Tsukishima refused to move from his position sprawled across the sofa. He deserved this day off after everything he had gone through the last few weeks. The training camp at Shiratorizawa had been hellish — and not only because of Hinata’s unexpected and uninvited crashing of the camp. Then, the practice match with Datekou and their towering iron wall of players had drained him of any and all remaining energy. He was dead, physically and emotionally.
It was now, blessedly, the weekend, and he had the house to himself all day. He had grand plans for the day: he was going to lay on the living room sofa and not move for the next seven hours or so.
The TV was on some morning talk show whose hosts were just a bit too bright and cheery for Tsukishima’s taste. He considered changing the channel, but the effort it would take to find something more suitable was just too much for him at the moment. So, he resigned himself to watching them cover feel good stories about brave animals and gap-toothed elementary school kids. There were worse things, he supposed.
His phone buzzed from its place on his stomach, and he checked it, finding a text from Yamaguchi asking about their Japanese lit homework. It was just a general question, thankfully, instead of something that would require him to leave the comfort of the couch and dig out his homework from his book bag in his room.
He fell into a light doze on the sofa for a while after that, letting the sounds of the television lull him to sleep. It wasn’t until the growling of his stomach could no longer be ignored that Tsukishima finally decided to get up off and scavenge for something edible.
The doorbell rang just as Tsukishima was about to pass into the kitchen. For a moment, he considered ignoring whoever was on the other side, but his mother would’ve killed it if it was a delivery, and he missed it because he had been too lazy to answer the door.
The doorbell rang again, and Tsukishima called out irritably, “Coming! Just hold on a moment.” He grumbled under his breath as he made his way to the door. All he wanted was one day alone with no interruptions. Was that really too much to ask for?
He pulled the door open with a sigh, ready to sign for whatever package his parents had ordered or to shoo off some hapless salesman looking to prey on idle housewives. It turned out that neither option was appropriate nor necessary.
On Tsukishima’s front step was Kageyama. He was bundled up in his usual running gear, and his cheeks were chapped a pale pink from the cold. Tucked into the crook of his right arm was a nearly full to bursting bag with the logo of the grocery store close to Tsukishima’s house emblazoned on the front.
“Hi,” he said. “Can I come in?” Tsukishima had the brief and overwhelming urge to slam the door in Kageyama’s face and just . . . pretend that he hadn’t answered the door at all. He had manners, though, so he didn’t, and stepped aside so that Kageyama could slip through.
“What are you doing here?” Tsukishima asked, watching incredulously as Kageyama toed off his shoes at the front entrance. Today was supposed to be his day of rest. Grouchy teammates weren’t a part of his plans at all.
“You said I could come again,” Kageyama said, giving Tsukishima a look that clearly said that he thought the blond was stupid. “I brought snacks.” He gave the bag in his arms a light shake.
“For you and what army?” The amount of food in the bag probably could have easily fed all of the members of the volleyball club, even the ones with seemingly bottomless stomachs.
“For us,” Kageyama told him. He definitely thought Tsukishima was being stupid. “To share.”
“What did you even bring?” Tsukishima said, pushing down the urge to just shove Kageyama out the door. “It’s not all nikuman and curry buns, is it?”
“It’s not,” Kageyama confirmed. He slid the bag from his arm and held it out so that Tsukishima could take a look inside.
Tsukishima stepped closer, taking hold of one of the bag’s straps so he could pull it open wider. From what he could see, it looked like Kageyama had bought every single strawberry-flavored snack in the store: strawberry mochi, strawberry jelly, strawberry-filled chocolates, strawberry pocky. There was even a slice of strawberry shortcake that had Tsukishima’s fingers twitching forward.
“You like strawberry stuff, right?” Kageyama asked. He sounded just the slightest bit nervous about Tsukishima’s reply, like it even mattered at all.
“I do,” Tsukishima said, a little overwhelmed by all the pink and red sweets in the bag. What was all this? A courting gift? Was he some maiden about to be wooed? He tried to pull up some derision and could barely come up with irritation. He thought the emotion might have even been affection of all things and quickly squashed the notion.
“Good.” Kageyama looked relieved, and that only unsettled Tsukishima even further.
“You didn’t have to get all of this, you know,” Tsukishima said. He still didn’t understand why Kageyama would go out of his way to get foods that fit his specific tastes. “Do you even like this kind of stuff?” He hoped there was still yogurt in the fridge in case Kageyama didn’t.
Kageyama shrugged. “I like strawberry milk.”
Tsukishima sighed. It was something at least. “Come on, we’ll go into the living room and eat.”
Kageyama didn’t eat much sweets it seemed because he was genuinely curious about nearly everything he had bought. As much as it pained him to do so, Tsukishima split the little strawberry shortcake in half when he learned that Kageyama had never tried the pastry before. He shouldn’t be complaining in any case; it hadn’t been his money that bought the food anyway.
The snacks — mochi, shortcake, cookies, chocolate, and more — were delicious. Tsukishima was nearly in strawberry heaven right now. Kageyama really had outdone himself with his selection. He had even bought a pint of strawberry ice cream, which Tsukishima had placed in the freezer so it wouldn’t melt. It wasn’t the brand that Tsukishima usually bought, but it was still good all the same.
Tsukishima placed the bag of snacks on the coffee table, and the two of them took turns reaching and pulling out something new. They did it without looking into the bag, like it was a secret prize box or something. So far they had pulled out a box of strawberry mochi, a container of strawberry and dark chocolate cookies, and some strawberry Hi-Chew.
