All the very best of us string ourselves up for love.
The first spirit is sitting on the ornate chair near the fireplace. He stares Kiyoomi down as soon as he, Atsumu, Hinata, and Bokuto walk into the living room. Dark eyes, strong eyebrows. Kiyoomi hazards a glance at one of the portraits on the walls. This’ll be Iwaizumi Hajime, then: the man who had started holding secret weekly séances after his live-in friend (most probably significant other, but Kiyoomi knows historians) had died of exhaustion during his tenure as the mayor of a town in a major economic crisis.
The town had been saved, its citizens’ livelihoods preserved. Oikawa Tooru had worked himself into an early grave to achieve this. Then, not two years later, a plague had killed almost all remaining residents of the house—including Iwaizumi.
Kiyoomi tips his head at Iwaizumi. The man acknowledges this with his own small nod, but he doesn’t stop eyeing Kiyoomi warily. Kiyoomi can respect this.
“So! This is the Oikawa Manor,” Atsumu says for the benefit of the camera. “This is the living room. Iwaizumi and Oikawa often sat together near this fireplace in the evenings, according to Iwaizumi’s journals. Cozy, huh?”
Kiyoomi makes a vague sound of agreement.
“This was also the room where Oikawa collapsed before passing away,” Kiyoomi adds. Iwaizumi frowns in the periphery of his vision.
“Iwaizumi started holding séances there,” Atsumu continues, pointing at the round table with the candelabra in the middle, “which some people think opened the door for a demon. They claim this demon is responsible for the strange occurrences in this house.”
At this, Iwaizumi rolls his eyes exaggeratedly. Kiyoomi empathizes.
He should be glad, really, that the one ‘demonic’ location Atsumu had chosen for this season isn’t actually demonic. This just means Kiyoomi gets to spend the night in an irresponsibly ornate house (albeit one that’s old and stupidly dusty—the things he does for this goddamned show and this goddamned man) and maybe get to know Iwaizumi a little, if time permits. He’s always gotten along better with ghosts than people. Something about being dead makes spirits less likely to draw conclusions about Kiyoomi’s standoffishness.
Atsumu decides to start with the spirit box. Hinata hands it to him, and Atsumu sets it on top of the round table, pushing the ‘on’ button. The little metal box starts spitting disjointed screeching sounds at them. Kiyoomi narrows his eyes and looks around the room.
Buzz. High buzz. Low buzz.
And then, with all-too-human clarity, the box enunciates, “Get him out.”
It is the clearest thing they have ever heard from the box in the years they’ve used it. Kiyoomi looks immediately at Iwaizumi. There is no indication that he’d said anything or even moved at all. When he notices Kiyoomi’s gaze, he gets up and goes to walk upstairs, muttering darkly under his breath.
“Noisy bastards can’t keep it down,” Iwaizumi grumbles. It comes through the spirit box, and Atsumu slams the button to turn it off, face pale. Bokuto’s mouth is open. Hinata has his hands tight over his mouth.
Kiyoomi looks at the ceiling. “Probably stray radio interference,” he says.
“The frequencies don’t run that high, Omi-omi! Admit it, that was totally a ghost.”
“Yeah, paranormal ones,” Atsumu says. His lip is trembling. Kiyoomi is going to spend the entire night trying to help him sleep.
The second floor smells like wood and the dampness that must be gathering behind the walls. Atsumu, sweating despite the chill, leads the way to the carved door of the master bedroom, formerly Oikawa’s—supposedly the most haunted room in the house, with a typewriter that often started clacking away on its own.
Atsumu stops in front of the door, then turns to the camera in Bokuto’s hands. “Apparently, this room is the place where most of the in cidents happened,” he says conspiratorially. Yeah, Kiyoomi bets. Oikawa or Iwaizumi probably forgot they were dead and went around doing business as usual there. Which—that’s a disturbing thought to have about the bed, and he will have to convince Atsumu to choose another room for their sleepover. “I’m going inside to check it out first. Wait outside, Omi-omi. I’ll clear the way.”
Kiyoomi would laugh, but he’d get dust in his throat.
Once the other three are inside, the dust floating in the sun ray slanting in through the window swirls frantically, and—like he’s made of the light itself—the image of a man fades into Kiyoomi’s vision. His eyes twinkle with life. Perfectly mussed-up brown hair frames a lovely, impish face. The man of the house is here.
“You’re scaring all my friends,” Oikawa Tooru says reproachfully, floating over to Kiyoomi.
