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☽ ♕

 

It's Yamaguchi who suggested it.

No. Ordered.

Or if Tsukishima is being petty, it’s Captain Yamaguchi who ordered it, because in Tsukishima’s head, whenever Yamaguchi makes stupid decisions that involves Tsukishima, he’s branded as such, because there’s no way that friend Yamaguchi would put him in such misery.

Yeah, yeah, Tsukishima gets it. It’s for the team, it’s for the team.

That has always been an interest of Yamaguchi, and nothing else, ever since he became captain.

Heck, even ever since the second year pre Spring Tournament, when Ennoshita cornered the five of them (five of them. Like, that’s a thing now), and softly asked them to consider who would be captain since the third years would be graduating soon, and they needed someone to step up. All eyes turned to Yamaguchi, naturally, the hidden gem of the team, the everthere support everyone needed, and it was just natural Yamaguchi would become captain.

Tsukishima still remembers the conversation during that night, when Miyagi skies looked a little too bright with the gleaming stars, and the distinct smell of the way to their respective houses.

It was after Ennoshita cornered them at the gym. The five of them were walking back home. Hinata sucking noisily at his ice cream that Tsukishima remembers distinctly wanting to slap out of his mouth, because making sounds while eating was (still is) one of his biggest pet peeves. 

“Well,” Hinata said into the brief silence they fell into after they passed the school gates. “I think Yamaguchi would make a great captain.” 

Tsukishima didn’t say anything, just glancing at Yamaguchi, silent acknowledgement at Yamaguchi that he catches with a sheepish smile, and it’s one of the things Tsukishima liked about his friendship with Yamaguchi; how sometimes words don’t need to be said for the intentions to come across. 

Yamaguchi scratched at his head, “yeah, well. I’m not exactly an all-rounder like Captain Sawamura. I don’t know what I could offer to the team, really.” 

Kageyama, who had been silent the whole time, gave a blank look at Yamaguchi. “Ennoshita-san isn’t exactly an all-rounder, is he?” Hinata punched him at his shoulder for that, making indignant noises, and Kageyama, seeming to have realised what he said, winced at his own words, but still took the chance to glare at Hinata for the punch. He coloured a little, his ears red, and cheeks a little pink. “I meant that in the nicest way. A literal way.” 

“Sorry not everyone is on your King level,” Tsukishima bit out at that time, unable to resist, and Kageyama gave him a glare, angry and heated, but Tsukishima could never take him seriously at times like these; the peaceful walks back, something Tsukishima can admit to liking. 

“Back to the conversation,” Kageyama said pointedly, giving Tsukishima a glare again, and Tsukishima looked away, shurgging. “Not being an all-rounder is not a bad thing. Not the quality needed for captain, anyways.” Kageyama shrugged, and opened his palm, listing out all of Yamaguchi’s qualities, and putting each of his fingers down for every point he made. “You’re always the one to calm us down when we’re panicking during matches, you notice when our spirits are down, you point out qualities of our opponents people fail to notice, you're a great pinch server, your jump floats are crazy good, and you’re Tsukishima’s friend, so basically you can put everyone in their place if you want to, since you can handle that prick.”

“You’re talking like I’m not here,” Tsukishima gritted through his teeth, and Hinata giggled. 

“Agreed!” Hinata cheered.

Yachi, who had been silently listening to them bicker at that time, suddenly hummed. “Hm, I thought we’ve always agreed Yamaguchi is the glue between us.” Yachi then turned back to them, since she was walking in front of all four of them, and she grinned, something glinting in his eyes. “I think the question here is who would be vice captain, no?” 

All eyes turned towards Tsukishima at that time, and Tsukishima, never seeing himself ata position where he would have to make authoritative decisions, glared at all of them. “No.” 

It was Hinata who looked away first, shrugging. “Now that I think of it, yeah.” Hinata hummed for a while. “No.”

Tsukishima didn’t know whether to trip him so he could make him fall to the pavement, or to thank him. Tsukishima settled for knocking his knees softly, so that his knees would wobble, and it did, making him stop in his tracks for a while, making him look stupid as he tried to regain his strength. “I’m agreeing with you, Shitty-shima!” 

Tsukishima remembered hearing Yachi and Yamaguchi giggle, and Kageyama looking at Hinata with a blank look as Hinata looked indignant. 

“Anyways!” Hinata declared. “I think Kageyama should be vice!” 

Tsukishima’s first thoughts were: nah.

But then Tsukishima remembers perfectly the way his brain conjured up with these little moments.

The way Kageyama’s kingly dictator edges have softened into something pliable through Sugawara’s mentoring, and how he was the one that was mentoring the first year setter at that time, Ikki, how Ikki looked up at Kageyama, still does until now, when Ikki is in second year. The little concerned was the toss okay?, the considerate was it too high?, was the toss too low?, or the gruff way he tried to high-five the first years when they managed to spike through Tanaka’s block in one of their practice matches, the way he grabbed at Tsukishima's shirt back then to direct the block, the way he always wanted to push Tsukishima to his full potential for reasons Tsukishima cannot begin to comprehend, the way he listened during their first official Seijoh match when Tsukishima roughly said you don’t have to adjust for me,  the way he stared at jealousy at setters, not realising people look at him the same way, the way he kind of cared  in his own messed up ways, the way his tosses were full of only precision at some point, but had somehow faded into some kind of gentle and full of care way the more he takes into consideration of his teammates. The way his pride never came in the way of his eagerness to always learn, to always improve, and it had hit Tsukishima all at once that: oh, yeah. Fuck. Hinata’s right. He’s not really the King he once was.  

Tsukishima didn’t realise how deep in thoughts he was until Yamaguchi elbowed him silently in question, and Tsukishima snapped out of it, to the sounds of Hinata and Kageyama arguing over what Hinata had said. In a moment of weakness, where Miyagi nights made his usually high ego deflate a little, Tsukishima said: “Yeah, I agree with Hinata.” 

The group had stopped walking at that time, shell-shocked at Tsukishima’s words, especially Kageyama and Hinata. Yachi just looked pleased, in that way she does when things seem to be going her way, something akin to pride in her eyes that made Tsukishima heat up a little in embarrassment. Surely, he was not that arrogant? Kageyama had his mouth opened, but the little blush on his cheeks earlier that had faded earlier, had come alive again, this time more vibrant than the last. His ears were red, too, and Tsukishima had to look away. 

“You do?” Hinata said into the silence, questioning. “You do!” He then jumped, slapping Tsukishima on the shoulders. “Elaborate, asshole!”

Tsukishima glared at Hinata, and his eyes met with Kageyama for a moment, before Kageyama looked away, shy almost, and they all started walking again. Tsukishima shrugged, since Hinata wouldn’t stop bugging him if he didn’t say something. “He is the setter. He knows the team best. He’s not as bad as he used to be.” He cares, something in Tsukishima whispered. Tsukishima swallowed it down. “You’re kinda okay, King.” Tsukishima ended lamely. 

Yamaguchi hummed in agreement, and Yachi had that proud look on her face again. Hinata just looked pleased that Tsukishima agreed with him on something, while Kageyama looked like he wanted to be anywhere but there, walking with Tsukishima behind him, kind of praising him.

They were at the junction where they had to separate at that time, so they did, the conversation halting, and an unanimous agreement at the brief discussion. Yachi, Kageyama, and Hinata went their way, while Yamaguchi walked with him since their houses were on the same way. 

It was silent for a while, so Tsukishima put on his headphones, softly playing his music at a low volume, just in case Yamaguchi said something. Predictably, Yamaguchi did. He kicked at Tsukishima’s shoes a little, and Tsukishima grunted a little, glancing at him to see that Yamaguchi had a knowing, smug look on his face. “You definitely watered down the compliments earlier. You had more to say, didn’t you, Tsukki?”

Tsukishima answered by taking out his phone, and pointedly increasing the volume of his music, ignoring the way Yamaguchi cackled as they walked. 

Anyways. 

It’s now. 

And Tsukishima is seriously regretting his choice of agreeing to pick Yamaguchi and Kageyama as captain and vice captains. There’s a reason he remembers that night so well. 

Because of things like this.

Yamaguchi looks at him with this fake innocent look on his face, like he knows Tsukishima will explode at him, but he’s bracing himself for it, right after he said it: “Tsukki, you’re a third year now. You need to stop picking fights with Kageyama. The new first years are terrified of you, you know. I’m assigning you two as partners now. Okay?”

Coach Ukai, who had been listening to Yamaguchi all this time, looks thoughtful. “Hey, that’s actually a pretty good idea, Yamaguchi.” 

Tsukishima, brain warning him: NOT GOOD NOT GOOD NOT GOOD, tries to not glare at Coach Ukai, since he’s their coach, for fuck’s sake, and he’s not that rude to people who aren’t Kageyama, so he settles, with a heated gaze at their coach, trying his hardest to not curse. “What does partners even mean?” Kageyama, who’s next to him all this while, is surprisingly silent, and Tsukishima tries to discreetly glance at him to gauge how he’s feeling, but he just looks like his normal, stoic face, and Tsukishima feels like kicking him. The idiot probably got sold at the idea of it being for the team. 

