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Phantom Limb

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Tenma stirs his milkshake with his straw, propping his chin up on his hand. He still has visions of the Kamomedai match dancing in his head, and it’s making him feel dreamy. He gets a lot of Udai-kun’s got his head in the clouds or Tenma’s such an airhead! these days and maybe he is. But that never would have happened when he was still at Karasuno. He straightens his back.

Across the table, Akiteru tilts his head and puts down his soda. “Are you okay, Udai-kun?”

“Sure,” he says and doesn’t really mean it. He stirs his milkshake again and takes a long sip, long enough for the strawberry ice cream to give him a headache. He hisses under his breath and rubs his forehead.

Akiteru laughs. Tenma raises his eyebrows.

“Sorry, sorry,” says Akiteru, waving his hand in front of his face. “Between the strawberry and the sour expression, you reminded me of my brother.”

Tenma brightens at the reminder of Akiteru’s brother. “He played well.”

Akiteru’s face softens. “Yeah. He always does now.” He glances down at his phone. “Kei said he’d text me when the team is heading out to dinner. Are you coming along?”

“Me?” Tenma shakes his head. “They don’t know me. I’m just some weird old guy to them.” It’s funny; when Tenma was in high school, guys in their last year of university seemed a million steps ahead. That’s when he thought he’d be an adult. But now he still feels a million steps behind that.

“You should come,” Akiteru says decisively. “Trust me, Karasuno has way weirder followers than you.”

Tenma laughs, thinking about the screaming guys in the orange haori, or Saeko’s taiko squad. “Does that old guy who used to heckle us at all the games still show up?”

Akiteru nods frantically. “He goes more than I do!” He shrugs. “But then again, I work in Sendai; it’s not like I can make it to every match.”

“Oh? What do you do now, Tsukishima-san?” Tenma asks.

“Nothing interesting. I’m your typical salaryman,” says Akiteru, waving his hand in front of his face again.

It’s a cute nervous tic, obviously from someone who’s had to do a lot of apologizing. Tenma doesn’t remember him doing that much in high school, but then again, Tenma didn’t pay much attention to anyone in the volleyball club who didn’t stand on the court. That was stupid of him. Tenma may still be a stupid kid now, but he was way stupider then.

“So you don’t play volleyball anymore either, huh?”

Something in Akiteru’s eyes flashes fierce and hard, and Tenma gets something stuck in his throat. He quickly looks down at his milkshake.

“I still play,” Akiteru says. After a moment, he adds, “You should, too.”

*

Dinner with Karasuno is loud and fun. It reminds Tenma of old times, even if none of his former teammates are there with him. He sits with Akiteru and Saeko, plus the two weird haori alumni, who are definitely weird, but can drink Tenma under the table. He feels wobbly even sitting down, and has no idea how he’s going to get himself back to his apartment with any dignity.

Akiteru’s brother comes over to their table when Tenma’s almost ready to call it a night. He doesn’t so much stand near the table as loom over them all, looking his nose down at them over his glasses. Tenma gets the feeling that’s not so much because of his height as his personality. It’s funny; Tenma can see the family resemblance between Akiteru and his brother, the height and the bone structure, and the way the flash of intensity Akiteru has shown a few times today lives permanently on his younger brother’s face. But Akiteru is so friendly and chatty, and he’s currently beaming up at his scowling brother. It’s kind of hilarious.

“Nii-san, will you be back tomorrow?” asks the little-big Tsukishima.

“Of course!” says Akiteru, still beaming. He lifts his beer in a toast; Tenma joins him, which makes Saeko laugh and elbow him hard in the ribs.

“Oof,” says Tenma.

Akiteru’s brother looks his way for a split-second, and Tenma has the uncomfortable feeling that the younger Tsukishima can read minds. But that’s silly. Cerebral middle blockers are always reading people; he remembers how much fun he used to have duping them by doing something unexpected.

“Tomorrow’s Saturday and work knows that my precious little brother is going to get all the way to the finals at nationals anyway,” Akiteru is saying. “They’re not expecting me back until Monday.”

