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To the end of our imagination

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~

When Kiyoko looked back, she wondered if that moment was the catalyst for everything that happened afterwards.

~

In the middle of preparing for summer training camp, before practice one day, Michimiya Yui handed Kiyoko the Karasuno women’s volleyball outfit with a bland expression on her face. There was one for Yachi too, which caused Kiyoko to raise her eyebrows.

“Why, Michimiya-san?” Kiyoko asked, thinking that Michimiya’s expression was nowhere near as innocent as she usually projected around a certain team captain.

“Collecting empirical evidence,” Michimiya said promptly. She held up a clipboard of graph paper with a chart on it. The top of the chart read, “Observed physical reactions of team members to seeing their managers in sports uniforms, across all Karasuno High School sports.” There were categories for blushing, falling to the ground, and nosebleeds, among others.

“I have questions,” Kiyoko said, and proceeded to ask them. Was it for school? Yes, for a science project on observational data. Was it across all genders? It was. “Who has had the strongest reaction so far?”

“Well,” Michimiya paused. “I gave the male manager of the women’s swim team a pair of black speedos with an orange stripe. The number of nosebleeds was unbelievable. I should have known, that guy does bodybuilding in his spare time.”

Kiyoko paused, considering. “And -- you chose us because it’s not a secret that a few of the volleyball club members are extremely demonstrative around…” how could she put this delicately…

“Ah. Well.” Michimiya once again looked hesitant.

Kiyoko narrowed her eyes. “Perhaps you wanted to especially observe one person’s reaction?”

Michimiya looked stricken.

“Isn’t there a better way to go about this, one that’s a little more direct? Were you perhaps trying to see whether a certain person would look at the two of us more than you, wearing this uniform?” Kiyoko tried to make her words gentle, but she was also not fond of being used as fodder for drama. “Michimiya-san, you look strong and hard-working in your uniform. And I believe Sawamura-kun notices it too.” … As much as he noticed anyone who wasn’t a setter for a certain volleyball team, Kiyoko thought to herself, wondering how Michimiya hadn’t figured it out.

“I --”

Kiyoko sighed and handed back the uniform. “Perhaps you’ve collected enough data?”

Michimiya stood her ground, though, and handed back the uniform. “You got me,” she admitted. “But I still need a complete data set. So if you don’t mind…”

Kiyoko considered. What would Michimiya gain from this, aside from seeing that Sawamura’s attention would be just as firmly on his team as usual? Perhaps that would be enough. “I will. But only if you are more straightforward about your feelings.”

“I’ve been chastised,” Michimiya said, scrubbing the back of her neck. “But also, thank you, Shimizu-san. I keep trying to think of a way to get through, and nothing has worked.”

“His mind is completely on Nationals,” Kiyoko said. “There isn’t room for much else, for any of us. Perhaps after Nationals is over?” Also, Kiyoko had the suspicion that Sawamura’s mind only had room for one other person, and it wasn’t Michimiya. Perhaps it never hurt to try, though.

Michimiya looked at her with a trace of sadness in her expression. “There’s so little time left.”

Caught by the truth of that emotion, Kiyoko nodded and pointed to the high deck on one side of the gym. “You can observe from up there. We’ll be back shortly.”

Catching Yachi, Kiyoko led them to their small office to change.

Kiyoko left on her tights. She went on daily morning runs before school, and just that morning she’d stumbled over a pothole and scraped the bottom of her knee. The look, black tights and short black exercise shorts, topped by the slim-fitting uniform, was very severe -- powerful even, and a little...sexy. Kiyoko admitted to herself that she didn’t hate it.

“Why are we doing this?” Yachi asked, tugging the shorts on backwards. “Oops.”

“To allay someone’s insecurity,” Kiyoko said, tying her shoe. “But since we are dressed, I should teach you basic moves.”

“Really?” Suddenly Yachi verged on the nervous, and Kiyoko laid a steadying hand on her shoulder.

“Don’t worry. We’ll simply practice volleying, and I’ll show you an underhand serve. I won’t be expecting you to do an A-quick. Yet.”

“Yet!?” Then Yachi caught the edge of Kiyoko’s smile, and beamed back. “Sounds fun, Shimizu-san.”

~

When they entered, tugging along a cart of balls, the ambient noise of the gym swiftly faded until Kiyoko could hear a pin drop. Ignoring the stares, she led Yachi over to one of the nets, handing her a ball.

“Let’s practice serves first,” Kiyoko said, and began showing Yachi the proper form.

Suddenly there was a stampede, and Kiyoko calmly turned to face a small incoming herd that included Tanaka, Nishinoya, and Hinata.

“You look just -- stunning,” Tanaka said, eyes like stars.

“I never thought I’d see this sight, but I feel blessed,” Nishinoya agreed fervently, his eyes traveling down the length of her black-clad thighs. “I’d let you walk on me with those volleyball shoes.”

Kiyoko considered it for the barest moment. The idea gave her a strange feeling, one that wasn’t unpleasant, and when Nishinoya met her eyes he shivered.

Interesting.

“YACHI-CHAN, you look awesome, wanna learn how to spike?” Hinata exclaimed, hopping all around the younger girl as she tried to hide behind Kiyoko.

Well, it was good to know that everyone reacted exactly as she’d expected. In the distance, Kiyoko saw that other members of the team were simply watching them, including Sugawara and Azumane with surprised but interested expressions, and Tsukishima with a frown approaching annoyance when he realized that Yamaguchi’s mouth was hanging open. Kageyama ignored them in favor of continuing to practice his spikes.

The other person who wasn’t looking was Sawamura, who was instead scanning the observation deck.

“Ah, there you are Michimiya,” Sawamura called, waving. “I heard about your study. Have we given you enough data yet? We have some important things to practice today and I don’t want it derailed.”

Kiyoko looked up and caught Michimiya’s sheepish expression. They shared a glance -- Michimiya’s one of laughing acceptance, and Kiyoko’s a little stern. Then she realized that everyone was looking at her.

“Since we’re in volleyball uniforms, let me teach Hitoka-chan a few basics while everyone warms up,” Kiyoko said. “It’ll improve her ability to follow games.”

“You’ve turned this into something useful to us, eh, Shimizu?” Sawamura said. “We’ll do it. Hinata, you can stay behind from today’s run and assist.”

“Yay! Let’s practice your spike!”

~

Before they changed out of their uniforms, the team, led by Nishinoya and Tanaka, insisted on taking a group photo with Kiyoko and Yachi front and center; then, a photo of Kiyoko and Yachi without the rest of the team. Both versions ended up on the club room walls, which made Kiyoko feel a small glow of warmth in her heart whenever she saw it. The whole incident might have been frivolous, but it resulted in something that made them all closer.

And, Kiyoko admitted to herself, it was kind of nice to feel that power, if only for a day.

~

When she looked back, Kiyoko realized she was grateful for the photo for a few reasons.

~

On the first day of training camp, Kiyoko did not know why she was confronted with this photo of herself while setting up Karasuno’s cubes in the Shinzen club room. It was jarring to see herself and Yachi in Karasuno’s colors on Shinzen’s wall, and she stood blinking up at the photo, the pile of towels forgotten in her hands.

“Ah, oops.” A tall figure slid into view, and with two neat movements, removed the four tacks from the corners of the printed-out photo, rolling it up carefully and setting it next to his bag. Then he turned to face Kiyoko, the faintest of blushes on his cheeks: Kuroo Tetsurou, Nekoma’s captain.

Kiyoko waited for an explanation, brows slightly furrowed.

“I do apologize,” Kuroo said. “You have some fans at Nekoma, Shimizu-san. They apparently thought it would be appropriate to pin this picture on the wall for your team.”

Kiyoko wondered, sometimes, if people who played sports did so because they absolutely couldn’t coexist with members of other genders. Or if these people understood how uncomfortable it was to be confronted with evidence of a purely physical crush. Beauty wasn’t something that lasted, her parents had often told her. And it was one thing to be adored by members of her own team, but another to be admired from afar for nothing more than her body.

Kiyoko dropped her gaze, searching for words, realizing that Kuroo’s eyes were still on her, curiously. Perhaps it was impossible to express what was going on in her mind just then.

