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let me count the ways

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Koganegawa looks at Kei incredulously, eyes comically wide with his jaw dropped to the floor that Kei can’t help but wonder if Koganegawa could fit his fist in his mouth for he looks like the kind of person to do just that. Kyoutani, on the other hand, doesn’t say anything and pays attention to the television screen where he’s playing Minecraft.

“So you’re telling me… that you never said the words ‘I love you’ to Kageyama-san?” Koganegawa says slowly, as if saying it at such a speed would make him understand it any better.

Kei rolls his eyes and opts to sip the 18 year Yamazaki whiskey that Kyoutani poured for him rather than entertain Koganegawa with the intricacies of his love life. It goes down smooth, settles warm at the bottom of his belly.

“Stop bothering Tsukishima, Kogane,” Kyoutani scolds without taking his eyes off the screen where he’s building what looks to be a replica of Grogu. Kei would be more impressed if he weren’t being interrogated. 

“It’s only natural for me to be curious over the fact that Tsukki and Kageyama-san have never said the words ‘I love you’ to each other!” Koganegawa huffs frustratedly as he folds his arms while squinting right at Kei, which Kei serves him a glare of his own right back. “I’m just… they’ve been together for, like, forever!”

“It’s only six years,” Kei mumbles under his breath, warmth spreading across his cheeks that he solemnly swears is due to the alcohol. 

Unfortunately, Koganegawa has supersonic hearing because his eyes widened to the size of dinner plates once again and an upset parrot like squawk escapes his lips. “Six years?! You might as well be MARRIED.”

“Sorry, Tsukishima, I have to agree with him on that. Six years is stupid long.”

“Like, I know people move at their own pace, but holy shit. You move so slow!”

“Look, I have my reasons, okay?” Kei tells Koganegawa with a pointed look over his glass. 

He takes another sip. Koganegawa looks at him expectantly. Kyoutani keeps building Grogu, but all that is on the screen is a big blob of brown and an American football shape of light green, but Kei does not have an artistic bone in his body so he technically does not have the right to say anything. But he’s also an asshole, so he would, except Koganegawa is persistent and keeps poking at him. 

“Well, are you going to tell us?” Koganegawa exclaims in exasperation, which Kei has no idea why he would be so distraught over the fact he and Kageyama have never said the words “I love you” to each other when it’s not even his problem anyways. Not that it is a problem to begin with.

“Kogane, he can tell us if he wants to. Stop forcing him,” Kyoutani scolds Kogane once again. 

He ends up fucking up the eyes, which Kei is about to comment on despite his lack of creativity, but Koganegawa pouts and leans back in his seat and mutters an apology that sounds extremely sincere, and Kei has to worry whether or not Koganegawa will be pouty all night and for the rest of his volleyball career.

“It’s fine,” he says, and the effect is immediate for the man reverts back to his baseline: overexcited puppy face. 

Kei doesn’t really give a shit. His own family and Yamaguchi have badgered him about this, too, his mother crying over how Kei is so cruel and Akiteru and Yamaguchi teaming up together, like they always do much to Kei’s disdain, to praise Kageyama for putting up with his bullshit. So, really, it makes no difference whether or not Koganegawa bothers him. 

A couple of minutes pass as Koganegawa and Kei continue drinking while watching Kyoutani continue to build his daunting project that ends up looking more like the Toy Story aliens rather than a powerful being with the Force as the special sound effects and background music of Minecraft fill the room. 

“But do you love him?” Koganegawa asks out of nowhere.

Kei, startled by the suddenness that interrupts his private critique of what Kyoutani was doing wrong, looks at Koganegawa whose eyes sparkle in curiosity.

“I mean, just because you don’t say it to each other doesn’t mean you don’t. You probably do, right?”

Now, Kei can do one of two things. The first option he has is to keep doing what he always does, bottle up feelings that definitely have a name and put them into an unmarked flask and lock them in a chest that is buried deep in the attic of his mind and forget about them. (He doesn’t forget about them because his mind is an ocean, and science dictates that the chest is less dense than the ocean and ends up washing ashore that is the forefront of his mind. Unfortunately.)

The second option is not so much that he does not want to do it, no, he has done it plenty, but he has never done it outloud, and it is to admit (read: maybe admit) in the safety of his mind how he truly feels about a man who looks at him and can make his world right so easily, which is actually pretty terrifying to him. 

The question hangs in the air, creating a moment of thickness, the kind of a suspense that has Kei holding his breath. Looking into the amber in his glass, he seriously mulls over it for he is a serious man that believes things such as love should be taken with great gravity and not be thrown around carelessly. 

Is he willing to speak a possible (possibly definite) truth to existence? Will saying it make him feel relieved? Scared? Happy? Will it make Kageyama any of those things? Why does it even matter in the first place? 

Does Tsukishima Kei love Kageyama Tobio?

It is a morning like any other morning, yet it is on this particular morning that Kei is weighed with an earth shattering revelation that tilts his world off its axis.

Kei opens his eyes to a sun filled room and immediately squints against the bright harsh light, blinding him and having him turn his head into the pillow and groan into it. His body slowly wakes, starting from his shoulders to his arms, torso to legs, each muscle fiber stirred to life, ready to be moved. They beg to be stretched after having rested for so long that Kei listens, flips on his stomach to reach out with his hands one way and his feet the other. When he does so, a body next to him, warm and solid and comforting, stretches as well with a soft groan. An arm snakes around his waist as the body scoots closer, a contented sigh reaching Kei’s ears. 

