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Since I've heard your voice

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It’s strange, Tadashi muses, that he’s hearing Kei’s voice after all these years; it’s especially strange considering the fact that it seems to not have changed at all in all that time. It’s still airy and child-like, and it holds a true, genuine confidence that Kei most definitely doesn’t have anymore. What makes the situation more strange -- in Tadashi’s opinion -- though, is the position in which they’re in.

 

They’re in the park they first met-- which shouldn’t be all too strange, considering it’s only a block away from Kei’s home; they both walk past it on late night trips to the convenience store during sleepovers, and meet there before school. What makes it strange, however, is the position they’re in; Tadashi, at fifteen-going-on-sixteen, is curled in on himself like he was when he had first met Kei. There are faceless teens surrounding him, one frozen mid-punch, one mid-kick, and the other pointing and laughing, but no sound comes out. A quick look around shows that the entire park -- people, animals, and foliage alike -- is quite the same. Frozen, faceless, and all seemingly facing towards Tadashi and Kei.

 

“Tsukki? What’s going on?” Tadashi doesn’t expect a response, but it’s still common for him to ask, even despite the fact. Which is why he’s so surprised when Kei opens his mouth to speak.

 

“You’re dreaming, of course, idiot,” Kei says this as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world, and maybe it is. Why else would everyone be frozen like this, if not because this was all a dream? “Just look around.”

 

Ah. Right. Kei talking really should have tipped him off-- Wait.

 

Kei is talking. Talking . Something he hasn’t done since he was cursed by a witch in junior high.

 

Dazed, Tadashi says, “...You’re talking...”

 

“You can do whatever you want in dreams, Yamaguchi,” Kei says with his “I’m-annoyed-please-stop-talking” voice that Tadashi still remembers from elementary school, but Tadashi is just so… Amazed . Confused. Happy . He grins.

 

“You’re talking, Tsukki!”

 

Kei sighs, his head in his hands, but Tadashi can see the smile tugging at his lips. “I am.”

 

“That’s amazing! And your voice hasn’t changed a single bit!”

 

“Don’t remind me, please ,” Kei groans, and Tadashi giggles.

 

“Sorry, Tsukki! I’m just so excited .”

 

“I can see.” Kei says with a soft smile, one that causes Tadashi’s heart to speed up and his face to flush.

 

“I want to talk about everything with you!”

 

“I don’t think we could possibly talk about everything, and even if we could, we have a time limit, you know.”

 

Tadashi frowns. “Time limit?”

 

“This is a dream, you know.” Kei deadpans, eyebrows raised.

 

“But--” A loud, shrill sound cuts Tadashi off, and it rattles the entire park. People around them start moving, heading to their destinations, completely unaware of the loud ringing breaking the world apart. “Tsukki, I want to stay asleep. I want to hear your voice!”

 

Kei smiles once more, though this time it doesn’t send Tadashi’s heart fluttering; this time, it has Tadashi holding back tears as he tries to stand and hug Tsukki, tell him for the millionth time he’ll find a cure for him, but a falling sensation begins to overwhelm him and he’s suddenly slipping out of unconsciousness, black filling his vision.

 

When Tadashi’s eyes blink open, he sees it’s still half an hour before he has to be up, and so he hits the snooze button and rolls over, rubbing at unshed tears. He’s quick to fall asleep again, and he drifts off into another strange dream, this one involving a mooing chicken and a horse named steve (he should really avoid coffee before bed).

 

Once again, however, his peaceful sleep is interrupted by his damn alarm clock .

 

Blinking, Tadashi groans, and he slams his hand against the alarm clock on his bed side table, instantly regretting doing so when pain blooms in his palm, fully waking him. He curses, and sits up in bed, blinking his bleary eyes awake. When his eyes focus on his alarm clock, he finds himself cursing once more, and stumbling out of his bed, legs tangling in his blankets and tripping him. Groaning, Tadashi crawls his way over to his closet and pulls his uniform out, hurriedly pulling it on, and hauls himself up. He’s going to be late meeting Kei and get left behind again if he doesn’t hurry.

 

Tadashi is quick to brush his hair and teeth, and rushes down the hall to the kitchen, where his aunt and cousin are already settled for breakfast, Auntie Kou spooning mush into Akira’s mouth. Tadashi picks up and apple and kisses Auntie and Akira on the head, scooping his bag up from the hall on his way out.

 

Tadashi is out of breath when he reaches the park by Kei’s house, and he finds his best friend waiting, two coffee’s in hand, and looking impatient. When he finally collapses against Kei’s side, trying to catch his breath, Kei is ready with a note in hand. He hands the note and one of the coffee’s to Tadashi and starts to walk ahead.

 

You’re late...Again.

 

Kei’s managed to make his handwriting look like the feelings he’s trying to express, and Tadashi has since managed to decipher the different tones in his short notes. Kei’s carefully written note conveys annoyance, and paired with the look Tadashi is getting, Tadashi is quick to rush into an apology.

 

“Sorry, Tsukki! I slept in again, I know, but there was this really cool doc on last night and I couldn’t miss it! But it was american, so I had to stay up late to see it, and strained my eyes reading the subtitles, I’m sorry!”

 

Apparently, Kei was expecting this, because he taps the paper in Tadashi’s hand, signalling to him to turn it over.

 

I know, don’t worry. Just try to get more sleep, damn it.

 

Tadashi laughs, though he can’t really breathe right; his best friend really does know him. “I will, Tsukki! No worries!”

 

Kei rolls his eyes, a silent I wasn’t worried , and Tadashi smiles brightly, trying to cover up the flush in his cheeks. They make their way to school sipping their coffee in silence when suddenly Tadashi remembers his dream.

 

“Ah! Right, Tsukki, guess what? I had a dream last night, and you were in it! And you were talking. We were at the park, and we were just talking. I don’t know what was going to happen, because my alarm clock woke me up, but you talked. You still kinda sounded ten, but you acted like yourself.” Tadashi giggles. “And then I had a dream about a chicken and a horse, but the horse didn’t have a normal name like snowball or something, it was named Steve . Imagine naming an animal Steve!”

 

Kei makes a noise of acknowledgement, and shakes his head. He pulls out his notepad of ready-prepared responses, and flips to a certain page.

 

You need to stop drinking coffee before bed.

 

Tadashi flushes in remembrance that Kei has to tell him that so much it’s in his ready-prepared notes. “I-- I know, ok!? But like I told you, the doc I wanted to watch was on late.”

 

Kei just shakes his head, and tucks the notepad away. The two continue on in silence, and Tadashi thinks back to his dream. Kei was talking . It’s been seven years since they met, and five since Tsukki was cursed. However cliche it is, Tadashi remembers it like it was yesterday.

 

Tadashi’s sitting in his bedroom working on a welcome gift for his Auntie Kou, who is coming to live with him and his mother, due to his mother’s heart problems, when Kei bursts in, looking positively pissed . Tadashi opens his mouth to ask what’s up, but Kei beats him to the punch, shoving a notebook into his chest and flopping onto his bed and pounding the soft mattress with heavy fists. Tadashi blinks, confused, and his eyes drift to his notebook. Hie eyes widen when he looks at the first page, unbelieving that the writing on it is Kei’s; Kei’s handwriting is neat, and thought-out. The writing on this page is sloppy, obviously quickly written, and there are noticeable tear stains on the notebook paper.