“Well, partners. In whatever. In warm-ups. No more partnering with me, Tsukki. Spotting each other in the gym, or something. Homework help?” Yamaguchi trails off, looking thoughtful. He shakes his head, shrugging, beaming at the two of them. “Anything that requires partnering. You two need to get along with each other, Tsukki! You know that.” 

Tsukishima wants to argue that it’s okay. They’re okay.

They’re comfortable enough with each other that Tsukishima can see when Kageyama disapproves of things he does or says, they’re close enough that they can call out each other for their bullshits, they’re comfortable enough to gruffly say nice receive to each other, although a nice toss will never escape Tsukishima’s mouth, because he thinks he’s freeze up and die before he can even say those words.

Like, yeah, Tsukishima gets it.

They have their way of riling each other up that gets too intense because they’ll be spitting words that gets too close to home, and yeah, sure, just yesterday, Yamaguchi and Hinata had to pull them off each other because Tsukishima got angry that Kageyama’s toss was too high again, and said patronisingly that he’s back to his King ways, and Kageyama argued that Tsukishima could reach that high, had seen him reach that high, and he was not trying hard enough, and it hit so close to home that it took everything in Tsukishima to not hit him, even Coach Ukai and Takeda-sensei looked angry, scolding them both for discipline, and warning them that if they pull shits like this again they won’t hesitate for the drastic measures---and, yeah, okay, fine, he fucking gets it. 

But spending more time with Kageyama would help this? When they can’t stand each other? 

Tsukishima lets out a big sigh, suddenly feeling lethargic, even when they haven’t started practice. The sports glasses around his head suddenly feels too tight with the headache beginning to form in his forehead, and Tsukishima takes it off for a moment to softly massage at his forehead. Tsukishima can see Kageyama glancing at him from the corner of his eyes. 

“Right!” Yamaguchi cheers, clapping their backs at the same time, and Tsukishima glares at Yamaguchi, making him having to look at Kageyama, too, and this is the exact moment it is put into perspective just how much Kageyama had grown in terms of height.

They’re practically the same height now. It’s only been around a week since school opened, and they started third year. Tsukishima barely sees Kageyama other than yesterday when practice finally started, but Tsukishima was too blinded by rage anyways, to notice minor things like heights, and they didn’t go home together last night because his bad mood with Kageyama lasted all the way until practice ended, and Tsukishima refused to think about why Kageyama’s words bugged him so much. Why it struck so close to home for him, and why, although Kageyama’s words had hurt, Tsukishima still felt the regret from when he shot Kageyama back with harsher words. Tsukishima had refused to think. His head was too full to comprehend, so he drowned it with his music. Tsukishima looked at Kageyama, meeting Kageyama’s eyes, expecting animosity, but instead was greeted with curiosity, in the way he always looks when he wants to learn more. Tsukishima shivers inaudibly, looking away, putting back his sports glasses. 

Kageyama walks beside him, as they go to the spot in the gym where the team is starting their warm-up stretches. The new first years who had been shuffling awkwardly, waiting to start, and was entertained by Hinata and the other second years that could rival Tanaka and Nishinoya in terms of goofiness, suddenly tensed as they saw Tsukishima and Kageyama approaching, probably getting reminded of what happened yesterday, and Tsukishima feels the pang of regrets in his chest again, at the words he uttered to Kageyama, and Kageyama’s words to him. Ikki pats the back of the new first years in pity, and it crosses Tsukishima's mind that it was probably the second years' have seen a lot of their arguments, but probably never saw it escalated like last night.

It’s just not fair.

It was Kageyama who provoked him in the first place. It’s not like Tsukishima wakes up everyday, and thinks of ways to rile up Kageyama, and to get him to scream back at Tsukishima. It just happens. Tsukishima doesn’t dare to imagine what would happen if Hinata and Yamaguchi hadn’t stopped them yesterday. 

“Oi,” Kageyama says gruffly, just as a second year, Akira, starts leading the individual warm-ups. Kageyama is still beside him, seeming to find no point in separating when they’re just going to partner up when they get to the partner stretches. 

Tsukishima stiffens, afraid of what’s coming next. He follows the stretch Akira is doing. “What?” 

“I’m sorry,” Kageyama mutters underneath his breath. Tsukishima glances at Kageyama in shock, not knowing what to say back. Kageyama’s resolutely looking at Akira, as if he doesn’t remember the stretches they do every fucking practice for the past two years, so Tsukishima guesses he doesn’t want to look at Tsukishima, which Tsukishima fucking gets. “Stop fucking looking at me like that. Yamaguchi was right anyways. We really gotta put this behind us,” Kageyama hisses under his breath. 

Tsukishima still looks. Kageyama’s features sharpened a lot more over their final term break. His cheekbones are more prominent in the way that screams puberty, rather than from not eating, and his jawline is even more chiseled now. His eyelashes are kind of fucking long. And ah, fuck, they’re really the same height now, huh. He really got stupid bulkier, too.

“You’ve grown over the break,” Tsukishima chooses to say first. Kageyama glances at him indignantly, the argument probably ready at the tip of his tongue. Tsukishima notices his cheeks are really pink. Is he tired? His stamina is fucking insane, so Tsukishima doesn’t get why he’s so tired already from minor stretches. Tsukishima quickly cuts him off before things could escalate. “Height. You’re the same height as me now.” Kageyama blinks at Tsukishima, as if not registering his words, and when he does, he colours even more, for some reason. 

“Oh,” Kageyama chooses to say. “Yeah, grew,” he finishes off lamely.

Fine, he’ll say it. Tsukishima takes a deep breath, following the last of Akira’s individual stretches. “I’m sorry, too,” Tsukishima says quickly, as if the words cannot wait to escape him, for it to be in the air, so that it doesn’t have to fucking live as that burden in his chest that constantly pangs when he thinks of it. “Or, whatever.” For everything. Do I have to fucking say it? 

Kageyama seems to have accepted it, his cheeks bunching up a little as he does his thing where he looks pleased, and is trying to smile. He seems to have grown into his smile, too. It used to look a little bit like he’s in pain while smiling, but now it fits him well, like he’s always been the type to smile rather than his usual stoic demeanour. Tsukishima looks away first, afraid what might happen if he stares a little longer. 

The first partnered warm-up is the usual sit ups for as many as you can for one minute, while the partner holds your feet together. Kageyama is the one who lays down first, since Hinata is also the one to lay down first, and they have their one of too many ongoing streak since first year that Yachi keeps up with in her notebook of who can do the most sit ups in that one minute. When he partners with Yamaguchi, he usually just steps on Yamaguchi’s shoes, so when he tries to do the same to Kageyama, Kageyama quickly moves his shoes away.

 “Hey!” Kageyama says.

“What?” Tsukishima says back indignantly. “This is how I usually do it with Yamaguchi.” 

“I know.” Tsukishima tries to ignore the implications behind that. “But what if my feet move? You know it’s not as effective if you don’t hold it properly.” Hinata is already counting down to starting of the sit ups, and Yachi is already ready with her stopwatch, so Kageyama, feeling the time pressure, quickly takes Tsukishima’s hand, involuntarily dragging him down, and in an inexplicably gentle way, cups his hands around Kageyama’s shoes, making it stay where it’s meant to be, which means Tsukishima has to be so close to Kageyama as he does his sit ups. Tsukishima wants to move his hand, not used to being in this close proximity with someone, and what more Kageyama.  

Kageyama starts doing it, and Tsukishima looks away just as Kageyama’s face comes close to his own. It’s so fucking hot in here. Humid. Tsukishima distracts himself with counting Kageyama’s sit ups, rather than the way Kageyama is looking at him intently, since that’s the only way he can look anyways. Tsukishima can’t wait for this to be fucking over. Tsukishima counts to sixty, just as Kageyama goes up, and Yachi yells that the time is over. Kageyama is breathing hard against Tsukishima’s ear, and Tsukishima can feel the heat radiating from his body. Tsukishima can’t find it in him to move. Everyone starts yelling out their number, and switching to the other person, leaving out the last one for Hinata and Kageyama. 

“Fifty-eight!” Yamaguchi, who had partnered with Hinata, yells out, and Hinata yells out in excitement. 

“Sixty,” Tsukishima says, monotoned, when all eyes turn towards him, with Yamaguchi somehow giving him his I-know-something-you-don’t-look that infuriates Tsukishima to no end. Tsukishima ignores him, instead watching as Hinata screams something about Kageyama idiot! Tsukishima probably counted wrongly! Kageyama chooses that moment to sigh in satisfaction, and Tsukishima, still holding the same position, feels his breath against his ear, and his body involuntarily shivers, making his arms tremble a little, hoping to whatever God there is out there that Kageyama didn’t notice. Tsukishima finally moves, and starts to get into position for his turn to start doing the sit-ups. 

Yeah, kay, he wants to die. 

This is even more uncomfortable. Kageyama wouldn’t even look away. At least Tsukishima did to save them from looking at each other, but Kageyama won’t, so Tsukishima cranes his neck away as he does his sit ups, and at his 25th sit ups, Kageyama finally calls him out for it. “Oi, look at me.” It’s so fucking hot here. “That’s how you get to do more.”

