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Cutlery were flying, and a plate smashed to pieces on the floor. Thankfully, the glass of water had been placed an inch further inwards of the table, and narrowly missed the violent swing of Atsumu’s arm.

It was just another normal day. A normal day consisted of uncontrollable crying, random outbursts of anger, sudden periods of depressive silence, and futile attempts to hold in the pain. His breathing was unstable as he collapsed to the floor from his chair- it was the crying phase now. He doesn’t know when it’ll come, and he doesn’t want it to come, but the sudden waves of unbearable emotions would come crashing on him every once in a while, causing him to burst into tears because he can’t hold it all in. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t control the unwanted response of his body. It wouldn’t listen to him. It wouldn’t stop.

It was anxiety, the counselor had told him; combined with a plethora of other unpleasant psychological problems he’d developed.

 

“Atsumu!”

 

The only other person that was with him- for months now- rushed to his side, disregarding the shards of ceramic that littered the wooden floorboards. He held Atsumu in a tight embrace, trying his best to keep the shaking body still, burying his own face in damp blonde hair and just staying there in that awkward half kneeling position till the boy’s breathing started to stabilize. It took a few minutes for Atsumu to calm down and be able to breathe steadily, though the tears were still streaming off his face.

 

“There, there. I’m here.”

 

A hand stroked his blonde strands gently, tenderly, fingers running through them and occasionally massaging his scalp. Silent sobs escaped his lips as Atsumu felt another wave of unexplained fear emerging, but he managed to suppress it this time and released a series of choked coughs and sobs instead.

It was summer, but Atsumu’s body was deadly cold, his shirt drenched in sweat and his face was dripping with a mixture of tears and perspiration. The shortness of breath didn’t do him a favor, only making him feel all the more pathetic, becoming a useless, meaningless human being that had no contribution to society. 

 

He let out a muffled scream into his companion’s shoulder, hands clenching tight onto the rough fabric of the man’s work shirt. More screams, followed by sobs, continuing till his mouth was dry and his voice didn’t come out anymore.

 

“Kita-san…” he barely managed to mouth the man’s name.

The response was a gentle squeeze from the hug they were still embraced in. He’d been crying there for a good twenty minutes now, and he knew Kita’s legs were probably getting numb or sore being in that position for so long, but yet he didn’t move an inch until Atsumu had calmed down. 

“Let’s get ya to bed.”

Kita pulled Atsumu’s heavy body with him as he stood up, making sure the blonde was well balanced on his feet before placing an arm around his waist and guiding him to his bedroom, slowly, steadily, step by step. Atsumu was limping, to which he winced when he noticed that of himself. How he hated this.

 

“I’m sorry.” he said when they both sat down on the futon that Atsumu had been using since he came here three months ago.

The blonde had been so devastated when he arrived at Kita’s doorstep, his face pale and thin and ghastly, looked like he came straight from hell, Kita almost didn’t recognise him.

 

“Don’t be.” Kita answered. “Take as long as you need.”

 

Atsumu closed his eyes and buried his face in his knees, not saying anything, so Kita quickly excused himself only to come back a minute later with a mug of hot honey lemon drink and left him alone. The blonde took it with a soft thanks, but didn’t make a move to drink. Kita lets him be, knowing that the mug will come back to him empty after a while. He leaves the room and heads back out to clean up the mess in the hall.

 


When Atsumu first arrived unannounced at his place in the countryside, Kita was shocked, horrified, to say the least. They hadn’t seen each other in years, their only contact being through their old highschool group chat or occasional private text messages, such as Kita congratulating him on getting into MSBY Black Jackals, when he won matches, and sometimes Atsumu would send him pictures of himself and of the cities he travelled to. But other than that, they rarely had any conversation. 

Once, just once, Atsumu had called him over the phone, seeking advice or perhaps just a listening ear, when he felt lost amidst his professional career. Captain, I’m not sure how I should carry on from here , he told Kita, though it was spoken more like a question than a statement. At the time the setter was only six months or so into MSBY, and was facing a crisis of sorts- Kita thought it was just Miya being too impatient again- saying that he was never going to make it big if he just continues as the mediocre player he is, he needs to get better quickly and become a starting player and then dominate the world stage.

 

“Just do what ya always been doing, Atsumu.” He told him, “Consistently, diligently, honestly. Don’t take shortcuts, and the results will be the byproduct of yer efforts.”

That was all he needed to hear. Atsumu already knows what his old captain would say, but hearing it straight from his mouth instilled a strange sort of confidence in him, and he needed that. Some might think that he was being whiny and just wanted someone to pity him, but it was quite the contrary. Kita isn’t one to give senseless pity. Kita says the blunt truth, does what needs to be done. Kita was always real and truthful; Miya trusted and believed earnestly in those honest words that were raw without any ulterior motives or sugarcoating.

 

Three years had passed since that one brief call they had, and the relationship between the setter and his highschool senior didn’t change much. It was a kind of mutual respect, where each lived their vastly different lives and dedicated their spirits to what they loved or believed in.

 

At least until that day, when Atsumu came up to his doorstep and rang the bell. He hadn’t eaten or slept properly in days, according to what Osamu who appeared behind him had said, which showed on the setter’s zombified appearance. He had gotten a lot thinner since the last time he appeared on TV, but what was most glaringly out of place were the two crutches that he had on each arm, supporting his limp legs. There was a bandage wrapped around his left knee.

 

"I'm sorry, Kita-san. Just- Tsumu, he-" Osamu was trying to explain but he couldn't find the right words. "If it's alright with ya, could I leave 'Tsumu here for a while?"

He glanced at his brother who was staring blankly at the ground, still not used to the silence that surrounded his normally noisy twin, eyes wincing a little as he felt a pang of hurt, unable to stand the sight of his brother so defeated.

"I don't know how long it'll last. This is a really unreasonable request, but please, Kita-san. Please help 'Tsumu."

 

Kita's never seen Osamu as desperate as he currently was. The now black haired twin was usually the calmer and more rational one, but now he wore a look of helplessness and worry, at his wits’ end. And he's never seen Atsumu as listless as he was now. The boisterous setter had times where he'd sulk, upset at the smallest things like him embarrassing himself in front of his fans, but this was a whole different aura. Atsumu's eyes were dead.

In a quick flashback he recalls reading in the news that rising volleyball star Miya Atsumu was taking a break from his career, the reason they gave being vague and along the lines of family issues. He didn't think much of it then, and Atsumu didn't mention anything to him; not that they talked much in the first place.

 

Kita ushers the twins inside his home. Osamu carried a large duffel bag and dragged a luggage behind him, while Kita kept an eye on Atsumu to make sure he got in safely over the small step at the door. After which, they sat Atsumu down on the living room couch and proceeded to the kitchen by themselves. They were met with no resistance- the blonde setter sat still as a statue on the couch where they had placed him, not even turning once to look at them.

"As ya can see," Osamu said in a low voice, "he's like that."

Kita watched intently as Osamu fidgeted and massaged the bridge of his nose, trying to put everything in place.

"His knee gave in. It was overwork. Doc said he won't be playin’ for a while, but we don't know how long and if it'll even recover at all." He sighs, expression pained. "No one knows. He doesn't want anyone to know." Osamu takes another sideways glance at his brother. He's not sure if Atsumu could hear them from where he sat, but even if he did, he did nothing to show that.

"Right now, only our parents, me, and you know."

Kita nodded silently, but the slight furrow of his brows gave away his confusion. Why me? Osamu noticed it, and pressed his lips together nervously.

"It's been five days since. He's eaten one pudding, half a bag of chips, and one onigiri in all. I don't think he even sleeps- I don't know. He doesn't speak to us." He says, desperation in his voice. "If we don't do something, he's... he's gonna…"

Osamu shut his eyes and inhaled deeply. "Yesterday night, he spoke for the first time in days." He paused. "Kita-san. He said your name."

Shuffling awkwardly in place, he continued. "And then nothing else. That was it."

Kita blinked slowly, then looked in Atsumu's direction. What did that mean? He was as confused as any of them were. It wasn't as if he was very close to Atsumu, if anyone, it should have been his own brother or teammates that he reached out to; Kita was but his highschool senior from years ago that he didn't really talk to anymore.

"Let him stay here." He says anyway.

 


A bow and multiple sincere thanks from Osamu were followed by a brief explanation of Atsumu's medical situation. He was to go for physiotherapy twice a week at the hospital, and counseling once weekly at a clinic in the same area. Outside of that, he was to avoid strenuous activity and rest as much as he could. 

 

Osamu didn't stay, to Kita's surprise, as he had work to tend to at his onigiri store, but he did send over many gifts and food delivered to Kita's house, perhaps due to a combination of guilt and gratitude.

Once every few days a delivery man would leave a package at their door, the gifts ranging from Atsumu's favourite pudding and the most popular onigiri flavours at Onigiri Miya, to daily necessities like groceries and toiletries. With every delivery came along a present for Kita, almost every time- a fresh, warm tofu hamburger, Kita's apparent favourite dish- something that the Miya brothers found out during one of their club gatherings and were quite hyped up about. Kita appreciated the notion, but he sighed tiresomely after a few weeks and dialed up Osamu's number, telling him to stop sending gifts over. 