“That’s unnecessary,” says Akiteru’s brother. He folds his hands in front of his body and hunches down a little — a tall people habit, Tenma guesses. He wouldn’t know.

“Oh, Kei-kun is happy!” Saeko says, raising her own glass this time.

“What? How can you even tell?” Tenma blurts before he can stop himself. Akiteru’s brother looks at him again.

Saeko shrugs and puts Tenma into a headlock, making him choke. “I have a stupid little brother, too.”

*

“You don’t have to do this. I’m fine. I don’t live that far away,” Tenma tells Akiteru, the cold night air slapping him across his overwarm face as they head out onto the streets of Tokyo. He tries to pull away from Akiteru, but the whole world lurches dangerously and a small “uh-oh” escapes his lips as he starts to faceplant onto the concrete.

Akiteru catches him around the waist and pulls him back upright, Tenma’s back pressed to Akiteru’s front, making Tenma’s eyes go wide and his cheeks go even hotter. “Yeah, you seem fine,” Akiteru says, and laughs into the top of Tenma’s head. He lets him go, only to wrap one arm around Tenma’s shoulders and pull him in so Tenma’s leaning against him, making them look like a couple on a romantic stroll instead of a drunken mess and his senpai. “Give me directions to your place, so I can make sure you don’t wind up sleeping in a gutter.”

“Okay, okay,” Tenma says, putting one unsteady foot in front of the other, and starting to walk in the direction of home. He buries his face into Akiteru’s side and takes a deep breath; he’ll probably be embarrassed about this in the morning, but for now all he notices is that Akiteru smells like laundry detergent and shampoo. It’s sort of impressive how he hasn’t managed to let the sweaty stench of the volleyball gym cling to him after the long day. There’s something sort of pure about Akiteru all over. How had Tenma not paid him more attention back then?

Tenma lifts his head and blinks up at that thought. He also forgets to walk for a moment, stumbling and making Akiteru look down at him.

“Tsukishima-san, why didn’t you stop playing?” he asks, clinging to Akiteru’s arms. “You weren’t ever a regular, so why even bother?“

Akiteru laughs, but it’s less bright and bubbly than before. “Because of that,” he says softly. “And because of my brother. Giving up in high school is really too soon, don’t you think?”

When they reach Tenma’s building, Akiteru walks him up the stairs. It takes a long time, but Akiteru is patient with him, like he has a lot of experience waiting for things.

“This is me,” says Tenma, leaning against the door to his apartment. The lone light bulb illuminating his hallway flickers on and off, buzzing like a fly.

Akiteru nods. They stare at each other, and the buzzing of the light bulb suddenly feels like it’s coming from inside his chest. Tenma thinks of static electricity, the way sliding along a rug in socked feet can make a spark if you touch the right thing. It’s completing a circuit. It’s a palm connecting to a volleyball, right before a good spike. It’s right on the tip of Tenma’s tongue to ask Akiteru inside, when Akiteru says, “Do you go home often?”

Tenma blinks, trying to work this out with his fuzzy brain. “Where? To Miyagi?” he asks. “Yeah, I guess. My parents and older sister are still there.”

“It’s just —” Akiteru shrugs. “My volleyball club is in Sendai, so if you were ever home, you could come by if you wanted. It’s pretty quick by train. Or I could drive you; sometimes Kei comes along, so I give him a ride.”

“Oh,” says Tenma. It’s been a while since he’s played a practice match or even a pick-up game. “Um, maybe.”

Akiteru smiles so big that his eyes crinkle up at the corners. He grabs Tenma’s wrists and squeezes before letting them go. “That’s good enough for me!” he says and makes sure they exchange contact information before he leaves.

Tenma turns around and fumbles for his keys, letting out a drunk whoop of triumph when the key fits inside the lock and his door successfully swings open. Sometimes it’s the little things.

“Are you going to be all right?” asks Akiteru. “By yourself, I mean.”

“Ah, yeah,” says Tenma. “I’m a big boy, you know.”

“Of course,” Akiteru says. He shrugs. “But you know, sometimes it’s still nice to be asked.” He waves before turning and heading down the hall, back toward the stairwell. “Don’t be a stranger, Udai-kun,” he calls over his shoulder.

