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little bit of a fixer-upper

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            Tadashi found a pair of white headphones hanging over his door knob, one afternoon after class.

            He’d halted, hesitant. He double checked the number on the door, making sure he was at the correct room. Yep, this was his. And he was on the right floor.

            But these were not his headphones.

            For lack of anything else to do, he lifted them off of the handle so he could unlock the door with his keys and then pushed it open. He looked more intensely at the headphones once he was in his room, backpack slung onto the floor and perching himself on the end of his bed. 

            They were full headphones, not like the ear buds that Tadashi loses about every other month, much to the irritation of his parents. There was some padding in the headpiece, deflated and worn down, it seemed, with time. SOMY was written in block letters on each earpiece. The right speaker had a small tear in the padding, but not enough to remove its function. The cord had dulled form its assumed original white shine from use. They were nice headphones, but certainly not the super expensive ones.

            Perhaps they were broken, Tadashi thought to himself. Their owner had gotten fed-up with the useless electronic and just pawned it off on some random door. He wiggled his phone out from the pocket of his skinny jeans and fumbled with the cord to plug them in. Less hesitant, though still wary, Tadashi glanced out into the hallway through his still-open door, wondering if the headphone’s owner was going to burst in on him at any minute and accuse him of stealing. But no one was there, the hallway silent. So Tadashi slipped them over his ears and opened up his music app, waiting for the J-pop song he’d been playing during his shower that morning to resume. But nothing happened when he hit the play button. So they were duds.

            Tadashi frowned and took them off to inspect them more thoroughly. There were no cracks in the speakers. He took off the cushions and confirmed that there didn’t seem to be any damage. It was when he looked more directly at the cord where he found the issue. 

            The cord was slightly sticky, as if there had been adhesive there at some point, where the cord came out of the speakers. Tadashi wiggled it a little, and jumped in shock when music began to blast out, muffled due to the distance. He released the cord, and the music shut off. His phone still showed it to be playing, though. 

            Tadashi got up and, after closing the door, rooted around in his desk drawer for the pair of tweezers he knew he’d stashed somewhere. Once he found them, he went back to the headphones and got to work. With a little bit of wiggling and untwisting of the internal wires, once he pealed a little bit of the covering back to see what was going on inside, the headphones were playing once again. He taped up the newly exposed section with some black electrical tape (he didn’t have any white, so it stuck out like a sore thumb, but whatever) and grinned down at his work. 

            Now the only thing left was to figure out what to do with them. Their owner probably had abandoned them and maybe even planned to buy new ones. But the headphones hadn’t been on his door for longer than a few hours, since they weren’t there when he’d left for lunch. And there was a good chance the owner lived in the building, maybe even the same floor. He could probably return them, if he managed to get the word out. 

            Tadashi pulled out his laptop from his backpack and set to work, creating a simple poster with a google-saved photo of the same headphones. He wrote on it that the owner of abandoned headphones could come pick them up in his room, 112, but they had to prove they were theirs. He wasn’t about to hand his hard work (okay, fifteen minutes, but still) off to some undeserving person. Only the original owner, if they still wanted them. 

            Tadashi realized he could have been spending his time more wisely, like maybe working on the mound of homework he had, or the mostly blank essay that was one click away. But this was fun, surprisingly. Tadashi was still trying to get settled into the school. He’d just transferred a couple months ago from his last university, due to a surprise scholarship offered to people in his field of study: sports medicine. Now he was a junior, not new to university life, but very new to this one. He only had a few friends, all from meeting in class, but found himself lonely most of the time. 

            So he allowed himself this time to devote to something inane, because it brought him happiness. And it may bring him a new friend, who knew. 

            Tadashi printed out several copies of this poster, snagged his roll of tape, and began pasting them up on the walls on each floor. He hoped the dorm manager wouldn’t get too upset by his unauthorized postings, but it was for a good cause!

            When Tadashi got back to his room, he took a deep breath, eyed his bulging backpack full of thick textbooks, and got to work. He tried his best not to let his gaze stray too much towards the headphones dangling from the inside knob of his door, almost teasing. 

***

            At around eight that evening, there was a knock on Tadashi’s door. He startled awake from the doze he was falling into and then groaned at the noise his stomach made. He’d yet to eat dinner and his stomach was protesting with dull pain.

            There was a second knock.

            Tadashi kicked himself away from the desk and stood. It was only when he went to open the door and saw the headphones hanging there that he remembered.

            Headphones in one hand, Tadashi opened the door, and had to tilt his head up. Oh.

            Standing in the hall was a tall guy with serious eyes hidden behind dark glasses frames. They suited his face, the arms of the glasses disappearing beneath slightly curled blond locks. He had an over-the-shoulder bag slung over one arm, long fingers curled around the leather strap.

