Tadashi plans it. Painstakingly, obsessively, meticulously—for months. He practices in front of the mirror. He practices in front of a tree. He practices in front of Hinata. He practices, practices, practices, until the words are as seamlessly integrated into his mind as the motions for a jump floater—and yet, much like a jump floater, there’s always going to be one that doesn’t turn out like he’d planned. Or two, or three, or four.
Anyway, Tadashi has a plan, because when you are going to try to ask your best friend slash boyfriend who you have known since you were ten and lived with since you were twenty if it would maybe be cool if you stayed together until you died, it’s helpful to have one. Especially with Tsukki, who famously dislikes impulsive or ill-conceived behavior. What happens instead is this: at the izakaya, on a Friday evening, Kageyama churlishly grumbles, “If you like Tsukishima so damn much, why don’t you just marry him,” and Tadashi slams his beer down and squawks, “Okay,” and Tsukishima, sitting right between them, spits out his water.
It had begun innocuously enough, Tadashi thinks weakly, as a raging heat consumes his entire face. They had only been talking about work, and how their neighborhood volleyball games were going, and Tadashi had said something about a cool one-handed block Tsukishima had executed the week before, which had seemed to annoy Kageyama so profoundly that he had briefly fallen on a comeback that hadn’t evolved past high school.
Two seats from Tadashi, next to Kageyama, Hinata lets out a high-pitched, garbled noise and clenches Kageyama’s sleeve, shaking him rapidly. Tadashi thinks he can make out the word “moron,” but maybe his currently bluescreening brain is just filling in the blanks based on previously acquired data; that is, that Hinata and Kageyama are always calling each other morons.
It figures that the one time Yachi can’t join them because she has a cold, this happens. Tadashi almost calls her right then and there, because Yachi is always so good at fixing things, but he can’t move or remember phone numbers or his own name.
Tsukishima is frantically wiping water from his shirt and the table, the rare slip in composure only outdone by the growing redness at the tips of his ears. Tadashi wonders how long it would take him to invent a way to permanently become one with the floor.
Their waitress appears just then, fortuitously, and, because she is a professional, does not react to the chaotic scene they must be making; she simply asks, “Would anyone like a refill?”
Tadashi practically vaults himself through the ceiling in his haste to respond, thereby steering the conversation away from that apocalyptic “okay,” thrusting his empty glass at her and yelping, “Yes, ten!”
“Ten refills,” the waitress says doubtfully, taking the glass nonetheless. “Understood. Anything else?”
Tadashi looks at Kageyama. Kageyama looks at Hinata. Hinata looks at Tsukishima. Tsukishima looks at the wall.
“I think we’re good,” Hinata squeaks.
“So,” Tsukishima says in the stairwell to the apartment.
It’s warm out, warmer than Tadashi normally likes, but perfect for Tsukishima, who shrivels at anything below 70 degrees. It’s also one in the morning, and Tadashi is kind of drunk; he’d hoped that the two extra beers would hamper his awareness enough that he’d forget that fraught, unavoidable thing growing unspoken between them since his outburst, but all it had really done was make the panic heavier and more unwieldy.
They had left Kageyama and Hinata at the train station, with what was perhaps the stiffest goodbye on human record. Hinata had been chewing his lip and looking earnestly from Tadashi to Tsukishima and back again, bouncing slightly on his heels, until Kageyama had grabbed him by the hood of his jacket and forcibly dragged him to the turnstile.
“I’m rooting for them,” Hinata had said, very loudly, which had prompted Kageyama to cuff him in the head and shout even more loudly, “Dumbass, that’s their business and Tsukishima hasn’t even said yes!”
“Kageyama, you’re so unromantic—ow!”
It had echoed down the block and everything, and parts of it are echoing still now at Tadashi’s back, where Tsukishima is standing, four steps below him, one hand on the railing.
And Tadashi has gotten so much braver since they were eleven, but nothing could amount to what he would need to turn around and face him.
“I’m sorry, Tsukki,” he says softly—to the flickering stairwell light, to the moths beating against it with wanting, to the crow’s nest in the plum tree two stories down. The old words are comfortable, a refuge.
Tsukishima waits a moment, then asks, “What are you sorry for?”
Tadashi wrenches his eyes shut until a dull, fuzzy ache overtakes them. “I don’t know.”
“Then don’t apologize,” Tsukishima mutters, as he has a hundred times over.
It’s a little reproachful, a little tired, a little gentle. Tadashi’s heart is full and large in his throat, so swollen that he almost wishes he could live without it.
Tsukishima scales the distance between them and passes Tadashi, nearly close enough to touch. He keeps his eyes focused on their gray front door.
“Let’s go inside,” he says.
He takes his keys out and walks in first, holding the door open for Tadashi with one foot. Tadashi hesitates for a second, thinking about how this might be his last time in the apartment, might be his last time with Tsukishima in the apartment; how would they even split that up; rent will be so expensive; how can he think about something like rent when Tsukishima is about to break up with him, probably; how come being in love sucks so much—
Tsukishima makes an impatient noise and the thoughts are aborted. Tadashi steps over the threshold, swaying before bracing himself on the door jamb with one hand and fumbling for his shoes.
