Shouyou glared up at the metal bar and its lack of handholds, sweat creeping down his spine. The press of bodies around him made the air feel thick, and the bus would lurch into motion any time now. He glanced around him, but there weren’t many places to go in the crowded vehicle. Kageyama, of course, had no trouble reaching the metal bar even without the help of a handhold.
“You’re gonna fall over, dumbass. Hold onto something.”
Easy for a giant to say. Shouyou didn’t want to be rude to the people seated by grabbing the seats behind their heads, so he was rude in his favorite way; he grabbed onto Kageyama.
“You said to grab onto something,” Shouyou said, obscurely pleased with himself. “You’re something.”
“I’m someone,” Kageyama grumbled, but to Shouyou’s great surprise he didn’t attempt to slap away the hand fisted on the right side of his T-shirt, even though Shouyou knew his palm was sweaty.
The bus lurched into motion, and Shouyou let himself pull at Kageyama enough to steady himself, laughing a little at the scowl apparent on Kageyama’s face.
He thought this bus ride would be pretty fun, after all, as he pulled at Kageyama’s shirt and Kageyama—for some unknown reason—tolerated it. The frequent stops and starts on their way to the sports shop meant it happened often, and when they finally got to their stop all Kageyama did in retribution was flick his forehead; he didn’t even berate Shouyou for being short.
“Hey!” Shouyou said in response to the flick, pretending at innocence he didn’t feel; he’d been very pleased with himself for pulling at Kageyama’s shirt as much as possible. “You could have made me let go if it was so bad.”
“And let you fall over and hurt yourself? Who’d substitute for you in matches?”
Shouyou snorted, tripping a little and nearly skinning his knees on the warm pavement; he righted himself before Kageyama could grab him and yell at him.
When he glanced at Kageyama to see if he’d noticed, he saw the collar of Kageyama’s shirt was pulled to the side because of the way he’d tugged at it during the journey. Shouyou grinned to himself, and thought that perhaps a lack of handlebars on buses wasn’t the worst thing in the world.
The next holding-on incident was in Tokyo on a team excursion. The trains in Tokyo were pretty hard to figure out, but Ennoshita had a route mapped on his phone and he could be trusted to tell them when to be at what platform. Unfortunately, the route planner didn’t take small delays like Tanaka getting into a fight with an actual city boy into account, and the whole team found themselves running for the train on the way back from seeing the Japanese team play, Kageyama and Shouyou in the lead. Shouyou didn’t slow down when he saw the doors of the train ahead of them begin to close, even though he would have if he’d thought about it—but all his awareness had narrowed down to Kageyama running next to him, and the fact that he needed to get on that train before him.
They jumped onto the train side-by side, puffing, the doors closing behind them.
Sudden anxiety curdled in Shouyou’s stomach.
They turned as a pair, and saw the team through the train windows. Tanaka was shouting something and Tsukishima was laughing; Yachi looked frantic as she ran to catch up. Shouyou groaned.
“Shit,” Kageyama said from next to him—and then the train slunk into motion and pushed Shouyou into him. Kageyama grunted.
“I didn’t do it on purpose!” Shouyou said, annoyed. Kageyama had already grabbed onto one of the bars.
Oh. Well that wasn’t nearly as defensive as Shouyou had expected. He remembered the time last summer when they’d taken the bus together, when Kageyama had let him hang onto him on the way there and the way back. It was surprising; normally Kageyama didn’t let him get away with anything, whether it was a bad receive or forgetting to stretch properly or digging into his pork bun before the others had a chance to get theirs. Shouyou didn’t bother mentioning the fact that falling over on a bus or train would hardly be worse than the spills he took in volleyball.
He did right himself, though, and hang onto one of the up-and-down poles. There was enough space this time.
“Do you remember what station we have to get out at?” he asked.
“I think so,” Kageyama said, his eyebrows drawn together. That was a relief, because Shouyou didn’t.
He decided not to mention that.
They stood in silence for a while—both regretting their actions—and arrived at the next stop not much later. People got on.
A lot of people got on.