Tenma shuts his door and stumbles into his small apartment, pulling his shoes off and leaving them by the door. He throws his keys onto his coffee table and shrugs his jacket off, leaving it on the floor. From his front door, he can practically see his entire apartment; the view isn’t great. The homework he hasn’t finished is strewn all over his couch. The breakfast dishes he didn’t wash this morning are still in the sink. They’ve been there long enough; they can wait a little longer while he sleeps. Tenma barely manages to brush his teeth before collapsing into bed, still in his street clothes. He folds his hands behind his head stares up at the ceiling and thinks about volleyball.

He hasn’t even really thought about it much in a long while, but today, after seeing that new Little Giant and all the other new Karasuno guys, he can’t help it. He can still remember what it’s like to soar, but he’s been grounded for so long, he wonders if he still has the fight in him. He doesn’t know if he can take one more person marveling over how small he is, waiting for him to mess up even after he’s proven himself. Tenma wonders if the new Little Giant — Hinata — ever feels like that. It’s like pressing on a bruise to see if it still aches.

And now all he can think about is Akiteru is standing in front of him, asking.

*

hey i’m sorry i couldn’t make it again today. hungover!! ・゚゚・(×ω×)・゚゚・。

Probably better that you didn’t lol. The team’s not as cheerful today.

yeah i saw online. still! best 4 is their best showing at nationals ever. better than we did! how’s your brother

Okay I think! Still talking to me lol. He disappeared somewhere with his friend for a while, but he does that a lot anyway. IDK it’s hard to tell. Make sure you let me know when you’re home next!!! Promise!!!

*

“You live so close to us! I wish I’d known sooner,” Akiteru says, getting out of his car to come around and open the passenger door, all gentleman-like. Tenma feels his face getting hot because it’s not like this is a date or something. They’re only going to practice with Akiteru’s team.

The last couple of months, he and Akiteru had kept touch, kind of, a text here and there. Sometimes Tenma would send him pictures of interesting dogs he saw around Tokyo because he did it once and Akiteru reacted with adorable over-the-top excitement. And Akiteru always reminded him to get in touch whenever he came home.

Well, Tenma’s home to stay, at least for now. He finished school in March and it wasn’t like he was interviewing anywhere. In fact, he’d spent most of his last couple of months dodging anything that even approached responsibility, which kind of left him out of options once he was done. That’s a kind of decision.

He climbs into the car and tucks his hair behind his ear before he pulls on his seatbelt.

“Little Giant-san! It’s really you!”

Tenma twists around and sees Akiteru’s little brother and Hinata Shouyou both in the backseat. He grins at Hinata. “Oh hey, I remember you!” Does he ever. “Tsukishima-san mentioned his brother, but he didn’t say you were coming along, too.”

“Well,” says Akiteru’s brother, sounding entirely put out with a single word, “he wasn’t. He overheard me talking to someone and showed up at my house because I made the mistake of saying you were coming along out loud. Then when I tried to make him leave, my brother said it was no big deal, and so here he is.”

Akiteru climbs into the car, just in time to hear his brother’s soft jab. “That’s because it isn’t a big deal, Kei.”

Kei sighs, irritated.

Hinata beams. “Blame Yamaguchi,” he tells Kei, unbothered. Tenma gets the feeling this isn’t the first time something like this has happened. “He gave me your address!”

Kei deflates at that, slumping down in his seat. “Whatever. I guess if you’re here now, there’s nothing to be done about it.”

Tenma watches their back-and-forth, fascinated. Teenagers have so much energy.

As if on cue, Hinata starts bouncing up and down. He’s practically vibrating. “I can’t believe I’m going to play volleyball with the first Little Giant!” he says. “I thought you said you didn’t play anymore!”

“Ah,” Tenma says. He turns around to face the front again, unable to deal with Hinata’s sunshiney brightness right then. “I don’t really. Tsukishima-san asked and I thought it might be fun.” He twiddles his thumbs in his lap. “I couldn’t even find my old volleyball shoes until my mom said she thought they might be under my bed.”

