Whoever has met Tsukishima Kei, knows that uninterested answers, snarky comments, and judgmental glares are part of the package when dealing with the first-year middle blocker. Today in particular, however, Yamaguchi more than anyone else knew that Kei’s current squint-eyed glare at the entire world was not for anything else than the obvious lack of glasses on his face. He had lost his glasses during the trip back home from his grandparents’ house during the weekend, and his sports glasses had been sent to adjustment and wouldn’t have them back until the next day.
This day, however, he would have to go through the day in a world of blurry shapes and muddy colors.
Since they met up that morning on their way to school, Kei had been unnaturally quiet, walking a little closer to Yamaguchi than usual and avoiding any potential hazard that was on his way, secretly using his friend as a reference of where they were going and what should be avoided. Yamaguchi didn’t mind one bit, knowing that his friend wasn’t one to openly ask for help, no matter how uncomfortable he felt. He stood up straight and paid more attention to the surroundings of his friend, slightly tugging his sleeves if needed so the taller boy wouldn’t slam into anything he hadn’t perceived yet.
During class, instead of taking notes of whatever the teachers were writing on the board, Kei was paying much more attention to the explanations – he could ask Yamaguchi for his notes later. Yamaguchi had overseen this and sneakily texted Yachi to give her a heads up on the current situation, knowing that not only she was studying the same material they were, but also her notes were much more organized and tidier than his own.
By lunch break, the first-year manager was in front of Kei’s desk, eagerly handing him her notes and explaining to him where to focus his attention when studying and reminding him to text her if he needed explanations on any of the topics. He took her notes and thanked her, before turning to glare at Yamaguchi, who blatantly are his lunch while avoiding the stare from his pissed friend.
It was now time for volleyball practice, and even though Kei had no intentions of standing in a court with fast flying balls buzzing past his face without him ever noticing them, or even being hit by them, he refused to go home just yet. The only reasoning behind this is that it would be much more difficult to walk home without someone by his side. He silently counted on Yamaguchi to lead him back once it got dark and shapes and colors wouldn’t be as noticeable.
This time, Yachi had been the one who took a step further and gave both Daichi and coach Ukai a heads up on Kei’s current predicament, and as soon as he stepped into the gym, he was sat down on a chair in a corner of the gym and told not to overdo it. His eyes hurt too much from unconsciously forcing himself to see anything and everything during the day and he hadn’t even protested, choosing instead to shut his eyes tightly and rub the bridge of his nose to relieve a growing migraine.
With his eyes shut, the area around him seemed much larger and the noises felt louder. The balls being spiked into the floor sent a small shockwave through his core, and Kei clenched his jaw. He didn’t like to feel so useless at one of the few things he was useful at. But when he opened his eyes and the only thing he perceived were blurred colors and moving objects, which he assumed was his teammates and balls flying around, he knew he would have felt too confused and overwhelmed trying to function in that environment, so he simply sighed and leaned back in his chair, deciding to focus instead on the bits of advice, explanations and tips coach Ukai gave to the team.
“Careful, Tsukki!” Yamaguchi called out, and Kei barely had any fraction of time to flinch before a large, orange blur moved in front of him, just in time for the distinctive sound of a ball being received boomed in the gym. It took him a few seconds to put the pieces together but soon comprehended that Hinata had put himself in the way of a missed spike so it wouldn’t hit him.
Someone called out a ‘sorry!’ while Hinata asked him if he was okay with an obvious hint of concern in his face, and Kei waved it off with a practiced mask of indifference, although his heart was beating frenetically against his chest.
He was pathetic, wasn’t he? It only took him a moment of distraction to lose his glasses case with his glasses inside, for him to become the most useless being on the surface of the Earth. He, who prided himself on being more or less independent in life, suddenly needed to be guided around, placed aside, coddled by others. It was embarrassing, really, to need this much assistance to even function and make it through the day.
The worst part was, he couldn’t even complain about them offering their help, because he really did need it.
“…Pathetic,” he mumbled to himself as he narrowed his eyes, trying to at least distinguish any other stray ball heading his way. All the while, and unknown to him, a pair of eyes watched him intently from the court.
