“It’s… He has that kind of thing about him. You know that.” Atsumu gestures wildly, hands splayed open and drawing senselessly in the air. His fresh-out-of-bed hair makes him look even more confused.
“I don’t. Food’s getting cold.”
“Like- like when you close your eyes and you still see neon lights.”
Osamu rests his chopsticks on the brim of his bowl, and looks at Atsumu like he is possessed. Which is not completely off the table, considering how he has discovered how to use similes, apparently, and decided ass-o’clock-before-practice would be the perfect opportunity to demonstrate it. The timing is rather unfortunate – on any other occasion, Osamu would not waste two seconds to mock the shit out of his brother – but here, in the first stages of the morning and still dizzy with sleepiness, all he can do is his best at understanding whatever Atsumu is aiming for.
“Y’know. That time we were eight and went to Dotonbori and we just couldn’t stop staring at all the-”
Atsumu pauses, almost hiccups, and opts to frown deeply instead of going wherever he was going with that. Sour expression officially, he contemplates his own pair of chopsticks and wonders how easy it would be to attempt suicide using them.
“What’s gotten into you?”
Now, Osamu knows where this is going – has known for years. If Atsumu’s odd eagerness to hand out water bottles to their seniors on their first year at Inarizaki was anything to go by, Osamu has been let in this secret exactly two years ago; before his brother even noticed there was a secret to discuss in the first place. It doesn’t come as a surprise. What is shocking, however, is that Atsumu thinks the best way to put a name on the puppy eyes he makes around Shinsuke is through some anecdote involving a trip to Osaka from ten years ago.
“Come on, tell me about the crappy neon lights. All I can remember is how much takoyaki we ate that weekend.”
“Fuck off, Samu.” The tone of finality has the old sharp edge, always the prelude to harsher words and a punch or two. Osamu can’t do much besides acknowledging it.
They finish eating in silence. After leaving the kitchen, Atsumu slams the door on his way to the bathroom just to make a statement. Closing his eyes for a few seconds, Osamu slides his fingers in circles around his eyes, thinking it is too fucking early to deal with Atsumu’s Kita-Shinsuke-awakening and whatever gigantic poetic bullshit he was trying to squeeze in.
Osamu has a clear memory of the time he discovered the existence of specks of dust.
He was ten years old; the Miya were visiting his mother’s distant cousin, who should be called ‘auntie’ and spoke with the same monotone and sharp consonants he came to associate with Suna Rintarou years later. At some point during the weekend, when Atsumu was taking a well-earned nap and Osamu was bored out of his mind, he decided wandering around the house was the best entertainment he would get until his brother woke up.
Naked feet feeling the soft texture of the floor in slow steps, he chanced upon an open door, some clarity coming from inside the room. He slid the door further, his small hands extended and splayed open. Osamu couldn’t remember if that was his auntie’s room or not: the walls were full with books, souvenirs with foreign names written on them, too many photographs hanging on the wall to his left. Although he was alone, Osamu couldn’t help but think that there was definitely something else besides him inside that room – too many objects glinting under the late afternoon to prompt nothing but a feeling of being observed.
What really caught his attention, however, was the sunlight rippling from the old window on the wall to his right. It looked like it was dancing its way from the sky to the table, almost creating sparks. Osamu took a couple of steps, hesitant. Upon closer inspection, he was able to see tiny, insignificant dots floating aimlessly, circling around and drawing surreal shapes only to disappear again as soon as they were not under sunlight’s care anymore.
He remembers staying there for seamless minutes, perhaps until the end of that summer.
(Years later, Osamu is fifteen and it happens all over again when Kita-san praises Atsumu’s volleyball skills. Just like that, his brother is nothing but a mote pirouetting under the sun.)
Nowadays, they don’t meet up as much as they used to, and not nearly enough to anoint Atsumu’s soul for good. Which makes every encounter absolutely painful for Osamu, who has been granted first line tickets to ‘Atsumu is still a dumbass in his 20s’; and simultaneously interesting for Rintarou, who has taken a liking to luring Osamu into betting on the ways Atsumu will put his foot in his own mouth and go through at least seven different shades of red under Shinsuke’s unwavering gaze.
