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Like Fireflies

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There were many things that Tsukishima disliked. People talking to him when he had his headphones on. Kids running around unsupervised. Lies and half-truths. A certain conceited setter who was unable to go through an entire practice without snapping at someone.

So why did he waste the last two hours staring at this certain setter’s sleeping face, and lying to himself about it?

If anyone asked, it was Hinata’s fault. He had been even more annoying than usual during the first half of the trip to Tokyo, bouncing and talking non-stop until Kageyama ran out of patience. Banished from his seat, Hinata tried his luck with Yachi, who had been happily indulging him in his nonsense from across the aisle.

As she got up to switch places with him, Tsukishima felt a surge of dread coursing through his body. Sharing a seat with Hinata could only mean one thing: he would have to listen to his rambling about Kenma, volleyball and whatever went through his overexcited mind until they got off the bus. That was the only reason he moved instead—to let Yachi deal with Hinata. Being closer to Kageyama wasn’t a factor at all.

He had enough of that, being forced into helping him and Hinata so they wouldn’t fall behind in classes again. By Ennoshita’s request, it had become routine for the second years to get together on Saturdays to study. It had been as chaotic as one could expect at first, but at some point it had become tolerable. Maybe he was just used to them, after spending so much time together. Yamaguchi said they were all friends, now. Tsukishima wasn’t so sure about that, even if their bickering lacked the animosity from when they first met.

A year ago, he would have thrown himself off the bus before sitting with Kageyama for an entire trip. Kageyama would have done the same, probably. Now, it wasn’t unusual for the two of them to find themselves alone together. It might have started out of obligation and, if he had to be honest, quite suspiciously, with the rest of the group suddenly remembering they had something else to do. But it was quieter when it was just the two of them going through their homework. It was weirder, too, the side of Kageyama that was so focused on something other than volleyball and not constantly competing with Hinata. As much as he hated to admit it, he might have been starting to enjoy the company of quieter and weirder Kageyama. He could do without Yamaguchi’s teasing about it, though.

It didn’t take long for Kageyama to fall asleep after getting rid of his noisy companion, his elbow propped on the windowsill and his chin resting on his hand. Tsukishima tried to do the same. Emphasis on tried. But how could he, when he couldn’t resist the temptation of looking at this new version of Kageyama? Seeing him without a scowl on his face was having the strangest effect on Tsukishima. How else could he justify the thought of threading his fingers through silky black hair? He was just bored, gathering teasing material for later. Like his occasional snoring, or the way he was pouting in his sleep. Pouting. For a King, he certainly looked lame. Or maybe the lame one was Tsukishima, for thinking he actually looked kind of cute.

 

Under Ennoshita’s leadership, the team had been working harder than ever. They had promised themselves this year they would go even further at nationals and make their senpais proud—not that they weren’t already—and doing their best during camp was a big part of that effort. To say that Tsukishima didn’t enjoy joint practices would be a lie. Even if he hid it under ten layers of complaints and sarcasm, he couldn’t deny that he had learned from training along with other teams. It didn’t make it any less exhausting, though.

By the second day of summer camp, he felt more than ready to go back home. His books and dinosaur figurines made a much quieter company than this bunch of weirdos. After the last match of the day, he went to their shared room for his usual camp routine: Bokuto would come up looking for him, Tsukishima would pretend not to be interested, and after ten or fifteen minutes of insisting, he would let out a resigned sigh and get on his feet to follow him. Reluctantly, because he couldn’t care less about extra practice with them. Making a point of ignoring Akaashi’s knowing smirk was another part of his routine, too.

So when he heard stomping right outside the door, he trained his face into his uninterested look and focused on his book. But instead of the ridiculous mess-up of his name that he had definitely not grown to like, all he heard was a thud. He looked up to see Hinata face-planting on his futon, ignoring his presence. Tsukishima was going to return the favor, but it wasn’t as easy as he hoped—four muffled groans later, murder started sounding appealing. The only thing that stopped him was Yamaguchi’s voice in his head, telling him he should be friendlier with his teammates.

“Aren’t you supposed to be running after Kenma?” He asked. Yamaguchi never specified whose standards of friendlier he was supposed to follow.