Opening one eye, Kei finds Kageyama still asleep next to him, completely unbothered by the sun despite being an early riser. He’s a beautiful thing, and if Kei was a poet with confidence, he’d wax and write countless stanzas of Kageyama’s beauty. But he’s a human being, not a poet, only given the ability to gaze upon a man that he is so lucky to wake up to.

The more he looks, the more his heart fills up. Happiness is a goal people strive for every day, and in this bed with no one else around but them, Kei feels like he has achieved it. Happiness is waking up to Kageyama in the quiet of morning that Kei can never tire of, a blessing that occurs rarely that he will covet carefully. He does not want to waste moments like these that are few and far in between, so with a sigh, he rolls onto his side and continues to look at a man who occupies his mind and has a hold of his heart with a fist.

It starts with a small spark. That’s all it takes. Just one spark and all of a sudden, Kei can’t breathe, choked out by the flames and smoke of a fire that is passionate and consuming. His eyes widen, surprised at how easy it was to realize it and to let it sink into him like it was always meant to. He can’t even fight it. After all, one single man can’t fight a forest fire; a person can’t help feeling what they feel.

It’s surreal. To look upon the face, bathed in morning sun, that makes his heart sings. Kei wishes for this moment to last forever for he knows that once the shadows creep in, the feelings will be gone, and he will be left thinking that it was never real at all. 

But for now, he keeps this moment that’s for him and only him, lets himself fall as he leans forward to kiss Kageyama. 

Kageyama stirs, breathing deeply as his eyes slowly open. Sleepily, he lets out a small whine before he closes his eyes and pucker his lips. The sight is goddamn adorable, and Kei can’t help but laugh and give into the request. When he pulls back, he almost says it so easily, and it terrifies him that he can, but he clamps his mouth shut and forces the words back down his throat. He doesn't want to ruin this.

Later, when they’re both lazing in bed and enjoying the warm rays of the sun, Kageyama asks him what he wanted to say as his fingers dip down the planes of Kei’s torso.

“What do you mean?” 

Kageyama’s fingers make their way to his lips and part them. “You looked like you wanted to say something this whole morning.” 

Having been found out, Kei does nothing but chooses to kiss Kageyama’s fingertips one by one. Out of the corner of his eye, shadows begin their crawl. 

“Nothing.” He begins to kiss his knuckles. “I like you a lot.”

He ignores the shadows and tries to hold onto this moment that slips through his fingers, paper thin and fragile.

Kei opens his mouth, then closes it, brows knitted together as he loses himself in his overdue monthly existential crisis over whether or not he will finally tell Kageyama what he has been purposefully avoiding saying for the past six years due to... personal reasons.

“You okay over there?” Kyoutani finally looks at Kei with that permanent scrunch in his eyebrows, except it’s softer, which Kei determines as his concerned look. “You’re doing that thing where you go quiet. Too quiet.”

“Yeah, Tsukki. I didn’t think asking if you love Kageyama was as hard as a calculus exam.”

Kei raises an eyebrow at that. “Have you ever taken calculus?”

“No, but someone told me after algebra, math ends up being stupid and abstract, so I’m inclined to believe calculus is really hard.”

“Deflecting,” Kyoutani accuses. 

Koganegawa straightens up, realization all over his face after having been deftly played. “Tsukki! Just answer the question!”

Kei leans his head back and groans, long and loud, to the ceiling. “What does it matter? It’s just three words. It doesn’t mean anything.”

There’s a stunned silence that lasts a second too long, making Kei pick his head up to make sure his teammates are alive only to be met with a sad puppy face from Koganegawa and a different set of eyebrows on Kyoutani’s face that say “I am very worried about you”. 

“Why are you guys looking at me like that?”

“Who hurt you, Tsukki?!” Koganegawa cries out dramatically as he reaches over with his large hands and grabs his shoulders to shake him like one should not shake a baby. 

“What the fuck are you talking about?!” Kei sputters out as he tries to get out of Koganegawa’s manhandling to no avail. 

Kyoutani, with foresight that Koganegawa does not have when he is too excited, takes Kei’s glass from his hand. He almost wishes he didn’t just so that he can use it to fend himself from Koganegawa, but then that would be a waste of quality whiskey. 

“I mean, something must have happened that has made you so jaded by love and its many splendors! Why else have you not said it to your boyfriend of six long years?!”

“I don’t know!”

At that, Kei is able to escape from his friend’s hold by quickly standing up and away from him. Koganegawa frowns deeply, a look of skepticism coloring his face. “You don’t know,” he repeats flatly. “I find that hard to believe.”

“Yeah, you’re the kind of guy that doesn’t do something without a purpose,” Kyoutani agrees with a nod. “But then that also means you overthink a lot.”

Kei rolls his eyes. “What are you guys, my therapists?”

“It’s ‘Shoot the Shit Thursday’s’ Tsukki. We are shooting the shit,” Koganegawa, who is seemingly exhausted by Kei and everything there is about him, explains.

“I’m not shooting any of my shit with you fuckers.”

This blatantly offends Koganegawa as he places his hand on his chest in mock insult. Kyoutani’s thick brows have now crawled their way to each other in a way that makes Kei nervous. 

“As hurt as I am by your comment, which I will be addressing later, I think the most important thing to clarify is whether you love Kageyama or not.”

And there it is again: does Tsukishima Kei love Kageyama Tobio?

