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miserability

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Once again, Tadashi finds himself squashed into the dirty vinyl booth of some bar.

They’re all the same. Old patrons with beer bellies chortle like they’ve got their whole lives in front of them, while young businessmen down all of the alcohol they can physically consume out of some sort of primal fear they’re missing out on their youth. Women flirt and touch elbows, men catcall and grab asses. It’s all disgusting. 

But seeing as these people ended up at the same place as Tadashi tonight, maybe he can’t judge them too much. 

He takes a swig of his cheap beer, hoping there’s secretly something spiked in his drink to make the night pass by faster. 

On his left, Koganegawa cackles at some joke one of the other Frogs players made. Tadashi doesn’t know how he got dragged out with them, but he’s not particularly enjoying the experience. It won’t be long until he can make excuses and head home, forgetting about all of the little things that made the experience even slightly bearable. He’ll just gloss over the fact it occurred in the first place and pray it doesn’t happen again. 

“Yo!” Koganegawa shouts, turning around in the booth towards the front door. “Over here!”

Tadashi peeks his gaze up to see Yahaba and Kyoutani walking in. He ducks back into the booth and takes another sip. The players across from him get up, the newcomers filling the empty spaces like they were made for them. 

Yahaba raises an eyebrow upon seeing Tadashi. “I didn’t think you’d actually come,” he admits, taking his seat in the booth across. “I’m glad you’re here but… still.” 

Tadashi shrugs and sips on his drink. “I didn’t expect it either, to be honest.” 

Ever-observant, a frown easily puckers Yahaba’s lips. “What happened?”

“Nothing much.”

Yahaba doesn’t seem convinced. Tadashi won’t persuade him otherwise. 

“Say, Yamaguchi, I had the weirdest conversation with Aiko the other day!” Koganegawa chirps in, and Tadashi can feel himself sinking down, down, down. “Is it true you guys broke up?”

Tadashi doesn’t know why he looks at Yahaba before speaking. Regardless, he says his answer into his drink. “Yeah.”

Koganegawa slaps him on the back, forcing Tadashi to spit up a bit. “That sucks to hear, man. Seriously, you guys seemed so good together! But don’t worry too much, you’ll get over her! We should find you a different girl! What’s your type? Blonde? Pretty? Nice?”

Almost right, Tadashi laughs to himself. He takes another drink. 

“Can’t you just leave it alone?” Yahaba sighs. A waiter comes by and delivers another round of beers. 

“But that’s no fun!” Koganegawa whines. “And besides, not all of us have your beautiful, perfect married relationship. It’s really unfair to bachelors like me and Yamaguchi!” He links an arm around Tadashi’s shoulder and gives him a good shake. 

Tadashi wants to laugh and participate and get along with these guys. They actually are a good group of people and maybe at a different time he’d be able to indulge in their happy chatter and natural aptitude for teasing. They’re kind; they welcomed Tadashi in and let him stick around, asking for nothing in return. 

It’s not like Tadashi has much to offer anyways. But even as they begin to laugh and tell stories and smile like it’s the easiest thing to do, Tadashi can’t help but feel like he’s dragging everyone down. 

He wants to be here. In a past life, he’d convince himself to stay and prove he belongs. But now all he can think about is an excuse that’ll get him home so he isn’t concerned about everything he’s missing out on. 

Tadashi takes another swig. 

“No!” Koganegawa laughs, the conversation moving to something Tadashi can actually participate in. “Oh my god that tournament was so embarrassing!”

“That’s just because you thought receiving a ball with your face was a good idea,” Kyoutani chides, rolling his eyes. 

Koganegawa laughs all too loudly, and Tadashi finds himself chuckling a little at the memory too. He’d watched the match they’re referring to, the Miyagi quarter finals for Spring Nationals of Tadashi’s second year. The matchup of Seijoh versus Dateko was an intense game, but Tadashi remembers how much he’d liked the opposing players even back then. Seijoh had Dateko beat out though, and they ended up facing Karasuno in the final round for another insane conflict. 

“Didn’t you get hit at the Elephants game, too?” Yahaba asks, raising an eyebrow. 

“Don’t remind me!” Koganegawa groans, laughing more than actually upset. 

Yahaba and Kyoutani chuckle at the thought. They’re sitting close together, intimate even despite the big crowd of people around them. Tadashi supposes this is one of the few places where they can act like themselves; there’s enough Frog players to cover them while the rest of the joint is filled with stumbling drunkards who won’t care if they see a pair of linked hands. 

The bell of the door sounds, and Koganegawa turns back to call, “Tsukki!”

Right. 

Tadashi knew it was coming, but he still finishes the last of his drink before Tsukishima can manage his way over. 

He comes to the foot of the table, dressed far too nice for a night of drinking, and surveys the table with a raised brow. Koganegawa stands to greet him, pushing him inside the booth while he pulls up a chair for himself. 

Tsukishima’s leg brushes up against Tadashi’s. These stupid booths are going to be the death of him. 

“Tsukki, you really need to learn to show up on time,” Koganegawa chides with a loose grin.

“I would show up earlier if something interesting was happening,” Tsukishima sighs. He side-eyes Tadashi. “You should slow down. How long have you all been here?”

Tadashi shrugs and opens up another beer. Koganegawa cheers as the lid pops off and clatters onto the table. 

“Maybe you should catch up,” Tadashi suggests. 