“Here, let me assist.” Kuroo reached out and took the towels from her slackening fingers, and turned to the row of cubes assigned to Karasuno. “I am sure it’s a shock to see yourself in that way, Shimizu-san. No disrespect is intended, but I’ll be sure to distribute the proper number of head smacks.”

“Don’t do that on my account, Kuroo-kun,” Kiyoko said finally, finding her voice. “I accept it. There are a few of us who aren’t male here, and I know we’ll have more attention paid to us than usual. It was just a surprise. I’ll continue setting up now.”

Kuroo turned to meet her eyes, towels distributed. His expression was even more curious now. “I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t understand how you must feel. It’s different, isn’t it, than when fans of the Nekoma team stare at our fundraising calendar.”

“Because you’re first and foremost a player on a sports team,” Kiyoko said. “People admire you for the sport as well as for how you look. Nobody’s turning you into something that’s just two dimensional.”

Kuroo looked thoughtful. “But you’re fine with it at Karasuno because to them you’re a person first, yes?”

“Yes.” Kiyoko fished labels out of her bag and walked to the cubes to slide each name into place. “My team rarely troubles me, and respects me when I tell them to stop.” Most of the time, she added wryly to herself.

Following along at a different set of cubes, Kuroo mirrored her actions, applying the labels for Fukuroudani. “High school boys sure are dumb,” Kuroo said. “I can’t entirely understand what it must feel like to be you. But your patience is enormous for putting up with us. Thank you for that.”

“You don’t have to thank me for that, Kuroo-kun.”

But Kuroo turned to her, his smile widening. “I definitely count myself as one of the dumb ones. I can’t say I’m unaffected by your appearance, I probably stared at that picture as much as the rest of them. But now you’ve really impressed me, somehow. I won’t sign up for your fanclub -- I think it’s out of membership slots.”

Kiyoko turned to consider Kuroo, and, wanting to turn the tables a little, gave him the slow up-and-down stare that she was used to getting from athletes -- letting him see her look. Even though Kiyoko was tall enough, he was still much taller, and his body was both muscular and lean in ways she found interesting. She liked the way his shoulders sat, and how he was wider than he seemed because of his height, even if his waist was narrow.

She ended at his face (the bones were sharply shaped) and paused. His eyes were gleaming at her, and he looked a bit uncertain. He was, however, the first boy she’d met who had asked how she felt about being objectified, and that meant something.

“I will allow it,” Kiyoko said after a silent moment of assessment. “You seem respectful, and I don’t exactly mind your appearance either.”

Watching Kuroo’s eyes widen with surprise, Kiyoko turned and picked up her bag of supplies. Looking back over her shoulder, she gave him the smallest nod of her head. “See you at practice.”

~

Later, lying on her futon with Yachi snoring into a pillow nearby, Kiyoko stared into the darkness. She knew something about herself that was difficult to put into words, something that she’d just seen answered in Kuroo’s eyes. Recognition, maybe. As if that one moment between them had not resulted in what Kuroo expected (perhaps he’d expected a blush and silence, or something equally passive?), but it did not turn him away.

It made her curious. What else could Kuroo accept about her?

Kiyoko filed the thought away. It wouldn’t do to be distracted, especially now.

~

It was strange, Kiyoko thought, how someone she’d never given much mind to before (aside from a page of data she’d collected about Kuroo scouting matches) was suddenly everywhere.

Not only was he around, tall and certain and teasing, he was also watching her with narrowed eyes, as if she was an opponent that he had to size up and defeat as well.

After the first practice match between Nekoma and Karasuno was over (a hideous defeat in two sets), a lanky set of legs wandered to where Kiyoko stood updating her match statistics.

It concerned her that Hinata and Kageyama’s quick wasn’t connecting, but she understood why. She just hoped they could get it together before the qualifiers, or they were all in deep --

“Shimizu-san, hello,” Kuroo said after a moment. “Did you notice anything about my game that would benefit me to hear?”

“It’s lucky for you that my protection detail is still doing penalty runs,” Kiyoko said. “Or they’d be hissing at you like cats.”

“You sound about as over them as I’d be. But my question stands, what did you observe?”

Kiyoko flipped the page to her game notation, scanning the symbols to find each instance of Kuroo. Solid serve, far too many kills, reflexes on par with the best Karasuno had. Only…

“Your shoulder rotation, are you perhaps trying to emulate Bokuto-kun’s steep angle? It doesn’t quite work for you. I think you should stick to straights, unless you focus on arm flexibility.”

Kuroo blinked at her for a long moment, thoughtfully, and then nodded. “I don’t think I’m as flexible as Bokuto. It usually results in a mess,” he said.

“It does,” Kiyoko agreed. “Now, if you don’t mind…”

“I’ll leave you alone,” Kuroo said with a small smile, and wandered back toward his team.

It registered in her mind a moment later that she was still staring at him as he walked off, sweat causing part of his shirt to cling to the curve of his lower back. His legs looked so very long in those shorts, and Kiyoko realized that her awareness of him had increased drastically.

Oh, no.

In the distance, Kiyoko saw a pair of wide golden eyes turn toward them, and then away.

~

For dinner that night, the managers all got together and cooked. Kiyoko felt lucky that the whole group of them were capable -- the managers for Fukuroudani, Shinzen, and Ubugawa were smart and skilled -- and Yachi herself excelled at cooking.

While they were planning for the summer camp, Kiyoko learned that Yachi was the caregiver for herself and her mother, and usually cooked for them both. It showed in Yachi’s exceptional preparation skills. It also made Kiyoko feel relieved -- when she was gone, Yachi would be able to handle those organizational details extremely well.

The various teams trailed in from practice, and for a while everyone was busy serving plate after plate after plate of food. In one ear Kiyoko heard Hinata exclaim loudly over the deliciousness of Yachi’s cooking when she admitted to making the curry. It made her smile. In the other, she heard Coach Ukai quietly discussing the day’s session with Tanaka-sensei. Kiyoko began to feel a glimmer of hope -- Karasuno sorely needed it, and the camp was already pushing everyone’s ability.

And then, out of the corner of one eye, she saw a boy creep closer and closer to her. Kiyoko ignored him for as long as she could -- it was one of the Shinzen team, a wing spiker who struck her as being a little messy in his receives but competent enough. Kodama-kun, perhaps?

“Shimizu-san, may I have another plate?” he said, eyes crawling all over her as shamelessly as she’d sized up Kuroo.

“You may,” Kiyoko said, taking a deep, calming breath. She was used to ignoring things like this, and paused to take the plate she was cleaning over to the drying rack before turning to assist.

But then someone stepped between them. Mako-chan, the Shinzen manager, smiling up at the boy. “Let me help. Shimizu-san is clearly busy with other things.” The edge of her smile was sweet but menacing, and Kiyoko felt a rush of gratefulness.

“Yes, ma’am!” Kodama squeaked, and Kiyoko heard quiet groans from the table where his team sat.

“My pleasure,” Mako said, her teeth sharp as she smiled. She turned to the food pots and gave the boy a healthy dollop of vegetables with no other rice or meat, and handed it back. “You skimped on vegetables anyway.”

Holding his plate of vegetables sheepishly, the boy returned to his seat.

“That wasn’t necessary, but I appreciate it,” Kiyoko said quietly.

“He’s a good kid but he can be a pain,” Mako responded, heading back to her own food.

From behind Kiyoko, a voice piped up, quiet enough that only a few people could hear him. “Once you pointed it out, I can’t unsee it. It’s constant, isn’t it?”

Kiyoko pondered how to reply to Kuroo when Yachi looked over from where she was drying a pan next to the sink.

“It is, with Shimizu-san. She deals with it easily, though. But all of the managers support each other.”

“I’m glad,” Kuroo said. “I was going to step in but I stopped. I think I’m feeling self-conscious, now. I’m trying to imagine what it would be like to be constantly harassed like that.”

“Ask Oikawa-san,” said a dry voice, and Tsukishima paused where he was about to put down his empty tray. “He’s got a pretty ardent fan club.”

Without even asking, Yachi added another scoop of rice and curry to Tsukishima’s plate.

“Hey! I was actually done,” Tsukishima protested.

“Eat more, eat more,” Kuroo said, grin sliding back onto his face. “Your arms are twigs.”

~

They met, later, and Kiyoko knew it was not by accident.

Kiyoko was at the laundry facility with her phone, texting her mother until the towels dried. Kuroo opened the door and sauntered in, hopping onto a table next to her.

