Tsukishima is peacefully eating his lunch one Thursday when Yamaguchi waltzes over to his desk and drops a bombshell.
"There's a pumpkin patch opening this weekend, Tsukki," he says.
"That's nice," says Tsukishima. He fills his mouth strategically with rice.
"Wanna go?" asks Yamaguchi.
Tsukishima's strategic rice almost sprays everywhere (almost—he's not Hinata; he's not about to lose his composure like that).
Instead, he takes as much time as possible swallowing so he can put off saying,
It's painful—truly, it is. Waiting for Yamaguchi's face to fall is probably Tsukishima's least favorite activity of all time, and he plays volleyball with Kageyama Tobio.
But on this cursed Thursday afternoon, Yamaguchi's nose does not scrunch up just a little, and his shoulders do not slump forward, and his gaze does not drop to the floor. Instead, he narrows his eyes, pokes Tsukishima's shoulder, and says,
"You don't have anything else to do."
"…Akiteru is coming to visit."
"Akiteru is on a road trip with Saeko-Neesan until next week."
Tsukishima adjusts his glasses. "Well…my mom wants me to help her with chores."
"No, she doesn't. She hasn't bothered to ask you since we were in junior high."
"Why do you want to go to this pumpkin patch so badly."
Yamaguchi flops onto Tsukishima's desk, face pointed up to the ceiling, throwing his arms out wide and nearly smacking Tsukishima.
"Because, Tsukki! It'll be fun! We can find the dumbest-looking pumpkins, and drink hot apple cider, and I heard they have the biggest corn maze in the region! And…"
His nose wrinkles. Not in the sad way, this time, but in the I'm-about-to-say-something-embarrassing way.
"And what?" Tsukishima prompts, gazing down at Yamaguchi and finding it very difficult (read: impossible) to stop a silly, endeared smile from creeping across his lips.
"…And…we can wear the cute matching scarves Yacchan gave us last Christmas. Because it'll be cold."
Yamaguchi pouts and looks off to the side, blushing.
Tsukishima gives him his very best tch.
"Tsukki! What was that for!"
"For you being stupid," Tsukishima tells him, and the fondness in his tone gives him away. "We don't have to go to a pumpkin patch to wear the scarves. You can just ask."
"Tsukkiii!" Yamaguchi slaps his palms over his face. "You're not allowed to say cute stuff like that! Without a warning! You're killing me here! With cuteness! And you're undermining my argument, too!"
Tsukishima smirks. "It wasn't a very convincing argument."
Yamaguchi mumbles something into his fingers.
"What was that?"
He peels his hands away slowly. "I said, there are dinosaurs."
Tsukishima's glance snaps to the clock, the bookshelves, really anywhere but Yamaguchi's face. He clears his throat and adjusts his glasses again.
"C'mon, Tsukki, I know that got your attention." Damn Yamaguchi and his adorable I'm-trying-to-be-smooth-here voice.
Just to have something to do, he clears his throat again.
"What…in what capacity are these—supposed—dinosaurs making an appearance?"
"I knew it!" Yamaguchi sits up and squishes Tsukishima's cheeks with his palms. "You wanna go now!"
Tsukishima blushes fiercely. He can't exactly help it. You try having the cutest boyfriend in the world. Just try it. He's surprised he managed to survive a single day.
"I didn't say that."
"Dinosaurs, Tsukki! Just think about it! Pumpkins and cider and holding hands and the biggest corn maze ever full of colorful wooden allosauruses and—and—gally-memes?"
"Yeah! Those! Imagine their smiling faces!"
"Dinosaurs don't smile."
"These ones do, Tsukki!"
"If they do, then whoever made them clearly didn't do their research, and I won't go."
"Fine, they don't. Will you go if they don't?"
Tsukishima hesitates. He knows what's coming, and it's not going to be pretty.
There it is. The dreaded please, Tsukki. He almost wants to squeeze his eyes shut like the coward he is and never open them again.
One eye. Just a little peek.
Nope. No, he can't do it. Yamaguchi has unleashed the full force of his big, sparkly, puppy-dog (lethal hellhound) eyes, and Tsukishima is the first and only casualty.