 

Tadashi reads, however, because he gets the idea that Kei wants him to, and his eyes widen. It really is Kei’s handwriting, it seems, and the tear stains are definitely excused, considering the content; the long note goes for three pages, but the part Tadashi is most focused on has him reading it over and over again. “So you know that weird lady that lives in the house down the street? Well, I lost a ball in her yard earlier this afternoon, and long story short, there were some words exchanged and, she said some words in a language I didn’t understand and now I can’t talk. I can’t talk. She said something about true love’s kiss or something. My mom is hysterical, and tried to find her, but her house is gone. She thinks I’m lying. I’m not, though. You know magic, right? You know I’m not lying. And now I’m stuck without a voice, waiting until ‘true love’s kiss’. How pathetic.”

 

The letter goes on for three more pages on how angry Kei is, and though Tadashi reads it all, he reads the first paragraph at least ten times, unaware of Kei’s eyes staring at him expectantly.

 

Finally, he drops the notebook to his lap, and looks at Kei. “Is this all true, Tsukki?”

 

Kei doesn’t even bother to tick his tongue out at the nickname. He just nods. Tadashi bites his lip.

 

“So… We just have to find a new way of communicating! That should be easy enough! And then we just have to wait until you find your true love and kiss her!”

 

Kei rolls his eyes, and holds his hands out for the notebook and a pen. Tadashi gives them to him quickly, giggling when Kei wrinkles his nose at the bright pink gel pen he gets. Kei just shakes his head and writes a note.

 

It could be years before I find my true love. So let’s just pretend this is permanent, ok?

 

Tadashi frowns. “If you say so, Tsukki…”

 

Tadashi still has most of that note memorized. He can probably quote the whole thing, in baby Tsukki’s voice (or, as good of an impression as he can do) and everything. His mind wanders to the “true love’s kiss” thing for not the first time since the curse was placed, and certainly not the first time since he developed feelings for Kei in their first year of junior high.


A tap on his shoulder startles Tadashi from his thoughts, and he blinks back to reality to see they’re in the club changing room, and that he’s the only one not dressed. Kei is there, in his gym clothes, and pointing at the door with raised eyebrows.

 

“Y-- You go ahead to practice, Tsukki, I’ll-- I’ll change on my own. Be down in a bit.” Kei nods, and leaves Tadashi be. He changes slowly, still tired from his late night, and downs the rest of his -- cold -- coffee before making his way to the gym.

 

“Come on, Tsukishima, don’t be a dick!”

 

“You just have to tell us if our quick is improving any. We won’t bother you any more after.”

 

Tadashi rolls his eyes at the sound of Hinata and Kageyama somehow once again bickering with Kei without getting any responses, and steps into the gym, walking up to the three other first years.

 

“Hinata, Kageyama, come on now… Tsukki doesn’t want to watch you guys do your quick a hundred times to see if it’s getting any better…”

 

“Then will you, Yamaguchi?!”

 

“Please, Yamaguchi-san! It would be very appreciated!”

 

Tadashi takes one second too long to respond, and the freak duo takes that as a yes, taking him by both wrists and dragging him to the court. Tadashi groans, and shoots a look over his shoulder to Kei that clearly reads a you owe me , but Kei just smirks and waves, clearly proud of himself.

 

At lunch, a girl comes up to them. She’s pretty, from their class, and not too loud. She and Kei would make a nice couple.

 

“Ah, Ts- Tsukishima-kun?.. I- I was wondering, um… I was wondering if you could…maybe...maybe meet me after your volleyball practice get done?.. B- Behind the gym?..”

 

Kei blinks, takes a bite of his lunch, and sets his chopsticks down as he grabs his notepad up, flipping to a page. He turns it to her, and she sighs in relief when she reads the fading “sure” on the paper. When she runs off, Tadashi finally forces a grin on his face.

 

“Looks like someone’s getting a confession~” Tadashi teases, and Kei flips his notepad to a different page.

 

Shut up.

 

“But Tsukki ! She might be your true love! This is exciting!” Fighting the pain in his chest, Tadashi pokes at Kei’s cheek. “I want to hear your voice again, Tsu-ki-shi-ma.”

Kei rolls his eyes, and holds up the notepad once again. He uses his finger to underline his words. Shut up. He flips to the next page. Please .

 

Tadashi just laughs, and changes the subject. He’d been in the middle of telling Kei about the documentary he’d watched the night before.

 

Tadashi almost completely about the confession until after practice. He and Kei are walking out of the club room, Tadashi rambling about his homework, when Kei suddenly drops a note in his hand and walks in the other direction, back towards the gym.

 

Wait at the gates if you want. Some girl’s confessing. Be there in five if you do stay.

 

Tadashi frowns at the note, but tucks it in his pocket, heading towards the gates on his own. Five minutes seems a little... quick for a confession. That must mean he’s saying no. Again. Tadashi doesn’t understand why Kei keeps rejecting these girls; they could be the one to cure him of his curse! But Kei is stubborn, and hates talking about it, and so maybe they aren’t.

 

Just as he promised, Kei returns five minutes later, a teary-eyed brunette brushing past him, and they start the journey home as if nothing happened. Tadashi is itching to ask Kei the why that keeps repeating in his head, but he sees the tired look Kei has on, and so he keeps silent on the matter, choosing to continue talking about homework. A safe topic.

 

When Tadashi arrives home after dropping Kei off at his home, he finds a quiet house and a note on the table.

 

Ta-chan,

 

Took Aki and Aoi to the doctor’s for a checkup. Your mum is looking a lot healthier today, and she even made a few potions! Speaking of, she asked me if I could ask you to pick a few things up from Silver’s shop for her. Your favorite’s for supper tonight! Love you, Auntie Kou.

 

Tadashi groans when he finds a shopping list on the other side of the paper. Dropping his bag in the doorway, which he’s sure to get scolder for later, Tadashi grabs the money left on the counter for him and heads out to get the groceries, his mind on his best friend the entire time.

 

I promise, I’ll find a way to make Tsukki talk again. I will!

Chapter Text

The soft scent of magic and cooking pancakes wakes Tadashi, and he blinks sleep away easily this morning. Sundays were always a great day, but he thinks they’re ten times better when his mother is up and moving, making potions to sell and help their small income, and Auntie fussing over her while she works, Akira in his bouncing chair in the doorway of the kitchen, watching with amazement in his eyes.

 

Of course, Sundays are also great because he doesn’t have to get up, but he completely brushes that thought from his mind as he slowly slides out of his bed, taking his time getting dressed, and walks down the hall. Just as he suspected, Auntie is hovering by his mother’s side as she stirs something in a large pot, and Akira is garbling something in his bouncy seat, smiling and smacking the fabric of the seat holding him up. A perfect Sunday. Now, if only Kei were added to the mix…

 

“Morning!” Tadashi chirps, sliding into the Chair closest to the stove, thanking Auntie when she flips a pancake onto his plate. “How did you all sleep?”

 

“Like a baby.” Auntie says, and by the bags under her eyes and the pointed look at Akira, who’s still babbling, drool slipping from his open mouth. He vaguely remembers waking at midnight to soft whining coming from Auntie and Akira’s room. Tadashi takes that as a bad . He looks at his mother expectantly.

 

“I slept great, Ta-chan. I feel terrific!” Aoi crows, and Tadashi raises an eyebrow.

 

“That’s great, mama, but you still shouldn’t work too much, you’re still getting better after your last trip to the hospital.”

 

“Dear, that was a month ago! I’m fine, silly.”

 

Tadashi looks at his mother hesitantly, not sure, when his mother suddenly perks up.

 

“Oh! That’s right, I almost forgot, Ta-chan, I need you to go to Silver’s for me again,” Aoi turns and swipes a piece of paper from the thyme-covered counter, and Tadashi momentarily cringes at the thought of cleaning all the spilt herbs and spices he’ll have to clean later. His mother was always a messy potion maker. “I only need a few things, I know you just went the other day, but I forgot them. I hope you don’t mind!”