“Shut up,” Tsukishima mutters under his breath, and Tsukishima glances at Kageyama to find him looking almost amused at how Tsukishima is trying hard to not look at him, and Tsukishima feels a little bit embarrassed, so he looks back at Kageyama as he does it. Kageyama just looks back, smug almost, in a way that reminds Tsukishima of how Kageyama looks when he outsmarts their opponents, you’re playing my game now written all over his face, or when he successfully does a dump shot. “I’m looking,” he says, meaning to fluster Kageyama, and Kageyama does colour a little, and it’s just--the most excruciating 20 seconds of his life, and when Yachi finally tells at them to stop, it’s not even the sit ups that made his breathing hard, but rather the close proximity with Kageyama, the intensity of his gaze, and that look on his face.

They finally move on to the other quick partner stretches, and it’s a good, companionable silence for few of the sets. Kageyama is pushing on his back when he says it: “I didn’t say what I said last night to spite you, y’know. Or did what I did to be bossy.” 

Tsukishima, reaching for the tips of feet, scoffs a little. “Oh, then what?” 

Kageyama seems to be ready to list out his reasons, when the counting stops once again, and they have to run eight laps around the gym, so that conversation is cut short, momentarily stored in Tsukishima’s brain, yet something he doesn’t really think of just as practice starts, and they start with the usual practice serving, receiving, and spiking, particularly more focused on the first years rather than the third years, so Tsukishima doesn’t feel nearly as pressured as he usually does. They also did two practice matches, with each player getting their turns because apparently Karasuno’s volleyball is pretty renowned now that they want to go here, which contrasts so much from their first year, the number that makes up the current third years, and it makes Tsukishima a little bit wistful. 

They’re finally done with practice, and starting to clean, with Tsukishima holding a mop, when Kageyama approaches him with a determined look on his face. Tsukishima just watches warily as he falls into step next to him, as they mop the floor together. 

“Say it, Kageyama,” Tsukishima bites out when Kageyama continues to be silent as they just finished four lines in the gym. “Or are you here because of the partners thing? Yamaguchi didn’t mean cleaning, too, King.” 

Kageyama stiffens a little at getting caught, huffing as he does, finally relenting. “What I said earlier.” Kageyama looks at him unexpectedly.

Tsukishima looks at him blankly, head buzzing at a familiar fragment of memory, but unable to put a finger on it. Tsukishima relents. “What? I don’t remember.” Kageyama actually frowns at Tsukishima, as if disappointed in him, and Tsukishima feels the need to defend himself. “What? We spent a lot of time together today.” Kageyama looks at him, and his eyes spark a little. There’s that electric blue of his eyes that reminds Tsukishima of something akin to royalty, fitting with what Tsukishima has been calling him all these years. Tsukishima looks away, coughing lamely. “Because of the partners thing. For once, we spent a lot of time together than normal.” What is Tsukishima even saying? 

“I didn’t say what I said last night to spite you,” Kageyama says softly, as if scared Tsukishima won’t frame it to memory like he did last time, and Tsukishima’s mind both flashes to their earlier interactions, and last night’s fight. The words I’ve seen you jump higher, idiot! You can! You’re not working hard enough! What’s fucking stopping you? and then Tsukishima’s own snide remarks about his dictator ways, and how Tsukishima glowered at Kageyama, and said lowly, you’re back to your Kingly ways, huh? The red, the rage, the hurt in Kageyama’s eyes at his words, and Tsukishima gets that Kageyama probably felt like his progress to being a team person is discarded at Tsukishima’s words, and then to their earlier interaction. Where Kageyama couldn’t have met his eyes when he said those words earlier, which was probably why he chose that exact stretch to say it at that exact time. Kageyama breaks through his thoughts. “Or did what I did to be bossy.” 

“Oh,” Tsukishima says slowly. Tsukishima doesn't fail to note how much it contrasts with his intonations earlier. “Then, what?” Tsukishima morbidly finds it hilarious that they were at each other’s throat last night, and are now mopping the fucking floor side by side. Kageyama stops mopping for a moment. They’re almost done with the gym anyways, so Tsukishima stops, too. Kageyama then changes his mind, starting to mop again, and Tsukishima, a warbled grunt of confusion escaping his mouth, follows after Kageyama. “What the hell?”

Kageyama’s ears are red. “This is better if I don’t have to look at you.” But he keeps stealing glances at Tsukishima, and Tsukishima wants to yell. “I want you to reach your full potential. Hinata said that you jumped higher when Koganegawa was tossing.” The hold Kageyama has on his mop tightens as he utters those words, and Tsukishima, at first unable to see the relevance of this, gets it. Is this really about his inferiority complex to other setters? Tsukishima is just about to say it when Kageyama continues with a tone that is softer than Tsukishima expects it to be. “You obviously can do it if you want to. You can be so much more. I can see you being so much more. Why don’t you want to reach your full potential with me? When I’m your setter? Your setter.” 

The word your setter leaves Tsukishima’s mouth dry a little, then Kageyama’s words settle into him a bit more, and he just feels bare. All the questions Kageyama probably wants answers to, something Tsukishima is still trying to overcome. That Tokyo first year summer camp changed him, of course, the talks with Bokuto and Kuroo, the moment where you’ll know it, that match with Shiratorizawa, being able to shut down Ushijima's freakishly strong spike, the exhilaration, but there’s that reminder in the form of other people being so much better than him, heck, even Hinata gets in Tsukishima’s head sometimes, and then of course, the reminder of Akiteru and the disappointments; ever there, the reminder hanging over his head when his fucked up brain thinks of trying harder, but simultaneously shuts it down with the cloud hanging over his head. 

But then, there’s that sun. Over the clouds that sometimes rain. 

Sun comes in the form of Bokuto and Kuroo’s words echoing in head. It comes in the form of stopping a spike from any fucking players and opponents, it comes from spiking one of Kageyama’s tosses that feels good in his hand when Kageyama isn’t being an asshole, and oh, man, the fact that Kageyama wasn’t even trying to be an asshole, but he wants to improve Tsukishima? Huh. The fact that he sees the potential of Tsukishima. See what he could become. This feels a lot like the sun. 

Tsukishima doesn’t know what to say. The last time he feels this shell shocked was during Tokyo summer camp. When Yamaguchi yelled at him about his pride, getting called out like that does things to you. Tsukishima had smiled patronisingly back then. This is a callout, just like Yamaguchi’s had been. But this feels gentle, like how soft Kageyama’s voice sounded when said those words. It was as if Kageyama cupped his face, and patted his fucking head, and told him hey, I can help you, but only if you allow me to. I made that mistake last time by not asking. Sorry, which makes Tsukishima a little light headed because he doesn’t know how to deal with this. Never had someone this gentle with him, someone that was once a fire not wanting to be tamed.

I’m your setter, he said. Your setter.

They’re finished mopping now. Just hanging at the edge of the gym as their other teammates to finish up. Kageyama’s words hang heavy between them, an offer, a deal, just waiting to be taken. Tsukishima doesn’t know what to do, speechless, which is a lot for someone who always has shit to say about shits, and is always running his mouth when unneeded, not wanting the other person to have the last word. He doesn’t know how to go from tolerating someone’s existence, yet noticing little freaky details about him, to just being, what, friends? How does this work? There are no guidelines on this. 

“You don’t have to answer me,” Kageyama says into the silence, and Tsukishima looks at him. He’s looking at Tsukishima. His eyes tired, the blurt of emotions earlier seemed to have drowned his energy more than practice had done, but it’s bright with something. Passion, maybe. Tsukishima just looks, and thinks: how blue. “The questions. But you have to give me permission to try with you. To let me help you.” He then colours, seeming to have realised his words, and then backtracking softly. “If you allow me to, that is.”

It feels like him and Kageyama are getting dared to jump into a cold pool, and Kageyama has already jumped, when Tsukishima only has one foot testing the water’s temperature. They’re still looking at each other. Tsukishima takes a deep breath. “Yeah, sure.” 

Kageyama doesn’t say anything, but his eyes light up. The earlier lethargy was replaced by something even brighter than passion. How blue. He smiles at Tsukishima, and Tsukishima finds that he can’t even tease him for his smile, with how much he has grown into that smile. With how much he has grown. He’s the same height as Tsukishima now. He has a smile that suits his face, that highlights his sharpened cheekbones, that shows off his chiseled jawline, his eyes are blue, blue, blue, and he looks at Tsukishima like this: like he trusts Tsukishima, like he sees the potential in Tsukishima that feels different from when other people see it in him because this is one that Tsukishima feels like he can believe in, like he wants to hold Tsukishima, and like he’s silently saying hey, I’ve got you now. 

I’m here. 

I’m your setter.

 

☽ ♕

 

This night is the first walk home with the usual five, since Tsukishima had stormed off last night, so he didn’t get to walk together with them. Kageyama is next to him tonight, and he’s thoughtfully chewing on his pork bun, without making any noises, which just makes Hinata’s loud chewing even more apparent into the Miyagi night. Tsukishima swallows the urge to reprimand Hinata because it is his personal preference, but Kageyama must’ve noticed how much he had stolen glances at Hinata irritatedly that he pushes Hinata’s back gently. “Shut up! Stop chewing so loudly!”

Hinata, being Hinata, sticks his tongue at Kageyama, and the unchewed food in his mouth makes Tsukishima’s own barely eaten pork bun feels more unappetizing the more they’re walking, so Tsukishima shoves it to Kageyama, and grunts at him to take it. Hinata who had still been sticking his tongue at Kageyama, makes a warbled noise of surprise. “HUH?!”

