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There’s a certain sort of apprehension that comes anytime Tadashi’s worlds overlap. 

In a way, he’s learned to create this sort of fluctuating identity that best suits the group of people he’s with. Around his college friends, he’ll act a little shy, but he’ll have a funny quip ready to deploy if he’s needed for the conversation. Among his work colleagues, he’s a dedicated, loyal employee who works hard to get his job done efficiently. With Aiko, he’s someone who listens and cares. And with those from high school… well… Tadashi doesn’t really know how to act like that anymore. 

Regardless, that sort of odd sensation follows Tadashi even as he prepares for his worlds to collide. While Aiko squeezes his hand in reassurance, Tadashi’s too busy trying to craft a personality that will somehow please both Aiko and Yachi.

Yachi knows too much. Aiko knows too little. There won’t be any sort of good outcome. 

Tadashi opens the door to the café and holds it out for Aiko before stepping inside. It’s one of those nicer places that emphasizes being organic and healthy for ridiculous prices. Aiko swears by it though, and it’s near Yachi’s work so Tadashi didn’t have much of a reason to refuse. Sure, he might have preferred a burger and fries, but there wasn’t any effort in him left to care about something like food. 

Yachi had gone ahead and already grabbed them a table. She waves the couple over from the back of the room, her small figure barely noticeable amongst the delicate ivy and overgrown succulents that line the wall. Small groups and couples chatter at nearby tables while servers in loose-fitting uniforms shuffle back and forth. Tadashi and Aiko weave through as the apprehension steadily builds. 

“Hi, Yachi-san,” Tadashi says as she wrangles him into a little embrace. When she pulls back, she eyes him from head to toe before looking over. 

Tadashi clears his throat. “Aiko, this is Yachi,” he introduces. “Yachi, this is Aiko.”

Aiko immediately rushes towards Yachi with her arms wide and smothers her in a hug; although the shorter girl is taken aback at first, she eventually hugs Tadashi’s girlfriend with careful hands as she shoots Tadashi a sideways glance. 

Aiko pulls back and smiles big. “It’s so great to meet you, Yachi-san! Or, actually, can I call you Hitoka-chan? I’ve heard a lot of great things about you from Tadashi.”

“Yeah, call me whatever you’d like,” Yachi offers with a nervous laugh. “And I’m sure it wasn’t all great.”

Aiko shakes her head. “No, really! He said you were his favorite person from high school, and I’ve been dying to come and meet you ever since!”

“Did he?”

It's the overlap and subsequent gaps in personalities that makes Tadashi struggle so much with interactions like this. Of course he wants Aiko and Yachi to get along well, but he also would hate for Aiko to peer in deeper. Who knew what sort of things Yachi was going to say? Who knew how much Aiko already knew considering she did seem close with Koganegawa… 

“All nice things,” Aiko assures. “Should we sit?”

Yachi nods and leads them to the table. Tadashi slides in next to Aiko, taking the outer chair in case he needs a quick escape. 

“So how did you two meet?” Yachi opens, eyes switching back and forth between the couple. 

Aiko answers, “Oh! Well, whenever Tadashi’s company became interested in sponsoring the Frogs, I was the point of contact for all of our current endorsement deals. We set up a meeting, but I could tell right away that Tadashi was thinking about something other than our business proposition.” She laughs at her own version of the fond memory. 

“Yeah,” Tadashi adds unhelpfully.

Yachi bites down on her lip. “Wow that’s so great! He never mentioned you worked with the Frogs.”

“Tadashi’s the worst about opening up!” Aiko jokes. Tadashi gives her a chuckle. “I mean, it took forever to get him to talk about… well anything really! But don’t worry, he’s still only said nice things about you. I was floored when I figured out that Tadashi actually knew some of the Frogs players and—”

A buzzing cuts her sentence off. Aiko goes for her phone and stands up. “So sorry!” She apologizes. “I’ll just be a second.” She puts on her professional voice to answer as she ducks to the back of the café. 

Yachi stares at Tadashi with a growing sense of nervousness. 

“Do you like her?” Tadashi asks, leaning forward so Yachi could hear his soft voice. 

Yachi nods. “So far, yes. She’s really nice. I really do like her.” 

She’s not being genuine . It’s evident from the way her gaze refuses to meet Tadashi’s and from the terrible shake of her hands that Tadashi knows all too well. 

“You sound hesitant,” Tadashi admits. 

