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provisional paradise

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☽ ♕

 

“Baa-chan will ask you again, you know,” Akiteru says over the phone, and Kei, on the verge of falling asleep as he waits for his plane to board, snaps back to the conversation at hand.

Kei twiddles with the passport in his hand chewing down on his bottom lip absentmindedly, as he reads the lines on the book he saved for this flight again, yet none of the words processed to his brain. His brother’s voice should be clear since Kei is wearing his headphones, but even that sounds like something faraway in his ears, so Kei sighs, giving up, shutting his book, and placing it on the seat next to him, and rubbing his face to get rid of the lethargy, deciding to listen to his brother fully since he won’t be able to focus on his book anyways.

“Marriage?” Kei asks dryly, voice muffled by the hand still on his face. “Baa-chan is asking for too much. Seeing me graduate from here, and working for the company should be enough.”

“You know it’s not enough. Not when mom was like that,” Akiteru points out easily, and Kei sighs again, knowing all of these facts, but somehow still feeling the resentment build up in his throat, resisting the urge to complain that just because their mother decided to be an obedient daughter-in-law, doesn’t mean he has to live like his mother. Kei can hear over the speakers that his nephew’s cartoon seems to be playing at a high volume, probably to keep him distracted so that Akiteru can focus on this conversation with Kei. This is not the first time Kei wonders why his brother getting married was not enough for his grandmother. She was even the master planner for that wedding, overpowering their own mother. “What are you going to tell her?”

“She sucks, and I’m gay,” Kei replies dryly, picking up his book again, absentmindedly dog-earing the pages, and Kei can hear over the line that his brother bursts out laughing. “I’m not joking, nii-chan.”

“Kei, she’ll have a heart attack,” Akiteru says softly. “She’s already in the hospital. Maybe don’t tell her that she sucks.”

Kei snorts. “So you’re saying I should tell her that I’m gay?”

Akiteru chuckles. “Why not? Maybe she’ll back off. When I visited this morning, all she asked about was you. I think one of the girls I saw she wants to set you up with next is a prosecutor’s daughter.” There’s a pregnant silence. “Pretty, I guess? I think I saw that she goes to Uni of Tokyo. Not a boy, though. No more London dates, at least, huh? How many prosecutors does she even know?”

Kei ignores his brother. “I’m still in school, technically. I don’t even know why she wants me to get married.”

“You know why, Kei,” Akiteru answers easily, as this conversation has been one that they’ve been having for the past two months their grandmother got admitted to the hospital. Kei stifles a sigh at the uncomfortable territory they’re stepping into.

Kei does know, although he hasn’t been in Japan ever since he left for university in London, he knows his grandmother’s condition isn’t exactly getting any better. Kei even got the urge to come back briefly when he heard his grandmother was admitted, but his mother vehemently disagreed, as his finals coincided with when it happened, and his mother wants him to focus, and Kei quotes exactly what his mother said: It’s not like you’re the doctor, Kei. Your baa-chan will survive. Kei remembers rolling his eyes, wondering why he even bothered sometimes.

It’s been two months now. His grandmother is still in the hospital. Getting better. Out of the ICU. But, still.

Everyone in his family is in denial of the word, snorting every time Kei brings up grandmother's condition over the phone, yet it is all his grandmother can say to Kei every time she calls Kei. I’m going to die soon, Kei, I want to see you get married, too, you know. You’re my only grandson left that still has yet to get married. And every single time, Kei either wants to rip his eyes out or pity his grandmother. Or a mixture of both. Kei thinks his grandmother is probably not dying if she has this much energy on setting up Kei with girls, but he doesn’t say it out loud. His family will probably whack him in the head for it.

“Plus, you’re done with school, no? You just need to graduate officially. And you’re working for the company soon. You’re plenty grown. That was when I got married, no?”

“You dated Yua-chan when you were in uni. You don’t get to say anything. You wanted to get married. While I don’t,” Kei answers quickly, rolling his eyes, opening his book again, this time trying to focus properly, not wanting the thought of marriage, out of all things making him unable to focus on reading a book he has been saving.

Kei is waiting in the business class lounge for his flight back to Japan although he finished his finals just a mere few hours ago. Kei hates to admit it but he was worried about his grandmother, so when his last day of written finals were announced, he immediately booked a flight back on that day so that he could go back to Japan immediately. Kei feels a small bit of regret at this choice when he feels in his bones how tired he is from staying up to study, and trying to pack four years of his life in just three suitcases. Kei yawns. He deserves to finish this book, at least.

“Tell baa-chan again, maybe she’ll change her mind after you tell her for the 30th time,” Akiteru snickers. Kei hears his nephew start crying. “Go visit her after you drop off your stuff, okay? She won’t stop asking me. Tell her whatever to get her to back off. She doesn’t listen to me. Mom lets her do whatever she wants. Maybe she’ll wise up when she sees your face in real life after four years. We’ll deal with mom later, okay? Bye, Kei. Love you!”

Kei just grunts, and is about to hang up, when his brother continues: “Oh, wait, I think I saw one of your old teammates' names on the news earlier. The FC Tokyo one? He got injured?” The crying intensifies, so Akiteru quickly hangs up, not before rushedly yelling  at Tsukishima to call him once he arrives.

Kei just stares at his phone for a moment before snapping out of it. There is really only one of his former teammates that he knows is currently playing for FC Tokyo, and that person is Kageyama Tobio. Before Kei can think much of it, he looks up Kageyama’s name, unfamiliar almost, with how long it has been since Kei last talked to him, and it almost feels like gossiping about a celebrity rather than looking up an old friend, and Kei feels a twinge of guilt at this, like this isn’t something he should be doing.

But what could he do? It’s not like he could call Kageyama and ask him these things.

They drifted apart, like all high school friends do. Kei doesn’t go back for summers and breaks. His family is the ones who usually fly to London to meet him, and sometimes vacations happen, but never in Japan. It’s inevitable, really, for all of them to drift apart.

The only person Kei is keeping in touch with is Yamaguchi, and if not for Yamaguchi’s constant texts he would’ve probably drifted apart from him, too. The different continents feel too wide, a reminder of their distance, and Kei expected this falling out. Yachi, Kageyama, Yamaguchi, and Hinata who was once in Brazil out of all places, are in Japan now. The last time they talked was when during graduation, when everyone was telling everyone where they’d go next, and Kei announced to their little group at that time that he was moving to London for uni, and Kageyama doubled up the good news that he got recruited for the National team, out of all teams.

At 18.

Recruited for Rio.

Playing at the Olympics at 19.

It was crazy. Kei still remembers how shellshocked he was, yet a strange reaffirming feeling. Kageyama was meant for things like these, Kageyama was meant for volleyball, the stars were aligned. Seeing Kageyama at Rio on TV just felt right.

So seeing the headline feels a lot like getting dumped cold water all over him.

The thing about being so familiar and sure about something, is that when something disrupts that familiarity, it comes crashing down to you quickly, and leaves you feeling all weird. This is exactly what happens with the news of Kageyama.

BREAKING: FC Tokyo’s Genius Setter Kageyama Tobio Injured — May Be Unable To Play Ever Again, the headline reads dramatically.

Kageyama and volleyball have always been a thing Kei thought would last for as long as it could. Kei doesn’t ever think that it would stop at the age of twenty-one. Too young, Kei’s brain immediately supplies, and too soon. Kageyama without volleyball feels like Kageyama is stripped bare from everything he has owned. If Kei is not mistaken, he didn’t even go to college, diving immediately to professional volleyball, which Kei gets.

Academics have never been one of Kageyama's strongest suits, anyways. Plus, with an offer like a national team, there is no way Kageyama would’ve considered college in the first place. But right now, reading the article, Kei wonders what Kageyama would do, if the news were true. It doesn’t feel like the stars are aligned anymore, and this feels a little bit fake, so Kei scratches at his head, just staring at the headline, not sure what to believe in.

Kei blinks at the news to completely process it. Suddenly, the weird lighting airports always have sting his eyes even more--both from the lack of sleep due to finals, and at this madness. Kei continues to scroll through the article, and from the gist of it, Kei gets that not much has been revealed yet, and FC Tokyo has yet to release an official statement. Kei sends the link to Yamaguchi, with question marks, and Yamaguchi doesn’t answer immediately, so Kei just locks his phone.

At that exact moment, his plane is called to board. The staff who had been managing the lounge, directs Kei to the plane, and Kei, for once more than grateful to be in the business class forgets all about the news as soon as he sees the plush seats, settling in almost immediately, the lethargy that faded for a while earlier settling into his bones, pulling his weight down, making him immediately sleepy. Kei puts his phone to airplane mode, and passes out for the whole flight, only waking up for the last meal given.

Before Kei knows it, he’s in Tokyo, after four years, and it all feels like a faraway dream.

 

☽ ♕

 

Yamaguchi Tadashi doesn’t like airports very much, he realises just as another person rushes past him to get to their flight, probably, and ends up stepping on his shoes.

“I hate it here,” Tadashi says soundly, wincing at the pain, and glaring at the long gone person. Hitoka next to him elbows him gently, laughing breathily as she does. Tadashi pouts at her. “I’m being serious! Two people stepped on me, Yacchan. Two. We’ve been here for barely five minutes.”

“Shh,” Hitoka says hushedly, slapping his arm. “Tsukishima is almost here. Behave.” Hitoka then points at the screen where Tsukki’s flight is said to have already landed. She then sighs lifting a finger to her chin, tapping on it idly, thinking. “It has really been four years, huh? Does Tsukishima know we’re coming?”

Tadashi's mouth runs dry at Hitoka's blunt observation. Tadashi knows it’s been four years, but shivers still run down his spine at the words being said out loud, and in all honesty, it makes him feel a little bit nervous, pooling awkwardly at his stomach. Because it has been four years. Since the last time he has ever seen Tsukki, four years since he last heard Tsukki’s laugh in real life, four years since he last heard Tsukki’s voice in real life, and just four years of everything.

A blur between the two of them that cannot be mended simply by the occasional texts and phone calls. Four years have passed in London, and four years have passed in Japan. Things probably changed. It’s impossible to not to. Four years are a long time to be apart from someone, it’s impossible that Tsukki hasn’t changed at all. In fact, Tadashi is the clear example of how much things change in four years. Karasuno might’ve shaped him as a person, made his confidence grow, but he continued to grow from there, and he can confidently say he was not the same person he was four years ago.

Tsukki shouldn’t be any different than Tadashi with how much he has changed then, Tadashi thinks, but he still feels the nervousness build up in his throat when he thinks about all those years. How does Tsukki even look like now? Does he still do his thing where he gives out snide remarks, or has he grown out of it? Texts weren’t enough to make that judgement, and so were the occasional phone calls.

It just hits Tadashi all at once that this Tsukki that is stepping into this airport might not be the one Tadashi sent off four years ago. The thought of it feels strange, and Tadashi who had been excited to pick up Tsukki from the airport today suddenly feels like this isn’t too good of an idea.

“Tadashi?” Hitoka asks softly, elbowing him. “I asked if Tsukishima knows we’re coming?”

Tadashi snaps out of it, quickly humming out a sorry, looking at Hitoka apologetically. “I did say I was coming. I don’t know if he read his texts, though. I texted him after his flight boarded.” Tadashi bounces on the balls of his feet for a while before remembering something. “Tsukki asked about Kageyama’s injury,” Tadashi winces, looking at Hitoka. Hitoka glances back at him worriedly.

