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Fight it Together

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Tobio had been alone for most of his 29 years. That didn’t make this weekend any easier.

Not that he spent every day with Shouyou. More like… every other day. Sometimes two days in a row. And if Charlie was gone for the weekend? Every day.

So, most days.

But this, this was different. This was a whole four days and three nights alone after not being alone for eight months.

Was he counting the almost three months they weren’t together because both of them had their heads up their asses? When he asked Shouyou if he could just keep the tally going, Shou told him to do whatever he wanted.

It’s not like he didn’t love Shouyou with his entire heart that entire time. He counted it.

Why was he alone, here at the end of April, phone sitting on the counter next to him at work, waiting for Shouyou to send him a message? His boyfriend was at a conference. Because he was the best teacher at his school, Tobio assumed, they’d rewarded him by sending him to Palm Springs to learn about how to incorporate more technology into the classroom. And Shouyou’s reward was Tobio’s punishment.

And here it was, the aforementioned weekend. Well, technically not the weekend yet as it was Friday. Shouyou was already at day 1 of the conference and besides the usual “have a good flight” and “I landed safely!” texts, they hadn’t communicated since.

Tobio couldn’t concentrate. He was staring at the cart of books he was supposed to be organizing. Maybe if he scowled hard enough, they’d sort themselves?

He was so obvious in his fluorescent angst that even Suga noticed.

“Tobio,” he said, almost a shout. Tobio turned his glare away from the books to find a new target. Suga just laughed as he locked on.

“What?” he growled.

“I said your name three times,” Suga said.

“What?” Tobio repeated.

Suga rolled his eyes and sighed, like Tobio was being the annoying one. He took a seat on the edge of the counter, as Tobio looked him up and down, still waiting for the answer to his question. He decided to ask it again.

What?” he said, once more.

“See?” Suga said, with a raised eyebrow. “It’s not fun to repeat yourself three times, is it?”

Tobio turned his back on the gray-haired menace. Why did he even try? He wasn’t in the right mindspace to play Suga’s games today. He was… sad? Lonely?

“You okay?” Suga prodded, gently, for him, which was to say, less annoying than usual.

“Shouyou isn’t here,” Tobio muttered.

Suga looked around with a stupid look on his face. “Is he usually?” he asked. “Does he come to your work often?”

Tobio huffed and decided it was a good time for a break. He went to the hallway behind the sorting room to go to the staff bathroom.

He pushed open the brown door with its flaking paint and was just about to unzip his pants at the urinal when Suga’s voice, just over his shoulder, made him almost piss himself.

“Do you mean you miss him?”

“Christ!” Tobio said, jumping about a foot in the air.

Suga laughed again. Why was everything so fucking funny, all the fucking time? “Just Suga is fine.”

Tobio went into the stall to get away from him. Sat down on the toilet. Locked the door after himself.

“I’m not talking to you,” he said.

He heard Suga use the urinal like he didn’t give a fuck that Tobio was hiding from him. Tobio heard him flush and the sink turned on as Suga washed his hands. Tobio heard him get a paper towel from the dispenser.

“Okay Tobio,” Suga said.

Tobio heard the door squeak open and swing shut. He counted to thirty. Then he opened the stall door.

Suga was leaned against the sink.

“Fucking shit,” Tobio gasped, backing up against the wall. “Don’t you have a fucking job to do?”

Suga tittered. “Same as you, I guess,” he said, looking at his fingernail as if it were personally offending him. Tobio watched him use the middle finger on his right hand to scrape underneath the thumbnail on his left.

Tobio hip-checked him to get to the sink, where he washed his hands. He got his own paper towel.

“I can’t believe you pretended to leave,” he huffed.

Suga held his hand out, checking it for his required level of perfection. “You gonna tell me what’s going on? Or am I going to just keep following you around all day?”

Tobio weighed the options in his mind as he returned to his back room. He could try calling Suga’s bluff, and see if he finally got fired for not doing his fucking job.

But Suga hadn’t been fired yet, and he hadn’t been doing his job for a while. Maybe ever? Tobio sighed. The other option was to actually tell Suga how he was feeling. Fuck.

