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Kyoutani returns on a mild autumn afternoon, without any fanfare.

Yahaba is the first to notice. Or, technically, his dragon is. Hide, who is lying on the paved path and letting Yahaba wash his wings with a damp cloth, lifts his head towards the sky suddenly, his long neck craning like he's trying to see something. His tail twitches with interest, and Yahaba follows his gaze upwards, shielding his eyes against the sunlight.

There's a silhouette in the sky, of a rider on dragonback. Yahaba's eyes narrow. It's a shape that he would recognise anywhere.

"Up, boy," Yahaba says, still looking up at the sky.

Hide is already getting to his feet. He still has his harness on, and he lowers himself so that Yahaba can take hold of it and climb on. Yahaba barely has time to pull his aviator goggles down over his eyes before Hide launches himself into the air, leathery wings snapping as he climbs further into the sky. He trills in greeting to the other dragon, the sound carrying across the air.

There's a return trill and Yahaba hums to himself in thought. Takuma's voice has grown deeper in the time that he and Kyoutani have been away. A year ago, he was still a young dragon, only just old enough to learn how to fly in formation. Then, Kyoutani left and took his dragon with him. Yahaba still hasn't forgiven him for it, and doesn't think he'll ever forgive the effect it must have had on Takuma's development.

Takuma chirrups next, and it's a sound that Yahaba has rarely heard the Aoba Jousai dragons make. He follows it up with a clicking sound, and Yahaba might not understand it, but Hide clearly does. He slows his approach, wings fanning out to let him hover in place.

"Easy," Yahaba murmurs, stroking Hide's neck. He eyes Kyoutani and Takuma warily. He doesn't know what a year away from the dragon pack has done to Takuma. For all he knows, the dragon could have gone feral by now. The fact that he still accepts Kyoutani as a rider means nothing, when Kyoutani is so wild himself.

Takuma slows as well, meeting Hide mid-air. If anything, the chirping sounds that Hide is making sound excited rather than scared, and Yahaba chooses to take that as a good sign. Then, when the dragons are finally close enough, he turns his gaze to Takuma's rider, narrowing his eyes.

"Where the fuck have you been?"

Kyoutani doesn't answer, and that only makes Yahaba angrier.

"You think you can just come back here, after just disappearing the way you did, and expect things to be normal? What makes you think that you'd even be welcome in these parts any more?"

Kyoutani just looks at him, eyebrows drawn together, as if Yahaba nothing more than an annoyance. There have been countless times in the past that Yahaba has very badly wanted to punch Kyoutani, but this is definitely somewhere closer to the top of the list.

He knows better than to pick a fight on dragonback, though, so he just manoeuvres Hide to fly around, so that he and Takuma are side to side. "Come on. I'm taking you to Oikawa-san."

Looking unimpressed, Kyoutani shrugs. "Was headed there anyway."

The rest of the flight to base is silent, save for Hide and Takuma chirping at each other. Yahaba doesn't even glance in Kyoutani's direction, no matter how curious he is about how much must have changed in the past year. He grits his teeth and holds onto his harness, and despite how hard he's trying not to look, he can't help but notice the way that Kyoutani doesn't even touch his harness at all.

Sighing to himself, Yahaba strokes his hand along the smooth scales of Hide's neck. There are several reasons that he's never been able to like Kyoutani, and one of them is the ease with which he's always been able to interact with dragons. The jealousy sits heavily in Yahaba's chest, eating away at him whenever he thinks about it for too long.

"Down," he instructs Hide, touching his neck when the building that serves as their base comes into view.

Takuma is already in his descent, without Kyoutani needing to say a word. Yahaba ignores that, wondering what kind of reception Kyoutani will get from Oikawa. Someone who works themselves as hard as their captain does would not be likely to let Kyoutani's actions slide. If Yahaba is lucky, he'll get the satisfaction of watching Kyoutani get a lecture for abandoning the Aoba Jousai dragon squadron.

He isn't even surprised to find that Oikawa is already standing at the side of the building, waiting for them to land. He has Iwaizumi, Hanamaki and Matsukawa with him, and Yahaba salutes upon dismounting.

Kyoutani, for his part, looks entirely unbothered by the situation. He looks between the four of them, a hand still resting on Takuma's side. "I heard you made a bid for some of Shiratorizawa's airspace and ended up losing some of your own. I'm surprised they still let you remain captain, after that."

Hanamaki and Matsukawa turn to each other, cracking their knuckles. Iwaizumi looks like he's ready to step forward and give Kyoutani a piece of his mind, but Oikawa just laughs loudly, resting his hands on his hips.

"That might not have happened if we didn't have a hole in our formation, Kyouken-chan. We missed you terribly."

Kyoutani tenses up when Oikawa smiles at him, all teeth, with more amusement than warmth. He instinctively takes a step away from Oikawa, closer to Takuma, who looks equally uneasy. Yahaba barely holds in his sigh. Dragons choose their riders just as much as the rider chooses their dragon. Their relationships are mutual; they understand each other, they trust each other, and most of the time, they tend to develop similar behaviours. In Kyoutani and Takuma's case, they're far too similar. Takuma is good at picking up on Kyoutani's uneasiness and his dislike for working with others, and taking these feelings on himself.

"If you're returning to us, I hope you aren't preparing to turn tail and run as soon as things get too difficult for you again."

"That's not why I left," Kyoutani mutters, and Yahaba is incredibly tempted to ask what the actual reason is, but he knows that Kyoutani won't answer. Besides, he doesn't want to look as though he actually cares.

"Regardless," Oikawa smiles, "You're welcome to join us again, if that's what you're here for. Just remember that when you leave a dragon squadron, your decision doesn't only affect the other riders you fly in formation with. It affects your dragon, and the entire dragon pack. If you leave again, it will be worse. I can welcome you back as many times as I feel like, but that isn't going to change the minds of our dragons, if they don't want to welcome Takuma back. If they make that decision, our hands are tied."

Kyoutani snorts quietly, patting his dragon on the neck again. "Sure."

"Makki, Iwa-chan," Oikawa says, turning the two in question. "Show Kyouken-chan where our dragons live. Just in case he's forgotten in his time away."

They both nod, walking down the path to the dragon cave, and Kyoutani follows. Yahaba watches as Takuma follows behind Kyoutani without needing to be told, or guided.

"You aren't happy with my decision," Oikawa murmurs, placing his hand on Yahaba's shoulder.