He looks away again. Glowers just a little.
Yamaguchi jumps to his feet and flings his arms around Tsukishima, showering his temples and the top of his head in little butterfly kisses that absolutely do not take his breath away, thank you very much, because they're at school, for god's sake.
"Thank you, Tsukki! Thankyouthankyouthankyou! We're gonna have so much fun! Ooh, I wonder if Shouyou-kun wants to come…he can bring Kageyama—it can be a double date—"
Tsukishima lets his face crash into his desk with a small groan of despair. He's nowhere near even a single pumpkin, and he already wants to go home.
It starts out alright. Tsukishima picks Yamaguchi up at five o'clock on Saturday, and he can feel the excitement radiating from his boyfriend, sitting in the passenger seat of Tsukishima's mom's car, reading directions from his phone while Tsukishima and his newly-acquired license do all the driving.
The pumpkin farm, when they arrive, looks relatively harmless, if slightly muddy from a bit of rain the previous night. It's made up of, of course, a thriving pumpkin patch, a few makeshift stalls advertising hot cider and candy corn and other treats, and a big barn, painted in faded blue, with a sign over the biggest door that reads: GIFT SHOP AND GOATS!
Tsukishima doesn't want to know. Really, he doesn't.
They hang around the entrance for a bit, and Yamaguchi keeps checking his phone, because Kageyama is texting him occasional updates on his and Hinata's whereabouts. Yamaguchi seems to think that Tsukishima will enjoy hearing these in real time.
"They took a wrong turn," he says, and Tsukishima snorts.
"I'm surprised they know how to read a map at all."
"They're on their way now," Yamaguchi tells him, a few minutes later, and then he points to the road, because there they are, Tsukki! but the ancient, questionably yellow Nissan that Tsukishima will never be sure why Hinata-san ever lets her son borrow flies right past the farm, missing the driveway completely. It screeches to a halt, careens backward and finally wobbles into a parking spot at an angle that would be very illegal if the "parking lot" wasn't just a strip of dying grass.
Kageyama and Hinata get out of the car shouting at each other, because dumbass Hinata we could have died do you even know how to drive, and, shut up! obviously I do! I'm the one with the license, aren't I!
Yamaguchi greets them loudly to shut them up, and the four of them wander into the pumpkin patch, although Hinata is still grumbling under his breath.
Soon enough, though, they all start to relax, and Hinata runs ahead to look for "the perfect pumpkin," and Kageyama follows him, and Tsukishima is left with Yamaguchi, which is exactly how he prefers to live his life. It's nearing sunset, but it isn't unbearably cold, and Yachi's scarves are soft and warm, and so is Yamaguchi's hand, which stays firmly intertwined with Tsukishima's, their arms swinging a little as they walk among rows upon rows of vibrant orange.
"They're the same color as Shouyou-kun's hair," Yamaguchi says, and Tsukishima grins.
"That one looks like a watermelon." He points to a pumpkin that's grown weirdly sideways, so the creases in its shell mimic the stripes on a melon.
"That one looks like a figure eight," Yamaguchi says, indicating a tall, twisted fruit.
"That one looks like it took a nasty spike to the face," Tsukishima says of a particularly squashed-looking pumpkin. Yamaguchi giggles.
"No, it looks like the Vice Principal when he's angry."
"Or when he's cheering at a game and gets really into it."
Yamaguchi laughs, bright and open. It's been a long time since he hid that laugh behind his hand, and Tsukishima likes it that way.
To avoid doing something embarrassing, like kissing Yamaguchi in public, Tsukishima glances around for Kageyama and Hinata. He catches sight of them, just a couple rows away, where Hinata is trying unsuccessfully to lift an enormous pumpkin while Kageyama laughs scornfully.
"That thing is probably twice your size, shrimpy," Tsukishima calls. "Maybe we can recruit it to replace you. I bet it'd be more useful at blocking."
Both Hinata and Kageyama turn at the same time and glare at him.
"Mean, Tsukki!" Yamaguchi snickers.
"It's true, though."
"It is not!" Kageyama argues. "That pumpkin—" he points almost accusingly at it— "could never hit my tosses! It can't even jump!"