“I can’t believe FC Tokyo really threw him away like that,” Hitoka murmurs into the silence they fall into at the mention of Kageyama. “He was their best player.”

“The doctor did say there is a low chance of full recovery,” Tadashi murmurs. “But they don’t even want to fund his surgery. Assholes, really. I knew he shouldn’t have signed with FC Tokyo in the first place. They don’t have a very good rep when it comes to taking care of their players.”

Hitoka sighs, shrugging, probably not wanting to agree with Tadashi, feeling like she’s betraying Kageyama, maybe, if she reaffirms it out loud, since Kageyama did like working with his teammates in FC Tokyo. “At least Hinata is with him.” Hitoka glances at her watch. “Although he’s probably going to practice soon. It’s almost time.” Hitoka looks worried again. “Kageyama will be alone.”

“We’ll go over after we see Tsukki,” Tadashi assures her. “I heard from Akiteru that Tsukki needs to visit his grandmother, anyways. She’s still in the hospital, apparently.”

If there is one thing that obviously changed a lot in the four years Tsukki has been gone is how much his relationship has changed with people.

The obvious one is his relationship with Yachi, Hinata, and Kageyama. All five of them had been close by the time third year rolled around, but it just got tighter in their adulthood with just the four of them. For some reason, they’ve gotten even closer ever since Tsukki moved away to London, even when Hinata and Kageyama had been overseas a lot. But somehow the distance didn’t affect their friendship the same way it affected his friendship with Tsukki.

It was never hard to keep in contact. There never seems to be a distance that Tadashi can’t breach whenever they meet in real life, or call each other. Maybe it’s because Hinata was only away for two years in Brazil, and Hinata is Hinata. Kageyama was away only for Rio briefly, and had overseas games briefly. Tsukki was gone for the whole four years, that it almost feels like Tsukki has always been in London, and never part of their group.  Or maybe it’s because Tsukki doesn’t try hard enough to keep in contact, which is something Tadashi tries to not think about.

Point is, they got closer, somehow.

Going to the same uni with Hitoka helps, and if they didn’t go to the same uni, Tadashi probably wouldn’t get the guts to confess to her. If Tadashi is being more honest, the reason why they’re all so close until now may have to do with how good Hitoka is at taking care of other people, too. Maybe the reason why Tsukki is not part of their little group anymore is because Yachi can’t take care of someone when that someone is a whole continent away.

Another thing is probably his relationship with Akiteru, out of all people. Distance really does things to people, the more Yamaguchi thinks about it. Tsukki doesn’t tell him things, only when Tadashi asks him, so Yamaguchi gets his details about Tsukki’s life from Akiteru, oddly enough. Heck, the only reason he knows why Tsukki’s grandmother, the chairwoman of the Tsukishima group, is still in the hospital is because of Akiteru. It was two months ago when the news broke out that the chairwoman was in the hospital. Tadashi had thought that she was out by now, but apparently not. Tsukki is only coming back now, because apparently the terms there lasts until late May.

And all this is from Akiteru.  

That’s how much Tsukki doesn’t tell him about things.

Tadashi thinks he would probably keep the secret of him being one of the direct heirs of the Tsukishima group, if he can. That’s how much Tsukki doesn’t like talking about himself.

“Oh, I think I saw him,” Hitoka whispers excitedly next to him, and Tadashi focuses on the people coming out of the arrival gate. Tadashi knows Tsukki’s in business class, so when Tadashi finally sees Tsukki, he’s not crowded with other people, just a few people sparsely next to him, with him carrying his luggages on the trolley, and his phone in his hand, his eyebrows pinched together as he scrolls down his phone.

Before Tadashi can think much of it, he yells out Tsukki’s name. “Tsukki!”

Tsukki looks up from his phone at the sound of his name, and his eyes search through the crowd of people picking up their loved ones, looking through each one with that familiar look of scrutiny before his eyes land on Tadashi and Hitoka. Tsukki’s eyes brightened in ways Tadashi didn’t realise he missed. It’s the glint he gets in his eyes when a volleyball game manages to go the way he predicts it to be. It’s the way his eyes brighten back then when all five of them were still close, and Tsukki gets this soft look in his eyes that Tadashi thinks Tsukki himself didn’t even notice he used to have.

It is at this point that Tadashi realises Tsukki’s glasses are not the rectangular ones he left Japan with years ago that weren’t exactly ugly, but were ordinary in a way, and seemed so Tsukki at that time. He’s wearing those trendy, round ones now, something Tadashi would never see him wearing four years ago, but since this is now, it fits him well, looks stylish on him, in a way Tadashi has never seen Tsukki before. He’s wearing a turquoise sweater, probably too hot for current May weather, but probably comfy for the plane. He’s wearing normal jeans with intentional rippings at the knees, and he looks so different in ways Tadashi is not able to put a finger on.

He looks every bit like how you would expect an heir to a rich business conglomerate to look like, and if Tsukki didn’t have the glint in his eyes, if he didn’t fix his glasses in ways he usually did back then, Tadashi wouldn’t be able to recognise the Miyagi edges this Tsukki has, the Tsukki that Tadashi spent many years of his life with. He looks every bit like the Tsukishima Kei that is a part of one of the wealthiest groups and companies in Japan, with a rich aura that only rich people can exude as he walks towards them, and Tadashi can only stare at him.

“Woah,” Hitoka says beside him, and Tadashi swallows the urge to agree with her as Tsukki is approaching closer.

“Tsukki,” Tadashi says awkwardly, but his heart feels warm, at seeing Tsukki again after four years, so he steps closer, punching Tsukki on the chest. “God, you’ve grown. Do you still understand Japanese?”

Tsukki glares at him, and Tadashi immediately laughs, relieved, because this is the Tsukki in Miyagi he knows. The glares that don’t mean anything when it’s directed towards Tadashi, the one he always brushes away. This is familiar. The familiarity makes Tadashi warm up enough that he wraps his arms around Tsukki’s shoulder, hugging him for just a second, something he has never done before, but feels the need to right now.

Because Tsukki’s here.

Four years.

“You think I’d lose my Japanese abilities just because I was in the UK for four years? How do you think I talk to my grandmother?” Tsukki grumbles, and Tadashi laughs, pulling away, but Tsukki pats his back briefly, his way of returning the hug, before pulling away, and Tadashi feels warmer, it feels like he didn’t even realise how much he missed Tsukki until this moment, with the easy banters, and bright eyes.

“Hi, Yachi,” Tsukki says, greeting her, and unexpectedly, he puts his hand on her shoulder awkwardly, but HItoka steps closer towards him, and pulls him into a hug around his waist, and Tadashi chuckles at the shocked look on Tsukki’s face, but he returns the hug, bending a little as he does, putting his arms around Hitoka's shoulders, patting it again, a resigned smile on his face. Hitoka pulls away, blushing as she does, but she pats his waist one more time. Tadashi can almost guess what’s running in Tsukki’s mind. Tadashi knows it’s been years since he last talked to Hitoka, so this probably feels awkward to him, but judging by how there is a small hint of smile on his face, Tsukki seems to appreciate the gesture.

“Welcome home, Tsukishima-san,” Hitoka greets, and Tsukki smiles abashedly, looking down at his shoes, his hands gripping his trolley, switching to drumming on the handle after a few seconds. “To be fair, I think your grandmother would know how to converse in English. She is the chairwoman, anyways.”

Tsukki grunts at the mention of his grandmother, even though he was the one who mentioned her first. Something clouds his face at the reminder of his grandmother. “Don’t even mention that witch. She’s bugging me so much lately.” Hitoka looks offended at Tsukki’s choice of words, so Tadashi punches his stomach, which Tsukki grunts at, letting out an indignant, “hey!”

“That’s rude, Tsukki!” Tadashi exclaims. “She’s still in the hospital for goodness’ sake!”

Tsukki looks at least embarrassed now, rubbing at his neck, turning a bit pink. “I didn’t mean it that way. Why do you think I’m here so early, anyways? I was supposed to be in London until my graduation, you know.” Tsukki seems set on ranting more, but he cuts himself off. “Ah, whatever. Not the point. She’s been setting me up with people ever since she got into the hospital. In London. It’s gonna get worse when I’m here.”

Hitoka giggles, not expecting the rant out of Tsukki. “Oh! That’s cute!”

Tsukki grunts again, and he scrunches his nose, looking at his phone when it pings with a text. “Cute? Not when you’re not into girls, Yachi. Or when you have no interests in marrying right now.”

“Marrying?”  Hitoka yelps, the same time Tadashi yells out: “You’re not into girls?!”

Tsukki who had been thumbing out a reply, looks at them in alarm at how shocked they sound. “Yeah, she wants me to get married before she, y’know.” Tsukki looks uncomfortable now, and Tadashi immediately knows what he’s referring to. “She seems to be sure that she needs to see me get married before she, yeah. What she’s saying, anyways. In my opinion, if she’s healthy enough to find me these girls, she probably wouldn’t.”

Tsukki seems set on not saying the word dead out loud, and Yamaguchi gets it.

What Yamaguchi doesn’t get is how Hitoka seems to be focused on this marriage thing, and not that Tsukki’s apparently into guys. Since when?  

“When you said set up, I meant in a cute, date way,” Hitoka says apologetically, patting Tsukki’s arm. “Marriage, huh? You haven’t even officially graduated.”

“What I said to my brother," Tsukki grumbles, thumbing out a text again. “Hey, my driver is here, actually. I didn’t know you two were going to pick me up. Did you use a car to go here?”

 

“No, we literally just graduated, do you think we can afford a car? We’re not all rich conglomerates,” Tadashi says, deadpanned, and Tsukki gives him a dirty look. Yamaguchi grips his arm, pulling on it. “Tsukki, you like men? Why didn’t you tell me?!”

Tsukki looks around, embarrassed for a moment, and then pockets his phone, starting to push his trolley. Tadashi and Hitoka follow him. “I didn’t think it was important. Sorry.”

Tadashi glares at him. “See, this is why I ask Akiteru-san about you! You never tell me things, Tsukki! You need to talk to me, Tsukki. Four years--” Tsukki gives him a look. Hitoka on Tsukki’s other side gives an alarmed look at Tadashi. Tadashi grumbles. “I support you, Tsukki! I’m not angry that you like men. I just wish you would tell me these things. Trust me enough, anyways.”

Tsukki’s eyes soften for a moment, apologetic. “I know. Sorry.” They’re silent for a while as they walk to the exit, but Tsukki breaks the silence. “For the past four years, too. I know I haven’t been trying as hard to keep in touch.” Tsukki looks at Hitoka, too, as he says those words, and Hitoka shrugs, smiling at him to tell Tsukki it’s alright. Tsukki then jabs at Tadashi's hips. “So stop gossiping with my brother about me, idiot. He gets more annoying when my friends reach out to him. Makes him feel like a good older brother, or something.”

“He is, though,” Tadashi points out, and Tsukki sighs, not wanting to agree.

