Yahaba stews bitterly as he watches the gym doors for Kyoutani. But, of course, he doesn’t show up.
Yahaba thinks its bullshit, because he trusted him, he told him he trusted him, and all he does is goes and ditches them. Honestly, he should have known this would happen. Did he really think that, after a shove and some harsh words and a lost game, Kyoutani would magically do this 180-flip and become the future ace he knew he could be? He felt stupid for believing that the answer to that was “yes.”
He thought that maybe, if everything else didn’t get to him, the loss would. Who likes losing? After that, he thought Kyoutani would have wanted to try harder, to come to practice more, and to try to get along with everyone.
But no. It’s Kyoutani. He hasn’t shown up for morning or afternoon practice since yesterday, even though he’s seen him around in the halls during classes, and it pisses him off. What’s the point of being on the team when he bails on them like this? What’s going to happen next year? What’s going to happen if-?
“Yaha-chan! Don’t tell me you’re slacking off in practice now, are you?” Yahaba looks up from the volleyball in his hands to see Oikawa prancing towards him. He barely has time to prepare before Oikawa barrels into him, catching him by the shoulders with an arm around them, and pulling him to his feet before he could fall over.
“A-ah, no, Oikawa-san, I wasn’t-” he says, as he curses every god who was listening for giving him such an overly-caring and observant captain.
“OI, SHITTYKAWA, STOP HARASSING THE UNDERCLASSMEN!”
“BUT I’M NOT DOING ANYTHING, IWA-CHAN!” Oikawa whines, throwing himself off of Yahaba and towards Iwaizumi instead, hanging onto his arm before he shrugs him off. “Why do you always say I’m harassing them? You know I wouldn’t do that!”
“Not intentionally, maybe,” Iwaizumi snorts. “You don’t know when you’re crossing a line, that’s all.” Oikawa pouts at him, his bottom lip jutting out, and Iwaizumi just rolls his eye at him. Oikawa huffs, before snapping back to normal and waving his hand airily around.
“Crossing lines and offending people is all subjective. Don’t you think so, Yaha-chan?” Oikawa asks, turning back to him with an expectant look.
The first thing that comes to Yahaba’s lips is, “Kyoutani’s crossing a line,” but he bites it back before he can blurt out the words. Instead, he bites the inside of his cheek and nods.
“Anyways, let’s just get back to practice, alright?” Oikawa says cheerily, the previous dispute gone from his mind as he smacks Yahaba’s back hard. He stumbles two steps forward before catching himself, and nods once more.
“I’ll drag him back here if I have to,” Yahaba thinks as he sets to Hanamaki. “I’m not going to let him to do this to our team again, not after everything we’ve been through!"
Yahaba’s made up his mind by the time the final bell rings at the end of the day. From the top of the stairs, he sees Kyoutani disappear in the sea of people, pushing himself forward with his shoulders and his glares. Yahaba steels himself, before pushing along the crowd too, trying to get closer as Kyoutani slips out of the front gates.
He’s not letting him get away, not this time.
He feels kind of bad when he settles in behind a throng of students heading out on their way home, going the exact route Kyoutani was. He’s technically ditching practice for the first time since… well, since joining the team. He pushes the feeling aside as he cranes his neck, keeping his eyes on the back of Kyoutani’s bleached head. He’s doing this for the good of the team. Oikawa will understand, right? Right.
The students start branching off, leaving the group smaller and smaller until he’s got no one left to hide behind. He feels exposed, and tries his best to hang behind Kyoutani as far as possible so he doesn’t suspect anything. He feels disoriented, because he doesn’t know which road they’re on and all he has is Kyoutani leading him.
A second later, he knows exactly where they are. The building stands high, almost like its looming over anything else. Despite its cheery appearance, Yahaba knows that the children’s hospital is anything but a happy place. And Kyoutani is storming through the front doors, unaffected by the feel of the place and looking like he’s on some sort of mission. Yahaba hesitates as he approaches the front doors, thinking to himself why Kyoutani could be at the hospital, of all places, and if he should even continue following him.
It feels personal, and it feels like he’s seeing something that shouldn’t be seen, but he hardens his resolve, and walks in even though his steps are wary and uneasy.
“It must be important if Kyoutani is choosing this over practice,” Yahaba thinks as he enters the lobby. There’s people everywhere. They’re family, friends, loved ones, all with deep set frowns or heartbroken faces, and the room is filled with tears, sadness, and empty coffee cups.
By the time he remembers not to stare, Kyoutani is walking away from the receptionist’s desk and making a beeline for the elevators at the end of the lobby. He panics, and starts to walk in his direction despite feeling like he had no right to be there at all.
“Sir? Can I help you?” a sweet voice calls, and Yahaba freezes. The receptionist was standing behind her desk, a concerned look on her face. He glances at the elevators, where Kyoutani is stepping into one, and the doors close immediately. He’s alone, and he’s failing, and he doesn’t know what to do.
“A-ah… I-I’m here to… uhm, visit…” he says awkwardly as he steps up to her desk. She smiles at him sweetly as she sits back down, nodding.
“Of course. You’ll need a visitor’s pass,” she says, pulling out a colorful rectangular sticker. “What room number?”
“Uh, well… you see, the guy before me, he, uhm… I was with him, and he didn’t tell me…” Yahaba says, cursing himself for not being a better liar. He rubs at the back of his neck as the receptionist frowns.
“Sorry, I can’t let you in without the room number your visiting,” she says, giving him a truly apologetic look. “Get the room number, and come back, okay?”
“Okay, thank you…” he says. There’s no way he’ll be able to get the room number from Kyoutani, of all people. So, he shrugs his bag up higher on his shoulder and walks out of the lobby of the children’s hospital.
He makes it back to school, but practice is nowhere near in session; the gym lights were out, and there were no signs of life. Yahaba sighs, thinking about how thoroughly he’ll be chewed out tomorrow for skipping practice, as he starts to walk home.
“Well, that was a waste of time,” he thinks bitterly a couple hours later when he’s sinking into his bed. But he knows something is wrong now, something big, something Kyoutani refuses to tell anyone about, because he’s disappearing into a hospital instead of going to practice. Hospitals are never a good sign. And why isn’t he telling anyone?
It’s concerning in the worst way possible.
He doesn’t get much sleep, but the thought that he’ll get to the bottom of all this tomorrow helps, if only a little.
Honestly, Kyoutani looks like crap. The bags under his eyes look darker, his clothes look disheveled, and his scowl looks like it’s set deeper than normal. Yahaba feels bad, knowing that he’s stressed (because there’s a hospital involved, of course he’s going to be stressed) even though he doesn’t know the specifics. He feels bad enough to try to drag Kyoutani out of his classroom for lunch, but when he peeks into the class’s door, he finds Kyoutani asleep on his desk. His head is resting on his arms, and he looks uncomfortable, but Yahaba knows he’s out like a light.
He’s pale, Yahaba notices, deathly pale, and the sight of his sallow face makes something tug at the bottom of his stomach, something that feels a lot like fear. He was going to a hospital. What if he was going for himself? What if he needed some kind of medical attention? What if there’s something wrong that he’s not telling anyone? It makes him all the more worried.
He thinks he’s too far into this as he rifles through his bag as quietly as he can next to Kyoutani’s desk. This was supposed to just get him to come back to practice again, he wasn’t supposed to end up concerned, or worried, or scared. But maybe its fate or something, because if no one else is going to worry about Kyoutani, who will?
He leaves his bento in the corner of Kyoutani’s desk and stalks out of the classroom. He returns to his own class, and reviews his notes for the rest of the lunch period.
It’s both easier and harder to follow Kyoutani this time around. He knows that Kyoutani never looks back, but he still keeps his distance, ready to hide or jump into a bush or something if by chance he does look over his shoulder. But at least he knows where they’re going now. Even if it is the hospital. Just thinking about it makes his stomach twist.
About halfway there, he remembers how he couldn’t get in without the room number. He mulls it over, thinking quickly, before figuring out something that might work.
Kyoutani marches into the hospital the same way he did yesterday, his shoulders back and his head held high, and he makes for the receptionist’s desk immediately. Yahaba, on the other hand, slips in after him, and takes a seat as close as he can get to the desk. He shoves his bag underneath his chair, and leans forward, his elbows on his knees and his head on his hands. He hopes he looks unrecognizable and like he’s praying for something, anything, like one of his one family members’ lives were on the line. He keeps his ears sharp, and tunes in to every word.
“-surprised you actually came back,” the receptionist says, and Yahaba realizes she’s a different person from yesterday. She looks unpleasant and like she’s three seconds away from calling security as Kyoutani glares at her.
“I have a bracelet, you can’t keep me out,” he practically spits, thrusting his hand forward and tugging up his uniform sleeve. There, sitting proudly on his wrist, is a mint green, plastic bracelet with writing on it. The receptionist glares at the bracelet, then back up at Kyoutani, and huffs in a way that probably replaces some choice curse words.
“Well, I guess I can’t, can I?” she presses. “I assume you don’t need directions to 31-35, do you?” She looks smug, and Kyoutani shoves his hands in his pants pockets, like he’s restraining himself.
“I know how to get there, I’m not stupid,” he says, the annoyance in his voice apparent as he turns and walks towards the elevators again.
“I would have never guessed,” the receptionist sighs just loud enough to ensure that Kyoutani hears it. The only thing that makes Yahaba certain that he heard it was how Kyoutani’s shoulders tensed at the retort.
The elevator opens, and Kyoutani slips inside once more, disappearing behind the chrome doors.
Yahaba sits there for another second. “31-35. That’s the room number,” he thinks to himself, engraining the number in his mind. He thinks about a lot of things, like if he wants to know what Kyoutani is doing anymore, what he’ll see when he gets to the room, and how he’s going to deal with it.
It’s a hospital, and not what Yahaba expected when he followed him yesterday. He wonders and worries and ponders, before he gets up and walks to the receptionist’s desk.
He needs to know why Kyoutani’s here. It’s what makes him move forward and look at the harsh receptionist. It’s what makes him tell her he’s visiting, and recite to her the room number. It’s what has him taking the bright orange sticker she writes up for him and pressing it to his chest. It’s what has him walking towards the elevators and looking up what floor to go to.
He wants to help Kyoutani, even if he doesn’t want the help. He needs it, and if no one is helping him or he’s not letting anyone help him, well, Yahaba’s going to have to break that.
“Everyone needs a little help sometimes, right?” he thinks as he steps past everyone that gets off the elevators and presses the button with a “3” printed proudly next to it.
The hospital layout is simple, but Yahaba still finds himself stumbling from sign to sign, looking at which direction to go in order to get to 31-35. He scans room numbers until he finds it just down the hall. He stops abruptly, taking a deep breath. He asks himself, once again, if he wants to do this, and the answer is the same. He creeps up to the door, and looks through the window of it.