“I miss Shouyou. He’s away for a conference. And I miss him,” Tobio grumbled.

Suga suddenly had a pitying look on his face. “How long has it been?” he asked.

Tobio did the math. Shouyou’s flight was at eight in the morning, and now it was four in the afternoon.

“Eight hours?”

Suga blinked slowly. “Eight hours?” he repeated.

“Yeah,” Tobio sighed. Man, maybe it felt good to share how he felt with someone? He definitely felt better.

“Tobio,” Suga said. “Are you fucking serious?”

Now it was Tobio’s turn to blink. “What?”

“You’re away from each other almost eight hours every day you go to work, aren’t you?” Suga asked, incredulously.

Tobio started to get flushed. “Yes, but—”

“But what?” Suga nearly squealed. “I thought he had been gone for days and it hasn’t even been one!” He went to leave. Before he hit the door, he spun on his heel and pointed at Tobio dramatically. “I can’t believe you!”

He threw the door open and exited stage right. The door swung shut after him.

Tobio took a deep breath. Held it for four seconds. Exhaled. Just like Dr. Takeda had taught him.

Tobio returned to his back room and thought about working. At least he was almost done for the day. At least Suga wasn’t bothering him anymore. Then his phone went off with a notification.

Tobio looked at the text. It was a picture. As Tobio opened the photo his mouth dropped open.

Shouyou was poolside, in sunglasses and swim shorts. He had a shit-eating grin on his face and sunblock smeared all over his chest, barbells in his nipples glinting in the afternoon sun. The accompanying message said, wish you were here.

Tobio followed the smears of sunblock across Shouyou’s chest and down the line of his abs. His eyes lingered on the faint trail of red-orange hair below his navel that disappeared into his waistband. Tobio’s mouth was dry, so dry. He replied.

>> I wish I were there too

Shouyou: I love the desert, I think

Tobio loved whatever Shouyou loved. He did an internet search for “best desert in the United States.”

Number one in romantic desert getaways: Sedona, Arizona. He looked at the pictures. Fucking beautiful. He started looking up flights. Shouyou’s birthday was less than two months away.

Shouyou: What are you up to?

>> Working. Unlike some people

Shouyou: Conferences are technically work

A string of emojis followed. Face with hearts all over, kiss print, face with tongue sticking out, cat with heart eyes. Tobio smiled.

>> Doesn’t look like work when you look like that

Shouyou: show me how you work

Tobio looked around. He even opened his door to look out at the reference desk. Suga was talking to a patron. Nobody was looking, he could take a selfie.

He opened the front facing camera. He almost yelled at the sight on the screen. Not only was he scowling, the angle of the lens was beneath him, so he looked like a nightmare. How a brilliant sunbeam like Shouyou even wanted to spend time with a storm cloud like him was beyond his comprehension. He raised the camera so it was at eye level. He still looked mad, but at least now it wasn’t mad and from a terrible angle. He tried to relax his face. He settled for a neutral smile. He snapped the picture, sending it to Shouyou. His first selfie text message.

Shouyou sent back a “laughing so hard I’m crying” emoji.

>> Fuck you then

Shouyou: come ON Tobio, I sent you a nice one.

Tobio started to sweat a little. He looked back a few messages so he could look at Shouyou’s picture again. His mouth wasn’t dry this time. Now it was watering. Tobio’s thumb lightly traced the screen, which made the picture zoom in. On Shouyou’s nipples. Pink and stiff and metal and…

Tobio put the phone face down on his desk and willed his dick not to get hard. Not at work. He thought about the Dewey Decimal System. About the octopus mural on the first floor. His dick was still twitching. Time to bring out the big guns.

He imagined covering the reference desk for Suga. On a Monday afternoon.  A line of angry patrons, all with requests for obscure—

Okay. He was okay.  Arousal, dispersed. Tobio let out a breath he didn’t even know he was holding.

He was incapable of taking a nice photo. There had to be some sort of rules or something he didn’t know about. He clicked on his phone, pulled up the search bar again, after saving the flight information for the most romantic desert in the United States.