“That’s the whole point.”
“So rude. You come into a man’s house and just spook everybody inside. That’s why they were screaming when your little machine was on,” the spirit goes on. “They were calling for me, not talking to you. Good thing it turns out I don’t actually have to do anything since you’re so friendly and all.” He makes a face, glancing at the door of his bedroom, and puts his hands on his hips. “Oh, wait. You want me to go in there and scare him a little bit so he’ll run into your arms? He’s cute, isn’t he?”
The idea that a ghost is going to try to set him up with Atsumu is giving Kiyoomi a migraine.
“Please don’t,” he tells Oikawa. “We’re already together, anyway.”
“Oh,” Oikawa says with a little laugh. He raises a hand to his mouth as though to stifle it, but the sound doesn’t change. He looks at Kiyoomi like he’s thinking, you? Really? It’s a good thing Oikawa is already dead, because if he weren’t, Kiyoomi is capable of changing that. “Lucky you. Does he know, then? I mean, it’s got to come up, right?”
Inside the room, Atsumu yells. Kiyoomi closes his eyes and tries to sense through the walls—
“But nobody’s even in there,” Oikawa says, perplexed, and Kiyoomi opens his eyes with a sigh. Fucking Atsumu. Guess Kiyoomi will leave him to it until he spooks himself enough to go outside and demand to switch places.
“To answer your question—no, and no. I plan to keep it that way.”
Oikawa pouts at him again. “Oh, that’s a shame. You shouldn’t keep things from the ones you love, Vessel-kun.”
“Says a man who hid his physical condition from his partner until he literally died from it,” Kiyoomi mutters. Oikawa huffs at him, sending up a puff of air that displaces some of his hair. What ghost is still vain enough to animate the effect of breathing on hair? Kiyoomi has the answer now, apparently.
He decides that Atsumu is being too quiet. He did say he would wait, but Kiyoomi has an irrational dislike of having Atsumu out of his sight for too long. When he opens the door, Atsumu is standing in the middle of the room, stiff as a board, eyes squeezed shut. His fists are clenched by his side. Kiyoomi takes a picture for posterity and doesn’t turn off the camera sound.
Atsumu’s eyes snap open as Bokuto and Hinata finally fail to hold in their laughter and burst out cackling.
“Hey.” Atsumu crosses his arms, glaring. “I was in touch with the vibes of this room. Oikawa was probably just gettin’ ready to type when ya did that. I was this close to communicating with a spirit and you had to cut it short, Omi-omi.” He says this like he wouldn’t jump out screaming at the first sign of Oikawa’s presence. Walking over to Kiyoomi, Atsumu gestures at the spot he’s just vacated. “So now you can try your luck. I’ll be waiting outside with Bokkun.”
Bokuto looks confused for a second about his sudden reassignment then shrugs and hands off the camera to Hinata before he goes to follow Atsumu outside. Kiyoomi sighs for the upteenth time today.
“Now that Atsumu’s had his turn, I’ll be trying to communicate with spirits here. Which isn’t going to happen, because spirits do not exist. Here goes nothing,” Kiyoomi says in the direction of the mic. Hinata gives him a thumbs up. Oikawa giggles, floating between them.
The characters in ‘Kiyoomi’ can be taken to mean ‘saint’: a person with an exceptional closeness to God. Or—in Kiyoomi’s case— a god, anyway. Or something of the sort. Kiyoomi is not the type of person who likes to belabor a point; he will go over his tragic backstory very quickly.
[redacted] Kiyoomi was born on [redacted] [redacted], 1997, according to the file in a government database that doesn’t exist. His mother had been a nurse. His father had been a cultist.
To this day Kiyoomi is hazy about what kind of cultist his father had been, exactly—he’d received all the meaty exposition at the tender age of five, when his father’s not-so-harmless book club had made a human sacrifice to seal whatever deity (or demon, or ancestral spirit) they worshipped into Kiyoomi’s little body. Compared to all the screaming, the pain, and the flagrant destruction of property that happened right afterwards, the details of what had been done to him had not really stuck.
It was Kiyoomi’s mother who had coordinated with the authorities to ensure his father and his father’s little gang ended up arrested. It was Kiyoomi’s mother who had the maiden name Sakusa. It was Kiyoomi’s mother who had touched him one night as he woke screaming from a nightmare, barely himself. The thing inside Kiyoomi had registered an intruder, then proceeded to eliminate it accordingly.