They haven’t talked since that day at the Frogs complex a few weeks ago. Admittedly, Tadashi missed the texts they’d exchanged and the casual meet-ups when they both had free time. 

It seems like a blur though. Really, everything about their lives is a blur. It’s a bad photograph, taken with shaky hands and a slow shutter speed. There’s thumbprints on the film and the exposure is all kinds of wrong. 

Yet Tadashi can hold the photograph of their lives with a sort of infrequent tenderness. His rough hands may cherish it, the moments they had together, because even though it might be painful to remember at times at least it’s theirs. At least they experienced it together. A ridiculous notion, sure, but Tadashi can’t help but hold onto it for as long as he can.

The waitress comes around again with a pitcher of water in her hand. 

“Oh!” Koganegawa exclaims, waving her down. “Can we get five shots of—what do you guys like? Tequila?”

“I only drink kahlua and milk,” Tsukishima states. 

The waitress shakes her head. “Sorry, we don’t serve that.” 

“You’re no fun,” Koganegawa complains. “Then I guess four shots of tequila is good!” 

“Who said we would take shots with you?” Kyoutani deadpans. 

“Ugh, fine, fine. Two shots then.” Koganegawa pouts, and takes a swig of his beer. “Man, you’d think a bunch of professional volleyball players would want to drink after we’ve won, like, how many games is it now? Five games in a row? Whatever, we should still all be celebrating! Yamaguchi knows what I’m talking about!” 

All eyes land on him as Tadashi takes a drink. “Sure,” he responds, feeling for the pack of cigarettes in his pocket. Hopefully they won’t mind too much if he lights one. Well, Tsukishima probably wouldn’t like it too much. He’ll just light one on his way out.

“Oh! We should just play a drinking game!” Koganegawa suddenly declares. “Osama?” 

“Absolutely not,” Yahaba insists. 

“Beer pong?” 

“Do you think we’re in some kind of American fraternity?” Kyoutani questions. 

“Okay, well then how about Defend the Castle?” Koganegawa looks around expectantly. “Ever played it?” 

Tadashi bites. “What is it?”

Koganegawa sparkles. “See, this is why you’re my favorite. Tsukki, you’ve moved down to number 2.”

“Why was I your number 1 in the first place?” 

“Because!” 

Koganegawa flags down the waitress, asks for another round of beers to hand off (with a measly water bottle for Tsukishima) and for a stack of plastic cups. For a moment, it really does feel like Tadashi’s back in college as he watches Koganegawa push together some tables and get a few more Frogs players in on the game.

They set up what initially looks to be a game of beer pong, two pyramids of red cups at either end of the table, but they also begin lining cups on the long edges. Tadashi’s pushed to the center, Tsukishima placed across from him on the other team apparently. 

Koganegawa hastily explains the rules but Tadashi doesn’t get most of it until he’s suddenly being tapped on the elbow and chugging down a gulp of beer. He flips his cup a few times until it sticks, the game progressing onward with Tadashi lost in how everything is working until the opposite team cheers out in sudden victory. 

“Yamaguchi! You need to flip faster!” Koganegawa complains, pouring another drink into Tadashi’s cup. 

“I honestly have no idea what’s going on,” Tadashi admits. 

Koganegawa laughs and ignores the plea for help in favor of counting down the next round. Tadashi plays, watching as Yahaba goes up against their libero, managing to sink the ping pong ball on the first try. They continue on, drinking and flipping cups, until Tadashi’s pushed to the end of the table and given the ball for himself. 

Across from him, Tsukishima stands utterly disinterested like there are a million better things for him to be doing right now. There are probably a million things to do, but Tadashi will accept the small interaction seeing as this can’t possibly hurt him. 

It’s the oddest thing to miss someone to the point of heartbreak while simultaneously hoping to never see them again. 

The teams count them down, but Tadashi doesn’t move. Tsukishima doesn’t either. They stare, waiting for each other to take the first move.

“Yamaguchi,” Tsukishima calls, breaking the silence. “Remember the purple hats?” 

And Tadashi, for a lack of better words, completely breaks. 

Laughter ruptures out from the crevices it’s been hidden in between his rib cage and shakes his bones as he doubles over with an uncontrollable force. It’s so easy. Like he hasn’t laughed in months because, actually, he can’t remember the last time he thought about the stupid memory. 

“You can’t,” he sputters between giggles, “you can’t bring that up now.” 

Tsukishima quips a smile and shoots his ball across the table. “Why not?” he asks as it lands inside the middle cup. 

On other sides, the teams take their shots and begin to go down the lines. 

“That’s why!” Tadashi complains without any real bite as Koganegawa fails to flip his cup again. “You can’t play dirty like that.”

“I’m just bringing up a memory,” Tsukishima smirks. 

His team finishes first, with a round of cheers and a handful of high fives. Tadashi doesn’t care much about winning though; he’s still thinking about how good it felt to laugh like that. 

“What’s the purple hat?” Koganegawa questions.

Tadashi shakes his head. “It’s a stupid inside joke.”

“You had to be there,” Tsukishima says, rounding the table to come stand closer to Tadashi. “The story doesn’t make any sense.”

“I want to hear it,” Yahaba insists. Kyoutani raises an eyebrow beside him but Yahaba shrugs. “What? Could be interesting.”

Tsukishima and Tadashi share a look. 

“I mean…” Tadashi lets the stupid moment play out in his head. “I think we were, what, ten? Eleven?”

