The envelope made its first appearance after morning practice on Monday when the members of the Karasuno boys volleyball club were in the club room, getting changed. Ninety percent of Suga’s attention was captivated by watching Daichi mis-button his uniform, the jacket sitting more and more lopsided as he went, while Daichi talked about some new receiving drill he’d gotten from Kuroo. Suga knew he ought to say something, but…
Vaguely, he registered Nishinoya and Tanaka sniggering over something together in the corner, but he didn’t think much of it (Daichi’s fingers skipped another button-hole, adding a weird wrinkle to the fabric) until he heard Noya whisper, “Hey, Asahi-san, guess who?”
And then the envelope appeared, and changed hands, passing from Noya’s tiny fingers to Asahi’s huge ones. Asahi blinked at it in confusion. He flipped it open. He peered at its contents. And he went as red as a freshly boiled lobster.
“Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God,” Tanaka was gasping behind Noya, clutching his sides as he and Noya snorted with laughter. Asahi appeared to have been rendered speechless. He thrust the envelope back at Noya as if it had burned him and clapped a hand over his mouth, his eyes huge and horrified in his now-crimson face.
“Are you scandalized, Asahi-san?” Noya gasped, practically in tears.
“Where, um, where… those aren’t… where did you… is that really…” Asahi stammered.
“Quiet down, guys,” Daichi said sternly, glancing over at the three of them. “You’re going to be late for class if you don’t hurry up.”
For some reason, this only seemed to fuel Noya and Tanaka’s hysterics, while Asahi, against all probability, contrived to go even redder. Daichi just rolled his eyes and shook his head before turning back to Suga. “Did you want to come over to study after practice tonight?” he asked.
Suga made himself look at Daichi’s face instead of his atrociously buttoned uniform. He smiled and said, “Sure. Hey, Asahi—”
“Oh, actually—” Daichi began, but the question was already out by then.
“—did you want to study after school at Daichi’s?” Suga finished.
“Um, uh, well, yeah, sure, okay,” Asahi managed. Presumably still mortified about getting called out for bad behaviour along with the rowdy second-years, he seemed unable to bring himself to look at Daichi.
“Sorry, I interrupted you,” said Suga.
“Ah—no, no, it’s fine. It was nothing,” said Daichi.
Suga debated, very briefly, keeping quiet about the uniform thing. He could vividly picture Daichi walking into class like this, their classmates giggling, Daichi utterly oblivious in his very Daichi way, until the teacher sighed and said, “Sawamura-kun, your jacket.” Daichi would go as red as Asahi was right now, which would be funny. Daichi didn’t get embarrassed often, but it was cute when he did. However, because Suga was a kind and benevolent best friend, he poked a finger through the unintentional gap Daichi had left between two of his buttons and said, “You buttoned your uniform wrong, captain.”
Daichi groaned, started unbuttoning his jacket, complained, “You could have said something about it before I’d finished ,” and by the time they left the club room to go to class, Suga had forgotten all about the envelope.
That was his first mistake.
“So, captain, do you like photography?” Tanaka asked when they were cleaning up after their evening practice, and Noya dissolved into laughter again.
“Uh, not really,” said Daichi. He was wearing the bemused, cautious smile that came out when he knew Tanaka and Noya were winding him up but couldn’t yet tell where it was going.
“Even on special occasions?” Tanaka pressed, leering at him with cryptic suggestiveness.
“Ryuu, oh my God, stop,” gasped Noya, doubled over.
Daichi glanced at Noya with mild concern, then looked at Suga for help. Suga shrugged. Normally he could get a sense of Noya and Tanaka’s angle—it helped that he shared with the second-years a passionate interest in teasing their serious captain—but right now he was just as lost as Daichi. “Like… birthdays and stuff?” asked Daichi. “I’m really not much of a photographer.”
“I gotcha. Less the shot and more the—pff—the subject, huh?”
Daichi sighed. “Is this going somewhere?”
But Tanaka, who had finally broken down himself, was too busy cracking up to answer.
Daichi shook his head in exasperation and looked at Suga again in a way that meant these two, huh? And Suga smiled back—but he couldn’t help noticing something. The second Tanaka had said the word photography, all the other second-years had frozen. None of them were laughing. In fact, all three of them were staring at each other blank-faced, in the manner of witnesses to a horrible car accident who were still in too much shock to register what was happening. And Asahi had gone all red again, staring intently at the floor. Weird.
The first-years, at least, appeared unaffected. In a rare respite from their usual enmity, Kageyama and Tsukishima had united to torment Hinata by tossing his water bottle back and forth way over his head while he jumped around indignantly, shouting, “Give it back, give it back, you stupid tall jerks!” Yamaguchi’s expression as he spectated suggested his instinct to help Hinata out was at extreme odds with his desire to watch and laugh.
“I really don’t get those two,” Daichi said later as Suga and Asahi walked home with him.
“Noya and Tanaka? Ah, they’re just messing around,” said Suga. “They work hard—it’s not so bad for them to have a little fun.”
Asahi said nothing. In fact, he was quiet the whole way to Daichi’s house, and then, when they were sitting on the floor in Daichi’s bedroom with their books out, he became uncharacteristically restless—tugging at his hair, tapping his pen, barely touching his homework.
“Are you okay, Asahi?” Suga asked after a while. He had never exactly found his Japanese homework riveting, but Asahi’s squirming was making it impossible to concentrate.
“Uh, yeah, fine, um… I’m fine,” Asahi insisted. He ducked his head and stared intently at his notebook, and for a few minutes that seemed to be the end of it. Eventually he appeared to come to a decision, though, because he looked up and said, “Um, Daichi, is there… a girl you like?”
Daichi blinked. “A girl…? Uh. No. There’s—no, there’s not really a girl I like.”
But his face had gone a little pink under his tan, and his usually bulletproof composure seemed to have cracked, just a little. Maybe he just found the question awkward; it had come out of nowhere. Or maybe he wasn’t being entirely honest. Suga’s heart gave a worried stutter, and he told it firmly, stop that. He’d known perfectly well that he would have to deal with something like this sooner or later. Daichi was handsome, friendly, polite. Girls liked him, and presumably Daichi wasn’t going to be content hanging around with his club friends forever. Suga had already come to terms with that, more or less.