Perhaps precisely because Kiyoomi had no idea what it was that was inside him, he did not fear it. He only knew what it had taken away from him. By the time the fog cleared, and Kiyoomi’s shock and rage and grief had moved on from thundering inside him like a congregation of typhoons, there was no demon. There was only Kiyoomi and the endless well of swirling, profane power inside him, which he did not have a name for.
Maybe if he could find a therapist who wouldn’t immediately prescribe him bovine-grade tranquilizers for his completely unembellished life story, who would sit down and coax Kiyoomi’s perpetually numb tongue into spitting out enough words to analyze, someone could have told him that the event left him with a distorted image of his self’s relationship with the outside world. That perhaps what consciousness remained in the power learned to fear the world that had given birth to the creature that had squashed it so easily in his infancy.
Unfortunately, Kiyoomi had gotten shuffled from agency to agency instead, leaving him with a feeling that he couldn’t analyze, telling him that there was something unchangeably repulsive about the world outside him, and something revolting about what was inside. The only safe, pure thing was the frail membrane of flesh that carried the proof of his mother’s once-existence in every tiniest cell.
This, he takes care of.
Kiyoomi does not get a chance to get to know Iwaizumi, because Atsumu spends the entire night blabbing on and on in an attempt to forget that he’s scared to death. Kiyoomi accompanies him when he goes to the (period-appropriate) bathroom and patiently waits for Atsumu to figure out where on the ancient toilets they’d attached the modern fixture as Atsumu keeps talking to him to make sure he’s still there.
While this is happening, Iwaizumi and Oikawa gesture at him like they’re trying to make conversation, but after centuries of time with each other, they seem to have forgotten not everyone will be able to understand whatever they’re saying with vague hand signals.
It’s much more entertaining to watch them communicate with each other. Kiyoomi is reminded of a video Atsumu sent him once, of two chickens trying to avoid a snake.
When Atsumu nearly jumps into Kiyoomi’s arms (and then remembers himself) after two of the other ghosts—Matsukawa and Hanamaki, Oikawa had whispered earlier, spooking Atsumu into a cold sweat—knock something over while playing charades in the hallway, Kiyoomi asks Atsumu: “Do you want to call Bokuto and Hinata in? Or just leave?”
“No,” Atsumu says stubbornly. “The data’s not gonna collect itself, Omi-omi. All the records said the activity was strongest whenever someone was livin’ in the house. So obviously the ghosts react to human presence.”
Right. Among the many misfortunes that have befallen the Oikawa Manor, the biggest one seems to be that the plague struck just when the house was being staffed almost entirely by extraverts.
Atsumu gathers his knees to himself and leans back to the pillow, inhaling audibly, fixing his eyes on the mirror in front of him. Moonlight diffuses his outline against the shadows of the room, and Kiyoomi’s heart is suddenly thudding with fondness. This is Atsumu, at his core: sitting in cold sweat, staring at a mirror he might think could kill him, but never wanting to leave. Kiyoomi had found it amusing, at first, how Atsumu’s bravado at the beginning of each episode’s production would be completely at odds with his behavior once they were at each site.
“If you’re such a coward, why’d you even propose a supernatural show?” Kiyoomi had asked once, remembering Atsumu’s eagerness to become the host of this series. (Which had prompted Kiyoomi’s consequent insistence on co-hosting, because if Atsumu’s personality is unleashed on a different haunted site every other week, Kiyoomi’s the only one who can ensure that this lovely little pitch doesn’t end with somebody getting murdered brutally by a tetchy spirit.)
Atsumu had grinned like Kiyoomi hadn’t just insulted him. “I wanna find out for myself whether or not all of it is really real.”
Kiyoomi could have just told him outright, but something gives him the sense that Atsumu won’t be satisfied until he finds a face in his footage or a song coming out of the spirit box. He wants to find out for himself, doesn’t he?
Watching Atsumu rush into places that strike fear into his heart repeatedly (as Kiyoomi had glared at everything with even a smidgen of malicious intent that comes close) had been Kiyoomi’s undoing. When Atsumu had told him that he had feelings for him, Kiyoomi had been tempted to do as he’d done with his body and its barriers from the world—cover it up, look away. Atsumu had looked so afraid, and yet the words had left his mouth anyway.
Do you want to go out with me?
For the first time in his life, Kiyoomi had wanted to know what courage felt like. Back when he’d won his powers, he hadn’t really known he’d been doing it. He hadn’t known how to be afraid. That couldn’t have been courage, then.