“This will be fun!” Akiteru says. “And you can call me Akiteru. Tsukishima-san is my dad.”

“You can call me Tsukishima-san,” Kei calls from the backseat.

Tenma can’t help laughing. This kid is a trip. “Call me Tenma,” he says to Akiteru. “You guys, too,” he adds, waving his toward the backseat. “Enough of this Little Giant business. You’re the Little Giant now, Hinata-kun.”

Hinata makes an excited uwaaaah noise at that that makes Tenma grin. “Sure, Tenma...san! Hinata is fine, too. Or Shouyou. Shouyou!”

“Udai-san,” says Kei, “you’re going to regret that.”

*

“Ohh?” A big guy, older, leers at Kei as soon as they all hit the gym. “You’re back for more, little Tsukishima?” He looks down and notices Tenma and Shouyou. “And you brought some of your little friends! Cute.”

Akiteru gets in between the big guy and the rest of them. “You’re too old for this, Akaizawa-san.”

Kei doesn’t say anything but raises one taped-up hand and flexes it.

“I’m not in high school,” Tenma offers, peering around Akiteru. “I just finished uni. Akiteru and I are —” Are what? Friends? Not really. “We went to school together.”

“You don’t look it,” says Akaizawa, like Tenma doesn’t know. He shrugs. “But whatever. I’ll have fun spiking you into the ground. You, too,” he tells Kei. He doesn’t even look at Shouyou again.

On the other side of the gym, someone blows a whistle and everyone starts gathering on the court. There are maybe fifteen guys altogether, so everyone will be rotated in at some point, easy. It’s nothing like Karasuno in the old days, where the volleyball club had so many members that the people who didn’t play filled out an entire cheering section.

Akiteru holds a clipboard and starts reading out names, and guys wander to one side or the other, some taking the sidelines.

“Akaizawa-san, you’re on Kei and Shouyou’s team,” Akiteru says. “Tenma, you’re on mine.”

Tenma’s stomach clenches in anticipation at that. He’s not sure why. Maybe it’s getting to play again. Maybe it’s the idea of getting to show this huge jerk exactly what he can do. Maybe it’s getting to see how Akiteru has grown. But maybe it’s all of it.

“Aw,” says Akaizawa to Kei. “And I was really looking forward to paying you back for last time. Well, I can wait. Adults are better at waiting than kids anyway.”

Kei clicks his tongue, but Shouyou gets right up in the big guy’s face. “Don’t worry. Next time, Tsukishima will show you that you’ve got no chance against him.” He grabs Kei’s sleeve and tugs him in. “We both will.”

Tenma expects Kei to roll his eyes and say something pithy, but he’s glaring, his expression as fierce as Shouyou’s.

Akiteru leans in toward Tenma, making him jump. “Don’t let the bored act fool you,” he says, so close to Tenma’s ear that the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. “Kei’s a monster on the court.”

Tenma thinks back to the Kamomedai match, of Kei’s serious expression after wearing down the other side’s blocker, of the fierce serve-and-block combo he pulled off in every set with the freckled kid. He knows Akiteru isn’t just bragging.

A grin spreads across Tenma’s face as he gets on his side of the court, across the net from Shouyou and Akiteru’s brother. They both have their game faces on as they stare back at him.

Well. This should be fun.

*

Tenma apologizes to their setter before they even start playing, explaining that he’s rusty.

The setter shrugs. “We were all rusty at some point,” he says. “We kept coming, though. We got better.”

Having his worries boiled down so easily makes Tenma feel a little stupid. He’s wide-eyed and awestruck, and he can hear Akiteru laughing gently nearby. The game gets underway, and Tenma feels like he’s moving through molasses, their team falling behind by a little, but he can still feel something. Muscle memory wars with muscle atrophy, and even if his body can’t do exactly what he wants it to do, it’s still trying. Maybe volleyball is Tenma’s phantom limb; it doesn’t matter how long it’s been since he’s cut it off, he can still feel it.