Yachi scrunches her lips into a pout. “I really do like her!” she claims, before adding, “It’s just… I don’t know, it’s like… do you remember back in high school when you had that crush on Kaori-chan?” 

The name catches Tadashi off-guard. Still, he answers, “Yeah…”

“Well it was like you were super eager to talk about her, and you always looked so… I don’t know… happy, maybe? When you talked about her? Maybe that’s just because high school was way different but…  I don’t know, now it definitely feels different, and I’m just rambling on aren’t I? You have to stop me when I do this, see now I don’t even remember where I was going with that, but I guess my point is that I think you should be doing what makes you happiest. If that’s being with Aiko, then be with her! My opinion isn’t relevant when it concerns your happiness. I want the best for you Yamaguchi-kun, but also I don’t get to decide what that is. You have to do whatever is best for you. Does that even make sense?” 

“Yeah?” Tadashi replies, still digesting everything. “Being with Aiko makes me happy,” he decides. 

Yachi relaxes the tension in her shoulders. “Then I’m happy for you.” 

“Yeah…”

Truth is, Kaori was the unfortunate girl that Tadashi decided to have a crush on during his third year of high school. He had no actual romantic feelings towards her, but rather she was the name Tadashi would give out whenever someone asked about his love life. She was something like a cover-up, her existence giving Tadashi the ability to freely talk about the people he actually had feelings for. 

Tadashi didn’t even remember talking about ‘Kaori’ that often though. Sure, Yachi would get a ramble every once in a while but he tried his best to keep the lie on wraps. He never thought that of all things it’d come back to bite him now… 

“How long have you actually been dating?” Yachi asks, making sure to keep her voice low. “It’s okay if you lied to me, but now I’m just curious.”

“A month,” Tadashi responds. “Sorry. I shouldn’t have said I was in a relationship, but you looked so pleased when I mentioned it so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to keep it going.”

Yachi starts to open her mouth, but Tadashi cuts her off. “That’s not why I’m dating her though. I like her a lot. It’s been nice dating someone. It feels… normal. If that makes sense…”

Yachi nods. “I get it. But you should be honest with me, Yamaguchi-kun! I really do just want what’s best for you.”

What’s best for him… 

Aiko returns a few moments later, Yachi giving her a big smile to cover up their conversation, and they continue on with their cordial lunch. They eat their healthy greens and Tadashi gives out more smiles than he’s used to and, he does suppose, for a few moments here or there, he could potentially, possibly, slightly consider himself happy. 

 

---

 

The empty fridge stares back at Tadashi. 

Well, there’s a carton of eggs and some leftovers he’s not too sure are viable to eat anymore, and frankly should get thrown out, but Tadashi opts to close the door instead and sigh at the realization that he’ll be making instant ramen for dinner once again. 

Maybe he should start drinking with his coworkers again. At least in those instances he has a stable source of food for the night. 

Cooking had never been Tadashi’s forte, but at least he was semi-self sufficient in high school. His mother worked late most nights, leaving him often with a stocked fridge and imagination to figure out a meal. Luckily, Tsukishima came over often and he somehow picked up the ability to cook. Once they had the whole cooking and cleaning situation down, sometimes it felt like they really just lived together. Like their entire lives were spent in that tiny little apartment littered with traces of both of them. From the prepubescent photos in the living room to the items they’d co-collected in Tadashi’s childhood bedroom, they’d grown up together in a place they once called home. 

Tadashi’s phone buzzes on the counter. He answers the call and sets it on speaker before digging through his cupboards once more. “Hello?”

“Oh my god! You won’t believe what just happened!” Tadashi’s mother shouts from across the line. There’s background noise so she’s probably out right now, disturbing the other mothers shopping at the store or disrupting the retail workers simply trying to restock. 

“What?” Tadashi indulges. He pulls out a pack of instant ramen.  

“Of all the people in the world to call and wish for good health, I really didn’t expect for your father to actually care. Or even know for that matter! How did he even find out?”

“I don’t know,” Tadashi answers, considering the fact that he can’t even remember the last time he reached out to his father. 

Sayo groans over the line. “Well regardless, that asshole was acting all nice and pious like he’s a saint or something. And then—get this—he asked if I needed money? Like are you joking me? Where was that twenty years ago when we were living paycheck to paycheck? That man should just shrivel up and die at this point, honestly.”

“Mom.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know that’s mean,” Sayo sighs. “Good news is, Daisuke said he would beat him up if he ever decided to show up to the house so at least that’s good. But, listen to me closely Tadashi, if you ever, ever, end up like that man I will come over and kick your ass. Even if I’m dead I’ll drop down to come kick your ass. I hope if I’ve done anything right in this world, it’s shield you away from his horrible influence. God, I’m just so—!”