Kyoutani’s kneeling next to a hospital bed, his eyes kind and soft, but tired, and there’s a wide, cheerful smile on his face. He holds the edges of two colorful blankets in his hands, and it looks like he’s trying to drape it over someone. The someone flails, knocking the blankets away, and Kyoutani looks like he’s laughing. Yahaba presses a little closer, and gets a hint of messy, dark brown pigtails, fixed with pink and green hair ties.
“A little girl?” Yahaba thinks.
But all thoughts stop there, because Kyoutani’s eyes stray up to the door’s window. His eyes go wide, and the smile drops from his face and practically shatters on the floor. He stands up, says something, and drops the blankets down onto the person in the bed. Yahaba’s frozen, and he’s not sure what he should do, but he knows that this is going to be anything but good. Kyoutani throws the door open and closes it carefully before he rounds on Yahaba. He takes a step back, but the blond makes up the difference, crowding into Yahaba’s space and grabbing ahold of the front of his shirt.
“What the hell are you doing here?” he spits poisonously, his eyes daggers and his lips twisted up in a dangerous scowl. “Did you freaking follow me here?!”
“You were skipping practice again!” Yahaba argues, grabbing onto the hand tangled in his shirt and trying his best to get it off. “I just wanted to see if you weren’t-”
“Weren’t what? Doing something illegal?” Kyoutani presses, pulling him closer so that they’re in each other’s faces, one contorted by rage, the other by distress.
Thankfully, a nurse peeks her head out of the next room over. “Boys, I hope there’s not an issue here,” she says dangerously, her voice almost hard. “If there is, I’ll have to ask the both of you to leave.”
“We’re fine,” Kyoutani mumbles, turning towards 31-35 and heading in again, but since he doesn’t let go of Yahaba’s shirt, he tugs him along with.
“Nii-chan? Who’s that?” the girl in the hospital bed asks, looking at the two of them in confusion. Yahaba stares for a second, and lets what she says sink in.
“Nii-chan.” That’s… Kyoutani’s sister? After a second, it makes sense. The color of Kyoutani’s unbleached stripes are the same as her messy pigtails, and their eyes are the same shade of gold and are filled with the same unrelenting determination.
“Just an idiot I know,” Kyoutani answers easily, letting go of the front of Yahaba’s shirt before moving around to stand next to the hospital bed. His sister’s bed. She can’t be more than, what? 8? He’s terrible at putting ages to faces, but that’s what he guesses. All he knows is that she looks too young to be surrounded by machines and wires, too young to be wearing a colorfully patterned hospital gown. Yahaba’s heart hurts.
“I’m not an idiot,” Yahaba argues lamely, before looking at the little girl again. “Sorry. I’m Yahaba Shigeru. I play-”
“OH! YOU’RE YAHABA-KUN!” the little girl exclaims, looking excitedly from him to Kyoutani and back to him. “Nii-chan talks about you a lot!”
“He does?” Somehow, that doesn’t feel reassuring.
“Yeah! He says that you’re annoying and that you make him really, really mad, and that you play really-!”
“You need to keep warm, remember?” Kyoutani interjects, grabbing the ends of the blankets and pulling them over her head. The blankets muffle the rest of her words or, rather, they cut her off as she laughs and flaps the blankets off her.
“Stop it, Nii-chan! I told you, I’m not cold!” she says, giving him a glare. Kyoutani smiles softly at her, like a laugh is threatening to bubble out of his mouth, and Yahaba feels like he can’t breathe. He’s never seen an expression like that on his face before, and he can’t do much else other than gawk at him.
“I know, but you still need to stay warm,” he says gently, tugging at the blankets again. He grins again as she pushes his hands away, but when he catches Yahaba looking at him, it’s like a spell is broken. His grin wilts into a frown, and Yahaba looks away from him.
“What did he say about my playing-? Uh…” Yahaba stumbles, realizing that he doesn’t know the girl’s name.
“OH!” she gasps lightly, before scooting herself up so she is sitting a little straighter. She smiles widely as she points a proud thumb to her hospital-gown-clad chest. “I’m Kyoutani Umeko, and I like Hello Kitty and Godzilla!” she announces proudly, and with a glance to her side, Yahaba spots the edges of Kyoutani’s lips curling upwards and a gleam of pride in his eyes. “And he says you play really good!” the girl, Umeko, blurts out. She slaps her hands to mouth to stifle her giggles as Kyoutani stares at her, dumbfounded.
“You’re such a little-!” Kyoutani hisses under his breath, but there’s nothing angry about how he says it. He lunges forward and rubs his fingers at her hair, ruffling it even though it was up in pigtails. She squeals, and tries to bat him off, but he catches her wrists and stoops down to press a hasty kiss to the top of her head. Then, as quick as one of his spikes, he makes her lay down and pulls her blankets on top of her. “Just for that, you have to go to sleep,” he retorts, looking a little smug.
“Nii-chan-” she starts to whine, before she jolts upright and starts coughing. Each one is so hard that it shakes her shoulders, and it sounds like she’s trying her hardest to cough up her own lungs. Kyoutani lunges and presses a red button before he starts to rub at her back.
A nurse comes in a second later, and Yahaba finds himself creeping deeper into the room so he stays out of their way. She hands Kyoutani an inhaler before she starts to check her vitals. Yahaba watches at Kyoutani shakes the inhaler, uncaps it, and holds it to Umeko’s mouth. One, then two, then three puffs later, Umeko breathing in deeply between each one, Kyoutani recaps the inhaler and wraps his sister up in a hug.
“Everything seems fine, except her lungs are a little noisier than normal,” the nurse says. “The only thing we can do is get her to rest.” She gives them a glare and Yahaba looks away guiltily, knowing that adding another person in the mix could really shake someone up, especially someone as fragile as Umeko at the moment. “I’ll be back late in a little bit, okay sweetheart? Get some sleep,” she says gently to Umeko before turning and delicately walking out of the room.
“You two got in trouble,” Umeko says quietly, sounding a little out of breath as she teases them, pointing a finger at the both of them and beaming at them weakly. Kyoutani rolls his eyes, tucks her back into bed, and, after shooting a deadly glare in Yahaba’s direction, kisses her on the forehead.
“Get some sleep. And no arguing this time,” he says, pinching her nose when she opens her mouth to protest.
“Will Yahaba-kun still be here when I wake up?” Umeko asks, and Yahaba blinks, not understanding why she would ask something like- “Because if Nii-chan knows him, then I want to know him too!”
“We’ll see, okay?” Kyoutani says, ruffling her hair as he turns and plops himself onto the small couch at the edge of the room.
Yahaba finds it amazing that Umeko accepts that so easily as she nestles own into her blankets, closes her eyes, and falls asleep. “That whole coughing fit really must have tired her out,” he thinks, frowning a little and feeling a little awkward just standing there. He glances over at Kyoutani, and sighs a little before sitting down next to him. He gets a glare for his troubles, but no complaints, so he takes that to mean something like progress.
They sit in silence for a second while Yahaba tries to wrap his head around what happened. Yes, Umeko’s sick, he figured that the moment he saw her in the hospital bed, but she doesn’t act like it at all. She acts like nothing is wrong. But if she’s sick, where are their parents? Why is Kyoutani the only one here? The only possibilities he can come up with are terrifying and terrible in every sense of the words, and he pushes them out of his mind.
But they creep up anyways, and it makes him wonder why he did this. It was none of his business, it was out of the way, it was Kyoutani; he shouldn’t have cared so much to do all this. But, at the same time, he’s thankful he gets to sit here now. He’s getting to see a whole new side of Kyoutani that he never even thought existed. All this time he’s only ever saw Kyoutani as hard edges, glares, and growls, but now… he’s all soft smiles, bright eyes, and kisses.
“So why the hell are you really here?” Kyoutani asks, breaking the silence, and when Yahaba looks at him, he’s staring at his sister. His words should have had a bite to them, but they don’t. Yahaba realizes that this was their sort of middle ground; Kyoutani wasn’t going to fight him, not here, not in front of his sister, but he wasn’t just going to go with it, either. Yahaba blinks at his expression, a small scowl and bright eyes, and he sighs.
“I wanted to stop you from ditching,” he answers truthfully. “I just… I mean, we’ve come so far and… I didn’t want you to just throw it all away.”
“I’m not… throwing it away…” Kyoutani says, hanging his head before sitting up a little straighter. His eyes never leave his sister.
“The team needs you, you know.”
“I know,” Kyoutani grounds out, his fists clenching where they rest on his thighs, “but Umeko needs me more.”
He does not feel bad for Kyoutani, because he knows that if he expresses pity, he would be the one ending up in the hospital. No, he feels bad for Umeko, the little girl that is so young and yet so sick, even though she is just as much as a fighter as her brother. He pities the situation, not necessarily all the people involved in it. At least, that’s what he tells himself as he surveys Kyoutani’s expression.
“Why is she here?” Yahaba asks quietly, and Kyoutani tenses next to him. This feels like too much, too personal, but Yahaba can’t help but ask. Her coughing fit earlier isn’t something to brush aside. It was scary, seeing her like that, coughing so hard she could barely breathe. It was scary, seeing Kyoutani know exactly what to do, knowing in the back of his mind that the only reason he would know is if he’s done this countless times before.
“She has this… condition that makes it hard for her to breathe. And we don’t have money for her treatment so she ends up getting worse and worse until… well, she couldn’t breathe Sunday so they brought her here and…”
“It’s been three days?” Yahaba breathes, feeling like an asshole when Kyoutani nods and hangs his head. Here he was, thinking that Kyoutani’s up to something vile, when in reality, he’s been in here with his sister. The thought makes him feel like he just swallowed a rock.
“They don’t really want to let her go just yet. Every time she’s brought back, her lungs sound worse than before. It’s not like we can do anything about it, not when we can’t afford…” Kyoutani says, before shutting his mouth. Yahaba thinks he realizes who he was talking to, and thinks he was spilling too much to someone like him. (In the back of his mind, he wonders when he started to believe he was some kind of Kyoutani expert when he knows absolutely nothing about the other boy.)
“Why are you the only one here?”
“Why the heck are you asking all these questions?”
“Because!” Yahaba whisper-yelled, mindful of Umeko. “No one should go through something like this alone! You shouldn’t have to shoulder all of this all by yourself!”
“I’ve been doing it for years! I’m fine on my own!” Kyoutani argues back, turning on the couch so they could properly yell at each other.
“You’re not fine! You have a gym full of people that would be happy to help you, and you still-!”
“I don’t want their help! I don’t want your help!” Kyoutani spits, exasperated, as he glares at Yahaba.