They sat on the sofa facing one another, not close enough to be touching, but within easy reaching distance. Tsukishima was usually prickly about his personal space, but he didn’t mind Kageyama’s proximity for the most part. In fact, he found himself wanting to be closer even, like the last time Kageyama had been in his house. They had been shoulder to shoulder and entwined in each other’s personal space nearly all of that rainy night.
“You need to jump higher for me,” Kageyama said, leaning forward as he spoke. He had half of a strawberry cookie clutched in his hand. “I definitely know that you can do it.”
“For you?” Tsukishima scoffed, even as he felt something in him clench at the proprietary words. Mostly, he was just annoyed, and that was a familiar and soothing feeling compared to his more recent emotions around Kageyama. He held on to it for as long as he could. “I’m not at your beck and call, your majesty.”
“Hinata told me that you did it for Datekou’s setter during your training camp,” Kageyama protested, waving his hand around. “That Kanekogawa or whatever.”
“It’s Koganegawa.” Tsukishima rolled his eyes, taking a bite out of his strawberry mochi. It was his third one so far. “And maybe I jumped that high ‘cause he’s way nicer than you ever are.”
“I can be nice!” The scowl that Kageyama shot him belied his claim. The sight of that familiar ire was endearing to Tsukishima now, and he took another bite of his mochi to hide the smile that was trying to spread across his face.
“You can,” Tsukishima agreed. The snacks spread across the coffee table were clear evidence of that. “Just not on the court.”
Kageyama opened his mouth, ready to argue, but nothing came out. Instead, he huffed in irritation and took a large chomp out of the cookie still in his hand. Even the noise of his chewing sounded peeved. Somehow, it was a calming sound to Tsukishima; if Kageyama was annoyed in some way, then all was right in the world.
Tsukishima’s ideal solitary day at home had been derailed, but he decided that this wasn’t so bad either. He would never admit it, but it was surprisingly easy to be with Kageyama nowadays. The food that he had brought with him was a pleasant surprise too; Tsukishima figured that he’d buy Kageyama some curry buns and milk as thanks sometime next week.
The sound of the front door unlocking drew Tsukishima’s attention, and he wondered if his mother was coming home early. “I’m home!” a voice called. “Kei, are you here? Mom said you’d be staying in today.”
Shit, Tsukishima thought, frantic, but there was really nothing he could do to stop the upcoming trainwreck. Only a few seconds later, his older brother was walking into the living room, unravelling a dark blue scarf from around his neck.
“Oh!” Akiteru exclaimed, eyes lighting up when he spotted Tsukishima and Kageyama sitting together on the sofa. “I didn’t know you had someone over, Kei!”
Akiteru came closer so that he could lean against the back of the sofa. “It’s Kageyama, right? You’re one of Karasuno’s setters! I’m Kei’s older brother, Akiteru.”
“Yes,” Kageyama said, barely managing to swallow the half of a cookie he had been eating. He bowed his head politely in Akiteru’s direction. “Hello.”
Tsukishima felt embarrassment flood his body. Yamaguchi and Akiteru interacting was one thing; Yamaguchi had been hanging around him for years now and was used to his brother’s eccentricities, but Kageyama was someone new and unknown. Akiteru was definitely going to say all sorts of weird things.
“It was great watching you and the other Karasuno members playing against Shiratorizawa!” Akiteru gushed, oblivious to Tsukishima’s growing inner turmoil. “I went through so many emotional ups and downs watching those matches, haha. It was worth it to see my cute little brother play so well, though!”
Please kill me, Tsukishima thought. Actually, just kill nii-chan so he’ll stop talking. He chanced a glance at Kageyama to see his reaction, dread settling heavy in his stomach.
Kageyama was looking back at Tsukishima, actually, before he turned back to Akiteru. “Cute little brother?” he asked, like that was at all an important part of what Akiteru had said.
Akiteru laughed. “It sounds like a strange thing to say, doesn’t it? Especially considering how tall he is, but that’s how I’m always going to think of Kei.”
God, please strike nii-chan down where he is standing right now. Tsukishima had no hope that his plea would even be heard, much less entertained, but he had to at least try.
Akiteru remained blissfully unaware of — or, more likely, was clearly ignoring — Tsukishima’s rising ire. “Are you two close? I’ve never seen him with anyone besides Tadashi, really.”
“We’re teammates,” Kageyama said, shifting awkwardly under Akiteru’s expectant gaze. “He’s… a… good middle blocker?” The words came out haltingly, like it was a struggle for him to find the appropriate sentiments. “He, uh, helps me study sometimes, too.”
If they had been alone, Tsukishima probably would have teased Kageyama about his inability to praise other people without sounding like he was having his teeth pulled. In any other circumstance, Tsukishima probably would have found the stilted answer hilarious. Unfortunately, they weren’t alone, and he knew that if he said anything at all, his brother would immediately pounce on it like a shark scenting blood in the water.
“Oh?” Akiteru looked over at his brother and was met with a fierce glare. It made him grin before he turned back to Kageyama. “I didn’t realize that Kei did stuff like that.”
“He always complains first,” Kageyama said, “but then he does it anyway.” And wasn’t that Tsukishima’s entire relationship with Kageyama in a nutshell? He wasn’t quite comfortable with the idea of having become so soft, especially with someone as infuriating as Kageyama.
“Nii-chan,” Tsukishima interrupted, his voice blade-sharp, cutting through the conversation that Kageyama and his brother were currently engrossed in. “Don’t you have anything better to do?”
“Better than being with my little brother?” Akiteru said, raising an eyebrow.