“Don’t tell him that. His head will get even bigger,” Tsukki grumbles. “So you want a ride? Or you wanna keep being weird about me being gay?” Tsukki says bluntly just as the sliding door opens, and they step out of the airport. Tsukki looks around the waiting cars for a moment, before seeming to spot a guy standing outside, with Tsukki’s name on a fancy looking card, jogging over to take Tsukki’s trolley of luggages. Tsukki greets the driver with a warm smile on his face, patting his back, saying something about it being a long time since he last saw him, while the driver laughs abashedly. Tadashi thinks this is the same guy that sent Tsukki to the airport four years ago, too.

Tadashi rolls his eyes, poking at Tsukki’s side when Tsukki was done talking to the driver. “Wasn’t being weird, Tsukki.”

“Blah,” Tsukki says back, and Hitoka flicks both of them on the back for them to stop.

“Yes, we’d like a ride, Tsukishima,” Hitoka says, pointedly looking at Tadashi, as they reach Tsukki’s driver car. Tadashi looks away, facing the car instead. It’s a nice model. The latest Mercedes Benz A35 Sedan. Tadashi can’t help the whistle he lets out as Tsukki ushers them to the backseat, while he goes to the passenger’s seat. When all of them are inside the car, including the driver, Tsukishima asks where they want to be dropped off. “To Kageyama’s place.” Hitoka then gives the place’s location to the driver.

Tsukki, who had been texting again, turns to look at them fully. Twisting his body so that he’d get a good look at them. “Ah. How’s King?”

“It’s been years, Tsukki,” Tadashi warns slowly. “When you see him again, you better not use that nickname again. He’ll probably go off if you call him that again. Guy just lost his club, for god’s sake.”

Tsukki gives both of them a look of disbelief. “So it’s true? He got injured? He won’t be able to play again?”

Hitoka nods sadly in reaffirmation. “Kind of. He got checked up immediately after the injury. Doctor said there’s a low chance he’d be able to play as well again, and it would take a long time for him to play again. FC Tokyo immediately said that they’re going to break the contract with him, since it’s ending soon anyways. The surgery and physical therapy would be too expensive to manage for a guy they’re not even sure would be able to play well again after a long recovery. They don’t wanna invest in that. Better just take in a new guy. FC Tokyo is always opening tryouts, anyways. So they threw him off the team. Just like that.”

“All this in the span of fourteen hours?” Tsukki asks in disbelief, looking so uncharacteristically worried and angry for Kageyama, and Tadashi gets it. He knows Tsukki and Kageyama haven’t been in touch, but he thinks if he were in Tsukki’s position he’d get angry, too, no matter the distance. When he first heard the news about FC Tokyo booting Kageyama off the team, he got pissed off, too. Not understanding why.

But whether he likes it or not, the V.League is a capitalist business, anyways.

When people like Kageyama get injured with a low and too long chance of full recovery, instead of fixing him, they search for a new one, probably easy to find in the midst of people lining up to get recruited. Suddenly the title of an Olympic contender and genius setter title Kageyama always brings with him doesn't matter. Tadashi gets it. Where FC Tokyo’s mind went. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t make Tadashi's blood boil, anyways.

“Yeah,” Hitoka replies quietly. “He got injured three days ago, actually. FC Tokyo just leaked the news to the press, and the press made that news, and then FC Tokyo made a statement about booting Kageyama off.” Hitoka bites on her bottom lips for a moment. “Kageyama hasn’t been dealing with it well.”

“I bet,” Tsukki says quietly, looking thoughtful for a moment. “So? He’s still injured? No surgery? Why can’t he just get the surgery?”

It’s at this moment that Tadashi is reminded of the privilege Tsukki is born into. Yamaguchi tries to not get angry, just sighing. “Mmhm. He’s still injured. The checkup did the basics. It was his achilles tendon, I think. Ruptured, or something. But he’s still gonna need surgery if he wants a chance to play again. Or he could use other method that doesn't require surgery, but he wouldn't be able to play again.” Yamaguchi clicks his tongue. “He can’t afford it. Just half of it, I think, with his own money. But that’s just surgery. Even if he manages to get surgery, the physical therapy after that is gonna be costly. Especially since he’s hell-bent that he wants to play again after. Although the doctor said it’s gonna be a long journey. FC Tokyo sucks, basically.”

The lines between Tsukki’s eyebrows deepen even more. “Didn’t he go to the Olympics? Where did that money even go? He’s been playing professional for almost three years now.”

Tadashi glares at him. “Of course you don’t know, Tsukki. Although he went to the Olympics, it’s not like they got paid much. Japan didn’t even win. And three years in the club isn’t that long. Barely even three years. Barely enough money when you’re supporting your family. That’s Kageyama’s life, Tsukki. I know you can’t relate, but I’m telling you now you can’t say things like these in front of his face when you see him. He’ll break.”

Probably more, if it’s coming from Tsukki, Tadashi thinks. He thinks back of the time in high school when the littlest things Tsukki says seems to always set Kageyama off, as if just hearing Tsukki speak was enough for Kageyama’s blood to boil. Tadashi can’t imagine now.  

Tsukki looks guilty now, at least, his body still twisting awkwardly to look at them, and he looks so unlike the Tsukki in Miyagi, and the chic Tsukki just twenty minutes ago, Tadashi feels guilty himself. He feels new, and something Tadashi needs to get used to. “Didn’t mean to snap, Tsukki. It just sucks. We can’t even help much since we’re all broke.”

“It’s alright,” Tsukki says absentmindedly. “I get it.”

It’s silent in the car for a while, and the driver then announces that they arrived at Kageyama’s place. “You wanna come with us, Tsukki?”

Tsukki looks conflicted for a moment, before softly shaking his head. “Sorry, I really have to go visit my grandmother first.”

Hitoka smiles at him, exiting the car. Tsukki then rolls down the windows, so that he could talk to Hitoka, so Tadashi goes over to Yachi’s side. “It’s fine. All five of us need to catch up very soon, okay? It’s rare that everyone is in Tokyo, you know. I don’t even know how we all got this lucky. See ya, Tsukishima.”

Tsukishima waves, and the car drives away. Tadashi stares wistfully at it, before breaking out of his trance, sighing as he does. He finds Hitoka looking at him.

“What?” Tadashi asks.

Hitoka shrugs, and they walk to the lobby of Kageyama’s apartment complex. “You both changed.”

“Inevitable, no?” Tadashi muses.

“True. Tsukishima got better looking. His hair even looks a little bit longer than how short he liked it to be back then.” Hitoka then shakes her head. “Not what I meant, anyways. I meant how you two interact with each other. Changed. A lot.”

Tadashi feels oddly bare, at the thought of Hitoka just watching their interactions like that. At Hitoka watching him. “Oh. Different how?”

Hitoka shrugs, pressing the elevator button to go up to Kageyama’s floor. They wait for the elevator to arrive. “You call him out more often now. No, immediately. When you notice he said something that doesn’t sit right with you.” Hitoka smiles at him. “Good job.”

Tadashi smiles back, scratching at his neck. He didn’t really realise it. All he could think of was the fact that Tsukki’s here. After four years, and how much his appearance changed. It didn’t cross Tadashi's mind to think about how their dynamics have changed.

“Tsukishima changed, too. With how he talks to you,” Hitoka says absently, watching as the floor number on the elevator goes down slowly. “He apologises so easily now. He admits that he’s wrong. It’s kinda amazing.”

The elevator door finally opens, and Tadashi steps inside, Hitoka following suit. “So, a good thing?”

Yachi hums. “Never said it was a bad thing.”

Yamaguchi just breathes out a laugh.

 

☽ ♕

 

Kei thinks he has the penchant to regret things only after he has done it.

Kei had been set on visiting his grandmother immediately after he dropped off his things at his new penthouse, sparsely decorated by both Akiteru and his mother, with just the basic furniture, giving him freedom to decorate it later on. And he did. Dropped his things off at the loft, and is now at his grandmother’s VIP ward, regretting everything that he has ever done in life, as his grandmother, not even greeting him properly, rattles off about the girl she’s going to set him up with.

Kei seriously wonders why he always makes these choices he regrets, as his grandmother slaps his arm with the folder of apparently everything he needs to know about the girl before the date. He should’ve stayed home first. Maybe even tour his penthouse. But nope, he decided to go shower, with the mantra of you slept enough in the plane and you’re a good grandson ringing in his head, as his body tried to ignore the jetlag slowly seeping through his bones.

But he’s really, really, really regretting not staying home for at least a few hours to mentally prepare himself for this.

His grandmother is still slapping him with the folder, this time his thighs when Kei refuses to take the folder. Kei relents, snapping as he snatches it away from her outstretched hands, and Kei glares at the proud look on her face. “With how energetic you are, you should be discharged already,” Kei bites out, looking at the folder in his hands in contempt. Nakamura Akari, the folder reads. Kei looks at his grandmother in disbelief. “Which prosecutor's daughter did you bother this time, baa-chan?”

His grandmother sniffs indignantly, leaning back on her bed, looking at Kei snidely. She looks every bit like the Tsukishima group chairwoman he knows that Kei feels the physical need to get her in her suit she always wears when she attends meetings. A hospital gown doesn’t suit the look on her face right now. “The prosecutor’s daughters come to me, Kei! You think I have time to be sniffing around for a potential wife for you? They know a Tsukishima is single, the parents come crawling, you know. That happened with Akiteru, but thank god he married Yua.”

More like thank god, Yua came from a respectable enough family. Kei resists the urge to roll his eyes.

“You are tied to a hospital bed. I don’t know what else you could spend your time with,” Kei bites out again, and his grandmother throws the tissue box on her side table to him, which Kei catches with his left hand, the other opening the folder, sighing as he does, looking at the information presented to him--it has everything, ranging from her elementary school days to her club activities in high school, to her current university, to her interests, what she does at 7pm, what she does in the weekends, and it even includes her weight, for god’s sake, and Kei has never felt more invasive as he does at the moment. Kei snaps the folder shut. “This is too much, baa-chan.”

His grandmother, seeming to have expected this outburst, looks at him with her lips pursed, studying Kei, then sniffing snootily, in the way she only does in front of her family. Kei regrets having this privilege of being able to see that sniff. “What? You’re not interested in a prosecutor’s daughter? Who do you want, Kei? C’mon, I’m trying here. Did the UK girls not work out as well?”

Kei glares at her. “No. Cambridge and Oxford girls don’t like me. They think I’m stupid for being in KCL,” Kei grits through his teeth. To be honest, he got along well with three of the Japanese girls who were studying there when he went on a date with them. Heck, he even keeps in touch with them after, since he tells them directly that he’s gay, and this is all his grandmother’s doing, and they all found it funny. One of them even has the same major as him, which makes him still text with her from time to time, and especially when the exam period started a few weeks ago. But it’s not even about the fact that he thinks those girls are nice, and they get along well. It’s the fact that he’s not interested in a girl, and what more marrying a girl. Kei doesn’t know how to explain this without getting slapped by his grandmother.

Or worse, disowned.

“There was one KCL girl, though,” his grandmother says thoughtfully, and Kei feels a headache coming. “Don’t you go to the same school? Did you see her often?”

“Stop,” Kei says, and he opens his glasses, rubbing at the bridge of his nose. “Seriously. I have jet lag. I came here to see you, but all you can talk about is marriage? You’re not even going to ask how my exams were? How was my flight? How was the four years I spent in London? How am I?”  Kei sniffs. “Are you even my baa-chan?”

