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Daichi would be lying if he were to say he hasn’t noticed Bokuto throughout training camp. Seriously, the guy is loud, magnetic, and cut as hell. It’s hard not to see Bokuto Koutarou when he’s in the room. Sometimes, even his own teammates just watch him in awe.

Because, well, Bokuto really is just that awesome.

But he isn’t here to engage in teenage shenanigans; he’s here to work and so is Bokuto. However, it doesn’t keep his gaze from straying across the court a time or twelve, running into his teammates’ shoes during flying falls instead of watching where the hell he’s going.

That’s why Daichi’s favorite time of the day is the baths. Warm water churns away aches and bruises while the captains gather in the far corner, well away from the bickering first years.

“Ey, Sawamura,” Bokuto says, slouching against the tiled wall behind him. “Nice receive earlier, by the way. Not a lot of people get a piece of my crosses when I’m in the zone.”

Hoping the warmth of the bath house can adequately camouflage his blush, Daichi ducks his chin into the water. “Just lucky I got underneath it.”

“Nahhhh.” Bokuto crosses his arms and stares Daichi down. “Don’t sell yourself short. My crosses are badass.”

Next to Daichi, Kuroo snorts. “You know, anyone who has to say they’re badass usually isn’t.”

Bokuto flicks water at Kuroo. “I’m unusual.”

Ogano cackles from his spot between Kuroo and Bokuto, his typically voluminous hair wetted down around his face. “Dude, do you even think before you talk?”

Brow wrinkled in thought, Bokuto ponders the question before he responds with a, “Nope. Boring.” His entire demeanor changes in an instant, and he looks around their gathering. “Hey, where’s Goura?”

“Hassling my first year middle blocker into practicing for him,” Ogano grunts. “Kid really needs to learn to say no.”

“Send him to Tsukishima.” Kuroo waggles his brows at Daichi. “Kid doesn’t know how to say anything else.”

All of them share a laugh, and the group falls into a companionable silence. Most of them ease back with their eyes closed to enjoy the water, but Daichi’s gaze is firmly glued to Bokuto’s tightly corded arms, which are lying spread-eagle on the tiled rim of the bath.

He notices Kuroo eyeing him strangely, and Daichi immediately redirects his gaze at the ceiling, even counting the tiles to keep himself from doing something like that again while other people can see.

Well, he shouldn’t be doing it at all. Leering at someone while they’re in the bath is the Nth level of creepy, and Daichi fights off the urge to drown himself before Kuroo can call him out on it.

No such luck, however.

They’re all filtering out of the baths, most of them chasing their kouhai back toward their respective rooms. With that task firmly in Ennoshita’s more than capable hands, Daichi lingers in the dressing area, trying his best not to look at anyone ever for the rest of his life.

Kuroo drops next to him on the bench and smirks. “I’m not even going to pretend I didn’t see that.”

Daichi drapes his towel over his wet hair to hide himself from Kuroo’s obnoxiously observant gaze. “See what?”

“You have a thing for Bokuto. Or his arms.” With a harrumph, Kuroo bumps his shoulder into Daichi’s. “No judgies. Just curious. Figured someone like him would tire you out all the way down to your soul.”

Sitting up, Daichi lets the towel slip off onto the floor. “Why would you say that? He’s fun. Weird, but fun.”

“Riiiight.” Kuroo claps Daichi on the back and stands. “See you tomorrow, Sawamura. I promise I won’t tattle on you.”

Daichi opens his mouth to deny there is anything to let slip, but Kuroo’s incredulous look halts the words halfway up his windpipe. “Yeah,” he says instead, and Kuroo chuckles as he leaves the baths.

“Oh, man.” Daichi sprawls out on the bench, wondering what elder god he managed to piss off to deserve this.

The next morning, Fukurodani and Karasuno are in the weight room while Shinzen, Ubugawa, and Nekoma do a quick round robin. Kageyama immediately snatches Akaashi as a spotter, talking more in a thirty second span than Daichi can remembering him ever doing. Akaashi seems immune to his fellow setter’s excited chatter, if mildly amused.