It’s then that Yahaba realizes how tired Kyoutani looks. The bags underneath his eyes look like they weigh a ton, and the scowl on his face looks more like it’s born from exhaustion than irritation. Yahaba kind of wants to reach out and flick him for being so stupid, for trying to do this all on his own when it’s obviously wrecking him. But he doesn’t; instead he gets up, grabs a pillow from the foot of Umeko’s bed, and chucks it at Kyoutani’s face.
“Go to sleep.”
“Wha-? I just said I didn’t-”
“I’m helping you help yourself. Get some sleep.”
“I just said I didn’t need your help! And if you think I’m just going to fall asleep and leave Umeko alone, you’re freaking insane-”
“I’m not leaving, asshole! So just go to sleep!” Yahaba says, giving him a look as he plops down into the chair that’s next to Umeko’s bed. Kyoutani gives him a look, the pillow in his lap, before he tosses it into the corner of the couch.
“If you leave, I’m punching you for Umeko,” he says matter-of-factly, collapsing onto the couch and dominating the space that Yahaba occupied just moments earlier.
“Go kick my ass all you want in your dreams,” Yahaba says, rolling his eyes at him, “because I’m not leaving until I have to.”
Yahaba swears that he heard a small, sleepy laugh before the room was blanketed with silence.
Bored, Yahaba pulls his bag towards him and starts doing his homework. He gets through a good majority of it before Kyoutani turns on his side in his sleep and faces Yahaba. He makes the mistake of looking at the sleeping boy. He looks ridiculous, someone as big as him curled up on that tiny couch. One of his hands is hanging off the side of the couch, while the other is tucked under his cheek and squishing his face. It would have been funny if Yahaba didn’t find it cute.
He looks away immediately, snubbing the thought as soon as it crosses his mind.
Kyoutani Kentarou is not cute. But Kyoutani Umeko is. She’s adorable in a way that makes you want to hug her close and never let anyone hurt her. Yahaba understands why Kyoutani dropped everything to be with her because- shit, because he did that too; he barely knows the girl, and here his is, volunteering to stay here until Kyoutani wakes up.
But he can already tell she’s strong in a way that you don’t really find in little kids. He can tell that she thinks scrapes and bruises are trophies, that falling only means getting up again, that giving your all is the best thing you could give to anyone… much, too much, like her brother.
He doesn’t know how much time passes, only that the sun was sinking by the time Umeko mumbles something in her sleep, something incomprehensible about vanilla pudding and popsicles, before she fights the blankets tangled around her.
“Nii-chan-?” she asks, struggling to sit up as she rubs tiredly at her eyes. She spots Yahaba, and it’s like a sun entered the room when she smiles at him. “Yahaba-kun! You’re still here!” she squeaks, and Yahaba presses a finger to his lips, shushing her in the kindest way possible.
“You don’t want to wake up Kyoutani, do you?” he whispers.
“I’m a Kyoutani, too!” she declares, puffing her tiny chest out and sounding like she just won an award.
“I know, I know-”
“Yahaba-kun?” she asks suddenly, tilting her head to the side. “Why don’t you call nii-chan by his first name? You’re friends, right?”
Honestly, Yahaba doesn’t know how to answer that. On any given day, he would say that he and Kyoutani were nothing more than teammates. But now? He looks over his shoulder and gazes at the sleeping Kyoutani, and he’s not so sure what he thinks they are anymore. “I guess so,” he mumbles.
“Good,” Umeko says cheerfully, smiling to herself and wiggling a little. Yahaba blinks, before he realizes that Umeko probably hates sitting in that bed all day with nothing to do. She’s a kid, after all, they don’t like doing nothing.
“Umeko-chan?” he asks. She looks up, her eyes questioning him without ever saying a word. “Do you want me to braid your hair?”
“You know how!?” she explodes before she can stop herself, smacking her hands to her mouth to cover her sheepish smile.
“Yes, I do,” Yahaba says, smiling a little. “Do you want me to?” When she nods enthusiastically, he gets up from the chair and motions for her to make room for him on the bed. She ends up practically sitting in his lap as she struggles to remove the hair ties from her pigtails. Yahaba gets them out for her, and pulls them onto his wrist before getting all her knots out with his fingers.
“You’re not like nii-chan said you were,” she says after a couple minutes, not even hissing when he comes across a particularly harsh knot. He pauses for a second, before running his fingers through her brown hair once more before gathering it all together.
“I don’t think your brother likes me very much,” he says, but the moment he gets the words out, she turns to look at him. Her hair slips out of his fingers as she levels him with a scowl that screams “KYOUTANI.” He swears that scowl runs in the family.
“You’re friends!” she protests, sounding offended, and Yahaba pinches her nose like Kyoutani did earlier. She squeaks, and faces forward again. Yahaba gets busy with parting her hair and starting the braid. “And nii-chan does like you! He talks about you all the time and how you bug ‘m and stuff.”
“That sounds like him.”
“But he always smiles after,” she says, almost reverently, and Yahaba pauses again, her words making him come up short. “I’m glad you’re his friend,” she adds.
“Well, I’m glad he’s my friend too,” he says, finally snapping out of whatever he was in and finishing her braid. “Kids say the weirdest things,” he thinks, shaking his head.
When he finishes the braid, he wraps a hair tie around the end of it and tosses it over her shoulder. The end barely reaches, but she holds onto it and stares at it in awe.
“This is so cool!” she says. “Thank you!” she says, rising to her knees and giving him a big hug. He pats her head in response, grinning.
Not much later, the nurse walks in. She checks her vitals again and brings her a tray of food and a cup of juice, which reminds Yahaba about how hungry he is. (He pushes the feeling away, and he realizes just how much of a hypocrite he is to Kyoutani for forgetting himself while with his sister.) As the nurse is setting the food onto a small table and pulls it toward Umeko, the girl goes on and on about her hair.
“I look like one of those… those… uhm… fighter people! The ones that fight all the monsters-!” she exclaims, still keeping her voice down because of Kyoutani, before she starts coughing again.
Kyoutani is up and at her side faster than the nurse is, pushing Yahaba aside and hurrying to comfort her. “It’s okay, you’re alright…” he murmurs, his voice almost lost in the sea of retching coughs that rip themselves from Umeko’s throat. “Just breathe, c’mon…” Yahaba, feeling powerless, reaches out and puts his hand on her shoulder.
The inhaler’s there, and as soon as she can go for more than two seconds without coughing, the nurse puts it to her lips and gives her the medicine she needs. When it’s done, Umeko is sitting forward, her breathing shallow and laborious. The nurse presses the stethoscope to her back, listening to her breathe, before she hangs it around her neck again.
“Her lungs don’t sound good,” she notes, talking to Kyoutani as she does so.
“Is there a higher dosage? Or anything you can give her?” he asks immediately, like he was expecting her to say that.
They talk for a little longer, but the medical technicalities float over Yahaba’s head, barely catching two or three words for everything they said. He focuses on comforting Umeko, rubbing small circles into her back as they talked.
The nurse leaves after a while, and there’s an awkward silence that hangs over the room. Umeko was still hunched over, focusing on breathing, and Yahaba and Kyoutani were standing awkwardly at the side of her bed. Kyoutani takes a second, before he smacks Yahaba’s hand away and pulls Umeko into a gentle hug.
“You did good, you’re okay…” he says, letting her go and giving her a smile that she doesn’t see. Instead, she’s pawing at her eyes and looking down at her lap.
“I… I’m… I’m sorry, I…” Umeko says smallishly, so small Yahaba doesn’t catch it at first, but when he does, his eyes go wide. She’s blaming herself… Kyoutani is staring at her, so Yahaba takes it on himself to lean forward and put a hand on her shoulder. She looks up at him, and he tries his best to flash her a gentle smile.
“It’s not your fault, Umeko-chan,” he says, and her eyes gloss over in what he hopes, prays, aren’t tears.
“You know, I’m gonna have to admit that he’s right,” Kyoutani says, crossing his arms over his chest and giving Yahaba a little look. Umeko giggles, obviously knowing what that means even though Yahaba doesn’t. He can tell that his words don’t have any bite to them, though, so he figures that he can play along too.
“Kyoutani-kun!” he gasps, putting a hand on his heart and smiling widely at Kyoutani. “That’s the first time you ever said I was right about something!” he exclaims, and Umeko laughs again. “I’m flattered!”
“And this is the last time I’m telling you that, too, because you act like this,” Kyoutani retorts, rolling his eyes at him. Umeko claps her hands on her mouth, trying her hardest to stifle her giggles, but it’s no use. Yahaba was about to shoot something back, when the door flew open and a nurse peeked her head through.
“Uh, hi, sorry,” she said, like she thought she was interrupting something important. “I’m really sorry, but visiting hours are over soon, so anyone underage will have to leave.” Kyoutani clicks his tongue, while Umeko pouts a bit, a thoughtful yet bitter expression passing over her face. Yahaba is the only one who sighs, and smiles at the nurse.
“Alright, thank you so much,” he says, and the nurse gives him a nod before backing out of the room and shutting the door behind her. “Well, I guess that means we’re leaving,” he says sheepishly, like that wasn’t obvious at all.
“No, it means that you’re leaving,” Kyoutani says matter-of-factly, a bitter-looking scowl adorning his face in something that either means annoyance, irritation, or sadness. (Yahaba can’t claim to know now, not when he knows he’s probably been wrong about Kyoutani all along.)
“What are you talking about?” Yahaba asks, giving him a glare in return. “You’re underage, you heard her, you can’t just-”
“What they don’t know won’t hurt them,” he spits out, forgetting himself before he takes a deep breath and calms himself down for Umeko’s sake. “Besides, even if they did know, I wouldn’t leave no matter what they said.”
“Yahaba-kun can’t leave!” Umeko erupts suddenly, her voice scarily loud for her small size as she reaches out and latches onto Yahaba’s arm. She hugs it close to her, and doesn’t let go no matter how hard he tugs at her grip. “If nii-chan can stay, then Yahaba-kun can stay too!”
“Umeko-chan, I have to go-!”
“Let him go, Umeko!”
“Then promise me he’ll be back!” she says fiercely, still hugging on his arm as she glares daggers at Kyoutani. (Yahaba wonders where she gets it from.) “It’s not fair! Nii-chan knows Yahaba-kun! I want to know him too! He’s nice to me like nii-chan is!”
It’s quiet, a deathly kind of quiet that honestly gets too scary for Yahaba, as the two siblings stare at each other. Yahaba is still awkwardly bent over the bed, his arm caught in Umeko’s grasp. He doesn’t know what to do, what to say, but he feels like whatever’s going on now is between them. “It must be a sibling thing,” he thinks to himself as he decides not to meddle.
After a second, Kyoutani sighs, squares his shoulders, and re-crosses his arms over his chest.
“Get your stuff. I’ll walk you out.” His words are curt, tense, and Umeko lets go of Yahaba’s arm only to point an accusing, stubby finger in his direction.
“But nii-chan, you-!”