This makes Yachi and Yamaguchi, who had been having an inaudible conversation at the very front turn to look at the commotion. They both seem to not get it at first, but they comically follow Hinata’s gaze on the two pork buns on Kageyama’s hands, one of them almost finished, and the other one bitten just slightly. They then look at Tsukishima’s own empty hands, and they both, with Hinata in tow, gape at Tsukishima. Tsukishima honestly just wants to deck them. He’s really heating up now. He hasn’t even looked at Kageyama’s reaction at his stupid impulse offer. 

“Tsukki,” Yamaguchin says, voice weak, hint of pride in his voice that Tsukishima rolls his eyes at. Yachi next to him looks at Tsukishima with something that akin to a smirk. Hinata just looks amazed, yet a little wronged. 

“You never give your food!” Hinata says into the impressed silence. “Could’ve split it with m--” Yachi chooses that moment to kick at his knee, making his feet weaken as he does. “Yachi!” He pouts at her as he straightens his legs, but then sees the look on her face, and hums. “Ahh, Tsukishima! Glad to see it.”

Tsukishima doesn’t even know what the fuck they’re talking about at this point, so he turns to look at Kageyama to find him looking at the pork bun in his hand, as if not being able to comprehend it. Tsukishima just had about enough, so he’s just about to snatch it away from Kageyama’s hands, when Kageyama stops him with his other hand, so both of his hands are just cupping Tsukishima’s hand. “Are you sure? You always don’t eat a lot.”

Tsukishima feels something rises at the back of his neck, like the wind is caressing him. The implications of Kageyama knowing, and the gentle way he asked. Gentle, gentle, gentle. So blue. What is wrong with him today? Tsukishima wants to say something witty, and racks his brain for it to find it empty of any remarks, so Tsukishima, throat parched, says softly, “yeah, my mom usually leaves me food to eat after practice.” 

Kageyama looks satisfied at that, giving Tsukishima a small smile, and finally lets go of Tsukishima’s hand, and a thought crosses his mind that he misses the heat of Kageyama’s hands, but quickly pushed it away, and only for him to realise that they’re still not walking, and Hinata, Yachi, and Yamaguchi had been watching the whole interaction. Tsukishima pretends to not notice the way Yachi and Hinata give Yamaguchi a thumbs up, pushing Hinata to start walking, and by default, making him have to look at the front.

It’s all just comfortable chatter of Hinata talking about Atsumu, whom Hinata had strangely connected with ever since their first Inarizaki match, and had been keeping in contact ever since, and they only grew closer when Hinata also got invited to the All Japan Youth Training Camp before their previous Spring Tournament. Tsukishima doesn’t know if they’re officially together or not, but with how much Hinata talks about him, and how equally whipped Atsumu sounds when Hinata talks about him, Tsukishima won’t be surprised if they are. 

They finally arrive at the usual junction where they have to separate, and Tsukishima is just about ready to speed walk to his house to just eat and start on his homework when he hears the shy, forced out way of Kageyama suddenly yelling out: “Good night, Tsukishima!!!!” Tsukishima turns to look, and finds Hinata slapping Kageyama’s back, thus the forced out sound, and Yachi just grimacing at Kageyama, and looking at Tsukishima apologetically. Kageyama looks so red now, and he keeps biting down at his lips, as if embarrassed, and doesn’t even wait for Tsukishima’s reply before storming away, Hinata and Yachi quickly follow after waving goodbye frantically. Hinata at least looks guilty.

Yamaguchi, who had been watching the scene unfold silently, finally barks out a laugh when he feels that Kageyama is far away enough for him to not hear. “He only said good night to you, Tsukki!” Yamaguchi giggles, slapping Tsukishima’s back as they start walking, the earlier rush to go home depleted at Kageyama’s weird greeting, filling Tsukishima in the way he doesn’t want to name. “You must be special, Tsukki.”

“Shut up, Yamaguchi,” Tsukishima can only say back lamely, not knowing what else to say that will not give away how warm he feels right now.

Tsukishima doesn’t put on his headphones for the rest of their walk home, head too all over the place to even remember to do so. Yamaguchi doesn’t say anything, but the way he hums happily as they walk says a lot more than words even can.

 

☽ ♕

 

Kageyama texts him at midnight when he’s slaving over his Physics homework, although all he wants to do is pass out. It’s the first time they’ve ever texted each other not in the groupchat with Hinata, Yamaguchi, and Yachi, so something akin to nervousness pools in his stomach at this new territory they’re stepping into. 

 

kageyama tobio

oi

cn u hlp me w smth

 

Tsukishima pauses as he reads the text, softly scratching at his neck at the suddenness of all of this, at the overuse of short forms. 

 

tsukishima kei

depends

kageyama tobio

cn u hlp w my hw

its jst 1 q im stck w i prmise

tsukishima kei

u n ur unnecessary short forms r physically making me want to jump in front of a moving train

kageyama tobio

haha gd sight prlly

jk

pls dont

so cn u

pls its efficient 2 typ like dis

tsukishima kei

u see the problem, king??

u typed pls n i don’t know if ure saying plus or please

kageyama tobio

oh yea

bt yr using shrtfrms too

tsukishima kei

i don’t abuse it as badly as u do

kageyama tobio

yh well

so hlp me?

 

Tsukishima is strangely reminded of first year, the first time Kageyama asked for help from him along with Hinata. How patronising Tsukishima was. Has he really warmed up this much to Kageyama that he doesn't feel as prideful asking for help? 

 

tsukishima kei

k

i guess

now? 

 

It crosses Tsukishima's mind Kageyama is not the only one who changed.

 

kageyama tobio

oh i jst rlsd it’s mdnight

tmr then b4 morn prac

y r u awk so late?

 

Tsukishima tenses at the text, embarrassed almost.

 

tsukishima kei

who said i feel awkward

plus even if i do feel awkward (which i do not) i can, bc we were literally just fighting each other two days ago

kageyama tobio

luls….

i mnt y r u AWAKE

but u feel awkwrd txting w me?

 

Tsukishima groans into his silent room, getting even more fucking embarrassed now, and Tsukishima has never been more glad that Akiteru is away at college, and his mom’s room is far away enough that she won’t hear him making all of these sounds. Tsukishima doesn’t know since when he became this much of a mess over texting. The embarrassment feels even more prominent in his own room.

 

tsukishima kei

before practice??

how early do u want me to get to school jesus

kageyama tobio

ok ignring it i c

wht do u mn early i alwys get 2 sch @ 6

prac strts @ 630 nywys

tsukishima kei

jesus do u even sleep

 

kageyama tobio

ofc its crucial 4 stmina 

im jst hving a hrd time w ths hw 

tsukishima kei

kkkk

 

kageyama tobio

y r u awake

 

tsukishima kei

physics hw

kageyama tobio

oh

go 2 sleep

u wrry me smtimes w how much u dont take care of urself

 

Yeah, okay it’s hot in here. Tsukishima puts his phone down for a moment, and paces around his room, collecting his thoughts before replying. He’s not even doing his Physics homework at this point, Kageyama consuming him in ways he can’t even begin to understand. 



tsukishima kei

yeah ok 

says the one also not sleeping

 

kageyama tobio

ill go 2 slp if u do

 

Something in Tsukishima feels warm.

 

tsukishima kei

yeah ok



kageyama tobio

:)

gdnght tsukishima

 

tsukishima kei

surprised u didn’t try to use short form w my name

night

 

It’s supposed to be him teasing Kageyama. 

 

But then Kageyama says:

kageyama tobio

o ur right

nght tsukki :)

 

Tsukishima almost flung his phone away. Tsukishima is going to commit murder. 

 

(Also, if someone says Tsukishima fell asleep that night warmer than he had been in years, no one has any evidence for it.)

 

☽ ♕

 

Tsukishima arrives at their locker room at exactly five fifty-five in the morning, rubbing blearily at his eyes, as his music blasts from his headphones. It’s way too early. Practice usually starts at six-thirty, but that’s usually when people start arriving because morning practice is a little bit more chill than their evening ones, and those who arrive early are usually only Kageyama and Hinata, and sometimes Ikki, or other of the more ambitious second years like Naoki and Akira. Tsukishima, without fail, always arrives at six-thirty, because why bother. 

It just makes something in Tsukishima curl even more at the reminder that he’s doing this for Kageyama, out of all people. The locker room is still not opened, so Kageyama is probably not there yet, so Tsukishima rests his back on the wall near their locker room, waiting for him, closing his eyes as he does, letting the music wash over him. 

His mother had also been shocked this morning when she saw Tsukishima already ready at the dining table before her. She stared for a moment when she stepped into the kitchen to see Tsukishima with tea, but then just ruffled Tsukishima’s hair, and said her good morning, Kei, in a tone that is always fond when he’s with Tsukishima, and out of a moment of weakness, Tsukishima felt taken care of. Remembered Akiteru in college, and thought of how he also babied Tsukishima. Tsukishima ought to text him back. 

