hours studying it before releasing it again.”

“Yeah? So? Bugs are cool! S’long as I get it out the tent, I can do what I want, right?” Yahaba leans out from behind Oikawa, happy to release his death grip now that the fire at their campsite is in full view.

“As long as you keep them away from me, sure.” As they reach their pitch, it’s clear that Watari has already started moving his things across, and Hanamaki pouts, mumbling about how he’s not that bad in his sleep.

Deadpan, Watari fixes him with a stare.

“Yes. Yes, you are.”

“I’m not!”

“I recall you saying something about Doraemon was a racoon, when it’s already been confirmed he’s a robotic cat.”

“What part of that blue bastard looks like a cat, Watari?! He’s a goddamn racoon and you know it!” Watari rolls his eyes, stuffing his sleeping bag into the first tent. Iwaizumi goes over to take his own things out and move into the second tent.

He doesn’t mind being cramped in a corner, squashed, or constantly spoken to. If anything, the warmth, comfort, and background noise helps him sleep a lot better, like his mind relaxes knowing that other people are there to keep him safe.

“Good luck, Iwa-chan!”

“If anyone can, Iwaizumi can.” He rolls his eyes at Matsukawa’s lame rhyme, and Oikawa sighs before slipping into Captain mode.

“Would anyone else like to swap tents, or are we all okay with this arrangement?” Nods are sent his way, and his shoulders lose their tension as he moves to sit besides the fire, watching the embers flicker and dance under the twilight colours of a setting sun. He stays there, even as everyone else starts to turn in for the night.

As he holds his hands out to the fire, warming them up as the summer temperature drops for the night, a small canister is dropped in his hands. He blinks up at Kunimi curiously.

“Moisturizing spray. Your skin will dry out in front of a fire.”

“Oh? Thank you, Kunimi-chan, I wasn’t expect you to be so generous.” He spritzes a little on his face, sighing in relief as it revitalises his dry, smoke-covered skin. It’s only then that he catches the smirk on Kunimi’s lips. Kunimi holds out a flat palm.

“400¥.”

What?! I- You-! Why didn’t you say that before I used it?!”

“How else am I going to make a living?” Oikawa splutters, but before he can even think of firing back anything in his defense, a handful of silver coins is deposited in Kunimi’s hand from behind.

“Stop exploiting our senpai.” Kunimi puffs out his cheeks, sending a short, sharp glare to Kindaichi’s back as he walks away to get settled for the night, but Kunimi’s hands curl around the coins and he smiles. Softly smiles. Oikawa blinks a few times to make sure he’s not hallucinating.

“He’s an idiot~.” Nope, definitely not hallucinating. Kunimi’s voice is just a thick with affection, and even his eyes appear softer. Although that could just be the reflection of the fire against his dark irises.

“You love him though, don’t you?”

“Of course. He’s my best friend. … I love everyone on the team.” Moving to stand up and stretch, Oikawa grins, bringing his hands to his hips.

“Oho? Are you exposing your heart to us now~?” A scowl. Kunimi snatches back the moisturizer and stalks off towards his tent, but the back of his neck and tips of his ears are flushed with the embarrassment of letting down his guard.

He really does love the team, and he’s sure they already knew that, but admitting it makes it sound all the more real. He’s not really ready to admit to himself that he’s found a family outside of blood relation.

A family forged by their own hands, brought together by volleyball.

As Kunimi ducks into his tent, careful not to disturb Kyoutani’s night light as he reads, or Matsukawa’s dominos, a small huff escapes his lips. To think, he’d almost quit volleyball after Kitagawa. If it hadn’t been for Iwaizumi hunting them down and dragging them to club on their first day, both of them would have given up.

Kunimi is extraordinarily glad he didn’t, and he’s sure that goes double for Kindaichi.

“Turning off the light. Good night.”

“Hey, no, Kyoutani, wait-! Aw shit, my dominos…” Kyoutani snorts in amusement, flicking the light back on just to see Matsukawa’s expression, but his face is instead stretched into a yawn.

“S’almost lights out anyways.” Placing down his book carefully, he checks the time on his phone.

“Quarter to 11. Time to sleep.” There’s no protests from either Kunimi nor Matsukawa, settling down quickly. Kyoutani flicks off the light one last time, watches the shadow of Oikawa disappearing into the first tent, and closes his eyes.

Chapter Text

With no alarms to wake them, and their coaches leaving them to rest, it’s already gone midday when the first of the team stirs the next day. Much too hot in his basic sleeping bag, Yahaba sighs and rests an arm over his face, blocking the light from his eyes.

He takes a moment to adjust before sitting up, rubbing at his tired eyes, and gradually pulling himself out of his sleeping bag - sticky with sweat. Instantly, he spots half the reason for that. Oikawa is slung across the bottom half of his sleeping bag, clinging on.

“... Leech…” Sitting with his legs crooked so his feet are behind him, Yahaba brushes through his hair and grabs his towel for a shower. He won’t bother with shampoo and conditioner this time, he just wants a nice, cold shower to contrast the heat.

Who thought camping in the dead of summer was a good idea?

With the tiger striped towel slung over his shoulder and a choice of clothes tucked under his arm, he finds his slippers and steps out into the clearing.

“Ow, ow… Bright…” He shields his eyes from the sun, but that’s when he notices something since the sun isn’t blinding him.

It’s eerily quiet. Not just volume wise, but in terms of movement. There’s- There’s nobody around. It kind of scares him.

At the very least, the Coaches should be awake. They went to bed long before the team! But there’s no sign of them either, and their unzipped tent up on the plateau next to the kitchen area reveals that they’re not there either.

“H-Hello…?” No response. Yahaba panics. What if there were bears in this mountain? What if the Coaches had been slaughtered by a bear?! What if wolves had suddenly been reintroduced to Japan overnight and found this campsite?! What if they’d gone to get something out of the van and a creature from the lake dragged them in…?

Okay, the last one is absolutely ridiculous, and even the wolves is a stretch. But bears are still a valid theory, much more than the giant hawk one that his mind was currently formulating. And there was a possibility they could have fallen into the lake by accident.

Thankful for this pitch that the first years picked out, Yahaba peers down at the lakeside, and heaves a sigh of relief. There’s the silhouette of Irihata sitting on the pier, rented fishing pole in hands.

He also notes that the van is gone, a surefire sign that Mizoguchi went for a drive. Procrastinating his shower for a moment, Yahaba strolls calmly down to the lake, pausing at the edge of the pier. He waits until the Irihata pulls the line out, a small fish on the line, and deposits it in a bucket by his side.

“Morning, Sensei.” Much to his credit, Irihata doesn’t startle. The truth is that he saw Yahaba coming a long time ago, having been constantly glancing back towards the camp to check the boys were going to wake up at some point today.

Even if the festival later didn’t begin until 6, they still needed time to expend their energy. Otherwise, they’d be up all night.

“Good morning, Yahaba~.” Attaching another piece of bait he’d brought from the reception area, Irihata casts the line again. Yahaba peers over into the bucket, spotting a few small fish. Mostly minnows, char, and ayu sweetfish.

“Ooh, looks good. Is this for breakfast?” With a soft chuckle, Irihata shakes his head.

Lunch. It’s already 2 in the afternoon.”

“... Ah.” Yahaba pinches at his brows and massages the bridge of his nose.

“Is it- Is it seriously that late already? We slept that long?”

“Almost fourteen hours, yes.” Muttering explicits under his breath, Yahaba takes a deep breath to compose himself, and scolds his face back to a neutral expression.

“I’ll wake the others after my shower. Where did Coach go?”

“Ah, Sadayuki went to find a safe way to the festival. A lot of the roads will be blocked off tonight, so he’s just making sure we can get there.”

“I hope we can! Everyone was really looking forwards to it!” Softly smiling, Irihata casts a knowing look in Yahaba’s direction, aware that Yahaba was probably just as excited. He liked to try and hide it, but his voice betrayed all.

That was partly the reason why Irihata hadn’t intervened in the match against Karasuno, when Yahaba had slammed Kyoutani against a wall. He had understood, from the tone of Yahaba’s voice, that he was being responsible. He was pissed off, yes, but he was also scared.

Scared that they would lose. Irihata only regretted that that fear had come true. Hopefully, though, this camping trip would prove to be a source of healing for him - for all of the kids.

“I hope so too. Anyways, you had best go on your way. I’ll probably be here a while. These old bones won’t let me up so easily!” He pats his legs with a grin, good-natured as always. Yahaba quirks a smile, saying nothing because he’s not sure if he can cross the line of joking about age with his Coach.

Even if this is a holiday, and Irihata is wearing a hawaiian pattern shirt and dad shorts, Yahaba’s not too sure how much they can relax. With a simple nod, he parts ways to go to the facilities area for that refreshingly cold shower, and a chance to get dressed.

Just to he’s about to enter the bathroom area, he comes face to face with a very familiar face.

“Urgh, you again.” Kyoutani raises an eyebrow, obviously casting judgement.

“Could say the same thing. You sure it’s called ‘beauty sleep’?”

“Well, we certainly know you haven’t had any.” Kyoutani’s lips curl into a snarl and Yahaba narrows his eyes in response, ready to shove that boy against another wall if he has to. Before they can start physically fighting, however-

“Now, now, boys. You’re both pretty.” Monotone, Kunimi interrupts. There’s a slight strain to the downwards turns of his lips, and his eyes are narrowed just the slightest, a sure giveaway that he’s upset.

“Sorry, Kunimi…”

“M’Sorry.” He sighs, but the tension and stress ebbs away and he tilts his head to the side with an impish spark in his eyes.

“Is it really me you should be apologizing to~?” Yahaba curses his entire existence in this single moment, glancing towards Kyoutani, who grinds his teeth together. Kunimi only waits, impatiently.

“Well?”

“You. Are such. A little SHIT.” Not even trying to dispute it, Kunimi shrugs, then twirls a finger to gesture for Kyoutani to turn and face Yahaba. If only because murder is illegal, Kyoutani does so.

“I’m fucking sorry about your face.”

“Wow, okay, that probably isn’t what Kunimi meant.”

“No, it’s okay. Keep going.”

“I thought you wanted us to apologise to each other?!”

“I did, but this is far more entertaining.” The two turn on him, and Kunimi smirks as he pushes through, heading into the facilities block to get ready. Rolling their eyes in synchronization, Kyoutani and Yahaba follow after. They’re well adjusted to Kunimi’s shit-stirring cheeky ways by now.

Just like the first night they settled here, Kyoutani waits outside the block for the other two to catch up. It might not be dark, so there’s no reason for Yahaba to be scared and need accompanying, but it’s still nice to walk as a group.

It’s nice to feel like he belongs.

Before the volleyball club, Kyoutani hadn’t really… Made friends. He knew people at the community centre, sure, but he wouldn’t call them friends. Acquaintances, maybe, and Kiyoshi was a good mentor, but they weren’t people he needed, people he wanted to casually hang out with.

Aobajousai had given him that.

Aobajousai had given him more than just friends. It had given him companions, it had given him family, it had given him a home. A place to belong, where he longed to be.

“Kyoutani.” His head lifts up as Iwaizumi approaches, Oikawa at his side as usual, although Oikawa looks to be dead on his feet. Probably from being woken up in the middle of a deep sleep nap.

“Mornin’.”

“Sleep well?”

“Mhm. Too well. S’late.” Iwaizumi grins, a lot more content with the oversleeping situation than Kyoutani would have thought.

“Guess this means we have less time to wait until the festival~.” Ah, that’s why. He’s excited, looking forwards to the festival with great anticipation. And now Iwaizumi has mentioned it, it dawns on Kyoutani that in only a few hours, they’ll be at a festival.

A festival! He’s been to many before, of course, but during elementary school years, it was with his family, and during middle school years, he’d tagged along on the back of groups that… Didn’t really care if he was there or not.

They’d been fun, because festivals were always fun, but Kyoutani had always wished he could be one of the in-group. Here, he had that chance.

“What are you looking forwards to most?” Iwaizumi stops to think, humming in thought and resting a finger and thumb on his chin as he considered the options, then nods in agreement to himself.

“The fortunes from the shrine. I’m going to get a luck one. Could use it with all the planning for college…”

“Iwa-chan, don’t be so boring. Pick something fun! Like karaoke, or goldfish scooping, or the string game!” Rolling his eyes, Iwaizumi tugs at Oikawa’s wrist to encourage him to go and get ready. They’ve wasted enough of the day already.

“We both know you’re looking forwards to the food more than anything.” Oikawa’s stomach growls in agreement, betraying him. A slight flush on his cheeks is accompanied with a guilty grin, and he rubs the back of his neck sheepishly.

“I’m a growing boy~.”

“You’re a vacuum cleaner, that’s what you are.”

“Says the only one who eats just as much as me!”

“I’m a social eater! I don’t gorge myself on whatever’s inside the fridge when I’m alone like you do!” Oikawa squawks indignantly and splashes water towards Iwaizumi’s face as he sinks into the bath water.

And of course, Iwaizumi splashes back. By the time Hanamaki and Watari come by a few minutes later, a full on war has broken out, huge waves being splashed back and forth by Iwaizumi constantly scooping water at Oikawa, and Oikawa kicking his feet on the surface.

Kunimi and Yahaba have long since bailed, sensing the descent into chaos just before it had happened. Hanamaki stares, deadpan, at the laughing duo, both of them shrieking and shouting playful insults at each other.

“... And they dare to call me the childish one.” With a warm chuckle, Watari heads over to the little row of showers, placing his wash basket down next to him so he can rinse off before getting in the bath.

“Don’t mind, Senpai~.” Scoffing, Hanamaki slides into the stool next to him, squirting a far-too-large dollop of body wash onto his sponge and lathering it up before cleaning off. Once they’re washed, they sink into the calmer half of the bath.

Iwaizumi seems to suddenly realise that he and Oikawa aren’t alone anymore, sinking into the water up to nose-level with the tips of his ears burning bright red. Taking full advantage, Oikawa leaps forwards and dunks him.

“I win!” He releases Iwaizumi with a victory laugh, too proud of his success to notice something very important happening…

Iwaizumi surfaces on the other side of the bath, as far from Oikawa as possible, and holds up a towel in one hand, waving it around teasingly.

“Oh dear, Oikawa, looks like you’ve lost something~.” He climbs out the bath, holding the towel up like a flag, and Oikawa glances down, back to Iwaizumi, down again, and then at the towel.

His brain finally pieces together what he’s seeing, and his face goes pale, eye widening and realisation clouding his expression.

IWAIZUMI HAJIME!!!!

“Come and get it~!” A rich laugh in the back of his throat, Iwaizumi hangs the towel on a hook in the furthest reach of the room, settling himself on the bench below it with a cheeky grin. It’s almost like he’s daring Oikawa to come and get it.

It takes all but three seconds for Oikawa to go from shock to anger, to absolutely fuming. His eyes burn with fiery rage, whilst his voice drops to a threatening chill, and he points sternly at the spot in front of him.

“You Will Bring My Towel Back Here Now, Please.”

“Not on your life.”

“Now, Iwaizumi!” Hanamaki sucks in a breath through his gritted teeth, wincing.

“Full name. That’s, uh, a dangerous game he’s playing.”

“Dangerous, Senpai?” Sensing they need to be quiet from Hanamaki’s hushed tone, Watari leans in, curious. Hanamaki hums under his breath and nods.

“Yup. Last time Oikawa called Iwaizumi by his full name, they ended up physically fighting and not speaking for a week. That was back in our first year.”

“What- What happened?” Hanamaki sighs, his face pulled into a taunt, stressed frown.

“Basically, they’d been fighting for a few days, bear in mind this was around the time Oikawa was getting put in as main setter, so he was overworking himself. Iwaizumi, uh… Iwaizumi hid a bunch of his school projects, so Oikawa got- he got taken off the team for unfinished school work.”

“Oh, yikes. That was mean.”

“I know, I know, but it was necessary. Oikawa could have really badly hurt himself, and he was being too stubborn to listen to any of us, even the Coaches.”

“What happened next…?”

“Once Oikawa had rested for a couple of days and come to his senses, agreeing to take Mondays off, Iwaizumi handed all his projects in. Oikawa got back on the team immediately, figured out what had happened in a split second, and they had a fight. A real fight. There was- There was so much blood…” Hanamaki grimaces as he remembers, his hands curling so his nails dig into his palms.

“Senpai…” Watari rests a hand on his upper arm, eyebrows drawn together in in concern and lightly biting his bottom lip.

“It didn’t last though, did it? I mean, they’re still best friends now.” They watch as Iwaizumi finally gives in, leaning down to pass the towel back to Oikawa, and as soon as he’s within reach, Oikawa yanks his wrist and pulls him into the bath water.

Fastening the towel around his waist, he waits for Iwaizumi to resurface, pinches his cheeks roughly, and then huffs, settling against the wall with his arms crossed. Slowly, rubbing at his sore cheeks, Iwaizumi seems to realise he’s gone a step too far.

“Hey… Hey, Tooru… I’m sorry…” He crouches in front of his best friend as best he can in the water, and brown eyes flicker to him. He sees the rage dying down as Oikawa reads that Iwaizumi is truly sorry, and he sighs.

“Don’t do it again. I hate feeling exposed. You know that. That’s why I’m pissed at you.” Iwaizumi nods, expression sullen with guilt.

“I’m sorry, Tooru… I- I got swept up in excitement, but that’s no excuse. I shouldn’t have stolen your towel.” A huff, followed by another sigh. But it’s warm, soft, and carries none of the animosity his voice carried before. He meets Iwaizumi’s eyes and smiles.

“You’re forgiven, Hajime~.” From the sidelines, Hanamaki cups his hands around his mouth, and Watari doesn’t have time to slap a hand over his mouth before-

“Senpai!!! We’re going to check out the camp shop!! Does anyone want to come?” Bless Kindaichi. His enthusiastic shout as he bursts into the bathing area drowns out whatever Hanamaki was going to say. Watari leaps to his feet.

“I’ll come! Give me a second to get dressed.”

“Wait, there’s a camp shop? Those actually exist?” Kindaichi nods at the baffled question from Hanamaki, his smile never dropping. If anything, it gets wider and more blindingly pure as he explains.

“Mhm! They’re usually marketed as outdoor or mountaineering shops, but you can get pretty much anything you need for any type of camping, whether you’re just starting out or really experienced!! The best ones sell lanterns, compress stoves, and binchotan charcoal!”

“Binchotan?”

“It doesn’t make as much smoke as other charcoal, and it doesn’t smell as bad either, but it’s kinda difficult to light if you don’t know how. Also!!! It burns at a lower temperature, so it’s great for cooking yakitori!” He absolutely beams, shining like a star and almost vibrating in excitement.

It’s so easy to see how much he loves camping. Oikawa inhales, clapping his hands together like he’s trying to physically restrain himself from going over and ruffling his hair.

“Iwa-chan, I want to adopt him.”

“No.”

“Please.”

“Ask his parents.”

“Parent. Just one. Actually, I’m the other now.”

“Shittykawa, no.” It takes them a second to realise they’ve been left alone again, and they share an identical glance before wading through the bath to go and get dressed. May as well make it a team trip to the camp shop.

A good half hour later sees nine boys filter into the reception building of the camp, all giving a polite greeting to the person at the welcoming desk, and carrying on through to the shop at the back.

It’s something to be said for their personalities when Kunimi goes straight towards the firewood, Kindaichi flocks to the charcoal, and Kyoutani heads for the food. Matsukawa shrugs, slinking around the displays on his own to look at little trinkets and cheesy souvenirs.

Iwaizumi and Yahaba drift towards the stand covered in maps and information booklets, looking for the location of the shrine they’ll be going to in a few hours, and the stargazing tour Irihata booked for them on the last day. After much deliberation, Oikawa decides to trail after Matsukawa instead of Kyoutani.

The calling of food is much too strong for Hanamaki to ignore, however, and he chases after Kyoutani with plenty of interest in the small refrigerated section that has tons of meat. He did overhear Kindaichi talking about yakitori, after all.

It takes Watari a moment to decide what to do, but when he sees Kunimi pick up a large stack of firewood, a large log that had been sawed into symmetrical triangular prisms with the bark still on their curved edge, his curiosity is piqued.

“Whatcha got there?”

“Firewood.”

“... I can see that, but why? Don’t we have some already?” Kunimi turns the bundle over in his arms, examining the wood to make sure it’s not damp, dying, or infected.

“We have the sticks and pinecones I gathered… But that won’t last much longer. Probably another 3 hours at most?” Satisfied that the logs are in perfect condition and high quality - unlike some of the cheap campsites - he heads towards the payment desk.

Watari watches him go with a small chuckle, having seen the way Kunimi’s eyes lit up when he’d made the decision to purchase the firewood bundle. He looks over more of the firewood section, brows furrowing when he finds a strange, metal wire, coiled into a ring.

“Hey, uh… Kyoutani? What’s this?” Kyoutani glances over his shoulder, a packet of wagyu in hands, and shrugs.

“Fuck if I know.”

“Great. Thanks. That’s helpful, Kyou, real helpful.” Kyoutani simply grunts with another shrug, turning back to the meat to help Hanamaki pick out the best ones for grilling on the compact camping stove, or most suitable for the flavour binchotan coal would give it.

Taking pity on Watari as he tries to find some kind of label, Kyoutani sighs and waves over Kindaichi, pointing him in the vague direction of the firewood.

“Senpai?” Watari looks up, sighing in relief at the sight of the experienced camper. He holds up the metal wire again, so Kindaichi can look at it at eye-level. He doesn’t even get a chance to ask what it is before the first year gasps in sheer delight.

“These are so rare!!! I haven’t seen them since Odake!” He takes it in his free hand - the other holding a netted bundle of white charcoal with firestarter sheets under his thumb - brimming with excitement as he twists it around to look at it. Watari raises an eyebrow.

“I, uh, don’t get what’s so exciting? It’s a ring of metal.”

“They’re for Swedish log fires!”

“... Swedish what nows?” Kindaichi calms himself down, but he refuses to let go of the metal ring. Even if he’s going to be spending money at the festival tonight, he wants this thing, right here and right now.

“Log fires! Most people make them out of a whole stump and a chainsaw, but you can either bundle together similarly sized branches, or pre-chopped firewood. You put deadwood and leaves and firestarter in the gaps, light it, and it burns like a candle for hours. The best part is that you can relight it, so it can last days! It’s a lifesaver in the winter!”

“Oh… That’s… Way cooler than I expected!”

“We should totally do it!”

“Mhm~! Kunimi just bought firewood, so let’s use that!” Standing just across the shop and able to peer over the shelves of souvenirs, Matsukawa slides on a pair of sunglasses to protect his eyes from the sheer sparkliness of the two excited boys.

They’re like sunshine. Snickering, Oikawa grabs the gaudiest pair of sunglasses he can - bright neon green ones with little pine trees on each side - and makes them bob up and down by pressing on the bits over his ears.

“Hey, Mattsun, how do I look?” Matsukawa slides his eyes back to Oikawa, tilting down the pair he’s wearing with a smirk.

“Like a total dork~. So, basically, it suits you.”

“... Rude. You know what you look like?” Matsukawa snorts, pushing the sunglasses back on with a single finger, attempting to be cool.

“Oh, I know, bitch. I look festival ready!”

Chapter Text

The minivan pulls into a roadside parking space at the bottom of the thickly wooded mountain, and as the team scrambles to get out, wheezing and coughing - courtesy of a rancid fart no one wanted to own up for - Kyoutani is the first to spot the traditional lanterns leading up the rest of the road, past where it’s been blocked off for vehicles.

“How far have we got to walk?” Mizoguchi stretches his arms above his head, cracking something in his back and sighing in relief as he rolls his shoulder joints.

“Not far. About two minutes up the slope, and then up the stairs to the shrine. There’s quite a few steps though, since it’s all the way up the mountain.” Kyoutani grunts, both pleased to have a concise answer, and pissed off at the prospect of so many stairs. A strong nudge almost knocks him off balance, Hanamaki smirking.

“Race ya.” Well then.

“I’ll crush you.” There’s no real fire to his words, and Hanamaki laughs, looping an arm over his shoulder and jostling him in a friendly, yet competitive manner.

“You’re a year too young to beat me, puppy!”

“... What did you just call me?” Hanamaki’s smirk widens, eye shadowing over dangerously, as he waggles a finger in Kyoutani’s face, mockingly.

“Pup-py~. Not quite the Mad Dog our dear captain calls you, just a juvenile with much to learn and oh so much training to undertake~.” Growling playfully under his breath, Kyoutani shrugs the arm off his shoulders and lightly nudges his elbow into Hanamaki’s stomach.

“Eat my dust.”

“Aren’t you forgetting something, children?” Oikawa’s smug interjection draws their attention over to where Iwaizumi is just casually stretching, warming up for the race with a confident grin. Kunimi leans over to Matsukawa and Yahaba, and there’s no doubt they’re starting a bet.

“Aw, heck! I’ll join too! It’ll be a fun way to forget about how many stairs there are!” Watari’s beaming smile doesn’t catch them off guard in the slightest, though Matsukawa and Oikawa do push their sunglasses - the gaudiest, tackiest pairs they could find - up a little higher.

“Guess we could do this as a team.” Kunimi whips a glare around to Yahaba.

“Don’t even joke about that, Senpai, I will amputate my own legs with a blunt hacksaw.”

“... What the fuck, Kunimi.” He shrugs as seven faces look at him in a mixture of disgust and genuine concern, whilst Irihata shakes his head in disapproval and Mizoguchi slaps a hand over his face. These kids, honestly… With an awkward, nervous laugh - obviously forced - Kindaichi puts both hands on his friends shoulders and squeezes.

“Ahaha, that’s- That’s a great joke, Kunimi! Real funny, hahahaha… Ha.”

“I don’t joke.”

“Stop digging yourself deeper, I’m trying to ease the situation.”

“Ease me into my grave.”

Kunimi!!! Not helping!” With a small snicker, Kunimi sips from a juice box he’d previously stored in his pocket, walking off to let Kindaichi simmer in annoyance and pout. And pout Kindaichi does, until a hand claps him on the back.

“Don’t worry, there’s no hacksaws in the vicinity.”

“Matsukawa-senpai! Please don’t join in on Kunimi’s jokes!”

“What? It’s just a similar sense of humour, I guess~.” As Matsukawa saunters off to tease his junior, Yahaba pinches the bridge of his nose with a sigh.

“How we survived a whole year with those two, I don’t know.” Kindaichi lets out a small ‘ppft~’ of laughter, before Iwaizumi taps him on the shoulder.

“C’mon, you’re racing too.”

“I- I am?”

“Yup! Don’t think I don’t know about your early morning and late evening jogs. You go right past my house.”

“... I do?”

“You do.”

“So…”

“So you’re not skipping out on this~. Hey, maybe you have a chance of winning, considering you can probably take three steps at a time. Ah, although Hanamaki can do the same… Good luck!”

“When did I agree to this?!” Kindaichi doesn’t even have a second to fluster as the others take up their place in roughly a line, Hanamaki furthest left and Oikawa furthest right, Yahaba sighing as he takes up position to start their little game.

“On your marks… Get set… Go!” The six racers - Hanamaki, Kyoutani, Kindaichi, Iwaizumi, Watari, and Oikawa - bolt the split second that Yahaba lowers his hand, and whilst Kyoutani and Kindaichi sensibly wriggle through the pedestrian gap in the roadblock, the other four vault over it.

Watari’s hurdle style allows him to clear the obstacle without slowing down, unlike how Oikawa rolls over it like he’s some kind of superspy, and Hanamaki screeches as he just barrages the thing out of the way with his hips. Iwaizumi’s leapfrog style is both graceful and effective, although it does slow him down a tiny bit.

It doesn’t stop him in the slightest though, and he quickly sprints into first place. As they pass by Matsukawa and Kunimi, Matsukawa grins and launches himself sideways, tackling Oikawa in a bear hug.

“Mattsun, no!!!” Despite the screech, and much to Oikawa’s credit, he remains on his feet and moving forwards - if only considerably slowed by Matsukawa’s weight clinging to him like a koala.

On the other hand, Kunimi turns to face the racers and holds his arms out, palms facing them. Watari and Kindaichi high-five him as they pass, in complete synchronization, and Kunimi breaks into a rare laugh.

“You’d better win, I’m betting on you!”

“Pay you double if you beat me!” Kunimi straightens up. Double? Pay? Money? Oh, he could definitely run for that. Volleyball and money were the only things that motivated him to run.

“Senpai, please hold this.” He passes his rucksack to Yahaba, tightens his laces, and then, takes off like the wind carries him. Kunimi is fast. He’d kept it a secret for a long time, simply because he knew that if the coaches were aware of his speed, they’d make him train so much harder.

And that… That was too much effort. He could definitely sacrifice a little effort for money though.

With long, powerful legs, Kunimi widens his stride and passes Watari, passes Kyoutani, sticking his tongue out, and passes Hanamaki. Standing at the very back and watching in disbelief, Yahaba swears audibly.

Maybe he shouldn’t have bet on Watari after all, his faith in his best friend’s victory dropping into the negatives. The coaches come up behind him, Irihata gently patting his shoulder to break him out of his stupor.

“Kunimi can fucking leg it...”

“Language. But yes, it appears he can.” Whilst Irihata looks like he’s considering adding to Kunimi’s training schedule, Mizoguchi flat out grins, fist clenched and vein looking ready to burst.

“That little shit’s been holding out all this time-!”

“Easy, Sadayuki. Oikawa likely knows already, there must be a reason why he hasn’t exploited it in a match yet.” They turn to Oikawa, but rather than looking smug or calculating, he appears absolutely flabbergasted. That’s not the face of someone who knew a secret. Yahaba sheepishly chuckles.

“No… No, I don’t think he did…” Despite his competitive streak, even Hanamaki slows to a stop, looking over his shoulder as if to confirm he isn’t seeing things, and that’s when Watari and Kindaichi overtake him.

Promptly before Watari trips over nothing and his arms come up just in time to stop his face meeting concrete.

“Oh my.” With a sigh, Irihata reaches into the first aid bag on his hip, calmly walking over to where Watari pushes himself up, hissing as he shakes tiny bits of dirt off his hands and brushes down his knees, streaks of a friction burn on both his arms and legs. One of his knees is really badly scraped, definitely going to bruise and far too painful for the stairs.

Much to everyone’s surprise, the first person at his side and offering Watari a hand up is Kyoutani, abandoning the race for a friend. Being the closest to him when it happened, Kyoutani was the only one of those still racing to have seen it happen.

The other three bolt onwards, oblivious, turning past a lantern-lit hedge to start up the thousand steps, not even hesitating as they change from long, stretching strides to tiny little knee-ups. Just as Iwaizumi predicted, Kindaichi has the advantage of taking multiple stairs at once, but he’s not as coordinated as Kunimi or Iwaizumi.

Henceforth, it’s a bust of speed from Kunimi and Iwaizumi that puts either one of them in position of first place, and as Kunimi starts to drop behind, Kindaichi realising he’s definitely going to lose, he cups his hands around his mouth and shouts;

“Pay you triple if you beat Senpai!” Iwaizumi makes the mistake of looking over his shoulder as if to question Kindaichi’s sanity, because a misstep sends him into the barrier between the up side and the down side, and it costs him precious seconds.

Kunimi smirked, extremely smug as he danced up the last few steps and spun on one foot to flash a victory sign down at the losers, sticking his tongue out with a flat expression. Kindaichi shook his head and laughed, wiping sweat from his forehead as he hurried to catch up them, Iwaizumi torn between pouting, scowling, or grinning.

“I can’t believe you beat me!”

“Sorry, not sorry. Kindaichi, pay me.” Rolling his eyes, Kindaichi pulls his wallet out of his pocket and holds it open, letting Kunimi count out what he earned, taking it without complaint. Kindaichi knows full well that he’ll get it back, in the form of sweets, treats, and festival souvenirs.

A fatal flaw in Kunimi’s scrooge-like ways is that he’s far too generous with showering his best friend in gifts a plenty. His money hoarding and appreciative spending balance each other out perfectly.

“... Where did everyone else go?” The first years glance at Iwaizumi in question before following his furrowed gaze down the steps, noticing the distinct lack of teammates.

“Oh. Did we- Did we leave them that far behind?”

“Shouldn’t have… I’m gonna go back and check on them. You two stay here.” Iwaizumi waits to see them sit down on the wall, starting his way back down the thousand steps. The burn in his legs is familiar, and welcome. It’s been a while since he felt like he’d played a full match.

Iwaizumi only gets halfway down the stairs when the rest of the group appear at the bottom, talking happily between themselves. Matsukawa is still clinging to Oikawa, and it looks like Watari has taken up residence on Kyoutani’s back. It makes sense though. Iwaizumi can see the bright, cartoonish plasters even from this far.

He waits where he is until they get close enough, Oikawa struggling at the very back with Matsukawa on his shoulders, Irihata lingering behind them in case Oikawa’s arms give way.