“I don’t know how to pay attention to you in a way that’s good for you and not bad,” he said, and suddenly the atmosphere felt different between them. “Perhaps I should just ask, then. What would you want from me, if maybe I wanted to get to know you better?”

Kiyoko blinked. This was something she had never been asked before. She turned to face him, thinking about it. Kuroo was intelligent and she liked how he looked. And he was genuine about his attraction to her and letting her decide what to do about it.

Did she want more of his time? Did she want a friendship with him, maybe a warm friendship? That might be enough, but part of her was tempted by what else he could offer. Even this much talk would start rumors, though -- even being near him in a quiet room.

“You’re the first person who has ever asked what I want,” Kiyoko said. “That’s important to me. Why don’t we exchange numbers? I’d rather not spend too much time with you here at camp, it’s far too public.”

“Ah,” Kuroo said, his expression lighting up. “But I happen to know someone in the art club here who told me about a secret hideaway. Why don’t I fold towels with you for a while, and then, perhaps, I can take you to the art building roof?”

Kiyoko opened her mouth to say a firm no, and then stopped. What did she really want?

The dryer buzzed, and Kuroo hopped down to fish out the pile of towels. “Let’s fold, Shimizu-san!”

Something about him drew her. He wasn’t greedy, and tried his best to listen. Perhaps the bar was low, but he was trying his best to meet it. Kiyoko watched his hands for a moment as he folded towels, competently and neatly. His fingers were nimble.

“Show me the roof, Kuroo-kun,” she said.

~

The roof was, indeed, difficult to get to. It required knowing the location of two sets of keys and a secret back stair through the art building. The secrecy of it eased Kiyoko’s mind, even as it set off a few warning bells. She texted Yachi before she went, telling her briefly where she was going and with whom, and to get help if she didn’t return in an hour.

(Privacy was less important than safety, even though the return text from Yachi had an embarrassing surprised-face emoji on it several times, along with, “Don’t let your guard down, Shimizu-san!”)

It was quiet up there. They sat with their backs to a warm wall, and Kiyoko felt the heat rise from the cement as the cool air of the night settled around her. The camp was putting itself to bed, and Kiyoko felt tired. She was sure Kuroo felt even more exhausted, but it was pleasant to be there beside him.

“Look.” Kiyoko leaned forward. A stag beetle was making its way slowly around her shoe.

“Ah! I collected them for a while in elementary school, mostly to put in people’s desks to give them a scare.” Kuroo prodded the beetle, watching it make a beeline away from him. “This is a nice big one.”

Kiyoko laughed, imagining young Kuroo trying his best to prank his friends. “Kozume-kun, did he help you?”

Kuroo glanced sideways at her. “He did. He’s always been beside me. But I think you’ve noticed that.”

“It’s nice, isn’t it? To have someone next to you that you can lean on. After all this time, I think I’ve found someone too.”

“Ah. Yachi-san, yes? You two do look close.”

There was a question in there, of course. Kuroo looked at her, and she looked back at him.

“Which one of us will ask it first?” Kuroo finally said.

“It’s embarrassing, isn’t it?” Kiyoko replied, smiling at him, realizing they were suddenly going extremely deep. “Why have you not dated Kozume-kun, then, Kuroo-kun? Family expectations? Other things?”

Kuroo leaned back, staring up at the sky. “He’ll be part of my life no matter who I end up dating. It’s the rare person who will acknowledge that he and I are life partners, and still want anything to do with me, or him, or us. Maybe someday I’ll work up the nerve to let him know how I feel about him. And you, Shimizu-san?”

This was a huge admission, and a display of trust. The thought of Kuroo trying his best to bridge the gap with his childhood friend made Kiyoko’s heart squeeze in sympathy. She leaned toward him, almost unconsciously.

“Honestly, Kuroo-kun, it’s been so long since I’ve let anyone near me that sometimes I think I don’t remember how. But, as much as I adore Hitoka-chan, she needs to mature a little first.” The admission was tough to make. Yachi was adorable, and sometimes Kiyoko wondered if her impulse to maintain that boundary came from social expectations rather than her own innate need to let Yachi grow. It was confusing. It probably had nothing to do with gender, though, and everything to do with personality.

“I think I understand,” Kuroo said, and their eyes met. “You want someone who can let you be alone when you need it, and not be insecure about it.”

“That’s it,” Kiyoko said, and felt relief at being understood. “Also, sometimes I want to feel weak, and rely on someone else. But it also hurts my pride when I think of needing to rely on anyone. So the person I date will have to read my mind.” She laughed. “Impossible, right?”

Kuroo’s eyes were a little starry as he looked at her. “Your laugh... But -- if you tell me nothing is impossible, then I’ll tell you the same, Shimizu-san.” Slowly, very slowly, he reached a hand up and caught the edge of a lock of hair that had escaped from behind her ear. “Maybe we can keep each other company?”

Kiyoko’s fingers rose, and before she knew it, she’d caught his hand. His fingers were warm and dry, and she slid her own between them. “I think, given what you told me about your feelings for Kozume-kun, this isn’t a talk we can have without him.”

The look on Kuroo’s face was priceless, and Kiyoko felt moved to laugh again. “Are you shocked I would suggest it?”

“You would want to -- you’d want to date us both?”

“I don’t know,” Kiyoko said, “Until I get to know Kozume-kun better. But not until you’ve talked to him. I refuse to be the reason someone’s heart breaks.”

“Shimizu-san.” A moment later, Kiyoko felt herself surrounded by a wall of warmth, Kuroo tugging her into a hug. It felt good and forbidden both at once, and the shock of Kuroo’s body against hers washed through her in a wave. She felt his breath huff against her neck and fought her sudden desire to see what it felt like to kiss him.

With a few deep breaths she’d steadied herself, but she also put her arms around him, nestling her nose to his neck. He smelled like soap and Salonpas, the familiar smells of the sport Kiyoko loved. She couldn’t help the small hum in the back of her throat, her fingers gripping into his soft white shirt. He was undeniably attractive to her, not least because he made her think.

“Whew. I felt a moment away from being pushed to the ground,” Kuroo teased a moment later, his tone light as he pulled back, his cheeks just a little pink.

“Don’t get ahead of yourself,” Kiyoko said, smiling at him. “I have self-restraint. But -- where are you hurt? At the very least, I can help you with that.”

“Ah. You smelled the pain spray.” Kuroo indicated his calf. “Cramping a little, but it’s not bad.”

Kiyoko arranged them so that his long legs were over her lap, and got her hands on the muscle. Quietly she began the massage she’d studied in sports therapy videos. At first Kuroo hissed at the pressure, but soon he was making happy noises too, his eyes closed as he leaned back against the wall.

And Kiyoko realized that they were both smiling.

~

Yachi was waiting for her, sitting on her futon with knees pulled up to her chin, eyes wide.

“Are you okay, Shimizu-san?” Yachi said as quietly as she could. “I worried.”

“Thank you for worrying,” Kiyoko said as they both settled into their quilts. “I think it won’t be a cause for concern, though. I think...I might be interested in dating him.”

Yachi stifled her squeak in a pillow and looked up with an avid expression. “He’s handsome! Tell me everything, every detail!”

So, in quiet whispers, Kiyoko gave her the version that did not include the potential of a three-person relationship. This version, she thought, really did sound like shoujo manga.

“I never thought I’d be interested in anyone. But...he understands me, and I like that.”

Yachi’s expression looked far away for a moment. “Maybe someday I’ll have a romance I can tell you about too,” she said.

Kiyoko reached out and took her hand, holding it between them as they lay side by side on the futons. “I’ll be waiting to hear all your stories,” she said. “Gladly.”

~

Nothing changed between Kiyoko and Kuroo during the day. Kiyoko concentrated fully on the task before her, recording team statistics, teaching Yachi, and supporting Karasuno. In fact, she’d forgotten rather completely about their late-night meeting right up until lunchtime, when she noticed a message on her phone as it sat beside her tray in the cafeteria.

Your expression when you think about your team takes my breath away. I really enjoy watching you watch volleyball.

Kiyoko stared down at her phone, feeling a sudden rush of...something...and wondering how to respond, when suddenly she heard a gasp from a distance.