As if it's in any way related to his point, he moves Hinata out of the way and lifts the pumpkin off the ground.
"I'll carry it for you," he sniffs, and stalks off to pay for it so he can take it to the car. Hinata bobs after him, noisily admiring his boyfriend's biceps and offering useless advice like, don't trip! Halfway to the barn, Kageyama turns to tell him to shut up, and Hinata walks into him, and they both fall, the pumpkin rolling away from them, somehow unscathed.
Tsukishima and Yamaguchi lean on each other, howling.
"Nice serve, Kageyama," Tsukishima yells. Yamaguchi laughs so hard that he cries.
After that, they give up on pumpkins in favor of exploring the snack vendors. Yamaguchi is hungry, so Tsukishima buys him a warm cinnamon donut that's the size of his entire face, and he munches on it blissfully for awhile before insisting that you try it, Tsukki! and feeding a little piece to Tsukishima.
"Gross," Kageyama complains, clearly holding Hinata's hand. Tsukishima doesn't even dignify him with a response. He's too busy not thinking about how Yamaguchi's fingers were practically in his mouth a few seconds ago.
With much trepidation, they approach the GIFT SHOP AND GOATS barn. It turns out to be far less terrifying than it sounds—half of the barn is stocked with tacky Halloween decor and the kind of homeware you'd find in your grandmother's basement, and the other half is occupied by a pen full of (admittedly pretty cute) fluffy goats.
"You boys want to try feeding them?" one of the staff asks, and both Hinata's and Yamaguchi's eyes shine as they nod furiously.
"You'd better not try to hold my hand with goat saliva all over you," he tells Yamaguchi.
"We could both feed the goats. Then it won't matter, because we'll both have goat saliva on our hands."
"I'm not going anywhere near those things."
"They won't hurt you, Tsukki! See! Kageyama's right by the fence and they—oh, okay…"
The goats run away from Kageyama wherever he goes. It's like watching magnets repel each other. Hinata chortles while the goats flock to him instead, taking the little pellets he offers them.
"They're scared of you," he says. Kageyama frowns, his lips twisting in a pout.
"That's not fair! I didn't do anything to them!"
"No, but your scary face did."
"Yeah, that one! That face you're making right now!"
Tsukishima drags Kageyama to the gift shop to avoid a barn-wrecking conflict. Kageyama sulks until he gets excited by a rack of pastel socks that, apparently, his older sister's girlfriend would love.
Tsukishima buys a mug for Akiteru. It's huge and sickeningly green and says Mom's Second-Favorite.
He takes it to the car, because Yamaguchi and Hinata are still cooing over the goats, and when he gets back, he finds Yamaguchi waiting by the signpost that points the way out into the fields, toward the farm's real main attraction.
"Where are the idiots?" Tsukishima asks. Not that he cares.
"Still inside," Yamaguchi chuckles. "They knocked over a display of costumes, so they're helping clean up."
Tsukishima adjusts his glasses. "Why am I not surprised."
"They said not to wait up," Yamaguchi grins. "Let's go, Tsukki! The dinosaurs are expecting you!"
"No, they aren't."
"How do you know."
"I have a psychic link."
"With fake dinosaurs."
The sun has set when they reach the corn maze. It stretches impossibly far in every direction, dry stalks almost two Yamaguchis tall, grey and discolored in the twilight. A handmade wooden arch at the entrance says JURASSIC FARM! and depicts tiny pterodactyls with jack-o-lanterns in their beaks. It's probably intended as a friendly welcome, but in the growing shadows, the painted faces appear distorted. Yamaguchi points this out, giggling.
"Weeelcomeee toooo ourrr cooornnn maaaaaaze," he says in a spooky wail, creeping his fingers up Tsukishima's arm like a spider. Tsukishima swats him away.
"I hope you didn't drag me all the way here just for a few demented pterosaurs."
"Tsukki! Mean! The flying demon birds are sad!"
"The flying demon reptiles are extinct."
"You're dishonoring their memory, then."
"It's literally been hundreds of millions of years."
"You're literally still being mean."