Tsukishima opens his eyes when he feels someone next to him, and there’s a remark ready at the tip of his tongue at Kageyama for being late when he was the one who asked for help, and for making Tsukishima wait for him. But turns out, the person next to him was just Ikki, smiling sheepishly back at Tsukishima, as if knowing that Tsukishima is not expecting him. Tsukishima lowers his headphones to his neck.

“Good morning, Tsukishima-san,” Ikki says into the dusk, smiling brightly at him, looking so awake that it doesn’t feel like dusk, looking every bit like a sunshine with his bright eyes and cheeks bunching up, Tsukishima almost wonders how he gets along with Kageyama so well. But then he remembers how much Ikki looks up to Kageyama ever since first year, and how Kageyama has never quite had a junior looking up to him, so Kageyama immediately took him under his wings. Kageyama has always had the penchant to strike a memorable friendship with the most random people anyway. Tsukishima hates how his brain immediately thinks of himself. Just how fast are they moving? Ikki quickly cuts through his thoughts. “Kageyama-kun will probably be here soon! He usually arrives at six like that.”

Tsukishima shuffles at his feet a little, giving a look at Ikki. “Who said I was waiting for him?” 

Ikki blinks, and shrugs, grinning back easily. “He has the keys. And, aren’t you? Yamaguchi-kun said you’re partners now, riiiight?” Tsukishima misses a little the Ikki that was cautious around him for his first one month in the Volleyball Club, before Hinata and Yamaguchi declared to the first years at that Tsukishima may be big and intimidating, but he won’t start shit with you unless you’re Kageyama, which immediately made the first years at that time warm up to him, including Ikki. Ikki is looking at him again with his bright eyes. “Finally, you know!” He knocks his shoulders a little against Tsukishima’s. “Kageyama-kun likes you a lot.”

Tsukishima immediately heats up. “I think you’re misunderstanding the definition of partners here, Ikki.” 

Ikki pouts at Tsukishima, indignant, so Tsukishima wrinkles his nose at Ikki for the look of his face. “No, I’m not! I’m not an idiot. I see how you two have been interacting! All that flirting? C’mon, Tsukishima-san.”

“Ikki, we tried to deck each other just two days ago,” Tsukishima deadpans, and Ikki shrugs.

“Yeah, that happened, huh. You two hit the fan with anger instead of what we all wanted. Why did you even mention the King thing again? He doesn’t mind you calling him King--likes it, even, but bringing up his middle school days was a low blow considering what happened, y’know.”

Tsukishima feels warm at Ikki’s words, mixing morbidly with shame at Ikki’s innocent callout that didn’t even mean to be a callout, just a simple observation, so he clears his throat uncomfortably. “Observing things, and Kageyama telling you things are two different things, y’know, Ikki?”

Ikki blinks at him again in confusion, at the cryptid words. “He did tell me he likes you calling him King when you don’t mention his middle school days. However the hell that works, anyways.” Ikki’s eyes light up for a second. “Oh, he even told me he likes--”

“Ikki,” Kageyama cuts through Ikki’s ramble, and Tsukishima snaps his head towards Kageyama, not even noticing that he had climbed the stairs to their locker room. Tsukishima stares blankly at Kageyama, while his head is a crash of wave in the form of last night’s texts the short forms, the gdnght, the warbled good night, Tsukishima he yelled out last night, and the fucking cheeky tsukki. Then, Ikki’s revelation that Kageyama likes when Tsukishima calls him King, a nickname that Kageyama is known to hate, but doesn’t like when Tsukishima relates it to his middle school days. What does that even mean? The lack of sleep isn’t helping, what more Ikki’s constant buzzing energy besides him. 

“You’re late,” Tsukishima points out parchedly, staring intently at Kageyama. He must’ve done his usual run to the school. His face looks a little bit pink, and his breath is laboured, as if he ran all the way up to the locker room. Tsukishima must’ve been so deep in conversation with Ikki that he didn’t even notice Kageyama running up until he was right in fornt of his face.

Kageyama looks tersely at Tsukishima for a moment, before blazing his eyes to Ikki, the threat glinting through the blues of his eyes. “What did you say, Ikki?” When Ikki looks sheepish, the danger in Kageyama’s eyes softened, because he’s never been hard on Ikki anyways, so he just directs his eyes to Tsukishima again, looking almost embarrassed, biting his lips as his hand shuffle through his pockets for the keys to the locker room. It jiggles loudly in the quiet morning. “Ignore Ikki. Like you always do,” Kageyama begs at him, his eyes wide, and blue, and he sighs, then unlocking their locker room, trailing inside.

Tsukishima is still staring at Kaegayam’s figure walking in, when Ikki pats his shoulders apologetically, and steps inside the locker room first. “Better loosen up those puppy dog eyes, Tsukishima-san.”

Tsukishima just mocks punching at Ikki that makes Ikki yelp, quickly running inside to dump his things. He then yells out that he’ll get started at the gym, and he exits as quickly as he enters that in just a second, it’s only Kageyama and Tsukishima in the locker room with a deafening silence between them that Tsukishima feels the need to break through. 

“You’re late,” Tsukishima chooses to say, and then grunting as he settles down on the floor of their locker room, sprawling his legs, rather than folding them. Kageyama chooses to sit next to him, which makes sense since they’re getting started on his homework together. What doesn’t make sense is the way Kageyama’s thighs settle right next to his, presence warm and big from his run earlier, and Tsukishima feels so warm, with the heat radiating off of Kageyama. What doesn’t make sense is the curl at the pit of his stomach at their close proximity.

Kageyama really got fucking buff.

Jeez. 

“Just by, like, five minutes. Chill the fuck up,” Kageyama says as he digs through his bag for his homework, mean, like he didn’t just call Tsukishima tsukki last night. Kageyama lays out his homework on top of their thighs, head close to Tsukishima’s as they study the question presented. It’s a Maths problem. Tsukishima feels like an idiot, because he didn’t even ask Kageyama what he wanted help with, just outright agreeing, because apparently, a day’s worth of communication can turn him this pliable. People should start saying that they see the potential in him more often.

You know it won’t be the same not coming from him, something in Tsukishima whispers, and Tsukishima wills it away. 

“This?” Tsukishima asks, and Kageyama nods at him. Their heads are really close. It’s an easy problem. At least to Tsukishima it is. Something that would probably have all of his classes answering correctly to, yet Kageyama is struggling with it, the space between his eyebrows pinched together as he stares at the question. He then looks at Tsukishima worriedly, eyes blue and bright, and Tsukishima can’t help the small smile escaping his lips. Tsukishima might have a name for the warmth in his chest if he looks closely.

Kageyama takes it the wrong way, and snatches the book away from him, heatedly moving away from Tsukishima, as if burned suddenly by the pleasantness of their close proximity. Kageyama looks embarrassed, darting his eyes around the room, before glaring at Tsukishima. “I know you’re going to get like this. You’re impossible. Why do I even--” Kageyama cuts himself off, frustrated, and he is just about to stand up, when Tsukishima’s impulse tells him to grab his hand, so Tsukishima does. 

It’s calloused, but his fingernails are perfectly trimmed, and Tsukishima remembers Kageyama’s nerdy explanation about how even the slightest centimeter in his fingernail would disrupt his playing. Tsukishima pulls him down and Kageyama, pliant, allows himself to be pulled. “I didn’t even say anything, King.”

“You smiled,” Kageyama mumbles under his breath, indignant.

“Your smile grew to your face, you know. I was just smiling because seeing you frown now looks weird,” Tsukishima says honestly, and Kageyama coughs a little. Before another argument blows up again, Tsukishima starts explaining the question to him, rather than just giving him the answers to it, and Kageyama listens. Intent, like he wants to learn, always, and it mirrors his personality in volleyball so much in how his pride never gets between his desire to learn, and Tsukishima’s brain conjures up first year Kageyama who would rather die than study, and it just really hits him that Kageyama changed. In his own, genuine ways, and when Kageyama is able to answer that problem after Tsukishima’s explanations, it feels like Tsukishima’s whole world is tilted. 

Kageyama looks at him, smiling, grown, grown, grown, and blue, so blue. His thighs are touching Tsukishima’s again. He’s just leaning back at their lockers, closing his eyes for a while, seeming to be content in Tsukishima’s presence, which doesn’t cross Tsukishima’s mind as something that could happen. Their teammates are probably coming in soon. They should get up. Join Ikki at the gym maybe. 

But this bubble. 

Too sweet to step out of.

“Did you finish Physics?” Kageyama says into the companionable silence. Tsukishima, taking the chance to study Kageyama as he has his eyes closed, makes a sudden noise at the sudden question. Kageyama opens his eyes, finding Tsukishima looking at him. He colours a little, but raising an eyebrow at Tsukishima. 

Tsukishima tears his gaze away, leaning at the lockers like Kageyama is. Their shoulders are touching now, too. “I didn’t. Will probably finish it during lunch break.” 

“Why didn’t you?” Kageyama asks, fiddling with his fingers.

Tsukishima thinks: tsukki. :). Tsukishima shrugs. “Was stuck, I guess.” 

“Huh,” Kageyama says back. “Sorry, I can’t help with Physics, I think.”

Tsukishima breathes out a laugh at that. 

Kageyama knocks his knee against Tsukishima’s own. Then, he places his hand on Tsukishima’s thigh, tentative, shy, and Tsukishima feels his breath stop. Kageyama just places it there. Tsukishima just lets it. Kageyama closes his eyes again. Tsukishima can breathe again. His hand is still on Tsukishima’s thigh. 

