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the six week solution

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“You’re going to have to come out eventually.”

In answer, an electronic dance beat starts up on the other side of the locked bedroom door.

And so arrives minute thirty-four, in the longest hour of Yamaguchi Tadashi’s life thus far.

He presses his forehead into the doorframe. “It would really be a pity if we couldn’t go through with the renovation, all because we refused to leave so they can work,” he says, raising his voice over the music. “I guess we could buy another place… but you know, it would cost more. What do you want to give up, the Italian marble or the big flatscreen?”

Another second passes, and the music stops.

A knot in Yamaguchi’s chest goes slack. He lifts his head from the doorframe just as it slides open, and Tsukki’s unsmiling face greets him.

“That was a cheap trick.”

“I’m sorry!”

“I could go away for murder.”

“It won’t be so bad,” Yamaguchi swears, trying his hardest to believe it.

Personally, he’s accepted that it might actually be pretty bad—but not for the reasons Tsukki thinks it’s going to be bad. The problem will be Tsukki himself, and his determination not to have a good time, combined with the setting.

It’s almost scientific, the way Yamaguchi sees this. Put Tsukishima Kei in Hinata Shouyou and Kageyama Tobio’s spare bedroom for a month, add water, and voilà: a disaster is born.

Tsukki has been dragging his feet about this for the past week, since they secured their temporary housing. The whole arrangement had been very last minute; Tadashi’s older sister had her baby three weeks early, and their household was too chaotic to handle the couple and their unnecessary luggage—certain items were deemed too precious for the storage locker, to Yamaguchi’s deep, quiet chagrin.

So, to Yamaguchi, Hinata and Kageyama were doing them a serious favor. They had struck out on about ten other fronts in terms of family and other friends, until finally Hitoka reminded him that their old teammates lived not too far from Yamaguchi’s work, and suggested they throw themselves on Hinata’s mercy (specifically Hinata—she recommended, in her kind way, that he not expect Kageyama to do Tsukishima any favors). And when Hinata said yes, they’d had no option but to accept. Beggars, choosers, etc.

Which is why it takes a bit of extra patience for Yamaguchi not to remind Tsukki that he is twenty-seven fucking years old, too old to be dragging his feet about this kind of thing, especially when it’s his stupid extravagant renovations that left them homeless.

But mention Hinata and Kageyama, and Tsukki is fifteen again: petty and divisive. A big brat. Tadashi loves him, and that’s how he can say in confidence that this is the inarguable truth.

And that is why he anticipates the next month will kind of suck.

“So you’re done packing and everything, right?” He cranes around Tsukki to get a look at the interior of their bedroom.

“Yeah,” says Tsukki.

“Are you ready to take stuff out to the car?”

“Yeah,” repeats Tsukki, slower and with his typical understated agony. Yamaguchi pushes through, gives him a beaming smile.

“I’ll drive!”

 

 

 

 

 

“This is betrayal.”

Kageyama.

“You didn’t even ask me before you said yes.”

“I thought you’d agree!”

“Make them go to a hotel.”

“You’re a big wuss,” Hinata declares, standing over Kageyama with his arms crossed and his chin out. A king once again. “You don’t think you can take on Tsukishima for a few weeks?” Kageyama slumps down the sofa, glaring.

“This is my apartment… I don’t want to take on anyone, I want to watch cartoons with you in my underwear.”

This weird confession touches Hinata, but he steels himself. “You’ve got to suck it up! They needed our help.” He adds, quieter, “And Yacchan will be sad if we don’t.” He’s sure he would feel Yachi being disappointed in them all the way from Tokyo, and he couldn’t take that.

Kageyama blinks up at him, and sighs. “You don’t want to spend a month with Tsukishima anymore than I do.” Well. He’s not wrong.

“I’m trying to think of it as a month with Yamaguchi, instead! We like Yamaguchi.” He nudges Kageyama’s knee with his own.

“We liked Yamaguchi,” Kageyama corrects him. “Back in high school. I’ve seen them both once since I moved back to Sendai.”

Feeling a little deflated at the reminder, Hinata collapses on to the sofa next to Kageyama. “Well…” He’s been avoiding the possibility that this might be kind of awkward, with the four of them not having spoken much in the past ten years, and never really as couples.

Speaking of which: Tsukishima and Yamaguchi, a couple. Hinata is all questions with no one to ask—Yachi isn’t gossipy enough to share more than her opinion that they’re very happy together. He knows they’d been friends for a long time, but it’s a long way from old friends to… apartment-sharing, bed-sharing, life-sharing permanence. Hinata has personal experience with this! Yamaguchi was always so nice—and Tsukishima, so… something else—he can’t quite see where their romance could unfold. But he would’ve said that about him and Kageyama a few years ago, he thinks, tucking his cheek against his partner’s shoulder.

“How did they even know we were dating?” Kageyama grunts.

“I don’t know… maybe Yacchan told them. Or Facebook.”

Kageyama turns to him sharply. “People can find out we’re dating on Facebook?”

“Yeah, of course!”

“How? Am I on your Facebook?”

“You are,” Hinata laughs. Kageyama is staring at him, dumbfounded. Hinata didn’t realize how deep his boyfriend’s ignorance of social media runs.

“But I’m not on Facebook.”

“Yeah, but it says I’m in a relationship, and there’s all these pictures of us together—”

“There are pictures of me on the internet?” Kageyama sits forward, apparently very distressed at the thought, and Hinata feels a little nervous in between his giggles. He hasn’t been afraid of Kageyama in years, but when he gets upset he can be weird and gloomy for hours. Sometimes even a whole day. It’s awful.

Hinata hops off the futon and wanders over to the kitchen, the oncoming gloom at his back: “I don’t want people on the internet to see me. I don’t want them to see my face. Those are our personal pictures! It’s private…” And so on until he runs out of breath, just as the doorbell rings.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s fucking weird.

Kei has said it before. He said it when he first found out—Yamaguchi, on the phone with Yachi, covered the mic to tell him, “Kageyama and Hinata have started seeing each other.”

And he said, without looking up from his own reflection in the screen of his shiny new iPad, “That’s fucking weird.”

In the car on the way over, he runs through the times he’s seen them since high school. Most recently it was an informal reunion, thrown together by Sawamura and Sugawara at their place in Tokyo. One of those “swing by if you’re in the area” things, and they wouldn’t have been in the area, except that Tadashi’s eyes lit up when he read the email and there was no stopping it on Kei’s end.

And he remembers—well, he has to search his memory for it, since he spent most of the night avoiding extended conversations with his former teammates; he remembers seeing them together on the other side of the room.

Kageyama had his arm around Hinata’s shoulders—or maybe he just touched them, once or twice—in retrospect Kageyama doesn’t seem like an arm-around-the-shoulders-in-public type of guy. But it stuck in Tsukishima’s head that way, as a big gesture, a statement about the two of them.

And he remembers that he wouldn’t touch Tadashi’s shoulders for a day afterward, like an aftershock. That was fucking weird, and he doesn’t want to know what it meant, even now, almost two years later. Nevermind the objective similarities—the way they’d come up through that club together, been apart for a while, found each other again, differently—the idea that his subconscious would draw any kind of parallel between his and Yamaguchi’s relationship and what goes on between two barely-reformed freaks… unthinkable.

So yeah, he’d hid in the bedroom. Briefly. They’re entering this period that threatens introspection, being around a couple a little bit like them, but dumber, and he hates to think what part of Yamaguchi he’ll feel strange about touching next. He was hoping never to have to see himself in these people again. He vaguely regrets not making more meaningful human connections in his life, if only because then they might have another place to stay.

Kageyama and Hinata have this place downtown, in an apartment building not half as nice as his and Yamaguchi’s, not that he’d ever say as much. (Tadashi doesn’t like when he talks about money. Or that’s what he’s intuited from the panicked glint in his significant other’s eyes whenever Kei so much as lifts a brow at someone else’s situation. Almost as though Tadashi didn’t believe he could hold his tongue to keep from embarrassing them? Whatever.)

They pull up twenty minutes later than they said they were going to be there, thanks to Kei’s “tantrum” (Yamaguchi’s word), but it’s not like the idiots are obsessed with punctuality or anything.

He can hear their muffled voices from inside while they’re walking up to the building, and he can feel his face contorting in disgust, and he can hear Yamaguchi at his side, sighing. The elevator is out of order, so they have to drag the first load of  luggage up the stairs.

All this and he hasn’t even laid eyes on them yet.

Of course, when the door swings open, the misery of the situation intensifies.

Hinata stands there, and in his chirpy voice greets them. “Hi!” He has a neater haircut and dresses differently than he did when they were teenagers, skinny jeans and button-down shirts, like he finally learned how wrangle the gift he’d been given with his looks. Kageyama, Kei guesses, has not evolved in quite the same way.

