Kei stared at the prominent blister on his ring finger. Prodding at it, he ignored the sharp spears of pain that shot through him every time he irritated it. For the past couple of weeks he’d had essay upon essay that he had all but insisted on handwriting, if only because he felt he could better get the words out. And though he had submitted them all well before their due date, he was now left with the horrible reminder in the form of a bulbous growth on his finger.
Frowning, he clenched his hand into a fist before fixing his sights on his desk. And all over again he was reminded of exactly why he had found his hand so interesting in the first place.
Sitting in the center of a standard issue imitation wood desk, was a stark white envelope. His address was scribbled in familiar scrawl and finished off by a small smiley face. He flipped it over for the tenth time that hour. A small Charmander sticker stared back at him, bright orange and smiling as if March had been a dream — a figment of his surprisingly overactive imagination. As if the words I love you had never passed Yamaguchi’s lips in the first place.
He flipped it back over again. The smiley face was safer territory.
Next to the envelope was a similar one only slightly larger. It had the same address written with almost mechanical precision. But at the top it was neatly ripped open, it’s contents already devoured and taken apart and put back together again. It was an opportunity — one Kei wouldn’t have hesitated to take a few months ago, not when he had wanted nothing more than to run away. But that was before the letters started coming in.
He looked back at the smiley face; the way the two eyes were connected with a faint line of ink like Yamaguchi hadn’t fully lifted his pen in his excitement to get the letter sent, or, perhaps, his annoyance at having to speak to him again.
It was the fifth letter in as many weeks and he had to admire Yamaguchi’s persistence if anything else. But he couldn’t find himself willing to open it, not on the note they had left things. Not when the last time he had seen the boy he had been tear streaked, lower lip wobbling, and hands clutching at the sleeves of his jacket.
“He’s not sad anymore.” Hinata’s voice snuck into his mind unsolicited. And maybe that was true. God, he wished it was true. He didn’t want to see Yamaguchi sad. He just also couldn’t reciprocate his feelings, at least not in the way he meant them.
After that day on the hill, with Yamaguchi’s voice growing smaller as the seconds ticked by, Kei had often played with the idea of them being together. He would probably enjoy the dates, they had a good time when they hung out together, so a date couldn’t be far off. But a date was different than hanging out in one key way, a way that Kei couldn’t brush off no matter how hard he tried to. Kissing. And the thought of kissing Yamaguchi was too strange to even fathom. Still, he didn’t think almost ten years of friendship could be erased just like that. With one tear-ridden confession and an awkward parting. Maybe for other people but not for them.
The door clicked shut and Kei looked up to notice that his roommate had wandered in, headphones on and blaring some song entirely too loud. He couldn’t find it in himself to get upset over it.
So he turned his attention back to the larger envelope, because it was easier to understand and dissect. He pulled the single piece of paper out of it and scanned the contents for what felt like the millionth time.
To Mr. Tsukishima Kei,
We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted to the study abroad program taking place in Mérida, Mexico. Please find attached the form required to state your interest. Please have it filled out and sent to the Education Abroad Office by January 31 st .
It went on and on, lines upon lines of praises and instructions and congratulations and yet it had meant nothing. He had felt nothing. All he had really wanted to do was tell the one person he was no longer allowed to tell things to.
He had told his mom and she had been delighted, but it wasn’t the same. So, he told Kuroo and Bokuto, and while their reaction was marginally better it still wasn’t right. But nothing would be right. Not anymore.
He sighed, leaning back so that his eyes were trained on the ceiling — the freshly painted, mark free ceiling.
His phone rang on his desk and he sat up again, eyes glued to the caller ID with distaste. But, having nothing better to do than feel sorry for himself, he picked it up.
“Oi, Stingyshima, are you coming home for winter break?”
He withheld another sigh. “I’m fine, how are you?”
“Fine, fine. Now answer the question. Winter break?”
“I suppose,” he said, focusing his attention back on the blister.
“Good!” It was nice to know Hinata was just as annoying as always and that university hadn’t put a damper on his spirits, Kei thought bitterly. “Cause Yamaguchi’s been asking me about it, and I know that you guys aren’t friends right now, or whatever, but I thought I’d get the answer so he’d stop bugging me.”
His fingers fidgeted as he tried not to look too fazed. Not that anyone was paying any attention to him.
Kei wanted to ask about him, but not to Hinata. Not when the boy was dead set on finding all of Kei’s weaknesses and laughing about them with Kageyama while under the guise of caring or whatever.
So he bit his tongue and allowed the moment to pass.
“He’s still with Yachi, in case you wanted to know.”
Like hell he wanted to know. What in the world would put the thought in Hinata’s small brain that Kei even wanted to be vaguely aware of Yamaguchi’s romantic life? Still, he couldn’t help but twitch slightly in a way that only further proved the point that maybe he did care just a little bit.
“You’re welcome.” Hinata’s grin was audible.
“Anyway, if that’s all your calling about, goodbye.”
He waited a beat, because he preferred to hang up when Hinata was mid sentence.
“Oh, I almost forgot, I—“
He dropped the call and threw his phone onto his bed.
At least he still had these small joys.
Winter break came too fast. It seemed as if Kei had closed his eyes to gather his bearings and suddenly he was stepping out of the familiar train station. And although he had finals coming up in a few weeks, he was able to look out at the snow covered streets and feel mildly at peace with the fact that he was home.
That is, until he remembered that if he was home, then Yamaguchi must be as well. And then the further realization that Yamaguchi was always home because he had chosen to go to university close by which is what Kei had also planned on doing before life had become too overbearing and spiraled out of control. And furthermore, if Yamaguchi was home and Kei was home then what did that mean for their friendship? Especially if Yamaguchi had been asking about him.
And Kei didn’t want to be awkward with Yamaguchi, he had previously never even considered it remotely possible. Every time he imagined any kind of interaction it only ended in the same lackluster way it had all those months ago. It ended with Yamaguchi trying to pretend everything was normal, and Kei unable to think of anything at all. And now he was dating Yachi and Kei was alone. Which was fine, he didn’t want to date anyone. That’s why he had reacted the way he had to Yamaguchi’s confession. He wasn’t ready for a relationship, he didn’t think he ever would be. He just wasn’t relationship material.
He took a detour on the way home along the meandering street that ended up a short ways out of town. The one that cut through the railways with the vending machines that had been empty since his first year of middle school. The bright green bench sat beside them amongst dry, tall grass and the sludge covered ground. He sat down, ignoring the fact that the wetness was seeping uncomfortably through his jeans, or the fact that he wasn’t dressed for an extended amount of time outdoors in 5 degree weather.
He pushed back the idea of him and Yamaguchi sitting and trying to time when the next train was going to arrive. Or Yamaguchi trying to time it and Kei desperately trying to focus on the lyrics of whatever new album he was obsessed with at the time.
Eventually, when he had stewed in reminiscence enough and he was satisfied that this trip home had successfully made him hate whatever part of him he had somewhat liked, he stood up. He stretched his stiff limbs, took one final deep breath of fresh air and set off towards home.
It turned out it was pretty easy to avoid Yamaguchi’s house so long as he continued to stare at his shoes and nothing else. So long as he didn’t life his head to see where he was going he was blissfuly unaware.
And his mother made it easy to forget everything what with how many questions she had about his classes and his scholarship and “that nice girl you were talking to when I called you last week”. It was easy to fall into the familiar lull of nodding at all the right times and mumbling responses all while flipping aimlessly through channels. Even when Hinata came around and tried to harass him into playing volleyball, he got sucked into the atmosphere of lazing about under the kotatsu while his mother brought them plates of fruit.
It was around two hours into Hinata’s surprise visit when Kei realized that Hinata was now the closest friend he had. Kuroo and Bokuto were in Tokyo and in pretty serious relationships. Bokuto had made sure to rub it in every chance he got. It was always “Akaashi picked this out for me” or “Akaashi and I are going on a date”. And he was happy, he supposed, for his friend, but it really did become quite overbearing. Especially when Kei wasn’t even the one to call in the first place.
Hinata was, unsurprisingly, still single. So he had all the time in the world, apparently. And despite how much it might pain him to say it, Kei was… glad?
He didn’t think he could fathom the idea of being alone for the entire week.
“Let’s watch an action movie,” Hinata suggested, now reclined onto his elbows and fully comfortable.
Kei flipped to the history channel.
When the orange-haired boy threatened to argue, Kei fixed him with a look. A look he hoped conveyed the message that he had invited himself in and therefore had no right to remote privileges.
“Ugh, I can’t wait for Kageyama to get back,” he muttered as he fell to the ground with a small thud.
Normally, Kei would’ve let the statement pass. But he was feeling somewhat more prickly than usual and the need to constantly bother Hinata had never quite left him even with age.
“Kageyama, huh?” he asked, a smirk slowly growing onto his face.
Hinata turned to him at a speed that no head should realistically move at. His face was red and scrunched up in all the telltale signs that there was something there that Kei shouldn’t be prodding at and yet he couldn’t help it. Maybe it was the fact that his own life was already up in flames, or perhaps due to the fact that he hadn’t been able to get even a sliver of information regarding his kinda-not-really-anymore best friend.
Tense seconds passed in which Hinata went the shade of his hair and Kei’s grin only widened before the shorter individual huffed out something he didn’t quite catch and shoved a piece of apple into his mouth.
The next couple of days passed in a similar fashion, Hinata came over at some point past noon and stayed until the sun began to set. Kei hated to admit that he actually liked the company, especially when his mother had begun to ask questions about Yamaguchi and he couldn’t quite push the matter to the back of his head himself.
Of course, Hinata wasn’t always a help in that department either. Whenever Kei had tried to bring up Hinata’s reaction to any mention of Kageyama, he hadn’t hesitated to mention Yamaguchi and just how happy he was. And Kei knew that he was just looking for a reaction. It was why he fixed his eyes on the screen and refused to look elsewhere until the image of Yamaguchi and happiness and what that meant without him left his mind.
And then came the onslaught of images that refused to grant him even a second of peace when he laid in bed at the end of the day. Yachi and Yamaguchi. Yamaguchi and Yachi. And it would take a significant amount of documentary-watching to get it back into the box he had arranged in his mind. A box all the way at the back that he would seal shut and force away.
Christmas came and went with Kageyama coming the day after and providing a welcome reprieve from Hinata’s antics.
It was nice for the first three hours until Kei realized he no longer had an excuse to shy away from questions about Yamaguchi. His mother had just served lunch for the two of them, all but ensuring that he wouldn’t be going anywhere for the next twenty minutes at least.
“Have you spoken to Tadashi since you’ve been back?” she asked as if she hadn’t asked the exact same question every chance possible for the past four days.
He gripped his chopsticks a little harder than necessary, trying to still everything else. “Nope,” he muttered.
And then silence. It was weird just being with his mom again and he hadn’t remembered how strange it was. For a long time it had just been the two of them, after his dad had left them and his brother went off to college. But usually Yamaguchi had come over and filled the house with conversation and laughter.
It was hard not to notice the huge space he left behind.
“I saw him last week at the grocery store,” she hummed thoughtfully, piling pieces of pork atop Kei’s plate. He tried not to seem too interested. “He was with that girl, your volleyball manager. Not the tall one, the blonde.”
“Yachi Hitoka,” he provided, stuffing rice and meat into his mouth to give him something to do. Something that wasn’t overly fixated on not the tall one.
“Yes, Yachi-chan. She’s grown so much, looks very mature. And Tadashi looked very handsome.”
Kei swallowed. And inhaled. All at once. Then he choked and had to pound on his chest while waving his free hand at his mother to offset her incoming panic.
“I’m fine. Just not very hungry anymore.” He no longer really cared if he was being overly obvious that something had happened between them. Because something had and it was mostly his fault and he couldn’t stop thinking about hilltops and blades of grass between his fingers.
“Kei,” his mother began, brows creased with worry as he lifted himself up.
“I’m fine,” he insisted. “I’m just gonna get some fresh air.”
And he pulled on a jacket and his shoes before he headed out. He wasn’t going anywhere in particular and before he knew it, he was in front of Hinata’s door.
He sighed, once again overcome with the realization that Hinata was his only friend, and knocked.
Their was a flurry of noise and a girl with bright orange hair tugged the door open, cheeks pink and eyes sparkling. Her eyes met Kei’s and she instantly deflated.
“Ugh,” she groaned and Kei opened his mouth to complain when she turned around and yelled, “Shouyou, it’s for you.”
Within seconds Hinata had skidded in front of the door, shoving the female version of him out of the way.
“Oh, hey Tsukishima.” He grinned, eyes darting to the side.
Kei paused, his mouth slowly opening with realization as a smirk twisted at his features.
“Oh, I’m so sorry. I didn’t realize you were busy.”
“I’m not busy,” he frowned, settling in front of the door and folding his arms.
“Yeah, I’m sure a certain setter isn’t occupying your time or anything.”
Hinata huffed. “You can come in,” he said and Kei knew it was mostly because if he didn’t extend an invitation it would look even more suspicious for him, but he wasn’t about to complain.
“Well if you insist.” He sidestepped him and kicked off his shoes.
He almost immediately spotted Kageyama looking entirely too comfortable on the couch. And though he really didn’t want to be here, there were hundreds of other people he would rather be hanging out with — one in particular — this was what he had. So he swallowed his pride and headed on in.
Kageyama lifted himself up immediately, eyes narrowed. “What’s he doing here? What’re you doing here?”
He rolled his eyes as he settled himself in the adjacent armchair. “I’m here to play volleyball with you.” His voice dripped with sarcasm. “What do you think I’m here for?”
Kageyama huffed, brows drawn together. His eyes darted over to Hinata’s every couple of seconds in a way that was entirely too obvious, but also not interesting enough for Kei to pay much attention to.
“To- Kageyama,” Hinata whispered, his voice practically echoing. They shared a series of wide eye stares before Kageyama dropped down onto the couch once again and let out a sigh.
The silence that followed could of been classified as awkward if Kei had paid any sort of attention to it. But his brain was too full, it was always full. Full of freckled faces and unabashed smiles and eyes crinkling in the corners.
He jumped and looked up at where Hinata was right in front of his face waving his arms.
“Get away from me, you smell like shit,” he muttered, aiming a kick at the boy’s legs.
He ignored Hinata’s complaints and tried to calm his heart down. Being home was proving to be catastrophic for his health.
“Do you wanna come to the shrine with us for New Years?” Hinata asked slowly, carefully.
Kei ignored the fact that he was perched at the edge of the couch dangerously close to Kageyama. He could almost hear the words left unsaid, but he needed to confirm it. If anything he just needed someone to talk about Yamaguchi around him.
“Who’s going?” He attempted nonchalance.
“Um, Sugawara-senpai, Daichi- senpai, Ennoshita-senpai too.” He cleared his throat and in a much smaller voice that Kei would’ve marveled at Hinata being able to produce, he added, “And Yamaguchi and Yachi.”
He hated hearing it more than he thought he would. He hated hearing their names together. He had never had a problem with Yachi. Yamaguchi had never hidden the fact that he liked her, but Kei had always known that he liked him more. It was an unspoken agreement that Kei was always first. He couldn’t help but think about the hill again and he squeezed his eyes shut. How many people knew about what had happened? Did Hinata know? Did Kageyama?
“Cool,” he gritted out. “I’ll be there.”
He agreed mostly for his pride, but also because he’d been home for almost a week and he hadn’t run into Yamaguchi at all.
He missed him.
Hinata let it go, and Kei appreciated the fact that he could sometimes understand social cues. He and Kageyama soon became engrossed in Mario Kart leaving Kei to stew in his own misery and the fact that his best friend wouldn’t speak to him and the fact that he would be gone in a few months and nothing would be solved.
“I’m going to Mexico,” he blurted out, because he had no one else to tell.
Hinata’s eyes widened, pulled out of the game for long enough that Kageyama’s little character sped ahead of him. The orange-haired boy dedicated an appropriate amount of time getting upset about the whole thing before the race concluded and he threw his controller aside.
“Mexico?” he shouted, because that was how Hinata spoke: loud.
Kei nodded, picking at the fraying fabric on the armchair. “Yeah, I’m really interested in the Mayans. You know they were a 3,000 year old civilization that collapsed all at once?”
“Who cares about any of that,” Hinata waved away. “Mexico?”