Shouyou found himself in a press of bodies, moved along like a hapless swimmer caught in the riptide. He got swept away from the door and into the main corridor, and then an iron fist settled around his bicep, and Kageyama drew Shouyou in against him.
Shouyou let out a shuddering breath against Kageyama’s familiar-smelling chest. The trains were never this full in Miyagi; if he'd been traveling alone there would have been no telling where he’d end up. For once he was just glad of Kageyama’s height instead of being jealous.
Kageyama didn’t let go when the train started moving, though his grip loosened a little. Shouyou stood close, almost toe-to-toe with Kageyama, a lady’s handbag poking him in the back. He placed his hands on either side of Kageyama’s waist gingerly each time the train accelerated, not wanting to rely on Kageyama’s strength alone, and it was weird feeling Kageyama’s muscles moving under his shirt. He was used to Kageyama’s body—they helped each other stretch all the time—but it was weird in this setting, and Shouyou nearly blushed whenever he felt Kageyama’s abs clenching in preparation for the train changing speed.
The press of bodies got to a breaking point two stops on, reducing them to human sardines, and Kageyama adjusted by placing one heavy arm around Shouyou’s shoulders.
“This is embarrassing,” Shouyou complained.
“Then don’t get pulled along, idiot. Do you want me to let go?”
Shouyou shook his head mutely, which Kageyama had to feel because Shouyou’s face was basically smushed into his chest. Shouyou glanced up at the handlebars longingly; he could reach them, sure, but could he steady himself with all these people here, and keep from falling onto the people seated? He wasn’t sure, and he didn’t complain again. Kageyama smelled like sweat and masculine deodorant; Shouyou thought that if he smelled like Air Salonpas too he’d smell absolutely perfect, and then he berated himself for thinking that.
It was sort of nice, though, being this close to Kageyama without being yelled at.
Shouyou’s head quieted. All day his heart had been hammering, first because he was going to see the Japanese national team play and then because he was watching the match and then because he’d just watched it. It had been one of the best days of his life, and standing here with Kageyama in a crowded train felt oddly fitting at the end of a day like he’d had.
“It’s the next one,” Kageyama said, and Shouyou felt the rumble in his chest. Shouyou looked up—and Kageyama glanced away quickly. “Come on.”
Kageyama dragged him towards the exit, moving people aside—or perhaps people moved aside for him. Whatever happened, Shouyou was able to duck behind Kageyama and get out of the train without any more mishaps. Some of his generated body heat left him as he stepped out onto the platform beside Kageyama, and he felt almost bereft. It had been nice standing like that, and Shouyou wondered if the next train could possibly be as crowded as the last; he hoped it would be.
The others caught up with them twenty minutes later, and Nishinoya twisted his knuckles against Shouyou’s scalp as he berated him.
Shouyou apologized profusely, but deep down he was glad he’d caught the earlier train.
The train ride marked a change more so than the bus ride had. Somehow, Shouyou was always finding reasons to stand or sit closer than he needed to, and Kageyama was always letting him, never yelling or scolding. In fact, Kageyama was about a hundred times quieter whenever Shouyou did it; he barely even spoke when their bodies were pressed casual-close, shoulders or arms or hands touching. Proximity was like a mute button, one Shouyou liked to press.
He wasn’t sure what was going on.
“Do you like Kageyama?” Nishinoya asked one day when they were practicing dives after practice; they had the whole gym to themselves.
Shouyou blinked. “…no?” he said, heaping question upon question into the tiny syllable. Like was too easy a word for someone who was both his rival and the person who made him feel most alive. Objectively, though, Kageyama was a jerk, always accidentally scaring or offending people. Shouyou couldn’t say he approved of him in a general sense off the volleyball court.
“What?” Nishinoya said, sounding surprised. “Not at all?”
“He has a dirty mouth, and he’s always yelling at me.”
“Yeah, but—you spend all your time together!”
“Well, I like spending time with him. It’s always really fun when we’re together. But no matter how you look at it he has bad social skills, right?”
Nishinoya laughed, seeming to forget his purpose as he crowed, “He does! He definitely does!” He wiped his eyes once he stopped laughing, then leveled Shouyou with an intent stare.
“But I thought you liked him,” he said. “You’re always standing next to each other, and sometimes it seems like you’re about to hold hands.”