From distantly within the apartment: “Ah, shit.”

“Kageyama! They’re here.”

“That’s why I said it.”

Yamaguchi laughs loudly, to cover up his discomfort. Kei chooses to turn his back to the doorway and stare out over the parking lot.

“We’re helping them carry in their stuff,” Hinata complains  to the apartment behind him. “You’re being rude and lazy!”

“Why do they have so much stuff that it takes four people to bring it all in?”

“They shouldn’t have to do it.”

“Look at how much there is!”

Kei shuts his eyes. Takes a deep breath. He could swear he feels something wet trickling out his ear. His brain is leaking.

“It shouldn’t be four people, it should just be the two of us, because they’re our guests.”

“I didn’t want to have guests.”

He opens his eyes. Leaning toward Yamaguchi, he murmurs, “I’m going for a walk.”

“Tsukki, no. Tsukki—Kei.” He flinches at the use of his given name, and he’s already halfway to the stairs, so when he turns around to find the three of them staring at him—Hinata and Kageyama poking their heads out the door—it’s painfully awkward. Like he just got caught sneaking out a window.

“I’ll get the rest of the luggage,” he announces, stiffly, and strides for the stairs.

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe it’s pathetic, or something, but he doesn’t need anyone other than Hinata.

Even after two years, he’s still adjusting to this after having no one at all, and anything more than this one central companion—it’s not just unnecessary, it’s overwhelming. Their apartment, their meals, the closets and the car: everything in their life together is just the right size for the two of them. Thinking of entertaining former friends in the space built for them, it stresses him out, especially when he remembers how easily Tsukishima would disparage them, and how lightly Yamaguchi would laugh along. Hinata has always been too kind to hold on to such things, but he had learned the hard way the necessity of keeping up one’s guard. Nothing is more important, he thinks, than feeling safe in his own home.

So he greets them bristled, defensive. They can’t be happy about this either, even if Yamaguchi puts on a brave face.

He shuts up once he can tell Hinata is getting really upset with him, because he doesn’t want a real fight about it. At least not in front of Tsukishima, who’s probably looking for holes to poke in their relationship. But the moment he and Hinata get out of earshot—assuming they’ll ever be out of earshot again—they’re going to have a talk.

Pretty much everyone except Yamaguchi seems grumpy by the time they’ve got all the bags and boxes into the second bedroom—who brings boxes to someone else’s home if they’re not moving in? “A few weeks,” he grunts to himself, and when he locks eyes with Tsukishima over one of the cardboard monstrosities. He’s got this look in his eyes just daring Kageyama to say something, and further risk Hinata’s wrath.

Either way, it seems, Kageyama loses. And that’s never going to end well.

He cooks dinner with a lot of banging around in the kitchen. Hinata helps settle Yamaguchi and Tsukishima, then leaves them in their room to unpack, and arrives to check on him.

He catches Hinata’s eye when he first comes in, and turns his back, trying to focus on the stovetop.

“You’re still mad?”

He grits his teeth and talks to the food. “Still mad.”

Behind him, Hinata lets out a tremendous sigh of frustration.

“So we’re both mad,” Kageyama grunts.

I’m not mad.”

“You’re mad that I’m mad.”

“I’m mad,” (at least Hinata admits it), “because you’re being really ungenerous and stubborn and—acting like an asshole, like they can’t hear you—but they can hear you!”

“Right now?”

“Not right now, the door is shut.”

Kageyama nudges one of the pots, then turns to face Hinata again. He has his arms folded across his chest and wears the defensive little pout he gets when they have real arguments. “All you had to fucking do was ask me if I was okay with this.”

Hinata throws up his hands. “You would’ve said no! And gotten all angry, probably.”

“Angrier than I am right now, after you just sprung it on me?”

“I thought it would be good for you to spend—”

“You don’t keep secrets from me.” When he says this, Hinata pulls back into a wince. It makes Kageyama want to stop looking at him, so he trains his eyes on the kitchen floor. “I didn’t think you were capable of it, actually. Now I don’t know.”

It’s a beat before Hinata finally says, “I’m sorry.”

Kageyama looks up and his partner is creeping toward him, hunched in apology, pleading for forgiveness. His best answer is another grunt.

“I couldn’t have kept the secret if it’d been for more than a few days. I kept telling random people to keep from telling you.” He gives Kageyama a smile, one of those smiles that’s an extension of good will—his specialty. “Now everyone at work knows my old high school friends are staying with us. They wished us good luck.”

That smile—and the glow in his cheeks, his hair, the familiar lines of his neck and shoulders disappearing beneath his shirt—a white t-shirt with COOL GUY in big letters on the front. He’d bought it for himself one time. What an idiot.

Kageyama opens his arms and memorizes the tiny happy squeak Hinata makes when they hug. He does his usual, stuffing his nose into Hinata’s hair and inhaling deeply. Hinata’s narrow torso shudders when he exhales against Kageyama’s chest.

“The food smells good.”

“Thanks.”

“It won’t be so bad,” he adds in a smaller voice. Kageyama strokes between his shoulder blades.

“Sure, Shou.”

“I mean it!” Hinata pushes him away, to glare up into his face. “We aren’t quitters! I’m determined to make the best of this.”

“There’s no best to be made of Tsukishima Kei.” He might be resigned to their staying here, but the attitude he has toward Tsukishima and Yamaguchi isn’t one that can be dressed up in manners. He returns to his stove. “You can tell them it’ll be ready in ten minutes.”

Hinata may groan, uuughhhh, before dragging himself out of the kitchen to call their guests to dinner, but he doesn’t disagree.

 

 

 

 

 

Kageyama can cook, and Yamaguchi has scarcely been so grateful for good food in his life.

It’s not that he’s very hungry. No, it’s that this subject—Kageyama being able to cook—provides him with enough conversational fodder to make it unscathed through the first fifteen minutes of what would have otherwise been an unbelievably uncomfortable meal. He pretends, suddenly, to have an immense interest in cooking, and no prior knowledge whatsoever, so that every step of Kageyama’s learning to cook has to be painstakingly explained to him.

Hinata is clearly on his side in this—he chimes in with his own anecdotes, and a funny comment about how Tobio only started making food to ensure he always had as much as he wanted to eat.

Tsukki says nothing. Once Yamaguchi mentions an experience they’d had in a restaurant together, and turns to Tsukki for confirmation or contribution. Tsukki just goes, mmmmmm.

But you know what? It doesn’t matter. No one is screaming or throwing things, and a couple of hours ago he couldn’t have guaranteed that.

Kageyama responds to Yamaguchi’s questions and encouragement with practiced politeness. He might actually be a hair too polite, to the point where he’s not quite himself, but—no screaming or throwing. So Yamaguchi thinks it’s probably fine. It must be fine.

Their conversation has traipsed into Kageyama and Hinata’s desire to travel internationally, to Africa or Europe. “That’s so worldly of you two,” Yamaguchi offers. “It’s amazing how much we have to learn about each other. Isn’t it, Tsukki?”

Mmmmm.

Kageyama speaks up in the same level tone he’s used through the entire meal. “There’s lots to learn because we haven’t spoken in years.”

Yamaguchi’s mouth falls open. He had been so close.

Even Tsukki goes stiff. It’s a moment of quiet before Hinata scolds, under his breath, “Kageyama…”

“What? I’m not going to pretend like we’re friends.”

“We are friends.” Hinata meets Yamaguchi’s panicked gaze over the table. “Yamaguchi and I are friends!”

Kageyama shrugs. His eyes are on his empty bowl. “They live twenty minutes from us, and I can’t remember the last time we saw them. If you think he’s your friend, maybe it’s time to take a hint.”

Yamaguchi can see a spark of anger in Hinata’s face, but when he tosses a glance Yamaguchi’s way, mostly there’s… hurt. Yamaguchi ducks his head. The guilt punches him in the stomach—he had always thought, maybe a phone call, maybe they should make plans sometime. For old time’s sake. But there was too much else to do, things that didn’t require him working around his boyfriend’s tendency to alienate people.

“You talk like it’s entirely our fault.”

He turns at the sound of Tsukki’s voice, his disbelief mounting. But, yep, that’s definitely Tsukki’s half-apathetic glare, pinned right on a furious Kageyama.

“If you wanted to see us, you would have called.” Tsukki flicks his wrist in Hinata’s direction. “He’s supposed to be the friendly one.”

“You never liked us,” Kageyama shoots back. “How’s he supposed to be friendly when you always made your feelings clear?” Hinata buries his face in his hands, and Yamaguchi has a hard time keeping from doing the same. Disaster. Disaster.

“You’re right,” says Tsukki. “Why bother pretending like any of us ever liked each other?”

Yamaguchi makes a desperate jump back into the conversation. “Tsukki, we used to think that Kageyama and Hinata didn’t like each other, and look how that worked out.”