“You’re being a bother,” Tsukishima groused, crossing his arms over his chest in irritation.
“Am I?” Akiteru turned to address Kageyama. “Kageyama, I’m not bothering you, right?”
“No,” Kageyama said, since he apparently lived to make Tsukishima’s life unnecessarily difficult. “I don’t mind you being here.”
“Great!” Akiteru walked and plopped down in the small space between Kageyama and the arm of the couch. Kageyama had to scoot closer to Tsukishima to accommodate him. Tsukishima glared at him from over Kageyama’s head, but was cheerfully ignored. “It’ll be nice to hang out with both you and Kei.”
“Do you want some snacks?” Kageyama asked, picking up the bag from the middle of the coffee table. He held it out for Akiteru to take. “Tsukishima said I brought too much.”
“He doesn’t,” Tsukishima said, trying to put an end to this heinous interaction, but it was buried under his brother’s too loud and too excited, “Oh, of course! What kind do you have?”
The couch was really too small for the three of them to sit comfortably without bumping into one another. Leaning forward to take the bag, Akiteru pushed Kageyama closer to Tsukishima. The two of them were almost squished together now, with Kageyama nearly tucked against Tsukishima’s chest.
Tsukishima carefully did not jerk away, mostly because there wasn’t really anywhere else that he could go. He also carefully and studiously refused to pay any attention to the warmth of Kageyama’s shoulder pressing up against him.
“Do you like strawberry stuff, Kageyama?” Akiteru asked, sifting through the contents of the bag. “You and Kei must have really similar tastes!”
“I’m...fine with them,” Kageyama said. “I just picked up whatever I saw at the store, I guess.” Pressed together as close as they were, Tsukishima could see the beginnings of a pink flush blooming across the back of Kageyama’s neck and traveling up to his ears.
Cute, Tsukishima thought, and then wanted to smack himself. That wasn’t a sentiment that he should be attaching to Kageyama of all people.
Kageyama and Akiteru were still talking, apparently debating the merits of one snack over another. Kageyama’s back was a warm line of heat against Tsukishima. He was trapped, and worse, he didn’t particularly want to escape.
“Kei, what do you think?” Akiteru caught Tsukishima’s eye, trying to draw his attention. He was holding up two small packages in his hand. One was a bright red, while the other was silver with pink lettering. “Which one tastes better?”
“What?” Tsukishima had no idea what he was talking about.
Kageyama turned towards him, body pushing close until the two of them were nearly flush. “The strawberry cake or the angel pie,” he said, pointing to one package and then another. “I got both, but I don’t know if one is better than the other.”
Tsukishima didn’t answer, partially because he didn’t care, but mostly because he was distracted by Kageyama leaning against him even more. Had volleyball truly subsumed the King’s brain that he wasn’t even bothered by their close proximity?
Something must have shown on Tsukishima’s face because Akiteru’s eyes widened, like an epiphany had just dawned on him.
Tsukishima’s stomach dropped. He could just tell that his brother was about to say something ridiculous.
Boyfriend? Akiteru mouthed, tilting his head not so subtly towards Kageyama.
In a perfect world, Tsukishima would have had no reaction, or at least one suitably negative so Akiteru would have felt ridiculous for even suggesting it. This wasn’t a perfect world, though. It wasn’t even a particularly good one right now for Tsukishima personally.
It was an unfortunate physiological reaction, but Tsukishima’s cheeks flared a bright red. It was as good as a blazing billboard; his own body had betrayed him.
A grin began to spread across Akiteru’s face, widening as Tsukishima flushed even further. It was not a reassuring look. In fact, it foreboded nosy badgering and teasing for a good chunk of the foreseeable future. Already, he could see that his days were going to be filled with suffering.
“Kageyama and I are going for a walk,” Tsukishima announced loudly, standing up abruptly. He glared daggers at Akiteru, who still looked positively gleeful. “Don’t follow us, nii-chan.”
“Are we?” Kageyama asked, confused at the sudden declaration.
“Of course I wouldn’t,” Akiteru said, trying to keep his face serious. With how his mouth kept twitching upwards, he wasn’t very successful. “You guys wanna hang out alone, right?” Then, of all the damn things, he winked quite exaggeratedly at his little brother.
“Nii-chan,” Tsukishima grit out through tightly clenched teeth, “it’s lucky that you don’t live at home anymore, or I’d be an only child by the end of the day.”
“Kageyama, do you have any siblings?” Akiteru asked, ignoring the threat. “Would you treat your older brother like this?”
“I’m an only child,” Kageyama said. “Is this how all siblings are?”
“I think Kei is particularly cruel.” Akiteru crossed his arms and nodded sagely, like he had said something profound instead of just needlessly besmirching Tsukishima’s character. “He used to be so much cuter, you know.”
Tsukishima really should have just slammed the door in Kageyama’s face when he had come by earlier. The awkwardness of that would have been ten times less painful that what was currently happening now.
“I’m going to change.” Tsukishima said, glaring at Akiteru, who only gave him a smile in return. “Don’t talk to each other.”
He was barely up the stairs when he heard Akiteru say, “So, Kageyama…” He hurried up the rest of the steps and nearly sprinted to his bedroom.
Tsukishima really didn’t want to go out. It was cold, probably windy, and, in general, likely to be an unpleasant change from the warmth and comfort of his house. However, despite all those downsides, it was much more preferable to having to stay inside and put up with Akiteru’s presence and general nosy demeanor.
Last time Kageyama had been in the house, Tsukishima had worried about leaving him alone with his mother, but she had nothing on Akiteru. He was certain that his brother would regale Kageyama with terrible tales of Tsukishima’s younger days, which would be clearly filtered through the lens of a doting (overbearing) older brother.