“Why?” asked Daichi. “Is there someone you like, Asahi?”
“What? No!” yelped Asahi.
“Ooh, Asahi, you’re blushing ,” Suga teased. This meant nothing, because hearing the teacher say the word penetrate in science class was enough to make Asahi go scarlet, but Suga wasn’t about to let mere rationality stand in the way of a prime opportunity to pick on him. “There is a girl, isn’t there? Who is it? If it’s Kiyoko-san, you’ll have to fight Noya and Tanaka to the death, you know.”
“It’s not Kiyoko-san!” Asahi protested.
“Ah, so there is someone! I knew it! Hmm.” Suga tapped his pencil against his chin, trying to think of other possible candidates. “It had better not be Yacchan. If you two dated, everyone would think you were some kind of pervert.”
“I’m not a pervert! We’re only two years apart! And I don’t, I’m not—um—”
“Lay off the poor guy, Suga,” said Daichi, although he was grinning. “Don’t you know he’s shy?”
“Alright, alright. You’re lucky Daichi’s here to defend your honour, Asahi, but I’ll get it out of you eventually,” said Suga. As a gesture of goodwill to prevent Asahi from getting too down, he added, “Hey, did you guys see Hayashi tearing his bag apart by the lockers today? I bet he lost his English homework again.”
“How did he end up a club captain? That guy’s a complete disaster,” Daichi said, with such obvious disapproval that Suga had to bite the inside of his cheek to hide his grin. “He keeps losing the key to his club room, too. I had to let the basketball club use our room twice last week alone.”
“Um, well, he’s supposed to be really good at basketball, though,” said Asahi.
“All brawn, no brain?” said Suga. “Like our dynamic first-year duo?”
“Except Hinata doesn’t really have brawn or brain,” said Daichi, and Suga snorted. For all that Daichi acted so responsible and mature all the time, he could be just as wicked as their troublesome second-years when there weren’t adults or underclassmen around.
“Where the hell are those damn first years?” Coach Ukai demanded on Tuesday, as the start of afternoon practice came and went with four of the club’s members notably absent. “Yamaguchi and Tsukshima, fine, but Hinata and Kageyama? Are they dead?”
“They were changing in the club room when I left,” said Daichi. “I don’t know what’s taking them so long.”
Tanaka snorted. He and Noya seemed to have calmed down a bit since yesterday, although they kept whispering to each other and laughing, and Suga had caught the other second-years glancing nervously at the pair of them a few times. “Ha! I bet Hinata’s trying to put his shirt on his legs again.”
“I’ll go tell them to hurry up,” said Daichi, already heading for the door, but Suga grabbed his shirt to stop him.
“I can go,” said Suga. “We need our fearless leader on the court, right?”
And that was his second mistake.
The four first-years were clustered together in a tight huddle when Suga entered the club room, which was odd enough on its own, and they didn’t seem to be bickering amongst themselves, which was even odder. They were all peering intently at something, although Yamaguchi was peering at whatever it was through the cracks between the fingers he had pressed tight over his eyes, as if he didn’t want to see but also couldn’t look away.
“Oh wow. Oh, wow. He’s really—that’s, like, big, isn’t it?” Hinata was saying. “I mean, I’m not that big, even when I’m—do you get that big, Kageyama?”
“Dumbass! You can’t just ask people that!” Kageyama hissed. He looked flushed.
“Of course he’s bigger than you. He’s twice your size,” said Tsukishima, sounding bored with the whole affair.
“Not twice my size! And I didn’t think that meant, you know, all over—!”
“Oh my God, oh my God, we’re going to get in so much trouble—” moaned Yamaguchi.
“Oh, really? And why would that be?” asked Suga.
Yamaguchi yelped, and all four of them jumped, even Tsukishima. They stared at Suga with expressions ranging from mild unease to blind panic, as if Suga had just ordered them to give an oral presentation on the spot. Hinata in particular fidgeted anxiously, doing a very bad job of trying to hide something flat and white behind his back, and suddenly Suga remembered the envelope from yesterday morning, the one that had so horrified Asahi.
“Coach Ukai and Daichi aren’t too happy with the four of you,” Suga said lightly. “What’s kept you?”
“N-nothing!” stammered Hinata. “We were just—um—”
He looked frantically at the others, but Tsukishima just sneered and Yamaguchi appeared to be on the verge of tears. That left him stuck with Kageyama, who narrowed his eyes and said, slowly, as if taking the lie for a cautious test-run, “I… couldn’t find… my shoes…”
“Your shoes,” said Suga.
“The ones on your feet right now?” asked Suga.
“Maybe,” said Kageyama, with the air of someone in too deep to back out now.
“You guys are terrible liars,” said Suga, grinning. “Okay, Hinata, hand it over. What could possibly have you all late for practice?”
“Late for practice?” yelped Hinata. He glanced at the clock and flinched. “Crap! I didn’t even notice! I’m really sorry, Suga-san! We’ll be right there!”
He tried to dart out the door, but to get out the door he had to go past Suga, and going past Suga gave Suga the perfect opportunity to snatch the envelope right out of Hinata’s fingers. Later, he couldn’t say exactly why he had done it—curiosity, he supposed, given that the envelope appeared to be an object of such fascination to everyone else on the team. Besides, he’d never seen anything unite all the first-years like this before. Kageyama and Tsukishima had been practically shoulder-to-shoulder and neither one had even tried to hit the other. The envelope clearly possessed some kind of strange magnetic power.
“Ohhhh my God,” Yamaguchi muttered faintly.
“Nooooooooo, Suga-san, don’t open it, please don’t open it—” Hinata begged.
“What on earth has you all so worked up?” Suga demanded, unable to hide a smile. “Is this a love letter or something?”
“Not… a love letter, exactly,” said Kageyama.
