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Sakusa Kiyoomi hated Miya Atsumu.

Perhaps that wasn't a fair assessment of him. Sakusa knew next to nothing about him. But throughout their practice match, Sakusa had determined there wasn't a single thing about the Inarizaki setter that he liked.

Inarizaki was ahead by four points and on the verge of winning the game. The receives on both sides were fantastic, despite both teams consisting mostly of their underclassmen and non-starters. The rallies were long, and every point was carved out with difficulty. Exhaustion was settling in on both sides. Miya Osamu finally ended the most recent rally with a powerful cut shot drilled into the back of the court.

Across the net from Sakusa, Miya Atsumu's amber eyes gleamed dangerously. His pride in his ability as a setter and his pride in his brother plain on his face. Long taped fingers gently pushed his blonde bangs out of his eyes. Next to him, Osamu's arms trembled from the exertion and sweat snaked down his temples. He looked like he's just discovered a brand-new level of fatigue and was entirely displeased with said discovery.

"Hey." A breathless voice said.

Sakusa’s eyes snapped back to Atsumu.

"That guy…" Atsumu jabbed a bandaged finger through the net at something. Sakusa followed the setter's gaze with his head.

Ah. In the corner of his eye, he could see Komori wiping sweat from his brow and taking a sip of water. He had just barely missed getting a hand on Osamu's spike. Next to the libero, captain Arihama waved his hands exclaiming "Don't mind, don't mind!" They both looked exhausted. No amount of enthusiasm from Arihama-san could conceal that.

"They say he's the best libero in the country." Atsumu continued. He wore an inquisitive look on his face. but Sakusa didn't need a PhD in human behavior to determine it was fake. "Pretty high praise. Perhaps too high, don't you think?"

“No.” Sakusa scowled. He and Komori had been friends and teammates since elementary school. At no point in all those years, not even for a single second, had he ever considered Komori unworthy of the praise he received.

“Well then.” Atsumu drawled, his mouth curving into a crooked grin. “He’s gonna have to try a lot harder if he wants to stop us.” The setter winked, casting an unspoken challenge towards Sakusa. “So wi-”

The setter gets cut off by a stern sounding “Atsumu-kun.”

A sheepish look crossed Atsumu’s face, and the tips of his ears went pink. He turned towards the speaker, a second year wing spiker with grey hair and a serene face. “Aa… ah… just some friendly banter, Kita-san.”

Kita raised his brows and the corner of his mouth twitched. “Focus on yourself.”

Atsumu nodded and jerked his head back towards Sakusa. The setter tried to slip back into the cocky expression he previously wore but it was marred by embarrassment. Getting chewed out by his upperclassman in front of a rival couldn’t have been healthy for his probably fragile ego.

“You should listen to your senpai, Miya-san.” Sakusa scoffed, the laugh low and short. This seemed to catch the setter by surprise as his amber eyes were as large as dinner plates. “I think you’ll find Komori and I more than capable of stopping you.” Atsumu's eyes narrowed and were paired with a scowl.

After five long rallies, Itachiyama managed to scrape out 5 points. They met Inarizaki’s match point to turn it into a deuce, then a dump from Arihama pulled Itachiyama ahead. The irritation was clear as day on the rival players’ faces. All their effort keeping the ball up during those rallies had been all for naught. Osamu’s grey bangs were firmly plastered to his forehead with sweat and Atsumu wasn’t much better off.

Kita’s serve cleared the net but was received effortlessly by Komori. The libero sent it cleanly towards the net. Arihama-san hummed a short two-note sound and snapped his fingers. The Itachiyama setter was in the academy’s light music club and had turned his love of music into his own way of signalling his spikers. The finger snap was the tell tale marker of Sakusa’s signal, representing the sharp snap his wrist sometimes made when spiking the ball. Arihama tossed the ball in a first tempo set as Sakusa jumped.

His open palm touched the ball and with a flick of the wrist expertly aimed the spike. The ball cleaved straight through the twins’ block. Inarizaki’s libero dove for it, but the trajectory changed because of the spin. His fingers barely brushed the ball as it slammed to the court floor. Sakusa raised a fist in victory, his palm stinging slightly.

This had been just a practice game. They weren’t even wearing jerseys. But after the long rallies, the Itachiyama players felt like they’d just advanced in a tournament. Sakusa wiped his forehead, his wet curls brushing against his skin. Arihama-san gave him a gentle clap on the shoulder but purposefully didn’t let the touch linger.

The two teams met at the net. Sakusa gave the Inarizaki players polite nods while his teammates shook their hands. However, when he passed Atsumu, he merely winked and grinned. He’d taken the setter’s silent challenge earlier and he’d won. Now it was time to rub in his victory. Atsumu glared at him with indignation, his face still flushed from exertion.