With that foreboding thought in mind, Tsukishima sped up his movements, and he quickly changed out of his house clothes for something more substantial. In his rush, he nearly pulled a muscle in his shoulder trying to get a hoodie on.
In record time, he had bundled himself up for a trek outside. He just hoped that it had been quick enough that Akiteru hadn’t had the time to do much damage.
“Are you sure you don’t want anything else?” Tsukishima heard Kageyama’s voice drifting up the stairs. “There’s still so much.”
“I’m fine,” Akiteru reassured with a laugh. “You bought the snacks for you and Kei anyway, right? It’s best to share them with him.”
“He doesn’t eat very much.” Kageyama made it sound like Tsukishima’s lack of appetite was a personal affront. “During the summer training camp, he’d only eat one bowl of rice at dinner.”
“Kei’s a little picky,” Akiteru said, “but he’s got a huge sweet tooth, especially when it comes to strawberry stuff, so I wouldn’t worry too much about him not eating in this case.”
Tsukishima stomped down the stairs before his brother could say anything else. He had only been gone three minutes at most, and it might as well have been a lifetime considering how friendly the two were getting. He had to mitigate the damage.
“Kageyama.” Tsukishima tugged on the back of the other boy's jacket to get his attention. “Let’s go.”
“It was nice meeting you,” Kageyama said to Akiteru, with a small bow of his head.
“You too!” Akiteru clapped a hand on Kageyama’s shoulder. “Be sure to come back again, yeah?”
Tucking a hand around the curve of Kageyama’s elbow, Tsukishima tugged him away from Akiteru. The action had his brother’s eyes lighting up, and a broad smile spread across his face. Tsukishima just scowled at him.
“Have fun!” Akiteru beamed at the two of them going out the door like they were newlyweds going on their honeymoon. He was absolutely ridiculous in Tsukishima’s opinion, and he was glad to be getting away.
“Please go back to your apartment,” Tsukishima said, glaring over his shoulder. He held back the childish urge to stick his tongue out at his brother.
“I’m going to be home all weekend!” Akiteru’s tone was way too gleeful. Tsukishima was seriously going to punch him when he got back.
He didn’t bother replying to that, and instead pulled the front door shut with much more force than necessary.
It was cold outside like Tsukishima had expected, but thankfully, there was no wind. Once out of the house, though, he realized that he didn’t have a destination in mind. He had been so concerned with escaping from Akiteru that it had just slipped his mind.
“Where are we going?” Kageyama asked.
“You’ll see,” Tsukishima said, even though he had no idea. He was sure that there was somewhere that they could go. Anywhere would be better without Akiteru hovering over them, at least.
Tsukishima led them...somewhere. He didn’t want to face the crowds of the shopping district, so they walked in the opposite direction, going deeper into his neighborhood.
Next to him, Kageyama was quiet. He seemed to be content to just walk alongside each other. They were close enough to touch, and every now and then their elbows or shoulders would brush against each other. Tsukishima hated himself just a bit for missing the heat of Kageyama’s body when it moved away.
Eventually, past the endless houses and gardens, they reached a small park. Tsukishima hadn’t been here in years, having outgrown the space ages ago. There wasn’t much to it; it only had a few benches and some old and rickety playground equipment that had clearly seen better days. This was as good a place as any to stop, especially since the only place that Tsukishima knew of past here was Yamaguchi’s house.
“Let’s stop here,” Tsukishima said. “It’ll give us a place to sit at least.”
Kageyama acquiesced with a shrug and followed Tsukishima to one of the benches around the edge of the playground.
They sat on one of the benches together with the bag of snacks between them. It rustled as Kageyama dug through it, searching for what he wanted to eat next.
Tsukishima was cold and irritated. Sitting out in an empty park together was somehow infinitely more awkward than just being together in his house. He wished he could have shoved Akiteru outside instead.
He was pulled out his bitter train of thoughts by a nudge against his shoulder. He turned and saw Kageyama holding out a package to him. It was the strawberry pie or angel cake or whatever it was that they had been debating earlier.
“Eat,” Kageyama said. He wiggled the pink-wrapped snack at Tsukishima, like that made it somehow more appetizing.
Tsukishima wanted to refuse, but under Kageyama’s expectant gaze found himself giving in instead. “Okay,” he said, resigned. It wasn’t much of a hardship to eat sweets, especially strawberry ones, anyway.
He took the package from Kageyama and pulled it open with a small crinkling noise. Inside was a small, chocolate-covered cake.
The chocolate on the outside was smooth and sweet. As he bit into it, Tsukishima tasted the tart brightness of strawberry cream. He shut his eyes in contentment; at the very least, sweets would never betray him.
They ate quietly for the next few minutes. The bag of snacks sat between them, still filled with an assortment of treats. The amount probably would have lasted Tsukishima all winter, if not even longer. He didn’t know how Kageyama had thought that the two of them would have been able to eat everything.
Tsukishima tried to focus on the food in front of him instead of the other boy next to him. He tried not to look at Kageyama too closely, wary of the ridiculous thoughts that he might have. With the way the day was going, he was probably only a few away from losing his mind completely.
His conviction was only half-hearted, though. There really was nothing in the park to look at but Kageyama; at least, that was what he was telling himself.
The sun was shining over the little park like a spotlight, and it made Kageyama’s hair gleam and highlighted the apples of his cheeks. He looked calm and relaxed; such a serene expression on the setter’s face was a rarity. There were a few crumbs at the corner of his mouth.