Bokuto finds Akaashi partnered up already, and with a shrug, he turns to Daichi with a wide grin. “Care to be my workout buddy, Sawamura?”

“Sure,” Daichi’s stupid, stupid mouth blurts before he can find some way to extricate himself from this situation. “What are you working on right now?”

Legs .” Bokuto slaps his thighs and growls under his breath. “I feel like I can get at least ten more centimeters in my vertical if I put some more power into my legs.” He points in the general direction of Daichi’s shorts. “You know, like yours.”

Daichi chokes, barely swallowing a ragged cough of surprise. “What?”

Bokuto drops to his knees on the matted floor and runs his hands all over Daichi’s thighs, unaware that the thighs’ owner is blushing and quietly waiting for death. “How many squats do you do every day?”

Too stymied to do anything else, Daichi blurts out his entire legwork regime like he’s reading the ingredients off a bottle of shampoo. He isn’t sure he even knows whether what’s coming out of his mouth makes any damn sense at all other than the telltale bob of Bokuto’s head in acknowledgement every time he starts a new sentence.

“Let’s do that, plus some,” Bokuto finally declares, pushing himself to his feet. “Dude, we are gonna be so jacked.”

“Jacked. Yeah.” Daichi jogs after Bokuto, who has already taken off at a brisk power walk to the leg press machine.

Closing his eyes for a moment, Daichi forced his ridiculous brain to pretend that Bokuto is someone easy, someone familiar. Asahi. Yeah. Asahi would never make him this nervous, even if that doesn’t go both ways. “What’s your usual leg lift?”

“Two sixty.” Bokuto wriggles in place on the bench while Daichi loads the weights. “Throw an extra twenty on there. I’m feeling frisky.” The weight in Daichi’s hand slips, and he barely catches it before it crushes his toes. “You need a towel?”

“Fine.” Daichi wipes his definitely sweaty palms on the towel tucked into the waistband of his shorts and finishes his task. When the pins are secure, he says, “All right, knock yourself out.”

Bokuto starts his reps, and Daichi fixes his gaze onto a spot on the floor beyond to keep his eyes from straying toward the rippling muscles within arm’s reach. Counting in English, Bokuto wheezes a laugh when he hits ten. “Oh, man, I have work to do.”

“Nah, you’re good.” Daichi gives Bokuto a hand up and a crooked smile. “I can’t do any more than that myself, really.”

Rolling his eyes, Bokuto playfully socks Daichi in the arm. “I probably outweigh you by ten kilos, genius. If I’m not up to three hundred, I’m still behind.”

Daichi gawks at Bokuto. “Three hundred? Are you trying to lift off to the moon?”

Bokuto finger guns and clucks his tongue. “Ready to spike it right out of the sky.”

“Yeah.” Daichi can’t fight a crooked smile, and Bokuto laughs as they trade spots.

While taking his turn, it’s a lot easier for Daichi to focus. That is, until he catches Bokuto watching his legs intently like an art critic studying a painting. Granny panties, granny panties , Daichi chants internally to keep his mind off being watched like he’s a piece of meat.

Oh, god, is this what it’s like when Daichi stares at Bokuto? Fighting off that thought, Daichi loses count and doesn’t stop the reps until his entire core aches.

Bokuto is slack-jawed at his feet. “Dude, you just did like twenty reps. How friggin strong are you?”

Daichi’s legs are like water as he eases to his feet. “I, uh, you know . . . work out sometimes.”

Every word out of his mouth is moronic and pointless, and Daichi wants to duck his head under his arms and never see the light of day again. Bokuto has other ideas, howling with laughter as he takes Daichi’s place on the bench. “You’re a damn funny guy, Sawamura. Glad I got you as my workout buddy.”

