Actions

Work Header

Tethered

Work Text:

When Kiyoomi first joins the MSBY Black Jackals, he’s wary.

Atsumu takes 10 full minutes to digest the fact that Kiyoomi will be on his team, and Kiyoomi appreciates the distance as he greets familiar and new faces alike.

But Atsumu is apparently still a prickly little bitch despite being years out of high school, and he doesn’t seem to like that there’s a disconnect on the team during the first couple of weeks. And that disconnect is, apparently, Kiyoomi.

Atsumu’s solution is to go out of his way to be more inclusive and welcoming. Unfortunately, his method of choice is ribbing and needling and poking and prodding.

It’s - a lot for someone who likes none of those things.

At first, Kiyoomi is snappish and barbed and even a little mean with his responses and reactions. He’s not clear on why this is so important on a personal level when they get along just fine on the court.

But time does its work, and the hard edges of their interactions are smoothed away as they become more familiar with each other.

Ribbing and needling transform into teasing and joking, and, once, Kiyoomi even laughs out loud at something Atsumu says that’s kind of stupid and not really that funny. Hinata stares, a sunny smile on his face. Bokuto tries to leap at Kiyoomi in shared joy, but Atsumu quickly jumps forward to intercept him. They both tumble over a bench and end up bruised, which knocks another laugh out of Kiyoomi that he doesn’t even try to hide. It’s a bright thing, escapes him lightly, easily, and Kiyoomi sees the surprise on Atsumu’s face like he hadn’t expected it.

Kiyoomi hadn’t expected it either, really.

And that’s just how it starts.

Atsumu’s poking and prodding ramps up to high fives and ass slaps. Their cues become second nature, their plays seamless, their routines synchronous.

Where Kiyoomi is still a bit hesitant with the others, he’s a little less so with Atsumu. The others seem to assume it’s because of that particular brand of hitter-setter relationships, that need for connection, but no one really questions why it seems to land a bit differently between them. Kiyoomi actively prevents himself from thinking too hard about it when everything is going so well.

Soon, it’s all inside jokes and simple looks that convey something more complex. It’s arms thrown around each other on the way out the door, shared rides, nights spent at each other’s places after a few too many drinks. It’s coming into practice together, bringing lunch or breakfast just the way the other likes it, sharing hoodies and sweats on laundry day.

And this is how it fumbles.

One morning, Atsumu asks, “Hey, so what’re we doin’ on Friday?” Kiyoomi tips his head when Atsumu tucks his chin over Kiyoomi’s shoulder and watches him pour hot water over the coffee grounds.

“Friday?” Kiyoomi says, looking halfway over his shoulder and nearly bumping noses with him.

When he turns back to the coffee, he feels it when Atsumu nods, his chin digging into Kiyoomi’s shoulder. Kiyoomi resists the urge to shrug him off because he knows Atsumu’s only half awake and probably doesn’t realize what he’s doing and how his jawline is so sharp it could probably cut glass.

“I don’t know what you mean,” Kiyoomi says.

“Friday? The 23rd? Our anniversary, dumbass,” Atsumu says. He pulls away and goes to grab mugs for their coffee when Kiyoomi pours out the last of the hot water. When he turns back, he raises his brows at Kiyoomi’s blank expression.

“What?” Kiyoomi says.

“Our anniversary,” Atsumu repeats slowly, enunciating exaggeratedly over a fake scowl. It melts quickly into an easy grin, but soon fades completely into a blank look to rival Kiyoomi’s. And then even that bleeds out into something much worse when Kiyoomi’s own expression doesn’t change. “Well, I mean, it’s only been six months. But I just thought - “

“Six months,” Kiyoomi repeats. “Of - ?”

“Dating! Hello? You’re kiddin’ me, right? You -” Atsumu pauses, and Kiyoomi couldn’t name what that expression is on his face, couldn’t name the awful, rising feeling in his own chest even. “Oh no. No, no, no.”