“What happened?” Watari laughs as he waves a hand to dismiss Iwaizumi’s worries, making Kyoutani grunt at the movement.

“Nothing bad! I just tripped over my own feet! Or a rock, or something.”

“You okay?”

“Yeah, just a bad bruise.” Kyoutani shuffles his arms, snorting in disbelief.

“Watari, you stood up for five seconds without wincing, then took a step, and decided it hurt too bad.”

“Eheheh... “ Sighing, Mizoguchi pushes back his fringe stressfully.

“Should be fine after a night’s rest. You brats, honestly. We can’t take you anywhere.” At this, Hanamaki splutters, cheeks darkening with a shade of embarrassment.

“It wasn’t my fault our training camp was ruined by the flu!”

“Yes it was, Makki! You’re the only one who didn’t get vaccinated and the strain mutated in you!”

“I’m trypanophobic!” Oikawa huffs, turning his head away stubbornly. He’s well aware Hanamaki is completely terrified and traumatized by needles and injections, but after suffering that bout of flu, Oikawa is well within his rights to complain.

“Ah, there was the incident on the way to the interhigh too…” Yahaba mumbles a small apology as Oikawa reminds all of them of the… interesting... journey to the interhigh gymnasium, when Yahaba had forgotten his travel sickness pills.

The cleanup had taken over an hour and Yahaba had been forbidden from getting on any vehicle without medication.

Keen to change the subject, Matsukawa slinks off Oikawa’s back and leans against the same wall Kindaichi and Kunimi are sitting on with a playful smirk.

“So? Who won?”

“Hm? Oh, the race! It was-!”

“Iwaizumi-Senpai.” Kindaichi blinks as Kunimi calmly lies, Iwaizumi whipping his eyes to them, both stunned and confused. Kunimi doesn’t even falter as he rests his chin in palms, and Kindaichi automatically understands. He nods and grins back at the others.

“We shouldn’t have expected any differently, really.” Kunimi huffs under his breath in amusement, relaxing as his best friend reinforces his lie. It’s one thing that the team knows he can run now, but if they knew he was that fast, he’d never hear the end of it.

Plus, he really couldn’t deal with the constant challenges Hanamaki and Kyoutani threw Iwaizumi’s way.

“Buh…?” The confused sound slips from Iwaizumi’s lips, but it’s drowned out by Hanamaki’s laugh, Matsukawa’s chuckle, and Oikawa demanding to be paid for his bet.

“Nice try though, kid! Two more years and maybe you’ll be the Iwaizumi of your team!”

“... No, too much effort.”

“Speaking of effort, you little shit!” Kunimi goes rigid, averting his gaze and trying desperately not to meet Mizoguchi’s infuriated glare. Ah, maybe the money hadn’t been worth it, now the coaches were aware just how much he’d been slacking… He almost sweats at the thought of being assigned suicide runs or laps.

“D-Don’t be too mad, Coach! He just suffered a horrible lost! Embarrassing, really! Such a tragic, debilitating loss that will ruin his youth and-!” Kindaichi cuts himself off laughing as Kunimi pushes him backwards off the small wall into a hedge, rolling his eyes at the excessive dramatics. It doesn’t do anything to cover up his genuine, wobbling smile.

“Shut up, Kindaichi~.” The laughter from the hedge descends into wheezing, and Matsukawa reaches down to give him a hand up, trying not to laugh himself.

“Someone’s got the giggles, apparently.” The accusation only makes Kindaichi laugh harder, and when he’s pulled out of the hedge, two branches sticking out of his hair like antlers, it only takes a split second for Hanamaki to burst into chaotic cackles, and that drags down Iwaizumi, Watari, and Yahaba.

“... The giggles are catching.” Oikawa snorts half a laugh at the terrified tone of Matsukawa’s voice.

“It’s not a plague, Mattsun, just laughter.”

“It’s infectious.”

“... You’re so dramatic. How do people think you’re the most responsible one of us?” The question prompts Irihata to sigh, pinching the bridge of his nose as he ushers the children onto the shrine grounds, through the Torii gate, and towards the festival stalls.

“I have no doubt in my mind that the only responsible one of you lot is Kyoutani.” Spluttering, Yahaba cuts off his laughter, gesturing towards Kyoutani in sheer disbelief at the statement.

“He tried! To fight! An onion!”

“You fucking threw it at me so I took the satisfaction of peeling it apart layer by layer with my bare hands and watching you shudder.”

“See?! That’s the furthest thing from responsible I can think of! And utterly terrifying!” Irihata is too busy gawping at the setter to have even registered what he said.

“You- You threw an onion at your teammate? Where did you…? No, hold on, I don’t want to know. I don’t want to know.” Whistling innocently, Yahaba takes a step away from the coach and instead jogs over to where Oikawa is dragging Iwaizumi over to the hook-a-duck game.

“Iwa-chan, Iwa-chan! This one first!”

“Sure you don’t want to look around before you waste all your money here?”

“... We’ll play it once then go browse!” Iwaizumi hides a laugh behind his sleeve, knowing full well that Oikawa would get hooked - no pun intended - on the simple game, and they’d spend a while on it.

“Alright then, Oikawa~. Whatever you say.”

“Ehh, that’s a dangerous game, Senpai. Festival games are designed to be addictive.” Oikawa grins, a touch of demonic energy to his wild smirk.

“Not if you know how to play the game~.” Yahaba tilts his head in question, but Oikawa shushes him, instead turning to focus intently on the many ducks spinning around in the circular pond, his eyes narrowing as he locks on to each one in turn.

“Mhm. Got it.” He pays for the hook with a cheery smile, and instantly swoops one of the ducks out the water, not even hesitating. Iwaizumi brims with pride as he watches Oikawa hold the duck up to display the underside, a number indicating he’s won the biggest prize.

“Wha-?! How?!” Oikawa picks out his prize, a giant pokemon toy that is no doubt going to end up in their tent, and flashes a victory sign at his underclassman. Once they’ve moved far enough away, Oikawa smirks at Yahaba.

“After a whole festival day, the numbers on the bottom are worn off, so they have to remark them. And how do they identify the winning duck? Well, my dear kouhai, they have a different colour eyes. Blue, to be precise.”

“... So, you cheated?”

“What?! No!!! I observed and learnt it all by myself!” Iwaizumi snickers, patting Oikawa on the back and slinging an arm over Yahaba’s shoulders.

“No matter how it happened, you can’t change the past, so let’s hit up the food stalls. I’m starving.”

“Ah, I’m going to find Watari and Kyoutani. Have fun, senpai!” With that, Yahaba darts off into the crowd, worming his way through the locals and tourists, careful not to trip over the uneven surface of the shine pathway, until he reaches a spot near the drumming stage.

Scanning over the crowd, he spots Hanamaki and Matsukawa easily, the duo purchasing squid on a stick, and he can also see Kindaichi and Kunimi excitedly zigzagging from booth to booth, particularly the souvenir ones. Kunimi already has a cat-like mask.

Spotting Watari and Kyoutani, on the other hand, is a lot harder than he thought it would be. Sure, they’re still above the average height, but there’s quite a few tall people, and he’s having trouble until-

“Yahaba!” Somehow, they’d managed to sneak up on him from the side. Watari grins, creases at the corners of his eyes as he holds up a tray of takoyaki. Kyoutani stands by his side loyally, just in case Watari needs to rest his leg again. It should be fine after keeping off it for a while, but there’s always a chance…

“You brought food already?”

“Best to do it now before the queues get too long.”

“Good point.” Kyoutani draws their attention with a grunt, pointing towards the hillside already covered in blanket and gathered families.

“Should we sit?”

“Sure. We can secure somewhere for the firework display later.” As the trio make their way over to the hillside, they search around for a good vantage point, but somewhere near the back where their height won’t block anyone else’s view.

“Boys.” As luck would have it, they don’t need to do anything. Mizoguchi and Irihata have already rolled out a blanket, the former sitting cross legged at the edge of it, and the latter missing.

“Where’s Irihata-sensei?”

“He went to grab the camera from the car. Something about an album for the third years when they graduate, but don’t tell them that.”

“Oh. That’s a really sweet idea. Are all of them getting the same album?”

“With different covers, of course.” Watari holds a flat hand up, pointing at himself with the other.

“I have some photos from a really old camera. The dark room type photos. I could bring those in?” Mizoguchi blinks in surprise but nods his head.

“That’d be great.” Comfortably silence lapses as they settle on the blanket, content to rest in the warm summer evening and watch the sun set. Once it’s gone down completely, that’s probably when the fireworks will start.

In the distance, they can hear the performance on the shrine stage, the acting out of a legend iconic to this mountain area, one known and loved by the locals. Kyoutani closes his eyes, and listens.

He might not be a big fan of the traditional singing style, but there’s magic in the instruments, and the lyrics convey a tale of tragic love and loss, followed by victory and the defining of one’s soul. It’s beautiful, and he drifts off to the kagura suzu, kugo, and ryuteki.

It’s not so beautiful when something knocks the wind out of him, waking him up wheezing and coughing.

“Sorry, sorry! I’m so sorry! Please don’t kill me, I’m sorry!” He sits up, rubbing at his sore stomach, and coughing as someone rubs his back, waving a hand in Kindaichi’s direction, where he’s obviously tripped and landed on Kyoutani’s asleep form.

At least, he would have though Kindaichi had tripped accidentally, were it not for Yahaba’s muffled laughter above him, in the prime position to trip someone up.

“Yahaba! That’s not what I meant!”

“You did say to wake him, Coach, you never specified how.” Mizoguchi sighs in frustration and turns his attention to thanking Iwaizumi for rubbing Kyoutani’s back, helping him sit up, whilst Irihata and Hanamaki focus on trying to calm Kindaichi down.

For someone who can be stern and stubborn - sometimes downright mean depending on who he’s with (Kageyama) - he flies into anxiety attacks head on. It’s taking a lot of time and support for him to overcome it, and Yahaba’s little stunt did nothing to help.

Kunimi gently pushes his way through, patting both Kindaichi’s cheeks in synchronisation and using his thumbs to wipe away the brewing tears of a full on attack.

“You’re good, Yuutarou. It’s okay, he’s not hurt, see? Hey. Hey, look at me. What’s wrong?”

“I- I can’t- I can’t bre-breathe…!” Kunimi sends a quick glare over Kindaichi’s head at Yahaba, who at least has the decency to look sheepish as Oikawa pulls him aside to talk, before turning his attention back to his best friend with a hum.

“Pick a colour.”

“Kunimi, is this really the time-”

“Shh.” He swats away the hand Hanamaki placed on his shoulder, returning his palm carefully and gently to Kindaichi’s cheek, cupping his face to ground him and waiting for an answer.

“U- Umm… Green? I- I don’t kn-know!” His breathing is quickening, and Irihata runs a comforting hand up and down his back slowly, trusting that Kunimi knows what he’s doing. Hanamaki still looks confused and concerned, but he sits back.

“Look around. Pick out ten green things.” A struggling, shaking breath, but then, Kindaichi looks around, and he starts to pick things out. It takes a while for him to get the words out, but once he’s gotten past grass, bush, blanket, yukata, and ‘that girls hairstyle over there’, Hanamaki notes that he’s calm.

He’s no longer on the edge of an attack, more focused on finding and listing the items. Kunimi sits back, nodding his head and giving encouragement at each one, relieved that the situation seems to have been resolved.

“You can stop now, Kindaichi~.”

“But I’ve only found nine things! Umm… Oh! Firework!” Eyes turn skywards just in time to watch the rocket burst into bright colour, a crimson red that lights up the night, followed by flashes of orange and yellow and silver and purple.

The entire team watches the display with awe and wonder, eyes wide and joy in their gazes, smiles stretching wide at the beautiful display, all nine of them on the same blanket with their coaches, a true family untied under the gunpowder stars.

As the fireworks finish, one last golden explosion lighting up the sky, Irihata turns to the children with a soft smile, taking in all their excitement and letting it replenish his old, worn down soul. Then, as he pushes himself to his feet, he utters the words he feels within his heart.

“Come along. Let’s go home.”

A moment of silence.

“Sensei? Don’t you mean the campsite?”

“... You knew exactly what I meant. Just. Get back to the minivan.” Giggling and squabbling, the team bundle up their blankets and goodies, leading the way back to the minivan with spirits high and hearts lifted higher. Irihata sighs softly, warmly.

“Senpai?” He doesn’t even turn at Mizoguchi’s voice, proudly putting his hands on his hips.

“Those are our boys, Sadayuki. The best goddamn team I’ve ever had.”

“Mhm. I think they're like a family.”

Exactly like a family. A family, indeed.”

Chapter Text

Matsukawa stares at the roof of his tent in utmost contempt. He hasn’t slept. He hasn’t slept a single wink, and that’s the fault of one person, and one person only. Mumbling in his ear prevented him from even drifting into a partly conscious daze.

He turns his head to the left, gaze landing on soft pinkish brown hair. Hanamaki just doesn’t stop talking in his sleep, even singing and shouting! Somehow, Kyoutani had the sense to bring earplugs, and Matsukawa didn’t.

Hanamaki wasn’t even supposed to be in this tent! It was supposed to be Kunimi, but he’d gone into the second tent, kicked Hanamaki out, and settled down there! Granted, it was for a wholly acceptable reason.

“I’m always the first to say Happy Birthday to Kindaichi.”

“What about his parents, huh~?” Narrowed eyes slid into a glare and the corners of Kunimi’s lips had pinched like he was deeply insulted.

Always.” The team didn’t ask him to elaborate when Kindaichi came back from the kitchen area, and lit up at the sight of his best friend dragging his sleeping bag into his tent.

Matsukawa still didn’t understand how or why Kunimi was first and not Kindaichi’s parents, but when he’d overheard a soft ‘happy birthday’ from the tent next door just after midnight followed by a sleepy but content ‘yaaay~’, he could almost deal with one restless night.

Almost.

“Oi. Hanamaki. Wake the fuck up, you sentient candlestick.” He rams his elbow right into Hanamaki’s ribs, and as he wheezes, Matsukawa sits up and pinches his nose shut until Hanamaki sits up with a jolt and gasp for breath.

“Why would you-?!”

“Shh.” He points, completely deadpan, to a sleeping Kyoutani, and Hanamaki scowls before lowering his voice to an angry whisper.

“Why are you trying to kill me in my sleep, asshole? Fight me awake, coward!”

“Because you’ve kept me up all night mumbling about peanut butter, out of tune wailing Britney Spears - particularly Do Somethin’ and Toxic - and making random monkey screeches!” Hanamaki blinks, whines in the back of his throat, and slings an arm across his face in embarrassment.

“Okay, you have full permission to kill me.”

“No, that’s too fun if you let me.”

“So you were going to kill me in my sleep!” Matsukawa shrugs, turning his tired, deadpan gaze back to the ceiling of the tent with a weary shrug.

“Maybe later.”

“As if I’m going to go to sleep after that!”

“Good! Then you can let me get some fuckin’ rest! Get outta here!” He playfully nudges his elbow against Hanamaki again, and a hand gently thumps against his chest before Hanamaki pushes himself up, runs a hand through his hair, and then slips out the tent with slippers on his feet.

Despite the fact that summer is just around the corner and the heat is merciless, Hanamaki still shivers at the difference in temperature as he steps onto the dew covered patches of grass that poke through fallen pine needles and pinecones and the like. The sun might have already risen, but it’s still too early.

Checking his phone - which is on its last dregs of battery - he grumbles at the bright 04:56 that beams back at him, mocking him and his state of being half awake. Shuffling down the slope, he makes towards the lake, weaving through the pine forest with not a care in the world.

It’s nice to get away from everything for a while. It’s hard to believe this is their last day here. In the afternoon, they’ll pack everything up, and in the evening, they’ll set off for the stargazing adventure Irihata booked them on.

The tents will temporarily be set up on that mountain side plateau, and then they’ll travel home the next morning. A 14 hour journey back the way they came, but hopefully with more sleeping involved after a full night of watching the stars and celebrating Kindaichi’s birthday.

16! He’s going to be 16! Legally able to drive a 50cc motorbike!

“Damn, I bet he actually would… Would look cool. Have to restyle his hair though...” Muttering to himself as he plops himself down cross-legged at the end of the pier, Hanamaki sighs. He stares at the still, calm waters for a moment, the pristine reflection of cloud floating in the blue sky only rippled by fish investigating the water’s surface.

Seconds pass, and Hanamaki tugs off his slippers, yanks up the legs of his pyjama pants, and then splashes his legs down into the lake, sending ripples and waves far and wide.

He snickers in self satisfaction at the miniature chaos he’s caused.

“Makkiiiii~.” He tenses just in time for a weight to flop against his back, arms over his shoulders, splayed out as if they could reach the surface of the lake from here. A soft cheek burrows into his bird’s nest of hair, though he’s sure the owner of the nuzzling cheek looks worse.

“Yo, Oikawa.”

“You’re up early! I thought we would have to take the tent down with you still inside…” Huffing in annoyance, Hanamaki allows Oikawa to drape himself over him like a blanket. The physical contact is comforting, and the warmth is welcome in this dewdrop dawn.

“Matsukawa kicked me out.”

“... Oh, of course. He didn’t think to bring earplugs, did he?” Hanamaki gives a small ‘harrumph!’, crossing his arms and resting them over his knees, slouching.

“Look, before this trip, I legitimately thought I just mumbled!”

“No… No, you’re a monster.”

“Thanks. That makes me feel so much better.” Oikawa snorts a laugh, burying it in Hanamaki’s shoulder as he slips down like a leech, and Hanamaki grins. Oikawa doesn’t see it, and therefore, has absolutely zero idea what is about to happen.

Hanamaki slumps over as much as he can, reaches up behind him, grabs Oikawa by the shoulders of his pyjamas and flips him over.

Straight into the lake with an unholy screech.

As Hanamaki bursts into uproar, laughing and cackling like a cartoon witch mixed with some sort of raccoon, Oikawa fights his way back to the surface, spluttering and spitting out water, splashing about until he calms enough to starts paddling on the spot. He slaps his hands against the rippling surface of the water.

MAKKI!!!! I’m going to kill you!” Too busy laughing - more like wheezing to the point he can’t breathe - Hanamaki doesn’t realise until too late that Oikawa is close enough to grab him, and grab him he does.

He yanks on Hanamaki’s ankles, dragging him into the lake with him, and splashes Hanamaki the split second he appears above water once more.

“Betcha didn’t see that coming!”

“No, actually. I was expecting you to explicitly follow the whole ‘revenge is a dish best served cold’ thing.”

“Revenge is a three course meal, Makki. That was just the starter. The hors d’oeuvres.” Before Hanamaki can reply, there’s a shout from the side of the lake, on the decking that overhangs the water with all the bistro type tables and wooden benches.

“For the second time this trip - Get out of the water, you damn brats!” They pause in their banter to blink over at Mizoguchi, looking even more tired and dishevelled than both of them, nursing a sorely needed cup of coffee in his hands.

“... You okay, Coach?” Mizoguchi grumbles, sinking down in his seat and hiding his embarrassment behind the folded collar of his shirt - already dressed at just gone five in the morning.

“A squirrel broke into our tent around 2am. It kept bothering me!” There’s a heartbeat of silence before the boys break out into laughter in unison, paddling in the water and clutching at each other as they laugh too hard to focus on keeping afloat. Mizoguchi allows them to laugh whilst he takes another cup of coffee, before placing the mug down on the table and taking a deep breath.

“Get out that goddamn lake!! What is your attraction to that lake anyways?! This is the second time you’ve flung each other into it without permission!” Oikawa sheepishly rubs the back of his head, making a beeline for the shoreline, whilst Hanamaki does no such thing, lying on his back and floating where he is.

“Technically, the first time was Matsukawa, so not my fault. Also technically, this only happened because Matsukawa kicked me out the tent. You might want a word with Matsukawa.”

“Hanamaki. Get out the lake.” There must be something about the tone of his voice, because as soon as Mizoguchi points towards the shore, Hanamaki’s eyes widen and he holds a hand up as a mock salute.

“Yessir, right away, Sir!” He swims through the water like he’s gliding, long limbs slicing cleanly through the stillness, propelled by a strong kick that never breaks the surface. He’s like a mermaid, for an instance, until the water gets too shallow and he pulls himself to his feet and wades out instead.

Waiting on the shore, Oikawa whacks him with his wet sleeve, but karma strikes before Hanamaki can retort and the ever-so-elegant Captain trips over a pebble, making Hanamaki snort before bolting back towards the camp.

He’ll need a change of clothes, a good shower, a warm bath, and raw ingredients so he can get cooking. If he’s going to be up this early, he may as well start on preparing breakfast for everyone.

Plus, it’s a special day. It’s a birthday! A 16th birthday! The morose thought hits Hanamaki that after this, there’s only Iwaizumi and Oikawa’s birthdays before graduation flickers across his mind, but he shakes it away.

They could have retired from the club and focused only on birthdays after the Spring Preliminaries, but they had stayed true to themselves and true to the sport, and continued on, powering through with the ambition to win, the determination to beat Shiratorizawa, and the fear of losing everything they thought they wanted.

‘Funny thing is’, Hanamaki thinks with a bittersweet smile, ‘we lost all that anyways. But we found what we needed.’ His gaze falls on the standing tents, three prisms that reflect the light on their colour canvases. His smile turns pure and genuine.

‘We needed each other.’

Chapter Text

“Of the two things these boys would find, the dog is the one I most expected. Sadayuki, did the website say there was a court here?”

“No, Senpai. But I don’t think I’m surprised either. And even less surprised that Oikawa brought a volleyball.” The two Coaches sit on a fallen log, watching the three vs three match taking place on the campsite court - complete with a tattered but useable volleyball net - and those who aren’t playing going bananas over the campsite dog.

Kunimi was conserving energy, as was his excuse, Yahaba simply enjoyed petting the dog whilst waiting for a rotation onto the court, and Iwaizumi was cooing over this great beast that was probably half bear, rubbing its tummy and play fighting.

Honestly, Irihata was a little concerned he might lose an arm in the process. He kept catching a glimpse of giant, razor sharp teeth every now and then as the dog playfully nipped at Iwaizumi as he tried to roll it over to encourage the dog to play.

He’s jolted out of his worries by a weight landing on his shoulder. Remarkably, he doesn’t jump at the sudden contact, instead huffing in amusement and fondly shaking his head. He could tell Mizoguchi had been fighting to stay awake, but it looked like the fatigue had won over.

“I did tell you to take a nap earlier…” Irihata’s soft mutter, affectionate like that of an older sibling, goes unheard under the shout of victory from Hanamaki, Watari and Kyoutani, engaging in a three way high-five as they score past Matsukawa’s block.

Oikawa puffs out his cheeks in irritation, hands curling as he holds his annoyance in, ready to tell Kyoutani off for pulling such a risky cut-shot. But then, this is a holiday. It’s not an official match, and they’re just having fun.

There’s no need to be as harsh here as he is in practice.

“Good skill with that shot, Kyou-Ken-Chan.” Oikawa expects a grunt or snort, or to be ignored completely. He doesn’t expect golden eyes to land on him, followed by a nod of acknowledgement.

Well. A camping trip was a brilliant idea, it seems.

“Hey, hey, no lingering on court! Oikawa, you’re off! ROTATE!” Flipping his middle finger Hanamaki’s way, Oikawa waltzes off the court, although he grimaces when Matsukawa steps into the setter position.

Setting has always been Matsukawa’s weak spot, and it’s no doubt going to irk Yahaba - who moves to serve - and make things difficult for Kindaichi, in prime position to block and spike. It was hard with a three vs three, but Iwaizumi had made it very clear he was interested in something else and Kunimi was ‘score-keeping’.

“What’s the score, Kunimi-chan~?”

“12 - 14, your team’s favour.” Oh. So he actually was keeping score. Quietly thanking him, Oikawa sits on the ground next to Kunimi to observe the game. Namely, the second years and Kindaichi.

They’re the ones who are going to continue on, in this team, this club, this routine. The third years will graduate, go off to wherever they aim, and join their own, new, separate teams. It’s painful to think about, but Oikawa is glad for the coming distance. It will only help him appreciate everything he’s learnt and all these memories more than ever.

At the very least, before he parts ways with his beloved team, he can give them some valuable guidance and advice.

Like how Yahaba needs to work on his piss-poor recieves, and Watari is definitely going to sprain something if he lands like that after setting from the line, and Kindaichi needs to stop shying away from slamming the ball at full strength.

Kyoutani is weird. He’s both their strongest future player, and the biggest mess on court right now. One moment he can be pro material, and the next, it’s like he’s a complete starter even if he’s doing the exact same as before!

Oikawa sighs in frustration, sliding his hands over his face to massage the tenseness out of his facial muscles. Right on cue, a hand lingers on his shoulder, giving a reassuring squeeze, and he glances upwards with a strained smile.

“Stressed?”

“Just a little, Iwa-chan.” The great lug of a dog, obviously missing the attention that had been so lavish a heartbeat ago, flops across both their laps, giant tongue lolling across Oikawa’s leg. He pulls a face, trying to shuffle away, but failing as the dog moves with him. Iwaizumi laughs.

“Petting dogs is a good stress reliever~.”

“I am obviously not going to pet this brute. Firstly because he’s stinky, secondly because he could eat my face in one bite, and lastly because I’m allergic to fur!!!” Iwaizumi’s eyes widen with realisation and he quickly pushes himself off, grabbing a nearby stick on the ground.

“Here, boy!!! Fetch!” The dog bolts, almost knocking Iwaizumi over in the process as he launches the stick as far as possible. Oikawa jumps up with a shudder, trying to shake the fur from his shorts and legs as much as possible. A whine catches in his throat.

“Need your antihistamines?”

“No, I think my face and respiratory system is okay, but I’m definitely going to get a rash. Or hives. Oh god, please not hives.” Iwaizumi rolls his eyes, but there’s no harshness there, just fond adoration for his best friend. He grabs Oikawa’s hand, tugging him back in the direction of the tents.

“C’mon, let’s go get you some cream.”

“Yay~.” Oikawa happily trots along behind Iwaizumi, swinging their arms together and trying to yank him over as friends normally do. He can feel the skin of his calves starting to prickle and burn, like a small fire dances over the surface evenly, and the discomfort makes him want to scratch.

He wants to scratch so damn bad.

“Oi. I’ll put mittens on you.” Pushing air out through his lips to make a ‘prrifpft’ sound, Oikawa waves his free hand casually in dismissal whilst green eyes bore into him.

“Where would you get mittens in this weather, Iwa-chan?”

5 minutes later sees Oikawa sitting on the floor of his tent, legs slathered in cream and fleece mittens that look a lot like oven gloves on his hands. He holds them up with an expression of discontent, lips twisted and eyes hollowly staring straight ahead at nothing.

“Seriously?” His voice is dull and flat, and he’s not oblivious to the way Iwaizumi’s shoulders shake with a little snorted giggle as he put the tube of cream back in Oikawa’s medical bag.

“You’re the one that kept scratching~.” Iwaizumi is all sing-song, and Oikawa grits his teeth together to stop himself snapping back anything too petty or nasty. He’s well aware that he goes too far most of the time, and has been reeling it in since second year.

After making the then-first-years bawl openly in the changing room after a pathetic practice, he’d vowed to change his tongue lashing ways. Or at least, restrain himself more around the people he likes. He knows Iwaizumi can take an insult or two, but going overboard or striking an insecure area would upset him significantly.

“... Is it bad I really wanna run into Tobio-chan just so I can be mean right now?”

“Yes. That’s bad.”

“What about Ushi-fucking-Waka?”

“... I’ll allow it, or I would if he were anywhere nearby, but we are 14 hours away from Miyagi. So, I’m pretty sure he’s not going to show up.” Oikawa scoffs, rolling his eyes.

“He’s like an eldritch horror. Saying his name three times probably summons him halfway across the world. Through another dimension.” Iwaizumi’s laugh - loud, genuine, and pure - would have echoed in a small room, but it simply filters out here in the open through the woods.

Still, it’s enough to life Oikawa’s bad mood and a smile wobbles onto his lips as he places his elbows on his slathered knees and rests his chin in the mittens. His mind instantly goes back to volleyball. Typical.

Or rather, his mind goes to his teammates. His mind goes to Hanamaki and Matsukawa, who are no doubt scheming something without supervision. It's going to be weird being separated from them when they head off in four different directions... Oikawa's nose scrunches up.

Because more than just leaving them, he's going to miss them. He's going to miss Hanamaki constantly leaning on him, constantly making noise, constantly slinging himself over the nearest body.

He's going to miss Matsukawa's sarcastic comments that come out of nowhere, the silent supporter of their group, the one who comes up with the best plans of mischief. It's going to be hard not seeing them every day.

And if he's not seeing them every day...

“D’you think the team will be okay without us…?”

“Hm?” Iwaizumi pauses in what he’s doing, picking up on the change of Oikawa’s tone. It’s softer, more wistful. And maybe a little sad.

There's no doubt he's thinking of the second and first years. His eyes are shadowed over, and Iwaizumi sits back on his heels, shuffling round to face Oikawa.

“When we graduate. Will they… Will they be okay without us? Are they ready for us to leave?”

“Hmmm… I think they’ll be just fine. Even if they have a few glaring faults, don’t forget there’ll be first years coming in to cover any gaps in defense and offense. A team is a family, Oikawa, we learnt that firsthand - especially this year! Once they settle and get to know each other, they’ll be fine.”

“... I suppose you’re right…”

He's still going to miss them. He adores his team. He would have his mother adopt them in a heartbeat so their family was official, or he would adopt them himself. Was two years a big enough age gap to adopt? Probably not. For now, he would have to settle with the second and first years being his siblings and/or children in is heart alone.

Exhaling slowly, Oikawa shakes off the mittens now the urge to itch and scratch has subsided, moving to rub the cream in more effectively. His eyes trail over the inside of the tent, before landing on the beautiful view of the landscape from here. The sun is high enough to cast a shadow, but it’s still not at its strongest and highest yet.

Hard to believe that in a couple of hours, they’ll be packed up and ready to hike up a mountain.

I'll miss them too much for words.

“Oikawa?”

“Huh?”

“You’re doing that thing where you stare off into space and go quiet.” With a sigh, Oikawa shakes his head and bats away the concerned hand hovering near his shoulder. He almost regrets it when he sees hurt flicker in Iwaizumi’s eyes, but Iwaizumi pulls his hand back and stands, waiting for Oikawa to join him.

Pushing himself to his feet, Oikawa brushes his fingertips silently over Iwaizumi’s shoulder in apology, leading the way back to the volleyball court. Or, the only area they had available and suitable for volleyball. They could make do with an uneven patch of grassy land and tattered net, as long as they could play.

A smile twitches on his face as he hears Hanamaki roar in victory, the kind he only gives when he goes to feint and instead pulls a wicked cross spike that leaves opponents stunned and flailing. He can almost image Watari sticking a tongue out in return, absolutely hating when Hanamaki pulls a fast one over him.

They're going to miss Watari, who can light up a room with a smile. His calm personality settles arguments before they begin, and he can soothe anyone's nerves. He's cheeky, he's down to earth, he's understanding. He's the backbone of their team, not just on the court, but in their friend group too. Without Watari, there was a high chance Kyoutani wouldn't have settled in like he had done.

Kyoutani was developing a lot. He'd come to them asocial and tense and on guard, but now, he showed them that he was just as soft as anyone else. He was gruff, but he was kind. He was strong, but he was gentle. He was easily misunderstood, and the more layers he showed, the more he was accepted and loved. Maybe that was all he had needed. Maybe it was Kyoutani that needed the team, just as much as they needed him.

It had been Yahaba who had first opened Kyoutani's eyes to that, slamming him against a wall. Yahaba was, despite his soft appearance, the most aggressive one on the team. He wasn't afraid to fight, he wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty, he wasn't afraid to protect. He'd almost been kicked off the team months earlier for beating up three adults who dared corner and harass their first years just outside the school gates. Yahaba was manipulative, calculating, and Oikawa was proud to admit his prodigy used them for good.

The two Oikawa would miss the most would definitely have to be the first years. They'd been his 'babies' in Kitagawa, and despite the fact they were growing and maturing, it didn't change the fact that he saw them as children needing guidance, support, and the love only a family derived from a team could give. Even more than anyone else, after their middle school trauma.

Kunimi was still painfully bitter about that. He would spit insults about Kageyama through a sneer, only feeding Oikawa's hatred of him. Luckily, Kunimi had manage to overcome any hesitation Kageyama could possibly have installed in him. Instead, Kunim turned it into a fire, blazing fuel inside of him that burned as coolly as his deadpan expressions. He was mischievous, but in a different way to Watari and Hanamaki. He was scheming, he was clever, he was unique.