"It's 'kay, Osamu. Ya don't have to feel indebted to me and send me all these. Taking care of one brat isn't that difficult."

Besides, his heart ached looking at the sight of the animated zombie that loitered around him. They weren't exactly close, but if he could do something, he would.

 

Sometimes when Kita worked in the rice fields he put a chair out on the porch for Atsumu to sit and watch him; and almost every morning, that seat would be taken. One thing he noticed was that the boy preferred to be in his presence, only deriving that from close and careful observation of his minimal actions because Atsumu still didn't speak or move much. 

When Kita made dinner, he tended to appear on the couch in the living room that gave him a view of his senior working in the kitchen. When Kita went through the mail and read the newspapers at the dining table, Atsumu would sit opposite him, not speaking, not reading together, not looking at him, just content to be there close to him. When Kita tended to the garden, he stayed by the window in direct line of sight. When Kita sat on the porch at night with a warm drink, enjoying the scenery and reflecting on the day’s events, Atsumu would be beside him, accompanying him in silence.

 

Though when the neighbours from the nearby farms occasionally visited with gifts and had tea with Kita, Atsumu hid in his room until they left, making no sound and evidence that another person existed in the house, and neither did Kita tell them there was. Kita interprets this silent gesture as a sign that his guest wasn’t comfortable with meeting anyone else, or rather, didn’t want anyone to see him in this state. Going through the trouble of releasing a cover story to the media and going into hiding showed the despair, shame and denial that the youth was going through, still unable to accept what the injury that stole his career away.

Atsumu didn’t touch his phone. The screen often lit up before the battery went out, showing a glimpse of hundreds of unread messages and missed calls from his concerned friends that went unanswered. He was sure Osamu had been communicating with them, though it did little to ease their worries.

The way he moved was listless, in a slow motion, almost like a vegetable that could slowly migrate from place A to B. He didn't start a conversation with Kita, and Kita didn't probe him either, believing that time was what the ex athlete needed, keeping a watchful eye while letting him wander and do as he pleases.

 


The first successful meal with Kita brought Atsumu to tears. A plate of baked fish, broccoli, potatoes, carrots, and buttered rice was placed in front of him, identical to the one Kita was having.

"Itadakimasu."

Kita said, mostly to himself and by himself, as his companion kept silent, staring at his plate. Kita hadn't expected him to reach for the cutlery, since for the past two days Atsumu simply sat without touching food as if it were possible for his eyes to do the eating. From the start to the end of every meal they had together, it had always been Kita eating while Atsumu stares, a single person’s quiet munching sounds filling the otherwise eerie silence. One plate ends up empty while the other is untouched, both of which Kita collects and disappears into the kitchen. Yet without fail, every meal presented to Atsumu a fresh, full plate of delicious food, exactly the same portion as what Kita was having. A standard ritual that Kita made sure to keep.

Perhaps it was because he felt guilty for wasting food and Kita's efforts in cooking for him, but Atsumu finally raised his right hand and reached for a fork, holding it in midair for a while before he poked at a potato wedge. The older man didn't say anything or stop eating, he simply continued his meal as per normal, not making a fuss as he watched the boy stare at the piece of potato and gingerly took a tiny bite. He chews, and then another bite, and another, and then his eyes moistened and his breath hitched. Next he reached for the fish, taking a small piece into his mouth, two streams already flowing from his eyes by now.

"Is the food to yer liking?" Kita asked calmly, casually, as if Atsumu finally eating again wasn't a huge joyous achievement. It was, and mentally he was screaming excitedly, but Kita never failed to portray himself as a calm, steady man.

He received quiet nods in response to his question so he smiled and said "that's good".

 

Barely a quarter of the plate had been cleared before Atsumu clutched his stomach and covered his mouth, making "ugh" noises and putting his fork down, furrowing his brows in discomfort.

"Take it easy, it's the first time yer consuming anything in a while." Kita put down his own cutlery, then went to Atsumu's side of the table to rub his lower back gently.

"I'm sorry…" the words croaked out of Atsumu's hoarse, underused vocal chords, the first words he'd said in days.

"Don't be."

Kita collects the plates in a swift, practiced motion and Atsumu is thankful the senior doesn't force him beyond what he can manage or even question why he's decided to come here, simply accepting the bizarre flow of events with an "oh, okay" and taking care of Atsumu like it was his second nature. Doesn't he mind?

 

From then on, the plates with healthy, sumptuous, nutritious food that came consistently every meal gradually returned to the kitchen with less and less leftovers each time. Sometimes Kita offers him a pudding, which lit up his eyes by just a miniscule bit- a great improvement from his first day, and Atsumu takes it gratefully.

His brother doesn't manage to visit due to his busy work schedule, but was overjoyed upon hearing about these improvements from Kita, repeatedly thanking him for going out of his way to take care of Atsumu when they weren't even related. Kita would say in response "It's not a big deal. The countryside does a lot to heal a person's heart and mind."

 


On Mondays and Thursdays, Kita drives him to the hospital a good 40 minutes away on his old but reliable van, waiting for him to complete a 30 minute physiotherapy session, before driving him back and grabbing some snacks along the way. Sometimes it would be an ice popsicle, sometimes a sweet ice blended drink, sometimes warm pretzels or pastries, to lift his spirits and a way to tell Atsumu "good job on completing another session."

On Sundays, they took a similar route to a clinic where Atsumu had his weekly counseling sessions. It didn’t last two weeks before Atsumu sulked and got more moody than Kita thought was possible and refused to get out of his room on Sundays, saying he hated going for counseling, and somehow he got his way. They stopped sending him for counseling, and that was only because Kita gave the green light. 

Instead, perhaps as a substitute, Kita brings him on a drive cruising around the countryside on Sundays, where Atsumu keeps his attention out of the window on the passing scenery of vast crop fields and mountains and livestock, and they head to a large lake where the peaceful sounds of birds and insects puts their minds at ease. Under the shade of a large tree, they would lay down on a picnic mat side by side, without conversation, just basking in the warmth of each others' company.

On other days, Kita works tirelessly on the fields, going through the same routine everyday as Atsumu lingered to watch.

 

Maybe it was because of the stress free countryside and the company of the stoic but dependable farmer; through the days that they spend together, in comfortable silence at a slow pace of life, Atsumu gradually relaxes and he starts to smile. He smiles when he sees Kita, in the morning when he wakes up and sees the older man making breakfast, when he tidies the house, when he works in the fields, when they have their meals together. Every time, if they make eye contact, Kita smiles back.

 

"Kita-san." He says one day when they were enjoying a warm mug of hot chocolate on the porch together, gazing at the sky full of stars that only came out in the peaceful non-light polluted countryside.

Kita waits patiently as the younger boy searches for a way to organise his words. 

“I-This, thank you.”

There was no verbal response to his thanks, only a gentle smile and a calloused hand that reached over to ruffle his hair. Atsumu lifts himself slightly with his hands and shifts closer to Kita to rest his forehead on his shoulder. He still limps but he’s able to walk slowly without crutches now, a significant change that he was happy to welcome. Kita continues to stroke his hair softly, taking in the moment, the brief physical contact that they both found comforting, basking in the soft glow of moonlight.



It gets better. Very slowly, but it does. Atsumu manages to eat almost the same amount as Kita now, though it was important to note that his diet during his sporting days were twice that amount due to the high energy output and his own metabolism. Time heals all wounds, they say, and Kita believes that while scars cannot be erased, it’ll alleviate the pain, at least. However, while Atsumu was able to eat, sleep, talk, and move better now, his psychological well being was not in the best shape. Anxiety attacks and depressive periods were a common occurrence, Kita thinks it’s because of the trauma and how he still can’t accept his injury and keeps pondering over it.

 

Time will heal, he tells Atsumu, take as long as you need.




On a September morning, Kita was out working in the fields as he always did, and Atsumu was watching from the porch. When the farmer made his way back to the house, Atsumu gleefully held out a glass of iced tea to him.

“Thanks.” Kita smiled, removing his gloves before taking it.

“Kita-san, startin’ tomorrow, can I join ya at work?”

Kita glanced at the boy’s knee. He could walk on his own now, but going out to the rice fields was…

“I’m fine now! I gotta start moving about more or I’ll get fat.”

“Okay, just a little.”

Atsumu grinned brightly upon receiving permission to join Kita, from that rare expression Kita could see a reflection of the bright smiles and high levels of noise the setter used to produce back in highschool, and Kita feels his spirits being lifted. Bit by bit, Atsumu was coming back. Bit by bit, he’ll bring Atsumu back.

 

The next morning, Atsumu follows his senior out to the field to learn how to weed. His apprenticeship didn't last two days, because it included waking up at the ungodly hours before the sun even rose, so Atsumu settled for just joining him to help out in the fields with what he could at whatever timing he woke up, embarrassedly telling Kita not to judge him for trying when the older man really doesn't pay it any mind. 