“Eleven,” Tsukishima confirms. 

“And there was this festival in the summer—”

“—Don’t forget about the snow.”

“The snow! Oh my god I completely forgot. And that one kid? Ichika?”

“Worst cab driver ever.”

“Yes!”

“Plus, that’s where we got the posters.”

“You’re right! Oh my god I’d forgotten about all of this!”

A small, slight smile breaks through Tsukishima’s lips. Tadashi burns, heart pumping and feeling… well… like he’s alive for once

Tadashi had forgotten how easy it could be to smile. He’d forgotten that they shared good memories too. That despite the dark blotches of pigment on their photograph, there’s bright places too. 

There were times, Tadashi supposes, that Tsukishima was his whole world. Where they were in sync so much their minds were one. It wasn’t often it occurred, but Tadashi distinctly recalls those moments where he would look at Tsukishima and think, can it get any better? 

The issue, it seems, is that those memories are old. Decrepit shambles from the past; nostalgic scraps that came before they knew what love could even become. He hasn’t experienced one of those moments recently. 

But as Tadashi considers it again, he thinks back to those small gatherings they had only a few weeks ago. Those lunch outings where normal seemed achievable. The waves after meetings. The meet-ups after games. The moment at the photoshoot where Tsukishima’s smile was all there was in the universe. 

Tadashi shakes his head, the warm feeling still locked in his chest. It’s the alcohol, his brain says, but his thoughts are getting fuzzy. He’s wrapped up in the happy memories they share. How could Tadashi forget something so simple existed?

He looks back to the rest of the group, but their expressions still mirror a certain level of confusion and disinterest. 

“Sorry,” Tadashi offers sheepishly. “It really was something you had to be there for.”

Tsukishima gives a small nod to him, pleased. 

“Alright lovebirds, wrap it up,” Koganegawa instructs, the players returning back to their spots. “We got a game to win!”

Tadashi bites down on the inside of his cheek, restricting himself from saying anything about the comment. Tsukishima seems unfazed returning to his side of the table. 

Right. 

Right. 

Tadashi takes a swig of his drink. 

Koganegawa bumps him on the shoulder “You’re only supposed to drink when it’s your turn!” He complains. Tadashi ignores him. 

The game continues on. Tadashi drinks. The other team wins. 

It’s relatively uneventful. After the game, they settle back into the booth and the conversation divulges from there. Tadashi goes ahead and lights a cigarette, aware of the way Tsukishima’s eyes lie upon him.  He doesn’t say anything though. Tadashi almost has the guts to offer him one. 

More drinks are ordered and Tadashi finds himself engaging in the ritual of it all. He’s laughing and telling stories and having drinks and acting like a normal fucking person for once because he can. He can just enjoy himself. 

Those awful intrusive thoughts that litter the floor of his brain are swept away and Tadashi emerges, freed from his own self-imposed restraints, able to act however he wants. He laughs when Koganegawa tells a joke. He converses with Yahaba and joins in on poking fun at Kyoutani. He engages with Tsukishima because he can’t remember why he didn’t just do this in the first place. 

Does it really matter what happened yesterday or the day before? There’s no changing the past. All Tadashi can worry about is finishing his drink, laughing with his friends, and being with Tsukishima for the moments that matter.

As the high of the night wears off, people begin filtering out of the bar. Their table is among the last that leave, and Tadashi finds himself nearly falling when he attempts to stand upright. It earns him a good cackle from Koganegawa and a firm hand on his shoulder from Tsukishima. 

“Can you walk?” Tsukishima asks in a low voice, enough so the others probably can’t hear him. 

Tadashi nearly blushes at the thought of having Tsukishima carry him princess-style through the streets so he just nods and says, “I’m good.” Quickly, he adds on, “You don’t need to worry about me.”

But Tadashi takes a step forward and once again the ground slips away from his feet. Tsukishima catches him before he completely wipes out, looping their arms together.

“I’m going to walk him home,” Tsukishima announces to the others as they gather their coats. 

Koganegawa giggles. “Ooh! Are you gonna—”

Kyoutani smacks his hand. “Walk safe.”

“Let us know when you’re back,” Yahaba adds with a smile, his own hand ready to smack Koganegawa as needed.

Tadashi’s not paying attention though. He’s staring at the ground, attempting to compare the sizes of his and Tsukishima’s shoes. But he feels an arm pulling him forward and he offers a last wave to the others still at the table. 

“Here,” Tsukishima instructs, holding out Tadashi’s coat. 

He shakes his head. “I don’t want it.”

“It’s freezing outside.”

“No, it’s fine.”

Tsukishima rolls his eyes and folds the coat over one arm, securing the other at Tadashi’s side. 

They leave the bar, the warm smoky atmosphere dropping falling away within seconds. Tsukishima’s right, the air outside is biting, but Tadashi won’t back down now. 

He doesn’t have to. Tsukishima drapes his jacket over his shoulders before grabbing his wrist and dragging him along. Luckily, they chose a place within walking distance of Tadashi’s apartment so it isn’t all bad. 

Tadashi idly remembers nights walking home after practices. Catching frogs and returning them to the banks. Humming tunes he didn’t know the lyrics to since he’d only heard the music leak from Tsukishima’s headphones. There were days they didn’t talk at all, but Tadashi wouldn’t mind. He wants to talk now though, he wants to know everything. 

