“Tsukki,” Kageyama mumbled, half asleep and reaching out as Tsukishima sat up to get out of bed. It was late enough that it wasn’t even Friday anymore. The dim glow of Kageyama’s alarm clock was barely enough to see in the gloom.
“I’m here,” Tsukishima said. “I’m just getting some water, idiot.”
Kageyama made a disgruntled sound of protest at the insult, but he quickly calmed when he felt Tsukishima’s hand on his shoulder. Tired, he was pliable and easy to handle.
Satisfied that Kageyama was asleep again, Tsukishima got out of bed and made his way downstairs to the kitchen. The fact that he could easily navigate a house that wasn’t his own was not something that he was going to dwell on.
In the kitchen, he opened the fridge to pour himself a glass of water from the filtered pitcher inside. Alongside the pitcher, the fridge contained the remains of the dinner Kageyama had forced him to eat two servings of, a hodgepodge of specialties from different localities, and a singular slice of strawberry cake.
Dinner hadn’t been curry for once, but nikujaga that Kageyama had received from an elderly neighbor. The variety of specialty foods were from Kageyama’s parents, who either brought them home from their trips to share or mailed them when they were gone for longer periods.
The cake, as usual, was from Kageyama. It wouldn’t have been in the fridge, but regrettably Tsukishima had been too full from dinner to eat it.
Staring inside the fridge in the middle of the night, Tsukishima kind of hated that he was so intimately familiar with its contents. He had been staying late—and even staying over sometimes like today—more often lately, and they had fallen into a weirdly domestic routine.
It had gotten to the point where his own mother knew not to expect him home on Friday nights anymore. It was a good thing that Akiteru was so busy with work in Sendai at the moment, or he’d likely be insufferable with his badgering, as well.
Tsukishima was a planner. The future wasn’t just going to show up and welcome him with open arms, which meant he had to map out the steps that would take him where he wanted. As a third year, he already knew what universities he was aiming for and the specific subjects he’d have to review for their entrance exams. He also had goals for after that first hurdle—the classes he wanted to pursue, the types of part time jobs he might apply for, and even how’d he’d fit volleyball in between everything else.
Whatever he had with Kageyama didn’t fit into his plans at all, but for some reason Tsukishima couldn’t bring himself to stop coming over. In fact, sometimes he even wished he could stay in a limbo of Fridays at Kageyama’s house and in his bed forever.
Pathetic, Tsukishima thought. Despite what the other third years not so slyly insinuated and the underclassmen nervously gossiped about, he and Kageyama weren’t dating. He should never have gotten so attached to something that was never meant to happen, much less last as long as it had.
He drained the rest of his glass of water in one go before placing it down in the sink to be washed in the morning. It was late, and he wasn’t going to stay up brooding about his whatever relationship with Kageyama like a loser. He went back up the stairs in the dark, not fumbling once.
When Tsukishima got back into bed, Kageyama turned toward him, tucking his head into the curve of Tsukishima’s shoulder like it belonged there. His bare skin was hot as always, and the places the two of them were pressed together under the covers were almost too warm. Tsukishima didn’t bother to push him away.
The time to graduation was ticking down, and soon enough, there wouldn’t be any Fridays left. Tsukishima wasn’t sure if he wanted to think of anything past that just yet.
Karasuno made it to nationals for a third year in a row—their former “flightless crows” moniker forcibly buried in the dust of their efforts. They had games to win, and that was all that mattered right now.
At least it should have been.
“Yamaguchi,” Tsukishima said, trying his best to keep his voice level. “What is this?” He usually slept next to Yamaguchi whenever the team traveled for training camps or competitions, but when he had come to claim his usual spot, Yamaguchi had told him it had already been taken.
“You’re over there,” Yamaguchi said, pointing over to a pair of two futons in the other corner of the team’s room at the inn. He was smiling, likely well aware of Tsukishima’s ire. “It’s not exactly private, but you and Kageyama will be able to be together at least.”
“Why would I want to be by Kageyama?” Tsukishima asked. “Doesn’t he usually sleep by Hinata anyway?”
The look of pity on Yamaguchi’s face was almost as irritating as what came out of his mouth next. “Tsukki,” he said, “everyone knows. You guys are so obvious that even the managers of other teams have noticed, according to Yachi.”
Tsukishima felt his insides curdle at the idea of other teams, and especially their managers, gossiping about his love life of all things, but that was a problem that he was going to ignore for the sake of his mental health.
Knowing that denial would only worsen the look of pity on Yamaguchi’s look, he decided to switch tactics. “Well, we’re fighting right now, so let me switch futons with someone else.”
Yamaguchi just shook his head. “I literally saw you sneak your hands under his jacket when we were at the arena for registration earlier, and I’m pretty sure Kageyama hasn’t chewed you out for PDA in the hour since then, so. No switching.”
Cursing the arena for blasting the A/C even in the middle of winter, which led him to warm himself up against Kageyama’s skin in a fit of desperation, Tsukishima made one last ditch attempt to convince Yamaguchi to allow him to switch. “Kageyama snores, so I won’t be able to sleep. You don’t want me to be sleep deprived during matches, do you?”
“Tsukki,” Yamaguchi said, “I’ve seen Kageyama sleep on the bus and during training camps. He doesn’t snore. No switching.” The last was said in his captain’s voice, firm and implacable.
Tsukishima knew for a fact that Yamaguchi had modeled it after Sawamura’s and Ennoshita’s own tones—and had even in one memorable moment caught him practicing saying “captainly” things in the mirror. Somehow, despite everything, it was still effective. His backbone really had strengthened into steel.