“Atsumu,” Kiyoomi says. He casts his eyes around his kitchen as if there’ll be a clue here about what he should say to wipe that terrible look of Atsumu’s face. But there’s nothing, just the feeling that something is stuck in his throat that he needs to get out, but instead he’s choking on it.

“Nope. Stop,” Atsumu says, raising a hand. He’s smiling now, but it’s strange. It’s not teasing or joking, poking or prodding, simple yet complex. “It’s fine. This is - this is fine!”

He turns and walks out of the kitchen, and Kiyoomi can’t help but follow. And he can’t help it either when Atsumu stuffs his shoes on his feet without his socks, grabs the first jacket hanging on the coat rack even though it’s Kiyoomi’s because they never look these days at whose clothes are whose. And he can’t help it either when Atsumu shoots him one last sideways glance before he walks right out, just like that.

And when Kiyoomi walks back into his kitchen, he leans against the counter, and he sees two mugs sitting out next to his hand. One is a Jackals mug, the other is a stupid cartoony weasel mug that Atsumu got for Kiyoomi as a gag gift but ends up using every time he’s over. There’s a half-full box of protein bars that Atsumu swears by and that Kiyoomi hates. Around his condo, he knows there are random items of Atsumu’s clothes and shoes and socks, but he’d be hard-pressed to separate them from his own.

And he digs the heels of his palms into his eyes and thinks, maybe the clues were there this entire time, and he has the sense that he knows exactly what that clawing, choking feeling rising from his chest and up his throat is after all.

 

///

 

They had talked about moving in together. They had plans to check out a few apartments this weekend. They had figured out a budget, what furniture each of them would keep, what they would need to round out their belongings to transform two halves into a whole within the confines of a shared home.

Yet in Atsumu’s absence, in the wake of the soft click of the door closing, Kiyoomi feels like less than a half - maybe more like a quarter - an eighth, even. A mere fraction of a man, the rest of him - gone.

He paces around his apartment, the weasel mug in hand and full of coffee quickly growing lukewarm against his palm.

That was strange, he thinks. That was irrational. That was awful.

And it stays awful.

He stews on it all day, his phone silent on the coffee table no matter how many times he checks it. He drinks enough coffee for two lest the carafe’s contents go to waste, and by the time he needs to leave for practice, he’s grinding his teeth and his hands are shaking.

But it feels like the shaking is less a physical thing than one from within as he pulls Atsumu’s team jacket off the coat rack on his way out the door since Atsumu took his. He ends up running back in to refill his bag with a couple of Atsumu’s disgusting protein bars from the kitchen just in case the idiot forgot to pack something to snack on again.

When he gets to the gym, Atsumu’s not in the lobby waiting for him. Kiyoomi finally gets tired of standing there, and he ends up finding Atsumu already in the locker room, chucking things from inside his locker.

Bokuto hovers behind him, catching the items that fall off the bench before they hit the ground. He looks up when Kiyoomi walks in, eyes wide as they dart from him to Atsumu and back with his arms full.

Upon his entry, all Atsumu does is slam his locker shut. When he looks over his shoulder, the smile on his face is sharp and unfamiliar as he spins the dial on his lock. “Omi,” he says, baring his teeth, but his eyes don’t catch Kiyoomi’s as he walks past.

In the silence after he leaves, Bokuto carefully stacks the things in his arms back onto the bench, one item carefully placed next to another and another like he’s putting them on display. “Uh - Tsum-Tsum said these are yours. Do you - I didn’t want them to touch the ground and get dirty, so,” he trails off, staring down at everything lined up there between them like they aren’t evidence of something that’s been fractured.

Kiyoomi folds his arms across his chest, unwilling to take them, though he’s touched at Bokuto’s consideration. “Half of those things aren’t even mine,” he says, frowning.

Bokuto winces, stabilizing a wobbling water bottle that has a chibi fox sticker on its face. “He’s gonna hate that.”