Tsukishima’s mouth worked faster than his brain, and he said, “You’re such a messy eater, king.” Then, because he had lost the ability to reason, he lifted his hand and brought it up to Kageyama’s face. His thumb brushed against the edge of the other boy’s mouth, gentle as it moved.
Right as his thumb swept across Kageyama’s skin, Tsukishima heard, too close for comfort, a voice call out, “Oh! Tsukki!”
I’m cursed, Tsukishima thought, jerking his hand away as if he had been burnt. It was the only explanation for his string of bad luck today.
The sudden movement startled Kageyama, and he pulled away from Tsukishima. Blinking, he brought a hand up to the corner of his mouth where Tsukishima’s thumb had just been. “Is it – ?”
“It’s gone,” Tsukishima said, not knowing whether that was true. He kept his face resolutely turned away from Kageyama. He hoped that he wasn’t turning red, but the heat spreading across the back of his neck and the tops of his ears said otherwise.
“Tsukki!” Yamaguchi’s voice was coming closer and closer, and then, much too soon, he was bounding across the park to stand in front of the two of them. “Oh! Kageyama’s here, too. I didn’t expect you two to be together.”
Yamaguchi leaned closer and peered between Tsukishima and Kageyama, an inquisitive look on his face. “Are you guys hanging out?” Although he tried to keep it out of his voice, a bit of his incredulity still bled through.
Kageyama shrugged and answered before Tsukishima could go do something stupid—like deny the whole thing. “Something like that.” He picked up the bag of snacks and held it out to Yamaguchi. “Have a snack. There’s still a lot.”
“Oh!” Yamaguchi said, eyes brightening. “Awesome! I haven’t had lunch yet, so this will be great.”
Yamaguchi began rifling through the bag, trying to see what all was inside. “Were you having a craving or something, Tsukki?” he asked. “It’s like all of your favorites in here.”
“I bought them,” Kageyama said, shrugging. “I just...picked up whatever the store had.”
Yamaguchi’s hand stilled in the bag, and he looked down at Kageyama. “You bought these?” he said. “For Tsukki?” He looked a little shocked.
“To share,” Kageyama clarified. He shook the bag a little. “You’re having some, and I gave some to Akiteru-san, too.”
“Yeah,” Yamaguchi said. “Sure, well, you’re really good at picking out stuff that Tsukki likes then, Kageyama!”
“Oh,” Kageyama said. He was pink again, barely, but it was there. He cast a glance over to Tsukishima, as if wanting to confirm that what Yamaguchi had said was true.
“Yeah,” Tsukishima said, clearing his throat. The flush of pink across Kageyama’s cheeks was distracting him. “Everything’s great, king.”
Yamaguchi started going through the bag again, picking up each snack and examining it closely before moving on to the next one. “I bet you’ve eaten a ton, Tsukki! Sweets are really the only thing that . . .” He trailed off without completing his sentence. His eyes were transfixed on Tsukishima’s face.
Tsukishima wasn’t sure what his face looked like. He was aiming for nonchalant and disinterested. He was probably, unfortunately, failing. Whatever it was that Yamaguchi saw on Tsukishima’s face, it left him astonished.
Yamaguchi was silent, but his eyes were practically screaming TSUKKI!! It looked like he could barely contain a flood of words from spilling out. Tsukishima wished he had never left the house. He wished Kageyama had never come bearing sweets like some shoujo manga protagonist.
Tsukishima hadn’t explicitly told Yamaguchi what had happened with Kageyama those few weeks ago, and he definitely hadn’t said anything about his... developing feelings towards the setter. But, he had mentioned that something had happened. He had hoped he had been circumspect enough in his description that nothing damning could be construed, but that seemed to have been an abject failure.
“Yamaguchi?” Kageyama shook the bag of snacks, trying to draw his attention back. “Are you getting some snacks or what?” He looked back and forth between the other two boys, trying to figure out what was going on.
Tsukishima hoped that the fierce glare that he sent Yamaguchi’s way conveyed the absolute annihilation that his friend would experience it he even considered breathing a word about what he was currently seeing to anyone else. He also hoped that his cheeks weren’t still flushed red with embarrassment since that would have undercut the intimidation factor dramatically.
Taking a deep breath, just like he did before he was called to serve in the middle of a match, Yamaguchi turned back to Kageyama and gave him a smile. “Oh, I’ll just take this one,” he said, pulling something out at random without looking to see what it was. “Thanks, Kageyama.”
“Hmm,” Kageyama said, taking the bag back. He looked inside and frowned down at the contents. “You’re welcome to take more, too.” The bag was still more than halfway full with sweets.
Yamaguchi was still smiling, but his leg jumped up and down anxiously at his side. “I’m good! Thanks, though!” He chanced a quick glance at Tsukishima before switching his attention back to Kageyama. “I have to get going now, but you guys have fun!”
Tsukishima watched Yamaguchi run off, mostly to make sure that he was heading home and not somewhere else. If Yamaguchi and Akiteru happened to meet up today, Tsukishima was sure that he’d just run away in mortification.
A minute or so later, Tsukishima’s phone buzzed once, twice, three times from the pocket of his hoodie, signalling a slew of new messages. He didn’t want to check it, but some innate, masochistic urge had him reaching inside to pull it out.
There were three new messages from Yamaguchi.
Tsukishima stared at the messages for a moment, long enough for him to feel a terrible and violent urge to just chuck his phone across the park. There was no response he could give that would even begin to pull himself out of the hole of feelings he had fallen into. Instead, he put his phone on silent and shoved it back into his pocket. He added checking his phone to his long and growing list of regrets.