“Yeah.” Daichi’s throat is knotted with embarrassment that Bokuto seems not to share, and it takes until his next turn on the machine to think about literally anything else but how long Bokuto has been eyeing his legs.

Gradually, the balled up tension in Daichi’s belly eases, and he finally gets to enjoy the experience that is prolonged contact with Bokuto. His expressive face and even more boisterous vocalizations fill Daichi’s entire morning. When it’s time to break off and take their turn on the court, he’s in a good mood and more than a few people notice.

“Shouldn’t you be sweatier and angrier?” Suga asks, pouting. “You are not allowed to look this happy being covered in this much perspiration and fake leather smell.”

Daichi shrugs. “Just feeling it today, I guess.”

Suga eyes him and hums. “You look like someone just slipped pork belly into your ramen.” Under his breath, he mutters, “Is this about the you-know-what?”

“No?” It takes Daichi a moment to place Suga’s meaning, which is about their synchronized attack and nothing to do at all with Daichi having a ridiculous crush on Bokuto. “Can’t I be in a good mood?”

“No.” Suga pulls a faux-grouchy face and sticks out his tongue. “I’m the fun one. You’re the one who is supposed to be the grumpy older brother who keeps the kids on the team from setting fire to the clubroom.”

“I’m not grumpy!” Daichi fires, grumpily. “Someone has to keep the inmates from running the asylum.”

There are a handful of quick fifteen point sets before they break for lunch, and Daichi’s stomach is clamoring for food like the screams of the damned. He grabs a heaping plate from Eri, Ubugawa’s spritely manager. “Keep working hard,” she cheers, beaming at him.

Daichi is about to thank her when a frying pan disguised as a hand collides with his bicep. “No worries, Eri-chan. As if this guy knows how to do anything else.” Bokuto latches onto Daichi and drags him toward the table where the captains usually collect. “C’mon, bro. The cool kids table awaits.”

“Then why’s Kuroo sitting there?” Daichi blurts.

Bokuto laughs until he wheezes, and half a dozen curious gazes await them. “Did you pee yourself?” Kuroo leans close to Bokuto and smirks. “Please tell me you peed yourself.”

Daichi meets Bokuto’s gaze, and they both dissolve into laughter. “It’s a secret.” Bokuto bumps his shoulder into Daichi’s. “Just me and Sawamura. Stray cats with shitty hair aren’t invited.”

While Kuroo bickers with Bokuto in the name of honor or some damn thing, Daichi props his chin in his hands and lets his mind drift off all through lunch. Despite being famished, he eats slowly to the point where lunch ends and he still has a third of his plate left to eat. “Damn it.”

“Scarf it, dude,” Bokuto says over his shoulder. “Gotta keep the ol’ engine running or you’re gonna die.”

Knowing Bokuto is right, Daichi does exactly that, and it takes precisely twelve minutes to regret it. Hill running is on the menu for after lunch, and Daichi is suffering halfway through the first sprint.

“Are you okay?” Asahi asks when Daichi slumps against a nearby tree, wheezing and ready to regret wolfing down that much food in three minutes. “You look like you’re going to be sick.”

Daichi glares at him. “I’m fine.”

Suga drops into the grass next to Daichi. “Daichi, you definitely look terrible. And not just because you have boring hair.”

MY HAIR ISN’T BORING !” Daichi snaps, and everyone within ten meters stops to watch Karasuno’s captain lose his mind. Goody.

Eyes narrowing, Suga stares Daichi up and down like he’s seeing directly through his outer layer and into his soul. “There is something going on with you, and I’m going to figure out what it is. You should just tell me and save us both the trouble.”

“Yeah, not happening.” Daichi accepts a water bottle from a curious Shimizu. “Thanks.”

“If you tell him, he’ll be less annoying.” Shimizu leans in and whispers in his ear. “Kuroo asked me to say something different, but I had a feeling it wouldn’t go over too well.”

