Very, very often, Tsukishima Kei wonders how his life ended up like this.
This being having a part-time job as a model that paid better than any other job he could have gone for. This also being sharing that job with a complete moron.
He’s not sure how they ended up at the same university, either. By all rights, they should have ended up in totally different universities, possibly at opposite ends of the country. But Kageyama had been scouted and he’d been offered a place and it was a very good university, and neither of them hated the other quite enough to turn a place here down because the other was going.
They hadn’t factored in sitting half-naked leant against each other and trying not to sweat too much under the overheated lights.
No one would ever think to factor that in. Kei will forgive himself for not thinking this would happen, and planning for it accordingly.
Kageyama scowls beside him. Kei is more than aware that his own face looks a little too grumpy to be attractive and soon enough a dissonant voice behind the flashing lights shouts “Relax!” and Kei smooths his scowl to a pout and glares at the camera.
He’s not sure why people think his glasses have such a huge impact on how he looks. He knows he’s not ugly but he hadn’t thought the glasses made that much of a difference.
Not until they’d been knocked off on his second day on campus and everyone in a ten-foot radius had turned to stare at him like they’d never look away. He’d hurriedly shoved his glasses back on and scuttled away clutching his books.
The flashing camera stops for a moment and Kei stands up from where he’d been uncomfortably sat and stretches, feels every bone in his spine click. The stupidly thin shirt he’s wearing sticks to his skin and the trousers are heavy and hot, especially under the lights.
Kageyama follows him off to the side of the setup and throws him a bottle of water that someone’s just handed to him. They’ll have maybe five minutes break before they have to wear some other clothes and do the whole thing again. It’s a good thing they’re not shy about changing in front of each other.
There’s a flimsy scarf draped around his neck and he unwinds it, relishing the slightly cooler air against his sticky skin. Kageyama is a flurry of movement behind him and Kei glances back to see him fighting with the shirt he’s not bothered to unbutton before removing.
Kei snickers a little and reaches for the next clothes. Kageyama’s entire chest is exposed, the muscles tensing and stretching beneath his skin. Kei is taller than Kageyama, but Kageyama is definitely broader.
Their next outfits are equally as mundane and equally as coordinated as the last three they’d worn. They’re usually given darker colours – it hadn’t taken whoever was in charge of their wardrobe long to figure out that both Kei and Kageyama looked a little ridiculous in paler colours. Though if either of them was ever given anything white, it was always Kei.
Kei stands with his back against a chair that Kageyama sits in and the lights start flashing again. They’re almost done for today, which means Kei gets to go back to his dorm that he shares with a usually absent roommate and do homework, and possibly call Yamaguchi. He might even cook, instead of eating straight from the microwave, if he has time.
Or maybe he’ll just lie on his back and stare at the ceiling.
“And we’re done for today. Good work, guys!” The dissonant voice that directs their whole lives while they’re here calls out, and Kei begins unbuttoning his shirt even before he’s out of view of the people working the camera.
Kageyama walks besides him as they head for the dressing room. They’re not usually made to wear much makeup but even so the stuff they are forced to make is incredibly obvious when they’re not under the hideous lights. Kageyama’s face is more sharply defined than is usually is, smoother and less angry.
Kei pulls off his shirt and opens the door to their shared room. It bothers him, slightly, sharing a dressing room with Kageyama, but not enough to complain. The view is nice, he supposes.
They’re in the middle of a city Kei can never remember the kanji for and it is pretty, with mostly old architecture and trees everywhere. It’s a small city, small enough that it had taken just a few days to get used to it.
Kei lives quietly.
His roommate is missing most of the time, and when he is forced to share the room with him, the library is just a block away. His headphones are perfect at drowning the world out and all of his classmates are lethargic, dispassionate about their courses. Yamaguchi’s calls are the noisiest things in his life; his quiet friend is so much louder now that they’re on opposite sides of the country.
Kageyama is loud too.
Kageyama doesn’t actually talk to him much. If they’re eating lunch at the same time they won’t speak to each other, even if they sit together. They don’t share any courses. The volleyball club, which Kei decided he’d join for the hell of it, is big enough that he doesn’t have to work with Kageyama.
