The bell above the door doesn’t startle Osamu like it should just shy of midnight. Osamu mutters a customary, “We’re closed but—” and then the rest dies in his throat when he glances up to find Suna Rintarou standing in the doorway, wrapped up in a coat so bulky he looks like he hijacked Aran’s body from the neck down. One gloved hand rests on the door swinging shut behind him. His eyes snap wide like he’s suddenly realized he’s geared up, on a plane, about to go skydiving.
Strings of yellow-tinted fairy lights loop around the top of the dining room, snake up and over the windows, an ethereal cradle for Suna’s outline in the door frame. Osamu put the lights up the first week his name was on the deed. Right after he scrubbed down the walls and floor, before he pulled apart the stove in the back to scrub that down, too, he climbed over tables and chairs wielding an industrial stapler while Atsumu fed the line, laughing the whole while with jabs like “this is so sixth grade, I love it” and “how you gonna afford food when you spent every penny you got on stringy lights and staples?”
A chill rolls up from the floor to lick Osamu’s shins and erode the fog lingering on the windows. The ghost of a smiley face remains on one near the wall shared with a laundromat, drawn by a surly teenager having lunch with her parents. Another never clouds over all the way because the leaky pane hasn’t climbed its way to the top of Osamu’s to-do list yet.
“Hey, Samu.” The door latches with a noisy click.
Slung across his chest, Suna’s bag bulges in odd places, same as Atsumu’s does when he puts off packing until the last minute and has to shove everything in as fast as he can. The strap crosses over the arms of a backpack Osamu remembers from high school: disgustingly green and frayed all along the zipper.
Every loose, noisy, electric feeling rattling Osamu’s bones narrows into a squelching tsk sucked through his teeth. “Don’t even call first, you’re as bad as Tsumu.”
“You take that back.” Suna heaves his bag onto one of the bar stools and contorts his way out of his backpack straps. Half of Suna’s bulk comes off with his coat—he is in no way small or skinny, but for a moment he almost could be. He’s wearing an EJP t-shirt underneath. Gray and yellow over white, the number nine stamped proudly over his heart.
“Show up unannounced, straight outta practice, ‘bout to demand both dinner and a shower,” Osamu counts off one-by-one on his fingers. “Please, I am begging you: shower first.”
“I’ll have you know I ate on the way.”
Osamu rolls his eyes—more a courtesy than anything else, a line in the script, the pre-approved reaction—and drums a muted beat against the counter. It’s like he can’t stay still. Like he’s in Atsumu’s skin instead of his own.
The train only takes a couple of hours, and practice had to have been over for at least three before that. So, Suna ate on the way but didn’t change, didn’t shower? He walked out of practice and all he did was pack.
Suna ducks his head. “My team washed out of the playoffs.”
The counter is clean, but Osamu wipes the whole thing down one more time in the name of chasing off all the fingerprints he tapped into the surface. His cloth swishes along to the music playing from Osamu’s back. The cheap pair of speakers tucked behind the salt croon pop songs from elementary and middle school—Osamu doesn’t know how he feels about that being so long ago, there’s a whole station for it.
“So I guess I’m done for the season. I’m released. We won’t have any matches for a couple months now.” Weight on his heels, strap of his duffel bag smashed in his fist, Suna glances up and asks, “Mind if I crash?”
“Course not.” A complicated feeling wells up in Osamu’s chest.
It’s not exactly the first time something like this has happened; more somewhere in the realm of a dozen. The second, if they’re only counting the times after Osamu had a place of his own. Ever since they became friends, first year at Inarizaki, right up through the night after Osamu hung up all his fairy lights, every time some big emotional upheaval inflicts itself on Suna, he packs up and heads for the nearest Miya residence. Sometimes it’s celebrations, sometimes it’s failed tests or embarrassing moments, and sometimes it’s a huge, consuming ache Osamu can’t understand no matter how hard he tries. This seems like the rough end of the scale. One of those times Suna’s all beaten up and can’t get out of his head, in need of someone to suffer his emotions with.
Osamu comes around the counter to offer Suna a hesitant clap on the shoulder and lock the front door. A delicate chain clinks against the glass when Osamu flips the Open sign. “Go on, then. Shower. You’re not gettin’ in my bed like that.”
The tension snaps. Suna offers Osamu a quiet “thanks” and disappears through the kitchen doors.
Osamu doesn’t need long to finish closing up the restaurant. Same as he tends to leave the door open, he tends to dawdle at the end of the night. Not thirty minutes after sending Suna up, Osamu is all done and climbing the back stairs.
The apartment over the restaurant is unapologetically small and plain: one all-purpose room divided by a pair of slatted, milk chocolate screens meant to look wooden even though they’re flimsy, no weight, just particle board picked up at the nearest big-box store on sale for half off. Osamu bought them to arrange around his bed and give the impression of having a bedroom instead of just the room—a shallow attempt to decorate at best. Heavy curtains drape across the block of windows stretching from wall to wall, overlooking the alley cut behind the restaurant. Dark and sagging, the curtains are meant to both compensate for the rickety windows and block out the morning sun. There’s no kitchen, that’s downstairs. No dining table, either, those are all downstairs, too.
Suna is sitting sideways on the couch shoved into a corner with his legs sprawled over the cushions, seemingly oblivious to the mess of socks strewn over the floor. The open box of Osamu’s apartment is a mess: the dresser drawers haven’t been closed all the way in at least six months, the sheets need changing, and it’s beyond embarrassing—holy shit, Osamu is supposed to be an adult, he has a business, what is he doing not changing his sheets?
The over-dramatic wailing in Osamu’s head sounds suspiciously like Atsumu.
“It’s my fault we lost, you know,” Suna says like he’s commenting on the nasty windchill or a disappointing movie he had the misfortune of paying to see in the theater. He rubs a towel over his head with one hand and scrolls through something on his phone with the other, wearing pajamas generic enough, Osamu is sure he’s imagining the sensation that he recognizes them.
Saying Suna lost EJP the match isn’t strictly accurate but Osamu gets where he’s coming from. The point was lost on Suna’s serve and that point lost EJP their match, but the whole thing doesn’t rest on Suna’s shoulders. That sort of thing is easier to accept after walking away. Osamu has a better perspective now, can see the careful distinction between you, the player and you, the team with greater clarity. Nowadays Osamu doesn’t have to worry so much about taking responsibility for a group effort. He worries about rice and which fillings he wants to make in the morning; about the electric bill and if the pipes will freeze; about Suna, not about Suna blowing the deciding serve in his first Division 1 tournament.
Osamu worries about neither of them so much as pretending someone is sleeping on the couch.
The curtains shudder as they fight the leaky windows. Osamu slides past Suna to go change the sheets.
Osamu wakes up half-wrapped in his blankets, turned toward Suna’s back, a furious wind pounding on the windows and sky so dark it may as well be midnight. Being productive on a morning like this one is a tall order. Between the cold and the dark, Osamu wants to sleep until the sun elbows its way out from behind the hoard of clouds and puts a stop to the wretched, howling wind. Maybe until the earth spins into a more comfortable temperature, too. Tremendous effort is required to get Osamu’s ass out of bed, though the call of a hot shower eases the sting of being forced to abandon all the warmth soaking into the blankets from Suna in favor of a clammy Thursday morning.
Downstairs, one look out the window tells Osamu all day will be pleas for the sky to open up and unleash its monsoon on the city. It’ll come down sleet. Half-rain, half-ice, the storefront will be frozen solid within an hour. Same thing happened last year—Osamu spent half the day trying to break out of his own damn restaurant.
Suna sleeps until almost one in the afternoon. Over the course of the morning and lunch rush there are only two telltale creaks from the floorboards overhead, the toilet flushing, and then more floorboards as Suna shuffles his way back to bed. This is Suna’s way of dealing. Step one: sleep until he’s either over it or hungry enough to pretend.