“SHIMIZU-SAN IS STARING AT HER PHONE AND BLUSHING. IS IT A MAN? WHICH ONE OF YOU BASTARDS IS IT?” And suddenly Nishinoya was crouching in receive stance in front of her, the tension in his body reminding Kiyoko just a little of an overwrought guard dog. Kiyoko restrained herself from rolling her eyes with an enormous effort, not even bothering to glance in Kuroo’s direction.

Kiyoko walked over to Nishinoya, putting her hand on his shoulder. “Nishinoya-kun. You’re bothering everyone, including me.”

“Ah -- I’m sorry Shimizu-san, but what if one of these terrible people started messaging you? We’ll protect your virtue to the end!” Nishinoya glared around fiercely.

“I’m sorry everyone.” Sawamura stood. “Noya -- you’re on dishwashing duty. Stop bothering Shimizu-san, NOW.”

Thank god.

And that’s when Kuroo’s eyes slid over to hers with an amused but slightly helpless expression, and she let the air heat up between them for a moment, her own expression showing as little as she could, except for the slight crinkle of amusement at the edge of her eyes.

Kiyoko looked away, but not before she realized that Kozume was glancing from Kuroo’s face to hers.

~

There were no more texts that day, but in a lull between games, Kiyoko watched Nekoma play against Ubugawa.

Kuroo and Kozume had a connection between them that was solid. Kozume was cool and quiet and withdrawn, but during the match, all his ability was focused on bolstering his team, making sure that each toss suited the strengths of his spikers. It was an economical style of volleyball that was totally different from Kageyama’s intensity, and was a perfect balance to Kuroo’s swagger.

In short, Kiyoko could see them together, and wondered how they’d look, pressed closer, skin to skin. One of them tall, dark-haired, and demanding, the other slender and light and cool until he melted completely. The thought was beautiful, and made far too much sense for any thoughts she might have had about a deeper bond with just one of them.

Kiyoko could also see how easy it would be to simply take on Kozume’s role in Kuroo’s life -- sliding in as an equally self-contained but socially acceptable version of Kozume, one that Kuroo could introduce to his family without fear of upsetting conservative relations. His family would probably love her, Kiyoko thought to herself wryly. It was a match made in a shoujo manga.

But Kiyoko wouldn’t do that. She couldn’t see where she could slip between Kuroo and Kozume, as seamless as they were. But she could support them with all her heart.

Something in her chest hurt a little at the thought, and she had to look away.

In the distance, she saw Tanaka bend his head toward Sugawara, talking urgently and gesturing in her direction. Oops. She’d better go and stop that line of chatter before it grew.

Walking over to them with quick steps, she overheard, “-- Can’t seem to stop watching Kenma, do you think maybe he’s somehow the one that managed to get her --”

And before he could finish the thought, she struck the back of his head with the side of her hand.

“Enough, Tanaka-kun. I don’t like that you and Nishinoya-kun are spreading rumors about me. I accept that you feel protective, but because this involves other people, it’s embarrassing.” Kiyoko made her words as direct and stern as possible, watching as everyone near them cringed away, including Nishinoya, who sank to a crouch in front of them with wide eyes.

“Besides,” Sugawara added, stepping in, “Shimizu-san is older than you both, and if she wants to date, it’s actually none of your business at all.”

Kiyoko nodded at Sugawara. “Everyone should be thinking about volleyball right now, instead of this irrelevant gossip.”

“See?” Sugawara said. “Instead of fretting like an old aunt, be grateful you’re getting her total attention.”

“I’m sorry, Shimizu-san,” Tanaka said, bending his head.

Kiyoko reached out a hand to touch Tanaka’s shoulder, bringing a blush to his cheeks. “I know you just want to protect me. But it’s really, really annoying.”

“I’ll try to be less annoying, Shimizu-san!”

~

On the roof that night, Kiyoko sat staring at the sky and enjoying the alone time. Dinner that night had been as frenetic as usual, but her heart ached just a bit to observe from afar how Kuroo and Kozume related so easily to each other. There really was no room between them, no matter what Kuroo thought. It was worth sitting alone just to try to unhook herself from her growing feelings of --

But then she heard quiet footsteps, and a sudden, “Oh. Only Tetsurou and I know about this place.”

Kiyoko sighed and stood, noticing briefly that they were nearly the same height. “I don’t have to return here, Kozume-kun. I just needed a quiet place to think.”

But he stood in front of her blocking the way, eyes assessing. “He brought you here.”

“He did. I needed someone to talk to.” Kiyoko kept her voice just as level. “I dislike rumors starting, so I will tell you now that I am not interested in causing --”

“It’s OK with me if you stay.” Kozume interrupted her, sinking to the ground and pulling out a gaming device.

Kiyoko stood for a moment, blinking, but then sat back down, her curiosity piqued.

They sat silently side by side for a full life of a character, and the quiet noises of the console combined with the cicada song and buzz of beetles to lull her into a more peaceful state of mind. Kiyoko wasn’t sure what to say; she also knew that waiting for someone to make the first move took the strength of a warrior.

Finally, Kozume put down the game and spoke. “I saw you watching each other,” Kozume said, quietly. “I think -- I think you might even be worthy. Of him.”

Half of a new game was over while Kiyoko pondered how to respond. It wasn’t her place to tell Kozume that Kuroo had feelings for him, and it also wasn’t her place to back down if there was any chance this might work. She heaved a sigh -- trust her to pick this kind of situation. Anything less would have been boring, perhaps.

“And. You suit each other.” Kozume said.

Kiyoko wasn’t sure what he meant by that. He glanced over and seemed to read her mind.

“I mean, you’re both classically good looking with all that dark hair. You’re both tall, and at least you are smart, if not Tetsurou. And you both love volleyball, maybe more than I do. You could offer him a lot.”

Suddenly Kiyoko knew what was going on. It was watching someone breaking their own heart, not far from what she’d been doing to herself earlier. Maybe they were both idiots.

“Yes,” Kiyoko said, finally. “I find Kuroo-kun worth watching. But he’s got someone in his heart already, and I think you know who that is. I talked to him, and he said that when the moment was right, he’d firm up this relationship before thinking of...of anyone else.”

Kozume was silent for a long, long time, but this time, his game was slack in his hand. When he finally turned to look at her, his eyes were wide, as if synapses were firing in his head. “You mean he... “

“Has feelings for a...a person who is close to him,” Kiyoko said, her chest aching. “ And I would never get in the way of two people who share so much that he talks of that person as if they were part of his own body.” Enough of a hint? Surely.

And with that, she couldn’t hide the twinge of emotions in her chest any longer, and tilted her head forward to block her expression behind the sweep of her hair. It had only been a day or two, but it was also the first time Kiyoko had let herself feel this way, and it was all so new.

But then she felt a hand on her shoulder, and when she looked up she caught the full impact of Kozume’s attention, golden eyes bright on hers. His hand slid around her back, and he carefully drew her against his body. “You feel something for him. Enough to give up a chance to date him, for his own happiness.”

Kiyoko took a painful breath, and then another one, and finally turned to curl into Kozume, resting her forehead on his shoulder. Was there a way to do this?

“I thought, today, about how similar you and I are,” she admitted to him. “Neither one of us needs a lot of people in their life, but there are exceptions.”

Kozume was silent for a moment, and Kiyoko felt an awareness growing between them that had not been there before. She was conscious of the press of muscle against her body -- the second time that week she’d felt a body against hers.

“You don’t look like a swinger,” Kozume said bluntly, and Kiyoko was shocked enough to laugh against his shoulder. “You don’t look like a girl who would be interested in watching two men together, either.”

“Looks are deceptive,” Kiyoko said, and the arm around her cradled her a little more tightly. “Kozume-kun, out of the two of us, I am probably more likely to insist that I get my way.”

Kozume was silent for a moment. Then, “Ah. You’re talking about sex, aren’t you. You’re saying that you’re...um. You like to top?”

Kiyoko laughed again and let her hand slide down Kozume’s calf, feeling the long, lean muscle there, making his whole body suddenly tense against her. She was learning a lot about herself, rapidly. Maybe it took having someone else name what was inside of her to see it for what it was. “Not just that. I want it all,” Kiyoko admitted. “And none of us are as straightforward as we look. I wouldn’t have thought that either of you were bisexual, either.”