They're interrupted by the arrival of Kageyama and Hinata, who takes one look at the looming sign and leaps behind his boyfriend, quivering.
"Gwah!" he yells. "What are they?"
"They're drawings, idiot," Kageyama says. "And they're right over the instructions, so we'll have to get closer—"
"You do it!" Hinata shoves at his back. It's impressively ineffective.
"Hey! What was that for?" Kageyama turns on him and Hinata yelps.
"S-scary! Someone help! I'm going to be murdered and buried in this cornfield where no one will ever find my body, and then who's gonna teach Natsu how to play volleyball—"
Kageyama tries to tickle-attack Hinata, who takes off into the maze, screaming some ludicrous incoherency, such as, you'll never take me alive!
"Dumbass! Come back here!" Kageyama sprints after him. Tsukishima vaguely registers that neither of them looked at the instructions. He also decides that they can get lost, for all he cares. They probably—almost definitely—will.
"You're thinking about how nice it would be if they never came back out of there, aren't you," Yamaguchi says. It's not a question.
"I'm thinking about how we're going to be here all night if we don't get started," Tsukishima snarks.
"…And I guess we'll sort of need them at Nationals. Just a little bit."
Yamaguchi laughs and plucks a bright red card from the little box hanging from the entry sign. "Then let's go make sure they don't meet gruesome fates at the hands of dead plants!"
"Maybe there are undead plants," Tsukishima suggests, fixing his glasses. Yamaguchi shivers and loops his arm through Tsukishima's, pressing close to his side.
"Don't say things like that, Tsukki!"
"Are you scared? Are you actually scared of a field?"
Yamaguchi looks up at him solemnly. "Have you ever watched Children of the Corn?"
Yamaguchi shakes his head slowly. "Ignorance really is bliss."
Tsukishima has no idea what he's talking about. He slips his arm down to link his fingers with Yamaguchi's, and together, they enter the maze, sneakers squelching in the mud.
According to the note on the back of the red card, typed in Comic Sans, with what Tsukishima views as an unnecessary amount of smiley faces, their objective is to find each of four "dino checkpoints," where they will punch four different shapes into the card before finding their way out of the maze. Anyone who brings a card with all four shapes to the barn will win free apple cider. Tsukishima doesn't particularly care about winning, but he knows how much Yamaguchi wants apple cider, and he'll be damned if he doesn't do his best to give it to him.
(Of course, he could always just buy some, like a reasonable, sane person. But nine years of friendship have taught him many things, including that, according to Yamaguchi Tadashi, reasonable and sane do not always mean fun.)
So they squish their way further and further away from civilization, hand in hand, with only Tsukishima's phone flashlight and suspicious echoes of dumbass Hinata! and stupid Kageyama! to guide them.
The first dino checkpoint—Tsukishima throws up in his mouth a little just considering that nomenclature—is easy to find. It's only a few turns in: another hand-painted wooden sign jutting from the ground, shaped like a velociraptor. Thankfully, it's not smiling—it's actually remarkably accurate. Tsukishima makes sure to tell Yamaguchi this, just to enjoy the way his face lights up.
"See? I knew this was a good idea!" he cries triumphantly, snapping a star-shaped hole into his red card with the hole puncher that's strung from the velociraptor's teeth.
Tsukishima just clicks his tongue softly. "We still have three to go."
Yamaguchi takes his hand again and pulls him along.
After that, it starts becoming harder to keep their sense of direction. In the low light of the flashlight, every path looks the same, slippery and muddy and winding through looming cornstalks.
When they pass the second dinosaur—a straight-faced diplodocus—for the fifth time, Tsukishima starts to think something might be a little bit wrong. He's sure they've turned a different way every time they've left this clearing, so how do they keep ending up here?
To make matters worse, it's truly dark now, and it's getting so cold that even their jackets and Yachi's scarves aren't doing much to keep them warm. And they haven't seen—or heard from, which is possibly far more concerning—Hinata or Kageyama for at least fifteen minutes.
Yamaguchi is shivering and pretending he isn't, startling almost imperceptibly at the slightest of sounds. Tsukishima lets this go on for about thirty seconds before rolling his eyes and looping an arm about Yamaguchi to pull him close, rubbing his shoulder reassuringly.