Tsukishima doesn’t speak. He leads Tadashi around, keeping their pace quick. Tadashi stumbles after him, forever a few steps behind, trying his best to keep himself standing. 

It’s nice to see Sendai after the city has fallen asleep. The moon isn’t out tonight, but Tadashi likes to imagine it is. He likes to imagine climbing up the tallest buildings and jumping from rooftop to rooftop. He’d swing along the electrical lines and do somersaults off the edges. He could enjoy the greatest sights, and maybe Tsukishima would be there too. 

They reach Tadashi’s apartment without any time to waste. Tadashi’s still somehow standing as he digs his keys out of his coat pocket and lazily sticks it in the door. It’s always been a fickle lock, so he lets Tsukishima play around with it. 

The wind whips through and Tadashi scoots incrementally closer. Leaning into Tsukishima’s frame, it feels so good and warm that Tadashi can’t even remember a time he wasn’t pressed against him. Why didn’t he do this sooner? 

He laces his fingers through Tsukishima’s, the grip familiar and inviting. 

Tsukishima doesn’t react, even as he finally manages to get the door open. “Come on,” he mutters, practically dragging Tadashi along. 

They stop only briefly to remove their shoes, but Tadashi finds his eyes drawn towards the plump pink lips he knows so well. Tsukishima’s speaking, forming words that are lost in the tatami floors and the loft light of the lamp he’d left on. 

“Tsukki…” Tadashi finds himself drawling, focused entirely on the way Tsukishima’s glasses need to be pushed up the bridge of his nose. 

“What?”

Cupping a hand around Tsukishima’s jaw, Tadashi kisses him. 

He stumbles back at first, like it’s the first time they’ve kissed but the reality is they’ve been here more times than Tadashi can count. That’s how he knows to pull Tsukishima down to his level and lap into the feeling of soft, smooth lips. 

Tsukishima allows the moment to swell, before he takes a breath and pulls back. “Yamaguchi—”

He kisses into the respite, not wanting to think any more about anything. No, he just wants to count the seconds before their next moments apart and he wants to relish in the way that Tsukishima kisses him back. 

It’s coming back to them. How to move, how to act. It’s easy embracing like this. It’s all Tadashi knows. 

Tadashi pulls him along by the collar of his coat, further inside the house until there isn’t an easy escape. It’s not like Tadashi would want to be anywhere but here right now. The movements are listless though, almost as if he wants to stretch this moment towards infinity. 

Perhaps he does. At least here, as they stumble into the bedroom without much else on their minds, they know what they’re doing. They know their roles. They know what to say, what to do. They know how to undress each other and what the other likes. Tadashi knows Tsukishima. 

Tadashi’s coat has long fallen from its precarious perch on his shoulders, so he aids Tsukishima in stripping his outer layers. They manage to not break contact, even as Tadashi pulls off Tsukishima’s sweater and unbuckles his pants. He helps Tadashi remove his suit jacket in return, working listlessly on the buttons of his shirt. 

They fall onto the bed, but Tsukishima takes a moment as he hovers over Tadashi. He looks good like that. Plump, kissed lips and messy hair. He really is a beauty. 

Tadashi reaches up to kiss him once again, but Tsukishima stops him.  

“We can’t do this,” Tsukishima declares, voice low. 

Tadashi doesn’t care. He pulls Tsukishima down and asks simply, “Why not?” before he begins to suck at the tender spot of sinew at the base of Tsukishima’s neck. 

Tsukishima sighs, but doesn’t stop Tadashi. “You’re dating someone.”

“We broke up.”

He can feel Tsukishima shake his head, almost like he’s in disbelief this whole thing is even happening. “I thought you wanted to just be friends.”

Tadashi does pull back at that, letting himself fall into the mattress. Tsukishima is holding back, not really allowing himself to touch Tadashi at all. 

“You don’t want to be friends with me,” Tadashi says, oddly sweet. “I’m not worth the trouble. And besides, look at where it’s gotten us. We’re right back where we started.”

“Tadashi—”

“I don’t know what I want.”

Tsukishima drops his head. He climbs off of Tadashi, opting to come rest at his side. They both stare at the ceiling and, for a brief moment, Tadashi allows himself to imagine a whole galaxy of stars lying above them. An entire universe filled with solar systems and planets and suns built just for them. 

It’s childish. Tadashi sighs. 

“You should just fuck me.”

Tsukishima sharply intakes his breath, before swallowing something down. Every single little sound drills into Tadashi’s mind. The clock on his wall. The buzz of the heating. The water that runs through pipes above their heads. 

A hand loops through Tadashi’s.

“No.” 

Tsukishima runs this thumb over the back of Tadashi’s palm. 

He lets out a sad laugh. Weakly, Tadashi asks, “Why not? You’ve never had a problem with treating me like some sex doll before…”

He really is weak. What sort of man falls back into old habits just because they’re comfortable? Why can’t Tadashi just accept the change and move on? Will he ever really move on?

Tsukishima squeezes his hand tighter. “You deserve better.”

An unexpected whimper tears from the back of Tadashi’s throat. It feels raw. He’s too dehydrated for tears. 

“I don’t,” Tadashi whispers.

“You do.”

“Stop fighting, Tsukki. I know all you want from me is sex.”

It’s the saddest admission Tadashi has known. The truth as to why they’ve been so truly and so horribly messed up all of these years. Tadashi’s worst fear, proven correct time and time again. 

The plain and simple fact is all Tsukishima wants from Tadashi is sex. 