“Bisexual,” Kozume said thoughtfully, clearly trying out the phrase, and the hand resting on Kiyoko’s shoulder became more of a caress. His eyes turned to her and she felt the force of his attention again, as though she was an interesting new console game that he couldn’t quite figure out. “That doesn’t feel quite right. I think, for me, I need to be interested in the person first.”

“We are very similar, then,” Kiyoko said again, smiling into his eyes and feeling the tension inside of her shift into something almost light. Was it really possible to have this?

“I find you interesting,” Kozume breathed, so softly that it was hard to hear.

“Kozume-kun, I find you interesting too,” Kiyoko said, and suddenly they were smiling at each other. And for the second time that week Kiyoko felt the desire to kiss a boy.

“So. All three of us. Do we tell Tetsurou that we should try it out? I kind of want to let him worry,” Kozume said, expression turning sly.

“It’s between the two of you, but you should probably talk before we meet here again.” Kiyoko said, raising her hand to touch a fall of bi-colored hair. Her mind was full of what Kozume might look like lying spread out beneath her, his chest rising in a helpless pant and his skin bright with color. The thought that she could have in reality what had been a constant confusing dream made her want to cry.

“What is it?” Kozume’s fingers touched her chin. “Shimizu-san.”

“These past few days, I’ve learned how good it feels to be myself with people.”

~

The next day felt charged, as if a summer storm was about to sweep down from the mountains and carry them all away.

It was clear that those two had talked. The way they related to each other was different, more aware, as if the string of fate that had connected them was now a live wire.

The storm was growing, Kiyoko knew, inside of her too. It was also inside of Kuroo, who was looking at her with such a challenging, heated expression that she almost felt like smacking him. It was embarrassing, and she sensed that before the day was out, he’d make some kind of grand gesture.

On the other hand, Kiyoko’s team was subdued. Perhaps the constant losing battles (and penalty exercises, so many of them) had finally begun to take their toll, or perhaps Sawamura had successfully convinced the second-years to stay out of Kiyoko’s business, but the result was that everyone was uncharacteristically quiet as they lined up for the morning match.

It was against Nekoma, of course it was, and Kiyoko suppressed a sigh when she realized that she’d have to ignore the boys she was … dating? … with all her might. She was resolute, though, focusing her entire attention upon the team in front of her. She saw Kozume smirk at her out of the corner of her eye, just as Kuroo pouted.

And then she noticed Kozume freeze and felt it coming…

The storm was about to break.

One second. Two. Three. And Kiyoko felt a hand grasp her own hand in a gesture that was far too intimate for where they were. Kuroo’s face tilted down toward hers. “Meet me later?” His trademark smirk was on his face, but it was joined by a questioning expression in his eyes, one that begged her not to smack him down.

Now the entire gym was silent, except for a distant “HEY HEY HEEEEEY, YOU ALLEY CAT! WHAT’S GOING ON?” from the far court.

So Kiyoko turned and saw Kozume’s small, private smile. She smiled back, and then tilted her head up to meet Kuroo’s gaze. She gave him her most melting look, and said in a sweet voice that was clear enough to be heard throughout the gym, “You and I will talk after Karasuno beats Nekoma in the next two sets, Kuroo-kun.”

A second later, a wild outcry rose around them as her flock of crows reacted to the revelation that Kuroo and Kiyoko were potentially dating. Nishinoya leapt into the air and screamed, “WE’RE TAKING YOU DOWN, EVEN IF YOU SOMEHOW BROKE THROUGH THE DEFENSES OF OUR BELOVED MANAGER!” And Tanaka’s voice shouting, “THAT’S RIGHT! YOU’RE GONNA DIE! HOW DARE YOU!”

Even Sawamura and Sugawara looked menacing, glaring first at Kuroo, and then across the net at the entire Nekoma team.

Kuroo retreated to his own side of the net, laughing.

“Thanks, idiot captain,” Nobuyuki said, glaring at Kuroo. “That fired them up, you moron.”

After that, Karasuno’s energy was boundless, and for the first time in camp they won the practice match in straight sets.

~

The rest of the day was absolutely crazy, with Kiyoko firmly deflecting any and all questions, and Kuroo acting the part of the humble conqueror. It was honestly unbearable, but she knew it would remove any deeper curiosity people might have about whether or not Kozume was part of their relationship.

At dinner that night, interest in the situation peaked, no matter how far away Kiyoko kept from Kuroo in the cafeteria.

Sawamura finally stood up, heading to the Nekoma table, stretching and flexing his right arm meaningfully.

“Kuroo-kun, hello,” Sawamura said, plopping down across from him. “It seems that you’ve caught the interest of our manager, and because of this, I feel we need to see if you’re worthy.”

Sugawara walked over too, sitting beside Sawamura, his smile deceptively angelic. “We also have a few things to say before we can entrust her to you.”

“But first, a test of strength!”

Kuroo shook his head. “If I told you it was a mutual decision, would you rethink this?”

“Nope. Shimizu-san would never have given you the time of day if you hadn’t bothered her first.”

Kiyoko turned toward the dishes, feeling the blood rush to her face. She was met with the sympathetic looks of the other managers.

“Want me to shut them down, Shimizu-san?” Yachi said, looking scared but resolute.

“It’s something they apparently have to do,” Kiyoko said. “Maybe it’s how boys express their admiration for each other, using this kind of nonsense as an excuse.”

“You mean,” Yachi said, “That Sawamura-san actually wants to spend more time with Kuroo-san, but can’t just say it, so he has to act this way toward him?”

“I’ve read this kind of manga before,” Mako chimed in. “The two opposite team captains are in love but they can only express it through the desire to beat each other in sports!”

“And after the tournament they want more time together, so they sneak off for one-on-one sessions on the court!”

Soon everyone in the kitchen was laughing, while behind them the sound of boys yelling at each other rose in volume, each team cheering on their captain.

~

The armwrestling match ended in a draw, which Sawamura grudgingly accepted as a baseline of strength to allow Kuroo to approach Kiyoko, “But not too near.”

Then Sugawara led Kuroo out into the hallway for a discussion that resulted in Kuroo returning with his skin paler by several shades, and a distant look in his eyes.

Sugawara maintained his angelic smile, however, and when he turned to join Sawamura, he looked over at Kiyoko. “We’ve given him a few rules to abide by. Go ahead and date,” he said. “No kissing until you’ve graduated college, though.”

“Thanks, mother,” Kiyoko replied with a sigh. “And you too, father. I’m sure I wouldn’t know what to do if you didn’t tell me.”

~

Kozume, Kuroo, and Kiyoko were silent as they sat in a line on the roof, Kozume seeming peaceful as he leaned against Kuroo’s left side, and Kiyoko trying her best to relax on Kuroo’s right. The day had been unbelievable, and Kiyoko felt lingering frustration that everyone’s focus had been on her own life choices instead of on Nationals.

Hopefully the furor would die down by the following day.

“How’s your arm, Tetsurou?” Kozume asked from his other side.

“I had to apply mineral ice,” Kuroo said, chuckling. “Sawamura is amazing. It took all my strength to hold him even, and my pride was on the line.”

Kuroo’s body was warm. Kiyoko nestled against him, and reflected that if those few days were all they had left together until Nationals, if their teams made it that far. Their first night together, dating, but it would be a memory soon enough.

Speaking of. “So, am I officially dating you now -- Tetsurou-kun?”

Kuroo shot Kiyoko a happy look, squeezing her under his arm. “Hearing you say my name makes me melt...Kiyoko-san.”

“He’s easy like that,” Kozume added dryly.

“Do you mind that nobody knows it’s the three of us and not the two of us, Kenma-kun? I’m dating you both, after all.”

Kozume glanced over at her and shrugged. “It’s probably the only way I could be with Tetsurou with nobody interfering. I never would have had this chance without you, so I’m grateful.”

It was unfair. But Kiyoko had to help strengthen their relationship as much as she could. And she’d be leaving them with each other, which perhaps evened things out.

They had so much to discuss, including how they would remain in touch, and how they’d deal with Nationals, and what they’d do after graduation, if they lasted that long… And would her boys come to her town and visit?

Pushing all of these thoughts out of her head, Kiyoko refocused on the present.

“What did Suga-kun say to you, by the way?”

Kuroo leaned his head back, staring upward at the passing clouds, red from the last drops of sunset. “How to put this. He’s very creative. He explained all the things he could do to me if I ever hurt you. Even from miles away.”

