Someone was watching Wakatoshi.
It wasn’t Oikawa. Oikawa was very deliberately not watching Wakatoshi. Oikawa was practicing his serves on the next court over, and he didn’t even meet Wakatoshi’s eyes when a serve bounced off the far wall into Wakatoshi’s court and Wakatoshi went to fetch it and brought it back to him. He just muttered something unclear, then took the ball back from him with more force than was really necessary, all things considered.
Oikawa and Wakatoshi had known each other since the beginning of middle school. Now that it was their first year of high school, they'd both been invited to this training camp - a nation-wide camp for promising fifteen- and sixteen-year-old volleyball players. Wakatoshi had been informed that he was indeed a promising fifteen-year-old, and, apparently, Oikawa was too. (It wasn't surprising - Oikawa was a very capable setter. Privately, Wakatoshi believed that he would've done well if he'd come to Shiratorizawa with him.) And since they’d gotten here yesterday, Wakatoshi was beginning to confirm what he’d suspected for a while: namely, that Oikawa didn't like him very much. It was just a vague feeling, but there were some things about the way Oikawa acted around him sometimes - like now, when Oikawa didn't look at Wakatoshi's eyes or say anything to him when Wakatoshi brought his stray balls back.
The end result of all this was that the eyes Wakatoshi could feel on him were definitely not Oikawa's eyes. But there was really nobody else in the gym besides a setter from Tokyo and a spiker from Hokkaido who were practicing spikes on the third court in the gym. Neither of them were looking at him right now - they were focused on each other as the guy from Hokkaido went for another spike.
Wakatoshi scanned the gym again, but found no source for the set of eyes he could feel burning a hole into his skin, unless the person was hiding under the bleachers and watching him through the cracks or something. By now, he was starting to feel mild concern. Mild concern, but definitely concern of some kind - because Wakatoshi was only fifteen, and he was good at volleyball but not much else, and he really didn’t think he could win any fights he got into because he didn’t like hitting anything but volleyballs-
"HEY,” hissed a voice directly into Wakatoshi’s ear.
Wakatoshi jumped about six feet sideways and skittered around to face the speaker.
The boy must’ve moved silently to sneak up on Wakatoshi like that - which was surprising, because he didn’t look graceful at all. He was gangly and awkward, all long limbs and big hands apparently growing at a separate rate from a face still round with baby fat. His hair was a mess of black and white and grey spikes, his wide eyes were disconcertingly yellow, his nose was hooked like a beak, and he was hopping from foot to foot, eyes flickering over Wakatoshi and his two practice partners and Oikawa one court over and all the negative space in between. Nervous energy sparked off him like electricity.
“Who are you?” said the strange boy, with no preamble.
“Um,” said Wakatoshi.
“I’m Bokuto Koutarou,” the boy went on without waiting for an answer. “I don’t know you. What are you doing?”
“Uh,” said Wakatoshi.
“You’re practicing serves, aren’t you? Are you any good at them? I’m good at making mine powerful but they always go out.” Bokuto’s gaze was still flicking around, anywhere but Wakatoshi’s eyes.
In some dusty corner of his mind, Wakatoshi recalled a moment from his childhood when he had attempted to play a game at an arcade. In the game, geometric shapes fell from the top of the screen. The player arranged them to fit together into horizontal lines, which disappeared when completed.
“My friend says he’s going to keep practicing receives until he can receive anything I serve, so I have to stay ahead of him. He’s on another team. Can I practice receives with you? I think it’d be really good practice.”
Tetris. That was the name of the game. Unfortunately, Wakatoshi was not very good at that sort of game. Or any game, really, with the obvious exception of volleyball. Despite his progressively more distressed button-pushing, the pieces had accumulated at awkward angles until there was no room left for new ones to fall at the top, leaving a small Wakatoshi entirely overwhelmed by the speed of the piled-up happenstances as GAME OVER flashed on the screen.
“We can serve back and forth. Or we can just keep a rally going. Or we can serve, and then receive, and start a rally off that. You aren’t doing anything else, right? We can practice serves. Serves! That sounds good.”