Googled “how to take a sexy selfie.” What the fuck was a thirst trap?

Okay, it turns out there were rules for how to look sexy on film. Tobio turned the front camera on again. He pointed at himself, trying to find his “angles.” He heard a noise just outside his door. Fuck. He turned the phone off again and decided his back room was too scary of a place to try this.  His phone went off again.

A photo, of Shouyou looking over his sunglasses, one eyebrow raised in a challenge. The accompanying text said I’m waiting.

Tobio’s competitive side reared its ugly head. He got up from his desk and headed to find the “best light” where he could “tilt his chin.” He was at the Seattle Central Library, for fuck’s sake. There was plenty of fucking fantastic light. All the fucking tourists seemed to think so. Yeah, he was going to selfie the fuck out of himself. Shouyou would get thirsty as fuck in his trap. He wouldn’t know what fucking hit him.

----------

Shouyou could get used to the conference life.

Man, how was he supposed to know the conference didn’t actually start until Saturday? The school had paid for three nights at the hotel, not two. He was going to the welcoming cocktail reception up to the closing banquet and everything in between.

He got to Palm Springs with a couple hours to kill. Of course he was spending it poolside. Come on, that’s a no brainer. Where he lived the sun was out like, half the year. This was the fucking desert. It was hot and so was he.

After throwing the gauntlet to Tobio, he went in the pool to cool off a bit. The sun was nice but even in almost May it was near one hundred degrees. He did a few laps and then decided it was probably time to order from the poolside bar. It was half past four in the afternoon. Close enough to five.

By the time he returned to his chaise lounge with something icy and fruity in his hand, there was a message from Tobio waiting for him, sent nearly thirty minutes ago.

Damn.

Tobio was bathed in red light, the different shades lighting up his face. His lips were slightly parted, chin tilted up, eyes dark and hooded. One hand held the camera and the other was touching his neck lightly. Shouyou almost dropped the phone in his haste to respond.

>> Fucking hell, Tobio

Shouyou wrapped his towel around his waist. He had to get back to his room, stat. He looked around. Nobody was watching him as he took a healthy swig of his piña colada, giving himself a brain freeze instantly.

At least that calmed his dick down.

He hurried to his hotel room, thankful that the school’s budget had allowed him to have his own place. It would be best if he were alone for what was about to go down. He heard his phone go off as he was struggling with his keycard. It was hard to open his door with one hand while he was holding his drink and his phone with the other.

He finally got the door open and checked his phone. Another fucking picture. Fuck.

Tobio was home now, done with work for the day. He was laying back on his bed, skin illuminated by the late afternoon sunlight coming through his open window. His work shirt was unbuttoned to his waist, and the hand that had grazed his neck before was now slipped inside his shirt, lingering on his chest. Shouyou could see only a peek of skin, teasing him. It was enough.

Shouyou laid back on the hotel’s plush queen-sized bed. He wanted to appreciate the soft luxury, but he had bigger fish to fry. He threw his head back over the pillows, and held the phone up over himself. He bit his lip seductively, pinching his right nipple between his fingers. He was able to fit it all into the frame. He hit send.

As he was waiting for Tobio to respond, he took a shower. He was starting to get aroused in anticipation of what he assumed was coming next. By the time he had washed the sunblock off his body, his dick was rock hard. Shouyou stopped himself from jacking off under the warm water. He wanted to save it for Tobio, the man earned it with the fucking art he was sending.

He brought his towel with him, and laid back down on the bed. He picked up his phone and of course, there was a photo waiting for him.

Tobio was shirtless now, staring directly at the camera. His hand was below his waist. In his pants. His eyes told Shouyou that he wasn’t touching his leg.

Fuck, Shouyou wanted him bad. He only realized he was stroking his dick when he looked down. He used the hand not stroking his dick to take a photo. Of him stroking his dick.

The response was immediate. Tobio was video calling. Shouyou answered, but he didn’t stop what his hand was doing.

