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san'yō expressway, 6:17 pm

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It's a road movie,
a double-feature, two boys striking out across America, while desire,
like a monster, crawls up out of the lake
with all of us watching, with all of us wondering if these two boys will
find a way to figure it out.

- Richard Siken, Driving, Not Washing

 

 

 

Sakusa Kiyoomi has one of those fussy mini vacuum cleaners for his car—the kind that plugs into the cigarette lighter, obnoxiously orange with a little flashlight on the end of it. Atsumu flips the switch a couple of times—on, off, on, off—and watches the way that Sakusa keeps his eyes fixed on his own hands where they’re whiteknuckling the steering wheel, chin tucked deep into the zipped-up collar of his bomber jacket. The dash clock ticks: 6:17 PM.

The car is small, and Sakusa’s sitting with his arms held at rigid ninety-degree angles away from his body—presumably to keep Atsumu from leaning over the center console and invading his personal space, which is exactly what Atsumu does. He thumbs the switch again, whirrrr, and touches the nozzle to the sleeve of Sakusa’s jacket where it’s hovering right in front of his face.

The vacuum hisses and grinds as it chokes on the thick fabric, bunching it tight around Sakusa’s elbow. Sakusa makes a similar sound, a strangled half-noise low in his throat as he jerks away from Atsumu and rips the wheezing vacuum out of his hands. As he wrenches the fabric out of the nozzle, his scowl is so deep that Atsumu can see the outline of it through the crinkled paper of his mask.

“Will you fucking”—Sakusa hurls the entire disaster to the floor mat beneath Atsumu’s feet, and the vacuum makes a sad little dying noise—”get out of my car.”

“You made me miss the train.” The spotless dashboard gleams in the light of the setting sun. Atsumu kicks his dusty sneakers up onto the shiny black of it and uncrumples the shinkansen ticket (DEPARTURE: 6:00 P.M.) clutched in his fist. Sakusa begins to emit poisonous gas. “I need a ride.”

“I didn’t make you do anything,” Sakusa grinds out, and Atsumu can’t see his mouth, but he knows that his teeth are clenched. “Don’t make this my problem.”

Liar. He doesn’t have to say it out loud. Atsumu presses his thumb to the evidence, flinching as his split lip throbs under the pressure. He keeps his eyes fixed on Sakusa, who refuses to look away from the steering wheel, tucks his chin deeper into his chest because, well—

“Oh, it is most definitely your problem, Omi-kun. Or did you forget about what happened with the—”

“NO,” Sakusa says loudly. “STOP.”

“Okay, then.” Atsumu lets his feet slide off of the dash. “Road trip,” he drawls, lip curling into a grin even though it stings. Sakusa glances sideways at Atsumu’s mouth once, twice, before sighing and turning the key in the ignition.

Sakusa’s barely backed the car out of the parking lot and onto the road when the thought slides down Atsumu’s spine, sharp and shocking as an ice cube, knocking the bravado straight out of him: You are in Hiroshima. You are now stuck in a car with Sakusa Kiyoomi for approximately four hours and three hundred forty-something kilometers. You are an idiot.

Has he mentioned how small this fucking car is? Even with his arms folded behind his head, Atsumu’s elbow nearly brushes Sakusa’s shoulder. There’s barely enough room for their bodies, let alone the enormous, uncomfortable cloud of tension that’s crowded into the car now, crackling and spitting between them. The proximity is—well, it’s just a lot, okay, especially when the clean, sharp, vaguely medicinal smell of Sakusa blends with the wafts of warm air from the heater and wraps itself around Atsumu’s head until he’s dizzy with it. It takes less than five minutes for Atsumu to start feeling claustrophobic and more than a little turned on.

“Miya.”

Hinoki wood and citrus and—tea tree, maybe.

Miya.

Definitely tea tree. A hint of Ocean Fresh disinfectant wipes. Atsumu is seized with the urge to lean sideways over the center console and press his nose to the side of Sakusa’s neck—and then another, more powerful urge to open the car door and roll out onto the street. Instead, Atsumu cracks open the window, sucks in chilly air through his teeth.

A sharp elbow stabs Atsumu in the side, straight into his ribcage. “Ow, fuck,” he wheezes, clutches at it. “What?”

“We’ll talk about it. I just—I need to think.” The words are clipped and toneless, like Sakusa’s forced them out of some place deep inside of his chest.

Atsumu rolls his head to the side. The profile of Sakusa’s face stands in sharp relief, backlit green-gold against the dying sun streaming through the treeline. Atsumu swallows his heart where it’s leapt into his throat, forces his mouth to curve into a shitty little smirk.

“We’re stuck in here for four hours, Omi-kun. Can I turn on the radio?”

“No.”

Atsumu does it anyway. Sakusa doesn’t stop him.

 

***

 

(Atsumu bites the inside of his cheek as he punches the ‘send’ button, trying and failing to suppress the big, nasty grin spreading across his face.

 

Me [4:31 PM]

tell me u recorded that

send it to kita-san and tell him that i personally handed suna his own ass today

Inferior Miya [4:32 PM]

[rude as fuck dump.mp4]

send it yourself, scumbag

it was a good game tho

 

It was a good game.

The dim, humid locker room thrums electric with excitement. Bokuto's drumming his still-red palms against the open door of his locker, shuffling his socked feet in a victory-drunk approximation of a two-step. He's humming something familiar, but Atsumu can't place it—he's still grinning into his empty locker, replaying the victory over and over in his mind: the familiar, fond-but-exasperated look Suna'd leveled at him from across the net as he mouthed, You're such a fucking monster. The brilliant white slash of Shouyou's smile as he crashed into Atsumu's chest, whooping, Atsumu-san, mean!