“Yeah,” Kiyoomi says. Then: “What the actual fuck.”

And after that, practice is, as Atsumu would say, a shit show.

Their gameplay stutters and falters until it’s basically nonexistent. Kiyoomi doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do. They were perfectly in sync just yesterday. They know each other’s cues, tells, and intentions on the court - knew them off the court too. But now here they are, and whatever connection they had is broken. Kiyoomi’s either not reading the cues right, or Atsumu’s mixing them up. And what once felt synchronous is off by a beat, two beats, an entire measure in a song he hadn’t realized was a natural duet.

Not only is he growing irritated by miss after miss, but he can tell Atsumu is too. His face is pinched tight in the way it gets when he doesn’t want to show he’s pissed off, but everyone can always tell anyway. His eyes keep sliding toward Kiyoomi, his mouth opening as if he wants to talk, but then he snaps it with a click and turns away.

It’s unlike him. Atsumu never holds back from complaining.

Kiyoomi sucks a breath in through his teeth, but he lets it slide. During their break, he slides a protein bar between them on the bench, and Atsumu takes it out of habit. That, at least, relieves a bit of the pressure in Kiyoomi’s chest.

And at the end of practice, after another string of shitty and out-of-sync plays, when Kiyoomi tosses his extra hoodie at Atsumu because he’s weak to the cold, Atsumu catches it without a thought and shrugs it on. But when his head pops through the top, he freezes, and he shoots a scowl over his shoulder as if to blame Kiyoomi for the return to their routine. But he doesn’t take it off. Again, Kiyoomi feels a bit more pressure released.

They all walk out together, but Kiyoomi hangs back when he can’t find a face mask in his bag. He must’ve forgotten to refill them on his way out before practice.

When he finally swallows down his frustration and anxiety and turns to brave the world without one, he’s surprised to see Atsumu leaning against the doorway, arms folded. “I have an extra,” he says, his jaw tight as he holds up a white, sealed, single-use mask up like a cigarette between his fingers.

Kiyoomi tastes ash in his mouth at the sight of it, like he'd burned something he'd made with his own two hands and now has to force it down. “Thanks.” He takes it when it’s offered, and he feels bereft when Atsumu turns to walk off without him as the plastic case crinkles in his hands. “Wait,” he says.

Atsumu stops, shoving his hands in his pockets, but he doesn’t turn around.

“Are we - are we ok?” Kiyoomi asks.

Atsumu straightens up, as if trying to adjust beneath a weight along his shoulders. “Sure.”

“I’m sorry,” Kiyoomi says, at a loss of what else he should say.

At that, Atsumu turns around. He smiles, but it’s not his normal smile, the one that makes a pleased thread of warmth wind in Kiyoomi’s chest. This one is sharp, brittle, like it might crack at any moment into a scowl or shatter into something worse.

“Oh? For what exactly?” Atsumu asks.

Kiyoomi purses his lips, irritated at the accusatory tone when he didn’t do anything wrong. They were friends, weren’t they? They were teammates at least. They had planned to be roommates. “For giving you the wrong impression about -”

“Shut it,” Atsumu snaps, cutting his hand as if the gesture alone could shut Kiyoomi up. He steps forward, aggression in the lines of his body. “I don’t wanna hear it.”

“Well, I want to know what the hell you were thinking!” Kiyoomi says.

His voice is loud, and it echoes in the empty locker room. He regrets the outburst immediately when Atsumu retreats a step. He’d been aiming for the opposite, to get closer, to figure out how to get past this strange, irrational, awful thing between them. But here he is, somehow, even without meaning to, pushing Atsumu away.

But Kiyoomi should have known better. Atsumu never backs down from a fight.

“I was thinking that ya wanted me!” Atsumu yells back.

“I -” and that shuts Kiyoomi up immediately. He stutters, falters over his own words. “Can’t we just - can’t it be like - like it was before?”