“I think I’m almost relieved that nobody knows I’m dating you, then,” Kozume said. “Sugawara-san is Karasuno’s mob boss, isn’t he. He just lets Sawamura-san think he’s in control.”

“He is. It’s still unfair that we can’t be open about you, Kenma-kun. But -- maybe you can be my first kiss instead?” Kiyoko turned so that she could face Kozume across Kuroo’s lap.

“I’m honored, although for me, my first kiss was from Tetsurou. Um, last night.” Kozume repositioned himself as well, and suddenly his golden eyes were staring into hers, in front of Kuroo’s increasingly sulky expression. “You can be my first kiss from a girl?”

“Why not me, Kiyoko-san? Aren’t I the one who’s officially your boyfriend?” Kuroo’s frown deepened.

Ignoring Kuroo, Kiyoko removed her glasses, slid her fingers into a sheaf of gold-black hair, and leaned in. Kozume’s lips parted slowly under hers, and before long Kozume was giving her the barest of licks with his tongue, tasting her with the smallest of touches. His face heated under Kiyoko’s palm, and she had to exert self-control to keep herself from making noises that might have been a tiny growl.

Then Kuroo cleared his throat and they broke apart. “THAT was your first kiss?” Kuroo said. “I’m afraid I have to have one too.”

This time, Kuroo’s hands were in her hair, gently caressing the back of her head as Kuroo leaned down. Kiyoko heard the hitch in Kozume’s breathing, and felt her senses flood with Kuroo -- his smell, and intensity, and focus. His lips were more demanding, but he was considerate, not leading with his tongue, giving her room to explore on her own.

Gods, she wanted him. Them. After a long moment of enjoying the feeling of him, she moved away.

“Now you two kiss each other where I can see it.”

Watching Kuroo and Kozume look sideways at each other, she felt the fondness between them so palpably that she felt bathed in the glow. Their smiles, the utter trust. Watching them kiss took her breath away. Her eyes began to well up with some kind of deep, shaky emotion that she couldn’t name. Perhaps it was just sheer relief.

“I’m so grateful for this. That we’re trying this.” Kiyoko couldn’t find the words, but Kuroo’s hand settled onto her back, and Kozume’s onto her leg.

For the first time in a long time, she felt like the future might hold an answer for all the parts of herself, and she wouldn’t have to lock any of it away.

~

Camp ended with promises to be in touch.

“Probably more than you want,” Kuroo murmured, giving her a last kiss goodbye behind a convenient wall, with Kozume standing guard for them until they could switch places.

Kozume showed her his phone background, a selfie of the three of them leaning together on the night they’d shared kisses. “I want the digital version of you in the Karasuno uniform, if that’s ok,” he said, his voice a little shy. “You look badass.”

It hurt to step away from them and return to a world where people didn’t understand her quite as well, but at the same time, Kiyoko knew she’d be busy.

“I won’t trouble either of you much until after Nationals,” she said. “I’ll call, once a week. But after that, let’s meet.”

~

True to Kiyoko’s word, she restrained herself and limited herself to video calls to once a week. The same didn’t hold true for them, though, and she got pictures of them regularly -- the pictures were, for the most part, volleyball focused, Kozume sending her photos of Kuroo, and vice-versa.

It was nice, and she felt like they were trying their best to make her part of their lives.

One day she caught Hinata snapping a photo of her on the sly, though.

“Hinata-kun?” Kiyoko walked over to him.

“Oh! Um. Kenma said not to bother you but he wanted a picture of you to give to Kuroo-san. Was that okay?” Hinata showed her the picture.

“Ask me next time,” Kiyoko said. “This one is fine, however.” It was a picture of her concentrating on taking game metrics.

“You must miss Kuroo-san!” Hinata said, and Kiyoko blinked down at him, surprised.

“It might sound strange but I don’t,” Kiyoko replied. “Mostly, I’m thinking about our team, and winning Nationals, and keeping up my studies. Anything else is a distraction until it’s over.”

Also, if she thought of them too much, she’d feel lonely -- and she wasn’t the kind of person to let herself stew.

“WHOAAAA, so mature, Shimizu-san!” Hinata said.

Nearby, Nishinoya and Tanaka nodded vigorously. “Just like our manager! I knew we had nothing to worry about!” Nishinoya said. “She loves us best!”

The texts she got back from Kuroo and Kozume after Hinata sent the image made her smile, though.

You + Volleyball OTP came the one from Kozume.

If you managed my college team I’d get to have you looking that strictly at me too. [heart-eyes] from Kuroo.

Focus on your practice, both of you. Kiyoko replied, but she was smiling. College, eh? She was applying to a few schools in Tokyo, it was true, and one of them had a strong volleyball program.

~

The text messages got increasingly hard to keep out of her mind, however, and along with it came a strange sense of longing.

Kiyoko was used to being self-contained. But being able to relax and show who she truly was to two people who were genuinely fond of her was a heady sensation -- and without them right next to her, she found herself reaching for her phone more and more often.

Kozume sent her excited little messages about new games, trying his best to convey why he liked each one. Kiyoko put forth effort to read up on the titles he sent her -- not going so far as to play them, but learning enough to at least ask intelligent questions.

And Kuroo sent her darkly humorous digs at Karasuno.

One day, it was: I checked the weather and it’s cold today in your town. I hope your setter’s fingers cramp.

I’ve warmed his fingers already by holding them, Kuroo-kun.

You realize that now I’m amazingly motivated to break his confidence, one kill at a time...

You never struck me as the possessive type.

You’re too far away and my imagination goes crazy sometimes. Will you move closer to me someday? Will you move IN with us -- ah, Kenma says I need to slow my roll.

Let’s get through Nationals before we discuss this.

Speaking of, I’m going to kidnap you and dress you in Nekoma colors and tie you to our bench with rope. Hope you’re down for it.

!

That’s not a no.

That’s a no, Kuroo-kun.

Harsh.

Go practice.

By the way, in case it wasn’t clear -- we love you, so please reconsider being our manager for Nationals (and also moving in with us).

This is how you confess.

-- This is Kenma now, Kiyoko-san. I apologize for everything that Tetsurou is, but at least you still have me. We’ll talk more later, I’m going to go kill him now.

~

Later that night they sent her a picture that was not of volleyball at all.

Kiyoko was up getting schoolwork done so that she could go on the trip to Tokyo with a clear mind, and it took a moment of blinking at the screen before she realized what it was.

Kozume’s face, mouth softly open in pleasure, and Kuroo’s, his teeth gritted, clearly concentrating. They had bare shoulders, and not much more of them was showing, but Kiyoko could tell what it was.

The sight of the picture jolted through her body and awakened her nerves -- she wasn’t sure who she’d rather be in the situation, or whether her place was right in the middle.

She crawled into bed with her phone and stared at it for another long moment, sliding her hand under her covers…

It took a few tries before she got the picture right to send in return.

~

I want you so badly was Kuroo’s reply, almost immediately.

And from Kozume the next day, I’m not sure whether to thank you or not but my hips hurt today, Kiyoko-san.

~

Nationals were over, and although it had been an enormous, intense rush, it was also something that had driven a days-long wedge of silence between Kiyoko and her boyfriends.

This was in part because of the rivalry between their teams, and in part because all of Kiyoko’s emotions were inevitably tied up with her own team. She’d never felt more relieved to put a tournament behind her, though, even if it meant all the memories were put behind her too.

But it also meant that her boyfriends finally had time for a visit.

~

The way they’d arranged the visit involved taking at least one person into their confidence.

The conversation had gone smoothly, and Tsukishima’s look of surprise when he learned that Kiyoko had not one but two boyfriends was worth its weight in gold.

“Shimizu-san, I admit I never expected that.”

Kiyoko could tell he had a lot of questions, and also would rather die than ask them. Thank the gods, because Kiyoko didn’t feel like sharing any answers. “Do you think differently of me because of it, Tsukishima-kun?”

Tsukishima was silent for a moment, and then slowly shook his head. “I think it’s good. Maybe if more people knew, it would give them the confidence to follow their hearts too. Like a few idiots I could mention on our team who could’ve been dating for months now.”

Kiyoko knew which idiots, and glanced behind her at Sawamura and Sugawara, leaning close to each other against the school wall, sharing a phone screen between them.