There is something about airport terminals that gives Kei a certain feeling he can’t quite put a name to. Watching planes arriving and departing, people briskly walking to their gates with a suitcase in their hands and a phone in the other to check their flight schedules, others taking their time having come early enough as is requested by airlines. No matter the reason, the rush of it all can be exciting. Journeying to new places to go off on great adventures. Or going back home to see familiar faces and be surrounded by a nostalgic warmth. But, with big open spaces and floor to ceiling windows that show the airplane traffic of the airway strip, it is so easy to feel so small, insignificant. Lonely.

On his way to the airport, he anticipates. He’s expecting something to befall him, like having anxiety during the take off or the landing or thinking about how flying means you’re 2,000 kilometers in the sky in a metal death trap that could crash at any given moment. His heart slowly sinks to his stomach. It’s a feeling that’s hard to shake. Like reading a letter filled with bad news. Or reaching for a jar on a high shelf, fingers grazing it, only for it to be nudged a little too much and fall. The only thing that eases him is the warmth on his thigh, a hand squeezing every now and then. Looking to its owner, Kei watches Kageyama, takes in the way his pout is affixed to his face and eyebrows slightly scrunched in concentration. 

Kageyama notices the staring and glances at Kei, eyebrows scrunching further, pout more defined. “What?”

“Nothing,” Kei half lies. Because it’s not nothing, this sinking feeling. Instead, he smirks and pulls on Kageyama’s cheek. “Your constipated concentration face is still so fascinating to me.”

Rolling his eyes, Kageyama bats Kei’s hand away, warmth gone from his thigh. “I’m not constipated.”

It should have been easy to laugh at Kageyama, but Kei does not feel right at all. He’s thrown up into the air and then slammed to the ground, stretched out and squished into a box that makes it hard for him to breathe. All he can do is force the laugh out as he tries to tease Kageyama further by attempting to pull at his cheek or swat at him like a cat. 

Though it does surprise him and his heart when Kageyama snatches his hand and presses a kiss to his fingers. 

He gets a glare from him. “Now will you stop it?” Kageyama then places their conjoined hands back on Kei’s thigh and continues to drive. 

This small moment, one of many, elates him, but at the same time, it multiplies the terrible feeling by tenfold.

It is at its worst when they arrive at the airport when Kei has no other choice but to grab his bags and leave Kageyama outside of the airport and board his plane without him.

“Call me when you get back,” Kageyama says as he deposits Kei’s suitcase on the ground next to him. 

“You’ll be asleep, King.”

“I don’t care. Just call me. Or text me. Whatever,” the man grumbles as he shoves his hands in his pockets.

If Kei were feeling any bit like himself, maybe he would throw a last minute teasing remark that will further heckle Kageyama to his delight, but he doesn’t feel like himself. He absolutely does not feel like himself when he goes to wrap his arms around Kageyama’s waist, craning his neck to bury his nose in Kageyama’s just to breathe him in one last time. Kageyama’s arm pulls him closer to his body as his other hand entangles itself in Kei’s hair, blunt nails scratching his scalp that has Kei relaxing and closing his eyes. 

“Hey,” Kageyama murmurs as his lips brush Kei’s hairline. “You’re going to miss your flight if we keep standing here.”

Kei does not want to let go. He does not want to go back to Japan where he will not see Kageyama, breathe him in, and hold him like this. He does not want to go and feel all this distance, a continent and an ocean, between the two of them. To miss someone is easy. Because there is a promise of seeing each other again. But leaving? Leaving is the hardest thing, and Kei realizes that now. 

He wants to do so much more with Kageyama here in Italy. He wants to eat more pasta and bread until they die of carb overload. He wants to talk Kageyama’s ear off about the magnificent architecture and the rich history. He wants to feel Kageyama, all of him, drink the wine off his lips and hear him cry his name out, a song he does not tire of hearing. 

Kageyama pulls back and cradles Kei’s face with his perfect setter hands, thumbs brushing the corners of Kei’s eyes. “It’ll only be a few more months until the off season.” His thumbs move to his lips and pull them upwards, forcing Kei to smile.

Kei swallows. “I know.” He looks into Kageyama’s deep blues, softened just for him. 

Kei begs himself to say anything, but his jaw is wired shut. 

Kageyama tilts his head in concern. “What is it?”

He could say it. Those three simple words. He wants to. He wants to tell Kageyama how much he means to him and how he can fall for him no matter where they are in the world. Even though the words beg to be released, his lips are iron gates, and the words are forced to sink along with his heart, like passengers on a doomed ship.

So he doesn’t.

All Kei can do is kiss Kageyama, hoping that the taste of his lips will linger long after they part. Because even if Kei can’t tell Kageyama his true feelings, then maybe he will feel them in this kiss that Kei pours himself into. 

When they separate, Kei forces the tears down and exhales sharply. With a smile, he brushes Kageyama’s bangs away from his eyes. “I’ll see you around, King.”

And he turns his back on a man who is his whole world but is too much of a coward to admit it. 

The sinking feeling stops sometime after Kei lands in Japan. Instead, he’s carved out, empty and incomplete. 

All because he left his heart in Italy.

“I think what needs to be clarified first is if Tsukishima has ever said the words to anyone ever,” Kyoutani says as he drops his fist into his hand with an authoritative nod. 

Koganegawa makes another parrot-like enthusiastic noise as he turns to look at Kei. “Okay, yes, let’s start with if you love your parents because we all know you won’t actually say that you love your brother.”