“Oh!” It was the closeness thing confusing Nishinoya, then. “He smells really good, and when I stand really close he always goes still and doesn’t say much so he never gets angry at me.”
Nishinoya slapped a hand to his forehead. “Shouyou! You’re saying you do it to shut him up?”
“Well, a little.” Shouyou peered at Nishinoya’s incredulous expression, wondering why it made guilt prickle at the back of his neck. “But it’s nice too!”
“Nice like what? Like standing next to a pretty girl?”
Shouyou screwed up his face. Kageyama was about as far from a pretty girl as it got. “I don’t think so.”
Nishinoya sighed. “Okay then. But you should probably talk to him about it at some point.”
Shouyou nodded, though privately he was confused by the idea. He didn’t know what there was to talk about, or how to approach it, or why it would ever come up.
They were on the bus to the sports shop again, two of only five people standing up, and this time there was no awkwardness as Shouyou grabbed on; Kageyama looked like he expected it, and put a steadying hand on Shouyou’s shoulder, the motion casual—natural.
Shouyou had walked to a part of the bus without low handrails on purpose.
The scenery ambled by, brown and sharp with late November chill. There were more layers between him and Kageyama this time, but it didn’t blunt his awareness of their proximity; they were closer this time than they had been the last time they took this bus together, and just as close as they had been on the crowded train. Somehow, Shouyou found himself keeping stock. A tiny part of his mind was always turned to how often they touched; the places where they touched; the places where they didn’t; what Kageyama’s body was doing under loose clothing—all the tiny adjustments he made as he stood. Nishinoya’s question plagued Shouyou: nice like standing next to a pretty girl?
It wasn’t like standing next to a pretty girl. It was like standing next to a live volcano, if anything. Kageyama could explode—but he didn’t. It felt risky and comforting at the same time, and Shouyou wished there were more reasons to stand toe-to-toe and let Kageyama put a steadying hand on his shoulder.
“Kageyama,” he said at last, and Kageyama made a listening sound. The two ladies next to them were talking in loud voices about winter-proofing their gardens, masking Shouyou’s words. “What do you think of me?”
He hoped Kageyama didn’t think standing next to him was like standing next to a pretty girl; that’d be embarrassing.
“You’re getting better all the time,” Kageyama said without any prompting. At Shouyou’s continued stare, he added, “I won’t lose to you.”
Shouyou sighed. He didn’t think his volleyball skills were what Nishinoya had meant when he asked about like and pretty girls. “What else?”
“I think you grew a little?”
Shouyou tried not to grin. He had, and he’d been waiting for people to notice. He was one hundred and sixty-three-point-five centimeters—more than half a centimeter taller than he’d been on entering high school.
“Fine,” Shouyou said, because he didn’t think he’d get any more answers out of Kageyama, and Kageyama noticing him growing was a good note to end on. Kageyama raised an eyebrow, wordlessly asking for an explanation.
“Nishinoya asked if I liked you,” Shouyou said in answer, shrugging. He knew his cheeks were reddening, but he couldn’t help it. It was an awkward topic.
“Oh,” Kageyama said, and there was color in his cheeks too.
“I like playing volleyball with you,” Shouyou said, just in case it wasn’t obvious.
Kageyama nodded slowly.
“You’re still my rival though,” Shouyou added.
“I know that,” Kageyama said, and he sounded almost annoyed.
Shouyou didn’t ask why; they were silent for the rest of the journey. Whatever annoyance he’d unwittingly caused Kageyama had disappeared by the time they entered the sports shop, and Kageyama didn’t even scold Shouyou when he insisted on doing practice jumps each time he tried on a different pair of shoes.
The shop owner did.
“His jumping is important,” Kageyama said to her when she told Shouyou to stop, as if that would convince her. He turned to Shouyou. “I think you jumped highest with the last.”
The shop owner, slightly mollified by the idea that they were probably going to buy something and not just make a ruckus, returned to the counter, though she kept on glancing over suspiciously.
All Kageyama bought were knee pads to replace his old ones, so the trip didn’t last much longer; soon the bell of the store tinkled behind them and they were in the cold November air again, the sun low in the sky.