“I hate you,” Tsukishima said. Disgruntled, he picked up his bag again. “I hope Yachi accidentally orders you the spiciest bento again and you burn the hell out of your mouth.”
“Don’t do anything inappropriate to Kageyama,” Yamaguchi said, smiling sweetly. “I know you’ll be tempted, but it’s not exactly private with so many of us in here.”
“One, that’s disgusting. And two, fuck you, Yamaguchi.” Unfortunately, Yamaguchi just waved him off, and Tsukishima reluctantly made his way to the other side of the room where Kageyama was already sitting on one of the futons.
“Yamaguchi told me we can’t switch futons.” Perhaps that wasn’t the best greeting, but Tsukishima was too irritated to temper his words at the moment.
“Did you want to switch?” Kageyama frowned. “You usually don’t sleep by the wall, so I thought it would be fine if I took this one.”
“What are you talking about?” Sometimes Tsukishima felt like his and Kageyama’s perspectives on their conversations were completely different.
“Switching futons,” Kageyama said. “I don’t know why Yamaguchi would mind if you took the one by the wall instead if you want it.”
“That’s not …” Tsukishima shook his head. “That’s not what I meant. Don’t you want to be with Hinata or something? You usually sleep by him during these things.”
“No?” Kageyama said. “Hinata’s fine, but he talks too much at night.”
“You really don’t mind?”
“Why would I?” Kageyama shrugged his shoulders. “It’s not like we haven’t done it before. And you’re nice to sleep next to, anyway.”
“That’s —” Different, Tsukishima wanted to say, because sleeping together in the privacy of Kageyama’s room was not the same as sleeping together in a room full of their teammates. While they weren’t exactly in the same futon, it still felt embarrassing and much too public for Tsukishima’s taste.
However, Kageyama’s expectant face told him that that argument would likely lead to the two of them talking in circles for much longer than Tsukishima wanted.
“Nevermind,” Tsukishima sighed. He finally dropped his bag on the unoccupied futon next to Kageyama.
“Do you want the futon by the wall, then?” Kageyama asked. “I don’t mind switching even if Yamaguchi said not to.”
Tsukishima sighed. Trapped between Yamaguchi’s meddling and Kageyama’s obliviousness, it seemed like he had no choice but to accept his fate. “No, it’s fine.”
“Okay,” Kageyama said. “Let me know if you change your mind, at least.”
“Sure,” Tsukishima said, though he wouldn’t. What was the point of choosing one futon over another when he’d still be with the king regardless?
“It’s too bad we can’t be as close as usual, though,” Kageyama continued. “I like being able to sleep on your shoulder.”
“Well,” Tsukishima said. “That’s—I don’t know what you mean by that, but, uh…” It was likely a fruitless endeavor, but it was clear that he had to try to get a new futon or he would die before they could even play a match. “I’m going to talk to Yamaguchi again, okay?”
As predicted, Yamaguchi only sent him back again, this time with an added shove that almost sent Tsukishima stumbling over one of their first-year spikers, who squawked like a startled chicken.
And, despite Tsukishima’s worries, sleeping next to Kageyama turned out to be fine. Yamaguchi’s too knowing looks over breakfast the next morning made sure he knew it.
After that, there was no time to worry about Kageyama, at least not outside of his capacity as a teammate. The pace and level of play at nationals always tested everyone’s limits, even for those who had been there before. At the end of each day, everyone was so worn out that it was all they could do to eat dinner and shower before passing out face down into their futons.
“Tsukishima,” Kageyama said, voice low so as to not rouse the other members close to them. “Tsukki, wake up.”
“What is it,” Tsukishima said, instead of Don’t call me that. Far too many people used that nickname, much to his chagrin, for it to really be an issue, but hearing it now from Kageyama, who had only ever used it in bed, was too much to handle at the moment. He flung an arm over his eyes so he wouldn’t have to look at Kageyama.
“Look at me,” Kageyama insisted, because he lived to make Tsukishima’s life difficult. He reached out and tugged at Tsukishima’s arm. “Please.”
Tsukishima bit back his automatic no—which probably would have been justified since they were playing in the semi-finals tomorrow and needed their rest. Much as he would have liked to deny the king right now, it would probably lead to a spiraling argument that he didn’t have the energy for at the moment. Yamaguchi would also never let him live it down if he actually did show up at breakfast sleep deprived tomorrow, no matter the reason.
Reluctantly, Tsukishima pulled his arm away and turned on his side to face Kageyama. The room wasn’t completely dark, but it was still shadowed, so Tsukishima could barely see his face. “Here I am,” he grumbled. “What do you want?”
Kageyama didn’t reply. Instead, to Tsukishima’s rapidly dawning horror, he was getting out of his futon and crawling under the covers of Tsukishima’s.
“What are you doing?” Tsukishima hissed, trying to keep his voice quiet. “Are you insane?”
“Shhh,” Kageyama whispered. He moved around on Tsukishima’s now much too small futon, deftly ducking under Tsukishima’s pushing arms as he got comfortable. “Why are you being so loud right now?”
Then, before Tsukishima could come up with a suitably offended and abrasive response, Kageyama shut him up with a kiss. Due to the darkness, his aim was off, but Kageyama quickly corrected himself and slotted their mouths together in a languid kiss.
Tsukishima hated proving Yamaguchi right, but he was powerless to resist a warm and affectionate Kageyama in his arms. He kissed Kageyama back and tangled a hand in the back of his hair to guide him into a better angle. For a few minutes, the only sounds Tsukishima could hear were their hushed breathing and the soft smacking of their mouths.
“Mm,” Kageyama hummed, pleased, as he pulled away. He relaxed against Tsukishima’s shoulder, pillowing his head into its usual position. “Can I sleep here tonight? It’s been a while.”