“What the fuck do you take me for? I’m an asshole, but I’m not that much of an asshole,” Kei says, annoyed as he reaches for the bottle of whiskey on the coffee table. “I have said ‘I love you’ to my parents.”

“But do you say it first?” Koganegawa challenges.

“Does anyone ever say it to their parents first?” Kei pushes back as he pours for Koganegawa without breaking eye contact. When he lifts the bottle, he doesn’t bother to look at the glass because he knows he did it perfectly. 

“I say it first,” Koganegawa says with a pout. He then gawks at the amount of whiskey in his glass and lets out a pitched whine.

“Well, have you ever said it to anyone else?” Kyoutani asks, muttering a quick word of gratitude as Kei pours for him. 

The words have been uttered by him to boys who were not Kageyama, to boys whom he, at one point, had feelings that made him want to burst like a supernova, expelling energy out and into the universe only to become a black hole full of trapped negativity and cooled feelings that have him thinking that love isn’t real. 

Love is not real, he tells himself over and over again. Or if it was, why wouldn’t love stay?

“I have,” Kei answers before letting the alcohol, warm and smooth, slide down his throat and burn all the way down to the pit of his stomach, its effects lingering in his chest where past loves faded in puffs of smoke. “And then I couldn’t.”

The pitying look on Koganegawa’s face, bottom lip protruding horribly out, irks Kei to no end, and he wishes he didn’t say anything. 

Saying things make them real, but also saying things meant they were more likely to become broken. Like promises. Like saying ‘I love you’.

Contrary to popular belief, Kei actually wears his heart on his sleeve. He does not show it for he has perfected his poker face and honed his wit to be sharp and sarcastic. But one can always tell when Kei was mad. And today, he is livid.

It isn’t like it was one big thing. It was little annoyances, piling on top of each other until Kei was buried underneath it all, suffocating until he couldn’t take it anymore.

The straw to break the camel’s back was coming home to dishes in the sink, which on any other day, he would sigh and just wash it himself, but Kageyama had a month off and was also a contributor to the mess in his home. The sight of it angers him, makes him see red. He storms into the living room and towers over Kageyama who is lying on the couch on his phone. Upon seeing the shadow, Kageyama looks and gives him a smile that should have uplifted Kei's spirits, but Kei is not pleased.

“Welcome home—”

“Why are there so many dishes in the sink?”

Kageyama immediately frowns. His eyes bore into Kei, but he will not be unnerved. He is pissed, and the last thing he wants is for his home to be a shithole. 

“I’ll wash them,” Kageyama grumbles back. He swings his leg over the couch to stand up right as Kei goes around. Upon seeing how close Kei was, Kageyama takes a step back and scowls. “What?”

“Look, I let you stay over, but you got to at least fucking help out around here. This place becomes a fucking pigsty when you’re here.”

Kageyama narrows his eyes at him and folds his arms. “Why the fuck are you mad at me?”

“Because I hate coming home to a messy home!”

“My god, I didn’t get the chance to! I’m sorry, okay?” Kageyama then turns around and starts walking towards the kitchen.

That should have been the end of it, but Kei’s anger has boiled over and doesn’t stop overflowing. He doesn’t really know what he’s saying, just bringing up whatever comes to mind, any petty issue and other grievances that Kei finds annoying. 

Deep down, he knows he should stop. Kageyama is unwittingly the victim dragged under by Kei, but Kageyama is just as bull-headed, facing the storm that is Kei and all of his harsh onslaught. Self-hatred stirs up within him, fuel to the fire, and gives him more to burn off, more for Kei to unleash whatever he can.

(Because deep down, Kei finds it hard to believe that someone like Kageyama is in his life. Happiness isn’t real. Love isn’t real. Everything with Kageyama could fall apart.)

But, eventually, even someone like Kageyama can only take so much from Kei. He slams the last plate onto the dish rack as a finality, a warning, and Kei stops his tirade.

“Are you done?” Kageyama says coldly, lips taut, refusing to show any form of emotion. 

“Fuck is that supposed to mean?” fly out of Kei’s mouth before he can stop himself.

Kageyama stares at him hard, and Kei feels himself breaking. With a scoff, the man walks past him and down into the hall and starts putting his shoes on. 

‘This is it,’ Kei helplessly thinks. ‘This is the end.’

“Where are you going?” Kei asks, almost hesitantly, scared of the answer.

Except Kageyama doesn’t answer him. Only shrugs on his coat and steps out of the apartment.

The door slams loudly throughout, and Kei is left alone with the emptiness and the severity of his mistake.


Kei stares listlessly at the ceiling, eyes rubbed raw and all cried out. He fucked up. So badly. And he wishes he could take it all back, start the day over and wake up early instead of late, miss the rush hour and not have coffee spilled over him, walk into work without a pile of documents that needed to be looked over all because someone went on vacation, and whatever else that the gods decided to dump into his lap.

Kei never actually meant any of the shit he said because Kageyama is good to him, too good for him. And Kageyama deserves someone who isn’t a ticking time bomb and can easily be set off at a pin drop.

He rubs at his eyes and curls into his side, willing himself to just sleep it off. And maybe if he wakes up, it would have been all just a bad dream. 

The front door opens, the sound of it having Kei’s heart skipping a beat. Getting up, he pads on over with a curious step. When he gets to the kitchen, relief floods through him for there is Kageyama, setting a cake box from Kei’s favorite bakery on top of the table.


Kageyama looks at him in surprise, eyes softening at the sight of him. “Hey.”