“I’ll talk to him about it, okay?” Kyoutani says, leaning forward to pinch her nose as Yahaba moves around him to gather his things.
“Please, please, please tell him to come back!” Umeko chirps as Yahaba stuffs the majority of his homework in his backpack. “He’s nii-chan’s friend and…”
“I know,” Kyoutani says in the tenderest voice Yahaba has ever heard him use. It creates a lump in his throat, one he feels like coughing away immediately, but he restrains himself. “We’ll see,” he says, before turning to Yahaba. “Oi, are you ready yet?”
“Yeah, yeah, don’t be so bossy, Mad Dog-chan,” he singsongs. He can literally hear Kyoutani grit his teeth, and he smiles as he leans over the bed and presses a feather light kiss to the top of Umeko’s head. “Bye Umeko-chan. You get some rest, okay? And make sure to eat.”
“Okay! I will! Come back tomorrow okay?!” she chirps, smiling widely. Kyoutani pushes him to the door, and when he pauses to wave over his shoulder at the small girl, he shoves his shoulder hard so that he stumbles into the hallway. The door closes loudly, and Yahaba glares at Kyoutani over his shoulder.
“What the hell is your problem?” Yahaba demands, but Kyoutani asks like he’s not listening, already making his way down the labyrinth of hallways without him. Yahaba hikes his bag higher on his shoulder, and jogs to catch up to him. “You know, you’re little sister is pretty c-”
“You’re freaking ridiculous,” Kyoutani hisses, barely looking at him as he walks. “You follow me to a goddamn hospital, you charm my little sister…” he sounds pissed, royally pissed, and honestly, Yahaba can’t blame him. “And you really believe that I think you’re doing all this to stop me from ditching?” he asks, finally, incredulously, as he throws open a door that leads to a lobby of sorts on the third floor. Yahaba beats him to mashing the elevator button, and he gives him a glare right back.
“I did want you to stop ditching,” Yahaba says, matching Kyoutani’s ferocity with some of his own. “But I get that Umeko’s sick and that you need to be here, honestly.”
“If you say that I need help or something stupid like that-”
“You do,” Yahaba insists, and he can see when he tenses, how his fists tighten at his sides, how the crease in between his eyebrows becomes impossibly deeper. “Kyoutani, you’ve been doing this alone for so long…”
“So I don’t need you to tell me what to do,” Kyoutani says, cutting him off as the elevator beeps. The door slide open, letting out a family of four who has anxiety written all over their faces. The two of them slip inside, and Kyoutani presses the button for the main lobby.
Yahaba doesn’t know what to say, how to sway him. It doesn’t add up to him. Shouldn’t he want help? Shouldn’t he want to have someone with him, someone to let him sleep and take care of his sister for him, if only for a little while? It just makes him boil from the inside, like he kind of wants to push him up against the wall again. Only, this time, he would be screaming about how he needs the team, not about how the team needs him.
The elevator dings, and the doors slide open. Surprisingly, Kyoutani walks him out of the building and across the street. They don’t say a word.
“What do you want me to do?” Yahaba says, making sure there’s no emotion in his voice. He doesn’t want to wreck anything else, doesn’t want to completely destroy whatever has cropped up between them that seems so… fragile even though they were fighting a couple minutes earlier.
“Do whatever you want,” Kyoutani mutters, kicking at a pebble on the ground, “I’m going back to Umeko.” He turns on his heel and starts on his way back.
“Good night, Kyoutani-kun,” Yahaba says weakly, before he starts on his way home.
“Whoa, whoa, wait,” Oikawa says, waving his hands around in the air and cutting Yahaba off from the mini-spiel he prepared. “You’re telling me that you skipped practice yesterday to follow Kyoutani, who, as it turns out, has a little sister in the hospital?”
“Yes! That’s exactly what I’m saying!” Yahaba confirms, figuring that his plan to tell Oikawa why he was gone first thing in the morning was a tiny bit of a mistake.
“And did he actually let you stay?” Iwaizumi speaks up behind him, causing him to jump and bend over slightly to keep his heart from jumping out of his throat. Of course, he should have known that where Oikawa was, Iwaizumi was sure to follow. The ace walks around to stand next to Oikawa, so it’s easier to talk.
“Yeah, well, it was mostly… never mind,” Yahaba said, waving it off as he remembers it. “What I’m trying to say is that the two of us will be there instead of at practice from now on until she gets better.”
“Why are you so invested in this, Yaha-chan?” Oikawa asks, patting the top of his head. “Skipping practice to go hang out with Mad Dog-chan? Are you sure you don’t need to go to the hospital, too?”
“Stop harassing the underclassmen,” Iwaizumi chastises lightly, rolling his eyes at Oikawa.
“I’m not- it’s just that…” Yahaba doesn’t know how to justify himself without sounding weird. He needs someone to stand by him sounds too cheesy, his sister likes me sounds like pedophilia in the making, and he looks like shit so I’m making sure he sleeps sounds like he’s a mom.
“We understand, Yahaba-kun,” Iwaizumi says, smirking a little at him. “The two of you take all the time you need.”
“Iwa-chan! Did you think I wasn’t going to say that?” Oikawa whines.
“No, you were just going to take forever to say it-”
“Uhm… would the two of you… not tell anyone why we’re absent from practice?” Yahaba asks gingerly, clasping his hands behind his back and trying his hardest not to rock on his heels. He can feel their stares on him, and he gulps. “I… don’t think Kyoutani would want everyone to know so… could you just make something up?”
“I’m sure we can figure something out for our precious kouhai, am I right, Iwa-chan?” he croons, pinching at Yahaba’s cheek before being dragged away by Iwaizumi.
“Yeah, we’ll tell the coaches something,” Iwaizumi assures, nodding. “And tell Kyoutani that we hope his sister gets better soon.”
“I will,” he assures, as they disappear down the school’s hallway. He won’t. He knows he won’t, because if he tells him that, he might really murder him. What was he even thinking, telling those two about it? Asking them to lie for him? He could just ditch and be the end of it until they get back to practice again. But maybe he was covering his own ass and decided to extend some kind of weird olive branch to Kyoutani too.
Maybe, he muses, it’s because he wants someone other than himself to know about this whole thing, even if it isn’t specifics. He doesn’t want to pity Kyoutani not in the slightest, but he has no shame in pitying the situation and the history of it all, even if he didn’t know the specifics to that either. It’s been going on for a while, that he knows, and it sucks that Kyoutani and Umeko have to be stuck in something like this, something so tragic and avoidable and not suited for… for kids.
But they’re strong, the both of them are. Their golden eyes have fire behind them that Yahaba has never seen before. He knows that Umeko doesn’t slow down for anything and that Kyoutani never slacks off when it counts just by looking at them. Maybe it was just who they are, maybe it was in their nature.
No, he doesn’t to pity them. But he doesn’t have to pity them to want to help.
He’s just glad he brought an extra bento with him.
Classes were easy to sit through, drowning himself in technicalities and words and things he should be understanding but doesn’t. He blanks out, pushes everything away and focuses, and everything makes sense. Maybe that’s why he thinks he can handle this, as the lunch bell rings and he finds himself wandering towards Kyoutani’s classroom once again.
He doesn’t stop to question what he’s doing as he pulls the nearest chair closer to Kyoutani’s desk and sits. Kyoutani, on the other hand, is questioning it enough so that he doesn’t have to; his eyes are wide and tired, and his lips are screwed up in something he might call a “confused grimace,” if he’s willing (and if that’s even possible). He can practically see the harsh question forming on Kyoutani’s lips before he even opens them, and Yahaba pulls out his two bentos and pushes one towards the other boy as an answer. Kyoutani looks down at it, before his eyes flick back up to Yahaba.
“Hi,” he chirps, trying to sound pleasant as he starts eating.
“You gave me food yesterday, too?” Kyoutani demands, his eyes narrowing a bit. Strangely, he doesn’t think it’s a question no matter how he phrased it. “Why?”
Ah, there it is.
“Well, someone had to. You looked like you were dead on your feet,” Yahaba answers around a mouthful before pointing at the box with his chopsticks. “I made that for you, so you better eat it,” he warns, and Kyoutani clicks his tongue.
“Gross.” But he eats it anyways, so Yahaba thinks that’s a plus.
Lunch is a quiet affair, but Yahaba doesn’t expect it to be anything else. What would they say? Everything was… touchy, and Yahaba didn’t want to throw a wrench in the washing machine and ruin everything. So, they eat in silence until the bell rings. Yahaba gets up, and Kyoutani hands him back the empty bento box.
“Thanks,” he mutters, not looking at him. Yahaba smiles brightly anyways.
“You’re welcome,” he says. “See you after school.”
And, surprisingly, he does. Kyoutani waits at the school gates for him, surrounded by so many retreating kids that Yahaba can’t see him (he would have made a short joke about it later, but he kind of liked the way his face looked). Yahaba shuffles anxiously, looking around and trying to spot Kyoutani up the road, like he usually would be by now, but instead he feels a sharp tug at his elbow. He jerks around, nearly tripping over his own feet, to see who it was, only to find Kyoutani with a suppressed smirk on his face.
“God, you look like you’re trying to spot a fucking celebrity,” he says, something other than annoyance in his voice, and Yahaba rolls his eyes at him.
“I thought you’d already gone,” Yahaba justifies, squaring his shoulders a little bit.
“Sure,” Kyoutani says, sounding like he really doesn’t believe him, before the two of them start walking.
Walking, like lunch, was quiet. The two of them know the way by now, so it was spent looking aimlessly at things that barely mattered and accidentally brushing shoulders as they went. Yahaba thought Kyoutani would be bothered by it, the contact, but it was kind of the opposite. Kyoutani didn’t shy away or shift so that there was more space in between them, he stood his ground and stared at his feet, like he was unaffected.
The hospital still held the same kind of seriousness it will always have; the cold air and the colder eyes in the lobby, the smell of stale coffee and fresh flowers waiting to get to the person they were bought for, the overwhelming feeling of dread that gripped Yahaba then but not on the third floor, in room 31-35. But walking in with Kyoutani seemed a little different, like he was allowed to be there now. Yahaba can’t say that it wasn’t a little bit unsettling.
“I need a visitor’s pass for room 31-35,” Kyoutani says curtly to the receptionist. He, this time, raises his eyebrows at him expectantly. With a huff, Kyoutani rucks up his sleeve to show the mint-green hospital band and thrusts his hand towards the guy. The receptionist inspects it for a second before sighing. He pulls out a neon blue sticker, jots something down, and peels off the backing before holding it out to Yahaba.
“Have a nice day,” he deadpans as Yahaba takes it and follows Kyoutani to the elevators.
“You don’t have to do this, you know,” Kyoutani mutters just loud enough for him to hear as they walk down the mazelike hallways. “You could just go back to practice and act like nothing happened.”