Once practice was finished, he rose from his seat and folded the chair, thanking Yachi as she put it away in its place. He walked out of the gym, careful to not trip on the steps, and looked up at the sky. Sometime during their practice, a blanket of clouds had settled on the sky above the city, and even though that night was a full moon, no trace of moonlight would trespass the clouds, much to his dismay. His walk home would be much darker than expected.
To add to his predicament, he suddenly remembered that Shimada-san had scheduled a practice with Yamaguchi, and Kei cursed in his mind. Yamaguchi had been practicing his jump float serves non-stop for the last month and was truly progressing with them. He knew that Shimada-san’s free time was scarce, so if Yamaguchi had to cancel to walk him home, it would only weigh heavily in the back of the taller boy’s mind.
He could probably ask someone else to walk him home, but as far as he knew, no one lived close to his house, and he would not ask Ukai-san or Takeda-sensei to drive him home. That would only be embarrassing.
Before he could dwell in his problem any more, he decided that he would just walk alone when he and Yamaguchi parted ways, and hopefully, no one would watch him run into a lamp post, and no car would run him over on his way home.
Unexpectedly, besides Yamaguchi, there was someone else walking with them, and he hadn’t noticed the time where it was decided the setter would join them on their walk home.
Kageyama didn’t talk much besides giving Yamaguchi curt answers and short inputs to whatever was the topic of conversation. Kei decided not to think much about the fact that the two boys were walking at each side of him, or how Kageyama seemed to be closer to him than Yamaguchi was. Or how Kageyama’s voice sent shivers through his spine that he desperately wanted to control. He just hoped that the dim light from the street lamps didn’t betray how hot his face felt at that moment.
Tsukishima Kei knew exactly why he felt so nervous when Kageyama Tobio was close to him, and he was sure Yamaguchi was observant enough to notice as well. He had a massive crush on Kageyama, so big it would put a shoujo heroine to shame. And he didn’t care much if the rest of the school disliked him for what his preferences were, and pretended that wouldn’t mind if the setter disliked him as well. But deep in his heart, he knew he would be heartbroken if his feelings were rejected.
Therefore, simply to avoid the potential suffering, Kei would quietly convey his embarrassing feelings under a thick layer of nothingness and not panic for walking next to Kageyama. That resolve, however, crumbled to the floor once Yamaguchi bid them goodbye to head to Shimada Mart, leaving an inwardly panicking, nearly blind Kei with Kageyama, and the taller boy could swear that Yamaguchi sounded all-too-happy to leave him in the hands of the setter. Curse him.
After only an instant, Kageyama finally talked directly to him for the first time that day, and Tsukishima repressed the shiver in his spine by pure willpower. “So, where is your house?”
“… Two more streets straight ahead, and then to the right, three more,” he answered as coolly as he was able to, but as they started walking again, he stopped under a streetlight and stared at the blur of dark hair, “you don’t need to walk me home if you don’t want to…”
Kageyama was looking up at him, Tsukishima could feel it in his bones – the setter had this intensely raw presence both in and out of the court, and the way he could pin someone down with one stare was terrifying and exciting at the same time. “… What if I do want to walk you home?”
Heavens, it was unfair how low Kageyama’s voice was dipped so low when he asked that, and a load of Kei’s self-control flew off to the other side of the world as he felt his cheeks grow impossibly hot. “… I’m just saying,” he cleared his throat and tried not to think just how ridiculous he must have been looking, “you don’t need to be a guide dog or anything, I know the way pretty well, is not like I’m suddenly going to fall into a ditch or something.”
Kageyama was staring at him, and Kei’s face heated up even more under his stare. Then he spoke and, he could swear, Kageyama was smirking, if only a little. (Good thing he couldn’t see it well, because that might as well have been the death of his poor, young gay heart.)
“One never knows,” Kageyama shrugged and tilted his head a little as he stared up at him, “I still want to walk you home.”
Kei briefly held his breath, inwardly trying to compose himself, before sighing and shrugging trying to look indifferent before walking again, only to tumble aside as the other boy grabbed his arm and tugged him towards himself. Kei glared at him when Kageyama spoke again and, at this distance, he could see the outlines of a smile in the other’s lips.
“… You almost ran into the lamp post,” Kageyama explained almost innocently, and Kei was sure he already knew the effect his actions had on him.