“I certainly hope this evening doesn’t go that direction.”

“Hey,” says Hinata, hands falling away from his face. His voice stays soft, softer than Yamaguchi can remember hearing it, and it’s all the more powerful for that gentleness. “We’re happy together. Don’t say that.”

Silence falls again, this one even more profound; the guilt takes another fist to his stomach, and judging from the nausea on Tsukki’s face, it lands one on him too. Finally.

Hinata adds, straightening up, “Yacchan would be upset if she knew we were acting like we didn’t have any fun together, back in high school.”

Kageyama clears his throat. Yamaguchi finds himself really wishing their fifth member were here, to smooth things over—to keep them from getting bad at all. Differences aside, they’d always had intense respect and affection toward their former manager in common (Yamaguchi and Hinata especially heavy on the affection); it’s easy enough to see their behavior through her eyes and feel ashamed.

Tsukki lifts his head and sighs. “I guess we’re here now, regardless of how it’s been.” Yamaguchi nods in hopeful agreement: this is about as positive as Tsukki gets. He can hear through the grudging tone what it is he really means, that no matter their past neglect, they have time to change things right now. It’s a good attitude. Tadashi is kind of proud of him.

“Guess so,” Kageyama mutters at his food. Hinata is smiling tentatively around the table.

“See,” he says. “It’s an opportunity for us to reconnect! Do you want to go karaoke or something?” He directs this question at Yamaguchi, who can feel Tsukki convulse at the word karaoke. He returns Hinata’s smile.

“Or something!”

Kageyama leans toward Hinata, lowering his voice. “Stop trying to drag people to karaoke with you.”

“But I love making you do karaoke.” Hinata grins right into Kageyama’s scowling face, and the scowl trembles, threatening to turn into something less scary and more… sweet, maybe.

Tsukishima makes a tiny noise of disgust and turns to Yamaguchi, and his mouth curls open in preparation to make—well, it was going to be nasty comment, no doubt. But he doesn’t get a word out before there’s a sudden movement from the opposite side of table—Kageyama sits so far forward their bowls shake and Yamaguchi squeaks—only Hinata latching around Kageyama’s arm seems to keep him from grabbing Tsukki. His face is terrifying.

“You want to fucking sleep outside, Tsukishima?”

“Kageyama, stop,” Hinata pleads, and Tsukki is leaning away from the table. He doesn’t show it obviously, but Yamaguchi knows the way his eyes have gone wide is fear.

 Kageyama stays tense, struggling against Hinata’s grip in the space above the table, then he goes slack and sinks back into his seat. Tsukki exhales. But the expression on Kageyama’s face hasn’t softened, and he trains that look on Tsukki, whose fear fades into annoyance.

“Haven’t you grown up at all?”

Kageyama talks through his teeth. “Hinata told you to stop making fun of our relationship. If you want to keep pulling that shit, you can leave.”

“I’m not…” But he was, that’s exactly what he was going to do, Yamaguchi thinks miserably. Tsukki must realize his excuses are futile too, because he doesn’t even attempt to finish.

Kageyama looks at Hinata, who had ducked his head but now lifts it to meet his gaze. His cheeks are red, his lip between his teeth. Kageyama doesn’t take his eyes off him. “If you want to start over, you’re going to treat us properly. We’ve been together for years, and we’ve never been shitty about Yamaguchi and you.” Kageyama shrugs, and starts to gather dishes. “Give it a fucking rest.” It suddenly seems painfully ironic to Yamaguchi that it’s Tsukishima who accused Kageyama of not growing up.

Kageyama takes some plates and leaves the table with them. Hinata glances between their guests, wringing his hands. “He wouldn’t have hit you,” he tells Tsukki quietly, quiet enough that Kageyama won’t hear over his stomping and banging around. “He just—he doesn’t like people to know about us because he’s afraid they’ll laugh.” Hinata tries to frame this lightly, as through it were almost a joke, but you can tell he doesn’t find it funny at all; he’s just trying to will away the heavy air that’s settled in the room.

“Hinata,” Kageyama barks over his shoulder, from the kitchen area. “Bring the rest of the dishes. Please.”

Hinata gives Yamaguchi and Tsukishima a couple of quick smiles while he clears the rest of the table, and then pads into the kitchen with Kageyama. Yamaguchi watches them at the sink, their backs to the rest of the main room, talking in low voices. Beside him, Tsukki’s shoulders slump.

“What the fuck was that?” Yamaguchi glances at him. He’s smirking. “I feel like I’m going to get murdered in my sleep tonight.” He looks at Yamaguchi, the smirk now expectant, waiting for him to commiserate.

But instead, something in Yamaguchi’s chest hardens. To think, a few minutes ago he’d almost been—proud. He avoids Tsukki’s eye and gets to his feet. “I’m going to ask if they need any help cleaning up.” It would be nice if he could get more satisfaction out of the shock in Tsukki’s face as he walks away, but he’s in too deep for this to feel like a victory.

 

 

 

 

 

Yamaguchi’s pissed.

Kei knows. He’s seen it before. Tadashi has no poker face.

He tries to hide it under a layer of politeness, forced niceties, but his mouth always settles into this tight frown, the corners of his lips going tight, holding all his frustration.

Kei can see it as they settle into bed that night. He’d gotten first dibs on the bathroom to wash up, because the monster movie they’d put on (so they didn’t have to talk to each other) wasn’t over yet and Kei, obviously, had already seen it twice. Shitty special effects, anyway.

So he’s already snug in their borrowed bed when Yamaguchi comes in, his hair wet from the shower, his shirt sticking damply to the small of his back while he rummages through his suitcase. He must not feel Kei staring, or care. He plops into bed with his book without so much as glancing up.

 Kei tries to return to browsing on his tablet but—it drives him fucking nuts, the silent treatment, Yamaguchi being so upset about—what, even? They had been in it together, the ignoring Kageyama and Hinata thing. Grumpy, he abandons the iPad to the side table and starts pulling the covers toward himself.

This, finally, gets Yamaguchi’s attention. “What are you taking so much for?”

“I’m cold.”

“I need some too.” Yamaguchi jerks the comforter back toward himself, and Kei mirrors the gesture, with a little more force. He knows he must be making a nasty face, and Tadashi looks flabbergast.

Good. Make him pay attention.

Grimly satisfied, Kei flops on to his side, back to his partner, pulling the comforter over his shoulders. He removes his glasses and shuts his eyes and listens for the telltale sigh that means Yamaguchi has relented in being upset with him.

And it comes a moment later, a big billowing noise like he’s trying to exhale his frustration. Kei swallows, and waits another minute to see if he’ll say anything—explain what upset him, or try an unrelated conversation, to move past the tension. Sometimes these things happen.

Sometimes, though, they don’t. And tonight Yamaguchi says nothing. Kei is asleep before he turns out the lights.

 

 

 

 

 

The biggest hurdle is the bathroom.

Kageyama has never been picky or weird about the bathroom, and neither has Hinata, and so it’s always worked fine—the two of them, a sink, a shower stall, and a water closet with the toilet. They keep their toothbrushes in a cup, shaving stuff and soap and that kind of thing in the medicine cabinet. They share shampoo. It works—it’s like everything else, just right for them.

Tsukishima is picky and weird about the bathroom.

The moment he opens the door to theirs, he stops short, as if afraid to go on. “Is this the only one in the apartment?” he asks, looking back at them, even though there are only three doors in the place and he already knows two of them lead to bedrooms.

As hard as it would be sharing a bathroom between four people, it’s harder once you get Tsukishima involved. And Yamaguchi, he’s not quite as bad, but Kageyama can see through his polite offers to give the tile a good scrub.

Then he wakes up on the third morning and stumbles out of bed (Hinata’s spot already vacant), and into the kitchen, scratching his belly. Hinata, dressed for work but without his shirt tucked in, stands staring at the fridge. Kageyama realizes there’s a piece of paper there, covering up coupons and photos from their hikes and the scorecard.

He steps up behind Hinata, cradling his elbows, and squinting to read the new posting. Hinata hums in greeting.

MORNING/EVENING BATHROOM SCHEDULE.

“Did you do this?” he murmurs in Hinata’s ear. Hinata looks up at him with big eyes and he realizes what a stupid question that was.

“It wasn’t here when we went to sleep,” Hinata says, sounding distressed. The schedule is divided into ten minute “sessions” between seven and eight in the morning, and eleven o’clock and midnight, with some fine print allowing for “double sessions” in the case of bathing. There are smiley faces doodled in around the corners. Some “sessions” have already been reserved with familiar names.

Kageyama drops his forehead to Hinata’s shoulder. “Yamaguchi should’ve been manager, not captain.”

“I don’t want him to time me,” Hinata whimpers.

Pressing a kiss to Hinata’s cheek, Kageyama pulls the schedule off the fridge. “We’re not doing this.”