Here it is, finally sleeping on the musty sheets of a centuries-old bed, succumbing to exhaustion and the comedown of a burst of adrenaline. The sun is finally rising; Oikawa and Iwaizumi are leaning with their torsos through the glass of the window, like they could bask in the morning light if they imitated the motions well enough.
They leave the Manor without much data on the infrared cameras or a further peep from the spirit box. Kiyoomi had expected this much. Iwaizumi had been doing the glaring for Kiyoomi all night.
The ride home isn’t quiet by any means, because Bokuto and Hinata have successfully created a karaoke playlist that both of them actually like—Bokuto actually has a very lovely voice, although Kiyoomi will literally die before he tells him that, lest he start getting voice messages with Happy Birthday sung in ten different languages every year or something. Atsumu sleeps with his head on the window. Kiyoomi spends a long time looking at his face—framed by forests, at first, as they drive away from the Oikawa estate, then by the farms outside, then by the lights of the city as the day starts to fade into night.
At home, Atsumu jokes about the day they’ve had and muses on the nature of Iwaizumi and Oikawa’s relationship, perfectly at ease. The lights are warm. Kiyoomi keeps him within sight every second.
“Oh, by the way,” Atsumu says, as he snuggles under the blanket on the left side of the bed as always, “an old friend of mine wants to come visit. He’ll be in town for a few weeks because of some family thing and since I just moved in here, he said it would be the perfect time to catch up. I’ve told you about Kita-san, right?”
Kiyoomi knows which brand of fabric softener Kita used to buy, back when he and Atsumu were teenagers. He also knows Kita’s favorite boba flavor, his grandmother’s name, and his husband’s occupation. It is safe to say Atsumu has told him about Kita Shinsuke.
“Yes. When is he coming by?”
“Wednesday. We should order some food from ‘Samu, I don’t want to cook for Kita-san and fuck it up.”
“Ah, you’re so mean, Omi-kun. It’s a good thing you love me.”
Kiyoomi does. That’s why he’s here. That’s why, when he moved in with Atsumu, he’d told him in no uncertain terms: if Kiyoomi screams in his sleep and Atsumu touches him, Kiyoomi will break up with him and move out the very next day.
Kiyoomi had not wanted to move in with Atsumu. When Atsumu had started bringing it up, Kiyoomi ignored him until Atsumu had stopped asking.
“At least come with me and look at the places?”
“I will,” Kiyoomi said, and Atsumu looked a little less sad at that.
The first apartment had been nice. No mold on the walls, big spacious bathroom, salvageable carpets. Atsumu thought it was too dull. Next, a house quite near the office, with a large stone fireplace and big windows. Atsumu said it reminded him of the story where a guy had stood in his living room, looking at his lawn through the floor-to-ceiling-window—and the reflection had moved and it turned out the guy had been that close to getting robbed. Then there was a house near Atsumu’s favorite Chinese place that he insisted was haunted.
“No, it’s not,” Kiyoomi said.
“How would you know? You don’t even believe in ghosts,” Atsumu shot back.
Kiyoomi had not expected that particular life choice to come back to bite him in this way.
The next house was a lovely little thing in the city, slotted perfectly in between its neighbors like someone particularly good at Tetris had planned it. It was of those tiny boxes with warm wood floors and an unexpected staircase to a second floor bedroom, a kitchen tucked cleverly near the living room so it wouldn’t seem obvious when you first walked in, and strategically-placed windows facing east so that sunlight would nudge you awake, first thing in the morning.
Kiyoomi’s breath caught thinking of Atsumu sleeping peacefully just as the sun ascended to spin white-gold threads from his hair. Atsumu, too, fell in love immediately; he walked excitedly up and down the stairs thrice, babbling excitedly about having Kiyoomi’s plants on loan here, so they could have joint custody of them. The plants, he claimed, would love a change of pace in such a pretty, cozy house.
Naturally, the house was fucking haunted.
Even as Atsumu mimed flipping pancakes on the stove, a large black snake slithered in his direction, only to halt and retreat when Kiyoomi sent a sharp glare its way. A flood of malevolence went up to a quarter of the coffee table’s legs.
Kiyoomi considered how to persuade Atsumu not to get this place. Then, looking at the gleam in his eyes as he came down the stairs for the fourth time, Kiyoomi knew he couldn’t even bring himself to try.