“Everyone gets there in their own time,” Kiyoko said. Maybe. But Sugawara was also smarter than most.

~

Kiyoko’s parents were in America for a medical conference, and Kuroo and Kozume were very definitely helping teach Tsukishima blocking techniques while staying at his house.

Instead, two boys showed up on Kiyoko’s doorstep, bags on their shoulders, cheeks flushed from the winter wind.

Kiyoko opened the door and felt all the excitement of this visit echoed in their faces. “Come inside, I made lunch.”

“Kiyoko-san.” Kozume’s voice was a little breathless, and his eyes were bright. “I missed you, and so did he.” He stepped inside and as soon as the door was closed, immediately caught Kiyoko up into a hug, turning to squish her between them. “We thought of you so often it felt like you were with us. But you weren’t. And I knew you were lonely, even if you said you’re weren’t.”

“Kenma,” Kuroo’s voice was laughing, “You don’t have to tell her everything at once.” He gathered both of them up in his arms and held them tight, and Kiyoko felt her heart overflow.

She turned to kiss Kuroo, one warm kiss that turned into two and three until she felt a tugging at her sleeve. “Me too,” Kozume said, and then they were kissing too, a soft and sweet pressure of lips with just the faintest hint of tongue.

Setting down their bags they headed to the table. “Now, Kiyoko-san,” Kuroo said, “I know you’ve been holding back. Before we talk of anything else, we’d better talk about…”

“Nationals,” Kozume finished.

They sat and ate and talked, and although Kiyoko didn’t think she could find the words to describe how every match had felt, including the ones she’d seen of Nekoma… their encouragement let her give voice to it all, and it felt like she was there all over again.

Kuroo had brought video of every Nekoma game from Nationals, and insisted she watch all the ones she’d missed.

It was mesmerizing to watch Kuroo and Kozume work together in each set, and actually distracted her from realizing that they’d begun a combined attack on her while they all sat together on the couch. Pillowed against Kuroo’s solid chest, Kiyoko had an armful of Kozume nestling over her, his lips finding spots on her neck that made her shift restlessly, while Kuroo’s hands walked down her sides and back again.

“How far would you like to go, s-sex wise? Kenma and I talked about having sex with you, but we will hold back, if you want, so that you aren’t overwhelmed the first time we spent the night together.”

“I want to, though. Later. After we bathe tonight,” Kiyoko said, turning to smile up at him.

Then she felt Kuroo quivering a little beneath her. “Now it’s going to be hard to get my brain to think about anything else,” Kuroo said. “Have mercy on me, I’m a young man, after all.”

But the crowd noise from the set swelled and they all looked over at the TV.

“Ah, this is when Yamamoto got his first service ace.”

And they were all distracted by volleyball again.

~

In the shower that night, Kiyoko admitted to herself that as much as she wanted to take this step and feel closer to Kuroo and Kozume, it made her just a touch nervous. She dried herself and put on her robe, walking back into her bedroom and stopping short at the sight of her boys each holding t-shirts and giving each other questioning looks.

Kozume blushed a little when Kiyoko entered the room. “We didn’t know whether you wanted to see us naked right away or not.”

“However you feel comfortable,” Kiyoko said, and Kozume immediately tugged his shirt on. They were both down to their underwear, though, and Kiyoko realized that Kuroo’s were covered by small cat faces.

“Seriously?” Kiyoko sat down on the futons they’d placed together, toppling Kuroo onto his back with a push to get a closer look. He’d kept his shirt off, and all that lean muscle spread out over her futon was nearly enough to distract her, but not quite. The underwear were red with little black cat faces.

“These are my lucky underwear,” he said with an embarrassed grin. Every other little cat was winking at her, and Kiyoko touched one curiously, causing Kuroo to clear his throat. Ah, right.

“We were thinking that maybe you could lie back and let me take care of you, for our first time?” Kuroo said, his expression turning serious. “I’ve been reading up and I think I understand the technique.”

“You make it sound like a volleyball play,” Kiyoko said, curling her fingers around Kuroo’s hip. The cut of his muscle into the waistband of his underwear were very definitely holding her attention now.

“It sort of feels like it,” Kuroo admitted with a grin. He shifted a little, letting her look. But he was very definitely getting hard, and bit his lip when Kiyoko ran her finger curiously along his growing erection.

Kozume shifted to sit closer to her. His shirt had an old gaming system logo on it, and it looked soft. “A-and then, later, maybe you can take care of me? If you want to.”

“Kenma-kun, I admit I’ve thought about taking care of you far more than I probably should have,” Kiyoko said with a sigh. Kenma on his stomach with his legs spread was a fantasy that never failed to fire up her nerves.

“Really?” His eyes widened.

The two of them had gone farther physically, Kiyoko knew, due to proximity and a long, long relationship. They seemed ultimately comfortable with each other’s bodies. It was just a matter of feeling that way about hers, too.

Kiyoko steeled her nerves and slid her robe down to her shoulders.

“Lie against me, Kiyoko-san,” Kozume said, moving behind her. “Let Tetsurou help make this feel good.”

Kiyoko settled back. “Yes,” she said, and felt Kozume’s fingers tugging the tie of her robe until it parted.

Kozume’s hands immediately gravitated to her breasts, his mouth to her neck, and Kuroo settled on his knees between her legs, his expression indescribable. He let out a breath. “Your teammates should have done a better job of protecting you, your body is a treasure.”

Kiyoko prodded her foot into his stomach. “I’m not an object to protect,” she said, letting her voice express her exasperation.

Kuroo laughed. “I know, I’m teasing, I’m teasing.” He gripped her leg and raised it, sliding his hand down the skin in a wondering way. “I just realized that I’ve never seen the skin of your legs before.”

“It’s because of running hurdles. Whenever I fell I’d get scars. I cover them with tights, usually.”

“I understand how it feels to not be comfortable with your body. To me, though, those scars make you who you are,” Kozume said, his fingers curling around her breasts. He slid his thumbs across her nipples just as Kuroo trailed his mouth along a long scar that ran from her ankle to her knee, and suddenly Kiyoko’s body remembered what they were there for.

“Oh I…” This was the embarrassing part. “I don’t have anything left to rip, inside of me. Jumping the hurdles, sometimes I fell awkwardly. You don’t have to be careful of that.”

“Noted,” Kuroo said, smiling sideways at her, kissing the inside of her knee. “You are utterly, stunningly, completely beautiful, and you are all for us.”

The possessiveness in Kuroo’s voice made her laugh again. “You’re ridiculous,” she said, her toes twitching at his touches.

Kiyoko rode the feelings for a while, laughing at the feeling of Kuroo’s licks up and down the skin of her legs, until she realized that Kuroo’s mouth was zeroing in on the inside of her thigh. He looked up from where he had settled to lie between her legs, expression concentrated and serious. “Will you allow me?”

His expression was just the same as when he was read blocking. At the same time, Kozume’s fingers stroked along her nipples like they were a new and fascinating gaming system. Kiyoko bit her lip and then laughed, reaching down to caress Kuroo’s dark hair.

“Yes -- absolutely yes,” Kiyoko said. She shifted her hips to give him better access. Then Kuroo’s mouth was on her in a slow and curious suck, and she felt her body take off.

It took a shockingly short amount of time for her body to ramp up to a pitch of feeling -- this felt wetter and hotter and better than anything she could do with her fingers. But Kuroo didn’t stop with one orgasm, instead backing off and returning with another series of soft licks until she had another one -- and then a final wave of strong, sharp sensation sent her head knocking back into Kozume’s.

“Ow,” he said weakly, and Kiyoko threw a hand over her face, flushed and shaking from the overstimulation.

“Sorry.”

Kuroo was grinning from between her legs, his lips wet, looking as smug as one of the cats on his underwear.

“You look proud of yourself,” Kiyoko said, shaking her head at him, peeking down from between her fingers.

“That looked like fun,” Kozume said, hands moving on her body in a gentle caress. “I wish I could come all in a row like that. It’s like a special combo move.”

“I’m going to put fingers in you now and stretch you out a little, if that’s okay.” Kuroo said. “Oil and condom, Kenma?”

Kuroo got rid of the red underpants and Kozume handed over the requested items. Kiyoko kept her hands over her face -- she had a lot of confidence, but some situations could overcome even her strength.