“You just don’t want me here because you think you can handle this on your own, like always,” Yahaba voices, and Kyoutani rolls his eyes at him.
Kyoutani cracks the door open and slips in, only to find that Umeko’s asleep. He walks across the room on light feet, and presses a small kiss to the top of her head, before moving to sit on the couch. Yahaba goes to join him, and ends up working on his homework.
It’s awkward, and quiet, but it’s nice, almost. Yahaba looks over at one point and sees Kyoutani with his head pillowed on the arm of the chair, sound asleep, and he cracks a smile. He never gets to see Kyoutani like this, with his face soft and his eyebrows not furrowed, and it might be a little weird that he’s sitting next to his teammate and admiring his face, but maybe he thought that he was kind of cute like this and didn’t have any other chance to-
Wait, no. That’s wrong. Because Kyoutani is not cute.
Umeko wakes up a couple minutes later, whining about chocolate mochi and orange juice before she realized Yahaba was there. She smiles brightly and looks like she’s sitting on top of the world when she sees him, and starts talking about how she was watching cartoons this morning and how Kyoutani woke up hanging off the couch before he went to school and how much she loves her braid. Yahaba chuckles at how much energy she has, before Kyoutani stirs at bit when her voice gets too loud.
So, Yahaba decides to tell her a story. He sits in the chair next to her bed and starts telling the story of the lonely Godzilla who wanted to make a friend. Umeko listens intently, rolling onto her side with her hands tucked under her cheek as he speaks.
Honestly, Yahaba has no idea what he’s saying. He just remembers that the girl likes Godzilla and makes something up around that. Would Godzilla really be so lonely and so sad that the only way he could get attention was to destroy all his toys and sit in the corner? Of course not, but this was Umeko he was talking about, and she was eating it up.
“So, one day, Godzilla-kun was told that he had to go to school. He was really, really excited to learn, but he was really, really scared to be with other people. Everyone told him he was scary, and he didn’t want to scare anyone-”
“Poor Godzilla-kun!” Umeko coos, pouting a little. “Make him a friend! He needs a friend! Everyone does! Like you and nii-chan!”
“Well, when he got to school, he met Hello Kitty-chan. And for the first time, someone wasn’t scared of him. She sat next to him in class, and ate lunch with him-”
“Yahaba-kun, do you eat lunch with nii-chan?” Umeko asks suddenly, sitting up and giving him a curious gaze. Yahaba blinks before the question actually sinks in, and then he feels his cheeks go red as the memory of this afternoon comes to his mind.
“Y-yeah, Kyoutani-kun and I ate-” he starts, before Umeko cuts him off again.
“Why don’t you use nii-chan’s first name?” she asks, her head tilting curiously. “You call me Umeko-chan! Everyone does! Why don’t you-?”
“It… gets a little different when you get older, Umeko-chan,” Yahaba says, fiddling with his fingers and hoping he doesn’t look nervous in front of a little girl.
“It just… is.”
“But you’re friends! It shouldn’t matter!” Umeko says vehemently, sounding more like an adult demanding for something than a kid screaming about first names. Yahaba sighs as he hears Kyoutani shift on the couch again and smiles at Umeko.
“You’re right, it doesn’t matter,” Yahaba says, “but please be quiet, or you’ll wake up Kentarou-kun.” The name feels heavy in his throat, but it switches a light on behind Umeko’s eyes.
The rest of the day passes by quickly, the subject changing when Umeko demands to watch cartoons. The TV that hangs on the opposite wall gets flicked on, and she has Yahaba flick through the channels until it lands on a show with bubbly characters and even bubblier background music. She grins, and Yahaba leaves it there.
The nurses come and go, all the while Kyoutani sleeps peacefully on the couch. The nurses talk to him about how her lungs sound and the medication they’re giving her and the side effects of it. They ask Umeko what she wants to eat, and she immediately says mochi, but they settle on something else by the time they leave the room with promises to return later.
After she’s done eating, the two turn back to cartoons. Umeko laughs at something the bubbliest character does, and when she calms down, Yahaba’s heart nearly drops. He can literally hear her breathing, how heavily she’s working for every breath, how raspy it sounds every time she inhales. He feels like he can’t breathe, like the realization of it all punched him in the gut.
When she demands that he tell more of the Godzilla story, well, he can’t really refuse her.
“…after the field trip, Godzilla-kun and Hello Kitty-chan went to go back to the bus, but it was gone! And they thought they were stuck at the zoo forever, and Godzilla-kun started to cry, but Hello Kitty-chan told him that-”
“What the heck are you rambling about?” Kyoutani mumbles, sitting up and rubbing at his eyes tiredly. Yahaba looks over his shoulder, and immediately looks away when Kyoutani starts stretching, lifting his arms over his head just enough so that his shirt rides up and- okay no, why would he even notice that?
“Oh, you’re up,” Yahaba mutters instead, slouching a little in his seat.
“Nii-chan!” Umeko gasps, a smile breaking out over her face like someone offered her a year’s worth of candy. “Yahaba-kun was just telling me a story about Godzilla and Hello Kitty, and they’re best friends! Isn’t that-” The coughing starts up again, and Kyoutani’s on his feet and at her side in an instant.
“Umeko, you’re okay, it’s alright,” he soothes, before looking over his shoulder at Yahaba, who’s hovering between the bed and the chair uncertainly. “Press that red button over there. Now,” he hisses, and Yahaba does what he’s told for once.
The nurse comes in soon afterwards, and the ritual of the inhaler unfolds before his eyes again. Only, this time, Kyoutani looks… well, usually he just looks worried, but now he looks… pissed? It didn’t really add up in Yahaba’s mind.
The nurse listens to Umeko’s lungs, pressing the stethoscope to her back, and frowns when she moves away. “Her lungs still sound-”
“I know that,” Kyoutani growls, his hands fists at his sides. “They said that the medication they put her on would work. Why isn’t it working? Why is she sounding worse when she’s supposed to be getting better? Why can’t you people give me a straight answer-?”
“Kentarou, that’s enough,” Yahaba says, grabbing his arm and pulling him away from where he’s practically leaning over the bed to get into the nurse’s terrified face. “They’re doing the best they-”
“Well, they’re not doing enough,” Kyoutani spits, giving him a glare that’s loaded, deathly, as he jerks his arm out of his grip. He turns back to the nurse, his glare subdued but a grimace still on his face. “I want someone in here that’ll tell me what the hell is going on with my little sister by tomorrow, got it?”
“Good.” The nurse scampers off after that, and Kyoutani huffs before looking at Umeko. “Sorry… you’re okay now, okay?” He pulls her into a hug, and she hugs back, her fingers clutching his shirt like it’s the only thing she can hold onto.
“You’re scary when you get like that…” she says weakly, and he kisses her head.
“I know, I’m sorry…”
Yahaba really doesn’t belong in this picture, really feels like he should grab his things and leave, really thinks that this is something he shouldn’t be seeing. But a second after he moves to grab his bag, Kyoutani breaks away from Umeko and gives him a look.
“You’re leaving?” he asks, and Yahaba has to remind himself to breathe, because that soft tone has nothing to do with him and everything to do with Kyoutani scaring Umeko a second ago.
“I don’t know what time it is, and I think I have some homework to get done, so…” Yahaba says automatically, wracking his brain for a piece of homework he needed to get finished. He couldn’t think of any.
“I’ll walk you out, then,” Kyoutani replies, ruffling Umeko’s hair as Yahaba grabs his things.
“See you later, Umeko-chan. Feel better, alright?” Yahaba says, smiling at her as he’s walking out.
“Bye Yahaba-kun…” she says, her voice small but her smile bright. They were halfway down the hallway before Kyoutani side-eyes him.
“So why the hell did you call me by my first name?” Kyoutani asked, quietly but with an edge, and Yahaba has to laugh, if only a little.
“Blame your little sister on that one,” he says, rubbing at the back of his neck. “She kept nagging me to call you by your first name because we’re friends, I guess, so…”
“We’re friends,” Kyoutani snorts, shaking his head as he throws the door open to the third floor lobby. Yahaba doesn’t know what to think of that, because he could be laughing at the concept of them being friends, or he could be laughing at the fact that his sister thinks they’re friends. He doesn’t know how to answer, but thankfully, Kyoutani shakes it off a second later. “As long as it’s for Umeko, I guess it’s okay,” he says, not really sounding like he likes the decision.
“Okay,” Yahaba says back as they wait for the elevator. Kyoutani only walks him to the front of the hospital this time, looking a little hesitant, but Yahaba only raises an eyebrow at him.
“Thanks for, uhm… letting me sleep,” he says in the most awkward way possible. “See you tomorrow.”
“See ya,” Yahaba says, and Kyoutani turns around and walks right back into the hospital.
Yahaba gets home as the last dregs of sunshine are swirling around the sky. His parents are still out, so he grabs something to eat from the fridge before hopping into the shower. The rest of his unfinished homework is done haphazardly, and when he finishes with a sigh, he feels like something’s missing. Maybe it’s the constant beeping of a heart monitor, or the background noise of a bubbly cartoon, or the soft breaths of a sleeping Kyou-
No. He puts his things away and curls up for bed. But when his head hits the pillow, he feels unsatisfied. He pushes the feeling away as much as he can and goes to sleep.
Kyoutani lies, because Yahaba doesn’t see him the next day. He’s not in his classroom at lunch. He asks around, and everyone says he’s absent. He’s not waiting at the front gates for him. He’s a liar, and Yahaba can’t bring himself to be angry. All he can think of being is scared.
Because his not being here means that something is wrong. He’s at the hospital with Umeko, and if he’s staying there, it means something happened, and all Yahaba can think of is the worst. He feels the panic settle in his stomach, he feels it bounce his leg as he sits impatiently through the classes after lunch. He feels it, and it’s like it burns.
He’s ready to leave ten minutes before the final bell rings, and when it does, Yahaba makes sure he’s the first person out.
He doesn’t run to the hospital, because that would be a really uncomfortable run, in his school uniform and his bag on his shoulder, but he does walk faster than normal. When he gets there, the feeling in the lobby, the one of dread and fear and anxiety, doesn’t affect him as much as it used to, because it’s already eating him alive. He wastes no time asking for a visitor’s pass and sticking it on his front as he punches the elevator button at least thirty times.
He tries to make himself look like he’s not freaking out by the time he reaches the end of the hallway, but it in no way stops him from flinging the door open to Umeko’s room like he’s part of a prison break.
Umeko has tubes in her nose. Oh dear god… tubes.
She’s fast asleep, eyes scrunched up a little in discomfort, but she’s fine. But she’s not. There’s tubes in her nose.
Kyoutani looks up from where he was sitting on the chair with his head in his hands, and it takes all of Yahaba not to hiss in sympathy at his face. His eyes are bloodshot and puffy in the worst way, and it’s like his face was drained of color.