Kageyama’s very presence is loud, his build and his eyes and the way he holds himself. Kei thinks he’s only started noticing Kageyama so much because he no longer has his decoy around (they’d been joined at the hip like Yamaguchi and he and he really does miss Yamaguchi some days) and so Kageyama’s black aura is enough to drag his attention.
Hinata had some days seemed to be composed of pure light and energy (Kei had done well in physics and drawing such ridiculous comparisons, even in his head, is kind of embarrassing) and Kageyama was something else. A shadow perhaps. An absence of light but not an absence of energy.
Kei is well aware that he has precious little of either.
Makeup is a painfully sticky thing to wear. Kei doesn’t understand how anyone can wear it all the time.
He lies on his back against the greenscreen and stares vacantly up at where the sky should be. He can feel Kageyama feels the same as him, hears the same bored breathing he’d heard for three years during study sessions.
His face is painted with more makeup than it usually is. Kei doesn’t think he’s grown any spots in the past week (Kei doesn’t think he’s ever had more than three spots in his life) but they’d spent extra time smearing the pale stuff onto his pale face and drawing back in his features in unnatural colours.
Kageyama hasn’t got much more makeup on than usual. He can see the line of Kageyama’s jaw less than a foot away from his eyes, tries not to stare. There’s no more makeup than there usually is on his skin. Kei wonders why that bothers him.
He knows, at least in some far corner of his mind, that how much attention he’s payed to Kageyama’s jawline isn’t the amount of attention you pay to someone you’re barely even friends with. But he’s got enough self-preservation to know that he’s not going to examine that any time soon.
He tears his eyes away from Kageyama’s skin and stares at the rafters of the studio. He’s not even sure why he agreed to this job, especially with Kageyama.
(Does Kageyama miss Hinata? Probably.)
Kageyama is as awkward as ever.
“Can you help me study please?”
The please is tacked on as awkwardly as it has been for the entire time Kei has been helping the two idiots study, only now there’s only one idiot and it’s a little too quiet for his tastes.
“Between five and seven on Wednesdays and Thursdays. And maybe on Mondays if I’m free.”
Kei has very little to do on any day of the week, but like hell will he spend all his waking hours with Kageyama fucking Tobio. He might have to address this thing with Kageyama that niggles at the back of his mind if he did, and that might even be a healthy thing to do.
Kageyama looks at a clock, then realises that it’s Tuesday.
“Please, Tsukishima.” The words sound forced and Kei knows he’s had to swallow a lot of pride to be able to ask for this. He almost feels sympathy.
Key word being almost.
“Sit down,” he sighs. “What course are you even taking?”
Kageyama’s lopsided smile is pretty hard to ignore.
He hears shrieks before he sees the whirlwind and then there’s an orange blur on his laptop screen and Hinata has appeared.
“Yamaguchi, you weren’t answering your phone!”
Hinata rarely speaks in anything but exclamation marks or capital letters and Kei mutes his laptop as the crow noises coming from Hinata fill his headphones. He looks back to the paper he has due in next Tuesday and out of the corner of his eye he can see Hinata flailing around and Yamaguchi laughing at him.
“Is he gone yet?” he asks his laptop, but can’t hear Hinata’s indignant response. He can see Yamaguchi snickering though, which is enough. He unmutes his laptop.
“-so mean, Tsukishima!”
“Hinata, we’ll be finished in a bit. I’ll meet you there.”
Hinata sticks his tongue out at the camera that Kei can see him through and then smiles brilliantly at them both. And then he vanishes as quickly as he’d appeared.
The truth was that Hinata’s grating cheerfulness was actually kind of endearing, in small doses. Kei is pretty certain that Hinata doesn’t see him as a rival anymore either, just as a friend.
“I don’t want to keep you,” he says dully to his computer. Yamaguchi’s freckled face scrunches up on the screen.
“It’s not important, Tsukki. I can go in a bit.”
“Goodbye, Yamaguchi. Talk tomorrow.”
Yamaguchi looks a bit embarrassed, a hundred miles or so away, and then smiles with the same smile that Hinata had smiled with.
Sometimes he wonders how he and Kageyama had ended up the models, and not Yamaguchi and Hinata. Their smiles are almost blinding, and Kageyama has a face like thunder, and he just looks tired all the time.