            “Uh, hi!” Tadashi squeaked, grinning up at the person, though his smile was cut off by a yawn that he smacked a hand over his mouth to smother. “Sorry. Um, what’s up?”

            The man’s eyes traveled down Tadashi’s form and stopped at his waist. Tadashi glanced down too and clenched the hand holding the headphones at his side.

            “Those are mine,” the guy finally said, and Tadashi snapped his head back up to look at him. “Tsukishima Kei, by the way.”

            Tadashi ducked his head in a short bow and replied, “Yamaguchi Tadashi. So: headphones.”

            Tsukishima’s arms crossed over his chest and he raised an impressive single eyebrow. “Yes. Those are mine.”

            Tadashi swiftly hid them behind his back. “You got proof?” he asked, smirking.

            Tsukishima’s eyebrows narrowed and he sighed, as if this was such an inconvenience. Tadashi was the inconvenienced one here. He narrowed his eyes right back, in challenge.

            Tsukishima straightened his back, chest puffing out, like he was trying to be intimidating. But Tadashi stood his ground, smirk growing. He had the upper hand here over…er, a 3500 yen pair of headphones.

            Tsukishima finally deflated with another put-upon sigh. “My proof is that I have an annoying orange who dares to follow me back from class to our dorm just because we live in the same wing, so I used headphones to block him out, but they stopped working today, so once I finally ditched him, I’d put them on the window sill,” he pointed to his left where, in the hall, Tadashi knew there was a window, “waiting for someone to take them so I have an excuse to buy a new pair. I guess they fell and someone assumed they were yours so they put it by your room.”

            Tadashi had a sneaking suspicion he knew who Tsukishima was referring to, having seen an energetic ball of orange fluff racing past on the stairs a few times. Still, that didn’t prove anything other than the existence of some non-associated person in both of their lives.

            “I worked hard on fixing these headphones, Tsukishima Kei,” Tadashi declared, the slight lie rolling smoothly off of his tongue. “I’m gonna need more than that.”

            “I didn’t tell you to fix them,” Tsukishima growled under his breath, shuffling his feet before looking back at Tadashi. “Fine, what proof do you want?”

            “What color are they?”

            Tsukishima blinked. “What?”

            “The headphones. What color are they?”

            “White. There was a picture on the posters you threw up everywhere and I just saw them, anyone could answer that,” Tsukishima countered.

            Tadashi smiled. “Correct. What brand are they?”

            Tsukishima’s eye twitched. Tadashi held back on widening his grin. He was finding it fun to mess with this guy, just a little. Besides, if he couldn’t show proper respect to Tadashi, then he wouldn’t be worthy of the headphones anyway.

            “SOMY,” Tsukishima bit out.

            “Defining characteristics.”

            Tsukishima threw his eyes up, as if he were praying for strength, then looked back at Tadashi. “There’s a hole in the fabric on the headband part, wear and tear. And a rip on the padding on one of the speakers.”

            Tadashi grinned. “Which ear?”

            Tsukishima huffed out a short breath, arms dropping to his sides. His fingers twitched, then he brought both hands up to his head, as if putting on a pretend pair of headphones. “Right,” he answered resolutely.

            Tadashi thrust the headphones out towards Tsukishima. “Congratulations! Tsukishima Kei, you passed!”

            “Just ‘Tsukishima,’ please,” Tsukishima murmured as he took the headphones gently from Tadashi.

            “Tsukki, then.”

            Tsukishima flinched and his eyes narrowed. “Are you always like this?”

            Tadashi batted his eyelashes. “What? Kindly fixing abandoned electronics and then returning them to their owners, free of charge? First time, actually. I’m new here.”

            Tsukishima ran his thumb over the tape Tadashi had covered up the exposed wires with, finger catching on the raised end of the tape. “Which is why you decided to fix these,” Tsukishima shook the headphones, “rather than leave them on the Trash Heap Window.”

            Tadashi blinked. “The what?”

            Tsukishima smirked, probably because he saw a way to take the upper-hand here. “You really know nothing, don’t you?”

            Tadashi tried not to visibly bristle. “Like I said: new. I just transferred in this semester.”

            “Ah,” said the taller man, “Well, the Trash Heap is where those that live in this dorm discard of things they no longer want, mostly because they are broken. Within two days the stuff is usually gone. Have you never really noticed?”

            Tadashi shrugged. “I guess not.” Sure, he’d seen some things left on the sill before, but they were usually things like almost empty coffee cups or lead-less mechanical pencils. He’d been to university for two years already, he knew students left trash in weird places. He hadn’t expected this school to be any different.

            “Right, well. Now you’ve been introduced.” Tsukishima held up the headphones. “Thanks for the fix, though.”