“Oh my God,” groaned Yamaguchi.
“Shut up, Tadashi,” Tsukishima snapped. Even he was starting to look a little uncomfortable, shifting his weight around and fidgeting with his glasses.
Suga looked at the envelope. It was just a plain business envelope, the bluish-white kind that his parents’ bills arrived in at home. The front was blank, and there was no stamp. It didn’t look like much. He slipped two fingers inside, and felt a couple of slips of paper, all of them stiff and slightly tacky on one side, like photographs.
“They’re dirty pictures!” Yamaguchi wailed, no longer able to contain himself.
Suga laughed. None of the first-years did. They were all staring intently at the ground. “Wait, are you guys serious?”
Four heads nodded glumly, and Suga jerked his fingers out of the envelope as if they’d been electrocuted. He could feel his face starting to burn.
“Um,” said Suga.
“We didn’t know, I swear!” Hinata insisted. “Please don’t tell him we saw them, Suga-san!”
“Him?” said Suga.
Kageyama muttered something far too quiet for Suga to make out. At least, he hoped that was the case. He had sort of caught a few words, but he had to have misheard, because what it had sounded like, what it had sounded like was—
“I beg your pardon?” said Suga.
“I said they’re of the captain,” said Kageyama.
“I… beg your pardon,” said Suga. He’d definitely heard Kageyama that time, which was odd, because the words he’d heard were clearly incorrect. Maybe he needed to get his hearing tested. All that time spent around Noya and Tanaka and Hinata screaming in his ears—
“The pictures are of the captain,” Kageyama said, a little slower this time, as if he too had concerns about Suga’s hearing.
“Don’t be silly,” said Suga, because what else was there to say? It was impossible. It was totally absurd. As if Daichi would ever—as if Daichi would ever—
And at the same time his heart-rate spiked a little and he thought hmm, interesting, and felt deeply ashamed of himself.
“It’s true, Suga-san!” Hinata insisted. He tugged the envelope back from Suga’s limp fingers and, to Suga’s alarm, dumped out the photos into his palm.
Suga’s eyes had gone to the photo on the top before he could help himself, but as soon as he saw it, he started to relax. Poor Yamaguchi had clearly been overreacting. All the photo showed was a guy’s naked chest—a very defined, very solid, very attractive naked chest that made Suga’s stomach tighten a little, but merely a naked chest, nonetheless. Alright, it was a little risqué, a little suggestive, but nothing so bad. Then he made the mistake of glancing at the sliver of the next photo underneath, and his blood pounded in his ears. Ohhhhhh wow. That was. That was. Yep. Okay. That was a dick. A very naked, very erect, very large— unbelievably large, oh wow—dick.
They weren’t very good pictures (Suga thought of Daichi at practice yesterday saying I’m not really much of a photographer ). The guy in them was broad-shouldered, muscular, and tanned (like Daichi, Suga thought), but his face was cut off, and the background just looked like some generic bedroom (Suga tried to remember the colour of Daichi’s duvet, and drew a blank). There was nothing at all to indicate—
“That’s Daichi-san’s jacket, right?” said Hinata, and pointed to the edge of the shirtless picture, where a crumpled black garment with white writing was half-visible. The edge of the photo cut the words off halfway, but it was definitely a Karasuno sports club jacket, and with a captain’s badge pinned to it, no less. The amateur photographer-slash-model (who was not necessarily Daichi, Suga reminded himself frantically) had clearly not bothered to clear off his bed before doing his little photoshoot. There were a couple of textbooks in the shot too, and a pile of laundry, and—a volleyball.
Suga swallowed, mouth suddenly dry.
“We saw Nishinoya-san pick the envelope up off the floor in here yesterday,” said Kageyama, and, oh no, that settled it, didn’t it? Only the volleyball club had access to the club room, and of the club members, only Daichi had a captain’s jacket and shoulders like an Olympic swimmer.
“I’m really really sorry, Suga-san,” Hinata said desperately. “We didn’t know, honest! The second-years kept joking around and being all mysterious about it, so we were kinda curious, I mean, we didn’t know, though, really! And then Noya-san left his jacket here and I was gonna put it with his stuff but the envelope fell out of his pocket and I just opened it a little to see what everyone was laughing about and, um, ah, please don’t tell Daichi-san! We won’t ever say anything about it, ever!”
The other three first-years nodded fervently. Suga forced himself to take a deep breath, and then another one, and then a third, just for good measure. Being a club vice-captain came with certain responsibilities; he’d known that since he was a first-year, and he’d known that when he came into the position himself at the start of the year. He just hadn’t expected those responsibilities to include dealing with the fallout from the sexy pictures his captain had carelessly left in their club room.
But the first-years were staring at him fearfully, even Tsukishima, and now they were all really late for practice, so Suga forced himself to smile like this was no big deal, like he dealt with sexy pictures of their oh-so-responsible captain every day of his life (ha!). “You’d better get to practice before Coach Ukai comes up here and yells at you himself,” Suga told them. “I’ll take care of this. Just—don’t talk about it with anyone, alright?”
All four of them sagged with relief. “Thank you! We promise!” squeaked Hinata. He jammed the photos back in the envelope and thrust the whole thing at Suga before racing out of the room, Yamaguchi, Tsukishima, and Kageyama close behind him, as if terrified Suga might change his mind. Only Kageyama hesitated in the doorway.
“Aren’t you coming to practice too, Suga-san?” he asked.
“In a minute,” Suga promised. He could feel his smile wavering, but he made himself keep it in place. “I just need to, um… put these away.”
When the first-years had disappeared, Suga sank down against the wall and let his head rest against his knees. What had Daichi been thinking? Taking photos like that? Printing photos like that? These days, who on earth printed sexy photos? That was what the internet had been invented for! And why had he brought them to school —to the club room? That was so stupid!