 

 

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Sakusa Kiyoomi disliked Miya Atsumu.

“Ah, now this is exciting news!” Rokuhana-sensei exclaimed as she flipped through the papers in her hands. She singled out two pages from the stack and handed one to him and the other to Komori. The libero glanced down at the page before whooping and pumping his fist in the air. Rokuhana-sensei beamed her megawatt smile and ruffled his brown hair.

Sakusa looked at his own sheet. All-Japan Youth Training Camp? He skimmed through the congratulatory message down to the list of names. Directly below his own last name was the unmistakable ‘宮’ kanji. Please be Osamu, he thought with a sigh before reading the first name typed next to it. Atsumu.

“I’m so proud of you two!” Rokuhana had slid the rest of her paperwork under her arm and clapped her hands. She quickly adjusted her glasses. “Now, I’ll get out of everyone’s way before your coaches tan my hide.” She flashed one more smile before retreating out of the gymnasium. Coach Hirose crossed her arms and rolled her eyes dramatically. Coach Yamanaka let out an amused grunt.

“Now, don’t go resting on your laurels boys. You’re gonna be working hard with the rest of us until camp.” Coach Yamanaka put his hands on his hips. A wave of snickers came from the Itachiyama cohort. A smirk crossed the coach’s lips. “And… while they’re gone, we’re gonna get the rest of you boys All-Japan ready.” The snickers turned to exasperated groans as the players imagined the sheer number of drills and laps the coaches would put them through.

Though it was an incredible opportunity, Sakusa dreaded attending. The invited players were all lodging at a nearby guest house and the idea of sharing a sleeping space with that many filthy, disgusting, and sweaty volleyball players made his skin crawl. He barely liked rooming with his teammates during away games, much less strangers.

Not to mention an entire week stuck with Miya Atsumu, both on and off the court. Their rivalry had firmly cemented itself after Itachiyama’s victory over Inarizaki at the Interhigh. The setter, living up to his name, seemed hungry and eager to earn a win over Sakusa. No matter what battleground their rivalry took place on.

Or so Sakusa had thought.

Atsumu essentially had all but ignored Sakusa so far off the court. He had some sort of vendetta but whatever it was, it wasn’t directed towards Sakusa. Without his captain and upperclassmen around him, he had free reign to harass and provoke whoever he chose.

Yesterday, he targeted Hoshiumi, the tiny wing spiker from Nagano. Sakusa hadn’t heard their conversation, only that he’d seen the two of them talking across the room. Hoshiumi had been wildly gesticulating with eyebrows so furrowed he resembled an angry bird. Whatever Atsumu had said to him had lit a fire under Hoshiumi’s ass.

“You’re a bit of a goody two-shoes, huh?” Sakusa was scrolling through twitter when he heard the unmistakable Kansai dialect of the Inarizaki setter. He poked his head around the corner to try and determine who Atsumu’s victim was this time. The flat black hair and the unmistakable scowl revealed it to be the other setter, Kageyama.

Sakusa dipped back behind the wall and returned to minding his own business. After a few minutes of flipping through several apps on his phone, Atsumu came into his field of vision.

“Yo.” Atsumu stopped in his tracks. “Miya-san.” His eyes focused on Sakusa’s hands before trailing slowly up to his face.

“Sakusa-kun?” Atsumu cocked his head like a dog.

“What are you doing?”

“Walking?” He provided. Sakusa rolled his eyes which earned a chuckle out of Atsumu.

Sakusa crossed his arms and leaned his head back against the wall. “Why do you provoke people like that?”

“Ehhhh?!” Atsumu exclaimed, his eyebrows raising. “What do you mean?”

“Like with Hoshiumi yesterday.” Sakusa sighed. “And just now with Kageyama.”

Atsumu laughed. “You’re a weird guy, Sakusa-kun.” He took a step and shifted his body, so he could lean against the wall next to Sakusa. Their arms brushed together in the movement and Sakusa felt himself recoil from the touch.

Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Atsumu looking at him with a peculiar expression. “Sorry.” The setter whispered, reassuringly. The two were hardly friends, so it surprised him to hear Atsumu apologize for crossing his boundaries. Most strangers and acquaintances would rather deflect and say Sakusa is overreacting when they make him uncomfortable. He nodded a curt thanks.

“Mmm… I guess you’re not totally wrong. I definitely was trying to provoke Hoshiumi yesterday. He was acting like a total brat. Sometimes you just gotta take someone down a few pegs.” Atsumu tapped his chin overdramatically like a detective in a campy mystery movie trying to deduce who the murderer was. “Not too many though, or he’ll be too short to even see.”