Atsumu is already shaking his head. Kiyoomi sees the aggravated shake of Atsumu’s hands before he runs them through his hair.

Kiyoomi finds he’s desperate to keep Atsumu right here, right now, to air this out and get it over with because he has the feeling that if he lets Atsumu walk off again, he might never come back.

“We were doing fine,” Kiyoomi says, urgency a not-so-subtle current in his tone. “Great, even. What does it matter if we’re dating or not? That doesn’t have to change how we - how we play. Or even how we - “

“It changes everything!” Atsumu shouts, gripping his hair with both hands.

“Why!” Kiyoomi yells back. “Why?”

“Because that means I read ya all wrong!” Atsumu says. “This whole time. Six fuckin’ months, Omi! Fuckin’ hell!” He scrubs his hands down his face, and then he drops them, his shoulders turning inward as if he could pull back his words, his emotions back into his body, and Kiyoomi clenches his fists inside his own pockets. “I read it all wrong,” he says. “I can’t - I don’t - don’t ya see what that means? I don’t know what yer thinkin’. I can’t even trust myself to figure out what ya want - if ya -” His voice has dropped in volume until it’s barely a whisper as he shakes his head.

Kiyoomi realizes then that Atsumu’s face is wet with tears. He’s crying.

“I read it all wrong,” Atsumu says again. “Don’t ya get that?”

When Atsumu turns and walks away again, Kiyoomi watches him go. He knows, down in the deepest, rawest part of himself, that Atsumu’s words weren’t about their gameplay.

And there’s that feeling again as soon as the thought runs through his head - that fracturing feeling that rips him into two - four - eight fragments from what had felt like a whole.

And this time, he doesn’t try to swallow it down, doesn’t want to choke on it for any longer when the single piece that can fit him back together is steadily getting farther away.

And so, Kiyoomi chases after him.

 

///

 

When Kiyoomi thinks about it later, he’ll remember the first time Atsumu asked to hang out. He’ll think about the strange way Atsumu approached, slowly, like he was circling a wild animal, looking anywhere but at Kiyoomi while very obviously getting closer and closer, which Kiyoomi did not appreciate because he was the wild animal in this scenario.

He’ll think of the quiet way Atsumu had said, “Wanna see that stupid new action movie this Friday?” And then, when Kiyoomi had shrugged in begrudging agreement, how Atsumu said, “Cool! Okay. That’s cool. Date night!”

And Kiyoomi will think, Yes. I was an idiot. Usually Atsumu is the idiot, so it will be uncomfortable for a while after he has this realization.

But for now, it’s a different realization that hits him in full force. It isn’t guilt or confusion or frustration, though a mix of all three compound the reality of what he feels. And what he feels is a strange sort of desperation that urges him to move faster, to reach out, to clutch and to grasp and to never let go.

And so, Kiyoomi doesn’t walk, he runs.

When he pushes open the locker room doors, Kiyoomi’s heart is working hard in his chest - harder than it has any business working for a professional athlete going for a light jog. It is a twisting, clenching, wrenching thing. He feels his blood pulsing throughout his body to echo the thrum of every heartbeat and the feeling seizing there, like if he stops moving, so too will his heart.

He sees that Atsumu isn’t in the hallway. Further out, he isn’t in the lobby either. Kiyoomi picks up his pace and sprints outside, and he’s just in time to see him about to round the corner.

“Atsumu!” he calls.

He watches as Atsumu’s steps falter, as if he hadn’t expected Kiyoomi to come after him.

But of course he did. Of course.

He catches Atsumu’s quick glance over his shoulder before he quickly makes the turn. Irritated, Kiyoomi keeps sprinting, his sneakers smacking against the concrete sidewalk. He catches up in no time because, despite Atsumu’s apparent surprise at Kiyoomi’s presence, he doesn’t actually seem to be trying to escape.

As Kiyoomi pulls up next to him, Atsumu comes to a full stop.

