Kita puts him in charge of watching the paint dry. He sets up a standing fan and a chair in front of the wall they have just gone over with a coat of Macaroon White, and then vanishes down the hallway to fold clothes or something. In the interim, Atsumu sits down. He dissuades dust particles from attaching themselves to the fresh coat of Macaroon White with his eyes. He fidgets with his hands and toes at the floor and does everything in his power not to think about where Kita Shinsuke is and where he is going, even though they were talking in the living room half a minute ago.
A series of rhetorical questions arises, such as: why did he agree to visit (?), and why did they paint the wall (???).
“This place is rented, you know.” Kita emerges from the hallway like a telepathic freak from outer space and pulls up another chair. He sits down.
“I know that,” Atsumu says.
“There was a smear on the wall.”
Kita folds his hands in his lap and watches him. Atsumu watches him back. With fear.
Kita hasn’t gotten much taller since he was eighteen. This doesn’t say much given that Atsumu has not gotten much taller either. At eighteen Kita was captain of the volleyball club. At eighteen Atsumu was, in full capacity, the captain of anything but a volleyball club. He has an uncomfortable and thoroughly unwarranted flashback to various confrontations with Suna, Aran, his brother. He wonders if Kita heard anything. He wonders why Kita asked him to come.
Kita’s voice rises out of the cloudy afternoon, lifting the shroud of silence. “Staring.”
“I’m not.” Atsumu touches his fingertips to the side of his face, checks himself, realizes Kita’s right.
“You were always terrible at hiding things.” Kita hides his laugh behind a slender wrist and Atsumu is punched violently in the stomach with the urge to tug his hand away from his face. Just a moment will do. If he can see Kita Shinsuke laugh again, maybe he will discover something new about the universe, like where people go when they die and why teenagers only know how to express desire in diminutives.
Kita lowers his hand. His face has returned to its usual state of tranquility and, by unfortunate extension, beauty. The fan whirs on, unimpressed.
Atsumu ignores this and goes back to communicating with the dust particles around them. He levels his gaze on the Macaroon White smear and the Macaroon White gazes back, drying with tantalizing speed and grace as if to spite Atsumu for even daring to have impure thoughts about the ex-captain of his high school volleyball club. Fuck you, he thinks loudly, and hopes that the sentiment will be absorbed in full. I hope a fly gets stuck in your shit, he adds.
“Can I touch the paint yet?” he asks aloud, half out of curiosity and half because he cannot think of anything else to say that does not involve, in some form, a request to stick his hands under Kita’s shirt.
Kita inclines his head gently to the side. His hair follows this line of motion and does devastating things around his ears. He hasn’t changed his hairstyle since he was eighteen. It’s alarming and charming at once, how out of place he looks in this nice apartment in Hyogo with his eighteen-year-old haircut and his century-old eyes. It makes Atsumu want to eat a light bulb.
“Why would you do that?”
Atsumu shrugs. “I’m bored.” He stares at his feet. His socks are mismatched again. He wonders if Kita has noticed this, and if so, why he has not said anything. Armageddon could be happening in his head and Atsumu wouldn’t be able to tell for shit. It’s something about his countenance. That tireless composure, those unmovable hands.
Kita leans forward into Atsumu’s field of vision. Long black lashes, silver hair, the beginnings of a smile. Always the beginning of something with him. Never the end.
“Then let’s do something.”
“You can decide."
Atsumu opens his mouth and comes within batting distance of saying ‘you let me stick my hands under your shirt’. He clamps it shut again. Kita is still watching him with the kind of look Atsumu suspects one’s dead ancestors wear when they gaze down upon their stupid foolish descendants who have decided to go around fucking up shit until they die.
This will be a problem. He swallows dryly.