“Yes,” Kiyoko said from behind her hands. The oil made it easier for her, feeling the unfamiliar stretch inside of her body, but everything was also sensitive from the orgasms, and it left her relaxed enough to accept the pressure.

It was tight though, and the presence of fingers sliding into her body felt large -- but not as large as what she could see.

“Will you even fit?”

Kozume’s voice was low in her ear, “He fits in me. He’ll be careful and take his time.”

The thought of that made Kiyoko suck her breath in.

“I think she liked that. Keep talking, Kenma,” Kuroo said with a chuckle, and while his fingers gently pushed into her, Kozume whispered in her ear all about his first time with Kuroo.

“His fingers find things inside of me that make me want more,” Kozume said. “He kept at it for hours, until finally I kicked him in the face and told him to get on with it.”

“It wasn’t hours,” Kuroo objected, chuckling.

“Next time I’m doing it to you and you’ll see,” Kozume said. The thought of that lit Kiyoko’s body up again, and she turned her head to catch his mouth in a kiss.

“I think you REALLY liked that idea, Kiyoko.” Kuroo’s tone was amused but his voice was low, and he took his fingers out of her to sit back on his heels and roll on a condom, coating his hand with more oil and sliding it over himself.

It really was amazing to watch, something Kiyoko had only imagined.

“Ah, I think you should be lying down for this.” Kozume squirmed out from behind her to lie next to her on the futon, and Kuroo lifted her knees around his waist.

“Kiss me.”

“You have to move your hands away from your face, first,” Kuroo said, and at the same time as he pushed into her, he leaned down to join their lips.

It was a tender kiss, sweet and hungry all at once.

They were all sweating now, and Kiyoko thought hazily that they’d need another shower.

It felt like Kuroo went in and in and in.

“You’re proportional,” Kiyoko said, aching a little at the tight fit, and Kuroo withdrew and sat back for long enough to pour more oil over his condom. He slid back in more easily, and her back arched to feel him press against something aching and deep inside of her. She moved her hips to meet him, and wrapped her arms around him to hold him close.

The smell and feel and weight of his body above hers made something click inside of her, one answer among many in her head.

“Oh gods,” Kuroo said against her lips. “I’m going to embarrass myself this first time around.”

“Think of volleyball signals,” Kozume said. Looking to the side, Kiyoko could see that his eyes were wide and watching them, his hand cupping his own erection through his underwear, moving in time to the slow shifts of Kuroo’s weight.

“Then I’ll get hard every time I play.” Kuroo shifted again, focusing on Kiyoko’s eyes, his own dark and overwhelmed. “Kiyoko -- next year, move in with me? Kenma can join us after he graduates. I just want my body to get used to being with you all the time, so that you can use me up until you’re satisfied.”

Kiyoko’s laughter at the timing and reason behind his question got her over the last lingering thoughts of awkwardness and tightness and FULLness, and she shifted too, pulling him as deep as he would go. Her body flooded with adrenaline, and she smiled into his dazed eyes.

“Yes. I’ll move in with you, Tetsurou-kun. I look forward to it.”

Why would she not, with boys like these? Besides, Kiyoko had utter faith in her own ability to get into a Tokyo-area college.

She shifted again, setting her own rhythm, chasing the need inside of her -- needing it to be faster.

“Nope,” Kuroo panted, stilling his hips. “REALLY not gonna last.”

“Luckily,” Kozume said, “there are two of us.”

“Go ahead, Tetsurou,” Kiyoko said, shifting to move with him. “You feel good -- and -- and it’s only the first time of many.”

At that, Kuroo’s expression changed to one of impossible heat, and he moved to grip her hands with his, holding her tight against the futon. The push of his hips became harder, and Kiyoko felt herself almost satisfied -- just in time for him to drop his head against her shoulder and shudder, panting as he came.

Kiyoko wrapped her arms around him, holding fast, kissing his hair, his shoulder, as they lay still for a long moment. The feeling had truly been strange and almost animal, to feel him inside of her -- and it had awakened a need that still wasn’t fulfilled.

Kozume poked Kuroo in the side. “You suck at this, Tetsurou. Get off her, my turn.”

“I’m young, and this was my first time!” Kuroo protested, but he was smiling as he gripped the edge of the condom and slid out, sitting back and giving Kiyoko a long, satisfied look. She wondered what she looked like, lying there, and thought maybe it was a good enough view given Kuroo’s expression.

“I’d like to see you do better.”

“I think Kiyoko-san wants me like this,” Kozume said, and pulled off his clothes to lie flat on the futon, his hair spilling golden against the white sheets, his skin pale.

“You want me to take care of this, then?” Kuroo shifted over to Kozume and got out a second box of condoms, leaning over to wrap his mouth around the end of Kozume’s erection for a slow suck.

Kiyoko’s whole body heated up to an impossible pitch. “I think that’s my toy you’re playing with, Tetsurou-kun,” she said.

“There’s enough of me for you both,” Kozume said evenly, his gaze just a bit greedy as it moved between them.

Kiyoko immediately rolled over to crawl closer to him, watching Kuroo pull off with a last little lick to the top before looking sideways at Kiyoko.

“We have not been keeping away from each other,” Kuroo said.

“I’m glad,” Kiyoko said. “Now get him ready for me.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Kuroo said. A moment later the condom was on and oil dripped everywhere. Kiyoko straddled Kozume’s hips, brows furrowing for a second as she tried to figure it out -- but then Kozume moved himself against her.

“Take me, Kiyoko-san,” Kozume said, his voice as breathy as an AV actor, and Kiyoko couldn’t hold back her laughter as she sank herself down.

Her breath caught. Ah -- that feeling again. But this time it was in her control, and she held Kozume’s shoulders down against the futon as she let herself move -- and press -- and take him. He was shivering beneath her, his eyes glazed and his fingers clenching into the sheets at his side. His body was equally intoxicating, not least because he obediently followed Kiyoko’s lead.

The second half of the question in her head clicked into focus, and she leaned down to take Kozume’s mouth, too. Yes, she would take him. Like this, and in other ways, and it would satisfy that need inside of her...

“Not as easy as you thought, is it,” Kuroo said in a low rumble. “How about those volleyball signals?”

“Mmff,” Kozume moaned against Kiyoko’s lips, and she pulled back the tiniest bit.

“Bear with me a moment longer, Kenma-kun, I think I can -- I’m almost --”

And sliding herself just right, she chased the feeling of the pressure inside her and against her, until she felt herself shaking again -- crying out as her body broke apart.

Kiyoko collapsed down onto Kozume’s chest, and felt a hand glide down the bones of her spine.

“You two are beautiful,” Kuroo said, his voice husky from where he lay beside them with his head pillowed on his arm. Naked but for a fall of sheet over his hips, it was easy to see how he was feeling. “Okay. I’m ready to go again, if you need any help finishing up, Kenma.”

~

Two years later.

~

Sawamura and Sugawara looked at each other as they hefted the small bed into Kozume’s room in the apartment that held Shimizu, Kuroo, and Kozume. The bed was almost monastic compared to the size of the one they’d just moved into the room next door, and Sawamura could see questions gathering over Sugawara’s head like a small cloud.

“Do you, uh, do you think…” Sugawara began, quietly, with a nervous glance to make sure nobody could overhear them.

“We shouldn’t speculate,” Sawamura said quietly. “But I did see the contents of the bedside table. And, uh, there are two different sizes of condoms.”

Sugawara’s eyes got larger. “Well,” he said. “Well. I think it suits her, though. She seems way too capable for just one man.”

“Unlike me,” Sawamura said, sending Sugawara a wink.

“Yeah, no, I’m nowhere near as accommodating.” Sugawara’s grin was wider than the sky. “I wonder when this began? Think it was that one training camp, back in high school?”

“Who knows,” Sawamura said, and then he saw it -- something so intimate he wondered how it was sitting out there in Kozume’s room for all to see: A photo of the three of them in their high school team practice uniforms, on an unidentified roof, cuddled together. It was printed out and framed, Kiyoko nestled between the two boys, Kozume’s forehead leaning against the side of her head, and Kuroo’s lips touching her hair.

Next to that was a framed copy of the photo of Shimizu and Yachi in their Karasuno uniforms.

“Uh. Actually, Suga. I think you might be right.”