There it was. The last doomed shape flashing at the top of the screen to indicate that no, Wakatoshi was definitely not in control of this situation anymore. He hadn’t even said a word, hadn’t pushed a single button, and yet Bokuto was already hurrying across to the other side of the court with a volleyball in his hands and a determined look on his face. There was also a damp spot of sweat at the small of his back - which was strange, because he hadn’t even started practicing yet. Perhaps he’d been stressed about something?
Then Bokuto fired off his first serve like an iron ball out of a cannon - Wakatoshi was so surprised by its hurtling power that he barely managed to receive it. Even so, it flew out of bounds, narrowly missing Oikawa’s head.
“Sorry!” Bokuto started wringing his hands together. “Well, I mean, I’m not sorry, but - okay, your turn! My coach always says it’s easiest to receive when you drop your hips, like you’re receiving with your whole body and not just your arms.”
Wakatoshi stared at him for a moment, then picked up a ball from those scattered on the floor around him.
Dropping your hips.
He had never quite considered that joint extra practice might have some value to it.
He served back. Bokuto zipped into place under it, but the ball bounced awkwardly off his forearms and out of bounds. Bokuto let out a cry of disappointment.
“I’ll get the next one!” he insisted.
“Okay,” Wakatoshi said. It was the first thing he’d said aloud to Bokuto yet, but, somehow, he believed the other boy’s words.
Perhaps there wasn’t any ceiling to this Tetris box.
They practiced receives into the late hours of the night. Or at least, until ten o’clock, when the head coach poked his head in through the doors of the gym and flicked the lights on and off a few times to inform them (and Oikawa, the only person left in the gym) that it was time to get to bed. During this period, Wakatoshi learned several things about Bokuto:
1) Bokuto was a wing spiker, and, despite his generally erratic form, he had earned a place as a starter (and a place at this training camp) with the crushing power of his spikes “which are good,” he insisted, “but I just can’t get the hang of straight spikes. I’ll get it eventually! I’m just so much better at cross spikes, so until those fail me, I’m gonna just stick with them!”
“I’m left-handed,” Wakatoshi had offered, which wasn’t entirely relevant, but seemed like a suitable thing to say.
2) Bokuto’s strange hair was, incredibly, naturally that color. Or, rather, those two colors. Bokuto had offered to prove it and reached for the waistband of his shorts, to which Wakatoshi hastily assured him that that was quite unnecessary and he believed him in full.
(Oikawa, still practicing serves one court over, had made a noise somewhere along the lines of a snort at this. Between that and the sidelong glances Wakatoshi could see him casting at Bokuto as he continued doggedly avoiding looking at Wakatoshi, Wakatoshi was beginning to suspect that Oikawa was paying more attention to the conversation than he let on. He didn’t call over to ask him about it, though. Talking to Oikawa usually led to stress and confusion in one way or another.)
3) Bokuto went to Fukurodani Academy in Tokyo, where he had “the coolest team ever, bro - there’s this other first-year, Konoha, who plays the harmonica - and our vice captain ruffles my hair sometimes, when I get a spike right, and it’s the best thing ever. And, dude, sometimes I get psyched out on the court and I feel like I can’t do anything - but, okay, get this, one of my senpais helped me snap out of it last time it happened! Like, he told me I was awesome and he knew I could do it, and I believed him and I played the rest of the match and I did great! That never happened in middle school. Are your senpais cool like that too?”
“Um, I don’t really ‘psych myself out’,” Wakatoshi said.
“What?! Don’t you ever get sad?”
“Well…” This was unexpected. “I don’t think about it when I’m playing volleyball.”
Bokuto huffed. “Okay, but don’t you at least get nervous?”
“Not really. We always win.”
“We’ll see about that this January!”