Kei turns his attention to the box. “What is this?”

His partner blinks, takes a second before he goes to open the box delicately, making sure he doesn’t rip the fancy cardboard. When finally done, he peels the sides down to reveal a whole strawberry shortcake that is more than enough for the two of them. Kei doesn’t say anything, can’t because he’s too shocked, too moved by the gesture. Only continues to watch as Kageyama gets a clean plate and fork from the dish rack and sets them down. 

“Come on.” Kageyama nods at the table. “Sit.”

Kei wordlessly follows, slowly lowering himself down onto the chair as Kageyama cuts a slice of the sweet treat, knife easily sinking into the softness. Sliding the knife underneath it, Kageyama lifts the slice up, cradles one side with his hand, and transfers it to the plate in front of Kei. A simple process handled with so much care that it moves Kei to the point of tears.

“You’re really crying over this cake, huh?” Kageyama teases, licks the frosting off of his fingers.

No, Kei is crying because he’s so much in—

He stares at the cake and swallows.

“I’m sorry,” Kei says shakily, shutting his eyes to trap the tears behind his lids.

“What for?”

“Me. Being mean.” He puts his elbows on the table and presses the heels of his hands to his eyes. “Undeservedly so. That was unfair of me.”

He feels a hand, warm and comforting, rest on the back of his neck, like an anchor keeping him in place. “I know,” is all Kageyama says. His fingers scratch his scalp, soothing Kei. “Come on. Have some cake. You’ll feel better.” The saucer scrapes against the table. “It’s your favorite~” he tells him in a singsong voice. 

When Kei removes his hands from his face, the hand on his neck stays, tethering him to Kageyama, a man who is still here even after the storm, even if Kei is the storm.

“I really thought you were going to leave,” Kei whispers to him.

Surprise mixed with confusion appears on Kageyama's face. “Huh?”

“When you left. I thought that was it. For me and you. Because I fucked it all up.”

The hand on his neck grabs onto his head and forces him to look at Kageyama, look into those eyes that overwhelm him with the way they settle upon him, like he is something to behold and cherish. 

“I’m not going to leave you just because you had a bad day,” Kageyama says somewhere between a tease and a scold, lips turning upward into a small smile.

Taking the hand from behind his neck, Kei places Tobio’s hand right on his cheek, closes his eyes and lets himself be held. He’s feeling so much for this man that he could finally tell him. He feels the need to tell him. It has been so long, and Kageyama is still here despite it all. That has to mean something. When he opens his eyes, his heart flutters at the sight of Kageyama just looking at him with all of the certain feelings in the world.

“I like you so much,” is what he says instead.

And Kageyama only smiles and leans forward to press his lips against his forehead.

“I like you a lot, too, dummy.” Taking his hands away, he scoots his chair closer to Kei and begins to take from the cake. “Here. I’ll feed you.”

Even if Kei can’t say it, that’s okay. Because Kageyama being here means more to him than anything. Why say it when he has everything already?

A large hand falls heavily onto Kei’s shoulder, snapping him back to the present.

“Tsukki, you know, just because you fell out doesn’t mean you didn’t love them at one point, you know? They meant something to you,” Koganegawa tells him, a slight slur in his speech. 

“There is nothing wrong with you if that’s what you’re thinking, Tsukishima,” Kyoutani says as he pours another round with a steady hand, which Kei is almost sure they’re at a point they should definitely stop, but he feels warm, good even, and he wants to let things out of him, things that he has been pushing down with all of his might. 

Koganegawa nods eagerly while pushing Kei with more strength than he would like. “Yes! Sometimes, things aren’t meant to be! It happens. It just means they were not the one.”

“And maybe—“

“And maybe they paved the way for you to get to Kageyama!” 

Kyoutani glares at Koganegawa who looks extremely pleased with himself and not apologetic at all. 

Kei tilts his head, feels the motion a millisecond slower than usual, and squints at the giant setter. “Since when did you become knowledgeable about love and relationships?”

“I hate that you sound rude even when that’s a compliment,” Koganegawa complains, another pout making its way onto his flushed face. He picks up his refilled glass and jabs his other elbow into Kei’s side, which, once again, hurts a lot more than it should. “I mean it, though. You learned more about yourself with each relationship, and maybe by the time Kageyama came around, you have finally settled into the body that is you, shitty personality and all!”

Kei, unsure of whether to be offended or to be genuinely surprised at his teammate’s outlook on life and love, gapes at his teammate who raises his glass with much vigor that Kyoutani makes a disgruntled growl upon seeing the whiskey slosh dangerously around the rim of the glass.

“To Tsukishima being in love and never actually saying it!”

They say that the first time you have sex, it will hurt. It will be awful and embarrassing for all parties. But for Kei, the first time Kageyama fucks him was everything. It was painful, it was euphoric, and, unfortunately, over too fast. It’s everything a hard drug could be, and Kei is all but addicted. 

Every single time Kageyama enters him, it always feels like the first time.

Kei’s eyes roll back into his head, nails digging into Kageyama’s shoulders as he moves, feels the emptiness swiftly followed by how Kageyama fills him just right, pushes into him so deep that white spots dot his vision. Electric pulses of pleasure shoot up his spine, causing him to shudder and squeeze around Kageyama, who moans softly into his ear. This is the part he can’t get enough of, that he sees so clearly when he closes his eyes on lonely nights. It’s in the way Kageyama holds him, fingers bruising his hips and teeth scoring into his skin, as if telling Kei just how badly he wants him. In reply, Kei tilts his hips up to meet Kageyama in the middle, getting him to hit the place that he needs him to, which pulls a sinful groan from the back of his throat that he’s completely powerless to hold back.