“I know you heard me,” Kiyoomi says, tone sharp. “Did you just want to make me chase you?” He’s not out of breath, but he’s still mildly peeved that he had to put effort into reaching Atsumu when they could have kept talking in the locker room.

That is, until he sees that Atsumu’s still crying. His eyes are wet, red-rimmed, and he’s blinking fast like he’s trying to dial it back.

Atsumu is an ugly crier. And he never tries to hide it. He cries at sad moments in movies, at cute animal videos, at anything that gets him riled up. And he never tries to hide it.

But he is now, and Kiyoomi hates it. He hates that, somehow, he’s the one who did this.

“I never wanted ya ta chase me, Omi,” Atsumu says quietly. He’s not meeting Kiyoomi’s eyes, instead looking down as he swipes a sleeve over his eyes. “I just wanted ya next to me.”

Kiyoomi’s irritation fades away in a rush, leaving him drained. “I’m sorry, Atsumu,” he says.

“I don’t want ya to be sorry,” Atsumu says with a helpless sort of shrug.

He looks small then, smaller than a pro athlete at over 163cm and 73kg should be able to look. Kiyoomi’s chest constricts. He wants to reach out, like Atsumu usually does. He wants to touch Atsumu’s hair, his sleeve, the hem of his shirt. He wants Atsumu to swing an arm over his shoulders even though Kiyoomi’s the one who has a few centimeters over him. Wants, wants, wants.

Atsumu opens his mouth, but then he closes it again. He looks a bit lost, bereft maybe, like he doesn’t have anything left. And Kiyoomi is torn between that strange desperation, this feeling of want, and the frustration about the fact that whatever this is between them has come to this.

“Why didn’t you ever say anything about it?” he blurts out.

At that, Atsumu shoots a look up at him. “What?”

“About dating.”

“Omi,” Atsumu says, squinting at him now with annoyance, his words spilling out of his mouth sharply like knives that dig into Kiyoomi’s gut. “We have date nights. Every fuckin’ Friday, match or no match.”

“Yes, but -” Kiyoomi pauses, conceding another stupid point.

It’s true. Atsumu always called their hang outs ‘date nights.’ He’d pick a restaurant and say, ‘Samu said this place was good. Next date night, Omi Omi!’ and they’d go try it out. Or he’d say ‘Get me chocolates for Friday’s date night. Ya missed Valentine’s Day, you idiot,’ and Kiyoomi would go to the fancy chocolatier downtown that Atsumu likes best and get him a gift-wrapped box of truffles.

And, every Friday - every single one - Atsumu would say, ‘This is the best one yet,’ and pleasure would curl in Kiyoomi’s chest, warm and familiar and comfortable, and he’d smile, just a bit. And he’d watch Atsumu’s smile grow in response, as if Atsumu’s happiness banked on Kiyoomi’s.

So, he’d started to say: ‘Yes, but -’

Yes - Atsumu had laid out hints, with his things, with his words, with his gestures.

But - Kiyoomi hadn’t thought he’d been serious. He hadn’t thought Atsumu would have wanted it to be serious, not for real - not with him.

“And I go with ya ta all of your snooty family dinners!” Atsumu goes on, more heated now if the way he’s straightening up from beneath the ugly weight of Kiyoomi’s misinterpretation of their relationship. “Ya know your ma loves me, right? She keeps sendin’ me your baby photos. I was tryin’ to be nice to who I thought was my boyfriend by not mentionin’ it, but since you’re apparently not, I’m just gonna fuckin’ say it: Ya were a really ugly baby, Omi-kun.”

“That’s uncalled for,” Kiyoomi mutters, but his mind is whirring as he stares back at Atsumu.

Atsumu’s face is a little red, less now with misery than frustration, and he seems closer to normal than he’d been a few moments ago.

“Also,” Atsumu says, voice rising in volume. Kiyoomi sighs, so Atsumu says again, more insistently this time, “Also, you’re the one who always wants ta cuddle in bed!”