Daichi sighs. “I need to go disembowel a stray cat. Excuse me.” Behind him, he vaguely hears Asahi asking Suga if it had been a figure of speech or if he really is going to go murder a small animal. That alone perks up Daichi’s flagging good cheer.

Over across the yard, sprawled out against a tree trunk, Daichi finds Kuroo chatting with Goura about . . . something. The entire conversation is beyond Daichi’s comprehension, but he’s fairly certain it has something to do with some dice game.

Without waiting for Kuroo to finish his sentence, Daichi grabs him by the arm and hauls him away from his surprised companion. Stares from other players abound as he drags Kuroo behind him and to a spot well away from the rest of the gathering. “What the hell, man?”

“What?” Kuroo’s confusion is ruined by the wide grin on his face, and Daichi suppresses the urge to shake him. “Why are you so bent out of shape, Sawamura?”

You .” Daichi pokes Kuroo in the chest. “Why are you putting other people up to sticking their noses into my business? And getting Shimizu involved is too far. Don’t make me sick my idiot second years on you.”

Kuroo feigns horror. “Oh, no. However will I deal with idiot second years? It’s almost like I don’t have any of my own.” He snorts. “Relax, Sawamura. Just trying to keep you from regretting something.”

“I’m regretting it right now.” Daichi scowls. “You didn’t tell anyone, did you?”

Sobering, if only a little, Kuroo shakes his head. “Nah. I said I wouldn’t and I won’t. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t, though. Even if you’re a dumbass who’s willing to suffer, I think Bokuto deserves to know that someone he thinks so highly of likes him.”

Daichi blinks, and his mind starts to white out as it wraps around Kuroo’s words. “What did you say?”

“Are you kidding me right now?” Kuroo crosses his arms and chortles. “Tell me you’re kidding. How do you not notice how often he goes out of his way to hang out with you? Suga-chan even mentioned that he cornered you in the weight room and had his hands all up in your, uh, business.”

Face flaming, Daichi wrinkles his nose and looks away. “I didn’t know anyone saw that.”

Kuroo rolls his eyes. “At any given moment, Bokuto is one of the loudest people in any room. I can’t even conceive any way in which at least half the guys in the weight room wouldn’t have noticed.”

“Oh god.” Daichi drops into the grass and sprawls out, the scorched blades making his sweat-soaked legs itch uncomfortably. “Just kill me already. Put me out of my misery.”

Sitting next to Daichi, Kuroo plucks a handful of grass and sprinkles it on Daichi’s face. “Oh believe me, you incredibly dense pile of bad ideas, I am trying. Now stop fighting this and let me help you. I’m telling you, Bokuto is interested. He isn’t going to be shitty about it. Just tell him you like him so we can all go back to working ourselves until we drop?” With that, he stands and stalks off to continue his cryptic conversation about Dee Emm something or another.

Huffing grass blades from his face, Daichi groans and doesn’t bother chasing after Kuroo. Suga finds him like this a few minutes later. “Oh, you are beyond pathetic, Daichi.” Suga hauls him off the ground with a staggeringly strong grip and drags him back over to where the players are lining up once again. “Time to trek into hell again. I’m not suffering through this alone.”

Daichi almost protests that Suga is accompanied by dozens of other people, but he bites his tongue because Suga’s first assertion is painfully correct. He is being pathetic. For reasons beyond his comprehension, Bokuto thinks he’s cool and someone to aspire to be like, and he’ll be damned if he’s going to destroy that illusion by being a pissbaby about being teased.

They do sprints until mid-afternoon, where they break off into their respective positions. All the wing spikers gather on one side of the court, the setters and liberos on the other, and the middle blockers form a line at the net.

Shimizu lobs balls to the setters while the rest of the managers are poised to chase down strays. The setters toss to the wing spikers, the blockers try to stuff them, get a touch, or direct the spike toward the waiting liberos. Once the sequence completes, everyone rotates.