"I don't understand," Yahaba tells him. "I don't understand him at all. I don't understand why you would welcome him back so readily. After what he did, breaking formation like that… the effect it must have had on his dragon…"

With a sigh, Oikawa tightens his grip on Yahaba's shoulder a little, pulling him closer. "You know, one of the things about having these two-way relationships with our dragons is that we can't make them do anything that they don't want to. If Takuma left with Kyouken-chan, that can only mean one thing."

"…Takuma wanted to leave," Yahaba finishes. "They both did."

"Exactly." Oikawa hums. "I don't think it's very common for a dragon to turn its back on a pack like that, and I don't know why they returned, either. That's why I sent Makki and Iwa-chan to observe how the pack reacts to Takuma's return. The dragons will be better at gauging Takuma than we are, and I doubt we'll have very much luck with understanding Kyouken-chan either."

Yahaba frowns a little. "So you're letting him return to the squadron to keep an eye on him?"

"Not just that. He's talented, isn't he? His understanding of dragons is unlike anything I've ever seen. He just seems to get them, and it's not just his dragon, it's any dragon he comes across. They understand him just as well, too."

"That's true." Yahaba probably doesn't keep the resentment out of his voice the way he means to, but Oikawa just laughs, letting go of his shoulder.

"Well, I suppose that we'll have to rearrange our training drills to make space for Kyouken-chan again. Why don't I leave you with Mattsun, so you can figure those out together? I'm curious to hear what Makki and Iwa-chan think about Takuma and the rest of the dragon pack. You might want to take Hide to the dragon cave too, I'm sure the entire pack will need to resettle."

"I'll walk you," Matsukawa speaks up, as Oikawa walks back into the building.

"Come on, let's take you back home," Yahaba says to Hide, undoing part of the harness looped around his neck to use as a leash to guide him. "This way, Hide."

"So," Matsukawa says, falling into step with them. "Kyoutani."

Yahaba sighs quietly. He doesn't want to have this conversation, but at least he's not having it with Oikawa. Knowing him, however, he's probably wordlessly assigned Matsukawa to do this, just as he assigned Hanamaki and Iwaizumi to observe the dragon pack's reactions to Takuma. It's not just that Oikawa is a good captain, but all four of the senior riders are good friends and understand each other incredibly well. It's almost impossible to get anything past them without someone picking up on it.

"I just want to know if there's going to be a problem with having you both flying together," Matsukawa tells him, hands in his pockets, looking deceptively relaxed. "There's no rule saying that you have to like everyone that you fly with, but at least if we know, then we can make sure that you're on the opposite end of the formation to him, so you stay out of each other's way. The last thing we want is for a fight to break out mid-air, in our own formation."

Yahaba shakes his head. "It's fine. I can work with him."

"Even if he says or does something to set you off while we're in the middle of a mission?" Matsukawa asks. "You're a calm guy most of the time, Yahaba, but when you're angry…"

"I don't know what you're talking about, Matsukawa-senpai," Yahaba says politely.

Laughing softly, Matsukawa reaches out to ruffle his hair. "You can be a little shit sometimes, you know that? Because I definitely do. I remember the young, cranky trainee who yelled more than anyone else."

"That was years ago," Yahaba protests, ducking out of Matsukawa's reach. "I've grown since then, you know. It's not going to be a problem, okay? I know that Kyoutani is a talented dragon rider. If he's valuable to the formation, then that's the end of the story. Simple as that."

"In theory, I guess," Matsukawa allows. "It's just that things don't always work out that easily, do they? Besides, we don't even know what the dragons will be like when they see Takuma again."

"They'll welcome him back," Yahaba says softly, thinking back to how happy Hide was to see Takuma again. "I can't tell you why, but they will. Hide didn't even want to wait for Takuma to land. We met them in the sky."

Matsukawa hums thoughtfully, in a way that makes Yahaba feel like he's being analysed too closely for comfort. "Interesting."

Clearing his throat, Yahaba shakes his head. "Anyway. As Oikawa-san said, we need to work Kyoutani and Takuma into our training drills. Let's talk about that."

 

 


 

 

Early morning practice is never particularly fun for Yahaba, because it's always a struggle to get out of bed when the sun has barely even risen. This morning, it's even worse than usual because it takes him until he's putting his dragon rider gear on before he remembers that Kyoutani is back.

He bites angrily into the single piece of toast that he's allowed to eat before flying, wondering why Kyoutani's decided to come back at all. He wonders what Kyoutani has been doing for the past year, and he hates that he's so curious, and the fact that he's unlikely to get any answers only makes things even worse.

The dragons of the formation all live together in a cave just near base, in the foothills of a mountain. Yahaba, like most of the other riders, lives in his own apartment a short distance from base. It's close enough to walk, and he usually meets up with Watari on his way to morning practice, while the sun is still rising.

Watari greets him that morning with a very careful smile and, "I hear Kyoutani's back."

"He is," Yahaba replies, doing his very best to keep his tone and his expression neutral. "He'll be practicing with us this morning, if he deigns to show up."

"You're still mad at him for leaving," Watari hums.

"Aren't you?" Yahaba returns. "The fact that he added so much strength to our formation that we could feel it when he left. Maybe, if he was with us when we went up against Shiratorizawa—"

"Do you think that him being there would have led to us winning that dispute?" Watari asks. "Is that really why you're angry at him?"

Yahaba sighs loudly. "Shut up, Watari."

"Hey, I'm just saying."

"And I'm telling you not to say anything," Yahaba mutters. "It's fine. He just gets under my skin. I'll ignore it until it goes away."

"Well, that sounds convincing."

"Shut up."

They walk straight to the dragon cave, to meet their dragons. Sayuri is the smallest dragon of the entire pack, just as Watari is the smallest rider in the squadron. She's barely even the size of a full-grown horse, but she's quick and she's incredibly good at defensive manoeuvres that not only protect her, but the dragons around her. It's easy to underestimate her because of her size, but Yahaba knows that this is the whole point. Oikawa has spent the time and effort with Watari and Sayuri to make sure that they both learn to use this to their full advantage. Oikawa is good at picking out everyone's strengths like that, and patient enough to work with them to bring out their full potential.

Shinobu and Keiko, Oikawa and Iwaizumi's dragons, have already left their roosts. Yahaba isn't surprised by that at all, and he isn't surprised to find that Takuma, whose roost has been set up beside Hide's, is also gone.

Hide is pleased to see Yahaba as always, nuzzling against him affectionately. He leads the way out of the cave in his enthusiasm, tail flicking back and forth as he waits for Yahaba to put the harness on. He's one of the average-sized dragons in the pack, not as big and commanding as Shinobu, but not as small as Sayuri. He flies at a decent enough pace, and his offensive and defensive manoeuvres aren't particularly special, but he does well enough to keep up with the rest of the pack.