Hinata exits for the day before they’ve laid eyes on either of their roommates, which leaves Kageyama sitting alone in the living room with his cup of coffee when the first of them arrives in the kitchen. He could hear someone go out of the spare room into the bathroom, but he’s seeing Tsukishima now, wearing a tan cardigan that makes Kageyama feel confused. Who wears cardigans? Old men? He enters, looks at Kageyama blinking at him over a mug, and sighs.

Kageyama gives him a good glare. “Why are you even up this early? You work from home, shouldn’t you sleep in?”

Tsukishima doesn’t reply—maybe he was going to, but he turns and sees the fridge, back to its usual schedule-free shine. Kageyama smirks to himself. He feels like he’s just pulled off a clever move in chess, which is giving himself too much credit, probably. But any victory over Tsukishima is a big win.

To his surprise, after a moment of staring, Tsukishima quietly opens the fridge and continues as though nothing had happened.

At this point the four of them have started settling into a routine, with their four varied schedules. Hinata wakes up first, or on days that Kageyama has early training sessions, they get up at the same time. On weekends and the occasional weekday they get up together and jog. Hinata goes into work before eight, sometimes right around the time Yamaguchi and Tsukishima are just rising. Tsukishima seems to get up with Yamaguchi, regardless of the fact that he can set his own schedule. Yamaguchi is out of the house by 9, leaving Kageyama alone with Tsukishima for several hours before he heads to the university—the players have classes in the morning, so he’s not required there until the afternoon. Hinata gets back at 4, leaving him alone with Tsukishima for an hour (at least they’re even), Yamaguchi is home at 5, and Kageyama closer to 8. Hinata has always greeted him at the door, but he seems even more desperate and excited to see him during that first week.

The point being: they are ships in the night, more often than not.

But Kageyama waits. He makes eye contact with Yamaguchi every time he leaves the bathroom to find their house guest, fidgeting just outside the door, brownish hair falling to his shoulders and with his arms around a towel. Kageyama dares him to bring it up. Dares either of them to do it.

Instead, that following Saturday morning, he and Hinata come back from their jog to find—the schedule has returned to the fridge.

Tsukishima and Yamaguchi are sitting quietly at the table, Yamaguchi hidden behind a newspaper, Tsukishima with his iPad propped up while he eats breakfast. Tsukishima only glances up when they come in, and Yamaguchi throws them a smile before disappearing behind his paper again.

Hinata gestures to the fridge, and mouths, It’s back. Kageyama’s glare tightens. He had thrown out the previous sheet, but someone went to the trouble of recreating it exactly.

“All right!” Kageyama tears the schedule off the fridge, holding it up for Yamaguchi and Tsukishima to see. And his tone gets their attention. Yamaguchi bites his lip, Tsukishima rolls his eyes. “We’re not doing this.”

“It’s just a little time management,” Yamaguchi offers, in a small voice.

“We don’t need time management. The bathroom situation is not that bad.”

The corner of Tsukishima’s mouth turns up. “That’s because you’re the one taking twenty minutes to shower.” Hinata gasps in response to this accusation, while Kageyama is bracing himself on the kitchen island, his jaw tight.

“Tsukishima takes the same amount of time to shower as me—”

“Because I have to spend five minutes cleaning hair out of the drain.”

Hinata tries to argue, “Maybe there’s just more of Kageyama to wash.” At which Tsukishima snorts in surprise and Yamaguchi covers his mouth, and Kageyama turns back to give Hinata a pleading look. His partner grins apologetically.

“Not sure if that’s the best or the worst thing I’ve ever heard,” Tsukishima mutters. Yamaguchi keeps his hand over his mouth.

“If we’re doing complaints,” says Kageyama, hoping to push the conversation away from this, “we don’t have enough counter space for eighty bottles of…”

“Hair product?” Hinata suggests.

“Some of that shit has glitter in it.”

Hinata’s nose wrinkles. They are both strangers to the world of hair product. “Guh, really?

“Yeah, and I keep trying to wash my hands with it—”

At the threat of wasted goods, Tsukishima is suddenly serious. “Those products are expensive—the glitter is for shine.”

“Then don’t leave them right next to the hand soap.”

“There’s nowhere else to put them.”

Exactly,” Kageyama shouts, throwing up his hands. “Keep them in your fucking room!”

Before Tsukishima can keep arguing, Yamaguchi jumps back in: “I’ll move them if you promise to invest in some—air freshener, and both start using it—a lot.”

Kageyama glances at Hinata, who lifts his shoulders. Air freshener sounds like it might be an actual improvement. He’s not sure why he didn’t think of that before.

Yamaguchi, sensing he might have found negotiating ground, quickly adds, “And please make sure you don’t leave hair in the drain!”

Hinata leans forward across the island. “But Kageyama can take his long showers, then!” He bumps Kageyama’s hip, making him blush.

“Okay,” relents Yamaguchi. Tsukishima is smirking.

“Shouldn’t you be taking care of that, Hinata?” he says, quietly, with enough suggestive force behind it that everyone but Hinata seems to get what he’s implying—Yamaguchi frowns at him, Kageyama’s blush deepens, even though it isn’t like that, he just tends to get caught up in his thoughts and time wanders and… stuff. Hinata’s head tilts cutely to the side.

“Wouldn’t you be uncomfortable if I went in there with him?”

Yamaguchi laughs at the look on Tsukishima’s face (because it’s fucking hilarious), so Kageyama figures the four of them are square, and he feels a rush of affection toward a puzzled-looking Hinata. He’d probably kiss him if they were alone.

“I guess he would be uncomfortable,” Hinata murmurs. He spies Kageyama smiling at him and mirrors the expression automatically, not a shred of hesitation. Happy to be happy, that’s Hinata. He raises his hands and sings out his victory declaration: “No more schedule!”

 

 

 

 

 

Kageyama and Hinata aren’t the only ones with a fridge-front dilemma.

Kei notices the scorecard on day one. It’s simple enough—two columns labeled with each of their given names and dated with the month, then a series of tallies for the each of them. By the looking of it, whatever they’re counting, Hinata is in the lead.

He doesn’t ask because he figures, with how much they talk and how Kei and Tadashi are living under their roof now, he’ll be forced to endure a lengthy explanation eventually, and he’d rather spare himself as long as possible. One of them will go to change the numbers, and an argument will start, and all hell will break loose—just like every one of their stupid competitions that Kei’s ever been privy to.

Tallies are added within a few days of his and Yamaguchi’s arrival, he notes, but he wasn’t in the room to witness them being adjusted and he counts that as a blessing. The longer he avoids the scorecard, the better.

In the middle of their second week, Kageyama rises a little later than usual, so that Tsukishima is already up and having breakfast, Yamaguchi is in the washroom, and Hinata is on his way out. Entering the kitchen, Kageyama pauses, catches Hinata’s eye, and—with an inscrutable expression—grabs a pencil to make a single tally on his side of the scorecard. Hinata pulls a face at him and mutters something under his breath as he’s leaving, something that makes Kageyama snort and grin to himself while he goes about making his breakfast. He doesn’t even notice Kei squinting at him from across the room for another minute, and then he just barks about someone drinking too much milk, that’s his milk.

And that’s it—there’s no big shootout, no name-calling. Just a bunch of subtle looks, and subtle by normal standards, not just Kageyama-and-Hinata standards.

That’s when Tsukishima starts obsessing over the scorecard.

Maybe it’s because deep down, he knows what it has to be about, so his desperate search isn’t for the truth so much as for an alternative truth. Something he can tell himself for the next two and a half weeks he has to spend in this apartment.

Unlucky for Kei, he’s the only one of them who can’t escape to work everyday. So he sits at the table with his laptop, and every so often, he’ll look up and—there it will be, essentially staring at him from across the room. The scorecard. It’s impossible to avoid. It’s fucking up his concentration, he’s working on eighty percent productivity. He keeps thinking about how much he doesn’t want to think about it.

“I think I’m going to work at the library tomorrow,” Kei says that evening, as he and Tadashi are settling into bed. Tadashi gives him a curious, sleepy look.

“You hate working in public.”

“I can’t stay here anymore. I’m going to gouge my eyes out.”

Tadashi keeps an eyebrow raised, but lets him have it. “Okay. Whatever you want to do.”

Kei nods, and leans back into his pillow. He can just hear Hinata’s voice out in the hall, saying something, and then giggling. He shuts his eyes. “Have you noticed the scorecard?”

Yamaguchi takes a while to drag his eyes from his book. “Scorecard?”

“On the fridge. There’s a scorecard.”

“Oh… sure, maybe?” Tadashi is so easily unconsumed by these things.

“Do you know what they’re keeping track of?”

Tadashi shrugs, the side of his mouth lifting. “It’s Hinata and Kageyama. It could be anything. You know how they are.”