“Aren’t you supposed to be minding your own business?” Hinata replied without much more than a glance his way, reaching for a pillow to bury his face in.

In Tsukishima’s defense, that had counted as him trying. He was free to be his usual self, now. “Someone’s cranky,” he snickered. “Past your bedtime?”

Getting another groan as his only answer, Tsukishima put on his headphones and returned his attention to his book. Hinata seemed to have different plans for him, though, for he was now tossing a ball up from where he was lying on his back. Every time he missed, he just got up, retrieved it, and plopped down again to continue.

“Hinata, would you stop being…” he made a vague gesture with his hand, “you?”

“What’s that supposed to mean, Stingyshima?”

“Can’t you please be quiet?”

Hinata sat and grabbed the ball between his hands, staring at him for what felt like forever. “Nope,” he finally said, resuming his nonsense.

Great. Just what he needed. “What is your problem?” Tsukishima asked as he got up and stole the ball away from him.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I must have imagined you sulking all day during practice, then.”

“I wasn’t sulking.”

Tsukishima didn’t dignify his denial with an answer, only raised his eyebrows at him.

“I think Kenma’s dating Kuroo,” Hinata eventually said.

“What makes you say that?” Tsukishima asked, fully aware that allowing this conversation to start had been a mistake.

“They’re so close and so… touchy and it just—” he looked briefly at him, shrugging. “It makes sense, I think.”

“Not that thinking has ever been one of your strengths,” he noted, “but have you considered—I don’t know—talking to him?” Hinata blinked at him as if that was a whole new concept to him. It probably was. “You drooled all over Yachi’s shoulder yesterday on the bus, and Noya’s last night. I fail to see how you, the clingiest person I’ve ever met, believe being close to someone means they’re dating.”

“I’m not clingy.” Hinata crossed his arms and frowned. Tsukishima just stared at him in response. “Well, maybe—maybe you should follow your own advice, Stingyshima!”

“Huh?”

“With Kageyama!” Hinata looked at him as if he was an idiot for asking. “Are you gonna tell him?”

“What could I possibly have to tell that jerk?”

“That you like him, you moron!”

Tsukishima would deny for the rest of his days the undignified squawk that escaped his throat. “Where in the world would you get that idea?”

“You know, Kageyama keeps saying how smart you are, but I think you’re just as dumb as him,” Hinata said, and if Tsukishima’s ears felt warm it was just the surprise of learning he had been complimented by Kageyama. “I saw you—” whatever Hinata was about to add was interrupted by a loud ‘Tsukki!’, Bokuto barging inside the room as if it were his own.

He had never agreed to extra practice so fast in his life, getting up without a single word to leave with Bokuto and Akaashi. He didn’t even complain when his shadow—one of Karasuno’s first years that kept following him around—joined them. He just wanted to be as far away as possible from Hinata and his ridiculous deductions that he wasn’t ready to admit.

“Tsukki!” Hinata called as they were leaving, and his legs stopped before he could order them to keep moving. “I know you think he’s annoying or demanding or whatever, but if he keeps pushing you it's just because he knows you can do it.”

Choosing to ignore Hinata’s unsolicited advice, and the stares directed his way, Tsukishima turned around and kept going without a word. It wasn’t that he didn’t know that. He did. That was exactly how this whole mess of emotions had come to be. No one pushed him as hard as Kageyama did, not even Yamaguchi with his occasional speeches. Kageyama never let him slack off, always asking for more no matter how much Tsukishima argued. Whatever he had seen in him, he seemed determined to bring it out.

Objectively, Tsukishima knew he was good. Maybe not the best—he wasn’t a prodigy like Kageyama, didn’t have Hinata’s raw talent, and he definitely didn’t work as hard as they did, but he had what it took to stand proudly on the court with his teammates. The fact that someone like Kageyama, who was, in fact, one of the best of the entire country expected more from him because he knew he could deliver… Well, it had the weirdest effect on him. It boosted his confidence, reaffirming his position as the core of Karasuno’s shield. It also made his heart do something really stupid inside his chest every time he thought about it.