Yahaba wonders if a better rider would be able to do better with Hide, if someone like Oikawa—or even Kyoutani—would be able to understand him well enough to let him be his very best. He does his best to dispel the thought, because he knows that he and Hide wouldn't have chosen each other if they weren't the best suited to one another, but sometimes, it feels far too easy to compare himself to the riders he feels are better than him, and he can't help but feel jealous about it.

"Wow," Watari breathes, looking up at the sky, where Kyoutani and Takuma are wheeling through the air. "Is it just me, or have they gotten even better at flying?"

Yahaba can see it too; Takuma flies so freely, it's as if Kyoutani isn't even on his back at all. He tilts into his turns more than other dragons would, because they'd be too worried about dropping their riders, but from this distance, Yahaba doesn't see even a hint of hesitation, and he doubts that he would from up close, either.

"Whatever they've been doing on their own for the past year," Matsukawa says, as he walks up behind them, also looking up at the sky, "they definitely haven't been wasting any of their time."

Yahaba turns away, all too aware of the way Matsukawa glances at him. "Anyway, we should get our dragons warmed up too."

Hide is eager to fly and as soon as he's in the air, he sings out to Takuma, a loud, clear call that has Takuma turning immediately, the frills on the sides of his neck fanning out for a moment before they pin back.

Takuma dives through the air, directly at Hide, and Yahaba cries out in alarm, bracing himself for a collision that never comes. Takuma spins out of his approach, slowing down in time to fly circles around Hide instead, snapping at him playfully before flying off. Hide lets out a low chirp, watching Takuma go, and Yahaba strokes his scales.

"If we're going to chase them, then we'd better catch them, huh?"

Hide chirps again, louder and happier this time. He flaps his wings hard and Yahaba holds onto the harness a little tighter as they race through the air. Kyoutani's looking back at them, and Yahaba urges Hide onwards.

"Don't worry about me, just fly," he murmurs. "I trust you, okay?"

Hide beats is wings harder, chasing Takuma, flying faster than he ever has before. The two of them weave through the air, singing at each other, lunging at each other playfully, and Hide might not actually catch Takuma, but Yahaba doesn't really mind when this is the most fun they've ever had flying.

Oikawa calls them back to the ground with a loud whistle, waiting there with everyone else. Hide is panting softly from the exertion when they land, even though Takuma sits still, looking perfectly at ease.

"Seems to me that Hide missed Takuma terribly," Oikawa comments, raising an eyebrow at Kyoutani, who looks away. "Yahaba, I don't think I've seen Hide play like that for quite a while."

"You're right," Yahaba replies quietly, lowering his gaze so that he doesn't have to meet his captain's eyes. He knows that Hide and Takuma have always gotten along well, despite the fact that he and Kyoutani don't. For the most part, he's ignored it, letting the dragons do as they please when they're out of their harnesses, and it's been even easier to push it out of his mind for the past year. Now, he doesn't quite remember how to avoid the topic entirely, the way he wishes he could.

"Anyway," Iwaizumi speaks up, "our drills this morning are mainly about getting used to flying in formation with Kyoutani and Takuma again. Kyoutani, you'll be bringing up the rear on our first lap around the area. Then I want you switching with Kunimi."

"Got it."

"Match your pace to the rest of the pack," Iwaizumi tells him. "You have to get used to flying with us just as much as we need to get used to flying with you."

Kyoutani nods, and the entire pack takes off one at a time, falling into formation.

There's something incredibly comforting to Yahaba about flying in formation, accompanied by the rest of the squadron. He likes listening to the steady beat of the dragons' wings as they match each other's pace; something learned from experience, after flying together for so long. Oikawa leads the pack with Shinobu, just for the first lap, to put the dragons at ease and to set their rhythm. She sings as she flies, the breathtakingly beautiful notes of dragonsong hanging in the air. She's a good alpha female; the kind that inspires the others to follow her, much like her rider. Yahaba can feel the way Hide relaxes as he flies, his breathing evening out once again.

He glances over his shoulder, curious to see how Kyoutani and Takuma are faring, just in time to see the way they nearly collide with Kindaichi and his dragon, Aya.

"Whoa!" Kindaichi cries out in alarm, breaking formation for a moment to let Aya calm down, before moving back into position.

"You're in my way," Kyoutani growls out. "Move."

"Kindaichi is exactly where he should be," Yahaba speaks up. "Fall back and give him space."

Kyoutani snarls at Yahaba. "You're flying too slowly. All of you."

"Maintain your pace," Hanamaki calls out to the rest of them. "Nice and easy. We're not in a rush to get anywhere. This is just a drill."

"This is stupid," Kyoutani mutters. He breaks away from the rest of the pack, making to fly ahead of them.

Yahaba growls under his breath, about to urge Hide to chase after them, but Iwaizumi beats him to it.

Keiko isn't as big of a dragon as Shinobu is, but she's imposing in her own way. She's spinier, giving her an imposing figure. Takuma is roughly the same size as Hide; Keiko is at least one and a half times bigger. Takuma quails and stops immediately, hovering in the air. From this distance, Yahaba can see the way Takuma's frills lay flat against his neck in a sign of submission.

"You're putting others in danger with the way you're flying!" Iwaizumi shouts, scowling at Kyoutani. "If you can't fly without respecting the other dragons, you're not the rider I thought you were. No one's going to want to fly with someone they can't trust around their dragons."

Kyoutani lowers his head, and Takuma does the same. "Right."

Instead of the satisfaction that Yahaba was expecting at seeing Kyoutani getting reprimanded, it just leaves him feeling cold and uncomfortable. Yahaba might not get along with Kyoutani, and might not know him particularly well, but he's confident enough in his assessment that Kyoutani would never willingly cause harm to a dragon. He knows that Kyoutani is a good dragon rider; seeing that go to waste just because he's not good at getting along with others is incredibly dissatisfying, and he can't even imagine what it must feel like.

Yahaba has constantly found himself wishing that he could understand Kyoutani, and the thought is usually born out of frustration, but he's never wished it more than now. He wants to pick Kyoutani apart, to work out every single motivation behind his behaviour, and Yahaba only realises too late that Oikawa is looking in his direction. Oikawa, who can tell exactly what any member of his squadron is thinking at a glance.

"Change of plans," Oikawa announces, clapping his hands together. "Maybe throwing Kyouken-chan into a big group at first isn't the best way to approach this whole thing."