 

He would never mind, not when it’s his mother. “Of course, mama. I’ll finish eating and head out; mind if I bring Tsukki back with me?”

 

“No prob, kiddo. Just don’t take any detours! Silver is closing early today, something about a family member coming to town.”

 

Tadashi didn’t even know Silver had family. “Oh. Ok. No problem, mama, I’ll go straight there.”

 

Auntie scoffs. “No promises he’ll come straight back, though.”

 

Tadashi smiles. “You wound me, Auntie. I am a trustworthy child.”

 

“Sure.”

 

Tadashi scarfs down the rest of his breakfast, and stands, catching the money his mother waves over to him, and slides on his shoes and winter coat.

 

“I’ll be back soon!”




Kei groans at the ringing of his cell phone next to his bed, and rolls over in bed; it’s far too early to be awake on a Sunday. His annoyance only subsides slightly when he sees Tadashi’s name on his cell, and he clicks the answer button, his eyes falling shut sleepily. He makes a sound of indignation, and Tadashi immediately starts speaking.

 

“Tsukki! I’m going out to the herb shop for my mum, do ya wanna come with? Auntie’s making pancakes!”

 

Kei sighs into the speaker. He really doesn’t, but he hasn’t spent the afternoon with Tadashi all week, and he misses hanging out with him. Finally, reluctantly, he clicks his tongue twice (their signal for ‘yes’ on the phone), and Tadashi’s laughter in the receiver crackles, the tell-tale bad signal that Tadashi gets when he visits Kei’s. Great. He’s already here

 

“Yay! I’m outside, so hurry and get dressed!” With that, Tadashi hangs up, and Kei breaths out a sigh, sitting up. He just wants to sleep in, damn it . Though he can’t be mad at Tadashi, not when he knows he’ll find him waiting on the front stoop, smiling way too brightly for so early in the day, and Kei groans, falling back into bed.

 

When Kei finally arrives outside, his winter coat on and trying to keep any warmth from the house he can, Tadashi is exactly where he’s predicted.

 

“Morning, Tsukki! I’m sorry I don’t have any coffee for you, but I have to head straight to the shop today, because they’re closing early.”

 

Kei just nods, and they start down the walkway and onto the sidewalk, Tadashi chattering away. Sometimes, Tadashi says something funny, and Kei wants to add onto it, like when they were kids, but taking out his note pad would take too long, and so he doesn’t. He just listens.

 

The cold air nips at Kei’s exposed cheeks, and he thinks he can see the beginnings of a slight snowfall starting, small flakes falling in his fogged-up vision. Kei wishes he’d brought a scarf.

 

“Are you cold, Tsukki? Here,” Tadashi stops in his tracks, slides his own scarf -- which he’d actually remembered -- off, and slips it around Kei’s neck, wrapping it tight around his neck and face with a flush in his cheeks. Kei would protest, but Tadashi’s always liked the cold (it helps that, back when they were younger, Tadashi’s mother and aunt couldn’t pay for heating in their small, three-bedroom home, so he’s used to it as well). Tadashi gives him a big, toothy smile, and Kei feels his own face flush, and not from the cold, like Tadashi’s own blush.

 

They’re no sooner arriving to main street that Tadashi is dragging Kei down off the main drag and through an alleyway, where they stop at door, one that’s far too shiny for where it lay hidden in the dirty, grimy center of main street. Kei’s been here only a few times before, and every time is pleasant enough; the old woman that’s usually behind the counter always tells him she’ll make cookies for him the next time he comes over, but she never does.

 

Tadashi opens the door wide enough to let Kei slide in, and follows after him, calling out a loud “Hello, Silver darling!”

 

From the back of the shop, there’s a muffled “Hello, Tadashi-kun!” and Kei feels himself frowning at the remembrance that Tadashi was called by his given name here. Tadashi browses through some things in the shop, and Kei follows dutifully behind, not paying any of the magic stuff mind. The first few times he’d visited Silver’s shop, he’d been so amazed, so hopeful, and had searched the whole shop for something that may substitute for love to break his curse. He knows now not to bother. There’s no substitute for love.

 

“Tadashi!” Kei jumps at Silver’s voice suddenly right behind him, and whirls around, only to hear giggling behind his back when he does. He whirls around once more, and sees Tadashi supporting Silver as they giggle. Silver laughs heartily at Kei, grinning, “You always fall for that, Tsukishima! It’s hilarious!”

 

Kei just shoots them a glare, his face flushing madly.

 

“It’s not nice to pick on people,” Tadashi scolds, but his words hold no true weight; the tone he uses when he jokes with Kei. “Now, how’s my favorite half sibling?”

 

“Great!”

 

This is where Kei stops listening. He doesn’t quite feel like listening to Tadashi and his half sibling talk about family matters, and so he chooses to instead to pretend to look at some pixie dust on the shelve while he really examines Tadashi.

 

Kei remembers, back when he could talk, he was usually the one doing all the talking for them; Tadashi was always so shy, and flinched at his own shadow, and Kei felt the need to protect him. Seeing him so open, even if it’s only with a relative, is always a shock to Kei.

 

It’s not that he’s jealous -- he’s not, they’re siblings for god sake-- but watching makes Kei feel odd, a painful feeling creeping up in his chest. He should be proud of Tadashi, and he is, but he wishes he could voice that; he knows how insecure Tadashi is, about everything he does.

 

If Kei could talk to Tadashi, even for a minute, he would tell him how proud he is of him and so much more. He would tell Tadashi how much he means to him, and how much he loves him-- he loves him so much, and it hurts that he can’t just kiss him and tell him all of those things. Because Kei would just ruin everything. If only he liked any of the girls that confess to him…

 

“Tsukki?”

 

Kei is startles out of his thoughts not by Tadashi’s soft voice, but Silver slinking up to him, tucking their -- as their name states -- silver hair behind their ears. “You look like that ogre toenail jar is telling you the world’s secrets or something.”

 

Kei blinks, and looks down at the bottle in his hand. He quirks a brow, before his eyes widen in surprise; there really is ogre toenails in his hand, not the sparkling bottle of pixie dust he’d been holding. He sets it gently back on the shelf it was on, and looks to the ground, a flush on his cheeks.

 

“Still hasn’t been cured, eh?” Silver snorts. “Figured as much with someone as emotionally constipated as Tsukishima; he’d need to’ve known his ‘true love’ for a long time, probably, and even then, he’d be too scared to do shit about it.”

 

Kei rolls his eyes, but feels his cheeks heat up even more. He hides his embarrassment with a cough, and misses the way Tadashi splutters.

 

“W-- Well, Si-chan, we should get going. It’s snowing pretty hard outside, and Tsukki hates cold…”

 

“Oh,” Silver nudges Kei in the side, and Kei feels annoyance bubble up inside him. “Tsukki hates the cold, does he? Make sure to keep him extra warm then; remember, body heat is the world’s furnace!”

 

When Kei looks at Tadashi, he looks as red as a strawberry. Tadashi stutters out a farewell to Silver, and tugs Kei out by his wrist.

 

“Si-chan is a nuisance sometimes…” Kei doesn’t answer, and instead follows as they make their way back to the main shops, and down the road. He feels his heart pounding in his chest when Tadashi doesn’t let him go, and trails along at Tadashi’s side, in a daze.