4) Bokuto was in possession of a pair of neon yellow dragonfly-print spandex leggings, which had come up when he was explaining to Wakatoshi that his favorite color was yellow “but, like, pineapple soda yellow, or highlighter yellow, like the kind that makes you feel like you’re getting zapped by electricity when you touch a power outlet-” (Wakatoshi wondered if Bokuto made a habit of touching power outlets? It would explain his hairstyle, at least) “-but, like, only in your eyes instead of your whole body - I almost dyed the white parts of my hair that color once, but Kuroo said it would be a bad idea-”
5) Bokuto’s best friend, the person skilled at receives whom he’d mentioned earlier, was named “Kuroo, he goes to Nekoma, that’s in Tokyo, too, his house isn’t close enough to walk to from mine but he says when he turns sixteen he’s gonna get his moped license so he can come over all the time - he’s really smart, and he makes fun of me a lot but it’s okay cause there’s so much to make fun of him for back - his laugh sounds like a bunch of hyenas in a washing machine, and I swear to god, his hair, it’s a disaster-”
“It takes one to know one,” Wakatoshi dared point out as he bumped the ball back over the net.
The ball slammed directly into Bokuto’s face with a loud thunk . It fell away to show an expression quite literally gobsmacked. He raised one hand to point at Wakatoshi through the net. “You just made a joke!”
“Yes,” Wakatoshi confirmed, feeling quite pleased with himself. People usually didn’t notice when he tried to make jokes. (Tendou, his strange red-haired teammate who kept trying to talk to him about Love Live at practice, had once told him that it was because his face only had one expression, but Wakatoshi didn’t really know what he could do about that.)
“That was a good joke! Even though you were making fun of me.” Wakatoshi just hummed in response, still basking in the satisfaction of his successful joke. “You don’t talk much, do you? I like you. Also, what’s your name?”
“Um,” Wakatoshi said. But for once, the strange boy didn’t just keep on talking. Instead, he fixed Wakatoshi with his piercing yellow gaze and waited for his answer. Wakatoshi shifted around a little. He was good at volleyball. Talking, on the other hand, was uncharted territory. “Ushijima Wakatoshi. I play for Shiratorizawa, in Miyagi.”
“Ushijima!” Bokuto repeated, sounding incredibly satisfied with the name.
“Yes,” Wakatoshi affirmed.
Bokuto grinned at him. And, for the first time, Wakatoshi understood what people meant when they said a smile could be contagious.
They went to collect the scattered volleyballs back into the ball cart - and then something very interesting happened. Bokuto ended up near Oikawa, where the corners of their two courts were adjacent. Wakatoshi watched as Oikawa snuck furtive glances at Bokuto, who was warbling an off-key rendition of Sweet Caroline as he gathered volleyballs.
When Bokuto looked up and noticed Oikawa noticing him, he cut himself off right in the middle of a “SO GOOD!” to beam at the other guy. “Hi!”
Oikawa looked thoroughly startled at being caught staring. “Uh - hello.”
“I’m Bokuto Koutarou! Who are you?”
“I’m… I’m Oikawa. Oikawa Tooru.” Oikawa was clearly floundering as Bokuto dropped his armful of volleyballs to come over towards him and pump his limp hand several times.
“What position do you play?”
“Um, I’m a setter.”
“Really? You should practice with us tomorrow night! Me and Wakatoshi, I mean.” Bokuto gestured back towards Wakatoshi, who was dutifully cleaning up volleyballs and pretending he couldn’t feel the venom of Oikawa’s glare in the back of his t-shirt. “He’s a spiker, too. We could do blocking practice. Do you guys know each other? I think we’re all on the same floor of the dorms.”
“We are both from Miyagi,” Oikawa said stiffly.
“Oh, cool, so you’re friends?”
“We’re… Acquainted,” Oikawa managed.
“Sweet! I’m from Tokyo. I go to Fukurodani, and my favorite color is yellow, but, like, pineapple soda yellow-”
Bokuto chattered away to Oikawa all the way through cleanup and their walk back to the dorms. Wakatoshi was content to walk quietly on Bokuto’s other side, watching the stars above them and the puffs of their breath in the chilly December air. By the time they reached the dorms - Bokuto was right, they were all on the same floor, although in different rooms - Oikawa seemed to have moved past his initial suspicion of Bokuto and into genuine ease around him, teasing him about his wild hair and wilder gestures and actually giggling at Bokuto’s cries of mock indignation.
It was an Oikawa that Wakatoshi had never really seen before. Briefly, he wondered if Oikawa lightened up this easily around everyone, and Wakatoshi was a mere puzzled exception.