Sayo suddenly breaks out into a fit of coughs, harsh and overwhelming as Tadashi picks up his phone. 

“Mom?” He calls, panic steadily rising in his voice and fingertips. “Hello?”

She continues to cough, but manages to croak out, “I’m fine.”

Tadashi doesn’t feel fine though. Sayo probably doesn’t either. He stays on the line until her fit has calmed into a few ahems. 

“Sorry,” Sayo says, voice still choking up. “The last treatment really threw me for a loop. I don’t know what’s going on.”

“Are you out right now?” Tadashi asks. “You should head home.” 

Does he have time to visit this weekend? No, he’s supposed to attend another Frogs game, but this time with Aiko. It’s the opening weekend, and they’re debuting some of their branded items so Tadashi needs to be present, but he should really go home, and he needs to turn in that one report to Hayato before Friday, and he’s supposed to work on that project with Morikatsu and there’s a conversation still awaiting him with Tsukishima and—

“Tadashi, I’m fine,” Sayo assures, regaining her composure bit by bit. “Don’t even worry about me I promise I’m okay.”

Tadashi presses his lips together. “Okay.”

“Anyway, that was pretty much everything I had to say,” Sayo says with relief. “Maybe I should bill your father for causing my coughs. And my high blood pressure. And my cancer. I can blame that on him, right?”

“I wouldn’t suggest it, but I guess there’s no harm.”

Sayo laughs a little, but restricts herself like she’s afraid she’ll start up again if she expels too much air. “Alright, I’ll let you go. Just promise me you won’t end up like him, alright?”

 

---

 

“To be honest, I don’t think I expected to see you at another game.”

Tadashi sits down beside Yahaba, ignoring his judging stare. 

“I’m allowed to support the team that my company is sponsoring,” Tadashi replies easily, albeit a bit pointedly.

“Never said you couldn’t,” Yahaba smirks. “I’m glad you’re here, but I definitely thought that you wouldn’t come back. I had this weird feeling that something was off.”

Tadashi shoots him a glare, but has nothing to offer in return. He doesn’t need to justify his presence, but he does so anyway. “My… my girlfriend invited me to the game.

Yahaba blinks a few times. “Girlfriend?” 

“Yeah, girlfriend,” Tadashi repeats. “She works for the Frogs, so she’s helping with some social media engagement right now, but she said she’d come find me before the end of the third set.”

“Right…”

Tadashi’s seriously unsure what Yahaba’s whole deal is, but he’d rather not deal with whatever he’s insinuating at the moment. Instead, he watches the flight of the ball as the Frogs endure their long rally against the Shizuoka Penect Jaguars. It’s a slow start, but through each touch of the ball, Tadashi sinks back into the feeling of comfort that volleyball used to provide. The loose-lipped smiles. The screams of joy and cheers of unbridling elation. The sturdy, unwavering connections that only grew game after game. 

There’s a sort of quietness to the sport; a type of idyllic love that Tadashi genuinely wishes he could feel again.

“Do you miss it?” Tadashi asks aloud, his own voice catching him off guard. 

He looks over to Yahaba, who simply gives him a warm smile. “Yeah,” he nods, before allowing himself to look over the game once more. “I still play on a recreational team and I’m a sports instructor so it’s one of the units that we go over. Still though… there’s nothing quite like it.”

For perhaps the first time in years, Tadashi has this overwhelming urge to talk. Maybe it’s the fact that Yahaba is a relatively easy-going person. Or maybe it’s the nostalgia he feels over the loss of his adolescence. Whatever it is, he acts on it. 

“I haven’t played volleyball in years,” Tadashi says, picking up speed with every word. “Back in college, I joined an intramural team and I had a lot of fun since there wasn’t any real competition. I just sort of played because I loved it.”

“Why did you stop?” Yahaba asks. 

Tadashi shrugs. “I don’t know. I guess I sort of lost that spark. I started going to practice because I had to, not because I wanted to. And then one day I just stopped going. I haven’t really thought much of it since…”

“Would you ever go back?”

Tadashi sits on the question, letting his answer roll over his tongue before he finally responds, “I don’t think so. I… I don’t have a reason or anything to prove anymore. I don’t have anyone to play it with anyways so—”

“Not Tsukishima-kun?” Yahaba cuts in, raising a brow. He’s suspiciously invested for someone that seemingly knows nothing. Maybe that’s why Tadashi’s opening up. Maybe Yahaba already knows all of his mistakes, and now he’s forcing Tadashi to relay them all for his own evil enjoyment. 