Akiteru’s brother is right on the other side of the net, watching him warily. He’s not underestimating Tenma at all, which makes sense — he can see Shouyou on the back line after his serve. He’s hunched down ready to receive, his tongue sticking out of the corner of his mouth like he’s hungry for something. Tenma knows that feeling. Hell, Shouyou is Tenma five years ago. It’s driving him nuts how much.

Their setter flashes him a sign to let him know the ball’s heading his way, and Tenma’s eyes go wide as he goes for the run-up. His legs leave the ground before he even fully thinks about it, his hand outstretched. Kei goes up, too, but it’s a split-second too late. Tenma sees the top of his blond head just before the ball connects with his palm, and he slams it down between the two rows of players. As his feet touch the ground again, he catches the shocked look on Akaizawa’s face. Tenma grins. He’d missed that.

In the meantime, Shouyou has teleported to the other side of the net, his hands balled up into fists with his eyes shining. “Tenma-san, that was amazing,” he gushes. “Isn’t that feeling amazing? Getting over a wall! And spiking past Tsukishima!”

Tenma feels breathless and happy. He knows it was only one point, but it’s been years, and — and he missed it. He missed it so much. Tenma grabs both of Shouyou’s hands and squeezes. “It’s really amazing, Shouyou. I love that view. I love it!”

“Oh my god,” Kei interrupts from across the net. “They’re multiplying.”

When Tenma rotates to the back line, he watches Akiteru. Nothing about his play style is familiar, really driving home how little Tenma saw of it during the two years they played together, but it’s good. It’s really good. He’s thoughtful and a good jumper and he racks up points like no one’s business. There’s no way he played like this back at Karasuno because someone that skilled would have been a regular, no problem; it’s unbelievable to Tenma that someone could be so motivated by anything that they’d improve this much after being beaten down again and again. Akiteru never stood on the court in high school, not even once. And look at him now.

They both play wing spiker, but other than that, they have nothing in common. They’re physical opposites. Akiteru seems to have everything figured out, Tenma’s a mess. Tenma peaked early, Akiteru’s a year older and seems like he’s just getting started. It’s intimidating. It’s scary. It’s a lot of pressure.

Tenma wants more.

“You’re amazing, Akiteru!” Tenma tells him during a water break.

Akiteru looks down and shakes his head. “I’m not,” he says. “I’ve still got so much more to work on.” His hands are clenched in fists at his sides. “But that’s why I can’t give up.” He grins at Tenma. “You get that, right?” Akiteru jogs back onto the court and Tenma watches him go.

Seriously, seriously amazing.

*

Tenma’s team loses. He sighs and looks down at his shoes.

Sometimes when he hasn’t eaten in a while, the hunger passes and he kind of forgets that food is something he needs to live, but once he finally sits down and has a meal, he never wants to stop eating again. The old hunger comes roaring back, but it’s been so long that Tenma doesn’t even know what to do.

“You’re not allowed to say you’re rusty ever again,” Akiteru says, slinging a friendly arm around Tenma’s shoulders. It reminds him of the time he helped Tenma stumble home, drunk and pathetic, and his face heats up at the memory. It’s a good thing they just finished a practice match, giving Tenma an easy excuse for his red face. Akiteru steers Tenma out of the gym, Shouyou and Kei catching up as they head toward the showers.

“Hah, Tsukishima, look,” Shouyou says, pointing at Akiteru and Tenma as Akiteru’s hand squeezes Tenma’s shoulder. “Like that, they look more like brothers than you and Akiteru-san do.”

Tenma accidentally catches Kei’s eye, and the look on his face is scary. He probably can’t see into Tenma’s soul, but it sure feels like it. He shivers and shifts closer to Akiteru almost unconsciously.

“No,” Kei says with conviction. “They don’t at all.”

“Are you jealous, Kei?” asks Akiteru.

“No.”

Akiteru lets go of Tenma and walks over to Kei, reaching up. Tenma tries not to feel disappointed. “Does my precious baby brother want me to put my arm around his shoulders instead?”

“Get off of me.” Kei shoves Akiteru away.

Akiteru laughs. “Aw, did you want a hug instead?”

“Definitely not.”