The baby of the team, a fact he would always fluster over, Kindaichi was one of the sweetest people on their team. He was shy off court, a little timid until he was encouraged, and easily excitable. Iwaizumi had likened him to a puppy once, and the mental imagery just wouldn't go away. It was so true. But like any puppy, he bit back when he had no other option. A roll of the eyes was their only warning before he said something nasty, but he would apologise later. He always did. He was the heart of their team, and it was going to be hard to leave him behind when they graduated.

Iwaizumi slows to a halt on the edge of the field, watching and listening to their team playing casually in the distance, letting Oikawa bump into his back when he stops without warning.

“Oof! Hey, Iwa-chan, why’d you-... Iwa-chan?”

“I don’t want to leave them either!” It’s a known fact amongst the team that Oikawa is an ugly crier, and he’ll cry abundantly at movies where anyone dies, sad animal rescue commercials, and the mere mention of the legend of Heitaro and Higo.

But it’s an even more known fact that Iwaizumi is the more realistically emotional of the two, prone to bursting into tears and frequently weeping when something tugs on his heartstrings or upsets him. As of the moment, water brims in his eyes, threatening to spill over as he bites painfully into his bottom lip, chest heaving and shoulders shaking.

“I- I’m not ready to- to go… Not ready to move on! I don’t want to leave them! I don’t want everything to end! I wi- I wish we could stay like this for- forever!” The tears spill over and Iwaizumi’s breath hitches, sobs catching in his throat as he frantically tries to wipe away the bulbous tears with the heels of his hands.

Oikawa takes a sharp breath in, drawing in his bottom lip as his brows furrow and eyes dampen, feeling like something was just ripped out of his chest and left him feeling hollow. He slowly lowers his gaze to the ground and blinks away a single tear before taking a deep breath and looking back up, moving forwards to pull Iwaizumi into a tight hug.

He doesn’t mind the wet patch on his shoulder when there’s a muffled wail in his shirt.

“It’s okay, Hajime, it’s okay… We’ve still got a few weeks, hmm? Yeah? We can make the most of them, and when we say our goodbyes…” He pauses, choked up. A shuddered sigh escapes. And then he continues.

“I know it’s going to be hard, but it’s not going to be forever. We’ll always be their senpai. We’ll always be able to visit them, or call them, text them, anything. Nothing is ending; it’s just a new beginning. A new chapter. There’s going to be a new scenery, new characters, and a new storyline… But that doesn’t mean we have to leave the old behind. We can take it with us, in our hearts and memories… And ourselves.” Sniffling, Iwaizumi looks up at him.

“Ourselves?” With a small, placid smile, Oikawa gently brushes away the tear tracks on Iwaizumi’s face, nodding slightly.

“Seijou is a part of who we are. It helped shape us, from our personalities, to our habits, and our friendships… It gave us family, Hajime. If you think that’s going to change just because we’re heading to other places, it’s not. That’s our team. Those are our brothers and kids and the coaches are like weird uncles - please don’t tell them I said that - and we’re never going to forget them.” He barks out a short laugh, a cheeky grin growing.

“Besides, do they really think they can get rid of us this easily~?” A small, amused snort. It’s not quite a laugh, but it’s enough to show that Oikawa’s words have broken through, and Iwaizumi isn’t quite as heartbroken anymore.

“It’ll take more than graduation to get rid of us, right?”

“Exactly! Besides, Makki’s doing his apprenticeship just 20 minutes away from the school. We can send him all sorts of parcels, and messages, and bad ideas to give to them.”

“... Maybe we should make sure to visit often, just to save them specifically from Hanamaki.” Oikawa laughs brightly, releasing the hug now that he can feel Iwaizumi is much more comfortable, reassured through this difficult time of their lives.

Their transition from high schoolers to adults is jarring and unfamiliar, but they’ll always have each other and the option to seek help from those they’re having to move away from. Oikawa relaxes, surveying their juniors with a burst of pride as Yahaba, Kunimi and Watari celebrate the win of a full set.

“We can’t force things to stay the same. But, we can keep the things that matter.” Iwaizumi nods, steady gaze on the playing team members, Matsukawa cheering lazily from the ground where he sat waiting to rotate on court. He feels Oikawa squeeze his hand, a moment of solidarity, understanding each other without words.

This team mattered. And both of them were willing to fight to keep it.

Chapter Text

Cleaning up the campsite ended up being much more of an ordeal than it should have been, and Mizoguchi couldn’t help but pinch the bridge of his nose with a pained, exasperated sigh, trying to ignore Irihata’s mirthful laugh behind him.

“Explain to me again how on earth you ripped the tent and broke three out of four poles?” He crosses his arms as he looks up at the two troublemakers, with completely opposite expressions.

Kunimi smirks, eyes alight with a chaotic glow, hands folded behind his back as he confidently stands there with nothing to say. On the other hand…

Sheepish and a deep shade of red, Yahaba hunches over, shoulders drawn up as high as possible as he looks at the ground, on the verge of stuttering out an apology, although Mizoguchi is pretty sure he’ll squeak from the pure humiliation.

“I’m not asking for a step by step account, I just want to know how.” Kunimi’s lips twitch upwards, morphing from a smirk to a full on devious grin. Yahaba whines and buries his face in his hands, parting them just enough to whisper through.

“We- We were… Umm… S-Swords…” Mizoguchi raises one unimpressed eyebrow.

“Swords?”

“We were using… Using the tent pole as… Swords.”

“... You were sword fighting. With the tent poles.” Yahaba nods, a tiny nod with a tinier squeak that prompts snickers and giggles from all around, the rest of the team still clearing up. Kunimi only grins wider, holding up a peace sign.

“I won.” Gritting his teeth and grinding them, Mizoguchi pinches the bridge of his nose so hard that it hurts. He tries to keep his voice low and calm, but rage seeps into it.

“You’re telling me you broke a tent, when we need it one more night, sword fighting?”

“Yeah, but I won.”

“Sorry, Coach!”

“... I would put you on kitchen clearing duty, but if you sword fight with poles, I’m not letting you near the knives. Alright, go and wait by the van. We’ll bring the stuff down, you load it on.” From behind them, Irihata pipes up.

“And no fighting~.”

“Senpai, don’t tempt them!” Walking away swiftly, Kunimi and Yahaba leave their squabbling coaches and hardworking teammates behind them, weaving their way through the pine trees and shrubbery to reach the pebbled shore of the lake.

“This is your fault, Kunimi.”

“You retaliated first.” Yahaba splutters, throwing his palms out flat, slightly to the sides as if to ask - in great offence - ‘what the fuck?!’.

“Because there was a metal pole coming down on my head, if you so rightly remember!?”

“Could’ve dodged.” Catching the upwards twitch of Kunimi’s lips, Yahaba sighs and gives up. In all honesty… It had been pretty fun. He nudges his shoulder against Kunimi’s, slightly knocking him.

“Next time, I’ll emerge victorious.”

“Not if I shatter your kneecaps first.”

“... WHAT?!” He gets no further answer as Kunimi clicks open the boot of the van, already looking disgusted by the sheer number of bags they have to pack into it. He does, however, stop looking so personally wronged when a cool breeze from inside the van hits him.

“... You found the air conditioning.” It’s not a question, and a sandaled foot bobs from where it’s visible above the back headrest. Kunimi restrains the urge to roll his eyes. Kindaichi never sits properly when he has a chance, usually with one or more limbs in the air.

“Yup! Coach showed me how!”

“Ahh… So that’s why you suddenly stopped insisting on helping…” Moments earlier, when the camp was first being packed away, Kindaichi had been told to go and enjoy the rest of their time here, since it was his birthday.

Unsurprisingly, he had protested like hell, awkwardly fluttering around like a mosquito, darting in to help as soon as no one was looking and sprinting away when he was caught, and whining that it wasn’t fair for everyone else to work and him not to!

Apparently the fact the team wanted him to relax had completely gone over his head.

“I still feel kinda bad, and I'll probably come back, but… Air conditioning…” He sighs in relief, sandal disappearing from view before he wriggles up and kneels on the seat, folding his arms on the headrest and resting his cheek on them. He’s wearing a huge, embarrassing sunhat and a pair of sunglasses he’d found on the van floor - probably Oikawa’s souvenir pair, if the pine trees on them are anything to go by.

“So why have you been exiled?” Yahaba groans shamefully, sliding a palm down his face.

“I- I’m not sure how to explain this…” One of Kindaichi’s eyebrows arches, and he glances at Kunimi, somehow looking both amused and unimpressed.

“You started a swordfight, didn’t you?” Stunned, Yahaba blinks whilst Kunimi guiltily looks away, masking a snicker with a pout.

“How did you know…?”

“He always does this. In Autumn and Winter, he attacks me. In summer, he drags all his nephews and nieces into it. They all team up against me! It’s brutal!”

“The oldest is six, Kindaichi.” Kunimi punctuates his point by dumping a heavy bag into the back of the van, and Kindaichi scoffs.

“They’re animals and you know it.”

“There’s only five of them.”

“Plus you! All six of you gang up on me!” Kunimi wobbles a smile, before he can’t fight it back anymore and it turns into a grin with the sweet summer memories - ones they’ll be recreating in late July or August. Yahaba chuckles warmly, starting to load up the heavier equipment bags.

“Sounds like fun. So both your families go?” The first years share a glance, and whilst Kunimi looks away with a troubled twist to his expression, Kindaichi’s smile softens and saddens, just a little.

“Mostly Kunimi’s family. My big sister comes down from Yokohama once or twice a year to join us, but other than that. I’m completely outnumbered. Especially in sword fights!” He deliberately tries to pull it away from talking about the lack of his own family on their camping trips, so Yahaba takes the hint - Do not mention the parents. Parent? Didn’t Oikawa say he only had one?

“I had no idea you even had a sister!”

“Mhm! She’s in her 30’s though.”

“... That’s a bigger age gap than me and my siblings!” Kindaichi shrugs, his hands catching the edges of the floppy sunhat and knocking it askew.

“Can’t say I was planned.” He grins, and Kunimi laughs quietly, letting Yahaba know it’s okay for him to laugh too.

“Honestly? I think only one of my sisters was!” This time, it’s Kunimi who perks up in interest, tilting his head with curiosity.

“One of?”

“Yep. There’s me, then the quads, then my baby brother Kato. The girls are coming up five and beyond mischievous. It doesn’t help that they’re identical either.”

“Identical?!” Laughing at the exaggerated surprised on Kindaichi’s face, Yahaba nods and pulls out his phone to scroll through and find a picture of himself with his four sisters and one brother.

“These four monsters are Amiri, Aya, Maiko, and Sachio. The adorable lil’ nugget in my arms is Kato. He’s shy and sweet and only just three!” Whilst Kunimi is caught up in the shock at seeing identical quadruplets, Kindaichi coos at the sweet family photo.

“They’re so cute! Kato looks exactly like you too!”

“His hair is slightly lighter. The girls… They take after my mother. Red hair, demonic souls. I love them, sure, but they’re- they’re chaos.” Before Kunimi can scoff and say it can’t be that bad, they’re interrupted by a shriek, Watari and Kyoutani speeding through the pine forest in a shopping trolley.

“Where did you get that?!” Watari breathes too heavily to respond, sitting in the cart part with a bag over his lap, clinging to the steel with a grip like death. Kyoutani simply shrugs.

“Found it on the outskirts of camp. We’ll drop it off with the main office when we’re leaving. S’too good to pass up for transporting this shit though.” Investigating the trolley closely, Yahaba spots a faded mark on the handlebars.

“Oh, this is from the shop we passed on the way to the shrine. D’you think it could have blown here in a typhoon?”

“Possibly. Who cares? … Oi, how comes your phone still has charge?” Changing the subject quickly and abruptly, though not intentionally, Kyoutani points at Yahaba’s flip phone. His has been dead for ages, and Matsukawa wailed in catastrophe when his phone ran out of battery halfway through a rhythm game critical level. Snootily, Yahaba flips his hair behind his ear.

“I might not have been prepared for camping in the slightest, but I always take a battery pack and charger lead wherever I go~.” Kyoutani snorts and rolls his eyes.

“You shouldn’t sound so proud of that.”

“And why shouldn't I sound so proud for being prepared?!”

“Because you’re obviously addicted to your phone if you carry a battery pack everywhere!”

“I’m not ashamed of that! Yes, I need my phone, but you need an attitude adjustment!” Both of them are bristling, leaning towards each other with curled lips and bared teeth, and Watari sighs before he smacks a hand over their faces in synchronization.

“No fighting! Not today!” Watari jolts his head to where the first years are watching and Kunimi rolls his hand like gesturing for them to carry on.

“No, no. Keep going. This is better than television.”

“Kunimi!!!”

“I haven’t had TV for a week, let me have this.” Kindaichi shakes his head, but there’s a small smile on his lips and his eyes shine.

“When we get back, I’ll watch as many shows as you want to force me to. So please stop provoking our senpai.” Kunimi humms in contemplation, though it’s clear from how he rocks on his heels and folds his hands behind his back in sheer delight at Kindaichi’s bargaining that he’s already made up his mind.

“Just for 24 hours, then~.”

“Deal!” They shake on it, so fervently that the sunhat slips from Kindaichi’s hair and onto the can floor. Judging it safe to let Yahaba and Kyoutani go, Watari removes his hands and struggles to remove himself from the shopping trolley, eventually flipping it onto its side and spilling the bags out.

“... Whoops.” All five of them stare at the bags in guilt, until Yahaba awkwardly clears his throat.

“Well, if there was anything fragile in there… At least there isn’t now?” Kyoutani snorts, hiding a laugh behind his crinkled nose and upturned lips.

“We’re gonna get our asses kicked so fucking hard.”

As it turns out, there is only one fragile item, a little snow globe-like trinket in Iwaizumi’s personal rucksack, but he’d had the sense to tuck it inside his rolled up sleeping bag. Watari and Kyoutani had still bowed deeply in apology, until Iwaizumi laughed and told them he’d been expecting worse.

Worse like Hanamaki, Matsukawa and Oikawa finding the shopping trolley, perhaps. Which was… Exactly what was happening behind him as he reassured the second years everything was okay.

“... Iwaizumi-senpai, please take approximately four very large steps to the left.” Confused, but trusting Yahaba with his gut, Iwaizumi follows the instructions. A sharp wind brushes past him, almost knocking him over as Hanamaki screams with glee, Oikawa screaming with the exact opposite of glee.

“Makki, Makki, find the brAKES-!!!!!” Hanamaki doesn’t manage to stop them in time, the trolley skidding into the pebble shore and tumbling over, sending Hanamaki over the handles and Oikawa spilling out of the trolley. They roll with it, lying unnervingly still on the lakeside. At least they’re not in the lake again.

Then they laugh. Absolutely hysterical in the way only teenagers doing something stupid can be, they cackles and guffaw, clutching at their stomachs and rolling around with tears in their eyes. Matsukawa comes jogging down the hill he pushed them down, stuffing his hands in his pockets as he slows.

“So… Not quite how we planned, but still good.” A crack of knuckles behind him sends a cold shiver down Matsukawa’s spine and he turns around to see Iwaizumi with his sleeves rolled right up his shoulder, furious.

“Do you have any idea how dangerous that was?!”

“... It was Hanamaki’s idea!” That said, he grabs Oikawa’s wrist, tugs him up, and they bolt into the van for safety, prompting a squawk from Kindaichi as they clamber to use him as a shield. Realising he’s alone, and Iwaizumi is approaching with a scowl, Hanamaki pales.

“Wait, wait… Wait! Don’t abandon me like this! Oikawa! Matsukawa!” Birds leave the area in a cluster at the resulting high-pitch scream, Yahaba, Watari and Kindaichi wincing, Kyoutani blinking in astonishment, and Kunimi watching on with boredom.

Peering just over the rim of the window in the van, still behind Kindaichi, Oikawa and Matsukawa have matching expressions that can only be described as ‘oh god’.

“Mattsun… We left him behind…”

“Mhm.”

“We left him to that...” Sinking a little lower and wiping away an imaginary tear, Matsukawa whispers;

“It’s not a true holiday until your best friend has had his ass beat by the Vice…” Oikawa nods seriously.

“The ritual is complete.” Kindaichi stares at the back of their heads with his face screwed up in confusion and bafflement.

“Why are you like this?”

“Fate… Destiny… Something like that.”

“No, seriously. Are you guys okay?” They don’t have time to answer, as Iwaizumi whips his head around to the van with a glare, Hanamaki lying on the floor at his feet, a mixture of laughing and groaning as he holds a hand over his new bruise. It’s nothing too bad because Iwaizumi would never seriously hurt them - Hanamaki just likes to be dramatic.

Oikawa starts comically sobbing on cue, a trait he taught himself to garner sympathy from family and fangirls alike, whilst Matsukawa vaults over the backseats and out the boot of the van, stumbling over bags and bolting up the hill. Iwaizumi gives chase.

“500¥ Iwaizumi catches him before they get back to the campsite.” Yahaba immediately shakes Kunimi’s hand.

“Deal! Double if Mizoguchi tells them off first!”

“Deal.” They go quiet, eagerly listening for any noise from the pine forest. The anticipation builds the longer they wait, until Kyoutani gets tired of waiting in the hot sun and moves into the van to share the air conditioning, kicking Oikawa out.

“Stop slacking off. Get back to work.”

“Wha-?” KyouKen-Chan, you’re supposed to be working too! The only one who isn’t is Kindaichi!” Like calling his name summons something from within him, Kindaichi sits up so fast that the sunglasses are flung off his face, a beaming smile on his face, brimming with excitement.

“I can help!”

No. It’s your birthday! Relax!” The grin instantly slips into a pouty frown, brows furrowed and shoulders slumped, like a thunderstorm brewing from absolutely nowhere on a sunny day. Crossing his arms with a huff, Kindaichi flops backwards across the van seats. Seconds later, like Kunimi expected, a leg swings over one of the headrests.

He can never sit properly.

“... So… Are we just going to keep waiting for Matsukawa to scream, or should we go check he’s still alive?” Yahaba’s question breaks through the tense grumbling coming from the van, and Hanamaki finally manages to compose himself enough to sit up, picking up the shopping trolley and leaning casual on it.

“Nah, if he didn’t run fast enough, it’s his own fault.”

“Regardless, we should get back to packing up if we want to make the hike before dark. Oh, and coach says you two are needed as well, despite breaking a tent.” The voice of reason, Watari grabs Yahaba and Kunimi’s wrists, dragging them back up the pleasant slope. He shoots a look to Kyoutani over his shoulder, although the wing spiker doesn’t look like he’s going to leave the air conditioning willingly.

He doesn’t have a choice when Hanamaki wrestles him out the van, cackling the whole way, and carries his arms whilst Oikawa carries his legs. Dumping him in the trolley, they take off before he can fight his way out of it.

They have death wishes and no fear, he swears.

Kindaichi shuffles around to peer out one of the windows of the van, sighing before he slides the door and slams the boot shut with finality. If he’s going to be forced to relax, then he’s going to hog all the air conditioning to himself. Cheekily, he leans over to the drivers door and presses down the little switch that locks all the doors.

“Let’s see how you like that.” He relocates the sunhat and sunglasses, placing them back on as he uses the markers from the floor - the ones that scattered after drawing on Oikawa’s face - to colour in a dot-to-dot drawing from a puzzle book. At some point, he slides off the seat and ends up on his belly on the floor.

It doesn’t bother him that he goes over the lines multiple times. It’s a holiday, not a boot camp.

“... Why is it locked?” The muffled voice from outside the boot has Kindaichi muffle a snicker, hearing Hanamaki fighting with the locked handle. There’s a distinctive grunt.

“Let me try.” Iwaizumi takes a turn, the entire boot of the van shaking as he tries to wrench it open. There’s a somewhat ominous pause.

“... Kindaichi.” He snorts at the deep, stern tone, burying his face in his arms to hide a giggle, the marker pen leaving a little squiggle on his drawing from the shake of his shoulders. The boot rattles again, Iwaizumi raising his voice and losing patience.

“Kindaichi!” He muffles another laugh, so effectively that it goes quiet for a second.

“Dude, is he even still in there?” Hanamaki attempts to peer in through the windows, but Kindaichi’s position on his stomach wedged between rows of seats is perfect for hiding, and he continues to colour away with a smirk on his lips.

“Of fucking course he is. There’s no other way it could be locked from the inside.”

“I dunno, Iwaizumi. What if Coach pressed the lock button or sat on his keys or something?”

“Irihata-sensei wouldn’t do that. If Oikawa had gotten the keys, possibly, but I know for sure this is locked from the inside.”

“How?”

“Because the little knob on the drivers door is pressed down!” Kindaichi can’t hold it any longer. He bursts out laughing, free and unrestrained. Iwaizumi and Hanamaki start shouting for him to unlock the doors, banging on the metal, and he just laughs harder, to the point of wheezing.

“That’s what you get for not letting me help~!”

Kindaichi!!!

“If I can’t help, I’ll just be a hindrance!”

“I thought Kunimi was supposed to be the evil one.” Rolling a window down right in front of Hanamaki and resting his arms on the side, his chin on them, Kindaichi sheepishly grins.

“He is, but I’m bored and Kunimi is a bad influence.”

“So you… Took inspiration from your best friend?”

“Yup.” Popping the ‘p’, Kindaichi finally reaches over, ready to pull the little switch back up, but he hovers teasingly.

“So can I come help out now? I’m gonna die if I’m left alone too long.” Something unreadable flickers in Hanamaki’s eyes and his lips twitch downwards for a fraction of a second before he grins back. It’s fake, but it’s also somehow reassuring.

“Sure! We’re almost done, but you could probably tell us clueless lot what we’ve missed!”

“Yes!!!” The shout of pure glee is followed by a click as all the doors are unlocked, and Kindaichi slides open the main section to start running up the slope, shouting back a thank you and practically dancing as he runs. Hanamaki smiles softly, before he turns to see Iwaizumi squinting at him, lips pressed in a pout and hands on hips.

“What?”

“The idea was to let him relax whilst we did all the work.” The smile twists into something half-pained.

“Yeah, but… He was so lonely, Iwaizumi.” Iwaizumi’s eyes widen a fraction and he frowns, the tension leaking out of his stance in guilt.

“I had no idea… I mean, he looked like he was enjoying himself.”

When we were here. When there were people with him! I think Kindaichi just wants to be around the team more. Maybe for attention, or affection, or security… Or something.”

“Hm. Well, there’s not much left to do.” Rolling his eyes, Hanamaki moves to open the boot and lift the heavy bag of kitchenware into it.

“Doesn’t matter. The sooner we get up that mountain, the better! I wanna see a shooting star!” Iwaizumi laughs at the childlike enthusiasm, knocking Hanamaki with his hip as he loads up the second bag.

“We’ll get there! Just… Promise me no more crap music for the journey, alright? Let’s have a peaceful drive.”

Chapter Text

Iwaizumi’s hopes for a peaceful drive were dashed the second Oikawa jumped in the front seat, his ‘Travelling Torture’ tracklist on his phone - the battery specifically saved for this moment, and plugged in the AUX cord.

Seven plays of What’s new Pussycat, followed by Cotton Eye Joe’s chorus on a ten minute loop, and a kazoo rendition of Never Gonna Give You Up were only defeated by a Thomas the Tank rendition of All Star.

“Where the fuck did you even get this shit?!”

“Internet.”

Why?”

“It wouldn’t be torture if you enjoyed it, Iwa-chan!” Iwaizumi’s scowl deepens, digging his fingers into his crossed arms hard enough to whiten the flesh and leave the curved marks of his nails imprinted in his skin.

Torture doesn’t seem a strong enough word.

“I- I think I’m gonna be sick…” His head whips around to Yahaba, hunched over with one hand over his mouth and the other over his stomach as Watari holds a bowl in front of him, and Kyoutani rubs his back.

“Didn’t you take your tablets?” Squeezing his eyes shut, Yahaba shakes his head guiltily. It was only a short drive - ten minutes to the dispatch site - so he didn’t think he’d need them. Slipping into Vice Captain mode, Iwaizumi calmly reaches over the front seat to turn down music, ignoring Oikawa’s protest, and taps Irihata’s shoulder so he takes the ear plugs out.

“Can we find somewhere to pull over? I think Yahaba needs a quick walk around, and we could all use a break from the music.” Irihata flickers his eyes to the rear-view mirror, catching a glimpse of the situation, and nods.

“I’ll look for a layby. Oikawa, keep the volume low for now. Loud music might worsen how Yahaba feels.” Selfishly, Oikawa isn’t very happy about that and sits back grumpily, kicking at the dashboard in front of him. Still, he doesn’t turn the music back up, so it proves his consideration overrides his selfishness.

Yahaba groans uncomfortably, the whine pitching up at the end. Matsukawa opens as many windows as he can, trying to get some fresh air in until they reach somewhere they can stop. Hanamaki moves to sit away from it, at the back of the van with the first years. If he heard, saw or smelt Yahaba being sick, it would definitely make him sick too.

As it is, he feels queasy.

“Senpai? Would you like some water?” Kindaichi offers out a bottle from the coolbox at his feet, distracting Hanamaki from Kunimi clambering past to help look after Yahaba. He’s probably the least affected on the team by gross stuff, able to deal with all sorts. Yahaba is good too, but considering he’s the one affected…

Kunimi crouches in the isle next to Yahaba’s seat, gesturing for Watari to move out the way, since he looks a little pale himself. He places a sturdy, supportive hand on Yahaba’s knee.

“I’m not going to make you talk, but I need to know how bad it is, so hold up fingers to gesture how bad something is, on a scale of 1 to five.” He waits for Yahaba to make eye contact and nod, quickly turning back to the bowl that Kyoutani now holds as he retches, holding back as much as possible.

“Nausea?” A five.

“Cramps?” A three.

“Acidity?” A shaky middle finger that Kunimi huffs in amusement at.

“That’s not on my scale, but sure. I’ll take that as the first thing we need to beat.” Yahaba peels his hand away from his mouth just enough to whimper through.

“Hurry.” Kunimi scoots onto his butt, leaning over to grab the snack bag, hand reaching under Matsukawa’s seat to grab it from the next row. He tugs it into his lap, rummages through, and picks out a packet of ginger biscuits.

“Kindaichi, pass me another bottle of water.”

“Oh, sure!” Kunimi catches bottle that is gently tossed towards his lap, before unscrewing the lid and passing it to Matsukawa to hold as he rips open the biscuit packet, not caring for the ‘open’ tab.

“Here. Nibble these, sip the water. Oh, and close your eyes to stop the nausea. Breathe slowly, and once you’re okay to move, swap seats with Oikawa.”

“O- Okay…” Closing his eyes, Yahaba breathes slow and deep, only pausing to sip water and nibble the biscuits. In the meantime, whilst they wait for his stomach to settle, Iwaizumi wrestles Oikawa into the backseat. It doesn’t take much convincing, but Oikawa likes to put up a fight anyways.

“There’s somewhere we can pull over here.” Mizoguchi points towards an upcoming little dirt patch off the road, and Irihata instantly switches on his indicator. Slowing down, he parks up in the dusty curve parallel to the road, and Iwaizumi flings the van door open before the engine is even off.

Kyoutani and Kunimi guide Yahaba out, towards the trees that line the road. He keeps his eyes squeezed shut, despite being outside the vehicle. Taking the same deep breaths as before, he leans against the trunk of a cedar, his sweaty hand still in Kunimi’s as he presses down on the pressure point.

“Feelin’ better?” At Kyoutani’s gruff question, Yahaba hums, the water bottle in his other hand brought up to his lips and sipping before he answers.

“A little. Not much, but I think the ginger is starting to have an effect. How’dyou know it would help, Kunimi?”

“Because I’m a genius.” Yahaba lazily peels open one eye, his eyebrow raised as he peers at Kunimi out the corner of his eye. It’s an unspoken ‘seriously? Really?’, and Kunimi hisses a laugh.

“Kindaichi gets motion sickness on roller coasters. A shame, because he loves them.”

“... That explains it.”

“Ah, plus I want to be a nurse one day. I researched a lot of sickness and stuff.” Yahaba’s eyes fly open, him and Kyoutani looking at him in wide-eyed shock, Kyoutani’s jaw gaping as he tries to find words.

You? The biggest shit we’ve ever known? A nurse?!” A glare of pure anger is thrown back at him, and he dials back his attitude quickly.

“Sorry. It’s… It’s surprising.”

“Because I have flaws?” Oh shit, he’s angry. Kyoutani never thought he’d be intimidated by anyone other than Oikawa, but he can feel that chill down his spine as Kunimi doesn’t break eye contact, a twisted scowl on his lips.

“No. Prob’ly cus I don’t know you as well as I thought. M’sorry for making assumptions and saying something rude.” Kyoutani bows in formal apology.

Silence.

“Holy shit.” The first to recover his words as he watches from the open van door, Oikawa plonks himself into the nearest seat in disbelief. He’s never heard Kyoutani apologise so sincerely before, not even to Iwaizumi.

Kunimi is scary. Kunimi is powerful Kunimi is… Extremely amused.

It starts off with a puff of laughter that inflates his cheeks, then a low giggle, and then he throws his head back and laughs, bringing forth the image of golden sun breaking through the leaves, crystal clear water in a river, and flower pots painted with acrylics.

It’s a beautiful laugh, and the only one who doesn’t seem stunned is Kindaichi, who smiles as he watches from the very last open window, elbows resting on the windowsill with his cheeks squished by the heel of his hands.

“I think I can forgive you for that~.” Then, his voice drops scarily low, completely devoid of emotion.

“But if you ever insult my ambitions again, I will pull your intestines out through your nostrils.” Kyoutani shudders. The worst thing is, he can tell Kunimi isn’t joking, just from the tone of his voice.

“Stop threatening our friends and get back in the van!” He rolls his eyes, but lets go of Yahaba’s wrist to happily trot into the van, ignoring the various stares of concern, shock, and fear.

Mizoguchi sighs stressfully, but says nothing as he pulls Yahaba’s travel sickness tablets out of the first aid kit, holding them out towards him. A little humiliated for having stopped the van just for him, Yahaba takes them without complaint.

“Are you feeling okay to continue?”

“Yes, Iwaizumi-senpai…” Iwaizumi simply grins, ruffling his hair as he pulls Yahaba up the step and back into the van. Kyoutani follows, but he’s silent in a different way than normal and keeps warily glancing towards the back seats.

Deeming it safe, Hanamaki goes back to his original seat wedged in-between Matsukawa and Iwaizumi, the only difference being Oikawa sitting behind him so Yahaba can take the front seat. It might take a minute for the tablets to kick in, so it’s best to do everything Kunimi suggested.

“Seatbelts on, please.” Following Irihata’s orders, there’s 8 distinctive clicks and one frustrated exclamation as Matsukawa fights with his seatbelt, which is refusing to click into place.

“... Mattsun.”

What?”

“You’re trying to put it in the wrong way round.”

“... Shut up! And Hanamaki, I dare you to say exactly what you’re thinking.” Hanamaki’s eyes are crinkled at the side and his lips pressed together in a wobbly smile as he suppresses the urge to shout-

“That’s what she said!” In the end, Hanamaki is weak. He grins proudly as the Coaches sigh, and the teenagers in the van laugh. Matsukawa rolls his eyes with a small shake of the head, having been able to read Hanamaki’s mind the second Oikawa pointed out the problem.

“Aren’t you proud of me, Sensei~?”

“I’m disappointed but in no way surprised.” The deadpan reply from Irihata only makes the boys laugh harder, although this time it’s at Hanamaki’s expense. That doesn’t phase him in the slightest.

That’s what she said.”

“Hanamaki, I’m going to have to ask you to stop. You're terrible.”

“... That’s what she said.” Iwaizumi fixes him with a look as disappointed as Irihata sounded, and Hanamaki sinks back into his seat a little calmer.

“I would have only done it once, but the temptation was just too much.”

“...” Matsukawa waggles his eyebrows, and Hanamaki loses it. He cackles and guffaws, so loudly that the music is drowned out. He didn’t even have to say the words for Hanamaki to understand.

“And you dare to call me and Iwa-chan the nightmares.”

“You are nightmares. We’re just chaotic.” Hearing another argument brewing, Mizoguchi sighs, planting his head atop the first aid box on his lap. He’s still tired after the squirrel incident last night, and embarrassed about falling asleep on Irihata’s shoulder.

No matter how comfortable they are with each other, Mizoguchi still didn’t want to show any ‘weakness’ around his senpai. He would be the full Coach once Irihata retired, after all! He had to prove himself!

He had to prove he was capable of handling a whole team of rowdy teenagers, and there was no better example than the boys behind him. Or, at least the third years. The second years rarely acted out, although Kyoutani needed to be reminded that he was no longer playing alone, and couldn’t just do what he wanted.

The first years… Were half a challenge. Or rather, half of the first years was a challenge. Kunimi was, as Kyoutani had stated earlier, the biggest shit he had ever met. He slacked in training, he purposely wound up the others, he intimidated the rest of the team, and he was known to provoke opponents by sticking his tongue out at them or making offensive gestures.