Perhaps that’s what’s attractive about them.
And that’s where he cuts off that train of thought. He doesn’t need to be thinking about what makes Kageyama Tobio attractive. But then, knowing that he doesn’t want to think about it is basically the same as admitting his problem.
Not that he has a problem.
Kageyama isn’t too difficult to teach, if he’s honest. He’s got almost no knowledge of any of the basics, but the study sessions through the past three years have clearly taught him that it’s easier to study when being quiet, and that had been most of his problem in his first year.
They sit in the library and Kageyama occasionally mumbles a question at him, and Kei will respond quietly, and then they’ll study quietly for another minute or five, and then Kageyama will ask him another question.
Kei refuses to admit he’s enjoying it. And then Kageyama tells him, in no uncertain terms, that he’s buying him coffee.
“You’re helping me. So I have to repay you.”
Kageyama looks confused that Kei doesn’t get this simple concept, and Kei decides that refusing Kageyama isn’t worth the effort.
“I can get you something else if you don’t want coffee now.”
He gets a call from Yamaguchi, who tells him that he’d got a call from Yachi, who’d got a call from Kiyoko who’d got a call from Daichi who’d got a call from Kuroo who’d got a call from Oikawa complaining that “How did Tobio-chan and his boyfriend get a modelling contract before I did?”
What Kei hadn’t realised was how interested everyone would be in his modelling career. Far more interested than he was.
He lies back on his bed and lets Yamaguchi blabber at him. From the sound of it, his spreads with Kageyama – and isn’t that the kind of phrasing he’s trying to avoid – are flying round their old circles with incredible speed. It’s almost enough to distract him from Oikawa’s words.
Kageyama isn’t particularly attractive.
This is what Kei tells himself. He’s not ugly but he’s certainly not attractive enough to be a model.
Then again, that’s his opinion of himself, and that’s apparently wrong too.
Kageyama’s relatively tall and well-muscled and he’s got a great jawline and shiny thick hair but he’s nothing special. Not more attractive than Hinata or Yachi or Oikawa. Just another face.
Kei puts his recently-acquired contact lenses in and blinks a couple of times. They’re only for work, but maybe he should use them for playing volleyball.
He could distract the other team with his face.
The thought makes him smirk a little and Kageyama looks at him questioningly for a split second, but Kei shakes his head and it’s dropped.
He follows Kageyama to the greenscreen that they’ll be shooting in front of today and sits on a chair at the edge of the room. Kageyama is quiet today.
People wielding makeup brushes crowd around them and Kei keeps his face relaxed and his eyes lightly shut until they disperse. He hears Kageyama coughing beside him and resists the urge to smile – the idiot probably swallowed a brush-head again.
He’s seen the pictures of the two of them. Of course he has. It’d be kind of ridiculous if he hadn’t. He’s perfectly aware that both he and Kageyama are attractive. More attractive than he’s willing to admit.
Kageyama is just ridiculously photogenic. Or something. They’d discovered that in their second year at Karasuno, when Sugawara and Azumane had gone through a phase of taking pictures of every single one of their matches. No one else had managed to look good in the pictures, but Kageyama always did.
Kei frowns a little when he remembers how long he’s known Kageyama is nice to look at. Then he frowns more when he realises it bothers him.
He shakes his head a little as he wanders into the camera’s range and sits on one of the boxes scattered around. Kageyama will spend another minute being wrested into submission by one of the people holding makeup brushes and then he’ll come sit beside him.
“Move up,” Kageyama grunts, and Kei moves towards Kageyama. He’s still as petty as he’s ever been, and playing with Kageyama is still funny, even now. “Oi, Tsukishima.”
Kei sighs and relents, and Kageyama sits next to him. Kageyama’s skin is very warm, warm enough that Kei can feel it through both of their clothes. Kageyama scowls.
“What,” Kei begins, and then cuts himself off with a yelp when Kageyama grabs his hand.
“Your hands are freezing, Tsukishima,” he says, and begins rubbing them. “Are you cold?”
“No,” Kei says. “Let go.”
“Your hands are gonna freeze off,” Kageyama complains. Kei is desperately hoping that the scorching lights and several layers of makeup on his face will disguise his flaming cheeks. “Are you always this cold?”