 

The air is still when the blushing duo arrive at Tadashi’s home, Tadashi fishing his keys out from his pocket, and Kei feels himself relaxing as soon as he enters. Tadashi’s house is always calm, even with Akira running around, and Auntie rushing around between shifts at the hospital. Kei’s eyes drift shut at the scent of pancake batter and mint floating around the house, and Kei slides off his shoes. He’s about to slip off his coat when a shrill screech has his eyes flying open, and he sees Akira on the counter, hand outstretched to touch the -- still burning -- stovetop. He curses, and starts moving to grab Akira, wen Tadashi’s hands are up and Akira is floating in the air towards him.

 

Right. Magic. Tadashi has that.

 

“Fuck.”

 

Tadashi’s eyes are wide, his breathing quick, as he clutches the nine month old to his chest. “Aki-chan, where’s your mama? Where’s your auntie? Huh? They couldn’t have left you…”

 

Kei is careful not to move too suddenly as he makes his way to the kitchen, and shuts off the stove. The room is empty, and a pile of herbs he can’t quite identify lay scattered on the floor near the dining table. Two taps on the shoulder, their sign for Tadashi’s name. Kei pulls out his notepad when Tadashi doesn’t reply.

 

Yamaguchi?

 

“They’re not here…” Tadashi mutters, and Kei doesn’t miss the fear in his voice. Kei knows he can see the scattered herbs on the floor. “They’re not in any of the other rooms, and-- and Akira is still here, and…”

 

Kei points to the back door that leads into the back garden, raising his eyebrows, before Tadashi can work himself up too much.

 

Tadashi shakes his head. “They would’ve put Akira in the swing out there if they were going to go outside. I… I should call Auntie…”

 

Tadashi shifts Akira onto his hip, pulling his cell phone out and dialing his aunt’s number. Kei goes to grab a broom, and when he returns, starting to clean up the mess on the floor, he hears a soft gasp from where Tadashi had taken the call into. Tadashi’s words are quiet, and muffled together, and Kei can’t hear them clearly. So he finishes sweeping the floor, dumps the resulting pile in the trash can, and makes his way to the living room. Tadashi is collapsed on the floor, a hand covering his mouth, his arms holding baby Akira tight to his chest. Kei immediately panics, and makes his way over to his best friend. He taps on his shoulder, once, twice, and is about to once again take his note pad out when Tadashi finally shatters.

 

Tadashi’s hand falls from his face, and he lets out a loud, painful-sounding sob, and Kei feels tears prickling his own eyes; he already know what’s happened, he’s positive of that. His mother was probably back in the hospital once again, her condition worsening, and Tadashi is probably blaming himself.

 

Tadashi lets out another loud sob, and Kei can hear one of the flower pots the Yamaguchi family keeps fresh and alive all year shatter in the corner. Kei panics even more. Shit shit shit, he hasn’t cried like this in forever. Kei doesn’t know how to deal with it. Especially when he can’t talk him through this, fuck . The last time this happened was when they were ten. Five years ago. Fuck .

 

The kotatsu table near the kitchen door starts hovering in the air, and Kei wants to scream.

 

“Yamaguchi-kun, what’s wrong?”

“I-- I-- My m-- mu-- um,” Tadashi gasps out, his head in his hands, tugging forcefully at his hair.

 

Kei cocks his head. “Your mum?.. What about her? Didn’t we just get a ride from her?..”

 

They’re at a school event, one Kei hadn’t wanted to attend, but Tadashi had begged him, and he can’t seem to deny the kid. Tadashi had gotten a call on his auntie’s cell phone, the one she gives to him when he goes out so he can call her, and he’d excused himself. When he didn’t return, Kei started to worry, and went to find him.

 

He finds Tadashi in the boy’s restroom, and feels his heartbeat pick up at the sight he’s met with.

 

“M-- My a-- auntie--” Tadashi gasps, and Kei does so, for a different reason, when the stalls in the restroom all bang open, toilet roll flying out of them on their own. “Sh-- She ca- c- called, an-- she called, an- and said-- m-- my mum, she-- she fell a-- at work, and-- and she had to b- be taken to the hospi-- hospital-- again. I-- She k- keeps--” Tadashi wails, and the sinks all switch on, the lights flickering, and Kei’s eyes widen in fear. Tadashi would do real damage to himself or someone else if he kept this going.

 

“Yama--”

 

“Sh- She keeps ge-- getting sick ! Why-- Wh- Why can’t i- it be me ? She d- doesn’t dese--rve this, Tsukki!”

 

Kei takes a hesitant step forward. Tadashi is still pulling at his hair, and Kei can very clearly see chunks of falling to the floor as he gasps and sobs. “Yamaguchi, stop that.”

 

“Wh-- Why couldn’t I ha- have gotten sick?..”

 

Kei doesn’t remember what got Tadashi to stop that time. The memory of it has been hidden for so long, and he doesn’t even have the time to think about it as he drops down in front of Tadashi and wraps his arms around the wailing teen. Tadashi freezes at the contacts, a soft gasp escaping his lips, and his sobs die down to sniffles. Kei holds tighter when Akira starts to fuss, and soon enough all three are calm. The kotatsu is back where is should be. There’s nothing broken (well, save for the broken pot, of course, but nothing major).

 

“Auntie went out to get the mail, and when she came back, mama was on the floor, seizing.” Tadashi whispers, and Kei rubs comforting circles into his back. Akira snoozes peacefully between them. “She completely forgot about Aki, and rushed mama to the hospital. She’s in the ICU, we don’t know if it was because of her illness or if it’s something completely different, but it doesn’t look like she’s getting any better…”

 

Kei bites his lip; Tadashi shouldn’t have to go through any of this. He pulls back from their tight embrace, and grabs for his note pad, glad he still has it in his pocket. He flips it to his “Tadashi” section of his ready-responses.

 

It’ll be ok.

 

It’s all Tadashi needs to fall, exhausted, into Kei’s arms, and Kei just holds on tighter,

 

It will be ok. Kei’s sure of it.

Chapter Text

It’s not a surprise when Tadashi doesn’t come to school the following monday, or even the day afterwards. Kei starts to worry on the third day when he does, but he knows what Tadashi’s going through. He’s probably visiting his mother or something. Maybe he’d developed a nasty cold in the days he wasn’t at school; hospitals are full of germs, after all.

 

On the fourth day, as Kei’s worrying hit its peak, right before the first bell, Tadashi stumbles in the room, bags under his eyes. Kei feels his heart fall at the sight. Tadashi looks so tired . His hair is mussed more than usual, his uniform ruffled (one or two buttons on his button up are mixed up), and the bags under his eyes are deep, dark purple. Their classmates whisper and stare as Tadashi makes his way to his desk next to Kei’s and slides down into it, his head falling to it’s worn top.

 

“‘g morning, Tsukki…”

 

Kei flips his notebook open and scribbles a greeting, just to get Tadashi to speak, to see if he’ll revert to his normal self with a little prodding. Good morning, Yamaguchi. How is your mother? Doing well?

 

“Better. She should be out of the hospital by next week, but her bed rest has been extended a few weeks more…” Tadashi runs a hand through his already mussed hair, and bites his lip. He looks like he’s trying not to cry. “I-- I wish she would just get better…

 

Kei nods to show his sympathy, but he doesn’t think Tadashi can see it. His eyes are fluttering shut, and Kei lets them, giving his friend some rest before class starts. He writes something else in his notebook and rips it out, setting the note on Tadashi’s desk. The teacher enters, and class begins, but Kei doesn’t miss the way Tadashi seems to relax when he picks the note off his desk and reads it.

 

I’m always here for you when you need to talk. Ok?




Homework is hell for Tadashi.