It had been a week, Tsukishima realized, throat tight. He had forgotten it was Friday since they had been so busy with matches for the past couple days. Even in Tokyo, Kageyama found a way to keep at least part of their routine intact.
“... No,” Tsukishima said, after a few long seconds where he had to forcibly push down the urge to say yes instead. “I already let you have more than enough, so stop hogging my futon at least.”
Even in the dark, even without looking at him, Tsukishima knew Kageyama was frowning. He really was kind of a brat. “Fine,” Kageyama said, the pout clear in his voice.
It was another minute before he actually moved, because Tsukishima was too much of a pushover to actually shove Kageyama out of bed. It wasn’t until Kageyama was safely ensconced under the covers of his own futon that Tsukishima realized he had been holding his breath the whole time.
“Tsukishima?” Kageyama called, his voice already sleepy. Tsukishima didn’t turn to look, but he knew Kageyama was watching him.
“What now?” Tsukishima sighed.
“Hmm, just glad you’re here, I guess,” Kageyama said. “It’s almost like being at home.” Then he fell silent, breathing quickly evening out, because of course the king would peacefully fall asleep after dropping what Tsukishima considered to be a pair of bombshell lines.
I hate him, Tsukishima thought. And I hate myself, and I especially hate Yamaguchi for putting me here. If he had been alone, he probably would have screamed. As it was, the best Tsukishima could do was bury his face into his pillow and hope he suffocated before morning came.
The next day, their sleeping arrangements didn’t even matter anymore. During the semi-finals, they lost to Itachiyama after a set of brutal matches, placing third overall. It was the farthest they had ever gotten at nationals, and third place was more than impressive for a team that hadn’t been a contender for the tournament, or even their prefectural tournament, three years before.
But it was still a loss, and everyone on the team felt its harsh sting as the last volley ended with the ball hitting the floor on their side of the net. The final thump was as heavy as a death knell even in an arena of thousands.
With nationals done, there was really no need for the third years to join the team’s practices anymore. Their high school volleyball careers were basically finished now, and Karasuno would be left in the hands of the first and second years.
That didn’t stop Hinata and Kageyama from joining in, however. They were probably practicing more now than before even. Unlike Tsukishima and Yamaguchi, who had university entrance exams to study for, the idiot duo had other, non-academic plans for the future.
Hinata was already making plans to train in Brazil, where he was going to hone his beach volleyball skills like he had been talking about since their second year. And Kageyama, the king of the court himself, had been scouted by a Division 1 V League team in Tokyo—a fact that had caused a fervorous uproar throughout the school when the news first came out.
Yamaguchi still planned on dropping in on practices every now and then, mostly to give tips to the new captain and get a break from the unique torture that was studying for exams as a senior. Tsukishima on the other hand didn’t plan on visiting the gym much, if at all. He had already passed on whatever guidance he could to the younger middle blockers throughout the year; if they had any other questions, they could try to figure it out from Hinata’s energetic explanations or ask Yamaguchi.
I should have just gone home, Tsukishima thought, scowling as he walked up to the practice gym. Or even to the library. The volleyball team’s leadership transition had happened earlier in the week after they had come back from nationals, and the third years were basically retired now, so there was really no reason for him to be here, except—
It was Friday. And like a trained dog, Tsukishima had come to the gym to meet up with Kageyama after practice, just like he had been doing for almost the entire year now.
This is stupid, he thought. I shouldn’t even be here. However, before he could actually scrap his plan and escape with no one the wiser, Hinata burst out of the gym with a gaggle of first years trailing after him like baby chicks.
“Tsukki!” Hinata called, spotting Tsukishima before he could duck out of sight. “You totally missed my awesome moves at practice!”
“How unfortunate,” Tsukishima said, with a roll of his eyes. “It’s not like I haven’t already suffered through three years of your ‘awesome moves.’”
“Don’t be so grouchy, Stingyshima,” Hinata said, waving goodbye to the underclassmen who had followed him out first before turning to shoot an unimpressed look at Tsukishima. “I know you wanna see Kageyama, but he’ll be out in a minute or two, so chill.”
“I’m here for Yamaguchi,” Tsukishima automatically denied. “Unlike some people, he and I need to study for university exams.”
Hinata snorted. “Yeah, well, that would have been more believable if Yamaguchi had actually come to practice today.” Shaking his head ruefully, he added, “It’s just getting kind of sad now, really.”
“Hinata,” Tsukishima said, menace emanating from him in waves, “do you want me to crush you like a flea?”
Unfortunately, three years as teammates had mostly inured Hinata to Tsukishima’s threats, so he didn’t even flinch at the comment. “Deny it all you want, but you two are suuuuuuper obvious!” And then he bolted away right as Tsukishima swiped at him because he did still have some sense of self-preservation.
“Have fun ‘tutoring’ Kageyama today!” Hinata yelled, making sure he was well and far away from Tsukishima’s long-reaching arms. “Even though Mr. Pro Volleyball Player doesn’t even need it anymore!”
I’m going home, Tsukishima thought, tightening his grip on his bag. Obviously coming here had been a bad idea.
But right as Tsukishima turned to leave, the bane of his existence came out of the gym doors, nodding a goodbye over his shoulder to whoever was still inside.
“You’re here,” Kageyama said, looking surprised as he spotted Tsukishima. “I didn’t know you were coming. Yamaguchi told me at lunch that you’d probably be in the library studying, so I was going to head over after I finished here.”
“I can always head there now and let you come get me if you had your heart set on it, king,” Tsukishima offered. Stupidly, he felt his heart speed up just the tiniest bit. It seemed like he wasn’t the only one trained to look forward to their Friday meetings.
