tsukishima kei walks by him, eyebrows furrowed as he tried to make sense of the jumble of words in the book in front of him, and his headphones are around his neck like some kind of ever present collar. he smells like mint and freshly baked bread and he is, without a doubt, the same tsukki from high school.
the only difference, he supposes, is that back then, they were always side by side, so rarely seen without each other—but that’s probably only because yamaguchi willed it to be so. he’s not exactly proud; god knows tsukishima could’ve hung out with other people—much cooler people—people who were probably more his speed than the soft-hearted boy who got picked on in the school playground.
still, yamaguchi may not be proud of his selfishness, but he does not regret it. he thinks he probably never will.
winter is harsh this year, but it has always been his favorite season—not because he enjoys the idea of frostbite, but because it reminds him of days in the snow with tsukishima. he remembers the aroma of hot chocolate, the light embers of the fire, and the red scarf that he lent him so clearly in his memories. seeing tsukishima now, pale hair dusted by snowflakes, complexion flush, wrapped in too many layers because of his tendency to get sick easily in bad weather, has just given him another reason to love the cold. his tsukki is already so pretty, and winter has always made him prettier.
how very quaint. yamaguchi tanashi has loved tsukishima kei for a long time. he loves him to the point where he has forgotten what it felt like not to be consumed by everything tsukishima kei was.
graduation was rough, and crying wasn’t cool so tsukki ruffled yamaguchi’s hair instead (the latter had no such qualms: he was bawling even before the ceremony was officially over) and tsukki never told yamaguchi where he’d be studying for college, so yamaguchi never asked.
still, two years is a long time, isn’t it? two years should’ve been enough. after all, it’s not like he was waiting for tsukishima to show up, for him to send him a text like a distraught wife waiting for her husband to return home from war. he joined clubs, played volleyball at times (though touching one always reminded him of when he was stuck on that goddamn bench, watching tsukishima play with awestruck eyes), and even met up with both hinata and kageyama for coffee when they all had a free day.
and yet, right now, he burns. the need scorches his lungs, the linings of his stomach. he remembers, suddenly, that love is deadly. he already knew, of course; still, it hits him like the day he first realized it.
it doesn’t matter that tsukki doesn’t see him in the same way and probably never will. castles in the air, he knows, but yamaguchi’s always been a hard worker. he’s had to work hard for everything he has, and love, he’s always thought, is no different. you build it with a strong foundation, and you secure it with familiarity.
a changeable mind, that’s something tsukki always had. he’s unpredictable, mostly because his thoughts are either too simple or too complicated. but that’s fine, really it is—he’s a guy as ever changing as the moon, and that was fine. the only thing yamaguchi wants is a chance to truly understand the boy behind the actions, the reasoning behind every single move: tsukki’s really the only person he wanted to know inside and out like this, really.
people are simple-minded and yamaguchi is no exception. love is a motive as good as any to stay by his side. it was exciting, something to look forward to, seeing him in the mornings, walking home with him in the afternoons, watching as his talents reached heights unattainable for him at first due to his own stubbornness. there was a beauty in seeing one you loved become so much more in front of your eyes. it was like nothing else.
yamaguchi would come to know that he was very calm looking, but he had a firecracker temper underneath that cool exterior. he would come to know that he was reserved man, who preferred to keep his secrets to himself and yet shared with him his inner thoughts, mostly by accident. and he would come to know, one day, as he’s grabbing him by the collar and shouting at him for being pathetic, that he fell in love with him and he’s never really been taught how to stop falling.
as a young boy, what he felt was only thing that he was really in touch of. he loved to love, that wasn’t a secret. unfortunately, the love he gave out is hardly ever returned and tsukishima kei isn’t an exemption to that rule, no matter how much yamaguchi wished for it not to be the case.
the graduation ceremony had been enough to convince yamaguchi of that. tsukishima had been mostly distant, mumbling complaints under his breath. his brother was there for it, and tsukishima had smiled a little bit, and they took a picture together, one yamaguchi insisted on (and kept in his wallet). kuroo tetsurou was there too. tsukishima couldn’t stop fidgeting until he went out to meet him, and when they met up by the gate after all was said and done, tsukishima was wearing kuroo’s jacket.
his insides crumpled and churned, but whatever, right? it was graduation day, anyway. oh well, right? he tried his very best regardless of the situation. he’d pushed all he could, and it wasn’t his fault that nothing clicked into motion.
if he cried that night, it was nobody’s business but his own, and if he deleted tsukki’s number so he wouldn’t be tempted to text him first—then that was normal, right? it wasn’t like he could get over him in a day. just like everything else, he needed to give it time and effort, and staying in contact with tsukishima would only be counterproductive.
he may have been weak, but he wasn’t about to half ass things.
but tsukishima kei, two years later, is beautiful in a way that yamaguchi is not prepared for.