 

He knows it’s his own fault, he could’ve been back to school after the first day of his mother being ill, but he’d stayed to help his Auntie care for Akira -- she’d had a few days off from the hospital, but with his mother in the hospital, she’d figured it best to keep working, to pay off the hospital bills quicker. The nanny had expected the days off, and Tadashi hated to inconvenience people, and so he’d volunteered to watch the baby. He’d said he would be fine.

 

Tadashi, of course, immediately regrets his decisions as soon as his first class of the day starts.

 

He vaguely remembers where he’d left off in his book assigned for Japanese literature, and he’s glad that they’re not too far from that spot (thank goodness he likes to read ahead). He’s fine in his history classes, but biology and -- as good as he is at math -- precalculus are taking a major hit from his three days of absence.

 

It’s all a blur of numbers and formulas and postulates and Tadashi can feel a migraine forming just by looking at it.

 

Tadashi asks Kei questions about the work at lunch, thankful that his best friend had copied his own notes to give to him, even if Kei’s handwriting is atrocious. He blushes when their hands brush as Kei hands him his notes, and he thinks maybe -- just maybe -- he can see a similar flush on Kei’s ears as--

 

That’s not the point. Homework. Right.

 

They’re still discussing their English assignments on the way to practice when a nice-looking girl stops them before they can climb the stairs to the club room. Tadashi remembers her as the cute captain-to-be of the girl’s volleyball team. He feels a slight frown tug at his lips when he remembers Daichi-san, Suga-san, and Asahi-san won’t be joining them for practice soon enough, and that the official handing-over of the team will be in a few weeks. He’ll miss his newfound friends when they graduate.

 

“Ts-- Tsukishima-kun?.. I- I was wondering, uh-- if- if you could...maybe meet me after volleyball practice?.. A- Alone .” Tadashi doesn’t miss the pointed look in his direction, and he feels himself shrinking away reflexively.

 

Kei stares blankly at the girl for a moment, before taking out his note pad and flipping it open to a ready-set page.

 

Sure, I guess. Behind the gym, I suppose?

 

The girl nods, not phased in the slightest that the note is in his ready-prepared notes, and rushes off with a “See you after practice, Tsukishima-kun!”

 

Kei sighs, rolling his eyes, and Taashi already knows what his answer is going to be. He sighs, disappointed in his best friend, but doesn’t mention it. He knows Kei can see it in his eyes. He always does.

 

The end of practice comes far too soon, in Tadashi’s opinion; he doesn’t feel like seeing yet another girl run off crying after Kei rejects her for yet another time. He just doesn’t understand; Tadashi knows Kei doesn’t like -- hardly knows --  these girls but he could learn , and grow to love them . Kei hasn’t shown any interest in anyone, let alone the girls that confess to him, but Tadashi thinks that surely, if he just accepted a damn confession it could work out for Kei and he could fall in love she could maybe break the curse on him. But he doesn’t. Why doesn’t he accept?

 

Maybe he’s aromantic (though he’s definitely not asexual-- too many walking-in incidents have happened for that to be true). It seems reasonable; Kei is very shut-in, and doesn’t get close to too many people. Tadashi feels his heart contract. If Kei is aromantic, then he’ll never reverse his curse, never get true love’s kiss, never speak ever again. And Tadashi desperately wants to hear his voice again.

 

They both change slowly, both for different reasons, and exit the club room still talking about homework. Tadashi thinks he’s understanding the precalculus homework better now, and when they get home, Kei can help him with the problems he’d been stuck on since study hall.

 

Just as expected, the soon-to-be-captain of the girl’s volleyball team brushes past Tadashi not even five minutes later, a note that most definitely says “ no ” on it in Kei’s lazy, messy scrawl. A slow minute later, Kei saunters up to Tadashi, and holds out his note pad.

 

You didn’t have to wait for me, you know.

 

“I know, but you would get lonely without me to walk you home” Tadashi smiles when Kei flushes because he knows it’s the truth. “Besides, I kinda need help with my precalc homework…”

 

Tadashi bites back the question nagging at the back of his mind at Kei’s rolling eyes, and smiles. He flips to a new page, writes an answer, and holds it out to Tadashi.

 

You know I’m not good at math. That’s your subject.

 

“Yeah, but you were here for the last three days.” Tadashi sticks his tongue out at Kei. “So you can take responsibility and share your horribly written notes with me.”

 

Kei flips to the ready-set section and holds the notepad up to him.

 

Fine. My house?

 

“Ok, Tsukki! Thanks, you’re the best!”

 

Kei rolls his eyes and holds out a finger to pause Tadashi, flipping his note pad to another page.

 

Whatever .




The walk is unusually quiet, and Kei feels Tadashi’s eyes on him as he tugs at his fingers at his waist, a nervous habit he should really get rid of. He knows there’s a question lingering in the air; he knows he can’t hide from it forever. He’ll have to answer it soon, maybe even today-- he doesn’t think he’s ready to be rejected. A sense of dread and panic flood Kei’s mind, and he’s sure Tadashi doesn’t miss the way his chest heaves slightly. He’s definitely in trouble.

 

When Kei unlocks his front door, they’ve been silent the entire walk, and it’s unsettling; Tadashi hasn’t asked him what was wrong, what he was nervous about, and he still hasn’t asked why he rejected that girl. Kei just wishes he would get it over with.

 

The house is quiet and empty when they enter, and Kei is glad; he doesn’t feel like dealing with his mother right now. The two slide down onto the floor at the coffee table, and slide their books out of their bags. Kei scribbles out a note to Tadashi--

 

You said you needed help with precalculus?

 

Tadashi nods, humming to himself. He doesn’t look up as he opens his textbook. Kei takes the notebook back to himself.

 

What questions? Because there are a few I’m stuck on, myself...

 

Kei doesn’t think Tadashi even reads the note. His eyes seem to skim over it, but he just...stares at it. He stares at it and gnaws his bottom lip and looks worried and Kei hates it. His eyes stay locked on the yellow lined paper before his head snaps up, and he blurts out, “Wh- Why do you keep rejecting girls? They could be the ones to cure you!”

 

Tadashi’s eyes widen, and he covers his mouth immediately after he says it. He looks guilty, and Kei thinks he knows the feeling.

 

“I-- I mean… Tsukki, I- I know you f- find love a b- bother, but… Don’t you think maybe… You’ll fall in love?.. I-- I mean, don’t think… I don’t think love comes when you look for it, so maybe it’s best if you let it happen?..”

 

Kei shakes his head, and Tadashi frowns.

 

“Wh...I don’t understand...” Kei shakes his head again, not locking his eyes with Tadashi’s own. “I-- I just want to help. A-- Are you maybe...scared?”

 

The question is meant to be helpful, and Kei knows that, but he can’t help the annoyance that bubbles in his chest. He doesn’t even want to write a response-- doesn’t think he can , with the way his hands shaking.

 

“...Kei. Please.”

 

Low blow, Tadashi, Kei thinks, and he glares at his hands in his lap.

 

“I miss your voice…” Kei’s head snaps up, surprised, and he frowns, writing slowly and carefully.

 

Well, you might as well forget it; no one can love someone as terrible as me .

 

Kei looks at his hands once again. It's been hanging in the back of his mind throughout the duration of his curse; why would anyone like him when he's rude and arrogant and can't even talk to them? He wasn't likable before his curse, how could he be now?

 

The sound of paper crumbling startles Kei, and he looks up to see Tadashi frowning, glaring at the paper wrinkling in his hands. “Tsukki, that’s not true! Sure, a lot of people think you’re a mean guy, but if they got to know you -- like the girls are trying to do -- they would love you like--”

 

Tadashi freezes, and his voice trails off. Kei raises an eyebrow. He scribbles on his paper without looking, and thrusts his note pad in his lap.