Luckily for him, Kuroo and Bokuto were loud enough to push unwanted thoughts to the back of his mind. As long as he kept himself busy with practice, he could keep pretending he had never seen Kageyama as more than a teammate.

 

The next day rolled around and, once again, it was Hinata’s fault that all the care he had put into ignoring his definitely-not-feelings had been for nothing. If Hinata could just shut up about his boyfriend then it wouldn’t have been so bad. Because then Tsukishima wouldn’t have needed to see how badly Kageyama reacted every time he mentioned it, scoffing at him and snapping at the tiniest mistakes from his teammates. It almost reminded him of the tyrant King from the start of their first year, all frowns and insults.

Kageyama wasn’t around during dinner. It would have been a relief if it weren’t for Yamaguchi’s gaze constantly on him. He wished he would have just asked whatever he wanted to know instead of simply staring. That way he could have convinced him that he was just tired, that his current state of mind had nothing to do with Kageyama’s. He would have failed, probably. Yamaguchi knew him too well. Retreat would be the safest option, then.

With the excuse of wanting something to snack on later, he went out in the direction of the vending machines. In hindsight, he should have known that wasn’t a good idea. Yet there he was, frozen in place as blue eyes bore into his. He gulped, willing his legs to stay strong, but his knees felt ready to give up. He still forced himself to move closer, running away wasn’t an option as it would only bring up more questions he didn’t want to think the answer for.

Getting a snack didn’t seem to be an option either—even as Tsukishima reached for the machine buttons, Kageyama didn’t budge from where he was standing right in front of it. He just stared at him, arms crossed against his chest when Tsukishima bumped against his shoulder in a useless attempt to get him out of the way.

“What’s your problem?” Tsukishima asked for the second time that day. “Is this out of bounds for us peasants?”

Kageyama’s frown only grew deeper. Tsukishima shrugged, pretending not to care. He had always been good at that. But then Kageyama had to ruin his carefully crafted mask, muttering under his breath, “I can’t believe that dumbass got his shit together before I did,” as if he wasn’t really expecting anyone to hear.

But Tsukishima was standing right next to him, it would have been pointless to act deaf. What did he even mean by that? Was he jealous? His possible feelings for Kageyama had been on top of his we-don’t-think-about-this list for a while. The idea of Kageyama actually liking someone? That one was second. It might have just jumped to the first place, though.

“Are you so upset that Kenma was faster than you?” He guessed, not sure if he really wanted to know the answer.

Kageyama tsked, angrily looking down at the milk carton in his hand. “He’s been rubbing it in my face all day that he won.”

That didn’t sound like Kenma. Kageyama had a crush on Hinata, hadn’t he? Was he talking about Hinata? Who was he jealous of, then? “Who would have thought the King actually cares about someone other than himself,” he snickered. He braced himself for the usual reaction: a scowl, an insult, anything that would bring them back to the familiarity of their bickering. But Kageyama was breaking the script—he wasn’t supposed to look hurt. Tsukishima wasn’t supposed to feel guilty.

“So that’s all I’ll ever be, right? The King of the Court?” He snapped. “Why can’t you—” Kageyama ran a hand through his hair, looking everywhere but at him. All Tsukishima could do in return was stare at him in surprise. “Whatever, why do I even bother?”

Kageyama turned to leave, but a hand wrapping around his wrist stopped him. It wasn’t until they both looked down that Tsukishima realized he had moved on instinct. He felt as if the skin of his palm was burning, but Kageyama simply stood still, his free hand curling into a fist and squeezing the milk carton before throwing it away.

“I’m sorry Hinata doesn’t feel the same way,” he muttered, words coming out without his permission. Why was he even apologizing? Since when did he apologize for mocking him? Why did Kageyama suddenly look so confused? “It was shitty of him to tease you about it.” It was shitty of me, too, he thought, but that wasn’t something he was willing to voice.

The more Tsukishima talked, the weirder Kageyama looked at him. “I don’t… I don’t like Hinata.”

“Why does it bother you so much, then?”

“What do you care?” The sudden cold in his eyes made Tsukishima loosen his grip, and Kageyama took the chance to free himself. Still, he didn’t leave.