The only issue with Kindaichi was if they had to play against Kageyama, because that was when he got irrational and downright nasty. Mizoguchi couldn’t blame him. They’d had to watch all the recorded Kitagawa matches to consider applicants from that school, or draft in those that hadn’t applied.

The Coach had been furious at what he’d seen progressing through their third year. Yes, it had been the faults of all three of them, but it was more the fact that the Kitagawa Coach hadn’t intervened that filled him with rage.

No coach should sit back and just watch their team driving themselves apart, two of them being verbally abused by their power hungry third, and a misled setter being pushed away from the team that should trust him.

“Sadayuki?” He sighs and bottles up the rage at Irihata’s curious, cautious mutter of his name. He doesn’t want to overstep his boundaries, even if both of them are adults, and something is clearly bothering Mizoguchi.

“Thoughts of the past, Sensei.”

“Bad ones, from the tension in your shoulders.”

“Mhm. But I’d rather not talk about it.”

“That’s okay, but I’m here if you need to.” A small smile tugs at Mizoguchi’s lips before he sits up straight, focusing on the view out the windscreen. Very quickly, he realises they’re just pulling up to the destination.

The car park has just enough room for seven vehicles, and multi coloured flags poke out above each of the wooden stands that are linked together with rope. A wooden cabin, looking like a lodge, has large open barn doors, and Mizoguchi can see all matters of climbing equipment inside.

Hopefully, those are for the harder trails all the way to the summit, not the Stargazing route they’re taking.

“Boys! Quit squabbling and get out!” Releasing the child lock, Irihata allows for the team to scramble out, stumbling over each other as they race to be the first out the van. Whilst Kyoutani, Hanamaki, and Iwaizumi duke it out for deciding who was out first and challenge each other to racing to stretch their legs, Oikawa moves round to the boot.

“Kunimi-chan, Yahaba-chan, did you remember to put our rucksacks on the very top?”

“Yeah. The equipment bags we’re going to need should be just under them too.”

“Nice job~.” Yahaba accepts the praise with a wide grin, and Kunimi-...

“Nooooooo…! Kindaichi, noooo… Don’t drag me out there... It’s too hooooooot…! Don't make me exercise!” Kunimi clings desperately to a seat, arms wrapped around the headrest and refusing to let go, even as Kindaichi tugs the back of his shirt, or tries to wrench him away.

“Come on! It’s just a hike!”

“You take a hike, I’m staying with the air conditioning.”

“Kunimi! It’s just a walk!”

“Up a mountain.

“You’ve barely moved this week. You’ll be fine.”

“I ran a race up stairs. That’s enough for a month.” Kindaichi sighs in frustration, before he digs two fingers into each side of Kunimi’s ribs, making him squeal and curl up on reflex, letting go of the seat.

Without a second to lose, Kindaichi throws Kunimi over his shoulder and carries him out the van. It’s like a fireman's carry, except Kunimi hangs loose over his back and makes a continuous whining sound. Mizoguchi splutters at the display.

“Kindaichi, put Kunimi down!”

“With all due respect, Coach, as soon as his feet touch the ground, he will get back on that van, lock it, and then none of us will be able to reach him.” Eye twitching as he weighs out the options, Mizoguchi misses a vital event happening behind him.

Watari, Oikawa, and Hanamaki have already started up the hiking trail, chatting amiably amongst themselves. There was no one to stop them. Iwaizumi and Kyoutani had followed Irihata into the building to sign in and gear up. Yahaba was laying down in the boot until he stopped feeling so sick.

“Umm… Coach…?”

“Don’t interrupt me, I’m trying to come up with a solution!”

“But-.”

“Kindaichi, I’m thinking. You can’t carry Kunimi the whole way!”

“Actually I can, but that’s besides the point. Look!” He points with his free hand, and Mizoguchi whips his head around, catching a glimpse of the three intrepid explorers before they disappear behind a hedge.

“Those little-! HEY! Oikawa! Hanamaki! Watari! Get back here, now!” There’s a moment of stillness before Watari backpedals into sight, stopping under the bamboo arch that marks the entrance to the hike.

“Aren’t we going yet?”

“No! We’re waiting for the group!” Watari glances around and suddenly seems to realise nobody else is ready, or following behind them.

“... Ohhhh.” He grins sheepishly, then bolts after Oikawa and Hanamaki to drag them back, the two much too busy fighting over which direction to go to have heard Mizoguchi first call them back. When they reappear, Mizoguchi points sternly to the ground in front of him, and they slink over guiltily to sit down and wait.

They’re used to it from practice, being corralled around the Coaches bench whenever they start acting up.

“Looks like we’re ready to go.” At Irihata’s calm voice, the team starts to rally together, excitement building as they pull their backpacks on.

“We’re going!! We’re gonna stargaze!” Hanamaki brims with excitement, bouncing from foot to foot as Irihata, Iwaizumi, and Kyoutani pass out cold, refreshing drinks they’ve just brought - and a map each, just in case.

It wouldn’t be surprising if somebody got lost.

“Alright, so first things first, we need to choose which trail we take. There’s the green route, which is the quickest and easiest, the yellow route, which has a shuttle bus up the steepest slope or the amber route which has-”

Hot springs!!!” Irihata sighs with a hint of amusement as Watari finishes off his sentence for him, jabbing his finger excitedly at the spot on the map.

“Oh man, we haveto go there.”

“That’ll be great for my skin and our sore feet!”

“Hey, hey, Makki, maybe it’ll help your sunburn too!”

Stop making fun of my sunburn! I’m a beautiful strawberry giraffe!”

“Uh-huh, yeah, ‘beautiful’, sure. We’ll go with that.”

“You too, Iwaizumi?!” The second and first years laugh in varying degrees as the third years descend into chaos, insulting and wrestling each other playfully, to the point where Iwaizumi flips Oikawa over his shoulder so he’s on his back in the dust.

Not that Oikawa would stop after that, grabbing Iwaizumi’s ankles and pulling him down before launching himself towards Matsukawa.

Irihata stares off into the distance with a deadpan expression, like he’s astral projecting himself away from this situation. Mizoguchi tries to intervene, but there’s no way he can get close enough to separate them without being dragged into it.

“Boys! Stop this right now!”

“Umm… Aobajousai group…?” A delicate but somewhat confused and obviously unsure voice breaks through the commotion. The third years freeze, letting the dust settle as they look up from their scramble on the ground.

A tour guide stares back at them, her face switching between confused and amused like she can’t decide which one to feel.

“I apologise for these hooligans. Fortunately, the rest of them are much better behaved.”

“Ha. Suck it, Senpai.”

“Except that one.” Kunimi’s smug grin deflates at the glare Mizoguchi shoots him, trying to keep the kids under control as Irihata engages the tour guide in talk of the stargazer event, and the trail they’ve chose.

Rolling his eyes, Kindaichi simply turns around so Kunimi is directed away from the group. Whatever expression he makes isn’t going to affect the others if they can’t see him, hung limply over Kindaichi’s shoulder like a potato sack.

Watari and Yahaba are quite peacefully playing Jankenpon, Kyoutani scoring for them, even if it is with a scowl. Looking sheepish, Iwaizumi slinks over to join them, fiddling with the straps of his bag where Hanamaki had pulled them loose.

Oikawa is currently standing next to Irihata, introducing himself and sincerely apologising for their unacceptable behaviour, having been caught up in the excitement. He’s turning the charm up so high, the dial could explode, and Matsukawa full on grimaces at the sweet ooze of Oikawa’s flattering charisma.

Hanamaki snickers at Matsukawa’s expression, nudging him with his shoulder and pointing towards the boot of the van instead. Whilst they all have their individual backpacks filled with essentials, they still need the three tents.

“C’mon, let’s load up instead of listening to this saccharine shit.”

“Oooh, seduce me with your big words, Hanamaki.”

“... Hey, I’m only Class 3. I’m not a nerd. Make fun of Oikawa, Watari and Kunimi if you wanna bully the nerds.” Matsukawa laughs as he picks up one of the tent bags, slinging it across his torso.

“I think we already make enough fun of Oikawa. And Kunimi would make our lives living hell. Watari is… Too damn pure.”

“Good point. Iwaizumi, Yahaba, and Kindaichi are all in Class 5 if you wanna take it down a level.”

“Okay, first off, Iwaizumi would rip my lips from my face if I dare call him a nerd. Secondly, Yahaba gossips with all the parents within a 100 mile radius, so if I pissed him off, I would be the town reject. Lastly, who the fuck would even dare bully Kindaichi?!”

“... You’re goddamn right. We must protect him.” Matsukawa holds up a clenched fist to commit to his words, but Hanamaki shakes his head, pushing the hand down.

“That’s noble, but totally not what I meant. Look.” Hanamaki points towards Kindaichi is effortlessly carrying Kunimi around as if he weighed nothing more than a coffee bean. He might be lanky, but it’s clear to see the strain of his muscles in his biceps.

“... He strong.”

Very strong. I don’t think he even realises it? He could probably bench press me, or crush my head with those calves.” Humming in contemplation, Matsukawa pinches Hanamaki’s upper arm, then nods sagely.

“Oh yeah. He could take you out.”

“Exactly!” Hanamaki waves both arms towards Kindaichi as if trying to gesture something completely wild.

“That’s why I don’t get the whole- the lankiness thing! How can he lift Kunimi like a feather and still look like a string bean?!”

“Hey, don’t mention that. You know he’s sensitive ‘bout his appearance.” Shrinking guilt, Hanamaki feins zipping his lips, winking at his best friend.

“No worries, I’m not gonna say a damn thing to ruin his birthday~.” Slowly, whilst Hanamaki is still grinning, Matsukawa’s eyes widen.

“... Do we-... Do we have the presents?”

“Umm. I think. I think they’re here. Somewhere. Hidden. Oh shit, where did they get hidden?!” They share a glance of panic before rummaging recklessly through the packed bags in the boot, causing chaos in their wake.

Kunimi and Yahaba had packed it nicely, but now? Now it looked like most things did when the team were through with it.

Frantically whispering between themselves as they search for any indication of the secret presents, Hanamaki starts to break into a cold sweat whilst Matsukawa draws blood from biting down on his lip too hard. They couldn’t have possibly forgotten the presents! Could they?

“... What’re you doing?” They jump in surprise at the voice behind them, Matsukawa flailing and Hanamaki squeaking. But spinning around reveals only Kyoutani, and not a curious Kindaichi or someone who would undoubtedly lecture them for losing something so precious.

“Kyoutani! We can’t find the damn surprise!”

“The surprise?”

“Yeah, the presents.” Kyoutani’s eyes widen and he draws back a little like he’s leaning away from something. He double takes over at Kindaichi and wordlessly points towards the ransacked boot in what can only be described as horror.

“You lost them?” Matsukawa nods solemnly. Hanamaki waves his hands in denial, laughing quietly but nervously, bordering on hysteria.

“L-Let’s not get ahead of ourselves! It’s in here somewhere, we just haven’t found it right! Mhm, yeah, that’s it.”

“Shut up and keep looking.” Punctuating his sentence by grabbing a bag and dumping it on the ground next to him, Kyoutani joins them in their frantic search. It’s strange to think that a couple of months ago, he wouldn’t have cared.

Sure, if someone lost something, he would help them find it, (his father raised him to do so), but he’d never care. Even just one month ago, he wouldn’t have cared this much. In his time with Aobajousai, he’s made not only friends, but he’s found a family.

Kindaichi is like a little brother to him, and he’ll be damned if the kid doesn’t get his presents.
(Can he really call Kindaichi a kid anymore? They are the same age now…)

“Found them!”

“Really?! Thank fuck!” Matsukawa victoriously holds up what looks like a giant stack of bento boxes wrapped in a forest green cloth. They’d hidden all the presents in a large box, then wrapped it this way to avoid suspicion. Truthfully, they all have individual bento boxes in their backpacks, but Kindaichi didn’t know that.

Irihata had a lunch for him in his backpack.

“Boys! Stop fooling around, we’re ready!” Mizoguchi startles them, calling from around the van corner, one hand on the boot ready to slam it shut once the students are out of harm’s way. He loses the irritation in his voice as he spots what they were doing, when he presumed they’d just been dilly-dallying.

“Keep that safe, alright?”

“Yes, Coach!” Hanamaki salutes playfully with his eyes squeezed shut as he grins brightly. Matsukawa simply heaves the remarkably heavy box up onto his shoulder. Kyoutani sighs in relief, before letting out a grunt.

“So, we off?” Nodding, Mizoguchi jerks a thumb towards where the rest of the team are rallied. Their tour guide talks with Irihata about the rules of the area, since they only paid for the stargazing experience, not the guided mountain hike.

“In this season, you’ll need to watch out for wild boar. They’re safe at a distance, but they can be aggressive within a certain range. You’ll also see hornets, but they won’t bother you unless you bother them first.”

“What about bears?” Yahaba’s voice quivers at his nervous question, but the tour guide shakes her head, smiling.

“Not in this area. If you do spot one, please report it to the Wildlife cabin on the shuttle bus plateau, so we can arrange for it to be relocated. If you’d like to see bears, the nature reserve just 30 miles south has a large population!”

“No thank you.” The blurted response, paired with Yahaba’s ashen face, only serves to rouse chuckles from his friends. The tour guide giggle in good spirit, and gestures towards the large bamboo arch.

“Well, once you’re ready, step through there and follow the signs marked with the amber half-moon. You also have your maps, your radio in case of emergency, and there are rest stops along the way. Please hike responsibly and remember to take your litter home with you!”

“Okay!” The chorus back from the team drowns out Kunimi’s unenthusiastic gargled groan at the word hike. He really hates anything outside volleyball that involves prolonged exercise.

At least he isn’t being hauled over Kindaichi’s shoulder anymore, but his elbow is sweaty from where Kindaichi has an arm looped around his to keep him in place. Hands clap down on his shoulders from behind.

“Cheer up, Kunimi-chan! It’ll be worth it in the end, and you might even enjoy yourself!” The disgusted look Oikawa is thrown has Iwaizumi puff his cheeks out as he tries to hide a laugh.

“Iwa-chan, don’t laugh at this disrespect!” Iwaizumi laughs anyways. Shaking his head fondly, Irihata waves a hand towards the bamboo arch.

“Alright then, kids, let’s get going!”

Yeah!!!” Watari leaps in excitement, and Hanamaki bolts towards the arch with a skip in his step, Oikawa right on his heels. However excited they may be, though, they still stop and wait just below the arch, linking hands and holding out their free ones for the others to take.

Laughing as they form a line, they don’t notice Irihata snapping photos from behind for the graduation album. Oikawa takes a deep breath and puffs out his chest, putting on his captain voice.

“We can do this! We’re the ultimate team, and we’re gonna hike this mountain easily! We’re gonna make it to the hot springs in record time! I believe in all of you!!!” His enthusiastic shout rallies the troops - even Kunimi - and they cheer in unison.

The first step onto the mountain soil marks the beginning of a new experience, one they’ll enjoy together, as friends and family that’ll last for years to come.

The camera clicks, and the moment is captured.

Chapter Text

“Something really stinks…”

“That’s sulphur! It means we’re really close to the hot springs!” Yahaba’s nose scrunches up, trying to block the offensive, rotten egg smell from entering his nostrils. It’s not his fault that his sense of smell is pretty sensitive.

Oikawa speeds up into a little jog, hurrying to peer around a large boulder with a sprinkling of dewdrops that shine and radiate rainbows in the afternoon sun. The glittering of the condensation contrasts and complements the steam rising from beyond it, the heat of the natural hot springs evaporating.

“I see them! They’re huge!” His enthusiasm paired with the little hop of excitement he does, waving his arms from up ahead, encourages those with energy left to burst forwards too.

Exhausted, Yahaba and Matsukawa hang back. They’re not alone. Kunimi still whines and whinges about the labour intensive exercise, having to hike. Kindaichi fondly rolls his eyes and keep his arm looped around Kunimi’s elbow to prevent him escaping.

Not that there’s anywhere he could go. The shuttle station is on the other trail, almost halfway around the mountain, and the base is a good two hour trek from this point. It’s quicker to get to the plateau where they’ll be camping tonight.

“Woah!!! Guys, hurry up, you have to see this!” Iwaizumi’s eyes sparkle with joy, looking a brighter green than before in the golden beams of sunlight, the water vapour in the air softening it to a glow. It’s almost picture perfect, and Irihata seems to think so too as he takes a snap.

Oikawa was generally very excitable and showed it every single time, at the slightest thing. Iwaizumi, however, only demanded their attention with excitement in two situations. One; It was related to Godzilla. Or Two; it was something incredibly spectacular. And it wasn't very likely to be Godzilla all the way out here.

But then, who knows?

That in mind, Hanamaki, Watari, and Kyoutani hurry themselves to the boulder.

“Holy shit!”

“The view is freaking crazy!”

“Yo! Hurry up slowpokes! Iwaizumi’s not joking!” Their reactions is exactly what prompts Matsukawa to huff in amusement, putting his hands on Yahaba’s shoulders and giving him a friendly push to get them both there quicker. For as much as Yahaba stifles a groan, he does speed up.

Kunimi has a face of plain disgust at the thought of unnecessarily walking faster, but he can almost feel Kindaichi looking at him expectantly, as if he were a puppy with a tail wagging in anticipation of seeing their favourite toy.

“Urgh, fine.” The brightness of Kindaichi’s smile radiates and Kunimi tries to hide a small smile of his own as he picks up to a (reluctant) jog, towards the steam and humidity. Oikawa has long since raced towards the hot springs. Iwaizumi is obviously hot on his tail, but Watari is close behind too - …

… - and already yanking his shirt off. Irihata splutters, moving quickly to shove the camera back in its bag and follow after them at a jog.

“Watari, put you shirt back on until we get there!” Honestly, it’s like trying to look after toddlers. Before Irihata can catch up to Watari, who has skidded to a halt and patiently waits for his shirt to be handed back to him, Oikawa comes screeching towards them from the direction of the hot springs.

“Abort! Abort!! There are so many gnats! Mosquitoes! Horseflies! So many!” Hanamaki pales as he slows his jog to stop besides Watari and Irihata, letting Oikawa bolt past in a hasty retreat away from the water.

“I’m already burnt, I don’t need bug bites too.” Watari quickly puts his shirt back on, glancing wistfully at the steam rising from the multiple, large pools, the evening sun painting the steam golden and water a grey-blue with ripples of wheat shades.

It would have been amazing to relax, but it’s not worth the risk of bug bites swelling up and itching for days and days. With a disappointed sigh, he turns around and trudges back to the group, Hanamaki pouting behind him with a comforting hand on Watari’s shoulder.

Irihata shakes his head with a quiet huff of laughter at the dramatics. It’s not like they can’t come again tomorrow, but these are teenagers - children - who live in the here and now. They probably haven’t realised they’ll be hiking this exact trail back in the late morning.

Mizoguchi attempts to rally the children, but Kyoutani and Yahaba are squabbling over something again, lunging at each other and darting away as if in an intricate dance where they’re only flaunting their abilities, not wanting to hurt each other.

Iwaizumi has Matsukawa in a headlock, messing up his already mussy hair and teasing him for running out of stamina so quickly whilst Matsukawa tries to reach that very ticklish spot on Iwaizumi’s left side.

Oikawa doesn’t stop running as he approaches and instead tackles them both. Hanamaki grins in glee and follows his example.

Not even the first years are behaving, Kunimi trying to get on Kindaichi’s back to be carried and Kindaichi walking around calmly, dragging his best friend like a slug. It becomes evident that where the tips of Kunimi’s shoes are towing up the ground, Kindaichi is drawing a star.

Watari is the only good one left.

“Oi! Stop being brats and start moving! Do you want the sun to set before the tents are up, or would you actually like somewhere to sleep tonight?” Herding them like cats - because sheep would be too easy - Mizoguchi manages to get them all in one big group rather than their divided sections of chaos.

“Alright, all together now, forwaaaards march!” Shoving at each other in good humour, the team starts on their journey once more, trekking up the steep mountain path with Mizoguchi leading them.

Irihata takes up the back, making sure nobody trails off or gets left behind. That shouldn’t seem like a major concern, but-

“Hanamaki, stop trying to go into the woods! Stick to the path!”

“But off the beaten trail is where you find all the cool stuff! Or like, in anime, they always have a bonding scene next to a mountain river where they fish!”

“Weeb!”

“Shut up, Matsukawa!” Hanamaki kicks a pebble towards him, but Matsukawa only kicks it back with a snicker. Irihata sighs.

“Behave yourselves, boys. And, Hanamaki, whilst that may be true and indeed possible, we’re going to stick to the path. Understood?”

“Yes, Coach…” Sulking back into the group, Hanamaki pouts heavily. His eyes keep drifting to the forest. It’s not fenced off, and there are plenty of marked paths from where people have walked before… It’s safe, he can assume that!

Surely a peek won’t hurt…

“Hey, Kunimi.” He slows down, not enough to raise suspicion, but enough to catch Kunimi’s attention with a short, sharp whisper. Kunimi glances at him, looks around to check no one else is listening in, and leans slightly towards him. Thankfully Kindaichi and Yahaba talk loud enough to stop their conversation being overheard.

“Make it snappy.”

“If I asked for a favour-”

“No.”

“- How much would it cost?” Kunimi lifts his head up so fast that it could cause whiplash. His pupils are dilated and starved, and he looks animalistic behind his calm façade. Money is a language he understands and adores.

“You have my attention. Depends on the favour.” A lazy grin worms its way onto Hanamaki’s face.

I want to go exploring. Coach wants me to stay here. You dig?”

“You want me to kill Coach.”

“Ye- Wait, no! Why does everything go straight to murder with you?!” Kunimi shrugs, a hint of a teasing smirk quirking the corners of his lips.

“You want me to distract Irihata-sensei.” With a little nod, Hanamaki waits patiently for Kunimi to consider, apparently counting things off on his fingers before he turns to Hanamaki with a delighted expression.

“1,500¥.”

“... What??? For a simple distraction?”

“Also includes risk assessment, major injury insurance, and compensation for if I get caught.” Hanamaki winces. Kunimi holds out a flat palm expectantly.

“Are you sure you wanna be a nurse and not a conman or corrupt businessman?”

“Tempting, but no.” With a heaving sigh, Hanamaki twists his rucksack around to his front, rifles through for his wallet, and takes out three 500¥ coins. He holds onto them for a moment more, thumb pressing hard enough into the silver coins that the paulownia on the front imprints into his skin. Hesitantly, he hands the coins over.

Kunimi grins as he pockets them, knowing full well that he’s just completely ripped Hanamaki off. Maybe if Hanamaki had tried to haggle, he would have lowered the price, but it’s not his fault Hanamaki fell for his scam.

Craftily, he misses a step so he ends up stepping on a shoelace, ultimately untying it as he moves. And then, he falls. Dramatically, and on purpose. But it doesn’t end there, considering Kindaichi still has an arm looped around his, and Kunimi’s weight drags him down too.

The bigger they are, the harder the fall.

“Gyah!” Flailing, Kindaichi grabs onto the closest thing he can, which just so happens to be Yahaba, who only has time to squeak out a small sound of surprise before he hits the floor with the others, stirring up a dust cloud.

“Oh my!” Irihata quickly moves to help them up, and Kunimi sends a bland thumbs up towards Hanamaki. With a grateful, bright grin, Hanamaki backs away step by step and then frolics into the forest, leaving the trail behind him.

“I’m gonna find the coolest stuff out here!” Excited, Hanamaki strays further and further, winding around trees, collecting fiddlehead ferns, and jumping across a small ditch and poking at the surface of a small rock pool to make the fish come to the surface.

“-maki-... -where-...?” He can hear faint but broken calls through the forest, and it’s only as he stands up that he realises how disorientating it is to be out here alone, surrounded by nothing but trees.

“... Well, shit.” The sun is going down, and every second he falters, trying to deduce which direction to go in and where everyone’s voices are coming from, it’s getting darker.Shadows are getting longer, the comforting sounds of summer days are fading, and Hanamaki comes to the startling realisation that he is lost.

So, so lost.

Swallowing down a little lump in his throat and trying to avoid that staticy panic building in the back of his mind, Hanamaki slings his rucksack on the ground and rummages through it. Sometimes, Irihata can be a little too worried, or a little overbearing.

Today, having given them all individual maps, he’s a hero in Hanamaki’s opinion.

“Thank fuck. A’right, let’s take a look… I’m near a rock pool… I can hear the river behind me… And I’m pretty sure I saw a huge ass apple tree between here and the river. Hmmm….” Scanning the map, he looks for somewhere similar in the forested section just off the trail.

“Aha!” He jabs his finger into the map at the location on it, a cartoonish rock pool with a little smiling crab next to it. The apple tree isn’t too far on the map, and the curve of the river is easy to follow. Twisting the map around so the river would be behind him, Hanamaki walks off in what he’s sure is the right direction.

His map reading skills seem to be adequate enough, since the familiar voices of his team are getting louder, and he can finally hear what they’re saying.

“Hanamaki!! When I find you, I’m going to rip your ribs from your spine one by one-!” He pales, slowing to a halt at Iwaizumi’s furious roar. It’s understandable, since the last time one of them got lost on a marathon test around town, they’d limped back with a sprained ankle, but…

“I’ll use your appendix as a football!” The mental imagery alone has Hanamaki blanche. Still, the longer he doesn’t answer back, the more worried they’ll be.

“I’m coming, I’m coming!” There’s an ominous beat of silence before he hears someone storming through the undergrowth, shoving bushes and hedges out the way. Someone is coming for him.

Hanamaki bolts.

“Not so fast, you little shit!” A hand grabs the back of his shirt collar and Hanamaki makes a ‘Gwerk!’ sound as his upper body stops before his lower, somewhat choking him whilst stopping him in his tracks and throwing him off balance. His collar is immediately released and he drops to the floor, rubbing at his sore neck.

“Geez, let a man breathe, will ya?” He regrets speaking so informally when he glances upwards to see a very angry Coach leaving over him. Mizoguchi is fuming.

“How many times were you told not to leave the path?” His voice is quiet and deep, a sure sign of danger. Hanamaki’s eye twitches at the mortal danger he’s in.

“T- Twelve?”

“Wonderful. You can count. So why the fuck can’t you comprehend a simple sentence?! Stay on the trail! Stay as a group! Do not go into the forest! Why can’t you do that, Hanamaki?!”

“Because I’m… Stupid?” Mizoguchi sighs, the angry hands on his hips dropping to his sides, one sliding into his trouser pocket, and the other landing on Hanamaki’s hair almost gently.

“That’s not what I want to hear. And not what you should be thinking. Listen, we set these rules for a reason. It’s in your best interest - and safety - to follow them. Can you do that?” A little stunned by the sudden change, Hanamaki blinks. Then nods. He must have really worried Mizoguchi if he isn’t being shouted at.

“Good. Now get back to the group!” The hand in his hair swats the back of his head not unlike Iwaizumi would, so it doesn’t hurt, but it’s enough to make a point. Rubbing the back of his head and watching Mizoguchi’s back as he walks back to the trail, Hanamaki smiles a little.

Their Coaches really do love them. Like extra parents, or weird uncles.

The split second Hanamaki steps clear of the bushes, he’s ambushed.

“Makki, you’re okay!!! We were so worried! One second you were there, and then you weren’t and-!!!”

“Hey, I’m okay, Oikawa! Stop hugging me!” Bright brown eyes blink up at him, and he can see the faint lines of tension around Oikawa’s eyes. He must have been extremely stressed and worried.

“You’re okay?”

“I’m okay.”

“Oh, good. Then I can do this.” A heavy punch to the stomach winds Hanamaki, leaving him hunched over and coughing as Oikawa twists around and strolls off, back to the front of the group. Iwaizumi nudges his best friends shoulder.

“You didn’t have to do it that hard, y’know.”

“Vengeance for the few years of my life his little stunt cost me.” Iwaizumi snorts, covering up a little laugh as he bumps his elbow against Oikawa’s ribs. It’s a gentle, friendly bump, one of Iwaizumi’s many ways of showing affection. He’s incredibly physically affectionate.

“It wasn’t that bad, Oikawa~.”

“He could have gone over the edge! He could have slipped down a mountain! Do you know how high up we are?!” Ignoring how frazzled Oikawa seems to be, Iwaizumi drifts to the edge of the path, leaning slightly over the rope barrier to peer down the rocky cliffs, making a sound of awe that goes unheard under Oikawa’s squawk.

“We are pretty high.”

“Iwa-chan, get back from there, immediately!”

“Relax, m’not gonna fall.”

“You don’t know that!” Looking Oikawa dead in the eyes, Iwaizumi swings one leg over the rope partition, taking great delight in how Oikawa opens and closes his mouth like a goldfish, too stunned for words.

“Iwaizumi, get back here please.” Ah. Caught out. Guiltily, he moves back to the path, averting his gaze from Irihata. The old Coach sighs, shaking his head in disappointment. Iwaizumi flushes red, crimson burning the top of his ears and back of his neck as Matsukawa laughs at him.

He’s allowed to. He hasn’t tried to explore the forests, or test Oikawa and the Coaches patience by swinging a leg over the rope partition. Irihata has photographic evidence of that.

Rallying them together, somehow, despite the frequent debates that break out and how much the boys mess around like children their age should, Mizoguchi and Irihata manage to get them safely to the plateau. It’s dark now, but not too dark to set up tents by the light of the lanterns.

“Alright, Hooligans, find a spot to pitch and get on with it.” The split second Mizoguchi waves the team away like he’s swatting flies, the third years grab the tent bags and bolt off towards the largest unclaimed area. Watari jogs after them, Kyoutani on his heels after being tugged along.

There’s a couple other tents around, but no more than six other people on this plateau. Plus, the tents seem to be only set up to be returned to. It’s likely they belong to campers doing the summit trek, and won’t be occupied tonight.

“What are you doing then, Coach, Sensei?” Yahaba watches curiously as the two adults start rummaging in another bag of equipment, and the coolbag they brought up with them. Irihata huffs in amusement as Mizoguchi grins, holding up a bag of powder.

We have a cake to bake~. Kindaichi, what flavour did you want?”

“M-Me?” Kunimi snorts and nudges his best friend by bumping the shoulders together with a heft bit of weight behind it.

“Do you see anyone else with a birthday around here?”

“Sh- Shut up!” Ah, he’s flustered. Yahaba can’t help laughing at the blush that quickly threatens to take over Kindaichi’s entire face, his cheeks puffed out and gaze averted and lips set in a pout. Kunimi snickers, teasing Kindaichi further by poking one of red cheeks and prompting a hand to smack him away, half-hearted glare directed at him.

“Go bother our senpai, you’re good at that.”

“Kaaaaaay.” Kunimi slinks off to do exactly that, calculating how he can possibly avoid doing any work whilst having maximum social contact. Kindaichi crouches down to peer at the bags of powdered cake mix, Yahaba leaning over his shoulder and rocking on his heels curiously.

“Well, the coffee and walnut is out immediately. Not even my epi-pen would save me from that. Uhhh… I have no idea what flavour ‘pink’ is… And matcha seems too formal. Matsukawa-senpai doesn’t like chocolate, so that would be unfair, but I really can’t decide between vanilla and strawberry!”

“... You’re rambling.”

“Oh, sorry. Yahaba-Senpai, please help me pick!” An eyebrow slowly raises in sarcastic disbelief.

“You do realise that for my and Matsukawa’s shared birthday, I knew he didn’t like chocolate and still chose it, right?” There’s a long beat of silence as Kindaichi stares at him flatly, unimpressed before taking a quick sharp breath and shouting over Yahaba’s shoulder.

“Hands up for vanilla, hands down for strawberry!” He waits for them to catch on, and with glances shared around the campsite, two tents half erected and the third a messy slump, before counting the raised and lowered hands.

There’s Iwaizumi, Kyoutani, Watari and Kunimi voting for vanilla…

And Oikawa, Matsukawa, Hanamaki, and Yahaba voting for strawberry.

“... That doesn’t help at all!” With a dramatic cry of false anguish, Kindaichi puffs out one cheek in annoyance, eyebrows furrowed as he stares at the two bags of powdered cake mix. Before Mizoguchi can hurry him up, or Irihata make a kind suggestion, his eyes light up.

“What if we did half of each?! Like, top sponge strawberry, bottom sponge vanilla? That’s be cool, right!?” A gasp of sheer delight rips out of him as he sits up a little straighter, holding both bags.

“Or a marble effect!!! That’d be so cool! So Cool!” Mizoguchi frowns, not sure that’ll be easy to accomplish with their simple camping gear, but it is Kindaichi’s birthday, and he seems really excited about the idea…

“That’s a wonderful negotiation~.” Irihata agrees in a heartbeat, determined to give Kindaichi the birthday cake he wants and deserves. Maybe he’s gone soft after so many years coaching, or maybe it’s just this set of kids that’s wormed his way into his heart, but Irihata can’t deny that he feels a protective affection over them.