“No,” was what Atsumu said when his brother asked him, minutes before the third years’ graduation ceremony, if he was by any miserable chance in love with Kita Shinsuke. This was a lie. Osamu knew this the way he knew Atsumu would not be present at the end of the third years’ graduation ceremony, when the seniors of Inarizaki’s volleyball club would walk out of the school hall with their uniforms missing buttons and their smiles missing teeth. Instead Atsumu would be squatting at the back of the volleyball gymnasium, fiddling miserably with a ball while he thought about all the times in which Kita Shinsuke had looked at him with something other than polite filial affection.
There were, at best, maybe three instances. In his first year he had stumbled upon Kita cleaning the gymnasium alone after practice. They had shared a brief conversation, the first proper one Atsumu had with someone in the club that didn’t end in a shouting match, about the weather and their weekly running schedules. Several months later he had set a ball for Kita at the prefectural qualifiers.
Two weeks and three days ago, they had cleaned up the gymnasium together after practice again, like in one of those stories where the beginning and the end must find each other and duel to the death. In the storage room there had been a moment, held together by a thin strand of light that had snuck in and attached itself to the corner of Kita’s eye. Atsumu’s sticky palms, Kita’s threadbare expression, the three feet of humid darkness between them. Atsumu’s dry throat spitting out the words where are you going after high school and Kita’s reply, so gentle it was almost derogatory. Nowhere.
Damn right he was going nowhere. What a thrilling response. Everyone remembers the sports drink and the get-well-soon note, but no one remembers Atsumu trying to make Kita fall in love with him like a kicked puppy that had recently discovered the wonders of companionable silence for all the months that followed. And failing. And walking home with his tail between his legs. So, no. The answer was no. The answer continues to be no. No, as in: I will not entertain any further thoughts. I am good.
He is extremely not good. Kita shoots down his baking idea immediately, because Kita is a telepathic freak from outer space and somehow knows about Atsumu’s long history of blowing things up in the kitchen. Atsumu is just trying to be cordial, a skill which he has not yet mastered but is doing his best to polish. His profession has taught him about the importance of good interpersonal relationships or strong-arming your way into them. He cannot strong-arm his way into a good relationship with Kita. Therefore he will have to make an effort to build one.
They go back to staring at the paint. Atsumu tries to remember the exact angle at which he used to study Kita’s face from in high school. He contemplates deep and profound things he learned about from Sakusa, like Desire and The Limits Of The Human Mind.
Desire doesn’t have to be physical, he knows this. But the physicality of his desire stands before him like some godly, devastating truth. It paralyzes him.
“Can I touch it yet?” He asks again.
Kita breathes. “No.”
Atsumu counts from one to thirty-seven in his head. In elementary school they learned about prime numbers, and how they were only divisible by themselves and the number one. He was average at math and neutral towards its contents, but the prime numbers interested him in the distant, unimportant way that things unrelated to volleyball sometimes did. They were stand-offish and uncooperative and cool, traits which he either desired or had accidentally acquired in the springtime of his childhood. In high school he used to watch Kita do a final round of checks around the gymnasium alone, his sneakers thudding quietly against the floor. He used to think he was lonely.
He reaches thirty-seven. Kita is still breathing, which is relevant and important given the trajectory of Atsumu’s future actions. He wonders if Armageddon is taking place somewhere in Kita’s mind. He wonders if Armageddon is this.
“Then,” Atsumu says through the lightbulb in his throat, impulsive and stupid as the day he first stepped into Inarizaki’s volleyball gymnasium with the vaulted ceiling and the shiny, well-polished floors. “Can I touch you?”
Kita laughs. The sound is bright and cinematic and possesses the weightlessness of objects in flight. It is nothing like the filial piety of your team captain and the mantle he passed on to you when he left for the world outside of the court. It is everything like youth.
“I was waiting for you to ask,” Kita says, like he hasn’t been sitting here all day like a hand-sculpted statue of God and waiting for Atsumu to spontaneously combust from sheer want or embarrassment. He stands up and lets Atsumu press him up against the wall and, oh, there goes the shirt. There goes the Macaroon White. There goes the rest of the afternoon, lost to abstract thoughts like distance and yearning and desire, and simpler ones, like where people go when they die, and what they should do before that happens.