Kei didn’t know what else to say, because there was an unsaid what about Yamaguchi? that hung in the air and he didn’t even know how to begin to answer that.
“It’s a year long program, and it’ll be really good for my senior research project.”
“A year?” Hinata screeched.
Kageyama’s eyes darted between the two of them. Kei never really knew how to read him.
“Does Yamaguchi know?”
Kei stiffened and cleared his throat. “No.” He straightened his back. “But he’ll be fine. We’ve spent eight months apart, I’m sure a year will be nothing.”
And just like that the topic was dropped. In part because it was too awkward to broach any further, and in part because Kageyama had started the next race.
Kei had been dreading this day in particular. He knew what he had signed himself up for when he had agreed to go to the shrine, but he hadn’t really thought about it.
So, at eight in the morning he had pulled his winter coat on and stuffed his feet into his shoes. He ignored his mother’s attempts to wrap him up in a scarf because it made his neck itchy and he was already uncomfortable enough.
He took the same route he’d been taking that completely avoided Yamaguchi’s house. It was longer and required more twists and turns and uphill walks than he would’ve preferred, but it was better than what would no doubt be an awkward encounter that Kei wasn’t prepared for. And Kei liked to be prepared. That was why, even though he would’ve preferred to put this meeting off forever, he was glad that for once he knew what to expect.
But nothing could’ve prepared him for what he saw when he climbed up to the shrine and he saw that familiar mop of hair. Eyes creased in laughter and hands clasping a smaller pair. He and Yachi stood in front of each other, hardly an inch of space between them, warmed by the breath expelled in their laughter. They were all rosy cheeks and giggles, as if the torment that seemed to plague Kei daily was never even a thought for him.
And then Hinata bounced into view. “Stingyshima!” he shouted making Kei want to slap some sense into him.
He felt Yamaguchi’s eyes on him and he wanted nothing more than to shrink.
“We’re just waiting for the senpais now,” he grinned, hands on his hips as he looked out over the scene.
He nodded, and tapped his foot on the ground to give him something to focus on, something that wasn’t the fact that Yamaguchi had his arms around Yachi and she fit perfectly into them. Something that wasn’t the jealousy coursing though him as he thought that Yamaguchi deserved to be held like that and that he should be the one to do it. But then he remembered the confession and he took it all back because he couldn’t possibly be the one.
Yamaguchi’s eyes met his own and everything seemed to simultaneously fall into place and break away. The one person that anchored him and he broke his heart. He had no right to be hurt, not when it could’ve been him and he turned away.
So he gave a tight-lipped grin, because the least he could do was pretend to be happy that his best friend was happy.
Yamaguchi returned it with a small, unsure one of his own before he turned back to listen to what Yachi had to say. And just like that whatever was going on between them crumbled all at once.
“Finally!” Hinata shouted. “Sugawara-senpai! Daichi-senpai! Over here!”
The duo approached the group, Sugawara smiling widely and ruffling Hinata’s hair.
“Ah!” he sighed. “It’s good to be together again, huh?” he grinned though there was a significant lack of excited energy.
“You’re forgetting Tanaka and Nishinoya,” Daichi muttered behind a large knitted scarf.
“Am I?” the white-haired senior asked, eyes wide.
“And Asahi,” Ennoshita came up behind them, a cloud of warm air expelling from his smile. “And Kiyoko and Kinoshita and Narita. We’re missing a whole bunch of people.”
Sugawara frowned. “Yes, but we haven’t been together in a group in a while. Just accept that I’ve missed you guys and let’s move on.”
Hinata beamed, pulling away from Kageyama (Kei would definitely tease him about that later). “Senpai!” he cried, despite the fact that it had been a long time since any of the men present had been their senpais. But Kei didn’t feel like dampening the mood with that now, not when Yamaguchi kept looking at him as if expecting him to say something.
“Okay, let’s do this,” Daichi commanded probably sensing Hinata’s mood and Kageyama’s subsequent shouting and the arguments that would no doubt follow. It was impressive that even three years later he still commanded authority over all of them.
“Yachi, I love your hair,” Sugawara said somewhere in the front.
“Thanks, I thought I would grow it out a bit.”
Kei blocked it all out, suddenly wishing he had accepted that stupid scarf so that he could potentially drown in it.
He had no right to feel upset and yet he couldn’t help but wonder if Yachi even really knew Yamaguchi. Did she know when he lost his tooth under the slide in the playground? Did she know about the tears that followed? Did she know about the time he found a shiny Charizard? Did she know how much he used to hate his freckles and how long it took Kei to convince him he looked fine?
She was holding his hand, fingers interlocking and Kei sighed. He had never done that with Yamaguchi. He had never held him in his arms or even shared his feelings. He had no right to be upset, so why did he keep slipping into it? Why did he so badly want to tear Yamaguchi away and insist he stood next to him?
This wasn’t going to plan, which Kei should’ve expected. He should’ve known this would only ever make things harder.
He shoved his hands into his coat pockets and headed on behind the group.
All the formalities went along smoothly enough. He had ended up saying his prayers with Ennoshita which had been significantly less awkward than he had expected. Afterwards he had received a bad luck fortune and tied it as high up as he possibly could until Hinata was frowning at his own lack of height as Kageyama ended up tying his own very bad luck fortune. Yamaguchi and Yachi hadn’t been more than a foot apart since the whole affair had started, though Kei was trying very hard not to notice. It wasn’t like he was going to suddenly pounce on Yamaguchi the second he was alone and beg him to tell him about the letters.
Those stupid letters. Kei had pushed them to the back of his mind for a large part of his break but he couldn’t stop thinking about it every time he heard Yamaguchi laugh. He wished he had had the sense to pack them when he was coming over, but he was still very much afraid of them, even now.
And then there was Daichi who kept looking over at him like he knew something and Kei began to panic that maybe he did. But he didn’t say anything, just throw cursory glances his way every couple of minutes.
At some point, with all the fortunes taken care of, and Yachi beaming due to a Very Good Luck, they headed back down to go and get breakfast at a new cafe Hinata was suggesting. Kei didn’t think he could fathom watching Yamaguchi and Yachi act all cutesy at a cafe, but he couldn’t see any practical way to get out of it.
They arrived at the cafe and were seated in a cozy corner table despite the protests of Hinata and Kageyama who wanted an outdoor table in the dead of winter. Kei considered there must be someone to thank at the fact that he was seated at the furthest possible seat from Yamaguchi and it was most likely Daichi.
The older man unravelled himself, folding his scarf on the back of his chair before sitting opposite of Kei, Hinata fitting in beside him.
It had to be obvious, the fact that Yamaguchi and Kei were no longer speaking, but nobody brought it up.
Kei picked at the plastic laminating the menu watching as it split apart and curled inwards. Then he saw above Hinata’s mane of orange hair, Yamaguchi leaning down to whisper something in Yachi’s ear. Something in him jumped and he went along with it.
He ignored the looks thrown upon him, he ignored the fact that Yamaguchi’s brows were creased together in worry. And then he ignored the small part of him that was happy that Yamaguchi actually felt anything towards him at all.
“I have to go to the bathroom,” he muttered.
A beat of silence passed where no one moved and then Kageyama said, “No one cares,” and he shuffled out of the table and towards the bathrooms.
The small cafe bathroom was thankfully empty and Kei sighed as he rested against the wall, rubbing his hands over his face. Then, before he knew what he was doing, his phone was in his hand and Kuroo was being called.
“Tsukki!” His face was entirely too close to the camera, and his smile was too wide for someone at nine in the morning, but Kei pushed that aside. “Are you in a bathroom?”
He frowned before gritting out, “Yes.”
“One second,” he muttered, face getting even closer as he squinted and within seconds Bokuto was added to the call.
“Tsukki! Kuroo!” He shouted.
Kei regretted ever calling them in the first place. He had just needed a distraction and Kuroo had always been great at providing those at the worst possible time.
“Tsukki’s in a bathroom.”
“Why are you in a bathroom?”
“I don’t know, I added you before I could ask.”
“Could you both shut up?” He murmured, running his free hand across his face.
Kuroo frowned. “Are you okay?”
Kei had shared a bit of what had happened with Kuroo and Bokuto when they had called him in the middle of the night and he was hopelessly drunk. It was enough for Kuroo to immediately decode his silence which Kei would’ve hated if he didn’t hate the idea of voicing his thoughts more.
“Yamaguchi’s still with Yachi?”
He sighed. “I didn’t expect them to break up. He’s happy with her, and I’m happy that he’s happy. It’s just that…”
“You want to be with him.”
He ignored the feelings that welled up in him at the thought, he didn’t try to figure out if they were positive or negative, that didn’t matter.
“I can help you make him jealous!” Bokuto added.
Kuroo gasped. “That’s a great idea,” he nodded even though it was in fact an awful idea.
“No thank you,” he muttered, glaring at where Bokuto was grinning on his screen. Not only did he not want to make Yamaguchi jealous, but he also really didn’t want to even pretend to date Bokuto. Akaashi scared him more than he liked to admit.
Bokuto frowned, but Kuroo moved swiftly onward detailing a long list of possible methods Kei could use to show Yamaguchi he was the better choice.
He waited until the black-haired man had ran out of steam before he gave his input. “I’m not fighting for him or whatever.” He picked at some dirt underneath his fingernail. “I just want to feel normal around him again.”
There was a knock at the bathroom door and without thinking, Kei ended the phone call. He allowed himself to wince at the state he was in: panicked in a cafe bathroom and calling two people he actively tried to ignore. Once he was suitably disappointed at how far he’d fallen, he let the sink run for a few seconds before closing the tap and pulling open the door.
He wasn’t expecting to see Yamaguchi standing their looking bashful. He straightened himself up, shoving his phone into his coat pocket.
Yamaguchi’s eyes met his own and then fell to the bathroom behind him.
“Oh, sorry,” Kei muttered, trying desperately to extract himself from the room while also not touching him.
Yamaguchi gave him a clipped smile. It wasn’t like what his smiles usually looked like, it was emotionless and Kei could feel it sucking something out of him.
There were a million and one things he wanted to say, but he couldn’t.
And Kei didn’t bother to bring up the fact that he hadn’t even begun to make his way back to the table. His heart was too busy flipping over the familiar nickname in the familiar voice that seemed synonymous with childhood and happiness.
“It’s nice to see you back,” he said.
Kei blinked and the bathroom door shut and he was alone in the little corridor. And now he was unable to stop thinking about hilltops and whispered confessions and how badly he wished he could change what he had said.
The day after New Years had Kei feeling anxious. He could feel that something was going to happen, he had been feeling it ever since Yamaguchi had spoken to him yesterday. He was antsy, he needed to do something. For months he had been able to control himself. So long as Yamaguchi never spoke to him, Kei had never felt an urge to get in contact. Even the letters required him to actually open them in order to further their relationship. But Yamaguchi had spoken to him yesterday and not just a polite ‘hello’, he had actually said an entire sentence.
It was as if months of Kei’s moping about was cured with just those words.
He had missed him, to some extent at least. That had to have been what he meant, and Kei wasn’t going to just let it go. Not when he had to return to school in four days.
His mother showed her shock at his energetic start to the day through making a bigger breakfast than was entirely necessary for the two of them.
“Kei,” she mused, a smile at the corner of her lips. “Did something happen?”
He bounced his leg under the table, sipping at his glass of orange juice. “Not yet.”
Kei helped her wash up afterwards, something he came to realize he had been neglecting to do in recent years. As soon as the last glass was dried and stored away, he was rushing to the entranceway and shoving his shoes on.
“Kei?” His mother popped out of the kitchen, her face twisted up.
He tugged his coat over his hands, hopping on one foot as he tried to ease his heel into the shoe. “I’ll be back in a few hours,” he promised.
He didn’t know exactly what his plan was, for the most part he was running off of adrenaline and the need to see Yamaguchi again.
The temperature had dropped even further overnight making gloves necessary and of course the one article of clothing he had forgotten. With frozen fingers he opened up an old text message thread with Yamaguchi, a place he had frequented in he early months of their lack of communication. He swallowed past the awkwardness and the potential for embarrassment as he typed out a message and hit send before he could overthink it.
He looked down at his phone and stared at the message. Then he stopped where he was in the middle of the streets and tried not to shout at his stupidity. God, like Yamaguchi would ever want to hang out with him. He had just said he was glad to see him. That was it. Why did he have to run with it?
Yamaguchi had read it. And then the telltale three dots popped up on screen and he was typing and Kei was trying not to freak out. His heart pounded away in his chest. A boy on a bike whizzed past him.
That stupid smiley face. Kei bit down on his own grin as he allowed his wobbly legs to continue to carry him forward.
Suddenly, the weather felt a lot more pleasant. The slush under his feet was less annoying to slip through and moisture in the air was less suffocating and more invigorating. His footsteps were quicker as he meandered through the town, still avoiding Yamaguchi’s house. He was excited, but he wasn’t quite ready for an impromptu walk to the tracks with his kind-sorta-not-really best friend.
He eventually made it to the edge of town, the buildings thinning out to rolling fields and scattered houses. The large red and blue vending machines stuck out of the earth, caked in dust from years of disuse. He sat on the bright green bench that was still in impeccable condition.
It hadn’t snowed in a few days and that left the bench relatively dry to the pleasure of Kei’s jeans.
Only a few moments later he saw a familiar head of hair rise up over the hill. Wrapped in a myriad of sweaters and scarves and topped off with a thick winter coat and equally large gloves, Yamaguchi waddled more than walked. A familiar freckled face beamed at him from behind the swathes of yarn, eyes creased in the corners.
And Kei wanted to pretend like everything was normal, he wanted Yamaguchi to greet him loudly and for him to condemn him with no real malice and then they would sit together and just enjoy each other’s company. He wanted to pretend that Yachi wasn’t in the equation, like Yamaguchi hadn’t probably spoken to her first thing in the morning.
But he couldn’t, not when he looked at the scarf around his neck that Yamaguchi had never owned before and would probably never buy. Not when he recalled Yachi’s love for knitting that was born in their third year of high school.
He prodded at his still prominent blister.
“Hey,” Yamaguchi said quietly, unsure of himself.
Kei hated it.
They lapsed into silence. What were they supposed to say? Was Kei supposed to apologize? He felt awful about the confession, he did, but he couldn’t apologize for not returning his friend’s feelings that hardly seemed fair to himself. But he did feel sorry for making him cry. That had stung. It still did if Kei thought too much about it.
“So,” Yamaguchi said, rocking on the balls of his feet.
The silence once again stretched onwards. The bell began to ring.
“How long do you give it?” Yamaguchi asked, rushing past him to stand where the gate had dropped down.
Kei looked down at his shoes. It was such a casual statement. Something he would’ve said months ago if things hadn’t ended the way they had and yet…
Yamaguchi turned back to him, brows drawn in. He wasn’t sure if it was because of his awful timing or the fact that none of this was natural anymore. It was as if the nine months apart had completely torn to pieces a ten year friendship. Like all the movie nights, all the days spent hiding from adults, all the secrets kept between them suddenly meant nothing anymore and all that did matter was that Yamaguchi had at one point loved him and he couldn’t say it back.
He turned back towards the railway, ring finger tapping against his thumb in time with the seconds, his lips mouthing the words. When he reached sixty he tapped once with his middle finger and then returned back to the ring finger. Kei looked away, scuffing his shoe where the dirt met the tar of the road.
Time passed, Yamaguchi paying far more attention to it than Kei could with the state of things, and the train puffed up over the distance and seemed to sneak on by. It crawled across the the tracks before slowly pulling away again. And just like that it was gone.
“182 seconds,” Yamaguchi said, turning around as the gate lifted itself again.
“Fifty cars could’ve made it through in that time,” Kei commented.
Yamaguchi smiled, maybe the first real smile. And then, the tension that had filled the air in the last 182 seconds melted away and Yamaguchi was laughing and Kei couldn’t help but stare at him because he was beautiful. He was beautiful in a way Kei had never really thought about before.
He purposefully ignored the scarf around his neck.
“Yeah, I guess. But safety first.” And the smile still lingered in the corner of his eyes.
Kei leaned against the vending machine. “It was going 2 kilometers an hour the worst that would’ve happened is you’d get pushed a bit.”
“Was it always this slow?”
“I think so. But everything’s slow around here.”
Yamaguchi got a far off look in his eyes. “Yeah.”