By the time the third set of tired, heavy footsteps start up, the lunch rush has passed and the only customer in the place is sitting across the counter from Osamu, shoveling food in his mouth like a caveman, smirking something utterly insufferable every time the floorboards creak.
“Who you got up there?” Atsumu asks.
It’s too bad they have the same eyebrows; Osamu feels the powerful urge to mock Atsumu for the weird, caterpillar dance his do over his forehead when he feels he’s being particularly clever. No answer bothers Atsumu more than straight or sarcastic ones, so Osamu bangs his tubs around and keeps on with his onigiri.
“What’re you making so much for?” Atsumu asks once the silence has gone on too long. “That for me?”
Osamu briefly considers dunking Atsumu’s stupid head in the tub of rice. “Convenience store a few blocks over asked for some stock. Could become a thing if it goes over well.”
“Cool. You give any more thought to doing a booth for games?”
Osamu’s teeth clench around a grunt as his fingers mold what he imagines is a similar shape out of rice: soft, rounded corners; non-committal. Onigiri is romantic in a way, crafted with love and precision from careful palms and sure fingers. A simple task, executed perfectly.
“I’m just sayin’ you should think about it is all,” Atsumu says. “Remember how shitty it was trying to find something decent to eat between games? You’d make a killing from the players and staff alone.”
Osamu is not necessarily opposed to the idea, he just thinks he should have the ability to take a vacation or have an apartment he does more than sleep in before considering things like permits and pop-up stands and getting involved in volleyball again even if it is in this peripheral way. Walking away from one dream in favor of a bigger one was the hardest thing Osamu ever did and now Atsumu is—once again—asking why he doesn’t want to turn around and walk back. Explaining it has always felt impossible. Atsumu doesn’t understand things like ‘I love molding this soft shape with my hands more than I loved smashing line shots with a wicked slice’ because, for him, there is no happiness without volleyball.
“Do what you want, though,” Atsumu says in a voice meaning but really do what I tell you.
Osamu answers with another non-committal grunt and braces himself when the creaking floorboards spread to the stairs.
The doors to the kitchen swing open and closed with breezy whaps as they smack the air around and the little brushes on the bottoms sweep over the tile. Atsumu pretends to be surprised to see Suna come lean against the divider towering around the cash register but it is faker than his hair color.
“Sunarin!” Atsumu says with all the restraint of a bullhorn. “So this is where you ran off to. Your libero is having kittens up in Shizuoka, got the whole league up in arms. There’s a side-pool and everything. I’m gonna win for sure, now.”
No wonder Atsumu is here on a random Thursday asking too many questions. Osamu starts on another onigiri and asks, “Can I get in on that?”
“Maybe I’ll split with you,” Atsumu says. “But seriously, Sunarin. Check in with your team. They don’t get that you just fuck off sometimes.”
“Washio knows where I am.”
Atsumu rolls his eyes with his whole head, chin arcing up toward the ceiling as he cranes his neck around. “Sorry, I meant please tell one of your basketcase teammates where you are. Shit, you think Washio’s gonna tell them anything?”
“Fine,” Suna says, insincere to the core.
“Is it true you guys don’t have any more games lined up?” Atsumu asks, patently insensitive.
“Might be some exhibitions later, don’t know. Coach said to keep in shape and keep in touch.” Suna skirts a bit behind the counter and taps a few of the keys on the cash register without pressing them in all the way. Osamu swats at him with a towel until he cuts it out. “Doubt I’ll play much either way. The starters hardly got a season.”
“Second string still needs experience,” Atsumu says. “MSBY washed out my rookie year and I still wound up with a good bit of court time by the end. I told you, first couple of years are orientation. Don’t take it personal.”
“You don’t get to act like some wise mentor,” Osamu dips his fingers in water and flicks it at Atsumu’s face.
“I’m a starter, now,” Atsumu brags.
It’s halfway out of Osamu’s mouth that Atsumu also fucks up more serves than Suna before his heart stops and he yanks it right back in. What comes out is nothing more than a shattered cough slicing hot up the front of his throat.
“Well, I’m starting up a career as a professional cashier,” Suna mutters, running his fingers over the keys again. “How does this thing even work? Why’d you get something so clunky?”
“Came with the place. Just hit the button with the name of whatever you’re selling. Hit it twice if there’s two, or you can use the numbers first to do a bunch. Then the green button pops out the drawer. Don’t screw with it, though, took for-fucking-ever to set up and my books are pristine.”
“I like the noise it makes,” Atsumu says. “Ka-ching! Sounds like money, you know?”
“I keep forgetting you are five years old,” Osamu drawls.
Atsumu waves both middle fingers in front of his face like wiper blades.
“You do everything on your own?” Suna asks. He seems weirdly obsessed with the cash register, keeps examining it from different angles and touching everywhere but the keys now that Osamu told him not to mess with them.
“You see anyone else around?” Osamu asks.
“Guess not,” Suna mutters. “I’m bored, give me something to do.”
“Oh, please, Samu’s never gonna assign you work. If you want to help wipe down tables when they get used and keep up with the dishes since Samu never washes ‘em until he has to.” Atsumu stands, his stool scraping along the floor. “S’what he always bitches at me to do.”
“Thank god you’re leaving. You are leaving, right? I can only be expected to put up with you so much in a week.” Osamu gets a sneer for that one.
Atsumu taps the counter between him and Suna twice to get Suna’s attention. “Tell Komori you’re alright. He’s worried.” He waits for Suna to roll his eyes, then taps his cheek with the same finger and says, “Sugar.”
The kissing habit came from their mother sometime around the age of twelve and same as everything else Atsumu likes, he immediately cranked it up to eleven and never let it go. It never seemed all that weird to Osamu until they got to Inarizaki and Atsumu spent the entire first month of the school year simultaneously avoiding beatdowns from possessive boyfriends—and girlfriends—and declarations of love from swooning admirers. To Atsumu’s credit, it’s not full-on kisses. They’re cheek kisses; harmless flirts; outrageous mwahs smooched loud as possible at anyone who meets the singular criteria of Atsumu knowing what their name is.
Suna does the thing where he kind of nods, kind of shrugs, kind of waggles just one eyebrow. It could mean anything from yes to let’s go jump off a bridge into the river, and Osamu has unfortunate experience with both ends of that spectrum. When Atsumu leans in, Suna turns his head to the side so he only gets cheek.
“What? No tongue?” Atsumu pouts, but he smacks a dramatic, noisy kiss to Suna’s cheek all the same.
“When have I ever allowed your tongue anywhere near me?” Suna asks.
“Fair enough,” Atsumu says on his way out, into the gloomy Osaka winter.
Osamu waits until the bell hung over the doors stops ringing before glancing Suna’s way. “You don’t have to help out, you know. I’ve got it. But I understand if you want to stay a bit and need something to keep occupied.”
“Are you?” Osamu wonders. “Going to stay a bit?”
Suna considers the question, back to studying the cash register like it knows all the secrets of a flawless jump serve. “Another night maybe, if you don’t mind.”
Eight o’clock the alarm blares cold, morning air straight through Osamu’s sinuses. A groan rolls into his chest followed by Suna’s shoulder, a hot balm soaking through his skin to soothe his chilly lungs. Osamu lays still until he thinks better and scoots back to remove the sleepy temptation to roll closer, too.
Being awake already feels complicated. A few slow, arduous blinks clear Osamu’s vision; one long, full-body stretch gets him waking up a bit more. To the right, Suna groans and rolls to his back.
“I had the weirdest dream. Something about muffins.” It spills clumsily from Suna’s mouth. He muffles a lengthy yawn behind his fist. “I think maybe you were trying to make some but they kept coming out pie.”