“Your hair looks better like this, Atsumu.” Shinsuke points out. Rintarou shifts in his seat and smirks at Osamu.
“Ah- Yeah. Thanks.” Atsumu considers himself above stuttering as a concept, still his words come out garbled at best.
Despite all of Shinsuke’s unadorned and candid remarks, they have yet to find out if he knows about, as Rintarou calls it, ‘his brother’s massive hard on for that guy’ or not. Rationally speaking, Osamu refuses to believe he doesn’t. Knowing is Kita Shinsuke’s core trait; he doesn’t need to find, he doesn’t need to wonder. Like the sun, by dint of understanding its path – past, present, and future; and every other possible outcome – he just is.
Yet, on nights like this, Osamu can’t help but question all the faith he has on Shinsuke’s perception.
Whatever conversation Atsumu managed to bring to life after getting his honestly terrible hair complimented quiets down suddenly. He knocks back the rest of his bear, announces loudly he intends to get a new one, and disappears to the kitchen. Shinsuke smiles, a timeless picture of politeness, and answers with a hum that is not fast enough to reach Atsumu. Rintarou, ever the pleasant host, throws a glance at Osamu that clearly says ‘you’ll pay for anything he breaks in there’ and ‘I won tonight’. Osamu swears he doesn’t remember when their communication became so obnoxious.
“Is everything alright with him?” Shinsuke asks, so softly it almost sounds like he didn’t mean to say it out loud.
Osamu snaps out of his staring contest with Rintarou, and turns to the kitchen entrance. He can’t see his brother moving around, of course, because he knows for a fact that he is sitting on the floor, next to the fridge, upset at his own helplessness.
“Is there anything on your mind, Kita?” Rintarou’s tone is innocent, as if he isn’t fishing for information like Osamu knows he is.
Shinsuke fidgets, suddenly unsure of how to use his hands. Trying his best to avoid frowning, he ends up looking flimsy instead.
“Ah… I- We all know how Atsumu tends to be… corybantic sometimes.”
Osamu tries to make sense of it and fails spectacularly. He looks at Rintarou again, hoping to be granted the gift of wisdom through a glance only – needless to say, no miracle happens.
“Sorry about it. I’ll make sure he doesn’t act… coriandic around you.”
Shinsuke gives him a curious look and hums softly.
“That’s alright. I should probably just tell…”
He trails off, chin on his right hand, elbow resting on the coffee table. His eyebrows do something very subtle and very complicated, discreet even in its turmoil. The other two wait for uncomfortable seconds, until it becomes very clear Shinsuke is not resuming that thought; and possibly regretting having said anything at all. Rintarou pours sake on their unfinished cups, trying to bring some normality back after he noticed Osamu tensing up from all the words soaring around the room.
Osamu feels capable of committing a crime right then. To reach the bottom of it all; to feel the truth is tangible; to have the right to mock his brother for being but a mote in the sun. To find out if Shinsuke has ever wondered how far his reach goes when Atsumu is concerned.
“Ah. Sure.” He says instead, right when Atsumu is making his way back from Rintarou’s kitchen.
Osamu wakes up too early – neck sore and body unused to Shinsuke’s guest futon. The other futon beside him is an orderly mess, confirming that Atsumu did the bare minimum before going out for his morning run. He hopes Rintarou is somewhere under the four blankets near the wall. Still sleepy but unable to ignore his dry throat now that he is awake, Osamu gets up to grab himself a glass of water. The world is early-cold, pale glow draping around the corridor making him squint his eyes.
Shinsuke’s home is very much like its owner: traditional, simple decoration and welcoming large rooms, clean to a fault. Although their schedules don’t allow them to go back to Hyogo as often as they would like to, Osamu, Atsumu, and Rintarou are yet to deny an invitation to stay over. Shinsuke, always the sensible soul, only ever makes one when he knows it will not get in the way of anyone’s schedule.