"Please, no," Yahaba mutters under his breath, and there's no way that Oikawa would be able to hear it, but he still looks over with a wide grin. "Don't do this. Please."

"I think I'll pair you with Yahaba first instead, so you can take a few assignments together. You can learn to work with one dragon rider before working with whole bunch of us."

"Yahaba?" Kyoutani grunts, raising an eyebrow at him. "Why?"

"Of course, if you don't think you can do that…" Oikawa begins.

"Didn't say that, did I?" Kyoutani frowns. "Fine. Whatever."

"There," Oikawa says, with a satisfied smile. "That wasn't so difficult, was it? It'll be worth it, believe me."

"I really don't," Kyoutani replies immediately, and Yahaba has never agreed with him more.

 

 


 

 

"Do you hate me? Have I done something to piss you off recently?" Yahaba paces Oikawa's office, tugging at his hair in distress. "I'm a good person. I do what I'm told. I work hard. I make sure everyone's kept busy when you want to lock yourself in your office and make out with Iwaizumi. I don't deserve this."

"Oh, Yahaba," Oikawa says cheerily, sitting at his desk, resting his chin in his hand. "I'm not doing this to punish you."

"I can't see why else you would," Yahaba mutters.

"You were there yesterday when we were talking about how we wouldn't be able to do anything if the other dragons in the pack didn't want to accept Takuma back among them," Oikawa tells him, "but it seems to be the opposite way around. The dragons love Takuma, but Kyouken-chan leaves a bit to be desired, doesn't he?"

"I don't see how pairing him with me is going to help," Yahaba replies. "I'm pretty sure I'm the most likely person to punch him in the face. Are you sure I haven't done something wrong?"

"I've been thinking about this since yesterday," Oikawa says. "So you can stop assuming that I thought this up as some strange and cruel punishment, as amusing as it is to watch you act as if your life is over, just because I'm making you fly next to Kyouken-chan for a few days."

"A few days," Yahaba repeats despairingly.

"For starters, there's the fact that your dragons get along incredibly well," Oikawa continues, like Yahaba hasn't interrupted him. "If his dragon cooperates with yours, perhaps he'll be more likely to start cooperating with you."

"I won't be holding my breath."

"Then there's also the fact that I think your approach to dragons and to flying complement each other well."

Yahaba frowns, pausing in his pacing. "What do you mean by that?"

"Kyouken-chan has a very unique approach to dragons, doesn't he? It's almost as if he has an instinctive understanding of them. He doesn't really need to think about what he does when he's flying, because it just comes naturally to him. You, as a contrast…"

"…Don't have the talent that Kyoutani does?" Yahaba finishes, feeling the sting of knowing that Oikawa sees it too.

"…You need more confidence in your own skills," Oikawa corrects with a sigh. "That's another reason I'm pairing him with you. It's not just for him to learn to work with someone else. I'm hoping that it helps you grow into the dragon rider that I know you can be. Except, I also know that it's not going to happen unless you can see it too, and right now you're too busy comparing yourself to people who are completely different to the kind of dragon rider you are. You can't see anything beyond that, because you're not even looking."

Yahaba runs a hand through his hair. "What do you want me to do?"

"I want you to figure out what you're good at," Oikawa tells him. "There's a reason you're in this squadron and I know that. I want you to figure out what that reason is, and I want you to build on it."

"Well, that's nice and vague."

"I'm not just going to give you the answer myself," Oikawa says, shooing Yahaba out of his office. "It's not even the kind of answer where I can do that, you know. Anyway, off you go. Iwa-chan should be ready with your first assignment briefing. Make me proud. Keep in mind that punching Kyouken-chan isn't going to end well for anyone."

"I'll try," Yahaba says dryly, bowing before he leaves.

He finds Iwaizumi outside, talking to Kyoutani. Yahaba can't hear their conversation, but they stop when they hear him approaching. Iwaizumi straightens up a little, squaring his shoulders the way he does when he's assuming his position of authority.

"Alright, we're going to start you off with a simple assignment. This is just about giving you both the time to work together, okay?" Iwaizumi folds his arms across his chest. "There's no need to make this complicated, at all. It's just a matter of transporting some cargo across the city. We'll need to carry it between both your dragons so you're going to have to agree on a steady pace."

"Really?" Kyoutani asks, looking entirely unimpressed.

"It'll be easier with just one other dragon," Iwaizumi tells him. "That said, it's going to rely on you actually coming to an agreement on how fast you want to go. The more you argue, the more time it's going to take. Oikawa's put a few different assignments aside for you guys. If you want to get through all of them, I don't think you'll be wanting to waste your time arguing with each other."

"Of course," Yahaba nods. "We'll be efficient."

Kyoutani snorts quietly, but doesn't say anything. He doesn't need to, for Yahaba to pick up on just how pessimistic he is about this whole thing working. Determined not to let it affect his own mood, Yahaba opts to ignore it. For now.

"We'd better get the dragons ready, then," Yahaba says, already walking towards the dragon cave. "Iwaizumi-san, are you going to help us rig the dragons up with the cargo?"

The cargo that they need to carry is the usual delivery of groceries from one side of the city to the other. It's a job is picked up by the dragon squadron as often as possible, because it's quicker and easier for them to fly straight across the city than it is for delivery trucks to wind through the streets. Oikawa is always happy to take these kinds of assignments, citing the importance of having their dragons as integrated into the local community as possible.

At some point in time, perhaps centuries ago, dragon squadrons were mainly assembled in order to protect borders and ward off intruders, but most districts are fairly settled now. Even though they still run patrols, it's more about making sure that everything in the area is going well, and to help if needed.

Yahaba tries not to dwell on the long history of conflict between Aoba Jousai and Shiratorizawa, and he knows better than to bring it up to anyone. Shiratorizawa is the most powerful dragon squadron around, and Oikawa likes to be the best at whatever he sets his mind to; he doesn't deal well with second place. Yahaba can relate to that, on some level, but he knows better than to pick fights with people much better than him. Oikawa must have learned that too, from their last run-in, but that's a topic that nobody dares to talk about. At the very least, Aoba Jousai has fairly amicable relationships with other squadrons nearby, and Oikawa has been focusing on maintaining those for now.

Unless it involves crossing the borders of their territory, most of the work that their squadron gets is fairly mundane, but Yahaba is more than happy to do it if it means that he can fly. Having to fly with Kyoutani, however, dampens his enjoyment somewhat. They don't speak as they set up the rigging between their dragons, even though Hide and Takuma are happily chirping at each other. Yahaba has done deliveries like this with others before; usually with Kindaichi, Matsukawa or Hanamaki, because their dragons are fairly similar in size. Iwaizumi is right, this really shouldn't be a complicated assignment at all.