There were a million and one unspoken things between them. He wanted to ask about college and, to a lesser degree, Yachi. He wanted to know what was happening in Yamaguchi’s life. He wanted to wake up to twenty text messages ranting about twenty random things.
He swallowed past the ball in his throat.
“How’s school?” Yamaguchi asked.
Awful. Horrible. Lonely.
Kei couldn’t form the words he wanted to say, so he let his brain run off on it’s own accord. “Fine.” A beat passed. “How about you?”
Yamaguchi smiled, the same fraught and timid smile he had shown up with. “Okay. Stressful, but it’s college so what can you do? Besides, Yachi and I are in the same program so we share a lot of the same classes.”
He hadn’t forgotten about her, no matter how desperately Kei had tried, he couldn’t really force her out of his head. The thought of them both studying late at night, the thought of her brushing his hair out of his eyes when he passed out over his books.
“Oh, that’s good.”
He had to say something, anything. He couldn’t just keep this up with pleasantries, not when he had spent a majority of the last few months doing absolutely nothing but miss Yamaguchi Tadashi. This situation could be remedied, maybe not to what it had been before, but to something close enough. He just had to apologize, or acknowledge it, or something.
Yamaguchi sat down on the bench and he was so close.
“Listen,” Kei blurted out, because everything was becoming to stifling and Yamaguchi was looking up at him, eyes wide and wondering and he couldn’t not say something. “About what happened in March…”
He trailed off, hoping Yamaguchi would get the hint without him having to say it. And he would’ve years ago. He would’ve let Kei make some mention of a disagreement and pick up all the pieces and formulate some apology that he was never going to actually say. Instead he just continued to look up, brows raised expectantly.
Even he knew it was an awful apology. Sorry for what? He wasn’t quite sure. Sorry for not loving him back? Or maybe just sorry for not saying it? He stilled his tapping foot.
“Yeah,” Yamaguchi sighed. A weight pressed against Kei’s chest. “Anyway,” he stood up. “I have to go, but this was…nice.”
He grinned, a ghost of what it used to be, and started off down the hill without another word leaving Kei feeling stifled. He sunk down on the green bench, his feet tapping on the ground uncontrollably.
And then he was pulling out his phone and calling the one contact who’s name he should’ve changed to Therapist.
“Tsukki! Two calls in two days? You must miss me.” He immediately regretted it.
Sure Kuroo was nice, and maybe he was one of the friends that Kei really had left, but he didn’t have to like it.
He sighed. “Hello.”
“So, how’s the whole fighting for the love of your life thing going for you?”
He clenched his free hand. “I told you, I’m not fighting for anyone. Stop making everything so melodramatic.”
“That’s just who I am, take it or leave it.”
Kei was seriously thinking about leaving when he remembered why he had called in the first place. “I’m doing something wrong, but I don’t know what.” He hated admitting this particular weakness to Kuroo, but he was past the need for pride in any regard.
“Well, you’re really giving me nothing to work with, but what do you want to do?”
“I want everything to go back to—“
“Normal, yeah, I’ve heard.” Kuroo snorted. “Tsukki, if you wanted everything to be normal you would’ve fixed this by now. You can be friends with Yamaguchi while he’s dating Yachi. I think that what you can’t handle, is the fact that you feel like Yamaguchi has replaced you.”
Kei frowned, and shoved his glasses further up his face. “He hasn’t replaced me, he just got a girlfriend.”
His frown deepened, finger hovering over ending the call.
“Anyway,” Kei sighed, “Don’t you have a girlfriend or something you should be with right now?”
Kuroo noticed his not so subtle attempt to change the topic, but ran with it anyway. “I, in fact, do. She’s sleeping right now, though. Do you think Yamaguchi would want to go on a double date with us? We’ve been looking for more couple friends and no offense, but Bokuto and Akaashi can be a bit overbearing sometimes.”
This time, Kei didn’t hesitate to end the call.
Hinata had so politely forgotten to mention that he was going to be having a small party that night until the sun had set and Kei had decided that the day was over and he was more than ready to fall asleep. He would’ve ignored Hinata’s texts as well — a party wasn’t really his idea of a good time in his current situation — but he had managed to slip Yamaguchi’s name in and Kei had folded. It was a situation he was becoming increasingly familiar with.
So, Kei went changed into a pair of jeans and then changed into one of the sweatshirts Yamaguchi had complimented one time and slipped downstairs. His mom was huddled under the kotatsu one of her favorite dramas playing on the television. When he shuffled into his jacket and shoes she hardly lifted her head before giving him a grin and telling him to be safe.
The walk to Hinata’s house was a long one, what with him basically living on the outskirts of town. But it gave Kei some time to think and, more importantly, plan. He couldn’t stop thinking about his conversation with Kuroo. Mostly because the man was an idiot, but he made some sense sometimes. What did he actually want? Because, as much as he hated to admit it, Kuroo was right. He could easily be friends with Yamaguchi if that was what he wanted. He could easily sweep the whole confession affair under the table and decide that they could just be friends and everything would be fine. Yamaguchi could be with Yachi without Kei feeling like he wanted to rip his eyes out of the socket.
He stepped past the gate and up to the front door. Pulsating dance music shook the frame and Kei withheld a sigh as he raised his hand to knock. He stood there for half a minute as the music continued to pour through the cracks and Hinata’s loud voice shouted above it all. Pushing away all attempts at being polite, Kei shoved the door open. The music blasted through, washing over him and taking with it, his hearing.
Hinata’s head snapped up to attention before it broke into a grin.
Scattered about under various blankets sat Kageyama (obviously), Yachi (unfortunately), Ennoshita (surprisingly), and Yamaguchi. He dragged his eyes away from the familiar green pair, hoping that he wasn’t too obvious.
By the look of mild disgust on Kageyama’s face, he hadn’t succeeded.
Hinata bounced up from a blanket he was sharing with Kageyama and hopped across the small amount of free space in the living area.
“Sting— Tsukishima,” he corrected, face bright red. The music coursed through Kei’s veins and up to his temples sending small bursts of pain at every mention of bass.
“Hey.” He tried not to grimace, and shoved his hands into the pockets of his coat, kicking out of his shoes.
“Noya-senpai is coming over with the drinks. We don’t have any more blankets so you can share with Ennoshi—“
“I’m not cold.” He shuffled around Hinata and deposited himself in the armchair that he had no begun to think of as his own.
Yachi and Yamaguchi were cuddled up on the couch, a blanket between the two of them. Kei hadn’t thought through his seating arrangement, now stuck with just staring at the two of them. Yachi gave Kei a smile and a wave.
“I didn’t know you were coming over,” she shouted over the music.
Kei opened his mouth to respond, before realizing he didn’t feel like making himself louder to accommodate for the music and instead opted for a half-hearted shrug.
Hinata readjusted himself under the blanket, and conspicuously laced his fingers through Kageyama’s. He gave a bright smile to the boy who returned it with furiously blushing cheeks and avoided eyes.
Kei’s nail dug into his blister.
“Hinata, don’t you think we should turn down the music so we can hear each other?” Ennoshita shouted from underneath his own blanket.
The boy frowned, but ultimately used his free hand to turn down the stereo.
“I can finally hear my own thoughts,” Kageyama said. Kei would’ve believed he was actually annoyed if it wasn’t for the fact that he was still holding hands with Hinata, his thumb skirting across reddened knuckles.
“So, Hinata,” Kei leaned his elbows onto his knees, trying desperately to ignore Yamaguchi’s presence. He let a smirk, much larger than particularly necessary, crowd over his face as his eyes darted down towards their hands. “How are you doing?”
He watched with glee as Kageyama turned to look elsewhere and Hinata turned into a spluttering and awkward mess. Then his eyes moved over to Yamaguchi and it was just a split second, quickly corrected. In Hinata-terms, it was hardly a slip at all, but Kei had caught it. And he was once again reminded of how stupid he was and how badly he wanted to hold Yamaguchi’s hand.
Nishinoya chose that moment to come barreling through the door, kicking his shoes off and dragging a case of beer behind him. Asahi came lumbering behind him, looking bashful and out of place.
“The party has officially started!” the smaller one of the set declared.
The next couple minutes was a rush of excitement as Hinata shot up, leaving a very lonely Kageyama alone under the blanket. Yachi joined him to help with the drinks and Asahi took a seat on the floor in front of the couch.
Yamaguchi stretched his limbs and Kei couldn’t help but stare. An easy smile sat on his features as he talked to Asahi and Ennoshita about something Kei didn’t really feel like getting involved in. Given how awful their last conversation had gone, Kei didn’t really think talking to Yamaguchi was a good idea. But he could still appreciate the lilt in his voice, the way the syllables seemed to tumble out all soft-spoken and poetic.
Hinata came back with two cans of beer in his hands and handed one to Kageyama, grinning widely. Nishinoya was carrying an armful of cans and Yachi was trying her best to ensure they didn’t come crashing to the ground.
“We need to play a drinking game,” Hinata stated making it seem as if this was the first time he had ever tasted a beer.
And Kei made sure to let him know as much. “We’re not in high school,” he commented, suddenly fascinated with something under his nails because every time he spoke, Yamaguchi looked up at him in his peripheral. He didn’t want to look back and give himself some sort of false hope.
“Don’t be such a spoilsport.” Nishinoya pushed a can towards him.
He shoved his glasses further up his nose and accepted the cold can, surprised at how quickly they had managed to chill them.
Nishinoya worked around the room, handing out drinks before he deposited himself in Asahi’s lap to the surprise of no one but Kei apparently. But he shoved it to the back of his mind because strangers things had happened and he currently had his own problems to worry about. One of those being the fact that Yachi was handing Yamaguchi a drink of his own and Kei couldn’t seem to stop his instincts.
“He doesn’t drink.”
Silence followed. Not the kind he liked that enveloped and rocked him into comfort, but the kind that deafened him in it’s complete lack of sound. And then it morphed into his heart pumping blood through his ears and he became hyperaware of every single movement.
Hinata tensed up. Kageyama’s eyes locked onto his own. Asahi looked nervously between the two of them. Nishinoya’s hand wobbled as he slowly set down his can of beer. Ennoshita tapped something on his phone, eyes wide. Yamaguchi was staring right at him, eyes unwavering, lips parted. If Kei looked hard enough, he could almost see the hints of a blush creeping up his cheeks.
Yachi touched the can against Yamaguchi’s bare arm until he jumped and accepted it with a grin.
“He does now,” she said. Kei wanted to pretend it was malicious, some vindictive way of getting back at him and rubbing in just how much everything has changed. But she said it with such pity in her eyes — pity for him.
So, he forced himself to look away from the two of them, popping open his own can and taking a chug as Hinata tried to dissipate any of the remaining awkward energy. He was fine. Of course Yamaguchi would change, that made sense. Time went on and all that. But Kei hated how it made him feel to have missed out on something. He hated not being right, especially when he wasn’t right about him.
“So, truth or dare?”
This time everyone agreed to the stupid party game. Kei sunk down into his chair and for the first time tasted the liquid swirling through his mouth with a grimace. He had never been a huge fan of beer in the first place, even less so when it was warm. His fingers tapped at the cool exterior with displeasure. The game was already in full swing, but Kei was hardly paying any attention. He was swimming through the moment, his brain a liquidated mess as he tried to forget the last twenty minutes of his life.
“Tsukishima, truth or dare.”
He looked up, focusing on Ennoshita’s face, he looked mildly concerned.
“Truth,” he mumbled.
Nishinoya loudly complained about taking the boring choice and Hinata spurred him on somewhere in the background.
Ennoshita’s face twisted in thought before he grinned widely, if only mildly suspiciously. “Why did you decide to go to Tokyo?”
Kei had always considered Ennoshita to be one of the more mild-mannered members of the team. With a level head, his ex-captain could be trusted. He had trusted him not to ask stupid questions. With a barely masked scowl, Kei sipped at his drink before setting it down on the little table that sat adjacent to his chair.
He could feel all the eyes on him, and most importantly Yamaguchi’s. They all had to know. It was pretty obvious that something happened between the two of them and then Kei left, without a word.
“It’s a good school, obviously I was gonna go.”
And then silence, and Yamaguchi wasn’t looking at him anymore.
“You said you were gonna stay,” Hinata said, not exactly sounding hurt about the fact, but Kageyama’s hand was now on his knee.
He shrugged, not exactly wanting to go into the fact that his best friend had confessed his love for him. “I changed my mind. Anyway, is it my turn?”
Ennoshita nodded, obviously not entirely pleased.
Kei took another swig of the room temperature beer, as he pondered his options. Yamaguchi was out of the question for obvious reasons. Yachi as well. That left him with Asahi being the only person he could realistically ask without any serious repercussions.
“Asahi-san, truth or dare?”
The game continued until they were all pretty much tired with asking the same boring questions. Hinata bounced up to his feet, swaying slightly after drinking all of two cans. Kei bit back a snicker.
“Okay, I want ice cream, and then we’ll play a new game.” He announced all of this as he swayed out of the room. Kageyama watched him tottering about without making any real effort.
Kei sighed at the fact that the little orange idiot had to choose his idiot friend to be with, before standing up to be of some assistance. Or to mostly get away from the fact that Yachi was now stretched out, her legs on Yamaguchi’s lap, his hands tapping away at her calves.
“Hey, shortie, wait up,” he grumbled, picking through the blanket laden ground.
Alone in the kitchen with a tipsy Hinata wasn’t how he planned on spending his evening, in all honesty. He leaned against one of the counters as Hinata went about looking for enough spoons for everyone.
“Are you okay?” he asked, back to Kei, words only very slightly slurred.
He stiffened his hold on the edge of the counter, before letting out a sigh through his nose and letting his arms fall to his side.
“Yeah, why wouldn’t I be.”
Hinata spun around, slamming the ice cream tub onto the counter. “You don’t need to act all… Tsukishima-y,” he murmured. “You can be sad, that’s okay.”
Kei glared at the side of his head. “I’m not sad, I’m fine.” And while that wasn’t exactly the truth, it wasn’t a lie either. He wasn’t sad exactly, just frustrated. Jealous. He screwed his eyes shut.
“I don’t know what I want,” he admitted, because apparently he was now admitting his feelings to everyone.
Hinata’s face screwed up in thought. “Well, what do you not want?”
Kei knew exactly what he didn’t want, that was clear as day. It had been clear since that day in March on that hill, since the words left Yamaguchi’s mouth. But he couldn’t exactly voice it, it was more of a feeling. It was a pang in his chest every time Yamaguchi said something that he knew was wrong.
“C’mon, before it melts.” He grabbed the tub and headed off before Hinata had a chance to blink. He had had quite enough of baring his soul for one night.
Depositing the container on the kotatsu, he pointedly ignored Yamaguchi’s gaze as he went back to the armchair and curled into himself the best he could without making it seem like he was curling into himself.
As the minutes turned into hours and night properly descended, the tub of ice cream dwindled to nothingness despite the constant chill in the air. It was perhaps, Kei thought, due to the fact that the beer was now offering a warm little sanctuary in his belly allowing him to fake comfort. His limbs splayed out across the chair, he had set to not noticing the fact that Yachi had at some point gone home because she needed to be at work early tomorrow, and the fact that she had insisted Yamaguchi stay, and that Yamaguchi was now lying down across the couch, face flushed.
Kei had never seen Yamaguchi drunk. In fact, until moments earlier Kei hadn’t even been aware that Yamaguchi wanted to be in the same vicinity as beer. Small hands cradled an empty can to his stomach and Kei was definitely not staring at the way his eyes fluttered open and close.
“Stop staring at Yamaguchi!”
Nishinoya obviously had no problem letting the world know for him.
Kei inhaled his beer and proceeded to choke on it, to the concern of nobody. They all looked at him with mildly interested eyes, still expecting a response. That is, except for Yamaguchi who was now looking at the couch back.
“I’m not staring,” he muttered into the can, his voice echoing louder than he would’ve liked.
But everyone was already onto the next conversation. Voices growing steadily louder into what was to be expected of his ex-volleyball team.
“Tsukki.” Somehow, despite the fact that Hinata was now shouting about some insult Kageyama had thrown at him, Yamaguchi’s voice still reached him. Kei wondered if it would always be like this. Would he always be painfully aware of everything he did?
His heart was thundering in his chest, as Yamaguchi peered up at him through half-lidded eyes. The world was swimming in a drowsy spell.