“I’m not cold,” Kei insists. “Kageyama, it’s fine.”
“We’re ready to start!” Someone calls out. Kei tugs his hands away and Kageyama turns to face the camera. “Lights!”
“Really, Kei, it’s a good job to have,” Akiteru says. Kei scowls at the screen. “How much are you paid?”
“Not enough for having to hang out with Kageyama for six hours a week.”
“How often do you see Kageyama?” Akiteru’s voice is kind of distant and he’s off-camera. “You complain about him enough it can’t just be once a week.”
“We study together sometimes. We’re both on the volleyball team but he’s a regular already so he does different training. Sometimes we eat together. He buys me coffee sometimes.”
“Wow, you sound like real friends.” Akiteru appears back onscreen. “Have you got any other friends?”
“Yes,” Kei says. “Yamaguchi.”
Akiteru laughs, and Kei smiles too. “I have made friends with people, don’t worry about me. Are you alright?”
“Yeah,” Akiteru says. “I’m doing good.”
There’s a pause, for a moment too long, and Kei wishes he had something to say to fill the silence before it grows too large. He doesn’t.
“Well, I’ll talk to you soon,” Akiteru says cheerfully. “Don’t work too hard!”
“I know. See you soon.”
The connection goes dead and Kei sees his reflection in the suddenly black screen. He looks tired, which is a bad look for a model, and a bad thing for a college student to be. He shuts his laptop and wonders if he’ll be able to sleep before his roommate gets back, so he can avoid having a conversation with him.
“Tsukishima, are you going home for the summer?”
“Yeah,” Kei says. “Are you?”
“Yeah. So are Hinata and Yamauchi.”
Kei wonders which of them is going to bring it up first – Hinata, Yamaguchi, and Yachi are determined that they all meet up at some point, and maybe with some of the upper years as well. Hinata must have told Kageyama.
“See you there, then,” Kageyama says, and smiles at him. Kageyama’s smiles are a bit more natural than they had been a few years ago – he looks actually happy now, rather than possessed.
Kei smiles back a little. “Yeah.”
“Stay like that!” Someone yells. They freeze, and hear the cameras clicking away. Kei groans – there’s no way he doesn’t look smitten like this, and even if Kageyama is too dumb to see that when he’s looking at him, their friends who religiously collect their photoshoots will.
Maybe they’ll be so busy laughing at Kageyama’s look of fright that they won’t notice Kei. It appears that he’d forgotten they were working, and he’d nearly jumped a foot when someone had shouted at them.
He looks so stupid that Kei can’t help but laugh at him, and Kageyama scowls at him for a moment before laughing too.
“Tsukki!” Yamaguchi yells. “When are you coming home?”
“Next week,” Kei says. “Classes don’t finish for another four days here, and I’ve got evaluations to do.”
“Fine,” Yamaguchi groans. “Tanaka-san and Noya-san are here already, and we want to go to Tokyo sooner rather than later.”
“Hurry up, Tsukishima!” he hears yelled from the other room, and Hinata bursts through into shot. “Why are you so slow? Kageyama’s as slow as you.”
“I can’t control when my course finishes,” Kei mutters.
“We know, Tsukishima-kun,” Yachi says. “Don’t worry, Hinata’s just excited to see you two again.” She grins, a little mischievous, and Kei can’t help but smile back at her. Hinata is yelling in protest, and then he sprints out at full pelt.
“Anyway,” Yamaguchi says. “Everything’s sorted for accommodation there, and we just need to sort dates out. Hold on, Hinata’s getting Kageyama.”
Kei sighs. “He won’t know when he’s free.”
“I’ve got his holiday times here,” Yachi says. “We’re just going to ask what he wants to do.”
Hinata flies back in holding a laptop with Kageyama’s face on the screen. “He’s here!”
“This is stupid,” Kei says. “We’re literally three floors apart.”
“Yes, but you can’t talk if you’re three floors apart,” Yachi explains patiently. “Anyway, what do you guys want to do in Tokyo?”
Hinata and Kageyama begin shouting about eating as many different types of food as they can, and Yamaguchi looks enthusiastic. Yachi sighs and Kei does too.