Tsukishima sighs, thinking: I like Kageyama, huh.

Then: oh, fuck, I like Kageyama, huh.

☽ ♕

 

Tsukishima forgets a little about the arrangement he made with Kageyama, and it was only one evening practice after they finished the usual drills and runs, while still partnering, (that by the way, kind of makes Tsukishima’s head run all over the place ever since that particular morning realisation crashing to him like waves whenever Kageyama is in close proximity with him, and he has to be, and Tsukishima never realised how fucking intimate partner stretches are before this--and--bleh) before their usual practice match, and since they have their partner thing still going on, they’re on the same team, when Kageyama pulls him to the side, as they put on their bibs, that Kageyama mentions it. 

“I’m going to toss higher to you,” Kageyama declares, pulling at the ends of Tsukishima’s bib to get his attention, and the gym chooses that exact moment to plunge into silence, making everyone hear Kageyama’s words. If Tsukishima is looking at anywhere else, but Kageyama, he would be able to see Hinata and Yamaguchi exchanging looks, as if ready to intervene if things get heated again like last time, he would be able to hear Ikki cheering on Kageyama that makes Kageyama’s mouth twitch, like he wants to deck Ikki, and Akira and Naoki, the other second years, just whooping at them to get started on the game already, taunting Tsukishima in ways they wouldn’t had the guts to do back then in their first month in the club, while the first years are just looking at the two of them warily. 

“I’ll try to get it,” is all Tsukishima says back to Kageyama, and that seems to be enough for Kageyama since he smiles at Tsukishima like he means it.

He’s always looking at Tsukishima like he means it lately.

Tsukishima doesn't know how to think.

The match happens. When Kageyama manages to toss to Tsukishima, he jumps, jumps, jumps. Full potential. Your setter. It’s a toss that says, I care, I’ve got you, all you have to do is open up to me, give it all you got, I’m here to catch you if you fall. I’m here to try again if you can’t, because I see how capable you are.

Tsukishima jumps. Higher than he’s ever done. Maybe even a little higher than when Koganegawa was tossing to him.

It feels a lot like the sun. 

Kageyama smiles at him like he means it when he jumps to spike that toss. Tsukishima’s mouth dries out when it lands on the other team’s court, their 2nd year libero, Hiroto, trying to catch it, but ultimately failing to do so. 

“Nice toss,” Tsukishima says to Kageyama without looking at him. Tsukishima can feel his smile. 

 

☽ ♕

Tsukishima doesn’t want to admit it, but being somewhat friends with Kageyama is good. 

Kageyama is easy to talk to. Or maybe, he’s easy to talk to, because he matches Tsukishima so much in terms of silence and talking ratio that even if they’re not talking, they’re in a companionable silence that words don’t need to penetrate, because the silence isn’t awkward. It doesn’t feel forced, which feels a little hilarious if Tsukishima puts into perspective the fact that Yamaguchi had herded the two of them together for this partnering system, but had turned into them enjoying each other’s company. Tsukishima doesn’t know if this is what Yamaguchi had planned to happen, but judging by how he still gives Tsukishima those I-know-something-you-don’t look, Tsuksihima is playing exactly into his plays. Kageyama’s easy to talk to, he looks at Tsukishima when he’s talking like he’s truly interested in what Tsukishima has to say, and he still doesn’t hesitate to call Tsukishima on his bullshit, just like pre-friends time, and it’s nice to find that their old selves can co-exist into what they have now. Kageyama can comfortably ask Tsukishima for help for his homework, whereas Tsukishima can easily ask any volleyball related questions to Kageyama because Kageyama knows he wants to try now. Tsukishima can text him if he wants to. And they do.

(Oh, they do.)

It’s easy.

The thing is, being friends with Kageyama is easy. 

What’s not easy is being friends with Kageyama while having feelings for him. 

It’s weird, it’s new, it’s an uncharted territory that makes Tsukishima fidget sometimes when he thinks too deeply about it. The thing with having feelings for Kageyama is that Tsukishima notices every fucking thing about him, and it’s hard to look away at times. Noticing how long Kageyama’s fringe is, is one thing. Noticing that his fingernails are all proportionally cut is also another thing. So is noticing that Kageyama’s thighs are really fucking thick, and noticing his small waist with his broad shoulders. So is noticing that when Kageyama smiles at Tsukishima, he looks like he’s conveying everything and more. Those are all--um, well, things. Things that are objective, or whatever. 

But it’s another thing, to notice these things.

As in the way Kageyama would sometimes tug at his shirts, propelling Tsukishima behind, forward or to the sides, depending on which part Kageyama pulls, and Tsukishima lets himself get pulled. As in the way Kageyama does these things, where he touches Tsukishima when he wants to, and any part that Kageyama touches burns at times. There was even that one time Tsukishima had to tape his fingers in one of the breaks for their practice matches with Date Tech, and Kageyama, noticing the struggle, did it for Tsukishima, softly cradling his hand in a way that is akin to his tosses now, full of care and tender, with a strikingly copious amount of precision that never fails to amaze Tsukishima. Tsukishima didn’t even know at that time if it was the volleyball that burned his hands and fingers, or if it was Kageyama’s touch. Then, the way he touches Tsukishima, feeling comfortable enough to do so. Sometimes a palm on his back, sometimes his shoulders, and sometimes his thighs, when they’re sitting side by side, and it feels better to put your hand on the other person. It’s the way he notices how Kageyama’s eyes inexplicably linger at times, and it’s just--

A lot.

To notice these things.

It’s noticing those touches, those gazes, that makes this friendship thing hard, because Tsukishima thinks he’s going to explode if he doesn’t touch Kageyama, too, but he can’t, can’t allow himself to, not the way Kageyama does, so he does it fleetingly in their partner stretches, but even that is not enough, because it’s not the same. Not the same as how Kageyama does it, and Tsukishima seriously wonders how Kageyama gets the guts to do it, and when the hell he started accepting that he wants to touch Tsukishima like this, and it’s okay to want to do it. Tsukishima can’t. 

This feels a lot like a leap. This feels a lot like that leap in accepting that he likes volleyball. 

“You okay?” Kageyama asks. They’re at lunch now, because they’re apparently close enough now that they have lunch together. It actually started from Kageyama asking for homework help during lunch, but eventually evolved into having lunch together, somehow. Hinata found out three weeks into the arrangement, and demanded that he joined, along with Yachi and Yamaguchi, so even lunch is spent with these idiots these days, as if they don’t spend an entire practice session together, and an entire walk back home. 

Hinata and Yachi are in a deep discussion about an anime they saw last night, and Kageyama has his Literature homework due next week sprawled on the table, the one he has been brainstorming with Tsukishima on how to structure the essay. Tsukishima finds that Kageyama is really fucking smart when things are explained to him in the most simple way, and Tsukishima sometimes feel the remnants of regrets at the way he used to insult Kageyama for his acedemic intelligence. Their usual seats are the outside stone benches and tables. Yamaguchi, at first into the conversation with Hinata and Yachi, looks at Tsukishima in question at Kageyama’s words. 

“Nothing,” Tsukishima says. Kageyama puts his hand on Tsukishima’s thigh, and Tsukishima hates how his brain chooses to complain about why he’s not wearing his sports shorts so that Kageyama’s hand would touch his skin. Tsukishima quickly toss that thought away, picking up the discarded pencil, and writing down the idea he had on the mindmap he and Kageyama had been doing. Kageyama keeps his hand there. 

“Hey, that’s a good idea,” Kageyama hums, shooting a smile at Tsukishima, and something in Tsukishima melts. Tsukishima looks away, unable to stop the small puff of laughter. Kageyama still has his hand there.

Yamaguchi, who had been looking at the whole interaction silently, raises an eyebrow at Tsukishima when their eyes meet, that now familiar look of knowing on his eyes. Tsukishima silently shakes his head, and Yamaguchi rolls his eyes, but grins, and he inserts himself in the conversation with Hinata and Yachi.

I can’t. The leap.

☽ ♕

It’s during a practice match with Aoba Johsai that the nickname King of the Court comes up again. It always does whenever they’re here. The reminder of the old is too strong in the school that is supposedly unfamiliar to Kageyama. Tsukishima can see it, the way Kageyama’s jaw clenches when he hears one of the people watching the match whispering something about Oikawa’s protege, or in middle school, his teammates left him to fend for himself because he went berserk. You see Kindaichi-kun and Kunimi-kun? They were his old teammates! Tsukishima can see it, the way Kageyama’s body tenses whenever that onion head looks at Kageyama.

Calm down, King, Tsukishima thinks, when Hinata manages to sneak through a quick attack, but Kageyama still looks pissed, as if not enough satisfaction comes from that. Tsukishima is out of the rotation for a while, and Ikki next to him, is worrying over his bottom lip as he studies Kageyama, his usually cheery face grim, eyebrows knitting together, and Tsukishima is brought back to the time Ikki had said to him that Kageyama doesn’t like when Tsukishima uses King to patronise him about his middle school days. 