Kei puts on his glasses again, to see his grandmother looking at him in disbelief. “Dramatic. I’m in a hospital, Kei. Did you even ask me how I’m doing?”

“I called you everyday when I was in London!” Kei snaps, and his grandmother seems to find it amusing that he snaps again. “And stop acting like you’re dying in a hospital bed. Seriously. It’s not funny. Mom doesn’t like it.”

“Your mom is too uptight when it comes to health,” his grandmother says stiffly, coughing as she does, and Kei gets up immediately, worriedly patting her back as she coughs more. Of course she is. Look at how she lost dad, Kei’s mind supplies. She can’t lose you like this, too. You were in the ICU for a month. Kei bites his tongue, not wanting to say it, knowing his grandmother will throw something worse than a tissue box at him.

“Seriously, look at you. You’re sick, and you’re worrying about me finding a wife. Get your priorities straight, baa-chan. I still have time. I’m still young,” Kei scolds.

“I’m sick and worrying because you don’t have a wife,” his grandmother corrects him, and Kei feels like slamming his head to the nearest wall talking to this brick that is his grandmother. “Of course, you have time! I don’t! Get your priorities straight, Kei.”

Kei’s mouth feels bitter at his words getting twisted like that. “Stop joking about dying,” Kei warns, and his grandmother rolls her eyes at him.

“Just pick one!” His grandmother exclaims.

“Do you think marriage is a game?” Kei asks tiredly, leaning back on the sofa he’s sitting on. “Seriously, drop it. When I find someone, you’ll be able to see me get married.”

“No, I won’t. Unless you get married in the next two months, maybe,” his grandmother thinks for a while, before correcting herself. “No, a month.”

“You are not dying in a month!” Kei yells, tired of this exchange already. It’s only barely been three hours since he got to Tokyo, but he already misses the quiet of his London loft, where he studies a lot, has friends over sometimes, and just makes nice coffee, and has the tranquility he needed. This just feels like hell in comparison. It hits him that he really fully moved away from London now. London has never felt like home until this exact moment.

“What are you, God?” His grandmother says back, not wanting to lose, and Kei thinks he knows the answers to the question his highschool friends always ask when they see how nice Akiteru and his mother is, and they wonder why Kei is the way he is.

“I’m gay!” Kei shouts back, unable to hold it back, his annoyance reaching its peak, standing up as he does, and this feels close to a tantrum. “So, stop, okay? I’m gay, and I don’t want to get married to a girl, and the girls were all nice, they liked me, but I. Can’t. Like. Women. It’s me. So drop it. Sorry, okay?!”

Kei is breathing hard at this point, looking at his grandmother, something burning in his chest, embarrassment or anger, he doesn’t know, but it’s mixing morbidly with the feeling of relief at letting it out. Kei had considered telling this to his grandmother when she first set him out on his first date in London, but it had been too cruel at that time, with her weak voice, and just barely out of the ICU. Kei couldn’t bring himself to do it. A close second almost happened when he was on the second date. And so did every phone call with his grandmother after that, the urge to scream I’m gay!!!!! always at the tip of his tongue, but never out.

So he’s doing it now.

His grandmother is staring at him in disbelief, and Kei would feel proud about shutting her up for once since his grandmother is a running water when it comes to talking, if it weren’t for his life at stake. Kei immediately thinks of contingency plans that his brain already thought of before. He already has his degree, just need to get the actual transcript in July, but he’s got it. Kei doesn’t doubt that he’ll get a first class, but even without a first class, a 2:1 from King’s would probably be enough to get him a job at any company since his degree is pretty highly sought out for. He doesn’t have student debt, since his tuition got funded by the family, and he could just refuse to pay back the degree if his grandmother is ever cruel enough to ask him to pay it back. Or even if he does have to pay back his degree tuition, he might be able to if he immediately job hunts. He’ll be able to beg for his life from his mother and maybe leech off his brother, and he’ll be alright. He might even be able to keep his loft since it’s paid for already by his mother, and his mother knows he’s gay, anyways.

“Kei,” his grandmother says quietly, breaking through his train of thoughts, and she takes Kei’s hands, and cups it gently. Kei braces himself for it. For his grandmother to say the word disowned, or any homophobic slurs that she knows. “Why didn’t you tell me, baby?” Kei blinks at the softness of her tone, looking at her in disbelief. His grandmother then slaps his hand in reprimand. “Could’ve saved me so much damn time!”

Kei blinks at her. “You’re not angry?” He asks slowly.

It’s his grandmother’s turn to blink at him, confusion tinting her features at Kei’s words. “No? We’re not even religious. Why would I get angry at you for being gay?”

Kei feels like drowning, both from embarrassment, and also from the fact that he went on four (4) dates with women just to placate his grandmother. Kei slowly tugs his hands away from his grandmother’s grip. “Dunno. People don’t need religion to be homophobic these days.” Kei tugs his hands away again. “So, no more dates, right? You get why I don’t wanna marry a woman?”

The hold his grandmother has on his hands is definitely not one who is supposedly dying. “Are you kidding me? Of course I get it!” Kei tugs his hands away again, uncomfortable at how long his grandmother is holding his hands. “Now, I’ll look for men!” Kei feels the dread creeping up his throat like he’s getting strangled.

“That was not what I meant when I came out to you, Jesus,” Kei curses.

“We’re not religious, Kei,” his grandmother replies to him cheerily, and she finally releases the grip she has on Kei’s hands. Kei rubs at the redness of his hands at the pressure his grandmother put on it. His grandmother pats him on the head when he defeatedly slumps back to the sofa. “You really could’ve told me sooner! What if one of the Japanese boys in London was your soulmate?” His grandmother pauses. “You’re going back to London for graduation, right?”

Kei doesn’t even have anything to say. His grandmother doesn’t seem to be expecting a reply either, judging by how she takes her phone on the side table, and starts typing away on it. Kei groans, tired, the jet lag truly settling in his bones now, filling him in, the more he realises the situation he managed to pull himself into without even meaning to. Kei closes his eyes, and thinks of his cozy London loft. His grandmother continues to type away on her phone.

Kei just sighs.

 

☽ ♕

 

Akiteru has always prided himself in being rational and nice, but upon seeing Kei sprawled on the sofa in his office, Akiteru can’t help the laugh he lets out at the sight of Kei being left so undone.

“So the talk didn’t go well?” Akiteru asks Kei offhandedly, and Kei, with his hands over his eyes in distress, making him squish his glasses, lowers his hands to glower at Akiteru. With his glasses skewed, Akiteru can’t take him seriously, so he laughs again. “Sorry, it’s just funny. I can’t believe you really told her that you’re gay.”

“That’s not even the worst thing that happened,” Kei snaps back, and Akiteru laughs again, unable to stop the laugh bubbling in his throat. Kei looks so annoyed of getting made fun of by Akiteru, and he looks so much like highschool Kei that used to get annoyed at everything that it doesn’t help the intensity of his laugh. Kei glares at him again as a last snort escapes his nose. “You’re as bad as baa-chan.”

“No way, she’s a witch, her level is incomparable,” Akiteru snickers, and Akiteru sees the corner of Kei’s lips twist at their inside jokes. Referring to their grandmother as a witch might not be the nicest thing in the world to do considering that she’s stuck in a hospital bed now, and heck, just the fact that she’s their grandmother should be enough for them to not call her that , but calling her a witch has always been an inside joke between their little family that even their mother partakes in sometimes. In a way, that nickname becomes something they call her fondly over the years, rather than the contempt it’s supposed to convey, and their grandmother knows, but still narrows her eyes at them whenever she hears them call her that. Akiteru sighs breathily, wiping at the corner of his eyes at the tears forming in his eyes from laughing too hard. “So boys date now, huh?”

“I refuse to go,” Kei snaps. “Girls were at least easy to talk to when on a date. But guys? It’s gonna be awkward as hell. Rich guys are assholes.”

“You still went on dates while you were in London, and she wasn’t even there physically. You think you can stop her from making you go on dates when you’re in Tokyo? The same city as her? Good luck, Kei,” Akiteru says, snorting, pulling out his phone to text Yua the latest development in the turbulence that is Kei’s life. Akiteru, although vehemently disagreeing back then when Kei was still in high school, has come to accept that he is way too invested in his little brother’s life than a normal brother would. It’s not like Akiteru can help it. His and Kei’s age gap is way too big, it’s hard to not baby Kei at times. Plus, it’s in the family, this trait of being a busybody, and their grandmother is the perfect example of that. At least Yua is also as invested in Kei’s life as he is. Kei told her, Akiteru types away at his phone, smirking. Yua replies a few minutes later with laughing emojis, and an omg. tell me more later.  

“I don’t even know how to get her off my back,” Kei grumbles, and Akiteru looks up from his phone. Kei doesn’t look as disheveled as he did when he first barged into his office, but he still looks tired. The bags under his eyes, and the obvious jet lag from landing just a few hours ago, and adjusting to the time differences between London and Japan, and that exchange with their grandmother probably. He looks so young as he rubs his eyes, with his glasses perched on top of his messy hair that would look ridiculous if it were to be on Akiteru, but Kei makes it work in a way he always does with things. Effortless and easy. The last time Akiteru saw Kei in real life was last year’s summer, when he went to visit in London with Yua and their son, Akio, and they went on an impromptu Italy trip for a week. Kei doesn’t look that different from that summer, but something about him looks youthful and mature in a way you can only at the age of twenty-one.

Akiteru sighs wistfully, as he remembers him at the age of twenty-two. Getting married to Yua, right after passing his bar exam, and just a mess of everything else, as he adjusts to finally working for the company. Akiteru doesn’t think he looked this effortlessly chic as Kei does, though, but Akiteru has learned to accept forever ago that Kei is the cool brother, while Akiteru is the nice one. Akiteru shrugs, then reading absentmindedly the papers sprawled over his desk. It’s to do with the small lawsuit the company is facing right now. Akiteru, the head of the legal team, has been working on it for weeks now with his team, and if he’s being honest, the dullness of his work at times, makes what Kei is going through so much more fun to observe than Akiteru would like to admit.  

“Well,” Akiteru muses, and Kei looks up from his phone. “The only reason why baa-chan didn’t do the same thing to me was because I married Yua at your age.”

“And she wasn’t bed-ridden when you were marrying Yua-chan. Cmon, nii-chan, our situation isn’t the same, you know it,” Kei says tiredly, and it might’ve sounded rude, if other people were listening to the conversation, but Kei’s candidness has always been something Akiteru loves about Kei, so he’s used to the blunt way Kei says things.

Akiteru laughs, waving his hand at Kei, dismissing him. “I meant, if you’re dating someone right now, baa-chan would probably get off your back. And you’ll probably have to get married to him, but that’s like, another story.”

Kei snorts. “Yeah. I don’t know which is worse.”

“Just go on the dates with the guys!” Akiteru exclaims, taking a pen, and twiddling it between his fingers. “What’s so bad about it, anyways? Just humour her for now.”

“I’m telling you, nii-chan, rich guys are assholes,” Kei grumbles, and he scrolls through his phone absentmindedly.

Akiteru perks up at this mention again. Leaning in over his desk in interest, and Kei, noticing the movement, looks up from his phone to frown at Akiteru. “This is the second time you mentioned that. Did you meet a guy in London? Was he rich? Why, why, why? Did you date someone without me knowing?!”