“We’re going to visit Bokuto-san and Kuroo-san on the third,” Yachi says. “I don’t know exactly who’s coming, but it’s like a reunion!” Yachi sounds very excited and Kei smiles at her reluctantly. Yachi is so excitable, despite her nerves.
“It’ll be great fun, surrounded by all these noisy idiots,” Kei mutters. “Maybe we can have barbeque.”
“Barbeque! Barbeque! Barbeque!” Kageyama and Hinata begin chanting, and Kei slams his face into his desk.
He hears the door to his room open, and someone walks in. Kei doesn’t bother lifting his head from the desk.
“What’s wrong?” his roommate asks. Kei turns to look at him, pulling off his headphones.
“People from high-school,” Kei mumbles. “They’re very noisy.”
“Ah,” he says. “Are you going to visit them?”
“Yeah,” Kei says. He turns back to his laptop, putting his headphones back on. “Alright, I’m going now. I’ve got work to do.”
“We’ll see you soon, Tsukki!” Yamaguchi shouts. Yachi leans in.
“Later, Tsukishima!” Hinata waves, inadvertently turning Kageyama upside-down. Kageyama yells.
“I’m upside-down! Help me!”
Kei shuts off the call to the sound of Hinata screaming that he’s accidentally killed Kageyama and Yachi trying to wrest his laptop away from him. Disasters, the lot of them. Though he supposes he’s included in that.
He turns around to see Bokuto and Kuroo have flanked him, and suddenly he’s fifteen again and being bullied into enjoying something he hasn’t found fun in ages.
Maybe bullied is the wrong word. Even so.
“Bokuto-san, Kuroo-san,” Kei says. “How are you?”
“What’s this?” Bokuto says, holding up a magazine. “Oikawa gave it to us, and told us to laugh at you, but you look so happy!”
Kei crumbles. He wishes his glasses would shatter so he wouldn’t have to deal with this. He really does look happy, and so does Kageyama.
It’s from the photoshoot they’d talked about visiting home, right after Kageyama had been scared into jumping a foot. Apparently, the editor had decided to forgo the icy look they usually tried to achieve with the two of them and had picked photos of them smiling happily at each other.
“We’ve all seen the other ones,” Kuroo says, slinging an arm over Kei’s shoulders. “This one’s different. I might get it framed.”
“You wouldn’t,” Kei says, though he knows they would.
“We could hang it above the mantelpiece,” Bokuto slings an arm around Kei’s shoulders as well and suddenly he’s being dragged down by two over-muscled adults slightly shorter than he is.
“You don’t have a mantelpiece,” Kei points out. “Why are you telling me this? Why did you show me that?”
“You think so badly of us,” Kuroo laments, leaning even more on Kei. Kei’s shoulders are beginning to ache. “We just want our protégée to be happy.”
Kei will admit, after being plied with alcohol he’s too young for, that Bokuto and Kuroo have only ever been nice to him, and that he’s grateful for all they’ve done for him. However.
“Really? It looks more like you just want to laugh at my job.”
“You’re so mean, Tsukki!” Bokuto shouts. “So? How much of this is you and how much is acting? Normally you both look like statues so this is a weird one.”
“How many have you seen?” Kei mumbles. His shoulders are crying out for relief.
“All of them.” Kuroo looks smug.
“Oikawa collects them. And cries because Kageyama turned out hotter than he did.”
“We’ve never seen him cry, Bokuto.”
“That’s true. Anyway, Tsukki,” Bokuto is interrupted by Kei’s shoulders sagging and their arms falling off.
“Oh thank god, my shoulder were killing,” Kei says. “No, that wasn’t acting. Yes, we sort of are friends, and yes, maybe I like him a bit. Anything else, or can we get food now?”
“Food it is,” Kuroo says. “Are you going to do anything about this?”
“No, and neither are either of you.”
“Fine, fine,” Bokuto doesn’t even sound disappointed. “But I’ve got to be your best man at the wedding.”
“No way!” Kuroo protests. “That’s obviously got to be me.”
Kei sighs. “We’re not getting married, and if we were, it would be Yamaguchi.”
Akaashi had taught him a long time ago that the only way to beat these two was to stun them into submission, and that still counted even now, apparently.