Kageyama gave Tsukishima a strange look before shaking his head. “That’d just be a waste of time. You’re already here, so let’s go.”
“Eager to get me alone then?” Tsukishima teased, then regretted it since the same likely could have been said about him since he had gone out of his way to come to the gym in the first place.
“Don’t you already know the answer to that?” Kageyama asked. Then he tugged Tsukishima’s arm, cutting off any potential response in favor of dragging him forward.
From there, everything was as usual. They walked back to Kageyama’s house, and it was empty as always. In the entryway, Kageyama pushed Tsukishima against the front door and kissed him until he was satisfied.
Then, in the bedroom, they became curving commas, tucked against one another close enough that any breath taken was a shared one. When Kageyama came, Tsukishima felt it like a reverberation through his own skin.
“Mmn,” Kageyama hummed, after they had cleaned up. He pillowed his head against its usual place on Tsukishima’s shoulder.
Tsukishima copied the noise as a way of agreeing. In the grand scheme of things, it hadn’t been that long since the last time they had been together, but today had been more intense than usual.
“Are you staying for dinner?” Kageyama asked. “My parents sent me an udon kit from Nagoya that we can try tonight.”
“Yeah.” Since Tsukishima’s mother had already assumed that he would be out tonight, she had gone to his aunt’s house for the night and wouldn’t be back until tomorrow afternoon. “If you don’t mind, that is.”
“I don’t,” Kageyama confirmed. His mouth opened in a wide yawn. “You need to eat more, and I always have more than enough food anyway.”
“Well, maybe think about fattening me up later.” Tsukishima gently pinched Kageyama’s cheek, and got a half-asleep swap in retaliation. “Seems like the king needs his nap.”
“You sleep, too,” Kageyama mumbled. “Then we’ll have dinner.”
“Alright,” Tsukishima said. He probably should have used the time to study instead, but when Kageyama was so warm and close, it was impossible to deny him.
After Kageyama decided that he had gotten enough sleep, they went downstairs to make dinner.
Tsukishima wasn’t usually asked to help in the kitchen if Kageyama was actually cooking and not just reheating leftovers—apparently his knife skills were abysmal—but it seemed that Kageyama considered making miso broth from a packet and boiling udon noodles simple enough tasks to allowed Tsukishima assist for once.
As Tsukishima supervised the pots on the stove, Kageyama dug through the fridge for eggs and any other toppings that could be added. Apparently broth and noodles weren’t filling enough for his majesty.
“Hmph.” That was the sound Kageyama made when he was displeased with something, like having to correct the many mistakes Tsukishima pointed out in his math homework.
“What is it?” Tsukishima glanced at Kageyama out of the corner of his eye and saw that he was glaring at the contents of the fridge like they offended him. “Are you out of eggs or something? It’s seriously not that big a deal.”
“I have eggs,” Kageyama said. “There’s fishcakes, too.”
“What’s the problem then?”
“I didn’t buy any cake this week,” Kageyama said. “I have some other sweets, but…” When Tsukishima turned to look at him, he was frowning so hard that a furrow had developed between his brows.
“Is that it?” Tsukishima asked, shaking his head. Internally, he was pleased that Kageyama even cared that much. Tsukishima liked the strawberry cakes that the other boy bought of course, but it wasn’t like they were the reason he came. Contrary to what Kageyama apparently believed, Tsukishima did eat pretty well, primarily due to his mother’s varied meals. “I’ll eat regardless, you know.”
“But weren’t you looking forward to it?” Kageyama had pulled out the other ingredients and set them on the counter to be used after everything was done cooking.
Truthfully, Tsukishima never really thought about the cakes Kageyama bought. They were good, and he always enjoyed them, but they were a secondary or even tertiary benefit of coming over—nice but absolutely not necessary. “I’ll live,” he said.
“I’ll make sure to buy one for next time, then,” Kageyama said.
It was just an offhand comment, but the thought of next time suddenly bowled Tsukishima over faster than a bullet train. Kageyama had said it so casually, like he was assured that there would even be a next time. With graduation looming closer and closer, how many times could they reasonably expect to meet after this?
Their paths were splitting after they graduated. Kageyama was going to be playing on a professional volleyball team right out of high school. He was going to be in Tokyo. Tsukishima in comparison was normal. He was going to university in Sendai to be close to home. He was going to play volleyball as much as he could, maybe even in a lower league if possible, but that wasn’t the same thing at all. They wouldn’t be able to meet like they were used to, and organizing a meeting with the distance and their own differing obligations already felt like more hassle than it was worth.
A year ago, Tsukishima would have outright laughed at anyone who told him that he’d be spending so much time with Kageyama and even went out of his way to make time for him. And even just a few months ago, it would have been unbelievable that their relationship would ever be more than just physical. The time that seemed so endless before was now running out faster than Tsukishima could keep up with.
He wanted to spend more time with Kageyama, and not even in bed. He wanted to have more meals together. He wanted to listen to Kageyama scratch away in that thick journal he kept on his desk. He wanted to study for his exams in Kageyama’s living room and have the other boy pester him for attention until he gave in and pushed him down to kiss him quiet.
Tsukishima wanted so badly that it was like a black hole had opened up in his stomach. But he wouldn’t be able to have what he wanted, at least not for much longer. All of the future next times were already crumbling before his eyes.
I can’t do this anymore, Tsukishima thought, with a stomach sinking sort of certainty. I can’t keep being with him like this .
“Hey!” Kageyama snapped, abruptly pulling Tsukishima out of his thoughts. Both pots were boiling over, causing a mess on the stove. “What’s with you? It’s not hard to boil soup and noodles, you know!”