A nudge against his shoulder pulled Tsukishima out of his thoughts, and he turned to Kageyama, who was looking at him with a puzzled frown. “What?”
“Did something happen?” Kageyama asked. “You look weird.”
“I’m fine.” Tsukishima sighed and shook his head to try and clear his thoughts.
Kageyama didn’t look convinced, but he didn’t push the matter any further. Instead, he said, decisively, “You should eat some more.” Leave it to the king to have a one track mind, as always.
Tsukishima thought about refusing. “Alright,” he said. “Choose something for me, then.”
Kageyama rummaged around the bag before pulling out a round piece of strawberry bread. It looked soft and pillowy. The front of its wrapper was printed with a red rabbit holding a strawberry.
“Is this okay?” Kageyama asked. He held out the bread for Tsukishima to take.
“It’s fine,” he said. Akiteru and Yamaguchi hadn’t been lying when they said Kageyama had really picked out all of his favorites. Tsukishima took the bread and held it between his hands. It was soft, just like he had expected. “Let’s split this.”
Kageyama gave him a suspicious look. “Are you trying to get out of eating?” He sounded like a cantankerous grandmother.
Tsukishima rolled his eyes. “I’m still eating it. Just not all of it. Not all of us have cavernous stomachs, you know.” He opened the wrapper and pulled out the bread. Splitting it as neatly as he could down the middle, he took one half for himself and gave the other to Kageyama.
The bread was soft, and the strawberry jam was a perfect balance of sweet and tart. It was good. If he didn’t dwell on the terrors of both Akiteru and Yamaguchi coming across him and Kageyama, he might have even been content.
When Tsukishima looked over at Kageyama, he saw that his eyes were closed. His face was tilted up towards the sun, and it looked like he was savoring the taste of the sweet bread. Giving in, Tsukishima let himself look his fill, taking in every shadow and curve of the boy before him, before Kageyama blinked his eyes open, and he had to turn away.
Eventually, it got too cold to stay out — at least for Tsukishima — and he made the executive decision that they should head back to his house. They had made a solid dent in the bag of snacks, and Tsukishima was stuffed to the brim. Hopefully their time outside had been long enough that Akiteru had found something else to occupy his attention.
Distracted by the potential terrors that awaited him at home if Akiteru was still around, it took a moment for Tsukishima to notice that Kageyama wasn’t next to him anymore. He looked back and found him a few feet back, crouched down and looking at something near a row of bushes.
“What are you doing?”
Kageyama didn’t look up at him when he came over. “There’s a cat,” he said. “It keeps following us.” His body was still and tense, like he was readying himself for a battle.
“A cat?” Tsukishima said, a little baffled. “That’s what caught your attention? Cats are everywhere you know.” He could see the coil of a fluffy white tail near the bottom of the evergreen leaves of the bushes.
“I want to –” The rest of the sentence devolved into a too quick and incomprehensible mumble under Kageyama’s breath. Whatever it was that he had said, it had to be embarrassing in some way. Tsukishima could see the back of his neck and the tops of his ear blush pink.
Now Tsukishima was even more curious. He nudged Kageyama’s shoulder with his knee. “You want to – what? Speak up.”
Kageyama still didn’t look at him, and his shoulders hunched a little more. “I want to...pet it.”
“I don’t think animals like me.” Kageyama’s brow furrowed, and Tsukishima could see that it genuinely bothered him.
“So this is what you worry about when you’re not thinking about volleyball, huh?” Tsukishima thought it was surprisingly cute.
“Don’t make fun of me,” Kageyama grumbled.
“I’m not,” Tsukishima said, and he wasn’t. Mostly.
Kageyama was still crouched down and staring at the white tail that peeked out of the bushes. Tsukishima sighed. He really wanted to get home, but it didn’t seem like Kageyama was going to move anytime soon.
“Okay,” Tsukishima said. “Let’s see if we can get close to it without it running away.” He started walking towards the white tail that was sticking out.
The cat, a fluffy white thing, was tucked up between two bushes. “Mrow,” the cat said, turning to look up at Tsukishima. It blinked its blue eyes up at him.
“Oh,” Tsukishima said. “It’s Shiro. This will be easy.”
“Shiro?” Kageyama was standing a few steps behind Tsukishima, still a little wary.
“Yeah, he’s one of the neighbor’s cats,” Tsukishima said. “He’s always coming around my house ‘cause Mom likes to feed him.” He bent down so he could pick up the cat, who easily acquiesced to the change in position with only a small chirp.
“You just picked him up!” Kageyama was clearly impressed. His eyes kept flitting back and forth between Tsukishima and Shiro, like he didn’t know who to focus on.
“Well,” Tsukishima said, adjusting his hold on Shiro so that the cat was balanced more comfortably, “he knows me, so it’s fine. Most cats won’t be this friendly.”
Tsukishima beckoned Kageyama closer with a tilt of his head. “Come here. Fulfill your dream of petting a cat.” Shiro meowed in invitation, as well.
Kageyama hesitated. “Are you sure it’s okay?”
Tsukishima rolled his eyes. “Just come here. Or are you too scared?”
Kageyama scowled at him, but at least it got him moving forward. When he was right in front of Tsukishima, he stopped. His eyes were fixated on the white cat curled up in Tsukishima’s arms.
“He won’t scratch you,” Tsukishima said when the other boy had still not made a move to touch the cat. “You’ll be fine, Kageyama.”