“Y-Yahaba…” he says, his eyes going wide with recognition. Yahaba drops his bag at the foot of the hospital bed, and shifts his gaze from her sleeping face to his miserable one.
“She stopped breathing,” he says, so quiet that Yahaba barely hears the words. “They put her on oxygen and got her back but… when they checked there was a lot more fluid in her lungs than they thought and…” He’s crying. Honest to God, sobbing. Right in front of him.
Yahaba does the one thing he can think of doing. He takes a couple steps forward so that he’s standing directly in front of Kyoutani. He’s wiping at his eyes with the backs of his hands, tears smudging over his face, when he looks up at him. Yahaba holds his hands out, feeling stupid when the only thing Kyoutani does in response is look at him like he’s insane.
“It’s a hug, stupid. Get over here,” he mumbles, hoping to God the heat he feels on his face doesn’t really show.
Surprisingly, Kyoutani gets up fast enough to almost topple the chair over and accepts the offer. He puts his chin on Yahaba’s shoulder and wraps his arms around him. Yahaba blinks at the suddenness of it, thankful that they didn’t fall over, before he puts his arms gently around Kyoutani’s shoulders.
“It’s so hard to see her like this,” Kyoutani mutters, his voice slurred and his arms painfully tight around him.
“It’s hard to see you like this, too,” Yahaba stresses, and he hugs him a bit tighter to stop Kyoutani from pulling away like he knows he wants to at his words.
“She almost died-” Kyoutani says, his voice cracking as he shifts. His face presses into the space between Yahaba’s neck and shoulder, his fingers curling into whatever loose fabric his uniform has to offer. “Those sons of bitches didn’t know what’s wrong, and I told them to check earlier-”
“But she’s alive,” Yahaba says in the most soothing voice he can muster. It’s bullshit what they did, how they didn’t check… whatever it was, when they knew she had a history of it before, but Yahaba had to look on the bright side. One of them has to, anyways. “She’s alive, and they know what’s wrong now, and they can work to fix it.”
“This is the worst it’s been,” Kyoutani says, choking on a sob halfway through. “I thought she was getting better, but she was only getting worse, and they’ve never seen her like this before, not with so much in her- in her lungs, and I-I couldn’t do anything and they told me-”
“Kyoutani,” Yahaba says, giving him a squeeze that shuts him up pretty well. “Breathe.” The reminder is ironic in and of itself, and Yahaba almost feels bad for it. But he doesn’t have time to feel sorry or take it back, because Kyoutani is leaning into him, struggling to actually do what Yahaba tells him, his shoulders shaking as he tries to inhale around a fresh wave of sobs. Yahaba holds onto him, waits it out, and rubs the tension out of his shoulders and his back. He’s not sure why he’s doing it (definitely not because he wants Kyoutani under his fingers), but it helps Kyoutani calm down, so he figures it’s worth it.
When his breathing is almost back to normal, Yahaba maneuvers him to sit on the small couch. Kyoutani sits and wipes at his eyes, and Yahaba sits and tries to have as much room between them as possible on the tiny excuse of furniture.
“Tell anyone that I cried and I’ll kick your ass,” Kyoutani says after a minute, sending a sidelong glare at Yahaba.
“Please, like they’d believe that you cried,” Yahaba quips, rolling his eyes before he looks at him. “And I wouldn’t make fun of you. Everyone needs to cry sometimes, and I think you’ve had plenty of shit thrown at you to cry about.”
Kyoutani stares at him for a second, the threat in his eyes gone and replaced with shock. He looks away and grumbles something that sounds a lot like, “I guess.”
The room’s quiet again, but it’s not painfully awkward or just painful in general. There’s a calm in the hospital room that Yahaba’s never felt in all his three days here, and it confuses Yahaba more than it should have.
Umeko’s gotten worse. There’s… stuff in her lungs that they didn’t know about. He’s sure there’s some way to make something as serious-sounding as this better, and he resolves to ask the nurse about it when they walk in again.
But something falls on his shoulder, and he jerks away before he realizes its Kyoutani. The other boy is slouching on the couch, asleep, and somehow manages to flop over and land his head on Yahaba’s shoulder.
There is not, repeat, not, something tugging at Yahaba’s heart, and no, those are not butterflies his stomach. He also does not shuffle a little closer to him so they can both be a bit more comfortable, and he certainly does not lean his head on top of Kyoutani’s.
When the two of them wake up hours later nestled up next to each other, well, that’s a different story.
That night, when the whole “why the fuck were we sleeping on each other, asshole?!” fiasco was said and done with, Yahaba hands Kyoutani his phone. Kyoutani blinks at it, not really sure what he wants him to do, and when he looks back up at Yahaba’s face, there’s a glare etched on his features.
“Give me your number, idiot,” Yahaba says lightly, crossing his arms over his chest. (He doesn’t know if Kyoutani is blushing, or if it’s the glow of the streetlamp on his face.) “You know, just in case something like that happens again, you can call me and I-” He doesn’t get to explain all the way through, because Kyoutani’s dialing the number as quick as he can before shoving it back at him.
“There,” he mutters, as Yahaba saves the number as a contact and sends a message. “See you later, I guess.”
“Yeah, see you,” Yahaba says, waving a little as he turns.
“Wait.” The word is like a bark, and it makes Yahaba flinch and freeze where he is. He turns slowly to look at Kyoutani. His eyes are on the floor, his hands are fists at his sides, and his shoulders are hiked up to his ears. And he is most definitely blushing. “Thank you.”
Yahaba doesn’t even need to ask him what for. Instead, he smiles brightly even though Kyoutani’s not looking at him. “Anytime,” he replies easily. “Good night, Kentarou-kun.”
Yahaba’s walking through the hallway to get to his first class of the morning. He had a rough night, and an even rougher morning, but he was up and here and ready to get this over with. He’s reaching for the door to his classroom when someone calls his name.
“YAHA-CHAN!” He knows the voice immediately, and flinches away from the door just in time for someone to crash right into him. He stumbles back, but the person rights the both of them before they can fall on the floor. “Yaha-chan! I found you!”
“Get… Oikawa-san… I can’t…” Yahaba says, struggling to get out of his grip. Oikawa moves quickly, taking a step back and positively beaming at him, setting his hands on his hips like he’s the proudest person to ever live.
“So how’s everything going with you and Mad Dog-chan?” he asks, and Yahaba finally spots the snarky look behind Oikawa’s eyes.
“Don’t say it like that,” Yahaba mumbles as his face heats up without his permission. “Nothing like that’s happened.”
“What a dirty mind, Yaha-chan,” Oikawa laughs.
“You were the one who said it!” Yahaba says, pointing an accusing finger at him before calming down. “But it’s… fine, I guess.” If he can call anything about yesterday fine. “His sister is still in the hospital, but… she’s hanging in there.”
“That seems like a long time to be in the hospital, especially someone so young,” Oikawa says with a little pout. “I hope she gets better soon.”
“Yeah, me too…”
“You’re probably wondering what I’m really here for, right?” Oikawa asks, and Yahaba nods a little. He really thought that it was what he wanted to talk about, but since there was more, it made sense that Oikawa came to find him. “Tomorrow’s afternoon practice is mandatory for all members of the team.”
“I know,” Oikawa says, putting his hand up and stopping Yahaba from ranting. “Talk to him, and see if he can make it. If anything, we can arrange for someone else to sit with her while he’s-”
“I’ll talk to him,” Yahaba says immediately, cutting Oikawa off. Someone else sit with Umeko? He seriously doubts it. Probably over Kyoutani’s dead body.
“Thanks!” Oikawa says, flashing him a peace sign before he rushes down the hallway and out of sight again. Yahaba sighs, before entering his classroom right as the bell rings.
His classes feel suffocating, and there’s something in the back of his head, screaming at him, telling him he could be spending his time better, like at the hospital. No wonder Kyoutani can’t stand it. But then… when did he start feeling so deeply about Umeko’s health? He guesses that he always did, since the moment he met her, but it never ate at him like this.
Lunch rolls around and Yahaba goes in search for Kyoutani, only that he’s not here.
He doesn’t panic. Instead, he leaves the classroom, sits down in the hallway, and takes out his phone.
[hey is everything okay?]
He sits and waits, surprisingly not angry at the fact that he told Kyoutani to tell him when something was wrong and he didn’t say a thing. It’s nothing like that. It’s more like he just needs to hear from him, to make sure Umeko’s okay, to make sure he’s not dealing with this on his own again because he doesn’t want to see him crumble-
He thinks that maybe Umeko’s not the only one he cares about, but he throws his head back and hits the wall to stop him from thinking.
[yeah fine they put her under + got all the stuff out of her lungs b4 she got worse this morning so im waiting til she wakes up]
Yahaba frowns at that. He really didn’t tell him that?
[need me to ditch?]
The response is immediate.
[never woulda thought the goody-two-shoes would think of ditchin]
[only for you kentarou-kun~]
He immediately hates himself after he presses send. He spends a minute staring blankly at his phone screen, before smacking it to his forehead. He contemplates throwing it down the hallway, but then it could get into someone else’s hands, and that’s something he doesn’t want anyone to see. He doesn’t even think of trying damage control before it’s too late, when his phone is vibrating in his hand, waiting for him. He takes a deep breath, and looks down.
[just come after skool its fine]
Yahaba wants to scream he’s so relieved, and he sighs as he types out his reply.
[alright see you later then]
He shoves his phone in his pocket and swears to forget it for the rest of lunch. He gets up to find Watari, and when he does, he gets thoroughly chewed out by the libero. He lectures him about coming to practice, and being on time, and neglecting best friends and how that hurts people, and how he could at least talk to him- Watari talks himself hoarse until he realizes that Yahaba is only watching him intently as he eats his lunch.
“You’re not sorry, are you?” Watari deadpans, his eyes losing the spark in them.
“I am sorry,” Yahaba assures around a mouthful. “I’m just hungry.”
Watari lets him eat and drops the rest of his spiel. He tries to get Yahaba to talk, tries to get him into telling him why he’s not at practice or where he was when he wasn’t at lunch with him. Yahaba doesn’t say, doesn’t feel like he has the right to say, and thankfully, Watari doesn’t press. He says that he gets that it’s his business, and to tell him when he’s comfortable.
Honestly, he’s lucky to have a friend like Watari.
Afternoon classes fly by like a blur, and all Yahaba can think of is getting out of there. He hates it, and he can see why Kyoutani hates it too. He pushes his way out the door, down the stairs, and through the throng of students before things could get crowded.
By the time Yahaba reaches 31-35, Umeko is barely coming to. Kyoutani’s standing at the edge of her bed, hovering, but he looks up the moment he hears the door open. Yahaba gives him a little smile before crossing the room and dropping his bag in the corner. He stands at Kyoutani’s side, and the two of them look at Umeko.