“I don’t want to go home yet,” Shouyou announced, and Kageyama looked at him inquiringly. “Want to get food?”
Kageyama nodded, and they headed for the nearest fast-food joint, sitting upstairs by the window. Shouyou watched the sky go from gold to red to dark blue while he stuffed fries in his mouth, salty and delicious and hot enough to burn his fingers. He kicked his legs as he ate, getting a few inattentive kicks back whenever he got Kageyama’s shin.
“If you couldn’t play volleyball what would you play?” Shouyou asked when he was almost done with his fries.
“Basketball,” Kageyama said, with no hesitation.
“It’s the most similar.”
“Just—waterpolo balls look like volleyballs.”
“Yeah, but that’s in water.” Kageyama’s expression said clearly what he thought of that.
“You don’t like swimming?”
“Only as exercise,” Kageyama said, which was a typical Kageyama answer; the one thing he was good at was exercise regimens and dietary plans. Shouyou contented himself with the fact that the chocolate milkshake Kageyama was drinking probably wasn’t part of any of those plans, and swiped it for good measure.
“Hey!” Kageyama said, but it was too late; Shouyou had already put his mouth around the straw and sucked chocolatey deliciousness into his mouth. Kageyama grabbed his face, and Shouyou was laughing too hard to swallow.
“Give it back!” Kageyama shouted, and Shouyou had to close his eyes and concentrate really hard on not drowning in a mouthful of chocolate milkshake.
“You wah’ i’ ba’?” he asked, his teeth chilled. “Dih’ i’ fa’ ma’ mou’!”
He managed to open his eyes in time to see Kageyama’s look of shock before he turned away in disgust, letting go of Shouyou’s face. Shouyou swallowed with some difficulty before continuing to laugh.
“Hey, I offered,” he managed, and Kageyama glared.
“I’m not going to drink stuff from your mouth!”
Well, of course he wasn’t. That would be gross, and that was exactly why Shouyou had offered. If Kageyama had siblings he’d understand the rule of making things so unappealing that eventually they belonged to you forever; Natsu was always sticking his old action figures in her mouth when she wanted them to be hers.
People a few tables over were eyeing them with disdain, but Shouyou couldn’t stop shaking with silent laughter. He liked doing this kind of stuff—making Kageyama angry. Maybe he did like Kageyama, in his own way, even off the court.
But maybe he just enjoyed teasing him, like he enjoyed standing near.
“I’m ready to go if you are,” he said, and Kageyama took a big mouthful of milkshake before sliding the cup over to him.
“You can finish it if you like.”
Shouyou stared. A moment ago Kageyama had shouted to give his mouthful back, and now he was giving the milkshake freely? Kageyama glared at him as if the gesture was obvious.
“You didn’t ask before,” he said darkly.
“So you would have said yes if I asked?”
Shouyou accepted the drink thoughtfully, getting two and a half mouthfuls before air rattled through the straw emptily. Their food was done; they threw away their trash, picked up their bags, and headed for the bus stop, Shouyou wishing he had a scarf to keep the wind’s cold breath from slipping into his collar; he hadn’t properly prepared for the night’s chill, and his face was numb by the time they got to the bus stop.
The board said the bus wasn’t coming for another twenty minutes.
He groaned. “Maybe we should go back.”
Kageyama pursed his lips. “If we had a ball we could keep warm.”
“We could throw one of my shoes around?”
Kageyama looked like he was considering it. “Might hurt ourselves.”
They sighed in tandem.
For a little while Shouyou stood with his hands in his pockets and his shoulders high about his ears, silently berating himself for not planning this better and wondering how stupid he’d look if he started running up and down the street—trying to decide if he cared—but when his teeth started to chatter in earnest Kageyama unzipped his coat purposefully.
“Come here,” he said.
Shouyou stared in incomprehension, and Kageyama grabbed him in a way that almost had Shouyou trying to escape—but instead of yelling or pulling his hair Kageyama tugged him against his warm front and wrapped the edges of his coat around him, surrounding him in blissful heat.