That was when he began to observe Kita more closely; he had always watched Kita, but now he watches with a sense of appreciation and admiration at how the man manages to get through every single day with a superhuman amount of discipline and routine.

 

Astumu rips out the grass with a strong tug, making sure to get its roots like Kita instructed. He then glances to the man working diligently beside him, watching the way he weeds in swift and practiced motions. Atsumu makes no sound but the intense staring that emanated "didja see that, Kita-san?", "Am i doing it right?" every single time he pulled out a weed made its way to Kita's peripheral vision, who simply ignored it and carried on with his work.

 

Since day one, he'd been aware of the little glances the younger male had been throwing his way, but nowadays the stares were getting bolder and less discreet. It wasn't uncommon to be sitting and reading the papers and finding a pair of brown eyes watching him when he looked up to take a sip of his tea, the firm gaze only wavering when he returned a sharp questioning glare to which Atsumu would let out what sounded like a whimper and avert his gaze- to maybe Kita's shoulder, or the cup of tea in his hand.

Kita shakes his head as he recalls these incidents, wondering if it was because he didn't say anything about it that led to Atsumu believing it was fine and gaining the confidence to push the boundaries a little further each time.

 

"Atsumu." He says, pausing from his weeding.

"Y-yeah?" Atsumu immediately looks up at him.

Kita looks at him silently for a moment, and Atsumu finds himself getting nervous, unable to decipher what the expressionless man was thinking.

"Do you wanna watch a movie tonight?" Kita says, to which Atsumu's eyes widen in surprise. "Just to take a break."

"Sure!" Came an overenthusiastic reply.

 

And that was how they ended up sharing a blanket on the couch in front of Kita's laptop, playing an action movie that the younger male had picked out with a glint of excitement in his eyes.

They watch it together in silence, and Atsumu notices from his numerous obvious side glances that his companion's eyes were focused on the screen, showing no emotion as usual. On the eleventh sneak peek or so, neither of them kept a proper track of the numbers, that he looked in Kita's direction, the old captain shifted his gaze to Atsumu without moving his head.

"Do you wanna watch something else instead?"

Atsumu presses his lips together and thinks hell yeah, could watch ya all day , but he swallows slowly and says "nah, this movie is fine."

 


Everyday, Kita would be up before the sun. He washes up, boils water, cleans the house, waters the plants in his garden, heads to the rice field when there is enough light in the sky to start work, then at around 9.30 am he comes back in to make breakfast for Atsumu, who usually wakes up a little past 10. After breakfast, he'd check the mail, read the papers, run errands, get groceries if he needed to- usually from the market or directly from friends of the neighboring farms, and prepared lunch for them both. Then in the afternoon, once the scorching noon sun had eased off a little, he went back to the fields, only coming back when the sun set and it was time to make dinner. At night, he allows himself to catch a breather and treats himself to a warm mug of tea or hot chocolate while sitting at the porch, where Atsumu joins in as well, and goes to bed by 10pm.

 

Atsumu doesn't usually sleep until past midnight. He's been starting to look at his phone again, though he doesn't touch the messages and calls from his friends and family, knowing that Osamu probably kept in contact with Kita to check how he was doing anyway. No one knows about his injury and he doesn't want anyone to know; he doesn't know how to face them and tell them of what he's become. Because they’ll be so disappointed, won’t they? Even if they told him it was fine, that he’s just as amazing a person without volleyball, Atsumu doesn’t believe that- he can’t stand the thought of their faces full of pity.

 

He looks through social media to check on how everyone is doing, while taking care not to accidentally like their posts or leave any traces that indicated he was there; he looks through old photos, lingering longer on those that featured Kita; looks at Kita's social media accounts, finding it plain and bare and minimalistic with simple pictures of the countryside and shared links to recent news. There was nothing about him appearing on Kita's news feed, which once again he found himself thankful for. If it was Suna or anyone else instead of Kita, the whole world would've known about his situation and location by now, he wouldn't have a single shred of peace that he's able to enjoy at this current moment.

His heart was filled with a confusing concoction of guilt, gratitude, wrath, frustration, helplessness, and despair; because of all the things that happened, because of all the hard work he'd put in to bring himself to where he was in the volleyball world, just a little more and he would've made it to the national stage, and pushing a bit more, he might really just become the best setter in the world. Maybe he had been too greedy, wanted too much too quickly, now he'll have nothing. 

Before he knew it he was crying again, making an ugly face and wiping snot away with the back of his hand, curling up in the blankets like it was a protective shield that kept all the terrible things of the world away. He wailed and choked on his own saliva, sniffling as silently as he could for it was the middle of the night in an attempt not to bother the other inhabitant.

 

"Kita-san." He mouthed the name that suddenly came to mind. That's right, at least he still had Kita here for now. At least there was Kita. He feels really bad for turning up at his house out of the blue and didn't expect to actually be allowed to stay here, not to mention for such a long time. But he was thankful. At least there's Kita.

 

"Kita-san."

Kita, Kita. Kita. If all else fails, if he had Kita by his side, he could deal with it all like an adult, maybe. As long as there was Kita. If only he had Kita. If only Kita would stay with him.

 

"Kita-san."

 

Sniveling in self pity and calling out a certain man’s name.

When did his feelings become so twisted?

Atsumu swears all he had were pure feelings of respect and admiration for his captain, who was the complete opposite of him- disciplined, calm, rational, dependable- everything he wasn't. Looking up to his captain had always been a thing, and although they weren't exactly close friends per se, Kita was someone he depended on as an emotional pillar of support, a role model. Whenever he felt lost, he thought of Kita- what would the captain do or say in this situation? And then he'd be fine again.

So when, did it become like this? 

 

"Kita-san."

 

I want him for myself. When did such selfish thoughts surface in his mind? Was it because of the trauma of his injury that he needed that emotional support now more than ever? Wanted it all for himself?

 

"Kita-san."

 

He relaxed his eyelids that were squeezed shut- when had he done that?- and opened them to see beige fabric in front of his face, what he later realised was pajama pants. He lifted his head from the pillow and came face to face with the other inhabitant he'd been trying not to wake; the man whose name he'd been calling incessantly. Realisation dawning upon him, Atsumu's face gushed a deep shade of red, which he buried into the pillow in an attempt to hide.

 

"Yes?" Kita said, in response to the numerous repetitions of his name, only to see Atsumu squirm in his pile of blankets.

He adjusted himself so he was sitting cross-legged beside the futon closer to the supposedly sleeping figure.

 

"N-Nothing."

“Is that so?”

“Mm.” Atsumu pulled the blanket up over his head, leaving only a yellow mop exposed at the top, hoping that Kita would shrug and go away so he didn’t have to see the sorry state he was in.

About a minute or so passed, and there was no sound, Atsumu didn’t feel any movements in his surroundings either. He didn’t sense anyone leaving, but it was too quiet for someone to be here. Had Kita left already? Or was he still there? Curiosity got the better of him, so he poked his nose out of the sheets to check.

Of course, Kita was still there, staring back at his tear stained and red puffy eyes. Atsumu let out an unintentional whimper, but his eyes widened when a hand was held out in front of him, darting his gaze between Kita’s face and his outstretched hand in an attempt to comprehend the significance of this action.

After waiting for a while and seeing that nothing happened, Kita smiled apologetically, his expression showing something along the lines of I guess not and retracted his hand; but Atsumu quickly grabbed it before he could take it back.

“Kita-san.” he swallowed, words coming out slowly and nervously.

“Yes?”

"Just...being with ya makes me feel safe."

With one hand in the grasp of this soft, broken boy, Kita reached out the other to brush Atsumu’s face, gently wiping the tears away with his thumb, then unknowingly, the sides of his mouth curled up a little when the boy pulled his hand close to his chest like a precious soft toy he didn’t want to let go.

“Then I’ll stay with you.” He said, “Until you get better.”

Atsumu doesn't know if that referred to his physical condition or it included his mental stability as well, or maybe those words only applied to the current situation, but he blinked at him hopefully anyway and it reminded Kita of the hopeful, pouting expression a sulking child would make when their mother promised them their favourite dessert when they got home.

"Promise?"

"I promise."

He nuzzled against Kita's hand and inhaled the scent of the other male.

"Can...can ya stay here with me, Kita-san?" He tugged on the hand in a hesitant motion to ask the man to come closer, to which Kita responded positively, and climbed under the sheets to join Atsumu. The futon was a little too small for the both of them, but they made do by sticking closer.

"Alright, just for today."

His old captain had always been extremely kind and accommodating to everyone, including troublemakers like Atsumu, going out of his way to do things for his teammates and making sure they were healthy and happy; while Atsumu was thankful he sometimes wondered if he was too selfishly taking advantage of his senior's generosity. Even now, even when it's been years since they graduated, he was still being taken care of by his dependable captain.

