He was always there. A constant figure in his life. They considered each other their best friends but occasionally would be apart but always find themselves together again. It was always Tadashi and Kei or Kei and Tadashi. Considered a package deal by outsiders.
Sometimes Tadashi regrets fighting for someone who didn’t want to fight for him. Why did he fight to keep up a friendship that was only to be ended over text one day in January? He sometimes wonders what he could have done differently to make him stay, to make him try, to make him care like he said he did.
He should have known something was up when Hinata, hell even Kageyama tried to ask him if he really thought he cared. Tadashi kept insisting, ‘He does! He does!’ . They gave him a sympathetic look but didn't push any further. He wishes they did then maybe the heartbreak of losing his best friend would have been over sooner. Maybe he would have moved on by now. Maybe he wouldn’t still be dwelling on it months later.
He has no one to blame but himself. He was the one who finally got tired of crying late at night. He was the one who finally got tired of feeling like he was not enough. He was the one who got tired of doubting. He was the one tired of being confused.
He would say things to his other friends, “Tadashi is obsessed with me,” or “Tadashi is annoying,”.
People would tell him these things but he chose to brush it off. “He wouldn't say that, he cares about me,” They would insist that he did say these things. But that wasn’t the boy he knew. The boy he knew cared, or so he thought. He was in denial about his doubt. The boy he knew would always make sure he was okay. He cared, even if it was hard for him to show it. In their 3rd year of high school when they were picking out college, they were planning to go to the same one. Tadashi had his doubts. He cared so much about him and what if they stopped being friends? What if he found cooler friends and left him behind.
The taller boy reassured him, “I’m not going to ditch you in college. I'm going into it knowing no one. You’re my best friend and I really don’t want to stop being friends with you,”
Maybe he meant it at the time. Those words were so comforting for him. He pushed away any doubt Tadashi had. It made the things people said irrelevant. He felt at peace.
Maybe at one point he truly did care about Tadashi. Perhaps all the things he said about Tadashi to others were just a facade for how he truly felt. Tadashi would never know and that was probably a good thing in the end. As much as he wanted to know, it would only lead to unanswered texts and somber nights.
Sometimes Tadashi finds himself missing him a lot. He can’t be blamed for that. Having someone in his life for that long and then all of a sudden they are nothing? Missing him was inevitable.
A song will come on and he will think about him. A memory forever etched into his brain. It feels almost fictional to him now. It feels so out of reach and unrealistic to him. They were really like that? Then the memory was tainted. It always was. Someone would mention something to him weeks later and it would be soiled.
“He said he was with a group of friends and that he didn’t want to go,”
Tadashi let the doubt rush in then, ‘Why did he lie? Why did he lie about being with me? Did he not want to go? Why did he say yes? Why. Why. Why’
Then he would reach out again and the doubt would be pushed aside. Much to the dismay of his friends.
“He’s hurting you. You need to cut him off. I don't like seeing you hurt like this,” Hinata would say.
Tadashi just shook his head. While he did trust Hinata and valued his opinion on the situation. He’s known him for far longer than Hinata has so he knows what he’s like. He knows Kei isn’t one to outwardly express emotions.
“Just because you like him doesn’t mean you should let him treat you like this,”
Oh fuck. He liked him. Boy did he like him. Tadashi knew that since the start of their 3rd year. Maybe he did like him before that, he just allowed the feelings to exist then. Those feelings are probably what kept him from cutting him off sooner. He had some hope that he liked him back. Maybe that’s why he let him treat him like that. Deep down he knew Kei would never return his feelings. Much like any other feelings regarding Kei, he’d push it aside. If he let those emotions bubble up, he’d confess to him. Just to get that rejection over with. That would cause more trouble than it’s worth.