“Ikki, you’re making me nervous now,” Tsukishima says monotonously, although he isn’t, really. He just doesn’t like when Ikki looks like he’s constipated. “Stop that. Your nervous energy gets to Kageyama.“

Ikki looks sheepish for a while, embarrassed at getting caughts, stopping his intense stare, while his friends next to him snicker, and they continue to watch the game. It’s silent for a while except for a few encouraging words to the team here and there when Ikki suddenly says, “it’s just not fair.” 

Tsukishima, watching as Seijoh manages to get a point back, glances at him. “What is?” 

Ikki grumbles. “Calling him King, except when you do it, or something, I don’t know, you two are weird. But people keep bringing up the fact what happened in middle school. Hell, I did something I regret yesterday, why do they keep bringing up something that happened three years ago? And it’s bad enough that they keep bringing up his teammates turning their backs against him when said teammates are here, but that was also when his gran--”

The whistle blows, signalling that Seijoh won the first set. 

Kageyama approaches him, like that’s a thing now to find Tsukishima first out of all people. Kageyama sips on his bottle, and pulls at Tsukishima’s jersey, propelling him forward. Tsukishima allows himself to be pulled that way. Kageyama grazes Tsukishima's arm slowly with his finger in greeting, seeming to be trying to calm himself down, as if touching Tsukishima helps, and he looks kind of adorable sipping on his bottle, his eyebrows knitted, as his other hand grips at Tsukishima’s jersey again, bringing him closer.

“Calm down,” Tsuskishima says lightly to Kageyama, who moves the grip earlier to caressing Tsukishima’s arm fully now. “You’ll get the next set,” Tsukishima says, albeit he knows that is not the problem, and Kageyama looks disappointed that Tsukishima doesn't say it, looking at him dejectedly, and then away, but still doing that thing with his finger on Tsukishima’s arm. Tsukishima then takes Kageyama’s other free hand holding his bottle, squeezing at it, making Kageyama look at him in confusion, and his little caress stops for a while, seeming to have frozen over Tsukishima holding him for once. “Don’t listen to them. You know they’re wrong. We’ve got you now. I’ve got you. You're not what they say you are.” 

Kageyama looks at him, his expression that froze earlier had worn off to something akin to fondness. “Thanks,” he says, and he slides his fingers against Tsukishima’s hand one last time. Tsukishima’s in the rotation now. Kageyama smiles, the earlier agitation softened into this beautiful mess: smiling as he looks at Tsukishima. “Jump high.” 

Tsukishima chuckles.

☽ ♕

Since it was a practice match, they did as many sets as they could fit until Coach Ukai announced that they need to stop this now to go home in time. So, by the time everyone finishes packing up and cleaning, the others board the bus, while Tsukishima goes to the bathroom, while Yamaguchi and Yachi wait for him. Tsukishima exits the bathroom, and they all head to the bus together. Practically all of the first, second years, and Hinata are already passed out in the bus. Yamaguchi whistles as he enters, going to the back where there’s a vacant individual seat, and Yachi chooses the one in front of him.

Tsukishima has no choice, but to take the very front double seat that no one likes to take, and sighs as he settles into the seat. Tsukishima puts on his earphones this time, not wanting to lug around big headphones, and closes his eyes. Tsukishima is just about to drift off to sleep when he feels someone sliding to the seat next to him, presence warm and big, Tsukishima doesn’t even have to open his eyes to see who it is. Tsukishima pulls at his earphones. 

“Can I sit here,” Kageyama says, the question doesn’t even sound like one, as he’s already sitting next to him anyways, warm, their thighs touching. Kageyama sighs, and leans back his head, closing his eyes. His hand finds Tsukishima’s thigh, and Tsukishina feels blood rushing down there. Tsukishima clears his throat.

“Was that even a question?” Tsukishima remarks tiredly, lacking the bite, and he wants something, so Tsukishima takes his earphones, taking one of it, and putting it in Kgaeyama’s ear. Kageyama, startled at the touch, opens his eyes, to find the unfamiliar earbud in his right ear, while the other is in Tsukishima’s left ear. Tsukishima pretends to not notice the surprise translated in Kageyama’s face. He’s surprised? As if Tsukishima is the one who has his hand on Kageyama’s thigh right now. “Where did you go?”

Takeda-sensei then announces to the practically dead bus that they’ll get started on going back now. The question hangs in the air for so long, Tsukishima half expects Kageyama to not answer it. Kageyama sighs when the bus finally moves, shuffling in his seat for a while, trying to get comfortable, and it results in his being closer to Tsukishima. “Had a talk with Kindaichi and Kunimi. Kinda.”

“Oh,” Tsukishima chooses to say, not quite expecting it. “What did you guys talk about?” 

Kageyama chuckles. “Middle school. It always goes there.” It’s silent for a while. “It was a good talk, I think.” 

Tsukishima hums. The song between them is playing softly. It crosses Tsukishima’s mind that this is the first time he has ever let someone listen to his playlist. His playlist has never felt more sacred at that exact moment. “Can I ask you something?” 

“Yeaaah,” Kageyama says softly, moving his head to look at Tsukishima. Tsukishima glances at him for a moment, before deciding that it’s way too close, so he stares out the window. The fact that they’re the only two in this row makes this all feel like they’re in their own little bubble, with the snores of their teammates at the back of his head. “What is it?”

“Did something happen before that match?” Tsukishima asks cautiously. 

Kageyama makes a noise of confusion. “Today? Not really. I just let their words get into my head during that first set.” 

“Idiot,” Tsukishima bites out, rubbing at his forehead, and Kageyama, hand still on Tsukishima’s thigh, squeezes it for a moment in reprimand for the insult, squawking indignantly as he does. Tsukishima gives him a half-hearted glare. “I meant the middle school match. You know. The one.”

“Ahh,” Kageyama says, clicking his tongue. He gives a defensive look over to Tsukishima. “We were talking about a completely different thing, and we had a match today. How was I supposed to know which one you’re talking about?” He complains, and Tsukishima swallows the fondness bubbling in his chest. 

“We were not talking about a completely different thing,” Tsukishima points out, unable to resist, and Kageyama lets out a breath of frustration. “So, the question?”

“Ah,” Kageyama says. His fingers are softly making shapes at Tsukishima’s thigh. “Kind of. It was kind of an adding up thing. No one really wanted to practice volleyball with me back then. Too tired. Scared, maybe, I don’t know. So, I kept practicing alone.” Tsukishima’s mind conjures up middle school Kageyama, the one he had seen in court back then, the angry look on his face, and tries to imagine him dejected, at having no one to play with, and having no one to call teammates even when being in a team. “That’s the reason why I got so good at serving.”

Tsukishima’s throat feels dry, at the heavy topic they seem to be stepping into. “Cocky,” Tsukishima says parchedly, and Kageyama chuckles breathily. 

“Facts,” Kageyama softly reprimands. “And, uh, my parents are always busy. My sister quitted volleyball, and is so much older than me, and um, my grandfather died a few weeks before the match.” Tsukishima glances at him, to gauge his reaction. Kageyama’s fingers are still absentmindedly tracing shapes on Tsukishima’s thigh, tentative, constant reminder. His eyes look far away. “He was kind of the only one who was there for me. Taught me everything I know about volleyball. He said I'll be able to play with even greater people when I grow older. And he died. Kinda hurts. Just lashed out at everyone back then. That match was just the point where I had enough, I guess.”

Tsukishima’s mind flashes back to the times he had taunt Kageyama with his middle school days. Heck, even their first meeting was that. Tsukishima remembers angry, laboured breathing, smug grins, and Kageyama’s tense face looking back at him, the hatred in there for even bringing it up, for laying it all out in the open even if it was just Yamaguchi and Hinata at that time. The fact that Kageyama backed away makes it all even sadder the more Tsukishima thinks of it. Tsukishima remembers pre-Nationals in first year, when Kageyama almost had one of his lashing out, and Tsukishima remembers his taunts. He feels regret pooling at the pit of his stomach. 

“Hey, stop looking like that,” Kageyama says, when he notices Tsukishima looking like every regret is painted across his face. “Stop. Seriously. You don’t look good like that.” 

Tsukishima chuckles drily. “You’re saying I usually look good?” 

Kageyama colours a little, jabbing at Tsukishima’s thigh. “Well, yeah. Although I think you know already.”

Tsukishima blinks, not expecting Kageyama to take the bait that way, although he should've expected it. Tsukishima sighs. “Well, I’m sorry anyways. For the things I’ve said.” 

Kageyama laughs, softly patting Tsukishima’s thigh. “For what? I thought we already put this behind us. We said sorry to each other already, remember?” 

“Mm,” Tsukishima chooses to say. It’s a comfortable silence between them for a second before remembering something. “Ikki said you like it when I call you King.” 

Kageyama splutters, indignant noises escaping his lips, his earbud falling out as he does, and he gives it to Tsukishima, and Tsukishima looks at him in question at the suddenness, before realising Kageyama wants Tsukishima to put it back in his ear. Tsukishima sighs softly, the fondness in it he fails to erase, as he puts the earbud back to Kageyama's ear, like Kageyama can't do it himself. Kageyama calms down, but the drumming of his fingers on Tsukishima’s thigh seems to suggest otherwise. “Ikki needs to stop being with you. He runs his mouth about me whenever he’s with you,” Kageyama grumbles.