"Report back to Oikawa when you're done," Iwaizumi tells them, then sighs quietly, directing his next words mostly at Kyoutani. "I know you can do this. It's only going to be as difficult as you make it for yourselves."

Yahaba turns to Kyoutani once they're both on dragonback. "On three?"

Kyoutani nods, letting Yahaba count for them. They manage that much without any difficulty, which Yahaba is glad for.

"We can leave this to the dragons," Kyoutani says, as they fly beside each other. "Takuma likes Hide. They can sort it out."

"Without our input?" Yahaba asks, tilting his head to the side.

"Dragons are intelligent, okay?" Kyoutani sighs loudly. "Just because you can't understand them."

Yahaba raises a hand defensively. "I never said they weren't."

"They know where to go," Kyoutani says. "Hide's done this trip heaps of times already. Takuma will follow his lead."

"Your dragon's going to listen to my dragon," Yahaba says doubtfully. "Is that a guess, or—"

"It's what they're doing right now," Kyoutani interrupts, nodding towards where they dragons have their heads turned to each other, communicating in soft chirps.

"You understand what they're saying," Yahaba realises, with a fresh wave of jealousy and inferiority. "What the fuck—can you speak to them as well? Can you speak dragon?"

Kyoutani snorts quietly, but Yahaba sees the way the back of his neck flushes red, above the collar of his aviator jacket. "Well, I can't make those chirping noises."

"But I bet you've tried." Yahaba wishes he wasn't so charmed by that thought. "Is that what you've been doing this past year while you've been away?" Trying to learn how to chirp at dragons?"

"I've been doing a lot of things," Kyoutani replies vaguely, and Yahaba knows that he won't get anymore detail than that.

They fly in silence for the rest of the trip, their dragons taking care to match each other's pace without any need for direction. They reach the other side of the city in no time at all, and Yahaba counts them down for their descent, thrilled by the way both dragons take extra care that the cargo touches down undamaged.

The second part of their job requires them to actually make deliveries, speaking to the people that the groceries are for. Kyoutani is more than happy to leave that to Yahaba, making sure the dragons have a quiet place to wait, and helping to lift the heavier items if needed.

"We should let the dragons rest for a while," Kyoutani says, when the last delivery has been made. He looks at Yahaba, then looks away. "You could probably do with some rest, too."

"I'm not tired," Yahaba protests. "It's not even lunch time yet. I've had longer days that have been even more exhausting—"

"Just because you're not tired enough to drop, doesn't mean you shouldn't rest," Kyoutani points out. "You have to be in the best condition, if you're going to work your hardest. Both you and your dragon. We've got time before we need to head back. There's a field over this way, where the dragons can sun themselves."

Yahaba blinks with surprise. "Here I thought you'd be wanting to get through all the work Oikawa-san has put aside for us as quickly as possible."

Kyoutani shrugs. "Takuma missed Hide, okay? I don't mind giving them some more time with each other. At least it's just you, and not Oikawa."

"Just me," Yahaba repeats, as Kyoutani leads the way to the field. "Yeah, I'm definitely not Oikawa-san, huh?"

"Do you have to turn everything into a competition?" Kyoutani asks. "It's kind of exhausting."

Yahaba shrugs. "Maybe this way, I'll find something I'm the best at."

"I'd say you're the best at being annoying," Kyoutani hums, "except I think Oikawa beats you there, too."

Snorting quietly, Yahaba watches as their dragons stretch themselves out on the grass to soak up the warmth of the sunlight. Kyoutani lies down beside them as well, his eyes shut with contentment.

"You know what?" Yahaba sits down beside Kyoutani. "I've figured you out."

"Really, now."

"You're secretly a dragon," Yahaba declares. "Cursed and turned into a human, or something. That's why you're better with dragons than with people. I'm right, aren't I?"

Kyoutani bursts out laughing. He looks cute, his head tipped back, aviator goggles perched on top of his head, his cheeks turning pink. Yahaba internally despairs at how much he likes it, then firmly pushes the thought out of his mind.

"Are you serious? I wish I was a dragon, cursed or not." Kyoutani's still grinning as he rubs a hand over his face. "It's just that dragons are easier to understand. You know when they like you, and when they don't. You don't have to worry about reading between the lines or anything. What you see is what you get. Nowhere near as stressful as people."

"I guess so," Yahaba murmurs, folding his arms on top of his knees and resting his chin on them. "I've never really thought about it before."

"I wish people could just be as honest as dragons," Kyoutani sighs, watching as Hide and Takuma nuzzle against each other fondly.

"Hey." Yahaba nudges Kyoutani's side with the toe of his boot. "I don't hate you."

"Whoa, slow down," Kyoutani says with a small grin. "We might be moving too fast, here."

Yahaba shakes his head, finding that he's smiling too. "You're a shit."

"Maybe," Kyoutani takes hold of Yahaba's leg and tugs, making him fall backwards. "You still don't hate me, though."

Looking up at the sky, Yahaba finds himself smiling. "No, I don't."

 

 


 

 

It's easier to work with Kyoutani after that. Yahaba knows that Oikawa notices it; he's pretty sure that everyone does, but most of them don't mention it.

Most of them, however, aren't Watari.

"I can't believe I'm being replaced as your best friend," Watari sighs, as they walk to morning practice together, a week into Yahaba being paired up with Kyoutani for all of his work. "What's next? You're actually going to admit to the fact that you had a crush on him before he left?"

"I'm going to punch you," Yahaba warns him. "Don't think I won't, just because we're friends."

"I've seen the way you push Kyoutani around when you start riling each other up," Watari points out, "I don't think anyone is safe, just because you happen to like them as a person."

"Watari, I swear—"

"Jokes aside though, it's nice that you're getting along with him," Watari says, sounding serious. "It shows in our morning drills, you know. Kyoutani's got a pretty unique flying style, but he's learning to work it into the rest of the formation."

"Yeah, he is," Yahaba nods. "He's got good instincts. He knows what he's doing."

"You don't even sound resentful about it." Watari grins at him. "Are you growing as a person?"

"I've been learning a lot, flying with him," Yahaba replies with a shrug. "About him, about dragons. About myself, too."

"Oikawa-san is going to be so smug," Watari tells him. "Just you wait."

Yahaba isn't even surprised when Watari ends up being right. When Yahaba is given the briefing for their next assignment, once everyone's done with their morning drills, Oikawa is smiling from ear to ear.