It wasn’t always that way. They became friends as kids, after all. Back then it really was just about being friends for the sake of enjoying each other’s company. There weren’t ulterior motives or prizes to be won. They could simply be friends. 

Now though… 

“What I want is to make sure you don’t vomit everywhere,” Tsukishima groans as he sits up. “You’re drunk.” 

“Maybe.”

Tsukishima turns to him, eyes still and steady. He doesn’t ask any questions, but Tadashi knows there’s something on his tongue. Something he’s unwilling to say since he believes Tadashi’s too inebriated to be making good decisions right now. 

Truthfully, Tadashi is only a few steps away from sobriety. The bulk of his drunkenness wore off on the walk home. His movements may be languid, but the pliability is more so for Tsukishima’s sake. He’ll allow Tsukishima to do as he pleases. He won’t reject any proposal.  

“What I wanted…” Tsukishima begins, with a sort of hesitancy like someone is forcing him to speak, “what I’ve always wanted was for you to be happy.”

Tadashi blinks. “Do I look happy to you?”

There’s no hesitation in the answer. “No.”

Tsukishima pushes up his glasses and turns away. Tadashi swallows back another sob. 

Silently, Tsukishima rises from the bed. His steps are quiet and lead him out of the room. Tadashi can’t seem to rip away his eyes though and the sight of Tsukishima’s broad shoulders. It’s a familiar, reassuring view on most days. It’s the last thing Tadashi sees before he's victimized by sleep, the emotions pressing him down into the mattress. 

 

---

 

University was… difficult at best. 

It wasn’t like Tadashi had particularly high expectations but he’d liked to think there was something exciting about starting over. He wouldn’t know anyone at his new school and they wouldn’t know him. There was no baggage to carry, nothing yet to define or mark him. 

Part of the problem about that though was Tadashi lost the traits that made him unique. He didn’t know how to act around his new classmates, or what sides to show them. Should he be quiet yet funny? Should he be loud and smiley? Should he be himself, whoever that was?

In the end, he became no one. A mere bystander who could sometimes give out answers to homework questions or who might make a comment that could be amusing. He found a friend group, but lurked in their shadows. He didn’t feel home with them or anyone really. 

The unfortunate highlight of his weeks were the weekends when his friends went out to the bars and got shitfaced while Tadashi could feign sickness and stay inside instead. Even his roommate went out for the night, so he was lucky to get the 18 square meters to himself. 

He’d lose himself in movies, rewatching the same documentaries or cartoons from his childhood in the feeble hopes it’d bring him some sort of joy. On the lucky days it did; he’d call out the lines he’d heard a million times and relish in the small amount of satisfaction it’d bring. He knew most of the scripts anyway. 

“Once you’ve met someone, you never really forget them,” Tadashi quoted as Spirited Away played off of his laptop, “it just takes awhile for the memories to return.” He smiles at the scene. 

The movie paused though as a Skype notification popped up in the corner. Tadashi squinted at the name before his entire body went numb. 

Tsukishima Kei. 

The last time they’d spoken was the day of graduation. It was a quiet affair, really just to say goodbye to their underclassmen. Tadashi remembered trying to pull Tsukki aside but he’d wanted none of it. The pain of Nationals and getting caught was still fresh in both of their minds, but Tadashi was willing to let that pass. They were about to go off to college for god’s sake, who cared if someone saw them in the locker room? 

Tsukki did, apparently. He’d cared enough to end their contact altogether. 

Maybe that was why university had been so difficult. Even after Nationals, Tadashi still saw Tsukki. They still passed each other in the halls and went to practice together. They still walked home, searching for frogs, even if they didn’t say anything. 

In the months since graduation though, there was nothing. 

Tadashi answered the call without another second to lose. 

Tsukki appeared on screen, glasses askew and cheeks rosy. He was in an unfamiliar background, certainly not looking like a dorm or his room at home. Tadashi could barely make out some figures in the background; they were laughing up a storm. 

“Yamaguchi!” Tsukki cheered, eyes wide at the screen. A loose smile broke through as well as a little hiccup. He was wasted.

“Tsukki?” Tadashi asked, still trying to glean information from the background. “What’s going on? Why did you call?”

Tsukki simply laughed at him. 

“Did you get him?” A semi-familiar voice called from the back. Two of the figures stepped forward and despite the bad video quality he could tell it was Bokuto from Fukurodani and Kuroo from Nekoma. Tadashi had known Tsukki talked to them but he didn’t think they were actually close enough to hang out together or get drunk…

“Hi freckles!” Kuroo cooed to the screen. “Tsukki here was begging to talk to you.”

Tadashi blinked. “Was he?”

Bokuto nodded emphatically. “He was all, ‘I miss Yamaguchi! I wanna see Yamaguchi!’ Ha, it’s so cute, look at him!” He pinched Tsukki's cheek, but he pushed both of them away. 

“Stop, I’m talking to Yamaguchi!” Tsukki demanded and Tadashi’s heartbeat began to quicken. 

This wasn’t normal. This wasn’t normal. This wasn’t—

“I miss you,” Tsukki admitted. The boys in the back hollered, but returned to their own shenanigans. 

“Oh.” 

“Why do you have to be so far away?” Tsukki whined. “Just come to Tokyo.”

Tadashi swallowed the rising lump in his throat. “Tsukki?”

Blinking lazily, a stupid grin rose over his lips. “God, I just wanna fuck you right now.”