“How’d it all go?” Yahaba asks softly, ignoring the way their shoulders brush.
“Good. No complications,” Kyoutani replies. “The only thing is that she’s so small, she has a hard time coming out of anesthesia.” Just as he says this, Umeko groans and mumbles something that isn’t really Japanese.
“Sounds like something you would have a problem with,” Yahaba quips back, and Kyoutani knocks his shoulder with his hard enough that he takes a step away, laughing.
“You’re, like, 2 centimeters taller than me! You don’t get to say that!” Kyoutani hisses, looking absolutely scandalized.
“The key word there is: taller,” Yahaba says matter-of-factly, and Kyoutani levels him a glare.
“I hate you,” he grinds out.
“Now, now, not in front of a child,” Yahaba chastises, and he can tell the exact moment when Kyoutani contemplates why he let him be here in the first place.
“Nn…” Umeko groans, her eyes scrunching as she wakes up. “N-nii-chan…”
“Hey,” Kyoutani says, moving a bit of hair out of her face. “Welcome back to the living.”
“M’nose hurts…” she says, her nose twitching and her hands coming up to rub at where the tubes still were, but Kyoutani moves them away.
“I know, but you can’t, okay?” he says, giving her a look.
“I’m going to have to redo your braid, soon, too, so be good, okay?” Yahaba speaks up, and Umeko smiles a little, still a little sleepy.
“Mmkay,” she says, blinking like she was fighting a losing battle against sleep. Kyoutani sighs, and kisses her forehead before she’s sleeping again in no time.
“Is that normal?” Yahaba asks, a little certain. “Waking up and going back to sleep?”
“Well, it’s not like you’re going to wake up and be perfectly fine,” Kyoutani says, moving around back to the couch and sitting down. Yahaba joins him a second later. “The drug needs to work its way out of her system, that’s all.”
“Oh,” Yahaba says, nodding. “Oh. Right. I have lunch for you. If you want it, I mean.” Kyoutani nods, and Yahaba pulls over his bag to grab the extra bento he had packed for him.
He eats like he’s been stranded on a deserted island for three days, but given the circumstances, Yahaba doesn’t judge him. The hospital probably doesn’t give that much food out to people other than their patients anyway, and Kyoutani stealing from the mouth of Umeko just sounds like something he would detest. Kyoutani hands back the bento with a small, “thanks,” and Yahaba doesn’t tell him about the grain of rice that found its way to his cheek.
Kyoutani slouches into his seat on the couch, looking like he could fall asleep but his eyes are trained on Umeko. Yahaba figures that this isn’t the first time he’s been in this position, like a guard dog, and he kind of wants to tell him to calm down. But, instead, Yahaba slouches next to him and looks up at the ceiling.
No, he doesn’t care that their shoulders are touching and no one is moving. And no, he does not know that their hands are right next to each other and he certainly doesn’t want to reach out and hold his ha-
Nope. No, he doesn’t want any of that.
“So,” Yahaba says lightly, trying to distract himself from each and every thought that’s running through his brain at that exact moment. “There’s a mandatory practice after school tomorrow.” He side-eyes Kyoutani to find him already looking at him with an enigmatic expression. He shouldn’t be able to, but he knows what exactly that means. “We can arrange for someone else to sit with-”
“It’s fine,” Kyoutani grunts, crossing his arms over his chest stubbornly. “I’ll figure something out,” he says, a bit quieter this time.
“Okay…” Yahaba replies. He wishes it wouldn’t be like this, falling in and out of silence every couple minutes. He wishes he could be better. He wishes that he knew how to cheer Kyoutani up, or get his mind off things, or get him to smile. He wishes that he could do something more for him-
And he stops himself right there, because the stupid part of his brain interprets more as something he really shouldn’t be thinking about when it came to a teammate. And anyways, it wasn’t like that, so there wasn’t a-
“Why’re you doing this?” Kyoutani asks, breaking the silence as he sits up to rest his elbows on his thighs. Yahaba blinks, and tears his eyes away from the ceiling to squint at Kyoutani instead. He sits up straight, and is opening his mouth to say something when he beats him to the punch. “I mean, you know why I’m ditching, and you can’t stop me, so…”
“I want to help,” Yahaba says easily.
“But why?” Kyoutani stresses, turning to look at him. He looks… skeptical. “You hated me before all of this so-”
“I didn’t hate you,” Yahaba says immediately, turning towards him impulsively. “I don’t hate you, it’s just…” He struggles with words, sorting through and thinking of how to finish his sentence under Kyoutani’s gaze. “I don’t like seeing you like this,” he says gently, and he sees Kyoutani blink in confusion. “A mess, I mean. You’re a mess, and I hate that.”
“So you’re making me less of a mess,” Kyoutani says, raising his eyebrows.
“No. Yes! Wait, no…” Yahaba says pitifully, before he smacks a hand to his forehead.
“It’s a simple question,” Kyoutani says, sounding confused and amused at how he’s acting.
“Well, why are you letting me do this?” Yahaba snaps, giving him a glare as he puts his hand back down.
“Because Umeko likes you, I’m tired, and having you here makes it a little less lonely,” Kyoutani answers immediately, and Yahaba thinks he’s had a lot of time to think about this. “See? Simple.”
“I guess it’s because… I hate how it… how you…” Yahaba tries to explain, tries to deny, tries to come up with something that isn’t a lie but that’s not technically the truth either. Because the truth is something he can’t say, can’t even confirm in his own mind, because it’s not like that, he’s not like that- Yahaba groans. “I hate how you put yourself on the backburner like this. I hate how you think you can take this on by yourself. I hate that this is the first time that I’ve actually seen you be nice to anything-”
He doesn’t realize that his eyes are scrunched closed until he opens them. But the moment the does, the breath is knocked out of him, because Kyoutani is in his face, looking at him with those wide, determined gold eyes. And he wants to move, want to jump back and yell at him for scaring him, but he can’t, he can’t do anything but try to breathe-
“Are you saying that you actually-?”
“Nii-chan?” The both of them jerk, moving away from each other as quick as possible. Kyoutani gets to his feet and is at Umeko’s bedside in an instant. “Wass goin’ on?” she slurs, rubbing at her eyes as she tries her hardest to prop herself up on her elbows. Kyoutani helps her sit up and shoves a pillow behind her back for support.
“Nothing, really,” he says. “Yahaba’s here to see you again.”
“Call’m by his firs’ name,” Umeko says before she breaks out into a yawn. “Hi, Yahaba-kun,” she says afterwards, a sleepy smile on her face, and Yahaba can’t help but to smile and wave back.
“Hi Umeko-chan. Feeling better?” Yahaba asks, getting up from the couch and standing on the other side of her bed.
“Mmph,” she lets out, crossing her arms over her chest and twitching her nose. The tubes still in her nostrils shift, and she twitches a little more. “They hurt,” she mutters, almost like she doesn’t want to admit it.
“They’ll take them out if you’re breathing good enough,” Kyoutani says, tugging on her short braid before pressing the red button.
“Good! I don’t need these things! They feel weird!” she exclaims, throwing her hands up and letting them fall on her head.
“Calm down,” Yahaba eases, right when the door swings open.
“What happened? Is everything-?!” someone asks frantically, before he stands up a little straighter. The nurse blinks at the three of them, before smiling brightly. “Oh, Kyoutani-chan, you’re up!” he says, walking towards her. “How are you feeling?”
“I want them out!” she yells, a determined look on her face. The nurse flicks his eyes nervously to the two boys, before Umeko points at her nose with both hands. “They’re annoying! Out! Out! Out!”
“Umeko,” Kyoutani says between his teeth, not sounding as threatening as he would have if he was talking to literally anyone else.
“Well, we’ll have to check your oxygen to make sure, but if that goes well, I’m sure you can get them out,” the nurse said, flashing another smile as he fiddled around with something on a metal stand. “Excuse me, please,” he practically sings under his breath, and Yahaba scoots out of his way and… back next to Kyoutani.
Being close to him definitely isn’t awkward. Not at all.
“Here we are,” he murmurs, grabbing her hand and slipping something onto the tip of her finger. It looked like a very bulky and bizarre clothespin with a red light at the top. “And now, we wait,” he says with an air of finality.
It’s a long couple minutes, but an abnormal beep sounds afterwards, and the nurse unclips the thing from Umeko’s finger. He checks a machine on a little metal stand, and when he turns back around, he’s smiling.
“You’re good to get rid of those tubes, Kyoutani-chan,” he says, bustling towards her. “Ready?”
Umeko nods, and the guy reaches up to her nose, pinches the tubes in her nose, and slowly slides them out. There’s a bit of blood at the end of one of them, and Yahaba opens his mouth to say something, but Kyoutani grabs his wrist tightly and stops him from speaking out.
“There we are!” the nurse says brightly, and Umeko smiles.
“Yay! Yay! Yay!” she shouts, bouncing a little where she sits. “Look! Look, nii-chan! All better!”
“Almost,” Kyoutani says, but it comes out as a tiny bark of laughter, as he lets go of Yahaba.
“She might have a slight nosebleed after this, but other than that, she should be fine,” the nurses says, handing her a couple tissues before putting his hands on his hips proudly.
“When do you think she should be coming home?” Kyoutani asks, and the nurse huffs a little.
“Well, it would be good to keep her one more night for observation,” he says, and Kyoutani nods. “You must be hungry, right? I’ll bring something for you,” he says to Umeko before looking at Kyoutani and Yahaba.
“We’re good,” Kyoutani says, waving him off, and the nurse looks a little shocked before he smiles.
“Okay, well, I’ll be back later!”
After Umeko eats, she demands that Yahaba redoes her braid. So, he perches himself on the edge of her bed again and undoes her braid before running his fingers through it. Kyoutani’s sitting on the chair next to them, intently watching a cartoon that’s probably meant for toddlers. Yahaba keeps down a snort of laughter as he gathers her short hair and starts braiding it.
“Where did you learn that, anyways?” Kyoutani asks, and Yahaba’s met with a weird expression when he turns to look at him.
“My cousin taught me when I was little,” Yahaba says easily, weaving her hair into the same pattern it was in before. “I guess it kind of stuck.”
“Yahaba-kun should teach you how to braid, nii-chan!” Umeko says excitedly while turning to her brother. Yahaba almost losing her hair, but manages to finish it and tie it off with one of her hair ties.
“Maybe one day,” Yahaba chuckles, patting her head and slipping off the bed to sit on the couch.
Kyoutani finds a rare movie, something Disney with bright colors and happy music, and Umeko begs him to keep it there. She watches it eagerly while Kyoutani gives Yahaba a look of “well, what can you do?” Yahaba knew that there was nothing they could do; they had to sit here and listen to the upbeat music and characters because, well, it was Umeko and they were both pushovers.
Yahaba tries not to space out and start thinking of a million and one things about Kyoutani, like how close they were earlier, or the feeling of his hand on his wrist, or the way he smiled easily at Umeko or-
See? Totally fine.