"Well, this is worrying," Yahaba says, standing in front of his desk. "Can you please stop smiling like that?"

"You should be smiling too!" Oikawa tells him. "It's the last assignment I've set aside for you and Kyouken-chan, after all."

"That only makes me more concerned," Yahaba replies. "You've saved something big for the end, haven't you? I know you like being dramatic like that."

"Yahaba!" Oikawa cries, pretending to take offence. "I think you should be very careful about who you call dramatic, when you were the one who declared Kyoutani your mortal enemy back when you were still trainees."

"That was a long time ago," Yahaba protests. "You can't hold that against me. He was really annoying back then."

"But you don't find him as annoying any more," Oikawa points out, and he sounds proud. Yahaba wishes he didn't like that.

In the past week, Yahaba has spent a lot of time flying with Kyoutani. They've taken breaks to let their dragons rest and they've filled the time in between with conversation that, while stilted and awkward, flows much easier than it used to.

"You wanted me to grow," Yahaba says. "When you paired me up with Kyoutani. You said it yourself. I can feel that I have. I know that it's because of him."

"I'm glad you've noticed it too. I'm glad that you're getting used to Kyouken-chan's company, because this next assignment means that you're going to be working together for a couple of days."

Yahaba doesn't react the way he knows he would have, a week ago. He doesn't complain, or protest, but simply shrugs. "What's a couple more days, after an entire week? Where are you sending us?"

"I've been chatting with the vice-captain of the Karasuno dragon squadron," Oikawa tells him. "They have a very different flying style to us in general, all the way down to the dragon harnesses they use. I thought it would be a good opportunity for us to learn from each other if we loaned each other some of our harnesses. Iwa-chan should have them ready for you to carry with you. You'll just need to fly out to the border between our territories, and they'll send some of their riders to meet you there. It should be fairly easy for you both, just a little time consuming."

"We'll manage," Yahaba replies. "I'm curious about the new harnesses."

"I'm so kind that I'll even let you try them on Hide on your way back, if you'd like." Oikawa smiles. "As a thank you for working so hard to make Kyouken-chan feel welcome back here."

"I don't think I've really done much," Yahaba replies, "but sure, I'll take credit."

It takes most of the day to fly out to the border, and Yahaba never really thinks about just how large Aoba Jousai's territory is until he's trying to fly out of it. It makes him wonder about Kyoutani, about how far he flew to get away, but of all the things they've spoken about in their time together, they've both been avoiding that particular topic. Yahaba doesn't bring it up this time, either.

Their dragons are flying slower than usual, weighed down with the new harnesses to trade with Karasuno, as well as the overnight packs so that Kyoutani and Yahaba have enough clothes and supplies to stay somewhere before starting the flight home tomorrow morning. They still seem happy as ever, though, and Yahaba is glad that they haven't grown tired of each other's company even once.

Then again, except for when they're deliberately picking fights with each other, Yahaba hasn't really found himself getting sick of being with Kyoutani either. It's going to feel strange, he thinks, going back to working with others after they're done with this job.

He wonders if there are other dragons in the pack that Hide would be able to fly alongside, without the need for verbal directions, the same as he is with Takuma. He's already noticed that he's giving fewer commands to Hide during their drills, relying on simple touches to convey what he wants instead, or trusting him to understand what to do next. He never would have tried that before, and it's already working incredibly well. He's curious to see how much more Hide is capable of, on his own and with other dragons as well.

"Have you been in Karasuno's territory before?" Kyoutani asks, as they fly.

"No," Yahaba replies, and swallows down his, have you?

"Me neither," Kyoutani answers for him anyway. He rubs a hand over the top of his head, until the fingers meet the strap of his aviator goggles. "Didn't really fly in this direction when I left."

Yahaba still doesn't know if they're talking about it or not. He opts not to push, in case it makes Kyoutani withdraw into himself. Kyoutani seems to relax at this a little, the tension in his shoulders disappearing.

"Did you really hate me afterwards?" Kyoutani asks at length, after enough time has passed that it takes Yahaba a moment to find the thread of their conversation and pick it up again. "When I left?"

"I was angry," Yahaba admits, not even bothering to ask how Kyoutani knows about it in the first place. He looks down at Hide's glossy scales, so that he doesn't have to meet Kyoutani's eyes. He remembers being angry about the fact that nothing at Aoba Jousai was worth staying for, as far as Kyoutani was concerned. He remembers being angry at the assumption that by leaving, Kyoutani was just letting his talent go to waste. He knows better than that now, but it doesn't change the way he felt back then. "Maybe some part of me was glad that you left. I had one less person to feel inferior to."

"You can't even compare us," Kyoutani replies. "We work in completely different ways. You memorise the landscape of all the places we fly over like it's nothing. I can't do that."

"I can't do things as quickly or as instinctively as you do," Yahaba points out. "The moment a situation arises, you know exactly what to do in it. I need so much time to just analyse what's going on and what I want to do, it's usually too late to act by the time I'm done."

"Iwaizumi said we'd click," Kyoutani says, "back when Oikawa first paired us up. Didn't tell me anything more than that, and I wanted to call bullshit, but he said that we'd find a way to work together."

"Well," Yahaba gestures behind himself, to indicate the week that has just passed. "I guess we have."

"I think he meant something more than that," Kyoutani muses, and his voice is so quiet that Yahaba can barely hear it, and can't tell if he's meant to. Perhaps Kyoutani is just thinking out loud.

Yahaba dwells on it as they fly as well. He remembers Oikawa having the same opinion, that they'd end up being complementary to each other. Everything that Yahaba does is carefully learned and analysed, and it might be the complete opposite of what Kyoutani does, but he's right; perhaps they do click. Perhaps there's a way to bring the best out of both of their styles. If there is, however, Yahaba has no idea how.

They stop for breaks as they fly, to rest, to eat and to let their dragons hunt. There are plenty of rivers in Aoba Jousai's territory, full of fish for their dragons to catch. They take their longest break in the afternoon, before the final leg of their journey. Hide and Takuma are off playing in the running river nearby, out of sight but still easily within earshot. There are only a couple of hours left before the sun sets, and they want to meet with the Karasuno riders before then.

"I'll call the dragons," Kyoutani says, as Yahaba packs their things away. He turns in the direction of the river and instead of shouting their names, he lets out a loud whistle.

Yahaba's hands go still, and he stares as the pitch of Kyoutani's whistle rises, lowers, wavering and lilting, just like dragonsong. It sounds a little weaker, being a human whistle instead of a dragon's singing, but it does the job all the same. Singing out in reply, both Hide and Takuma fly back to them.