Any other time, Tsukishima would have snapped back at him, or maybe even laughed at how similar Kageyama sounded to his own lecturing voice when he was trying to force enough Japanese literature into Kageyama’s brain so he’d pass his midterms. Instead, he croaked out, “I need to go.”
“What?” With the stove off, both pots were now under control, and Kageyama turned to look at him, brow furrowed in confusion. “Why? What’s wrong?”
“It’s nothing.” Tsukishima was already stumbling into the living room to pick up his belongings. He was grateful that he had left his jacket here instead of inside of Kageyama’s bedroom. His uniform sweater was still upstairs, but it would have to be sacrificed in favor of a quick escape. “I just remembered that there’s an urgent, uh, family thing that I need to be home for. I shouldn’t have come over today.”
“Wait!” Kageyama called, but Tsukishima was already in the entryway, getting his shoes on as quickly as possible. “Tsukishima, hey! Do you really have to go? It’s not about the cake, is it?”
“No,” Tsukishima said, voice thick. “It’s not.” More softly, he added, “Don’t worry about that anyway, idiot.”
“…If you’re sure,” Kageyama said. “You really have to go?”
“Yeah, I really need to get home.” Tsukishima wanted to turn around, but he knew if he saw Kageyama, he’d kiss him, and his already tenuous resolve to leave would just crumble. “Sorry about ruining your dinner, too.”
“It’s not ruined,” Kageyama said, sounding more worried than anything. “Um, I’ll see you later then?”
Tsukishima closed his eyes. “We’ll see.” Then he opened the front door and walked out without looking back.
The next week, Tsukishima started avoiding Kageyama as much as he could. He no longer dropped by the gym for any reason and started studying at home instead of in the library. It shouldn’t have been difficult not to see each other, especially considering they didn’t have practice together anymore, but it seemed that Kageyama was putting in a concerted effort to catch Tsukishima whenever he could.
He even had to stop eating lunch with Yamaguchi since Kageyama knew their usual spots and would be more than likely to drop in.
“Did something happen with Kageyama?” Yamaguchi asked. They were in different classes this year, which meant the only times they could really talk now was at lunch or during breaks. Tsukishima was grateful for that now since it likely spared him a long lecture and probably an overly pushy attempt to get him to talk to Kageyama.
“No,” Tsukishima said. “What could have possibly happened?”
Yamaguchi stared at Tsukishima like he was a particularly difficult problem that needed to be solved. “Well, he asked me where you were since he apparently hasn’t been able to find you anywhere recently.”
“Do I need to be available to his majesty all the time?” Tsukishima asked, feeling his irritation grow by the second. “It’s not like I’m a dog at his beck and call, you know. And I’ve been busy studying, which you should know since you’re in the same boat.”
“So you’re not avoiding him like an idiot for no reason?”
Tsukishima glared at Yamaguchi and desperately wished that they had not been friends for so long so that it would have actually worked in scaring him off. “No.”
“Uh-huh.” Yamaguchi shook his head, clearly not believing Tsukishima. “Well, let me just say: one, whatever happened, you’re an idiot, and two, fix whatever this is ASAP. I don’t have time to organize your love life with entrance exams coming—which you should know.”
“There’s no love life for you to organize anyway,” Tsukishima said, scowling.
“Again,” Yamaguchi said with a sigh, “you’re an idiot. Just apologize or whatever. I’m sure it really isn’t a big deal.”
“Weren’t you going to meet with your homeroom teacher about some extra lessons for your exam or something?” Tsukishima pressed back, ignoring Yamaguchi’s comment altogether.
Yamaguchi sighed. “You’re not going to be able to ignore this problem forever, Tsukki. You know Kageyama’s relentless when there’s something he wants.”
Tsukishima did know, but that wasn’t a problem he’d have to worry about for much longer. Graduation was just around the corner, and then he wouldn’t see Kageyama ever again. “You only have 10 minutes left, you know,” he said.
“Yeah, okay, I’m going,” Yamaguchi said. “Just don’t forget what I told you, okay?”
“Sure.” Tsukishima was already doing his best to repress the conversation completely from his memory, which he was sure Yamaguchi knew based on how he was shaking his head.
“Oh, and before I forget, here.” Yamaguchi tossed a pink package at Tsukishima, which he caught before it could hit him in the face.
It was a package of strawberry hard candy, a brand that Tsukishima often kept in his bag if he needed a quick energy boost but didn’t actually want to eat. “What’s this? Are you trying to make me feel better?”
“That’s from Kageyama,” Yamaguchi said. Tsukishima had to fight his instinctual urge to throw the candy back at Yamaguchi like it was on fire. “He said that it was an apology for what happened on Friday, whatever that was.”
“Right,” Tsukishima said faintly. “Of course.” Regret lingered bitterly in the back of his mouth. Leave it to Kageyama to drive him crazy even when he wasn’t around.
Yamaguchi gave him another significant look. “Figure it out, Tsukki. There’s seriously no reason to be a jerk to Kageyama, at least not over this.”
Despite Yamaguchi’s advice, Tsukishima continued to avoid Kageyama whenever he could. Yamaguchi could lecture and make all the assumptions he wanted, but he still didn’t know what was going on with the two of them. It would be better this way for both him and Kageyama, Tsukishima knew. Dragging out their nonexistent relationship was pointless.
He kept the candy in his bag, unopened. He couldn’t bring himself to eat it, but he also didn’t want to throw it out or give it to someone else either. It felt wrong, which, considering it was just candy and pretty cheap candy at that, was ridiculous.