“So you haven’t heard them talking about it?”

Tadashi shrugs again, a little weaker. “I don’t think so… Tsukki?”

The expression on his face must be telling, and he hastily tries to rearrange it while adjusting his glasses. “They talk about their stupid contests all the time. I just think it’s bizarre that they don’t mention that one. In fact,” he continues, with new vigor, and then he immediately tries to pull back when he spots Tadashi squinting at him. “I think it’s secret, but it’s right there on the fridge—so what’s the—” He pauses at Tadashi’s hand on his arm, and looks up to see wide eyes gazing at him in astonishment.

“You think it’s about sex?”

Kei scrambles to sit up, ready to share in Tadashi’s dismay. “It has to be. It has to be a weird sex thing.”

“How do you… keep score?”

“I don’t want to know,” says Kei, his stomach flipping at the thought of specifics. “It’s bad enough it’s happening twenty feet from our bed. The numbers have gone up since we arrived.” He tosses the wall separating them from the hallway a glare, for good measure. If not for the corridor acting as a buffer, they might have been unfortunate enough to… hear something. (Kei would rather sleep outside. He would.)

Yamaguchi, though, seems to soften at his revelation of disgust. He purses his lips like he does when he’s trying not to smile. “You’ve thought about this a lot, haven’t you?”

Kei scoffs, not having a better protest. Tadashi gives his arm a reassuring rub.

“You know, it’s not like we haven’t…” He makes a loose gesture to the sheets and Kei gets the idea. “Since we started staying here.”

“Not all the way.”

“You think earning a point means going all the way?” Tadashi asks, a thoughtful aside. Kei makes a sour face. “Anyway,” Tadashi’s eyes settle back on his book, “it’s not like we’re going to practice celibacy for a month because we’re here.”

Kei blinks at him. This is… suggestive, in a devastatingly nonchalant way, as many of Tadashi’s suggestions tend to be. He leaves them out like clues for Kei to find, to catch on to. Sometimes the suggestions even have two layers. A double-entendre. Kei licks his lips. One meaning is obvious, and the other…

“You want me to let it go.”

Tadashi’s gaze flicks to the ceiling. “What were you planning to do?”

“Out them,” he considers. “Shame them. They put it up in their kitchen.”

“Did you want to get socked in the face by Kageyama?”

Kei grunts, and lies back down again. When he starts losing the conversation, it’s always a good time for bed. “They’re never going to know that we know. They’re too stupid.”

“Why do you want them to know that you know?”

At a loss, Kei busies himself removing his glasses and shoving them into an open spot on the end table. “I’m going to sleep,” he announces. Tadashi makes a small consenting noise.

His eyes are closed for a moment, and then he hears:

“If we kept score—”

He swings a pillow into Tadashi’s face. (One point.)

 

 

 

 

 

Tadashi should have known—he always knows with Tsukki. He should have seen it coming, seen the glint in his eyes, known he wouldn’t just let it go, for better or for worse. Definitely for worse, actually.

One morning a couple days after they have their conversation about the scorecard, he comes out of the bathroom to the unusual sound of silence from the main room. When he creeps in, it’s just Tsukki, sitting there at the table with a cup of coffee. Yamaguchi stops short.

“Where…”

“They’re not up yet.”

“It’s almost eight.”

Tsukki lowers his head. “I know.”

Yamaguchi goes about pulling together breakfast and tea for himself, and within five minutes, there’s the typical commotion from the hall that comes with Hinata’s being anywhere. They come in together, Kageyama trailing a little behind, both in their sleep clothes, having an animated conversation.

“That’s not going to be the final couple,” Hinata says, with a roll of his eyes.

“Yes it is,” Kageyama shoots back, petulant. “They’re best for each other.”

Grinning, Yamaguchi mouths to Tsukki, They’re talking about a drama.

“Best for each other, but not in love, baka.”

Kageyama makes a big show of scoffing at this, as the two of them come into the kitchen and give their guests polite nods and mumbled good mornings. Hinata plucks a pencil from the counter and, smiling to himself, makes a tally under his column on the scorecard. Tadashi glances across the room at Tsukki, only to find that he’s already opened his mouth, that it’s already too late.

Tsukki says, with a smirk on his lips and his eyes on the table in front of him, “Big score last night?”

Because he’s standing closer to them, Tadashi gets an eye full of the way this question affects Hinata and Kageyama—the way Hinata’s hands slow mixing the egg into his rice, the way Kageyama stiffens, all over, as if suddenly frozen. He manages to turn, a wooden soldier, to glare pointedly at Tsukki.

Tadashi shuts his eyes for a moment. A masochist, the man he loves is a masochist.

Tsukki adds (masochist), “Hinata’s lead widens. How does that feel, O-sama?”

Hinata and Kageyama exchange what’s obviously a look of panic. They don’t seem capable of pretending it’s anything less than panic; even Hinata squeaking, “—don’t know what you’re talking about!” sounds more like screaming than nonchalance.

Tsukki sits there with his smirk, watching their reactions, but he’s still got the glint in his eyes that says he’s a little hysterical himself. Tadashi screams inwardly, paralyzed, watching an tragedy happen in slow motion, without the necessary reaction time to stop it.

Kageyama steps forward and braces himself against the counter. “Tsukishima.” It’s a low growl. Scary. Tadashi flinches.

“Tsukki,” he manages, with a tiny laugh. He tries to tell Kageyama, “He’s just kidding.” But the glare Kageyama is giving Tsukishima knows no rationality. And, more than being angry, he’s… a little pink in the face, which can’t be a good sign.

Ha-ha!” Hinata (also crazy blushing) shouts, and latches on to Kageyama’s arm. “What a funny joke! He really got us, huh, Kageyama?”

Tsukki has locked eyes with Kageyama and isn’t letting up. Masochist. Supervillain. He asks, finally, what it is, he really wants to know—the question dripping out of him like poisonous gas, slow and nefarious: “What’s the score mean?”

Tsukki.

Hinata wails and buries his face in Kageyama’s arm. Kageyama stays silent, but his jaw is tight and flinching, penned energy. His unflappability clearly irritates Tsukki, who repeats his question, and even though he’s still speaking with his trademark monotone, the speed of his voice betrays his rapid loss of composure.

“What does the score mean?”

“Tsukki,” Tadashi tries again, futile.

“Is it about when? Is it which one of you wants—is it about where? Where have you—”  Hinata reacts to this question and Tsukki seizes on that. “It’s where. Is it where? Where did you—” Hinata hides his face again and Kageyama—smiles. Tsukki immediately glances  around the table, and Kageyama’s smile widens. “No.” And Kageyama grins, a little evil. In a single fluid movement, Tsukki is on his feet, coffee in hand. “People eat here.”

Tadashi laughs right through his horror. Hinata is laughing too, Kageyama still grinning.

“This isn’t funny,” Tsukki insists, standing stiffly with his coffee like he’s surrounded by land mines. Which, metaphorically speaking, isn’t so far off.

While they’re all laughing and smiling, Hinata seems to have relaxed, enough that he announces, “It isn’t even about where—”  Kageyama lunges to get a hand over his partner’s mouth but he’s too slow; Hinata blurts, “It’s about who lasts the longest!”

Kageyama gets Hinata in his clutches and Hinata shrieks into his hand, but it’s too late, the damage is done and Tsukki (hands in the air) is marching for the guest room with his head down.

Tadashi goes to check on him about fifteen minutes later, and finds him like face-down on the bed. He settles down beside him, strokes his hair, and says, “You know you brought this on yourself.”

Tsukki nods without lifting his head. They decide never to bring it up again, and no one complains.

 

 

 

 

 

Hinata finds that when it’s just Yamaguchi, he doesn’t mind having an extra roommate. He’s all cool and tan and freckled, and he’s grown his hair out in a way that reminds Hinata of Kenma.

Kageyama has to go away for a weekend tournament—it’s inevitable, it happens every couple of months—and at first, Hinata panics. This is the third weekend of the big experiment, and he’s only made it through the past two with a lot of support from Kageyama. Without work to do, there are no buffers between them and their guests. So they’d had to invent buffers—things Tsukishima would never consent to, and Yamaguchi would give up to keep him company—sporting events, hikes, stupid movies. Then they’d escape the apartment together, and in spite of being exiled from their home, at least they got to be alone, in some sense. Free.

Now Hinata has to invent buffers by himself. And it’s harder this way.

Ignoring any shy protests, he gives Kageyama a big wet kiss in the parking lot when he sees him off. It’s a kiss that screams, don’t go! The wave he gives the car cries, skip this one! His little sigh says, come back to me.

He hates being alone in the apartment, but the reality that awaits him when he goes back upstairs is worse.