Osamu can’t process any of it for somewhere in the realm of five or six reasons. “Baking is hard.”
“You’re hard,” Suna mumbles. His eyebrows furrow and his mouth twists into a sour downturn. “Wait, what?”
“Is this the part where I say ‘that’s what she said?’ Do I finally understand that joke?”
“Only if this is middle school.” Suna rolls back to his side of the bed, face buried in his pillow and hand swatting in Osamu’s general direction. “Get out. Take your cheese with you.”
“S’my sleep you’re fucking with here.” Suna smacks Osamu’s arm then tucks both hands under his pillow.
“You’re the one who won’t shut up.” A yawn drains Osamu’s air halfway through and doesn’t stop until a few seconds after he’s finished complaining.
Osamu offers Suna an excessive pat on the shoulder—too hard, lingering too long, too greedy considering how much Osamu wants to give in to sleepy temptation—before he pulls back and crawls out of bed to get dressed. Suna’s razor and shampoo crowding the bathroom are vehemently ignored. No one can be expected to have the emotional capacity to deal with having their esophagus twisted into a pretzel from Suna’s toothbrush hanging out with Osamu’s in the little fancy hotel cup stolen from a Hyatt up in Tokyo first thing in the morning.
In winter, Osamu usually runs laps at the gym around the corner until he loses count of the rounds. Today, Osamu dresses for the weather and shoulders his way out into the cutting morning chill. He flexes his fingers in his pockets and watches his breath curl in the air of the back alley running behind the shop, frozen for a moment, reconsidering the gym. The tips of his ears jolt shivers to his toes.
Today is less damp than yesterday. The sky is clear rather than smothered in a haze of clouds but a nagging, oppressive weight hangs in the atmosphere. A sense of being caged in struggles with the urge to burrow in a cocoon and refuse to come out until it’s summer and the trees are lush and Osamu’s biggest concern is not how many layers he needs but how few he can get away with.
Osamu runs due east until he can’t feel his legs anymore, then turns around and runs back home for a shower, clean clothes, and opening the restaurant.
Midway through rinsing the first batch of rice, a floorboard creaking above nearly makes Osamu jump out of his skin. A few minutes later, Suna stumbles down the stairs. Ten o’clock, this time. Much better than one in the afternoon.
Suna mumbles, “good morning,” heads straight for the stand-alone fridge, and starts on enough scrambled eggs for the both of them without asking if Osamu has eaten or wants any.
Osamu did eat. He wants some anyway. A fluttering starts up in his stomach wondering how many effortless assumptions Suna is capable of at this point.
One of Osamu’s old, threadbare novelty t-shirts stretches taut over Suna’s frame. A cheap pun about blockers runs down the spine in faded blue calligraphy. Suna’s hair is smashed flat to his head on one side and sticking every which way on the other, fresh out of bed without even the notion of trying to tame it. The hem of his jeans graze the kitchen tile as he shifts his weight side to side to some unknown beat and cracks the eggs into too much butter, then breaks the yolks with a spatula like a heathen instead of doing it properly.
Used to be that t-shirt was big on Osamu. Now, it’s tight around Suna’s chest and does something horrendous to the fluttering in Osamu’s stomach: hunger and nausea wrapped up in a bit of how he feels like he’s dying of thirst face-down in a kiddie pool.
“What sort of blasphemy are you committing in my kitchen?” Osamu asks.
Osamu snags a towel to dry off his hands and throws it over his shoulder. “Ain’t no proper eggs I’ve ever seen.”
“Scrambled is scrambled,” Suna says. He swishes the spatula around the pan a few times to demonstrate his point. The eggs are all mismatched, parts cooked through, parts slightly runny, all in delightfully sunny streaks of white and yellow twirling together under Suna’s careless swipes.
“Don’t you like ‘em fluffy?” Osamu cannot imagine wanting those stringy things over real, proper scrambled eggs all whipped up and airy, cooked with a bit of butter instead of half a stick, served up with toast. He’s still going to eat them, of course. Just thinking about the good stuff is making him hungry.
“I like ‘em eggs.”
Osamu grabs plates and shoves four slices of rye in the toaster. If Suna sticks around, he’ll have to reconsider his shopping list. Pick up some sourdough and poultry—Suna won’t want to live on onigiri and beef—and then that whole notion gets the door slammed on it because Osamu can’t be making those plans. Not at ten in the morning, not on day three, not about Suna.
They eat in the little two-sided corner booth tucked away next to the stairs in the back of the kitchen. All through breakfast, Suna eyes Osamu like he’s waiting to be interrogated. Osamu doesn’t plan to ask, doesn’t want to, can’t think much on the possibility of what Suna might say regarding any of the things they’re not talking about. The important parts are obvious. It’s not hard to see sleeping until one, wearing Osamu’s shirts, and moping at the cash register like it holds the meaning of life alongside crumpled up banknotes and a kilogram’s worth of coins for what it is.
As for the other part, well, Osamu probably wouldn’t bring it up even without the rest.
Osamu shoves all of it to the side and says the first thing to come to mind. “There’s a gym down the street if you want to use it. Tell them you know me, it’ll be fine.”
“That so?” Suna takes a bite of his eggs. A bemused look shoots across the table.
“Yeah. I usually run in the morning if you want to come along.” Osamu doesn’t know why he’s saying any of it. It spews from his mouth all thoughtful and full of invitation to stay another night and carte blanche freedom to rearrange Osamu’s grocery list.
“Offers like that and I may never leave.”
“I said you could stay as long as you want. Meant it, too.” This notion is more enticing on day three. God help him if they get to day four.
Osamu doesn’t like to admit it, but he’s a people person at heart. Getting used to not having someone around all the time was the hardest part of striking out on his own. From birth, Atsumu was always there—obnoxiously loud and constantly vibrating with energy—until one day at eighteen, he wasn’t. Figuring out how to do this whole thing alone wasn’t easy, but it was good for Osamu, same as it was good for Atsumu. They’re learning to be happy by themselves.
The restaurant has always been tranquil—nothing but low pop songs sweeping above with the fairy lights in the lulls between customers. Atsumu’s ghost doesn’t haunt this space, it’s always been Osamu’s alone. It’s not like at home where he can point out the section of the wall they had to patch up when Atsumu smashed his head through it trying to tackle Osamu, and there are no deeply entrenched memories of Atsumu playing video games at the kitchen table while Osamu helped their mother cook dinner.
With Suna around, there’s a little more life in the place as Osamu goes about his routine. Suna is also the cause of one Washio Tatsuki sitting on the stool closest to the door, patiently waiting for Suna to acknowledge his presence. Osamu’s caught right in the middle.
Suna is hiding in the kitchen like a coward.
Under normal circumstances, Osamu wouldn’t get involved. Or, it’d be Atsumu hiding in the kitchen and depending on several factors—does Atsumu deserve it, is Atsumu overreacting, did Atsumu steal anything of Osamu’s lately—Osamu would either leave Atsumu to his doom or stay right where he is, an immovable object set between Washio and his objective.
These are not normal circumstances.
Osamu would sooner confess that whole people person thing than admit he’s basically guarding his kitchen from a man so chill, he came out of three years playing for Fukurodani unscathed.
“Does he not understand that I literally saw him when I walked in?” Washio asks.
Osamu glances at the swinging door back to the kitchen. The second of Washio’s onigiri comes together with nice rounded points on all corners, crisp lines along each side. If it were Atsumu back there, Osamu would haul him out by the hair. By this point it wouldn’t matter if Atsumu deserved it or not; either Osamu would throw him to the wolves or they’d get in a fistfight and then Osamu would throw him to the wolves anyway.