The whole debacle was the most un-Daichi thing Suga could imagine—but—well, if you were excited enough to be taking pictures like that for someone, you probably weren’t thinking entirely straight, even if thinking straight was generally one of your most defining characteristics. And certain elements of the situation did have a bit of a Daichi feel to him; in fact, he could hear Daichi’s voice in his head right now, explaining how hard copy files were just the most logical and secure choice for sensitive content because you could never really delete anything from the internet. If anyone was going to print a sexy photo, it would definitely be Daichi.
Suga raised his head and balanced the envelope on his knees, surveying it critically. It really didn’t look like much. That seemed like Daichi too—discreet. Well, relatively speaking. More discreet than a pink envelope covered in hearts or something. If Daichi had taken those photos, and printed them, and brought them to school, presumably it was because he’d intended to give them to someone, right? Who? Who on earth could he possibly have wanted to see him like that? Did he have a secret girlfriend? Why hadn’t he said anything about her to Suga and Asahi? What were the other pictures in the envelope like? Oh—no. No. That was not a question Suga needed to be asking himself.
He popped the flap open. From the sounds of it, Suga was now the sole club member who had not yet seen the pictures. It was only fair. Besides, he would have to talk to Daichi about it, so he ought to know what he was dealing with first.
He peaked at the top photo again, the shirtless one. Daichi really hadn’t been kidding when he said he was a bad photographer. The picture was all blurry. Too bad , thought Suga, and then Koushi, no . Very, very carefully, he pushed a finger between the top photo and the one below, and glanced at it, just glanced, only for a second. Oh wow. It was still… okay. Hmm. That was. Well, he had seen Daichi naked before, during training camps and things, not that he had really looked, but there were certain things you just couldn’t help seeing, weren’t there? Except that at training camp, Daichi had never been quite so… hmm. Quite so… impassioned…?
There were two or three more photos underneath, but at this point it finally occurred to Suga that he was skipping practice to stare at sexy pictures of his best friend in the club room, which was not very vice-captainly behaviour. He smoothed the envelope firmly shut, walked over to his bag, and tucked it deep in the most secure pocket, where it could not possibly fall out. Then, after he had forced himself to spend a minute thinking the coldest, most boring thoughts he could conjure up, he went back to the gym and tried to pretend nothing had happened.
“Everyone seemed so weird today,” Daichi complained after practice, when they were walking home together. It was just the two of them; Asahi, for once, had been the one wanting to stay late for extra practice.
“Oh?” said Suga. He thought, you have to tell him.
“You didn’t notice? The first-years were all quiet. All of them. They’re never quiet. I don’t think I heard Kageyama call Hinata a dumbass once.”
“Hmm,” said Suga. He thought, you HAVE to tell him.
“See? Even you’re acting weird. Normally you’d say oh, it must be a full moon, or something like that.”
“The moon?” said Suga. He thought, YOU HAVE TO TELL HIM.
“Yeah, you—look, do you need something from your bag? We can stop.”
“Your bag. You keep putting your hand in it.”
Suga hadn’t even noticed, but he’d been digging around in his bag every few minutes to make sure he could still feel the envelope at the bottom, paranoid that it somehow managed to fall out. Now he jerked his hand out and shoved it in his pocket. “Ha! Sorry. I—thought I might have lost my keys.”
“Oh. Well, did you?”
“Did you lose your keys?”
“Oh—oh! No. They were under”—your sexy pictures—“um, my lunch box.” Suga made himself smile, and Daichi’s frown relaxed a bit.
“That’s good. Your mom wouldn’t be too happy.” They’d reached the intersection where they parted ways, Suga heading east, Daichi north. Daichi cleared his throat, and this time it was his turn to fiddle unnecessarily with his own bag, checking the clips that they both knew he’d fastened securely, sliding the strap around over his shoulder. “Um… did you want to come over? My parents won’t be home till late tonight.”
Suga wasn’t exactly sure why Daichi thought he would care about that—he’d spent plenty of time at Daichi’s house with and without his parents around—but, conveniently, it did provide the perfect opportunity for a nice, private, debilitatingly awkward conversation that Suga was dreading with every fibre of his being. Suga told himself he ought to get it over with now. Suga told himself that putting it off wouldn’t make it any easier. Suga told himself Daichi was the one who’d been stupid here, for once, so Suga shouldn’t be the one feeling awkward about it. Suga told himself that the sooner he got the gruesome details about Daichi’s secret and apparently torrid love life, the sooner he could go home, cry about it a bit, and then get over himself.
Suga looked at Daichi and steeled himself to say sure, I’ll come over, and by the way, we need to talk. He opened his mouth.
He said, “Sorry, but I have to, ah…. wash my hair tonight, so… ”
Daichi stared at him. He looked at Suga’s hair. He frowned. “You… what?”
“Anyway, I’ll see you tomorrow,” said Suga, and while Daichi was still too stunned to protest, he hurried off.
He could feel his phone buzzing in his bag as he walked the rest of the way home on his own, presumably as Daichi texted him demanding to know when washing his hair had become an all-night activity, perhaps punctuated by a few pointed jokes about Suga starting to take after Seijoh’s notoriously vane team captain. When Suga got home, he greeted his mom as casually as he could manage, then darted into his room, where he stuck his phone in his desk drawer so he could ignore it properly. Then he pulled the envelope out of his bag and stared at it. Where to put it? His mom, bless her, had a nasty habit of coming through and “just tidying things up a little,” which was absolutely the last thing he needed right now. In the end, he stuffed the envelope deep inside his pillowcase, smoothed out his bedding, and went downstairs to help with dinner.
Later in the evening, when he’d excused himself to his room for the ostensible purpose of homework, Suga flopped out on his bed and stared up at his ceiling, wincing at the slight crinkle of paper as his head hit the pillow. Tomorrow… he would absolutely have to deal with this tomorrow. Oh, it was such a mess. He’d have to talk to the team… Noya and Tanaka especially, they should never have been flashing the pictures around like that… he thought he ought to tell Coach Ukai too, or at least Takeda-sensei, because Daichi was the captain and it was totally inappropriate, such a bad example… but if he told them then Daichi would get in so much trouble, and it would be such a terrible way to end his high school run with the club… but what would the team think, Daichi was the captain , this was a mess…
Suga wondered what Daichi’s secret girlfriend was like. There had to be a girlfriend—Daichi wouldn’t go around giving people pictures like that unless he was really serious. Then again, Suga hadn’t thought Daichi would ever do this kind of thing in the first place, so maybe he didn’t know Daichi as well as he’d thought. Was the girlfriend pretty? Oh, definitely, she had to be. Daichi was so handsome. He could probably date any girl in the whole school. And did she send Daichi sexy pictures too? Had they…?