‘Kami-sama, if you’re real and are watching this, just take me.’
Kageyama let go of his arm and both of them walked silently, the only audible sound was the autumn breeze brushing the trees and their soft footsteps on the asphalt. It was a calm night, maybe it would rain later. Kei was focused on putting one foot in front of the other and detect any obstacle in his way, when he felt Kageyama push him to the right, almost make him trip on his feet.
Once again, he regarded him with a glare, to which the other shrugged and tilted his head. “Don’t you need to take this turn?” Kei stopped and glanced around, a thin mist had settled down and he could barely catch a glimpse of the landmarks around him. It was, indeed, his street. But he could see next to nothing, and a chill crawled up his upper back and his neck.
He nodded numbly and turned to the general direction where his house was, too busy trying to shut down the inner voices in the back of his head to regard the boy walking up to him. He couldn’t even recognize his street. The streetlights were too dim because of the mist, and the sky was still heavily packed with clouds. He stopped walking at some point, the chill settling and growing behind his neck and his hands growing numb as he stared at the dark, muddy colors in front of him. It felt as if he was being swallowed up.
“How does your house look like?” Kageyama’s voice cut through the silence and Kei reminded himself to breathe in. He regained the feeling in his hands and felt his left hand being held. It was warm, and Kei looked down as he gripped the hand holding his.
“… My name is in the front gate,” he mumbled, and Kageyama nodded and led the way with much more confidence than Kei felt at that moment. He let himself be led through the mist, noticing how they were weaving to the right and to the left as they walked; they were avoiding things Kei could crash into.
The voices were still there, and Kei felt mortified. But even so, the hand he was holding, callous and slightly rough as it was, felt warm and comfortable, and fit in his so well that Kei could briefly imagine himself holding it more often. ‘If only,’ he thought bitterly, and a sting crossed his chest as he tried to keep his teary eyes in check.
After a few minutes, they stopped walking, and Kei looked up to find himself standing in front of his gate. He turned his head to thank Kageyama, when he felt a touch on his cheek, a thumb wiping a stray tear.
The two boys stared into each other, and even though Kageyama’s hand wasn’t on his cheek anymore, he was still holding his hand, and Kei was sure a full body blush was well underway through his body. He could only hear his own heartbeat, pounding loudly in his ears, and decided to save some face (if there was any left to save) with a smart comment, if he could muster one.
“… You walk me home in the dark, holding my hand, and even touch my face,” his voice was barely above a whisper as he spoke, and he was indescribably happy to finally see a blush on Kageyama’s face, “what’s next? Are you going to kiss me goodnight?”
Kageyama’s face blushed even more at the word ‘kiss’ (and, Heavens, Kei didn’t know he was able to keep blushing himself, but there he was, burning hot), but then looked up at Kei with an intensity that pinned the taller boy in time and place.
“I’ll do that when you can clearly see what I’m doing, you lamp post.”
Kei swallowed loudly and nodded a little as he stared at the floor. All this was so embarrassing, he couldn’t take it anymore, he needed to get into his house, into his room, into his bed, scream into his pillow and maybe die.
Well, maybe not die, he did want to kiss Kageyama Tobio’s stupid face one day, after all.
He cleared his throat and opened his gate, letting go of Kageyama’s hand as he walked into the front porch. A brief thought crossed his mind and he sharply turned around, glad to see Kageyama’s blurry silhouette still at his gate. “Wait, I’ve never seen you crossing this street, where exactly do you live?”
Kageyama froze and scratched the back of his head almost sheepishly, mumbling something Kei didn’t quite catch.
“I-I said,” Kei couldn’t see him well, but Kageyama was definitely redder as he repeated himself in a frenzy, “Ilivetheotherwayaround, goodnight!”
As soon as he had said that, Kageyama made a dash for it, disappearing into the street they had just come from, leaving Kei completely dumbfounded at his own front door.
Swiftly, Kei walked into his house, kicked his shoes off and hurried a greeting to his mom before disappearing into his bedroom, flopping onto the bed and burying his face into his pillow.
Tsukishima Kei, now more than ever, wanted to kiss Kageyama Tobio’s stupid face.