Must be his age, he thinks.

With a call for someone with camping experience from Watari, who appears to be fighting a tent instead of a camping chair, Kindaichi pushes himself up and goes over to help. Heaving a sigh, Yahaba sits cross-legged on the ground.

“I’m bored.” Mizoguchi pointedly glares at him.

“You could go and set up, instead of bothering us.” Shrugging nonchalantly, Yahaba plants his chin in his hands, sighing as he drops into a slumped posture lazily.

“Do you really trust me with the tent poles again, Coach?”

“... Stay there and don’t touch anything.” Snickering with victory, Yahaba does exactly that, flopping back against the dusty, rocky ground and staring up at the sky, streaked with rich oranges, deep purples, and the dark blues of dusk.

The first stars are beginning to show, hanging in the sky like tiny fairies, hovering in perfect stillness.

“Kunimi, No!” Tongue sticking out slightly between his teeth and wide grin on his lips, Kunimi hangs onto the tent pole in his hands, having cheekily tried to start another sword fight. What can he say? It’s tradition. The difference this time is that Kindaichi knows full well what Kunimi is like, and what he’s inclined to do.

“That’s hella badass.” Iwaizumi’s whisper breaks through the comical silence, the team watching Kindaichi hold the pole steady with one hand, having intercepted it as it was coming down on Matsukawa. Kunimi is trying and failing to wrench it back, not breaking eye contact in the slightest. But whilst Kunimi is full of mischief and chaos, Kindaichi is simply amused and weary.

“Can’t you restrain yourself just one week? One day, even?”

“Nope~.”

“At least don’t involve our senpai.”

“So let me go and face me, coward.”

“Now, now, channel that aggression into positivity, yes? Take a deeeeep breath-” Kindaichi cuts off with a choked snort, no longer able to hold back the laughter already rippling through his best friend and teammates. There’s a good atmosphere, good company, and good times to be had.

It’s hard not to feel excited.

“Let’s play a game!” Oikawa holds out a recognizable box, one with “King’s game” printed on the front, shaking the box so the sticks inside rattle. Coincidentally, where he’s let go of one of the tent ropes, the whole thing collapses with Kyoutani inside.

“... Whoever did that, I’m gonna shank ‘em.” The collapsed tent shuffles and moves to wrap around Kyoutani as he stands, lifting his arms to try and find the unzipped hole out. Of course, Hanamaki bursts into laughter and shines a torch through the tent.

“It’s a hideous canvas monster, run for your lives!” In good spirits, with laughter of their own and a couple of screams, the team scatter whilst Kyoutani shouts a variety of swear words in multiple languages, fighting his way out of the tent.

By the time he emerges, narrowing his eyes in the darkness, all he has to locate everyone (except Yahaba and the Coaches,) are tiny eruptions of giggles from being the bushes and rocks scattering the plateau.

“Do you seriously think you can hide from me?” Tittering breaks out all around, and Kyoutani rolls his eyes with a small quirk of a smile, shaking his head with amusement despite his crossed arms. Yahaba muffles a snicker at Kyoutani’s behaviour, more pleased than anything at how the Ace-To-Be has bonded and melded with the team.

He’s found a place, and he rightfully belongs there.

“I’m gonna count to three and you shits better be out here or I’m going on a hunt.”

Language!” The chastisement from Mizoguchi goes ignored as Kyoutani taps his fingers against his crossed arm, taking a deep inhale of the fresh, mountain air.

“One!” A muffled giggle from his left.

“Two!” A wave of snickers and snorts from various directions.

“Three!” Dead silence. He lets the echo linger before stepping forwards, and the split second he does, Oikawa is shoved out from behind a large boulder, squawking in betrayal and turning to shake a fist at Iwaizumi as he bolts away laughing to find another hiding place.

“Iwa-chan, you traitor!”

“He brought the tent down, have fun, Kyoutani!”

Iwa-chaaaaaaa-!!!” Oikawa cuts off his dramatic, intended-to-be-annoying whine as Kyoutani steps closer, a dangerous grin on his face, cracking his knuckles.

“Makki, please schedule ‘resume screaming’ for 7 in the morning.”

“Got it!” A thumbs up affirmation chimes from behind a bush, and whilst Kyoutani is momentarily distracted, Oikawa fucking bolts.

“Oi!” Not missing a beat, Kyoutani sprints after him, but Oikawa has ridiculously long legs and a stamina that could last days, well practiced from constantly competing with Iwaizumi and running from the trouble he created for himself.

Watching them weave through tents and jump over rocks and dodge camping equipment, the others start to emerge from their hiding places to laugh.

Big Mistake. Jumping onto a rock and then pushing off it with on foot, Kyoutani launches himself - literally launches himself - straight at Matsukawa with a gleeful warcry.

But it’s not Matsukawa who’s made a mistake by emerging from his hiding place among others. No, it’s Kyoutani who’s made the biggest mistake of all. By choosing to ambush the one person who cares enough to defend himself, but doesn’t care enough to fight or flee.

“Oop, that was a close one.” Matsukawa holds his arms straight out in front of him. And in his grasp, too stunned to do anything, Kyoutani blinks. His feet aren’t touching the ground and he’s being held under the armpits, like some kind of teddy bear or pet.

A cacophony of ugly laughter breaks him out of his stupor and his face flushes a deep red, ears burning. He wriggles to assess how tightly Matsukawa is holding him and how high he is off the ground, but before he can fight his way out, Matsukawa grins deviously.

“Hanamaki. Get ‘im~.”

“What the fuck are you plan-!?” Kyoutani cuts himself off with a sound that combines a shriek and a squeal, fingers digging into his ribs from behind, but almost… Gently?

Oh god, he’s being tickled. So far, Kyoutani has managed to keep his most precious secret hidden from the team, because he was fully aware what it mean to have it exploited around these chaotic troublemakers.

He was extremely, undeniably, ticklish.

There’s no point trying to get his words out, hissing and screeching and grumbled giggles that threaten to burst into uncontrollable laughter bright with cackles, if this tickling continues. Hanamaki shows no mercy, quickly locating the most ticklish spots.

Kyoutani attempts to kick himself away, but Iwaizumi of all people darts in to grab his knees and tuck them tightly against his waist, preventing Kyoutani from escaping in any way, shape or form. Iwaizumi grins, eyes closed and creased at the corners. He’s having great fun.

“C’mon, Kyoutani, we know you can laugh~.” Stubbornly, Kyoutani attempts to bite back a bark of laughter just to be rebellious, but then Hanamaki brushes his fingers between his shoulder blades, and Kyoutani can’t hold back any longer.

He throws his head to the skies, and bursts into laughter - bright, beautiful, and genuine. It’s rough and deep, but a wonderful laugh nonetheless. Oikawa nods proudly from where he watches, over by the tents, huffing in amusement.

It’s not quite a breakthrough, but it definitely feels like they’re closer than ever - more bonded, as friends and family.

Matsukawa finally releases a wheezing Kyoutani, dropping him to his feet whilst he’s still winded enough to stumble to the floor, clutching his belly as he laughs and his lungs recover. Iwaizumi, Hanamaki, and Matsukawa take cautious but good-natured steps backwards.

“I’m going to suffocate you in your sleep~.” Kyoutani points sincerely at Matsukawa, but his voice is lilted and light, his eyes alight as if they burn with fire, and his lips curled into smile that quirks up more on one side than the other. Matsukawa shrugs with a flicker of a smirk.

“Guess I’ll die.”

“Uh, before anyone dies, can we…?” They’re interrupted by a little shake of a box of sticks, turning their attention to where Kindaichi sheepishly holds up the King’s Game set with a shy grin.

Shared glances are thrown around camp before Watari makes his way over first with a bright smile, Oikawa on his heels with Iwaizumi and Hanamaki shortly behind. Kunimi already sits on the ground next to Kindaichi, fiddling with the matches impatiently as he waits to light the fire.

Matsukawa offers Kyoutani a hand up, pulling him to his feet, and then they join the little forming circle, Yahaba dragging himself over to them lethargically - although he seems content and at peace. Kindaichi perks up when Yahaba opens a hand in offering to deal out the sticks.

“You look happy, Senpai!” The half-grin half-smirk he gets in response is downright dangerous.

“Yup. Because I can’t wait to have you all under my control~.” He waves around the stick with the king’s crown on it to make his point, before tucking it into the assortment and holding them out covertly so nobody can tell what they’re picking. Oikawa exhales slowly, rubbing at the back of his head.

“Well then. Let’s just hope this doesn’t get too out of control…” Snickering, Iwaizumi nudges his shoulder against Oikawa’s.

“If anyone takes it out of control, it’ll be you.”

“Mean, Iwa-chan! I’m pure and kind and sweet and-!” Both Oikawa’s statement and the consequent laughter around the circle is interrupted by the whoosh of a fire catching, Kunimi looking up nonchalantly from where he’s lit the small campfire.

They’ll save the Swedish log candle for later.

“If you’re ready, Senpai?” Hands reach for the sticks in anticipation, each longing for the King stick, already conspiring what’s they’re going to make the others do.

“Ah, it’s me! I’m the King!”

Chapter Text

Watari. Their ‘King’ is Watari. A collective sigh of relief escapes them all as the tension drops, Watari grinning innocently as he holds out his stick to display his stick with the crown insignia on it.

They’re off to an easy start, at least. Yahaba looks slightly disappointed.

“Hmm… Let me think.. Okay, uh… Number 6, do a handstand for 15 seconds!” Hanamaki groans, turning his stick around to display the bold number 6 on it, placing it down before standing up in regret.

“Wait, like, a whole 15 seconds in one go, or can we just add it up…? Because I’m not good at handstands.” Watari laughs as Hanamaki starts rotating his wrists, trying to stall the time until he has to humiliate himself.

“I guess we can add it up if you’re that bad~.”

“Oh, thank fuck.” Iwaizumi brow scrunches up in concern as Hanamaki puts his hands on the floor and does a few little hops in place, struggling to even get his legs upright.

“Shouldn’t you consider doing this further awa-”

“Okay, here goes!” There’s no time to worry about the proximity as Hanamaki flips himself up with a wobbled screech…

And promptly flops straight over as if doing a roly-poly. Iwaizumi is quick to catch his legs before they land in the fire, although the breeze from his fall sends ashes and embers towards Kyoutani, who coughs and waves a hand to dissipate them. Iwaizumi sighs in disappointment.

Now will you listen to me? Move away from the fire. … And from us, so you don’t knock us out with your clumsy gymnastics attempt.” Hanamaki stares at him blandly before shrugging and backing off.

“I would say that was uncalled for, but it’s true. I’d probably decapitate someone.” Hanamaki walks in a little circle, tongue poking out the corner of his mouth in concentration, making sure he has enough space.

“So… How much longer to go?”

“Fourteen and a half seconds.”

“... Fuck.” Sighing, Hanamaki resigns himself to his fate, and under the watchful eyes of his friends, tries to push himself into a handstand.

It’s so dreadful that Matsukawa chokes on a cackle, and Oikawa has to turn away as he laughs, burying his face in his sleeve as his shoulder shake. Iwaizumi snickers, trying to hold back displaying any mirth. Kunimi is, unsurprisingly, filming the events.

“Oof!” A dust cloud emerges from where there is no doubt a Hanamaki-shaped impact in the ground. Yahaba laughs openly, his voice drowning out Kyoutani muffling a faint snort of amusement behind his hand.

Watari and Kindaichi share a mild look of exasperation, but they’re in good spirits and it’s kind of funny to watch Hanamaki flop around like a fish out of water. Literally flop. He can’t stay upright for more than a half second.

Hanamaki takes approximately two minutes to conquer his 15 second task. He comes back to the group, panting, covered in dust, and shaking his sore arms out.

“That was a nightmare… I don’t like King Watari…” Watari flashes him a peace sign. Iwaizumi cocks an eyebrow.

“Hanamaki, I could have done those in my sleep.”

“No need to brag, Iwaizumi. I’ll best you before the end of the year!”

“Ha! You’re 10 years out of practice!” Oikawa groans beneath a sigh, his smile troubled as he rests his head in one hand, threading his fingers through his fringe, though his gaze is affectionate.

“My, My, Iwa-chan’s getting far too competitive~.”

“You bet I am!” Kunimi perks up at the mention of a bet, but quickly deflates when he realises Iwaizumi is just boasting again, getting a little overconfident.

“If you’re that good, Senpai, you should probably prove it.” Kunimi expects Iwaizumi to calm down, sit down, and quieten down. Kunimi expects Iwaizumi to admit he’s being cocky and overzealous.

Maybe expecting anything from Iwaizumi is a lost hope, because he’s damn unpredictable when he’s fired up.

“15 seconds, right?” He stands up, stretches to pop his shoulders, and whilst Oikawa mutters ‘oh, here we go’ and Matsukawa pats Hanamaki’s back in sympathy for the embarrassment he’s about to get, Yahaba restarts the stopwatch on his phone.

“Timer’s ready when you are.” With a boyish grin, Iwaizumi easily lifts his legs off the ground and gets onto his hands, not even wobbling in place. As soon as Yahaba starts the stopwatch, he lifts a hand off too, tucking it behind his back. Hanamaki rolls his eyes.

“Show-off.”

“I’m only just starting.” A small grunt of effort escapes him as he lowers himself down, on one hand, doing a one-handed handstand push up. And not only that, he does one every two seconds, switching hands with a little hop after each one.

“Hot damn, Iwaizumi.” Matsukawa winks teasingly and Iwaizumi returns it, joking around before he returns back to sitting down. He laughs and waves off the impressed claps from Watari, Yahaba, and Oikawa.

Hanamaki still grumbles about being bested, Kunimi gives Iwaizumi, a thumbs up, but there’s silence from the two Iwaizumi expected to react the most. He’s well aware Kyoutani and Kindaichi look up to him - almost in idolisation.

It’s only when he looks over at them with a hint of concern and confusion he realises why it’s so silent. Kyoutani’s mouth hangs slightly open, and Kindaichi’s lips are pressed so tightly together they wobble in a w-shaped smile, holding back his awe.

Both of them have absolute stars in their eyes though.

“Th- That was so cool, Senpai! So cool! You’re really cool, Iwaizumi-Senpai!” The dam breaks, praise spilling from Kindaichi’s lips as Kyoutani nods along in agreement, with a small ‘mhm’ here and there, as excited as he can sound. Iwaizumi laughs heartily, the tips of his ears burning red as he sheepishly hunches over.

“It’s nothing, seriously. Anyone could do it, if they practiced enough.” He pointedly stares at Hanamaki, grin shaping into a teasing smirk. Hanamaki huffs, puffing out his cheeks and placing his chin in his hands, staring at the ground grumpily.

“Alright, alright, let’s move on for now. We can discuss Hanamaki-senpai’s terrible acrobatics later.”

“Yahaba, don’t be so mean to me!” Rolling his eyes, Yahaba leans back to avoid a finger that tries to poke his cheek in retaliation from across the circle, at a safe enough height to avoid the fire.

“Watari? If you’ll do the honours?” The sticks are passed back round the circle to Watari, who shuffles them within his hands, hiding the numbers, and holds them out for everyone to take.

“Ready… Go!” Withdrawn at the same time, everyone looks hopefully down at their sticks, looking for the crown symbol.

The atmosphere shifts to pure fear as Kunimi twists his stick around to display the King’s crown, his grin partially demonic and a glint in his eyes that Kindaichi recognises far too well. He swats Kunimi’s knee in a reprimanding manner - Before he’s even done anything!

“No demanding money or putting our senpai in harm’s way.” Kunimi’s smirk turns to a scowl in less than a second.

“That takes away all my options.”

“No, it restrains your options. There’s plenty more you can think of, I’m sure.” Kunimi exhales, short and sharp, plonking his head against Kindaichi’s shoulder in a way that seems… Dangerously affectionate, compared to his reaction a moment ago.

And then he grins.

He sits back up, clearing his throat, and makes his order as King.

“Number 7, try to put number 3 in a headlock. Number 3, run as much as you like, but good luck.” As soon as it leaves his lips, voice lilted and mildly amused, Kindaichi whips his head to him in comical betrayal.

“You- You were only trying to figure out my number.” Kunimi gives a small laugh and gently shoves at Kindaichi for him to get up, as Matsukawa stretches out his arms.

“Better get running~.” With a small screech as Matsukawa lunges for him, Kindaichi scrambles backwards and onto his feet, clumsily running away from the circle, Matsukawa on his heels.

“Kunimi, you sly, dastardly, piece of cunning, conniving shi- GWAH!” Too busy playfully insulting his best friend - who only laughs at each added syllable - Kindaichi forgets the number one rule of camping.

Always look out for the tent ropes.

He hits the ground pretty hard, only just throwing out his hands in time to protect his face. Matsukawa instantly skids to a stop next to him, careful to avoid the same rope, and bends to place a hand on his back in concern.

“You okay?” Oikawa, Yahaba, Kunimi and Iwaizumi are all posed to get up and help too, acting on some kind of instinctual response, but Matsukawa holds up a hand to halt them as Kindaichi pushes back off the ground and rubs at his sore forearms. Luckily, the skin hasn’t broken.

“Yeah, I’m okay. I think I tore a hole in my knee though…” Matsukawa helps him to stand, just offering a little hand up, and Kindaichi groans at the small tear in his trousers, over the knee.

“That’s gonna need fixing…”

“Hey, at least it wasn’t your actual knee, yeah?” Kindaichi snorts in amusement as Matsukawa ruffles his hair roughly, but in a friendly way, technically in a headlock but not quite as they rejoin the circle..

“Yeah, that’d take even longer to fix.”

“Just ask Oikawa!”

“Makki, that’s mean!” Oikawa crawls over to smack Hanamaki’s upper arm gently with a heavy pout, before plonking back in his place to small chuckles at his reaction. Just because he has to wear his light duty brace for 2 more years, that doesn’t mean he’s broken!

Iwaizumi pats his back lightly, reassuring him, but also reminding him. Iwaizumi had been the one to find him on the Kitagawa gym floor past midnight. Iwaizumi had been the one who held him upright as he limped out and home. Iwaizumi had been the one who had been at his side 24/7, whilst Oikawa was struggling to cope with his injury.

Looking back, he knows he’s extremely lucky that he only had to wear a heavy duty brace for two years, and his current light duty brace for three years, but at the time, it had seemed like his world had come crashing down just like he had when he messed up that one, stupid serve.

Iwaizumi had picked him up when he had fallen, had drained the ocean when he drowned in regret, had held him together when he was falling apart.

So yeah, okay, Oikawa theorised that maybe had had been broken at some point, but he’d never needed fixing so much as saving. And he had Iwaizumi for that.

Just like Kindaichi had Kunimi, he realises as he looks over at the first years, Kunimi loaded with concern as he whispers lowly to Kindaichi under the crackle of the campfire, and Kindaichi nods back with such a soft emotion in his eyes and gentle smile on his lips, it’s hard for Oikawa to understand. Does he look at Iwaizumi the same way?

Kunimi rubs a sympathetic hand over the scratches on Kindaichi’s forearm, seemingly apologising and making sure his friend is okay. His compassion must be warmer than the fire, because Kindaichi only grins and nudges his shoulder, whispering back at the same volume. Kunimi relaxes, and Oikawa smiles.

“What’s with that goofy expression?” Oikawa rests his chin in one hand, elbow propped up on his knee and leans against Iwaizumi just enough to encourage Iwaizumi to lean back, the tips of his hair brushing against Oikawa’s ear.

“Just admiring how beautiful friendship truly is.”

“... Dumbass, you already know it. You live it.” Oikawa turns to look at him, and oh. He might not have an answer to his question of how he looks at Iwaizumi, but now, he can see Iwaizumi looks at him exactly the same way.

Like their friendship is the most important thing in the universe. Like they could stay strong through anything, like they could string the stars in the sky, like they could be together, even when far apart.

Iwaizumi huffs in amusement, butting his head affectionately against Oikawa’s chin, and Oikawa return it by… Pinching his cheek. Before Iwaizumi can swat the hand away, Oikawa lets go with a snicker and gathers up the abandoned sticks.

“Round 3! Let’s goooo!” His enthusiastic shout shatters the soft atmosphere, but with the campfire gently glowing and the stars above starting to shine, it’s hard not to be in a constant good mood. Grins and smiles are sent his way as they reach for the sticks again.

“1, 2, 3, draw!” The team eagerly checks each of their sticks, and Oikawa throws his hands into the air with victory, punctuating it with a dramatic evil laugh.

“Now, I am your King! Your Emperor! Fear me and the reign I shall force upon you!” Iwaizumi promptly smacks the back of his head and Oikawa whines.

“Iwa-chan, let me have some fun…”

“You can have some fun with your order, no need to be more dramatic than you actually are~.” With a ‘hmph!’ and fold his arms, Oikawa appears to mull over his decision before his face lights up like a Christmas tree, cheshire-cat smile upon his lips.

“Ohoho, I have juuuust the right idea. Okay, pair up 1 and 8, 2 and 7, 3 and 6, 4 and 5!” Without another word of what’s going to happen, Oikawa scrambles over to their pile of bags, rummaging through his rucksack as the rest of them pair up in confusion.

It ends up with Hanamaki and Yahaba, Watari and Kunimi, Iwaizumi and Matsukawa, Kindaichi and Kyoutani. Oikawa tries to swallow back a gleeful laugh as he looks at the match-ups. Oh, this was going to be so good.

He comes back to circle, or rather, the two lines, and smugly drops a box in the dirt roughly in the middle of all of them.

“You know what to do~.” 8 stares are immediately fixed upon him, some of hesitance, some of fear, some of pure unadulterated challenge. Because the box Oikawa had just dropped in their midst was an unassuming box of pocky.

Chocolate banana cream pocky.

POCKY.

“Oi- Oikawa-senpai, isn’t this a little, uh… Y’know… More suited for parties…?” Watari’s concerns are waved away with a flippant hand.

“This is a party, a camping party, and I’m so ready to be entertained~. Got your sticks?” Kyoutani grumbles under his breath, and Kunimi looks ready to commit murder. Yahaba makes a show of waving the pocky around with disinterest.

“So is it gluten free? Vegan? Nut-free?”

“Yahaba-chan, you require none of those things. You literally ate almond cake at practice last week.” Yahaba shrugs, his only idea completely shot down.

“Umm… Actually the nut-free thing is pretty important, aha…”

“...Oh.” Greatly concerned by the fact he may be about to accidentally kill one of his underclassmen, Oikawa quickly grabs the box and scans through the list for any mention of nuts.

“Nope! You’re safe, Kindaichi.”

“Oh. Joy.” The flat, deadpan tone of his voice betrays exactly how pleased he is by that information. Oikawa laughs heartily, not bothering to mask it with an evil cackle as he pats the nearest person - Watari’s - shoulder.

“Rules in case you’re all going to cheat! Each of you takes the end of the pocky in your mouth, and nibble until you get to the centre! You lose if you pull away before the stick is finished, or the stick breaks before either of you get there.”

“Do I-”

No, Kunimi-chan, you do not win any prizes.” Kunimi arches an eyebrow with a dubious look, munching down the pocky sticks for no reason other than he likes the choco-banana taste.

“What’s the point then?” Scrunching up his face in thought, indignant pout on his lips and slightly narrowed eyes, Oikawa mulls over the options before shrugging.

“Avoiding execution from the King?”

“... Fine.” Oikawa blinks. Wow. He can’t believe that worked. Even more so, everyone else seems to be taking it just as seriously, just stupid teenagers doing stupid teenage things caught up in the moment. Hanamaki raises one hand with lightning fast speed.

“If you’re the King, then I’m the bard!”

“Wait no, I should be the bard. I can play flute, piano and violin.”

“Fuck off, Yahaba. I’m the goddamn bard.” Yahaba huffs, trying to cover up a growing grin with a cocky smirk at his instrumental prowess.

“Okay then. I’ll be the Pied Piper.” Hanamaki seems placated, and then, Kunimi humms in thought.

“I wanna be someone with no responsibilities… Sleeping all day… Eating what I want… With lots of money…” Iwaizumi tilts his head with curiosity, before perking up with an idea.

“Like a spoiled Prince?” Kunimi clicks his tongue and lazily fingerguns in his direction.

“Exactly.”

“Oh!!! That means I’m your father!”

“I take it back, I’ll be a merchant boy. Ah, or a foreign, spoiled Prince.” Oikawa deflates, crossing his arms, brows furrowed, and Iwaizumi laughs.

“Don’t worry, Shittywaka, you’ll still have me to guard you. A loyal knight, right?” Oikawa instantly breaks into a grin, leaning forwards with glittering eyes.

“My right hand man!”

“Your loyal companion!”

“My best friend!” The two knock their knuckles together with matching grins, solidifying their promise as if they really were planning to become a King and his Knight. Matsukawa snorts in amusement.

“In that case, can I be the chef so I can poison you both?”

“Mattsun!!!” He laughs at the looks of betrayal and alarm, waving them off in good humour.

“I’m joking~. I think I’d be a blacksmith. I like hands-on work. Although, I’d probably only be good enough to make horseshoes.” He chuckles warmly, and the other laugh along with his own comment, until Kindaichi pats the ground with both hands as if making a pattern.

“If there’s horses, can I be a stablehand or something like that? Maybe a farmer? I think I’d be pretty okay with animal care!” Kunimi exhales short and sharp, hiding a laugh.

“Considering you have 2 cats the size of a small pony, you’d make a good stablehand.”

“Hiroki’s a Maine Coon! He’s supposed to be big! And Sara… Well... She’s just tall!” There’s a beat of silence that Yahaba breaks with a voice of sheer disbelief.

“You- You named one of your cats ‘vast timber trees’. What- Why?” Kindaichi starts to blush, ready to answer, before Watari leads on from Yahaba’s question.

“I’m more interested in the reason behind Sara. You named your other cat after comforting music?” Kindaichi is definitely red by now.

“Ah, well, uh… Hiroki is a brown tabby Maine Coon… So he kind of looks like a tree stump when he curls up. And Sara is spelled with different Kanji. It’s supposed to be ‘vivid blossom’ in honour of her rosettes!” Watari’s eyes go wide, but Kyoutani gets there first.

“Rosettes?! Are you raising a fucking leopard?!”

“What?! No!!! She’s a Savannah! I mean, an F1 Savannah so she’s as close to a wildcat as pets can get, but…”

“Aren’t those crazy expensive and really dangerous?” Shaking his head vigorously, Kindaichi defends his cat as if she were his own child, which, he loves her as such.

“Not Sara! She was a rescue, abandoned at a centre when her owner had a baby, so she was kinda cheap for her breed. Uh… As for dangerous… She’s really affectionate, but I think that’s just her individual personality. She can be quite vicious at the vets though.”

“Holy shit, you have a wildcat.”

“A domestic wildcat! She’s safe! And she adores Hiroki, so uh, I think… Maybe there might be kittens soon? The vet couldn’t spay her because she, umm… Well, she wasn’t going to let anyone near her with something sharp and pointy. Hiroki, I never got around to it because he’s solely an indoor cat and doesn’t spray.”

“Damn, those sound like cool cats… What were we talking about before…?” Hanamaki taps his chin before remembering.

“Oh yeah! Matsukawa is a blacksmith, Oikawa is a King, Iwaizumi is his Knight, Kindaichi is a farmer slash stablehand, Yahaba is a Pied Piper, I’m a bard, and Kunimi is a foreign spoiled prince! Kyoutani, Watari, you need to decide!”

“I’ll be, uh…” Watari stops to think seriously, but Kyoutani leans back where he sits, palms against the ground behind his back, gazing up at the stars.

“M’not too familiar with European medieval structure and lifestyle. I’d prob’ly be a Samurai in ancient Japan…”

“How about an assassin?” Kyoutani’s brows draw together, despite the fact he’s still looking up at the billion of dots in the grand, dark sky above them.

“Nah, I’d rather do something… Honourable.” Eventually, it’s history buff Oikawa who comes up with a solution. That’s to be expected, he’s unfairly good at everything academic, both natural talent and intense studying making him vastly knowledgeable within the classroom.

“How about a Falconer? You train large birds of prey to hunt small mammals and little birds. I guess you could combine it with an archer too?” Kyoutani grunts, sitting up straight again to rejoin the conversation fully.

“Sounds alright. I want a shitton of falcons, eagles, kestrels an’ hawks though.”

“That depends on how many you can train and control.”

“A shitton.” Oikawa sniffs and rapidly nods his head the side with a quick shrug like gesture.

“Fair due. A shitton of birds for Kyoutani. Watacchin! What about you~?” The libero smiles, bright and pure, ultimately having decided his role based upon one thing they lacked. He liked being depended on, and he liked having something to constantly keep him busy, which led him to only one conclusion.

“A fisherman! The Kingdom would need a steady food supply, right~?”

“It suits you, Senpai!”

“Hey, maybe I should have been the chef. I could have made some pretty cool stuff outta your catches.” Watari laughs lightly.

“Not too late to change, Senpai!”

“The King can cook for himself, Mattsun!”

“Or rather, the King will make his loyal Knight cook…”

“It’s not my fault everything I touch turns to charcoal, Iwa-chan.” Iwaizumi instantly fixes Oikawa with an accusatory glance.

“You left a jacket potato at the back of your oven for three days, whilst your poor mother still used the oven completely unawares until she cleaned it, took it out, and it collapsed into a gaping maw of dust, resembling the cavern into hell.” He has to get louder as he talks, since the small giggles turn to uproars of laughter and cackles and guffaws with every new word.

Oikawa hides his embarrassed, pink-tinted face behind a hand, though his wobbly smile shows he’s just as entertained as everyone else.

“This won’t get you out of the pocky game! Bringing up my past mistakes doesn’t make me forget the ones you guys are about to make!”

“Damn. Quick, Hanamaki, think of a another distraction.”

“Way to put pressure on me!”

“Tick tock.”

“Uh- umm! So about that potato, huh?!” Clearly, Hanamaki is struggling to think of another distraction, and Matsukawa slaps a hand against his forehead with a sigh. They’re done for. No getting out of this one.

No offence to Iwaizumi, who he’s partnered with, but Matsukawa would rather have a whole pocky to himself. Oikawa smirks, a touch of that demonic energy in his powerful posture, standing over them with hands on hips.

“Pocky at the ready, peasants!”

“Wow. You’re so nice to us.”

“Can it, Mattsun. Obey your King.” Matsukawa rolls his eyes, but puts the biscuit end of the pocky in his mouth and waggles it with his eyebrows as he waits for Iwaizumi to catch the chocolate end. It would be much easier if he stopped wagging it. There’s one person who has a foolproof plan to get them out of this though.

“Ne, ne, Kindaichi. Doesn’t this remind you of… Kitagawa?” Although Kunimi’s words are directed to his best friend, his eyes are locked in contact with Oikawa, and his voice dips low and foreboding.

Kindaichi immediately catches on.

“Yes! I seem to remember another setter who was a King!”

“Controlling.”

“Demanding.”

“Rude.”

“Mhm! Completely obsessed with doing things his way without caring for what anyone else was capable of and wanted to do, speaking of us as if we were lower than him, and putting himself on a pedestal. Not to mention-”

“Kindaichi.” The quiet but firm interjection stops him mid-sentence, preventing him going into a rant, and the gentle fingertips that brush over his leg reassure him that everything is okay now. He apologises under his breath.

“I- I am not like Tobio-chan!” Oikawa’s splutter is both offended and shocked, which is exactly what Kunimi was going for.

“Ehhh. Because you sounded so much like him, ordering us around with no consideration for what we were comfortable with~.” Oikawa’s face is steadily going red with rage and his hands curl into fits at his side, shaking with the indignation that he could possibly be compared to Kageyama’s greatest flaw.

“I am not, and never will be, anything like that selfish, demanding, controlling-!”

“Oikawa, enough!” Iwaizumi cuts him off quickly, feeling emotions boiling out of control. He exhales slowly, trying to get the situation back under control.

“Look, we’re here for a good, fun time. And to celebrate a special birthday! Let’s leave things like that behind for now.” Kunimi and Kindaichi glance at each other, guiltily, before murmuring apologies under their breaths.

Oikawa takes a deep breath, runs his hands through his hair, and then squeezes each of their shoulders comfortingly.

“I don’t appreciate you bringing up my flaws like that, Kunimi, you manipulative shit, but you’re right. I was being demanding and letting the power - no matter how artificial - go to my head. So if you’re not comfortable doing the pocky challenge, feel free to veto it, okay?”

“Veto!”

“Veto.”

“Oh, totally vetoed.”

“Veto number 4!” Oikawa tries to hide the disappointment emerging on his face as his ‘empire’ crumbles before him, all but two raising their hands to veto themselves out of it with grins and smirks.