Stop it, Suga told himself firmly. Don’t agonize. Do your English homework.
He sat up, and tugged his schoolbag onto his bed. He opened his textbook. Then, hastily, as if doing it fast enough would let him trick himself, he pulled the envelope out of his pillowcase and dumped out all the photos.
Most of them weren’t actually that bad, more suggestive than outright explicit. Most of them. Suga rubbed the back of his neck, his throat suddenly dry. Wow. He’d known Daichi had put on a lot of muscle since first year, but…
His eyes went to what was indisputably intended to be the sexiest of the sexy pictures, and he thought back to what Hinata had been saying when Suga had first walked into the club room—that’s, like, big, isn’t it? Ha. Well. Hinata was certainly right about that. Suga fought a slightly hysterical urge to laugh. He’d always thought Daichi’s shoulders were the most impressive part of his anatomy, but now he stood corrected. Suga touched his fingers to his mouth, and remembered absently how his dentist had commented once that he had an unusually narrow jaw and a very robust gag reflex. Even if Daichi had been interested in guys, he and Suga were probably fundamentally incompatible.
English homework. Right. He put the photos away and stuffed the envelope back in his pillowcase, pressing his palms to his cheeks in a futile effort to cool his blush. He spent a while staring blankly at his textbook. Then he put the textbook away and took the photos out again, sprawling out on the bed, letting the pictures sit on his chest, where it felt like each one was burning a hole through his shirt. He let his hand rest on his stomach and thought, what if Daichi had given those to me, instead of his secret girlfriend … Daichi would have been so red as he handed the envelope over… maybe that was why he had cropped his face out of all the photos, because he’d been blushing so badly, yes, Suga could definitely picture it… and when you gave someone pictures like that, you sort of expected the recipient to, well, to use them, right? So Daichi would be at home in his room, thinking about Suga, thinking about how Suga was at home in his room, looking through the pictures, and…
Okay, so Daichi hadn’t actually given him the pictures, but it wasn’t hurting anyone just to imagine it, and no one had to know if he…
Suga thought a big, hard, cold NOPE and rolled over onto his stomach, crushing the pictures under him, pinning both his hands under his chin to keep them from wandering. He dedicated a solid fifteen minutes to thinking the most unsexy thoughts available to him—the vice-principal’s wig, cold raw meat, maths exams, the way the bus smelled packed with twelve sweaty boys after an away game, the bitter disappointment of being benched for Kageyama and pretending he didn’t mind. Once he no longer felt himself to be in danger of imminent combustion, he put the photos away for good, stuck them back in his school bag, finished his English homework, and went to bed.
Noya and Tanaka were oddly subdued during morning practice, which made them easy to corner during clean-up. Hinata hadn’t given any names when he’d mentioned the second-years joking around, but he hadn’t needed to. Suga had a very informed guess as to the identities of the ringleaders.
“Coming, Suga?” Daichi asked, waiting at the gym door.
“In a minute,” said Suga. He looked at Daichi and then looked away, very pointedly not thinking about last night. “I just need to talk to these two.”
Tanaka’s face went white, and Noya fidgeted, clearly uncomfortable. Daichi narrowed his eyes at them, his terrifying captain scowl threatening to materialize. “Why? What did they do?”
“Nothing, nothing,” Suga lied, waving a dismissive hand and shooting Daichi what he hoped was a reassuring smile. “I just need a quick word. Don’t worry about it.”
“Well… okay,” Daichi said. He hesitated a moment longer, still looking at the second-years with suspicion, but finally he said, “I’ll see you in class,” and left.
The second he was gone, Suga’s smile dropped. “You two. Outside. Now.”
“ Shit ,” whispered Noya. They slunk out of the gym behind him.
When they were far enough away that the chances of Coach Ukai or Takeda-sensei overhearing them seemed slim, Suga stopped and rounded on the two of them, only to find that they were both already on their knees in the dirt, their heads pressed to the ground in a matched set of deeply contrite bows.
“Please don’t yell at us, Suga-san!” Tanaka begged.
“We’re really sorry! We know we messed up!” said Noya.
Suga stared at them. This… wasn’t what he had expected. They’d been cackling over the photos all day on Monday and heckling Daichi all through practice, and they’d been giggling all day yesterday, and at no point had either of them shown the slightest sign of remorse. What on earth had happened?
“Well… good,” he said, somewhat weakly. He took a second to reorient himself and made his voice stern. “Showing those pictures around was really disrespectful. Daichi is your captain, and your upperclassman, and your friend . What were you thinking?”
“I wasn’t thinking! I’m stupid! Come on, Suga-san, you know that!” Noya said frantically. “It was my fault, I was surprised, I just thought it was funny—Daichi-san’s always so responsible, you know?”
Suga found himself nodding in agreement, and forced himself to stop.
“Asahi-san already told us off,” Tanaka said glumly. “We’re really, really sorry.”
“Good, because—” Suga blinked, and mentally rewound what Tanaka had just said. “I’m sorry, Asahi did what? ”
“He told us off,” said Tanaka. “After practice yesterday.”
“Our Azumane Asahi?”
“Yeah, he was really mad,” said Tanaka. “It was scary.”
“Yeah, especially ‘cause he looked like he was gonna cry the whole time, so it was really awkward, too,” said Noya. He shuddered.
Suga tried to picture Asahi telling anyone off. During practice last week Ennoshita had hit a ball right into the back of Asahi’s head by accident, and Asahi had been the one who apologized, as if it was his fault for being in the way. Asahi had told them off? Really? Suga would never have guessed he had it in him.