(When it comes to Kageyama, he does hold himself back. He never wants to be the one that feels more, the one to want more. It’s happened too often, resulting in broken relationships and a hurt that never quite goes away, lingering like a muddled mess and transforming into self-doubt. But lately, he finds it hard to keep to himself. And if he wants to lie, he could blame it on hormones or feeling lonely, but he knows the truth.)

He shuts his eyes tight, afraid to look because the way Kageyama looks at him with those ocean blue eyes alight with passion and that thing that can move mountains and part the skies and cause lightning to strike overwhelms Kei. When he looks at Kageyama, he feels like he is falling with no end in sight, and because there is no end in sight, Kei is afraid. All he knows is hitting a bottom and barely coming out alive. If there is nothing to hit, what could possibly await Kei?

Kageyama slams into him once, twice before he grabs a hold of his face with one hand to make Kei look at him, but Kei can’t. He refuses, bites his lip as Kageyama’s length continues to brush against the spot that has his toes curling. 

“Look at me,” Kageyama grunts against his lips. 

‘No,’ Kei wants to scream, eyes still squeezed shut as Kageyama rocks into him, bringing him closer to his peak. ‘I can’t. I don’t want to.’ His gasps echo throughout the room, clawing at Kageyama’s back, begging him. ‘Don’t make me fall into your waters and drown.’ 

Kageyama’s lips brush against his, thumb caressing his cheekbone softly in comparison to how he fucks him. “Kei.” His arm wraps around Kei’s waist, holds his hips up and rails into him at a new angle that has Kei crying Kageyama’s name unashamedly out loud. His hand snakes its way to the back of his head and grabs a hold of his hair, pain suddenly blooming as he pulls on it, as if commanding Kei to pay attention to him… to... “Look. At. Me.”

And Kei is so weak for Kageyama that he does open his eyes, looks into Kageyama’s deep and vast ocean eyes filled with a hunger along with something tender, and plunges into his depths with a silent scream. 

He falls, and he falls, and there is just no stopping, nothing to land on or grab a hold onto all the way down, so he pulls Kageyama close to him and lets the tears escape. 

(The truth is that Kageyama wrecks him, body and soul, to the point he will weep rivers, thrashing and wild.)

“You okay?” Kageyama pants into his ear.

Kei doesn’t trust his words, especially when he has just gone through a wide range of emotions all within the span of twenty minutes or so, so he only hums.

Pulling back, Kageyama gazes upon Kei, fingers wiping away the tears. “What’s wrong?” Kageyama asks, fiery passion in his eyes replaced by a worry that eases Kei’s heart, shows Kei how much Kageyama cares for him.

‘Nothing,’ Kei thinks as he hides behind his hands, and maybe that is the problem. Because Kei is so unbelievably happy.

“You just mean a lot to me," he sobs out. "So much.”

(And because Kei is a coward.)

“Omo, omo, Kyoutani, we broke him!”

“Idiot! Why are you also crying?!”

“I am very easily moved to tears by everything, Kyoutani! I am an extremely empathetic person! And I am completely wasted!”

“Drink some fucking water!”

Kei brings a hand to his eyes and is shocked to find his fingertips wet. “What the fuck…” 

“It’s okay, Tsukki!” Koganegawa attempts to reassure even as the tears continue to stream down his face uncontrollably. “It is okay to feel things!”

“If this is what feeling things is like, I don’t want anything to do with it,” Kei says, stubborn even in his current inebriated state that has everything coming out of the woodworks and laying bare in front of people, feelings and lacrimal glands betraying him. Sniffling, he wipes his face with his sleeve and suddenly wishes he were somewhere else and with someone else.

“There is nothing wrong with being wrecked by feelings, Tsukishima,” Kyoutani offers as he puts a water bottle in both of their hands, which Kei has no idea where he got them nor when he left to get them. “To go through the whole gamut of emotions is what makes us human.” He reaches up and pats Kei on the head with more control than Koganegawa. “So let yourself go and just feel and accept everything that comes to you. It’ll do you good.”

Maybe it’s the alcohol, or maybe it’s Kyoutani’s words and Koganegawa’s waterworks, or maybe it’s the chest containing the bottle of feelings that is now spilled onto the shores of his mind and force him to gather them up in his hands, or maybe it’s a man who buried himself in him, has a hold of him like no other that has Kei weak but makes him soar, or maybe—

“I—" Kei starts, but the onslaught of emotions from all directions has him letting out a shuddering gasp that he failed to trap behind his lips.

Kyoutani pats his head again, this time more firmly in a way that breaks Kei out of his stupor and makes him look at the man, eyebrows relaxed, face so much softer than their high school days. “Tsukishima, we’re not the ones you should be telling what you’re feeling to.” 

“Right,” Kei huffs as tries to get control of his breaths. He brusquely wipes his face and takes a great, deep inhale, one that stretches forever, has the air settle at the bottom of his lungs before he finally lets it out. 

Standing up, he finds the world spinning and tilting, but he does not care for he is full to the brim of something he holds for Kageyama. He takes one good look at red faced Koganegawa and not so red faced Kyoutani and makes a decision that no person should ever be an hour before midnight.

“I’m going to Tokyo.”