“tsukishima-kun,” yamaguchi calls for him, his voice brittle. it’s been two years, for god’s sake. he doesn’t care anymore if tsukishima doesn’t feel the same way, but the way he feels for him is passionate in a way that words can’t explain. it doesn’t matter to him if he knows, if he suspects. yamaguchi will never admit. “tsukki!”
he stops, turns around. there’s light surprise in his eyes but other than that, he doesn’t show much. not that it matters; yamaguchi’s talking again.
“hey, you’re being real lame again.”
“am i, yamaguchi?” his movements are slow, unhurried, his face snuffed out by the cashmere scarf around his neck. there’s snow on his head, his cheeks are red, and he’s talking to him as if they never stopped. it’s hard not to feel endeared.
“are you planning to explain why you think so?”
yamaguchi thinks he might be bothering him, but tsukishima doesn’t look like he’s repelling his company in the slightest, so he lets himself be happy about that.
“come on, don’t play dumb. is it really that difficult for you to keep in touch with your former classmates?”
tsukishima blinks when yamaguchi jogs to his side and they start to walk, falling into step like it’s second nature—it’s so akin to high school that yamaguchi can’t help smiling.
“it’s not like i was very close with them.”
they’re side by side again and the sun is sinking in the horizon, making the sky red and orange and yellow, and yamaguchu hates how much he’s making this seem like something romantic when tsukishima doesn’t feel the same way, if the unconcerned look in his eyes is any indication. still, this time with tsukki is his and his alone.
“tsukki, this is just—”
“the only person i actually tolerated to an extent was you, yamaguchi,” tsukishima says, “but you didn’t text either, so—”
his gaze returns to his direction, sharp. tsukishima’s looking right back at him, hands pushed deep inside his pockets, the very picture of apathetic nonchalance.
“—this is the part where i say touché, i think,” tsukishima concludes.
yamaguchi is suddenly neck deep in flashbacks—the feeling of bitterness of losing someone you shared a whole life with, and all because tsukki didn’t text him even once. he resented himself for thinking that tsukki would notice his absence—and he regretted deleting the number when in the height of despair. all that? all that—and all because tsukki was waiting for him to make the first move?
idiot. he reaches forward and flicks tsukishima on the forehead.
“what—? the hell’s your damage, yamaguchi?” tsukishima’s temper flares slightly as he rubs at the spot where he’d just been hit.
“how do you get anything you want with that attitude?”
tsukishima shrugs. the answer is obvious. in academics, in sports, in life, it was the same. while yamaguchi worked hard, tsukishima excelled at everything without much fanfare, and could probably also reach much farther if only he tried.
the problem? he rarely ever did.
yamaguchi sighs. “well, it worked in your favor, so it’s not like i can judge you. kuroo-san’s the type to enjoy the chase, huh?”
“mhm? i guess so, but what’s that got to do with me?”
”i mean. you’re dating, right?”
“and where did you get that ridiculous idea from?” tsukishima’s gaze is severe, like he would likely beat up the informant. “i’d much rather chew glass and swallow.”
“okay, jeez, that’s graphic, i get it. i just thought—but if you aren’t dating, then why was he at the graduation?”
“he attended just to gloat about the fact that he was finally going out with kozume kenma. like i give a single shit.”
“what? get real. this isn’t a romcom.” tsukishima retorts.
“there’s literally no way that you didn’t provoke him. even a little bit.”
“fine, maybe i did. fine, maybe he proved me wrong. but the hell, really—what was the point of all that chasing, anyway?”
“what other reason do you need other than pride?”
tsukishima and yamaguchi stand there as they size each other up. it’s just like that day in high school, but so different. because they’re older now—
“what are you talking about?” tsukishima asks carefully, like even he is confused. his voice is monotone, though, not betraying any emotion. “you never liked anyone back then. you’d tell me if you did. right?”
“yeah. yeah, i would’ve—i think i—i really should, um, i really should be—i’ll be going now,” he charges into a powerwalk, with the full intention of leaving tsukishima behind (never mind that tsukki had bizarrely long legs and would catch up in three steps). he drowns out tsukishima’s quizzical surprise.
it’s been two years since you've seen him. why are you walking away?
now that he thinks about it, tsukishima probably isn’t the only mindfuck in town, but he reckons it’t different. he loves him, he doesn't, it’s that simple. he has a reason to be a mindfuck—however internal.
(it’syouit’syoutheoneiloveisyou, his heart tries to convey.)
tsukishima doesn’t make a move to stop him, and yamaguchi keeps walking. the distance is getting more pronounced, and no one is doing a thing to stop the rift from growing.
maybe this was a long time coming. he was the one who was hanging on to such a childish crush. tsukki wasn’t going to stop him, because he was clever and likely figured out why yamaguchi was acting so—
he stops in his tracks.
“i’m going to call you later, around six pm,” and even without turning around, it's clear that tsukishima’s probably burning bright red right now, ”don’t you think about forgetting.”
”i won’t,” he calls out, a smile forcing its way on his face.
he feels so warm.
“honestly, yamaguchi...” there’s a light chuckle from his former teammate. “when did you get so cool?”
the one i love is you.
yamaguchi’s heart is so, so warm.