“If you’re here because you’re worried, he’s fine. If you need to talk to him, I’ll drag him out.” Osamu hands over Washio’s plate and crosses his arms trying to appear sterner than he feels.
Washio tilts his head. Still watching the kitchen door, he picks up an onigiri, shrugs, and says, “Little of column a, little of column b,” before taking a massive bite. His eyes roll to the ceiling with an appreciative groan.
The best sort of reaction.
“Rin!” Osamu hollers. “Stop bein’ a baby!”
Dead silence for the remaining duration of Washio’s first onigiri. Then, the doors swing open to present Suna’s scowl. “Fuck, Samu, you’re the worst.”
“You said hello to me,” Washio says. “Why would you think you can just walk away and hide after that?”
Suna pinches Osamu in the side on his way past—a quick, brutal thing that would make Osamu leap out of his skin if not for twenty-two years of practice controlling his reactions under Atsumu’s savage affection.
“I’m fine. Tell them to stop worrying.”
“I’m not telling them shit,” Washio says. “Just seeing for myself, otherwise I might feel bad about it.”
A warning shot fires in the form of Washio’s drumming fingers and narrowed eyes the moment Suna opens his mouth. It loosens something serpentine and greedy in Osamu’s chest: he likes that Washio knows Suna would bullshit his way through assurances; he hates that Washio knows Suna in this way Osamu always thought he knew him best.
“I’m going to be fine,” Suna finally says.
“Be easier to believe if you ran a brush through your hair.”
Suna’s fingers come up to comb through the lopsided rat’s nest on his head. “It’s not that bad.”
“None of it is that bad,” Washio says. “Shit happens. You know it, I know it. We all gave up some of those points, you shouldn’t beat yourself up so much just ‘cause you had the last one.”
A genuine thread runs through the sentiment today. Washio can’t tell Suna is starting to believe it from listening and looking; he glances back at Osamu for confirmation. That wriggly, green-tinted thing Osamu doesn’t like the feel of settles down. Having people around who won’t take Suna’s bullshit is good for him, and it’s good for them to know Suna well enough to know when he’s not ‘well enough’. Osamu gives Washio an unconcerned nod and tries to tune out their conversation as it grows casual. If Osamu slides one more onigiri over, he made too many is all.
Suna looks good like this—lithe and predatory, eyes narrowed and considering, little smile playing on his face now that he’s more at ease. The next two customers to come in the door are waved toward Osamu with a sultry “welcome to Onigiri Miya.” After the second time, Washio swoons dramatically and mutters something that makes Suna throw his head back laughing.
Packing up a container for Washio to take with him when he leaves is habit. Osamu does it for most any volleyball player coming into the shop regardless of what team they play for, and he won’t stop any time soon. He doesn’t bother explaining it away when Washio stands to slide his coat on, just shrugs and nods down at the box before handing it to Suna to pass over. “Gave you an assortment, for the team.”
“Thanks,” Washio says. “Give me a shout when you’re ready to give us back our middle blocker, too.”
Osamu barks out a laugh to cover up the ‘never’ caught in his throat.
“Being on my own is lonelier than I thought it’d be,” Suna says, late on day four, standing over the dish sink with Osamu.
It’s past midnight. Osamu likes to keep the doors open until after the last trains go out on Saturdays. Drunk college kids may stumble by in need of a hero wielding carbs to soak up all the vodka churning in their stomachs, or someone might miss the last train out and need somewhere to wait for a taxi and consequently open themselves up to having dinner thrust upon them. When Suna realized what Osamu was doing he laughed and laughed, then smacked his palm between Osamu’s shoulder blades and said, “Yeah, that’s pretty on-brand for you.”
What can Osamu say? He likes feeding people. The whole money part of Onigiri Miya is a means to that end; it’d be hard to shove all this food in people’s mouths if he had to work a job on top of it.
This thing Suna brings up now could use a different sort of hand on the back, but Osamu’s elbow-deep in the sink and Suna doesn’t look away from the plate he’s running under the sprayer with inordinate care, chasing down every stray soap bubble.
“Like, on my own, on my own. I miss having you and Tsumu around. Sometimes I’m the weirdest one in the room now, it really fucks with my head.”
Osamu flicks soapy water at Suna.
Suna retaliates by aiming the sprayer straight at Osamu’s chest and pulling the handle in a quick pulse.
“What’s that for?!” The undignified yelp spewing from Osamu’s mouth is instantaneous and involuntary. He’s soaked in an instant. Suna sprays him again.
“I’m trying to talk about my feelings.” To his credit, Suna makes it halfway through before a stampede of giggles overtakes him.
“I’m sorry you’ve been lonely.” Osamu pats his front with a towel but it’s not useful, his shirt is still soaked and clinging to his chest and all he’s accomplished is getting the towel soaked, too.
Suna sprays down another couple of dishes and sets them in the rack to dry. “I’m not lonely. It’s just lonelier. I wasn’t expecting it.”
Osamu feels that in his bones. Everything about life after striking out on his own has been just the smallest bit quieter than he expected, and he supposes yes, it’s a little lonely, too. It makes Osamu squirrelly and clammy, he drags where he never used to—but it’s a lot better than it was when he was first stapling fairy lights around the tops of the walls and it’ll keep improving. “That what’s been bugging you so much?”
“Sort of. Mostly it’s that Tsumu warned me I couldn’t coast in Division 1 and I took that to heart. I tried, I put in so much work, and it wasn’t enough? All that effort only to turn out the worst serve of my career and cost us the playoffs?”
“Not a solo sport,” Osamu mutters.
“It’s hard not to call it my fault when it happened on a serve.”
“The other twenty-four points counted just as much. Seventy-four, if you wanna get technical about it. What made number seventy-five so special that losing it means it’s all on you? You were only out to serve because your coach was desperate and about to lose.”
Suna is quiet for a long, awkward moment. “Yeah. You’re right.”
“Course I am. You should listen to me more often, I’m a grown-up now. I’m wise.”
Calm permeates Suna’s expression. There’s less fidgeting than on day one. Osamu hadn’t even realized how worried he was, but he must have been because the staticky white noise falls away in an instant and Osamu is left with a silence so thick, he could choke on it.
“Here,” Suna says, ducking in closer, one hand digging in his pocket until he has his phone in hand, held in front of them for a picture. “Let’s commemorate my career change to dishwasher. For the fans.”
“You have fans? Well, I guess if even Tsumu does, the bar can’t be high,” Osamu says right when Suna hits the shutter.
Suna’s picture is the best one Osamu has been in since he was a baby. Osamu’s fingers curl into the sleeve of Suna’s shirt as they lean together, both of them laughing, a tall, wet blotch running straight from Osamu’s heart to the hem of his t-shirt. They look happy. A picture of Osamu smiling is a rarity; getting both him and Suna in one is lightning in a bottle.
“You should send me that one,” Osamu says.
Suna stares at his phone for another minute while Osamu gets the mop to clean up all the water on the floor.
“Night, Samu,” Suna says right before he twists closer and curves his mouth around Osamu’s bottom lip. The kiss is no peck on the cheek or friendly tease, has precious little room for interpretation. Osamu is viciously pleased that in the sea of casual kisses exchanged between friends, Suna turns his cheek for Atsumu, and Osamu gets a kiss on the lips.
The kiss writhes in Osamu’s veins long after Suna settles back to sleep. Long after Osamu climbs out of bed and starts pacing in jerky, two-meter laps with only his dinky screens to shield him. Atsumu’s the one who goes around kissing people. Not Osamu and certainly not Suna. It shouldn’t feel like such a big thing at all, except it does and maybe it is. There’s history to consider—foolish, wonderful, never allowed into the foreground history living a happy life locked away where it can’t cause problems or ruin their friendship.