Kei scowls at him, going back to his phone. “None of your business.”

“You did?!” Akiteru yelps, and Kei glares at him. Akiteru pouts at him. “What? I need to know, okay! You need to tell people things, Kei!” Kei looks uncomfortable at the callout, scratching at the back of his neck, as he scrolls through his phone. Akiteru is willing to bet that he’s probably not even looking at anything important, he just doesn’t want to look at Akiteru, afraid that he might say something about himself with all the prodding. Akiteru relents, slumping back to his chair. “Fine. But you said rich guys are assholes. Aren’t you rich, Kei? You’re an asshole, too?”

“What a middle school comeback,” Kei sneers, pocketing his phone, getting up as he does. “People already know I’m an asshole. I’m going. Uncle is already here.”

Akiteru snorts, as Kei fiddles with his jeans. “No, you’re not. You act like you are, but you care too much about people, Kei.” Kei gives him a stink eye as he passes his desk, and Akiteru takes his hand, and pulls him in a hug, patting his back. “Go rest. You look ugly.”

“At least I have jet lag as a reason,” Kei murmurs against Akiteru’s shoulder, and Akiteru immediately gets the underlying insult, slapping his back as a response.

“Dinner at mom’s house tonight, okay? She called you, right?” Akiteru asks as they pull away from each other.

Kei hums. “Yeah, yeah. She’d kill me if I don’t show up.”

Akiteru laughs. “Mom is too nice for that.” Kei shrugs. “And mom said you can take one of her cars later, I think. So ask uncle to drop you off later, but go back with the car.” Akiteru studies him for a moment. “Your license is still valid, right? You still remember how to drive?”

Kei snorts. “I was just in uni for four years, nii-chan, I didn’t get amnesia.”

“It’s not like you drove in London,” Akiteru grumbles. “Go! You look like you’re about to pass out. Seriously.”

Kei gives him another look before waving at him, exiting his office, and his office is back to its’ usual silence. Akiteru can’t help the smile blooming on his face, at the easy banters with his brother. Four years. Since Kei moved to London, four years since he had last been in Tokyo. Akiteru hums, and the work in front of him feels lighter than it actually is, at the reminder of his brother.

He’s here.

After so long.

The whole family is here.

 

☽ ♕

 

Kei doesn’t realise how much he missed his mother until the exact moment he knocked on her front door, and is immediately greeted with her warm hug.

“Hi, angel,” his mother whispers against his ears, and although Kei is bending down already for her to reach him, Kei knows she’s also tiptoeing, which makes Kei’s chest warm. “Welcome home,” she greets him, and Kei just laughs, patting her back as he does.

“Hi, mom,” he whispers back, and his mother kisses his cheek before letting go, and Kei notices that she’s crying. “Why are you even crying?” Kei complains, feeling his throat close up at the sight of his mother’s tears. “Seriously, stop. You act like I’m dying.”

“You all have to stop with the dying jokes,” his mother sobs out, and Kei immediately feels a little bit guilty, not noticing the words that slipped out his lips.

“Hey, I’m here, it’s fine,” Kei placates her, gently directing her back to the living room, where Akiteru and Akio are sitting together, watching the TV. When Akiteru sees that their mom just finished crying, Akiteru laughs, startling Akio who was focused on the show on the TV. Akio sees Kei, and yelps, waving at him, yelling out Kei’s name, running up to him, and Kei grunts as he lifts Akio up. He’s four now. The last time he visited Kei in London, he was still three. It sounds like such a small number, but Akio really did grow a lot in a span of a year. Kei ruffles Akio’s hair.

“Mom, you cried?” Akiteru laughs, and his mom sighs, putting her hand on her hips, looking at Akiteru disapprovingly at how he’s laughing at her tears. “He got his degree, be proud of him, don’t be sad!”

“Hush, I haven’t seen Kei in three years! Let me be!” His mother scolds Akiteru, and Akiteru shrugs, an easy smile on his lips, seeming to enjoy teasing their mom, and Kei just sighs at this familiar interaction, fixing Akio’s legs so that it’s wrapped properly around him. Akio just nuzzles his head closer to Kei’s neck. It has been three years since he had last seen his mother. His mother is the director of the Tsukishima group the moment Kei finished highschool, and they moved to Tokyo, making her naturally the busiest person in the group. So the only time she got to visit Kei in London was at the end of his foundation year. It was just his mother and her assistant, and his mother spent a week with him in London, and another two weeks vacationing with Kei in Amsterdam. Back then, his mother had promised she would come visit every summer, but she got busier every summer, so without knowing, three years have passed. If Kei gets into his feelings, he might start crying, too.

Yua then walks out of the kitchen, eyes brightening when she sees Kei, wrapping him in a hug, which is a bit of a struggle with Kei still holding Akio, so Akio wriggles until Kei puts him down, and Kei gets hugged properly by Yua. “Welcome home, Kei-chan,” Yua says sunnily, and Kei lifts the corner of his lips in a small smile. Yua then turns to his mother, telling her that the food is all laid out now, with the help of his mother’s helper, and they all make their way to the dining room.

It’s just idle talks for a while, with questions mostly to Kei, asking him about London, about his exams, his last semester, and how was his flight, if he could get a first class that Akiteru asks, and his mother looks at him sharply when he shrugs. Kei could get away with answering in short words at the random onslaught of questions, more focused on having real food made by his mother, Yua, and their helper after so long. When Akiteru visited back then in London, Yua did cook a lot for them in his loft, but that was last summer. This is now. This feels a lot like Miyagi, before Tokyo, before London. Back then when it was just his mother, Akiteru, and Kei in Miyagi for every meal when Kei was in elementary and middle school, and it was serene in a way Kei doesn’t think he missed all this while. Now, it’s with the addition of Yua and Akio, but it still feels every bit like their home in Miyagi, and Kei thinks it’s a pattern now to not realise how much he missed something until it’s right in front of his face.

The food in Kei’s mouth suddenly feels harder to swallow, so Kei coughs a little. His mother, next to him, looks at him worriedly. “You alright, Kei? Eat a lot. You always eat just enough.”

“That’s how you’re supposed to eat,” Kei says back under his breath, and Akiteru, albeit Kei didn’t even mention him, looks at him indignantly. “What? I didn’t even say anything about you,” Kei points out, and Akiteru narrows his eyes at him that Yua laughs at.

“Stop it, you two,” Yua says, laughing. Akiteru just pouts at her reprimand, watching Akio closely as he eats, just in case Akio chokes. He fits fatherhood and familyhood so much in ways Kei has always expected him to be that Kei has to look away.

“You visited your grandmother, right?” His mother asks because of course the conversation always turns back to her. She’s the boss of the family, even when she’s not here, her presence is there in the form of this huge house in expensive Tokyo, in the form of Kei’s paid degree, in the form of the empire she managed to build. She’s everywhere. Kei should’ve expected this, but he didn’t. Sinking in too deep in this air of familiarity that he forgets to be cautious, so he’s coughing now, at the mention of their grandmother. That reaction immediately elicits a laugh out of both Yua and Akiteru, Kei has to roll his eyes even as he continues coughing, and his mother continues to pat his back to subdue the coughs. His mother looks around the dining table for a while, not getting what is funny, so she turns to Kei. “What, you didn’t?”

“He did,” Akiteru interrupts, laughing. “Went too well, you could say.”

“Not funny,” Kei bites out, and Akiteru continues to laugh, Yua even, and Kei looks at Yua in betrayal. Akio just looks confused at why everyone is laughing so much while Kei looks constipated. His mother continues to pester him by tugging at his arm, so Kei sighs, relenting, telling her what happened that morning when Kei visited her, knowing short answers wouldn’t suffice this time.

His mother’s eyes widened as the story unfolds, and that only made Akiteru and Yua laugh louder. They suit each other really. Their humour is annoyingly matched, and they always instigate each other. “You told her you’re gay? And now she’s setting you up with men?”

“Gist of it,” Kei mumbles as he stuffs more rice in his mouth.

“Wow, she is something,” Kei’s mother whistles, and Kei snorts.

“You’re telling me,” Kei says bitterly, and his mother pats his arm placatingly.

“At least she’s okay with you being gay. Unexpected, really,” their mother says, and Kei shrugs again, not knowing what to say to that. “It’s a good thing, Kei! I don’t get what’s so funny,” she says, and she narrows her eyes at Yua and Akiteru who are still snickering as they eat.

“It’s funny because now she’s setting him up with guys,” Akiteru says, giggling. “He really thought he’d be off the hook for being gay, but now it’s taken another turn.”

“Whatever,” Kei says bitterly, and this reminds Kei strangely of the time he came out to both Akiteru and his mother. It was at a dinner like this, too, back in Miyagi, probably in first year of highschool, when Akiteru came to visit them just for the night, and it was when he was still just engaged to Yua, that Kei felt it was the right time to tell them. Akiteru had been shocked, at first, but he laughed in the way he always does until now, and patted Kei in the back, looking proud and happy that Kei told him something for once, and his mother just looked teary-eyed, the same way she does when Kei tells her things when not prodded. Kei didn’t know what to tell them at that time that he wasn’t doing it for them, but rather the burden that lived in his chest.

Kei snaps out of his reverie when his mother takes his hand, and caresses it gently. “Proud of you, Kei.”

Kei thinks, this could be Miyagi.

 

☽ ♕

 

Tokyo has never been home.

Not to Kei, anyways.

The Tsukishima family moved to Miyagi prefecture right after his father died. At that time, Kei had been in his second year of elementary school at that time his father died, so going to Miyagi, he had been transitioning to third year of elementary school.

There is that saying that you only remember life happens when something triggers that start.

Kei didn’t remember much being in Tokyo with his father, with the whole family. Kei just remembers that it was warm, and nice, and his mother looked happier. Kei doesn’t remember his father much, just remembers him in the way that his mother loves him a lot, remembers him in the way there are portraits of him and the whole family all over his mother’s and grandmother’s house, and even their house in Miyagi. He remembers him as his grandmother’s only son who got doted on a lot by everyone, the supposed talented heir of the Tsukishima group, and he remembers his father by how wistful Akiteru gets at times when someone mentions their father. Kei remembers the little moments of playing volleyball with him and Akiteru in blurs, and maybe a few laughs here and there, but it’s so sparse Kei wonders sometimes if it’s just his brain filling up the gaps of his absence.

So the clearest memory of his father that he has is seeing him on the hospital bed, bloodied, and looking worse for wear, and if Kei is being honest, it’s his clearest memory of childhood, and when it finally settled to him that this is his life.

Kei feels guilty at times, that he can’t join in every time people talk about his father. Kei feels guilty that he can’t remember what his father was like, can only trust stories. Kei feels guilty at times that Akiteru feels like he needs to take over the father figure part of his life that has been missing, which is probably why he’s always in Kei’s business like that, probably why he didn’t want to tell Kei about being a benchwarmer in highschool, afraid of disappointing him. He feels guilty that Akiteru feels guilty he didn’t get to have a father in the most reformative part of his youth, to the point that Kei thinks Akiteru forgets that it’s not only Kei that lost his father, but also Akiteru.

This is probably why Tokyo is such a good look for them, both Akiteru and their mother.