 

Love me like?..

 

“They would love you like I do!”

 

Tadashi leans forward, smashing their lips in a sloppy kiss, and when they pull apart there’s silence. Cold, deafening silence. One beat, two beats, and then a squeak, and Tadashi is up, leaving his books on the table. Kei is alone, the front door slamming shut the only thing interrupting the silence.

 

It takes Kei a moment to realize what happened, but when he does, he feels his heart stop.

 

Tadashi loves you. He loves you. He kissed you. On the lips. Tadashi loves you. He loves you. He loves you. He kissed you, but-- but he ran away. He ran away. Shit.

 

“Shit,” Kei curses, his head falling to his hands. How hadn't he known? “Shit shit shit shit . What does that even mean?!”

 

More silence. Kei groans loudly, and murmurs under his breath, “ Fuck me…

Chapter Text

“I messed up, mama!..” Tadashi whines, dropping himself onto the kitchen table. “I just kissed him like I could cure him! I- I can't face him anymore, we need to move, or-- or--”

 

“We're not moving, Tadashi,” Auntie Kou says with a light chuckle, returning from setting Akira down and pushing Tadashi’s coffee closer to him. “And I'm sure Kei-kun doesn't want that either. Now drink your coffee before it gets cold.”

 

Tadashi scoffs. “Auntie, you don't get it, I--”

 

Messed up , we've heard.” His mother sighs, and with the flick of her wrist, she pulls Tadashi’s chair towards her own, as well as drawing his coffee near, and pats down his hair. “Everything is going to be fine , sweetie.”

 

“But it's not fine, Mama!” Tadashi wails, and finally, he takes a sip of the scalding liquid in his favorite mug. Seeing the happy smiling animals on his mug makes him sick instead of happy like it usually does. Tsukki hates you now, you don’t deserve to smile at your stupid childish face. “Tsukki is never going to want to look at me ever again!..”

 

“You’re being ridiculous,” Tadashi’s mother scoffs, standing and pats his back before walking on wobbly legs to the counter. “Now I need my medicine and to go to bed.”

 

“I- I’ll help,” Tadashi scrambles up, and helps his mother gather up her various pills and injections for the day.

 

“You know, you’d better not start avoiding Kei-kun, now.” Auntie says warningly, holding out a rolled up newspaper, meant to be threatening, but Tadashi can hear the lilt in her voice and he knows she’s trying not to laugh.  

 

“But you and Kei-kun are basically inseparable!”

 

“Y- Yeah, but Tsukki needs-- Tsukki needs time to think…”

 

“About what?! You kissed him, what else is there to think about?”

 

Tadashi gnaws at his bottom lip. “M- Mama, Auntie! I said I-- I said I love him! He’s probably deciding how to let me down right now…”

 

“Tadashi, I love you, but…”

 

“You’re pretty stupid.”

 

Tadashi gives the women of his life an incredulous look.

 

He’s in love with you.

 

Tadashi blushes up to his ears and whines, “G- Guys!..”

 

“You’re so oblivious , Ta-chan!” Auntie rolls her eyes.

 

“I’m not .” Tadashi crosses his arms in protest.

 

Are too, ” His mom says, chuckling when Tadashi’s jaw drops. “Kei-kun is so obviously in love with you; he’s one of the only ones that can calm you down from a panic attack, he actively seeks you out when he’s feeling bad, he’s been with you throughout almost five years of silence on his part, you sleep in the same bed during sleepovers. And you should see the way he looks at you.”

 

“Plus, he holds your hands in large crowds! Though we can never figure out if it’s for you or for him...” Auntie points out, and Tadashi flushes deeper scarlet. “And really , you should see the way he looks at you.”

 

“Ok, you two are ridiculous,” Tadashi shakes his head, and makes towards the door. “Now, I have homework to finish.”

 

“Good night,”

 

“Love you~”

 

Tadashi grumbles. “Love you too…”

 

It’s only when Tadashi reaches his bedroom and looks at the blank space where his backpack should rest next to his bed that he realizes he left it, as well as his books and all his homework at Kei’s house. Shit.

The next morning, he walks to practice alone; he’d slept through his alarm, and so when he walks into the gym Hinata and Kageyama are already halfway into their pre-practice spiking practice. He sees Kei in the corner, staring at them boredly, and feels his stomach drop. He makes his way to Sugawara to speak with him about practicing with him during afternoon practice, and promises to go up to Kei and pretend like everything's normal after he’s done.

 

However, when it comes to time to do that, he can’t bring himself to do so.

 

When practice ends, Tadashi is ready before Kei (as usual), but instead of waiting for him, Tadashi makes his way to class. A minute later, Kei enters, two sets of books in his hands.

 

Right. Tadashi left his stuff at Kei’s house.

 

Tadashi’s books slide onto his desk, but he keeps his eyes on his hands in his lap. He can’t look Kei in the eye-- he’s still terrified about what he’ll say, and he’s glad they’re in school. Kei would never start anything at school; he hates the drama that would surely ensue should he start a scene. Class starts, and no sooner are they pouring through their books for Japanese lit does a note slide onto his desk.

 

Can we talk?. .

 

Tadashi feels his heart begin to race, and he looks over at Kei. Their eyes lock for a moment, and the note crumbles in Tadashi’s hand as he jumps out of his seat, catching the attention of everyone in the room.

 

“S- Sensei, may I go to the nurse? I-- I don’t feel so well.”

 

Their lit teacher sighs, and nods, pointing to the door. Tadashi doesn’t wait any longer to rush out of the classroom and to the restroom until biology class, where they’ll be across the room from each other. It’s better that way.




“I’ve made a decision.”

 

“Oh?” Tadashi’s mother looks up from the herbs she’s grinding with a knowing look. “And what’s that? I hope it’s not to kill me in my sleep, I really want to be awake for that.”

 

“Mama!” Tadashi whines. He lightly hits her shoulder. “Be serious!”

 

His mother giggles. “Fine, fine, what’s your plan, dear?”

 

“I’m going to leave Tsukki alone to decide what he wants to do with our friendship-- friendship, not relationship, stop it with that look.” Tadashi gives his mother a stern look, and she smiles guiltily.

 

“I can’t help it.” Tadashi rolls his eyes.

 

“Anyway… I think he needs some time to think about the-- the kiss, and my confession, and just...everything. So I’m…going to leave him to his own devices. ”

 

His mother looks at him with sympathy, and pats his shoulder.

 

“It’ll all work out eventually, Tashi.”

 

Tadashi smiles sadly. “I hope so.”

 

The week following Tadashi’s decision to let Kei think is lonely. Tadashi walks to and from school alone, and his classes aren’t spent passing notes back and forth with Kei or using their own form of sign language from across the room. At practice, Tadashi doesn’t snicker with Kei, and in turn sticks to Kinoshita and Narita’s sides. He can feel sharp, unwavering eyes on him as he speaks with his senpai, and he flinches when he accidentally locks eyes with Kei after a particularly good block. Normally, Ennoshita would join them in gossiping, but he’s busy taking the reigns from Daichi as the official future captain of Karasuno. He knows his teammates are suspicious of his behavior, but he thinks acting odd around Kei is better than not having Kei around at all, after all.

 

The longer he avoids Kei, the longer everything will be ok. Right?

 

...Right?

 

Thursday, Kei doesn’t show up to school; sick, probably, but it still leaves an unsettling feeling in Tadashi’s gut. Kei always texts him when he’s sick, but his phone lay stagnant in his pocket all day. Thursday also seems to be the day Ennoshita confronts him about his situation with Kei.