“Tsukishima!” a cheerful voice called out. “Wait up!” Tsukishima turned to see Yachi hurrying after him, a bundle of papers in her arms.
“Yachi,” Tsukishima greeted, coming to a stop so she could catch up with him. “Did you need me for something?”
“I just wanted to talk,” she said, smiling up at him. “We used to see each other all the time at practice, but since the third years have retired, I don’t see much of anyone except for Yamaguchi since we’re in the same class.”
“Three years of putting up with the volleyball team wasn’t enough for you, huh?” Tsukishima said, a small wry smile tugging at his lips. “I’m surprised you’re not relishing in the break you’re finally getting now.”
“Don’t be like that!” Yachi said, mock admonishment in her voice. She lightly smacked Tsukishima’s side, and he made a show of reeling away from her as if she had shoved him with all her might. That earned him a roll of her eyes but also another smile.
“The volleyball team was—is—great, you know,” she said. “I’m glad I was able to spend time with you and everyone else. And maybe it’s silly, but I already miss going to practice and keeping track of all the stats—not that the current managers aren’t doing a good job, too!”
“Of course,” Tsukishima said. “They learned all their color-coding from the best, didn’t they?”
“That color-coding is really useful, I’ll have you know!” Yachi said, with a prideful puff of her chest. She laughed right after, the uncharacteristic showiness deflating out of her. “It’s really due to Shimizu-san though. She taught me so much!”
“And you added your own knowledge for all the younger managers,” Tsukishima told her. “Don’t diminish your own work, Yachi.”
Her cheeks pinkened at his words, but instead of shying away like she would have before, she just looked proud. “You’re right, Tsukishima. Thanks.”
Tsukishima shrugged. It was just the truth after all. “How have you been recently anyway? I know Yamaguchi’s been running around trying to cram everything he can for his entrance exams.”
“I’ve been good!” Yachi said. “There’s a lot to go over for the university I’m aiming for, but I think I have things under control for the most part.”
“That’s good,” Tsukishima said with a nod. “I’m sure you’ll be able to get into the school you want without any issues.”
“I stopped by the practice gym yesterday, too,” she said. “Just to say a quick hello of course! I only expected to see the juniors, but Hinata and Kageyama were there, too!”
Tsukishima tensed at the mention of the gym, but tried not to let it show in his expression or words when he replied. “The idiot duo are probably practicing more now than before since they don’t have to worry about their studies anymore.”
Humming lightly, Yachi nodded her agreement. “You’re probably right. They were really energetic during practice.”
Suddenly she shook her head, as if to erase what she had just said. “Or, well, Hinata was, at least, but that’s nothing new. Kageyama looked a little upset about something, though.”
Tsukishima felt his breath catch in his throat. Yachi was smart and observant, but she wasn’t the type to meddle in other people’s affairs, at least he hoped not. “That’s just how he looks,” he said, keeping his tone purposefully light. “All the frowning just froze the king’s face that way.”
Yachi was looking at Tsukishima closely now, her eyes clear and unsettlingly aware. It almost seemed like she was disappointed in him, but Tsukishima really hoped that was just his overactive imagination betraying him.
“You think so?” she asked. “I suppose you’d know more than me since the two of you got so close this year.”
“It wasn’t like that,” Tsukishima said. What was with everyone trying to push together him and Kageyama? They hadn’t even been dating. At best, they were just convenient to each other. “We haven’t seen much of each other recently anyway.”
“Don’t you think that might be the problem, then?” she asked. Tsukishima wondered if he could just walk away from the conversation right now; his legs were way longer than hers, so he could probably get away from her easily enough.
Instead, he said, “We really weren’t anything like what you think.” Tsukishima turned his head away so he wouldn’t have to look her in the eye as he spoke. If he did, he would probably just end up admitting way more than he wanted to. “And maybe he’s a little grouchier than usual now, but that’s just because he’s used to getting what he wants. It’s better for the both of us if we don’t see each other anymore.”
Tsukishima braced himself for Yachi’s lecture, or even worse, her pity, but in the end, all she said was, “Okay.”
“I think Kageyama would really like to see you, though,” she added. “We’re graduating soon, so it would be better not to leave with any bad feelings, right?”
“...I’ll keep it in mind,” Tsukishima said, as noncommittal as he could make it without being rude. Unlike Yamaguchi, Yachi had never done anything to earn his ire and didn’t deserve to be snapped at.
“It’ll be okay,” she said, patting him on the back. Somehow, despite the sweeping differences in their heights, Tsukishima felt like a little kid being consoled. “I’m sure things will work out in the end!”
Where are you right now?
Don’t avoid my texts like before either. Yamaguchi said you were taking a break from studying today anyway.
Tsukishima you four-eyed bastard answer me
I’m at home. Where else would I be right now?
Come out and meet me at the park.
Why should I?
It was the middle of the week, and Tsukishima had barely seen Kageyama in over two weeks now. He probably shouldn’t have even come out today either, but Tsukishima knew he was weak when it came to Kageyama, even if he hated it.
At the very least, Tsukishima was determined to end things once and for all. The last time he had just run away without any explanation and left Kageyama in the lurch. Tonight he was going to make a clean break. Kageyama was stubborn, but he wasn’t necessarily unreasonable. Tsukishima was sure that he’d agree that there was no point in continuing to meet up.
It wasn’t late, but the sun had already set, so the only illumination came from the buzzing electric lights spread throughout the park. Kageyama was already there when Tsukishima arrived, sitting at a bench near the entrance and scowling down at his phone as he replied to a message.
“I’m here,” Tsukishima said, catching Kageyama’s attention as he walked up. “What did you want?”