If Osamu stands perfectly still and concentrates, he can hear Suna’s even breaths whisper against his pillowcase. Osamu peeks around the side of the screen and stares at Suna’s mouth until he can’t stand it anymore.
Suna’s been in a shitty place. He came to Osamu for support, not affection—but then again, he’s started taking pictures and screwing around on social media again. Some of the harder things to talk about were dug up today, and Suna never does that until he’s starting to climb his way out of a low. Right up until he’s ready to talk, Suna is stoic—and when he’s ready to talk, he’s ready to get over it.
It’s no proud thing to tiptoe around a screen that doesn’t even provide full cover to sneak his phone off the nightstand, but Osamu isn’t having much of a dignified night.
For a brief moment, sense prevails and Osamu almost puts the phone back. A subtle rustle sounds from behind the screen. Osamu ruthlessly quashes any and all sanity he’s experiencing and calls the one person he can depend on to be even less dignified than he is.
The first call rings out, so Osamu hangs up and calls again. This time, on the third ring, Atsumu croaks, “The fuck?”
“Tsumu. Help,” Osamu hisses. Then, he realizes he’s still staring at Suna’s mouth like a creep, points his whole head straight at the ceiling, and steps back around the screens.
“It is two in the morning,” Atsumu slurs. A bang sounds over the line, then a groan.
“Did your stupid ass just fall out of bed?”
“Asshole,” Atsumu mutters ominously.
“Will you shut the fuck up and listen to me?”
“You dyin’?” Atsumu asks.
Suna grumbles into his pillow. “Why are you on the phone? It’s time for sleeping. Sleep, Samu.”
“Wait, is that Sunarin?” Atsumu sounds a lot more awake. “Why is Sunarin still there?”
“Shut up,” hisses over the line.
Osamu, previously panicking, fraught for advice—any advice at all—and maybe a little out of his mind with the stress of trying to shove all the whirlwind feelings careening around his gut into words, suddenly has a whole new focus for his anxiety. “Who is that?!”
He can’t believe it. Atsumu has a guest. Or is a guest. Some poor fool actually wanted to spend the night with him, what the hell is happening to the world?
“All that asshole shit you’re thinkin’?” Atsumu says. “You just shove it right back where it came from because it’s two a.m. and you are sleeping with Sunarin.”
“I’m not sleepin' with him,” Osamu says.
Loudly, ten shades of sarcastic despite being groggy and tired, Suna says, “Samu come back to bed. It’s so lonely and cold without you.”
Osamu hangs up the phone, calmly climbs back into his bed, weight on his shins, yanks Suna’s pillow out from under his head, and thwacks him on the back with it.
“Not even sorry,” Suna mutters, shoving his pillow back under his head and flopping over to his side, facing Osamu. “What are you freaking out for?”
“M’not freaking out.” Osamu is a liar. A dirty, cheating liar. A moron who cannot express his feelings or fears, cannot get his shit together even after three and a half years of living on his own, and still doesn’t know how to express all the tangled up, writhing, messy things Suna makes him feel ten months after they went and yanked the status quo inside-out.
It’s late. Osamu is exhausted and not thinking clearly. The errant thought wells up that he is absolutely useless on his own.
“Jesus Christ,” Suna says. He grabs the front of Osamu’s shirt, knuckles right up against his breastbone, and pulls until Osamu cooperates and lays back down. Suna sidles close enough to loop an arm under Osamu’s and tuck Osamu’s side neatly in his elbow. “Whatever it is will keep until morning. Sleep.”
Osamu’s not sure if he can all folded into Suna’s arm, his chest brushing Suna’s hand still clenched around his shirt, a fiery warmth soaking through his skin. He wants to talk to Atsumu about it. Or, better yet, he wants to go home to Hyogo and help Ma make dinner while Atsumu plays video games at the table, see what she has to say about Suna Rintarou, honorary foster child of the Miya household, sleeping in Osamu’s bed and kissing him goodnight.
“I can hear your thoughts rattling around in your head,” Suna says. “Are you seriously going to make me ask? I’m kind of dying here, I didn’t think you’d have a goddamn meltdown.”
All Osamu can register after that question is an endless stream of no, no, no. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“Just ‘cause Tsumu is louder doesn’t mean you’re not still loud.”
Osamu mutters, “Sorry,” but he can’t help but get pulled back into watching Suna’s breath trickle over his lips in the sparse moonlight.
“Now you’re staring at me.” Suna sighs. “I don’t want to talk about this right now. Please don’t make me.”
“Okay, let’s have a do-over, then. I’ll behave this time.” It comes barreling out of Osamu’s traitorous mouth, completely bypassing his sanity, judgment, and what little verbal filter survived twenty-two years of suffering Atsumu as a brother.
Suna laughs. His fingers tighten around Osamu’s shirt. “Alright. Night, Samu.”
Osamu never learned how to give friendly kisses. Suna doesn’t seem to mind.
Sundays don’t have specific hours at Onigiri Miya. Osamu reserves the time for friends and family now that he’s established, and though the restaurant stays locked up, he got into the habit of leaving the back door open if he’s around. Atsumu stops by demanding lunch, dinner, or both with alarming frequency and Osamu got tired of Atsumu pretending he knows how to pick locks after the fourth attempt ended with a hairpin broken off in the back door.
Today, Atsumu comes slinking in a little before noon, intent on dragging Osamu off to the gym. Osamu welcomes the distraction from all the receipts, order forms, and invoices strewn all over his kitchen table. This is the part everyone said Osamu would hate and they were all right, Osamu knew it going in. Keeping up with the finances is both mind-numbingly boring and insanely complicated and all Osamu wants is to shove food in people’s faces, why does it have to be such an ordeal?
“Where’s Sunarin?” Atsumu asks, craning his neck to look up the stairs like Suna might be hiding at the top.
First thing in the morning Suna jetted off on a northbound train and Osamu’s been struggling to rein in fantasies of stowing Suna’s bag in the crawl space where he keeps his luggage and holiday decorations and pretending he doesn’t know anything about it if Suna ever asks. So long as Suna technically can access it, it probably doesn’t count as stealing. If Osamu sheds any more of his pride, he’ll consult the resident larceny expert and ask Atsumu what, exactly, the rules are.
The noisy Atsumu voice in his head screeches that Osamu is overreacting. Overreaching. Hiding Suna’s bags is definitely too much of something and after last night, Osamu’s not sure if he has to keep it in anymore.
“Had something to take care of in Shizuoka.” Osamu slaps the cover of his notebook closed and stands. “Gym?”
“Yeah, gym,” Atsumu says before settling into the creepy thing he does sometimes where he stares and stares until he either divines what’s crawled up Osamu’s ass through sheer dumb luck, or Osamu gives in and tells him. The whole walk to the gym Atsumu keeps it up, right up until they put away their coats and change their shoes.
“He comin’ back?” Atsumu asks, leading the way down to the basketball courts.
“I guess. He said he would and his bags are still here.”
“Didn’t even realize he brought anything, every time I see him, he’s wearing one of your shirts.”
That is one of those statements Osamu’s just not going to acknowledge at all.
The sound of squeaking rubber soles is oddly calming in a sense-memory way Osamu associates with the smell and taste of rice. A few other people pepper the space but Sundays at the gym are always calm and there’s no competition for space or activities. It works out better for Osamu that way—it took a while to get him back in a proper gymnasium after the explosion, fallout, and eventual acceptance of his decision to pursue the restaurant over volleyball.
Osamu will get back to volleyball at some point. Not just with Onigiri Miya, but playing it, too. Someday soon that wound will be all closed up and Osamu will be able to look at volleyball as something fun. For now, though, Osamu’s not quite done being stubborn so instead of passing a volleyball back and forth or practicing spikes, Osamu and Atsumu play basketball. It is an excellent compromise for when it’s only the two of them—Atsumu gets to feel like he’s getting his way and Osamu gets to play a sport Atsumu sucks at. Osamu’s not much better but he can dribble and that’s more than Miya ‘Traveling Foul’ Atsumu can say.