Yahaba’s not wondering where the psych ward is. Nope. Because he doesn’t think he’s crazy to be thinking like this. Nope!
When the credits are rolling, Umeko yawns and smacks her lips loudly before looking over at the two of them.
“Yahaba-kun?” she asks, and when he look at her, she brightens. “Will you tell more of the story please?” she asks sweetly, and Yahaba knows he’s being manipulated. Umeko looks hopeful, pleading without words, and he has to cave in.
“Okay, okay, where did I leave off?” he asks, tucking his legs in on the couch and putting his hands on his knees.
“Uhm… they were fighting off evil aliens!” Umeko exclaims, giggling at herself, and Kyoutani snorts.
“They were stuck at the zoo,” he drawls, hanging his head back to look up at the ceiling before sitting up straight again.
“Oh, oh, oh! Right! Thank you nii-chan!” Umeko says, smiling so hard her cheeks make her eyes close.
And so, Yahaba tells about how Godzilla and Hello Kitty got stuck at the zoo. The both of them were very scared, but Hello Kitty decided that they should walk all night long and see all the pretty animals so they wouldn’t be too scared. So, they walked and they walked, until a security guard found them and helped them get back home.
“See? So even if you’re really scared, friends help you be a little less scared,” Yahaba says, smiling, “even if no one else thinks you should be friends.” Umeko coos, totally in awe, and Kyoutani rolls his eyes. “What?” Yahaba tests, raising his eyebrows at him. “Got a better story to tell?”
“No,” Kyoutani says, “but that the whole moral of the story is kind of stupid.”
“Nii-chan!” Umeko says, giving him a pout. “That’s a bad word! Take it back!”
“You know, I’m starting to think that you like Yahaba more than you like your own brother!” Kyoutani says, getting up from the chair and hugging her head.
“Well, someone’s livelier already,” someone chirps, and all three of them look up to see the male nurse standing in the doorway. Kyoutani slowly lets go of Umeko’s head, and takes a step back from the girl, almost like he’s expecting to be yelled at, but the nurse just smiles. “Anyways, just wanted to let you know visiting hours end soon, so…”
“Right,” Yahaba says with a sigh. “Thank you.” The nurse nods, before flashing another smile and leaving the room.
“That guy reminds me of Oikawa,” Kyoutani mutters, and Yahaba actually laughs.
“As long as you don’t go picking fights, Kentarou-kun, I think you’ll be fine,” he says, unable to talk it seriously as he’s gathering his things. It’s petty and stupid and the Kyoutani he knows (or at least who he thought he knew), and it’s funny as hell to hear that from his mouth now.
“I won’t fight him,” Kyoutani grunts, before kissing his sister’s head. “I’ll be back. I got to walk this idiot out.”
“I’m not an idiot!” Yahaba argues, and Umeko giggles.
“See you later, Yahaba-kun,” she says.
“See you later,” he replies, waving at her before he slings his bag over his shoulder and walks out, Kyoutani on his heels.
The walk is silent this time around, and Yahaba can feel the awkward wedge between them as if it was an actual wall. Yahaba hates it.
They get to the sidewalk before anything is said, and it’s only when Yahaba is hovering on the edge of leaving and Kyoutani is halfway turned to head back.
“I… appreciate it, I guess,” Kyoutani mutters so lowly that his words are almost drowned out by the sound of a car rushing past. “You, you know, staying with me and Umeko, I mean.”
“It’s nothing,” Yahaba says back, trying to brush it all off.
“It’s not nothing,” Kyoutani says, shooting him a look.
“But it’s definitely not something to be thanking me over,” Yahaba snaps back, before he realizes that… it doesn’t sound right. Snapping at Kyoutani doesn’t settle on his tongue the way it did before. It’s… confusing. “I’m just trying to be a good friend, so you have nothing to thank me for.” Kyoutani doesn’t look up, instead, he kicks at a stray piece of rubble on the pavement. Yahaba thinks he hears something that sounds like agreement and sighs. “Good night, Kyoutani-kun,” he says, making to leave-
When a hand darts out, closes around his wrist, and yanks. Hard. He almost reels back, but instead he turns, almost falling before something collides with his face. With eyes blown wide open and his heart stuttering in his chest, he realizes that Kyoutani is kissing him, holding him by his wrist… and letting him go as quick as he latched on, his whole face redder than anything he’s ever seen before.
He looks more shocked that Yahaba feels, which doesn’t make sense.
“I didn’t… shit, I mean, I didn’t mean to, uhm, you know, kiss you, like that,” Kyoutani rushes to say, tripping on his words and trying to distance himself as much as he can from Yahaba. “I just, it wasn’t, I don’t-”
Yahaba puts one hand on his shoulder, the other on the side of his face, and he leans in to kiss Kyoutani on the cheek.
“I don’t mind,” Yahaba says quietly before letting him go and giving him his space once more. “See you tomorrow?”
“Yeah… see you tomorrow…”
Yahaba has a hard time acting like everything is normal. He’s on his way to class the next morning, and his lips still tingle from the weight of Kyoutani’s kiss and his wrist burns with a phantom touch he knows shouldn’t be there. “It was an accident, why are you making such a big deal about this?” he thinks, trying, and failing, to convince himself that it never happened. Because all he can remember is Kyoutani stuttering that he didn’t mean to kiss him on the lips, not at all. And then he remembers that he actually kissed him on the cheek and… well, he can’t really say that wasn’t deliberate.
He tries not to think about it, because it makes his brain fuzzy and his stomach tie itself in knots and his heart try to fight its way out of his chest and he really doesn’t need to think about Kyoutani when there’s work to be done. But that doesn’t stop him from feeling like he’s about to throw up when he reaches Kyoutani’s classroom for lunch.
Except for the tiny detail that is that he isn’t there. Again.
Yahaba expects to be angry, but all he feels is fear when he backs out of the room. Being absent like this was never good, yesterday proved that and so much more, especially since Yahaba knew where he was disappearing to.
He tries to type out a message to Kyoutani that would make sense, or at least show that he wasn’t actually freaking out, about several times, but all of them were terrible. He never thought messaging someone was hard before now.
[you still coming to practice?]
“Wow. Nice going Shigeru,” he thinks sarcastically, rolling his eyes at himself. He should have thought of something better, and Kyoutani said he would figure it out but… Yahaba lets out a large sigh and hits the back of his head on the wall he’s leaning on.
He hates this. He shouldn’t have to ask himself what to say to him, he shouldn’t have to be awkward after… last night. Yahaba runs a hand through his hair, tugging on it until it hurts, because what kind of an idiot gets awkward when the person they like kisses them? Okay, yes, awkward, but not like this! They can’t afford not to get along, for the team and now for Umeko. And now it’s all fucked up and-
He wonders when he actually accepted the fact that he liked Kyoutani when his phone vibrates in his palm.
[yeah ill b there srry im not @ skool]
[is everything okay at least?]
[yeah its fine]
[okay see you later then]
Okay, so maybe he didn’t manage to fuck that up. They had a conversation. A normal one. Everything was fine. Good. Okay. Yahaba totally was not coming down from a mini heart attack. This is fine.
In the end, he eats lunch outside with Watari and the group of friends the other boy just kind of attracts. He leans heavily on his shoulder as he eats, and before they leave, Watari pats his head and gives him a serious look.
“I’m here when you want to talk, alright?”
It feels like it’s been forever since he’s actually went to the clubroom after school. But when he gets there, there’s still no Kyoutani, but Oikawa warmly welcomes him back like he’s a war hero.
It’s weird, walking into the gym after what feels like an eternity. He goes to his usual spot and starts stretching. Everyone’s doing the same thing, but Yahaba’s eyes dart around the gym, hoping that he missed Kyoutani filing in like the rest of them. He bits the inside of his cheek and reminds himself to stay calm. He kicks one leg out, while tucking his other foot’s heel as far as he can on the inside of his thigh before stretching to his toes.
That’s when something heavy jumps onto his back, and he careens forward, his forehead almost touching his kneecap. Yahaba makes a sound that probably doesn’t sound very human-like and struggles to get whatever the heck it was off of-
“Yahaba-kun! Yahaba-kun! Hi!!” a familiar voice squeaks into his ear, the voice saturated with nothing but pure happiness. Yahaba sits up and turns his head, only to see none other than Umeko standing behind him, her arms around his neck loosely and the biggest smile he’s ever seen on her face. Her hair’s back in pigtails, and there’s a pink backpack on her shoulders. Her pink outfit with a very green ferocious Godzilla on the front of her shirt looks a million times better than a hospital gown ever would.
“Umeko-chan!” he replies, turning around the rest of the way to hug her properly, which is kind of weird since he was still sitting down. “What are you-?” he starts to ask excitedly, before he looks and sees Kyoutani near the entrance to the gym.
He’s in his team jacket, his practice clothes peeking out slightly under it. He looks tired, like he pulled an all-nighter and was surprisingly still standing. But he’s smiling dopily at both Yahaba and Umeko, so he thinks it’s okay. (No, it’s not okay, Yahaba swears he’s following them home and letting Kyoutani sleep for about three years after practice.)
“We went home suuuuper early in the morning!” Umeko says, taking a step away from him and crossing her arms over her chest like she’s just announced she fought a legendary beast and won. “And nii-chan said he had to go to practice so I came along too!”
“Ah… Yahaba? Who’s this?” Iwaizumi asks, and Yahaba didn’t even notice when the rest of the team stood up. Yahaba gets to his feet as Kyoutani stands next to his sister. He nudges one of her pigtails with his elbow, and she looks up at him.
“Hey, introduce yourself,” he says gently, and Yahaba can hear about three different gasps of shock at the tone of Kyoutani’s voice. Umeko doesn’t care about that, because she sets her fists on her hips, squares her shoulders, and points a thumb to her chest as she looks up at the rest of the team courageously.
“Hi! I’m Kyoutani Umeko, and I like Hello Kitty and Godzilla!” she practically shouts, beaming widely as if she’s not talking to high schoolers who are about twice her size. Yahaba makes the mistake of looking up at Kyoutani, and he sees a rare expression of pride and happiness on his face. Yahaba does his best to hold in a snort of laughter at that.
“I… I think you broke Iwa-chan…” Oikawa says, shaking at the ace’s shoulder and waving a hand in front of his face. Iwaizumi looks like he’s bursting with excitement, his lips pursed, but there might as well be stars in his eyes.
Yahaba makes the mistake of looking at Kyoutani again, and the two of them share wide smiles.
In short, Umeko becomes an honorary member of the team, not a lot of practicing gets done, and Yahaba actually does get to walk Umeko and Kyoutani home.
(He does not sneak in a small, awkward kiss on his cheek before he leaves, and Umeko does not pretend to throw up.)