“Well… good,” Suga said again, his composure thoroughly shaken for the second time in only a few minutes. “I don’t want to hear anything more about it, alright?”
Tanaka and Noya nodded, looking relieved.
“And you can apologize to the captain yourselves,” Suga added.
“Suga-san! You can’t make us do that!” Noya yelped. “He’ll kill us! Please don’t make us do that!”
“Maybe you should have thought of that ahead of time,” said Suga, trying not to sound too smug.
He had to run to make it to class on time after that, sliding into his seat behind Daichi just in time and avoiding the questioning look Daichi sent him. Talking to Noya and Tanaka had been the easy part—much easier than he’d expected, thanks to Asahi, even though he could still hardly believe that Asahi, Asahi , their Asahi had actually given them a dressing-down. The next part would be harder, because the next part was Daichi.
“Let’s eat outside today,” Suga suggested.
Daichi stared at him. “Uh… it’s raining.”
“The walkway by the gym is covered,” Suga said firmly. “We should talk.”
“Okay! Okay. Yeah, sure. We can talk.” Daichi had a weird expression on his face, conveying some emotion Suga couldn’t quite identify. He looked—nervous? Excited? Sort of the way he looked before a big match. He certainly didn’t look like someone worried about the whereabouts of certain salacious photographs that had been carelessly abandoned on the floor of the club room. But he had to have noticed that they were missing by now…
They walked out to the gym in silence and sat down on the steps, which were narrow enough that Daichi’s knee kept distractingly bumping Suga’s thigh. “So? What did you want to talk about?” asked Daichi. Was Suga imagining it, or did he sound weirdly hopeful?
“Daichi,” Suga began, and then stopped. He’d spent a long time thinking about what he was going to say, but now that he actually had to start saying it, he found that he couldn’t. Luckily, he had a backup plan. He pulled the envelope out of his pocket and presented it to Daichi without another word.
The envelope seemed like it ought to speak for itself, so Suga was kind of annoyed when Daichi just stared at it blankly and said, “What is this?”
“Oh, come on. You know what it is,” said Suga.
Suga had expected mortification, horror, anger, something. He had not expected Daichi to pop the envelope open and shake the photos out into his lap. Daichi picked one up, squinted at it, twitched with surprise, and said, “Oh my God. These are—”
“Yep,” said Suga.
“Wow,” said Daichi. He picked up another photo and stared at it. His face had gone a little red, but only a little, which was unnerving. Was he really not embarrassed? If the circumstances were reversed, Suga would have been dead on the ground by now. Daichi glanced at Suga, his expression uncertain. “Um. Do you… did someone… give these to you?”
“The second-years found them in the club room. The… the whole team’s seen them by now,” said Suga. He knew it was Daichi’s own fault, but still, he couldn’t help feeling bad breaking the news.
But, weirdly, Daichi relaxed at this, and all he said was, “Oh yeah?”
Suga stared at him. “What do you mean, oh yeah? Aren’t you even a little embarrassed?”
Daichi stared back at him. “No…? Should I be…?”
“I—yes! You should be! I would be! They’re your pictures!”
“Huh? They are?” said Daichi. He inspected the envelope again, as if expecting to see his name scrawled across it somewhere. Then his head snapped up and his eyes widened as he stared at Suga. “Wait a minute—you think I’m in these pictures?”
“Well—yes!” said Suga. This conversation wasn’t going at all the way he’d expected. To hide his confusion, he grabbed the shirtless picture and tapped the jacket that Hinata had pointed out to him yesterday. “It’s obvious. That’s your captain’s jacket. And your volleyball. And the pictures were in the club room. And—your shoulders—well, it’s you! Of course it’s you!”
To Suga’s deep discomfort, Daichi held up that picture, the one in which absolutely everything was on slightly blurry display. “You think this is me,” Daichi said flatly.
Was it more awkward to look at the picture, or to make it obvious that he wasn’t looking? Suga settled for looking at Daichi instead, and found Daichi staring at him in utter amazement. For the first time, Suga’s rock-solid certainty wavered. “Yes…?” he said. “I mean… isn’t it?”
“Oh my God,” Daichi said again. “Okay. Look. Look at the picture. See his hip?” Suga looked, and tried to focus on the guy’s hip. It just looked like a regular old hip, nothing special, particularly when you considered what else was nearby. Then Daichi hooked a thumb through the waistband of his uniform pants and dragged it down a few inches, exposing his own bare hip, which bore a big, dark scar.
“Ran into a fence when I was five,” said Daichi, hiking his pants back up. “This guy”—he waved the picture—“clearly didn’t.”
“Oh,” Suga said faintly. He’d never noticed the scar before. It was always covered when Daichi was dressed, and he tried not to stare when they bathed together at training camps. But Daichi was right. The hips of the naked guy in the photo bore no signs of a high-speed fence collision.
“Suga. All the Karasuno club jackets look basically identical. And you don’t exactly need a license to buy a volleyball. Besides, you’ve seen me naked before. I don’t look anything like that!”
“Well… the shoulders…”
“Okay, I don’t look much like that,” Daichi conceded. He shook his head. “I can’t believe you really thought… I mean, look at all the crap on this guy’s bed. He didn’t even bother to clear it off first.”
“I’m sorry, are you offended because I assumed you would take sexy pictures in a messy room?” Suga asked in disbelief.
“Kind of, yeah,” said Daichi, frowning at the pictures. “He didn’t make his bed, either, see? What a slob.”
Suga laughed. He was overcome by a wave of relief so powerful it made him feel lightheaded, so powerful he didn’t even have room left to feel ashamed of himself, or not much room left, anyway. “You’re right. What was I thinking?”
“Were you thinking? Does this really seem like the kind of thing I would do?”
“I know, I know. I’m really sorry.” Daichi didn’t seem mad, though, which was incredible, and far more than Suga deserved.