"You can speak dragon," Yahaba says in disbelief, as Takuma bumps his jaw against Kyoutani's shoulder affectionately. "I can't believe it."

Kyoutani grins. "It's cool, right?"

"It's amazing," Yahaba replies. "You're amazing."

Kyoutani's ears go pink, and perhaps his face does too, but it's too hard to see, because he's pulling his aviator goggles back down over his eyes. "Come on, let's get moving."

With a bit more energy after their break, and the sunset to beat, the dragons fly a little faster this time. The sky is only just beginning to turn orange when they make it to the border between territories, and they find two riders already waiting for them on the ground. Their dragons are black, and they look so avian that Yahaba swears he can see feathers.

One of the riders has a shaved head, and is tapping his foot impatiently while the other one just lounges against the side of his dragon. Yahaba is the first to land, dismounting his dragon and approaching the riders waiting there.

"I'm Yahaba, from Aoba Jousai. This is Kyoutani. I hope we didn't keep you waiting for too long."

"We've been here forever," the rider with the shaved head complains. "I bet you think that just because your territory's so big and it takes you so long to get to your border, you can rub it in our faces by making us wait."

"What Tanaka means," the other rider says, grabbing the back of Tanaka's head and forcing him into a polite bow, "is that we haven't been waiting for very long at all. It doesn't take us very long to get here at all, so we started much later than you did. We appreciate the fact that you made the journey all the way out here. I'm Ennoshita, and you've more or less met Tanaka. It's a pleasure to be working with you."

"Likewise," Yahaba replies, noticing the way that Kyoutani and Tanaka are glowering at each other. He doesn't even try to break up whatever it is, because he knows better. "I can show you the way that our harnesses work, if you'd like? I can teach you how to put it on your dragon, and then you can do the same with your harnesses too."

"That sounds great," Ennoshita says with a friendly smile and then, sharply without even looking behind him, "Tanaka. Stop that."

"But I'm not even—"

"Stop that," Ennoshita repeats, looking at Yahaba and rolling his eyes a little.

"Kyoutani," Yahaba says quietly, and he knows that he can't quite keep the smile out of his voice.

"Fine, whatever," Kyoutani mutters, and Yahaba has to fight very hard to hold back his laugh. "Anyway, can I have a closer look at your dragons?"

"Tanaka isn't very good with new people," Ennoshita says, as they lay their harnesses out on the ground beside each other to examine the differences.

"That's fine. Kyoutani isn't good with people in general." Yahaba glances up, to where Kyoutani is carefully stroking the muzzle of one of the Karasuno dragons. "He's really great with dragons, though. I'll give him that."

Kyoutani looks back at him, and Yahaba freezes up for a moment, feeling a little embarrassed for being caught staring, before turning his gaze back to the harnesses in front of him. "Okay, anyway. Let's start with the basic structure of the harness, and how it goes on."

By the time they're done, the sky is growing dark. Ennoshita and Tanaka have lights to guide their dragons for the short distance back to their base, leaving with their new harnesses. Yahaba and Kyoutani stay at a nearby hostel with enough space to fit their dragons in the back.

"I thought you and Tanaka were going to end up fighting," Yahaba says, as they eat dinner together.

Kyoutani looks up from his bowl. "Really? I think he's a good guy."

"You were staring him down the entire time," Yahaba points out incredulously.

"I was just sizing him up. Just because they're our allies for now, doesn't mean they will be later, right?" Kyoutani shrugs. "But he's decent enough. You know what you're getting, with a guy like him. He's honest, for better or worse."

"Like you," Yahaba hums, eating another spoonful of his food as he considers that. "Only, I like you more than I like Tanaka. Maybe because I'm used to you."

"Maybe," Kyoutani echoes, looking down at his bowl. Yahaba doesn't miss the slight curve of his lips. "I mean… I guess I'm used to you too."

 

 


 

 

Yahaba fits the new harness onto Hide before they leave the next morning. It feels a little strange, being so different to what he's used to, but Hide seems to be comfortable enough, and that's all that really matters.

They can take their time on their way home and so they let their dragons play, chasing each other through the air. The Karasuno harnesses are better suited to speed, with more space around the dragons' wings allowing for more vigorous flapping. Hide is thrilled by the sudden freedom. He's been learning to catch up to Takuma lately anyway, but he does it faster now, closing the distance between them with bigger flaps of his wings. It's a windy day today, and Hide is learning to use that to his advantage, to help push him further.

They're close enough that Yahaba can hear Kyoutani laughing as they fly, and it makes his stomach swoop and flip in a way that has absolutely nothing to do with being in the air, and everything to do with the fact that whatever he might have felt for Kyoutani before, it's been getting much worse. Yahaba is fairly certain that he has a crush, and it's the worst thing that has ever happened to him. His eyes catch on Kyoutani's grin, on the way he splays his hands out against Takuma's scales, the way the back of his aviator jacket is pulled taut over his broad shoulders.

Yahaba tears his gaze away as Hide arcs through the sky, wings spread out on either side of him. The wind picks up a little, and Yahaba feels a gust of wind directly against his face and he shuts his eyes for a moment to savour the feeling.

Which is the exact moment when Hide lets out a soft, pained noise, dropping a few metres in the air before he tries to steady himself by flapping his wings. He cries out this time, loud and distressed, and before Yahaba can completely process what's happening, they're plummeting through the air.

"Yahaba!" Kyoutani calls out, and urges Takuma to dive after them, wings and legs tucked close to his body to help him build up speed.

There isn't much that Kyoutani and Takuma can do to help, Yahaba thinks despairingly. Hide is crying out in pain, and Yahaba is frantic, wanting to help but not knowing how. The ground is rushing up to meet them and Yahaba knows that a crash landing is only going to do even more damage to Hide, who is already struggling to extend his right wing out completely.

Takuma breaks their fall, flying underneath Hide and helping to slow his descent. It's still a little messy, and the impact sends Yahaba flying off Hide's back, rolling across the grass and dirt nearby. He has scratches over his arms and legs, but that doesn't matter right now. Scrambling to his feet, Yahaba runs back towards Hide, who is lying on the ground, whimpering softly.

"What's wrong?" Yahaba asks, reaching for Hide's wing but stopping, afraid that he's only going to end up doing more damage. "You were doing so well just then, what happened?"

Hide tries to lift his head, but the movement must make his wing hurt because he cries out even louder this time. Yahaba is terrified, and he tenses up when he feels Kyoutani's hand on his shoulder.