“I’ll move in with you,” he blurted out. The entire house hissed.
Atsumu’s eyes brightened to an impossible degree as he skipped down the stairs to stop in front of Kiyoomi, his arms settling on Kiyoomi’s clothed elbows. This was fine. This was within acceptable, safe parameters.
“That’s what i’m talkin’ about! I mean, look at this. It’s the most perfect house in the history of ever. Life’s gonna be so good. We’ll discover ghosts by day and marathon Project Runway up by night. Huh? Huh?”
“We shoot the series at night too, Atsumu,” Kiyoomi pointed out.
Atsumu rolled his eyes. “Yer a party poo-per. Anyway, admit it. It’s the house, right?”
“You’re right,” Kiyoomi said, glancing briefly at the shadowy mass on the sofa that might have been shaped like a woman, once. “It’s the house.”
Kita Shinsuke is as well-mannered, polished, and soft-spoken as all of Atsumu’s stories indicate. He also knows what Kiyoomi is the moment he walks in the front door.
The food they’d ordered from Osamu still needs to be heated up and arranged, so Atsumu forces them to sit down and wait for him to do those things. The way Atsumu’s excited puppy energy gets turned up to unprecedented levels in Kita’s presence would be an incredible nuisance if Kiyoomi’s heart hadn’t already been bullied into thinking that it’s endearing.
What’s not endearing is the way Kita sits on the chair across Kiyoomi as soon as Atsumu is gone, and raises his hands in front of him—touching his pointer and middle fingers together with this thumbs below them to form a ring—and creates a tiny ball of light so eye-searingly bright that Kiyoomi has to look away.
“I could kill ya.” Kita says this like he’s complimenting the tea Kiyoomi had served him.
“No, you couldn’t.” It is not a boast but a matter of honesty. It’s important, however, to make sure Kita understands the reality of the situation. He could be an ally. Kiyoomi certainly needs one. “Besides, I doubt you’d want to. I’m keeping him alive.”
“Are ya, now? For how long? Forgive me, Kiyoomi-kun,” he challenges, voice dangerously soft, “if I don’t feel inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to the Elder God vessel who moved in with one of my dearest and oldest friends into a den of demons. Who’s been takin’ him on field trips to provoke some of the angriest, oldest spirits in the country for cute comments on YouTube.”
Kiyoomi feels a headache coming on. He needs this man to be on his side. He needs—
“Atsumu wanted this house.” He needs to defend every little fucking thing, apparently. “Atsumu wanted the show. I’m trying to make sure he doesn’t get killed because of either.”
But this seems to score a point in his favor, because the light disappears and Kita folds his hands on the table again, smiling ever-so-slightly.
“It does feel nice to enable him, doesn’t it? Ya shouldn’t do that. I’d trained myself not to do that by the time I was sixteen, but I did have five years ta do that. You’ve only had two.” Kita glances in the direction of the kitchen, where Atsumu is attempting to hum the Nyan cat song very loudly—attempting being the operative word. “Atsumu’s mother used to be a shrine maiden. I don’t know if he told ya that; it was when she was real young. Tha’s why he seems to be able to… know, or sense stuff, sometimes.”
Kita glances at the snake near the bathroom door. It grows legs and crawls backwards.
“Funny thing. Most people like him—habituated enough to be sensitive, but not enough to really be conscious —are more cautious. They avoid everythin’ to do with the supernatural. Take Atsumu’s twin, Osamu.”
Osamu hosts a show that reviews the same food item at three different price points together with Suna, another friend of theirs. Kiyoomi has noticed that he seems unusually good at picking spots without ghosts, even towns with terrible histories, but he’d never thought anything of it. Most places aren’t haunted.
“Atsumu seems almost to like running towards it. Embraces it, even. Maybe even literally,” Kita says, looking at him. Then he narrows his eyes. “Ya don’t let him touch you.”
“You probably know why.”
Kiyoomi shakes his head.
“Kiyoomi-kun, ya can’t do that to him forever. He doesn’t take it well.”
“I know.” Why don’t you want to move in with me, Omi? Would it hurt if I touch you? What was your earliest mem’ry? Atsumu knows by now to punctuate the following silence with laughter or some pun. Kiyoomi tries his best not to think about the hitch in his voice or the way he will glance away for just a second before looking back quickly. “I don’t know how to tell him yet. He’s not pushing either, so we’re at an impasse.”