Kiyoomi suddenly flushes bright red. “You’re warm,” he says.

But Atsumu’s still going, unphased by Kiyoomi’s contribution: “And not just in bed, but during movie nights! And in the morning when ya make us coffee!”

“Because you’re warm,” Kiyoomi says again more loudly this time.

Atsumu’s mouth becomes a mulish line at the response. “Look, ya asked me why I didn’t say anythin’,” he says, “but I’ve been sayin’ it all along. And I thought - I thought ya were sayin’ it back this whole time.”

When Atsumu looks down again, the bluster of his frustration and insistence bleeds away with the lack of eye contact. Right there before Kiyoomi’s eyes, Atsumu shrinks again, like he’d been propped up by the stand of their assumed relationship, and now, without it, he’s a sad remnant of a thing, a listless mannequin in place of a man.

“Ya always let me put my arm around your shoulders when we walk,” Atsumu says, his voice soft again, and Kiyoomi’s chest tightens. “Ya saved that weasel mug I gave ya as a gag gift so I'd have somethin’ of my own at your place, even though all of your dishes are boring and matching and shit.”

He swipes a sleeve over his eyes. Kiyoomi wants to look away from those eyes tearing up, but he can’t. He can’t.

And seeing them glassy with tears and misery makes those fractured pieces inside Kiyoomi twist in his gut - an even count of two, four, six, eight, double the pace in time with his racing heart as it wrenches inside him in a way he’s never felt before. Worse still, the way it feels is only a faded reflection of what’s painted across Atsumu’s face. And it’s only there because of him - Kiyoomi - and his mistakes, his blindness, his fear.

“And ya let me wear your clothes ‘cause they smell like ya,” Atsumu goes on, his breath hitching as he begins to sob in earnest again, “and I like that. And ya wear mine. Ya do all this shit, and what the hell was I thinkin’, right? I’m the idiot here. Of course I am. I always am. I’m the stupid scrub who though Sakusa fuckin’ Kiyoomi could ever want -”

“Please,” Kiyoomi says to cut him off, and he can’t help it that his voice breaks.

Atsumu shakes his head and looks to the side. “Why did ya - why - “

“Because I lo-” Kiyoomi cuts himself off, and Atsumu’s eyes are wide when he whips his head up to look back at him, finally, even as Kiyoomi feels himself shrink away this time.

“Huh?” Atsumu says. “What were ya about to say?” When Kiyoomi just stares back, Atsumu says urgently, “Hello?”

Kiyoomi clears his throat, considering, and then he says, “I used to think about it.”

Atsumu shakes his head in question, eyes narrowing again, as if he’s growing annoyed with all that Kiyoomi cannot say, hasn’t been able to say, had been worried about revealing.

“What?” Atsumu says again, his voice cloudy with tears but his tone sharp. “What? Just spit it out.”

“About what it would be like - to be with you,” Kiyoomi says, growing defensive. “I used to think about it. All the time.”

Atsumu’s entire posture shifts, like he’s about to fight, or run, and Kiyoomi lets out a breath.

“I did all of those things for you,” Kiyoomi goes on, “because I wanted to. Because I like being close to you and like that you - like being close to me too.”

“Then what the hell’s the problem here? Why did you - why aren’t we - ”

“I didn’t think you’d ever want that with me,” he says, and he drops his eyes when Atsumu gapes at him.

It’s true. He did think about it. Often. Always. It used to be all he could think about.

Kiyoomi had always attracted a certain kind of guy: Attractive, charismatic, outgoing, outspoken. And Kiyoomi had fallen for them in return time and again all through college. But then he joined the V.League, kicked off his career and the rest of his life, and vowed not to make the same mistakes again.

Yet mistake number one was right there in the hallway when Kiyoomi met his new team.

Atsumu was a familiar face grown even more handsome in their years apart. He was also somehow more dramatic from the get go and wouldn’t talk to Kiyoomi for a full 10 minutes after claiming to need just one to get over the surprise of Kiyoomi’s presence.