“Don’t let him hear you say that.”

Atsumu laughed. “I think we’re safe. You’re the only eavesdropper I see ‘round here.”

“And Kageyama?”

Atsumu laughed again as he shrugged. “I told him the truth. Wasn’t meant to provoke him, I swear.” He raised his arms in mock surrender. “Though, I suppose if he found offense in what I said… maybe that’ll be the push he needs to change for the better.”

“Why?”

“Eh? ‘Why?’”

Sakusa frowned. “What do you gain? From Kageyama and the rest of them getting better?”

Atsumu pivoted his body so he was facing Sakusa, one arm still pressed against the wall. “Why not? It’s better volleyball for us all.” He was close, almost too close. “One day, these players could be our rivals or even our teammates. If I’m going to play against Tobio-kun, I want to destroy him at his best.” Atsumu flashed his typical closed eye smile.

Despite his roundabout methods, Sakusa found Atsumu’s motivations admirable.

Sakusa closed his eyes and sighed. He let his head lean back against the wall. “What about me?”

“What about you? So self-centered.” Atsumu chuckled. Sakusa cracked open an eye to see the warm facial expression on the other boy’s face.

“You haven’t tried provoking me.”

“Mmm… ya had your turn last year, Sakusa-kun~!” Atsumu leaned even closer, his lazy smile burning a hole in Sakusa’s vision. “And see how much better you’ve gotten since then.”

“Screw you.” Sakusa said, dryly. The setter next to him cackled. Once he got going, his laughter was infectious and Sakusa had to bite the inside of his cheeks to stop himself from smiling. It was also adorable.

Adorable?

“But really Sakusa-kun… I thought you were smarter than this. Ow!” His drawl was cut off by Sakusa kicking him in the shin. It wasn’t hard enough to actually hurt him, but Atsumu feigned pain like a diving soccer player. His fake grimace didn’t last long before it was replaced by his standard foxlike smile. “Such a bully.”

Sakusa felt his face go warm, and he wondered if he was getting sick.

 

 

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Sakusa Kiyoomi tolerated Miya Atsumu.

“Yo! Sakkun!” Atsumu waved and shouted at him from across the room. “C’mere!”

Sakusa sighed as he hoisted his duffel bag over his shoulder. He was exhausted deep in his soul. Itachiyama had played five games over the course of Nationals weekend. They’d lost their 4th game to Fukurodani and then went on to win the third place game. There was nothing in this world Sakusa wanted more than to plant face first into his hotel futon and dig into a massive bowl of ramen. Definitely not in that order. Eating ramen in bed sounded dangerous. And disgusting.

“We’re going out.” Atsumu said as Sakusa approached him. Inarizaki had beaten Fukurodani in the final after their own slew of grueling games. Atsumu was in high spirits, but his smile could hardly mask the dark circles under his eyes and the messy hair atop his head. They both desperately needed showers. “Just some of us third years.”

“You’re not old enough to drink.” Sakusa mumbled, his voice muffled by his surgical mask.

“I know that, idiot! We’re just going out for dinner. Maybe karaoke afterwards.” Atsumu scratched the back of his head.

“Who in their right mind would go to a karaoke box sober?”

Atsumu barked out a laugh. “Sakkun~! You’re no fun. Are you coming or what?”

Sakusa adjusted the strap of his bag. “Hmm… I suppose.”

The Inarizaki captain grinned widely, his amber eyes crinkling at the corners. “Meet in front of the arena in…” Atsumu pulled his phone out of his backpack and checked the time, “eh… 10 minutes? That give you enough time to drop your stuff off?”

“I need to bathe.” Sakusa said flatly.

“Haven’t you ever heard of stink and drink?”

Sakusa rolled his eyes. “Gross. What are we? Rugby players?” Atsumu snickered. “I’m going to take a shower. 30 minutes.”

“Fiiiiiiine~! See you then.”

Sakusa arrived outside the arena a half hour later to find Atsumu still wasn’t there. Nor was anyone else. He burrowed himself deeper into his jacket as the January evening chill bit at him. He had been extremely grateful the hotel front desk had a hair dryer he could borrow. While he questioned the cleanliness of it, under no circumstance would he come out in this weather with damp hair. That was just asking to catch a cold.