Kageyama glanced up at him, trying to ascertain if Tsukishima was telling the truth, or if there was a trick of some sort. Whatever he had seen seemed to satisfy him, and he gave a firm nod. He brought his hand up — slowly, haltingly — and placed it gently down onto the cat’s white fur.
“He’s soft,” Kageyama whispered, the awe in his voice clear. His fingers were still at first, but soon he was stroking down the cat’s fur.
“Yeah,” Tsukishima said. He wasn’t sure where to look: Kageyama’s long fingers entangled in white fur or the open expression of wonder on his face.
Pulling one of his hands free, Tsukishima gently rubbed under Shiro’s chin, causing the cat cuddle closer to him and start purring. The gentle purring soon intensified into a vibrating rumble.
Kageyama startled from the sound and feeling of the cat’s purring and pulled his hand away from its fur. “Is he okay?” Worry was laced through his voice.
“He’s fine,” Tsukishima said. “Purring means that he’s happy and feeling good, so don’t worry so much.” He stopped petting Shiro and wrapped his fingers around Kageyama’s wrist, tugging his hand back so it was once again in the cat’s fur.
Their fingers brushed against one another as they stroked down the purring cat’s back, its chin, and anywhere else the little beast would deign to let them touch. Silence fell between them, but it was comfortable instead of awkward. They were both transfixed by the moment, albeit by different parts of it.
Tsukishima never believed that one day he would be grateful for a cat. He enjoyed irritating Kageyama and needling him about useless matters, but it was also nice to just see him quiet and happy. Outside of volleyball, it really was quite simple to meet Kageyama’s desires, it seemed.
After a solid ten minutes of petting, Shiro decided that he finally had enough of their attentions. He meowed loudly to catch Tsukishima’s attention and began to awkwardly squirm out of his hold. Tsukishima bent down so the cat could nimbly hop out of his arms.
“Mrow,” Shiro said, in what Tsukishima assumed was a farewell, and then he was bounding off to somewhere else.
“Guess he had enough of us,” Tsukishima said as straightened up. “Did that satisfy your animal petting urge?”
Kageyama was staring at his right hand like it was a holy relic. “Yes” he said, looking towards Tsukishima. “Thank you.” His eyes were bright, and there was a small, rare smile on his face. He nearly glowed with contentment.
I’m an idiot, Tsukishima thought, suddenly and with great conviction, because he had just been hit with the fierce and pressing urge to — touch Kageyama. He wanted to press his hands against his waist, wanted to crowd him against a wall, and most unfortunately of all, he wanted to kiss him on his cheeks, on his mouth, anywhere that could be reached. How stupid he had been to be caught in the king’s unwitting trap.
He stayed where he was, though, and kept all of the desires bubbling inside him carefully locked down. “Yeah,” Tsukishima said, looking away from Kageyama. “Gotta keep his majesty happy, right?”
Someone in the house was obviously watching for their return because before they could even get past the gate, the front door was opening. Tsukishima was basically resigned to his fate at this point.
“Kei! You’re back!” Tsukishima’s mother called out. The curtain in the front window shifted, and Tsukishima caught a flash of Akiteru’s — the traitor — blond hair as he ducked out of view.
Kageyama seemed to hesitate on the pathway towards the door, and Tsukishima grabbed his arm to pull him along. “I’m not facing the two of them alone,” he said. He needed someone else to help bear the brunt of his family’s enthusiasm and nosiness.
“Kageyama-kun!” Tsukishima’s mother exclaimed when she saw him come up with her son. “It’s so good to see you again!”
“Hello,” he said, giving her a polite bow. “It’s good to see you, too.”
“Akiteru was just telling me about how you and Kei were hanging out today!” she said with a smile. “You two didn’t have to go out into the cold, though, you know.”
Akiteru came out of the house then, standing just behind his mother in the open doorway. “Apparently Kei thought it was too embarrassing to hang out with his older brother around.”
“It’s always embarrassing when you’re around,” Tsukishima interjected, scowling at his brother’s smiling face.
“And I’m sure it had nothing to do with you wanting to be alone with Kageyama, right?” Akiteru teased.
“Oh, hush,” his mother said with a laugh. “Leave the two of them alone. It’s not like you weren’t traipsing all over with your friends in high school, too.”
Smiling widely, she turned back to Kageyama. “Do you want to stay for dinner, Kageyama-kun? I’d love to have you with us tonight.”
“Oh,” Kageyama said, surprised at her offer. “Thank you, but it’s okay. I should get home for dinner.”
“You’ve had enough of Kei for the day,” Akiteru said, pretending to nod in understanding. “It’s all that grouchiness, isn’t it?”
“No,” Kageyama started to say, “it’s not —”
“Kageyama should really be getting home,” Tsukishima interrupted, raising his voice. “And I need to go to the store, so I’ll walk with him until then.”
Akiteru’s face lit up, and Tsukishima knew that he had to make his escape now, or he would likely be pushed towards justified murder.
“Oh,” Kageyama said. “I almost forgot. I have something for you, Tsukishima-san.” He dug into the bag and pulled out a small green box. “It’s to say thank you for letting me stay a few weeks ago. We talked about it a little bit the last time I was here.”
“It’s meltykiss!” she gasped, surprise and delight in her voice in equal measures. She took it from Kageyama’s hands when he passed it over.
“Yes, the green tea flavor,” Kageyama said. “You said that you like to eat it when it comes out in the winter, right? My mom does too.”
“Oh, you’re so sweet, Kageyama-kun!” Tsukishima’s mother exclaimed. Her eyes were shining happily, and she seemed to be even more enamored with the setter. “Much more so than my own boys.” She glared at her sons in mock irritation.
