If you were to ask Tobio how it all started, he wouldn’t be able to answer.
It could have been like this:
It was their first year at Nationals. After their loss, Tobio had ducked into the stairway and crouched in the corner a floor below where the rest of the team was located. He buried his face in his knees, gasping for breath. He knew he should be proud of how far they came. The rest of the team was. Sure, they were disappointed but all of them were happy to have made it to the semi-finals. But Tobio couldn’t help but feel bitter disappointment and guilt. His mind flashed back to each and every missed spike, to the tosses that were just a little off…too high, too fast, too close to the net…if he had been able to stay in control, they wouldn’t have lost.
It was his fault.
“It wasn’t,” a cool and slightly irritated voice said. A familiar voice. Tobio turned his head slightly, his eyes slowly moving up the tall, lanky form in front of him. Tsukishima raised an eyebrow almost mockingly when Tobio finally met his eyes. “Your fault. That’s what you were thinking, right? That the loss was because of you?” Tobio tore his eyes away and buried his face in his knees once more, hiding his red eyes as well as the flush on his cheeks. There was a loud sigh and then shuffling. Tobio turned his head slightly to see Tsukishima slide down beside him, his back against the wall and his head tilted back. His eyes were closed.
“We all made mistakes during the game. The ball flew out of bounds when Noya misjudged the angle of the spike. Asahi’s serve was too strong. Hinata collided with Tanaka…again. I jumped too soon on the block. You made mistakes, so did we. None of us played a perfect game. And we lost. We wont next time.”
Tobio’s brows furrowed as he took in the words. It was true that there had been other thing wrong with the way they played that day. He was sure Ukai would let them know, in detail, what each and every one of those mistakes were. But even so…
“But not with the third years,” Tobio muttered, thinking of the three people in question. This had been it for them. Their last game. They would retire after this. No more going to practices. No more group chats. They would focus on studying for exams, then graduation…then who knows where they would end up.
Tsukishima’s eyes opened and he nodded. “Yes. The team will shift with Ennoshita as captain. Tanaka will be our ace. We’re going to have to work hard to fill the holes left by our senpai’s. You’re going to be the only setter on the team. Our wing is going to be weaker than we’re used to – so is our defense. We have no idea what type of players are going to be joining us next year. None of us are guaranteed a starting position,” he broke off and let smirked. “Well, most of us aren’t. Unless another genius setter ends up joining, I think you’re pretty safe.”
Tobio scowled. He hated that word. “There are better setters than me,” he said, his mind flashing to Oikawa, Miya, Akaashi…even Kenma. They each had something, a quality, that Tobio didn’t have.
“There are,” Tsukishima agreed easily. “But none that could work with Hinata the way you do. None that could lead our team the way you do. So take your minute of disappointment, then pull yourself together and join the rest of us.” Tobio jumped when the other boys hand landed on his shoulder briefly. He couldn’t remember a time Tsukishima had willingly touched him. Or ever touched him outside of a game. He was barely able to register it was happening before the other boy pushed himself to his feet and made his way back up the stairs.
Tobio couldn’t say exactly what that interaction did, but he did know the two of them began to spend more time around each other without arguing after that.
Or maybe it was this:
They had just had their first practice match in their second year against Aoba Johsai and, though they managed to win, it had been an absolute mess. Noya had thought it was a good time to see his kohai’s skill in receiving so he knew what they needed to work on, since the first year would be the only libero after he retired. With their already weak defense with the loss of Daichi…well, it hadn’t gone very well. Soon enough, Noya had stepped back into the game with a clear idea of what he needed to train their newest libero on.
Tobio had decided to take his que from his senpai and he let the new setters (two of them), rotate into the game as well. If they ever wanted to pull off something like he and Suga had been able to the previous year…well, they were going to need a lot of work.
A lot of work.