Shouyou’s heart raced, and he wasn’t sure if the rush of warmth he felt was Kageyama’s warmth seeping into him or his body generating its own heat.
“You didn’t have to,” he mumbled.
“Don’t get sick,” was all Kageyama said in response.
Shouyou let his cold face rest against the crook of Kageyama’s neck, his skin soaking up all Kageyama's warmth. He let his shopping bag drop and relaxed his arms, putting them around Kageyama like they were hugging—which he supposed they were; Kageyama’s arms were around him.
This could definitely be classified as a hug, and Shouyou was enjoying it.
No, he’d told Nishinoya when Nishinoya asked if he liked Kageyama. Maybe that had been a lie—just his old feelings, his old state of mind. He couldn’t really imagine life without Kageyama by his side, without Kageyama’s tosses, without Kageyama yelling.
His hands were blissfully warm tucked against Kageyama’s back under his coat, and his face was beginning to unthaw.
“Uh?” Was the bus early?
“Why did Nishinoya ask?”
“He thought it looked like I like you. Because we’re always close.” Close physically, he almost added, since he’d never considered himself anything-else-close to Kageyama—although maybe he was. He knew what days Kageyama’s mother cooked certain meals, usually, and where his house was, and the things Kageyama liked and didn’t like, and all the things he was bad at.
Shouyou sort of savored knowing all the things Kageyama was bad at, and beating him at them. Unfortunately, nothing made Kageyama improve like having Shouyou beat him at something; his paper planes were better than Shouyou’s ever since Shouyou’s had outperformed his at lunch one time, and Shouyou suspected there had been internet research involved. Kageyama never wanted to lose—but then, neither did Shouyou.
Maybe that made them close, too.
“I probably like you,” Kageyama said, and if they hadn’t been huddling together Shouyou would have drawn back to look at him.
“Oh,” was all Shouyou said; he wasn’t expecting the rush of warmth that washed through his body in response, but he enjoyed the shiver-bright exhilaration it left in its wake anyway, like there were fireflies inside of him all lit up. I probably like you.
Kageyama nodded, the movement jerky. Shouyou wondered if he was imagining the feeling of Kageyama’s heart beating hard enough for him to feel against his own chest; maybe it was only his own heart beating fast.
He was almost too warm now.
“Me too,” Shouyou mumbled. “Maybe.”
He shut his eyes tightly. He couldn’t believe Kageyama had said that—couldn’t believe he’d said it back.
They stood in silence for a long time, still sharing warmth. Shouyou was sure some of the people passing by the stop would be giving them dirty looks, but he couldn’t see them, and Kageyama could probably out-glare them if he had to.
Kageyama. Who he might like.
Who probably liked him.
“I’ll kill you if you go easy on me,” Shouyou said, imagining a Kageyama who looked at him with dreamy eyes and let him win in competitions, the way people in movies fell in love.
“I wasn’t going to, dumbass.”
The fact that he was letting Shouyou leech his heat sort of suggested otherwise, as did those last two mouthfuls of milkshake, but that was a kind of leniency Shouyou was okay with; maybe he’d get more tosses and pork buns if he played his cards right, too.
“Are we dating then?” he asked.
“I don’t know," Kageyama said. "Are we?”
“You’re the one who said you liked me.”
“You said it back!”
“Then… I guess?” If they were dating, he’d probably be allowed to hug Kageyama even if he wasn’t freezing to death. “You can buy me pork buns.”
“Dumbass! Why would I buy you pork buns?”
“Because you like me. I’ll buy you milk if you want.”
Kageyama stilled at that. Shouyou wondered if it had been the right thing to say—and then Kageyama mumbled an okay and ducked his head slightly so his cheek was resting on Shouyou’s head. This time, Shouyou was the one who stilled as Kageyama started—well—nuzzling him, rubbing his cheek against his hair.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
Kageyama stopped abruptly. “Sorry,” he said, guilt in his voice. “It’s fluffy.”
Shouyou supposed that was okay. “You don’t have to stop. Just don’t get snot in my hair.”
Cautiously, Kageyama started doing it again, and shivers went down Shouyou’s spine at Kageyama’s breath against his scalp. His stomach was full of butterflies.