“No,” Tadashi asserts. “Just… no.”

“Mmm…”

Silence settles between them as the Frogs drop the second set. Even from this distance, Tadashi can easily recognize the slumped shoulders and muttered curses that come from bitter disappointment. Tadashi was forced into working late so he missed the first set, but he can only assume it didn’t go well from the growing bitterness on the Frogs side, contrasted against the growing cheers from the Jaguars fans. 

Tsukishima talks with one of his teammates sitting on the bench, his scrunched eyebrows and set frown familiar and unknown. Tadashi watches as they interact and lets out a breath. 

“What’s he like now?” Tadashi asks, hoping his low tone is lost among the roaring of the stadium. 

Yahaba seems to hear him clearly. “Who? Tsukishima-kun?”

Tadashi simply nods. 

Yahaba turns his gaze towards Tsukishima and cocks his head. “I don’t have much of a comparison considering I only became semi-acquainted with him recently. I’m not the person you should be asking.”

Tadashi sends his glower over. 

“Now,” Yahaba leans forward, eyelids drooping low as he gazes at Tadashi, “why would you ask me about a man you’ve known all your life? It’s not like we’re close or anything. As far as I’m aware, you know more about Tsukishima than anyone else.”

“I used to know him,” Tadashi offers around a lump in his throat. “I don’t… I feel like I don’t know him anymore.”

Yahaba sits back and raises an eyebrow. “Really?” He briefly gazes over the court before letting out a huff. “Let’s see. The Tsukishima I know is relatively closed-off, minus the few people he trusts. He’s snarky and too smart for his own good. He has an abundant amount of potential, but wastes it because he fears getting attached. Sound familiar?”

Tadashi focuses on his shaking hands. Is that a new freckle on his thumb? He can’t tell. His hands are a little dry. Yahaba is still talking. 

“The thing I notice most about Tsukishima is that he’s always searching. He wants to make a chide comment or relay some hidden joke, but he saves that. And I suspect that it’s saved for someone in particular, even if Tsukishima himself doesn’t recognize that.”

Tadashi takes in a steady breath. Why can’t he breathe right now? The air is passing through his lungs and is depleting but somehow he can’t manage to get a breath in. 

“Are you that person, Yamaguchi-kun?” Yahaba asks, but he already has his answer. 

I am, Tadashi thinks, before internally correcting himself. I was. 

And then, for a brief moment, the smallest voice in Tadashi’s mind says, I want to become that person again. 

He kills the thought before it can bloom. He cuts the budding stem digs for the seed, but the roots have grounded and will likely pop up again in the near future. For now, at least, he’ll keep those weeds at bay. 

The Frogs reenter the court. They resume the game. 

They go through a few plays and it even seems like the Frogs are beginning to catch up. Kyoutani, up for his serve, undergoes his whole routine with Yahaba mimicking the motions in the stands once again. The intimacy of the actions are lost by the masses, but Tadashi bears a first-hand witness to their hidden relationship. 

Before he can consider the intentions, a flurry of words spills out of Tadashi’s mouth. “How did you do it?”

Yahaba finishes their tradition as Kyoutani serves the ball before setting his hands in his lap and turning towards Tadashi. “What? Marry Kentaro?”

Tadashi nods. 

Yahaba shrugs. “I’m not sure what sort of answer you’re looking for,” he says, voice lowered. “It wasn’t easy though, if that’s what you’re asking about. Our entire relationship has been a series of trials. Sometimes, we get it right. Most of the time we don’t. We make it work though, because we both realized pretty early on that we’re miserable without each other. We made each other happy and that’s all that mattered.”

Tadashi swipes his tongue over his teeth. “But how did you know? What makes you happy, I mean… ”

Yahaba tilts his head a little. “I didn’t,” he relinquishes. “Kentaro didn’t either, at least not at first. It’s not like there was one singular moment that made it clear. I just remember walking home with him one day and thinking, ‘I’ve never been happier than I am right now.’ I guess I knew then, but I wasn’t ready yet to accept what that meant. We started dating back in high school so at first I was scared we were too young for anything too serious. We broke up after graduation for a few months and both of us dated around. It was awful. He fell back first but I fell harder. At that point, both of us knew we couldn’t avoid it any longer. We were practically engaged before we were 20.”