Or maybe it was just Bokuto.
Once they entered the dorms, Bokuto shushed them all - which was rather hypocritical, considering that he was the loudest one amongst them by far. At the door of his own room, he hugged Wakatoshi tightly. Wakatoshi didn’t have much experience hugging, but he did his best to return it. It was quite a nice hug - kind of like hugging a bear, but one that was friendly and smiling and thumped his back a few times before letting go.
Next, Bokuto wrapped his arms around Oikawa and lifted him a few inches off the ground with the force of his hug. Oikawa made a noise that could only be described as a muted squawk. But he didn’t look at all displeased as Bokuto squeezed him briefly, set him back down, and disappeared into his dorm with a loudly whispered “GOOD NIGHT.”
Oikawa and Wakatoshi were left staring at his closed door.
Oikawa raised one hand to his lips. He looked slightly boggled to find a smile there.
Wakatoshi didn’t blame him. He, too, was still a little stunned by the speed and force with which Bokuto had befriended him.
“How did he do that?” Oikawa asked Wakatoshi, no ire in his voice for once.
Wakatoshi just shrugged. He didn’t know either.
Maybe it was just Bokuto.
The teams at this camp were randomly mixed up every day, in order to help the players stay adaptable. So, Wakatoshi didn’t find out who his opponents and teammates for the day would be until the first match after breakfast actually started.
Today, he was surprised to see none other than Bokuto across the net from him. As the referee clarified house rules in a nasal monotone, Bokuto grinned across the net at him, then shot him finger guns and increasingly more exaggerated winks until Wakatoshi waved at him. (He would have made a gun out of his hand back, since Bokuto seemed to consider it a friendly gesture, but he was a little concerned that one of the refs or coaches might think he was threatening an opponent, and he really did not want to get kicked out of this camp.)
Wakatoshi’s team won, albeit narrowly. But Bokuto’s team didn’t seem too torn up, even as they lined up to do their penalties. Wakatoshi was pretty sure he knew why - Bokuto’s loud hair and loud smile and loud laugh filled up the whole gym. Wakatoshi could even sense his own team’s spirits brightening when Bokuto was around. Somehow, impossibly, Bokuto managed to lift the mood of teammates and opponents alike.
It was a good match.
That evening, Bokuto was a little late to the time they had agreed on meeting for extra practice. The reason why became clear when he barged into the gym - tugging Oikawa along behind him by the hand. Oikawa looked thoroughly dazed, and red-faced from how quickly they were running. Wakatoshi wondered if Bokuto was squeezing his hand particularly hard, since Oikawa kept shooting glances down at where they were linked.
“I got Oikawa!” Bokuto announced to Wakatoshi, as though he’d captured a particularly rare Pokemon. He let go of Oikawa’s hand to raise his fist to the sky in victory.
“Yes, yes, I’m yours, Kou-chan.” Oikawa patted his hair down. Wakatoshi didn’t really think it was necessary, since the hair in question looked exactly the same as it always did, but some bone-deep intuition told him that voicing that thought would not be in his best interest. “And I’m here to set for Ushiwaka too, if I must.” Oikawa’s face twisted with displeasure at the idea, but softened again when Bokuto, skidding towards the volleyball cart, tripped over his too-big feet and went down in a noisy heap.
“Well, duh!” Bokuto picked himself back up and went over towards the volleyball cart. When Bokuto wasn’t looking, Oikawa met Wakatoshi’s eyes and sliced one hand across his throat in a clear threat. “He can’t just practice blocking! And I can’t just practice spiking!” Bokuto began to push the cart over towards them, then broke into a run. The cart barreled towards them, and, as it picked up speed, Bokuto hopped up on the back like it was some kind of oversized skateboard. Oikawa shrieked and jumped out of the way - and the cart crashed directly into the wall, complete with Bokuto cackling in delight on the back.
“…Kou-chan,” Wakatoshi mumbled to himself, and then decided not to dwell on it.