No one else seemed to notice, so Kei allowed himself to focus on him, on the way his body was splayed across the couch, the way his hair was pressed against his forehead, damp with a light layer of sweat. He swallowed thickly.
“Do you miss me?” he murmured.
Yes. God yes.
He tightened his grip on his can. “Of course I miss you,” he muttered, fully aware that Yamaguchi wouldn’t be able to hear him over Nishinoya’s cries of glee as he tried to get Ennoshita to give him a piggyback ride.
“I miss you.” The empty can slipped to the ground. “Every day.”
He nodded tensely. The room was suddenly too hot, the lights too bright, his mind too drunk to be taking any of this in.
“I’m trying not to miss you, though. Cause I’m happy… most of the time. I was happy. Then you showed up again. Didn’t even respond to my letters. Just showed up out of the blue.”
Kei wished that someone would interrupt, that anyone would notice that Yamaguchi was talking to him and ask him an uncomfortable question that would take him out of this uncomfortable situation.
“I’m gonna get some water,” he said, louder than he had expected to. No one noticed but Yamaguchi as he stumbled out of the armchair and back into the kitchen.
The counters were cool under his palms, the floor was steady and there was a distinct lack of Yamaguchi to confuse him. Everything inside of him was so knotted up he had no hope of being able to loosen it up. It was painful, not being able to talk to your best friend.
Once he was sure that his feet weren’t going to fail him, he stood up to his full height. Another breath and he would be ready, another breath and he would be able to handle all of it.
He tensed up.
“Y-Yeah.” Now Yamaguchi could hear him, no matter how quiet he tried to be.
He looked steadier on his feet. If it weren’t for the fact that his hair was still pressed against his face in a very un-Yamaguchi-like fashion, Kei could almost pretend he was sober. Like he would talk to him like this without alcohol in his system.
“Are you okay?”
He nodded, taking a step away from the counter. He shoved his glasses further up the bridge of his nose. “Yeah. I’m fine.”
Yamaguchi stepped closer, eyes narrowing. He just stared at him, eyes never wavering. Kei cleared his throat and looked away.
“I wanna do something I’ll regret,” Yamaguchi muttered.
Kei tried to swallow past the growing ball in his throat, tried to steady his hands, tried not to focus on the fact that Yamaguchi was now right in front of him.
His hands skirted across his arms leaving little pinpricks in there stead. Everything was happening so fast, Kei could hardly comprehend it. He let out a breath, Yamaguchi was so close some of his hair bristled. He smelled like beer and flowers and all the things he never associated him with.
Then Yamaguchi was up on his toes, his lips centimeters away, the beer on his breath mingling with the beer on Kei’s breath.
But Yachi was always in the forefront of his mind. He had never wanted to forget someone so badly but he couldn’t. And everything he was doing felt so wrong, but he had to take a step back, his hands only staying on Yamaguchi to steady him before they retracted back to his side.
He was so cold, everything was so wrong.
Yamaguchi’s eyes were wide with unshed tears. He squeezed his eyes shut, he couldn’t help but hurt him again.
“I—“ Yamaguchi’s voice cracked. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
Kei focused on the tiled floor, it was all he could do not to throw his arms around the shaking mess in front of him. “It’s just,” he cleared his throat, because his voice was filled with emotion he wasn’t comfortable acknowledging. “Yachi.”
Yamaguchi nodded. “I love her,” he said.
“I really, really love her.”
Yamaguchi nodded, rubbed at his eyes and then turned to go back to the living room, leaving Kei to bleed out. He didn’t know what he ultimately wanted, but he was sure of one thing: he really wanted to kiss Yamaguchi.
How did you explain to your mother that your kinda-sorta-not-really-anymore best friend that confessed his love to you months ago tried to kiss you while drunk last night and you wanted to kiss him back but you didn’t because you respected the fact that he’s in a relationship?
His mom blinked at him, clearly worried, from behind her mug of coffee. He hadn’t said anything all morning which wasn’t too out of the ordinary, but he had a feeling it had more to do with the fact that he was staring holes into his breakfast.
“Kei, are you okay?” she finally asked. She’d obviously been meaning to for awhile but had held back in the hopes that Kei would tell her himself, which obviously wasn’t going to happen.
He nodded tensely and shoveled rice into his mouth, somewhat wishing he would choke on it and die. That would be a fun twist of events.
Unfortunately, he managed to swallow it all down, and was forced to live with the fact that Yamaguchi had been so close to him — close enough to touch. He could’ve kissed him, could’ve just leaned in and sealed the deal, but he had to take the high road. He had to be the good person that thought about his ex-best-friend’s girlfriend. It didn’t help that Kei had stumbled home shortly after the event, forgetting his coat in his rush. It also didn’t help that he couldn’t sleep, his thoughts filled with freckled faces and pink lips.
At least he had a breakthrough. Kuroo would be proud of him for, at the very least, knowing that he wanted to kiss the friend he had spited months earlier.
God he hated himself.
The doorbell rang and Kei, in no mood to continue to ponder death over breakfast, stood up.
“I’ll get it,” he muttered, ignoring his mother’s concerned gaze as he shuffled to the front door and opened it without bothering to check who it was.
If it was an axe murderer that would really keep things fun and exciting.
But it wasn’t. It was an entirely different threat. A green-haired entirely different threat who was clutching at Kei’s jacket.
He swallowed thickly. “Oh, hey.” He tried not to appear as nervous as he felt.
“Is that Tadashi-kun?” his mother shouted from inside.
Yamaguchi affixed a fake smile onto his face, too toothy to mean much. “Good morning!” he shouted.
For a second, Kei could almost pretend everything was normal. Then he saw the scarf around his neck.
“Um, thanks for the jacket.” He made no move to actually retrieve the jacket.
“Tadashi-kun!” His mother appeared at his side, beaming. “Come, come. We were just having breakfast.”
“Oh, no I just came here to drop off Tsukki’s jacket. He forgot it last night.”
“You must be so busy nowadays, I hardly see you around.”
He flushed, just slightly. Only a light coloring of red on the cheeks, enough to make Kei tear his eyes away so that his mind wouldn’t run.
“Yeah, sorry about that.”
“It’s fine.” She patted his head, having to lift herself only slightly to reach. “I’ll let you boys get to it.”
Kei loved his mother. Especially the fact that she was able to discern when was a good time to leave.
“Do you wanna take a walk? Figured you’d need your jacket for that.”
Kei nodded. Then swallowed. Then nodded again.
“Mom, I’m leaving.”
“Okay, have fun.”
He shoved his shoes on and took the jacket, being especially careful not to touch Yamaguchi’s hands.
The sun was out doing little to fight the chill. Crisp air entered Kei’s lungs and he willed away every seed of negativity that threatened to germinate. He was hanging out with Yamaguchi, this is what he wanted. He needed to be normal. Even if he really wanted to kiss him. That could be repressed, shoved back and forgotten about.
“I’m really sorry about yesterday, by the way.” He said it so casually, like nothing had happened.
Kei couldn’t help but try and follow suite — pretend it meant nothing, while he had spent the whole night and better part of the day thinking about it. So he nodded, because that was all he was good at. He gave half-hearted answers, so that no one would ever know his true intentions, so that no one would have the pleasure of knowing that they influenced him in some way.
But then he thought about it, really thought about it. He thought about Yamaguchi drunk and breathless, his hair an even wilder mess than it usually was. He thought about hands on his arms and breath teasing his lips. And he couldn’t find any part of him that felt sorry about any of it. But he felt the knife twisting deep inside of him, a constant reminder that while he might not have regretted it, Yamaguchi certainly had.
“I wouldn’t have minded,” he muttered before he could get a hold of his thoughts.
Yamaguchi tripping on his shoes was proof enough that Kei should’ve kept quiet. They lapsed into silence again, neither wanting to acknowledge what he had said.
He had loved him, Kei knew that much. And from what little he knew about love, he was fairly certain that you didn’t just fall out of it. Even if he had, the fact that he had almost kissed him the night told him that he probably still loved him, right? So Kei had a chance. Whatever he wanted to make of that chance he didn’t quite know.
“So, are you still doing volleyball?” Yamaguchi asked, swiftly moving the conversation.
It didn’t escape Kei’s notice, but he was in no mood to hear for the umpteenth time how in love Yamaguchi currently was.
He stuffed his hands into his pockets. “Not really,” he said noncommittally.
“Yeah, me neither.” He kicked a loose pebble a few feet ahead. “I don’t know, it’s not the same.”
The subtle jab also didn’t escape Kei’s notice. He picked at the blister which had now stopped hurting and had just became nothing more than a nuisance.
Mexico floated above his head threatening to make itself known. And he realized he could tell Yamaguchi. He could turn to him and say “Hey, so you know how we haven’t really hung out that much last year, well this year I’m leaving to the other side of the world for four months so we’ll be spending even less time with each other. But on the bright side, I really want to kiss you and I hate the fact that you’re dating someone else.”
Yeah that would go over great.
He realized too late where they were heading to, and he wasn’t quite sure if Yamaguchi had led them there or if they both just subconsciously felt the need to torture themselves. He chanced a glance to the side, Yamaguchi didn’t seem to notice.
“Do you want something to drink?” Yamaguchi asked, nodding his head towards a vending machine nearby.
He frowned. Why was it so hard to just be normal around him? Why couldn’t he just reach over and flick his stupid cowlick and tell him that of course he wanted something to drink, when did he ever not? He clutched his hands into tight fists.
“No, I’m good. But thanks.”
They meandered into the park, avoiding the path and instead creating their own. It was almost sentimental, how they looped through the familiar evergreens. Yamaguchi’s foot sunk into more than one snowbank and each time, Kei had to clutch at the inside of his pockets to stop himself from reaching over.
Surrounded by drooping limbs and fallen leaves was a tree bark. A bark that Kei had studied so much to the point of painful memorization. It was too familiar. The grooves and how they weaved together before being crudely interrupted by scratches in its surface and childlike hopes and dreams and naïveté about forever.
He shuddered a breath not wanting to relive anything. Not here. And especially not with him.
But despite Kei’s panic, Yamaguchi had meandered over to it, his fingers running over the jagged lines. His eyes filled with an emotion that Kei could too easily read. And he wanted to turn back time, he wanted to go back to a time when accepting that emotion wouldn’t hurt either of them.
And he couldn’t help it. The words tumbled out before he could even attach any real thought to them.
“Why did it have to her?”
The crack, that before Kei could only feel, became all too visible. It was the way Yamaguchi’s face crumpled, the way his hands retracted from the tree as if it had burned him, the way he tensed and shielded himself from view. But he didn’t want to take it back.
“What are you trying to say?” he asked, and his voice was still so small, so understanding, so patient.
“It’s just,” Kei pressed his lips together, arranging everything he wanted to say into sensible points in his mind. Outlining and revising and organizing in the span of a few seconds and ultimately throwing out the plan. Because fuck it. “Why do you have to love her when I’ve been right here, this whole time, loving you?”
“What?” Yamaguchi’s face had gone slack, he had turned around to face him now. “What do you mean loving me? You rejected me.”
“I was the one that confessed to you, because of course I did. Because you never notice anything at all, even when it’s right in front of your face. I confessed to you and you rejected me in the worst way possible. And then you left. You left me here alone and hurting and so, yes, I moved on because I thought that the only person I had ever loved in my whole life hated me and was so repulsed by who I was that they had to go to the other side of the country just to avoid me. And then you come back here and pretend like everything’s normal, like my whole life hadn’t been upturned. And you keep staring at me and giving me mixed signals and now you’ve apparently loved me this whole time?”
And by now, tears were streaming down his face but he wasn’t shouting. And that was the scariest thing. His voice was still so soft and yet every word seemed to know exactly where to hit to hurt the absolute most.
“I want to be your friend, Tsukki. I miss you as a friend. But I’ve moved on. I can’t go back to that place, I won’t allow myself to be hurt by you again.”
Kei clutched his hands into the soft fabric of the inside of his pockets.
“So do you just not love me anymore?” He could feel the emotion rising in him, the lump forming in his throat, the burn in his sinuses, the stuttering in his heart.
And there was a breath, like Yamaguchi was trying very hard not to get loud. Kei wasn’t looking anymore, he couldn’t bear to watch him cry because of him. Again. “Of course I still love you. I never stopped loving you, but I love Yachi too.” And more.
Kei could hear the unsaid words hanging in the space between them. There never used to be space between them. Now there was a chasm where they threw their words in hopes of getting something, anything, out.
“I’m leaving in three days,” was all Kei was capable of saying.
Yamaguchi sighed, his eyes fixed on a spot on the ground. “Is that all you can say?”
“Why did you try to kiss me?”
“Are you serious?”
Kei blinked back up at him, trying not to crumble at the sight of his face red and splotchy and tired.
“Do you know what’s so frustrating about you, Tsukki? You change your feelings towards me daily. One day you invite me to hang out and the next you want nothing to do with me. One day you don’t love me the next you’ve apparently loved me since forever. One day I’m your best friend and the next I’m nothing at all. I hate it. I hate that you can just flip-flop between emotions and I’m expected to hang around and follow you and be at your side whenever you decide I’m good enough again. And I hate that if you said it, I would leave Yachi and be by your side in a heartbeat.”
Silence followed, clumps of snow fell from boughs onto snow-covered ground with a wet thump.
Kei could taste blood from where he had nibbled his lips. It was too much all at once, he had just barely gotten okay with the idea of kissing Yamaguchi. Now he had confessed and promptly been turned down all in the span of five minutes.
He knew he deserved it. After the way he had reacted to Yamaguchi in May. And maybe he didn’t love Yamaguchi and he was just in the spur of the moment, but Kei knew he felt something. He felt his pulse race whenever Yamaguchi looked at him, he felt his hands twitch with the uncontrollable need to just touch him, hold him. Kei had never dated anyone before, he had never felt like he wanted to be with one person for the rest of his life like they were the key to his happiness. But Yamaguchi was.
…And he wanted to be with Kei too. But not in the way Kei wanted. He wanted Yamaguchi to be with him without the sense of obligation but simply because he wanted to be with him.
Kei knew he was a shitty person. He knew that he didn’t deserve smiles and freckled cheeks and fingers pink with cold. He knew all of that and that’s why it hurt all the more that he could have it. He could tell Yamaguchi to leave her, to follow through with what he had intended to do the night before.
He squeezed his eyes shut, ignored the breeze that skidded against his face, and took a deep breath.
“I’m sorry,” he said, because he wasn’t verbose and he could hardly manage to think the words let alone articulate them.
But Yamaguchi just stared back at him. The pink in his cheeks now seemed muddied between tears and the cold, as if nothing had ever happened.
He took in another practiced breath and shoved his glasses up, ignoring the fact that his finger smudged the lens because he couldn’t really care less. “I’m sorry, that I’ve done that to you. I mean—“ He scratched the back of his neck, unable to even look Yamaguchi in the eye. “I don’t like seeing you sad. And I don’t like being the… reason that you’re sad. But I do like you, a lot. And I don’t like seeing you with her.” He took another breath as Yamaguchi fixed him with a tired expression. “But if you’re happy, I don’t want to mess that up. I can be your friend.”
Another beat of silence that was filled much faster than the others. “Really?”
“Because I’ve missed having you as a friend.”
He wanted to say me too but the words wouldn’t come out so he nodded again, lips pressed together.
They ended up sitting on that hill for far longer than Kei would’ve assumed. It was awkward, sure, but he couldn’t help but enjoy the fact that two feet away, Yamaguchi was sitting in the melting snow, legs crossed and eyes trained on the cloudy sky.
They didn’t say anything else. Kei wasn’t sure what else to say. He had royally fucked up any chance there was of Yamaguchi ever looking at him without pity let alone kissing him or reciprocating his feelings in any way. And the feelings were a whole other field of landmines Kei didn’t even want to try crossing. The thought alone was enough to make him want to suffocate under a pile of snow.
Friends. This was what he had wanted — a return to normalcy. But it hurt now to think that that’s all they would ever be. It hurt thinking about Yamaguchi holding someone else that wasn’t him, smiling at someone unabashedly that wasn’t him. And he had ruined any chance to ever go to that place, and he was well aware of that, but it still hurt.
Snow crunching under boots, shook him out of his reverie. Twisting around, he saw Yachi climbing up over the hill.
He hated the mix of emotions he was feeling: the jealousy, the disappointment, the anger. He didn’t hate Yachi at all. She was great and everything, he just hated the situation they were in.