Daichi’s turn comes around at a glacial pace, giving his stupid and tired head plenty of time to stew over Kuroo’s words. As much as it is agonizing to admit it, Kuroo is more than correct. He might never see Bokuto again if he doesn’t do something this week. Who even knows if any of them will make nationals? Unless they find a reason to keep track of each other, they very well may not.

Wrapping his thoughts around that, Daichi nearly spaces out when it’s his turn. A voice far behind him captures his attention for a split second, but it’s enough. “Show ‘em how it’s done, Sawamura!”

Bokuto’s voice.

In possession of nothing remotely approaching the level of offensive prowess required to do that, Daichi decides to try a different tactic. He winds up with his right hand to hit the ball as hard as he can, and Inuoka takes the bait. Kenma’s toss is exactly at the right height for Daichi to hit, and on the other side of the net, Inuoka squares himself to kill Daichi’s spike.

However, when the ball arrives, Daichi’s left hand darts up and lightly taps the ball over the net past Inuoka’s stymied face. Fukurodani’s libero, Komi, is almost able to get under his feint, but the ball falls to the floor and rolls away quietly.

From his position toward the front of the setters’ line, Suga gives him a grin and a thumbs up. Daichi was not expecting the resounding slap of a hand landing on his shoulder.

“Dude, that was awesome.” Bokuto ruffles Daichi’s hair and laughs. “You need to stop pretending you’re not a complete badass, Sawamura. Live a little and be proud of it, yeah?”

Bokuto’s arm latches around Daichi’s shoulders, and he doesn’t fight it off or even consider it. They both probably smell bad, but there is nothing off-putting about Bokuto’s beaming face or his unbridled joy at Daichi’s success.

Maybe Kuroo is right. There have been several spikes more impressive than Daichi’s, and none of them were branded with Bokuto’s boisterous brand of approval.

That just leaves one last thing: finally doing something about it. Crap.

The rest of the day is a flurry of round robins and sweating and piles of food and sweating some more, and then some extra sweat on top of that while Karasuno attempts to hone their synchronized attack.

Later that night, Daichi is grateful for the warm embrace of the bath water while it soothes his aching everything. Even the other captains gathered around are quieter than usual, with the rigors of the day taking their toll on all of them. Well, except Bokuto. Apparently, his batteries don’t run out.

Next to Daichi, Bokuto tells an animated tale of his better spikes that day. Most of them tune it out, but Daichi lounges against the tiles, eyes closed, and just listens. The accounts of his feats sound almost too fantastic to be true, but having watched Bokuto own most of the middle blockers at the camp more than once, Daichi doesn’t have to suspend disbelief to know they’re likely true.

The heat in the baths colludes with exhaustion soon enough to make Daichi drift off, waking only when an arm hauls him out of the water. Sputtering, Daichi’s foggy brain finally accepts visual input when he spots Bokuto’s worried face. “Hey, it’s just me.”

Groaning, Daichi sits up and looks around. They’re alone in the baths, and not even one straggler lags behind to finish up for the night. “What time is it?”

“Almost midnight.” Bokuto stands, and Daichi gawks at thighs and butt right in front of him, too tired to make himself not stare. Glancing over his shoulder, Bokuto gives him a crooked smile. “Couldn’t let you drown. Too much stuff left to do, you know?”

“Yeah.” Daichi’s throat is uncomfortably tight, and he doesn’t miss that Bokuto definitely knows he’s staring and is doing nothing to stop it. “Yeah,” he repeats numbly.

Bokuto saunters (does anyone actually do that not-on-purpose?) over to the rim of the bath and steps over, taking a towel from the neat pile on the nearby bench but forgoes wrapping one around his waist in favor of tossing it over his shoulder. “You coming?”

Daichi looks down at his pruning hands and and mutters, “Yeah. Just a minute.”

He follows Bokuto’s path, far too brimming with embarrassment not to cover himself, but he doesn’t hide his lingering gaze. He drinks in the sight of Bokuto’s tanned and muscled flesh, bared to him in its entirety, and he whispers, “Oh, fuck.”