“You didn’t answer the question,” Tsukishima reminds him. “And is that really a bad thing? It’s not like you ever tell me things.”

“Says you,” Tsukishima thinks he heard Kageyama mutter under his breath. 

“I’m just wondering why. You said that middle school match was bad, but you like it when I call you that word, but not in middle school context.” Kageyama glares at him, and Tsukishima shrugs. “Ikki.” 

“Yeah, well,” Kageyama starts. “Of course it pissed me off when you called me that at first. You were an asshole, you know. But, I don’t know. We were not at each other’s throats much in second year, weren’t we? And you barely brought up middle school days in that year, and only use that nickname to tease me or, some shit, and it was only during that fight, which, I guess--” Kageyama trails off, and he glances at Tsukishima, to find Tsukishima studying him. The hand on Tsukishima’s thigh slaps him there. “You know where I’m going! Do you want me to embarrass myself?” 

Tsukishima chuckles. “Okay, sorry, King.”

Kageyama pinches his thigh, grumbling. “Stop fucking teasing me, asshole.” They fall into silence once again, before Kegeyama breaks through it. “Can I ask you a question?” Tsukishima hums, gentle. “The questions I asked. When we became friends. Partners, whatever. You think you can answer them now for me?” 

Tsukishima chuckles. “You still remember? I thought you said I don't have to answer.”

“Well, you don’t,” Kageyama says softly, a tentative shape circling on his thigh. “But I’d like to know, if you’re willing to tell me.” 

Tsuksihima thinks, getting dared to jump in the pool. Kageyama is already there, and Tsukishima only has his foot testing the water’s temperature. He needs to jump. “Akiteru, my brother.” Kageyama hums, tender, like he’s listening. “He was really obsessed with volleyball. Was in the Karasuno team. I thought he was the best player out there. Attended his game, found out he’s not a regular, and it all went down from there.” Kageyama nods in understanding. “My fault for putting him in a pedestal. But I was a kid. And it just changed the way I looked at the sport at that time.”

“What changed it?” Kageyama asks. 

Tsukishima shrugs. “A lot. At first it was Bokuto and Kuroo saying I’d have that moment when I’ll be hooked on volleyball. Happened during the Shiratorizawa match. But it didn’t last long.” Kageyama waits, knowing there are more answers to this. Tsukishima takes a deep breath, and jumps. “You, I guess. You believing in me made it different.” Tsukishima doesn’t look at Kageyama to see his reaction, but by the way his fingers falter in tracing shapes on his thigh makes Tsukishima think he stunned Kageyama. Tsukishima caves, and finds that Kageyama is smiling gently at him. Tsukishima elbows him gently. “What changed for you?” 

Kageyama shrugged. “Hinata, mostly. He’s my match, always.” Tsukishima hums, getting it, but it doesn’t stop that familiar burn of jealousy in his chest. “But this team. Karasuno. All the way from first year. Sugawara-san. Taught me a lot. Shows me what it’s like to have people on your side. Stuff like that.” It’s silent again. “Hey, sorry.”

“I thought we don’t say sorrys around here,” Tsukishima remarks dryly. “Don’t sweat it. I misunderstood at that time.” It’s silence again. They’re probably almost at the school. They’re going to step out of the bubble soon. Tsukishima really, really, wants to jump this time. He says it quickly, “hey, can I kiss you?” 

Kageyama’s finger falters once again, and Tsukishima immediately thinks that he read it all wrong, feels stupid all at once, and dejected. Did he just put another person on a pedestal without realising? Tsukishima is just about to reiterate when Kageyama’s hand tugs at the collar of Tsukishima’s jersey, and propels him forward, his lips just above Tsukishima’s, tentative, eyes wide, blue, so blue, as if asking if this is okay. It is. Tsukishima shuts his eyes, and closes the space between them. 

It’s sweet.

Gentle, tender, like being cupped slowly, and being told that you’re loved. It’s nothing like the roughness of Kageyama in the court. It’s him, encapsulated into a kiss. Kageyama who touches him because he wants and allows himself to, Kageyama who asks for help in homework, Kageyama whose ego never goes past his eagerness to learn. It’s the Kageyama Tsukishima has learned to know. Kageyama’s hand moves from his collar to truly cupping Tsukishima’s face now, leaning in more, and it feels like he wants to climb into Tsukishima’s lap, and Tsukishima places his hand on Kageyama’s waist, pulling him down, because no matter how much he wants to, they are still in the school bus, and their teachers are at the front for fuck’s sake, and they’re almost at the school. Tsukishima feels the bus moving against the pavement before the school gates, and he pulls away from Kageyama, with a heavy heart. 

Kageyama looks flushed, lips wet and kissed-swollen, and Tsukishima guesses he looks just about the same. Kageyama sits properly once again, shy almost, and Tsukishima can’t resist taking his hand, and joining their pinky together. Kageyama looks at him with a smirk, his eyes look happy, as if he’s satisfied that Tsukishima is the one who initiates the touch once again. Kageyama intertwines their hand instead, just for a moment, before pulling away when Coach Ukai rises from his seat, and tells everyone to get the fuck up, and go to sleep at home. 

All five of them walk together again, Hinata and Yachi particularly bleary as they do, steps harried, continuously yawning, and Yamaguchi is the one that puts them back in steps when they falter from tiredness. Kageyama is next to him, his hands softly brushing against Tsukishima’s as they walk, the warmth from the kiss earlier still exists in their own bubble, and it makes Tsukishima brave enough to take Kageyama’s hand, and holds it for a moment, before they reach the junction. Tsukishima lets go of Kageyama’s hand just before Yamaguchi turns to look at them, eyes darting suspiciously when he does. 

They’re just about to go their own usual way, when Kageyama pulls his jersey, and plants a kiss on Tsukishima’s cheek, then runs away after he does. Yachi and Hinata, who had been bleary still, immediately sobers up, and Hinata yells at Tsukishima’s red face, something akin to a warbled finally escaping his throat, and high-fiving Yachi, which Yachi takes with almost a touched look on her face, as she stares back and forth and Kageyama’s retreating form and Tsukishima’s increasingly heated face. 

“DID HE DO IT?!” Hinata yells out, and he seems frustrated that Kageyama already ran away, so he said a quick good night, and that fucking idiot better tell me how it went, and Tsukishima, you finally noticed, idiot, then sprinting off after Kageyama.

“Good night, guys. Congrats, Tsukishima,” Yachi quickly says before running off after the two, yelling at them to wait for her, which they eventually do slow down, because leaving Yachi alone before dropping her off at the train station is the number one no-no rule. 

Tsukishima starts walking fast. Tsukishima doesn’t wait for Yamaguchi to fall into steps next to him, but he does it quicker than Tsukishima would’ve liked, and Yamaguchi has his arm draped over Tsukishima’s shoulder in a matter of seconds. “Tsukki, I saw what happened in the bus, you know!” 

“Creep,” Tsukishima bites out, colouring as he does when he remembers their heated kiss, and Yamaguchi laughs even harder at that, slapping his shoulders. 

“How can I not?! Kageyama was climbing into your lap. You’re both tall, you know. You could see it even if you don’t want to. You’re lucky the others were asleep. Especially Ikki. He’s the one who has been bugging Kageyama about it the most.” Yamaguchi rambles. 

“Find something better to do instead of setting us up,” Tsukishima grumbles, without all the heat. He just feels embarrassed. 

“Ah, Kageyama was the one who wanted this! He suggested the partner--” Yamaguchi stops in his track, covering his mouth, and when Tsukishima turns to look at him, egging him to continue, Yamaguchi shrugs, relenting. “Ah, well. Ikki’s going to tell you, anyways. Yeahh, he suggested it. He really did mean it in a team bonding way, but Hinata, Yachi, and I goaded him until he admitted that he likes you, and wants to get close to you. You know, that night after you stormed off.” Tsukishima heats up even more at the reminder of the petty fight. “And I was like, Tsukki probably does, too, don’t look at me like that--I’ve known you like him for a long time, you know--and it happened. Yay?” 

"How come Ikki knows, then?" Tsukishima asks.

Yamaguchi frowns. "Ikki knows everything because Kageyama likes him enough to tell him things." Yamaguchi pauses. "He'll probably know about this by tomorrow, too. Oh, and because you two are annoyingly obvious."

Tsukishima feels like groaning. Tsukishima seriously doesn’t know whether to deck him or to thank him. Thankfully, he doesn’t have to make a choice because they arrive at Tsukishima’s house, and Tsukishima is just about to enter his house after grunting a good night when Yamaguchi yells out. “Don’t go pushing him away, Tsukki! You know what you want.” He walks off, and Tsukishima is left to his own thoughts.

Tsukishima eats dinner, showers longer than he needed because of the fucking heat, and the reminder of Kageyama’s lips on his, and he finishes his homework. He’s just about done for the night, and is preparing his school bag for tomorrow when his phone pings with a text.

kageyama tobio

gdnght tsukki <3

cm early tmr

The double meaning behind that first word of the second text almost makes Tsukishima take a second shower, and he has never felt more like a teenager like does at that moment.

tsukishima kei

,,,why

kageyama tobio

u owe me a kiss

nw sy gdnght bck u, asshle

Tsukishima can’t help the fond laugh escaping him.

 

tsukishima kei

good night kageyama

<3

☽ ♕