“So,” Atsumu says, aggressively smacking the basketball between his palms while Osamu waits for him to bounce it on the floor and maybe, if he’s lucky, take an actual step along with it, “Sunarin.”
“What about him?”
Atsumu slices a watermelon-sized smile at Osamu and starts moving, arm outstretched to keep Osamu back. He strolls three steps for every bounce but he’s not making much progress toward the hoop so Osamu lets it go. It’s too early to start harping on Atsumu’s disregard for the rules; Osamu wants to hoard the nitpicks in case he falls behind in points.
“I have questions,” Atsumu trills.
“No, you don’t.” Osamu lunges for the ball and misses.
Atsumu tries to dribble between his legs and smacks the ball into his calf. If Osamu’s reflexes were up to snuff, he’d get it away, but Atsumu recovers easily and keeps up his maddening, slow, approach. “Why’s he sleepin’ in your bed, Samu? I thought you bought that couch up there specially because it pulls out for guests. I remember, ‘cause you make me sleep on it plenty.”
“Will you please just shut the fuck up?” Osamu asks. “If you’ve got such a hard-on for what Rin’s up to, go ask him yourself.
“I know what he’s up to,” Atsumu says. “I wanna know what you’re up to.”
“Nothin’. I’m not up to nothin’.” Osamu punctuates it with another failed grab.
“He’s living with you,” Atsumu says. It’s not even disguised as a question.
“It’s been five days you drama queen.”
"More like five years.” Atsumu keeps changing up the rhythm of his dribbling. It’s making Osamu crazy. “And you’re sleeping together.”
“Stop trying to make it sound like something it’s not. We share the bed. It’s not a big deal. It’s practical.”
“Right,” Atsumu says. “Practical. So you’re literally sleeping together even though you literally wish you were sleeping together, do I have this right?”
“No.” Osamu scowls. Like hell he’s going to admit how close that one cut. “You’re one to talk. Who’re you sleeping with? I heard someone over the phone.”
Atsumu’s complexion floods pink. “You have the nerve to call me in the middle of the night, freaking out over Sunarin doing who the fuck knows what, and then judge me for not being alone?”
Osamu considers this for a moment, then grabs for the ball. This time he gets it and he’s no weakling who tries to walk on by for an easy shot—he bolts straight for the layup, launches himself into the air, and smashes the basketball through the hoop with a heavy, metallic thump. Atsumu flips him off.
“Yes,” Osamu decides. “I am judging you. Not just for the whoring around, but more like, in general.”
Atsumu considers his options for a moment. Osamu can tell because he makes this face like the hamster in his head instead of a brain is going full-tilt on its wheel, horrendously squeaky and frantic. If Osamu makes a face anything like that when he’s weighing things out, he’s going to have to drown himself in the river.
With an unconcerned shrug, Atsumu decides, “At least I have the good sense to sleep with the guy I’m sleeping with.”
It’s one thing to have fake-Atsumu screeching the quiet parts out loud in the sanctity of Osamu’s head and a whole other one to have it going while real-Atsumu pretends he’s going to wind up doing anything other than shooting from half-court out of frustration and bitching about Osamu’s sleeping habits. Having these fuckers agreeing in stereo, trying to tell him what’s what and asking what things are called and demanding he explain is making Osamu homicidal.
“I shoulda eaten you in the womb.”
Atsumu shoots from the three-point line and makes it in with a swish.
This isn’t the first time Suna has showed up unannounced at Onigiri Miya. It’s not the first time he and Osamu have shared a bed, either. Two nights ago wasn’t the first time they’ve kissed.
Suna stands on one leg poking at his interpretation of scrambled eggs sizzling away on the stove-top. The Atsumu trapped in Osamu’s head won’t shut up about it. Over and over the Atsumu voice asks if maybe, just maybe, Osamu is allowed to start reading into this.
No way both Osamu and Suna are delusional enough to think this is normal. Osamu, sure, but Suna’s always been more level-headed and there’s no way he’s suffering the same deep-tissue electric shocks corroding Osamu’s sanity. They’re sleeping in the same bed, they’re abusing the hell out of Atsumu’s kissing thing, Suna is wearing Osamu’s Inarizaki Volleyball Club shirt, not his own—and Osamu still doesn’t want to say a word about any of it because if he scares Suna off he’ll have to wait another ten months for him to come back and enduring it might kill him.
“Can you get the toast?” Suna asks, casual and free, as if this is their five years of marriage morning routine and he’s happy to play along with the scripted nature of it.
Osamu wants to crawl in a hole and weep for the harsh pang he feels for the image. He’s so screwed. It’s already over, when Suna goes back to Shizuoka, Osamu’s going to pack up the restaurant and follow him or some equally insane nonsense. This is ridiculous, they don’t have anything between them—this is just Suna hiding out for a few days like he tends to do when he’s having a rough time. The kissing is just a weird habit they’ve managed to develop after one lapse in judgment, one ill-advised joke, and too much time exposed to Atsumu.
None of it matters. The mood is clearing up. Suna is pretty much back to normal, and that means he’s going to find his duffel bag in the crawl space, pack up his toothbrush and razor, and go home.
Osamu slams four slices of sourdough in the toaster and glowers at the shiny chrome. They have an eggs-and-toast routine; Osamu’s going to have to give up both for months once this is over.
“Sorry. Seeing you murder innocent eggs in my kitchen every morning gets me a bit emotional.”
Suna dishes their eggs up and carries both plates to the table. He coos, “Poor things. I know, I’m so cruel.”
Osamu spends breakfast and most of his morning caught up thinking about the difference between house guests and friends, and whether Suna counts as either by this point. Whether kisses can ever be friendly between people with a history like theirs, and how Suna sees this whole thing now that he’s back to firing on all cylinders and spending his free time tormenting the internet at large for sport.
Chunks of customers every hour or so break up all the idle, meandering conversations. The weather has been muggy and on the cusp of a storm all week; the air itself feels heavy and charged. Could be the foggy windows or the overcast sky doing it. Could be this is day six and Osamu feels cheated that day one barely even counts, or maybe it’s that horrible creaky thing unfurling in his chest when Washio comes into the shop and pulls the door closed behind him, brushing phantom snow off his shoulders and front.
This time, Suna does not attempt to flee.
“Well, well,” Suna says. “Twice in one week. Careful, Samu might think you’re trying to steal me back.”
“Here for the food. I don’t give a shit what you do, long as you keep in shape and are ready to make heads roll next season. Where you hang out in the meantime isn’t any of my business.”
“Maybe I’m never coming back,” Suna says. “This is my new life. Run the register and oversee the laundry. Maybe I’ll redecorate. Get some new pictures on the walls.”
Washio can’t tell, he hasn’t known Suna long enough, but Osamu can see this is eighty percent drama. Suna’s always been resilient; he may crumble sometimes, but he also recovers fast. This wound is scabbed over, well on its way to healing. Next season, Suna will have vengeance. In two years they’ll be teasing him about the time he threw away the championship on a shitty jump serve and it’ll be no big thing at all.
“So, you’re going to be his ‘50s housewife?” Washio asks.
“Sure, why not?” Suna answers.
At the same moment, Osamu scoffs. “No.”
Washio glances at Osamu and leans in to ask another question.
Osamu does them the courtesy of turning away and grabbing some dishes to take back to the kitchen. It hits him as soon as the doors swish closed that he could, theoretically, camp out as long as he wants. Suna can handle a customer or two and he’ll call for Osamu if he needs him. Disorientation swells—Onigiri Miya has always been a solo adventure. There has never been anyone around to help.