He gets through the rest of Friday night unscathed, thanks to everyone’s collective exhaustion after another long week of barely-avoided arguments. But when he wakes up Saturday morning, even earlier than usual, too nervous to sleep in, Tsukishima’s sneering face keeps flashing through his head. It’s funny, he realizes: they’ve lived together for three weeks now, and he’s still kind of scared of the guy?

Between all their workdays, and the buffers, and Yamaguchi and Tsukishima’s tendency to sneak out for dinner every other night, the four of them… haven’t actually spent much time together, as a group. Despite a vague promise they’d bond at that first dinner, he would sooner describe things as worse than better. Thinking about that makes him feel… annoyed. He doesn’t usually have to try at having good relationships with people he has long considered friends.

But still, after pulling on his running shorts and t-shirt, he tiptoes out of the bedroom that morning. A little fear is healthy, maybe?

The main room of the apartment is deserted, likely because it’s not yet seven. He exhales and slips his shoes on, then shuts the front door quietly behind him.

When he gets back from the jog, panting and a little sweaty, Yamaguchi is sitting alone at the table. Hinata straightens up in surprise, unaccustomed to this sight.

“Where’s Tsukishima?”

Yamaguchi lifts his head, gives Hinata a smile. “He’s babysitting for Akiteru—his brother. He’ll be back later tonight.”

“Babysitting,” Hinata repeats, dazed as he goes through the motions of getting himself water.

“Normally I go too,” Yamaguchi explains. Hinata nods, that makes a little more sense. “But I didn’t want to leave you alone today, with Kageyama gone. I was thinking maybe we could have lunch.”

Hinata pauses with a water bottle halfway to his lips. “Lunch.” His stomach growls. “Lunch sounds good.”

“Or breakfast,” Yamaguchi quickly offers, making Hinata wonder if his stomach was really that loud, but it doesn’t matter. He beams.

“Breakfast sounds even better. Can I shower?”

“Please do!”

They’re sitting down to breakfast not half an hour later, Hinata pushing damp hair out of his face. He doesn’t take time to sort out Yamaguchi’s motives for inviting him out—it’s not in his nature—but he does get a feeling of weirdness now that they’re sitting across from each other in a restaurant. Like he’s missed something.

They order their food. Yamaguchi idly drums his fingers against the table.

“It’s not as tense when it’s just the two of us, is it?” he says, and he gives Hinata a smile. Hinata returns it easily.

“It’s not!”

“It’s funny,” says Yamaguchi, examining the freckles on his forearm. “Tsukki and Kageyama are so similar, but they don’t realize it.”

Hinata blinks. He has never been insightful enough to draw a connection between Tsukishima, who he fears and who annoys him, and Kageyama, who he loves. What Yamaguchi sees… confuses him. “Do you think so?” His brow has furrowed, and Yamaguchi shrugs shyly.

“Well—I guess I just always thought they had things in common.”

“Like what?” Hinata is more eager to learn than judgmental.

“They’re both sort of… arrogant.” He says this rather softly, like he’s afraid it might offend Hinata, but his companion just laughs. Because Kageyama is arrogant, in his clueless way. Too talented for humility. “And,” Yamaguchi continues, “they’re both distant. Not very good at talking about things. Like…”

“Feelings!” Hinata offers helpfully. “Kageyama can talk about volleyball and that’s about it.” Yamaguchi grins.

“Tsukki can talk about dinosaur movies. Science fiction.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s it.”

This time they share a laugh, just as their meal is arriving. Hinata whimpers excitedly at the steam curling off his bowl, the smell is amazing. They don’t usually go out for food and this is exciting.

“Honestly, Kageyama has gotten better,” he says, as they’re digging in. “At talking, I mean. He realized I sometimes don’t get stuff when it’s just—implied.” He winces sheepishly. You can shake a lot of naivety by growing up, but not all. “So now he’s really upfront about everything. Not that he was ever good at pretending not to be mad, but he’ll tell me exactly why.” Hinata waves a hand. “It’s good, because his feelings are really complicated and delicate and I couldn’t keep up otherwise.” He’s about to ask, and what about Tsukishima? When he notices that Yamaguchi has stopped eating. He sits staring across the table at Hinata, a furrow in his brow. “Yamaguchi? Yamaguchi-kun?”

Yamaguchi fidgets, and his gaze falls back to the food. There’s a pause and then he asks, “How did you get him to change? To start talking?”

Hinata chews thoughtfully, swallows. “I guess I yelled at him a lot.”

“That worked?”

“I think so! We can talk through stuff now.”

Another pause. Yamaguchi shakes his head. “I haven’t yelled at Tsukki in years. And never about us.”

The whole bad-with-subtlety plague is upon Hinata again—he can sense that something lies beneath the surface here, and he should be tuning in and attempting to help, but he feels like he could pull the wrong switch and—kaboom! He doesn’t want Yamaguchi to explode. It would be easier if he were sobbing. “Is…” A solid start. Hinata fiddles with his chopsticks. “Yelling at Tsukki… why do you… do you think he needs that?”

Yamaguchi looks up, and gives him a tiny shrug. “I know how to do it when it’s about other parts of his life, but not when it’s about… me.”

“Oh.” Hinata vaguely understands what this means. Vaguely.

“I’m sorry, I know we haven’t seen each other in a long time. I shouldn’t bother you for advice.”

“You’re asking me for advice?

Yamaguchi’s lips purse. Hinata has just talked about it, and here he is, coming face-to-face with the cluelessness. “In a roundabout way.”

“I have no idea how to handle Tsukishima,” Hinata says, a disclaimer. “I’m sorry he’s giving you trouble.”

“He’s not giving me trouble.” Yamaguchi says this confidently, and Hinata winces, once again striking out on the tact front. “It’s—hard to explain.” When Hinata tilts his head, Yamaguchi shrugs. “Don’t worry about it! Eat your breakfast. Tell me about your work.”

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday night, week four. Not a great night.

He and Hinata have settled comfortably on to their sofa in their main room to watch television, Hinata with his head on Kageyama’s chest while he eagerly consumes a popsicle and Kageyama manages to get only a little (just a tiny bit) annoyed about the syrup on his shirt. Yamaguchi and Tsukishima retired early to do whatever the fuck it is they do in the privacy of their room, Kageyama doesn’t care because he’s not a nosy perverted prick.

In five days they’ll have this place to themselves again, and it occupies his every thought, imagining their impending freedom. No more lines for the bathroom. They can make as much noise as they like, any time of day. Sex anywhere they want. He can stop pulling Tsukishima’s fucking iPad out from between the sofa cushions once a day.

And then, around ten o’clock, once Hinata has finished his dessert and is starting to get that sleepy half-lidded look in his eyes, Kageyama hears a door sliding open in the corridor. Yamaguchi creeps into the room, in his pajamas, and crouches between them and the TV. Kageyama lowers the volume.

“Hi,” Yamaguchi whispers. He looks… grave? “We got some news, tonight.”

Hinata sits up a little, rubbing his face. “Is everything all right?”

Yamaguchi inhales deeply. “The marble broke.”

“Your marbles broke?” says Hinata sympathetically.

“The slab of marble for our countertops.” Yamaguchi’s head sinks into his hands. “It broke during delivery. Getting the replacement will take another two weeks. The whole renovation is behind…” Kageyama’s stomach tightens, he realizes what’s going on, why Yamaguchi looks so forlorn. “Tsukki’s a tiny bit upset about it,” he adds, carefully, glancing back over his shoulder at the room.

Tsukki’s a bit upset about it. TSUKKI.

Kageyama sits up abruptly and Hinata has to scramble to keep from getting dumped off the sofa. “Another two weeks?” he seethes, no attempt to hide his unhappiness. Hinata is cringing. Yamaguchi peeks at them through his fingers.

“If we could just… I know it’s an imposition!”

“So that’s six fucking weeks altogether?”

“Uh, I guess…”

Kageyama opens his mouth again but Hinata cuts him off—and he isn’t even looking at Yamaguchi when he says, “Of course you can stay two more weeks.”

Kageyama flops back into the sofa with a grunt. “No wonder you brought fucking boxes. Shit.” He can feel Hinata’s eyes boring into him.

“I’m sorry,” says Yamaguchi in a small voice.

Hinata gets to his feet, and encourages Yamaguchi to do the same. “Don’t be sorry. Ignore Kageyama, he’s being—”

“Don’t ignore me,” Kageyama snaps, and something snaps in him too, when he says it. He sees red, and he can feel that same frustration rolling off Hinata, this is always how it starts and—he doesn’t know how to stop it. He hauls himself off the couch. “You lied to me about this in the first place, and now you’re saying ‘ignore him’ when I’m mad?”

“Because you’re being a child!”

“You aren’t even sorry you lied, are you?”

“Of course I’m sorry I lied, this isn’t—”

“You think you’re right. You think you’re the only one that’s right.”