Silent Sakusa, who’d simply clenched his fingers into a pale fist. Raised it, only for a moment, before letting it fall back to his side.

"You were real scary today, Omi-kun," Atsumu says, leaning to peer around the open door of his locker. Sakusa pauses as he’s shrugging into his jacket, one sleeve dangling empty, to push a hand through his shower-damp curls and scoff.

With the white flash of Sakusa’s wrist, Atsumu’s suddenly back on the court, gawking at the way those wrists could fold in on themselves and then snap, spring-loaded and terrifying. During the game, Atsumu had watched the long line of Sakusa’s body as it twisted in midair, sweat glittering like jewels at the pale line of his temple, and something had curled low in his gut. Atsumu had written it off as excitement—he'd known from the middle of the second set that they were going to win this one—but it writhes again now as Sakusa closes his long fingers around the zipper pull of his jacket and yanks it to his chin. Maybe it’s something else. Maybe. Probably.

"Scary?" Sakusa raises his head, tilts it toward Atsumu. His face mask, dangling off of one ear, flutters against his chin. "Hm."

Then—it’s almost imperceptible, really, just the barest curve of Sakusa’s lips, a slight lift at the corners—he smiles. Atsumu feels his own mile-wide grin slide sideways off of his face and crash to the floor.

Sakusa is smiling at him. There's something gleaming in his eyes, too—something bright and impossible that zips up his spine, locks behind his knees, pinning Atsumu where he’s standing.

Sakusa hooks a finger through the dangling loop of his face mask and the smile vanishes beneath it. "You played well," he says, blunt, dispassionate, betraying exactly none of whatever is dancing in the black depths of his eyes.

On his way out of the locker room, Sakusa’s shoulder brushes Atsumu’s. It sears straight through the fabric of his t-shirt and ignites.)

 

***

 

As the car trundles onto the Shin-Hiroshima Bypass, an angel and a devil take up residence on Atsumu’s shoulders.

Atsumu-san, the angel trills. It has fiery red hair and a grin like sunbeams. Please try to be kind. Leave Sakusa-san to process his thoughts for a while. He is probably very embarrassed. Also, he could totally just leave you on the side of the road right here, and then you’d be fucked. Sorry for swearing.

Fool, hisses the devil, which looks and sounds exactly like Atsumu but with, like, horns or whatever. You’d be fucking stupid to pass up this golden opportunity to lay him low.

His bottom lip has started to swell. The split in it is raw and tender and makes Atsumu flinch when he runs his tongue over the distended curve of it, but he does it anyway, over and over. His mouth tastes like metal. His mouth tastes like—

Sakusa’s got two fingers pressed to the white skin of his throat, tapping out a nervous beat to the outdated J-pop song jangling through the speakers. His mask crinkles. The line of his jaw tightens beneath it. There’s a thin strand of sunlight caught in the deep crease between his eyebrows, threading through the dark wave of his hair.

Atsumu watches Sakusa watch the road, looking like moonlight, looking like milk glass, like a brittle shattering thing. Like the pink-gold fingers of the dying sun should pass right through him.

Neither of them knows what to say.

 

***

 

They’ve only just rolled onto the San’yō Expressway when the dam bursts and the words explode out of Atsumu’s mouth, tumbling over his lips before his brain can reel them in. Really, Sakusa should be grateful that Atsumu held out for that long.

“Pretty sure Kita-san’s granny is a better kisser than you, Omi-kun,” Atsumu jeers, then cackles in delight when Sakusa’s shoulders shoot toward his ears, spine curving inward over the steering wheel.

“That is so disgusting.”

“God, it was like—like kissin’ like a dead fish. No, wait, a corpse. No, actually, kinda like a—”

“Miya. Stop talking right now.”

Atsumu swallows the instinctual or what? that crowds behind his teeth, then keeps prodding, because while the angel on his shoulder is nice and all, he’s only ever listened to the other one.

“I’ll give you one outta five stars. Shouyou thought you punched me—look, my lip’s busted wide open—” Atsumu leans across the center console to show him and Sakusa recoils, practically hissing. The steering wheel jerks in his hands.

“I’m trying to fucking drive. Are you even dumber than you look? I told you that I didn’t want to talk about it yet.”

“I dunno. Exactly how dumb do I look, Omi-kun? Seems like you’ve been lookin’ an awful lot,” Atsumu crows. It’s nice that this, at least, hasn’t changed between them. Sakusa angles a sideways glare at Atsumu, and sure, it’s more than a little murderous, but they always are.

“I hate you.”

“You hate me, huh.” Atsumu catches the hand blindly attempting to throttle him, lightly holds the fabric bunched around Sakusa’s wrist. “You hate me. I don’t believe you.”

He thinks about the dry, hesitant touch of Sakusa’s lips to his own. Teeth click, skull rattle. A burst of blood, hot and metal over his tongue. His lip hurts like hell, yeah, but Atsumu thinks that it was worth it.

“I don’t believe you,” he says again. He’s still holding Sakusa’s wrist in his hand, cradled light and loose like a wounded bird. Sakusa lets it linger for a moment before pulling back.

Atsumu runs his tongue over his lip, tastes metal, tastes Sakusa. It was worth it, Atsumu thinks, only he actually says it out loud.

 

***

 

(Atsumu is sitting cross-legged on the hideous, swirl-patterned carpet of his hotel room, half-packed duffel bag heavy in his lap. Atsumu rubs at his shoulder again; the spot where Sakusa had brushed against him tingles like pins and needles. Atsumu balls his fists on his knees, fighting the itchy, too-tight feeling that sweeps over his skin and tugs insistently at the knot in his stomach. It’s always like this.