The three of them head towards the kitchen, where every surface, flat or not, has had as many plates of food squeezed onto it as possible. The table is covered in plates of meat and fish and vegetables; there are stacks of pizza boxes, eight or ten high, on the sideboards; there are plates of sushi balanced on the toaster; boxes of takeaway food are piles on the sideboards next to the pizzas; enough cake to feed, well, an entire volleyball team is half-hidden behind the piles of nibbles, and Kei, for one, is grateful that there’s this much food because immediately Kuroo and Bokuto have left him, and are piling their paper plates high with everything.
“Who brought vegetables?” he hears someone say. The whole apartment is packed – most of his old teammates are here, as well as Fukurodani and Nekoma’s old teams. There’s music playing but it’s been drowned out by all of the noise, and it’s hot enough that it feels like the air is sweating.
Kei opens the freezer and takes a bottle of water that has clearly only been in there for about ten minutes, and begins piling food on his own paper plate. He hasn’t eaten since lunchtime and it’s almost ten, and he’s feeling it.
“Yo,” he hears, and turns to see Kageyama is stood next to him, eating curry straight out of a foil container.
“Kageyama,” he says, and begins eating.
They stand next to each other, pretending to have a conversation so that people don’t try and interrupt them eating. He catches sight of Kuroo giving him a thumbs up and very deliberately ignores him, and continues eating everything he can.
Kei wakes up the next morning with a crick in his neck, an aching shoulder, and something heavy on his stomach.
He opens his eyes. The world is blurry, or maybe it’s just the ceiling, and he raises a hand to his face to feel that his glasses are askew. He pushes them back on and it doesn’t make much difference – his glasses must be filthy.
He can feel something digging into his shoulder and reaches round awkwardly to move it – it’s a bottle, one of many on the floor with him and several other people who’d just passed out where they lay last night. He hadn’t drunk that much, so his head isn’t hurting, but everyone else is still dead to the world and Kei isn’t in the mood to try and wake them up.
Looking down, he groans. Kageyama is asleep, using his chest as a pillow, and from three years of training camps Kei knows that Kageyama can be woken up by almost anything. Shoving him off will definitely do the job, but it would also mean Kageyama would know he’d used Kei as a pillow.
Kei reaches down to push his shoulder and stops just short of touching him. Kageyama looks tired – there are dark shadows under his eyes and his mouth is drooping, even in his sleep – and Kei doesn’t want to deal with a tired and grumpy Kageyama. He drops his hand and closes his eyes again, not bothering to remove his glasses.
When he wakes up again later, the weight on his stomach is gone.
Summer passes in a whirlwind of nights like that and days filled with summer homework, and then they’re back at school, and back at work.
Kageyama’s touch is somewhat more familiar to him now, and so he doesn’t find it uncomfortable now when they’re told to lean against each other. When they accidentally lean against each other. When Kageyama grabs his cold hands and complains that he won’t be able to play volleyball properly if he loses fingers to the cold.
Kei rolls his eyes and tells Kageyama he’s overreacting, and that he’s been fine for the past eighteen years, but he doesn’t pull his hands away.
Kageyama’s brow furrows in concentration as he rubs Kei’s cold hands and Kei snickers at him. He’s completely focused on his task and he looks a bit ridiculous, but it’s endearing and Kei doesn’t see the harm in waiting for him to satisfy himself.
“Is everything alright?” they hear. “We’re ready to start.”
Kageyama drops Kei’s hands and turns to face the camera. Kei has started to notice how cold his hands are all the time now.
“You don’t have to buy me coffee,” Kei says as the barista hands him the cup. Kageyama pays for them both and they find a table squeezed away at the back of the shop.
“But you’re helping me study,” Kageyama points out, slowly. They have had this conversation one too many times. “So it’s only fair.”
Kei wraps his hands around the cup and takes a sip. He never used to like coffee, but now he doesn’t think he could stay awake without it, and he’s not paying so it tastes even better. The company’s not bad either.
Kageyama drinks his own drink and they sit in silence. Kageyama never has much to say about anything except volleyball, and Kei never has much to say period. At least Kageyama is too dense to feel awkward, which takes the pressure off of Kei to say anything.
