Tetsurou wakes up at five in the morning on the day of graduation.
It would be entirely unnecessary if not for the fact that he has someone to meet and a goodbye to make. The train isn’t as busy as his normal rush hour commute to school; he’s surrounded by tired-looking businesspeople who probably have come a ways from outside the city, en route to their workplaces.
By the time that he reaches the top of the hill behind Nekoma’s gymnasium, the sun has just started to rise in the east, casting the landscape in pinks and yellows. Yaku’s already there, facing their old practice run path, and his figure, little more than a silhouette against the morning light, is almost picturesque—until he turns when he hears Tetsurou approaching, and he makes a face.
“Can’t get rid of your bedhead, even on graduation day,” he scoffs. He’s pulling a strange expression, one that Tetsurou knows by now to be his attempt at masking a smile.
“Ah, well, you know,” Tetsurou says. “My parents have to be able to find me in the crowd somehow.”
“Sure,” Yaku says. And then, “If I win, you have to show up to the graduation ceremony in the Tikachu costume.”
Tetsurou knows the one. He did, after all, wear it for the volleyball club’s fundraiser in their first year, taking pictures with strangers in a mascot suit in the heat of a Tokyo summer—all because he’d lost to Yaku in a nikuman-eating contest. He’s grown a lot since first year (unlike a certain libero), and he’s pretty sure that he’s too tall now to fit it again without slouching awkwardly.
“I’m going to kick your ass,” he says, because that suit had been sweaty , and the smelly, damp mascot suit is not a memory that he would like to relive.
“Not if I kick yours first,” Yaku says, and this time, he makes no effort to hide his grin—and then they’re both off, running down the same path that they’ve taken every day for the past three years.
There was never really a point at which they had decided to have these contests; it had just been like that, from the start. Really, it had been three years of losses to Yaku—the only time Tetsurou had won had been the first time they raced, and Yaku had looked at him, then, expression steely. He didn’t say, I’m going to whoop your ass next time, but Tetsurou knew.
(And he did. And the time after that, and the time after that, and every other time, too.)
Every time, they had always made sure something was at stake—buying Yaku a Pocari Sweat after practice, speaking in ony cat puns for an entire day, dressing up as Tikachu to raise money for a team retreat. Ice cream stops after long days of practice. Five-thirty AM runs before morning practice, before anyone else on the team was there. Rallying practice after hours. Sharing a bag of rice crackers on the walk back to the train station.
All things that they wouldn’t have anymore, not after today.
So Tetsurou forges ahead, because he’s sure as hell going to make this last time count.
“I didn’t actually think you’d win,” Yaku admits when they’ve circled back around, hands on his knees as he catches his breath.
Maybe he should be feeling smug, or maybe he should be gloating, but he isn’t. Because when it comes down to it, Tetsurou doesn’t mind losing—so long as it’s to him, it can’t really be counted as a loss.
“So,” he continues, “what now? Am I going to graduate as Tikachu today?”
Tetsurou thinks for a moment. If he’s being entirely honest, he didn’t think that he was going to win, either. But by now the sun is in the sky, still low but steadily golden. It occurs to him that this might be the last time that he ever sees this, Yaku at his side like they’re standing at the top of the world and not just the top of a grassy little hill behind Nekoma’s gymnasium. So he says, “Let’s just… stay here for a moment.”
They do. Yaku sits down in the grass, legs stretched out in front of him, and Tetsurou lowers himself cross-legged to join him.
“What if—” he starts.
“You’re not going to get all sentimental on me now, are you, Captain?” Yaku says, but Tetsurou continues anyway.
“What if I told you that—” He pauses, running the words he’s about to say over in his mind again. “I wish you were staying in Tokyo?”
“I’d tell you that you should’ve told me that before I put down my deposit,” Yaku says dryly. It’s a joke. Tetsurou knows that. But he doesn’t miss the suggestion that, if he had, then maybe, things might actually have turned out differently. Maybe they wouldn't be here to say goodbye to their old practice grounds.
“I’m going to miss this,” Yaku admits, and it takes Tetsurou by surprise, because although it’s not anything he didn't know before, god knows he’s never heard Yaku Morisuke say anything so sentimental out loud, let alone to Tetsurou. “It never really hit me that things were going to change.”
It gives him a little more courage, and maybe it’s their impending graduation that speaks for him, and he says, “And if I said that maybe—between us—I want things to change?”
“I’d kick your ass.”
“I’d let you.”
They stare at each other for a moment, and then Yaku breaks eye contact. Shaking his head, he says, with no real exasperation, “You’re such a sap.”
“Yeah,” Tetsurou agrees. “I am.”
Because he’s a sap, and he’s going to miss the rush of their morning races, and he’s a little bit terrified, because he never really thought that this was going to end. At some point along the way Yaku had become a regular part of his schedule, another point on his daily routine, and—the thing is that if Kenma’s the brain then Yaku is the ribs, protecting the heart of the team, and, well. Tetsurou isn’t sure what he’s going to do without Yaku there, having his back every step of the way.
He thinks that Yaku might be about to say something, chastise him, maybe, for making their graduation day so… emotional , but then his cell phone buzzes.
Where are you two, Kai messages.
And then, You told me to meet you at the station and you’re not even here
Beside him, Yaku’s reading the same message.
“If I beat you to the station,” he says, and then looks up from his phone to meet Tetsurou’s eyes, “you’re graduating as Kuroo Tikachu.”
And then he’s off, and Tetsurou hardly has time to think before following after and this isn’t the last time , Yaku swears when Kuroo makes it to a bored Kai before him, and—and, Tetsurou thinks, things are going to be just fine.
(He realizes later that he forgot to say goodbye, but maybe, he thinks, his friends posing beside him for a photo, he never really had to.)