Silence. And then…


Tokyo’s city lights blur in Kei’s eyes, lines of technicolor blazing trails across the space in front of him. All around, colors burst and smear and paint the landscape, the noise of the crowd, the arcades, bars, and traffic, all breathing life into the city, breathing life into Kei. He’s pulled closer to a warm, solid body, and when he looks, lips crash against his and he tastes the whiskey and the citrus. It feels like the air is sucked out of him because when he pulls back, he’s met with a sight that has him breathless.

Kageyama, cheeks flushed and eyes bright in the night, looks so beautiful underneath the Tokyo lights that flash around them. It stirs a feeling in Kei, chest swelling with so much of that something, that all Kei can do is just kiss Kageyama again and again, his lips and his cheeks and his forehead and his neck, his laughter an addictive drug that he wants to take all the time.

The night passes by in a blur while simultaneously stretching to no end. Kei doesn’t want it to end, he selfishly thinks as he continues to look at Kageyama. In the streets, in the bar, in the konbini. No matter where they stumble to, Kageyama is a sight for sore eyes.

They manage to make it to a karaoke bar and reserve a room. A whole little world with dim lights and a disco ball just for the two of them. Alcohol rushes through Kei’s veins, has him letting everything go as he bobs his head to bubblegum pop music blaring from the speakers, singing his lungs out as the lyrics show up on the screen and not caring if he’s out of tune or not. 

He sneaks a peak at Kageyama, who is just as drunk as him, swathed by the colors of the karaoke screen as the disco ball’s lights pass over him. His laughter is loud as Kei serenades him, giving Kei the courage to perform ridiculous dance moves that he would never do sober. 

(Kageyama always makes him want to do things. Be stupid, walk across the universe, freefall over and dive into everything that is Kageyama. Anything for that smile and for his laugh. Anything for Kageyama to look at him like he’s the only thing that matters in the world.)

Taking a large sip of cheap liquid courage, Kei continues singing to Kageyama, walks closer to him and straddles him. He brushes his hair out of his eyes and leans forward, looks into the eyes that is the ocean and sees swimming in there the want, the desire, perhaps the something that Kei also holds for him. He leans forward intent on kissing him, to tell him what that something is through those lips, but just as their lips brush against each other’s, Kei pulls back and sings the part that absolutely needs to be belted, closing his eyes as he loses himself to the song and relishing the laughs that fall from Kageyama’s lips. When the part ends, Kei is suddenly pulled forward and sees the ocean of desire once more before he drowns. 

The song keeps playing, the microphone forgotten next to them. Kageyama kisses him like he needs him, and Kei kisses him back to tell him that he needs him just as much, too, just like he needs the air to breathe. It feels wild, reckless, Kageyama’s hands grabbing onto him as if Kei will disappear. But Kei won’t. Because Kei lo—

“Tobio!” Kei yelps out in surprise as Kageyama throws him to the side and climbs on top of him, grabbing his hips to bring him closer as Kei wraps his legs around his waist. Before Kageyama can go for the kill, Kei pushes his face away, laughing like a stupid teenager. “Wait! Stop! We can’t do it here!”

Kageyama waggles his eyebrows, an insufferable smirk on his lips. 

Kei rolls his eyes and flicks him in the forehead. “Stop that, you horndog.”

“I can’t help myself,” Kageyama admits unashamedly, gazing upon him in a way that has the flame of want stoked at the bottom of his belly. “You look too good.”

He then brackets his arms on the sides of Kei’s face, leaning over to give a kiss that Kei thinks has a whole lot of that something. It fills Kei’s heart, spilling past the brim and spreading throughout his entire body. With his hand, he reaches up and caresses Kageyama’s cheek, traces words he cannot say onto them and hopes Kageyama understands. 

Kageyama pulls back, leans back in to kiss his neck, but Kei stops him. He holds his face, fingers tracing his partner’s features, and finds how beautiful he is once again as the disco ball shines in his eyes. 


Kageyama looks at him with a tilt of his head. He waits patiently, just like he has been all these years.

Some seconds pass before Kageyama starts looking confused after Kei is unable to elaborate what he is trying to say. “... you?”

It is impossible to describe the overwhelming feeling of drowning in a sea as the water rushes into a pair of lungs. Or looking into the sun and going blind. Or maybe it’s more like wearing a bulletproof vest and taking a shot from a shotgun, powerful and able to blow people off their feet and land on their backs, wind knocked out of them. 

Kei knows these feelings. They’re not new. They’re awful and consuming, like a fire, but just like a fire, they can smoulder away, hot embers fighting for life, to stay burning in the cool night.

Biting his lip, he’s torn over saying something and not saying it. Instead, he pulls Kageyama down to kiss him, accepting his contented sigh into his mouth instead.

Kei likes Kageyama too much to do that to him.

The door opens and reveals Kageyama, half-asleep with the dim yellow light from his hallway washing over his back. He yawns as he rubs his eyes, takes a few blinks to get the sleep out before he fully awakens to gawk at Kei in complete surprise.

“Kei? What…?”

“King, I have something to tell you,” Kei blurts out with as much grace as one who has drunk three or maybe more generous glasses of whiskey. 

“What?” Kageyema repeats dumbly, which Kei cannot blame him for because it is indeed almost 2 in the morning and he arrived without any notice. The setter reaches out to him, moves the hair out of Kei’s eyes. “Are you… are you drunk?”

Kei hesitates. “No.”

Kageyama raises a skeptical brow.

“Maybe. But that’s beside the point.”