Kageyama blinked up at Tsukishima, as if confused by the question. “I wanted to see you.” The derisive obviously was unspoken, but Tsukishima heard it loud and clear all the same.
Tsukishima sighed. Sometimes he felt like conversations with Kageyama just went in circles. “Okay, but did you want to talk about something? Or did you just want to waste my time? I have things I could be doing right now.”
“Sit first,” Kageyama said, patting the space next to him impatiently. “Or are you going to make me look up at you all night?”
“You should be used to it,” Tsukishima said. “Seeing as you’ll never reach my height.”
Kageyama glared up at him, scowling. “Sit.”
Tsukishima sat, keeping as much space between the two of them as he could. “Alright, I’m sitting. Now tell me what you want.”
“Why have you been avoiding me?” The king was blunt and to the point as always, which made things for Tsukishima simultaneously less and more painful. “You were fine until that one night, and then it was like you didn’t want to see me at all.”
“I haven’t been avoiding you,” Tsukishima lied. “I’ve just been busy with other things. I’m not going to practice anymore, so of course we wouldn’t see each other as much.”
“I’m not an idiot, you know,” Kageyama snapped. Tsukishima didn’t look at him, but he was close enough to feel Kageyama’s barely restrained irritation. “If you didn’t want to see me anymore, then you should have just said so.”
“Fine.” Tsukishima resisted the urge to cross his arms over his chest like a petulant child. “I didn’t want to see you anymore. Are you happy now? If so, I’m going to leave.” He made to stand up, but Kageyama’s hand on his arm tugged him back into his seat.
“No,” Kageyama said. His hand was a vice against Tsukishima’s arm. “That’s a terrible answer, and I think you’re lying anyway.”
“Well that’s the only answer you’re going to get,” Tsukishima said, roughly tugging his arm out of Kageyama’s grasp. “I gave you what you wanted, so now I’m going to go.” He stood up, but Kageyama was faster, jumping up to block his path.
“Tell me the truth,” Kageyama said. His eyes were a steely blue under the weak lamp lights, and they glinted with ferocity, like Tsukishima was an opponent on the other side of the net that he had to take down. “I’ll keep you here all night if I have to. You’re not allowed to run away, not again.”
“You really want to know?” Tsukishima spat. Anger simmered under his skin, just at the edge of boiling over, and he clenched his fists so he wouldn’t do something stupid, like deck Kageyama. “I stopped coming over and meeting up with you because there’s no point to any of it now. We’re graduating soon, and after that, whatever we had will be finished.”
“We won’t see each other after graduation,” he continued, the words spilling out before he could stop them. “You’re going off to Tokyo for training and to join a professional team. I’ll be in Sendai, toiling away at a university degree and whatever else. Those two futures aren’t compatible! We’re going to be hundreds of miles from each other with different desires and goals. You won’t have the time or motivation to even think about me.”
“Why drag things out when we don’t need to?” Tsukishima said, voice quietening. “Five or six more nights together are meaningless when things are going to end anyway. It’s better to end things now, when we have time to get used to the change.” He felt sick to his stomach even saying these thoughts aloud, but they were true, and he couldn’t take them back now.
Kageyama was silent for a while, long enough that Tsukishima was beginning to wish the ground would just swallow him whole. I never should have come out tonight, he thought resentfully.
“Don’t I get a say in this, too?” Kageyama asked finally. Tsukishima knew he was angry, could hear it in his voice and see it in his body language. “There’s two of us, so you shouldn’t have decided all of that on your own. And you’re stupid if you actually thought those things would be big enough problems to make me not want to see you anymore.”
Involuntarily, Tsukishima started laughing, not out of amusement, but from incredulity. Here was another difference between the two of them. Obstacles were really nothing to idiots like Kageyama. They thought they could just bulldoze through them with nothing but determination alone, but Tsukishima knew better.
“You can believe whatever you want, but that doesn’t mean that it’ll be true,” Tsukishima said. “It’s not going to be easy like you think, you know? And the effort will probably be more hassle than it’s worth. I’m just trying to save both of us some time and energy.”
“Why do you keep saying that?” Kageyama demanded. “You don’t know how things will turn out either. A lot of things are hard, but that doesn’t mean we should give up on them. I want to keep seeing you, and I’ll put in whatever effort necessary to make it work. And you should too instead of trying to throw things away before they even happen!”
Abruptly, Tsukishima felt unspeakably tired. He was tired of this conversation, tired of his ridiculous, tumultuous feelings for Kageyama, and most importantly, tired of having to think about the future at all.
“Why do you even care so much?” Tsukishima knew he sounded desperate and that his voice was too loud for such a public space, especially at this time of night, but he couldn’t hold himself back. “How can you even say that the effort is worth it?”
Kageyama was looking at him as if he wasn’t even speaking Japanese anymore. Bitterly, Tsukishima knew that Kageyama wouldn’t be able to answer him anyway. There was no reason to cling so tightly to their sham of a relationship or even try to continue it when the odds were so against it.
“Tsukishima.” Kageyama paused and shook his head. “Kei. I like you, so of course it’s worth it.”
“What?” Tsukishima felt like he had received a spike with his face or been slammed face first into the ground. The feeling of sudden disorientation and shock tumbled him head over feet, and any response he could have formed withered uselessly in his head.
“I like you,” Kageyama repeated, like it was the simplest thing in the word and not a confession that had ruined Tsukishima’s capacity for intelligent speech. “And I want to keep being with you, even after graduation, even if it’s hard.”
“I have to go,” Tsukishima said. When in doubt, there was always the coward’s way out: run. He couldn’t focus enough to think, much less respond to Kageyama, which meant he had to get away as quickly as possible.