“Y’all are fucking traitors.” There’s instant screeching and a burst of cackles, so loud that it startles the coaches from where they’re baking. Yahaba physically falls against Watari, laughing so hard he wheezes, and it’s Hanamaki - pounding a fist on the ground as he laughs - who gets his words out first.

“Oikawa, you- Pfft! You can’t just pull a y’all on us! Oh my god, I can’t breathe! Oikawa, that’s too funny!”

“... What’s wrong with y’all? I thought it suited the moment.”

“Please- aha!- please shut up!” Hanamaki hiccups, tears of hilarity streaming down his cheeks and Oikawa watches in complete confusion as a severe case of the giggles takes over his usually composed team.

Well. Composed on court, at least.

Huffing and putting hands on his hips, Oikawa juts his chin out, giving him a posture of regality and pride. Unfortunately, it also gives those laughing on the floor beneath him a grand view up his nostrils.

“The only two who haven’t vetoed are Mattsun and Iwa-chan!” The two in question glance at each other and shrug, turning their attention to Oikawa.

“I don’t like to lose.”

“I’m game for anything involving food.” Rolling his eyes, Oikawa passes the pocky box over to them specifically.

“Once again, Mattsun, your eyes are bigger than your stomach. You and Kunimi-chan have already eaten most of the box!”

“It’s just pocky. I’m gonna eat more afterwards.”

“Very well then. When you’re ready…” Iwaizumi grins with the challenge, claiming the chocolate end for himself and waiting for Matsukawa to take hold. As soon as Oikawa drops his hand like a starting flag, they start nibbling in towards each other like people possessed.

Rallying cheers come from around them, the team seemingly split in two with Hanamaki, Kindaichi, and Oikawa supporting Iwaizumi, and the others cheering for Matsukawa. Or, not so much cheering as placing odds.

Both of them have their eyes closed as they chow down on the pocky, getting closer and closer, until-

“The stick broke!” Matsukawa and Iwaizumi separate, both clutching at their faces from where their noses just rammed into each other, shoulders shaking with warm chuckles of good humour. Two tiny bits of the pocky drop to the floor , the snap in them clearly visible.

“No winners! You both lost~!” Iwaizumi huffs, but he doesn’t seem too put out by not winning. Challenges are fun, but not when someone fixates on winning.

Volleyball, on the other hand, was the most fun when the intention was to win.

“Alright, alright, let’s do another round, yeah? Just, one more rule.” There’s an echoed groan, but Iwaizumi only laughs and waits for them to quieten.

“If you’ve been King before, pass it to the person on your left.” Iwaizumi waits for everyone to agree before he scoops up the King sticks, holding them out patiently as everyone wriggles back into their circle around the campfire.

“3… 2… 1… Draw!” The sticks are haphazardly drawn, and as everyone checks their number or crown, Hanamaki cheers and holds his arms up in victory.

Victory that is promptly stolen from behind.

“Hey!” Hanamaki tries to protest, but the stick with the crown on bops him on the nose gently, and Mizoguchi grins.

“Numbers 1 to 8, and the King, come sing Happy Birthday and get a slice of cake!” The night sky is met with an uproar of cheers, the team jostling a bashful Kindaichi in the middle as they head over to the small picnic area the coaches have set up, intentionally screeching happy birthday as offbeat and out of tune as possible.

Kindaichi sheepishly laughs, looks at the marble strawberry and vanilla cake in awe, the candles reflected in his irises, and blows them out. Instantly, Watari shakes his shoulder.

“What did you wish for~?!” Another bashful chuckle escapes as Kindaichi rubs the back of his head with that adorable childlike shyness.

“I- I didn’t make one.” His statement is met with whines and protests, but Irihata only smiles as he watches the children through the swirling smoke of the extinguished candles, and Kindaichi manages to find a small gap of silence to speak in.

“I didn’t need one.” Hanamaki’s expression of disbelief is echoed by all of the others, and he manages a curious whisper.

Why? You- You could have wished for anything!” Kindaichi smiles, tender and soft, his cheeks flushing with colour as he looks pointedly at the ground, but his eyes are soft and shimmer with emotions word can’t capture.

“Because I have everything I could ever wish for right here with me.”

Chapter Text

When darkness falls, once and for all, it turns out that it’s not so dark at all. The sky is adorned with millions - billions! - of stars in the sky. They glow in all shades of white, red, and blue, some in clusters of galaxies, some in the great river of the Milky Way, and others burning brightly enough that they stand out to make constellations.

“There’s the summer triangle. Vega, Altair, and Deneb. You can see Sadr, the centre of Cygnus just inside Deneb’s corner. And, uh… I think that’s Aquila in the bottom corner, with Altair. And Lyra the harp is formed with Vega! But we all knows that’s bullshit because Vega is Orihime, a seamstress, not a fucking musician-”

“Hey!”

“Sorry, Yahaba, but it’s true. Hikoboshi is in Altair, so hopefully, if the skies are clear tomorrow night, the magpies will help them meet each other.” Matsukawa’s voice trails off softly, as if he’s wistful for the star-crossed lovers to find each other. But then, he’s always been a romantic at heart, and Tanabata is his favourite festival.

“Maybe if Hikoboshi had watched his fucking cows, they wouldn’t have been separated in the first place.”

“Don’t shit on Hikoboshi, Oikawa! He was in love!”

“He was a fool, Mattsun! Thousands of people perfectly balance love and worklife every single day, but nooooo, this one moron can’t even finish the job before introducing himself.”

“He… Was in… love!” Matsukawa’s weak and almost tearful protest prompts Hanamaki to muffle a snicker in his sleeve, patting Matsukawa’s upper arm with one hand.

“There, there. Orihime and Hikoboshi will meet again tomorrow, don’t worry about it.” Lying about in sleeping bags just outside of their tents, the boys gaze up at the night sky with awe and wonder, their eager eyes tracking satellites, planes and meteors, perhaps even searching for alien life.

Irihata sits in a small camping chair, using a reading light to flick through a book he brought with him, well aware that Mizoguchi has already turned in. It’s just after midnight, and one of them needs to get a full night’s sleep for the drive back in 7 hours.

He glances over at the boys every now and then, smile tugging at his lips, maybe snapping a photo or two for intended graduation albums, then turns back to his book. The campfire Kunimi lit earlier has settles down to just embers, and ashy orange glow that casts long, weak shadows that stretch and fade into the darkness.

Yawning, Watari sits up in his sleeping bag, arms stretched towards the stars before he rolls onto his stomach and wriggles forwards to scrimmage around in the tent.

“Y’okay?” The gruff question from Kyoutani is almost as warming as the fire’s embers, genuine concern in a friendly tone that Watari cherishes.

“Yeah! Just grabbing something!” When he wriggles back out, he holds up a ring of metal that he’s just grabbed from Kindaichi’s bag. Not that Kindaichi minds, he’s already given everyone permission to take out the sweets stored in there, and anything else.

Maybe saying ‘help yourself’ was too vague with Watari around, since he’s prone to snooping and disregarding personal space.

“Let’s do the candle- Swedish- fire- Swedish thing!”

“You said Swedish twice~.” Watari has just enough time to stick his tongue out at Yahaba before Kindaichi takes the metal ring from him, having kicked out of his sleeping bag with a gleeful ‘YES’ the second Watari had produced the metal thing.

“Kunimi, the firewood~! Where’s the spare firewood~?!” Kunimi rolls his eyes with a soft exhale of amusement, knowing full well he can’t deny his best friend something he’s been excitedly looking forwards to for multiple days.

“I tucked it behind the orange tent.”

“Thanks!” Kindaichi scrambles to fetch the triangular log pile, returning with it trapped in his arms like he’s hugging it, and he kneels on the ground to rip away the plastic band holding it together in prism formation.

“Okay, so we need to arrange it like this…” He mutters excitedly as he moves the logs around, so they stand up as if the tree stump were still all together, albeit with slices between each log.

“Watari-Senpai! Please put the ring around it about mid-height. Twist the little thing to tighten it… Yes, that’s great! Oh! Foliage! We need foliage an’ twigs!” Kindaichi’s good mood and bright enthusiasm is inspiring, and with the stars twinkling above them, Oikawa leaps to his feet and drags Hanamaki and Iwaizumi with him to find the little fillings they’ll need.

Jostling shoulders and messing around, they somehow manage to scrimmage together plenty, but it’s the sight of Kindaichi and Watari wearing matching grins and streaked with mud, leaves all over their shirts and in Kindaichi’s hair that makes them really laugh.

“Where did you two go~?” The two of them grin at each other like they’re sworn to secrecy, but Yahaba scoffs.

“They went into the forest bit, but I had to supervise them.” Yahaba slides a half-serious glare over to Irihata, who only chuckles and lowers his book for an instant.

“I trusted you three together more than I could trust Kunimi with Kyoutani and potential fire.” As if to reinforce his point, Kunimi gives an impish grin and a deadpan peace sign, poking a stick in the glowing embers of the campfire he extinguished earlier.

Kyoutani double takes between Kunimi and the fire before throwing a wild gaze of ‘HELP’ towards Matsukawa, who lays staring up at the stars uncaringly. He- He might actually be asleep. Hanamaki nudges him with his foot to make sure.

“... On this day, we pay our regards to my former best friend, a true buddy when it came to making everyone else reach the ends of their patience, and the only one who dared insult Iwaizumi’s height-”

“Makki, he’s sleeping, not dead.”

“Oh, he’s about to be dead.” Iwaizumi rolls his sleeves up jokingly, having noticed how Matsukawa’s shoulders shake and his lips wobble as he fights back a laugh or smile. The absolute faker, he’s just trying to avoid any responsibility.

“Sit up, you goofball.” Matsukawa can’t hide it anymore, bursting out in a jolly laugh as he sits up, brushing dust off his shoulder from where Hanamaki’s shoe nudged him.

“Aww, c’mon, let a guy rest, Iwaizumi~.” Iwaizumi promptly dumps his small collection of leaves in Matsukawa’s lap.

“We’ve done our part, you do yours.” Groaning, Matsukawa gathers the leaves from his lap and shuffles over to the unlit Swedish candle fire, whatever Kindaichi called it. Watching what Kindaichi and Watari are doing, he starts to stuff the leaves into the gaps, leaving plenty of space for air to flow, and jabbing in the occasional twig.

Kunimi makes his own contribution, plucking leaves and twigs from Kindaichi’s hair, leaning over him to poke the foliage in at intervals. Kyoutani waits by the side with the matchbox, and if Matsukawa looks closely enough, he can see the anticipation gleaming in his eyes.

Something about Kyoutani always reminds Matsukawa of fire. Kind of smoke or bacon-like, and he’s not sure why.

“There! It’s ready to light!” Kindaichi shuffles back to a safe distance, holding his arm out to stop Watari and Oikawa getting too close, and gives Kyoutani a nod. The match strikes up in a spark, and Kyoutani nestles it amongst a curled leaf, blowing on it gently and wafting fresh air into the crevice.

Fed by oxygen, the fire dances into life with a ‘whoosh’, crackling as it settles and spreading little licks of gold stretching over the leaves, charring them and making them curl in tighter as they burn, fuelling the very fire that consumes it.

Sparks glitter in the dark night sky, rising with the smoke before fading out, as if they’ve melted into the Milky Way above. It’s comforting. It’s warm. It gives a sense of home like nothing else can.

Calming, the fire shrinks to a soft glow between the logs, flickering in the gaps between the foliage before reaching the next one. When it becomes strong enough, it starts to feed on the logs themselves, but the process is slow and the way the log is tied makes it glow like a candle, flames just licking over the surface.

“If we put a little stand on top, we could fry something.” Hopeful gazes and hungry faces turn towards their Coach in unison, and Irihata sighs with an expression that’s partially concern, partially happy to allow it, but also the knowledge he’s likely to regret it.

If you wash up afterwards, and if you promise to behave safely, then I’ll give my permission to raid the cooler bag.” He’s barely let the words settle in the air before Hanamaki, Kyoutani, and Iwaizumi are racing over to the cooler bag.

Hanamaki and Kyoutani immediately lunge for the food, but Iwaizumi is smart enough to realise they’ll need the tripod and something to put the food in first, grabbing the flat-top tripod and a cast-iron skillet.

… As an afterthought, he grabs a tea towel so nobody has to grab the metal handle once it’s been over the fire. That would not have a happy ending.

“We’ve got noodles, we’ve got spring onions, we’ve got meat, we’ve got oil and frickin’ soy sauce!”

“Stir-fry.” Kyoutani’s grunt completes Hanamaki’s line of thought, and his Senpai whacks him on the back heartily as he scoops up the food.

“There’s also beer, so-”

Hanamaki Takahiro.” Hanamaki does not fear death. Hanamaki does not fear Kyoutani potentially ripping his arm off. Hanamaki does not fear the things anyone should fear - like chainsaw murderers, or clowns, or the unknown.

But the exact tone of Irihata’s voice in that instance runs a chill down Hanamaki’s spine, and the stern expression paired with it as his legs quiver.

Hanamaki fears one thing, and one thing only.
When their relaxed, pacifist Coach tells someone off.

“S-Sorry, Coach. Just messing around, S-Sir.”

“Put the bottle back. Then rejoin the group.” Forcing a nervous chuckle, well aware Yahaba is smirking at him and Oikawa is full-on laughing, Hanamaki gently puts the beer bottle back amongst the ice, clicks the coolbox lid closed, and jogs over to skid into his sleeping bag.

He rolls in it, tucking it over himself like a protective shield, peering out from below the hood. Oikawa laughs harder, poking his cheek.

“You look like you’ve seen a ghost!”

“I thought I was about to become one. Holy shit, I was going to die.” Matsukawa snickers and pats Hanamaki’s knee in reassurance, while Oikawa only laughs harder and Yahaba hides a smirk behind his sleeve.

Kunimi is too busy placing the tripod above the Swedish log fire, not caring a bit about the orange glow or the outstretched flames that come awfully close to him at times. With limited fuel and the controlled structure, he’s in no danger unless he physically jams his hand in between the logs. Iwaizumi silently frets as he watches.

“Pass me the skillet.” Kunimi balances it on top, and it only takes seconds for Kyoutani to drizzle in a substantial amount of oil, then chucks in all the rest of the ingredients, soy sauce poured on top. Kunimi stares at him completely deadpan.

“Do you really think the pan is hot enough to cook that, Kyoutani? Do you really think, after 0.5 seconds, it would be hot enough to cook?”

“I’m fucking hungry, shut up.”

“Uh-huh, yeah, it’s definitely going to cook faster in a cold skillet. Genius.”

“Cut back the sass, you little shit.” The growl in Kyoutani’s tone is more just a warning rather than something genuinely angry or upset, but Kunimi holds up a hand in apology anyways. Kindaichi sighs in relief, fearing he’d have to intervene. Again.

He does a lot of rescuing Kunimi from situations he’d created himself.
Being Kunimi’s best friend is exhausting.

“I guess we should eat this when it’s done and then head to bed. We have a long journey back tomorrow.”

“Exactly, Iwa-chan! A long journey to sleep on! We can stay up allll night tonight.”

“I’m sure Irihata-Sensei would like to get some sleep.” A humm of agreement comes from the camping chair, Irihata turning the pages of his book.

“It would be rude of me to make Sadayuki drive us all the way back. And-” He adds with emphasis, noticing how Oikawa opens his mouth to argue, most likely something about them being old enough to stay with without supervision-

“It would be reckless to let a group of sixteen to eighteen year olds run wild. Don’t try to convince me you can behave, since two of your second years seem to be attempting throwing knives.” Oikawa double takes over his shoulder, spluttering as Yahaba and Watari launch plastic knives at each other, the useless utensils bouncing off harmlessly or going completely off track.

“I- wha-?! Yahaba-chan! Watacchin?! What in the-?! No! No, I don’t want to know why, so I’m not going to ask! Just! Iwa-chan, go!”

“I’m not a fucking Pokémon, Shittykawa…” Despite his grumblings, Iwaizumi still pushes himself to his feet and marches over to the two very guilty second years, heads hung with shame, and the hold out the plastic set for Iwaizumi to take from them.

“Here I thought you were the responsible ones.” Watari shuffles sheepishly, scratching at his cheek with his index finger.

“It is the last day of our holiday, Senpai.”

“Yeah, let us use up all this energy now so we’re not causing chaos back home.” Iwaizumi takes a moment to consider it. He looks at the plastic utensils in hand. With a nod, he passes back just the spoons.

“Pick up what you break.”

“Iwa-Chan, that is not what I sent you in for!”

“You didn’t ‘send’ me anywhere. I chose to intervene myself.”

“Mean.” Oikawa sticks his tongue out, and Iwaizumi rolls his eyes before lightly pushing Oikawa’s face away from him as he sits down. Of course, Oikawa takes this as an invitation to invade his personal space.

And licks him.

“Ew, Oikawa! Who knows where that tongue’s been!”

“In my mouth!”

“Yeah, that’s about as filthy as I thought.” They start playfully shoving at each other, and whilst their upperclassmen descend into play fighting, Kindaichi and Kyoutani focus on something else.

Where the fuck have Hanamaki and Matsukawa gone?

Despite the fact the chaos in camp remains above average, it’s been silent from the two menaces. Kyoutani takes a torch and searches the fringes of the plateau, making sure there’s no signs they’ve fallen down, and trying to find them in the small damp, forest patch where Kindaichi and Watari collected foliage earlier.

Kindaichi checks the tents, and very cautiously, the teacher tent, making sure he doesn’t wake their Coach, because Mizoguchi is terrifying when woken rudely. They’d found that out at training camp, but that’s another story.

Luckily, Hanamaki and Matsukawa aren’t quite as stupid as he’d wondered, and the teacher’s tent has been left alone. But if they’re not in the two student tents, not in the teacher tent, and haven’t wandered off… Where are they?

“Any luck, Senpai?”

“Nah. M’guessing they took the actual path back. Prob’ly heading to the shuttle station. Tour guide did say there was a shop there.” Kindaichi blinks blankly, then sighs, looking up at the stars.

“It’s 2 in the morning, why would they go shopping?” Whilst he’s looking up, captivated by the stars he can only see from this clear, mountain peak for a moment, he completely misses a smirk flickering across Kyoutani’s face, golden eyes softening with excitement.

Because Hanamaki and Matsukawa’s ‘disappearance’ is a ruse. A plan. A plot.

Everyone at the campsite, asides from a very baffled Kindaichi, knows exactly where they are. Irihata himself is even in on the scheme, and there’s an important reason for that. Something creeps from the shadows behind the small shrubs where Kyoutani was falsely searching, sneaking up on the duo.

Two humanoid figures, with a very large wrapped ‘bento stack’ between them-

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!” Kindaichi shrieks and jumps off the ground, leaping away from the shadows and practically clinging to Kyoutani, which would be funny enough if he didn’t have his legs wrapped around Kyoutani’s hips.

Luckily, Kyoutani catches him sturdily with little more than a grunt of effort.

The two formerly missing boys erupt with laughter, which catches around the camp like wildfire, Kindaichi glowing a deep red as he shyly slinks away and bows deeply with apology. Kyoutani ruffles his hair with a grin.

“Nice job ‘finding’ them, kid~.”

“This- This was a setup!” Matsukawa laughs heartily, a deep sound as he whacks Kindaichi on the back.

“Sure was~. Most of it. We have no idea how Yahaba and Watari were going to distract everyone for us to get away, but… Well…” A plastic spoon is balanced on the very tips of Kindaichi’s hair and he raises an eyebrow at Watari, who pops up beside him grinning, and it’s hard not to be amused.

“Why a bento box though?” Hanamai ushers him back towards the centre of the camp, and Irihata shuffles his chair in closer to join in, camera in hands as the boys sit atop their sleeping bags and wait for Kindaichi to untie the cloth.

He seems… Very suspicious.

“Is this going to blow up in my face…?” Kunimi rolls his eyes, leaning over to tug on the little bow before Kindaichi swats his hand away, apprehensive until Oikawa smiles kindly, not with his normal mischievous grin or fake ease.

“You have my word as Captain that this is harmless~.”

“... So if it does blow up in my face, who’s next in line?” Yahaba quickly raises his arm. Oikawa’s already confirmed that he’ll be Captain once the next year starts, so there’s no problem with claiming his new position right now.

Oikawa huffs and crosses his arms, puffing out his cheeks with a heavy pout.

“Well, you’re quick to get rid of me.”

“You’re graduating soon anyways. Let me have my glory.” Oikawa pulls a face which is quickly mirrored by Iwaizumi, obviously on the same page.

“It’s gonna feel super fucking weird to suddenly be first years again, even if it is at college.”

“Mhm, yeah. I’ve gotten so used to being the Captain, I don’t know how I’m going to deal with… With not being that.”

“That’s ‘cus you’re a control freak, Oikawaaaaa~.” Unable to reach Matsukawa across the glowing Swedish candle, Oikawa settles for a glare instead, one that is sure to send chills down Matsukawa’s spine. Surprisingly, Hanamaki seems the most sombre of all.

“It’s going to be really hard without all of you… I mean, even though we only met at Aobajousai, I feel like I’ve known you my whole life… All of you. I’m… Kind of scared of leaving that behind.”

“Nothing’s being left behind.” The confidence of Kunimi’s words cuts through any tension or uneasy pause before it can even settle. He casually picks at a stone in the ground, chipping the dirt around it to loosen it.

“There’s nothing to say we can’t all meet up outside of school. Besides, you specifically are going to the community college. You’re only a ten minute train ride from the school, and we’re not exactly going anywhere. Think of all the practices you could crash.”

“Do not crash practice.”

“Oh, I’m gonna crash practice.” Hanamaki grins cheekily, with his usual energy and everything feels alright again. Irihata sighs and shakes his head, but even he can’t keep the small smile off his face at Hanamaki’s defiance.

These children, honestly.

They might all be sixteen and over, but to Irihata, they will always be kids. Just foolish, carefree, amazing kids. Ah, it’s not going to feel the same when the third years move on and new children come in, but he’s certain that feeling of the team being a family will never fade.

He’s just never seen it so strongly in a team before now. He wouldn’t be surprised if these very boys sitting in front of him suddenly announced they were secretly brothers separated at birth. Part of Irihata hopes they’ll have each other close by the rest of their lives.

“Enough distractions, open the ‘bento’, Kindaichi!”

“The way you said bento really does make me very wary.” Watari elbows Yahaba lightly for making Kindaichi even more suspicious. Luckily for them, they have a secret weapon.

They have Kunimi.

“The longer you make me wait, the more embarrassing stories I spill. So once when we were naive, stupid seven year olds-”

“Kunimi, don’t you dare tell that one!”

“I’m going to if you don’t untie that bow. We went camping in Okinawa, and went to the beach with my Dad and his siblings. My aunt was somewhat of a marine biologist in training back then, so she was delighted to show us to the rock pools.”

“I’m opening it, I’m opening it!” Flustered and burning crimson, particularly on the tips of his ears, Kindaichi tugs at the knot and tries to get it undone, but it’s not easy with Oikawa and Hanamaki poking him in the ribs from each side, nor with how tightly Kyoutani tied it - not on purpose, just to keep it safe for travelling.

“Keep going, Kunimi-chan! We’ll keep him busy!”

“Noooo! Oikawa-Senpai, Hanamaki-senpai, stop!” As much as Kindaichi tries to bat away the fingers that jab playfully into his ribs, he isn’t fighting as hard as he could. Possibly because he’s having fun, and he knows this story.

It might be embarrassing, but he doesn’t mind his beloved team knowing.

“We get to the rock pools, and whilst my aunt is trying to teach us stuff, Kindaichi just keeps picking up every rock and shell he sees and asking if it’s a hermit crab-”

“I really liked hermit crabs, okay?!”

“- and it gets to the point where my aunt gives up on trying to teach us, instead just telling Kindaichi what he’s picking up-”

“Again, I really liked hermit crabs. And I was seven!”

“- which is mostly rock, shell, rock, rock, shell… Until suddenly it’s not.” Kunimi grins having the absolute time of his life, and Kindaichi groans, burying his red face in his hands and succumbing to his fate. The rest of the team lean in for the juicy ending.

“My aunt screams, and Kindaichi is holding, in his bare child hands, a sea slug in one, and an upside-down octopus in the other. The octopus-” Kunimi cuts off with a small choked laugh, his eyes dancing with mirth and voice restraining a full on guffaw.

“The octopus instantly squirts ink like a fountain, right into Kindaichi’s face, and the sea slug just so happens to be the kind that does the same, all over his torso and legs.”

“They wrapped me in newspaper before I was allowed back in the car…” The memory of Kindaichi wrapped up in newspaper like a butterfly in a cocoon breaks the barrier for Kunimi, and he bursts out laughing so hard that he has to lean against Yahaba to stay upright.

His laughter is infectious, and spreads around the camp with delight at the story, and Kindaichi grins softly behind his hands. He definitely regrets being covered with ink, just a stupid kid who’s curiosity backfired, but he doesn’t mind the joy the tale brings.

“So can I open this like you wanted me to now, or…?”

“Ahh~, I’d quite like to tell the ice cream one~...”

No.” There’s no way Kunimi is telling that one, so he simply snickers, their childhood secrets belonging to him and Kindaichi alone. Iwaizumi nods towards the bento stack with a fond smile.

“Go ahead, Kindaichi.” Holding a breath, Kindaichi wrestles the knot open, and lets the patterned cloth fall from around the stack. Only, it’s not the bento boxes he expected. It’s a stack of presents.

He suddenly understands why in the few days leading up to this week, everyone has been trying to take a selfie with him. He barks a short, gleeful laugh at the sight of the wrapping paper covered in his face, each present with a different selfie from each member.

“You guys are incredible, you know that, right?” He takes a moment to look over the wrapped gifts, remembering all the silly little moments those photos were captured in.

Oikawa, jumping onto his back and expecting Kindaichi to catch him, only to snap a photo in motion as both of them crash forwards instead, the ceiling lights in the background as their surprised and cheeky faces are blurred.

Iwaizumi, standing in his doorway snapping a shot of him grinning into the camera, Kindaichi being ambushed by his seven massive dogs in the backgrounds, looking for all the world like he’s found paradise.

Hanamaki, the camera tilted as he snaps it accidentally, having been trying to get a sweet photo of the day they all went to the zoo, him and Kindaichi in front of the camels, and one such camel attempting to fit Hanamaki’s entire head in its mouth.

Matsukawa, in shades and a backwards turned hat, making a peace sign with a raging fire behind him, Kindaichi by his side glancing over his shoulder and looking incredibly nervous at the bonfire that’s spiralling out of control.

Yahaba, also from the day at the zoo, but this one from inside the tropical songbirds zone. Technically, Kindaichi is taking the photo, but it was on Yahaba’s phone, since Yahaba was preoccupied with hands full of bird seed, and a tiny Montserrat Oriole fledgling feeding from them.

Watari, the only one with both of them looking at the camera, posing as they hold ice creams, matching smiles and warm blushes. That had been during Training camp, when they’d been lagging behind on a team marathon and the ice cream van had stopped just behind them.

Kyoutani, standing a fair distance from the team, taking a selfie that only captures half his ear, the team in the school swimming pool in the background, Kindaichi lying flat on the surface after spectacularly failing a dive, instead belly flopping painfully like a starfish on the water.

There are so many memories, Kindaichi can’t help but feel emotional as he looks over them, sniffling and wiping away happy tears from the corners of his eyes, voice choked with emotion.

“You- You guys are ridiculous~.” He hears them laughing gently, feels their hands rubbing his back and patting his knee and arms wrapped around his shoulders comforting him playfully, and he can’t help but think that he belongs right here. That this is his home.

There’s two more presents in the stack, and both of them are wrapped in paper that warms his heart. One of them is undoubtedly from the Coaches, and Irihata nods with a grin when Kindaichi looks up to him in a mixture of awe and questioning.

The wrapping is a little different, just stripes. But it’s striped in their colours, in crystal white and spearmint blue, with smaller lines between them in peppermint green. There’s one large photo, taped on the top.

It’s an official photo from their first day as a team. The beginnings of Aobajousai this year. All nine of them - because yes, Kyoutani had shown up for one day before getting suspended - were in one photo, the second years sitting on a bench, the third years standing behind them, and the first years sitting on the floor in front, clutching their precious new uniform close.

It was one of the most significant photos in Kindaichi’s life, and it was right there, enlarged, for him to keep. He carefully detaches it, setting it aside for safety.

There’s one more present. From his best friend, the person who’s been by his side since 3 years old, through thick and thin, good times, bad times, and the worst. He glances up at Kunimi, their eyes locking, as Kunimi smiles with the fondness and softness he only has for Kindaichi.

“Go ahead~.” Hanamaki helps to hold the stack steady whilst Kindaichi wriggles out the present from the bottom, clutching it in his hands like it’s the most precious thing in the universe. The custom wrapping paper is slightly different in that it’s not covered with selfies, no.

The design is photos taken by others, by Kunimi’s parents as the two grow up together, by Kunimi’s aunts and uncles and cousins on day trips and holidays, by Kindaichi’s sister when she joins them for family camping, and even a couple rare ones from Kindaichi’s own mother. A couple are from when Kunimi and Kindaichi camp alone, pictures that Kindaichi had no idea were being taken.

Every photo marks a point in his life, from three years old to his current 16, the latest photo on the wrapping taken by Kunimi’s dad when the team had arrived back from an impromptu fishing trip, covered in seaweed and algae and dripping wet.

Even though they were soaked and exhausted and had caught nothing but colds, they were still grinning and together, with arms slung over shoulders, hands on backs, leaning in towards each other.

“Aww, Kindaichi, don’t cry, sweetheart!” The coo brings attention to the tears streaming down his face and a hiccup escapes his throat as he lets out a sob, and within a split second, he’s being hugged from all directions, starting with Oikawa who had practically flung himself across the circle to reach him.

“I just-! I’m- I’m so happy! I never thought-... I always.. A-always thought I was gonna be alone, an’ wasn’t- wasn’t allowed to- didn’t deserve to have multiple friends an’ be loved and- and feel like this, but-! But it’s so amazing! M’not alone and… and that’s the b-best… I love you all so m-much!”

“Oh, Kindaichi… We love you too.” He isn’t sure who murmurs it, so wrapped up in hugs and comfort, his own sobs still heavy in his ears as he clings back to whoever is on his lap - probably Oikawa - desperate to hold onto the warmth in this moment, happy to be loved so much.

“Y’okay?” He nods, calming down, and the hugs slowly withdraw until it’s only Kunimi slung over his back like a leech, and Matsukawa’s hand on his shoulder. Kyoutani passes over a tissue with a twitch of a smile.

“Here, you’re a mess.”

“Kyoutani!” Yahaba slaps Kyoutani’s shoulder to reprimand him, but Kindaichi only whispers a small thanks and takes the tissue to blow his nose and wipe away the tear tracks. Kunimi humms softly in amusement, the sound deep and rich against Kindaichi’s neck.

“Better keep half of that. You’ll probably cry again at the presents.”

“Yah, probably.” Tucking half the tissue into his pyjama sleeve, Kindaichi takes a deep breath and hovers a hand over each of the presents, unable to choose which one to open first. He’s excited and enthusiastic, and he just can’t decide!

With a warm chuckle, Iwaizumi leans over to nudge his present closer.

“Here~. Go in age order, yeah? Oldest to youngest.”

“Iwa-chan just wants to boast he’s the oldest. Again.” Iwaizumi grins at Oikawa, his best friend knowing exactly what he was doing, and Matsukawa’s grin grows a little bigger.

“Well, he can’t exactly boast about height~.” It takes both Oikawa and Watari to wrestle Iwaizumi into sitting back down and not throttling Matsukawa, who only wiggles his eyebrows to tease him further.

“Still…” Hanamaki interrupts, waiting until all eyes are on him.

“If we’re going oldest first, shouldn’t you open the Coach’s present first?”

“Young man, you are testing my patience tonight.” Hanamaki awkwardly laughs it off, waving his hand in dismissal, knowing Irihata isn’t genuinely mad at him. He can’t exactly deny it when he’s 30 years older than all of them.

“I’m gonna stick with opening Iwaizumi-senpai’s first, if that’s okay…?”

“It’s your birthday, Kindaichi! Do what you’d like~!”

“Ah, but save mine ‘til last.” Kunimi tugs his present away to stay on the sidelines, and watches as Kindaichi carefully pulls off each bit of tape before pulling back the paper. Immediately, he squawks with delight, eyes sparkling.

“This is- This is that hoodie I saw!!! At the zoo gift shop!!!” He picks it out of the box, unfolding it in excitement and holds it up to gaze at it in its full glory. Forest green and soft and amazing, there’s a cute little penguin insignia one the front with the caption “Just a humble humboldt!” written in an ice-like font.

As much as Kindaichi adored the giraffes, the Komodo dragons, and the fennec foxes, it had been the penguins that had really captured his heart, and he’d stayed to watch them waddle around adorably and comedically whilst everyone else had gone into the interactive bug area.