 

Atsumu buries his face in Kita's neck, letting himself drown in the comfort of the man's soft but steady heartbeat, sweet scent, and strong embrace. Kita softly presses his lips against the boy's forehead and hums the tune of a lullaby his grandmother used to sing to him, caressing the blonde locks and now quiet- no longer shaking from crying- body in his arms.

A few more pats and ruffling of hair put the boy to sleep with a sheepish smile on his face.

 


But one day, Kita wasn't there. It was slightly past 10 in the morning, Atsumu realised when he read the clock beside his futon. He washed up in the bathroom before heading out to the kitchen, expecting to see Kita making something delicious like pancakes for breakfast as usual, but there was no one in sight. 

"Kita-san?" He called out, glancing around the kitchen, then heading out to the porch to check if he was still working in the fields. The rice paddies swayed gently with the wind, showing no signs of mankind amongst them.

Atsumu paused for a moment to think and process the information. Kita was always at the same place at the same time everyday like a fixed variable, it had never come across his mind that Kita was human too and things happen to humans.

"Kita-san?" He called out again, louder this time, as he limped around the house to check every room.

Until all that was left was Kita's room, the door shut close. He paused for a moment before knocking hesitantly- he'd followed Kita everywhere on his daily routine but one place he kept out of was his room. It was Kita's room, and the idea of it meant something special to Atsumu.

A low pitched groan came from the other side of the door, and Atsumu perked up.

"Kita-san? Ya in there?"

He knocked a few more times and creaked the door open a little to peek in. "Kita-san?"

The man was wearing his pajamas and laying in his futon, face flushed and he really doesn't look very good. 

"What happened ta ya?" Atsumu sputtered and flung open the door, rushing to his side clumsily. He placed a hand on Kita's forehead and grimaced when he felt the heat.

Kita was only human. Humans get sick too.

"Atsumu…" he mumbled with a voice softer than usual, trying to get up. "Sorry, your physio session is today, right? I'll get up in a moment."

"It's okay, rest!" The blonde almost yelled. "Yer in terrible shape now, Kita-san! What even happened? Last night ya seemed fine though?"

"We'll be late…" Kita sits up, and winces when he felt a pang of pain shoot through his head. He massaged his temple, then pushed himself to stand, but Atsumu grabbed his hand.

"Yer a hypocrite, Kita-san!" He boldly declared, much to Kita's surprise.

"Always, ya tell us to care for our bodies and eat and rest properly! But look now, are ya doin that yerself?"

A blink, and then Kita's eyes soften. He ruffles the mop of blonde hair, contentedly observing the worried, anxious face that he was presented with. Never would he have thought that Atsumu of all people would worry for his health- it seems the roles have reversed, and he'll let Atsumu bask in that glory for now.

"I'll call the doctor to let him know." He says, and Atsumu relaxes his tensed up shoulders.

 

Apparently the cause of his fever was some unfiltered clams that he bought from a temporary roadside stall the previous day, and while it tasted delicious roasted it gave him an unpleasant upset stomach. Luckily for him Atsumu wasn't a fan of clams or shellfish, so he managed to avoid the food poisoning, and after this incident Kita thinks he'll stay away from any form of seafood for a while.

Thanks to this, Atsumu has a chance to shine. The effects of the food poisoning include fever, diarrhoea and vomiting and was expected to last two to three days according to Atsumu's quick research on google, and because Kita had been instructed to rest in bed, his daily duties were taken over by Atsumu, who took pride in this important responsibility. 

Weeding and adjusting the water levels for the paddy fields were the easy part. But cooking, Atsumu had no idea. Back home it had always been his parents or Osamu who did the cooking while his job was to eat, so his experience with food making was close to zero. Kita seems to realise that too, because he casually suggested that instant noodles sounded like a fine meal for lunch and he never, ever encourages unhealthy processed food if he had a choice. After a half successful (Kita couldn't bear to shut him down after all the hard work and effort Atsumu had put in) attempt at making onigiri from the memory of watching his brother, Kita suggested they call for delivery instead. Besides, Kita couldn't eat much in his current condition, so it was mostly for Atsumu's sake.

 

"Strange, now yer the one who can't eat." Atsumu comments jokingly as he blows gently at a spoonful of porridge to cool it down, before holding it in front of Kita's mouth.

"You don't have to feed me, Atsumu." He says, but opens his mouth and lets himself be fed anyway.

"Awwhh c'mon, 's not always I get a chance like this so let me play it through! Then I getta boast to the world that I took care of a sick Kita-san."

"Will they believe you?"

"That's mean!" He pouted. "I know it's always been ya who's takin’ care of my pathetic ass but you know, I can help ya out once in a while too."

The older man smiled, a genuine, carefree smile, and the feverish glow on his face only accentuated the angelic being that he was.

"Thanks, Atsumu."

The younger man's face flushed a shade of red that rivaled the other, even though he was supposed to be free of fever. 

It gives the younger man a newfound motivation to finish his duties for the day as fast as humanly possible, so at the end of the day he could come back to accompany Kita in his room, nudging himself into the small space of Kita’s futon and cuddling under the same blanket. He was so, so glad that it was food poisoning and not an infectious disease, otherwise Kita would never let him, but he kept that thought to himself.

 


It was a cool, shady afternoon when Osamu visited. He brings with him large bags filled to the brim with food and gifts, laying them all on the coffee table when he arrives. Atsumu scavenged through those and extracted what he wanted- the pudding- and then opened one to enjoy as he threw himself on the couch.

 

“What the, ‘Tsumu. These are for Kita-san.” Osamu said, though his voice was softer than what he used to bicker with his brother before he got injured, still uncertain of the current state he was in. Kita had updated him daily on Atsumu’s progress, and he could see that his brother had put on some healthy weight, but it had been 4 months since they last met, after all. Call him a heartless brother for not visiting more often, but Osamu doesn’t care. He has work, he can’t visit the countryside every day to tend to that baby all the time.

“Shut up, ‘Samu. I know ya bought the pudding for me.” he slurped it all in one go, putting on a smug grin as he watched Osamu’s eyes widen- yes Kita did tell him about it, but this? Osamu was still surprised seeing for himself how much livelier his brother had gotten, it was like he'd risen from the dead. Thank the gods for Kita-san , he chanted in his head.

“Fuck you, ‘Tsumu, you fat fuck.”

 

The last time the twins saw each other, one was a living dead and the other one was worried and on edge. Now, just a mere four months later, they were almost back to normal, bickering like how they used to. Atsumu’s recovery doesn’t seem that far off anymore. Kita watched them fondly from the kitchen as he prepared three cups of tea to bring out.

 

Osamu tells them about home, how their parents are worried about their son and thankful to Kita for helping him with his rehabilitation. He tells them about the city, mainly talking about how his onigiri business was prospering and expanding steadily. Then he mentions that quite a number of female customers had asked for his number or left their numbers, to which Atsumu snorted at and asserted that he was the better looking twin so if he had been there it would be his number they asked for instead. Kita listens intently, letting occasional smiles and chuckles escape his lips that lifted his cold expression whenever the twins said or did something funny.

 

Atsumu was sitting closer to Kita than was normal for friends, Osamu noted, but brushed it aside, reasoning that his brother had grown more attached to the man that took care of him at his lowest. He sighs and apologizes to Kita once again when he thinks of how much trouble Atsumu must have caused and will cause in the future; especially when he takes a liking to someone, he's not going to let them go that easily.

It was just like Kita had picked up a lost puppy from the streets, or in this case the puppy came knocking on his door on its own.

 

“Kita-san, if he’s causing ya too much trouble, it’s ‘kay to just kick him out.”

“Hey!” Atsumu scowled at his brother and subconsciously scooted closer to Kita defensively.

“What, ya seem pretty much alright now.” Osamu raised an eyebrow.

“That’s ‘cuz I’m in the peaceful countryside away from ya.”

“Nonsense. It’s obviously ‘cuz of Kita-san. Did he beat some sense into ya?”

“Yer a horrible person, ‘Samu!”

“Shut yer trap. Stop bothering Kita-san so much.”

"I help out around here too!" He looks over at Kita hoping for some sort of acknowledgement, "Isn't that right?"

Kita ignores him and sips on his tea. Osamu raised his eyebrows at his brother, who gawked and pulled at his own hair. 

 


Five months marked the end of Atsumu's physiotherapy journey. From being dependent on crutches to being able to walk properly on his own in such a short time for this kind of injury, the doctors said it was a miracle. If Atsumu had any traits to show off, it would be his charming smile and his athletic body that helped him recover at amazing speeds. But however blessed he was physically, it cannot erase a permanent injury. Whenever he put too much stress on his knee, be it from running or jumping a little more vigorously than normal, the pain comes back and doesn't go away until he rests for a day. That meant that going back to the physically demanding lifestyle of professional volleyball wasn't an option. It wasn't to say that his knee will never get strong enough for volleyball, but it will not recover to how it was originally.

Once a stick is broken, you can glue it back together, but it will never be as strong as it was whole.