            Tadashi felt warmth bubble up in him. So he enjoyed getting praise and thanks, sue him. “Sure, anytime.”

            Tsukishima nodded and began to back away. Tadashi’s stomach grumbled, reminding him about his food needs. Before he could turn back to his room to grab his keys, however, Tsukishima’s voice stopped him.

            “And you’d better take those posters down. Daichi, the DM, won’t be happy with cluttered halls.”

            Tadashi felt his face heat up at the way Tsukishima was smirking knowingly at him. “Sure,” Tadashi said, a beat too late.

            “Enjoy your evening, Handyman Yamaguchi.”

            Tadashi bit his lip. “You as well, Tsukki.”

            Tsukishima tripped, Tadashi saw it, but the other man recovered so quickly he even doubted his own eyes. He followed Tsukishima with his gaze as he walked down the hallway and then entered a room four-doors-down from his.

            Tadashi gripped a hand in his shirt over his stomach, snagged his keys, and took a quick round through the whole dorm, tearing his posters down as he went, before putting them in the proper receptacle in the lobby and finally, finally heading for a late dinner.

***

            The second time Tadashi noticed something less than usual outside of his door was a week and a half later. On the floor, right underneath the Trash Heap window, that’s sill was home to two coffee cups today, was a ripped pair of volleyball knee pads.

            Well, only one of them was ripped. But its twin had been cast-out as well. Tadashi bent down to grab them and brought them closer to his eyes for inspection. The tear was along the edge of the pad where it met the elastic around the underside.

            Tadashi brought the pads into his room with him, momentarily discarding them on his desk while he went to find his miniature sewing kit in his closet. Before starting university, his parents had secured him with a full first-aid kit as well as some emergency essentials. Tadashi hadn’t used the needle and tiny tools of thread he’d been gifted more than once, but he managed to find them in one of the boxes hidden behind his laundry.

            Tadashi noted with a sigh that he didn’t have any black thread left, all of it having been used up the one time he needed it, to patch a rip in a pair of slacks he was wearing for an interview. The pants still held together; Tadashi was proud of himself a little for it.

            Using navy blue thread would just look slightly off-putting, so Tadashi decided to go for the total opposite of black when choosing his thread color: orange. Carefully, he got to work. Flicking on his desk lamp, Tadashi bent over the knee pad, needle and thread in hand, and slowly patched the elastic back with the pad. The process was longer than he expected as he took his time, but he wanted to be sure the connection was secure.

            Tadashi hadn’t played volleyball since high school (and had barely played while there), but he knew there was an intramural team at this university adjacent to the professional team. His scholarship was more of a work-study job, which put him to work taking care of the various sports teams at the university. He’d only seen the volleyball team once, and that was just to meet the coach and introduce himself. He hadn’t stayed for long other than to get a copy of the team roster and schedule so that if he was called he’d know where to go and if there were any previous injuries to account for.

            Maybe these kneepads were a sign to start playing again. He’d always loved the feeling of getting a jump floater serve just right.

            But…these pads had been someone else’s first. Though they were obviously worn, they didn’t have as much wear and tear as Tadashi would expect with a thrown-out pair. Now that he’d examined and fixed them, they looked almost brand new. He admired his handiwork for a moment before setting the kneepad down and sighing, running a hand over his face. He had an odd sense of deja-vu, but knew he would end up doing the nicest thing anyway. Unless he’d prefer to drown in crippling guilt for a week over kneepads.

            Tadashi sighed dramatically as he pulled towards himself his laptop and opened up a blank word document, already half-way done with creating a poster to alert whoever discarded the kneepads that they could come get them, they didn’t need to be thrown away.

            He printed out less of them, this time. He taped one to each floor hallway, and then one right next to the Trash Heap, in case the owner was curious to see if their items were still there.

            And, similar to last time, there was a knock on his door later that evening, more rapid this time, a collection of quick knocks that fell one right after the other.

            “Hello!” a happy voice declared when Tadashi opened the door and looked down to greet the shorter man. He had a shock of bright orange curls over his head, and Tadashi’s eyes widened when he realized he recognized him.

            “Hello. You here for the knee pads?” Tadashi asked, cutting to the chase this time.

            “Yes!” was the instant reply of the energetic student. “I’m Hinata Shouyou! I’m on the volleyball team!”

            Tadashi smiled. He didn’t feel the need to ask for verification this time. He didn’t think there was a truly deceiving bone in Hinata’s body. “Yamaguchi Tadashi, nice to meet you, Hinata. I have the pads in here, just give me a second…” Tadashi shuffled over to his desk and retrieved the pads and passed them to Hinata who took them into his hands with a sound of awe.