“I care if it’s gonna affect the team.” If there was another reason, Kageyama didn’t need to know.

“It won’t,” Kageyama frowned. “I would never let it affect the team,” he lowered his voice. “It has nothing to do with them. I just… I want what they have, I guess.” Kageyama looked away only for a second before staring before locking eyes with him again. “But I know it’s not possible with a self-centered prick who won’t take anyone seriously.”

“Oh, are you talking about yourself?” Tsukishima had to force himself to keep up the snarky act—he felt completely lost at the turn in the conversation.

“I’m talking about you.”

He must have heard wrong. Maybe he was even more confused than he thought. Kageyama was making less sense than usual, or Tsukishima’s overworked brain had stopped working at some point and was making up an entirely new conversation inside his head. “What?”

“Which part was that hard to understand?”

“I mean—” He licked his lips, failing to find the words. He tried going back to what little he got from this conversation. Kageyama had been sulking all day because Hinata kept teasing him about getting a boyfriend. Kageyama was jealous, but not of Hinata or Kenma. Kageyama was jealous because he also wanted to have that with someone, someone who didn’t take him seriously. Him. Kageyama wanted to have that with him. Was that it? He couldn’t be misunderstanding that bad, could he? It made no sense. It was almost as ridiculous as admitting he had feelings for Kageyama. But he did have feelings for Kageyama. Could it really be possible they were reciprocated? “Why?”

“I’m starting to wonder why, now,” Kageyama sighed. “I… You’re okay, I guess,” he averted his gaze, pink creeping up his cheeks. “I wouldn’t mind spending more time with you.”

Tsukishima blinked, speechless.

“I know you don’t feel the same,” Kageyama kept going in the absence of a reply. His shoulders slumped down as he stared at his shoes. “Just… Don’t be a jerk about it.” Risking a quick side glance at him, Kageyama groaned and raised both hands to his hair. “Ugh, why is this so much easier for that dumbass?”

Tsukishima couldn’t stop the laugh that bubbled up his throat. When he looked back at Kageyama, he was looking at him like he couldn’t decide whether to punch him or not. “Was that…,” he let out a breathless laugh. “Was that you telling me you like me?”

Pink turned into furious red and Kageyama seemed about to pass out. “M—maybe?” He stuttered, looking away once more. “What did I say about being a jerk about it?”

At that point, Tsukishima realized this could only go two ways. He could do what he did best—pretend this conversation had never happened and push his feelings down once again so he could avoid any risk of being hurt in the future. Even if it would probably be awkward for a while, he could live with that. But he was tired of what-ifs and glances across the court.

So he chose the second way, the stupid and risky way. He took a step forward, and then another, hooked a finger under Kageyama’s chin and forced him to look up. And then he kissed him.

It was more like a clumsy clash of mouths than a proper kiss, but Kageyama didn’t protest. Kageyama didn’t do anything, actually. His entire body seemed to freeze, and alarms started sounding in Tsukishima’s mind. This was, after all, the stupid and risky option and he had chosen wrong. He tried to pull away, knowing he had fucked up and there was no coming back from this, but then hands grabbed the collar of his jacket and lips pressed back against his.

His mind went blank, not caring about his glasses knocked askew under his eyes, or the cold from the vending machine he was being pressed against, or the chatter of their teammates sounding dangerously close. All he could focus on was chapped lips, the slight taste of strawberry milk, soft hair between his fingers and the warmth of Kageyama’s palms resting at the sides of his neck.

It ended as abruptly as it started, and he found himself out of breath. Kageyama let his hands fall down, and Tsukishima took one between his before he could even think of escaping. He knew he should say something. As awkward as it had been, Kageyama had said something. Did that even count as a confession? Did he want it to count as a confession? But then their eyes met, uncertainty written all over Kageyama’s, and Tsukishima realized a few things.

One, Kageyama’s calloused fingertips drawing circles against his skin sent shivers down his spine.

Two, pretending to dislike him would be a lot harder from then on.

And three, maybe he didn’t want to pretend anymore.

The voices were getting too close for comfort. They were running out of time, but Tsukishima had his answer already. He leaned closer, brushing their lips together. “You’re not so bad yourself, Your Highness.”