“Oi! Sakkun~!” Five minutes after their agreed upon meeting time, Atsumu had arrived. Despite the Inarizaki captain’s comment about going out unshowered, his hair had been freshly cleaned and styled to perfection. He still had dark undereye circles, but the rest of his skin seemed brighter and more awake. And he smelled good, a pleasant combination of some hair product and laundry detergent. Sakusa wondered how Atsumu had managed to do all that in such a short amount of time. Sakusa himself had really only had time to wash his hair, quickly rub in some leave-in conditioner, and roughly dry it. If his hair wasn’t a frizzy nightmare now, it probably would be by the time he got back to the team hotel later. “Let’s get goin’.”

Sakusa cocked his head and furrowed his brows, “Where’s everyone else?”

Atsumu coughed and glanced away sheepishly. “Ah… ah… they’re probably already all at the restaurant.”

“...Even Osamu?”

“Ah… even Osamu.”

Atsumu was acting strangely. He’d just won Nationals and should be beside himself in joy and confidence. Why was he so nervous? And Sakusa couldn’t come up with any sensible reason as to why Atsumu wouldn’t have just met up with him at the restaurant. Other than that he genuinely wanted to spend time with Sakusa. But that didn’t make much sense.

Somewhere along the way, Atsumu had made a wrong turn. Or ten. "I thought it was on this street." He mumbled as he swept a hand through his bangs in thought.

Sakusa sighed loudly, resulting in a pout from the Inarizaki captain. "Where's the restaurant?"

"I'll find it, don't worry!" Atsumu fished his phone out of his jacket pocket. He tapped furiously at the screen, trying to type an address into the map app.

"Miya-san." Sakusa reached out and placed his hand over Atsumu's phone, blocking the screen. Their fingers brushed together gently. He looked up from their hands to see Atsumu was staring down at them wide-eyed. "You do realize this is my hometown, right?"

Atsumu looked up at him with narrowed eyes and a frown. "Shinanomachi."

Sakusa laughed. “Shinanomachi?! Atsumu... why are we in Jingumae, then?”

“Shut up." Atsumu grumbled. His face was flushed with embarrassment.

Sakusa grabbed Atsumu by his jacketed arm and whirled the two of them back around. "We'll cut through Meiji Jingu Gaien to save time."

He felt a flash of sadness that it wasn't November. The big ginkgo trees that flanked the streets and trails in the park turned a gorgeous bright yellow in the autumn. He glanced at the boy walking next to him out of the corner of his eye. A gorgeous color not unlike the color of Atsumu's hair. But now, in January, the ginkgo trees were leafless and skeletal with a dusting of snow on the branches. It was beautiful in its own way, but it didn't quite measure up to the fall colors.

As they walked, Atsumu filled the silence with details about the final. How it felt to play in the final and how it felt to win, especially as a third year and especially as their captain. His expression was soft as he talked about his teammates. His brother's killer crosses. All the balls Gin had managed to dig. The mind-boggling game saving blocks Suna had performed. Somewhere deep down, Sakusa felt jealous.

Not just because Atsumu had won the tournament, but because of the fondness he had for his teammates. His friends.

Sakusa had always had issues connecting with people. Plenty of people respected him but he figured it was just because he was good at volleyball. He wasn't especially close to any of his teammates except for Komori and even then the fulcrum of their relationship had always been and probably always will be volleyball. Sometimes he felt like no one out there knew who he really was. Everyone feels that way, he would remind himself. But he figured that deep down there was a shred of truth there.

Sakusa realized he was still gripping Atsumu's arm and let it go. "Miya-san, do you have any regrets?"

The other boy hummed in response. The fabric of his jacket crinkled as he shoved his hands into his pocket. "Getting sentimental, Sakkun?" He sighed. "I suppose after your last tournament is as good a time as any for it."

He glanced at Atsumu and saw the boy was looking at him. "I suppose there is one regret I have." The setter's face was unreadable as he spoke. Sakusa decided not to pry and silence fell between them. The only sound was the crunching of the snow beneath their sneakers and the distant sound of traffic.

They emerged from the park. By now the sun was dangerously close to disappearing below the horizon. Their walk had taken less than twenty minutes but the sky moved quickly in frigid January afternoons. After waiting for a green light, the two jogged across the street and over the overpass that crossed the highway and rapid transit tracks. "This is Shinanomachi."

Atsumu groaned, checking the time on his phone. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a number of missed texts and phone calls on the notification screen. "Sorry." Atsumu said quietly as he shoved the phone back into his pocket. "Keiji-kun said it was across the street from the University."

Sakusa peered down the street and spotted a bright red sign with BARBECUE written in loopy and cartoonish oversized kanji. He grabbed Atsumu's wrist and led him across to the median. They waited a second for a bus to drive past then finished crossing.