            “I, uh, didn’t have any black thread, but the orange looks pretty cool, I think. I hope they’re still useable. They looked in too good of shape to throw away, I just had to save them,” he joked.

            “Owoah, thanks Yamaguchi! These are awesome. It’s the team colors!” Tadashi had forgotten that. “Yeah, I was so upset when they ripped because I have, like, no sewing skills at all, even though my mom and sister have taught me, I’m just so bad at it. And they were only a couple weeks old! Thanks so much!”

            Hinata was beaming up at Tadashi, and he couldn’t help but grin back, the happiness contagious. “Anytime,” Tadashi said, and realized he meant it.

            “Can I get you dinner or something as thanks?” Hinata asked. “My roommate and I were just about to go for ramen! You could join!”

            Tadashi sputtered. “Oh, I couldn’t impose, you don’t need—”

            “But I want to! Come on. I bet I can get Kageyama to pay for all of us.” Hinata winked.

            Tadashi didn’t know who Kageyama was, but found the premise oddly funny, and surprised himself by saying, “Okay, sure.”

            “Yay!” Hinata cheered. “Let me just throw these in my room, I’ll grab Kageyama, and we’ll meet you by the front in, like, five?”

            “Sure!” Tadashi agreed, and waved as Hinata bowed in thanks before heading for the stairs, shooting a smile towards the now empty Trash Heap.

            Tadashi sighed, eyeing the poster on the window. Grabbing his keys and wallet, he went through the same motions as last time, taking his posters off of the walls. When he came to the final one just down the hall from his room, he picked it carefully away, hoping that no old paint chipped off with it, when the door right next to the wall opened, startling Tadashi into dropping the posters to the floor.

            Someone chuckled. A shadow fell over Tadashi as he scrambled to pick up the discarded pages, and then there was a hand reaching towards him, the last poster between its fingers.

            “Handyman Yamaguchi at it again?”

            Tadashi raised his head, only to find Tsukishima at his side, smirk in place on his face.

            “Tsukki,” Tadashi breathed in surprise before standing. The taller man followed his actions. “Hey. Um, thanks.”

            “Volleyball pads this time? My, aren’t you a man of many talents,” Tsukishima teased. Tadashi wondered if the man had meant for there to be a slightly malicious tone to his words, because if he had it had fallen short. It just sounded like a compliment.

            Tadashi brushed his bangs out of his face, blowing a puff of air up to displace a single strand that just did not want to work with him. “I suppose you could say that,” Tadashi replied, clutching the posters to his chest.

            Tsukishima opened his mouth to say more, but a happy voice cut him off.

            “Yamaguchi! Ready to go!— Ah!” Hinata stopped short, seeing who he was standing by. The was an unfamiliar guy behind Hinata who looked annoyed, eyes narrowing even further at the sight of them.

            “Tsukishima.” Hinata’s voice dripped of venom, and Tadashi’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. He glanced at Tsukishima for guidance on how to react, but the taller man was no longer looking at him. He was smirking meanly at Hinata and his companion, assumedly Kageyama.

            “Ah, the King and his Queen. I should have guess it was you two in need of a rescue.” He swept a hand out towards the posters in Tadashi’s arms.

            Kageyama’s eyes narrowed even further, lip curling in a sneer.

            Tadashi Did Not Like™ the tension he could feel between the three of them, so he intervened. “Tsukki, that wasn’t very nice,” he chastised. Tsukishima’s smirk faded and he shot Tadashi a blank look.

            Hinata giggled. “Tsukki,” he repeated. Kageyama smirked.

            Tadashi rounded on them. “Don’t be rude back, you guys, we’re adults not children.”

            Hinata’s face fell. Kageyama looked at him in surprise.

            Tadashi clapped his hands. “Now, I’m starving. Let’s get going to dinner. Tsukki, I’d ask you to join us, but…clearly that won’t work right now. Another time!”

            Tsukishima’s eyes narrowed and he scoffed, but didn’t argue, which Tadashi was glad for.

            Tadashi patted Hinata’s shoulder and smiled at Kageyama. “Let’s go!”

            He herded the two out of the dorm and sighed in relief once they were on the road towards the nearest ramen place.

            Hinata hit his breaking point two minutes into their walk. “God! I just hate that guy!”

            Kageyama grunted in agreement.

            “Why, what did he do?” Tadashi asked; he couldn’t help his curiosity.

            “Like a week or so ago he just snapped at me. Told me I was annoying, that he didn’t want me talking to him. The nerve of him! I didn’t do anything wrong!”

            Tadashi hummed. “Maybe. But did you stop to ask him if there was something you could do to change so you could keep being friends? Er, civil, at least?”

            Hinata ducked his head and mumbled. “No. I threw my volleyball at him and ran.”