But after those first 10 minutes, it was like Atsumu never left Kiyoomi’s side again. He was everything that was easy to fall in love with. He was not only attractive and charismatic and outgoing and outspoken, he was generous, and kind, and considerate - even to Kiyoomi with his myriad of quirks.

It was Atsumu who had seamlessly welcomed Kiyoomi into the team. It was Atsumu who had ribbed and needled and then teased and joked until Kiyoomi, who was never too comfortable, suddenly was more than comfortable. It was with Atsumu who Kiyoomi had inside jokes and a routine, who Kiyoomi could read with a look, who Kiyoomi wanted to spend his time with. As a result, Kiyoomi, who was never too comfortable, suddenly was more than comfortable all the time.

And he found himself imagining what it would be like if it was more than just that - comfort.

But Kiyoomi also is realistic. He knows what he’s like - attractive in his own right, apparently, with a body honed for his profession. But the others on the team are all that and more. Kiyoomi has as his key differentiator from them the fact that he’s particularly delicate, as much as a pro athlete of his size can be. This is in so far as hygiene and cleanliness and tidiness are concerned. And he’s prickly and quickly irritable and blunt to boot.

In essence, Kiyoomi is easy to fall in love with, but hard to be with.

That’s been the consensus, anyway.

So when it was Atsumu who took Kiyoomi under his wing, in return, Kiyoomi withheld a part of himself, even as more and more of him reached out, clutched, grasped, and never wanted to let go. Yet every day, with every bit of comfort he allowed himself to indulge in, to enjoy, another thread of his being felt drawn to, tied to, irrevocably tethered to Atsumu.

“What the hell are ya even talkin’ about?” Atsumu says. He’s squinting up at Kiyoomi like Kiyoomi’s an idiot, and nervous laughter springs into Kiyoomi’s chest even as chest burns with his own admission. “This whole shit show is about me wantin’ ya. Hello?”

“Yes, Atsumu,” Kiyoomi says patiently. “And I’m trying to explain to you why you shouldn’t. It’s a bad idea. I’m hard to be with. I’m -”

“Oh my god. Shut your mouth before I punch ya,” Atsumu says, his tone sharp and irritated, but he’s looking back now, and it’s Kiyoomi who feels like he wants to run. “You’re the easiest person I’ve ever loved in my life,” Atsumu says then, like it’s that simple. Like it could be as simple as that. Like he could want this, for real - want Kiyoomi, for real.

“You -”

“Yeah,” Atsumu says, cutting him off. “But that was never the question, was it?”

Kiyoomi stares back, quiet, the jagged puzzle pieces inside him cutting and rending as they try to fit together, the solve within his grasp but for his own uncertainty and fear.

Atsumu makes a frustrated noise and turns sharply away. He starts walking quickly down the street, his gym bag bouncing at his hip.

Kiyoomi runs, again.

“Atsumu! Wait. Just wait,” he says.

“No,” Atsumu replies loudly, not even turning around.

“Come on,” Kiyoomi says, finally reaching out. He pulls on Atsumu’s sleeve until he stops. “Don’t be a brat.”

Atsumu’s eyes bug out again, his smile all teeth. “Fuckin’ excuse me?”

“You heard me,” Kiyoomi says, baiting him to keep him there as he stalls for what to say.

Atsumu’s mouth trembles, like he’s torn between smiling and crying. Instead, in true Atsumu form, he lands on scowling. “I - ya stinkin’ piece o’ shit!”

Kiyoomi bites back a grin, but Atsumu sees it, and his scowl fades into what is clearly a smile that he tries to force down.

“Ugh,” Atsumu says. “Stop smilin’ at me like that. I hate it. Makes ya look constipated.”

Sakusa can’t help but smile back. “Then apparently you like it when I look constipated.”

“Gross. You’re gross.” Atsumu’s eyes flicker up before he looks down. He lightly pulls his arm away from Kiyooi’s grasp to run his hand through his hair again.