Yahaba leans back, eyes tracing the path of Kentaro as he jogs around the court. There’s a certain fondness Tadashi wishes he could describe but had no words that could accurately capture the feeling. 

“It still wasn’t easy though,” Yahaba warned, returning his gaze back to Tadashi. “We fought. A lot. We still do, sometimes, but it was worse in the early days, especially when we began to tell people we were together. When I introduced Kentaro to my parents, they basically cut me off. Mind you, I had a stable job, I was happy, and I was on my way to getting married. After that, I seriously reconsidered whether it was worth being together… but I’d rather be happy now with Kentaro than spend my entire life seeking approval from people who will never truly give it to me.”

Tadashi nods, wholeheartedly agreeing. 

“Our high school friends were… weary at first,” Yahaba continues, pressing his lips together. “It wasn’t ideal, but they all came around so at least that was nice. I think for a lot of them the concept was just foreign enough to cause discomfort. Now though, they invite us out with their wives and act like any other couple. Even that took time, though.”

Yahaba runs a hand through his hair. “I still haven’t told my coworkers. The Frogs only know because we weren’t careful enough but they made sure to keep our visibility to a minimum. Do you know how many times I’ve been chewed out by the Frog’s PR team? We had a three hour lecture when I held his hand under a table at a sponsor gala. They’ll never let me rush the court when they win. I can never kiss him in public or, frankly, do anything that makes it look like we’re anything more than a pair of buddies.”

“I’m sorry,” Tadashi offers. 

Yahaba shakes his head. “Don’t be. Seriously. There’s no point in festering miserability and everything that comes as a result. You have to move forward, find happiness where you can, and forget about all the bullshit that made you upset in the first place.”

“You’re surprisingly optimistic,” Tadashi comments without warning. 

Yahaba smiles. “It’s because I know first hand how awful it can be to endorse negativity. It doesn’t make things better.”

Tadashi lets the words roll over and sink in like nutrients for soil. Maybe… maybe Yahaba is right. Maybe he should hope for optimism.

They easily sync their attention back to the game as Tsukishima steps up to serve. Sure enough, his serve goes through the same exact method that Tadashi had once done. The whistle sounds off and Tsukishima visibly exhales, the tension releasing from his body. 

The jump float serve soars across the court before being picked up by the Jaguar’s libero, albeit with some difficulty. They set the ball, the ace managing to come in for a powerful cut shot that slams itself back into Tsukishima’s arms. The receive goes awry, hurling towards the back of the court when Kyoutani appears seemingly out of nowhere to send it back. 

Tadashi’s eyes follow the ball, but he’s pulled away from the game as the sound of an emphatic crash echoes throughout the stadium. 

There, at the back of the court, Kyoutani lies amongst the fallen barriers. A distant whistle blows as Kyoutani attempts to push himself up, before collapsing underneath his own feet. 

“Fuck!” He cries out, his voice silencing most of the cheers of the stadium. Even from afar, Tadashi can tell his ankle is swelling unnaturally. 

From beside Tadashi, Yahaba tenses before rising to his feet. “Fuck, ” he seconds, before swiftly moving towards the aisle. 

For a brief moment, Tadashi doesn’t know what to do. The hushed whispers of the stadium are drowned out by a ringing in his ears as he witnesses the Frogs scramble towards Kyoutani. Other people rush the court too, as the distant voice of an announcer goes off somewhere. 

Tadashi’s heart thumps and thumps and thumps against his chest as the phantom pain of past injuries courses through his body.

The world returns and suddenly Tadashi is standing and climbing out of the stands, calling out, “Yahaba-san, wait!” 

He manages to catch up, even as Yahaba takes panicked steps through the winding tunnels and hallways. They breeze past the wondering crowd and flash ID badges before heading into a private area. Even if they didn’t have the proper identification, Tadashi doubts any security guard would be able to stop Yahaba. There was a murderous gleam in his eye that was certain to break through any barriers in their path. 

Yahaba picks up his pace and Tadashi struggles to keep up with the quick steps. It’s been months since the last time he exercised; he seriously can’t keep up with something even this simple. Nevertheless, he trails behind until they come up to a long hall of doorways. 

Yahaba yanks open the first door, searches for just a moment before he slams it and moves on. Tadashi tries to regain his breath as Yahaba goes for another door. This time, he moves inside. 