And he hated the twisting in his gut at the familiarity of it all. He hated the way the tension rolled off of Yamaguchi’s shoulders all at once as he scrambled to stand up.
Kei focused back on the view in front of him. On the rolling hills that stretched onwards and onwards fading into the horizon. He tried to imagine that he was somewhere out there instead of here, stuck in this awkward position.
“Sorry I’m so late, work ran longer than expected.”
Kei could here them hugging, could feel the way that Yamaguchi’s happiness rolled over them in waves. He pointedly ignored the fact that Yamaguchi invited her over.
“It’s fine,” he breathed, all toothy smiles and laughter. “I missed you.” And his voice turned softer and everything in Kei hurt simultaneously.
It wasn’t anything like how he’d said it when they were in that cafe on New Years. He bit the inside of his lip in hope that he would pass out or something to get him out of here.
Yachi giggled and whispered something back to him and they were in their own little world. Kei wasn’t needed. He had spent months missing Yamaguchi while Yamaguchi had been getting alone just fine.
“Tsukishima-kun,” Yachi said softly.
He was pulled out of his reveries for death or some kind of permanent brain damage by Yachi suddenly leaning down and being only centimeters away.
He resisted the urge to jump and instead gave a tight lipped kind of smile. “Hi,” he managed to say with the least amount of resentment coating his voice.
“I feel like we haven’t really had much time to talk since you’ve been back.”
They both knew why but refused to be the first to say it. Kei didn’t pride himself on his jealousy, he didn’t even know he was a jealous person until this situation popped up.
He nodded. “Yeah.” He ignored the flowery smell that floated around her, the same kind of smell that seemed to now float around Yamaguchi.
His eyes flickered over to the freckled boy who avoided his gaze. Did she know about last night? Did she know that they would’ve kissed? Did she know about the confession in March? He blinked and focused back on the horizon.
“I’m gonna get a coffee, do you want one?” Kei realized a second later that Yamaguchi was not talking to him and that hurt all over again.
“Yes, please.” And again they were just smiling, in their own little world.
Yamaguchi headed off leaving the two of them alone — a situation Kei had never prepared himself for. He fidgeted with the sleeve of his coat, his eyes fidgeting to where she now stood leaning against a tree looking as calm as ever.
“He missed you a lot,” she said after a long moment of silence.
He cleared his throat, suddenly feeling just how damp his jeans were. “Yeah.” How was he supposed to respond to his girlfriend? ‘I’ve missed him too, you have no idea. In fact, I think I may actually be in love with him and he tried to kiss me and I’m disappointed we didn’t kiss and it makes me jealous that you’re the one who gets to kiss him.’ He swallowed, trying not to feel too frazzled. “Um, school’s been really busy.” And it was a lame excuse — a text took maybe a minute to craft and send — but it was all he could give her given the circumstances. ‘Oh I’ve just been avoiding him cause he told me he loves me and I didn’t know if I loved him back until last night.’
Yachi obviously didn’t buy it either, she stared at him for a few more seconds. Upon finding what she needed to in the blank look on his face, she sighed and looked back against the horizon.
“I don’t like seeing him hurt,” Yachi said.
Neither do I, Kei wanted to scream, but his voice was stuck.
“So, don’t start up this whole thing if you’re just gonna go back to school and ignore him.”
He heard Yamaguchi’s labored breathing as he climbed back up the hill, saving him from having to respond. The words weighed heavily on his mind.
Don’t start up this whole thing. What was that supposed to mean? What was ‘this whole thing’? Kei could hardly hold a conversation with him let alone start anything up.
But even when Yachi relieved Yamaguchi of the second can and gave him a small peck on the cheek, Kei could still feel her staring at him.
Kei spent the next day in bed with a migraine. While he had no doubt about it’s source, he was characteristically evasive to his mother, Kuroo, and Bokuto when they all bothered him at various times. He was grateful that Kageyama was still in town so Hinata would be entertained. And while the nature of their relationship was obvious, even the thought of teasing Hinata about it didn’t appeal to him.
He wanted to disappear.
The day after tomorrow he’d be on his way back to school and then he’d accept the Mexico offer and finally have peace. It was stupid, in hindsight, to think that Yamaguchi would ever wanna be with someone like him. He was pessimistic, constantly bringing down the mood while Yachi was sunshines and happiness and explosive energy. Yamaguchi deserved someone like that, someone so good it wasn’t up for discussion.
His mother knocked on his door at some time past noon. Kei was still wrapped up in his blankets, his eyes focused on the band posters he had put up throughout his life.
“Yeah,” he mumbled, anything louder hurt his head.
“Kei,” his mother’s soft voice floated over. “Tadashi’s mother just called and invited you over for dinner tomorrow if you’re up for it.”
And the migraine came back tenfold, his eyes screwed shut in pain or perhaps just to shut the world out. He knew he shouldn’t refuse the invitation, he had no real reason to, he had a headache that would leave him in a few hours, and he was helplessly in love with her son, but other than that, nothing was holding him back from going. So he gave a stiff nod that jostled his brain painfully against his eyeballs.
“Okay, I’ll tell her to expect you there at six.” And with that she left, softly shutting the door behind her.
He tried not to let the idea of Yamaguchi and Yachi further impact his health as he tried to remember his hand on his arm, his breath ghosting over his lips.
As the sun set, and thoughts of what could of been helped ebb away the more painful waves, Kei decided to get dinner at the convenience store. His mother was at a friend’s for dinner and had left him with a little money for food. Though Kei didn’t like being treated like a child, he was also well aware of the fact that he didn’t have a job or any money if it weren’t for his mother. So he took it with limited under-his-breath comments and slipped out into the crisp night air.
The fresh air made him feel woozy after being secluded to his bedroom for the whole day. He took a deep breath, feeling his lungs expand with snow-drenched oxygen, before he took off.
Sakanoshita Market was filled with memories of high school, and yet, it was still the only place Kei was even willing to think of going for a late night snack. It was also the only place open at nine, the fluorescent lights spilling out onto the street.
Kei pushed the door open, hearing the familiar jingle play. Coach Ukai stood behind the counter, a magazine in hand that he flipped through carelessly.
Unable to help himself, Kei let a smirk flit across his features. “Still wasting away over here?”
Ukai’s head snapped up, his eyes narrowing immediately once he caught sight of Kei.
“Ugh,” he groaned, shutting the magazine and tossing it below the counter. “As if my day could get any worse,” he muttered under his breath.
Kei’s smirk widened.
“Don’t you have something better to do?” he asked.
“Nope.” Kei leaned down to peruse the goods underneath the register much to Ukai’s frustration.
There was an obvious glint of glee in his old coach’s face, and Kei was glad that at least one person was pleased at his presence.
Soft music played on the radio and washed over Kei before he stood up again and wandered to the back where the packs of instant ramen were packed away.
“Are you back for good?”
He plucked two of the beef flavored ones before heading back to the front. “No. I’m heading back the day after tomorrow.” He deposited his goods on the counter along with a bottle of juice.
Ukai frowned slightly, scanning as he said. “Do you like it down there?”
Kei bit at his lip. “Enough,” he responded noncommittally, taking out his money and paying before picking up his bag.
A beat passed where Kei wondered when would be a good time to excuse himself before Ukai cleared his throat.
“Have you thought about playing professionally?” he asked.
“Have you thought about getting a real job?” Kei countered.
Ukai’s reaction gave Kei everything he needed to turn around with a smirk on his face as “this is a real job” and “kids nowadays don’t understand the value of hard work” followed him out.
The street was quiet as he wandered back home. He would miss the peace and quiet once he was back in Tokyo. He would miss the feeling of fresh air washing over him.
He turned the corner to his street and came to a stop.
He would miss this the most. The way he could so easily bump into Yamaguchi Tadashi.
The boy in question turned and froze, mouth opening and closing. He was only visible under the yellow street lighting and yet that didn’t stop Kei’s heart from speeding up uncomfortably.
“Hey,” he said forcing himself to take a few steps closer.
Yamaguchi looked awkward as he fidgeted with his sweater. Kei noticed that he was severely underdressed for the weather in just a sweater, a pair of jeans, and sneakers.
“Hey,” he finally said. He forced his eyes on Kei’s. “I was— I just wanted to check on you. My mom said that you weren’t feeling well.”
He shrugged, unsure what else to do. “I’m better now. It was — uh — just a headache.”
Yamaguchi bit his lip and Kei wished he wouldn’t do that. “Are you having your migraines again?”
“Yeah, but I promise, I’m fine.”
Yamaguchi nodded and let out a long breath. “Then are you still all good for dinner tomorrow? Sorry about it being so last minute, my parents just found out you’re leaving soon and they wanted to—“
“It’s fine,” Kei breathed, “I promise.”
Yamaguchi looked up at him. Something in Kei’s stomach fluttered uncomfortably.
The streetlamp flickered briefly.
“I’m sorry about yesterday.” Yamaguchi looked back down at his shoes. “That wasn’t fair to you.”
“I deserved it.”
“That’s not true.”
“I do. I expected you to wait around for me. That’s not fair to you.”
Yamaguchi took a deep, stuttering breath and shut his eyes, tilting his head back to the sky. Kei’s eyes avoided the expanse of his neck. When he was looking back at him, his eyes were watery.
“What I said yesterday, about—“ he paused, tucking his hands away in his sleeves. “I meant it.”
Kei paused, holding his breath. The plastic bag in his hand swayed in the breeze but neither of them paid any attention to it.
“You just have to say it.”
Everything was too much, the air was too cold, the breeze too strong, Yamaguchi’s eyes locked on his own were too demanding. Because Kei wanted to, he so badly wanted to tell him to leave her and be with him. And suddenly nothing really mattered anymore, nothing but Yamaguchi in front of him, his chest heaving with unspoken emotion.
“I want to kiss you.”
The words slipped out before he could help it. And Yamaguchi’s eyes widened only slightly.
Kei thought about taking it back, but he didn’t want to. Not when Yamaguchi was looking up at him like that, his eyes filled with all the words Kei wished he would just say.
He took a small step forward so that their shoes almost touched. Kei’s heart was threatening to beat out of his chest, everything was fuzzy.
Yamaguchi lifted himself up onto his toes, his hands on his arms. Everything was the same, down to the breath that mingled in the space between them. Except this time, there was a distinct lack of alcohol involved and Yamaguchi actually wanted to be here when he was sober.
Kei opened his mouth to say something, to make sure it was alright.
But before he could even form the syllables, Yamaguchi had leaned in and his lips pressed to his own.
It wasn’t anything like he’d imagined it would be. It was heat and spearmint and cold fingers tangling in his hair. He finally regained the use of his arms and they settled on Yamaguchi’s hips, the bag slipping between his fingers and falling to the ground.
It was as if everything came into focus all at once and it was just him and Yamaguchi together. Nothing else existed. And he poured everything he felt into the kiss, everything he wanted to say but couldn’t, everything he never knew he needed to say. And Yamaguchi kissed him back just as hungrily, accepting it all.
When they finally parted, out of breath, cheeks tinged pink, Yamaguchi’s fingers slipped out of his hair and Kei immediately missed the warmth.
They didn’t say anything but Kei could see the swarm of emotions that clouded Yamaguchi’s eyes. Without thinking, he interlocked their hands and waited with bated breath for Yamaguchi to pull away or anything. But he didn’t, he just let it rest there like that’s where it was meant to be. Like his warm fingers were made for his own cold set.
“I’m sorry,” Yamaguchi murmured, still so close to him.
Kei didn’t even want to ask in fear that it would ruin everything. He didn’t want to remove his hand from Yamaguchi’s, he didn’t want to feel sorry for what had just happened.
Yamaguchi swallowed, tongue swiping over his bottom lip. “That wasn’t fair to you.”
Kei tightened his grip. “Wha—“
“Tsukki,” he said softly, gaze rising to meet his. Kei wanted to kiss him again right there. “I’m gonna go.”
He pressed his lips to Kei’s cheek briefly before taking a step back restoring the world back to it’s cold normalcy. And with a final nod, and tight smile, he turned to leave.
And Kei stood under the flickering street lamp, a bag of ramen and juice at his feet. He had just had his first kiss.
“You kissed him?” Kuroo shouted into his headphones.
Kei spent a majority of the next morning in bed staring at the ceiling. He didn’t know quite what else to do with his life. He had turned around helplessly for hours thinking about last night. And then when he had finally fallen asleep he had dreamt about it only to be woken up again by the thought of it.
So, he had called Kuroo, because he needed to tell somebody.
“Please keep your voice down,” he muttered, dropping his head down onto his desk to hide the state of his face, red with embarrassment.
“I’m proud of you, Tsukki,” Kuroo said with a grin. “So, are you guys, like, dating now?”
Kei groaned into his desk before lifting himself back up to look at Kuroo’s face which was as close as possible to the camera providing an extremely unflattering look.
“No, he’s still dating Yachi.”
“Yeah.” Kei tried not to think about it. “He even apologized afterwards.”
“Double ouch. That’s not a good sign, my friend.”
“Thank you for enlightening me,” he muttered. He ran his hands through his hair, trying not to think about Yamaguchi’s fingers. “Anyway, I have dinner with his family tonight.”
“I’m pretty sure Yachi’ll be there.”
“Okay, so significantly less sexy. Also cheating.”
“But it’s not really your problem.”
“Um, I think it kind of is.”
“Not really,” Kuroo replied smoothly. “You didn’t make a commitment to Yachi, that’s all on him.”
“I don’t want him to cheat on Yachi!”
“Fine, fine. No need to throw all these mixed signals.”
“There are no mixed signals. I want to date him but he’s dating Yachi, so I’m gonna back off.”
Kuroo blinked back at him. “So, you’re telling me that if he told you to—“ He made a crude gesture Kei had to look very fast away from. “—You wouldn’t happily oblige?”
“I’m just saying I don’t want him to cheat on his girlfriend just because I like him?”
“I thought you loved him?”
“I’m gonna hang up on you.”
“Fine, fine. Calm your tits.”
Kei took a deep breath and allowed his mind to wander towards Yamaguchi again and the softness of his lips as they pressed to his own.
“Are you even listening to me?”
“Hm?” Kei blinked back.
“Never mind,” Kuroo smirked. “I’ll let you daydream about your boyfriend. Bye!”
“He’s not my—“
The called dropped before Kei could finish, leaving him alone in his room once again.
He dropped back down and groaned at his situation before deciding he should actually get ready for the day.
What that implied was switching into a different pair of shorts and rolling onto his bed.
He realized too late that perhaps he shouldn’t be spending his time thinking about it again, especially not allowing himself to over analyze the last few seconds. Yamaguchi’s hands leaving his own, his apology, his lips skirting across his cheek. It was embarrassing really, to be 19 and never have had his first kiss. It was more embarrassing to have had his first kiss with someone who was so clearly experienced. And it was even more embarrassing to analyze every second that passed and wonder if he was doing it all right, or if he had messed it up so badly that Yamaguchi just didn’t want to talk to him.
And then there was Yachi, who was still a very real part of the equation. Because they were dating. And Kei didn’t say anything about them stopping because Yamaguchi had said he was happy. If there was one thing Kei was sure of, it was that Yamaguchi would never be happy with him. Yachi made him smile, all Kei ever did was make him cry or look pensive and…
A sigh escaped his lips as he ran his fingers through his hair.
Yeah, Yamaguchi would never truly be happy with him, not in the same way he was happy with Yachi.
Besides, he didn’t seem overly eager to break things up.
Kei should’ve felt worse, but he couldn’t bring himself to be too fussed about the whole thing. At the end of the day, he had kissed Yamaguchi and he could still feel his fingers at his nape carding through his hair.
His phone rang on the desk. Kei stifled a groan of frustration as he blindly reached out to grab at it.
He stopped where he was. Every thought he’d been having for the past twelve hours came back in full force until he felt nauseous and scrambled to accept the phone call, pressing the phone to his ear.
“Hello.” He was surprised he was even able to say that much.
There was a soft intake of breath on the other end and then, “Hi.” And Kei could feel his whole world crumbling around him.
It hurt to think about it too much, but he would only ever need this: the sound of Yamaguchi’s voice, soft and purposeful. He could survive off of just this, if that was all he could ever have.
And then he laughed and, you know what, maybe Kei could be a bit more selfish. Maybe he was allowed to have this too.