"I think…" Sakusa said, just quiet enough for Atsumu to hear, “I wish I was more extroverted. Like you, like Komori. Then I’d be more comfortable with my teammates. More comfortable going out like this.” He wasn't sure why he was telling Atsumu this. But something felt so safe about walking together in the quiet cold evening.

"Funny." Atsumu turned to look at him and smiled. His amber eyes reminded Sakusa of pools of honey. Soft, sweet, and almost liquid. But if you lingered for too long, you were destined to get stuck like a fly in a trap. "Sometimes I wish I was more like you, Sakkun."

Huh?

There was no time for elaboration. Atsumu opened the door to the barbecue restaurant and gestured for Sakusa to enter first. A cheer came from a large table in the center full of volleyball players.

Sakusa realized he recognized more players than he didn't and sighed with relief. He might not be intimately familiar with any of them, but it was better than a room full of complete strangers.

Hoshiumi, with his hair pulled back in a tiny ponytail, was flanked by his teammates Hakuba and Hirugami. The Kamomedai players towered over the tiny spiker even while seated. He didn't recognize Fukurodani's captain, Akaashi, at first due to the glasses perched on his nose. The setter looked as radiant and gorgeous as ever despite losing a tough game just a few hours ago. Next to him was another setter, Kozume from Nekoma. He didn't look too eager to be there and Sakusa figured he'd probably been dragged out by his friend. Ennoshita and Nishinoya from Karasuno were both there but he was surprised their other third years were absent. Tanaka, in particular.

Osamu sat at the end of the table with Akaashi on one side and two empty seats on the other. He wore an uncharacteristic smirk on his face. "Ah. I see you love birds finally decided to show up."

“Shut it Samu!” Atsumu grumbled as he hung his winter jacket on the coat rack. He flung himself into the empty chair next to his brother and indignantly scooped a piece of beef off the grill. Chewing dramatically in the direction of Osamu.

Sakusa didn't miss the way Atsumu's face turned the same shade as his burgundy track jacket.

He wasn't so sure why.

 

 

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Sakusa Kiyoomi liked Miya Atsumu.

After he'd graduated high school, so much had changed. Sakusa and Komori headed off to university to battle it out in the college leagues. He was happy the two got to be teammates for just a little bit longer.

None of his younger Black Jackals teammates, the BJ4 as their fans affectionately called them, had attended university. So Sakusa hadn't seen the three of them in over 4 years. Atsumu and Bokuto had gone straight to trialing for V.League teams. He'd seen them on television and the two occasionally talked to him on social media but that was about it. Hinata, on the other hand, had seemingly disappeared off the face of the Earth.

Coach Foster had first scouted Sakusa during his third year of high school. He'd remained in contact with the coach throughout university and was eagerly invited to tryout just a few weeks after graduation. Bokuto and Atsumu had basically begged Foster to sign him to the team.

Playing with this team and these players was incredible. Sakusa couldn't be happier. No matter how overzealous or goofy or touchy-feely his teammates were, he genuinely enjoyed being with them.

Bokuto Koutarou had mellowed out since his high school years. Well, mellow was relative when it came to Bokuto. He was still incredibly energetic and enthusiastic. No matter where he went, everyone in the room had their eyes on him. He fed off that energy like plants photosynthesize the sun. But these days his mood swings were rarer and he was happier. He made a lot of effort in the past few years to improve himself. Bokuto had finally seen a psychiatrist about his ADHD, which had helped the most. He integrated a set routine on game days to help manage his stress on and off the court. Sakusa had also heard he was taking online classes at Tokyo University in his spare time.

Instead of rooming with his teammates, Bokuto had opted to get an apartment just a few blocks from the training facility. His roommate was his high school teammate, Akaashi, and the two seemed pleased with that arrangement. Bokuto took every opportunity he could to gush about whatever cool thing Akaashi had done the day before. "Are they… you know?" Sakusa had asked Hinata once, curious if there was some sort of underlying secret romantic relationship there. But the orange-haired spiker only exclaimed "Best friends?! Yes!!" in excitement. Sakusa decided to not ask Atsumu.

Hinata Shouyou was a rookie and had attended tryouts alongside Sakusa. He hadn't been scouted but instead had been invited after glowing recommendations from Bokuto and Atsumu. Sakusa had been utterly astonished to see the tiny spiker there after several years of not hearing a single word from or about him. He'd deleted all his social media outside of a private instagram. Sakusa had texted Bokuto about a year or so ago asking about Hinata. In response he'd just gotten "My crow son's off making me proud!!!" accented with a million emojis and not an actual answer. Hinata had apparently spent the last few years in Brazil playing beach volleyball and sported a dark golden tan to prove it. On their first day of tryouts, Atsumu and Bokuto had both scooped the tiny spiker in a massive hug, ruffling his orange hair in the process.