He can’t take his eyes off of Tsukishima’s back, the faint shapes of his shoulder blades through his white t-shirt, the lengthening curls at the nape of his neck. He’s getting a haircut this week, so they won’t be there much longer. Tadashi will kind of miss them, miss the way they feel between his fingers—but probably not as much as he’ll miss Tsukishima as a whole after he breaks up with him in five minutes, probably.
“Shut the door,” Tsukishima says, and Tadashi lets it fall closed behind him, plunging the apartment into darkness.
Tsukishima is standing right next to a light switch, but has made no effort to flip it. The glow of the convenience store’s sign across the street is the only source of light, an eerie neon blue.
Tsukishima inhales through his nose and then exhales from his mouth. Tadashi has heard him do this countless times. It grounds him, he always says; it reminds him of what’s important—good test scores, efficient plays, strawberry milkshakes, nice headphones, hot days, dinosaur movies, Tadashi. Tadashi wonders if he’s already been removed from the list. The thought alone nearly snaps his heart in half.
“You had a plan,” Tsukishima says, and Tadashi jolts a little, blinking.
“I, buh?” That’s all he can manage. He’s frozen with one leg bent against the other, hand halfway through removing his remaining shoe.
“You’ve been really distracted lately,” Tsukishima says evenly, “and I heard you asking the weeping fig to marry you last week. You had a plan.” He turns around, hands in his pockets, and the flashing sign alternately dims and illuminates half of his face. It’s pretty artistic, actually, like something out of a movie. “You always have a plan. And, frankly, I really want to believe it didn’t involve Kageyama. So ask me.”
“Eh?” Tadashi flounders, dropping his foot to flail his hands in front of him like he’s warding off an approaching animal. “Ask—plan—right now? Tsukki—”
“Unless it’s, like...” Tsukishima shrugs. “Going to take an hour. I’m sleepy.”
Tadashi could laugh. In fact, he does—it sounds a little crazed. He buries his face in his hands, muffling it, and then it becomes a sob, and he’s crying.
“Oi,” Tsukishima says, masking a note of panic so effortlessly that anyone but Tadashi most certainly would not notice it.
“I did have a plan,” Tadashi bawls, shoulders shaking. “It was going to be so good; I—I was going to tell you that I—“
“That you’ve always been happiest when you’re with me,” Tsukishima says, “and that you want to be that happy forever. I heard. The weeping fig.”
“I was going to say—”
“That we’re a team, and always have been, and we’re stronger together,” Tsukishima fills in. “Yes, I heard; the weeping fig.”
“And you were going to say—”
“That I thought so, too.”
“Right,” Tadashi chokes out as that delirious laugh returns to him. “Yeah. Yes. And you were gonna turn so red, Tsukki; it was gonna be hilarious.”
“Trees can’t blush, Yamaguchi,” Tsukishima tells him, the way he might explain it to an elementary schooler. “You knew that, right?”
“I don’t want the stupid tree; I want you!” Tadashi yells, even though he knows Tsukishima is just teasing him, even though he knows Tsukishima’s face is as red as he’d imagined, even though this happiness taking cautious root in his chest is making him feel faint. “Like—”
He wipes his nose messily with his sleeve. “For a really long time. Forever.”
“Hm,” Tsukishima says, like he’s still thinking it over.
He crosses the floor and carefully pries Tadashi’s hands away from his face, holding them at the wrists, and when the sign lights up again, Tadashi sees a smile hanging comfortably askew and just about starts crying all over again.
He examines Tadashi for a moment, squinting (probably for effect), and Tadashi doesn’t dare move. At last, he sighs briskly, nods, and declares, “All right. You’ve convinced me. Nice job.”
“‘Nice job?!’” Tadashi squawks. “That’s all you have to say?!”
“What did you want me to say? ‘Please make miso soup for me every day?’”
Tadashi pulls a horrible face. “Tsukki, you’re the worst!”
“Fine,” Tsukishima concedes, reaching up and ruffling Tadashi’s hair mercilessly until he starts writhing in protest. He sounds unbearably smug. “I'm the worst. And you like me so much, you're going to marry me.”
“I sure am!” Tadashi chirps when he gets free, beaming at him. “And you’re gonna do it right back!”
Tsukishima chuffs out a laugh through his nose and quietly says, “I am.”
Tadashi’s smile grows and grows until his face scarcely has room for it. Tsukishima leans in conspiratorially, eyes drifting to the corner next to the TV.
“Don’t tell the weeping fig, though.”
“It’ll probably be really upset.”
“We can get rid of it,” Tsukishima continues, unraveling into a snicker, “if it would make you more comfortable,” and Tadashi throws his arms around his neck and kisses him. It works as well as it always does. Tsukishima does not talk anymore, and they do not need to turn on the light.