"It's fine," he says. "We're probably close to the third checkpoint."
"W-we've b-been s-saying that for the last t-twenty minutes," Yamaguchi chatters. Tsukishima frowns. He almost forgot how cold Yamaguchi gets.
"Don't even think about it," Yamaguchi orders him.
"You were. I could practically hear you planning to give me your jacket. It's freezing, Tsukki. You'll get sick."
"Better me than you."
"That doesn't make sense, Tsukki. People need you. The volleyball team needs you."
"You're the captain. I think they need you, too. Especially me. I'd rather die than hang around those idiots alone."
Yamaguchi huffs and bumps Tsukishima with his hip. Tsukishima tries not to look smug—his Very Complex and Well-Thought-Out Boyfriend-Cheering-Up Plan is working. Now, all they have to do is find the way out of this stupid maze.
…Which is going to be the real challenge, apparently. Tsukishima tries looking at the map on his phone—no service. They stand still and listen for any signs of Kageyama and Hinata—wild screaming or inexplicable crashes, for example—but all they hear are the sounds of their own breathing. Yamaguchi even tries yelling for their friends, for anyone, really, but there's no response. Tsukishima wonders how far from the farm they are, and fervently curses whoever invented corn mazes.
The real icing on the cake is when they've been wandering around for who-knows-how-long, both shivering and exhausted, and Yamaguchi walks right into a particularly nasty puddle of mud and slips. Before Tsukishima even realizes what's happening, Yamaguchi falls flat on his back with a startled yelp.
"Are you okay?" Tsukishima bends down to help him up, but, to his horror, Yamaguchi goes limp in the mud and starts sniffling.
"I'm—s-sorry—Tsukki," he hiccups, and then the tears start, and he's hiding his face behind his hands, and Tsukishima's brain is shutting down, because Yamaguchi crying is a code red, nationwide crisis, level one state of emergency.
"You don't have to—" he starts, but Yamaguchi interrupts.
"It's all my fault!" he wails. "If I hadn't insisted on the pumpkin farm, maybe we could've gone on a nice, normal date, and none of this would have happened, and ohmygodthiswasaterribleideaandyou'renevergonnaforgivemeeee!"
And he drops his head back on the ground and sobs.
Tsukishima is pretty sure he feels his heart physically break. He crouches beside Yamaguchi, takes his hand and rubs little circles on the back of it with his thumb.
"You know what?" he says, and waits. He knows Yamaguchi's curiosity will get the better of him.
It takes a few moments for Yamaguchi to breathe steadily, and then, right on cue, he says, although rather sullenly, "What."
Tsukishima says, "This is the coolest date I've ever been on."
"Tsukki! Don't make fun of me!" Yamaguchi wipes his eyes with his unoccupied hand and smears mud all over his freckles.
"I'm not," Tsukishima tells him. "I'm serious. This is the best date ever. You know why? Because you're having fun, and I like seeing you have fun. Because it's fun. For me."
Yamaguchi gives a little bubble of a laugh. "You're so cheesy, Tsukki."
Tsukishima shrugs. "I don't care. It's true. If you're happy, then I'm happy."
"Awww, Tsukki!" Yamaguchi's eyes squeeze shut when he grins, wide and bright in the flashlight's glare. "I was happy, until we got lost and I fell on my ass in the mud."
"Well, sure," Tsukishima says. "But it's not your fault we got lost. It's whoever designed this damned maze. Which, by the way, doesn't deserve to be called Jurassic. There are nowhere near enough dinosaurs."
"At least they aren't smiling, though."
He stands, hauling Yamaguchi to his feet to check the damage. Yamaguchi's backside (including his hair) is soaked through.
"Ahhh," he moans. "Yacchan's scarf is ruined! What am I gonna tell her?"
"I bet my mom can clean it," Tsukishima says. "If we ever get out of here."
"We could try screaming again," Yamaguchi suggests. Tsukishima grimaces.
"We could—wait, do you hear that?"