It started a couple of months ago, with a touch so small that Atsumu had nearly missed it: a brief, featherlight knuckle-brush against the cuff of his sweatshirt sleeve. Atsumu had swatted at it, probably said something rude like jeez, Shouyou, you could just ask me if you wanna hold my hand so bad, then turned to meet the unhappy twist of Sakusa’s mouth.

Don’t flatter yourself. I need to borrow your tape, Sakusa said, eyes rolling skyward. Anyone else would have missed the way his jaw ticked.

I want him to do that again, Atsumu had thought. Then: huh.

It should have felt momentous. To Atsumu, it certainly did—like that touch knocked the Earth off of its axis somehow, tilted everything a couple of degrees to the left, wrong and weird and, okay, he'll admit it, kinda incredible—but Sakusa had acted like it was the most normal thing in the world. Business as usual.

He keeps touching, fingers and knuckles and palms flashing white and quick through the air, blink-and-you'll-miss-it: a wide, warm palm glancing off of Atsumu's shoulderblade through his jersey, a two-handed shove in the locker room to avoid getting whipped in the face with a sweat-damp towel. Sakusa touches him like he's always done it, like he's got permission. That's what's doing Atsumu's fucking head in, shifting the plates beneath his feet: the utter normalcy of it all.

Sakusa never quite dares to touch Atsumu’s bare skin, but sometimes he’d get so close that Atsumu starts to imagine that he can feel it anyway, a pop and a sizzle like an electric shock settling warm beneath the surface of his skin and burning there. And Atsumu thinks, every time, without fail:

I want him to do that again. I want. I want I want I want. What do I want?

It’s easy enough to ignore it on the court, where the world narrows to the ball hurtling from fingers to hand to floor, where Atsumu can turn I want into I want to win. There, amid the sweat and squeaking rubber, Atsumu can grit his teeth and dig into this familiar, well-worn part of himself. It’s harder when they’re elsewhere; in the dim red lamp-glow of the izakaya around the corner from the gym, maybe, or in a hotel room like this one, where I want seems to echo off the walls and multiply until Atsumu can’t hear anything else.

Two weeks ago, way past drunk at some club in Shibuya, he’d called Osamu and mumbled a confession into the receiver, flushed scarlet with embarrassment and too much tequila. I think I might be in love with Sakusa Kiyoomi.

Osamu had sleepily sighed a burst of static into Atsumu’s ear. Oh, God. Really? Are you—you know what, I don’t care. Good luck with that one.

Atsumu shoves his duffel bag onto the floor and curls over his lap. Presses the heels of his hands to his eyes, replaying the scene from half an hour ago over and over again: the pink upward curve of Sakusa’s lips, the dark shine of his eyes. Smiling.

Atsumu springs upright. This is fine. He’s fine. It’s not like any of this matters, anyway. Sakusa could touch him a thousand times, a million times, whatever, but it doesn’t matter—Atsumu would rather die than admit to Sakusa’s face that he might be afflicted with some sort of romantic feelings for the prickliest bastard this side of the Seta.

Because this is a competition, now: someone has to say it out loud first, and it won’t be Atsumu.

It’s kind of miraculous that he’s held out this long without the feelings bursting out of his chest like that thing from Alien. It’s certainly miraculous that he’s toed the line for this long without doing something awful.

Well, he thinks as he heaves himself to his feet to open the closet, there’s still time for that. There’s no room inside of him for the smile that he saw today. If Atsumu tried to cram it into some vacant ventricle of his heart, he would explode. It would all fucking explode.

A long shadow stretches from the doorway, slants over Atsumu where he’s wrestling his jacket off of a hanger. When he looks up, Sakusa’s leaning against the doorframe, limned in yellow light.

“Miya.”)

 

***

 

The streetlights flick on along the expressway, knifing through the car in long orange strokes. He wants to examine the way that they slide over the high sloping line of Sakusa’s cheekbone, but instead Atsumu stares at his phone where it sits heavy in his lap, periodically vibrating with a reminder that he’s been ignoring Osamu’s text message for two hours now.

The radio cuts out.

Atsumu jams his phone into the pocket of his sweatshirt and leans forward to pop open the glove compartment. “You’ve gotta have an aux cord or somethin’, Omi-kun. I’m gonna go fuckin’ insane if I have to listen to you breathe for three hours.”

“Stop rifling around in my—ugh. No, but there are some CDs—yeah, those. Put the gum back.” Sakusa nods when Atsumu produces a worn green CD case and a battered pack of mint gum.

Atsumu kicks the glove compartment shut with his foot. It’s been a long hour of—well, nothing, really. The dark, empty stretch of the expressway through the windshield is a far cry from the electric spectacle of Osaka at night; there’s nothing to look at that isn’t Sakusa, nothing to talk about that wouldn’t make both of them more uncomfortable than they already are. Atsumu shoves two sticks of gum into his mouth, just to make it feel less empty.

The CD case is stuffed to bursting, two and sometimes three discs crammed into each thin plastic sleeve, gleaming silvery rainbows against the dim expressway lighting. Atsumu thumbs through them, squinting at the titles. Groans at a familiar one, sliding it out of its plastic sleeve and flapping it under Sakusa’s nose until he swats it away. “Are you serious with this? My ma listened to this when I was in, like, elementary school.”

“I like it,” Sakusa huffs. “Your mother has good taste.”