Bokuto sat next to Wakatoshi at lunch the next day, and dinner, too. It was a nice change, because Wakatoshi had been spending most of his mealtimes alone at the table by the window. Wakatoshi liked people, he really did, but he wasn’t very good at talking to them. And there was something about his face, the part where he only really had one expression - and, he was beginning to realize, on a six-foot-tall teenage boy it wasn’t a very welcoming expression - that tended to mean he spent a lot of mealtimes alone at a table by a window. And for the rest of the training camp, they ate their meals together at the table by the window - sometimes joined by stray members of Bokuto’s ever-widening circle of friends (including Oikawa himself), but often just the two of them.
Here were the things Wakatoshi learned about Bokuto in this time:
1) Bokuto liked to ramble on about his team and the training camp teams and spiking and birds and whatever else happened to fall into his mind on any given day,
2) When they parted at the end of each meal, Bokuto stopped talking (sometimes in the middle of a sentence) and hugged Wakatoshi goodbye (even if they were going to see each other on the court less than ten minutes later),
3) When they met up at the beginning of the next meal, Bokuto picked up talking right where he had left off as though he hadn’t been interrupted at all,
4) Bokuto liked to ramble on about whatever happened to fall into his mind on any given day,
5) and Wakatoshi didn’t really mind.
There wasn’t really any pressure to talk around Bokuto, which was nice considering that Wakatoshi liked people but he wasn’t very good at talking to them. He contributed short comments here and there, and answered questions in as much detail as he could muster, but it was a new and pleasant feeling, to be able to sit quietly and eat and listen to the haphazard vagaries of Bokuto’s mind. It was new for Wakatoshi to feel comfortable around a human like that.
Or maybe it was just Bokuto.
The first time he saw Bokuto’s mood ever falter was at breakfast on Thursday. Specifically, when the spiker from Hokkaido and the setter from Tokyo raised a ruckus by walking into the dining hall that morning hand in hand. Within five minutes, the gossip had flown from table to table: the two boys were, officially, dating.
“That’s good for them,” Wakatoshi observed after the group of Kyushu players at the table next to them had leaned over to share the news.
But Bokuto didn’t seem to share the sentiment. “Yeah… I guess.” He gnawed on his lip. “I dunno. Maybe.”
Wakatoshi looked at him in slight surprise. “Are you jealous?” He didn’t often experience jealousy himself, but he had heard enough about it to recognize that it might fit this situation.
“No! No, dude, I’m glad they’re happy.” Bokuto waved his hands around in the air in some vague, incomprehensible gesture. “It’s just. It’s weird, cause I know we’re old enough to have girlfriends and boyfriends, but I don’t feel excited about it like everyone else does. Do you have that?”
To be honest, it was surprising enough that there was anything that didn’t make Bokuto excited. Wakatoshi mulled over the question. “I… I think I might.”
“I don’t think I want to date anyone,” Bokuto mumbled. “Like. It seems really nice but I don’t think I’ve ever felt that way about anyone before. And I don’t think I really want to. Like. I’m fine just being around my friends and team. I dunno. Is that weird?”
His sentences were getting short and rapid-fire, just like the first time they’d met. This time around, Wakatoshi correctly identified the speech pattern as nervousness.
“I don’t think it’s weird,” he told him. “I feel the same a lot of the time.”
“You do? Like, do you have that thing where wanna just suck on someone’s neck but not actually date them?”
Before Wakatoshi could answer that, the more serious mood was broken when something interrupted them by half-falling down into Bokuto’s lap. Something sleepy, and slow-moving, with fluffy brown hair.
“Hi, Oikawa!” Bokuto said, looping one arm around Oikawa’s waist so he wouldn’t topple off onto the ground. Bokuto didn’t seem bothered by the invasion of his personal space, but then again, Wakatoshi was beginning to learn that Bokuto didn’t really have a concept of personal space.
“Good morning,” Oikawa murmured. He burrowed his face into the crook of Bokuto’s neck, and sighed with delight. “You’re so warm.”
“Thanks!” Bokuto nuzzled the top of Oikawa’s head.
“And you smell nice.”
“I haven’t showered since we got here,” Bokuto announced.
“You’re gross.” Oikawa didn’t seem off-put, though. Instead, he just cuddled closer. “It must be your natural musk.”