“You’ve been spending too much time around Kageyama, haven’t you? You’re catching his stupid.” Daichi pressed his knee against Suga’s in a way that meant don’t worry, we’re cool. Then he looked back at the pictures and said thoughtfully, “Smart of our guy to print these, though. If you send stuff like this over the internet, it could end up anywhere—what are you laughing for? It’s true—”
“Oh, nothing. I’m sure our national postal service will appreciate my business next time I need to send someone sexy photos. Not very smart of our guy to leave them lying around our club room, though,” Suga pointed out. He had no idea how the envelope had gotten in their room, but he supposed it wouldn’t have been hard for it to slip under the door somehow. All the club rooms were in the same building, so really, anyone could have dropped it. He probably should have considered that earlier.
“Ah… right,” said Daichi. He coughed. “So. The whole club really—”
“Yeah. Um. Don’t worry, I can talk to them about it.”
“No, it’s fine, I’ll handle it.”
“You’re really not upset?”
“Nah,” said Daichi, and Suga was once again amazed—amazed, and more than a little jealous—at how Daichi seemed to carry the same levelheadedness he showed during games with him throughout every other aspect of his life.
They ate their lunches in companionable silence for a while, although Daichi continued to look pensive. Eventually, he set his lunch aside and said, “I can’t get over how massive that guy’s dick is.”
Suga snorted. Now that he knew the pictures weren’t of Daichi, they did seem kind of funny; mostly, of course, he was just happy that Daichi had gone from his brief stint as a mysterious and slightly brainless sex god right back to being regular old Daichi, who never got mad at Suga even when he approached Kageyama levels of stupidity, who cracked jokes with him, who kept his room impeccable and didn’t trust the internet. The profound sense of relief was presumably what tricked him into letting his guard down, because what slipped out next, before he’d had a chance to think any better of it, was, “I know, right? Can you imagine trying to fit that thing in your mouth?”
Daichi laughed, and then said, “Wait, what?”
“Hypothetically,” Suga said quickly. “If you were a girl.”
Daichi was kind enough to accept Suga’s scrambled attempt at a cover-up without question. “If I were a girl, I wouldn’t let that thing anywhere near me,” he said with a shudder, and, blessedly, that seemed to be the end of it.
“I still can’t picture you telling someone off, Asahi,” said Daichi, shaking his head as he walked down the hill with Suga and Asahi after practice.
“Um, we don’t really need to talk about it—”
“You act all soft, but you’re just like a big mama bear when one of your friends is in trouble, aren’t you? Defending our captain’s maidenly modesty all on your own?” said Suga. He slapped Asahi on the back, and Asahi shuddered. “Noya said he thought you might cry, though. Maybe work on that for next time.”
“I wasn’t going to cry! You guys always say that! I don’t cry that much!” Asahi protested.
“Really?” said Daichi. “I seem to recall something to do with a dropped ice cream…”
“First-year math exam,” said Suga.
“Net pole to the ankle.”
“Stepped on a beetle.”
“That second-year girl asking you out.”
“Your mom yelled at you.”
“Our upperclassmen said your serve looked good—”
“You guys are mean,” Asahi said, giving them a deeply wounded look.
“Aw, are we? Do you need a tissue?” said Suga. He grinned and looped his arm through Asahi’s, butting his head against Asahi’s shoulder; the days when he could reach over and put Asahi in a friendly headlock were long behind him, now that Asahi towered over both him and Daichi. “You big softie—you know we love you.”
“I’m going to catch my train,” Asahi huffed, but he seemed slightly mollified as he waved and headed off.
“One day you’ll actually make him cry, and then you’ll feel bad,” said Daichi. “In fact, I bet you’ll cry too, and then I’ll have to comfort both of you.”
“Well, you are our captain…”
“Your captain. Not your mom. Hey, want to stop at Sakanoshita? I’ll buy.”
“Can’t say no to that,” said Suga happily. Ah, he felt so good this afternoon, worn out and hungry from practice, the cool air biting at his face, Daichi beside him. He thought back an hour ago, delighting over the memory of the team’s faces when Daichi had gathered them up in the club room and said with profound exasperation I can’t believe I have to say this, but those naked pictures you’ve all been gaping over aren’t mine, alright? And then the expressions of utter dismay when Daichi had proceeded to use the incident as an opportunity to launch into a lecture, covering not only the necessity of respecting each other’s privacy but also a stern reminder to take sex seriously… the first-years had looked traumatized, and Asahi had been so red that Suga had started to worry he might pass out…
The bench outside Sakanoshita was empty, so Daichi handed Suga his meat bun and sat down. It was really too cold to be sitting out, but Daichi always ran hot, and Suga was in too good a mood to mind when he started to shiver.
“I still can’t believe you and Asahi fell for that,” Daichi muttered around a mouthful of meat bun, and Suga didn’t have to ask what he meant. “I mean, the underclassmen, fine, but you two have known me for three years! What would I even do with pictures like that?”
“Distribute them to the masses for promotional purposes?” Suga guessed, and ducked the swat Daichi aimed at him. “Kidding! Naturally, I assumed you had a super-secret girlfriend.”
“Right, naturally,” said Daichi, rolling his eyes.
Suga didn’t want to ruin his good mood, but he still couldn’t stop himself from pointing out, “You were awfully cagey when Asahi asked you about girls on Monday.”
“I—well. I meant it. There’s—” Daichi coughed, as if to clear a piece of bun out of his throat. “There’s no girl.”
“Alright,” said Suga. He picked a bit of dough off his bun and rolled it between his fingers, suddenly less hungry.
They sat in silence for a few minutes, Daichi starting on his second bun, Suga switching his first from hand to hand so he could alternate warming his fingers between his thighs.
“Those pictures,” Daichi said abruptly. “What—what did you really think of them?”
Suga stared at him, remembered what he’d thought about last night when he was flipping through them in his bedroom, tried to stop remembering, failed spectacularly, and felt his face start to burn. “What do you mean?” he asked, to buy himself time.
“Well—you thought they were me,” said Daichi. Oddly enough, he’d started to go red now too. He was so weird. At lunch he’d been fine, in front of the team he’d been fine, and now he was embarrassed?