Tadashi follows after him to be bombarded by a rush of people and noises. In the corner, a bed of sorts has been set up and is currently where Kyoutani resides. Beside him, trainers talking him through the process while others gather medical supplies. PR agents, a few of whom Tadashi’s briefly worked with, talk on phones in the opposite corner while a TV screen livestreams the game that’s going up above them. The announcer discusses Kyoutani’s replacement as the set starts up again. 

“What the fuck were you thinking?!” Yahaba shouts, voice strained and raspy as he stomps across the room. 

“I was thinking I could get the fucking ball!” Kyoutani argues back, sitting up from the bed before wincing as the athletic trainer continues their work. 

“Oh, and that required leaping out and putting all of your weight on your bad ankle?”

“I thought I could get it!”

The trainers around them seem unfazed. Meanwhile, Tadashi carefully watches their interactions, utterly fascinated by the dynamic. He feels… well, he doesn’t know what he feels. It’s certainly not comfortable as the couple exchanges a few more harsh words. 

Then, without hesitating, Yahaba pushes Kyoutani to one side of the tiny bed despite the protests that follow. Regardless, Yahaba curls up to his side and Kyoutani presses a chaste kiss to his forehead. They drop into low voices at that point and Tadashi loses their conversation. 

Again, Tadashi fears he’s disturbed something private. The way they gaze at one another so intimately, like the rest of the world isn’t watching. There are trainers fluttering about and PR people furiously texting away and yet Kyoutani and Yahaba act like they’re the only people left on the Earth. 

Ah, Tadashi realizes, swallowing the lump in his throat. I’m jealous. 

It’s a simple thing, really. Uncommon, perhaps, considering Tadashi doesn’t feel it often but the envy burns all the same in the deep pit of his stomach. Ultimately, Tadashi wishes he could share that sort of infinite love with someone that actually returned his feelings.

There might have been once he could have been a part of a love story like that, but the time and opportunity have long passed. Tadashi inevitably became greedy as he desperately grasped for things that were never his to claim. 

He knew better. He knows better. 

How many more cardinal sins must Tadashi commit before he truly learns his lesson though?

He’s already allowed lust to drive him towards Tsukishima time and time again. Surely, he could find anyone else in the world to fulfill those urges, but there was something about Tsukishima specifically that Tadashi could never quite place that always forced him down that wanton path. 

And pride, Tadashi’s come to understand, is simply not even worth the effort. 

One day, he’ll be killed by his vices. If not by his own hands, then certainly by the hands belonging to that boy with golden eyes. Then again, Tadashi is certain that a part of him was killed the first time he eagerly agreed to Tsukishima’s lecherous desires.

That night, that first night when they lied together with nervous hands and breathy laughs, was the night Tadashi lost a part of himself. Not only some faux social construct, but also a little piece of his heart. One that can’t be so easily replaced. 

Even so, in the years since their first transgression Tadashi has attempted to reclaim that missing fragment. He may not regret that night or the multitude of nights to follow, but he can still attempt to atone. 

Virtue, Tadashi’s father used to tell him, is what makes a good man. A proud man. A successful working man with a wife and kids. 

And yet, as Tadashi continues to watch Yahaba and Kyoutani and the irrefutable love they share, Tadashi can’t help but wonder if perhaps virtue isn’t always the best route. Because, truly, how could anyone look at them and deny them of their happiness?

Tadashi’s phone buzzes. It’s Aiko. 

 

To: tadashi <3

sorry to leave u alone but we’re in emergency mode rn w the whole kentaro situation T.T apparently everyone’s making a big deal about it so we have to draft up some statements buttt we can def meet up tmrw tho if ur free!!

 

Tadashi looks up to see Kyoutani flinching away, tucking his head into the crook of Yahaba’s neck as the trainers continue to examine his leg. 

 

To: Aiko 

Yeah, no worries text me when you’re free 

 

Tadashi pockets his phone after that and lets his eyes wander back towards the television screen. The game is over. The Jaguars won. 

The door flies open and more people flood in, surrounding Kyoutani’s bed. They push Yahaba out of the way as they begin to transfer Kyoutani onto a portable stretcher. It’s not an easy process by any means, considering the way Kyoutani argues at every step and flails around his good limbs when they come too close to his injury. 

Yahaba, meanwhile, latches himself onto Tadashi’s arm. Together they anxiously watch as the paramedics strap Kyoutani down and begin their departure. Yahaba and Tadashi silently follow along, a few feet behind as to not disturb the healthcare professionals, but they catch up a little when Kyoutani calls out for his husband. Yahaba’s grip instantly tightens in its position on Tadashi’s bicep as they both watch Kyoutani be paraded down the hall. 