“Thanks, bro! You smell nice too.”
“Thanks, it’s Chanel.”
The dating issue was forgotten, but for the rest of the day, Wakatoshi turned over and over in his head the questions Bokuto had asked.
On the last full day of the training camp, Wakatoshi woke up early, torn out of some fleeting dream by a full-body spasm. He laid perfectly still as his thudding heartbeat slowed.
Around him, all was stillness and quiet and the slow, even breathing of the other boys in his room. Through the window, the eastern sky was lightening with the softest hints of fleecy pre-dawn grey.
By the time Wakatoshi calmed down, he was wide awake. His phone told him it was already too late to bother going back to sleep, so he changed into his practice clothes for the day as quietly as he could and picked up his sneakers to pad over to the door. He opened it just enough to slip through sideways, so as to let in as little light as possible, and then turned to let the door slowly, slowly, slowly click shut. Once he was sure he hadn’t woken any of his roommates, he bent to lace his sneakers, and-
“Oh, hey, good morning!”
Wakatoshi looked up to see none other than Bokuto, dressed similarly for the day. It was barely past five o’clock, but Bokuto looked perfectly alert. “Going for a run? I am, too. Let’s go together.” He put a finger to his lips as Wakatoshi opened his mouth to reply. “Shhh, let’s wait until we get outside to talk. So we don’t have to whisper.”
Wakatoshi refrained, for multiple reasons, from pointing out that Bokuto had been the only one to speak thus far. Instead, he just followed Bokuto down the stairs and out onto the scrubby patch of grass in front of their dorm. They stretched there together for a few minutes as grey slowly faded into soft lavender and pale gold. Even as the sun peeked over the horizon, Wakatoshi was chilly - December cold was setting in with a bite.
“Do you always get up this early?” Bokuto finally asked, breaking the companionable silence.
“No.” Wakatoshi shook his head as he put his hands on the trunk of the sole spindly tree in their vicinity and pressed one leg backwards to stretch his calf. “I couldn’t sleep. Do you?”
“Uh huh.” Bokuto pulled one ankle up behind him a quad stretch. He hopped a little to maintain his balance, then stumbled forward and grabbed onto Wakatoshi’s shoulder for support. Wakatoshi stilled in surprise, and then relaxed and shifted his shoulder to give Bokuto a better grip. “I get home from evening practice around eight, then I eat and shower and go to bed, and I wake up around five to go for a run before morning practice.”
Something was missing there. “When do you do homework?”
Bokuto tipped his head to one side like a quizzical puppy. “Homework?”
Wakatoshi didn’t really know how to continue the conversation from there, so he just pushed off from the tree and started running. Bokuto’s indignant cry trailed after him as he scrambled to catch up.
“Hey, wait for me!”
They left the campus of the college that was hosting their training camp pretty quickly. The streets of the outskirts of Tokyo stretched on in cracked, worn asphalt, in a mismatched blur of old houses and new apartment complexes, in the slap of their sneakers and the noise of their breathing and Bokuto’s occasional exhilarated whoop as he went sprinting off ahead down one of the long, sloping downhills. Afterwards, he’d fall behind a bit with harsh, labored pants on the uphills.
Wakatoshi himself preferred a more steady pace. It evened out.
At the bottom of the last hill before they looped back onto campus, the sun was high enough in the sky that Bokuto paused and squinted balefully at it before they began the ascent. “Ugh. S’in my eyes.”
“Oh - I brought sunglasses.” Wakatoshi fished the shades out of his pocket, where he’d put them before leaving (just in case), and handed them over to his friend.
“Thanks, dude!” Bokuto examined the shades for a moment, then put them on top of his head. “These are pretty cool. Wish I could do something about the sun, though. Well, let’s go!”
Wakatoshi looked at him.
“…What are you looking at me like that for?”
“Bokuto,” Wakatoshi said.
He slid the shades down over his actual eyes, and they set out up the last long climb.