It had been hard to drag him away from the penguins, even as the zoo closed. The hoodie had enchanted him in the gift shop, but the only options were either red or way too small.

“How did you get this?!” Iwaizumi laughs heartily.

“You were busy with the badge gacha at the entrance to the gift shop! Honestly, it was hard not to tell you that I’d already bought it when you looked so heartbroken.” Kindaichi allows a squeal to escape as he tugs the hoodie on, rolling the long sleeves up just a little so they don’t drown his hands. That’s the problem with being so tall.

“I love it! I love it, it’s amazing!” There’s a couple laughs as he puts his hands in the big hoodie pocket, feeling a small hole that’s intentionally there for headphone wires. Kunimi snickers.

“You’re never going to take that off, are you?”

“Nope!”

“How are you going to wash it?”

“I’ll throw myself in the washing machine too! I mean, it looks kinda fun.” Irihata sighs when the others agree with him, something about a ‘roller coaster and log flume combined.’, although they seem to be forgetting the part where they’d drown. He’d seriously be surprised if these boys make it to 20.

“Mine next, mine next!” Oikawa pushes the present covered in blurry fall-in-motion wrapping paper closer, practically right into Kindaichi’s lap, and he quietly laughs as he starts pulling the tape off.

“Is it bad I’m expecting something with nuts in?”

“Geh! I know I’m obnoxious sometimes, but I’m not dumb! I know full well you’re allergic.”

Sometimes.” Iwaizumi echoes, obviously teasing Oikawa sarcastically. Oikawa pouts at him, but he can’t bring himself to refute it. Ever so carefully, as he always is, Kindaichi unwraps the present. At first, it just looks like an empty cardboard box, except something slides around inside.

“...Umm?” Oikawa giggles gleefully, and Kindaichi flips the box over in suspicion, finding a small tab to tug open with great difficulty.

“This would be easier to open with a knife…”

“If you had knives, I’d have to confiscate them.” Oikawa goes ashen. He reaches over and presses a hand over Kindaichi’s, stopping him opening it.

“Maybe leave it until we’re home?”

“... Did you seriously put a knife in here, Oikawa-senpai, holy fu-” Irihata sighs, voice thick with disappointment and yet still highly amused.

“I’m going to have to confiscate it. But, you may as well open it, Kindaichi.” A little dubious, Kindaichi manages to get the box open by wriggling a finger under the tab and wrenching it open, carefully lifting up the lid.

He removes a bit of tissue paper, and gasps. There, in the centre of the box, is an opalescent knife handle in a filigree style, the blade short, but sharp and precise, tempered to be black and shiny. It’s almost rogue dagger like, if it weren’t for the fine craftsmanship of the handle.

“It’s beautiful!” He turns it over in his hands carefully, admiring the shimmer of the pearly opal handle in the starlight, different colours sparkling as it turns it, like a holographic effect. The blade itself is almost like chrome, although the feel of it is granite.

“I remember you said you got scared being at home alone so much… I thought this might help you feel more safe.” Kindaichi exhales softly, holding the knife close to him in admiration.

“It does. Thank you very much, Senpai.” As much as he’d like to hold onto it, he responsibly boxes it back up and passes it over to Irihata so the Coach can keep it safe for him until they arrive back at the school.

“I guess this means my gift is next?” Matsukawa passes over his box, watching Kindaichi hold it up to his ear to rattle, gently tips it back and forth, and try to figure out what it is before opening.

“Y’know, I probably should have warned that it might be fragile.” Kindaichi pauses with a flicker of horror in his expression before rolling his eyes, immediately catching on that Matsukawa is joking.

“Just like a flower ‘might’ bloom on a stone, right, Senpai?” The others catch onto the idiom, Hanamaki leaping at the chance to add his own hit, as if charging up for critical impact.

“Like a potato ‘might’ become an eel!”

“Or the wind ‘might’ get trapped in a net.”

“What about when he said the sun ‘might’ rise in the west?” Matsukawa laughs, but waves a hand around to cut the others off.

“Oh, come on. You guys are forgetting the best one! Remember when Kyoutani said he was maintaining his own little vegetable garden?” Golden eyes brighten and Kyoutani nods.

“You said to save any clams I ‘might’ find.”

“So now we know Mattsun is a huge fan of traditional idioms, and what’s in the box isn’t fragile, that ponders the question of what it really is.” Kindaichi shakes the box again, completely confused. Not only does it sound empty, it feels empty.

He knows it isn’t, because the expression on Matsukawa’s face is a mix between a smirk and anticipation. He has a feeling Hanamaki knows too, desperately trying to casually hide his grin behind a sleeve.

“... This better not be a glitter bomb.” Not putting it past them, Kunimi slinks back to use Kindaichi as a shield. Deadpan, Kindaichi stares straight ahead into the fire and pauses in unwrapping the present.

“Seriously?”

“Mhm~. Now open it.”

Seriously?”

“It’s your present. I’m not going to suffer a side-effect of staying within range.” Kindaichi resigns himself to his fate with a ragged sigh and tosses aside the paper to open the box, holding his breath and leaning away from it, one eye squeezed shut to protect his sight if it is a glitter bomb.

Fortunately, there’s not glitter. Just a piece of paper. Curious, Kindaichi pulls it out and flips it over, and reads the words.

“This ticket may only be printed once… Blah blah blah… One student admission to- !!!” He cuts himself off with an excited squeak, shoving his face right into the paper. If he had a tail, it would be wagging fast enough to sprain.

“Star Fusion live Sunday afternoon concert!!! Those are my favourite band!!!”

“I know~.”

“You got me a ticket!!!”

“I know!”

“I’m gonna see them, live on stage!!!!”

“I know~!” Matsukawa barely has enough time to open his arms before a very excited boy leaps at him, squeezing him so tightly it actually hurts. But he just hugs back with a laugh.

“Don’t stop there, you’ve got more to go!” Filled with vigour and undoubtedly more excited than before, Kindaichi scrambles back to his place and starts ripping the wrapping off Hanamaki’s gift. He picks up the box and-

“You didn’t.” His eyes go wide and Hanamaki muffles a laugh in his arm. The box feels exactly the same as Matsukawa’s did, so Kindaichi doesn’t hesitate to tear the box apart, not caring for the opening mechanism.

He stops breathing as he holds up another sheet of paper, pressing it to his face like he’s trying to inhale it and making a strange screeching noise. He doesn’t seem capable of words when Watari questions what it is, so Kunimi attempts to peel it away and manages to read a little section before Kindaichi rolls over sideways in great joy, curled up with the paper smothering his face.

“Ah. A Star Fusion VIP backstage pass.” The expression that dawns on the other’s faces - asides from Hanamaki and Matsukawa who high five with grins - is one that reads ‘well, that explains it’. Kindaichi's continuous screech fades out and he rolls onto his other side.

“... Is- Is he going to be okay? I don’t think he’s breathing.” The screeching resumes. Kunimi monotonously pats Kindaichi’s face, making sure the impact is effective.

“Give him a minute. Pretty sure this is the best thing to ever happen to him.” The longer it draws on, the quieter the crickets get, as if they’re in awe of this seemingly endless ‘chirping’. Kyoutani snorts and rolls his eyes with a tiny laugh.

“The natural reaction to getting concert tickets, I presume?” Kunimi huffs with amusement, more fixated on running his fingers through Kindaichi’s hair, styling it differently whilst Kindaichi is completely out of action from being overwhelmed. In a good way.

“Considering they’re extortionately priced, yes.” Chin in hands, Oikawa makes a sound of discontent, although he fully agrees with Kunimi’s words.

“It doesn’t matter to us because our families are well-off enough to afford private school and luxuries. Kin-chan and Iwa-chan are on scholarship though.”

“Oh. I… Didn’t know.” Yahaba pats Kyoutani’s back hard, as if telling him to suck it up and apologise, but before he can do so, Iwaizumi speaks, casually poking the Swedish candle fire with a stick.

“I don’t exactly go around telling everyone. The only reason these guys know is because I had to ask for help covering the compulsory Environmental Studies field trip. Why a compulsory trip costs money, I don’t know. But then again, it is a private school.”

“Capitalism sucks! Down with capitalism!” Hanamaki starts it off, and soon, the ring of children is chanting ‘Down with Capitalism’ whilst one of them - Kindaichi - lies on his back just breathing through the VIP backstage pass. He’s still stunned.

Irihata sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose. Whilst he agrees with the team’s viewpoint, he never imagined a simple camping trip would turn into a impromptu protest past midnight on a mountain plateau. With the fire candle, it seems more like some sort of pagan ritual or sacrificial ceremony.

… Okay, maybe he should have foreseen this coming, considering some of the stunts he’s seen them get involved with during training camp.

“Now, now, you can continue this at a later date. Let’s not wake Sadayuki.” There’s a prolonged comical silence. Okawa clears his throat first, looking sheepish.

“Good point. We should probably wait for the official protest in Tokyo. It’ll be more effective with a whole crowd of hundreds of people.” Iwaizumi nods, jaw stretching mid-yawn. He’s used to early nights, and even though they slept through to the afternoon yesterday, he’s starting to get tired.

“First, we should wrap up a certain someone’s birthday~.” He crawls over to pat Kindaichi’s thigh rapidly, making his whole leg shake.

“C’mon! Up and at ‘em, wakey wakey, we’re not done yet!” Kindaichi takes a deep breath before sitting up.

“Okay, okay! Jeez, what was that for?!” He’s immediately faced with guffaws, and knowing the snicker of the person behind him, his expression switches to ‘done’. That’s the only way to describe it.

“Kunimi.” His flat tone induces harder laughing and Kunimi claps his hands over his mouth, tears leaking from the corners of his eyes.

“Y-Yes~?”

“What the fuck did you do to my hair?” Kunimi doesn’t answer, his snickering breaking into full on laughter, despite being muffled behind his hands. He’s not the only one losing it.

Hanamaki howls with laughter, clutching his belly as he curls into a ball because he can’t sit up straight. Oikawa has rolled onto his front, pounding the ground with a fist, his laugh soundless and wheezy. Even Kyoutani guffaws freely, when he’d been trying to hold back all evening!

The reason? Where Kunimi had been ‘styling’ Kindaichi’s hair, he’d left half of it sticking upright, and the top half…

Spikes outwards horizontally like someone had just whacked a frying pan down on Kindaichi’s head but stopped halfway through his hair. Or perhaps a skillet.

“Kunimi Akira, I’m gonna beat your ass.” Knowing the empty threat is harmless and Kindaichi would never, Kunimi sticks his tongue out and holds up a peace sign, face devoid of emotion. He’s still laughing on the inside. Kindaichi sighs and straightens his hair out again.

“Calm down~. Kindaichi, you still have presents to open.” The corners of Kindaichi’s lips twitch upwards in a sad sort of smile, brows drawing together and his entire posture apologetic as he picks up Yahaba’s wrapped gift.

“I’m really sorry, but I don’t think anything can beat meeting Star Fusion. They’re like, my idols.” Yahaba shrugs, not offended in the slightest.

“Hopefully, they’re still good. Not the best, but good.” Kindaichi apologises once more before pulling the paper off carefully. He’d like to keep all of them, or at least one of the selfie prints from them. It might be hard to find one that hasn’t been ripped on Hanamaki’s though… He’d opened it with such excitement.

“Oh! These are the limited edition comics I really wanted! Thanks, Yahaba!”

“You’re welcome. It seemed a shame you had to line up for 4 hours and then they ran out. Really, the publishers should have better planned it out and printed more copies.” Kindaichi flicks through the pages in awe, just glossing over it for now. He’ll read them properly when his eyes aren’t so tired.

“How did you get them…? I looked everywhere.” Flicking back his fringe, Yahaba smirks.

“Connections~.”

“I knew your family was yakuza.”

“Wha-?! No, Matsukawa-Senpai, my family is not yakuza! Just influential with lots of business associates!”

“Yakuza.” Iwaizumi emphasises, and Yahaba promptly chucks some dirt into his lap. Kyoutani would probably add his own reinforcement, since he took great joy in winding Yahaba up, but he was too busy tending to the stir-fry.

“I think it’s done. S’only enough for a snack, unless anyone wants to skip.” The many hungry looks sent his way suggest they’re only going to be getting small portions. Irihata grunts as he stands from his chair, old bones protesting his movement.

Not that old, but he’s not exactly sprinting or jumping anymore.

He rummages through the kitchenware selection they carried up the mountain with them, pulling out plastic bowls and a pair of tongs.

“I hope you managed to save some of that cutlery, boys.” Yahaba and Watari nervously glance at each other.

“Umm…”

“About that…”

“We maybe, sort of…”

“Didn’t?” They force out a weak, nervous chuckle in unison. Iwaizumi rolls his eyes as he takes the offered bowls with a polite ‘thank you’ and serves up the noodles, passing the bowls around the circle.

“Luckily, we’re not going to be judged for eating straight from the bowl. Just don’t act like animals-” He doesn’t even have time to finish the sentence before he hears chewing right in his ear and turns to see Oikawa with his face wedged into the bowl.

Eating like an animal.

Iwaizumi grinds his teeth together in frustration and promptly swats the back of Oikawa’s head, just enough to muss up his hair and make him jolt forwards.

“Iwa-chan, ow!”

“You’re disgusting, Shittykawa!”

“I’m hungry!”

“That doesn’t excuse burying your face in your bowl!”

“Who cares?! We’re out in the wildness! Embrace your- Ow, ow, OW! Iwa-Chan!” Tugging on Oikawa’s ear to lecture him, Iwaizumi keeps shouting at him - just the normal ‘dumbass!’ repetitively - and Hanamaki slurps a noodle from his bowl.

“Dinner and a show. I’m liking this camping gimmick.”

“Eh, really? Because it’s giving me a stomach ache.” Hanamaki slides his eyes over to Matsukawa’s bowl, noting the stir fry inside.

“Hey.”

“Yeah?”

“Don’t spring onions make you shit like there’s tomorrow?” Matsukawa slowly slurps up a noodle, eyes widening with regret until he’s staring into his bowl with a sense of dread.

“Hanamaki.”

“Uh-huh?”

“I have made… A mistake.” Hanamaki laughs, but whacks Matsukawa on the back sympathetically.

“Well, the shuttle station is only 2 hours down the other side of the mountain!”

“Why’s Senpai going down the mountain?” Watari tilts his head curiously, having only caught the tail end of their conversation, and Matsukawa buries his face in his hands shamefully whilst Hanamaki snickers.

“Because he’s stupid and his ass is going to explode later.” Watari’s face twists into disgust.

“I’d rather not share a tent, then.”

“We’ll sort tents out once the presents are done. Then we can all get some sleep before tomorrow.”

“You mean before later today.” Hanamaki smirks as he lightly smacks Watari’s shoulder, only making the cheeky grin on his face grow.

“What time is it anyways?” Answering the question just loud enough to interrupt the other small conversations that have bloomed, Hanamaki lets the question hang as Yahaba pulls out his phone - miraculously still with 5% battery left - and checks.

“Just after 1 in the morning. Another hour, and we’d have been up a full 12 hours.”

“It certainly feels like one in the morning.” Iwaizumi yawns again, voice thick with tiredness as he drops his head against Oikawa’s shoulder. Oikawa huffs in amusement and tousles his spikes affectionately.

“Hold on a little longer, Iwa-chan~. Just don’t start counting stars or you really will fall asleep!” Defiantly, Iwaizumi looks up, ready to start counting, but his breath catches in his throat with wonder.

The span of stars looks like feathers wrapped around the earth, like a sky of wings, emerging out of the deep blue with the intent to spark awe. Iwaizumi can feel his lungs inflate as he inhales, the mountain air suddenly a content chill, eyes widening as they reflect the stars above.

“Wow…” The Milky Way stretches directly above them, moved from where it had been hours earlier, stretching across the sky like a dragon taking flight. It’s mirrored in the large lake they can see back on the ground below, looking to the North.

It’s like a tale of two dragons, written in the very universe itself and emerging in constellations and galaxies. The stars seem to spread to the ends of the earth, and onwards, reaching far beyond the human imagination.

Silence reigns on the mountain plateau, stunned by the sheer amount of respect this view demands, simply for being so miraculous and awe-inspiring. Things like problems and time seem so insignificant here, with the outreaches of the galaxy seemingly in reach. As if they could stretch upwards and dip their fingers into a velvet sky, swirling the glittering stars above them.

It’s impossible, of course, Oikawa knows this. But he still longs to touch the night sky as if it were a syrup.

The moment isn’t like earlier, where the team had relaxed beneath the stars and talked softly amongst themselves. No, this is deeper and more meaningful. Almost personal. Each of them has their own thoughts and memories and emotions evoked by the spectacle above, but they’re all silent in admiration.

Kyoutani doesn’t dare breathe, wary of shattering the illusion bestowed upon on them for that moment. Like they were infinite. He’s seen stars before, obviously, but never like this.

Never so close, and he knows they aren’t physically closer, but they feel closer, and they feel magical and they feel like something he knows!

It’s different from when he leaves the house at night, walking off night terrors and uncertainty. It’s different from when he looks out his window and wishes the light pollution from the town would just switch off.

It’s different from all the times he’s looked to the stars for guidance, because he didn’t know where else to turn.

He doesn’t feel like he’s cold and alone, like he’s staring up at stars that will never answer back or give him the comfort he needs. He doesn’t feel like he’s ridiculously pleading the sky to give him something, and yet feel nothing.

Here in this moment, Kyoutani feels warmth, like there are arms around him, like a soft voice whispering comfort in his ear or fingers carding through his hair or gentle lips on his forehead. He feels a person he misses, and his eyes water so much that the stars blur together and he swallows down the emotion rising in his throat.

“You okay…?” Yahaba’s hand hovers above his knee, unsure if he should place it down or not, and his concerned whisper grounds Kyoutani from thinking too hard or delving too far into the past. He nods, grinding the heels of his hands into his wet eyes and sitting properly.

Yahaba’s warm hand lands on his knee, giving it a comforting squeeze. On his other side, Kyoutani feels Watari lean against him.

“It’s okay, we’re here for you.” Another silent nod. And then, with the absence of those familiar arms around him, the first sob tears free. Kyoutani is well aware it shatters the moment, so he wipes away his tears and gazes fearlessly at the looks of concern sent his way.

“S’nothing. Just felt something… Kinda weird.” Oikawa leans in a little closer, curious as to what Kyoutani defines as strange, and what could possibly incur such overwhelming emotions that he was spilling tears.

“Weird? We won’t judge, if you want to talk.” Kyoutani fumbles a little. He rolls his thumbs around each other like he’s considering, and his gaze moves around slowly, avoiding eye contact. Eventually he settles on his lap. He takes a deep, heavy breath.

“My mum died when I was 11. Cancer. It was- It was unavoidable. She was sick. But- But I still loved her, goddamn it, she was my mum. It didn’t matter to me that- that she didn’t or couldn’t do what healthy parents did…” He pauses, clearing his throat.

“She used t’ let me sit on her bed. The tubes everywhere made it- made it uncomfortable and made it r- real, but… We would talk. Or I would… I would talk and she would… Listen. Talking was too hard for her, on bad days.” Kyoutani takes another deep breath, but this one shudders.

Immediately, Yahaba squeezes his knee comfortingly again, and Watari leans a little closer, taking one of his hands and threading their fingers together in unwavering support.

“She loved me. A hell of a fucking lot, even when I was a little shit. My dad does too, but… But it felt more important with Mum, because time was so…” He trails off, unsure of the words, until Kindaichi pips up quietly;

“...Limited?”

“Mhm. Limited. Time was limited. We all- We all knew she was dying, but when she did, it still felt so- so fucking unfair! She tried to- she tried to dye my hair the day before and-” He cuts himself off with a small sob that’s half a laugh, and despite his wet eyes, his lips twitch upwards. He waves a hand at his hair.

“It ended up looking like this shit thing because her tubes were in the way~.” There’s not a dry eye in the house - or on the mountaintop, rather - and Hanamaki sounds like he’s about to start full on crying.

“So- so you kept it like that for your m-mum?” Nodding, Kyoutani reaches up and lightly brushes his fingers over where he can feel the shorter, clipped lines.

“Tidied it up a bit. Styled it. But yeah…. Yeah.” When no one else speaks, he glances back up at the stars, clenching his eyes shut. A single tear slips loose, rolling down his cheek.

“I felt her presence. When- When we looked up at the stars ‘n’ shit. It felt like she- Like she was here. I felt my mum.” Watari and Yahaba shift so they can hug him entirely, and he sniffles as he barely whispers a thanks and buries his face in one of their collarbones. He can’t tell who.

“The stars are powerful things. They can draw out visions and emotions, illusions and beliefs, whether it regards the distant future or is from a recent past. Whole civilisations have revolved around stars, and yet, in this day and age, they seem so forgotten. Perhaps, the intention is for them to be there when we need them most.” Irihata smiles kindly at Kyoutani, and he absorbs the words, knowing they mean so much to him.

“Sensei…” Whatever Kunimi is going to say is cut off by a large yawn that ends with a small, adorable squeak. Kindaichi giggles a little, reaching up and back to tap Kunimi’s cheek affectionately.

“Not yet, Kunimi~. You slept longer than all of us, you should be the least tired.”

“I require 14 hours a day or I cannot function for the other too many hours.”

“... You dare to imply you are awake for 10 whole hours, when I’m the one who has to piggyback you around everywhere?”

“The audacity, I know. But I spend a lot of time awake at night.”

“.. That’s when you’re supposed to be sleeping!” Kunimi smirks, self-satisfied with teasing his friend, and nuzzles into the warmth of his back. He’s like a pillow…Oikawa pokes his shoulder, and gets no response.

“I think Kunimi-chan might actually be asleep~. We all need some sleep.” He twists to start rolling up his sleeping bag, ready to take into a tent, when Iwaizumi grabs the corner of his pyjama shirt.

“Not yet. Presents first.” Sheepishly, Kindaichi rubs the back of his neck.

“I- I would like to open them all together, if that’s okay? I can wait if everyone wants me to, I can-!”

“Kindaichi~. Open your presents~.” Matsukawa nudges his shoulder with his own, cutting him off from what would inevitably be an awkward, messy ramble of words. Sometimes, he paints himself as such a pushover, it’s hard to remember this is the boy who stood up to Kageyama.

Maybe it’s just a matter of respect.

They respect him as he is, he respects them as they are, and he recognises them as diligent Senpai he can trust. They’re equals, lifting each other up and keeping each other grounded.

Kindaichi needs to be grounded a lot when he gets excited, and lifted up when he’s unsure, Matsukawa realises. It was probably hard for Kageyama - back in middle school - to have understood and adapted to that, which resulted in the power imbalance.

“Oh, okay!” The little nudge - both physical and supportive - is all Kindaichi needs to get back that spark in his eyes, sit up a little straighter, and dive in for the presents. He may have offered to stop, but it was painfully obvious how much he wanted to continue.

“This one is from Watari-senpai!”

“Hell yeah! I’ll apologise in advance, it’s not that good~.” Hanamaki gasps in mock shock, lightly pushing Watari against Kyoutani, from where they’ve sat up but are all still entangled.

“Don’t put yourself down!”

“M-Mhm! Even just to get a present is amazing, senpai! I’m really thankful for- for anything! Everything!” Watari blushes a little, but there’s nothing that can dull his beaming smile.

“Aw, shucks! I hope you like it though. Ah, be careful though! This one is fragile.” Kindaichi takes that to heart as he lifts the box extremely carefully, like it’s made of glass. He unwraps the paper with a nervous expression, as if simply jostling the box will destroy whatever’s inside.

It won’t because it’s already been lugged up a mountain, but the peacefulness of the moment prevents anyone getting too impatient.

Taking a deep breath, Kindaichi lifts the lid of the box with shaking hands and is met with bubble wrap. So. Much. Bubble wrap. He peels back each sheet layer by layer, passing it round to Oikawa, Hanamaki, Kyoutani, and Watari so they can have something to do with their hands. It keeps them out of trouble.

Iwaizumi snorts a laugh when the removed bubble wrap unveils a layer of polystyrene.

“How much did you package that with?”

“Enough to keep it safe! I didn’t know what we’d be doing on this trip, so better safe than sorry!” As soon as Iwaizumi peeks the red box with a gold seal on top, his face dawns with recognition and realisation.

“I think I know what it is.” He peers at Watari for confirmation and gets a thumbs up, making him laugh. Every single one of the team has gotten a box like this on their birthday, although not necessarily in front of others.

For Kindaichi, though, this would be the first time seeing this box as he wasn’t around last year for Watari’s streak of matching gifts. Kunimi has had one too, but he’s asleep at the moment. Thankfully, for the surprise element, Kunimi had opened his gift from Watari whilst Kindaichi was showering, so the box remains a mystery to him.

“It looks incredibly expensive…” He carefully picks it up, removing the lid of the red and gold box with extreme caution. On the inside, there’s a little leaflet.

“Juunishi? Oh! It’s a zodiac thing! This is going to be a horse, isn’t it, senpai~?” Watari laughs and claps his hands with joy.

“You got it~! But you still don’t know what it is!” Lifting the leaflet, Kindaichi is met with a delicate horse figurine, carved from synthetic alexandrite. It glitters purple and blue, echoing the stars above them, and capturing them in its magnificence.

The horse is posed as if standing for a dressage competition, and under the hoof of the raised front leg is a large, spherical pearl, white with a shimmering of pink that travels as Kindaichi holds it and rotates it to admire the entire form, his expression never shifting from his gasp and exhale of awe. On the black oak base, there are words inscribed.

“Happy Birthday, Kindaichi… Misaki horse of the juunishi, Alexandrite and Pearl of June…” He sits up with tears of happiness sparkling in his eyes, clutching the horse figurine to him like it’s the most precious thing in the world.

“This is incredible! It’s incredible! Thank you, Senpai!” Watari flashes a peace sign with a toothy grin, and slowly settles into a kind smile, opening his eyes again.

“We all have matching ones~. Iwaizumi has a tatsu dragon in pearl with an alexandrite treasure, Oikawa has a Fuku-riu dragon in ruby, Matsukawa has a Ka-riu dragon in bloodstone with an aquamarine treasure, whilst Yahaba has an aquamarine uwabami snake coiled around a bloodstone, and so on so forth.”

“Does Kunimi have a horse too?”

“Mhm~! His is a Yonaguni horse in aquamarine, with a bloodstone treasure.”

“That’s so cool! I love it! Thank you so much, Senpai~!!!” His enthusiasm and excitement is catching, giving everyone the boost they need to wake up a little. Asides from Kunimi, who doesn’t stir. Kindaichi fumbles with a place to put the horse figurine until Watari shows him how to place it back in the red and gold box, and Iwaizumi helps wrap it with the (popped) bubble wrap.

“Kyoutani-senpai’s is next.” With a stiff nod, Kyoutani displays his nervousness through wringing his hands together. The sight of the wrapping paper though, silly selfie printed all over it, relaxes him a little and makes him smile. Just a little one, but a contented smile nonetheless.

The second Kindaichi picks up the box like it’s empty, completely featherlight, his eyes widen and he whips his head to Kyoutani with an unfittingly stern expression.

“If this is another concert ticket, I will hug you.” Scoffing, Kyoutani holds his hands up in front of him.

“Do not fucking hug me.”

“I WILL fucking hug you!”

“It’s not concert tickets.” Kindaichi tries to wrestle a smile off his face but just ends up making this weird expression that Hanamaki is giggling at, Oikawa tries to imitate, and Yahaba coughs to cover up his little chuckle.

“Still gonna hug you.” Kyoutani rolls his eyes.

“Kunimi’s a bad influence. You’re becoming a little shit too.” The wrapping paper taken off whilst they spoke, Kindaichi pulls the tab open and lifts the lid, eyebrows furrowing.

“A photo of a baby goat? It’s cute.” Kyoutani gives a lopsided grin, his golden eyes alive with a scheming light.

“Confused~?” Kindaichi rapidly shakes his head, holding the photo up with a flustered blush.

“Y-Yes! I mean no! I mean! It’s really cute, and I super love goats, but it’s- uh… I’m really sorry to be so ungrateful!” Before he can spiral into apologies and mumbled excuses, Kyoutani sighs and cuts in.

“It’s your kid.” Kindaichi freezes in confusion, blinking with shock.

“...Eh?”

“It’s your kid.”

“I don’t… Uh… I don’t… Have? A goat?” Kyoutani’s grin grows until he snorts with an eruption of laughter under his breath, unable to keep up the stern façade. Maybe he would have, long ago, but he loves this team. Loves them like weird little brothers and weirder brothers his age and even weirder older brothers.

“You do now~. Pop by the farm sometime and meet him in person.” Gobsmacked, Kindaichi’s mouth hangs open as he glances from the photo to Kyoutani and back again before he finally - visibly - gets it.

“You got me a goat?! An actual- A whole, live fucking baby goat?!”

“I should hope he’s still alive, yes. Although the dumb thing did try to headbutt an electric fence…”

“I LOVE HIM ALREADY.” Kunimi startles awake at the shout, lifting his head with a dribble of drool still connecting him to Kindaichi’s shoulder, and hair wild and dishevelled. Before he can even get a sense of where he is, there’s a goat shoved in his face.

“Kunimi, Kunimi, look! Kyoutani got me a goat! An actual goat!!!”

“... S’photo…”

“A photo of the actual, live, baby goat!!” Suppressing a groan at being awoken so suddenly, Kunimi nods his encouragement and then drops his head to Kindaichi’s shoulder again. He’s not sleeping, just trying to wake up a little slower.

“Senpai, I need to know everything about this goat. Everything.”

“He’s three weeks old, white ‘n’ brown, named ‘Dipshit’-” Kindaichi gasps softly.

“Dipshit! I love him...”

“- And he has a habit of ramming electric fences. He’s fucking stupid.”

“I- I love stupid goats… I love him so much! Thank you, senpai!” Kyoutani relaxes, until he sees Kindaichi jump to his feet and he knows exactly what’s coming. He attempts to get up and run, but Yahaba and Watari holds him down with identical auras of mischief.

“Traitors.” Still, when the kid - can he really say kid anymore? - kneels in front of him and wraps his long, warm arms around him, Kyoutani only resists with a minor grunt before he wrenches his arms free from Yahaba and Watari and hugs back, firmly patting Kindaichi’s back.

“Yeah, yeah, it’s a goat. I get it. Now lemme go before you ruin my tough reputation.” The chorus of ‘aww~’s from the circle suggests he doesn’t have a reputation left to ruin. He squeezes a fraction tighter before removing his arms and letting Kindaichi up again, only just hearing the whispered ‘thank you so much’ before the kid returns to his place, smiling.

His smile fades as he looks at the two remaining boxes, instead biting the inside of his cheek. Iwaizumi frowns in concern.

“What’s wrong?”

“I- I know I’m s’posed to open the stuff from the Coaches last… but is it really rude if I leave Kunimi until last…? I feel like- like it’s going to be a little more special just because we’ve known each other so long… Ah! I’m sorry if that upsets anyone!”

“We’re not going to be upset at all, that’s perfectly understandable~.” Iwaizumi pats his thigh supportively, withdrawing and indicating for Kindaichi to carry on. As he picks up the Coaches present, there’s a slight interruption.

“Oop, hold on.” Irihata returns from wherever he vanished to - not that the kids even noticed, to be fair - and passes out little paper brown bags with their names scrawled on in messy black pen.

“Let Kindaichi open his first, then you can all open these~.” Yahaba narrows his eyes as he scrutinises the tiny paper bag.

“It’s not our birthday, Sensei.” With a warm chuckle, Irihata passes the last one to Oikawa.

“No, but I think you’ll understand soon enough.” Confusion and curiosity ripples amongst them, but as Hanamaki tries to take a peek in the little bag, Irihata gently smacks his hand with a firm glares. Hanamaki gulps.

“Okay, no peeking, got it.” Kindaichi, as baffled as he may be, is actually pretty happy that everyone gets a little something. It feels like they’re even more involved, like they’re in the same boat. He tears the wrapping off, not bothering to be careful since he’s already removed the photo from his first official day on the team.

Pulling open the standard box everyone has put their presents in for the sake of stacking them, Kindaichi makes a small ‘oooh~!’ sound. Laid out before his eyes is a vast selection of snacks, from sugary Konpeito to salty crisps and chocolatey Kit-Kats. Probably slightly melted, but chocolate all the same.

“Sweet!”

“Literally.” Kunimi’s little quip has his ‘pillow’ snort, his shoulders shaking so much that Kunimi is dislodged, and he wriggles around to sit next to Kindaichi like normal, squeezing between him and Iwaizumi. As Kindaichi rummages, he finds the same paper brown bag.

“Oh! So we all have one of these!” Irihata nods, and within seconds, everyone had opened their little brown bags and are laughing.