            Tadashi snickered. Kageyama shot him a look, so he muffled his laugh. “Sorry. Well, you know that probably only pissed him off more, right?”

            “Yeah,” Hinata sighed, swooning dramatically into Kageyama’s side. The taller boy just let him, supporting Hinata’s weight naturally. “I know. He just gets me so angry sometimes. And he’s always mean to Kageyama and teasing us.”

            Tadashi raised an eyebrow. “Then why did you hang out with him in the first place? You share only one class together, right?”

            “For that reason only. He’s really smart, as pissed as I am to admit it. It helps me in class.”

            “So,” Tadashi held out the word, putting emphasis on it, “if he was willing to help you be better at the class, he must have liked you at least a little bit. Maybe he was having a bad day.”

            “Yeah, maybe…” Hinata let his voice drop as they approached the ramen place. “Enough about Stinky-shima, let’s eat!”

            Tadashi smothered his laugh at the name, because he didn’t want the pair to think he endorsed that kind of name-calling.

***

            Dinner with Kageyama and Hinata had been nice. Tadashi was able to leave with a promise for a similar meal next week and the feeling like he’d been able to make two friends in one.

            Tadashi wondered ,as he settled into bed later that night, if he could consider Tsukki a friend. They’d only talked twice, but he felt like there was some comradery there, or at least the opportunity for something to blossom.

            The Trash Heap stayed blissfully empty of anything of actual value for a couple weeks. In this time, Tadashi really came to see it as it truly was: an unofficial Lost and Found. As it was stationed outside his door, he’d been paying more attention, and about once a week he’d hear an exclamation of joy teamed with someone saying something like, “I was wondering where this ended up!”

            Over those next few weeks, Tadashi had dinner with Hinata three times, two of those times with Kageyama. He’d run into Tsukishima multiple times as well, one of those times turning into a begrudging (on Tsukishima’s end) shared meal at a local café that many students frequented. The headphones Tadashi had repaired sat around Tsukishima’s neck like jewelry, always present, and it brought a little thrill of happiness to Tadashi whenever he saw them. The headphones, not Tsukishima. Or so he thought.

            It wasn’t until the rhythm of the Trash Heap was disrupted that Tadashi stopped to notice.

            There was a notebook on the window sill, propped up against the glass, that had been sitting there for going on five days now. Tadashi faltered once he saw it, yet again, waiting. Out of curiosity, he reached for it and thumbed it open. There wasn’t a name inside, unfortunately, but they were notes for what looked like a very intense chemistry class. Tadashi had a flashback to his organic chemistry days his last semester at his previous university, and he shivered.

            There were little doodles in the corners of some of the pages, mostly shapes and swirls similar to Tadashi’s own doodles, but nothing to indicate who may own the notebook. The handwriting was slanted, but neat. It didn’t look familiar, which wasn’t a surprise, but certainly would have been helpful.

            The notes were dated, so Tadashi knew the notebook had been used until it had been lost, so someone was probably looking for it. And after five days, they were probably pretty worried. Midterms were approaching faster and faster, and Tadashi knew as a person who learned by writing down notes that without his he’d be screwed.

            But if the owner lived in the building, there was a large chance they would at some point check the Trash Heap for any abandoned items not found by the DM in the actual Lost and Found. And yet.

            So maybe they didn’t live in the building? But then how did the notebook end up here? Tadashi’s head began to spin with all of the contrasting thoughts. He took the notebook into his room and set it on his desk for now. He had to finish up a short essay for a class the next day, but then he’d eat dinner and figure out what to do with the notebook.

            Maybe going to the dorm manager would be a good idea. He could at least stop by and ask if anyone had been looking for one.

            Deciding that was a solid first idea, Tadashi walked over after getting dinner. He knocked on the DM’s door; Sawamura Daichi the plaque on it declared. There was a little whiteboard on the wall next to the door that stated he was in, so he hoped it was correctly labeled.

            There was a shuffle, then the sound of the knob being turned. Tadashi stepped back and turned on the charm as he was faced with Sawamura Call-Me-Daichi.

            “Hi Daichi!” Tadashi greeted. “Um, I was wondering if anyone had come to you in the last few days looking for a notebook?”

            Daichi stood a few centimeters shorter than Tadashi, but despite that, he had an aura about him that spoke of superiority. Yet the smile on his face was welcoming, and Tadashi had spoken to him enough times, especially when he first transferred in, to know that he was a good guy.

            Daichi furrowed his eyebrows and his gaze fell away, like he was thinking it over. “A lost notebook? No, no one has come to me for one. Did you lose one?”

            Tadashi shook his head. “Ah, no. I found one, well, it was at the end of the hall,” Tadashi gestured in the vague direction of his room. “It looks important, is all.”