It’s dusk out, despite the early hour – Kei sometimes forgets that winter is drawing near and that pretty soon it will be dark by mid-afternoon. Now, the streetlights are flickering on, but the street outside is still crowded and there are still people coming into the shop.
Kei finishes his drink and waits for Kageyama to do the same. He keeps his hands wrapped around the cup, the porcelain still hot after being emptied of the drink.
“I’m done,” Kageyama says, and the two stand up. It’s not cold outside but it’s colder than the café had been and Kei shoves his hands into his pockets and wanders alongside Kageyama.
“Look what I’ve got,” Akiteru says cheerfully. “Kei, you really do look happy in this.”
Kei shuts his laptop.
When he opens it a few minutes later, Akiteru is waiting, and he still hasn’t dropped the magazine.
“You’re very shy about this job. I hope they’re paying you enough.”
“They pay ridiculously,” Kei says. “I might not even have debts after college they pay so much.”
“Really?” Akiteru says thoughtfully. “That’s good then.”
It’s a different shoot to the one Kuroo and Bokuto had threatened to frame, but Kei has to admit Akiteru is right, and that he looks happy in this one too. What had happened to the icy approach they’d gone for at the start? Kei had liked that one, and people hadn’t made a fuss of it.
“I’ve got all of your photos, you know,” Akiteru tells him. Kei had suspected. “It’s nothing to be embarrassed about.”
Kei takes a moment to be thankful that Akiteru has never met Oikawa, or Bokuto and Kuroo. Or anyone apart from Yamaguchi, really.
“It is when everyone I know collects the damn things.” Kei turns back to his homework sheet, due in tomorrow, and scratches out an answer. “I don’t see why.”
“Because you’ve started looking happier in them,” Akiteru says. “I don’t think I’ve ever met Kageyama.”
“He never came round,” Kei says. He doesn’t tell Akiteru that he’ll bring him home one day, because he’s more than aware of how that sounds. “The only one of my friends you know is Yamaguchi.”
“I know, I know.” Akiteru laughs. “You used to complain about him though, back in your first year at Karasuno.”
Kei remembers. Kageyama had been far more unbearable then, and he suspects he was too.
Kei flips his sheet over and hums quietly. “How are things at home?”
“Fine, I guess. I visited a few days ago. They seem lonely.” Akiteru looks a bit sad. “You should call them more often.”
“Okay,” Kei says. He says that every time and he never does. “I’ll see you at Christmas?”
“Yeah, I’ll be there,” Akiteru says. “What do you want?”
“Money,” Kei answers immediately. He doesn’t want anything, and Akiteru knows that.
Akiteru groans. “From the sound of it, you’re better paid than I am!” Kei grins. “What are you going to get your friends?”
“I’ll get Yamaguchi a book or something.”
“And your other friends?”
“I don’t have any other friends. Goodnight, nii-chan.”
The call dies and Kei wonders if Akiteru was being serious about getting other people presents. It’s not like he couldn’t afford to – he really was well paid, but then he spent too much time without a shirt on not to be – but he’d never done it before.
Kei shrugs. Old habits die hard.
“How did you get this job?” Kageyama asks him. Kei takes a moment to answer, because Kageyama hasn’t got a shirt on, and he can’t find the next one he’s supposed to wear.
“My glasses fell off in front of some scouts at the shopping centre,” Kei says, taking pity and handing him the shirt. “They wouldn’t leave me alone.”
“Huh,” Kageyama says. He doesn’t say anything else, searching instead for the jacket he needs.
“What?” Kei asks. “Why?”
“Curious,” Kageyama says. “They saw pictures of me in the volleyball magazine and wouldn’t leave me alone either.”
Kei snorts. “Coincidence much.”
Kageyama finds a jacket. Kei doesn’t know how he can lose the clothes he’s given at the start of the day so quickly, but he invariably does. Kei looks at his own neat piles of clothes.
“Nice jacket,” Kei says quickly. “You ready?”
“What? Yeah.” Kageyama looks round. “Let’s go.”
Kageyama’s jacket really had suited him.
Yamaguchi waits for Kei to acknowledge him. Kei eventually looks up. “What?”
“Do you like Kageyama?”