"I think it's a sprain," Kyoutani says, and he tightens his grip on Yahaba. It's grounding. Comforting. "He's not used to working his wings the way he was just now. That gust probably pushed things a bit too far."

"A sprain," Yahaba says with relief. He knows what to do with those. He touches Hide's wing gently, just to check that the rest of it is undamaged. "There's a first aid kit in Hide's rigging, can you get it out for me?"

"Do you know what you're doing?" Kyoutani asks, as he pulls the kit out. "Because I don't."

"I do," Yahaba replies. "I'm going to need your help, though."

Kyoutani listens closely to Yahaba's directions as they bandage Hide's wing against his body, interjecting now and then whenever he picks up on the dragon's distress. Takuma watches on anxiously, standing by Hide's side, giving them enough space to work.

"He's going to have to rest," Yahaba says, once they're done. He pulls his tablet out and starts typing. "He won't be able to fly for a few days, just to be safe. I'll let Oikawa-san know. You can head back, if you want. I'll take Hide to the nearest town and find a place to stay until his wing's healed up."

"I'm staying with you," Kyoutani replies, as if it's the only option imaginable. "However long that takes. I'm not leaving you on your own."

Yahaba nods gratefully. Kyoutani's presence is a comfort right now, and he finds himself surprised at just how relieved he feels knowing that he won't be alone.

"Hide won't be ready to move any time soon," Kyoutani says, looking at him. "He needs rest. You need rest. You're all scratched up. Did you hurt anything else when you fell?"

"I'm fine," Yahaba dismisses, only to have Kyoutani raise an eyebrow at him, unimpressed. Pausing to actually take stock of himself, Yahaba nods. "…I really am. You don't have to worry about me."

With a quiet sigh, Kyoutani looks around. "I'll take Takuma with me and get some water and food for the dragons. Maybe some water for you to clean out those cuts, too. I'll be back soon, okay?"

It's odd, having Kyoutani take care of him and Hide. This side of Kyoutani is protective, gentle, and he might not be any more patient than he is at any other time, but that doesn't matter because Yahaba knows that he's snapping out of concern. They're both relieved when Hide's appetite doesn't seem to be affected, and Kyoutani builds a makeshift fire pit, with large rocks to block the wind, just so they have a little bit of warmth.

"Thank you," Yahaba speaks up, as they sit around the fire. "I really appreciate this."

"You don't have to thank me," Kyoutani replies. "I'm glad that Hide didn't injure himself too badly. It was terrifying, watching you both drop through the air like that."

Yahaba grimaces. "It was pretty terrifying being the one dropping through the air, too. He definitely must have overexerted himself when he was flying. I could tell that he was excited about the new harness. Maybe I should have stopped him earlier—"

"Hey," Kyoutani says gently. "You couldn't have predicted that sudden gust of wind, or the way it caught his wing. Don't blame yourself for that. It's just a minor injury. He'll be fine."

Nodding, Yahaba looks at his hands. "Thanks for helping me bandage him up. I felt better having you with me, considering how well you understand dragons in general."

"You were pretty good too," Kyoutani replies. "You knew exactly how to bandage him up. We work together pretty well, huh?"

Yahaba smiles, turning away to look at the fire crackling away in the pit. "Yeah. We do."

He can still feel Kyoutani's gaze on him, leaving him warm and a little self-conscious. He goes still where he hears Kyoutani draw a breath to speak.

"You know, I left because I wasn't very good at working with other people."

Snorting quietly, Yahaba nods. "Yeah. I do know that."

"I also left because I didn't think the way you guys flew was very good at bringing out the best in your dragons," Kyoutani continues. "…I don't know, maybe I thought you didn't care about dragons as much as I did."

Laughing softly, Yahaba looks at him. "It's not a competition, you know."

"I do, now. I also know that none of you would be riders if you didn't love dragons too. Takuma and I had to grow on our own, though. We both knew that. Maybe it's because of the way we understand each other, but having so many other people and dragons around when we were trying to understand each other didn't really help." Kyoutani shrugs. "If I went back in time, I wouldn't change anything."

"But you'd still come back?" Yahaba asks, and he can't look away from Kyoutani.

"Yeah. There's only so much Takuma and I could do on our own. I thought that it would be harder to come back than it was. I didn't really think I'd want to stay, the way that I do now. Oikawa's a good captain. He cares about growth. For the dragons, as well as the riders. Don't tell him I said that."

"Oh, I'm definitely storing that away as blackmail material for later," Yahaba grins.

"Asshole," Kyoutai mutters, shoving Yahaba, but then catching him by the arm before he can topple over. He lets his hand linger, instead of pulling it away. "You work hard. You push yourself to be better, for Hide. You know a lot—probably even more than you realise, because you're always watching other people and learning from them."

"How embarrassing," Yahaba mutters, feeling his face heat up.

"You're… um." Kyoutani looks away, making a low noise of frustration. "I—don't hate you, okay?"

Yahaba blinks slowly as he lets the words sink in, and then grins. "Hey, you might want to slow down there."

"Shut up," Kyoutani says, his cheeks going pink.

"Here I thought you were one of those people who just said what they wanted instead of making me read between the lines. You're already saying embarrassing things, you know. You might as well keep going."

"I can't believe you're giving me shit for this," Kyoutani mutters. "Except, I absolutely can."

"You're turning beet red," Yahaba says, thrilled by this development. "It's cute."

"Fuck," Kyoutani mutters, sounding so genuinely distressed that Yahaba is torn between laughing and taking pity on him.

"I like you, Kyoutani," Yahaba says directly, nudging his side. Kyoutani sputters a little, and Yahaba smiles. "I really like you, okay?"

Kyoutani nods silently, clearly too flustered to actually speak. Yahaba's smile grows even wider, his chest filling with fondness.

Yahaba's tablet lights up with a message from Oikawa, telling him that they'll have a dragon transport over to pick Hide up by sunset.

"Looks like we're stuck here for the day," Yahaba sighs, showing Kyoutani the message. "What a shame."

"Yeah." Kyoutani coughs quietly. "A real shame."

"We're going to have to find a way to pass all of this time," Yahaba says with a smile, putting his tablet back into his bag.

"Well." Kyoutani clears his throat, pulling Yahaba closer by the arm. "I guess I have an idea."

"Oh, good," Yahaba breathes, laughing softly into the small space between their lips. "I was hoping you would."

When they kiss, they're both smiling too much to keep their lips together for long. It doesn't matter, Yahaba thinks, as Kyoutani draws him back in with a hand on the back of his neck. It doesn't matter that he's new to kissing, and a little clumsy at it.

He has plenty of time to learn.