            Daichi hummed, arms crossing over his chest. “What is it for?”

            “Science, I think. Looks pretty advanced too. I was just hoping to get it returned soon, because midterms are coming up.”

            In the middle of his speech, Daichi’s eyes lit up, and Tadashi petered off, looking at the older man in slight confusion.

            “The notebook,” Daichi said, “does it have a blue cover?”

            Tadashi barely had to think. “Yeah. Do you think you know who it belongs to?”

            Daichi broke out into a grin. “I think you just saved my hide,” he admitted, pulling his phone out of his pocket and messing around on the screen. “Could you bring it here? I want to confirm it’s his.”

            Unsure of who the ‘his’ was referring to but not immediately curious enough to ask, Tadashi jogged down to his room, retrieved the notebook, and brought it back to Daichi within a minute. He waved it as he approached Daichi’s still open room door, and relief shone on Daichi’s face.

            “So that’s where it ended up,” Daichi said on a sigh, taking the notebook. He snapped a photo of it with his phone, sending it off as a message, and got an immediate response back that brought a genuine smile to his face. It looked good on him, Tadashi decided.

            “My… friend, Suga, has been looking everywhere for this. We’d studied together last week, but we searched the whole room for it and couldn’t find it, so he assumed he’d lost it elsewhere. I’m glad it turned up.” Daichi grinned at him. “Thank you for bringing this over, Yamaguchi.”

            Tadashi waved him off. “Oh sure, no problem. I’ve just been, you know,” he said with a laugh, “keeping my eyes peeled on the Trash Heap.”

            Daichi rubbed the back of his neck. “Yeah, I should probably say something about that. But it’s almost dorm tradition at this point. I hope it hasn’t been much of a bother.”

            Tadashi shook his head, immediately placating the man. “No, not really. No bother. This place has a quirk, and I can respect that.” He nodded in assurance.

            Daichi looked a bit more relieved, head ducking down to smile at whatever text he received on his phone, before he schooled his expression a little and looked back up at Tadashi. “I’m glad. You’re all settled in now, I hope? I know it can be a rocky start here.”

            Tadashi smiled. “Nah, I’m quite comfortable now. Thank you, though.”

            “I’m sure Suga will want to take you out to lunch to thank you,” Daichi said, and his phone pinged again and he laughed at it. He turned the screen to face Tadashi, and he read almost the same wishes on the screen. “I assumed right.”

            “He doesn’t have to,” Tadashi asserted. “I’m sure you would have found it eventually.”

            “Yes, but he has an exam tomorrow, so he really needed it by tonight,” Daichi shot back.

            “Still…” Tadashi couldn’t find anything to come back with. He knew he’d probably do the same, if he were in this Suga-person’s situation. “Okay, that’s fine then. I have a feeling I would end up giving in whether I wanted to or not.”

            Daichi snickered. “That’s Suga for you. I’ll pass along your contact info to him, so if you get a text from a random number it’s probably him.”

            “That’s fine. Just let him know he doesn’t have to,” Tadashi repeated.

            Daichi smiled softly down at his phone. “Ah, but he will anyway.” He looked back up at Tadashi. “Thanks again. Stop by if you ever need anything, or something seems off in your, er, neck of the woods.”

            Tadashi chuckled. “Will do, see you later Daichi!”

            Within the hour, Tadashi was having a conversation with Sugawara Koushi, as he was soon introduced to, about the horrors of being a science major. He eventually had to end the conversation because he had to study (All thanks to you Yama!!!), but Tadashi ended the day with a smile on his face and a new friend.

***

            After the notebook incident, Tadashi apparently became known as the Keeper of the Trash Heap, or Handyman Yamaguchi, as Tsukishima called him teasingly. If there was something that looked important, or something of value left abandoned in the corner of the first floor, Tadashi decided to take temporary care of it. He’d whip up a quick info poster, tape it to the window, and wait. Usually within the day, someone came to retrieve the item. Nine out of ten times (because he’d had ten times by now) the original owners always thanked him with a kind smile. Once, he’d finagled with the abandoned item to make them a little nicer, fixing up the lacing on a pair of sneakers with a pair of unused laces Tadashi knew he was never going to use, that someone had somehow abandoned after a crazy weekend party. But as Tsukishima had foretold with his nickname, that wasn’t the end of his handyman days.

            Apparently Hinata had been boasting about his abilities to the volleyball team, showing off his fixed knee pads, embarrassing Kageyama, the tall dark-haired man had grumbled as a flush worked its way up his face. Hinata had also helpfully pointed out that Tadashi had been the one to fix Tsukishima’s headphones too, so he was skilled in many areas. Soon after, Tadashi was visited by Kenma, a friend of Hinata’s from high school and student in room 105, who had softly asked if he could repair an old hoodie of his, or technically his best friend’s, that he often wore. He supplied the red string and needle and everything, and Tadashi was more than happy to help; he had the time.