A physical punch would have hurt less. At least there Tadashi could flinch and prepare himself. He’d feel the knuckles connect with his abdomen, the impact forceful yet compact, and he’d double over as the pain settled in. The receptors would fire off warnings to his brain and in return his brain would tell his body that something was wrong. Tsukki once told him that pain doesn’t actually travel that fast in your body. That your natural reaction is usually quite slow in comparison. 

But how does the pain of cognizance settle? It’s not instantaneous nor is it slow. It’s fucking awful. It’s a burn, beginning where that physical punch should have landed, and it spreads through every vessel and neuron until Tadashi’s entire body is alarmed with pain. 

Tsukki didn’t want to date Tadashi. He didn’t want to be friends, either. He just wanted to fuck him. 

Really, Tadashi should have known. He wasn’t good for anything else. 

Tsukki kept whining. The words were slurred and incoherent, but Tadashi listened to them all. About how Tsukki wanted to bend him over and make Tadashi come. About how he missed Tadashi’s lips around his dick. About how Tadashi’s the best he’d ever had and he was so lonely without him. 

Bokuto, Kuroo, and someone else began cackling in the background. They heard it all. 

Tsukki slumped forward, movements still too uncoordinated for sobriety. 

“I’ve got to go, Tsukki,” Tadashi said, hand hovering over the exit key. 

He perked up at that. “Tadashi, wait—!”

Tadashi closed out of the tab. He shut his laptop and set it beside him. He slumped down in bed. 

He began to cry. 

Uncontrollable and inconsolable sobs sprung out of nowhere, overcoming Tadashi’s entire frame until he was shaking and shaking and shaking. Because what the fuck. 

Was Tadashi really worth so little that Tsukki only called him when he was drunk and horny? That was the only time Tsukki thought of him? Did Tadashi really only occupy his mind at the worst possible times?

And the worst thing was that Tadashi was somehow still glad Tsukki thought of him at all. 

That horrifying idea only caused another sob to rip forward. 

He cried until he fell asleep, waking up with wet eyes and a dry throat. His phone showed a missed call from Tsukki. He called him back though, voice hoarse and weepy.

They set up a time to hang out later that week once Tsukki returned from Tokyo. Tsukki didn’t mention the night prior. Tadashi didn’t either. It wasn’t worth it, really.

Their hang out turned into a hookup, the first of many to come. Unfortunately, it proved to be everything that Tadashi had missed. At least before he degraded himself they would talk or get food or act like how they used to. At least after Tsukki would hold him close and Tadashi could pretend like they were something real. 

At least Tadashi got to see Tsukki. And, on the rarest of occasions, at least he got to make Tsukki happy.

 

---

 

When Tadashi awakes, reality is a cruel and terrifying monster. 

His sad pleas from the night before rise with the remaining bit of alcohol as everything comes up at once. Tadashi can barely make it to the restroom before he’s doubling over the toilet, the acidic taste of vomit on his tongue. His stomach spills out until only dry heaves remain, mind still preoccupied with the idiotic things Tadashi did last night. 

Tsukishima probably hates him again. 

Wiping off the last trails of vomit from his mouth, Tadashi stands up still a bit woozy. He strips out of his clothes and showers in the feeble hope some warm water may make him feel better. Instead, his insides just keep swirling even though there’s nothing left to throw up. 

He brushes his teeth and changes into some comfortable clothes before stepping out of his bedroom. A rumbling greets him, a low sort of hum that startles him and rises from the living room. On the couch, Tsukishima rests with his clothes from the night prior a crumpled mess and his glasses perched on the coffee table. 

Tadashi swallows down the remaining bile before he steps closer. Laying a gentle hand on Tsukishima’s arm, he shakes him awake. A snore gets trapped in his throat as Tsukishima rises, blurry eyes certainly seeking out the person that stole him from rest. 

“I didn’t realize you stayed over,” Tadashi admits. 

Tsukishima sits up and puts on his glasses. He runs a hand through his hair. “I wasn’t planning to but I was too tired to walk back. Sorry for overstaying the welcome.”

“It’s fine. You can shower, if you want. I’ll get some clothes for you.”

Tsukishima nods, yawning as he stands. Tadashi’s a little mesmerized by the way his vertebrates stack one by one and how his muscles pull and stretch under the fabric of his shirt as he stretches. Though he averts his eyes as Tsukishima heads off towards the bathroom.

He returns to his room, digging through drawers to find something that may fit him. He’s forgotten how much Tsukishima has grown in the years. They’ve both grown, he supposes. 

At the bottom of his dresser is the Frogs shirt. He doesn’t linger on it long; no, he grabs that and a pair of sweats that he stole from Tsukishima back in high school. They probably won’t fit, but it’s his best option. 

Not bothering to knock, Tadashi goes into the bathroom and sets down the fresh clothes on the counter. The mirror is foggy with steam and Tadashi can hear the splashing of water from behind the shower curtain. A few wet curls stick up over the curtain. 

“How tall are you now?” Tadashi calls over the water. 

“195.3 centimeters.”

Tadashi nods and promptly leaves. 

He goes to the kitchen and begins scrounging for breakfast, but he hasn’t gone grocery shopping in weeks. The last thing he should be feeding a professional athlete is a bunch of stale protein bars and cup noodles. 