Maybe Kiyoomi doesn’t want to tell him. He certainly doesn’t want Atsumu to look at him the way Kita does now. I killed the god you thought was pulling the strings on my body, he wants to say. Don’t look at me like I’m one of your lost souls.
Kita sighs. “Ya don’t have to be a danger to him until you get it together and finally let him know. I can help you. I can restrain you. You don’t have to be afraid of touching him.”
The scent of oregano wafts in. Atsumu finishes his closed-mouth rendition of the Trololo song. He moves on to the next item on the playlist, which is Lady Gaga’s Poker Face.
“Will it stop me from beating them back?” Kiyoomi asks, making a circular gesture with his hand to indicate the house.
Kita smiles like Kiyoomi has just passed a test. “It will weaken yer presence somewhat, and ya will need more effort to draw on your power, but you’re powerful enough that the answer is no.”
“Then I’d want that.”
Atsumu comes in a few minutes later, wearing oven mitts to protect him from the recently-heated bowl of stew. He asks them what they’ve been talking about. I told Kiyoomi-kun your mother used to be a shrine maiden, Kita explains, and Atsumu calls him an old man for thinking that’s a relevant thing to bring up.
Hinata takes Atsumu shopping the next day, so Kiyoomi is free to have Kita do whatever it is he wants to do.
The ritual is short. It involves a little bit of incense and an incantation Kiyoomi doesn’t understand. When Kita finishes speaking, his eyes glowing golden in the shadowed corner of Osamu’s living room, Kiyoomi feels smooth ribbons snake up his limbs, his chest, his neck. They constrict. He gasps; air passes into his lungs unobstructed. His hands come up to claw at the places that burn on his skin; they find nothing.
Suddenly, like nothing had happened at all, the sensations vanish.
“Done,” Kita says softly.
The moment he closes the front door behind them that night, Kiyoomi presses Atsumu up against it and takes his face in his hands. He takes a good, long look at Atsumu’s lively eyes, the smile breaking out across his face. A year. A whole year, and not once has Atsumu touched him, just because Kiyoomi had asked him not to. For the longest time, Kiyoomi has convinced himself that he did not want to touch Atsumu, who was as dangerous to the precarious balance between Kiyoomi’s flesh and the force within him as the rest of the world. Now the balance is robust. Now he’s allowed. Now, as it turns out, he wants.
“Whoa, hey,” Atsumu breathes, followed by disbelieving laughter. “What’s up, Omi-kun?”
Kiyoomi kisses him. Nothing stirs beneath his skin but love.
The next day, Kiyoomi wakes to a blackened hand with splintering claws making its way up Atsumu’s arm. For a second he’s frozen, unable to react. This has never happened before. The demon’s eyes are blacker than his. Its mouth—or the cabinet of knifelike teeth that could pass for that—gapes menacingly. Kiyoomi snaps out of it and sits up to blast the demon into the wall, searing a hole right through its body. It shrieks and disappears back downstairs.
There’s a very specific kind of lightheadedness you experience if you stand up too fast after sitting down for a very long time. It knocks Kiyoomi back down on the bed, where Atsumu is stirring slowly.
“Mmh. Hi, Omi-omi.”
Kiyoomi runs his fingers down Atsumu’s arm. “Hello.”
“So what was that, last night?” Atsumu asks. “Not that I’m complainin’, but… ya were famous at the office for not wanting anyone to touch you. I’ve been datin’ you for like, a year, and all that time ya never let me touch you directly, either. So what gives?”
Not now. The morning is here, and Atsumu is every dream Kiyoomi has ever had, brought out to the walking world. He doesn’t want Atsumu to look at him any way other than the way he’s looking at him right now. He doesn’t want anything but to continue to discover what it’s like to fall apart in Atsumu’s unexpectedly patient, attentive hands.
“Jealous of Kita-san? I’m tellin’ ya, I liked him in middle school. I didn’t even know who I was back then.”
Kiyoomi pulls him close, savoring the awful taste of the morning when Atsumu’s mouth melts against his.
“This is a diversionary tactic! Mayday, mayday!” Atsumu gasps, laughing.
Kiyoomi grazes Atsumu’s earlobe with his teeth, something he’d discovered Atsumu likes very much. “Is it working?”
Atsumu groans. “Fuck you, of course it’s working.”