Out the corner of his eye, he sees Yamaguchi take a step back, away from them. Their voices are getting louder, he realizes. And even though he can hear it, like his anger, there’s nothing he can do to assuage it. There’s no room in him, between them, in their relationship, for passive aggression. They yell right into each other’s faces.

“I am right!”

“It only matters what you want—”

“What you want is mean, you want to be a jerk.”

“I’ve fucking put up with this for a month, this apartment is not big enough for all of us—I fucking hate it! You hate it too, I know you do, you just don’t want to admit you’re wrong!” He’s getting to that anger that feels like a high, something unsteady and scary even to him, so he starts marching into the kitchen, trying to walk it off.

Hinata tails him. “It’s two more weeks—you’re so childish, it isn’t even that bad—”

“You always do this, it’s always about you, and then you call me self-centered.”

“I never called you self-centered, baka!”

“I don’t care about being nice to people who don’t even respect us.”

They’ve left Yamaguchi in the living area, paralyzed, staring at the carpet, but still in full earshot of their argument. Which is now a screaming argument, if there were ever any doubt. Fuck, even Tsukishima is within earshot of their argument, now—and realizing that only makes him madder.

“So you’re just saying you’re an asshole, you’re just admitting it!” Hinata cries.

“Anyone who isn’t like you is an asshole, yeah?”

“Stop saying that! I hate when you’re like this, I hate it—

Kageyama rushes for the door, stuffs his feet into his shoes. He knows this feeling he’s having, the look on Hinata’s burning red face. The wetness in his eyes. He knows what he has to do.

“So why don’t you just ignore it?

He throws open the door and marches out of the apartment. It slams heavily behind him; the noise echoes through the parking lot. It muffles out the sound of Hinata screaming at his back.

 

 

 

 

 

Tadashi spends a very uncomfortable ten minutes trying to… console Hinata, or something like that? It’s strange because Hinata is crying—literally crying, tears coming out of his eyes—but also smiling and determinedly telling Yamaguchi it’ll be all right. He says that Kageyama’s just going to go for a run, to calm down, like he does when they have arguments. As if Tadashi were the one that needed reassurance… but maybe he does. He’s never quite seen a fight like that up close, between two people who are together.

He hates that he wonders but, are they going to be able to stay in Hinata and Kageyama’s shared apartment for the next week? Or are they going to be staying with someone recently single? What if Tadashi has to tell Yachi—crap, what if I have to tell Yachi?

Eventually Hinata encourages him to go on to bed, if he wants, and his eyes have dried enough that Tadashi feels comfortable leaving him in the main room to sit quietly. He tiptoes back to the guest room.

Tsukki is sitting cross-legged on the bed, facing the door. Waiting for him.

“Did you hear all that?” he whispers. Tsukki answers still in a quiet voice, but not quite so delicate.

“Me and everyone in Miyagi.”

Shaking his head, Tadashi falls in alongside Tsukki, staring at the ceiling. “I thought they were going to break up right there, right in front of me.” Tsukki doesn’t respond and Yamaguchi props himself up on an elbow. “I mean, what happens if we wake up tomorrow and go out and all of Kageyama’s things are in boxes?”

“That’d be… shitty.”

Yamaguchi nods in agreement. He lies back. His eyes fall closed. He’s tired just having been near that. “I’m glad we don’t fight,” he murmurs, sleepy.

Tsukki doesn’t respond. His stomach kicking with some strange anxiety, Yamaguchi opens his eyes.

“Kei?”

He starts, glancing down at Tadashi. “Oh. Yeah. Me too.”

They smile at each other, weakly, and then continue getting ready for bed.

About half an hour later, they’re all tucked in, both reading by low lamplight—and they hear the front door. They look at each other. Tsukki has one eyebrow half raised, like he’s saying, Well? Tadashi checks inside himself and… and yes he definitely wants to.

“I have to eavesdrop,” he whispers, starting to climb out of bed. He can hear voices from the main room—all they have to do is crack the door open, just a sliver and they should be able to hear everything. Tadashi tells himself that he just wants to know how their housing situation might be changing.

“Obviously I’m with you,” says Tsukki, and Tadashi gives him a grin. They creep over to the door together, and Yamaguchi slides it open as slowly as he can manage. The volume of the voices swells, but they’re not shouting anymore.

“—listening to me.” That’s Kageyama’s voice. “It makes me mad.”

“I want to listen,” says Hinata. They both sound quiet and desperate and very honest and suddenly Tadashi feels bad. He feels like he should close the door. “But the way you react when someone tells you something you don’t like, it’s scary.

“I know,” says Kageyama, tiredly.

“If I didn’t think I was going to get eaten alive, I wouldn’t worry about telling you stuff.”

“I don’t want you to worry, I really don’t. You can tell me anything.”

There’s a beat of silence, and they can’t see anything, so it’s impossible to fill in the gaps. And Tadashi still feels like he should close the door, but—they were screaming at each other an hour ago, and now, this? Talking? He remembers, Hinata had told him about this. We can talk through things now.

The silence is broken by Hinata’s voice, very small, saying, “I love you.”

And an echo, “I love you too.”

Tsukki pulls the door shut. This must have been too much for him. He gets up and wanders back to the bed without really looking at Tadashi, who forces a smile.

“No boxes, I think!”

“Screaming at each other just to end up saying that. What a waste of breath. How stupid.”

He finds himself taken aback at the disdain in Tsukki’s voice—how deep it runs, how it seems colored by something Yamaguchi can’t name, and he always thought he could read this man like a book.

“They talked through it,” Tadashi offers up, as a weak counter. He borrows Hinata’s words.

“Screamed through it.”

Tadashi picks himself up and moves back to the bed, settling in slowly. Tsukki dives back into his book at the first pause in the conversation, and Tadashi watches him, watches his profile. His mouth hangs open, poised to speak but—he’s afraid, he realizes, of the reaction. And that sounds familiar in a way that makes him feel kind of sick.

There’s a tap at the door.

They both jump. “Yes? Hi?” Tadashi squeaks.

The door slides open and in pops Hinata’s head, and then the rest of him. Kageyama hangs just behind him, staying in the doorway. Hinata’s eyes are a little red from before but he’s grinning, glowing really.

“Hi. We just want to say—you’re welcome to stay for a couple more weeks.” He glances sideways at Kageyama. “Though, if there are any more delays, we might… appreciate—”

“We’ll find somewhere else,” Tadashi quickly supplies. He pointedly doesn’t check Tsukki’s expression. Hinata’s grin broadens.

“Yes! Thank you!”

“Thank you.” It’s Tadashi’s turn to look at Kageyama. “Really.”

Kageyama, in a characteristic gesture, just shrugs. “Sorry about all the noise before.”

“Oh, yeah,” says Hinata, watching Kageyama. “We’re all right now! Everything’s good. Please sleep well.” They start pulling out of the room, and Kageyama leans down and pecks the side of Hinata’s forehead. It’s insignificant, but also shocking—and Tadashi realizes that in four weeks of living here, that’s the first time he’s seen them kiss, in any way, shape, or form.

He wants to remark on it, and once the door’s closed he turns to Tsukki, only to find that he’s pulling off his glasses. Back to Tadashi, he shuts off the light on his nightstand: closed for business.

 

If you came to Tsukishima Kei and asked him, hypothetically, how he would feel about what happens next—he’d probably sneer. That sounds like shit. When a relationship has been going just fine, for a long time, for years, there’s no need for it to change. Change and challenge and improvement: decent for volleyball, he had learned, and moot for relationships. At least, for relationships that have already reached homeostasis.

They only have three more days left of homelessness. The renovation is on track for the new target completion date, they’ve arranged for movers to retrieve their furniture and other belongings from storage. Hinata and Kageyama have even agreed to help them ferry their excess luggage out of the apartment. Yamaguchi had been pleasantly surprised at Kageyama’s enthusiasm about this, but to Kei it’s pretty obvious he just wants them gone as soon as possible. And he’s not offended at that, either. It’s a shared goal.

So there he and Tadashi are, on their third-to-last morning of this trial, enjoying a quiet breakfast thanks to Hinata and Kageyama’s early jogging habit. He’s glancing—glaring—through work emails on his tablet. It’s all deadlines, people needing things from him.

He notices, over the top of the screen, that Tadashi’s hands are shaking. When that started, he doesn’t know, but he stops and stares at it. Mentally he’s checking the index of what Tadashi’s told him over the past few days, things at work, with his family, trying to think if there’s some stressor he’d forgotten. It’s been known to happen. Maybe it’s the renovation. Did he shake last night? Was he too quiet? Ah. Can’t remember. Fuck.

“Kei.”

Tadashi lifts his head, they look at each other. Kei coughs and resumes swiping through his email.

“You’re nervous.” There’s a question folded into the statement. Tadashi will get that, he’s sharp.

“Can… can I tell you something?”