“Surprised to see you allow someone else to take the reins,” a familiar voice broke into his thoughts. He had just exited the bathroom, his mind whirling with how they needed to train and with who. It took a few seconds for the words to register and when they did, his head snapped to the side. Kunimi was leaning against the wall, his sleepy eyes boring into Tobio’s. “I suppose Karasuno has been good for you. In Junior High, you completely ignored our kohai and only yelled whenever you had to work with them.”
Tobio winced at the words, turning his head to the side to avoid that gaze. “It was how I was taught,” he muttered in response.
Kunimi sighed. “Yeah, it was. And look at what that did. You’d think you would have done the opposite instead of mimicking the behavior.” He stood straight, taking a step toward Tobio. “Glad to see you learned that along the way.”
Tobio wanted to say that he had only learned because of his own senpai. Because Suga had showed him how a true senpai should act. The countless hours the other boy had spent with Tobio, helping him learn the quirks of his teammates. The plans they had come up with together. Even now, he knew that Suga would listen if he was to call him, whether it be about team matters or something else entirely. He wanted to be that person for his own kohai. But he didn’t say any of this. He just watched Kunimi walk away from him. It was the first time the other boy had directly spoken to him since their graduation from Junior High. He had been present multiple times when Tobio and Kindaichi had spoken but…
“You are doing well,” Tsukishima’s voice floated toward him. Tobio turned on his heel, surprised to see the tall blond standing not too far away from him. He looked at Tobio with lazy eyes. “I think we all expected more yelling. Hinata even brought tissues that first day in case you made someone cry.”
Tobio’s eyes widened with that information. “That moron-“
The chuckle startled Tobio from finishing his sentence. He had seen the blond laugh, of course he had, but never because of Tobio. It was a jarring experience.
He wanted it to happen again.
Maybe that was when he realized he actually liked the blond. He had never really thought of them as friends before then. Maybe that was when things began to change? Maybe that was what set them on the path they were currently on?
Or maybe it was the days they spent together after practice, Tsukishima helping him with his homework and studying for tests. Maybe it was when the slightly older boy began to send him music and video’s that would ‘open him up to a world beyond volleyball’. Maybe it was the weekends that they spent, along with Hinata and Yamaguchi, hanging out at each other’s houses.
Somewhere along the way, Tobio began to trust Tsukishima. That trust extended to things he hadn’t told anyone – not even Hinata. He knew the redhead would grow upset and rant at the things he had to say, knew it would get blown out of proportion. But with Tsukishima, he knew that he could tell his story and the other boy would listen in silence. After he processed the information, he would ask Tobio questions, questions that almost always made Tobio think and look at things from someone else’s point of view. Tobio hated it…but he also welcomed it.
There were very few times Tsukishima let him get away with anything.
Even during games, Tsukishima was the first to call him out when he began acting like a ‘king’. During one memorable match, the other boy had even turned to him and bowed, asking if he would like him to lick his shoes as well. The teams had completely frozen, slack jawed. Tobio’s entire being had filled with rage and his shoulders tensed…and then it had all drained out of him and he slouched forward into his own bow, apologizing to his team for how he had been acting. His team, as usual, had laughed away the apology and clapped him on the back.
Then they resumed the game as if nothing had happened.
He and Tsukishima had slowly begun to spend more time together, only the two of them. They went out to eat, they went to music stores for Tsukishima, they went to get new shoes and kneepads for Tobio… when it used to be a given to see Tsukishima and Yamaguchi together, to see Tobio with Hinata… it slowly morphed into Tsukishima and Tobio. Oh, they all still hung out together often. Tsukishima still claimed Yamaguchi as his best friend and Tobio did the same to Hinata. It was just…what they had was different. A kind of different that Tobio couldn’t really explain. His mother became used to coming home and seeing Tsukishima in the house. Tsukishima’s mother began to keep milk specifically for Tobio to drink. Tobio’s father would ask Tsukishima how school was going, or what he was listening to. Tsukishima’s brother began to include Tobio in every invite he gave his brother, whether it be for him to play with the neighborhood league (who really grew to despise Tobio whenever he came along), or out to eat. There was one occasion where Tsukishima left his phone in the clubroom and when his mother couldn’t reach him, called Tobio instead.