 

“Yamaguchi.”

 

“H- Hey, Enno-san! Fancy seeing you here...In the club...room...”

 

“You and Tsukishima aren’t fighting, are you?.. There seems to be a lot of…tension. Between you two.”

 

“I… I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

 

“You do too, don’t lie.”

 

Tadashi bites his lip.

 

“There seems to be a lot of…tension. Between you two. I just want to help a friend.”

 

He knows there’s no hiding things from Ennoshita from when he was having a crisis about his sexuality back when Yachi first joined the team (he seriously has a thing for blondes, damn, let’s not mention his crush on Akireu back in middle school). “...It’s nothing too serious, I promise.”

 

“You two haven’t spoken in almost a week-- I mean-- Shit,  Tsukishima can’t talk, fuck, right, I-- I m- mean you haven’t communicated in almost a week . I-- You’re avoiding each other, is what I mean. Stop that.” Ennoshita is obviously flustered at his mistake, and flushes pink.

 

“We’re not avoiding each other, Enno.”

 

“Oh, ok, ok, Pardon me ,” Ennoshita rolls his eyes, back to normal. “ You’re avoiding Tsukishima . Stop it.”

 

“Ennoshita-san, I’m not--”

 

“You are. Ever since that girl confessed to him after practice-- yes, I saw them go behind the gym together. Is it because he has a girlfriend now?”

 

Tadashi blinks in confusion. Kei has a girlfriend..? “Huh? Tsukki doesn’t have a girlfriend, he rejected her?”

 

“Huh?” Ennoshita quirks an eyebrow. “But I thought that’s why you’re avoiding him?.. Because you’re sad that he didn’t choose you or something. Which, by the way, the entire team has bets on, so you better not be lying to me when you say that.”

 

Tadashi shudders at the menacing look Ennoshita gives him, and crosses his arms self-consciously.

 

“That’s not why I’m...” Tadashi trails off, his eyes widening when he realizes what he’d said. He really needs to learn how to keep his mouth shut.  

 

“Ha! So you are avoiding him!” Ennoshita says with a huge grin. “Why?”

 

“...Why what?”

 

Why are you avoiding him?! Quit trying to avoid the question, Yamaguchi.” Ennoshita rolls his eyes.

 

“O- Oh…” Tadashi says, nervous. “I-- I… Might have made a huge mistake. Colossal, mistake. And-- I might be-- I might be a- avoiding getting rejected or…something…”

 

Ennoshita scoffs. “Yamaguchi, Tsukishima wouldn’t reject you, you’re just blowing things out of proportion again.”

 

“I’m not!”

 

“You are.”

 

“Not.”

 

Are .” Ennoshita gives Tadashi a pointed glare, interrupting Tadashi’s reply. “You should see the way he looks at you. Now, Just tell me what happened between you two. Maybe it’s all just a misunderstanding.”

 

“I don’t wanna talk about it…” Tadashi whines, covering his face. “I won’t .”

 

“Yamaguchi, come on.” Ennoshita pouts. “Please?”

 

“Stop it,” Tadashi gives Ennoshita a firm look. “Don’t you dare give me that pouty face, I’m not--”

 

“Tadashi~”

 

No .”

 

“Please?”

 

Tadashi uncovers his face and crosses his arms again, nervously shifting on his feet. He gnaws at his bottom lip. “ Ugh. Fine. But you better not tell anyone. Not even Kinoshita and Narita.

 

Ennoshita waves a hand, the other behind his back, fingers crossed, but Tadashi is too distracted with nerves to notice. Ennoshita promises himself silently it’s for the better of their relationship. “Fine, fine.”

 

“I-- I… After Tsukki rejected that girl’s confession, I asked him why. He-- He gets so many confessions, and he’s never once accepted any of them, and I-- I finally snapped; I had to know . And he got all defensive, and said he didn’t like any of the girls confessing to him, and that he’d never be loved for who he is and I might have told him I love him and I also might have kissed him and now I’m really scared he doesn’t want to be friends anymore, so I’m avoiding him so I don’t have to be rejected and replaced and asked to never look at him ever again and I’m really scared, shit .”

 

Tadashi is gasping for breath by the end of his explanation and he looks up to see Ennoshita looking at him, stunned.

 

“You...Kissed him. And he didn’t say anything?..” The entire team knew the circumstances of Kei’s curse.

 

“Because he doesn’t love me. In fact, I’m pretty sure he’s aromantic...” Tadashi says, and he looks away from his senpai.

 

“Really? I thought he was demi.”

 

Tadashi shakes his head. “I don’t know, he-- he doesn’t show any interest in anyone…”  

 

Ennoshita doesn’t reply, just stares, and Tadashi tries to ignore his heavy gaze.

 

Finally, “...You need to talk to him.”

 

Tadashi just shakes his head. “I can’t.”

 

The next day starts as it always does; he walks to school alone, practices without looking Kei’s way, and goes to class alone. A note is on his desk, as usual, and Tadashi hardly reads over the “we need to talk” scribbled on it before it’s swept up and tucked in a folder, to be ignored. Kei slides into his seat next to him for homeroom, and tries to pass notes, ultimately getting caught by a teacher. After Kei is moved across the room for the third time this week for passing notes, Tadashi thinks he’s maybe finally given up trying to talk to him about the kiss. He doesn’t even try to drop one in his bento on his way to dump his trash in the bin at the front of the classroom. Maybe things can go back to normal now.

 

Classes are a lot easier without having to avoid Kei’s persistent notes.

 

Tadashi does have to admit, though, he misses Kei’s attention. He mentions so to his mother when she texts him during fifth hour break, asking about his day. She tells him to “man up and just talk to him”. He promptly ignores that advice and bids her goodbye as the bell rings, a short I love you following shortly after as the teacher enters the room.

 

Practice is grueling. Tadashi is pretty distracted, and he can’t land a serve right. In more than one occasion, he gets whacked in the face by a ball. He can feel Kei’s eyes on him, just like every other day, but today he can obviously tell there’s something different about the way he looks at him. There’s… Humor. For the first time in the long, long week Tadashi has been avoiding him, Tadashi can sense the laughter he’s hiding behind a blank expression.

 

Feeling Kei watch his every move distracts him more than it has all week, and it’s as if there’s a permanent flush on his face and his neck.

 

Tadashi almost forgets that today is the handing over of the team until Daichi calls the team to line up after practice later in the afternoon. The ceremony is quick but tearful, and everyone’s cried at least one by the time it’s time for Ennoshita to come up and give a speech about receiving his position and how he’ll do all he can to live up to Daichi’s reign. The third years stand in front of them, looking proudly at their kouhai, and Yamaguchi is a mess. Kei, next to him, is rubbing circles into his back, and for a moment, Tadashi forgets he’s supposed to be avoiding Kei, just reveling in the comforting patterns Kei’s fingers rub unto the small of his back and the folds of his practice jersey. Ennoshita is looking at them like he knows, and Tadashi feels his face heat up but he doesn’t push Kei away.

 

Practice is dismissed by Ennoshita instead of Daichi, and just like that all of the dynamics seem to change. Ennoshita is no longer the leader of the second years, but the whole team. Ennoshita is talking about the new first years once the new school year rolls around, and Hinata is yelling about “being a senpai again!!!” and it’s almost overwhelming.

 

Ennoshita stops the first years on their way outside the club room on their ways home. “Oi. You lot. We’re having a final practice match with the third years tomorrow, after school. I know we’re supposed to have a break for a while, but it’s kinda our final goodbye, y’know? We do it every year.”