“As fun as this is, I — um — I wanted to know how you were doing. You know with your migraine and everything.”
God he wanted to see him, every part of his body was screaming at him to leave the house and go see him. He didn’t know how he’d been able to go months without talking to him, months without hearing the familiar lilts and and pauses that filled his speech.
“Oh, yeah, it’s fine. My head’s fine.”
And Kei laid there in bed, his phone pressed to his ear, his face burning and thinking that, maybe, Yamaguchi was a few streets down in the same predicament.
He wanted to bring up the kiss. He wanted to ask for another one — a hundred more if he could.
“So, dinner tonight, don’t forget.”
“I don’t think my memory’s that bad yet.”
“Just wanted to make sure. I don’t want you to leave without saying goodbye.”
Something in Kei’s chest tightened. “I wouldn’t.” There was a silence. “I’m sorry about that. I shouldn’t have done— that was a shitty thing to do.”
“Yeah, it was,” Yamaguchi sighed into the receiver without hesitation.
A beat passed.
Kei didn’t know what else to say. He had apologized, said all the important things: sorry, I wish I could take it back, etc. But he felt as if Yamaguchi was waiting for something else, and he couldn’t figure out what it was.
If anything, Kei thought as he listened to the steady breathing on the other side, he should be the one waiting. Yamaguchi was still dating Yachi with no apparent plans of stopping. But Kei couldn’t find it in himself to be angry about that either.
“So, about last night…” Kei bit at a hangnail, because he was kind of tired of darting around the topic and wanted to get to the part where he would be able to do it again.
And Yamaguchi laughed again, a real, full, belly laugh. It might’ve been his bundled up nerves or the effect of the last week, but Kei laughed too, more at the snorts that Yamaguchi kept emitting and then telling him to stop laughing at. And it was beautiful cacophony for almost a minute before Yamaguchi managed to calm himself down.
Kei could almost imagine him red-faced with tears and a smile creasing at the corner of his eyes. He tried not to think about it for too long.
“Sorry about that,” he sniffled. “It’s just…wow! I don’t think you were ever this blunt about something.”
“I wasn’t that blunt,” Kei muttered, his cheeks burning.
“What about last night?”
It might’ve been all in his mind. In fact, Kei was almost completely sure it was all a figment of his overactive imagination and the lingering taste of Yamaguchi on his lips that made the question seem like more of a purr that shot straight through him.
He cleared his throat, well aware that no one could see him, but still wanting to cover his face.
“Um, well.” He swallowed thickly. “I liked it.”
“I would be offended if you didn’t.”
“Shut up,” he muttered, feeling the familiar flow of conversation return. It felt almost easy, almost like it had been. “I mean, it was my, like, first.”
“Really?” Yamaguchi’s voice was higher, verging on…hopeful? Kei hoped it was hopeful.
“So, no one in Tokyo?”
“No one in Tokyo.”
“What? Was I just that good?” He punctuated it with a laugh before Yamaguchi could start laughing at him.
Yamaguchi swallowed. “Yeah, actually.”
Kei wanted to kiss him so badly.
His cheeks were flushed and the seconds seemed to be ticking by at an agonizingly slow pace.
“So, six?” he spluttered. There was only so much embarrassment he could take in one conversation, especially when he was now painfully aware of his body.
He could hear the smile in Yamaguchi’s voice. “Yeah, six.”
“I won’t forget.”
“I’ll say goodbye.”
He wanted to ask if it was completely necessary that Yachi also be there but he swallowed the words back. This was a good conversation a good place to end it all. He didn’t want to ruin things anymore than necessary.
“I don’t want to hang up,” he murmured, so softly he doubted he had even said it when Yamaguchi’s breath stuttered through the receiver.
“When did you get so sappy?” Yamaguchi said, voice barely above a whisper. “Where did you put my Tsukki?”
“I’ll see you at six.”
Just like that the call was over and he was left alone in his room, his phone warm against his face.
The sun had long since set by the time Kei found himself standing in front of the gate to Yamaguchi’s house. Dressed in a pair of khaki pants and a button down shirt his mother had insisted he put on, Kei was cold, even with his winter coat on.
He didn’t know what his mother had against sweaters.
It was 5:59.
Kei had never prided himself on being particularly punctual. He wasn’t someone who usually ran late, but he certainly wasn’t someone who was exactly on time.
Tonight was different. He didn’t want to be early. He wanted to see Yamaguchi, he wanted to see Yamaguchi’s parents (to a significantly lesser degree), but he certainly didn’t have the desire to make small talk with them and Yachi when all he really wanted to do was kiss the expanse of skin leading down to Yamaguchi’s collarbone.
He pressed his lips together as the familiar uncomfortable feeling set in.
Taking a deep breath and forcing images of Hinata and Kageyama into his mind, he managed to calm himself down enough to ring the bell at exactly six.
Yamaguchi’s mother, was a short, thin woman who looked in every way identical to her son down to the familiar grin that bloomed across her face when she saw him.
“Kei!” she cheered. “Come in, come in!”
He grinned in response. In the time it took him to trapse the short distance from gate to front door, she had pulled the door open the rest of the way, allowing the warmth to spill outside.
“Come, come,” she hurried him over. “Before you catch a cold.”
“It’s nice to see you too,” he said as he slipped out of his shoes and she shut the door behind him.
“Now then,” she took a step back from him, eyes appraising him. “Let me get a good look at you.”
He stood there, awkwardly shuffling out of his jacket.
“We’re going to feed you, don’t you worry. Your mother was right, much too skinny.” Then she patted his shoulder, going up on her toes a little. “Now, come on, everyone’s in the living room.”
She took him by his elbow leaving him with precious little time to gather his bearings and stomach himself for the next couple of hours.
“Tsukishima-kun,” Yamaguchi’s father was sweeping in from the kitchen, a pot of tea in one hand and water in the other. “I’m glad you could make it. He deposited the drinks on the coffee table in front of the sofa where Yamaguchi and Yachi sat, a respectable distance away, but their bodies angled towards each other.
Kei pointedly looked away.
“How’s your mother?” His father settled into an arm chair, a grin on his face.
That was the thing about Yamaguchi’s parents. They were always happy and not in the polite way that he and his mom put on when guests came over.
“That’s good, she must be lonely in that house now that both her boys have left.” His mom swept in behind him, patted his arm again and gestured towards the couch. “Go ahead and sit, dear. Dinner will be ready in a few.”
“I think she’s relieved if anything. She’s planning on turning Akiteru’s old bedroom into a sewing room if he doesn’t show up in a few months.”
He glanced at Yamaguchi and Yachi briefly before settling down on the couch next to Yachi, the only available seat. She threw him a smile, tense in the corners.
That was the only explanation. She knew and she hated him. Kei swallowed past the lump in his throat. Yamaguchi’s father looked between the three.
“Hi,” he said, hands gripping at his knees.
“Hey Tsukki,” Yamaguchi grinned, leaning forward slightly.
Kei tried not to stare at how he looked in a sweater and collared shirt. He had obviously tried to comb his hair into submission but it’s inherent messy state combatted against it. He wanted to run his fingers through his hair.
He flexed his fingers over his knees.
“So, Tokyo?” his dad asked before sipping on his cup of tea. “How’s that going for you?”
He tensed, Yamaguchi’s eyes were on him and so were Yachi’s. He let out a shaky breath.
“Um, good, I guess. It’s different.”
“I bet. What’re you studying again? History?” Yamaguchi’s mother slipped through, hanging around the back of the armchair.
“Tsukki’s been obsessed with history since we were kids,” Yamaguchi said to Yachi, whose wide eyes were desperately trying to keep up with the conversation.
Kei felt for her, honestly. He could relate to the awkward feeling of just not fitting in. The longer he was seated next to Yachi and Yamaguchi the more it swelled in him.
He tried not to let his cheeks warm at Yamaguchi’s words though.
“You must be getting so many opportunities down there,” his father said, setting his cup down.
“Yeah, I’ve been accepted into a study abroad program.”
He realized his mistake after he’d said it. Yamaguchi’s eyes widened before they narrowed only slightly. Kei felt his chest constrict.
“Study abroad? Where are you headed?”
“Um, well nowhere right now, I haven’t accepted anything,” he tried to backtrack. “But, I mean, it’s Mexico. You know, for the Mayans.” He poked at the callused blister on his finger.
“That’s going to be incredible,” his mother gasped. “Can you imagine that, Tadashi?”
Yamaguchi nodded, lips pressed into a thin line. “Yeah. Incredible.”
Kei avoided eye contact.
“Okay, how about we get to eating?”
The meal was awkward.
No, it was actually lovely. Yamaguchi’s mother had prepared a table of food. Each dish was more delicious than the last. Conversation flowed smoothly enough, Yachi coming out of her shell and filling any silences with little comments about the food or Yamaguchi’s achievements in his coursework.
But Kei couldn’t speak. It was worse than Yamaguchi staring at him, it was the fact that he completely ignored him. He no longer existed.
He knew that bringing up Mexico now was a bad idea. They were plenty of opportunities, but at dinner with his family and girlfriend was not one of them. But it had just slipped out. He had been holding it in for so long and maybe it was easier this way. It was easier to drop the bomb during a time when Yamaguchi couldn’t say anything to him immediately.
“Um, I have to use the bathroom,” he excused himself as he stood up. He felt nauseous, and the onset of yet another migraine.
Yamaguchi’s mom gave him a kind grin as he stood up and slipped out into the hallway.
The floor felt like it was dipping underneath him with each step until he came to the guest bathroom and shut himself inside to take a few steadying breaths.
It wasn’t his fault that Mexico had come up, it was a dream opportunity, he shouldn’t have to feel bad about taking it.
There was a knock at the door.
He froze from where he was, hands grasping on the counter. He should’ve still been angry, but he couldn’t find it in him.
He took another breath for his nerves and opened the door.
Yamaguchi stood awkwardly in the hallway, scratching the back of his neck.
The sound of silverware on plates and pleasant chatter drifted in from the dining room.
“Why didn’t you say anything about Mexico?” he finally asked.
Kei swallowed. Despite knowing that this question was on the way it still made him freeze.
“I don’t know if I’m going to take it yet.”
Yamaguchi’s jaw dropped. A flicker of anger passed over his features, smoothed out before Kei could really even quantify it.
“You have to take it.”
“But—“ What about us? What about this?
Yachi. He had Yachi, he didn’t need Kei like Kei needed him.
“But nothing. This is a huge opportunity. Why would you even think about not taking it?”
He didn’t say anything, or, to be more apt, he couldn’t. The words stuck to his throat, thick and heavy. He chewed at the inside of his cheek and, regrettably, his eyes met Yamaguchi’s for a split second.
That was all he could say. Like it had all clicked all at once. Like it was a surprise that, yes, Kei actually wanted to put Yamaguchi first.
He removed his hands from the counter, wiping his sweaty palms on his pant leg.
“We should head back before your parents start to wonder,” he muttered and tried to squeeze past him. Yamaguchi stayed firmly in place.
His breathing was coming out staggered, like he was holding something in. His eyes flickered across the tiles on the floor.
“Tsukki,” he started, his voice a soft whisper. “What do you want?”
It was vague, in typical Yamaguchi fashion, but Kei knew exactly what he meant. It hurt how readily the answer jumped to the forefront of his mind.
“I just want to be happy… with you.”
And he knew that it was wrong even before he had said it, but he didn’t want to keep it in anymore.
Yamaguchi screwed his eyes up, freckled nose creasing as jaunty shadows streaked across his cheeks. He looked so different in that moment, so different from the kid that he used to be in high school.
And when he opened his eyes again they were rimmed red and glossy. “I can’t do that.”
But you said! He wanted to throw a fit and get angry and remind Yamaguchi that just yesterday he had said that all it would take was him asking for it. This was him asking for it. This was the best he could do.
He wanted to shout and kiss and just let everything smooth over. But this wasn’t one of those times like in high school where Yamaguchi could get angry and Kei could listen for once and everything would be fine.
“Why did you kiss me?” he asked instead, trying to decide whether what he was feeling was anger or betrayal. Was this how Yamaguchi had felt on that hill?
“Because you asked,” he said softly in a voice that wasn’t even convincing to Kei.
He couldn’t fight, not when his parents and Yachi were feet away but God did he want to. He wanted to argue that what had happened yesterday wasn’t a mere consolation kiss, even he knew that.
“You know that’s not true.”
“Well what do you want me to say?” And Yamaguchi was doing that loud whispering that his parents had done when he was a kid, the kind that signified an important conversation but enough emotional maturity not to blow. “That I did it because I love you? Because I thought that you would know what you want? Because I thought you might love me too?”
“I do love you.” He was frustrated now. How much more did he have to prove himself? He had said it on the hill that he loved him, was that not enough?
Yamaguchi frowned, an expression that looked so foreign on his face Kei almost looked away.
“How do you know?”
Kei paused. “What?”
“How do you know that you love me?”
He opened his mouth and then closed it again, unable to comprehend the turn the conversation had taken.
“Because I’m not leaving a relationship where I’m happy just to be your gay awakening so that you can move onto someone else later on.”
“I’m happy. And I know I said I would leave her for you, because I thought I would. If you had asked me in May I would have. But not now. Not when you can just throw those words around and not see how much it hurts me to hear them from you. Especially after what you did to me.”
This hurt a lot more than Kei had expected. Because he did love him, but he was also hurting him like he thought he would. And Yamaguchi was crying again. And his head was pounding so hard he could barely keep his eyes open through the bright bathroom lights.
“Yamaguchi, I love you.”
Yamaguchi looked up at him with tear-stained cheeks and lower lip wobbling, but he still looked so intimidating.
“You should go. I’ll tell my parents that you got a migraine, they’ll understand.”
“I ‘m not going to fight you on this.”
Laughter erupted from the dining room and Kei felt like his whole life had been torn to shreds.
After quickly shoving his things back into his bag, he had helped his mother with breakfast and the cleaning up afterwards before tidying up the house. He went through each room three times before his mother insisted he head over to the station. Shoving on his jacket and his duffel bag over his shoulders he had trudged through the fresh snow.
Hinata had annoyingly insisted on sending him off having seen Kageyama off the night before and now bored. It was obvious to everyone, because Kei didn’t have it in him to school his features to something more pleasant, that he was annoyed. Even Hinata with his less than stellar ability to judge the mood of his environment had taken to complimenting him profusely on his height and other qualities that made him a great middle blocker in high school.
Despite the fact that it had little relevancy, it did provide a distraction and that was all Kei really wanted. He just needed to do everything in his power to not think about Yamaguchi and he’d be fine. He had been doing well so far, having shoved his headphones on the moment he got home and blasted his music as loud as it could go until he could feel the ringing in his bones long after the music had ended.
This could work. He could make it work.
He had even teased Hinata about Kageyama which had always put him in a better mood, and today was no exception. But when he was settled in his seat and the train pulled away he felt it in the pit of his stomach: the gut-clenching feeling that he was making a mistake.
But there was nothing he could do now. Yamaguchi didn’t want to see him let alone listen to him. Even if he did, Kei wouldn’t know what to say. He hardly knew what he had done wrong let alone what was expected of him. If anything, Yamaguchi had made it plainly clear that he was very happy where he was and despite the fact that he had kissed Kei, he would rather kiss Yachi.
With a sigh, Kei pulled his headphones on and turned the volume as high as it would go, drowning himself in earth shattering bass lines.
He missed Yamaguchi, he did, but he hardly had time to miss much of anything when he came back to school and life was a flurry of final exam preparation.
Kuroo and Bokuto proved to be very good study companions and spent limited time goofing off. This might have been because of the fact that Kei refused to talk about Yamaguchi with them, or that whenever they brought it up he immediately brought out his headphones again.
It was easy enough to forget about everything, though, once the ground rules had been laid out and Kuroo and Bokuto took to helping him forget. They seemed more eager than ever to quiz him on various dates and stay with him late into the night, studying.
Kei appreciated it, really. But he couldn’t help but feel a little twinge of jealousy whenever Akaashi would come late into a study session in the library, poke Bokuto until he woke up and cocked his head towards the door. They would walk out moments later, Bokuto talking a mile a minute and Akaashi trying very hard not to smile as their shoulders bumped together.
Kuroo would sigh longingly as he fell against the table, stretching his arms across the piles of papers, binders, and textbooks.