            But Kenma hadn’t been the last. Soon, he had appointments. People would slip notes under his door, asking if he had time to look at their speakers that suddenly stopped working, or if he could, discretely, patch a hole in the wall they’d accidentally created. A sheepish freshman girl even stopped by, once, to ask if he had any first-aid supplies, because both Daichi and her roommate were out, and it wasn’t bad enough to go to the student health center for, and she’d heard about Tadashi helping others so she’d thought— Tadashi had cut her off before she dissolved into tears and had graciously let her in and helped patch her up.

            Tsukishima caught him at the end of that one. They’d planned to get dinner together and then do homework, but Tadashi had been late and not answering Tsukishima’s texts, so the tall blond had come to investigate.

            The poor girl practically bolted away once Tadashi opened the door to see her off and Tsukishima was filling up the entrance with all of his height. Tsukishima shot him a devious look, and Tadashi just rolled his eyes and gestured for him to come in.

            “Handyman Yamaguchi using his tricks of the trade to pick up girls?” Tsukishima asked, a smirk on his face. “I never thought you’d stoop so low.”

            “That is definitely not my angle,” Tadashi murmured under his breath as he shut the door behind Tsukishima and leaned against it.

            Tsukishima arched an eyebrow at him, apparently having heard the comment, but Tadashi wasn’t going to expand on it.

            When the quiet staring contest drew too long between them, Tsukishima huffed and conceded with an eye roll. “If you’re done with your duties for the day, can we get dinner now?”

            “You don’t have to sound so jealous, Tsukki,” Tadashi teased as he pushed off of the door and over to his desk to grab his wallet and keys. He chuckled and turned back to Tsukishima, only to see an odd look on his face. “Tsukki?”

            Tsukishima blinked, and his gaze refocused on Tadashi. “Hm? Yeah.”

            Tadashi felt his cheeks go warm, though he couldn’t immediately say as to the reason why. Tsukki had just zoned out, Tadashi told himself. He wasn’t agreeing to his teasing statement or anything. That would be… wishful thinking.

            It had been over a month, closer to two, since Tadashi met Tsukishima. And though they didn’t share any classes or have similar fields of study, they got on oddly well. Tsukishima was difficult to get along with, Tadashi had learned very early on, with that brush between him and Kageyama and Hinata. He had no filter when he spoke, and didn’t pull his verbal punches. He was very vocal about his dislikes, and his list was seemingly endless. He was defensive. Tadashi knew what that was like, though he reacted to things in a different way. He had similar sarcastic comebacks, he just didn’t have the courage to say them, agonizing over them being too mean. In a way, he admired Tsukishima for speaking his mind, even though he was disappointed when he went too far.

            There was a reason for Tsukishima’s defensiveness that manifested itself as a shield of hurtful comments. Tadashi didn’t know the reason, but he knew it was there. He had his own reasons: childhood bullying and feeling inadequate leading to distrust and anxiety and avoidance that Tadashi imagined like a spear. He could jab from a distance, playing it safe, but not staying silent or unmoving.

            So when Tsukishima made a snarky remark, if Tadashi agreed, he’d make one in kind, or smother a laugh behind a hand. If he disagreed, he whined Tsukishima’s nickname, using the right inflection in his tone as a warning. The weird thing was, Tsukishima listened. That was how Tadashi knew this friendship or whatever they had between them wasn’t one-sided. Tsukishima listened when he was chastised, listened to him ramble even when it went on for too long, listened when Tadashi had a snarky comment himself, backing up his spear strike with a sweeping blow from his shield.

            So maybe Tadashi did know why his cheeks felt warm when Tsukishima leveled his eyes at him, unwavering behind his lenses. Because yeah, they could stand to be in each other’s presence, but there was more to it, wasn’t there? Tadashi found it endearing when Tsukishima went on about one of his assignments, or his passion for his department. He liked learning more things about him, like his volleyball past or his coffee order. He thought about him when they weren’t together, thinking up questions to ask him, so he could learn even more.

            Tadashi’s fingers spasmed. What did Tsukishima think about him?

            “Yamaguchi. Did that girl break your brain or something?”

            Tadashi snapped out of his thoughts, taking in a sharp breath when he realized he’d been silent and still for way too long.

            “Or has the lack of food done you in?” Tsukishima added. He looked normal, gaze focused and a smirk on his face once again.