Hinata wasn't a starter for the Black Jackals but that didn't bother him one bit. In fact, he was greatly motivated playing second fiddle to Oliver and was constantly analyzing the abilities of his senpais. Coach Foster typically subbed Hinata in during the most tense moments of the game. Even if he didn't score a single point while subbed in, his presence reinvigorated the Black Jackals players.

Miya Atsumu's setting had improved tenfold. And it's no wonder, he'd been heavily coached by Coach Foster and Coach Hibarida over the last few years. Some days after team practice ended, he and Bokuto would continue to practice quicks. Sometimes for hours on end. It was a no brainer that Atsumu was the starting setter for the Black Jackals. Unfortunately, he usually rode the bench when he got called up to national team qualifiers and tournaments. His experience was limited to international friendlies or the rare official game where they were resting Kageyama. No matter how fast Atsumu improved, his kouhai was improving faster.

Atsumu had quickly transformed into the fan favorite of the Black Jackals, despite not being a flashy spiker. The home crowd would erupt every time Atsumu sent up an especially gorgeous set, even before the spiker slammed it down. And when it came time for his serves, he commanded the crowd into eerie silence effortlessly. The internet seemed to love him as well, though Sakusa assumed that was more because of his looks than his actual volleyball ability. Half the news sites in the country declared him the most eligible bachelor in Japan and took every opportunity they could to feature or interview him. And every single tweet on his or the Black Jackals' official twitters inevitably had replies with random videos of Atsumu, and just him, playing volleyball or talking or interacting with his teammates. The captions for the videos were always silly things like 'maybe if you stanned Miya Atsumu' or 'Atsumu outsold.' Sakusa had no goddamn clue what any of that meant.

Official team practice had just ended. Shion-san was already halfway out the door, bag slung over his shoulder, chatting loudly on the phone with his girlfriend, Eve. The two were currently long distance while she finished her PhD. Practice would usually end in Japan around the same time that Eve woke up in Germany. Meian-san had just emerged from the shower and was putting on a fresh set of clothes. His headphones (which Sakusa suspected was blasting KANA-BOON based on the faint tinny sound of an electric guitar that leaked out and the captain's bobbing head) provided him a brief moment of peace away from his chaotic teammates. Ever dutiful Oliver had disappeared into the team's weight room and was bound to spend the rest of the evening training. Hinata had finished changing but had the half-naked Bokuto leaning over his shoulder looking at the tablet he held. The noises and unfamiliar language led Sakusa to believe they were watching clips from a beach volleyball game.

Atsumu was leaning against his locker chatting amicably with Adriah-san. The middle blocker's grasp on Japanese was still dubious at best but Atsumu enjoyed talking to and helping his senpai out. If the conversation got too difficult, they would swap to English and communicate that way. That would work until they both somehow failed to remember the same English word. One of them would furiously tap the word in their native language into their translator app and groan loudly when they saw the English result. Last week they'd both forgotten the word 'frog.' Atsumu had been gesticulating wildly going "Kero! Kero!" which still didn't help to jog his or Adriah-san's memory. They both doubled down in laughter when they were reminded.

Adriah-san reached out to ruffle the setter’s blonde hair and Sakusa felt a pang of jealousy. Atsumu had made himself an important part of this team and got along so well with everyone. Just like he seemed to do everywhere he went. Sakusa had made efforts to come out of his shell a little more in college, a process eased by Komori and the presence of alcohol. He considered his teammates to be his friends, but he still struggled to imagine himself in Atsumu’s extraverted shoes.

He also… he also wanted to feel as comfortable around Atsumu as Adriah-san felt. He too wanted to reach out to touch Atsumu’s hair. He wanted his fingers to meet the curve of Atsumu’s neck, to trail through the soft fuzzy hair of his undercut, and to bury them into his silky blonde strands.

That was a recent development. Just a few weeks ago, Sakusa had recoiled when Atsumu tried to touch his arm after a particularly nasty combo they’d hit. But recently, there was something about the way the setter smiled at him that made his heart do gymnastics.

It was pointless to even fantasize. There wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that Miya ‘Most Eligible Bachelor in Japan’ Atsumu reciprocated his feelings.

In fact, just last week, Sakusa had walked into the locker room to find Atsumu talking to Bokuto, quietly asking for dating advice. He probably has a girlfriend by now.

Or… maybe even a boyfriend. Atsumu never joined in the conversations the rest of the team had about the attractive actresses in the latest dramas. Perhaps he was trying to hide the fact that he found Yamazaki Kento cuter than Mizuhara Kiko.