“And so the two solitary bachelors are alone.”
Kei looked at him from the corner of his eye.
“Don’t you have a girlfriend?”
Kuroo’s face flushed slightly and he coughed into his arm. “Um, not really. Not anymore.”
There was really nothing more to say. Kei wanted to say he felt something, but he couldn’t. Not only because talking about relationships made him want to die, but also because he didn’t really know how to comfort Kuroo of all people.
“Don’t worry, it wasn’t bad,” he continued as if Kei had asked.
The next couple of weeks followed in a similar manner. Kei drowned himself in studying and South African apartheid legislation and middle aged farming techniques. Bokuto drowned him in long, drawn out stories that were so meaningless they ended up further distracting him and he tried very hard not to look pleased. Kuroo worked hard to distract himself on his phone, probably trying his best to leave the Solitary Bachelor’s Club.
And at the end of the month, before finals began, he filled out his study abroad form and handed it in without a second thought. After everything, Mexico seemed like the best idea.
He sat his exams and they went well which wasn’t surprising given the amount of time he had dedicated to studying.
As he ambled back into his dorm room after his last exam, his eyes were drawn to the pile of letters sitting in an open drawer. He had been avoiding them for the past couple of weeks, his chest hurt too much to think about it.
He had never really intended to read them in the first place, but now more than ever it seemed like a breach of privacy. It was almost as if he had missed the deadline and now it was too late.
His eyes lingered on the smiley face and it felt as if all the air had been squeezed from his lungs which was proving to be a new constant feeling.
He was calling Yamaguchi before he could convince himself not to.
It was so soft and familiar, Kei wanted to cry. He wanted to go back to that blissful fifteen hour period in which he and Yamaguchi were kind of happy for a bit.
“Hey.” He wanted to drift in the nothingness of conversation forever, to listen to Yamaguchi’s breathing lull him into a false sense of comfort. “I just wanted to, um, send you back your letters. It feels a little wrong to keep them at this point.”
Yamaguchi swallowed. “No, keep them, it’s fine.”
“Oh, er, okay.”
“Anyway, I have to go, Tsukki. Bye.”
It was too familiar, it made his words feel cloying in his throat.
January gave way to February. Cold, damp winters slowly melted into cold, damp spring. But even despite the shift in the month, and the slightly more subtle change in the seasons, they were staring at him. Kei had tried to distract himself with class, but now that finals were done there wasn’t really much to do schoolwork-wise. It all left his mind very open for the thoughts he least wanted to have, most of which revolved around a certain freckled face.
Yamaguchi had said he could keep the letters, which could mean a whole host of things. Did he want him to read them? Respond? Were they just too painful to look at now?
Worse, even than the constant pull of the five envelopes, was the fact that his mind was now free for dreams of Yamaguchi to infiltrate his mind. And he was suddenly back on the street in front of his house and Yamaguchi’s fingers were on his arms before moving up to his hair.
He groaned his frustration into his pillow. Bone-rattling music no longer served it’s purpose in distracting him, not when everything was a reminder of what could have been. Yesterday, Bokuto had caught him staring at a cloud that reminded him of Yamaguchi’s stupid cowlick. It had been embarrassing, to say the least, to be called out by him of all people.
After a meeting with his study abroad advisor, which was more exciting than he would ever admit, he was alone again in his room. It was a Friday and there was nothing to really distract him from the pull of the Pokemon-studded envelopes. Bokuto had a game and Kuroo was trying to hide the fact that he was going on a date later in the day. He really needed to make some friends his own age.
His mind was once again on the envelopes. Annoyed, and frankly a little curious, he rolled off his bed and sat himself at his desk. Before he could talk himself out of it, he pulled all of the envelopes out and laid them before him. He could still remember the order they came in, like it had been imprinted in his mind.
Ignoring the shaking in his hands, he lifted up the first Pikachu decorated envelope and opened it.
There was just a single piece of paper folded inside, Yamaguchi’s small handwriting scrawled across the entire thing front and back. With a deep breath, he unfolded it and began to read.
I don’t really know how to start this, or any letter really. I don’t think I’ve ever written a letter before. I know I could just text you, but at least the post gives me a little time to breath before you read this. Just a warning, because I know how dramatic you can be, but this is gonna be pretty embarrassing. Sorry about that.
I miss you. A lot. I know why you left, I don’t really hold that against you too much, I would’ve done the same. Besides Tokyo’s a great university, I would hate if you lost that opportunity.
I’m dating Yachi now, I don’t know if you know that. I don’t know how to tell you, really. She likes me, like really likes me. And she knows about what happened between us. I told her after you left. I would apologize for making you mad or whatever, but honestly I think I deserve the right to complain about you to anyone I see fit. But anyway, she gets it. She’s patient with me, you know. And I think I could love her. She’s really easy to love.
Look, I don’t want things to be weird between us, I really don’t. I miss talking to you. I’m with someone else so you have nothing to worry about if you think I’m gonna assault you or something.
Now that I’m writing this it seems stupid. Do you even get mail where you are? Will you even open this? Will you even respond?
Please respond. Please. If you don’t want to write you can just call me or text me or anything.
Hinata’s been asking about you for months, so he kinda knows too. I don’t think I told him, but I’ve been out drinking with him a few times (that’s a new thing, I drink now, it’s not as bad as I thought) so who knows what happened. If he bugs you about it sorry, cause he bugs me about it.
Anyway, I’m happy, so don’t worry about me. I’m fine.
I can’t wait to see you again in December.
- Yamaguchi Tadashi
It’s me again. Um, you didn’t respond. I don’t know if you even got the letter. I mean they would send it back if you didn’t, right? I don’t know maybe you just don’t want to talk to me, which I get, kinda. Well, actually, no, I don’t. I should be the one avoiding you if anything!
Ugh, I hope you realize how frustrating you are. And I still love you, which is entirely unfair to me. And Yachi. We’re still together, obviously. I mean, even I don’t think I’m that bad at relationships. I like her a lot.
But I can’t stop thinking about you. Which is stupid because you hardly do anything. Yachi told me the other day that she really doesn’t get it (and by ‘it’ I mean the whole I’m-kinda-still-in-love-with-you thing). She thinks that you’re just this intimidating, uncaring person and, I mean, you are to an extent. But I think that’s what makes you so great. You appear that way but no one would know how much you care.
Do you remember when we were kids and you stood up for me the first time we met? I know that I romanticized the whole thing in my head, but I know you did care more than you like to admit. You hate seeing people being treated unfairly (unless it’s Kageyama, maybe).
This is becoming a really stupid letter, I’m not gonna lie to you, but if you’re not gonna reply what does it matter. I just want to call you, but I can’t cause I’m a coward. I want to complain about all the little things in my life and for you to call me out for how insignificant it all is. I want to see you roll your eyes when you see the stupid Pokemon stickers I used. I just miss you.
Anyway, I’m gonna go now. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still happy.
If you don’t want to respond to this one I understand.
- Yamaguchi Tadashi
So, it’s been two weeks now. I don’t think I’m giving you enough to respond to. Sorry about that.
(1) How are you?
(2) How’s Tokyo?
(3) Do you even miss me?
Sorry about how self-centered the last one is, but I really can’t help but wonder. I (obviously) miss you. Then again, I’m also hopelessly in love with you… even if you don’t respond to my letters.
I chose Eevee for this envelope only because of the fact that you hate them for no apparent reason. Eevee’s not overrated thank you very much.
Yachi likes Pokemon. We can talk for hours about how Diamond and Pearl are the best games in the series. I can’t do that with you. Not that that’s your fault or anything. You like your things and I like mine, but I like that it’s nice to talk to someone who has the same interests, you know?
Are you coming home for New Years? I know the break isn’t that long and that traveling all the way out here may be more trouble than it’s worth. But everyone here misses you, not just me. Sometimes I think Hinata misses someone to point out all his flaws. I’m not very good at it.
Yesterday I saw a kid playing with those little dinosaur figurines you used to collect at the park.
God, this is stupid. You’re probably not even going to read these, so I’m just whining to myself about how I see you everywhere. Like sometimes the back of Yachi’s head reminds me of you and I need to take a step back and compose myself. I’m going crazy over here trying to go back to normal.
I can be your friend, though. So, like, don’t worry about that. Whenever you’re ready I’ll be here…as your friend.
I can’t be your friend.
I’ve decided that’s how I’m going to open up this letter. Because I’ve been crying for the better part of the day, and my anxiety is through the roof and I can’t tell Yachi because then everything will be weird.
I keep thinking about you, and this whole mess is because of you, so I’m going to write to you.
Basically, I came to the rude realization that you’re coming home in two weeks and I don’t know if I can see you. No, that’s a lie. I definitely want to see you. But, like, I can’t be your friend. I’ll be your acquaintance.
I love you. I love you so much it feels like I can’t breathe sometimes.
I told Yachi. She was understanding, at least. I thought she would break up with me, I would deserve that. But she just said that she knew and smiled and asked for the answers to some homework we had due. And I think I love her too. Like, not in the same way that I love you, but like a really really good friend. Which I don’t think you’re supposed to feel towards your girlfriend. I feel really bad about it. Like I can’t sleep because when I’m with her I wish I was with you and that’s a really messed up thing to feel.
Do you remember when we graduated from high school and we went to Sakanoshita and just bought as many candies as we could afford and sat in your room and stuffed our faces until we felt sick? Whenever I feel sick I think about that. You laughed at me cause I had chocolate on my cheek and then you wiped it off and rolled your eyes and I prayed that you wouldn’t see how much I was blushing. That’s why I can’t be your friend, cause I just think about moments like that all the time and I can’t be thinking like that in front of you. Cause you will definitely notice me blushing now.
Bye. Sorry about how all over the place this is. You don’t need to respond :)
I have a lot to say before you come back so I’m just gonna get into it.
First of all, just so you’re not shocked or whatever when you come back: I’m still dating Yachi, I’m kind of getting over you, and Yachi might hate you (not hate, she doesn’t really hate anyone, but she really doesn’t like you). But the most important part of all of that is that I’m getting over you! I woke up today and you weren’t the first thing I thought of. Granted, you were the second, but that’s not important.
But Yachi found out about the letters (read: I told her about the letters) and she’s upset that you haven’t responded. I tried to tell her that she doesn’t get you. When you don’t like things you ignore them until they go away. You probably haven’t even looked at any of these. She’s still not happy. She also says I need to stop making excuses for you.
Anyway, part of me getting over you is stopping these letters. You’re not reading them (or at least not replying) and it’s just hurting me, honestly. Part of this could be because you’re coming next week and I won’t have the need to write you, but it’s mostly because this is painful for me and because I’m going to be happy with Yachi. I’ve decided.
This brings me to my second point. I don’t want you to respond. I think that’ll hurt a lot more. I mean it hurt me a lot just to write that, but I think that whatever you say will give me a shred of hope because that’s how I’ve always been around you.
And finally, I think it’s important that I let you know why I fell in love with you. I think I’d want to know if someone loved me. So, I’ll direct you back to middle school when we had that sleepover and you fell asleep on the couch while watching some show I insisted on. Your head kinda lolled over and it actually looked pretty uncomfortable. You were drooling and snoring, which are perhaps two of the most unattractive things, but I couldn’t look away (which is weird, I know). It was like something out of a movie, you were illuminated by the TV and your glasses were slipping off and you just looked so at peace. Then you woke up and you skipped the groggy stage and you were up on your feet and alert and it was so weird and alien and I thought you were so cool. And then in high school you fell asleep on one bus ride to Tokyo and your head was on my shoulder and I could hear the music faintly playing from your headphones.
This is stupid. Sorry about that.
I thought it would be therapeutic to write all of this down but I think I’m just falling for you again which was not the plan. I should go, before my mom thinks I’m having a panic attack and busts the door down. Remember when that happened that one time? God you looked so embarrassed for no reason. And then I was blushing because you were blushing. I think my mom thought we were dating.
Never mind. We’re entering dangerous territory again.
I should go. I secretly can’t wait to see you, but outwardly I’ll try to appear indifferent.
Wish me luck.
Heartbreak didn’t feel like how Kei had assumed it would. It wasn’t a sharp stab in his chest. It was an all-encompassing pressure, his lungs trying hard to expand and only being allowed short, stuttered breaths. His head pounded and just one thing kept replaying in his mind over and over again: Tsukishima Kei, you are an idiot.
He didn’t even need to stop and think as he stood up on unsteady legs, shoved his wallet in his pocket, and left. It was just Tadashi, Tadashi, Tadashi.
Was this stupid? Maybe. He’d forgotten his jacket and hadn’t even properly tied his shoes. And his brain wouldn’t stop reminding him about how shitty of a person he was.
But he was back home and he planned on setting things right. He was going to make up for all of it. He was going to apologize for every little thing he’d ever done; every time he’d made Yamaguchi apologize for just expressing himself, every time he’d made him make excuses for him, every time he’d let him down. Just everything. He knew he had been an awful person, but he hadn’t really seen it until it was in front of him in Yamaguchi’s tidy scrawl. Swirled and looped around, all crossed t’s and dotted i’s.
He could barely register how cold it was, he just had to get there. He had to make up for it. He had to replace his last image of Yamaguchi with something else.
The street expanded before him; Yamaguchi’s home tucked away with it’s budding flowers and snow-shoveled driveway.
He couldn’t breathe.
And then the gate opened and he wondered whether he would fit behind one of the garbage bins lining the streets.
It was Yachi. Her blonde hair was fluttering around her face, cheeks flushed, and eyes wide.
He coughed. Everything was okay. Everything would be okay.
The wind whistled past the two of them and he was overly aware of the fact that he didn’t have his jacket, even to fiddle with.
“Did you come here to… see Tadashi?” she asked raising both of her eyebrows. She didn’t seem angry, if anything, it was as if she pitied him. A small smile twisted at the corner of her mouth and Kei was surprised he didn’t feel blinding jealousy. He mostly just felt tired.
“Yeah,” he said, cause there was no point in fighting it. What else would he be doing so far from his dorm room on a Friday evening?
Her smile tightened, cheeks pink and eyes still glittering. She had always been so awkward in high school, all red-faced and spluttering, it was weird to see her any different now. But she had undoubtedly changed, she was more assured.
“I was just about to go and get something to eat, do you wanna come with?”
It was a question, but Kei knew that there was only one correct answer.
And Yachi stuffed her hands into her coat pockets and started off down the street before Kei realized he had to follow her. They walked in silence, and all Kei could think about was that he had kissed her boyfriend and he had planned on maybe doing it again and he was an awful person. But Yachi didn’t seem stressed, and she wasn’t stupid. She had to have known what he was going there to do.
He stuffed his hands into his jean pockets, which was uncomfortable and awkward and made him miss his jacket even more.
They arrived at the same cafe they had gone to for New Years in a matter of minutes. Yachi smiled as she pulled off her scarf and gloves and commented on how nice and warm it was, throwing comforting glances his way as she asked for a table for two. They settled down in the relatively busy cafe, Yachi sitting down with a huff, her jacket draped across the back of her chair, scarf folded on top and gloves shoved into her purse nestled on her lap.
“I’ll just get a cappuccino,” she asked with a grin and turned to Kei.
He blinked owlishly. “Erm, just black will do,” he ordered, because he didn’t know the different types and he assumed that was the most basic.
“Do you want a pastry? My treat?”
And he couldn’t possibly order a pastry thanks to best-friend-slash-love-of-his-life’s girlfriend. So, he gave a tight lipped grin and shook his head, shoving his glasses further up the bridge of his nose.
“I’ll get a croissant, then, please.”
The waiter scribbled it all down and left with the untouched menus.
Fading sunlight clawed through the windows in scattered beams, illuminating her eyes as she repositioned her purse beside her, folded her hands on the table and looked up at him.
“So, you’re far from home,” she said, cocking a brow.
Kei wanted to laugh at the absurdity of it all. Just the idea that she could be trying to find normalcy in any of this.
But he didn’t, instead he pressed his fingers together, a steady steeple under the table.
“I was coming to apologize.”
She nodded, her gaze moving from his face to the window. “Did you read the letters?”
He froze. “Did you?” He didn’t mean to come off confrontational, but he had kind of assumed they were private. Despite the lengthy mentions of Yachi, in his mind it was just him and Yamaguchi on the page. But it was Yamaguchi. So, of course he shared it with her.