 

“Yay! We get to play with the third years one more time!” Hinata cheers, and Kei rolls his eyes, taking out his note pad. Tadashi sees what he’s scribbling before

 

Wasn’t the last few months of our lives enough for you guys?..

 

Ennoshita smirks, as if he’s taunting, and he crosses his arms, looking at them. “Don’t you want to play a three-on-six? You guys, me, Narita, and Kinoshita, against the three of them. Of course, with switch-outs because there’s seven of us, but-- you get the gist of it.”

 

The first years grin.

 

“Sound fun?”

 

“Hell yeah!”

 

“Bring it on!”

 

Tadashi is so excited, and Kei so indifferent, that they don’t see the thumbs-up and the scheming smirks traded between the other two first years and their new captain.  

Chapter Text

The next day is slow, and Tadashi’s mind is on the practice match instead of Kei’s gaze heavy on his back. He was going to play, and he’s going to do his best to impress coach Ukai and Ennoshita alike, so he can be a starter. He’s going to do it .

 

Tadashi is so transfixed on the idea that he’s startled out of his seat by the final bell, and is just getting his heart rate back to normal when Hinata jumps on his back.

 

“Yamaguchi!” Hinata yells, right in his ear, and Tadashi cringes. “Are you excited for our match against the senpais?!”

 

“Yes, Hinata-kun,” Tadashi says with a giggle, shifting so he holds Hinata up on his back instead of just letting him slip off. “I’m going to do my very best! I want to impress coach.”

 

“I do too! So let’s do our best to beat the senpais!”

 

Tadashi nods. “Y- Yeah.”

 

They arrive at the club room, and Hinata drops off of Tadashi’s back. Tadashi is just about to grab the doorknob when Hinata gasps, and he whirls around to look at his friend with a raised eyebrow.

 

“I-- I forgot my shoes in the shoe lockers in school! I was practicing with Bakageyama at lunch today and left them in there!”

 

Tadashi sighs, shaking his head. “You two really need to take a break sometimes…”

 

“Nah!” Hinata yells, already on his way to grab his shoes. Tadashi shakes his head again, and opens the door. He’s early, it seems, despite how slow he was in getting to the club room with Hinata on his back. He frowns when he sees Hinata’s volleyball shoes in the corner of the room.

 

Tadashi sighs, sitting on the bench, not wanting to change just yet, and pulls out his phone. He’s scrolling mindlessly through Tumblr when the door flies open and Kei is dragged in the room by Tanaka and Nishinoya, looking annoyed. Tadashi can’t help his snicker when Nishinoya jumps onto Kei’s back like Hinata had with him only minutes again.

 

“Tsukishima! It was great talking with you!” Noya yells, and Tanaka pulls him off of Kei and places him on his own back. “But…”

 

“We forgot our shoes! We’ll be right back, ok? Don’t you worry!”

 

Tadashi doesn’t think anything of their excuse until the door slams shut and they hear it lock from the outside.

 

“Shit,” Tadashi jumps up and makes his way to the door, ignoring the confused look he gets from Kei. He jiggles the knob, but the door doesn’t budge. “Shit shit shit shit, You guys!”

 

Ennoshita’s voice comes from behind the door, clear and threatening. “Sorry, Yamaguchi, but we won’t let you out until you talk to Tsukishima.”

 

“Ennoshita Chikara I swear I’ll turn you into a toad when I get out of here!” Tadashi yells, but there’s no real malice; only panic, evident in the way his breath heaves as he moves away from the door and back towards the bench. He’s not ready he’s not ready he’s not ready--

 

“Just talk to him!”

 

“It’ll be fine!”

 

“Don’t worry!”

 

The reassurances from his nosy goddamn teammates does nothing to calm him, and Tadashi can’t breathe .




Kei feels panic spread over his chest the moment he hears the door click shut behind him. He’d wanted to speak with Tadashi, but not when Tadashi isn’t ready . Well, that and he’s totally not ready.

 

He can tell from the shirts, shoes and stray volleyballs flying around the club room that Tadashi isn’t ready either.

 

Kei thinks back to two weeks ago, when Tadashi had a panic attack like this, and something pops into his head: last time, he hugged Tadashi and he calmed down. If he did the same, he should be able to calm him down enough to talk to him calmly. With two easy strides, Kei is across the room and sitting beside Tadashi in the bench, wrapping his arms around his best friend. He hushes him quietly when his whimpering increases in volume, and the items flying around the room all fly to hit the ceiling. He curses silently.

 

“Yamaguchi…Oi Yamaguchi, calm down. It’s ok, I’m not mad, ok?” Kei whispers, trying to rub soothing circles in Tadashi’s back. “The complete opposite, actually.”

 

Tadashi’s head snaps up and everything falls to the ground. He blinks, his breathing still heavy, his panic replaced by confusion. “...Tsukki?..”

 

“I’m not mad, I swear. But nothing has to change between us, nothing has to change if you don’t want it. I promise.”

 

“...Y- You’re talking...”

 

“I am.”

 

“But-- But…” Tadashi’s brows furrow, and Kei can almost see the gears turning in his head. He chuckles, and loosens his hold on Tadashi, tucking a strip of hair behind Tadashi’s ear.

 

“I have been since you kissed me. I was kind of hoping to surprise you, when you were ready to talk...”

 

Tadashi is silent. “You… You can talk .”

 

Kei rolls his eyes. “Yes. I love you too.”

 

“Y- You do?”

 

“I do. I wouldn’t be talking, otherwise, idiot.”

 

“Oh.” Tadashi flushes. “Yeah. Uh… I-- I need to know... How-- How long?.. Have you loved me?”

 

“Since we were young. Ten, Eleven, maybe…” And Tadashi giggles. “What?”

 

Tadashi continues to laugh, and says, “I’ve liked you since we met , Kei.”

 

Kei’s jaw drops.

 

“Y- You did?!”

 

Yes . Now please say you’ll be my boyfriend, I’ve been waiting forever.”

 

“Of course I will, Tadashi.” Tadashi’s head falls to Kei’s chest, and he lets out a teary peel of laughter.

 

Gods , we’re a mess. We could have solved this when it happened , if we’d just gotten over ourselves.”

 

“Says the one who avoided me for almost two weeks because they kissed me,” Kei scoffs, but there’s no venom, only the teasing lilt of sarcasm. He kisses the top of Tadashi’s head, and Tadashi giggles more, burying his face in Kei’s chest, his arms tightening around his boyfriend. His boyfriend . “I love you so much…”

 

Tadashi sighs into Kei’s chest, and looks up at him. “I love you too…”

 

Kei kisses Tadashi, this time on the lips, and Tadashi giggles into it.

 

“What now?” He asks, but there’s no venom in his words, no annoyance. Only concern and pure adoration.

 

“Sorry, Tsukki, b- but your hand is on my thigh, I-- I’m t- ticklish there.”

 

Kei raises an eyebrow, and asks, suggestively, “Oh, really?”

 

Tadashi instantly jumps up and away from Kei, pointing at him threatening. “Tsukishima Kei, I’ll turn you into a toad if you even think about it!”

 

Kei raises his hands in surrender. “I think we’ve both had enough of curses for our lifetime.”

 

Tadashi pouts and falls back onto the bench, pecking Kei on the cheek. “Fair enough.”


As the door opens, and the room is filled with the cheers of their teammates, Kei and Tadashi keep their eyes locked on each other, and Tadashi thinks maybe he understands what people say when they say he should see the way Kei looks at him. He sure isn’t going to miss it any more.