As the Tsukishima brothers hurry ahead with their long tall people legs, Tenma lets out a sigh of longing and naturally falls into step with Shouyou, who’s looking at him with a shrewd expression on his face. Ah god, did they both figure it out? He knows he doesn’t have the best poker face, but at twenty-one, he should be a little subtle, shouldn’t he?

“You know, when you told me you weren’t playing anymore, I told Kageyama that I didn’t feel sad or disappointed,” Shouyou says.

Oh. Volleyball. Tenma lets out a breath of relief.

“But if you’re playing again, I’m— I’m gonna surpass you!”

Tenma awkwardly runs his fingers through his shaggy hair. “I think you’ve already surpassed me, haven’t you?”

“Uh-uh. Not yet,” says Hinata, shaking his head hard. They reach the clubhouse and Shouyou grabs Tenma’s arm, a wild look in his eyes. “But I will.”

*

They drive Shouyou home first, Tenma watching the neighborhood grow unfamiliar as they wind up and up a mountain.

“You don’t live near Karasuno at all!” he observes. “Do your parents drive you in every day or something? Is there a bus that goes this way?”

“No, I ride my bicycle,” Shouyou says.

Tenma turns around to gawk at him. “You bike over this mountain every day?”

“Yeah!” shouts Shouyou, like that’s a normal thing to do.

“He’s a demon,” Kei says tiredly. “You get used to it.”

“Does this mean you’re used to me now, Tsukishima?” Shouyou asks, leaning so far into Kei’s space that Kei winds up pressed tight against the car door. “It only took a whole year!”

Kei sighs and looks out the window. “Don’t let it go to your head.”

Shouyou laughs and slides back towards his side of the car. A few minutes later, Shouyou hops out of the car with his bag and an “I won’t lose to you!” for Tenma.

“We’ll see,” Tenma says, making Shouyou shoot him a delighted grin before running up to his front door. Akiteru waits until Shouyou’s safely inside before pulling away again. Between Akiteru’s chivalry and Shouyou’s excitement, it doesn’t matter that Tenma’s exhausted and his legs are like jelly; everything about him feels suffused with warmth, surrounded by it.

“I’ll take you home next, Kei,” Akiteru says and Tenma scrunches up his forehead, confused. Well, maybe Akiteru was planning on heading back to Sendai now. Tenma remembers he has an apartment there and the drive isn’t that far. Maybe his old bedroom in his parents’ house isn’t there anymore. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t want to drive back in the morning for work. That’s understandable.

“He’s coming back to the house after he drops you off,” Kei announces. Tenma startles. What the hell, can the kid actually read minds? “He’s home all the time. Mom keeps talking about turning his room into an office, but at this rate, she’ll have to wait for me to leave. Right now, he’s trying to get rid of me.”

“Oh,” says Tenma because what else is there to say?

“Shut up, Kei,” Akiteru says pleasantly because there is always that. He pulls in front of a house with the characters for Tsukishima posted near the entrance.

Kei snorts and opens the door, climbing out. “Good luck,” he calls, waving without looking back.

“Cute kid,” Tenma says as they drive away again.

“He can be,” Akiteru says, and Tenma laughs. “What? I’m serious.”

“I know you are,” says Tenma. “That’s why it’s funny.”

Akiteru makes a hmph sound. “I think you’re cute, too, for the record,” he says after a moment and Tenma forgets to breathe. “Is that funny, too?”

“Ah,” Tenma replies, like an idiot. He stares out, facing front, and an age passes. They zoom past houses. Trees whiz by. The stars change their positions and form new constellations in the sky. The universe experiences heat death and Tenma is still in Akiteru’s car, frozen. “No,” he says finally. “That’s not funny.”

He glances sideways at Akiteru, who’s grinning.

“You’re different than I expected you to be with me,” Tenma continues.

“What do you mean by that?”

“I don’t know, maybe I thought you’d still hold a grudge.” Tenma looks down at his lap as Akiteru turns right. “For back then, I mean.”

“I never held a grudge against you,” Akiteru says. He drums his fingers on the wheel. “Was it your fault I wasn’t good enough to stand on the court? Were you stopping me from being there? There are six players on a team.”