In one swift motion, he’s straddling Atsumu. For a moment the ghost of a frown flits across Atsumu’s face, then it’s gone, followed by him reaching up to cup Kiyoomi’s face. Every part of him is magnetized, buzzing with charge. He might resolve to tell Atsumu everything far too late for it to matter. One day this could be a mere memory of a time when he was happier, when the capacity to touch meant something to him. His heart pumps fear through his arteries. Kiyoomi leans in anyway.
The restraints take a toll on him. It becomes much harder to scare away ghosts and demons; sometimes he actually has to wait for everyone to look away or leave and then do something to announce his own power. Each time it takes it out of him. Back when Kiyoomi had first tried on the might of a god, he’d gone to haunted houses to exorcise them, never breaking a sweat.
He calls KIta once.
“Is there any other way to deal with this?”
“D’ya know what it is?
“The first foundation of control is knowledge, Kiyoomi-kun,” Kita says. That’s the end of that.
A pack of old demons on a bridge, ready to sink their claws into Hinata as he sets up the mic, merits so much effort that Kiyoomi is left in cold sweat afterwards, shaking. Atsumu asks him if he has a fever, pressing one hand on Kiyoomi’s forehead, and for a moment he feels a rip in the threads holding him together. He flinches, snapping at Atsumu that there’s nothing wrong with him. Atsumu rears back like he’d been burned.
“Why does it always hafta be like this?” The volume of his voice has risen exponentially. Hinata peeks curiously from the front.
“Like what,” Kiyoomi asks.
“Clearly. Clearly somethin’s up with ya, and you tell me nothin’s wrong when it’s right in front of my face!” Atsumu crosses his arms and stares out the window. “And maybe that was fine for a while ‘cause I trusted you, and I thought it would just be a matter of time. Look at us now! I don’t know if ya need paracetamol. I don’t know if I should be drivin’ you to the ER. I don’t know if I can just make you sleep it off. How would I know if you never tell me anything?”
Are you okay, Hinata mouths. Kiyoomi motions for him to look away.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I’m talkin’ ‘bout everythin’. The touchin’, the screamin’ in your sleep, the movin’ in, how you’ve clearly been off because of somethin’ lately. Sometimes you eventually do what I wish you’d do but you don’t tell me what’s been goin’ on all this time and you just expect me to. To just take it. Whatever you give me. No explanations, no nothin’. I can’t live like this, Kiyoomi.” Finally, he looks at Kiyoomi. Something in Kiyoomi breaks. “I love you, but sometimes I really feel like I don’t know you.”
Before Kiyoomi can stop himself, he says, “I’m sorry that you don’t know me, Atsumu.”
He means it, though. He means it. He is sorry.
Atsumu barks out an unpleasant approximation of a laugh. “Nice of ya to apologize for something that’s entirely your fuckin’ fault. Ya know what? Aran-kun and Kita-san are in town. Maybe they’ll tell me stuff about their lives. I’ll be staying over at ‘Samu’s tonight.”
He makes good on his threat, not even stopping by the house to take his clothes. Logical. Osamu’s clothes are exactly his size, after all. Fine. Fine. That gives Kiyoomi time to exorcise the goddamn house then, finally. Atsumu will come back to a house that’s totally clean, and Kiyoomi will tell him so many fucking things about his life he will regret ever wanting to know.
And he will regret it.
Slamming the door open, Kiyoomi screeches in tongues to summon the inhabitants of the house.
He didn’t count on Kita’s restraints strengthening to resist his attempt to explode. He didn’t count on the goddamn demons banding together. Five of them rush at him at the same time, snarling.
Kiyoomi snarls back. Black ink explodes out of him, spreading like wildfire.
There are two things he learns from trying to eradicate every demon and grudge-bearing ghost in his infested house. First, Kita Shinsuke’s magic is no joke. The more Kiyoomi tries to let loose, the more solid the restraints become, to the point where they’re digging into him, marking something deeper inside than flesh. He feels them chafe. He feels something within him tear.
Second, the house is so much more haunted than he thought. Wave after wave after wave of spirits, trapped demons, and screeching ghouls throw themselves at him, muddling his vision with limbs and shadows until one nearly rips his throat out with his teeth and sends him careening into the side of the staircase with enough force to snap any normal human being’s spine.
Just like that, the chains shatter. Kiyoomi feels the familiar pulse of strength start to fill him again. The world smells like blood.
There’s the sound of a car door slamming, and Kiyoomi turns.