Atsumu wonders what that says about his own taste in love interests as he feeds the CD into the slot. The player hums for a moment before a bright, synth-y melody bursts through the speakers. Atsumu lets his head fall against his shoulder, forehead pressed to the cool glass of the window.

The lyrics kick in and Atsumu is eleven years old, bare feet planted against the underside of Osamu’s mattress, shoving up against it until Osamu’d rolled over to glare at him from the edge of the top bunk. Atsumu had snarled right back at him, raised his voice to shout over the loud, jangly Junko Ohashi CD their ma had been blasting from the living room. Hey, Samu. D’you think we have twin telepathy? Like we can feel what the other twin is feelin’?

No way, Osamu had said, scrubbing a hand over his sleepy eyes. You couldn’t pay me to go messin’ around with whatever garbage you’ve got for brains.

I think we do. I can feel stuff, sometimes. Like when you’re really happy my heart gets all funny.

Bullshit.

Yuh-huh, he’d whined, kicking his foot against the side of the top bunk until Osamu had grabbed him tight around the ankle. I totally—ow, let go of me—I totally felt it when Hana-chan kissed you behind the gym yesterday—ow, Samu, ow ow ow!

We do not have twin telepathy, idiot. I don’t wanna feel anything you feel. And shut up about Hana-chan.

His phone vibrates again in his pocket, glowing blue and insistent through the fabric. Atsumu cracks open an eye and slides it out, thumbing the screen to life.

 

Inferior Miya [5:28 PM]

did you just have a fucking heart attack?

 

Atsumu tilts his head to watch a slice of orange light bend over the impassive planes of Sakusa’s face. He is absolutely, ruthlessly beautiful. It makes Atsumu want to punch something—put his foot through the windshield—scream, maybe.

Kiss him again, maybe.

 

***

 

(Atsumu spares a glance at the gangly silhouette of Sakusa lurking in the doorway, then ducks his head back to the tangle of his jacket and the hanger in his hands.

“I still can’t get over it, Omi-kun,” he says. “Suna’s all pissed off. He’s been textin’ me. Said your wrists were unholy.”

“How nice of him,” Sakusa deadpans, and Atsumu hears him shuffle forward into the room, clicking the door shut behind him. “That last dump was impressive, Miya.”

Atsumu’s head snaps up so quickly that his neck twinges. That sounded suspiciously genuine. Well, flat as a fuckin’ board, considering who it’s coming from, but—it’s not computing. His eyes narrow.

The moles over Sakusa’s eyebrow contort with the force of his expression. He looks vaguely pained, which is normal enough in and of itself, but Atsumu’s more interested in the flaming tips of Sakusa’s ears, the pink-stained apples of his cheeks. Those are new.

Sakusa crosses the room in a few long strides and hesitates at an arm’s length from Atsumu. He seems to consider this for a moment, and then steps forward again until Atsumu’s eye-level with his chin. Atsumu’s heart decides to remind him that this is the closest he’s ever been to Sakusa’s bare, unmasked face.

“Atsumu,” he says, and huh, that’s new, too. The curve of Sakusa’s pretty mouth around his given name spills something warm and heady into the pit of Atsumu’s stomach. The room starts to fall away around him.

Atsumu bares his teeth in a smile, juts his chin to look Sakusa in the eye—hopes it’s enough to distract him from the way that his heart is slamming itself against his ribcage, since it’s so loud in his ears that he’s sure Sakusa can hear it. Sakusa is very, very close now. Close enough to touch. Close enough to—

“I’m going to kiss you,” Sakusa says. The cool monotone of his delivery makes the words sound vaguely threatening; as Sakusa closes another inch of space between them, Atsumu fights the instinct to throw his hands up in front of his face to shield himself.

This isn’t happening. He’d say he was dreaming, but Atsumu doesn’t think he’d ever be able to dream up anything half as beautiful as the flush crawling down Sakusa’s neck, the determined set of his jaw. Atsumu digs his thumbnail into his palm, and it hurts, so somehow this is happening. Really. In real life.

“Omi-kun.” The words feel thick and slow around his tongue. “What.”

“If you don’t want me to,” Sakusa says, and then the warm weight of his hand closes around Atsumu’s shoulder. He flattens the other against Atsumu’s chest, and the rest of the world turns to static around them. I want. “Stop me.”

Atsumu’s not thinking something goopy and romantic like oh, he smells nice or oh, his eyelashes are so long they almost touch his eyebrows. No, Atsumu’s first thought is: I win.

His second thought: Holy fucking shit. I win. (His third thought: Oh, he smells nice. Is that citrus?)

“I’m not gonna stop you, Omi,” Atsumu says quietly, blinking straight into the blown-black depths of Sakusa’s eyes. “But—”

The moment that Sakusa presses the rigid line of his lips to Atsumu’s, he’s pretty sure that his heart skips a beat. Atsumu can feel it in his chest: a great wallop and then a stutter, jarring and wrong as an engine backfiring. He wonders if Sakusa can feel it against the press of his fingers where they’re curled into the front of Atsumu’s sweatshirt—he half-expects Sakusa to pull away, open his phone to call one of the six hospitals he has on speed-dial.

But he doesn’t; he just makes a soft sound against the seam of Atsumu’s lips that sucks all of the air straight out of his lungs.

Sakusa Kiyoomi, to Atsumu’s eternal irritation, is good at a lot of things. Spiking (duh). Bar trivia. Cleaning that annoying little corner of the shower that Atsumu always seems to miss.

Sakusa Kiyoomi is not a good kisser. This is bad. This is—bad.