He was almost glad when the bus came, because his body was suffering from full sensory overload. He had the feeling he used to get before matches, when he could barely feel his legs and wondered if they were working right. They seemed to, anyway, as he and Kageyama got on the bus. There were seats open, this time, and Shouyou felt like he could just melt into his and disappear as they sat down.
Kageyama shook him.
“You looked like you were going to faint, dumbass! Don’t keel over like that!”
Shouyou looked down at his hands, curled loosely around his shopping bag. “You liking me,” he mumbled. Me liking you.
He couldn’t believe he liked someone like Kageyama, who looked constipated whenever he had to ask for favors—but he could believe he liked the person who tossed to him, the person who knew what to say to him during matches, the person who always, always kept up with him.
And that person was Kageyama too.
“I’ve probably liked you for a while,” Shouyou said, feeling mortified at the thought.
Kageyama’s eyes narrowed. “I’ve liked you for longer.”
“You can’t know that!” Shouyou looked away, then back. He wished he could look at Kageyama without feeling a blush rise to his cheeks, but that was hopeless at the moment, and he wasn’t going to keep looking away like a child with a crush. “It’s not a competition.”
Kageyama didn’t respond, but his face said that it was and that he’d won.
Shouyou looked out the window, though it only fed his own reflection back at him against a backdrop of dark scenery. Kageyama was looking the other way, but his hand was between them, lying curled against the seat. Shouyou didn’t look away from their reflections, but he let his own hand drop to lie in the little space between them, and felt his knuckles brush Kageyama’s.
Kageyama’s knuckles pressed back against his.
Shouyou's stomach squirmed, and he tried to decide if it was pleasant; by the end of the bus ride, he’d almost decided that it was.
“It’s for you.” Kageyama held out the milk box, his jaw set.
Shouyou stared in blank incomprehension. “Why?”
“Maybe you’re still growing. You should drink more milk.”
Shouyou took the box, swallowing the urge to say he preferred juice. He poked the straw though the top and started to drink, his face warm. This was weird. Kageyama trying to take care of him was definitely weird.
Kageyama watching him drink the whole thing seemingly without blinking was weirder.
“Um,” Shouyou said, when he finished, “All done. Thanks.”
Kageyama didn’t say anything, so Shouyou stood on his tiptoes and pressed a kiss to his cheek the way Natsu thanked people, glad the stairwell where they’d gone for lunch was empty. He wasn’t expecting Kageyama to jump and stare at him.
“What?" Shouyou asked, suddenly defensive. "It looked like you were waiting for something!”
“Dumbass! I just didn’t know what to say!”
“The answer to ‘thanks’ is always ‘you’re welcome’, idiot!” Shouyou wished he could take the kiss back; he was embarrassed that it had ever happened.
Kageyama touched the spot on his cheek Shouyou had kissed, his face pink. “I didn’t mind.” When he saw Shouyou’s stormy expression, he glared and added, “I liked it, I mean.”
Shouyou tried not to look embarrassed. “Well, good. You were supposed to.” He looked down at his shoes. “I’ll get you a curry bun after practice.”
“Those aren’t nutritious, stupid.”
“Yeah, but you like them!”
Kageyama’s brows were furrowed. “You don’t have to get me anything. I can get you a pork bun. And—and then…”
Shouyou blinked. “And then what?”
“Another pork bun?”
“No! Another… k-kiss.”
Shouyou peered at Kageyama, wondering if he was joking—but he’d gone scarlet and didn’t seem like he was joking at all. Shouyou grinned. “Okay. As many as you want.”
“That’s too many.”
“Pfh!” Shouyou covered his mouth, trying not to laugh. He couldn’t believe Kageyama would say something that silly, that the amount of kisses he wanted was too many. He tried to school his expression. “Okay. As many as I want, then.”
“How many is that?” Kageyama asked, sounding nervous.
“Lots,” Shouyou said, and grinned. He planned to find out how many too many was. The red in Kageyama’s face deepened.
It took him all of break to go back to his normal color.
bonus art by the wonderful Nana / silencedmoment:
((His hands were blissfully warm tucked against Kageyama’s back under his coat, and his face was beginning to unthaw...))