His team did the same. If Tsukishima was running late, even Yamaguchi would ask Tobio if he had heard from him. When Tobio stayed late to practice and coach decided he had enough, he entrusted Tsukishima to the job of pulling Tobio away from the gym.
So maybe it happened somewhere during that time.
Or, maybe, it shifted after one specific conversation that went like this:
“Have you decided which entrance exams you’re taking?” Tsukishima asked. He was lying on Tobio’s bed, his right side pressing against Tobio’s knee. Tobio was sitting against the headboard, his legs spread in front of him with a textbook against them.
Tobio’s shoulders hunched. “No,” he muttered. “I have some offers from volleyball but I have to pass the entrance exams as well.”
“Yes,” Tsukishima drawled in amusement. He turned onto his side and propped his head up on his hand, peering up at Tobio. “We got a lot of the same offers. I’m asking which of them you are considering.”
Brows furrowed, Tobio stared down at the other boy. “All that I can. Why?”
Those golden-brown eyes rolled. “You really are an idiot, King.”
Tsukishma fell back against the bed once again, staring up at the ceiling. Tobio was almost certain he saw splotches of red against the otherwise pale skin. “I wanted to see if any of our options overlapped. It would be…nice to go together, wouldn’t it?”
Tobio’s own face flushed at the words and he ducked his head quickly to avoid the others gaze. “Yeah.”
They compared their options and selected schools they wanted to attempt. Tobio was surprised to see that neither of them really had to compromise as they both had the same interests. There were a couple of schools that Tobio knew were a long shot for him – he would like to go but their exams were said to be extremely difficult, much like Shiratorizawa’s when he tried to get in. He was sure Tsukishima wouldn’t have a problem.
He was right. Tsukishima scored high enough to get into whatever school he chose. Tobio was surprised at his own results. He might not have a chance at some of the nations best but he was certainly able to get into some of his top choices.
So maybe it was when Tsukishima decided to go to one of those choices instead of a top school?
“Kuroo-san, Bokuto-san, and Oikawa-san go there,” Tobio protested loudly when Tsukishima told him his choice. “You still talk to Kuroo-san! You would get to be on the same team!”
Tsukishima sighed. “I speak to Akaashi-san as well. We won’t be on the same team but we’ll attend the same school. And there are others we know that go there… remember Semi-san? He was the pitch server our first year for Shiratorizawa. He and Akaashi have become friends and he plays on the team. Looks like you’ll have some competition for the starting spot,” he said, sending a smirk in Tobio’s direction.
That was how the two of them ended up at the same university. And as roommates.
Surprisingly, Semi greeted the two of them as soon as they walked into the gym that first day. He even told Tobio he was looking forward to playing with him – and he told Tsukishima that with him on the team, not even Bokuto or Ushijima would be able to get through their blocking.
There were others that had joined their team that both Tobio and Tsukishima were surprised to see. Watari from Aoba Johsai was the main libero for the team, something Semi told them had been interesting when he first joined considering their dislike in high school. Konoha from Fukurodani was also there. He had given them both a bright smile and bounded toward them. They hadn’t known each other well, he had been in his third year when they were in their first, but he remembered them from their practice matches and Nationals. There was also Suna from Inarizaki High… Tobio hadn’t exactly been thrilled to see him and it seemed the other had been the same.
The rest of the players were people that neither had met, either because their teams hadn’t made it as far as Nationals or they had never played against Karasuno. However, many of them knew both Tobio and Tsukishima on sight from their National win the year before.
And because of Tobio’s reputation, which had greatly improved over the years.
IT was different than when he entered in high school. They were happy to have him there.
It was only a few weeks into their first year that the question was first brought up. “So, how long have you two been together?”