“Yeah.” Tenma gestures vaguely. “Still.”

“Listen, Tenma.” Akiteru’s voice is suddenly serious and low; Tenma’s stomach flips. “Volleyball isn’t my whole life. It never has been. I have regrets about it, sure, but those aren’t on you. But it can be one part of my life and still be important. Lots of things are like that, right? A dozen different important things are what make up interesting people.”

“Different important things, huh?” Tenma hesitates for a moment before reaching over the center panel to cover Akiteru’s hand on the steering wheel with his own, and Akiteru doesn’t freeze up or jerk his hand away or say what the hell do you think you’re doing? or anything. He just smiles a little and pulls his hand back again. “I like the way you put that,” Tenma says.

“I’m glad,” Akiteru says, and there’s a choked-up waver to his voice. Tenma wonders if he’s nervous, too. It makes him feel better. Practically everything about Akiteru makes him feel better.

Akiteru parks the car when they reach Tenma’s house and climbs out while Tenma grabs his bag. The lights are still on, meaning his parents haven’t gone to bed yet, and when Akiteru shifts closer and takes his hand as they walk up to the front porch, Tenma feels like he’s a stupid kid again, trying not to get caught. His sweaty palms make him feel like a kid, too, and he hopes Akiteru doesn’t notice them.

The whole night has been about bringing back memories that Tenma thought he’d forgotten, but that doesn’t feel like a bad thing. Everything about this situation is strange, so ironically it doesn’t feel strange to go up on his toes to kiss Akiteru right in front of his parents’ door. It starts off soft and sweet, but then Akiteru gets an arm around Tenma’s waist and drives him back against the door. Tenma’s bag falls to their feet with a thump as Tenma gasps into Akiteru’s mouth, fingers gripping the back of Akiteru’s shirt tight. He remembers that night after the Kamomedai match outside his apartment, when he nearly asked Akiteru inside.

He can’t do that now. That sucks. Tenma laughs to himself, the sound buzzing against Akiteru’s mouth.

Akiteru pulls away, frowning. “Was it really that bad?”

Tenma laughs again and shakes his head. “No, not at all. The opposite,” he says. “But I’d forgotten how inconvenient having parents around is.”

Akiteru’s whole face goes red at that and he looks away, shy in a way that Tenma hasn’t seen before. Ah, he’s cute.

“They’re not always around,” Tenma says, beaming, ducking around to put his face in Akiteru’s face again. “And you have your own place, right?”

“I do,” Akiteru says. He puffs up his chest like he’s proud of that. Ah, he’s so cute.

Tenma shrugs and stuffs his hands deep into his jeans. “Well, next time you invite me to practice, I’ll come to you.” He raises his eyebrows to drive home his meaning and rocks on his heels.

“So you definitely you want to play again then?” Akiteru says, grinning widely. “I’m glad.”

“Me too,” Tenma admits.

Akiteru leans down again, threading his hand through Tenma’s hair before pressing their lips together again. Tenma is already breathless when Akiteru pulls away to whisper into his ear, “Can’t wait to beat you into the ground.” Then he laughs and turns away, jogging back to his car with a wave.

Tenma leans against his door, hand to his chest as he watches Akiteru drive away. “Wow,” he mutters under his breath he stumbles inside.

*

A week later, Tenma finds himself on a train to Sendai, volleyball gear in hand and butterflies in his stomach. He spent a lot of the week finding pick-up volleyball games around town; the Karasuno Neighborhood Association was more than happy to have him. Playing again hasn’t quite been like getting on a bicycle, but his body remembers how much likes the feeling of being in the air.

Now he’s on his way to Akiteru’s practice again, and he doesn’t know what he’s looking forward to more: volleyball or Akiteru.

“People can like two things,” Tenma reminds himself. And he sure does like both of them.

His phone buzzes in his pocket, a message from Akiteru asking when he’ll be there.

Soon, Tenma replies. I’ve been practicing. Are you ready?

I’m waiting, Akiteru replies.

And Tenma guesses he has been, too.