“Shouyou,” Tobio started, and then gasped. “You—”

Shouyou cleared his throat. “You do it, too, Tobio,” Shouyou said. “Let me see you.”

He watched Tobio move the camera so Shouyou could watch him unbutton his pants. He pulled his boxer briefs down underneath his cock. His hard dick fell out over the elastic. Shouyou moaned and his hand sped up, lubricated by the precum that was dripping out of his slit. He made sure Tobio could see.

“Oh, Fuck, Shou,” Tobio moaned, as he grabbed himself, rubbing his length from root to tip, collecting the drips that trickled down the side and twisting his wrist over the head.

“Yeah, Tobio,” Shouyou moaned right back. “Let me see you, let me hear you.” He sped up his hand as he watched Tobio writhe in pleasure.

“Wait,” Tobio said, and Shouyou watched him put the camera down. Shouyou was looking at the ceiling of Tobio’s bedroom. He slowed down his hand on his dick. He wanted to wait to see what his boyfriend had in store for him.

Tobio came back into the frame. His pants were completely off now. He leaned the camera against the books on his nightstand, seemingly trying to find the right angle. He laid back on the bed, pillows stacked beneath his head so he could keep looking at the camera. His dick was still standing straight up, his knees were bent, his feet flat on the mattress. He had something in his hand and Shouyou almost choked when he saw it was the lube.

Tobio lubed up both his hands. One hand went around his cock, jerking himself slowly. The other hand made its way between his legs, one finger pressing against his entrance. Shouyou couldn’t believe what he was seeing. His dick twitched at the sight of Tobio sinking one finger inside himself with ease.

“Fuck,” Shouyou said, and began pumping his dick in earnest.

“I wish it was you, Shou,” Tobio moaned, moving his finger in and out of himself as his dick continued fucking into his fist.

“Me too,” Shouyou breathed. Fuck, he was so turned on but he didn’t want to finish before the show was over. “Put another one in, Tobio,” he added.

Tobio slid a second finger inside himself and moaned at the stretch. Shouyou was so hot now. Watching Tobio’s tight hole clench around his fingers, listening to the noises he was moaning… it was fucking obscene. Shouyou imagined it as he stroked his dick, remembered how tight Tobio was the last time they fucked. Just as tight as the first time they fucked.

“Is it good, Tobio?” Shouyou asked, voice low and husky. “As good as my fingers?” Tobio shook his head. “As good as my dick?”

“Never, never, Shou,” Tobio whined, speeding up his hand.

The slick squelch of the lube was closest to the phone camera and was the soundtrack of Shouyou’s own pursuit of his desire.

“Fuck yourself, Tobio,” Shouyou demanded. “Harder.”

Tobio moaned louder, and moved his fingers in and out quickly, his dick thrusting into his fist harder and faster.

“Fuck, Shouyou, I’m close,” he groaned, and it was so fucking hot it rocketed Shouyou to the edge.

“You gonna come for me, Tobio?” Shouyou gasped, and Tobio nodded. “That’s my good boy.”

That’s all it took, Tobio’s back was arching and Shouyou could see the gobs of cum spurting out of his dick, over his fist, and onto his own chest. Tobio slid his hand through the mess slowly as he wrung the last of his cum out of his dick.

“I’m so close, Tobio,” Shouyou said, pumping his dick furiously. He watched as Tobio wiped his fingering hand on his pants, discarded at the foot of the bed, and picked up the camera. He brought it to his face so Shouyou could see.

Could see him bring his hand that was covered in his own cum up to his own lips.

Keeping eye contact, he licked his hand clean.

Shouyou couldn’t hold back. He spurted sticky white ropes all over himself, as Tobio hummed in appreciation. Shouyou’s eyes rolled back in his head as lightning flashed behind his eyelids.

“Fuck, Shou, is that all for me?” Tobio gasped.

Shouyou could only moan brokenly in reply. He fell back, trying to catch his breath. When he opened his eyes, Tobio was watching him intently.

“I have—to go—to fucking work now, Tobio,” Shouyou said, in between inhales. Tobio’s smirk said it all.

“I win, then?”