Tobio turned his head, looking over his shoulder for whoever Semi was talking to. His brows furrowed when he realized no one was behind him. “Eh?” he asked, turning toward the older once more.
Semi’s lips twitched in amusement. “Sorry, was it supposed to be a secret?”
All he could do was stare. Together? With who? A secret? “I don’t understand,” he admitted.
Semi’s head tilted to the side and Tobio shifted uncomfortably under his searching eyes. There was a strange sort of guilt in his chest, as if he was caught lying about something important, but he didn’t know what it could be. He grabbed his water bottle and took a long drink, using it as a way of avoiding those eyes and distracting himself. “You and Tsukishima-kun. You’re dating, right?”
Drinking was a bad, bad idea. He choked, the water spilling out of his mouth as the words registered in his mind. He looked at Semi incredulously. “Wh- no! No, we aren’t!”
Semi blinked. “Really? Huh.”
That was when Tobio began to realize just how it looked – his interactions with Tsukishima. The two of them woke each day, got ready, went to breakfast together, went to practice together, separated for classes, met for lunch, then went to afternoon practice. Once it was finished, they either retired to their room or went out with their teammates. Then there was homework and they usually ended the night by watching a movie or doing something else together.
Five hours. They were separated for a total of five hours a day.
He realized that their t-shirts were so intermingled that he didn’t know which were his and which were Tsukishima’s. They wore them interchangeably. Whenever they travelled home, the did so together. They had dinner with Tsukishima’s mother and brother the first night, stayed there until the next afternoon, then went to Tobio’s. They would stay with his parents the second night and head back to school the next day. When they decided to buy a television for their room, they sat together to figure out how to get the money together. They bought their monthly groceries together.
Tobio began to understand why Semi asked the question.
Once Tobio realized what was happening, every interaction began to feel stilted and awkward. Tobio found himself reaching out multiple times, as if he was going to grab Tsukishima’s arm or put his hand on his shoulder. It made him wonder just how often he…touched Tsukishima. He consciously made sure to keep a distance between the two of them. When they watched a movie that night, he noticed how the two of them instantly curled up on Tobio’s bed – the television was situated right in front of it – and the very little space between their bodies. Tobio swallowed hard and felt his face heat up before he slowly shifted to the side.
Tsukishima raised an eyebrow but didn’t comment.
Tobio tried to separate himself from Tsukishima, choosing to study in the library after practice or getting up early for breakfast. Each time he did, that feeling appeared in his chest again…like he was doing something he shouldn’t be. He pushed it aside and continued about his day, ignoring the searching looks he got from Tsukishima and the way his teammates exchanged glances.
It was after a week that someone else approached him. “Did you two break up? Has to be awkward with you sharing a room. You can request a transfer but I’m not sure how soon it’ll take…” Konoha mused as he slid into the seat next to Tobio at breakfast. He pointed at him. “Just don’t let it interfere with the team, got it?”
“We aren’t dating,” Tobio muttered, viciously stabbing his food. “Never have been.”
“Oh,” Konoha said, his tone betraying his surprise. “So…did you get rejected? Is that it?”
“Oh,” Konoha frowned, leaning back in his seat. “Then I don’t get it.”
Yeah, you aren’t the only one, Tobio thought to himself.
So, maybe, it was this:
It had been almost two weeks of Tobio attempting to separate himself from Tsukishima when the blond stormed into their room, slamming the door behind him. Tobio jerked up in surprise, having returned to the dorm after practice. Tsukishima, along with the rest of the team, had decided to go out and Tobio had managed to slip away before they noticed he wasn’t following them.
“Enough,” Tsukishima snapped, his tone cold. “What is it?”
“Something happened and you, in your idiotic way, are trying to figure it out. We both know it’ll just be faster if you admit to whatever it is now so you don’t fry your brain trying to figure it out.”
Affronted, Tobio jerked back, “Hey!”