Kei only stayed in Tokyo for five months or so, right after graduating from Karasuno, while waiting for September to roll around, so he can start uni. Five months were not enough for the fondness to build up.

While they had attachments there. His father, her husband. Akiteru and their mother had a fondness for Tokyo that Kei can’t relate to. Kei only had Miyagi. This is what Kei thinks of, looking at how familiar it is right now in the kitchen, with Kei and Akiteru washing the dishes, as his mother and Yua sit on the island’s stools, talking idly. Akio is sleeping in the living room, since it has gotten pretty late. It crosses Kei’s mind that this is probably not the first time this has ever happened, a kind of dinner like this. Kei wonders how frequently they do it ever since he moved to London.

“Your jet lag okay?” Akiteru asks, breaking the silence, as Kei hands him the last of the utensils to rinse.

“No, I’m gonna be doomed tonight,” Kei says back, and Kei can feel Akiteru’s smile.

“Have you seen your friends?” Akiteru asks, and Kei knows he’s doing this thing where he’s overbearing again. Akiteru seems to have noticed, clearing his throat. “What? It’s a valid question!”

Kei relents, answering. “Yamaguchi and Yachi picked me up earlier,” Kei admits. Kei pauses for a moment, before continuing. “Also accidentally came out to them.”

“Oh, wow,” Akiteru laughs. “How did that even happen? Is today a national coming out day or something?”

“That’s 11th October,” Kei says absentmindedly, and Akiteru bumps his hips against his at the very Kei-like reply.

“Let me make a joke, Kei. Please. Your nii-chan misses when you used to find me amazing,” Akiteru begs, and Kei rolls his eyes, waving his wet hands over Akiteru’s face, making him yelp.

“You won’t get your car if you continue being mean to me!” Akiteru exclaims, and Kei rolls his eyes.

“It’s mom’s car, anyways,” Kei shoots back, and it is at that moment Kei feels Yua’s pinch on his back. Kei yelps, seeing that Akiteru is also getting pinched by Yua. “He started it, Yua-chan,” Kei says monotonously, and Yua gives him a look of warning. Kei looks away. “Fine, c’mon, nii-chan, I’m dying from jetlag, I need to go home.”

“I seriously regret buying you that penthouse,” his mother says softly to him as all of them, minus Yua as she was looking over sleeping Akio, walk to the garage of his mother’s house. His mother tugs at his arm. “You sure you don’t wanna stay here for a while, Kei?” Kei smiles faintly at his mother, not wanting to reject her out loud, but the smile seems to be enough for her to relent. “Fine. Drive safe, Kei. Come over everyday, okay?”

“That’s impossible,” Kei points out, and his mother pinches him softly.

“Fine! I’ll come over to yours all the time, then,” she decides. Akiteru gives him the keys to one of the BMWs, and Kei unlocks it, entering the car, feeling weird at how long it has been since he last drove. The last time he drove was probably two summers ago, on a random road trip with his coursemates to Manchester. Kei thinks he remembers how to drive. It’s impossible to forget, right? Things like these? “Call me when you get home,” his mother says.

Akiteru then pipes up. “Me, too.”

Kei rolls his eyes, and after a quick goodbye, he drives off.

To his penthouse. To his new home.

As Kei drives off into the Tokyo night, Kei can’t help but think that he’s settling in just fine. Not for the first time, Kei thinks, this could be Miyagi.

 

☽ ♕

 

Kei has never been more glad that he already has a car when the guy in front of him brags about his family’s company, with this false bravado and confidence that makes Kei want to belch.

Kei seriously wonders how the hell his grandmother managed to find someone this fast when their talk was just yesterday, yet Kei got a loud call this morning, after just getting three hours due to jet lag, that he has a date at lunch, at some hotel’s restaurant, and if he doesn’t show up, his grandmother wouldn’t hesitate to raid his penthouse. Or so she said.

Listening to this guy talk, Kei would rather get his penthouse raided. It’s not like he has much stuff, anyways.

“Look, man,” Kei says, cutting him off, making his words the bro type to get his point across, the headache already forming in his head at this guy’s obnoxious voice. The guy looks flustered, as if finally noticing that he has been  talking Kei’s ears off for the past fifteen minutes of this meal. “I appreciate you coming here and all, but, like, I’m not interested. Seriously.”

The guy shrugs at him, leaning forward greasily, and smirking at him, and Kei feels like throwing the table knife at his stupid face. Before this, Kei would grudgingly admit that he’s attractive, with a smart button-on, and fluffy brown hair and green eyes, smells good, too, but that smirk? He suddenly looks like the kind of guys he tries to avoid. “Your grandmother told me you’d say that.”

“That is not as sexy as you think it is,” Kei deadpans, and the guy looks embarrassed again, the bravado falling off his face, and Kei feels glad. Kei gets up, pushing away his food as he does. “Look, I’ll pay for the meal, okay? Just. Don’t. Seriously. My grandmother is bothering everyone. Sorry you got bothered by her.”

Kei is just about to turn away to pay, and just blast off, when the guy catches his arm. Kei braces himself for it. “Look, you’re hot, okay? I want to be with you. Is that so wrong?”

Kei glares at him, pulling his arm away. “Yes, when I don’t wanna be with you. Drop it. Seriously. I’m not interested.” Kei quickly dashes off, paying for the food, and then going off to where his car is parked, already at the front of the hotel entrance by the chauffeur. Kei gives him a quick tip, not seeing how much he had given, just wanting to get out of there as soon as possible. Kei finally drives off, his breath calming. He didn’t even notice how tense he had been in there.

If that is the type of guys his grandmother will set him up with, Kei thinks he’d rather re-do his entire Business degree and get disowned. At least the girls he had been set up with were nice, they all had manners, and were pleasant to talk to once they got comfortable. But that guy? Kei wants to yell.

Kei is at the red stoplight, ready to go back home to take a nap that he’ll probably regret when night comes, when his phone pings with a text.

Yamaguchi Tadashi added you to the group ‘Yachi and the 3 idiots.’

Yamaguchi Tadashi

Oh, shit

Group name was changed to ‘ Yachi and the 4 idiots.’

Kei ignores the implications that they had that group before with just the four of them. Kei should’ve expected it. They did drift apart, there’s no mistaking in that. Kei still can’t help the bitterness creeping into his throat, though. Kei drives as the light turns green. There is another red light, so Kei checks his phone again.

Yamaguchi Tadashi

Hiiii tsukki :)

Reunion @ Kageyama’s apartment tonight :DDDDDDDDD

For u

So like u must come, okay?

Yachi Hitoka

:DDDDDDDD

Excitedddd!!

Hinata Shouyou

HI TSUKISHIMA OMG!!!!!

Can’t wait to see ur stupid face

Oi, reply to d texts, rude

Tsukishima Kei

Ok

Kageyama Tobio

It’s like no one listened to me saying that I don’t want it to be at mine

Whatever

Welcome back, Tsukishima

See u

 

Kei blinks at the text, at Kageyama, Hinata, and Yachi’s name showing up on his phone after a long time. It’s weird to see, to say the least. Kageyama’s texts make Kei feel a little bit weird and unwelcomed, so he didn’t reply. When Kei gets home, he sees a private text from Yamaguchi.

 

Yamaguchi Tadashi

Ignore Kageyama

He’s excited to see u!!

 

Kei seriously doubts that, but he doesn’t say anything back. Yamaguchi, seeing that Kei read his texts, continues on.

 

Yamaguchi Tadashi

Guy can barely walk :(

It has to be there

 

Kei just feels guilty now for being bitter to Kageyama about a simple text, so Kei does the best thing possible when at a time of distress, a perfect coping mechanism during uni.

He naps.

 

☽ ♕

 

Kei feels more nervous about this than he’d like to admit, so he probably overbought the food from the nerves. Kei looks at the food in the backseat from his rear-view mirror, cringing at the sight

There are three boxes of pizza at the backseat of his car, along with a box of mochi from the bakery near the pizza place, as well as a pack of beer, for a good measure. Hinata did say in the group to potluck, so Kei is doing his part, but he still feels a bit embarrassed as he exits the car park of Kageyama’s apartment complex, with this much food in his hand. Kageyama told Kei specifically since he’s the only one that has never been here to just go up to his floor, saying that he already cleared it with the security, so really, he shouldn’t look this amused at the sight of Kei with the tower of food in his hands, leaning against his door as he studies Kei.

He also shouldn’t be looking this hot.

Kei stares back at Kageyama, taking in his features. He doesn’t look like the Kageyama from four years ago, the one Kei had last seen during graduation, the slightly highschool-ish features and naivety, still having the hint of a kid. It’s kind of throwing Kei off his balance a bit, so all Kei can do is stare back at him. He doesn’t look like how he did in Rio, but he does look every bit like the person Kei sees when he watches his recent games on a pixelated screen. The same build, the same muscly body and thighs, yet so much more refined in real life, in ways you wouldn’t be able to compare to a screen. His face looks sharper, cheekbones prominent, and jawline refined. His hair is shorter than usual, an undercut, if Kei looks closely, and it’s swept back, rather than his usual fringed hair, and he just looks so different yet so him that Kei might get fooled into thinking that it’s not him, if it weren’t for the scowl on his face that is beginning to form on his face at Kei’s blatant staring.

Kei fixes his face to a blank look, when Kageyama has had enough of the staring, and calls him out. “Stop it. I know I’m crippled right now,” Kageyama bites out as he drags his feet inside, careful to not put pressure on his injured left foot. He takes the pack of beer in his hand. Kei doesn’t even know how to begin to tell him that it wasn’t even anything remotely close to the reason for his staring, just following after Kageyama after opening his shoes. “You’re the first one here,” Kageyama offers, when the silence in his apartment expands more at Kei’s lack of reply.

Kei is about to say something, but is surprised at how parched his throat sounds. Kei clears his throat, and Kageyama, setting the pack on the island, glancing at Kei worriedly. Kei shakes his head softly. “They said to come at eight.”

Kageyama blinks as he starts to open the packaging for the pack of beer. Kageyama then laughs freely when he seems to have processed his words, a sound Kei sparsely hears back in high school, which makes his whole world tilt even more. “Oh, yeah, you’re new to this.” Kei bites out the bitterness inside of him. He was in London, for God’s sake. What could they have done? Only wait for him to come back for them to hang out? “They say to come at eight,  but they only come at eight-thirty. Hinata even comes at nine, sometimes if he loses track of time in practice. You’ll get used to it.” Kageyama then moves to the living room, settling in front of the sofa, with a decent-sized TV in front of his couch, settling the beers on the coffee table. It crosses Kei’s mind a few seconds after that Kageyama implied that he’ll be joining them in doing this more often. It makes Kei feel stupidly included and validated, Kei has to look away as he settles on the sofa, a respectable distance between him and Kageyama, placing the pizzas and mochi on the coffee table.

Kei looks around his apartment for a while. His apartment looks every bit like how Kei expects an athlete’s apartment to look like. He has his medals and trophies on a glass case next to his TV, there’s a stray volleyball on the ground, seeming to not have a place, which is why it’s always lying around everywhere, and it’s cleaner than he’d expect of Kageyama. But then Kei’s mind conjures up high school Kageyama with meticulously cut nails, and always clean shaven, and it all just makes sense. Kei glances at Kageyama’s hands on his lap, confirming that he still keeps it the same way he used to.