When Osamu comes back out front, Washio has left.
After hours, Suna sweeps beneath the tables and sings under his breath along with the ballad seeping from the cheap dome speakers Osamu tucked behind the salt ten months ago and won’t replace until they’re broken. Osamu has his whole lip trapped between his teeth. A tic he picked up from Atsumu at some point, or maybe he’s always done it and is only now noticing. Maybe his lip just feels good in his mouth; a barrier between all the things he wants to ask for and someone he shouldn’t make demands of.
Suna tilts his head with nothing but the wavering fairy lights to beat back midnight crawling in from outside. He asks, “You remember the last time I was here?” like it shouldn’t be thrown out for leading; like Osamu could ever forget.
“‘Course I remember.”
The thing is, that first time went about the same as this. Fairy lights. Making the colossal mistake of standing within Suna’s considerable reach. Licking his lips before glancing over. Wanting.
Suna kisses him. Not on the corner of his mouth, no cheek. No friendly veil of goodnight or goodbye attached to it. He clutches the side of Osamu’s neck, ear cradled in the dip between his thumb and forefinger, an arm wound around the small of Osamu’s back demanding Osamu step closer. A horrendous keening whimper leaks from Osamu’s throat.
“If you want that door locked, you best do it now,” Suna whispers.
It means a lot of things. Osamu wants every single one of them even more than he wants to keep kissing Suna, so he steps away and goes to lock the door.
Suna glows in the dim wash of fairy lights. Warm, sun-kissed skin gleams like memories of the beach and bright smiles; laying in the fields back home, soaked from the river, murmuring fantasies of opening a restaurant. Giggling that maybe Suna could give the whole volleyball thing the level of effort it’d take to go pro. His hands are steady, like the first time Suna came to Onigiri Miya when it was warming up into spring instead of wretchedly cold and they had new lives and accomplishments to celebrate.
The dip of Suna’s waist is familiar under Osamu’s hands. They trip over the same step as last time on the way upstairs.
It’s not the first time Osamu’s shirt has pooled over Suna’s wrists as his hands drag over Osamu’s ribs.
It’s not the first time Suna has whimpered ‘Samu’ into the crook of Osamu’s neck, crushed beneath his weight, knees hooked over Osamu’s elbows, all the way up at his chest.
It’s not the first time Osamu has come to the blinding conclusion that he’d rip his heart out over and over, every time he’s asked to, every time little visits crop up because some moments are worth everything they cost.
There was that one time, ten months ago, the night after Osamu hung up all his fairy lights.
The weather has betrayed Osamu, the sleet never came. He was counting on the snow and ice locking them inside Onigiri Miya until he works up the courage to be either selfish or selfless instead of this incessant panicking directly in the middle. Staring up at the exposed rafters, sheets and blankets pulled up over his shoulders with Suna cozied up so close his breath tickles Osamu’s neck, Osamu thinks about throwing Suna’s bags in the dumpster, setting fire to all his clothes, and asking him to stay, forever.
Day seven and Osamu’s fingers are in Suna’s hair. Could get to day eight if he plays his cards right. Day sixty. Thousands. There are never enough days with Suna.
“You getting up?” Suna’s question competes with a yawn for attention. “You don’t have to, right? Don’t open until ten.”
“Don’t really open until eleven.”
“Don’t really ever close, either.” Suna twists around in a wholly unnatural way to get both arms beneath him, supporting his weight. The blankets slip down his back, pull away from Osamu’s shoulders, but even if it’s cold outside and the windows are leaky, Osamu doesn’t feel any chill. “Stay in bed. Take a day off, even. I bet I can convince you.”
“I am not stupid enough to take that bet.”
“Because I’d win,” Suna says.
Osamu is naked in every sense of the word. Stripped of his clothes and his senses, not a shred of emotional armor in sight. And because Osamu is a foolish, foolish man who can’t keep his thoughts or tongue in check, he asks, “When are you going back to Shizuoka?”
“What if I say never?” Suna looks drowsy and sated, eyes half shut and the remnants of sleep clogging up his voice. The tattered sunrise squirms over his skin; shadows curl around his shoulder blades. Osamu rolls over to his side and taps his fingers in all the spots where the light has gathered up, down the slope of Suna’s back, carrying the sheets and blankets along with him.
“Don’t give pretend answers to real questions. Say you’re gonna stay forever and I might hold you to it.”
“And what if I want you to hold me to it?”
“You’ll be disappointed.” It comes out in a whisper, the conversation growing too heavy for anything more. “Not tearing you away from your dreams. Not standing in your way or making demands of you.”
“You could, though,” Suna whispers back. “I’d let you.”
It’s one of those things Osamu knows but never wants to reconcile. He never wants to feel how true it is because even without it the temptation is too much. If he ever gets it through his head that all he has to do is ask, Suna’s bag will go in the dumpster and his phone will go in the river and Osamu will never open Onigiri Miya again.
Suna leans in to kiss him, then wriggles forward so they’re in the same space, heads on the same pillow, legs wound together and hands sliding over each other’s skin. He speaks so quietly, it could be Osamu pulling indistinct breaths into the shapes of words he wants to hear.
“I’d let you.”
Osamu doesn’t open the restaurant until eleven. At eleven-twenty Atsumu comes stomping in dragging a severe-looking man even taller than Suna behind him. If not for the face-mask, it might take Osamu a moment to place him, but parts of Sakusa Kiyoomi are infamous, and absent a volleyball the fastidiousness is most distinguishing.
The answer to every question about Atsumu’s nighttime visitor and snottiness over his—shudder—sex life appears before Osamu with blinding clarity. “Holy shit, Sakusa-kun, did he tell you he had the biggest crush on you in high school?”
“Sunarin!” Atsumu roars. “Get out here so I can humiliate this trash burger so desperate to fuck you, he asked our mother what the courtship customs are in Aichi!”
“Very funny, fuck you, he’s next door.”
“The laundromat?” Atsumu asks, chunky eyebrows disappearing into his numerous forehead wrinkles. Osamu’s forehead isn’t nearly so wrinkly, he’s certain of it. “Really, Samu?”
“What’s wrong with him bein’ at the laundromat? Man’s gotta have clean clothes. Restaurant’s gotta have napkins. People want to generally be not in the same building as you.” Osamu throws one of his towels over the counter at Atsumu. It flutters uselessly to the floor a meter short.
Sakusa strides forward, picks the towel up, folds it, and sets it in front of Osamu. He unhooks his mask from over his ears and folds that, too. “He didn’t tell me, but I knew.”
Atsumu chokes on his own spit.
“It was pretty obvious,” Osamu says.
“That and he wrote his anonymous confession on the back of one of your game schedules.”
Osamu is simply going to die. There’s no avoiding it. No surviving the intensity of his laughter as he crumples into a squat, knees crushed to his chest and both hands braced above him on the counter as all strength abandons his legs. “Oh my god, how did I never know that?”
“I didn’t know that,” Atsumu wails. “How could you never tell me? Wait, wait. Does this mean you didn’t like me back?!”
Fireworks crack under Osamu’s eyelids. He’s about to slide straight to the floor, he can’t hold himself up anymore, but then the telltale swish of the kitchen doors brushes the floor and Suna has a hand on his arm holding him steady.
Suna wrestles Osamu back to his feet and asks, “Do I want to know?”
Despite Atsumu shouting, “no!” and fighting with all his might to get a hand over Sakusa’s mouth, Sakusa not only holds him off but also says in the driest tone, “He’s upset because I knew he had a crush on me in high school.”
“Was it the fan blog that gave it away?” Suna asks.
Miya ‘Red as a Fucking Tomato’ Atsumu, ladies and gentlemen.