That’s Kita’s voice. That’s Kita’s voice. In bursts Atsumu through the front door, screaming like he’s leading a Mongolian charge. He is carrying a massive orange and green monstrosity of a water gun, pointed right at the nasty clawed asshole in front of Kiyoomi’s face. He cranks something on the side. A rush of water hits the demon in the face, and it starts to melt.
“WHAT DID I SAY?” The effect of Atsumu’s tribal chieftain voice and aggressive tone is dampened somewhat by the flood of tears running down his face. His limbs are shaking visibly. “Ya never tell me anythin’! This is just makin’ my point!”
“Atsumu. Now is not the fucking time.”
He turns back to the fight at hand and Atsumu throws his keychain. It hits Kiyoomi just above his left ear. Kiyoomi turns back to Atsumu, who is marching into the living room like everything in here isn’t out to kill him.
“When else? Yer never gonna stop shuttin’ me out of problems! I’m sick of it! If our house is fuckin’ haunted I wanna exorcise it too!” He looks up at Kiyoomi defiantly.
“This is different,” Kiyoomi says as he prevents one of their kitchen knives from lodging itself in the back of Atsumu’s skull.
“OH YEAH?” Then, in a smaller voice: “How?”
“These things can actually kill you.”
“Who says I’m gonna let them?” Atsumu screams like he's trying to tell it to himself.
Atsumu hits more of them with the water gun. Who the hell has enough holy water lying around to fill this thing? The most likely answer comes in behind Atsumu, holding a wooden wand with paper streamers bunching together at the end like a horse’s tail. Kita directs streams of golden light like he’s unleashing a meteor shower inside the house.
Kiyoomi dodges them, rushing forward to pull Atsumu behind the bathroom door as blue flames spread through every corner of the house. Kita blocks it from reaching them. It would leave Atsumu unscathed; Kiyoomi would be another story entirely. As he holds Atsumu there, careful not to touch any part of him directly, he can’t tell which of them is the source of the shaking that has overcome them both.
There is silence and the scent of cherry blossoms.
Kita opens the bathroom door.
“Yer house is clean now.” He looks at Atsumu. “Toldya he’d do it.”
Atsumu laughs, but it’s shaky. “Ya need to stop readin’ people so well, Kita-san. It’s creepy. You haven’t even met Omi-omi five times yet.” Then, Atsumu looks at Kiyoomi, eyes filling up with tears. This is it. He’s going to start sobbing because Kiyoomi’s some kind of puppet, or had to live with this torture all this time, or he won’t want to date someone with more dark magic in him than blood. The tears don't spill over. Atsumu gasps a ragged breath. “I. I almost got stabbed in the head.”
Kiyoomi reaches over, then catches himself.
“Kita-san, could you…?” Kiyoomi asks. From behind him, golden threads fly in to weave a glove around his hand. Kiyoomi reaches to touch Atsumu’s face, feels the world slot itself into place again as Atsumu closes his eyes and nuzzles into his touch. “So there are some things I need to tell you.”
Atsumu’s eyes open. He scowls at Kiyoomi. “No shit.”
“There are also some things,” Kiyoomi says, glancing at Kita, who nods encouragingly, “that I still need to find out. You want to help me?”
If anything, Atsumu’s scowl deepens. “Ya really have to ask?”
Right. This is Atsumu, after all.
“Are ya two gonna come out of the bathroom, or what?”
When they do, Kita has already righted the tables and chairs and is in the middle of sweeping up the broken glass. Kiyoomi sends out a flood of sludge to pick it all up instead, suspending the shards in the ball he gathers up. Atsumu gapes at the floating ball of glass and ink. “About the holy water gun,” Kiyoomi starts, walking over to sit next to Atsumu on the carpet.
“It’s Osamu’s,” Kita says as Atsumu starts snickering uncontrollably. “He said he always knew it would come in handy. He’s been collectin’ the ammo by buyin’ the tiny bottles of holy water you’d find around. There’s a room full of ‘em in his house. Suna can’t stop laughin’ about it.” He looks at Kiyoomi’s hand, centimeters away from Atsumu. Not inching any closer. “Do ya want me to bind you again, Kiyoomi-kun?”
Kiyoomi turns to Atsumu, who has stopped laughing and is now looking at him with fondness, eyes twinkling with mischievous light. This, Kiyoomi realizes, is no different from the way Atsumu looks at him every other night. Atsumu had been wrong. Kiyoomi might not have told him everything, but Atsumu has always known him.
“Just until I don’t need it anymore,” Kiyoomi answers, saying it like an oath.