“So, what is it?” Tsukishima demanded, standing in front of the bed that Tobio was sitting on. Briefly, Tobio admired the way Tsukishima’s eyes burned when he was angry…until he realized what he was thinking and he ducked his head to hide his blush. With a sound that almost sounded like a growl, Tsukishima leaned down and gripped Tobio’s shoulders. Tobio’s eyes jerked up at the touch, wide with panic. Tsukishima’s eyes met his own and Tobio saw the understanding flicker in his eyes. “Oh, I get it,” he said lowly. “You finally figured it out. Who was it? Konoha? Semi? Hinata?”
“Hinata?” Tobio croaked.
Tsukishima’s hands fell to his sides and he leaned back as he laughed, the laughter low and almost mocking. “Not him, huh?”
“…what are you talking about?”
Tsukishima’s eyebrows rose and he moved across the room, pulling his jacket off and tossing it onto the desk chair. “I really did wonder how long it would take you to realize what was going on, though I admit, I didn’t expect you to run away once you found out. So what, is this your way of saying you don’t want anything to happen between us? You want to just forget it all?”
Tsukishima buried his face in his hands, “Such an idiot. How the…why did this happen? No, no, I’m the idiot for letting it happen. That’s it. All on me.”
Tobio was growing more confused by the second. What had happened that Tsukishima was calling himself an idiot? He was the smartest person Tobio knew. And Hinata…what did Hinata have to do with this? Sure, he and the redhead messaged each other almost daily and even spoke on occasion but… but what would Hinata have known?
And why was Tobio’s heart pounding in his chest?
“You really are an idiot,” Tsukishima sighed yet again, probably because of the confusion on Tobio’s face. Hinata always laughed at his expression when he was trying to figure something out. Something about him looking constipated…? “Fine. Tobio,” Tobio’s head snapped around so fast the crack of echoed throughout the room at the use of his first name. “What question has you overthinking everything?”
Tobio scowled at the wording but figured it would be best to let Tsukishima know the situation as well. “They think we’re dating,” Tobio muttered, his face heating up once more as the words passed his lips. “I thought-“
“Tobio,” there it was again. When did Tsukishima begin to call him Tobio? “I’m going to ask you a question. What are we?”
What type of question was that? “Friends?”
“Really? So the way you feel about me is the same as you feel about Hinata? Or Yachi?” Tobio jerked back at the question. No, no it wasn’t the same. They were his friends, Hinata was his best friend, but what he felt for Tsukishima was…different. A type of different he couldn’t really explain. “Right, so it’s not. So, let’s try something else.” Tobio jerked back as Tsukishima stood and strode across the room. He dropped down beside Tobio on the bed, then lifted a hand and pressed it against Tobio’s cheek. “What happens when I do that?”
Tobio tried to pull away but Tsukishima followed after him. His face burned and his heart began to pound wildly. He fell back, Tsukishima leaning over him. Their eyes met and Tobio felt something lurch inside his chest. Electric shocks seemed to travel up his spine. Breathing was becoming difficult. “You didn’t answer my question,” Tsukishima murmured, his right hand still against Tobio’s cheek as his left hand pressed against the mattress, stopping him from resting his full weight on Tobio. “Are we truly just friends, Tobio?”
Tobio tried to swallow but his mouth was completely dry. “I…but we aren’t…we don’t do anything…”
“Ah,” Tsukishima said lowly, leaning forward so his lips were right above Tobio’s. “Is that the problem? Well, that can be fixed.” That was all the warning he got. Warm lips pressed against his own, first lightly, then more firmly. Tobio instinctively reached up, gripping Tsukishima’s t-shirt. He didn’t even think before he pulled, making Tsukishima let out a grunt as his body fell against the other boys. He felt the blonde’s chest shake with laughter and then he was pulling away. Tobio’s grip tightened, not wanting the other to leave. “So, do you get it yet?”
“Shut up,” Tobio growled, pressing upwards and capturing Tsukishima’s lips once again.
So, Tobio really couldn’t tell you where it started, but he knew for sure where it was going.