They enter back into that open-air tunnel, now filled with moving bodies of workers and professionals attempting to manage the situation. Tadashi finds himself being pushed back by the crowds as they watch Kyoutani being loaded into an ambulance. 

“Thank you,” Yahaba whispers harshly. He doesn’t bother to even look at Tadashi, but the words are sincere. 

The ambulance wails as the paramedics close the doors. Tadashi can only barely see Kyoutani through the windows as he struggles against the stretcher. The crowd disperses little by little and Yahaba releases Tadashi from his iron-clad grip. He wipes at his face, but it doesn't do much to get rid of his red eyes. 

“You’re a good person, Yamaguchi-kun,” he comments, patting down his pockets. “Thank you for sticking with me.”

“Of course, Yahaba-san,” Tadashi replies. 

“Seriously where—oh shit,” Yahaba comes out empty-handed. “I think my keys are in the trainer’s room. Fuck, I—”

“I’ll go grab them,” Tadashi offers. “You figure out what hospital they’re taking him to and get directions. I’ll be right back.”

Yahaba nods, a little shakily but Tadashi can tell he’s grateful. 

He retraces his steps through the winding facility, passing by players and other Frogs employees until he finds himself back in the trainer’s room. Sure enough, Yahaba’s keys are on the floor. Tadashi bends down to pick them up when he hears the door opening from behind him. 

“Sorry!” he apologizes without looking. “I was just…”

Tadashi’s words fail as he stares back at Tsukishima. The door closes behind them. 

“What are you doing?” Tsukishima asks, although it’s not very interrogative or pressed. He’s still dressed in his uniform, but there’s a towel slung around his shoulder and he’s dropped his knee pads around his ankles. 

Tadashi holds out the keys. “I was helping out Yahaba-san.”

“Oh.”

Tsukishima looks around the room before brushing past Tadashi and heading for the small cabinet of medical supplies. Tadashi watches carefully as he retrieves a roll of white tape and sits down on the bed. 

“Did you get injured too?” Tadashi asks quietly. He’s a bit afraid that if he speaks too loud it’ll disturb this strange little atmosphere. 

Tsukishima holds up the injury in question. On his right hand, the knuckle on his ring finger is a bit swollen. From the grim expression wrapped tightly around his lips, Tadashi can tell he’s probably in quite a bit of pain. Not that Tsukishima would ever tell anyone about it though. After his multitude of injuries in their first year, Tsukishima became oddly resistant to sitting out as needed, even if Kageyama was pushing him too hard. Regardless, something as little as a jammed finger was nothing to take Tsukishima out of a game. 

Tadashi doesn’t hesitate; rather, his body doesn’t hesitate as he crosses the room and stops in front of Tsukishima, wordlessly taking the athletic tape from him. His mind may scream at him, but he fails to vocalize any of those uncertainties. Tsukishima says nothing either as he offers up his hand, presenting himself to Tadashi open and free. 

Tadashi supposes he holds the power right now, seeing as how vulnerable Tsukishima is as he allows Tadashi to go about his deft work. Not that Tadashi would cause any type of harm. 

Even if they are strangers, they are strangers with memories. They are strangers with unbroken trust, despite the agony. 

Like the millions of times he’s done this before, Tadashi easily takes Tsukishima’s hands into his own, almost retracting at the frigidity. He wants to comment something smart like, You should really invest in some mittens, Tsukki. Maybe I’ll get you dinosaur ones for Christmas. But he doesn’t. Although, he can imagine Tsukishima’s reaction would probably tell him to shut up and Tadashi would probably laugh because he always laughs when he’s around Tsukishima. 

They don’t do any of that though. Instead, Tadashi silently and carefully takes the injured fingers between his own and slightly rubs over the knuckle. Tsukishima winces back. It’s definitely jammed. 

Tadashi removes his hands for a moment. He pulls out the tape, using his teeth to rip off two long pieces before setting one off to the side for later. He then gently takes Tsukishima’s fingers and wraps them with the tape, careful to keep his lines clean and precise. Tsukishima’s always had such bony hands, it’s no wonder he jams his fingers every other day. 

Tadashi shakes his head. It’s not the time, he tells himself. 

He carefully retrieves the other piece of tape, fully aware that Tsukishima’s eyes are locked onto him. He doesn’t dare meet his gaze though. He can’t risk it. Tadashi smooths over the wrinkles with his thumb, trying his best to keep the pressure light to not hurt him any further. He seals it up and lets the smallest of smiles, so small it's more of a reflex than anything else, spread on his lips. He’s still got it. 