“I’m getting you back,” Shouyou declared, trying to sit up on his elbows and failing miserably. “Tonight.”

“Don’t threaten me with a good time,” Tobio said. “Talk to you when you’re done with work.”

He flashed a self-satisfied grin, licking his lips, and only after Shouyou had squawked in outrage did he end the call.

Shouyou looked down at himself. Time for another fucking shower. Damnit, Tobio.

----------

Two weeks after Shouyou got back from his conference, it was Charlotte’s birthday. She was turning five. 

Not only was she turning five, she was also graduating from preschool in a few weeks. This made her birthday party a bit of a farewell for her and her friends. So Shouyou went all out, reserving a picnic area at a local park and getting an inflatable jumper. He invited her entire preschool class and her teachers.

Unfortunately, Charlotte wanted to invite her grandparents and mother too.

Tobio wasn’t sure if he should even show up, with Shouyou’s family and Lysia being there. But Shouyou had a pained expression on his face and asked him to please lend a hand, that a party for twenty four- and five-year-olds was too much for one person to manage. Tobio didn’t know how he could help with the kids, he didn’t know anything about kids.

But he sure as hell could go to Costco and buy a bunch of pizzas, sandwiches, chips, drinks, ice, and cake. So that’s what he fucking did.

His plan was to make sure the food and drinks stayed stocked, and that they got their deposit back on the picnic site by keeping everything spotless. His secondary goal was to help Shouyou stay happy.

He was standing under a tree, watching the picnic tables, making sure he was fulfilling his goals. From a safe distance.

The party was a mixture of two themes: Sesame Street and Disney Princesses. The balloons’ color scheme hurt. Don’t even get him started on the tablecloths. He looked down and blinked a few times, trying hard to clear his eyes of the discordant hues while simultaneously attempting to blend into the tree trunk he was leaned up against. I should have worn brown, he thought to himself bitterly.

“Who are you pissed at?”

Tobio looked up from the ground and into the eyes of a tall guy with some crazy ass black hair and an all-knowing smirk. Tobio hated him instantly.

“Kuroo, leave Tobio alone.”

Tobio turned at the mention of his name, looking to the left of smug dickhead guy, and there was a shorter dude with two-tone hair, looking at a Nintendo Switch, not even pretending to be interested in the party. He paused whatever game he was playing, and looked at Tobio with his emotionless eyes. Aw, fuck, it was Kodzuken. Oh shit, Tobio looked back at the cocky asshole. That’s his fiancé.

“Congratulations on the engagement,” Tobio stammered, trying to remove the “fuck you” from his face. It wasn’t easy. Kuroo’s eyebrows hit his bangs.

“Wow, what a change of heart,” he scoffed, joining Tobio against the tree.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t recognize you,” Tobio said. “I’m a bit on edge.”

“Because the assholes are here,” Kenma agreed, looking back at his game.

Tobio nodded. He knew Kenma knew everything about everything.

“We’ve never actually met,” Tobio said. “I’m Tobio Kageyama. Shouyou’s boyfriend.”

“Kenma Kozume,” he said. “Shouyou’s best friend.”

They both looked at Kuroo, who shrugged instead of introducing himself.

“How does he do it?” Tobio asked, looking at Shouyou hugging his mother hello. “My parents just ignored me growing up and I don’t speak to them. They actively abused him and he still invites them over.”

Kenma looked at where Tobio was staring. “He’s a better person than you. Better than me, too. He even invited Lysia. Like that fucking asshole deserves to be here.”

“Holy shit, kitten,” Kuroo said. “I’ve never heard you so pissed before.”

“Yeah, well then you’ve never heard me talk about Lysia before,” Kenma replied. “She tried to destroy him and almost succeeded.”

The three of them watched Shouyou, who was now doing cartwheels in a grassy field. Charlotte was trying to imitate him and falling a lot. They were both laughing.

“I didn’t want to come,” Tobio admitted. “His parents don’t even know, he’s… um…”

“Gay?” Kenma asked. “Yeah, no. His mom knows a little but thinks it was a phase. His dad has no clue. They’re all fairly homophobic. His mom found him fucking a guy and threw him out. Did you guys seriously not talk about this?” He fixed Tobio with a withering stare.