 

He knew this already. Since the first day, he knew. Just that, hearing the doctor talk about it all over again reminded him of the weight in his chest. Atsumu had tried to forget, but how can he forget something that's an essential part of his life? He tried to let go, but how can he let go of his purpose in life, the meaning of his existence?

 

Sitting on the porch with Kita that night was more silent that he was comfortable with. When was the last time they experienced this kind of wordless silence between them? It felt like a long time since the quiet days when Atsumu first arrived. 

"What do you plan to do from now on?" Kita asked, carefully, closely observing the other's reactions. 

He didn't know if it was too early to bring that up, but Atsumu would have to start thinking about it sooner or later; he can't stay aimlessly on Kita's farm forever. Even without volleyball, he believed Atsumu was cut out for something much bigger, something more exciting that could keep up with his headstrong personality and endless hunger for more.

"What can I do?" The response came in the form of a rhetorical question. "Besides volleyball, I'm not that good at anythin else. I'm not like ya, Kita-san. With those grades yer could've gone to college, could've done anythin. But you chose to do this." He gestured to the crop field with a hand, pausing a for moment to watch the rice paddies sway in the wind. "For me, maybe farming's the only thing I can do." He remarked jokingly.

"I'm not hiring." 

"That's so cold, Kita-san!"

The farmer chuckled at his companion's animated whines and pouts.

"You've got to move on, Atsumu. Take your time to think about it."

He looks listlessly into the distance, finding himself enchanted by the beautiful scene of nature again, as if it were his first day here. Vast fields and quiet mountains in the distance; and Kita living amongst these majestically plain landscapes.

"Yeah, I know."

 


He might whine about it, but Atsumu manages to bring himself to look up some university courses and shortlists some that he considered applying to. It took a lot from him to let go of his past, and his heart still aches whenever he saw anything related to volleyball, be it magazines, the college club recruitments, or sports news. All the what-ifs and could-have-beens.

 

Kita brings up their highschool team motto: we don't need things like memories.

"Move forward. Think about what you can do today and tomorrow, rather than cling on to the past."

"I thought ya weren't a fan of that motto, Kita-san?" Atsumu would tease, finding it ironic that their old club motto would be so fitting in this situation.

"I thought ya liked that motto, Atsumu?" Kita would respond matter-of-factly.

And then Atsumu pouts and sulks until Kita ruffles his hair tenderly, leaning his head into the calloused hand and closing his eyes to enjoy the touch.

 

They spend their days together as usual, and Kita never rushes Atsumu into anything. He doesn't tell him to hurry up and apply for college, get a job, decide what to do with life, hurry up and move on, get over it. Kita just watches patiently as Atsumu slowly comes to terms with his fate and takes baby steps to re-enter society. Because in the countryside, everything changes, yet nothing does. The seasons change and the crops are pulled along, the animals migrate, scenery changes, people come and go, but through the years, everything stays the same. Everyday, Kita goes through the same routine. Everyday, Kita watches Atsumu grow, bit by bit.

 

It was November now. That meant cold weather, thicker layers of clothes, warm drinks, and an excuse to stay cuddled up together.

 

Atsumu loved to hold Kita's hand in his, ever since the first time he was found sobbing in the middle of the night and offered a hand to grab. Every now and then, Atsumu reaches over to feel the warmth from his companion, intertwining their fingers and memorising every callous and scar on those rough hands.

 

Something else he took a liking to was a good tight hug. He loved the feeling of Kita in his arms, burying his nose in the shorter man's soft grey locks, spreading his fingers over the beautifully sculpted back, hearing the other's steady heartbeat and knowing that Kita could hear his own as well.

Kita would let him, and returned the hugs most of the time.

He was spoilt rotten by Kita, and he let himself be.

 


"Kita-san!" He says one day, "I got offered a spot in a university in Tokyo."

The older man behind him leans closer to take a look at the laptop on the dining table, scanning through the email on the screen.

"Congratulations." He smiled and patted the blonde head, seeing a brighter one reflected at him.

"Sports management, huh? Do your best."

"When does it start?" He asks, and Atsumu shows him the details in the rest of the email.

"Sometime in August. But…" he trailed off, meeting his eyes with Kita's, "before then, I got myself a temp job." He watches the other's patient, intent gaze. "As a coach at an elementary school club."

"Volleyball?"

"Yes, I mean, what else?" Atsumu laughed. "Soccer?"

A blank expression remains on his face even as thoughts flew through Kita's mind at a rapid pace. He hadn't heard the younger man mention anything remotely related to volleyball since his arrival here, so this was a surprising development. If he's bringing himself to go back to the sport, even if it's not as a player on the court, that meant that Atsumu was slowly, but surely getting over it.

"That's amazin'."

He noticed a slight blush surface on Atsumu's cheeks, who turned back to the laptop. "It's just for a few months, until I start school."

Anyone could tell the boy was still a bit uncomfortable with the whole set up, but Kita was glad and proud of him for taking the first step on his own to get out of the darkness, learning to approach the sport he loved with a different perspective, taking up an alternate but undeniably essential role in the sport- coaching.



Atsumu was to leave Kita's residence in a month and move to Tokyo, where he had arranged for a small rented apartment in the city where it was close to his school and the elementary school he was supposed to coach at.

He was excited, albeit nervous, and Kita was happy for him, moving on to a next stage in life.

Their limited days left together were spent meaningfully, both of them unconsciously making an effort to do more things together; Atsumu tried to help out in the kitchen, woke up earlier so he could spend more time with Kita, prepared simple snacks and desserts that required nothing more than removing them from their packaging to enjoy afternoon tea with the man, sneaking into his futon to cuddle in the middle of the night. Kita accepts all these gestures readily.

 

The night before Atsumu was to leave, they spent it on the porch as usual, each of them holding a mug of hot chocolate in their hands. It was a cold January night with a full moon out, the both of them were draped in thick wool jackets and sharing a blanket, sitting on the wooden flooring of the porch and leaning against the wall, shoulders pressed against each other.

"It's our last night together." Atsumu says, the vapour from his warm breath escaping in a puff of white smoke.

Kita nods. "Remember to take care of yourself, especially since you'll be living alone."

"I will, I will." He laughs. "Or will you come and take care of me, Kita-san?"

He receives nothing more than a blank stare from the older man, so he pouts and takes a sip of his drink.

"I'm in love with you." Atsumu blurted out before his brain could comprehend what he just did. That was so, so random and unexpected even to himself and he just screams internally at his impulsive self, coming with all sorts of excuses like the moonlight and the atmosphere and the cold and his tiredness. His face immediately flushed, and he decided he'd blame it on the cold if Kita asked. 

There was no response to his statement, and Atsumu takes a shy peek at the man beside him, wondering if he heard that.

"Kita-san." He says, and calls his name again when Kita doesn't respond.

"Kita-san?"

"Yes?"

The white haired male showed no expression that Atsumu could decipher; it was the same stoic one he always wore.

"I'm-I'm in love with you!" He says again.

"Is that so?" Kita says, and Atsumu gulps. "I see."

The blonde's mouth was agape at the mediocre response he got. What does that even mean?

"Do ya not believe me, Kita-san?"

Kita stares at him for a few seconds, before letting his gaze hover back to the fields.

"You'll get over it soon."

"Is that a rejection?" Atsumu didn't pull his eyes away; he wasn't going to until he got a proper answer.

"I'm the only person you've been around for the past few months, it's easy to mistake gratitude and respect for romantic interest." He doesn't look back at Atsumu. "Once you get to Tokyo and meet new people, you'll realise."

"It's real, Kita-san! I'm sure of my feelings." Atsumu insists. "How can I prove it to ya?"

"You'll be living in Tokyo, while I stay in the country in Hyogo. I don't think you're one who can manage long distance relationships."

"After graduation, I'll come back to Hyogo. And then I'll find ya again 'nd we can live together. Will ya wait for me till then, Kita-san?"

Kita gives him a blank stare that doesn't show any emotion, but he could tell the older man doesn't believe in that happening. Miya Atsumu was a flurry of energy, going along with the flow of life and taking himself wherever he wanted to, nothing could keep him down for long. On the other hand, Kita was a grounded man who kept to a strict routine and a simple life. He was sure that soon enough, with a large variety of options in Tokyo and the future that awaits him, Atsumu would have no problem finding interest in new people.

"Maybe. We'll see about that."

 


Things didn't change much between the both of them. Kita's answer to his confession was neither acceptance nor rejection, not even a romantic promise to reunite with Atsumu when he finally returns to Hyogo after four years of university. Atsumu could do nothing more than to accept that vague answer, and by noon the next day they said their goodbyes at the train station where Kita sent him off.

Right before he got on the train, as Kita was about to wave a goodbye, Atsumu landed a quick peck on Kita's lips, then smugly waving to the man as he dragged his luggage onto the train, watching Kita scrunch up his brows.

He was getting bolder and bolder, Kita thought. Perhaps he'd been too lenient. Soon enough though, he believed, the boy would forget about this crush and move on, going where the wind takes him, so he didn't pay it much mind.