“Yes…” Suga said slowly.
“Were you—um—grossed out?”
Oh, no. What on earth was he supposed to say to that ? It seemed rude to say yes, not to mention dishonest, but he wasn’t entirely confident he could say no without totally giving away what exactly his thoughts had been. It had been bad enough when he’d slipped up and made that stupid joke at lunch, but—
“Um,” said Suga, trying to stall in the desperate hope that panic might catalyze the synthesis of an appropriately vague and noncommittal answer. “Grossed out? Well—I wouldn’t say—I wouldn’t say grossed out, but…”
Daichi dropped his half-eaten bun back in its paper bag and drew his legs up onto the bench, sitting cross-legged so he could face Suga. He’d gone redder than Suga had ever seen him before, redder even than Asahi could usually manage, and Asahi had basically perfected blushing into an art form. Daichi coughed again and said, “Because—to be honest—if I was going to take pictures like that, the only person I would want to see them would be—um—you.”
Suga stared at him.
Daichi steepled his hands together and pressed them to his mouth. “That… sounded better in my head,” he admitted.
“Hang on,” said Suga. Maybe he really did need his hearing tested. “You don’t mean… but… you said there wasn’t…”
“I said there wasn’t a girl,” Daichi mumbled.
“Oh,” Suga said faintly. So he had been telling the truth. There was no girl. Because there was a boy. And the boy was him. “Oh… my God.”
“It’s fine if you don’t feel the same way,” Daichi said quickly. “I don’t want to make things weird. I shouldn’t have brought up the picture thing. I just thought—it seemed like maybe—obviously, I respect your—”
“Daichi, shut up,” said Suga, grabbing both of his hands, his face breaking into a smile so huge he worried his face might end up stuck like that—but so what, who cared, who cared? Daichi liked him. Daichi liked him—him! And Daichi was looking at Suga’s hands, at his smile, and smiling tentatively back. “The only thing stopping me from kissing you right this second is the fact that Coach Ukai is watching us through the store window.”
Daichi whipped around to look back at Sakanoshita, where their coach was indeed frowning at them from behind the counter. He looked more bored than anything, but still, Suga didn’t particularly want his first ever kiss with Daichi memorialized by their volleyball coach.
“So—what you’re saying,” Daichi said slowly, “is that we should… go somewhere else.”
“Excellent idea,” said Suga.
“My parents are going to be out late again tonight,” said Daichi. “Ah—not that—you know—but—”
Suga squeezed Daichi’s hands tight to get him to shut up. His cheeks were starting to hurt from smiling, but he didn’t see himself stopping any time soon. He slung his bag over his shoulder and got to his feet, Daichi scrambling up beside him. Suga thought about trying to take his hand, but he wasn’t quite brave enough yet, not out in the middle of the street where anyone could see them. Instead, he settled for bumping his shoulder against Daichi’s as he said, “Sounds good to me, captain.”
“Daichi! Hey, Daichi, wait up!” called Suga, but Daichi didn’t even slow down, much less turn to look at him. Maybe he hadn’t heard Suga calling him, but he wasn’t all that far ahead of Suga, and classes had been finished for a while now, so the school hallway was practically empty. Suga put on a burst of speed to catch up, grabbed the back of his jacket, and—
“Ahh!” cried Hayashi, flinching away from Suga in surprise. “What the—Sugawara? Huh?”
“I’m so sorry!” gasped Suga. He jerked his hand away. “I thought you were Daichi. From the back, you guys look—”
It hit him with the superhuman force of one of Oikawa’s infamous jump serves, and suddenly he thought he understood how Hinata felt every time he took a ball to the face. Hayashi—and Daichi—the shoulders—and Daichi had said Hayashi kept forgetting the keys to the basketball club room—
“Oh my God,” said Suga. It took every ounce of his willpower to keep his eyes on Hayashi’s face and not let them wander… elsewhere. “Oh my God.”
“You okay, man?” asked Hayashi, looking concerned.
Suga jammed a hand into his bag and dug around until he felt the sharp corner of the envelope. Once he’d discovered the photos weren’t of Daichi, he hadn’t really known what to do with them, and with everything that had happened yesterday, well, he’d ended up… distracted, to say the least. He tugged the envelope free and waved it in front of Hayashi. “Is this yours?”
Hayashi gaped at him. Then, to Suga’s surprise, he seemed to sag with relief. “Fuck, man, you found my pictures? Thank God. Holy shit. Dude, I was totally freaking out.”
“I think you dropped the envelope in our club room,” said Suga.
Hayashi took the envelope from him and crammed it precariously into one of the outer pockets of his bag. “Sugawara, man, I owe you big-time. If one of the teachers found it, fuck, I’d been in so much shit.”
“No problem,” said Suga. He hesitated. The polite thing to do was leave the matter at that and walk away, but he had to know, he just had to. “Ah… I’m sorry, but can I ask why exactly you printed out a bunch of naked pictures of yourself and brought them to school? Just curious.”
Hayashi laughed and rubbed the back of his head. He didn’t seem all that embarrassed. “Ha, well, when you put it like that, it sounds kinda stupid, huh? See, I kinda had this thing going with Yua, y’know, from 3-B? But her family, like, just moved to Orlando—or like, maybe it was Ontario, I can never remember? One of those South American states. I really miss her, man.”
Hayashi looked so glum that Suga couldn’t help feeling a little bad for him. “I’m sorry. That sounds tough.”
“Thanks, man. But, y’know, we’re gonna write and stuff,” said Hayashi, and Suga couldn’t help thinking of the contents of the envelope and wondering how much actual writing their correspondence was going to involve. “I guess I could’ve, like, emailed the pictures or something? I just dunno if they have internet in Oklahoma. ‘Cause it’s like, pretty rural, right? Like, a lot of corn, man, a lot of corn.”
“Right. I have heard that corn interferes with wi-fi signals,” said Suga, nodding. He had to clench his jaw to keep from cracking a grin. Daichi was going to lose it when he heard this. “Besides, once you put something on the internet, you never know where it’ll end up.”