Sakusa furrowed his brow, annoyed at his own thoughts. I’m projecting. I’m the one hiding who I am.

“If you’re not careful, your face’ll get stuck like that, Omi-kun.” The bench he sat on creaked under the additional weight. Adriah was packing up the last of his things which meant Atsumu needed to find someone else to bother.

“I think it already has.” Sakusa said, tinged with self-deprecating sarcasm.

Atsumu chuckled, a warm smile gracing his lips. “You’re wondering what Adriah-san and I talked about, aren’t you?”

“You usually tell me unprompted.” Sakusa tilted his head slightly, “So, really, I’m just surprised you haven’t yet.”

“Adriah-san’s daughter is starting school next week.” Atsumu leaned back against the locker behind them. “He’s afraid she’s gonna know more Japanese than him soon.”

“They didn’t enroll Sabina in an English school?”

“I know, that surprised me too. But he told me Anka-san really loved Japan, so I guess they plan on staying here for the long run.” Atsumu smiled, genuine fondness for their teammate clear on his face.

“That’s good to hear.” Sakusa studied him. “Is that all you discussed?”

“You’re not gonna let me get away with nothin’, are ya Omi-kun?”

“Not a chance.”

Atsumu pantomimed punching Sakusa on the shoulder, stopping his fist before it touched him. “Hmm.” He settled his hand down on the bench between them. “I asked if he had any dating advice.”

Sakusa leaned back against the lockers and closed his eyes. “I’m guessing Bokuto’s advice didn’t help.”

Atsumu groaned. “God, he was useless. I shouldn’t have asked him… it’s been literally half a decade since he started dating…” Sakusa heard a slap and imagined Atsumu had just clapped a hand over his mouth.

“Akaashi, right?”

“Fuck. Who told you? I promised Bokuto I’d keep it a secret.”

“No one.” Sakusa chuckled. “Bokuto talks about Akaashi like he hung the stars in the sky and they’re roommates. I figured they were either together, or Bokuto is a pining idiot.”

Atsumu considered that and laughed. “I think it’s probably both.”

“So, then.” Sakusa returned to the topic at hand. “You asked Adriah for dating advice?”

“Right.” Atsumu spoke softly. “More specifically, I was asking if he had any advice regarding dating a coworker.”

Before they started dating and got married, Anka-san had been Adriah’s nutritionist at his first volleyball club back home. Sakusa thought about the various women working for the Black Jackals org. Itsura-chan in marketing was the most obvious choice. She and Atsumu were friendly. Every time he passed her in the office he’d shoot finger guns her way while she giggled. According to Hinata, they’d gone out drinking more than once.

“Interesting.” Sakusa said, purposefully making his voice sound as uninterested as possible. He really, really didn’t care to hear about how much Atsumu wanted to date Itsura. “What did he say?”

“I should be totally sure it’s mutual before making the dive.” Atsumu said, sighing. The hand he had on the bench gripped the edge of it. “Just to avoid making things awkward if it goes poorly.”

“I doubt it isn’t mutual.”

Atsumu blushed, his dark eyebrows rising. “W...what? Really?”

“Yeah.” Sakusa replied, “Itsura-chan seems to like you a lot.”

All of the color in Atsumu’s face seemed to disappear in a second and his eyebrows fell. “Omi-kun… you… you do know Itsura-chan is a lesbian, right?”

What?

“Sorry. Hinata said you two go out drinking… I guess I made the wrong assumption.”

“I need to stop telling Hinata about my personal life.” Atsumu laughed incredulously and planted his face in his hands. “I’m Itsura-chan’s wingman. We’ve been trying to find her a cute girlfriend. Getting tipsy while in good company is just an added bonus.”

“Then…” Sakusa had one hand pressed to his forehead, pushing his curls out of his face. He felt like a complete moron.

“Do you really want to know who I like, Omi-kun?” Atsumu peeked out from between his fingers. Just a single piercing amber eye.

“Doctor Nishiura?” Sakusa provided. She was a few years older than them and their team doctor. He thought it was a breach of the hippocratic oath or something like that to date a patient but-

“Omi-kun.”

“Hanasa-san?” She was one of the team’s accountants. Sakusa thought she was pretty. Her caramel brown hair was always pulled back in a swingy ponytail. He also thought she was a little strange, but maybe Atsumu liked stran-

“Omi-kun.”

“Aizawa-sensei, then.” She was a translator for the team to help Coach Foster and the non-Japanese players communicate with each other and the public. Atsumu always did like helping Adriah-san with his Japane-

“Omi-kun. Shut up. Please.” Atsumu said, curtly. He lifted his head out of his palms and rested his hands in his lap. Sakusa couldn’t help but stare at them. They fidgeted. “Look at me.”