He took a step back, and then another, but before he could turn around and make good on his declaration, Kageyama was on top of him, tackling him down into the grass.
“No!” Kageyama forced Tsukishima down and kept him still by sitting on top of him, bracketing Tsukishima’s hips with his thighs. “I’m not going to let you run away again! We haven’t even finished talking, so if I let you go now, you’ll probably just drop out of school to get away from me!”
Breath knocked out of him, for a moment, Tsukishima couldn’t say anything in response even if he wanted to. Instead, he flung his arm over eyes, so he wouldn’t have to look at Kageyama. He was already all too aware of the other boy’s heavy weight keeping him pinned.
“I can’t be near you right now,” he croaked out eventually. “You can’t say shit like that and expect me to be okay. If I look at you right now, I’m going to explode.” Tsukishima’s face was so hot that he was almost certain that he was running a fever.
“Then don’t look at me,” Kageyama said. “Just—just stop running away, okay? And let me be close to you. Please.” Then, he grabbed Tsukishima’s shoulders to pull him into a hug, holding him as close as he could.
Tsukishima’s face was pressed to Kageyama’s shoulder, buried in the soft folds of his hoodie. In the darkness of the fabric, he couldn’t see anything at all.
Here was a familiar shape, a familiar smell. He knew Kageyama almost as well as he knew himself. Tsukishima hadn’t realized how tightly wound he had been until the tension between his shoulder blades finally melted away. After a moment of hesitation, he wrapped his arms around Kageyama’s waist and tugged him closer.
Kageyama shifted, causing Tsukishima to tighten his arms, but it was only to get more comfortably situated, not to get away.
“Are you okay?” Kageyama brushed a hand through Tsukishima’s hair and down his neck. His fingers were a solid and warm heat as they stroked the soft hair at the base of Tsukishima’s neck.
No, Tsukishima thought, but he didn’t say anything, just buried his face deeper into Kageyama’s hoodie. He felt his shoulders loosen even more as Kageyama continued his reassuring stroking.
They sat that way for a few minutes as Tsukishima felt his heart rate calm back down. Kageyama liked him and wanted to keep being with him. He believed that they could have a future together, despite everything indicating otherwise. It was almost too good to be true, and Tsukishima was nearly too pessimistic to even believe it.
“I’m surprised you remembered my first name,” he said thoughtlessly, brain still running too quickly for him to filter his words like he usually would.
Idiot, Tsukishima thought, and clearly Kageyama was thinking the same thing because the hand in his hair suddenly tightened its grip.
“Sorry,” Tsukishima blurted out. He could feel blood heating his cheeks, and internally, he just wanted to shrivel up and disappear. “Don’t listen to me right now. I’m just—“ He couldn’t think of a way to finish that sentence without embarrassing himself even more.
“It’s fine,” Kageyama said. He pet the back of Tsukishima’s head, as if to apologize for the prior rough handling. He hesitated for a moment before continuing, voice reluctant. “You … don’t have to agree with me either, you know. Just because I want to be together doesn’t mean you have to.”
Tsukishima wasn’t even sure what he wanted anymore. He hadn’t even realized that keeping their relationship intact past graduation had been a potential option. It still seemed unfathomable regardless.
So Tsukishima continued to keep quiet, breathing in Kageyama’s warm, familiar scent and guiltily relishing in his usual furnace-like warmth. He had to get used to the idea first, and then he could think about it more clearly.
Tsukishima was a planner. The future had too many variables, and if he was going to get what he wanted and where he wanted to be, he had to make an effort to plan out the steps to get him there. He had plans for university and his career, but could he plan for a relationship?
We’d have to coordinate our schedules to find time to meet, Tsukishima thought. Then there’s the money we’d have to save to see each other. Would it be possible to alternate who visits whom? Will we even have any time for each other with everything else going on?
Thinking things through, the idea still frightened Tsukishima, but it no longer felt impossible. Like Kageyama had said, it would be hard, but that didn’t mean that he should just give up on it before he even had a chance to try to make it work.
If I set all of this up, Tsukishima thought, the path forward for us will be easier. It wasn’t a guarantee of success, but it was better than what he had before, and he would gladly take what he could get.
“Tobio,” Tsukishima said, lifting his head away from Kageyama’s shoulder so he could be heard. The syllables of Kageyama’s first name were new and awkward in his mouth. He didn’t know if he liked it, or if he’d even say it again past this moment. It felt like too much. “I… like you, too.” He felt stupid right after saying it, but it was too late to take it back. His confession was in the open air now. “And I want to try.”
For a moment, there was only silence, but then, there was a low, pleased hum right in Tsukishima’s ear. Oh, thank god, Tsukishima thought, partly because that meant he wouldn’t have to repeat himself and partly because that meant Kageyama was happy. It was a night for embarrassing moments, apparently.
“Kei,” Kageyama sighed, his voice soft, intimate. Tsukishima shivered and tightened his hold on Kageyama. He was going to have to ban Kageyama from using his first name, especially if he was going to say it like that.
Tsukishima opened his mouth to say just that, already prepared for an argument, but Kageyama’s hand on his cheek stopped him, all of his words dispelled in a rush of air instead.
Kageyama tilted Tsukishima’s face up so that they could meet each other’s eyes. “Don’t forget,” he said. “If you’re worried about what’s going to happen, just think about me.”
Then, Kageyama bent his head and kissed him, coaxing his mouth open with a gentle swipe of his tongue. It was warm and familiar, a welcome after their long weeks apart.
Tsukishima closed his eyes and gave in. Thankfully, it seemed like they would be able to have more time together than he thought.