Because each of them has a tiny keychain from the aquarium visit, with each of the creatures they had teased each other about being. Asides from the creature, they keychains are matching, a blue-shaded rock in the background and the aquarium logo emblazoned on the front.

Oikawa cackles as Iwaizumi holds up the pufferfish keychain, and his laughter only increases when he sees Yahaba’s cuttlefish. They’d teased him about his hair shifting colours in the light, which fit the cuttlefish perfectly.

“Sensei, with all due respect… Fuck you.” Irihata waggles a finger in his direction, but it’s clear that he’s in good spirits, the corners of his eyes creased and grin stretching his face.

“Watch your language~.” Oikawa himself has an adorable little crystal jellyfish, whilst Kyoutani looks incredibly proud of his mantis shrimp, knowing how hard they punch in relevance to their weight. Hanamaki’s leafy sea dragon looks as dorky as the person holding it, attempting to make it ‘fight’ Matsukawa’s Hawksbill turtle.

Watari cherishes his Thresher shark keychain with both hands, whilst Kunimi holds his cownose ray at arm length, squinting at it like it’s wronged him. That’s not surprising, considering he hadn’t been that impressed when the team jostled him in the aquarium, pointed at the ray burying itself under sand, and said “That you”.

Kindaichi, the birthday boy, holds up a Pinoy angelfish keychain with sparkling eyes. It’s black and silver striped, but his attention is immediately drawn to the fin. When everyone had crowded around the dome-like viewing window, Hanamaki had instantly pointed out the fin looked like Kindaichi’s hair. It had been hilarious back then, but it was heart-warming now.

“Thank you, Irihata-sensei. I’ll be sure to thank Coach Mizoguchi in the morning too!” The old Coach nods proudly. He’d seen how these boys - particularly the first years - had grown, and come to love each other as family as well as love themselves.

At first, he’d been skeptical when Iwaizumi had dragged these two into the hall, demanding they be allowed to try out even when they hadn’t applied to the club. Oikawa had echoed his demands, and Irihata had relented.

He hadn’t expected much from them. When Iwaizumi had introduced them, Kunimi had been purely apathetic and Kindaichi’s eyes had darted around the court, never settling in one place too long, before hanging his head as if trying to shut it out.

He’d even covered his ears when Oikawa had whined at Hanamaki for purposely messing up a spike to make their applicants laugh.

Irihata had expected nothing. He’d expected the two who seemed to hate volleyball be wash-outs. But he trusted Iwaizumi and Oikawa, so he trusted their judgement. Even Mizoguchi had seemed on edge throughout the tryout, like he knew something about their history. He’d been cheering them on discreetly, but Irihata could see it plain as day.

So when these two first years had played wonderfully, he had been blown away. He could see they were nervous about being around their teammates. He could tell they were shying away from their full strength and potential. He knew, from watching them, that they had loved volleyball once, but lost the spark.

Something had killed that love inside of them. Something had killed the way these boys loved a part of themselves. Irihata found out what it was from Mizoguchi once the tryouts were over. A demanding, selfish setter - through only minor fault of his own! - had taken away their enjoyment and their confidence.

Kunimi had bounced back quickly. Once Oikawa had told him how amazing he was for his feints, and Matsukawa had complimented his playing style, Kunimi had gone straight back to loving volleyball and trusting his team with all his heart.

Kindaichi had been a hard shell to crack. It was like he had built up layers of walls, blocking out everything from the past, trying to deny that volleyball ever happened. It had taken Oikawa giving him extra spiking practice, Hanamaki constantly coming up with new games, and Iwaizumi reassuring him before Kindaichi learnt to step on court like he belonged there again.

From the ashes of these shy, apathetic, traumatised boys, the phoenix had risen.

Looking at them now, laughing around a campfire and leaning against each other, so deeply entangled with their team it’s hard to tell who’s legs are who’s, Irihata feels more like he’s looking at a family that has always lived together, always known each other. Belonged with each other.

Even if they had never reached nationals, Aobajousai as they were now was Irihata’s pride and joy.

“Kindaichi, you have one left!”

“Save the best ‘til last.” Iwaizumi’s mumble fades into another yawn, a testament to how tired he is. But then, it is drawing near 2 in the morning. Taking this into consideration, Kindaichi unwraps it remarkably quickly without sacrificing his carefulness in opening the box.

He gasps, soft and emotional. His eyes water and he covers his mouth with his hand. Kunimi smiles with a small huff and hugs him from behind. Kindaichi reaches in, hands shaking, and pulls out a cotton blanket, dark blue with little crabs and starfish on. He slowly lifts it to his face, bowing his head into it, and sniffles as he buries his face in it. Kunimi knows he’s crying.

“Remember this~?” Kindaichi nods, far too overwhelmed for words, but in a good way. Kunimi laughs gently, rubbing his hand comfortingly up and down Kindaichi’s arm, helping him work through the influx of emotion. Matsukawa leans over, concern written all over his expression.

“Is he- Is he okay?”

“Mhm~.” Kunimi’s calm amusement reassures them a little, but it doesn’t quash the worry at how Kindaichi has suddenly been rendered speechless, by a simply blanket. A very tiny blanket… Almost like…

“Ah! Is that your baby blankie!?” Oikawa is right on the money as Kunimi nods, still focused on rubbing Kindaichi’s back. He’s so emotionally moved that it’s taking a while to work through.

“I had to rummage around the loft a couple of hours, but I finally found everything.”

“Everything?” Shuffling to his knees and peering round into the box, Iwaizumi can see all sorts of things in their that are targeted at young children - all the way from toddlers to pre-teens. From dummies to the blanket Kindaichi holds, toys abound and those weird waterproof books, it seems almost like an entire childhood is unveiled in the present.

“You had all this in your loft?”

“Mhm. Since Kindaichi-san worked a lot, especially overnight, Kindaichi stayed with us almost everyday. S’why there’s so much of his old stuff in my house.” Yahaba raises an eyebrow, but before he can say anything, Kunimi shoots him a glare and shakes his head, a clear indication that no questions are to be asked about the arrangement. Or distinct lack of parents.

“I was a dumb baby…” Kunimi snorts with amusement, leaning affectionately against his best friend, fully understanding the words muffled by the blankie.

“I’m pretty sure my name was the only unprompted word you knew. The rest was babbled nonsense.”

“I could answer most ‘what is this’ questions!”

“You didn’t read until 38 months~.” Kindaichi lowers his blanket with a pout, safely and carefully folding it like it’ll fall apart in his hands.

You used to dress yourself in shorts in >em>winter, and costumes in summer.” Kunimi snorts under his breath, poking Kindaichi in the ribs. It’s true. His baby photos are full of a barely-three year old in halloween costumes parading around summer beaches with ice cream in hand. The winter photos from three and a half have him walking quite happily in the snow with bare legs.

“Remember our first day of school. You clung to mum’s leg with a vice-like grip and screamed blue murder until you were sick and she took you home.”

“Moving to proper school was scary! And Auntie let me help her in the office, thank you very much!”

“Awww, Kin-chan, I would’ve thought you’d be excited for school!” Suddenly remembering they’re not alone, having been arguing in a brotherly manner and forgetting their surroundings, Kindaichi and Kunimi jolt away from each other with matching blushes and avoid looking at their giggling senpai.

Oikawa grins cheekily, seemingly proud of himself for making them flustered. Iwaizumi gently smacks his shoulder, telling him off for interrupting. Hanamaki laughs loudly before nudging Kindaichi with his shoulder.

“C’mon, tell us more! We know all about everyone else’s childhood, but you two are a mystery!”

“And we’ll keep it that way.” Kunimi shoots him down so quickly that it takes Hanamaki a second to process the words before he deflates like a punctured balloon. He likes hearing about his teammates upbringings, their happiest memories and brightest moments.

Knowing a little bit of their past helped him to understand them as they were now. It helped him build any bridges that were still under construction, helped him reach out to them when they needed him most.

Hanamaki loved being there for his friends, and to do that most effectively, he needed to know them. The conversation, however, has clearly moved on and the first years don’t want to talk about it. So Hanamaki leaves it be, respectfully.

“That’s all the presents, boys. You should be getting to bed.” Irihata ushers them to carefully put out the fire, and pick up their sleeping bags from the ground. The presents are placed back in their boxes - except for one fluffy, tattered bunny Kindaichi keeps protectively wrapped in his arms - and Irihata moves them to just inside the teacher’s tent.

They’ll be safe there, sheltered in case it rains in the next few hours.

“How do we sort out who stays in which tent? Since we only have two now...” Oikawa slides a sly look over to Kunimi and Yahaba, the latter suitably guilty, Kunimi daring to have the gall to simply shrug.

“Doesn’t matter. Tired.” Iwaizumi’s grunted sentence, more of a mumble than anything else, is followed by him dragging his sleeping bag into one of the available tents and just flopping down right in the center. Oikawa huffs, but it’s affectionate.

And, well, he’s tired. There’s no point trying to work things out strategically now, whilst his brain is only half-functioning. Grabbing his own sleeping bag, he follows. Watari waits until last, weighing out his options.

After the horrible nights he’s had before, he definitely doesn’t want to be in the same tent as Hanamaki, who talks loud enough to wake the dead and deaf. Kindaichi stretches out too much and crushes him, Oikawa’s constant moving around would wake him up, and Iwaizumi’s habit or curling into the closes person would make him overheat.

Watari sighs. The life of a light sleeper is a difficult one when camping with many others…

In one tent, there’s Iwaizumi, Oikawa, Yahaba, and Matsukawa.
In the other, Kyoutani, Hanamaki, Kindaichi, and Kunimi.

“Watari, please make a decision. It’s gone 2. You need to rest.” Irihata’s hand is gentle and comforting on his back, but also incredibly persuasive. The warmth seeps in through his pyjama shirt and makes him feel sleepy, more peaceful than tired but just as longing for sleep.

“M’kaaaay.” Picking the lesser of two evils, he slips into the first tent and nestles himself at the very edge, wedged between Yahaba and the tent canvas. Yahaba promptly rolls over and uses his stomach as a pillow, back to Matsukawa’s.

Still not as bad as sleep talking.

Irihata chuckles gently as he zips up the tent netting flap, catching Oikawa waving at him as if to wordlessly wish him a goodnight. He returns it with a small smile before zipping up the secondary flap that’ll keep out rain.

Moving to the second tent, he’s not surprised to see Hanamaki exiled to the corner, Kyoutani and his earplugs acting as a buffer between him and the first years, to hopefully let them sleep. Kunimi curls up on his side like a little pillbug, his sleeping bag pulled up around him and the hood tucked over his head so his face is barely visible.

On the other hand, Kindaichi is already sprawled out like a starfish, asleep the second his head hit the pillow and stomach hit the floor. His pyjama shirt is halfway up his torso and he didn’t even manage to get in his sleeping bag before he hit the hay.

“You’ll catch a cold like that, little one…” Truthfully, the boys might not be little, since they’re taller than average, and 16 to 18 years old. But these children are like sons to him, and whilst Irihata has no children of his own, he imagines this team is exactly how a little family should feel.

Irihata tugs down the shirt, moves the bunny toy closer so Kindaichi can hold it if he needs to, and gently tucks the sleeping bag over him like a blanket, making sure his arms are inside the tent as he zips it up.

He’s not surprised how soundly Kindaichi sleeps, even though he’s only just lay down. It’s been a busy day, with a hike up a mountain, fun games and messing around, and all the excitement and emotion that came with opening his birthday presents.

He hopes it was a birthday Kindaichi enjoyed, one he’ll remember for a long while.

“Good night, kids.” There’s a couple of murmured good nights from the couple who are still awake, but then silence reigns. With a soft sigh, Irihata moves into the teacher’s tent to try and get some rest of his own. He’ll have to take over driving part way, after all.

The sun rises over a silent mountain, fog descending from the clouds that move above the summit, the sky painted with an array of dazzling colours before settling on a calming blue, white clouds dotting all the way to the horizon, as far as the eye can see.

But the mountain is still. The mountain sleeps.

It’s only when it gets to seven in the morning that someone - Oikawa - stirs, lifting his head with dishevelled hair to see light filtering through the canvas. He shuffles to sit up, struggling because of the weight on his legs, but smiles softly when he sees Iwaizumi gripping them in a bear hug, snoring softly.

“Like kitten purrs~.” Oikawa bops a finger against Iwaizumi’s nose continuously until he scrunches it up, blinking his eyes open tiredly. He takes a second to register where he is before he relaxes into Oikawa’s legs with a sigh, placid expression of affection as he musters his words.

“Wha’ time issit?” Oikawa humms quietly as he runs his fingers through Iwaizumi’s hair, pushing it back out of his face.

“Time to go, soon.” At that, Iwaizumi groans softly and moves to sit up, rolling his shoulders to get the ache out of them. Not bothering to change out of pyjamas, he just grabs a cardigan instead. Such old man fashion, Oikawa thinks. Not that he dresses any better.

“Guess we’d better wake the others.”

“Hmmm… I can’t help but think that’s going to be difficult.” Iwaizumi chuckle is rough and horse with his morning voice, and he unzips the tent, the distinctive noise promptly jolting Watari out of a dream. As soon as Watari starts moving, Yahaba wakes with a whine. Iwaizumi gives Oikawa a smug grin.

“Not that difficult, then.”

“I’ll see if Coach is awake. You wake the rest.”

“Nothing is going to wake Mattsun without making him grumpy, Iwa-chan. Not even chocolate.” To prove his point, Oikawa smacks a hand against Matsukawa’s cheek rapidly. Matsukawa doesn’t even stir, but he does grunt moodily. He settles and snores on, deep in his sleep.

“Hanamaki can. Wake him first.” Those blunt words delivered, Iwaizumi slips out the tent, pleasantly surprised to see Mizoguchi just emerging from his own tent.

“Morning, Coach.”

“Good morning, Iwaizumi. I didn’t think anyone else would be awake.”

“Oikawa woke me…”

“Ah, that explains it.” Mizoguchi’s voice, though thick with sleep, carries and amused lilt. He lets the comfortable silence stretch as Iwaizumi sits patiently in the camping chair left out from last night, looking like he’s about to fall asleep again.

Then, all of a sudden, there’s a mighty phwap! followed by rambunctious laughter and a scream, and Oikawa bolts out of the tent with Yahaba and Watari on his heels looking terrified. Rightful so, as a voice booms from inside with rage;

“OIKAWA TOORU, I WILL WRING YOUR NECK!” Oikawa skids to a halt with a pleased, vibrant expression, cupping his hands around his mouth.

“Good morning, Mattsun~!” Iwaizumi jolted back awake and deadpan stares at his mischievous best friend, who radiates an aura of victory.

“What did you do.” It’s not a question. Oikawa’s grin grows, looking ever so dangerous. Sometimes, Iwaizumi swears he must be descended from fae or something equally sly.

“Nothing, Iwa-chan~.” Matsukawa comes storming out of the tent, face burning bright red with rage. He stomps up to Oikawa, and slams something down in his hand.

“Do that ever again, and I will murder everything you ever loved.” He storms off again, leaving Iwaizumi to stare down at the item in Oikawa’s hands.

“... Where the fuck did you get a mousetrap?” Oikawa giggles, picking at the snapped twig he’d put in the mousetrap to set it off, right next to Matsukawa’s ear.

“You never know what you’ll need in the mountains~.”

“A mousetrap.”

“Well, I’ve never been camping before! And it served its purpose!” Iwaizumi sighs, but drops the subject, lying back in the chair and folding his hands over his stomach, eyes fluttering shut. He’s oblivious to Yahaba and Watari taking down the tent, all their stuff loaded in a pile in the center of the plateau.

Oikawa had even gone into the second tent to grab all their stuff, but he left the inhabitants sleeping for now. Hanamaki, because he was saying something hilarious, and the others because he feared Kyoutani and Kunimi’s reactions more than he feared Matsukawa’s. And waking Kindaichi seemed unfair, when he was sleeping so soundly.

“We’ll take the easy route, to the shuttle bus station, and from there it’s just a case of getting everything loaded up in the van again.” Oikawa nods as he looks at the map Mizoguchi has spread out on the floor.

“The only problem is keeping everyone awake enough to get down to the station, and then off the shuttle bus.”

“If they sleep, they stay here.”

“Wow, that’s brutal, Coach…” Mizoguchi is only joking, Oikawa knows, but it’s still unsettling to think about. He’ll be fine, since he only sleeps in short bursts, but what if someone did miss the shuttle bus? What if someone didn’t get off, or got separated?

He knows Matsukawa once slept on a train for 5 hours, luckily on the circle line. He knows Iwaizumi once fell asleep on a bus and ended up in Tokyo where the bus terminated. Kunimi, he knows, could sleep anywhere at anytime, and he's heard many the tale of Kindaichi finding him in strange, far away places.

“... Oikawa. It’ll be fine. If anyone does fall asleep, we’ll either wake them up again or carry them.” Oikawa relaxes, the tension leaking out of his shoulders. He doesn’t have the same separation anxiety his best friend has, but he does get nervous about someone he loves being left behind.

“Let’s hope we don’t have to carry Mattsun or Kin-chan then. They’re the heaviest!” Yahaba snickers as he passes, loading up the Swedish Candle fire to be safely transported.

“Hanamaki and Iwaizumi can do it, you’re just prone to whining when forced to do anything you don’t want to~.”

“And there’s nothing wrong with that! I’ll do something if I have to, or if it’s respectful, but why should I force misery upon myself by doing something I don’t want to?” Yahaba stops to consider the words, and then makes a ‘hm, ok’ noise with a lopsided tilt of the head.

“Wise advice. Maybe I should take it to heart.” Oikawa gives him a strange, worried look, but Yahaba caries on with what he’s doing, back to Oikawa and an aura that suggests he doesn’t want to be questioned.

Watari quickly flocks to his side with other little bits to be tied up ready for hauling down the mountain, and Yahaba’s mood snaps back to light-hearted and cheerful. Despite how they were awoken, it’s a beautiful sunny day that lifts the general mood.

Even Matsukawa looks relatively happy!
And lethargic. Considering he’s just sitting on a groundsheet, leaning against the packed up tent.
… He might actually have fallen asleep again.

“There we go. Now we just need the last two tents.” Mizoguchi finishes tying up the strings of the kitchenware backpack, and glances over at the two remaining tents. They’ve got the stuff out of them, asides from the sleeping bags everyone is still in, but the tents themselves need to come down.

He feels a little guilty, considering Irihata has only had 5 hours of sleep, but he was under strict instruction to wake them early so they could get the boys home on time to be picked up by family.

If it’s just gone 7 now, they should be back by…
Past 9 in the evening. Plenty of time for the parents to get there by 10.

“Oikawa, can you-” Before Mizoguchi can finish his request, Hanamaki comes slithering out of the now-unzipped flap of the tent, as cheerful as he usually is. He yawns as he grabs the back of Kunimi and Kyoutani’s pyjama shirts, shaking them with no mercy.

“Come on, wakey wakey! It’s morning! We’re going hoooooome!” Kyoutani growls under his breath, reaching up to pluck out his earplugs before Hanamaki drops him back to the ground. Kunimi is silent throughout the shaking, but as he hits the ground, he releases a high-pitch hiss/skree type noise and grabs at Hanamaki’s ankle.

“You dare disturb me, heathen…”

“Ow, ow! Kunimi! Nails! Your nails are digging into my skin!”

“Pay for your sins in flesh…”

“Holy fuck, this is straight out of a horror movie. It’s like that nightmare I had one time and- OW! Kunimi, please! Give me back my ankle!” Kunimi hisses under his breath again, but before he can dig his nails in tighter, another hand wrenches him away and pulls him out of reach from Hanamaki’s ankle.

“No murdering our senpai…” Kindaichi doesn’t even open his eyes, somehow knowing exactly what Kunimi was doing and where, wrenching Kunimi towards him and nuzzling tiredly into his shoulder blades.

Like a switch has been flicked, Kunimi goes from murderous to content, melting into the warmth and sighing happily as he relaxes again. Before Hanamaki reaches down to run a hand through both of their hair, trying to wake them more gently this time.

“Hey now~. You can sleep in the van, I promise, but you gotta get up now.” Kunimi glares at him. Kindaichi shuffles slowly, moving to sit up with Kunimi still trapped in his arms, and tattered bunny toy hanging on his shoulder.

“... You do not look like Kindaichi. At all.”

“Issit ‘cus my hair’s down…?” Kyoutani blinks, having stopped to stare whilst putting his earplugs in the tiny pyjama pocket on his shirt, since his bag is outside with the others.

“Yeah. Probably. You look like-”

“Like Kageyama. I know. Everyone kept confusing us in middle school, despite the fact I was definitely taller. S’why I started gelling it in the first place.” Kunimi scoffs as he shuffles back to use Kindaichi as a pillow - or perhaps more like a complete bed.

“Then Kageyama became an asshole and you became a full-time vegetable impersonator.”

“Hey! It’s cool, okay?! And Kageyama’s kind of less of an asshole now… Or at least a different kind.” Kunimi chooses not to say anything else, though his face screws up with an indescribable expression of dislike. Kyoutani can’t help but snort at it. Hanamaki pokes his head back in the tent.

“You got five seconds before we pull the tent pegs out! 5, 4, 321!” Jumbling the words together so they have no chance, Hanamaki yanks out the peg closest to him whilst Oikawa, Watari, and Iwaizumi take great delight in helping with the other three, making the tent collapse.

“You fuckin’ jerks! Why am I being trapped again?!” Kyoutani’s angry shout only serves to make them laugh, his arms moving in a vague semi-circle and both middle fingers prominent through the canvas material.

On the other hand, knowing escape was inevitable, Kindaichi had simply flopped backwards, so at least his head and shoulders are outside the tent, as is half of Kunimi’s face since he had been in Kindaichi’s arms at the time.

“That countdown was the furthest thing from valid I have ever experienced.” Hanamaki just laughs harder, watching them wriggle out, Kyoutani following after them as Kunimi kicks his legs like he’s swimming to lift the canvas up enough for him to find the exit.

Before they can roll up the tent fully, as Watari and Iwaizumi have started doing, Kindaichi suddenly lets out a distressed squawk.

“My bunny!” He looks like he’s about to dive back in, but Oikawa stops him with a patient hand on his upper arm. He gives Iwaizumi a look, and Iwaizumi instantly understands.

“Watari, hop round the other side and pull the corners taunt.” Watari does so, with great enthusiasm, and where the tent is pulled tight and low to the ground, there’s a notable bump underneath. Kunimi leans inside and pulls out the tattered but oh so precious bunny toy.

“There. All safe.”

“Thank you…” The bunny is clutched back in arms so tightly that the rest of the team know it’s not going to be let go of for a long time. Oikawa smiles gently and pats Kindaichi's upper arm before he moves to get the bag the rolled up tent and its poles will be placed inside.

“Is everyone ready?” Whilst the boys have been messing around with that tent, Yahaba, Matsukawa - who apparently was not asleep - and Mizoguchi have woken Irihata and tidied up the teacher’s tent.

Ashamed, Iwaizumi slinks over to the pile of bags and picks up the largest one to carry on his back. The rest of the team follow, each grabbing their own personal backpacks and something to carry with them, making sure nothing was left behind.

“We’re ready, Coach!” Mizoguchi nods, and leads the way down the path to the shuttle bus station.

The morning sun is warm, but not unpleasant, but Mizoguchi would quite like to get the team moving before the heat of day hits, and they constantly complain. He can sympathise though. Walking with all this equipment whilst sweating and dehydrating wouldn’t exactly be enjoyable.

Despite the chaos of their walk up to the plateau, the walk back down is uneventful - probably because everyone is still tired and yawning and placid in the tranquil morning. When the shuttle station comes into view, it spurs Oikawa on.

“Guys, guys, look! There’s a souvenir stand! There’s a food stall! There’s benches!”

“Of all things, Oikawa, I didn’t think you’d be so excited for the benches.”

“My knee is starting to hurt.” With a slightly irritated splutter, Mizoguchi reaches over and yanks the heavy tent bag off Oikawa’s shoulder.

“Why didn’t you say so earlier, brat?! Do you want to re-injure it?!”

“No, but I could handle it this far!” As well as Mizoguchi scowling, Oikawa has the added pressure of Iwaizumi glaring at him from behind, somehow intimidating him with vague aura alone. Oikawa nervously chuckles, wiping sweat from his brow and speeding up towards the benches.

He bolts into a run as he feels Iwaizumi speed up too.

“Goddammit, Oikawa! Stop running! You’re going to get hurt! Look after yourself, dumbass!”

“Your words are kind but your ugly scowl and general demeanour is terrifying!”

That’s my natural face, idiot!!!!” The rest of the team watches with deadpan yet amused faces, sluggishly making their way towards the same benches. They’re tired. They’re hot. They’re exhausted.

Camping has been amazing, but now? They just want to get home. Even the camping fanatics seem kind of weary and worn down. That could just be the lack of sleep, but still.

Irihata slowly trudges after them, completely fatigued. Mizoguchi, on the other hand, has had a full night’s rest and still has plenty of energy to spare. He heads towards the food stall Oikawa pointed out instead. Luck be a lady, there are the hot spring eggs he remembers Kyoutani talking about before.

“Good morning, sir! How can I help you?” The chipper staff member is obviously a morning person, but Mizoguchi smiles back all the same with a respectful little nod. He might be grumpy and stern, but he’s not rude.

“Morning. Could I get 11 of the onsen tamago, please.”

“We do 6 for 300¥, if you’d rather get 12 and save money!”

“That would be lovely, thank you.”

“Coming right up!” The steaming, fresh balls of breaded, boiled eggs are placed into a little boat-shaped cardboard tray and slid his way, and Mizoguchi pays before departing with a grateful ‘thank you’.

Making his way over to the bench, he’s greeted with the sight of Oikawa, Iwaizumi, Hanamaki, and Kyoutani whipping their heads to him like bloodhounds, catching the scent of cooked food.

“There’s one each, and one spare. Do not fight over it, or I will take it.” Hungry glances are shared, those who want the food so badly sizing each other up as the others take their own egg and start to bite into it.

“Ohhhhhh my god, I’m dying. This is heaven.” The egg inside the breaded ball is just barely cooked - enough to safely consume, but still gooey. The yolk is fantastically yellow, dripping out the white and down Yahaba’s wrist before he can even lap it up.

The sentiment is shared all around and the arguing four pause before grabbing their own eggs, scarfing them down with all the enjoyment of hungry teenagers eating for the first time since waking up.

One remains.

“... Please?” Watari pulls the puppy eyes, his grey-blue irises enlarged as he presses his lips together in a cute little smile, like a 3 shape, hands clasped together in front of him. Before anyone can argue, Kyoutani slides it over to him. He’s a sucker for the puppy-dog eyes.

The egg is gone in a split second, Watari happily holding it in his cheek after grabbing it before anyone could register what was happening. Oikawa stares wide-eyed at the empty platter. Even his cowlick looks deflated!

“Kyou… Ken.. Chan… How could you?!”

“He said please.”

“We were supposed to consult! To decide together!”

“Never told me that.”

“Coach Mizoguchi said we weren’t supposed to fight over it!” Kyoutani smirks, looking towards Oikawa smugly.

“We didn’t~. It’s gone now.” Oikawa blinks. He stares at nothing. He turns his gaze skywards with a deep inhale and holds his breath, just looking beyond anything and everything.

“Well, since that’s over with, the bus is here so we should keep moving. Unless you’d like to rest another half hour…?” Irihata leaves the question open for them to decide, but it only takes Yahaba slinging his rucksack back over his shoulder for the others to follow, perfectly content.

And tired.

They amble onto the shuttle bus like zombies, placing their rucksacks and the equipment bags on the overhead shelves, and then flop down into the seats. Appetites briefly sated, and the growing warmth of the rising sun reaching them through the shuttle bus windows, eyelids flicker shut one after the other.

Kunimi is the first to go, head lulling before his entire weight sags and he ends up sprawled across Kindaichi, Hanamaki, and Watari’s laps, but it’s not long until Iwaizumi folds his arms, leans back to rest his head on the window seal, and dozes off himself.

Oikawa takes a moment to gently, affectionately, rearrange Iwaizumi so that he’s instead leaning comfortably against his shoulder, rather than the rattling window frames. Then, knowing he’ll be awake in 20 minutes regardless, Oikawa rests his cheek atop Iwaizumi’s head and closes his own eyes.

Watari glances at Kunimi sleeping benched across himself and two others, peers over at Iwaizumi and Oikawa, and promptly decides he’s going to follow in their footsteps. Hanamaki jumps at a sudden weight on his upper arm. He smiles as Watari nuzzles into the warmth.

“... I’ll wake you when we get there, ‘kay?”

“Mhmmmmm.” Too tired for words, even as Hanamaki’s shoulders shake with a small laugh, Watari’s breathing evens out and he drifts off to a dreamless slumber. Just as Hanamaki adjusts to the weight on his left, there’s suddenly another on his right, on his shoulder.

“You too, huh?”

“No, I’m just resting, not napping.” Huffing a small laugh, Hanamaki reaches up and ruffles hair that is loose and down from lack of gel. It’s kind of cute, actually. Sitting opposite Watari, Matsukawa contemplates for a hot minute before he shuffles down in his seat ready to drift off.

Only to receive a brutal poke in the ribs and lecturing glare from Yahaba.

“If you ‘close your eyes’, we’ll never get off this bus. Stay awake.”

“Fuck you.”

“I’m serious, Senpai!” Matsukawa rolls his eyes and puffs out some air in irritation, but much to his credit - and Yahaba’s persuasion - he doesn’t try to grab a few extra minutes. They’ll have the minivan journey home anyways.

The bus is near silent, Mizoguchi and Irihata talking quietly between themselves, Kyoutani tapping his fingers on the armrest next to him, and Hanamaki humming as he plays with Kindaichi’s hair, but other than that, it’s peaceful. There’s no one ascending the mountain quite yet, and if there is, they must be hiking.

A quiet half hour later, Oikawa is awake again, and watches placidly as the shuttle bus eases into the station at the base of the mountain. There are people queueing up to get on, which means they need to get off, quickly.

“Does everyone have all their bags?” There’s fumbling and stumbling, rummaging and shuffling, but eventually, all those who are awake are loaded up. Kunimi, Watari, and Iwaizumi are still asleep.

That’s not hard to believe. Kunimi sleeps like the dead, Watari is obviously tired from a disturbed night, and Iwaizumi sleeps like his namesake - A rock.

“Okay, let’s get these sleepyheads out of here~.” Oikawa crouches down to try and get Iwaizumi onto his back, but a stern hand on his shoulder stops him.

“Oikawa, don’t. Iwaizumi said your knee was playing up.”

“Just a little, but that’s only because I’ve just woken up, don’t have my brace, and haven’t been walking on it much today.” Mizoguchi narrows his eyes, and Oikawa takes the hint, stepping backwards with a sigh. Instead, he helps to lift Iwaizumi up onto the Coaches back.

Hanamaki easily scoops Watari up an over his shoulder, not caring that Watari’s bag is upside down, nor the boy himself. Kunimi is another matter entirely. Stubborn as he is, he grabs onto the armrest and refuses to let go, whining like a spoiled brat whenever Kindaichi tries to pull him away.

“Kunimi, please…”

“Noooooo…”

“Kunimi.”

“Nooooo.”

Kunimi.” Gradually growing exasperated by his best friend’s antics, Kindaichi turns to the others for help, and in the end, Yahaba and Kyoutani have to pry Kunimi’s fingers off one by one until he can be heaved upwards quickly, held like a baby.

Fortunately, he’s tired and dazed enough that he quickly settles in the new position, arms looped around Kindaichi’s neck and comfy with his head nestled in his collarbone. Kindaichi sighs, but it’s full of a friendly warmth.

“You’re a piece of work, you know that, right~?”

“Mrn.” It’s… Not quite a word, but it’s better than a flat out no. Irihata leads the way from the station, back through the arch where he snapped a photo yesterday, and into the minivan parked in the same place it was the day before.

Loading onto the minivan, the first thing anyone does is slump in their seats with thankful groans, use each other as pillows, and attempt to sleep. Mizoguchi clicks his tongue against the roof of his mouth.

“Put your seatbelts on, brats!” A serious of reluctant groans chorus after him, before there’s the clicking of seatbelts, Oikawa moving around to make sure everyone is strapped in, including those still asleep. He gives Mizoguchi a thumbs up.

“Good to go, Coach.” With that whisper, he sits himself back down and clicks the seatbelt into place, getting comfy to prepare for a long time of short-burst naps. Irihata has already settled in the passenger seat up front, ear plugs in and eye-mask on.

As he gets in the driver’s seat, Mizoguchi casts one last look over the children in the back, most of them with eyes closed, others entertaining themselves quietly. He burrows the camera from Irihata’s lap, taking one last, precious photo. He smiles softly at the preview, voice barely above a whisper when he speaks, full of parental affection;

“Let’s get you kids home, hmm?”

All together, it already feels like they’re there.