“Yes! Mostly. I don’t really talk to him about his family. I get too angry.” Tobio was starting to get a little angry now, too. Defensive.

Kuroo snorted. “Just because a conversation makes you mad doesn’t mean it’s not worth having.”

“I already have a therapist, thank you,” Tobio snapped.

He stomped off to refresh the drinks and snacks. He looked around the party. Shouyou’s parents, Shouyou’s sister and her husband, Lysia and her asshole boyfriend that threatened Shouyou last year. He looked over at the tree. The two other men where right where he left them. Tobio sighed in frustration and stomped right back to where he started.

“Realized they’re everywhere, didn’t you?” Kuroo drawled, holding back a full on laughing fit. This motherfucker.

“Be nice,” Kenma admonished, with zero fire behind it.

“I just don’t have anywhere else I can be,” Tobio said, through gritted teeth. “I have to keep an eye on the food and drinks. That’s my job. Besides making Shouyou happy. That’s also part of my job. I guess.” He was pretty embarrassed to add the second part. There was something about Kenma that made him want to spill his guts. Maybe it was the eyes.

They sat in silence, Kuroo looking over the party, Tobio staring at the grass, Kenma tapping away at his videogame. After a while, Tobio broke the impasse.

“Why are you two here? It’s a five-year-old’s birthday party. Everyone else has a kid,” he looked around. Natsu didn’t have a kid but she was the aunt. That had to count for something?

“I’m Charlotte’s godfather,” Kenma said. “I’m basically family.”

Tobio nodded his head. He went back to his silent staring at the floor.

Just then, Shouyou bounded up to the three of them.

“Kenma! Kuroo!” he exclaimed, hugging them both. “I see you met Tobio.” Shouyou looked around quickly and pressed a kiss into Tobio’s cheek after he determined the coast was clear. “How much has Kuroo pissed you off already?” he asked in a half-whisper. Kuroo heard him and threw his head back in laughter, hands on his hips like he was having a blast.

“He’s insufferable,” Tobio agreed. “How is it going?”

“I want to get in the jumper but there’s too many kids,” Shouyou said with a gleam in his eye. “I’m hoping I can get in there when we serve cake. I’d prefer jumping to cake any day.”

“What time did you want to do the cake?” Tobio asked with a frown. The party had already been going for a couple of hours.

“Soon, I guess,” Shouyou shrugged. “I can’t believe you bought two.”

Tobio had gone back and forth on either chocolate and vanilla at the store for a while before deciding to just get both. There were nearly fifty people at the party. They could handle two cakes.

“I can set up the candles,” Tobio said. “I should refill the coolers anyway.” He looked around to make sure nobody was watching and kissed Shouyou’s forehead.

----------

“He seems nice,” Kuroo leered, as soon as Tobio was out of earshot.

“You are the worst,” Shouyou said, hitting him in the stomach. “You know you weren’t even invited. Only Kenma.” He threw an arm around Kenma’s shoulder.

“Things going okay?” Kenma asked, not even looking up from the screen.

“It’s fine. You know how it is. They’re assholes but they’re family.” Shouyou looked over at his mother chatting up some of Charlotte’s classmate’s parents. Lysia, Grant, and Charlotte were over by the jumper.

“I meant with your boyfriend.” Kenma deadpanned.

“Everything’s awesome, do you see how he’s in charge of the food? He’s amazing.”

“He didn’t even know how much your parents hate gay people.” Kenma looked at Shouyou and Shouyou couldn’t take it. He looked away. “What do you guys talk about, anyway?”

Shouyou blushed.

“Okay, I see how it is then.” Kenma looked back at his game.

“We talk about lots of stuff! I thought I had mentioned the whole ‘my parents were homophobic assholes’ thing before! I can’t keep track of the reasons why they suck, okay?” Shouyou sighed. “Now I’m going to go light some candles and sing happy birthday to my daughter, please feel free to join in!” He put on his most dazzling smile and skipped over to the table, where all the candles were set up on the cakes, ready and waiting.