 

It must've been because Atsumu had been around for so long, but Kita suddenly feels like the house is a lot emptier without him around. No one to stare at him, crack lame jokes, ask for hugs out of the blue, follow him around while he went about his day. Due to habit he'd turn around asking for Atsumu to pass him the soy sauce when he was cooking dinner, and go back to cooking in silence when he realised he was alone. Eating alone felt strange too, without the endless banter that filled the silence. Even as he worked in the fields, he thought he was used to working alone, but found himself scanning the vicinity for any form of life.

 

Atsumu calls every other day, to tell Kita about his volleyball coaching job, how stupid and annoying elementary school kids are, and how lonely he was despite being in the middle of a bustling city far away from Hyogo. Kita remarks that he seems to be having fun, seeing that his social media was full of pictures of himself hanging out or drinking with the other coaches, but Atsumu whines and says that it was different. Different from being around Kita.

He asks Kita to visit him sometime, and Kita obliges, once every few months. 

 

By the time Atsumu started college, he was completely back to the bright boy that he had always been, all smiles and laughter and smug grins and dirty jokes, and was effortlessly one of the most popular people in his school.

He was asked out by a countless number of girls- and guys, which he told Kita about, and also about the alarming number of casual relationships he got himself into, most of them lasting anywhere from a week to two months.

At first Kita was concerned when Atsumu called or texted him every day saying that he missed him, but he guessed his worries were for naught, as the fickle minded boy was quick to move on. It was as he'd expected after all, being physically apart allowed Atsumu's crush on him to die down. He didn't say anything about it, accepting it as it is, and the both of them forgot about the 'promise' they made that day and remained as close friends throughout it all.

 

Once, during Atsumu's spring break, Kita visited him in Tokyo. His apartment was surprisingly well kept, relatively neat and free of dust, save for a few shirts that littered the floor of his bedroom.

He left the bag of pudding and desserts on the kitchen counter, then joined Atsumu on the bed.

"How is school?" He asked, eyeing the younger man who was propping himself up against the headboard, then holding out a hand, which Kita took and let himself be pulled over to sit beside him.

"Boring." Atsumu groaned. He took one of Kita's hands with both of his and inspected it, caressing it absentmindedly with his thumbs. "How did ya get this?" He gestured at a dark colored line on Kita's hand.

"Accidentally cut it on a rock when I fell down."

Atsumu gasped dramatically and fussed over him, and Kita let out a fond smile.

"How is it going with Mika-chan?" Kita asked, referring to the most recent girlfriend that he heard about. She was an attractive girl in his ethics class and apparently threw a note in his pencil case when he wasn't looking, that was how they started.

"Oh, broke up three days ago."

"Again? How long did it last this time?"

"Two weeks."

Atsumu didn't sound the least bit regretful or upset, his voice monotonous and uncaring. He slid down from his sitting position, resting his head beside Kita's hip and draping an arm around his thigh.

Kita sighs and ruffles the mop of fluffy blonde hair, deciding not to talk about the superficial nature of all his relationships. The reason for most of them went along the lines of "I got tired of them", "they were too clingy", "there was this other person I'm interested in", and that was how he hopped from one relationship to the other.

 


In his second year of college, Atsumu was scouted- not for volleyball, but as a model for a famous fashion magazine. He had been studying in a café when a man in formal work clothes approached him with a name card, telling him about his company's work and how they were looking for young talents like him. Talents , he laughs mentally. Was being good looking considered a talent? He accepted the job offer, since it paid well and only required him to attend photoshoots every once in a while. Twice a week sometimes if they were busy, and they didn't bother him too much if he refused due to school work.

Fortunately or not, the magazines that starred him became overwhelmingly popular, and he started appearing in advertisements and posters all over the place, known as the famous ex-volleyball athlete who was still handsome and toned despite not playing the sport anymore.

Thanks to that Osamu's store became more popular because he had the face of the new internet sensation, which irked him. His brother taunted him with a suggestion that he'd film an ad for Onigiri Miya for free, which earned him a knock on the head, but Osamu took it anyway and got a poster and promotional video done that featured Atsumu's face. He rolls his eyes when he sees the video of Atsumu eating onigiri playing on loop as he entered the store everyday, but has nothing to say about it since it increased their sales tenfold.

 

In his third year of college, Atsumu coached part time at Fukurodani for an intern project. Somehow Bokuto heard about this and came bursting into the school gym one afternoon and screamed "hey hey hey" and “Tsum-Tsum” at him so many times Atsumu thought the owl had finally lost its bearings, but then again, that guy was never wired right to begin with.

The highschool kids were going crazy over Bokuto's presence and their training ended up being taken over by photograph and signing sessions by the aspiring kids who looked up to the spiker. And then they found that Miya used to be Bokuto's teammate, and got even more excited, though their spirits fell almost immediately when they realised that Atsumu was only coaching them for this one year.

A strange sensation stabbed at his heart at the sight of an old teammate, and although they hadn't met or talked in a while, he got along pretty well with Bokuto. From him, Atsumu found that MSBY was doing well, and Hinata had become one of the official starting members of the team, and Bokuto had been scouted for the national team, though nothing's been confirmed yet. Hearing about these things made his heart ache a dull pain, but it wasn't as bad as he'd expected. In an interview he was starred in, he finally told the world about his knee injury and how that was the cause of his disappearance from the volleyball world. But not to worry, because he'll be back to coach the next generation of stars.

Perhaps the time really had healed him.

 

In his fourth and final year of college, Atsumu was busier than usual. He had a final year project to work on, many tests to study for and a pile of assignments to work on. He doesn't contact Kita as much, and he puts full focus on school work and his modelling job. He applies for a few jobs for when he graduates.



The year after he graduated, Atsumu successfully landed a job in Hyogo. He calls Kita, for the first time in a few months, to tell him that he'd be visiting. 

 

Upon entering Kita's house, he saw several posters put up along the doorway- posters with his face on them. One was for a beer ad, and there was one for facial products, for perfume, and a few more pictures of him.

"What's the meaning of this, Kita-san?"  He blinked in half amusement and half glee as he followed the man further into his house that he was all too familiar with.

The farmer chuckles and brushes it off without giving him a proper answer.



Atsumu takes him out that evening on a ride in a bright yellow fancy Porsche convertible sports car, something that he acquired on a whim with the loads of cash he got from the media related jobs, something that Kita found unnecessarily flashy. He got in anyway, letting the boy show off his achievements and whisk him away to wherever he had planned. Seeing Atsumu now made Kita feel like a proud parent, although it was only a short duration of less than a year that he took care of a depressed boy fresh out from hell, the progress he'd made since then was tremendous and Kita was genuinely happy for him. Atsumu was meant for great things.

 

"Where are we going?" He asks, tilting his head a little to face the boy donning a pair of Ray-Ban shades and freshly bleached blonde hair flopping in the wind of their open top ride.

"I've made a dinner reservation at this hotel's restaurant, heard it's pretty good."

"Showing off the first thing to do when ya come back?"

Atsumu whined at that. "Excuse me? I just wanted to treat ya to a nice meal!" He says, and quickly adds "Not that your cooking isn't nice, in fact it's one of the best things I've had, but ya know, just to show some appreciation."

Kita smiles at the gesture.

 

The hotel they arrived at was a grand looking one, reminding Kita of olden European style mansions, and the service was amazing as well- Atsumu had stopped the car at the lobby and got off, opening the door for Kita, who asked "what, what about the car?" Only to see someone in a black suit ready to drive it away. Oh, valet service.

Looking around at the intricate layout and expensive decorations did nothing to make him feel any less out of place. People (including Atsumu) were dressed in tailored suits and gowns, going about with elegant air around them. Kita glances at his own attire- a plain white shirt, navy slacks, dress shoes, topped with a khaki parka. Okay, Atsumu did warn him, but this was going to be an awkward, stifling night. He could feel it already.

After taking their seats and ordering something from the menu, Atsumu rested his head on his hands propped up by both elbows, staring and smiling at Kita cheekily.

This felt familiar, though it had been years since Kita felt that intense gaze from across the table.

"Yes?"

"How have you been, Kita-san?"

"Fine, the same as always." He paused, "And I heard you got a job here in Hyogo?"

He'd heard something along those lines, but doesn't know any more than that because Atsumu hasn't been in frequent contact due to his busy schedule of school and work.

"Ah yes! I signed a contract with a media company based in Hyogo. Oh, and, I'll be coaching at Inarizaki." 

Kita's eyes widened at the second part, which Atsumu chuckled at.

"Nostalgic, ain't it?" The blonde sighed. "Who knew I'd be going back there after all this time."

Kita smiled. "That's nice."

"The place where we first met, Kita-san."

"Yeah."