            “Neither. Um.” Tadashi waved a hand. “Sorry, lost in thought. What do you want to eat, I’m fine with anything. Though it is later than we planned,” Tadashi noted with a cursory glance at his phone’s screen. “Sorry.”

            “Stop apologizing. Handyman Yamaguchi seems to be holding this place together. It would be detrimental for me to monopolize you and watch the dorm come crashing down. Though it would be amusing.”

            Tadashi barked out a sharp laugh, then ducked his head in embarrassment at the sound. What even was that? “I doubt I’m anywhere near that important,” Tadashi said. “And don’t be too mean. You were a recipient of my help too, don’t you forget. The first, actually.”

            Tsukishima scoffed. “Unknowingly.”

            “You’re the one who started it,” Tadashi stated, pointing at Tsukishima. The headphones were around his neck once again, the cord tucked underneath his jacket. Tsukishima brought a hand up to it, fingers brushing the white plastic. “Not that I’m complaining,” Tadashi added. “It’s been a good opportunity for me to meet the community here, and make some good friends. Like you,” Tadashi said with a grin.

            Tsukishima’s eyes met his, something akin to surprise in his gaze.

            “So I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to blame this all on you, Tsukki. Making me the dorm handyman and then telling people about it,” Tadashi teased, wiggling his eyebrows.

            Tsukishima huffed and crossed his arms. “Not on purpose. Hinata got it out of me. He’s the one who spread it around if you’ll recall.”

            Tadashi’s eyes widened a pinch. “Hinata spoke to you? You willingly spoke to Hinata? I thought you two were…” Tadashi curled his fingers into claws and had them gnash against each other. “Not friends,” Tadashi concluded.

            Tsukishima scratched the back of his neck and spoke quickly. “We aren’t. He just weaseled it out of me after I apologized.”

            Tadashi was startled by the confession. “You apologized? For what?— Oh, it doesn’t matter.” Tadashi playfully punched Tsukishima on the shoulder. “That was very nice of you, Tsukki.”

            Tsukishima winced at the punch, though Tadashi knew it caused no pain. Tsukishima’s lips fell into a pout as he rubbed the “abused” area. “Using your handyman hands for evil is bad, Yamaguchi. I may have to revoke your license. I have the authority to do that, you know, since apparently I gave it to you.”

            Tadashi narrowed his eyes and chuckled softly. “Don’t abuse your special authority as my first customer.”

            “Oh, so I’m special,” Tsukishima stated, locking on to that single part of Tadashi’s retort.

            Tadashi felt his mouth go dry. Tsukishima was closer to him than before, less than ten centimeters between them, wearing a smirk as usual, but it was a little bit softer. There were crinkles around his eyes, showing he was amused, and that he was happy. His thumb made measured strokes over the back of one of the speakers in his headphones, the noise matching up with Tadashi’s heartbeat eerily well.

            “That’s how I think of you,” Tadashi found himself confessing. He knew his face was turning red, he could feel the heat on the tips of his ears.

            Tsukishima’s face slowly relaxed, smirk falling into a neutral flat line, not giving any emotion away. Tadashi could feel his body vibrating, like a big ball of anxiety ready to explode at any moment. Tsukishima’s hand fell back down to his side, fingers tucking into the pockets of his jeans.

            “You know, I think Handyman Yamaguchi has one more job to do tonight.”

            Tadashi swallowed thickly, hands balling into fists at his sides. “A-and what’s that?”

            “Getting dinner to-go and then bringing it back here for the both of us.”

            Tadashi felt a little faint.

            Tsukishima brushed past him, the barest touch of skin against skin, and moved to take a seat in Tadashi’s desk chair, spinning around in it to face Tadashi where he was still frozen half-way to the door, keys and wallet in trembling hand.

            Tsukishima cocked his head to the side. “Well? I’ll wait here. I need to see that the job gets done.”

            Tadashi released a breath, though it came out a little shaky. He nodded, slowly.

            “Don’t worry,” Tsukishima assured him in a voice that sounded anything but comforting, a feral smile appearing on his face. “I’ll be patient.”

            “J-just dinner then?” Tadashi found his voice enough to stutter, felling weightless. Is this—? Was Tsukishima—?

            Tsukishima hummed, crossing one leg over the other and leaning back in the chair, assessing Tadashi. “I’ll give you the rest of the instructions when you get back.”

            Tadashi’s jaw dropped. He was being so…roundaboutly direct, was the only way he knew to describe Tsukishima’s commands, though it was an oxymoron.

            “Think you can handle this job, Handyman Yamaguchi?”

            For the first time, Tadashi noted a bit of hesitance in Tsukishima’s tone. He almost wanted to laugh. Maybe he did know what Tsukishima thought of him.

            Tadashi choked out a laugh. He felt like flying. “Yes sir, Bossman Tsukki.”