“You should probably know,” Bokuto says while rooting through his sling bag for underwear, “they kind of locked us in here.”

Daichi nearly trips over a minuscule crack in one tile. “What?”

Bokuto tugs on his boxer briefs and shrugs. “After a while, you kind of get used to the fact that you can’t tell Kuroo anything without him making it his business.” He drops the rest of his clothes on the bench in favor of sitting next to them in nothing but underpants. “So yeah . . . we’re locked in here.”

The situation and his own desire to slaughter Kuroo in his sleep is untenable to Daichi, so he just surrenders to the moment and throws his head back to laugh.

It’s a solid five minutes before Daichi can breathe normally again, and he slumps next to Bokuto with a beatific smile and a blush on his face. “Yeah, part of that is kind of my fault.”

Bokuto’s attention perks up, and Daichi’s heart stutters at the way his water-loosened hair curls around Bokuto’s golden brown eyes. “You mean you did something stupid like tell Kuroo you have a big stupid crush on someone who you’re afraid wouldn’t like you back but you can’t help it because they’re awesome?”

“Didn’t even tell him,” Daichi admits. “He figured it out because I have zero chill, apparently.”

Leaning closer to Daichi, Bokuto raises a brow. “So you like someone?” His teeth worry his bottom lip. “That’s, uh, great.” His smile is tight and pained and Daichi hates it. “Whoever it is would be stupid not to like you back.”

“Stupid,” Daichi parrots, and the pieces start falling into place. “So, so stupid.” He lists toward Bokuto and presses their mouths together for an uncoordinated and absurdly satisfying kiss.

Bokuto gapes at him when pull apart. “Yeah. That.” Daichi’s words are ridiculous and insufficient to convey the cocktail of feeling swirling around in every cell in his body.

“Oh, hot damn,” Bokuto declares before hauling Daichi onto his lap. The gap in their heights is just enough for Daichi to meet Bokuto’s gaze. “So can I assume that the person you like is me?”

“You can.” Daichi lets out a shuddering breath while his hands trail up the hard plane of Bokuto’s chest to threat together at the nape of his neck. “I might have to insist, even.”

This time, their lips meet in the middle, and they don’t peel away until the room is almost spinning from Daichi’s starved lungs. Panting and grinning and not making any effort whatsoever to separate, Daichi brushes his thumb over the soft skin under Bokuto’s eyes, eliciting a shiver. “I’ve been thinking about that for days. Glad to know I’m not the only one suffering needlessly like a total tool.”

“Yeah, for real.” Bokuto tucks his arms around Daichi’s waist and hikes them flush together. “So how long do ya think they’ll wait before they let us out?”

Daichi closes his eyes and rests his forehead against Bokuto’s, a ridiculously sappy smile on his face that he doesn’t care to hide. Not anymore. “Probably long enough to make them pay for it tomorrow.”

“Oh?” Bokuto lets out a throaty chuckle. “Anything in particular you had in mind?”

Snaring a searing kiss, Daichi can’t stifle a groan of pure satisfaction. Nothing in his wild imaginings could have prepared him for the reality that is being enveloped in Bokuto’s presence, and he has had some wild imaginings. It almost makes him forget that Kuroo is a traitor and in need of an ass-kicking.

Almost.

“I have a few ideas.”

Bokuto growls against Daichi’s lips. “I’m listening, and apparently, we have all night.”

“We’re going to regret this tomorrow.” He presses their mouths together once again. “We’re gonna suffer as much as Kuroo.”

“And Suga-chan.” Bokuto gives a little shrug at Daichi’s reeling shock. “I’m pretty sure I heard him plotting with Kuroo outside.”

Suddenly, Daichi’s worries about being exhausted the next day melt away into a pool of pure, petty glee. “Worth it.” He doesn’t just mean the cost of payback, either.

Every shred of embarrassment and nervousness and anxiety has led to this moment — a moment Daichi wouldn’t trade for anything.

“Definitely worth it.”