Sakusa doesn’t move. He pushes the flat line of his lips against Atsumu’s and holds it there, huffs a sigh through his nose where it’s squashed to Atsumu’s. When he pulls away to readjust, the second attempt is less of a kiss and more of a collision, sudden and startling. Their teeth clack and it rattles through Atsumu’s skull like a gunshot, knocks his head against the closet door where Sakusa’s caged him in. Okay, ow, God this is so bad, okay—maybe he can salvage this, Atsumu thinks wildly through the haze of citrus and Sakusa fogging his brain. He tilts to guide their lips back together, cups a hand behind Sakusa’s head to steady him.

Sakusa startles like a wild animal at the brush of Atsumu’s fingers against the shorn hair at the nape of his neck, lips parting wide around a gasp. The curve of Atsumu’s bottom lip catches between their teeth when they crash together again—a bright needle of pain, then the thudding ache of tender skin bruising, his mouth flooding hot and metallic. Atsumu’s the one who gasps this time.

“Ow, shit,” Atsumu hisses, brings two fingers to his lip. They’re dotted with blood when he pulls them away to inspect them. “Ah, it’s alright, just a little—whoa, Omi. Hey. You okay?”)

 

***

 

It was probably the worst kiss of his life, if Atsumu really sat and thought about it.

The world outside of the windshield goes grayscale as the thin strip of the expressway slices through a quiet, dark sea of rice paddies. The moon cuts through a heavy curtain of clouds, dappling the fields with silver light like stars. The brightest thing is the clock on the dash, glowing alien-green against the smooth flat of Sakusa’s cheek: 8:20 PM.

Another hour of—of what? Too-bright, too-sparkly city pop songs floating between them, kind-of-but-not-really filling the silence that’s settled heavy and awkward over the entire car? This was the worst idea of his life; Atsumu revisits the thought of opening the car door and hurling himself out into the middle of the expressway. They’re going, what, like 120? Would he survive? (Would he want to, after this nightmare?)

Sakusa would probably know the answer. Atsumu opens his mouth to ask him, but it’s like Sakusa already knows exactly what he’s going to say, because he accelerates. He fucking floors it.

“I’ve never,” Sakusa murmurs, quiet and level as the rice paddies. Atsumu can barely hear him over the whine of the engine revving and the song crackling through the speakers: I feel the time when it slowly flows. “Well. I’ve never.”

The car glides into a smooth stone tunnel, interrupted by the flash-flash-flash of bluish lights that stay pressed into the backs of Atsumu’s eyelids when he blinks against them.

“I’ve never wanted to,” Sakusa adds. “With anyone else.”

The CD ends and the car lapses back into silence. Sakusa glances over at Atsumu out of the corner of his eye as if to say, I’m sure you can figure out the rest.

Atsumu sits and thinks about it.

 

***

 

(Sakusa rears back, throat working around a choked, wet noise, hands suspended pale and fluttering in midair between them. Atsumu, limbs frozen, can only stare at the white flash of Sakusa’s teeth, the shiny red smearing his kiss-swollen lips. Blood. Atsumu’s blood. Atsumu’s blood from his split lip. His split lip from Sakusa trying to kiss him. Is the room spinning? Is Atsumu still upright? He can’t tell.

“Omi, hey, it’s fine—” Atsumu winces at the shrill, panicked sound of his own voice in his ears. Sakusa bats away Atsumu’s outstretched hand, already scrambling backwards toward the bathroom. The door slams and Atsumu hears the shower and sink start running in near-perfect synchronization.

Fuck.

Atsumu wobbles over to the edge of the bed, the pads of his fingers pressed to the messy pulp of his lip where it’s hammering in time with his heart. I want. I want. Atsumu stares at the carpet and swipes his thumb across his mouth, over and over again.

Atsumu wins. This is probably not what he should be fixating on at the moment, as Sakusa is likely performing a dental deep-cleaning procedure on himself in his shitty hotel bathroom, but he can’t help himself. I want. I want to win.

He’s not sure how long he stares at the carpet, circling his thumb over his still-buzzing lips, lulled into a trance by the hum of running water from the bathroom. A gentle tap at the door startles him out of his reverie; Shouyou steps around the door and toward Atsumu where he's still sitting on the edge of the bed.

“Atsumu-san, we’re leaving for the train station now. Oh, what happened to your lip?”

“I bit it.” Atsumu glares up at Shouyou, squinting against the sunny mile-wide grin blasting him in the face. “I’m just gonna drive back with Omi-kun. He’s—well. In there.” Atsumu sweeps a hand toward the bathroom door.

“You’re...what?” Shouyou’s eyebrows shoot up into his hairline like a cartoon character. Atsumu drops his eyes back to the carpet when he starts to feel sunburned by the intensity of Shouyou’s full attention. “Nobody’s allowed to drive with Sakusa-san. Isn’t that, like, the whole reason he drives in the first place—”

A cabinet slams shut in the bathroom; the shower and sink are still running. Atsumu glances over toward the door, at the sliver of light cracking through the edge of the doorframe. It feels like, any moment now, a rush of water will pour forth from it, like Sakusa's decided that he'd rather drown than come out and deal with this. Atsumu can’t blame him.

Atsumu wedges his blood-crusted fingers under his thighs and aims another baleful look at Shouyou. It glances off of him like he's wearing armor. "Well, I'm drivin' with him," Atsumu snaps, and he lets a bright, hot flash of irritation pulse through him, even though it's totally misplaced. It's all too much, suddenly—he's brimming over with emotions (yeesh), Shouyou's staring at him like he just grew a second nose on his face, and Sakusa's probably extracted three of his own molars in the bathroom by now. It’s too much.