He opts for making some coffee instead and boils hot water for himself. Tsukishima emerges from the bathroom with his hair clinging to his forehead just as the kettle rings. Tadashi pours himself tea and offers up the coffee for Tsukishima. 

“I’d forgotten you had this shirt,” Tsukishima says as they settle back down on the couch. “And these pants. I thought I’d just thrown them out.” The sweatpants are small on him, riding up a bit around his ankles. 

Tadashi shrugs. “I always seemed to end up with the things you didn’t want anymore.”

Tsukishima nods idly and takes a sip of his coffee. For having the worst sweet tooth of anyone Tadashi knows, it's surprising he takes his coffee black. Maybe Tsukishima would actually prefer a load of cream and sugar but restricts himself unnecessarily. 

Letting his eyes take in everything in the daylight, Tsukishima speaks up. “I like this place.”

“It’s too big for one,” Tadashi counters. He doesn’t know why he says it. It’s not like it matters. 

Tsukishima nods. His leg bounces up and down, shaking the couch ever so slightly. “You should eat.” He stands and makes his way into the kitchen. 

Tadashi doesn't have enough time to stop him before Tsukishima opens the refrigerator. He closes the door silently before turning back to Tadashi. “When was the last time you went grocery shopping?” 

“Tsukki, I don’t need you commenting on my living style right now,” Tadashi sighs, taking a sip of his tea. 

Tsukishima sucks in a breath and lets it out slowly. He comes back to the couch. 

They sit there, idle. Content. The awkwardness of the moment before dissipates. Tadashi had feared this whole interaction would go down a lot worse; the slight edge doesn't even bother him. He misses the comfortability though. The ability to cling onto each other’s skin and say whatever’s on their mind. Tadashi likes talking about nothing. He likes hearing about nothing, too. 

He breaks the spell.

“We should talk about last night,” Tadashi declares, though his voice, and whole body really, is shaking as he says it. 

Tsukishima quirks a brow. “I didn’t think you wanted to.”

Tadashi tilts his head “I don’t want to, but I know we should because I fucked up and you deserve an explanation.”

“I don’t particularly care for an explanation and you don’t need to apologize. I just want to know why you assumed the only thing I wanted out of our relationship was sex.”

“I wasn’t assuming, I was speaking the truth,” Tadashi insists. 

“That’s not what I want though,” Tsukishima claims. 

“Yes it is. Don’t you remember?”

It dawns on him, as Tsukishima stares with incredible confusion wrapped in his expression that he’s completely unaware of what Tadashi is talking about. “Our first year of university.”

Tsukishima frowns. “What about it?”

A sad laugh erupts from Tadashi’s chest. “You went to Tokyo. Spent the weekend with Bokuto-san and Kuroo-san.”

Tsukishima squints, like he’s trying to remember. 

“You seriously don’t remember?”

“Yamaguchi, I—”

Tadashi nods and continues, the next words dripping with an awful sort of poison he never wanted to use. “You called me, drunk off your ass, whining about how badly you wanted to fuck me. I was in a whole different prefecture, and yet the only thing on your mind was—was fucking me or whatever.”

Tsukishima’s exterior hardens. Ah, Tadashi remembers this well: a pointed frown and twisting lips. “Listen—”

“I did listen!” Tadashi interrupts. “I listened as you embarrassed me in front of your friends and boasted about the twenty different ways you wanted me. I sat there, and I took it, because it was the first time we’d talked in months and I missed you so much it physically pained me. All I wanted was to spend time with you again, but you made it very, very clear you didn’t want to be friends with me. All you wanted was to fuck me.”

“That’s not true.”

“Isn’t it?” Tadashi stands, and begins to pace the length of the living room with Tsukishima’s gaze trailing his every step. “If that’s not what you wanted, then why did you immediately call me to hang out once you got back home? You couldn’t have waited any longer? You couldn’t have pretended that you wanted something different?”

“Are you seriously still holding this over me?” Tsukishima demands. “I was 19 and drunk. Cut me some fucking slack.”

“No, because you fucking used me for sex . I can’t just get over that easily.”

Tsukishima scoffs in disbelief, rising off the couch. “I made a mistake. An idiotic, dumb mistake. The same fucking mistake you made last night, by the way. You can’t act all high and mighty when you did the same thing to me less than 12 hours ago.”

“It’s not the same!”

“No, it is,” Tsukishima insists. “The only difference was I was a kid in college getting drunk for the first time who missed my best friend so much that I called him and said some stupid things. I wasn’t an adult vying for a rebound hookup, fully knowing that shit wouldn’t go down well.”

Tadashi crosses his arms, his anger slowly dissipating as guilt settles in. “I didn’t—”

“Didn’t what? Didn’t do the same thing? Let me make it very clear, I forgive you because I’m an adult and I can get over mistakes like that. Because that’s what it was: a mistake. I fucked up back then, you fucked up last night. Let’s just both move on for fuck’s sake.”

“How?” The word rips itself from Tadashi’s throat, raw and desperate. “How can you just move on like that?”

“Because we’re not perfect people, Tadashi,” Tsukishima shouts. “No one is. We don’t come into this fucking world as flawless entities. No, we’re human. We make idiotic mistakes when we’re drunk or even when we’re sober. I made a mistake. So did you. You need to learn to forgive me and forgive yourself. If you don’t, then what’s the point? Are you really just going to sit here forever and go over all of the little things you did wrong?”

Tsukishima runs a hand through his hair and lets out a deep breath. “You yelled at me once for lamenting over what I’d done during a game. What happened to that Tadashi? When did you lose your edge?”