That stalls Kei’s hands. It’s timid, even for a nervous Yamaguchi. He sounds young. Like, fifteen again. “Uh.” Kei doesn’t quite know what the appropriate… well, whatever. He shrugs. “Go ahead.”

Tadashi lifts his chin and it shakes, just a single tremble, but telling enough. “I’m really upset with the way you’ve acted while we’ve been here.”

It feels like his insides have tumbled out of him.

Is he being… scolded?

Tadashi inhales deeply, and his shoulders lift, he looks bigger now that he’s gotten it out. “We had a long time with these—friends of ours, they are our friends. I just feel like we’ve totally wasted it.” He frowns at the tabletop. “It’s been twelve years, and you aren’t a kid anymore, and yet—I still feel like I have to sit here and tell you…” His gaze rises and settles on Kei, direct, disappointed. “To grow up. I don’t want to think that you’re this—shitty person. I want you to want to be better than that.”

It’s quiet for a long time. Tadashi’s hands aren’t shaking anymore, but they do break the eye contact. Kei feels like his email might have started glaring back at him.

He’s… angry, kind of, he realizes. But he still speaks flatly. “It took you six weeks to out with that.”

“Because I didn’t want to be the next victim.” Tadashi almost—laughs, like he’s out of breath. Are we arguing? Shit. They don’t argue. They don’t.

“Victim…”

“What if you turn on me next?”

“You think I’m going to stop… because you criticize me once?”

“I don’t know,” says Tadashi, his head suddenly in his hands.

“Where would we be if you didn’t tear into me every so often?”

“Well, I know how you love confrontation.”

Tadashi’s breathing hard and Kei stops, for a second, to watch. It’s true, he hates this. He hates how the atmosphere of the room has shifted, snapped. He hates to feel angry and uncomfortable. And around Yamaguchi, nonetheless. Anger and discomfort have never been the appeal of their being together, they’re about the very opposite—about consistency and security and ease.

“I can handle a little confrontation,” he says, quieter, “if it keeps you from making yourself miserable.”

Tadashi shakes his head. “I’m not miserable. I’m not. And I don’t want you to just placate me.”

“What’s wrong with placation?” Kei has been placating his entire life. It’s sort of his M.O.

“It’s… temporary. It doesn’t fix anything.” He hates the way Tadashi’s voice sounds right now. Like his heart is breaking. “You can be lazy—I don’t care about that—when it’s not important. I don’t want you to be lazy about us.”

Another long pause that’s anything but empty. Lazy about us. But—there’s no reply except to prove he isn’t.

“I’ll try.”

Tadashi sighs in relief. It’s a good sound. “That’s great. That’s huge.” And it is huge, for Kei. Just trying.

“You say you aren’t miserable, but… whatever is making your hands shake. It’s not very cool.”

Tadashi barks out a laugh, and Kei smiles.

Fighting isn’t the worst, he supposes. Homeostasis, they’ve still got that, haven’t they? Once the mood breaks, they slip right back into themselves. Worse things have come of this trip than their argument—he knows way too much about Hinata and Kageyama’s sex life, for one.

“Kei.” One of those hands, stiller now, snakes across the table toward him. He takes it, with careful attention to the freckles around the base of his thumb. “I really hate thinking we wasted such a good opportunity, here.”

“Do you want to get them a flower bouquet, or something?”

“No, no.” Tadashi leans toward him with a grin. “But I do have a thought.”

A thought. “I don’t like the sound of that.”

Tadashi’s hand squeezes is. “Okay, for starters—I need you to keep an open mind.”

 

 

 

 

 

Kageyama gets home from work on their last Friday night with Yamaguchi and Tsukishima, and he feels great. Practice was good, one of their best in weeks. He got a text from Hinata saying he’s cooking dinner, which means a mess, but it will taste fine and Hinata will be wearing an apron when he gets home. That’s always something to look forward to.

And then, of course, there’s the big thing. By the end of the day Sunday they will officially have their apartment back. It’s been a couple years since they stopped getting drunk (too old for more than a couple beers with dinner), but he’s considering picking up a bottle on their way back from dropping off all Tsukishima and Yamaguchi’s shit. If there were ever a time.

He can smell the food and hear happy-sounding voices before he even sticks his key in the lock. Maybe, tonight, now that the departure is finally impending, they can have a really good time with their guests.

His arrival is perfectly timed—Hinata, apron-clad, is setting out the serving bowls. At the sight of Kageyama he squeaks and bounds toward the door, jumping on to his neck, forcing Kageyama to catch him at the waist or get strangled by a dangling ginger.

Kageyama sees Tsukishima and Yamaguchi at the table over Hinata’s shoulder, watching them. “They’re right there,” he whispers, and Hinata just laughs. Of course. At least Yamaguchi is smiling.

He sets Hinata down, takes off his shoes, and goes to join the meal. Yamaguchi and Hinata (keeping the apron on, for whatever reason, but Kageyama isn’t complaining) talk bubbly, and Tsukishima is more than quiet—he looks constipated or something, like maybe he got slapped in the face right before Kageyama came in. (But again, not complaining.)

During a lull in the conversation, Yamaguchi reaches over and nudges his partner’s arm. They stare at each other, Tsukishima’s face doing a weird flinchy thing. Kageyama is too busy chewing to care or think much of it, so he looks over to admire Hinata, and finds that he’s got a kind of weird face on too. Kageyama’s chewing slows. He gets the sudden sense that he’s walked into a trap.

“Kageyama,” blurts Yamaguchi, and his hand latches around Kageyama’s free wrist. No escape. “Tsukki has something he wants to say to you.”

“That’s okay,” says Kageyama, right away, shaking his head. No thanks. I’m good.

Hinata is cringe-grinning, which he sometimes does when he’s uncomfortable. “No, let him! It’s good!” He’s—in on this. The apron was a trap. What the fuck.

“Tsukki,” Yamaguchi whispers urgently. Tsukishima lifts his head, and looks Kageyama dead in the eye. They’re sitting right across from each other and he might as well be training a knife on the center of Kageyama’s chest.

He opens his mouth, the shape of it mean and grudging, and Kageyama braces. He closes his eyes. He inhales.

“Sorry.”

Kageyama opens one eye. Yamaguchi and Hinata are beaming like they’ve just won at nationals, all shiny and young again.

Tsukishima sighs, and adds, “Do you want to hang out sometime?”

“Hang out,” Kageyama immediately spits. “What does that mean, hang out? Hang out how?”

“Like hanging out, Kageyama,” says Hinata softly, still smiling.

“I was thinking,” says Tsukishima with a shrug, “we could go to a movie.”

“That sounds like a date.”

“A friend date,” Yamaguchi explains excitedly. “It would be just the two of you, and you could see the movie tomorrow night, and afterwards you could get something to eat and talk about it! I bet it would be really fun for you both.” Kageyama still feels weirdly guarded about this whole three-on-one situation. All his replies come out quick and suspicious. Hinata keeps cringe-grinning.

“What kind of movie?”

Tsukishima looks at Yamaguchi, whose eyebrows lift. “Your choice,” says Tsukishima slowly.

Kageyama fires off, “A comedy.”

“No.” (Yamaguchi winces.)

“Action.”

“What kind of action?”

“Spies.”

Tsukishima snorts. “No.”

“Zombies.”

Tsukishima’s expression shifts. He pauses in decision, and then—nods. “Okay.”

The agreement hangs between them, unfamiliar and fragile, like it could shatter at any moment.

“Zombies are too scary, I don’t get it,” says Hinata, pouting, but Yamaguchi gives him a little head shake and he shuts up.

Kageyama drums his fingers on the table, looking from Yamaguchi to Tsukishima, then over to Hinata. “And why aren’t you two coming?”

Tsukishima smirks. “Because historically we’re shitty at double dates, I think.” Hinata ducks his head, which is confirmation enough. They had clearly planned this for him and Tsukishima, like mothers instead of boyfriends, and knowing that makes him want to flat out refuse.

And then he catches the look Tsukishima is giving him over the table, one eyebrow raised, mouth twisted in exasperation; it’s a look that says, let’s just do it. Humor them. End this for both of us. He knows what that’s about: Hinata and Yamaguchi watch them so eager for a bit of give, and Kageyama would do anything for Hinata, and… whatever corner of Tsukishima’s heart isn’t all black and shriveled would probably do anything for Yamaguchi, Kageyama thinks. It’s the only way their togetherness makes sense to him.

“All right,” he says, picking up his chopsticks, because he wants to get on with dinner. “It’s a fucking date, okay?”

 

 

 

 

 

They both hate the zombie movie. Like, hate it. They spend forty-five minutes in the mall’s frozen yogurt place afterwards, just ragging on the special effects.

Tsukishima agrees that next weekend, they can give the spies a shot.

Yacchan is thrilled.