The hideous contrast of Shouyou's copper-bright hair against the burgundy patterned wallpaper makes Atsumu's head throb, which makes his lip throb, which makes his heart throb and—it's too much. It's too much. Atsumu squeezes his eyes shut and hunches forward, head hanging.

“Did Sakusa-san do th—um, I mean. Is everything okay?”

Atsumu wants to shove Shouyou out of the room, slam the door in his sweet, guileless face. Cry, possibly. Kick the bathroom door until it splinters. Kiss Sakusa again. Wait, what?

"It's a long story,” he mumbles.

It's not at all, actually, and Shouyou would certainly listen even if it was, but Shouyou's always been able to reach his way through Atsumu's moods and barbs neatly, surgically, extracting the truth of the matter—so he doesn’t pry. He scuffs his sneaker against the toe of Atsumu's and pats the top of his head.

"Okay. You can tell me about it later, if you want."

It's a textbook Hinata Shouyou maneuver—easy breezy, so kind Atsumu’s teeth ache with it—precisely the sort of thing that Atsumu absolutely does not have the capacity to deal with right now. He doesn't raise his head, but offers Shouyou a vague hand gesture that elicits a bright, quick laugh. "I'll see you later, Atsumu-san. Good luck."

He's going to fucking need it.

When the door finally opens, Sakusa's face is drawn and gaunt where the harsh light of the bathroom bounces off of it. His lips are pressed into a white bloodless line that stands in stark contrast to the scrubbed-raw pink of his cheeks. He doesn't look at Atsumu as he picks up his bag from where he'd dropped it by the door and starts rummaging for his keys.

Atsumu heaves himself to his feet. "Looks like I'm ridin' with you, Omi-kun. Missed the train."

"Absolutely fucking not.")

 

***

 

“Are you hungry.”

Atsumu jolts awake and his seatbelt locks against his chest, nearly strangling him. Sakusa gestures to the REST STOP sign beaming white light through the windshield.

“Was that a question?” Atsumu rubs at his bleary eyes with the back of his hand, blinks slowly at Sakusa, who lifts an eyebrow at him before turning his gaze back to the road. “Uh, yeah, Omi. I could eat.”

The rest stop is straight out of one of those B-grade slasher movies Osamu constantly brings over on Saturday nights, holding Atsumu’s eyelids open with his fingertips so he’s forced to watch the whole thing. It’s a single squat, windowless box of a building bracketed by long rows of mostly-empty vending machines, and it’s even got a single flickering streetlamp casting weird shadows over the cracked surface of the empty parking lot. Atsumu half-expects Sakusa to pull a machete out of the trunk and put him out of his misery.

The air feels damp with the promise of rain as Atsumu unfolds himself from the passenger seat and stretches with a grunt. Sakusa peels off his face mask and does the same, rolling his neck and shoulders and heaving an enormous sigh. There’s a momentary break in the clouds, glazing them in soft, silvery moonlight, and Atsumu thinks that Sakusa would look nothing less than ethereal under it if only he’d stop making a face like he’s trying to hack up a hairball.

“I changed my mind. I’m not hungry anymore,” Atsumu says, and he’s trying to be nice, goddammit, but Sakusa shoots a nasty look at him over the roof of the car.

“Don’t lie.” Sakusa points at a worn-out sign on the creepy little building. “That’s a chain. Their cleanliness standards should be—acceptable.”

The inside is even worse, somehow, lit in greasy, yellowish fluorescents, floor tiles sticky and clinging to the soles of Atsumu’s sneakers as they squelch their way up to the counter. Sakusa scowls for a long time at the faded, unappetizing pictures of food on the menu, hands shoved deep into his pockets.

The bored teen at the counter lifts an eyebrow at Sakusa’s order—single patty wrapped in lettuce, and if the person preparing it is not wearing the proper protective equipment I will be calling the local health inspector—but soon enough Atsumu’s balancing two red plastic trays on his forearms and swaying toward a row of empty booths.

“Cleanliness standards, my ass,” Atsumu says, and then promptly dips the sleeve of his jacket into a primordial soup of condiments pooled at the end of the table. “Oh, gross.”

Atsumu drops the trays onto the tabletop with a clatter and hesitates for a long moment before shrugging out of his ruined jacket and spreading it on the opposite seat for Sakusa to sit on. See? Nice Atsumu.

Still, Sakusa hovers at the end of the table, shifting from foot to foot even as Atsumu collapses onto the squeaky vinyl seat and starts tearing at the wrapper of his double cheeseburger. Sakusa’s nose wrinkles, and really, it’s cuter than it has any right to be. Atsumu wrestles with the desire to grab Sakusa by the arm and throw him into the seat; he rips an enormous bite out of his burger instead.

Finally Sakusa sits primly on the very edge, shoulders and mouth set in a rigid line. “Stop chewing with your mouth open.”

“‘M not,” Atsumu says thickly around a half-chewed mouthful. He watches Sakusa’s hands float over his own paper-wrapped burger (if you could even call it a burger), watches the way that he’s squirming and gnawing his lip under the harsh fluorescents.

Something cracks open in the center of Atsumu’s chest. “Here. I’ll do it,” he says before he can stop himself.

He’s seen Sakusa do this annoying little routine a thousand times, with energy bars, with burgers, with crepes—folding and smoothing the paper like origami, creating a little lip around the wrapper for him to tuck his fingers into. Atsumu’s already got a smear of grease on his thumb, and he definitely fucked up the bottom part somehow and also maybe the sides, but Sakusa allows him to do it, watching with his chin propped in his hand.