Kei will admit that he’s not been subtle. He talks about Kageyama a lot. He lets him hold his hands when Kageyama insists they’re too cold. He helps him study and lets him buy coffee. And their photoshoots together are all but romantic, with Kei more often than not ending up caught with a half-fond smile on his lips while looking at Kageyama.
That did not mean he had expected Yamaguchi to actually call him out on it.
“Tsukki, you haven’t been this obvious since that time in our second year at middle school when –”
“Stop right now Yamaguchi.”
“Sorry, Tsukki.” Yamaguchi doesn’t look sorry at all. “So do you?”
Kei isn’t quite sure what to answer. He supposes he does, and that if he says otherwise then Yamaguchi will know he’s lying. But even so. It’s Kageyama. He’d despised him at the start.
“Something like that,” Kei eventually mutters. “He’s too clueless to know.”
Yamaguchi beams at him. “I’m sure you’ll be fine.”
“How can you possibly know that?” Kei eyes Yamaguchi warily. “Don’t do anything.”
“I wasn’t going to.”
“Don’t let Hinata do anything either.”
Yamaguchi looks slightly guilty for a moment. “Fine, I won’t. I’ll see you after the new year, right?”
“Yeah. Have a good holiday, Yamaguchi.”
“You too, Tsukki.”
Kei ends the call and turns to his bag on the floor. It’s mostly packed, with just a few things left to do. He could sort his stuff out now, or he could go to the volleyball club’s end of term get together. It had actually sounded kind of fun when he had been told about it by some of the older students.
Kei changes his shirt and goes.
It’s not quite a party but it is fun – most of the team are there, and Kei knows enough people that he doesn’t have to sit at the edge and watch everyone else get drunk. The second-string players are all close, and Kei is dragged in to sit with the rest of them.
They’re at a restaurant, near enough to the university that the servers are used to dealing with large groups of students, and Kei is able to sit and listen to the conversations and eat his food without having to talk too much. He’s not quite used to the team here – they’re not Karasuno, and they never will be – but he manages to fit in.
“Tsukishima-kun, we’re going to do karaoke, do you want to come?” someone asks. He shakes his head.
“No, thanks. See you after the holiday,” he replies and they wave goodbye and smile. Kei smiles back a little and goes back to eavesdropping on the rest of his team. They’re talking about their holiday plans, mostly, about friends back home, about siblings and parents and cousins and families they’re going to see.
“It’s getting late,” Kei says, standing up. “I’m going home to finish packing.”
“Yeah. Goodbye. See you after the new year.” Kei begins weaving his way through the tables, to hear Kageyama shouting behind him.
“Wait for me,” he calls. “Have a good holiday, everyone.”
Kei waits by the door for Kageyama to catch up with him, and when he does the two walk back towards the dorms.
“Why so desperate to walk me home, Kageyama?” Kei asks. Kageyama mutters something under his breath and begins fishing around in his bag.
“Here,” he mutters, thrusting a badly-wrapped package at Kei. “Merry Christmas.”
Kei raises an eyebrow and takes the package. “Well this won’t do,” he says. His mouth is dry. “I didn’t get you anything.”
“It’s fine, I knew you weren’t going to,” Kageyama mutters. “It’s to say thank you for helping me study,” he offers wanly.
“You already buy me coffee for that,” Kei points out, tearing off the paper. “You didn’t have to do this as well.”
“They’re gloves,” Kageyama says needlessly. “Because your hands are always cold, even in summer, and that’s ridiculous, so I got you gloves. They’re fingerless so you can still do things with them on.”
Kei pulls the gloves on. They fit, which almost surprises him, but Kageyama is more observant than he acts.
“I didn’t get you anything though,” he says again. “So I’ll pay for dinner.”
“I told you, it’s alright – wait, dinner?”
“After the holiday,” Kei says. His mouth is still dry. “Because I’m busy until then. But yes. Dinner. As in a date.”
Kageyama’s cheeks are quickly turning red and Kei’s face probably is too but so long as he doesn’t laugh at Kei he doesn’t care what colour his face is.
Kei wriggles his gloved fingers at Kageyama and grins, honestly delighted. “Thanks for the gloves, Kageyama.”
They walk back to the dorms together, and if Kei’s hand catches Kageyama’s as they do, no one needs to know.