“What I’m trying to say is that you, Kageyama Tobio, mean so much to me in all the ways I am unable to describe. Like, you make me feel things. So many things. Most of it is disgusting and icky and gooey but still very good and heartwarming, like, I don’t know, sitting in the kotatsu or a very good cup of tea that warms you up or or eating a slice of a strawberry shortcake, the kind that melts into your mouth and makes you think that there are angels making love in your mouth. Did you know that?”

Kageyama scrunches his nose. “Angels making love in your mouth?"

“Did you know that, Tobio?” Kei says again as he leans into his space, but the two hour train ride did not sober him up completely, and he ends up losing his balance.

Kageyama catches him with both hands on his shoulders and steadies him, the simple action filling Kei’s heart all the more and adding another bullet point in his long list of Things That Kei Really Likes About Kageyama. And it is now that second point in the night that Kei, overwhelmed by being steadied by Kageyama not just tonight but for all the times he did and will do, buries his face in Kageyama’s neck and bursts into tears like he would never ever do. Ever. 

A hesitant arm wraps around Kei’s waist as a hand runs through his hair, neatly trimmed nails scratching his scalp that has him sagging against Kageyama’s body, all solid muscle and warmth. “What is even happening right now?” Kageyama mutters confusedly, tightening his hold on Kei and bringing him even closer.

“Just let me stand here and fucking feel things.”

“Okay…” A hand cups Kei’s cheek and forces him to look at him. “But do you want to feel things inside my apartment instead?”

“Shut up and let me be.” And Kei burrows in his shoulder and inhales his scent, fresh body wash and something that is distinctly Kageyama, that comforts him. 

Kei hears a laugh, light and low, a lovely sound. His favorite sound in the world. Kageyama mutters something that Kei cannot hear through the haze and his heart filling up and pouring out nonstop, and it's just the thing that pushes Kei. Because he wants to hear it over and over and over for the rest of his life.

Here, at Kageyama’s doorstop, time stands still, and it is just Kei and Kageyama in the quiet of the night. Taking a breath, he straightens himself and looks at Kageyama, and finally lets himself feel.

“I love you.”

The silence that follows rings in Kei’s ears, loud and deafening. Kageyama doesn’t say anything, only gapes at him with those bright deep ocean blue eyes that swallow him whole. The lack of response from Kageyama only unnerves Kei, and it reminds Kei why saying anything at all was such a bad idea. It almost has him regretting confessing until Kageyama laughs and finally opens his mouth.

“Why did you come all the way over here to say this? You could have just told me on the phone,” he tells him, scolds him almost, as his thumbs brush away the tears on Kei’s cheekbones. 

“Because I am bursting at the seams with how much I feel for you that I couldn’t keep it in me anymore.” Kei grabs Kageyama’s hand and presses it to his chest, right over his heart that is pounding, begging to break out of this birdcage of his ribs to fly into Kageyama’s hands where it belongs. “This heart? It beats for you. Only for you. I tried so hard to push this feeling down because I was afraid it was too much. I was afraid of losing you and everything we had. I was so afraid that love wasn’t real, and it was just chemicals in our brains. And I was afraid if I said it, everything would break.

“But I’m done being scared. I don’t want to go through my entire life feeling like I’m in between two places, to feel like I’m holding myself back from falling. Because I am falling. I’m falling for you so hard, so fast, and so fucking deeply that I can’t stop it. And… and I guess that I am willing to give you everything of me, to let you do what you want with this heart of mine: break me, fucking destroy me, whatever because that’s how mad you make me. That’s how madly in love I am with you. Because I am yours.”

Kei cannot tell what is right side up with his vision still swimming, but he also feels so relieved, like a weight that he has been carrying all this time has finally fallen off of his shoulders. Being in love is so freeing, addicting, that he honestly wonders why he did not do this sooner. 

“You’re so fucking dramatic,” Kageyama says as he squeezes his cheeks with his other hand.

“Seriously?” Kei glares at him half heartedly as he lets his face become squished. “That’s all you have to say to my whole goddamn monologue? I came all this way from Sendai just to tell you this.”

Kageyama furrows his eyebrows and levels him with a hard, piercing look. It’s a look where he takes the time to formulate what to say next, how to best answer people without offending them, and it is from this look that Kei finds that he knows this face all too well. Being teammates for three years and partners for six is a long time to know someone through and through, from their facial expressions to their footfalls, from how they wake up in the morning to the little joys they have. 

After all this time, Kei just realized that he knows Kageyama, has known him, all of him, awful and beautiful parts, and loves everything. 

“What’s there to say except that you make me mad, too?”

And there it is, the smile that reaches Kageyama’s eyes, that sends Kei’s heart on a marathon and colors his monochromatic world. 

“I always knew how you felt. You think you can hide things from me, but I see everything.” Kageyama releases his grip on Kei’s cheeks and takes off Kei’s glasses, holds them in his hands carefully, like they’re a precious item that belongs to a museum. Tucking them into Kei’s shirts, he trades them for Kei’s face, cradles him like he’s now the coveted artifact and leans up to stare into Kei’s eyes. He’s close, so close that Kei can smell the minty mouthwash and get lost in those eyes that he has fallen for over and over again. 

And this time, Kei lets himself fall even if there is no bottom, even if there is nothing to hit because fuck it, Kageyama is his whole world and he’ll be damned if he never let him know.

“I waited for you because I’m completely in love with you, dumbass. Always have been and always will be.”