Before his feet can touch the tatami of the living room, Osamu freezes mid step in the corridor, exactly at the same moment Atsumu’s voice reaches his ears.
‘Hey, can we talk?’
He lets his body fall against the wall, breathes once and angles his head forward to peek. The living room is empty, and so is the part of the kitchen that is visible from where Osamu is. Any remains of sleepiness completely gone, he finds Atsumu and Shinsuke in the far left, sitting outside on the engawa, seemingly watching the late stages of sunrise. At least one of them is: concealing aside, Atsumu is watching someone else entirely.
‘Hey, can we talk?’
The thing about Atsumu is that in all his years living in this world, he never learned the concept behind moderation. He has two available function modes, and both of them are always the catalysts of hell breaking loose in some way – that’s why Osamu believes his brother’s crush on Shinsuke never made much sense. Even though, as expected, Atsumu makes a point of not running away, he does little else. His approach to Kita Shinsuke has always been serendipitous, unlike anything else he desired in his life. Whereas he burns with passion when any other situation is concerned; he forgets how to aim, shoot, and hit bullseye whenever Shinsuke so much as looks at him for a beat too long.
“Of course.” Osamu doesn’t know if he actually hears a tweak of fluster, victim to wishful thinking, or if Shinsuke’s voice is the same as always.
“Cool. Cool. Maybe I’ll need a minute.” Atsumu squeaks after ten seconds of dead silence, blissfully unaware that his twin brother is cursing his lack of guts in real time.
“That’s alright too.”
His answer is almost not there, it’s a miracle Osamu was able to hear it. At this point, the feeling of intruding kicks in – it’s six in the morning, he’s hiding in the corner of a wall, eavesdropping on a very personal conversation, and possibly about to witness his brother finally confessing. There’s no way of reaching the kitchen unnoticed – he did want to drink water, after all – and he knows that if goes back to their room, he will end up waking Rintarou up just so he can have some company while waiting for... something.
(There’s also the fact that, if Atsumu does confess and Shinsuke says ‘yeah, me too’, Rintarou will lose bet nº42 for getting the place wrong. Osamu is not above rubbing it in.)
“It’s just me.”
“Yeah. Yes. It’s you.”
Osamu knows he will not feel anything besides restlessness for the rest of his life. His legs are starting to ache from the odd position, knees bending but not enough to feel comfortable; but he can see their faces clearly now, profiles against the rest of the world, as they stare at each other.
If there’s one thing that has stuck with him since that day Atsumu decided to wake up on the poetic side of his bed it’s the goddamn neon lights analogy – it’s horrific and pretentious and a disappointingly average example of Atsumu’s antics – and yet, on that day, Osamu feels like he was finally granted access to a very tiny part of Atsumu’s head that keeps the answer to one of the greatest questions of the universe.
Seconds crawl by. Shinsuke moves his right hand, reaches for Atsumu’s left, and brings it to his face, pressing lips to the open palm. He smiles and doesn’t let his eyes go anywhere else.
“Ah, I suppose it’s me, then.”
Atsumu opens his mouth once, twice, and settles for staring at his hand on another hand. Maybe his brother is his own brand of neon-lit sign, Osamu concludes – the ridiculous type, the kind you stare at for two seconds and just knows someone was scolded over it. However, when Shinsuke keeps watching Atsumu as he is right now, sunlight in his bleached hair and white joy all over his lines – dripping through his eyebrows down his nose, bleeding over his shoulders, extending from each fingertip – does it matter?
It’s officially past early, and Osamu’s throat has given up. He wouldn’t be able to talk right now either way; still, he does have to wake Rintarou up immediately, because – because, shit, how could he not?
“Is it that simple?” Atsumu asks, finally, with remarkable hesitance.
“I guess it can be.” Shinsuke answers and laughs.
On the one hand, Osamu feels proud to say this might be the happiest he’s seen Shinsuke act. On the other, he thinks as he makes his way back to the guest bedroom – over a wide smile, a dry throat, sore legs, and the crushing sense of embarrassment – it is too early for this gigantic poetic bullshit.