 

They spent the rest of the dinner reminiscing about the old times, Kita fondly talking about the ruckus that Atsumu and his twin caused, and how much they've changed since then. Or haven't changed, just got older. Despite their history- from a simple captain and junior relationship, to taking care of a depressed Atsumu who fell from his career, to receiving a confession and a promise from him, to watching him move on from that crush, to seeing him again after so many years- the atmosphere was surprisingly light-hearted, nothing much had changed between them after all. They were emotionally open to one another, and both of them could sense that. Yet, it felt a little different from before.

 

"How's the food?" Atsumu asked, when Kita cleaned his plate of the last grain of rice.

"It's good."

"That's great." A charming smile, and Kita was reminded of how it was the other way round when Atsumu ate his first meal at his place five years ago. This time, Atsumu was the one giving him food.

 

Atsumu waved to the waiter, who nodded knowingly and walked away, presumably to fetch something, and Kita cocked his head curiously.

"You'll see." Came a giggle.

"Hmm." Kita resigns and finds satisfaction in watching the blonde grin childishly in his seat, deciding that he'll just play along. It's been a long while, so why not?

 

Soon enough, the waiter comes back with a large fruit cake on a tray, followed closely behind was another with a bouquet of red roses and a large paper bag. Kita rubs his eyes and lets the soft hum of classical music in the background fill his head and searches for his sanity but didn't find any. What?

They were walking to their table?

He shuts his eyes and opens them again, finding the two service crew setting the huge cake on the table, watching Atsumu take the bouquet and walk to his side of the table, holding it out to him and planting a kiss on his cheek. Low gasps and murmurs broke out among the rest of the tables.

At least he didn't do it on the lips like the last time at the train station, he consoles himself, finding an uncontrollable warmth filling his face and neck. 

 

"Happy birthday." Atsumu says, and Kita blinks in confusion, then his mouth gapes slightly. Oh, today was the 5th of July.

He takes the roses, and mumbled an embarrassed "thanks". He could sense the diners in the neighbouring tables whispering, which deepened the flush on his face, but Atsumu seemed to be enjoying it so he let it slide.

After cutting slices for both of them, the service crew left the paper bag with Atsumu and left them on their own. They were about to bring in a small ensemble to sing a birthday song but Kita said "please, no", to which Atsumu laughed and gave in.

 

"This cake is much too big for us to finish." He comments.

Atsumu laughs it off. 

They didn't manage to finish the cake, and ended up having it packed to takeaway. The paper bag that Atsumu handed him was filled with all sorts of random things, expensive tea, chocolate, cooking books, speakers, seeds for his garden, a new pair of gloves, a branded watch, luxury soap, the list went on and on. It seemed as if Atsumu didn't know what to get him for his birthday, so he bought a bunch of random things he thought Kita would use, and all that added up must've cost a fortune. He appreciates the gesture and thanks him for it.

 

"Does it feel like ya got yerself a sugar daddy now?" His joke received nothing but an unamused glare in response. "Ha ha, I mean. Just kidding. I'm younger than ya anyways."

"I appreciate it, Atsumu, but you don't have to do such elaborate things. Just a simple dinner together would be enough."

The younger man grinned sheepishly, looking out of the window, before turning to face him again.

"Kita-san, does yer offer still stand?"

"Pardon?"

"About going out with me after I return. I'm back now, Kita-san. I'm staying in Hyogo for good." He said, determination in his eyes, the hesitation from years back no longer present. Kita almost chokes at the unexpected question.

"I thought... you'd moved on?" He manages to maintain a calm composure nonetheless.

"Wha-? What gave ya that idea?"

"Your college relationships?" He raised a brow, letting the words roll off his tongue slowly and observing the other’s features twist into an exasperated mess. 

"Those ain't serious!" He says, and Kita thinks- obviously .

"Yer the only one I'm serious 'bout, Kita-san!"

Kita doesn't give him an answer.

From the beginning, for years since he’d known the boy now, he'd been sure that Atsumu was once to change his mind quickly, letting his heart go to whatever caught his attention. His hypothesis was proven right throughout the time he spent with the boy, from his high school days filled with volleyball to his professional athlete days to the down days in his care and to his college days. Atsumu was an intense mass of unstable energy, and if you're not careful you'd be swept up along with the current.

 


"Aren't you going to face me properly, Kita-san?"

A hand beside his face trapped him between the wall of his doorway and the taller man, but Kita was unfazed.

"Ya aren't taking me seriously."

The blonde was visibly upset, nose scrunched up and voice hoarse. He leaned closer so that Kita could feel the warm breath on his face when he spoke.

"Do ya like me at all, Kita-san?"

The drive back to Kita's place had been quiet, and he could sense something like this was going to happen- sure enough, he was right. Once again, Atsumu gets pulled along by the emotions he wears on his sleeves.

"Are you just looking for another fling?" Kita said coldly.

"Does it seem that way to ya?" His voice was louder this time and Kita could see a hint of hurt in his eyes. Maybe he shouldn't have said that.

With a clench of his fist and cursing under his breath, Atsumu leaned in and closed the distance with his lips against the other's, his hands holding Kita's face and the back of his head, strongly, forcefully bringing them closer together. A muffled gasp escaped from the shorter man's lips as he recoiled in shock, but his hands found their way up and gripped tightly onto the fabric of Atsumu's shirt; trying desperately to breathe amidst the rough clashing of teeth and wet, sloppy smashing of lips; finding it difficult to think straight when the slick muscle shoved its way into the cavity of his personal space, the intoxicating scent of his cologne not making things any better.

 

When Atsumu finally pulled away, Kita was gasping for breath, face flushed and eyes moist. He was given a moment to breathe, but Atsumu still held Kita’s face in his hands so the man couldn’t break eye contact; a wordless act that implied- stop avoiding me .

 

"Why aren't ya resisting?" The blonde demanded, gazing into those brown orbs expectantly.

 

Atsumu was getting bolder than what he was used to and what he could handle. Back in highschool, the boy would jolt and stutter whenever Kita lectured him, and did everything he was told, listening to his every word like an obedient puppy. Now though, he's all grown up, and while he still addressed Kita with the respectful -san honorific, he wasn't the same puppy he once was.

 

"Why, Kita-san? Are ya just lettin' me have my way with ya 'cuz I'm pitiful?" It came out louder and harsher than he'd intended, but he didn't care. "Is that it?"

The wounded look in Atsumu's eyes stirred up an unpleasantly tight feeling of guilt in Kita's chest. "Was that all there was to those days we spent together? When ya hugged me and held my hand and kissed me goodnight? Because ya felt sorry for me?"

 

The words stung.

 

"No." Was all he managed to croak out. "No, Atsumu."

His eyes were hazily focused on the posters behind Atsumu, but looked back at him when he felt Atsumu's breathing get heavier and more unsteady, it was the sound he made when he was about to cry.

"Then, why?"

 

Kita closes his eyes and inhales deeply.

 

Atsumu loves new things that excite him.

What's going to be different this time?

Kita was but a normal, boring commoner that lived on a farm in the countryside. Once Atsumu has had his fun with him, he'll laugh and move on, or at least that's what he thought.

 

"Let's go out, Atsumu."

 

What appeared on the blonde's face was a mixture of shock, happiness, confusion, and anger; he let go of Kita's face, let his hands linger in midair for like ten seconds, then landed them back on Kita's shoulders with a strong grip.

"Huh?"

"Let's go out." He said again.

If that was what it took to make Atsumu happy and move on, then Kita would do it even if it meant having to go through the heartbreak of a temporary relationship.

"What?"

"You don't want to?"

"No. No." Atsumu shakes his head and stutters, "I mean, yes, I want to, Kita-san! Please take care of me." His face was one of delusion, trying to accept what had happened, comprehend the situation; haven’t really expected Kita to say yes just like that, he thought maybe he’d have to try a lot harder.

He pulls the smaller man into a tight embrace anyway, and Kita returns it. 

"I love you, Kita-san."

 


Three months have passed, and they still haven't broken up. At first Atsumu wanted to stay with Kita in the countryside, but it was far from his workplace and impractical to travel on a daily basis. Okay it wasn't, especially since he could drive, but Kita said he should go back and stay with his family since he'd been gone for such a long time due to college, to which the younger reluctantly agreed.

With ample distance between them and Atsumu having a fresh, dynamic, constantly changing work environment, Kita was certain it was only a matter of time before his boyfriend found a new love interest.

However, every weekend without fail, Atsumu spends it with Kita. 

 

He’s been surprisingly clingy on the weekdays, sending him good morning and night texts, pictures of him at work, asking for Kita to return some too. When he gets off early, he takes the opportunity to give Kita a call in the evening, whispering sweet words about how much he missed him (although he’s only away for five days a week) and how he loved to hear the voice of the most beautiful man in the world.

On the weekends, Atsumu rushes over with a small backpack of clothes to last him the weekend, as soon as he finishes work on Friday night. Kita opens the door for him, and they exchange a quick kiss at the doorway, before making their way in.