When they reached the top, Bokuto sprinted the last few hundred meters to the front of their dorm and threw himself down onto the scrubby patch of grass. He stuck his legs straight up in the air. Wakatoshi finished the route at his more regular pace and then laid down next to Bokuto. He reached up to stretch his legs in a similar manner. Steam radiated off their skin as they stretched in the icy air.
Wakatoshi knew what silence around other people felt like. Wakatoshi knew what being comfortable felt like.
But before this week, it had never quite occurred to him that the two might overlap, on a December morning on a patch of scrubby grass.
It was nice, being quiet like this.
“It’s nice, being quiet like this,” Bokuto said aloud. Wakatoshi’s brow crinkled in surprise.
“You don’t seem like the type to like silence.”
“Well-” Bokuto squirmed around on his back, shaking his legs a little to keep the blood circulating. “I don’t, usually, cause it always feels so uncomfortable, you know?” And then I start babbling to fill it, and I sound like a loser and I know I’m embarrassing myself but I can’t stop - like, dude, the first day of camp? I was freaking out, cause I didn’t know anyone and all I could think about is that our head coach looks kind of like Tony Stark and then I was so nervous I fucked up three serves in a row in our first practice match and then when I first found you I was freaking out because your spikes were so strong and you seemed way too cool to talk to someone like me-”
Wakatoshi was so surprised at that that he sat straight up. “What?”
“Yeah, dude! You seemed so chill, like you’re totally cool with being quiet. I was just freaking out.”
Wakatoshi laid back down on the grass, head whirling with this new information.
Him. Chill. Bokuto. Freaking out.
Was that how Bokuto saw it?
Around them, the city was waking up with cars and early buses and pedestrians walking their dogs. The sun was climbing, sluggish but steady, into the crisp December sky.
“I like quiet,” Bokuto told the sky. “When it’s like this.”
“And I like talking,” Wakatoshi said. “When it’s like this.”
“I love talking!” Bokuto agreed, quickly springing back into his usual exuberance. “And running! And volleyball!”
“I love dogs,” Wakatoshi put in.
“Yes!” In his excitement, Bokuto let his legs fall forward to touch the ground above his head, leaving him curled up in some kind of truncated backwards somersault. “And I love good breakfast when you’re hungry!”
Wakatoshi nodded, gaining steam. “And tall stools, where you can swing your legs.”
“And bear hugs!” Bokuto pushed off the ground with the feet above his head so that he could roll into a sitting position and use the momentum to leap straight up onto the balls of his feet. He offered Wakatoshi a hand to help him up.
“And acoustic guitars,” Wakatoshi said. He took the proffered hand and stood up too, making no effort to suppress the small smile on his face - after all, Bokuto’s grin had taught him the definition of contagious.
“And trains.” They began making their way back up the sidewalk towards the dorm.
“And really loud music!”
“And Steve Irwin,” Wakatoshi said.
“Yes!” Bokuto pushed open the door to the dormitory. His voice echoed in the stairwell as he added, “And really teeny kittens, with their tails sticking straight up!”
“Christmas lights?” Wakatoshi suggested.
His small smile spread into a warm, happy grin at Bokuto’s answering hoot of delight as he half-fell up the stairs.
Wakatoshi wasn’t very good at talking to people. He never had been.
But he could learn to like it, like this.
On the very last night of the training camp, when Bokuto had already bid them both goodnight (accompanied with a hug each), a voice stopped Wakatoshi from heading into his own dorm room.
Against his better judgment, Wakatoshi turned. Oikawa was still standing there, staring at him with the same look he always gave Wakatoshi when they faced off through a volleyball net. Which was a fine look to have when they were actually facing off through a volleyball net, but right now, they were in a corridor in a dorm in Tokyo, and instead of their respective teal and magenta jerseys, Oikawa was wearing a pair of alien-print pajama pants and a ratty t-shirt that said WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE on the front and Wakatoshi was wearing a set of PJs with bears on them, so he didn’t really understand why Oikawa-
“He’s mine,” Oikawa continued.
Wakatoshi blinked. “What?”
“Bokuto,” Oikawa clarified. “He’s mine.”
“…Okay,” said Wakatoshi uncertainly. He wasn’t really sure what Oikawa was talking about, but he had learned, after several years of knowing Oikawa and spending a significant amount of time around him this week, that asking would probably be a very bad idea.