Sometimes back in high school, Tadashi would kiss Tsukishima’s fingers once he was done taping them. Tsukishima would jerk away, and Tadashi would laugh because the simple motion always helped to get Tsukishima out of his own destructive thoughts. Eventually, Tadashi got some of their other classmates in on the joke and they would all kiss the boo-boo better. Tsukishima would roll his eyes and be sure to tell them how idiotic they were before letting the ghost of a grin slip every now and again. 

Old habits die hard. Tadashi doesn’t even realize he’s raising Tsukishima’s hand up until after he’s pressed a featherlight kiss upon the white tape. He catches his eyes then, wide and curious, but they both stay silent as Tadashi releases the hand. 

Tadashi clears his throat and takes a step away from the bed. “Sorry…”

Sorry doesn’t even begin to cover it. Tadashi wants to run out of the room and scream, but instead he shoves his hands into his pockets in the feeble attempt that Tsukishima won’t see how badly they’re beginning to shake. 

“It’s fine,” Tsukishima says. And, then, “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

Tsukishima rises from the bed and takes a singular step towards Tadashi. He still keeps the distance, but it’s enough for Tadashi to crane his neck slightly in order to really meet him in the eyes. 

“Let me give you a ride home,” Tsukishima offers, the words nearly blurted. “I… I think we should talk.”

Tadashi doesn’t have an excuse nor does he want to come up with one. After all, this sort of conversation was inevitable. It’s what they need to clear up all the bullshit they’ve suffered at each other’s hands. But still… 

“Just a ride?” Tadashi asks. 

“Just a ride,” Tsukishima confirms, setting his jaw. “I’ll drop you off wherever. Nothing more.”

Good. Tadashi doesn’t need to dive into that again. 

“Okay,” Tadashi agrees. “I have to give Yahaba-san his keys though.”

Tsukishima nods. “I need to change anyway. I’ll come find you.”

With that, Tsukishima leaves.

Tadashi takes only a moment to suck in a deep breath and recalibrate himself. He’ll be fine. He will be fine. 

He returns to Yahaba, who immediately rushes to him once he’s back in the tunnel. 

“You’re a lifesaver,” Yahaba insists as Tadashi hands over the keys. “Seriously, thank you.”

“Are you going to be alright to drive?” Tadashi asks. Yahaba’s still shaking a little bit, but he nods his head firmly. 

“I’ll be good,” he assures, running a hand through his hair. “Thank you, though. I just got off the phone with him, and it looks like he won’t need surgery so that’s great, but he’s still in a lot of pain.”

“I hope he recovers quickly.”

“Me too,” Yahaba nods. He lets out a stuttered breath before shaking his head once more. “Thank you. Seriously. I owe you.”

“It’s really nothing, Yahaba-san,” Tadashi reiterates.

“It still means a lot.” Yahaba begins to walk away after that, calling over his shoulder as he reaches the end, “Oh, and good luck!”

Tadashi presses his lips together. Good luck. 

It’s not luck that will get him through the impending awkwardness of their conversation. He needs a plan to figure out what to say. The last time they talked, really talked, it ended in disaster. Tadashi bitterly remembers how his voice went dry from screaming and how much he cried after Tsukishima had dropped his nuclear bomb disguised as innocent news. 

Tadashi clenches his fist tightly, crescents from his fingernails digging into his thumb. 

He remembers the way Tsukishima had raised his voice, something he so rarely did that the horrifying words he shouted were forever imprinted into Tadashi’s mind. He remembers his own pathetic little laugh as the horrifying realization of their fucked-up situation finally struck him; it only took a few years, a host of bad decisions, and the understanding that they’d never again be those kids who laughed together on the playground. 

Tadashi’s own sad, small understanding played on repeat like a warped record. 

I’m never going to be enough for you… am I? I’m never going to be enough for you… am I? I’m never going to be enough for you… am I? I’m—

Tadashi shakes his head. He can’t go spiraling, not now. He needs to move forward. He needs to think positively.

“Yamaguchi?”

Tadashi turns quickly. 

Tsukishima strides towards him, changed into his post-workout gear with his duffle strapped around his shoulder. He eyes Tadashi for a moment before asking, “Are you alright?”

“Yeah,” Tadashi says. 

“Are you ready to go?”

Once again, Tadashi’s placing himself back in Tsukishima’s control. He can recognize it, but he can’t ever stop it. 

“Yeah. Let’s go.”