Sakusa obliged. There was redness around his cheekbones where his hands had pressed against his skin. The vulnerability in Atsumu’s face was plain to see, a sight that took Sakusa by surprise. The fire in the setter’s eyes was dim. Small, flickering like a dying candle and not the raging bonfire that he loved so much.

“It’s you.” Atsumu looked away. The hands in his lap formed into fists as he grabbed the loose fabric of his sweatpants.

“Me?”

“Yes. You. Sakusa. Omi-kun.” Atsumu said through gritted teeth. “I like you, Kiyoomi.”

You. You. You. You. You.

That word bounced around in Sakusa’s head like a volleyball in a narrow hallway.

When did this even happen? High school? Had the setter been watching him through the net every game they played, admiring his every move? Fox eyes trained on the flexing muscles in his arms and his thighs as he spiked and blocked and served. Wanting something and someone distant and untouchable. Or was it recently? During tryouts or after he joined the team? Did Atsumu want him on Black Jackals not because of his athletic prowess but because of how much he wanted to f-

Why would Atsumu even like him? Sakusa knew he was handsome. He wasn’t an idiot. But he didn’t see how there was anything appealing to him other than his appearance. You didn’t like someone just because of their looks, you liked them for their personality too. Atsumu didn’t like him, surely. He was lying. Or this was another one of Atsumu’s bad jokes. A joke he hadn’t meant to hurt. But it hurt anyway.

“Sakusa.” Atsumu’s voice broke him out of his train of thought. The setter’s hands were shaking and there were teardrops pooling at the corners of his eyes. He’s… serious. “It’s okay if you don’t feel the same way. Just let me down easily, please.” His voice took on a more playful tone, but it hardly masked the sad look on his face.

“I can’t.” Sakusa said, quietly.

“Fuck.” Atsumu smacked his own face, leaving his eyes and reddening face hidden behind his hands. “I shouldn’t have said anything. I’ll let Meian-san know I need to be traded to another team and…”

“No. Miya-san, I can’t let you down easily.” Sakusa tentatively took Atsumu’s wrist and pulled his hand away from his face. Atsumu met his eyes. “Because I don’t want to.”

“A… h… ah… seriously?” Atsumu choked out. Sakusa moved his hand from Atsumu’s wrist to his shoulder to try and reassure his teammate. It was an unfamiliar gesture, but he hoped it worked.

They sat there wordlessly for a long time. Adriah, Meian, Hinata, and Bokuto had all left the locker room by then. Oliver was the only one unaccounted for and Sakusa desperately hoped the two of them would be gone by the time he finished weight training. He really didn’t want to have to explain why they were still here to their teammate.

“Sakusa.” Atsumu finally said. His voice no longer had a nervous shake to it, and his face was no longer the color of a fresh tomato. “Can I hold you hand? No pressure if you’re not… comfortable with that.”

So cute.

“Yes.” Sakusa said, offering his hand to the setter. Atsumu eagerly took it, twining their fingers together. The soft pads of his fingers explored the back of Sakusa’s hand, rubbing the grooves between his knuckles. Every movement was gentle and careful like he was holding a newborn puppy and not the sturdy hand of a spiker. Sakusa appreciated how respectful Atsumu was but part of him missed the confidence in the setter’s actions.

When Atsumu seemed content, Sakusa decided to apply the final blow. “You know Miya-san… you could kiss me. If you wanted to.”

Atsumu’s expression transformed so fast Sakusa nearly missed it. From content lazy smile to utterly shocked. “Sak… Omi… Kiyoomi!” His face was red, and so, utterly, unbelievably cute.

The setter leaned in and Sakusa’s eyes fluttered closed in anticipation. He expected to feel fingers ghosting along his jawline or snaking around the back of his neck. Instead, a gentle hand brushed along his forehead pushing curls out of his face. Atsumu’s soft lips met Sakusa’s forehead, above his right eye.

The hand in his hair moved to cup his cheekbone, featherlight against his skin. Sakusa opened his eyes to see the warm smile of his teammate.

“I meant on the lips.” Sakusa said with a smile.

“Hmm.” Atsumu hummed in response. His eyes crinkled as he brushed a thumb over Sakusa’s cheek. There were faint freckles below Atsumu’s eyes he hadn’t noticed before. “That was all I needed.”

He pushed another curl out of Sakusa’s face before letting his hand drop. Their fingers twined together again and Atsumu leaned into him. “For now.” The setter added.

Sakusa Kiyoomi loved Miya Atsumu.