Unfortunately, Oikawa didn’t seem to be satisfied with this answer. “I’ve seen how you look at him,” he pressed. “You like him, don’t you?”
“We are good friends,” Wakatoshi ventured, which seemed safe enough. It was true, even though they’d only met each other less than a week ago. Something about camp made the days seem longer - even their run that morning felt an eon in the past, and he felt as close to Bokuto as he did to any of the teammates at Shiratorizawa that he’d known for months.
Or maybe that was just Bokuto.
Oikawa shook his head impatiently. “You know what I mean.”
“No,” said Wakatoshi, yanked out of the world of quietly appreciating his friends and back into the world of thorough bewilderment. Talking to Oikawa always made him feel kind of like a lab rat navigating a maze. And the maze only had one exit. And it was electrocuted.
“You like -like him.” Oikawa glared at Wakatoshi, which was rather unfair of him, all things considered.
“I do like him, yes.”
Oikawa stamped a foot on the ground. Wakatoshi could feel the beginnings of a headache coming on. “I mean you have a crush on him! Even awful stone-faced giants with rocks for hearts get crushes.”
Wakatoshi blinked. “Not really.”
Oikawa rolled his eyes. “Sure, whatever. Like I said, even you get crushes-”
“I don’t think so,” Wakatoshi interrupted. Interrupting Oikawa was never really a good idea, but it was true - and besides, he had something else to clarify. “And I don’t have a rock for a heart.”
“If you don’t have a rock for a heart, you have to have a crush on him! Him and his soft hair and his big smile and his ridiculous laugh and his perpetual bedroom eyes-”
“What are bedroom eyes?” This seemed like a safer venue of conversation than pointing out the fact that Oikawa was the one currently rambling about how attractive Bokuto was.
“Ugh,” Oikawa muttered to himself. “I am not having that conversation with you. The point is, he’s mine. I’ve called dibs. Hands off.”
“Okay,” said Wakatoshi. “But neither of us is going to see him after tomorrow anyway, remember? He’s going back to Tokyo, and we’re going back to Miyagi.”
“That doesn’t mean - look, I’m going to exchange Skypes with him, okay? I’m going to ask him for his Skype so we can talk on Skype. And then I’ll ask him for his number. Via Skype. I’m brave enough. Don’t you dare say I’m not brave enough.”
“What is Skype?” Wakatoshi inquired.
“It’s - it’s a messaging system, you technologically inept oaf-”
“That is a good idea,” Wakatoshi agreed. “I will text him now and ask for his Skype.” He pulled his phone out of the pocket of his bear pajama pants and began typing a text to Bokuto.
“You have his number,” Oikawa said flatly.
“We exchanged numbers on the first day so we could arrange our extra practice sessions.” Wakatoshi put his phone back into his pocket. Suddenly, a thought occurred to him. “Oh - I will probably see Bokuto in person this spring, when Shiratorizawa and Fukurodani are at the Spring High Nationals together.”
“SHIRATORIZAWA’S NOT GOING TO NATIONALS, YOU GIANT-”
“Shiratorizawa won the Miyagi preliminaries this past fall,” Wakatoshi reminded him.
Oikawa’s face was slowly turning purple.
“But you are a very good setter,” Wakatoshi forged onwards, hoping that the compliment would soothe Oikawa’s ego. “I am sure that you would be a starter at the Spring High if you’d come to Shiratorizawa. You should’ve gone to Shiratorizawa.”
“EVERYTHING YOU SAY IS AWFUL,” Oikawa screeched. Several muffled, sleepy protests rose up from the closed doors all around them as Oikawa spun on his heel and stormed off towards his dorm.
Huh. Perhaps the compliment had not come across quite as Wakatoshi intended it.
“I can give you Bokuto’s Skype if you want,” he called after Oikawa, hoping for one last chance to calm him down before he slept. One should never go to bed angry.
The slam of Oikawa’s dorm door was his only answer.
Wakatoshi sighed, pinched the bridge of his nose, and texted Bokuto “good night” before he, too, went off to rest.