However, one night, Kei kissed him. Maybe it was the ungodly amount of beer Kei had. But it gave Tadashi a glimmer of hope. He thought that things were working out and all the doubt he had was for nothing. He did get his hopes up because Kei didn’t seem to remember much of the night before when he woke up the next morning. Tadashi wasn’t about to say anything because that would lead to him actually admitting his feelings. Nothing more came from that other than Kageyama being under the impression for a good week that he and Kei were dating. Tadashi quickly squashed that thought with some chagrin.
Maybe it was that he would cry to him about his problems with his father. The high expectations he had. The verb abuse he suffered. The arguments with his mom. It hurt him, Tadashi could easily tell that. He hated seeing him like that.
“Maybe you should stop seeing him. He’s clearly hurting you and it’s only making you feel worse about yourself,” He would say comfortingly. Maybe Tadashi should have taken his own advice.
“But he’s my dad and I still do love him. Plus he’s paying for my college. I think deep down he does love me too,” He would respond.
Maybe he was right, maybe his dad did love him after all. He was a stoic guy, but Tadashi had never seen him cry like he did when his father said something cruel to him. His older brother refused to see their father anymore once he went to college. He had no reason to, their mother was paying for his college so he wasn’t tied down. Occasionally he did it for his brother’s sake but from what he heard it never ended well. It would end how it always did, screaming and tears.
He wonders how that situation is now that he’s in college. Does his father still yell at him for not being good enough? He thinks he should have stayed by his side, to be there for him during those moments of sadness. Hopefully, things got better for them.
Tadashi’s relationship with his father wasn’t great either. His father left him right before he entered middle school. He still caused trouble for Tadashi and his mother. Other than that he was never in Tadashi’s life. Still, whenever Tadashi was upset about it, he was always right by his side. Comforting and reassuring. That’s how Tadashi viewed him. Moments like that were what he told Hinata when he, yet again, tried to get him to move on.
Tadashi stayed as he watched Kei go through relationship after relationship. While it hurt he never voiced it. He wanted him to be happy. It was never an issue until one of his boyfriends saw Tadashi as an issue. He fed Tadashi things that Kei would say about him. The same things he’d been told over and over.
“Kei finds you too clingy,”
Now looking back on it Tadashi doesn’t know if he was telling the truth or not. It could have been his default when it came to him. But why would he say that to other people then turn around and whoo Tadashi with sweet and caring words?
He dismissed what the boyfriend had said. It never really mattered anyway. The boyfriends always disappeared as quickly as they appeared in Kei’s life.
Finally, one night in January. Tadashi had enough. He had enough reassuring himself that he cared. That he loved him. That they were truly friends. He hated crying about him. He found himself miserable. He hated the arguments they got into that were more and more frequent. He hated the way he always felt on edge with him. The tears turned from sadness to anger. Why was he the only one who had to try? His mother sat him down a couple of days before and noted how different Tadashi was now. She guessed it easily that Kei was the route of the problem. Now he didn’t hold any ill feelings towards him, deep down he still cared. He just had to do what was best for himself. So he did what Hinata had pestered him for months about, he cut Kei off. Over text was probably not the most mature thing to do but he knew he couldn’t do it face to face. He wouldn’t let himself go through with it if he had.
He was brutally honest with him, maybe harsher than needed but if he didn’t say it then he never would. He told him how much he had hurt him, how much he doubted, all the things people said.
Tadashi wasn’t surprised when Kei had accepted the fate of their friendship and wished him well in his endeavors in life. He wished that Kei had fought for their friendship. He wished he said he would try to fix things and prove that he really cared about Tadashi. But it never came.
For the next few weeks after that, he felt hollow. He wanted to take it all back and forget all about it. He secretly thanked himself that he didn’t. He needed this new path. They needed this new path.
Hurt turned into anger. Angry about how he wasted so much time and energy to be forgotten. Kei seemed to move on as if Tadashi was never in his life. Tadashi on the other hand blamed himself for being angry. Kei still shouldn’t have this much over his emotions anymore. It hurt, it hurt so bad. The way he was forgotten in Kei’s life. He wanted Kei to hurt, even just a little bit about losing him. He wanted Kei to hurt as he had hurt him.