Kageyama turns his eyes away from the TV just as Kei turns away from him. Kageyama might’ve caught him staring again, but if Kei ignores the heat crawling up his neck, he might convince himself that he’s not embarrassed about getting caught. “How was the UK?” He asks awkwardly, fiddling with his fingers. “You didn’t come home for a very long time.”

Home is a funny word to Kei, because right now, a day into Tokyo, nothing quite feels like home. London wasn’t home. It was a provisional, temporary home, but a nice escape from Japan. London was cosy, always raining, and unexpected weather, but it felt like home away from home in a way. He had friends there, he made friends there, he fucked people in that loft, he got fucked there. Too many pub nights than he’d like to admit. But Kei never intended to stay there for very long. Miyagi was home to Kei. But it probably felt temporary to his mother and Akiteru, always with the thought of Tokyo in mind, so at this point Kei doesn’t know if he should feel like Miyagi was home, when the two people he lived there with maybe didn’t treat it as such. Miyagi to them was probably how London was for Kei. So going back to Tokyo, rather than Miyagi, doesn’t quite feel like coming home.

Kei hums at first, awkward as well, not knowing how to breach this distance of four years between them. Their banter used to be easy, fun for Kei almost when he managed to elicit a reaction out of Kageyama, although getting teased back was annoying. But it was easy. It feels awfully out of their age range right now to make fun of Kageyama. Kei doesn’t know how to work around this new dynamic. “It was good. Made a lot of good memories. Got a good degree.”

“Great,” Kageyama says, looking blankly at Kei, an unreadable expression on his face. “Don’t unis have summer breaks? Winter breaks? Why don’t you go back home during that time?” Kei shrugs. Kei thinks if he had went back for summer breaks, maybe Tokyo would feel more like coming home. Kageyama shuffles closer towards him, and Kei stiffens. Kageyama breaks through his line of thoughts when Kageyama yells: “Speak! Why are you being so awkward?!”

Immediately, Kei feels warm, the earlier hesitation on how to break this stoic silence between them thrown away, and Kei snaps at Kageyama, glaring at him, but is surprised at how close Kageyama is right now. There’s only a palm’s worth of distance between them now. “It’s been four years, you think things can go back to normal almost immediately?” The fire inside his chest almost feels like highschool. Almost feels like youth.

Kageyama returns his glare, rolling his eyes as he does, and he drops his head back to his couch, giving up with Kei. Kei tries to not stare at the pretty line of his neck, muscular only in the way an athletic person could have. “You could at least try to make this work,” Kageyama points out, and it’s that direct callout Kageyama used to always do that is so familiar to Kei, he feels relief almost.

Kei sighs, looking away. “Sorry.”

Kageyama snaps up quickly, looking at him in surprise. “You’re sorry?”

Kei looks worriedly at his feet when he feels Kageyama move. Kei can really see from here how swollen his achilles tendon is. Kei frowns at it. “Yes, can’t I be? Jesus,” then he continues. “When are you going to get surgery for that? That looks bad.”

Kageyama still looks shocked at the casual apology, so Kei meets his eyes, glaring at him. Kageyama shakes his head quickly, and drops his head back on the couch. “I have until the end of the week to give my doctor an answer.”

Kei frowns. “Shouldn’t it be better to get it as soon as possible? Didn’t you get injured four days ago?”

Surprise tints Kageyama’s features at the fact that Kei knows that information. “Yeah, when you have a club to support you. They fucking booted me off, and now I need to budget around my money. And that’s just surgery. Not even physical therapy yet. I don’t even know if I want intensive therapy since no club will want me, probably. My current one kicked me off like that. So is it worth it to go through expensive intensive therapy when you’re not even sure a club wants to take you in?”

Kei feels sorry once again, but he tries to not show it on his face. “Of course they’d want you. They’d be an idiot to not to.”

Kageyama, head still on the couch, eyes at first glued to the TV, turns slowly towards Kei, at his words, a glint in his eyes, and an easy smile on his face, another one Kei sparsely sees back in highschool, so seeing it makes Kei a little stunned. Back in highschool, Kageyama had been in that awkward phase where he finds it hard to compliment people, where his smile looks staged and awkward. He looks far from that now, the smile settling easily on his face, with his teeth straight and neat, like everything Kageyama is. “Was that a compliment, Tsukishima?”

Kei rolls his eyes, turning away from him. “You’re the most talented player I know. Just because you have fucked feet now, doesn’t mean you’re not that player, still.” The silence stretches for a while, so Kei turns to look at him again, finding Kageyama staring at him. Kei ignores the heat creeping his neck. “What?”

“You’ve changed, Tsukishima,” Kageyama says, and he shuffles closer towards Kei. Says him, Kei thinks silently, as Kageyama’s knee meets his. “You’re like, nice now.” Kei scowls at him. Kei is about to throw him an insult just to be mean, when the doorbell rings. Kageyama puts his hand on his knee, pushing him to get up, and Kei jolts up at Kageyama’s touch, looking at Kageyama in alarm. Kageyama looks at him blankly at his reaction, then gestures to his door. “Open the door for me. My feet hurt.”

Kei immediately heads for the door, the close proximity with Kageyama definitely messing with his brain. Kei opens the door to Yachi and Yamaguchi, who both have a look of surprise on their face when they see that it’s Kei who opens the door.

“Tsukki?!” Yamaguchi yelps first.

“What, did you forget that you invited me?” Kei asks blankly, not waiting for an answer, going back to the living room, as Kageyama hollers a greeting to Yamaguchi and Yachi.

“Sorry,” Yamaguchi giggles, following suit, with Yachi behind him. “Of course we remember! This is why we bought so much food, y’know.” Kei finally notices the plastic bag Yamaguchi brought with him. “Just didn’t expect you to be here earlier than us.”

Kei sits down on the ground, near the coffee table, ignoring the look Kageyama gives him when he pointedly passes his earlier seat.

“Sorry, we’re so used to going later than the agreed time,” Yachi giggles, sitting next to Kageyama, checking out his feet worriedly as she does, as Kageyama ensures her that she’s fine.

There’s idle talk here and there for a few minutes, questions mostly directed to Kei about the UK, London, and uni. Kei throws out a few questions here and there about Yachi and Yamaguchi’s own uni, and Kageyama listens, but mostly stays scrolling on his phone, having kind of asked that question before, and hearing the rehearsed reply. The doorbell rings again, and Yachi runs to get it, entering again with Hinata.

“Tsukishima!” Hinata yelps when he sees him, and he throws his arms around Kei’s neck, in a way that both hugs him, but also strangles him. Kei coughs for a few seconds when the grip tightens. Hinata releases him, but flicks his head, and Kei glares at him. “I came early just for you!” Hinata, it seems, although having gained more and more skills in volleyball, judging by his matches, and having gained more muscles than ever, still has the cheery demeanour he always has.

“You’re the latest one, as usual,” Kageyama says absently, leaning forward to get a beer, and Yamaguchi, noticing it, slaps Kageyama’s hand. Kageyama looks at him indignantly, something akin to a pout on his lips. “What?! We waited long for you guys!”

Tsukishima gives him a look. “Don’t bring me into this.”

Yamaguchi ignores them both, slapping Hinata’s back, telling him to settle down. “Oi, c’mon. We gotta toast! We’re finally complete!” Yamaguchi then hands out a beer to each one of them, and Kei realises Hinata brought three other packs with him. Kei seriously wonders what’s the usual drunk quota for a night like this.

“To Tsukki being back!” Yamaguchi yells out, Hinata and Yachi following suit, while Kei and Kageyama just mutter random things under their breath. Kei takes a long sip of his beer, tolerance higher than usual with how much he did pub nights while in London. Hinata then elbows him for him to stop drinking. Kei sees through his coughs that Kageyama is already squashing his first beer can, and taking another one.

“Wait, another cheer,” Hinata interrupts, ignoring the coughs coming out of Kei. They all place their drinks together again, and yells out: “To Kageyama healing, and going back to volleyball, so we can play against each other again!” The others yell out a To Kageyama! while Kageyama yells out: “To my fucked up achilles tendon!”

Kageyama then slumps against the couch again. “I seriously don’t have the money for serious physical therapy.” He then says after taking a sip of his drink: “Fuck FC Tokyo!”

Yachi next to Kageyama looks at him worriedly, patting him on the knee. Kageyama just slumps more into his seat, looking defeated, Kei feels so sorry once again, he has to look away.

“Kageyama is a lightweight,” Hinata says through the second pizza he’s currently chewing on. It’s kind of gross to see him eat while talking, so Kei pushes his head away, which Hinata grumbles at him for, finishing his chewing. “The first time we found out was when I got back from Brazil,  and it was over at Yachi and Yamaguchi’s place, and I was the one who had to bring him home!”

“Yachi and Yamaguchi’s place?” Kei utters slowly, and it dawns on him slowly, so he slaps Yamaguchi’s back, who had been leaning over the coffee table to get a mochi.

“The hell, Tsukki?” Yamaguchi yells, his torso dropping over the opened box of pizza, but he manages to catch himself before his shirt comes in touch with the pizza.

“You and Yachi are together?!” Kei exclaims. “And you give me shit for not telling you things!”

Kageyama, who had been a lump, suddenly straightens his back as he takes a pizza, laughing at Kei. “Oh my god, he doesn’t know,” Kageyama says, amusement tinting his voice. He doesn’t look defeated like he did just now, and Kei has a feeling this mood swing will last through the night. “You’re, like, what, three years late?”

“Three years?” Kei mouths, and he looks at Yachi now. Yachi at least has the gall to look guilty.

“To be fair, I didn’t know Yamaguchi didn’t tell you,” Yachi shrugs, and Kei rolls his eyes, giving a pointed look to Yamaguchi that he snickers at.

“How’s your grandmother?” Yamaguchi asks, and Kei shrugs.

“She’s well--”

“Noooo, I meant the setting you up with girls thing!” Yamaguchi exclaims, cutting him off.

Kageyama looks at him with an unreadable look on his face. “The chairwoman is setting you up with girls?”

“She’s setting me up to get married with girls,” Kei corrects him, and Kageyama looks even more concerned now.

Hinata elbows him, looking at him excitedly. “Really? That must be fun.”

“Not when--”

“Not when you’re not into girls!” Yamaguchi and Yachi chorus, and Kei colours at his words getting repeated to his face.

“Holy shit, you’re gay?” Kageyama asks in disbelief, and Kei gives him a look at the incredulity in his tone.

Hinata next to him makes a high fiving gesture, grinning as he does, and at the look on his face, Kei can’t find it in him to ignore him, returning the high five. “Really? I’m bisexual, by the way!”

Kei blinks at Hinata. “Oh, nice, dude.”

“You’re gay?” Kageyama asks again, and Kei snaps, annoyed at Kageyama.

“What’s your problem, king? Homophobic? Even my grandmother isn’t!” Kei exclaims, and Kageyama gives him a look of disbelief that makes Kei want to deck him.

“I’m gay, too, bastard!” Kageyama groans, when he sees Kei getting up to possibly hit him. “Geez. I forget how much you don’t know about things.”