Where was Tobio?

He called everyone from the party to gather round while he lit the candles. Tobio had bought these too. There was a gaudy princess candle on the white cake, surrounded by five plain candles, one for each year. The chocolate one had five Sesame Street characters. He lit a flame on Elmo, Big Bird, Oscar. He smiled when he got to Bert and Ernie. The original gay power couple.

Everyone sang and Charlotte blew out the candles. It took a few tries but she made it happen. Shouyou proceeded to cut the cake, but the job was quickly taken over by his mom and Natsu, who became a cake cutting machine. Shouyou looked around, still looking for Tobio, when he realized nobody was by the jumper. Now was his chance.

He ran over to the bounce house and kicked off his shoes. He crawled up the inflatable stairs and squeezed through the opening. It was a tight fit and he wasn’t that big, how were husky kids supposed to get in here? He saw a dark shadow against the wall opposite the entrance. Aw, shit, there was someone in here after all.

Tobio stood up and helped Shouyou wriggle through the entrance.

“How did you even get in here?” Shouyou panted. “I barely fit!”

“I tied it more closed after I came in,” Tobio snickered. “I wanted a warning before we got caught.”

“Got caught doing what?” Shouyou said, with a raised eyebrow and a suggestive wiggle.

“Shou, we can fool around anywhere,” Tobio said. Shouyou shrugged. That sounded good. “But you know what we can’t do anywhere except here?” He bent his knees and started to bounce.

“Bounce around?” Shouyou said, jumping on the inflated plastic.

“I bet I can fly higher than you can,” Tobio said, an evil smile on his face.

“The fuck you can,” Shouyou said. “Have you seen this ass?”

Tobio grabbed his hands and brought him to the middle of the house. They tried measuring the height of their jumps, but it was hard when the castle was moving around so much. They gave up on the competition as they both just relished the fun of bouncing, harder and higher, as Shouyou squealed and giggled in glee. He started trying to do tricks. Splits in the air, great. An attempt at a flip had him slammed on his back in no time. But he loved it. He loved jumping. He was a kid all over again.

He looked over at Tobio. His teeth were out in a smile, too. He bent his knees and slowed his bouncing down.

“I’m going to head out before anyone figures out I’m in here,” Tobio said. “I don’t want them to… think anything.” He ducked down to loosen the opening, so he could wriggle out.

“I’m sorry,” Shouyou said, grabbing his face. “I should have warned you about my family.”

Tobio shrugged. “I was thinking about that. You probably did. You told me everything else. I just probably didn’t realize how bad it was, or something. Not your fault.” He put his feet through the hole and pushed his way out, looking so cute that Shouyou couldn’t help it. He pressed their lips together chastely.

“I love you, Tobio,” he said.

Tobio smiled. “I love you too.” And then he fell off the plastic stairs and onto his ass on the grass outside.

Shouyou howled with laughter and proceeded to jump his heart out, for as long as he could get away with it.

----------

When Kiyoko texted Tobio a week after Charlotte’s party and asked if he wanted to hang out, Tobio was wary.  They really only saw each other when one of them was in crisis. Okay, when Tobio was in crisis. Was something wrong?

Tobio suggested a walk through Discovery Park. Lots of trails. It was peaceful, a good backdrop for whatever terrible thing he was sure Kiyoko was going to tell to him about.

He met her there at seven in the morning, before the sun got too hot. Not that it would have mattered, it was pretty cloudy and the breeze rolling in from the Sound made it quite chilly. It had rained earlier in the week but now weak sunshine was poking through the gray clouds. Tobio was glad he brought his trusty windbreaker even though he knew when they started walking he’d warm up.

Kiyoko was waiting for him in the south parking lot where he’d sent her a dropped pin. She was dressed in layers, her hands shoved in her jacket pockets. Her outfit, combined with the glasses and the beanie she was wearing, made her look like a model in an ad for Pacific Northwest tourism. Visit beautiful Seattle, Washington.

“What’s wrong?” he said, as he walked up to her. She hugged him in greeting.