Atsumu feels flayed open and nervy under the intensity of Sakusa’s stare, but he just pokes his tongue through his teeth and creases the last bit of paper with a dramatic flourish.

Sakusa snorts, but he accepts it when Atsumu passes it back over the table. His fingers disappear into the paper, and he takes a small, neat bite. Atsumu’s heart squeezes painfully like it’s being ground through a juicer.

“Can I kiss you again, Omi?”

Even here, grimacing and tired-eyed under the harsh, buzzy lighting, Sakusa’s so pretty that it makes the food stick in Atsumu’s throat, makes his chest ache. Sakusa chews slowly, thoughtfully, brows pulling low over his eyes before he speaks.

“You—” God, it sounds like it’s hurting him to even consider it, face shuttering, throat tightening like he’s trying to stop the words before they come.

“Yep. Me.” Atsumu bypasses his full platter of fries to swipe one off Sakusa’s tray, wincing when the salt digs into his busted lip.

Sakusa stares at his mouth for a long moment. “You want to do that again.”

“Kiss you, yes,” Atsumu says with all of his teeth. Implacable, planting hooks.

He takes an entire fistful of Sakusa’s fries this time, and Sakusa just—lets him do it. Atsumu’s heart is dangerously close to punching a hole straight through his chest and landing on the tabletop between them.

“But it was fucking awful.” Sakusa’s voice is steady now, but he looks—seriously, is one person allowed to be this beautiful?—terrified. Young. Tired. Mostly terrified.

“Oh, it was the worst. Really bad.” Atsumu levels a fry at Sakusa’s gorgeous, stupid, anguished face. “But I wanna do it again.”

It’s so close to a confession that it’s making Atsumu’s teeth chatter, but maybe that’s okay. Sakusa doesn’t look particularly enthused about the idea of kissing him again, but maybe that’s okay, too. Atsumu’ll never be able to say it the right way—the goopy, romantic way—and, as he grins at that tiny, impossible thing glittering in Sakusa’s eyes, Atsumu wonders if Sakusa would even want him to try.

“Okay,” Sakusa says quietly.

 

***

 

They sit in the parking lot for ten minutes or ten hours; Atsumu can’t tell anymore. It’s drizzling now, blurring the purplish glow of the weird, flickering streetlamp that they’re parked under. Atsumu tips his head against the rain-dotted window and stares at Bokuto’s beaming face plastered to the enormous billboard looming over the rest stop exit, lit in fuzzy, flickering haloes of blue-white light: JUST DO IT.

“It’s raining,” Atsumu says, mostly just to hear the sound of his own voice.

“I like you,” Sakusa replies. The moment stretches long and quiet between them before he adds, “I probably should have said that before—hm. Before.”

“Before you busted my lip with your face?”

And—oh, God, this is so unfair—Sakusa laughs, a throaty, raspy, impossible sound that shoots straight to the center of Atsumu’s heart and detonates. Atsumu twists a fist into the front of his sweatshirt as though he can hold it there, then yanks it away and jams it deep into his pocket instead. His stomach surges into his throat, and he can’t even blame the double cheeseburger.

“I can’t say it back,” Atsumu manages to choke out. “I’ll puke if you make me say it.”

Sakusa huffs, shakes his head. “You’re not going to puke. Say it back.”

“No.”

“What are you, five? Say it back or we’re going to sit here all night.”

“I.” This whole situation really can’t be good for his heart, Atsumu thinks. It’s picked up its rabbit’s pace again, thundering through his head with such force that he can feel it behind his eyes. His entire face is hot, stinging. “Ugh.”

“Spit it out, Miya.” Sakusa’s eyes are twin black vacuums in the dim interior of the car; Atsumu can’t tear himself away from the pull of them.

“I like you.” Atsumu writhes in his seat, winces under the cool, inscrutable weight of Sakusa’s gaze. The back of his neck is so hot that it feels like he could singe the headrest with it. “I like you. This is so gross. I like you. I can’t stop saying it now. I really like you, Omi.”

“Stop.” Sakusa’s ears are red again. The corners of his mouth twitch into a slight, small smile as he finally turns the key in the ignition. “That was awful. Don’t do that again.”

They both shift in their seats as the eerie emptiness of the parking lot opens up to the noisy, light-streaked stretch of the expressway, like they’re waking from a dream. As they pass under Bokuto’s 50-foot grin, another of Sakusa’s ancient CDs starts up again. It’s funk, this time, with a familiar, twangy bass line: Won't you wanna kiss? Wanna kiss?

“All this smiling’s makin’ me nervous, Omi-kun. That one in the locker room after the game damn near gave me a heart attack.”

Sakusa’s fingers drum against the steering wheel. He side-eyes Atsumu for a long moment before answering. “I wasn’t smiling. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You were. You were,” Atsumu says, kicking his sneakers up onto the dashboard again, ignoring the laser-beam glare directed at him from the driver’s seat. “Damn, what a day, huh, Omi? First I win the game for your sorry ass, then you—ow, stop pinchin’ me—smile all pretty at me—ow, stop, fucker, you did!—then you kissed me.” Atsumu twists out of the cruel viselike grip of Sakusa’s fingers, catching him by the wrist to force their hands to fit together. It’s uncomfortable—Sakusa’s curled all of his fingers into a stiff, unmoving claw, and Atsumu’s kind of just resting his hand in the center of it, but—it’s something. It’s something, and it makes Atsumu’s heart clench, warmth brimming over in the cracked-open thing in his chest, fingertips tingling with it.

“This is the worst day of my life,” Sakusa replies.