They're quiet for a moment. Sure enough, noisy snapping and rustling and two familiar voices are approaching from, well, somewhere. Tsukishima thinks he might have just about pinned their direction when all of a sudden, Kageyama and Hinata burst through the nearest wall of cornstalks and collide with him and Yamaguchi. Hinata slips, his foot catches Kageyama's ankle, and then they're toppling forward, and all four of them go down, right into the mud.
After a long, stunned silence, Kageyama sits bolt upright and smacks Hinata upside the head.
"Dumbass!" he yells. "Why weren't you looking where you were going—"
"I was, it was your idea to go through the corn, and anyway, we found them, didn't we? Where were you guys? We've been looking for ages—"
"No, we haven't, stupid Hinata got stuck on top of the giant dragon with the tiny arms in the middle of the maze—"
"Shut up! It's not like you were any help! And it's called a stegosaurus!"
"No it isn't! Those don't look like that! It was a t-tyr-tyrant-o-saur—"
"Pfft." Tsukishima smirks. "Tyrant-o-saur. Fit for a King."
Yamaguchi snickers. Kageyama scoops up a handful of cold sludge and tries to fling it at them, but it flies backward out of his fingers, right into Hinata's still-wide-open mouth. Hinata yells, enraged, and pummels Kageyama uselessly with his fists, and the two of them collapse again, mud splattering everywhere. Tsukishima sighs and wipes his glasses on the cleanest bit of his shirt that he can find.
"On second thought," he murmurs to Yamaguchi, "maybe my mom won't need to clean your scarf. Now they match again."
Yamaguchi giggles, and then Tsukishima snickers, and, because he was bestowed with zero brains at birth, Hinata starts laughing, too, and suddenly, they're all lying there in a tangled pile in the muck, laughing until they can't breathe.
Eventually, they quiet down and help each other up and Kageyama suggests that they ignore the paths and just go through the cornstalks in one direction until they find their way out. No one has a better idea, and Kageyama has the brightest flashlight, and they're all a mess already, anyway, and so they delve into the field with new energy, and sure enough, no more than ten minutes later, they burst out somewhere along the hayride trail, the lights of the farm visible a short distance away.
Finally—thank god, Tsukishima thinks—they're standing inside the warm barn, hands full of consolation cider, courtesy of the nice lady behind the stall, who'd somehow managed to simultaneously scold them for their sorry appearance and force them to take the hot drinks for free, despite their combined total of two dino-checkpoint-hole-punches.
Kageyama is fussing quietly over Hinata, and it's disturbingly cute, so Tsukishima glares at his cider for awhile, until he realizes that it's been too long since Yamaguchi said anything.
He looks up and sees his boyfriend watching him. Fidgeting. Yamaguchi is nervous.
"What's wrong, Yamaguchi."
Yamaguchi starts, and looks away sheepishly, fiddling with his cup.
"Well," he says, "it's just that…you probably never want to go with me to a pumpkin farm again, huh, Tsukki?" He laughs a little. Self-deprecating. "Which is too bad, because it really was fun…before, you know…and I really wanted to go on a hayride someday… "
Tsukishima huffs, amused, and shakes his head.
"Next time," he says, "we're skipping the corn maze."
Yamaguchi beams and throws himself at Tsukishima. Their cider goes flying. It's probably worth it.
"Unf," says Tsukishima. A pinnacle of wit, as always.
Kageyama snickers. Tsukishima would probably flip him off if his arms weren't already filled with 63 kilograms of happy Tadashi.
He looks down at his giggling, tear-stained, mud-caked boyfriend, and thinks, with very little ceremony and no shock whatsoever, that he is absolutely, irreversibly in love.
He squeezes Yamaguchi gently against his chest, because there will be plenty of time to talk about grown-up things like love later, but right now, they're just two kids at a pumpkin farm at ten p.m. on a Saturday, and even with Hinata squawking in the background while Kageyama calls him a dumbass and rubs dirt in his hair, Tsukishima thinks there's nowhere he'd rather be. He thinks he'd go to a thousand stupid pumpkin patches, and get lost in a thousand Jurassic corn mazes, and it would all be worth it, for Yamaguchi.
Even if the dinosaurs were smiling.