Yachi laughs, going down after patting Kageyama’s knee again, to sit next to Yamaguchi. Kei, feeling awkward to sit back down now, goes to the seat on Kageyama’s right, folding his legs so that Yamaguchi and Yachi can lean back on the sofa. Kageyama shuffles closer again to him. Their knees are touching. Kei asks Yachi to take for him a pizza, and his beer earlier. Hinata is watching the movie Kageyama had on earlier intently, and this all feels like something Kei could get used to.

 

☽ ♕

 

“D’you,” Hinata hiccups before continuing, “remember when y’guys found out Tsukishima is rich?”

Yamaguchi raises his hand excitedly. “Me! Oh, man. Second year of middle school. Brought him over for dinner with mom. Mom asked his name. Heard his name, and immediately started choking when she realised the name. She was like THE Tsukishima? And Tsukki was like uh, I guess? Tsukki being rich almost made my mom die.”

“Don’t joke about death,” Kei mumbles under his breath, and Yachi pats him on the knee for a second, before leaning her head back on Yamaguchi’s shoulder.

Kageyama next to him makes a small noise, and Kei looks at him. His cheeks are pink, his face looks calm for once, and he looks like he had way too much beer. His injured foot is still outstretched since the time Kei arrived. Kageyama turns to look at him. He’s way too close. Kei still looks back at him, though. Because he’s nice to look at when he’s not scowling, and it’s just polite to look back. “I think immediately? He was talking shit about me, and I was like, ah, this must be the rich bastard Tsukishima everyone has been talking about.”

Kei colours at the reminder of their first meeting. The sneers, the anger, the way Kei had egged both Hinata and Kageyama on, the way Kageyama looked at him with rage in his eyes, and seeing Hinata jump for the first time. The anger at that time feels fake, when he compares it to how they are right now. Hinata’s head lying down on Yamaguchi’s thigh, as he eats a pizza lying down, and Yachi snuggled up on Yamaguchi’s arm, while freaking Kageyama is this close to Kei. Kei still flicks Kageyama’s forehead at the reminder, and Kageyama scrunches his nose.

“I knew immediately when I got into school because everyone was talking about him,” Yachi pipes in, and Hinata barks out a laugh.

“I think I only knew because people kept talking about him, too. I didn’t realise it was him when we first met, though,” Hinata says.

“Stop bringing up the time we all met,” Kei slurs out, and Yamaguchi bursts out laughing.

“Tsukki, you were an asshole,” Yamaguchi exclaims, and Kei knocks him slightly with his knee, as it is the place Yamaguchi is leaning his head on. “Oi!” Yamaguchi yells, but then he switches the topic. “So you really told you grandmother you’re gay?”

Kei hums, and his littlest sobriety at that moment finds it funny that everything seems to go back to his grandmother again, even when he’s with his friends.

“She’s okay with it?” Kageyama asks timidly next to him, eyes fixed on the TV, not wanting to look at Kei.

“Too okay, maybe,” Kei yawns. “Went on a date with a shitty guy this morning.”

“Already?” Yachi asks concernedly, twisting around to look at him. “Did he do anything?’

“Nah, whatever.” Kei shrugs, smiling softly at Yachi.

“Y’know,” Hinata slurs out. “I think she’d get off your back if you find someone to marry.”

Kei leans over Kageyama, taking the throw pillow Kageyama isn’t using to throw over to Hinata. “That’s the whole point she’s doing this, dumbass.”

Hinata groans loudly. “I know! I meant like if you find someone to marry. At least if you pick that person, you know that person already, and you won’t be miserable.” Kei pauses, processing the words, not wanting to admit that it actually makes sense. Hinata seems to take it that way, anyways, twisting his body to grin up at Kei. “It’s a good idea, right?!”

 

“Like I could find someone to marry for fun,” Kei mumbles under his breath, and he opens his glasses, rubbing at the bridge of his nose, closing his eyes as he does. Kei puts back his glasses to find Kageyama looking at him. “What?”

“You changed your glasses,” Kageyama points out bluntly.

Kei shrugs, colouring a little at the observation for some reason. “Had to. Is it bad?”

“You care what I think?” Kageyama snorts, looking at Kei, still. His eyelashes are fanning his cheeks.

Kei shrugs again, looking away. If he was properly sober, he wouldn’t have asked that question.

“It looks good on you,” Kageyama mumbles softly.

They fall into silence one more time, the idle chatters of Yamaguchi and Hinata filling in that gap. Yamaguchi then includes them in the conversation. “Tsukki would probably be able to fund Kageyama’s surgery and therapy. Make a whole club for him, even.”

“Funny,” Kei mumbles under his breath, although if he’s being honest, he has considered paying for the surgery and therapy. He just doesn’t know how to say it without it coming across as pity.

“Like hell I’d let him,” Kageyama says roughly into the silence.

Hinata then laughs out loud. “You could, like, marry him, to make up for it. You’d both owe each other!” Hinata then cackles at the thought of Kei and Kageyama together, married no less. Yachi even starts giggling. Kageyama next to him is silent.

It feels a lot like a drunk epiphany.

Something that could be done and said when you’re drunk, but never when you are sober. Kei can’t believe he’s actually taking Hinata’s drunk and offhand suggestion seriously. It doesn’t feel right, marrying Kageyama just to pay for his surgery. It feels almost like blackmail. But to be honest, Kei would be willing to pay for his surgery and therapy if Kageyama allows him to. Kei believes that he could recover. It’s not even about him going back as a top player, but rather just playing volleyball again. It feels weird to think that Kageyama is giving up volleyball, when it is all he has. That alone is enough for Kei to want to fund him.

“Oi, why are you both quiet?” Hinata complains. “It was a joke, don’t get angry.”

Kei needs a breather before he takes this seriously. “I’m getting water,” Kei announces, and Yachi hums, moving away, so he could cross her to get to the kitchen.

Kei drinks the water for a while, just staring at nothing, decidedly not thinking about marrying Kageyama to get off his back, instead trying to focus on how he’s going to start working for the company next week, and if he doesn’t fix his sleeping schedule and jet lag situation, it’s going to be a hell of a week. Kei is just thinking about how alcohol is definitely not helping his problem, when Kageyama comes limping in. Kei frowns at him, gripping his arm to support him.

“You could’ve just asked me for water,” Kei argues. “You really shouldn’t be walking so much.”

“Whatever, mom,” Kageyama mumbles back, and Kageyama sits on the stool around his island, sipping slowly on the water Kei gives him. Kei rolls his eyes at him. It’s silent for a while. “You were wrong, you know.”

Kei can feel a headache coming at this introduction for an argument. “About what? Which one? You gotta be specific so that I know which one to apologise for,” Kei snaps.

Kageyama doesn’t take that bait, surprisingly, instead staying silent, before looking at Kei with an unreadable look on his face. “I’m considering it.”

“Considering what, Kageyama?” Kei asks in frustration. Is Kageyama really the drunk that doesn’t have a clear line of thought? Kei’s mind feels like a maze trying to figure Kageyama out.

“What Hinata said. The marriage,” Kageyama says, looking at him with a careful blank look on his face, and he suddenly doesn’t look as drunk as he did just now.

Kei blinks at him, unable to deduce whether or not he’s being serious. “He meant it as a joke.”

“A joke that could work,” Kageyama shrugs.

Kei laughs breathily, at the thought of Kageyama taking it seriously. Because if Kei had thought about it, and Kageyama did, too, it could really lead to something really fucking bad. “I can pay for your surgery and therapy, Kageyama. It’s alright to ask for help. Didn’t Hinata get funded by that Nekoma guy?”

“Hinata is Hinata. I’m me. It wouldn’t sit right with me,” Kageyama cuts him off. “You fund me, then, what if I don’t return back to normal? I’d become a coach? You’ll fund me to become a coach? If I marry you,” Kei shivers at that. “I don’t have to feel guilty about being a coach.”

“You’re not going to become a coach,” Kei says sternly to him, lethargy seeping through his bones. “And if we do get married, then, what? What, then?”

“Dunno,” Kageyama shrugs. “Didn’t think that far. But it sounds good, so far. We’re friends, Tsukishima. It’d be like having a roommate. Who have weddings, and shits.”

Kei doesn’t say out loud that before he stepped inside this apartment, they haven’t been talking to each other for four years. “The wedding would probably be publicised,” Kei says, and as soon as he says those words, he knows they’re on the road of considering it. “You know it’s career suicide when an athlete is out to the public.”

Kageyama snorts. “You think my foot right now isn’t a career suicide? My career is basically dead. The publicity would make people see that I’m, like, a cool athlete, maybe.”

“Holy shit, what are we doing?” Kei asks in disbelief. Kageyama takes another sip of his water, pushing it away after that. Kei pushes it back to him. “Drink all of it. You’ll get a headache.” Kageyama complies.

“And you were wrong,” Kageyama says again.

Kei sighs, opening his glasses, rubbing at the bridge of his nose. “About what now?”

"No one wants to invest in an athlete with a low chance of full recovery," Kageyama bites out, unable to stop the irritation seeping into his voice this time. “You said earlier a club would want to take me after I recover. They’d be an idiot to not to, you said.”

"I do. I want to invest in you. I still think any club that won’t take you is an idiot.” Tsukishima says easily, since they’re still on the road of considering this madness of a marriage. “I’ll make a club for you. I’ll make another V.League just so you can play,” Kei jokes.

Kei snorts at that, but he returns to the somber mood he fell into earlier. "What if it doesn't work?" Kageyama asks softly.

"Then, you're married to me," Kei replies jokingly, and if it's not both of their life on the line right now, Kei might’ve found it amusing himself. "Sounds like a fair trade to me."

Kageyama laughs at that. He then gets up, downing the water. Kei looks at his foot worriedly. Kageyama turns to look at him tiredly, and it crosses Kei’s mind how stressful this whole ordeal must’ve been for him to think about.

“We’re crazy,” Kageyama says, and Kei doesn’t have to say anything for Kageyama to know that he agrees. “If I wake up tomorrow, and still consider it, I’m officially crazy. Tell me that okay.”

Kei just stares blankly at Kageyama’s retreating form.

 

☽ ♕

 

Kei wakes up the next morning in his penthouse with the sun shining so brightly through his huge windows.

Kei rubs his eyes to get rid of the gunk, and immediately, the memories of last night flood his brain. Kei groans, both from the headache in his head, and the reminder of last night. Even when his grandmother isn’t there, marriage always follows him. Kei is starting to think she’s everywhere.

Kei lays down on his bed, doing a quick rundown of what happened last night after the talk with Kageyama, as serious talks or not, Kei is the type to want to remember the things he does when drunk, no matter how embarrassing the memory is, and how much he wants to forget it, because he likes to have conscience. 

Kei remembers in a blur a taxi picking him up from Kageyama’s place, and sending him over to his penthouse, because Kei didn’t think he could stay over there like Yachi, Yamaguchi, and Hinata did with that tension and what ifs between them that they had fallen into after Hinata’s offhanded suggestion. Kei sighs, hoping last night was just an alcohol-induced conversation rather than something Kei has to think about properly.

Kei rolls over to his side, surprised to find that he remembers to charge his phone properly. Kei removes the charger. The time reads 10am.

The first thing he sees is Kageyama’s name, a private text from him.

 

Kageyama Tobio

Let’s do it

Kei stares at his phone in disbelief, quickly thumbing out a reply, then slamming his head back to his bed, taking a pillow, and putting it over his head so it could swallow him whole.

 

Tsukishima Kei

You’re crazy