“Maybe it was when I got trapped in a stupid fuckbuddies realtionship with my former best friend,” Tadashi offers. 

Tsukishima presses his lips together. “You said you didn’t regret it.”

“I don’t.”

Tsukishima steps forward. “Then stop acting like it was the worst thing that’s ever happened to you. It could have gone better, I admit that, but at the end of the day we can’t change that it happened.”

Tadashi stares at him, unsure of how to move forward. And the ever-quiet Tsukishima, who waits for the right moment to say what’s on his mind, just keeps on talking. 

“I never wanted you only for sex,” Tsukishima states. “I’m not going to act like it wasn’t part of it, but I’m sorry because I wanted a lot more. You really, really thought the only thing I wanted was sex?”

“If you wanted more, why didn’t you say anything?”

Tsukishima blinks. “Because I thought that was all you wanted from me.”

Tadashi sighs. “You never thought I wanted more either?”

“Guess not.”

There’s energy in the room. Little electrons that bounce around, off of them, off of the furniture, off of everything. They bounce and electrify everything to the point where if either one of them moves, they’ll be shocked. Tadashi doesn’t want that kind of pain anymore, but he also wants to escape. 

What else could Tsukishima want from him?

“I’m sorry,” Tadashi apologizes. “I shouldn’t have expected anything from you last night.”

“And I’m sorry for what I said back then,” Tsukishima replies. He pushes up his glasses. 

Tadashi… he’s beginning to forgive Tsukishima. He supposes it is dumb that he’s held something like this over his head for so long, especially since they’ve both done this now. 

He won’t forgive himself, though. It’ll take a lot longer before he’ll even consider it. 

“I should head out,” Tsukishima says, gathering his phone and keys from the coffee table. “I don’t want to overstay my welcome.”

Tadashi follows him to the door, heart heavy and still a little broken. He truly doesn’t know how to feel about everything. He doesn’t even know what he’s going to do next. 

Tsukishima bends down to put his sneakers back on. Tadashi watches, seeing how he still does the method of two bunny ears instead of one. He should really do it the correct way.  

“I’m not the same person as I was in college,” Tsukishima speaks up as he begins on his other shoe. “And you shouldn’t be either.”

“I’m not,” Tadashi argues weakly. 

Tsukishima stands, facing him again. The genkan is slightly sunken in, to the point where he and Tadashi are nearly eye-to-eye. Tsukishima edges him out just a little though, always above him. 

“You are,” Tsukishima states. “You’re the same kid as you were back then. Hell, you’re even the same kid from when we were eight. When are you going to grow up?”

Tadashi’s expression sinks.

He leaves after that, shutting the door quietly and succinctly. 

 

---

 

“You’re dead,” Hayato laughs, jacking a thumb across his neck in a straight line. 

Tadashi raises an eyebrow, trying to gauge what’s going on when Suzuki steps outside of his office. 

“Yamaguchi,” he demands. “Now.”

Hayato cackles again, ducking out of the way as Tadashi begins to shake. Each step towards the dreaded office sends a new and horrifying wave of anxiety rippling through him. Suzuki’s pissed. He doesn’t even need to see his full expression to know it and fear it. 

Tadashi steps inside, Suzuki slamming the door behind them. He takes a seat behind his too-big desk, Tadashi remaining standing since he can’t seem to move his legs anymore. 

“I knew you fucked up that one presentation, but now this?” Suzuki slams a manila folder onto the desk, papers spilling out and down to the floor in a cascade. “Why the fuck haven’t you done anything that Hayato has asked?”

Tadashi’s throat dries up. “H-Hayato? He didn’t—”

“You’ve completely gone against the board’s wishes!” Suzuki cuts him off. “Your incompetence isn’t going to be tolerated any more. Hayato’s taking over for the Frogs project. You’re back on the C Unit.”

A pin could have dropped and it still would have been too loud. “Suzuki-san—”

“Get out of my office before I actually fire you.”

Tadashi can’t cry. He would lose his job. Instead, he pushes back the tears, gives a stout bow, and leaves. 

Hayato’s waiting for him on the other side, ready to gloat and rub his meddling in Tadashi’s face. Of course he wouldn’t tell Tadashi everything he needed to do. No, he’ll just let him take the fall and ruin his career to make himself appear better. 

Tadashi ignores Hayato altogether and heads down the line of cubicles. It takes everything to push away the intrusive stares of his coworkers and simply just leave, out the door and down the flights of stairs. He doesn’t stop until he’s outside, still surrounded by people but at least they don’t know who he is. They don’t know he nearly just lost his job. They won’t care if he breaks down. 

He’s pulled away from the emotion though as his phone goes off. An unfamiliar number pops up. It’s probably Hayato calling to demand him back. Tadashi answers.

“Hello… ah… Tadashi? Right?”

Tadashi checks the number again, but still doesn’t recognize it. “Yes?”

“This is Daisuke. Sorry to be bothering you at a time like this.”

Daisuke. Mother’s boyfriend. While Tadashi’s never met the man, he’s heard plenty about him. He didn’t expect for him to act so nervous though. 

“It’s not a bother,” Tadashi assures. “What can I do for you?” 

Daisuke clears his throat. In the background, Tadashi can hear the distant whirr of a life machine and the usual clamor of a hospital. 

“Well you see… it’s your mother… she’s ah…”