“For fuck’s sake, Tobio. Do you mean, ‘hello?’ or ‘how are you?’” she admonished. “Like a normal fucking person?”

Tobio rolled his eyes. “Since when am I a ‘normal fucking person?’” He even added the quote fingers. Always cite your sources.

Kiyoko rolled her eyes right back and turned toward the trail. Tobio followed after her.

“Everything is fine,” she said, keeping a brisk pace on the tree-lined lane. Tobio ambled alongside her, his longer legs ensuring a more leisurely stroll. “Maybe I just want to hang out with my favorite cousin.”

Tobio let out a tch. “Do we even have any other cousins?”

“I think Grandpa’s sister’s kids have kids,” Kiyoko said. “That makes them our cousins, right?” Tobio shrugged.

“The rest of your parents’ siblings don’t have children,” Tobio said. “Neither do any of my other aunts and uncles.”

“Honestly, why did our parents even have kids?” Kiyoko wondered with a wry smile.

“They probably shouldn’t have,” Tobio agreed, kicking a pinecone off to his left.

“You know that means we wouldn’t exist,” Kiyoko said, shaking her head.

“We’d probably exist, just as other people or something,” Tobio mumbled.

Maybe he’d be a professional athlete, a landscape painter, a famous movie star. Maybe he’d be blonde, or Black, or short.

Maybe then he could be a better person, less fucked up. Maybe then he’d know what to do with his life, maybe then he’d have a fucking plan. Maybe he’d be less hard on himself.

He could play the alternate universe game all day. Better than the actual reality game.

The two of them trotted along in silence for a minute, only the sounds of nature as their soundtrack. They passed the historic chapel, its white clapboard frame glowing ghostly in the cloudy sunlight.

“Well, I didn’t ask you out here for an existential philosophy debate,” Kiyoko began.

Tobio sighed. “Could have fooled me.”

“I haven’t seen you at all these past few months. I almost missed our childhood family Christmas parties for a minute, because at least then I fucking got to see you.”

Tobio remembered the awkward feeling of being the only two kids in a room full of slightly tipsy, emotionally distant adults. “You missed that?”

Kiyoko was looking down. “The last time I saw you, I convinced you to go talk to Dr. Takeda. Now he sees you more than I do.”

Tobio was looking down too. “I asked you to be my therapist and you said no.”

“You can’t be a therapist to your own friends and family. It’s not fucking professional,” she huffed. “Am I not allowed to miss you?”

Tobio’s eyes darted up to her face, but thankfully she was still looking down, so he could go back to doing that too. “We text almost every day.”

“You know that’s not the same,” she argued. “What if you could only text Shouyou, but couldn’t see him. Hm?”

“That’s different,” Tobio mumbled, trying to not think about the last time Shouyou had gone away and left him alone. And what texts that had led to.

“Oh, why, because you love him?” Kiyoko said in a sing-song voice. “Good to know where I stand.”

Tobio was trying to stammer out an answer but Kiyoko was laughing. Oh, it was a joke.

Tobio fucking loved jokes where he wasn’t laughing. He scowled.

“We should hang out more, is all I’m saying,” Kiyoko said. Tobio was suddenly struck with inspiration.

“You should come to Shouyou’s birthday celebration thing,” he said. “We’re having a dinner party. A few people are going to come over. We’re going to make a prime rib, drink a little, play some games.”

“Yeah, I know,” Kiyoko giggled. “Shouyou invited Hitoka and me a week ago. We’re already coming.”

Great, now she was laughing at Tobio again. He frowned even harder. She glanced over at him and her small laugh turned into a full-throated guffaw at the look on his face.  He decided to walk a little faster, maybe burn off some of his irritation. He stretched out his legs and really started to put some glide into his stride.

“Come on, Tobio!” Kiyoko said, as she quickly fell behind. “Not fucking fair!”

“I’m not even running,” he called over his shoulder. “This is fair.”

He could hear her growl of frustration loud and clear, even from the few hundred feet he had already put between them. He half-smiled. We’re not so different, you and I.