Kiyoomi heaves a breath before sighing it out slowly to steady himself. “No, I’m - I’m sorry.”

Atsumu’s hand drops to his side, limp. He nods sharply, just once, his eyes downcast.

Kiyoomi takes another breath. “I’m kind of an idiot,” he concedes.

Atsumu’s laugh is soft, a little wet. He shakes his head and wipes at his face. “Nah.”

It’s quiet again. They stand there, only a few steps apart, always close, even now, in the middle of whatever this is between them as evening falls quickly into night.

Atsumu shifts on his feet, like he might walk off again, a third and final time.

And Kiyoomi chews on his lip before he realizes he can’t chase and clutch and grasp without giving something back - not if he never wants to let go. Not if he wants to be held in return.

“I love you,” he says, simply, finally. “And I’m - I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you. That I didn’t make it clear.” He pauses, then says, the pieces of his heart on the line there in the few steps between them, “And I’m yours - if you still want me.”

“I always want ya,” Atsumu replies easily. And he looks up then, his eyes shiny, spilling over again, because he’s a crybaby. Because he cries so easily, when he’s sad - when he’s happy. “And I love you too, obviously.”

“Obviously,” Kiyoomi says, because it’s true, and he’s an idiot.

Atsumu laughs again, this time it’s lighter, and he looks back at Kiyoomi, and he doesn’t shift like he’s going to run, but like he’s getting comfortable, like might stay.

Still, Kiyoomi feels that strange sort of desperation that makes him want to reach out, and he says, “You never kissed me - or made any sort of physical move.”

Atsumu shrugs, watching him carefully now, his eyes darting across Kiyoomi’s face.

So Kiyoomi asks, “You were what - just waiting?”

“Sure. Yeah.”

And it’s not an answer, not really. “Why?” Kiyoomi asks next.

“I dunno,” Atsumu replies. He looks unbothered, easygoing, as he just looks and looks back at Kiyoomi. “I didn’t mind.”

“But what if I’d been an idiot forever? You would have just kept waiting? Done without it?”

Atsumu smiles again. “Yeah, I guess.”

Undeterred by that charismatic pull of Atsumu’s smile, Kiyoomi asks, “Why though?”

Atsumu’s cheeks have turned endearingly pink, and he glares then, which is so at odds with his next words that Kiyoomi feels his heart thump in his chest. “I didn’t need it. I thought - think you’re worth it, Omi. With or without it.”

And slowly, the fractured pieces inside Kiyoomi start fitting together again.

Kiyoomi steps forward quickly, acting on that desperation clawing at his insides, fighting to grasp and clutch and pull the fractured pieces inside Kiyoomi together again. The eighths become quarters become halves - until those pieces too slot perfectly together, creating a whole.

His hands cup Atsumu’s surprised face along the sharp lines of his jaw, thumbs swiping lightly across still-wet cheeks, and he tips his face forward and kisses him. It’s a soft, easy, exploring kiss, and pleasure curls in his chest, warm and familiar and comfortable.

But it’s more than just comfort, he thinks then, this is love.

When he pulls away, he waits until Atsumu blinks his eyes open. He looks mildly stunned, and Kiyoomi is inordinately pleased in return, like his own happiness banks on Atsumu’s.

“I kinda thought ya didn’t want any of that,” Atsumu says, a little breathless.

Kiyoomi tips his head to the side. “Why?” he asks, a little breathless too.

“I dunno,” Atsumu replies.

Kiyoomi feels Atsumu’s smile grow beneath his palms, his fingertips, as he holds him, just like this.

“Just - the masks, the -”

“So you’re an idiot too,” Kiyoomi says.

Atsumu looks like he’s trying to tamp down on his smile. “Yeah, I guess so.” Then he says, in a teasing, joking tone. “Do it again then.”

Kiyoomi just smiles back. And he does it again.

 

///