“Something else. I’ll tell you later,” Osamu promises, fists rubbing his eyes. “Oh my god, I can die happy. Wow, Tsumu.”
Sakusa’s face scrunches into a thoughtful frown. “I forgot about the blog. That thing was ugly. And kind of creepy. Motoya got a kick out of it, though.”
“I’m breaking up with you,” Atsumu snaps.
“Do you promise?” Sakusa snaps right back.
Suna sucks in a sharp inhale. “Whoa.”
“Right?” Osamu has to be careful not to start laughing again. He might not make it back a second time even with Suna here.
“Sunarin. Glad to see you’ve stuck around even if you are a filthy, filthy traitor.” Atsumu leans over and taps his cheek. Ice sloshes through Osamu’s veins. “Sugar.”
Suna rolls his eyes and leans in, head turned like before.
Off to the side, Sakusa glowers like he might strangle the both of them which is fortunate because then Osamu won’t have to commit fratricide.
“Seriously? Not even Sunarin?” Atsumu grumbles when he sees Sakusa’s thunderous expression. “You can’t get mad about him, he’s Samu’s!”
“Excuse me?” Suna scoffs.
“Did you know that’s more a back-home sort of thing?” Atsumu asks Osamu, thumb wagging toward Sakusa, completely ignoring Suna. “I had no idea. What the hell’s the matter with kissin’? It’s nice.”
Osamu doesn’t have the heart to tell him ‘actually, it’s more of a you thing’.
“If that’s true I’m never going anywhere near Hyogo,” Sakusa says. Atsumu nudges him to take a seat.
The first few months after opening the restaurant, Osamu pretended to be put out over his friends and brother walking into his store unannounced and expecting him to feed them, but that was before he stopped being self-conscious of what he wants to get out of owning a restaurant. “What’s your preference, Sakusa?”
“Umeboshi,” Atsumu answers with his chest puffed out, smirking at Sakusa like he’s due a reward for knowing something so simple as his favorite onigiri. A moment later, Atsumu winces and swats at Sakusa under the counter. His smugness collapses into a narrow glare.
“Anything is fine,” Sakusa says. “Thank you for the hospitality.”
Deep down, Osamu does love his brother, so he offers Sakusa the warm smile he gives to customers and plates up some umeboshi onigiri. “It’s no trouble. You’re always welcome, even if you come to your senses and leave this idiot. I’ll make ‘em fresh for you, then.”
“This was a mistake,” Atsumu mutters, except he doesn’t look or sound upset at all. He’s smiling more than Osamu’s seen in a long time, actually, and it’s so pleasing Osamu doesn’t even pretend to give Atsumu anything other than a plate full of tuna mayo onigiri.
“This is really good,” Sakusa says with the air of someone who doesn’t know, not exactly, but the compliment isn’t any weaker for it.
“Please, please get a booth at our games,” Atsumu says for perhaps the fiftieth time this month.
“I’m thinking about it.” Osamu’s starting to think about it a lot. There are advantages to Tokyo. Bigger customer base, a chance to make a name for himself, proximity to a certain individual staring at him, gobsmacked, running his fingers in slow lines over the front of the cash register.
“You should—that’d be amazing,” Suna says.
“Told ya,” Atsumu says around a mouthful of rice shoved in his cheeks just like the hamster powering his brain.
“I guess you did.”
It sticks in Osamu’s mind longer than it should. Most days he can ponder the notion of a Tokyo branch or V-League booth for an hour or two and then get back to his life per usual, but this time it doesn’t want to retract its claws. Every time he looks at Suna it crops back up again, long after Atsumu and Sakusa leave. Suna knocks him out of it a couple of times before giving in and letting Osamu stew for most of the afternoon and evening.
“I was thinking I might hang around for a while longer,” Suna says while he’s sweeping out the dining area, right as Osamu approaches the cash register to close it out. If Osamu isn’t careful, this could be another routine easy to fall into. “If you don’t mind.”
Osamu wants him to stay forever. To always come back, be it for the highs or the lows, or just because. He wants the little apartment upstairs to be their little, starter apartment. The kind of place that’s doused in love and the need to share all the same space. They could take turns opening up the restaurant and cooking breakfast; Suna could keep puttering around in Osamu’s clothes even though he has plenty of his own and a laundromat next door.
“You always have a place here, Rin.”
“Even if I come with baggage?”
“Yeah, even then. You kick, too, by the way.” Osamu jabs his forefinger into the key on the cash register that pops out the drawer and grabs it up in both hands.
“And bite,” Suna says. “You don’t seem to mind that part as much though.”
“Could learn to live with the kicking, too,” Osamu mutters. The words wrap around his chest and squeeze until Osamu has to retreat to the kitchen to drop off the cash and catch his breath; he can’t take the crunching pressure, that sly thing creeping over Suna’s lips, or the arsonist blooming away in his heart. The oven would do the job nicely, Osamu thinks. Toss all of Suna’s stuff in there—leave the toothbrush—crank it up to four-fifty and let it burn.
When Osamu comes back out front, Suna perches on the same barstool Sakusa sat on earlier, staring out the window to his right, holding a pair of chopsticks. His leg jiggles so violently, the menu stands tremble.
Osamu takes the stool next to him, leans on one elbow, and tries to act like Suna couldn’t tear the whole place down if he set his mind to it.
“You snore. I could learn to live with it if you’re okay with the kicking. If you’re willing to put up with the rest.” Suna’s leg stops jittering only to start right back up again. “I was thinking about how I showed up out of the blue and you asked what was wrong. I’ve never told you, have I?”
“I kind of meant in a high-level way. You answered enough. I get it.” Osamu knows all the important bits; Suna has a dark, slithering snake in his chest, too. His is more insidious—malevolent and corrosive if left unchecked—and Osamu is not meant to fully understand what it is or how it works.
Suna considers the out, then presses his lips together.
“You ever feel so unbelievably shitty, it’s like you’re suffocating? Like”—Suna rolls his chopsticks between his palms so they clack together in rapid pulses—“Like you’ve got this bubble wrapped around your chest and head? Everything’s a little quiet and a little cold. Nothing feels right, there’s cotton in your ears. Your skin feels wrong anything—anything—coming near you makes it crawl, gives you goosebumps, makes you want to rip it all off. And that bubble is frozen and heavy and it just looms; this crushing thing that won’t go away. I know it sounds kind of weird.”
“No, not weird.”
“Used to be when we lost we’d go to yours and mope around while Tsumu acted like a huge rage monster and it never felt like it was stuck on me because the nasty feelings about losing were ours. I miss that. I’ve missed that a lot, actually.” Suna’s voice shakes. “God, all I had in high school was that shitty 1K studio and convenience store bentos and— and you? None of it was ever that bad because it always felt like I had you a little bit, too.”
“Have.” Osamu blinks. Jesus, did he say that out loud?
Suna finally shifts his gaze to Osamu, the subtle turn to his lips quirking upward. “This time I figured fuck it. You’re not that far, and you’re warm and loud, and I like being with you even when everything else makes my skin crawl. When the rest of it—when all that bad shit gets under control—you’re who I want to be around.”
Osamu isn’t sure he can respond to that with anything resembling normalcy so he promptly puts his entire foot in his mouth instead. “You can redecorate if you want. Put new pictures up. Be in charge of the laundry and the register. Go to Shizuoka for work and then come back when you can. I know you can’t stay all the time, but I want you here for all the rest.”
“As long as you’ll have me.” Suna sets the chopsticks down and stands. Both arms reach high over his head then he arcs back so far, Osamu gets light-headed just looking at him.
For the first time in seven days, everything is level. They’re going to have day eight and nine and maybe even run the table and climb all the way up into the thousands. Osamu doesn’t know how to say that sort of thing all sweet and eloquent, though. “Guess you’ll just have to stay forever, then.”