Akiteru spluttered and tried to protest, but Tsukishima didn’t bother. It was clear who his mother’s new favorite was, and it didn’t seem like it would be changing anytime soon.
“Thank you so much for the chocolate!” Tsukishima’s mother said, pulling a startled Kageyama into a quick hug. “You’re always welcome here, so come back soon, okay?”
To avoid further teasing from Akiteru and fawning from their mother, Tsukishima tugged Kageyama’s arm and began pulling him back toward the gate. “Let’s go, king. Don’t want to have you stuck here after dark.”
Tsukishima knew that running away like this was only prolonging the suffering he’d experience at the hands of his mother and brother, but that was a problem for future him. The near future him, but that was still far enough away that he tried not to pay it any mind.
“Do you want the rest of the snacks?” Kageyama asked, dragging Tsukishima out of his reverie. “I should’ve asked earlier, sorry.”
“No,” Tsukishima said because right now they only reminded him of Kageyama, and he was trying to convince himself that he had his fill of both for the day. “You keep them. We can...finish them together at another time.”
Kageyama seemed to perk up at that. “I’ll come again,” he said, making it sound like a promise. “I’ll bring even more next time.”
“Please don’t,” Tsukishima said. “Half — no, a third of what you brought today would have been more than enough. My stomach is only so big, you know.”
“Yes,” Kageyama said. “It’s too small, which is why I need to bring more.” Then, he nodded to himself, strangely resolute in his declaration.
Tsukishima rolled his eyes, but didn't bother arguing. He bumped Kageyama with his shoulder instead as a gesture of annoyance. When Kageyama nudged him back, a scowl firmly affixed to his face, Tsukishima had to pretend that he wasn't pleased.
Since they weren't trying to squish under an umbrella this time, there was no real reason for the two of them to stay close as they walked to the market. It made the fact that they were close, with their shoulders brushing against each other with almost every step, even more apparent to Tsukishima.
Kageyama gave off heat like a furnace. It was impossible not to notice considering much time they had spent together during the day, but Tsukishima was still not quite used to it. It was winter, and it was cold, so Kageyama's warmth was a comfort. It beckoned Tsukishima closer and closer, like a lamp drawing moths in the night.
As they drew closer to the supermarket, Tsukishima felt his strained hold on his wayward thoughts unravel completely. In the fading afternoon light, Tsukishima couldn't help but stare at Kageyama. His dark hair, windswept and messy, and his long lashes, dark against his cheeks when he blinked. His face, regal and serious and happy and angry and every emotion in between.
For all the time they had spent together today, it was now that seemed the most urgent and compelling. Tsukishima wanted desperately, fervently to be able to touch Kageyama. A specific, intentional touch unlike any of the casual brushes they had shared so far.
When they were almost to the supermarket, Kageyama caught Tsukishima's eye, surprised at the intensity of the other's gaze. "What is it?" he asked, tilting his head.
“I need to tell you something,” Tsukishima said, barreling past logic and reasonableness, both of which were screaming at him to shut up.
“Okay?” Kageyama turned to look at him, brow creased in confusion. “What is it?”
Tsukishima pulled Kageyama into a cramped alleyway beside the supermarket. It was narrow and tight, and they had to be nearly on top of each other to fit comfortably inside the space.
For a few moments, he was silent, brain working overtime to try and think of something to say. Eventually, he settled on, “You have something on your mouth,” because he was a complete idiot. He couldn’t bring himself to care too much at the moment.
“Again?” Kageyama said, frowning. His hand began to move towards his face.
Tsukishima caught Kageyama’s hand before he could bring it up to his mouth. “I can get it,” he said. His heart felt like it was going to pound out of his chest. His brain was screaming at him to stop, step back, anything but what he was currently doing, but he resolutely ignored it.
He stepped closer, and Kageyama had to tilt his head up to look him in the eye. “Don’t move,” he said, barely a whisper. Then, he leaned in and gave in to the desire that had been coiling tighter and tighter in his belly.
It wasn’t anything fancy or spectacular — just a simple press of lips against each other. Kageyama’s mouth was soft, and every place that the two of them were touching was warm. He smelled sweet, like all the sugar and strawberry treats they had consumed over the course of the afternoon. After a long, endless moment, Tsukishima pulled back.
For a moment, Kageyama didn’t move; he just looked up at Tsukishima, his face blank. Then, his cheeks went pink. It was quickly becoming Tsukishima’s favorite color for him. Whether it was from the wind or embarrassment, it was a good look.
“Oh,” Kageyama said, voice faint. His fingers, still caught in Tsukishima’s own, twitched, like he wanted to touch his mouth. He was staring up at Tsukishima, like he couldn’t believe he was really in front of him and not an apparition.
Cute, Tsukishima thought, and for the first time, he didn’t feel badly about it. He wanted to kiss Kageyama again — and again and again. He moved even closer to Kageyama, until there was barely a breath of space between the two of them. Gently, he rubbed a thumb across the soft skin of the hand he still had in his grip.
“Okay?” he asked, hoping that it would be able to convey all the impossible wants that bubbled up inside him.
Kageyama was silent for a long moment; long enough that nerves had begun to itch at Tsukishima. Just as he was about to pull away — run away — Kageyama tilted his chin up decisively. It was an offering and a command all in one. “Yes,” he said in the same implacable tone that he used on the court when he said Jump now.
Just as he always did, and without a word of complaint this time, Tsukishima obeyed. Bending down, he kissed Kageyama again — and again and again.