“Some of the last one. Well, I didn’t really read it, he read it to me.” She had a small smile twisting at the corner of her lips. “He gets into this space where he thinks everyone hates him and he tries to make up for things he didn’t even do wrong.”
“Yeah,” Kei murmured, because he knew those states. He knew the way Yamaguchi’s eyes became animalistic almost, no longer able to listen to reason.
“He was a mess last March,” she said, turning her gaze back on him, pinning him underneath it, forcing him to watch.
She expected an answer, some of his famed apology. But he couldn’t find the words, his throat was dry, his mind blank.
“I know.” It was all he could say and he knew it was too little.
Her lips twisted into a tight line just as the waiter appeared again with the drinks and pastry.
She pulled the pot of sugar towards her and shoveled piles of brown sugar into the frothy drink. Kei would’ve commented had the situation permitted it.
She took to stirring it, not lifting her eyes. “I don’t think you do know.” And then silence again. “I know what happened, I’m not dumb. And I know that he loves you.” Kei felt his insides twist. “But you hurt him. And I know he thinks that you are a layered person with good intentions, but…” She drifted off and took a deep breath punctuated by a sip of her drink. Kei’s drink sat untouched. “I don’t like how you treat him. I don’t like that one word from you has him swooning for weeks, even if it’s just to say ‘goodbye’.”
Kei’s hand gripped at the mug, he couldn’t really tell if it was burning him or not, his mind was in other places. He was a shitty person. He knew that, but a little affirmation never hurt anyone.
“And he was getting better until you came back and now he’s like this.” She waved her hands to explain a point he couldn’t quite make out.
What was he supposed to say? She was his girlfriend, it’s not like he could explain that he loved him and would never intentionally try and hurt him.
So, instead he said, “I didn’t mean to.” And it was pathetic, but expected.
Yachi sighed, coffee held up near her lips. “That’s not an apology.”
“So try again.”
He avoided her gaze and focused on the inky black drink in front of him, the strong smell of coffee that curled into the air around him. “I’m sorry. I’m an awful person and I don’t pay attention to other people, least of all him. I just kind of expect things to last forever. I expected us to last forever and then he went and changed everything up and I can’t just process change like that. It takes me a minute. So, I ran away and that was fucked up. I should’ve stuck around and listened to him and not made him feel like he was… wrong or something. It takes me too long to adjust to change and then I did and then there was you. I don’t know. I fucked it up again because he’s happy and I’m not.”
It was the longest he’d ever spoken in one go, but it felt good to finally say it all. To have it out there, even if it was with Yachi over coffee and untouched pastries.
“I saw him happy, like really happy, for the first time the morning before we had dinner with his parents.” She looked at him with the kind of look that girls usually gave when they knew something but didn’t want to come outright and say it.
He froze as images of Yamaguchi under streetlight and blushing came forward unsolicited.
“Y-You know about the kiss?” Kei spluttered because he was finding it harder to appear calm and collected as the seconds ticked on. Besides, he had already thoroughly embarrassed himself in front of Yachi with his emotional vulnerability.
She raised a brow. “Of course I know. He told me minutes after it happened.” Because of course he did.
Kei felt the guilt course through him in wave after nauseous wave. He took a sip of his drink and swallowed past the unpleasantness of it all, trying not to regurgitate it onto the table. He doubted that would end very well.
“I’m sorry,” he coughed.
She shrugged, pulling her croissant closer to her. “I don’t know, I saw it coming. And Tadashi and I have always had a weird relationship. Like,” she sighed, picking up the flaky pastry just to twist it around with a pensive look on her face. “It was like we always knew this was just a stopover relationship to get somewhere else. I knew we were never going to get married or anything. Besides, I just want him to be happy.” And she smiled wide and took a bite.
Kei could spot suppressed emotions, after years of doing it himself it was pretty easy to do.
“You love him,” he murmured.
“Yeah, and I know he loves me too, but we don’t love each other enough or in the way we should.”
He swallowed thickly, to get past the emotion and the bitter aftertaste of coffee.
“And he’s happy with you. At least when you’re not acting like an emotionally stunted teenager.” She rolled her eyes and took another sip.
“What about you?” Kei asked. “You deserve to be happy too.”
She smiled, the edges tinged in sadness. “And I will be,” she licked her lips. “Eventually.”
And he felt horrible and frustrated and so in love with his best friend that it hurt.
“I’m gonna go back now,” he said.
Yachi grinned, her eyes dipping to his still full mug. “Yeah, I think that’s for the best right now.”
Kei couldn’t sleep, not when his fingers kept itching to call Yamaguchi, to hear his voice, anything. He understood why he couldn’t, that was far too clear. He and Yachi were together, and while she had made it obvious that things were coming to a conclusion, Kei couldn’t betray her trust like that.
So he laid in bed that night and thought about happiness and whether he actually deserved it after everything. And he thought about Yamaguchi who would probably grin at him, eyes shining and say that everyone did. Then, he would smile a little wider, bite down on it and look away and Kei would want nothing but to make sure he kept smiling. He deserved happiness, maybe not this particular brand, but it was what was on offer. And wouldn’t it make him a worse person if he denied it when there was nothing else standing in his way but himself?
The days passed by, the weekend slugging by with Kuroo off on mysterious dates that he tried to play off as not being dates, and Bokuto’s practices amping up for an important match.
On Wednesday, when Kei’s courses were getting into the swing of introducing everyone to next semester’s topics and what to expect and how to prepare, he received a text. He, Bokuto, and Kuroo had taken to frequenting the library after finals out of habit now more than anything. They would find a table near the back, drop their books on top, and then scroll away through their phones for hours. It was a comfortable existence if a repetitive one, but it was a useful distraction. Kei didn’t feel the urge to call Yamaguchi when Kuroo was two feet away.
“How does it look? Do you like it?” Bokuto asked, trying to pull his phone away from Kuroo’s hands despite giving it to him just seconds earlier.
He frowned, face creasing as he regarded it. “I don’t know,” he murmured, his lips twitching when Bokuto tried (unsuccessfully) to swipe at it again.
“How should I fix it? More sparkles, right? See, I thought I should add more but then I started thinking about this thing I saw on Twitter about how things that are too sparkly can cause like epilepsy or whatever and I—“
“Bokuto,” Kuroo fixed him with a steady gaze. “Breathe. It’s fine, I was just messing with you.”
Bokuto’s face split into a grin and he took his phone back without any resistance. Kei raised a brow when nothing was offered towards him.
“Oh, sorry, Tsukki. It’s just a card I made for Akaashi to celebrate our three year anniversary.” He shoved the phone towards him and Kei was blinded by an array of flashy Word Art text boxes offering a host of cheesy sayings. A photo of the two of them was nestled in the center surrounded by a heart. It was hideous to be honest, but Kei couldn’t help the flicker of a genuine smile from quirking at his lips.
And Kuroo couldn’t help but point it out. “Aw, Tsukki’s going soft.” He slapped him on the shoulder much to his annoyance and he almost said as much when his phone buzzed.
Compromising with a glare, he went to check and his brows pulled when he saw Yachi’s name.
Hey! Just wanted to tell you that we broke up. It was coming, so I don’t want to hear you say you’re sorry or whatever. Just… take care of him :)
He swallowed. Nervousness began to bubble up inside of him, and he just stared at the words unable to do much of anything.
We broke up. They broke up. Yachi and Yamaguchi. Yachi. Yamaguchi.
“Yo, Tsukki, are you good?”
“They broke up.”
Kuroo blinked at him for a moment, before understanding took over.
“Who?” Bokuto asked, frowning between the two of them.
Kuroo turned to look at him, a glint in his eyes that seemed to immediately pass the necessary information along because Bokuto’s mouth opened and a smile quickly replaced it.
“You need to go there,” he said, bouncing in his seat. “Now!”
“Are you crazy?” Kuroo tutted, leaning back in his seat. “The man just got out of a relationship, he’ll need time before jumping into the next.”
And the thought made Kei’s cheeks burn. Jumping into anything was already a bit much, but a relationship? That had been what he’d wanted. He wanted to be with him in the warm sense where Yamaguchi could wrap him up in oversized sweater hugs and laugh against his lips. But that meant action, and taking action was scary.
He frowned and clutched his hand into a fist before exhaling and slowly releasing. “I’m not gonna do anything right now.” He said and looked pointedly at the two of them. “I-I’m gonna give him some space.”
Kuroo nodded and leaned back in his seat, a smirk set on his face as he returned to his phone. “Not too much space,” he muttered.
The end of the semester came faster than he had expected it to, especially when he had his mind set on one particular event. But it came to a conclusion and provided him with a wonderful two weeks before he had to come back and prepare for Mexico and Mayans.
And while four months researching the decline of on of the largest empires was fascinating, he hadn’t been able to really focus on much history-wise. His mind ambled on back to freckles and toothy grins and chapped lips. And after weeks of silent pining — because he refused to be the one who had to text Yamaguchi a ‘sorry you broke up with your girlfriend do you maybe wanna date me’ text — he was finally going to see him. He was going to see that stupid face and hear his equally stupid voice and kiss those stupid lips.
Nobody should’ve been surprised that the minute his last class ended he was already packed and out the door. He said a quick goodbye to his roommate who he would probably never see again, got his duffel bag and suitcase and ambled on out and straight to the station.
The train took longer than it should’ve to arrive and even longer to take off. Kei bounced his knee, his head a mess of Yamaguchi and extinct Mayans. And at some point in hour one he started thinking about 3,000 year old civilizations collapsing without a sound and 10 year friendships that couldn’t possibly be the same, because the stuff that made 10 year friendships work was stronger than that of millennia-old empires. Buildings thinned into open countryside and Mayan architecture started to resemble Yamaguchi’s house. If all that was left by the end of this was a house that he couldn’t enter without being overwhelmed with memories, then at least that would be something. At least he’d be able to visit the house.
But Kei wanted more than just a house and a ghost of a memory, he wanted physical, corporeal touch. He wanted laughter that lingered and smiles that imprinted themselves on the back of his eyelids.
By the time the train pulled into the station, he had gotten himself into more of a state than was absolutely necessary. He dragged his bags off, heaving at the weight, but refusing to slow down. He would have all the time in the world to drop his things off at home afterwards, right now he was busy.
He lugged his things through the streets and politely bowed and nodded and smiled at neighbors who looked at him with concern. And he was in front of the house and the flowers had now bloomed, beautiful pink blossoms.
In his desperate attempt to actually get to the house he had never thought about what might happen if things didn’t go as planned. If Yamaguchi was perfectly happy single, or worse he had found someone else and had decided to stop waiting for Kei.
His stomach gurgled unpleasantly, his head began to throb. He squeezed his eyes shut, pushing it to the back, locking it up securely. He had waited too long to chicken out now.
Kei pressed the doorbell. He waited a beat, his breathing still coming out uneven from how quickly he had moved.
“Hello.” It was Yamaguchi. He clutched his hand around the strap of his duffel bag.
He swallowed past the rest of his nervousness which was relatively easy now that he had heard him. “Hey.”
Yamaguchi’s breath stuttered and Kei wanted to just close his eyes and listen. But the call dropped and there was a sound from inside before the door opened and Yamaguchi stood in the frame eyes wide.
He looked beautiful. Harsh spring sunlight bounced off each strand of his hair that refused to play along, his face had a healthy flush to it. He stepped down to the courtyard and pulled open the gate, his eyes never leaving Kei’s.
“Hi,” he grinned.
Kei could combust. He had so much he wanted to say and they all fought for importance until his brain was a jumbled mess.
“I don’t want to end up like the Mayans,” he said.
“I love you.” And this time it was different. This time it was a feeling he could trace back to every cell and strand of hair.
Yamaguchi’s mouth opened and then closed and repeated like a fish and Kei still loved him.
“Are you okay?”
He reached up to put a hand on Kei’s forehead and he let it rest there, he let the butterflies settle into a steady rhythm in his stomach. “I’m fine. I love you.”
Yamaguchi’s mouth split into a large grin. The toothy kind Kei loved so much. “Yeah, I heard.” His hand slipped down to Kei’s cheek.
“That’s all you have to say?”
“I think you know exactly where I stand on this situation.”
Kei paused, fighting the urge to grab Yamaguchi’s wrists and press soft kisses to them. “You still…”
Yamaguchi rolled his eyes. “Obviously, I still—”
And Kei caught the rest of his words as he leaned forward. And it was different from their first kiss, it was slow and careful. It was deliberate and unabashed. His hands were on Yamaguchi’s hips, his waist, his arms, his shoulders, his hair. Anywhere there was room for purchase, his hands found.
“I’m sorry,” he murmured between chaste meetings of their lips. “I’m sorry I’m so fucking stupid, and emotionally stunted or whatever.”
Yamaguchi chased his lips with his own, his hands on either side of his face. When Kei’s eyes fluttered open, there were tears in Yamaguchi’s eyes and he worried that he’d somehow messed this up beyond belief.
“I’m sorry,” he says again, his breath dancing across Yamaguchi’s face.
Yamaguchi shakes his head and smiles. “No, I’m happy, I promise.”
“I missed you. A lot.”
“Yeah, I read your letters.”
Kei received a swift punch to the shoulder for that little comment. And he laughed because he felt happy and Yamaguchi was warm in his arms and he smelled like lavender and home.
“I spoke to Yachi,” he said, realizing it might ruin the mood but also not willing to have any more secrets.
“I know, she told me.”
“She… told you? Everything?”
Yamaguchi nodded and shuffled a little closer. “Everything.”
“I still feel like a shitty person.”
He cocked his head to the side, lips twisted in thought before he met Kei’s gaze. “I think you deserve that, at least for a little while more. But, like, a happy, shitty person?”
“I think I can manage that.” His hands mapped out the muscles that made up Yamaguchi’s back, memorizing the curve of his spine.
Kei stepped out of the station, a duffel bag over his shoulders and two suitcases in hand. He had changed; his face was a little warmer, his hair a little more golden, and his attire a little less appropriate for Japanese winters.
Waiting in the little alcove before he had to step out into the neighborhood was a boy, shorter than he was by only about ten centimeters or so, his hair in a permanent mussed up state, cowlick sticking up right at the top, and a winter jacket slung over his arm.
Yamaguchi perked up immediately, his eyes brightening.
If it wasn’t for the fact that there were a million people surrounding them on all sides, Kei would have swept him up.
“Hi,” he said, when he was was close enough.
“You look like you had a good time.” Yamaguchi thumbed the hem of his short-sleeve button up, wrinkled after hours of travel.
“Such a baby,” he tutted and gave him the jacket that Kei gratefully slipped into.
Yamaguchi took to zipping him up, his hands skimming across his chest briefly before he gave him a wide grin.
“I missed you,” Kei said, because being around Yamaguchi had the tendency to make him sappy and emotional. Yamaguchi flushed and it made him want to say it a million more times.
Yamaguchi pressed his lips together to clamp down on his smile, his face pointedly facing away, his hands in Kei’s jacket pockets.
“You have to promise not to get mad at me,” he finally said looking back up at him.
Kei frowned, his mind immediately going to the worst of places before he calmed himself. Yamaguchi was here, his body sharing heat with his own, everything that was important was safe.
“I promise.” Because he couldn’t really get mad at Yamaguchi, not for much.
He wrapped his arms around him, shoving his face into his chest. “I kinda promised Hinata that I would bring you over to his house just for a really quick party, I mean it could hardly be considered a party really, it’s just gonna be us and Kageyama and Hitoka and Ennoshita—“
Kei pulled him back to look over his red face. “Hey, breathe.” Yamaguchi followed. “It’s fine. We’ll go to this party-not-party thing, and then we can hangout.”
“Well…” Yamaguchi pulled further back, hands playing with the sleeves of his jacket. If Kei wasn’t so enamored he would’ve been annoyed. “I also promised my parents that you’d come over. Just for tea! It’ll be like half an hour tops! And then you’ll have to spend time with your family. But after we can hangout, just the two of us.”
Kei bit down on a smile. “Okay.” Everything was fine, because he had missed him and now, despite the fact that they would be around people all day, Yamaguchi was holding his hand.
“Yeah,” he breathed out a small laugh, pulling him closer and leaning down slightly. “It’s okay.”
Amidst the throngs of people coming and going, despite the fact that Kei would be surrounded by some of his least favorite people for the better part of the day, he was content. Because he was just a boy, loving another boy, and everything would be fine.