“Those negative emotions are just going to keep you from moving on. You’re never going to know what he’s feeling. Truly it’s hurting you more than it’s hurting him,” Yachi said to him one day.
He only nodded, knowing he might cry if he said too much. It was still a fresh wound for him.
They were outside for lunch. Hinata and Kageyama were lost in their own world not paying attention to them. Oh, how Tadashi wishes they could have ended up like them. They all seemed to ignore how he and Kei don’t hang out anymore. They probably figured out what happened and decided not to meddle too much into it. None of them talked to Kei now that volleyball was over. He was content in his routine and didn’t seem to care too much. High school was rapidly coming to an end as well. However, the looming thought of him and Kei attending the same college still scared him.
He slowly but surely started to feel better. He stopped thinking about Kei almost entirely. He didn’t wonder if Kei was hurting or not anymore. He felt free. Graduation arrived before he knew it. It felt good knowing he was leaving a place that held so many memories, both good and bad.
He bid his friends goodbye, thankful for all their support throughout the years. He walked the path that he had for all those years yet this time it felt different. It felt new, exciting almost. It was like it was a different path entirely, leading to something so hopeful and welcoming.
He passed Kei on his journey home. He was sitting on a park bench, in the park they had met. He leaned back on the bench enough to where he was looking up at the sky. In typical fashion, he had his headphones on. Tadashi felt antsy. Part of him wanted to go and say something to him. They hadn’t spoken in almost two months. He decided it would be too weird.
As much as Tadashi healed, some nights were harder than others. He was hit with thoughts and overwhelming memories of Kei. He cried till he was hiccuping and sore. He hated himself for being this weak. He thought he had gotten better. Tadashi so desperately wanted to reach out and talk to Kei. He wanted to hear his voice and find out what he was doing. He missed Kei.
“Hinata, you don’t understand! It hurts so much. Why do I want him in my life again? I don’t want to remember him anymore,” He sobbed on the phone to Hinata on a particularly bad night. He felt bad bothering his friends with a petty issue like this. Hinata being Hinata listened and let Tadashi get it all out.
“It’s okay to miss him. You guys were friends for a long time. You’re doing so much better without him and I’m so proud of you. He doesn’t deserve to be in your life,” Hinata said comfortingly.
College began soon and now Tadashi was living in a new city. He felt good, he hadn’t had a bad night where he thought about Kei in a while. He was proud of himself.
He enjoyed his new environment and his school. Slowly he started to make new friends. This is what he needed. This is what he deserved.
Sometimes he saw Kei in passing. He was alone, headphones on, minding his own business. He felt sad for him. He didn’t hold any ill feelings towards him. Everyone should have someone they could rely on. Hinata and Yachi probably still reached out to Kei but he didn’t know how much of a comfort they were to him.
Tadashi found himself crossing paths with Kei one on one. They were lab partners in their biology class. Tadashi didn’t feel nervous like he would have months prior. As he took his seat next to him, Kei glanced up at him. Tadashi gave a soft smile to him.
He knew some people in the class and would give a soft wave or ‘hi’ to them as they passed him on the way to their seats.
“You’re quite popular,” Kei said in his ever-familiar tone.
“I wouldn’t say that. I just know a lot of people. I just have a lot of friends now,” Tadashi replied.
Kei nods, “I’m glad you’re happy. You deserve it,” He turns his attention away from Tadashi to something on his phone.
Tadashi wasn't sure what to feel. He’s glad that Kei doesn’t hate him and that they can have a conversation. But they aren’t what they used to be and that’s okay. Maybe one day they'll find their way back to each other but with a healthier take on their friendship. Maybe they won’t and they were only meant to be a small part of each other's life. He chooses not to think that he’s content with the life he’s making for himself. He’s content with himself and truly that's all he needs.