Atsumu laughs, deep and real, head lolling against the headrest. He likes the way that the headlights gleam against Sakusa’s teeth when he smiles, likes the crinkling corners of his eyes. Oh, shit. Atsumu loves him.

“I don’t believe you,” Atsumu says. He squeezes the tip of Sakusa’s thumb. “I don’t believe you.”

 

***

 

It’s kind of funny, actually, how quickly Atsumu’s forgotten that there’s a whole world outside of this car. When they pull into the parking lot of his apartment complex, it almost feels like a dream again, like Atsumu could just stay curled into the passenger seat forever under the loud staccato of the rain against the roof, basking in the blazing heat of Sakusa’s palm curled over his knee.

Sakusa shuts off the car, moves his hands to place them in his lap. The pink tip of his tongue darts out to wet his lips before he speaks. “You’re sure it’s stopped bleeding?”

“Stop askin’ me that.” Atsumu unbuckles his seat belt and twists in his seat to glare at the creased line of Sakusa’s brow. Atsumu presses his finger to his lip, then brandishes it in front of Sakusa’s face. “See? It’s fine.”

Sakusa leans into the column of light streaming through the windshield. His expression gives nothing away as he inspects the clean pad of Atsumu’s finger, but there’s a muscle jumping in the sharp line of his jaw, and God, Sakusa’s face is so—and his lips are just—Atsumu can’t help himself. He plants an elbow on the armrest and closes the distance, eyes slamming shut, lips pursed—and—

—and he’s met with a mouthful of black hair, the soft curve of Sakusa’s ear. Atsumu sighs into it.

“Miya, come on, warn me before you just—ugh,” Head still twisted to the side, Sakusa shoves him away.

“Sorry, sorry,” Atsumu gasps, breathless under the sneaker wave of want crashing through his chest. “Okay, why don’t you—how ‘bout you touch my face first, Omi?”

There’s that hairball face again. “Why would I want to do that?”

“So I don’t end up with another fuckin’ busted lip!”

“Careful, Miya. You still might.” Sakusa flexes his fingers where they’re fisted into the fabric of his jeans, then exhales in a long, forceful sigh that Atsumu hadn’t noticed he was holding. “Fuck. Okay. Fuck.”

Sakusa tilts forward again, and then his hand swims up between them. Hovers there, only for a moment, before pressing flat to the side of Atsumu’s face. The feeling—Sakusa’s bare skin, soft and warm and real against his—punches all of the air straight out of Atsumu’s lungs, hissing between his grit teeth. Sakusa’s fingers shift until they’re arranged into four perfect points of white heat along Atsumu’s cheek, a thumb pressing radiant warmth into the swell of his bottom lip.

The dark fan of Sakusa’s lashes flutter as his eyes widen. Atsumu’s staring at his own struck-dumb reflection in the shiny black of them, and then he’s pitching forward, dizzy with—the sound of the rain hammering against the windshield, the emotion welling up in his throat, that crushing want—and kisses him.

Oh, it’s too much and it’s just right, the way that Sakusa makes that soft sound again into the press of their lips, the way that his other hand glides up and over Atsumu’s forearm and curls loosely around his wrist. Heart soaring, stomach swooping, Atsumu kisses Sakusa again, teases his lips apart with the tip of his tongue just to feel Sakusa’s breath stuttering over his skin.

Kisses him again, pulling away only to huff a laugh into his mouth, brush their noses together. “Tell me I’m a better kisser than you, Omi.”

“Yeah, sure, whatever,” Sakusa’s mumbling against the swell of Atsumu’s bottom lip, hands twisting into the fabric of Atsumu’s sweatshirt to haul him halfway over the armrest—God, Atsumu really is going to die—then hooking an arm around the back of his neck.

Atsumu’s sixteen again, all light and helium as he scrambles the rest of the way into Sakusa’s lap, wiggling his ass a little just to be a dick, snickering straight into his mouth at the absurdity of it all—they’re too tall for this, too old for this, but Atsumu can’t get enough of it: the way that it forces the lines of their bodies to press together, the way Sakusa’s looking up at him with those pitch-black doe eyes again like he’s seeing something new.

Sakusa’s mouth opens easier now under Atsumu’s, pouring heat and effervescence into the cracked-open thing in his chest, bubbles rushing to his head, the tips of his fingers. Atsumu feels the tensed muscles of his stomach shiver, and Sakusa’s fingers are trembling a little where they’re scrabbling at the back of his neck, so maybe he feels it too.

It’s too much and it’s just right—this insane, all-consuming want, crackling between them like a current. Sakusa grabs a handful of blonde hair at the back of Atsumu’s head, tugs experimentally, and then presses a kiss to a new patch of skin at the base of Atsumu’s throat. And Atsumu’s thinking—well, he’s thinking that Sakusa is a fast learner, because holy fuck—but he’s also thinking that now he can have this, whenever he wants. Can have Sakusa. Holy fuck, right?

“I know,” Sakusa murmurs into the sweat-damp skin of Atsumu’s collarbone. He draws back to give Atsumu a long, considering look, and Atsumu’s heart positively aches at the sight of the wet red of Sakusa’s mouth, the dark tousled disaster of his hair. The words feel too small and too enormous at the same time, and Atsumu waits for his body to violently reject all of the emotions that are roiling in his gut and raking at his throat, but nothing comes. There’s just—something else. Something warm and watery and new.

Instead of answering, Atsumu presses his smile to Sakusa’s mouth again and again and again, and when he pulls away, Sakusa’s smiling, too. Wide and white and brighter than the moon.

 

***

 

Inferior Miya [11:20 PM]

TWO HEART ATTACKS?

fuck you. i’m not coming to your funeral