 

Atsumu loved physical touch. He loved feeling Kita's hand in his, letting soft silver locks run through his fingers, smooth skin pressed against his own; he finds any opportunity and comes up with crappy excuses to land soft kisses on his pale neck. He slides a pair of strong arms around Kita's waist from behind while the man cooks. He hides under the sheets of Kita's futon in wait so he could ambush him when Kita came out from the shower with nothing but a towel wrapped around his hips.

Something else Atsumu loved were the gentle hums of Kita's voice when he lets the younger's hands slither beneath the fabric of his shirt to entice goosebumps with the cool tips of his fingers; he feels an overwhelming sense of satisfaction from having his soul pierced through by the man's sharp eyes in the heat of a make out session and even more so when his touch makes Kita unconsciously lean into him and whisper his name.

 

Weekly ritual, for three months now.

 

When Osamu gave him a call one day asking “Why are ya doin’ this to yerself, Kita-san?”, sounding desperate and remorseful and distressed, Kita simply said “it’s fine.”

An eavesdropping Atsumu happened to hear Kita on the phone with someone, and shuffled quietly to conceal himself behind the wall outside Kita’s bedroom where he could hear his boyfriend speak through the slightly ajar door. He berates himself for doing something so childish, but curiosity got the better of him; Kita-san rarely speaks on the phone with anyone, other than him at least.

 

“ 'Tsumu goes on and on about ya, Kita-san. But are ya sure ‘bout this? Really, ya don’t hafta go along with that shithead’s whims all da time, if his requests are gettin’ out of hand, please, just tell him no. You’ve done plenty for him already.”

“Is this about dating Atsumu?”

The blonde’s ears perked up. What is it about me?

“Um, yes?”

“It’s alright, Osamu. He’ll get over me and move on soon.”

Kita-san .” He sighs exasperatedly. “Ya know that already, so why are ya still agreeing to this? Why go so far for him? I can’t apologise enough for all the trouble he’s caused ya over the years. And if ya let him, he’s gonna continue.”

Atsumu finds an uncomfortable lump forming in his throat and he tries to swallow it quietly. He feels like he’s going to puke. And then he hears shuffling of feet and Kita was walking out of the room, so he darts away quickly to avoid being seen, heading to the kitchen to pretend he’d been pouring himself some milk. 

“It’s not that hard to play along until he gets tired of it. Besides…” was the last of what he heard of Kita’s muffled voice as he slipped away.

From the corner of his eye he notices Kita glancing around the living area, probably to check if Atsumu was around, then walks out of the main door to the porch. Atsumu doesn’t follow, instead he bites his lower lip and downs his milk.

 

“Kita-san? Ya still there?” Osamu asked when Kita went silent for the moment he took to walk from his bedroom to the porch.

“Yes, hello. It’s fine. It’s just until he gets tired of this. And, I don’t dislike seeing this side of him.”

“Kita-san…” he could hear Osamu sighing over the line again, pausing a little longer to collect his thoughts. “Ya actually...Kita-san, do ya...like ‘Tsumu?”

When Kita keeps silent, Osamu almost screams, or at least Kita could hear him hyperventilating from the other side of the phone. “This is not gonna end well, Kita-san, please, don’t do this to yerself.”

“Osamu, when I grow old and think back on my life, I’d like to treasure the memory of us, our snippet of time together, rather than having not experienced it at all. At least we happened, even if it were temporary, I’ll look back on that memory with fondness. I won’t hold it against him, so don’t worry.”

 


The next day, Atsumu was sulking, grumpy, and quiet.

 

“What’s wrong?” Kita asked, thinking that he hasn’t seen Atsumu this quiet in years. Was he relapsing into depression?

The younger man looks up at him from the couch with steely eyes, he doesn't say anything.

“Atsumu?” He sits down beside Atsumu and wraps an arm around his waist, leaning in to look at his boyfriend’s pained expression. When there was no reaction from him, Kita stretched his neck a little more, but Atsumu’s hand got in the way before their lips could meet.

Confusion and hurt overcame him, and Kita takes a moment to process it all, how Atsumu has never turned down his advances, however rare, in this manner, but when he looks into those large honey brown orbs, he sees a reflection of what he was feeling himself.

 

“Let’s break up, Kita-san.”

 

Kita has never felt a pain like this shoot through his chest. He clutches the fabric of his shirt until his knuckles turn white, yet none of the emotions make their way to his blank face. It was going to happen anyway, he has known all this while. Sooner or later, when Atsumu has gotten his fill, they’ll part ways and remain as normal friends. Three months had been longer than most of his short-lived relationships, so at least he’ll take that.

 

“Alright.”

 

Atsumu winces when he hears the nonchalant reply, looking more upset than he already was.

“Really, ya really don’t give two shits ‘bout this all, do ya?” he hollers. “How can ya just agree to that so easily? It meant nothing? I meant nothing?"

"Why are you so angry?" 

"Why." He inhales, "Why!" It took everything just to keep his voice from shaking. "Even after all that shit we've been through together, ya still think I'm a kid that needs 'ta be taken care of, huh?"

 

They both sat in silence. Kita doesn't know what to say, and Atsumu doesn't find the strength to say any more; feeling the narrow physical distance between them growing more uncomfortable by the second. Until he stood up and went inside the bedroom and came out five minutes later with his backpack, all while Kita sat watching in the living room. He walks to the door and grips the handle so tight it looks like it was about to break, but eventually he swings the door open, his last words being "sorry for intruding", before he left without turning back.

 


Once again, Kita was met with a sudden emptiness, just like when Atsumu had left for Tokyo to pursue his studies the first time. Just when he'd gotten used to the consistent weekly routine, it was broken and the order in his life and emotions fell into chaos again.

Every time it took a bit of healing time, and chipped at his heart, but he manages to get back to a steady pace somehow. This time Atsumu doesn't seem to be coming back, so at least he wouldn't have to adapt to any more unforeseen changes to his routine. He had hoped they'd at least remain friends on good terms like during Atsumu's college days, but since fate decreed that things turn out this way, he accepts it nonetheless.

 

But, the thing was, Atsumu came back. He came back just a short week later before Kita even had the time to settle himself back into a solo routine, with a huge luggage behind him. The meek expression he made did little to mask the guilt he felt. 

Watching the overgrown baby shuffle nervously at his doorstep brought back nostalgic memories for Kita, something that he didn't expect to see again. Didn't expect to see the actual living being of Miya Atsumu again.

 

"Atsumu?" He greets, not angry or upset, just with the same monotonous voice that everyone was familiar with.

"Hey."

One glance at the taller man's uncomfortably awkward expression, and another in the suitcase beside him, and Kita held the door open and gestured for him to come in, which he did with a grateful nod.

The interior of the small house was the same as he’d remembered- it’d only been a week, but it felt like ages since he last set foot in here. Spotless, clean, tidy, the smell of tea lingered from consistent, daily brewing. The first thing the grey haired man asked upon seeing him for the first time since Atsumu's heated declaration of "let's break up" and being out of contact for a week was "have you eaten?", to which Atsumu bit his lower lip in an attempt to hold back an outburst of emotions. Kita couldn't tell if it would be an outburst of anger or tears, but he didn't have to find out because Atsumu calmed himself down.

The blonde shakes his head sheepishly.

"Sit, I was just about to make dinner."

So Atsumu found himself seated at the dining table, listening to the chopping sounds made by the hands of a well seasoned cook and smelling something being stir fried, occasionally catching glimpses of Kita's back as he worked from the kitchen. And, what kind of situation was this, barging into his ex-boyfriend's house a week after an angry breakup only to find himself being invited in for a meal like nothing's happened between them? What kind of strangely wired man was Kita? 

He had to hold back a tear when he was presented with a familiar plate of a simple but sumptuous and nutritious meal.

"Kita-san, ya happen to be hiring?"

Kita blinks at him in confusion, and Atsumu screams at himself silently. “Fuck-” he runs his hands through his hair in frustration. “Okay I don’t know what I’m sayin’ anymore. That was stupid. Sorry.”

Kita lays down a fork and a knife beside Atsumu’s plate, and Atsumu lets his gaze linger on the man’s sculpted, sturdy hands. Hot hands.

 

"I heard from 'Samu, I-I'm sorry." He pauses to collect his thoughts. "I thought you were only goin' out with me cuz it was troublesome to turn me down and, and I was just a kid in yer eyes that ya had to play along with my shit. Ya weren't even serious 'bout me at all and when I think of how foolish it was of me thinkin' that the heavens had blessed me and the love of my life finally accepted my feelings when all it was is just nothin' but pity."

Atsumu takes a moment to breathe from saying so much so suddenly, and Kita takes it all in.

"It's so nerve-wrecking, ya know?" He wails. "I feel so stupid. For thinking you loved me. When in actual fact ya mocked me with those hugs and kisses you didn't mean."

"Atsumu, that's not-"

"I know, I know." He cuts Kita off. "I just, don't know how 'ta tell you. 'Samu said I was bein' a childish and selfish bitch. Okay, it was 'cuz of all those relationships from college, ain't it? How'd I show you that I'm serious 'bout ya? I missed you so fuckin' much and I was dying for your touch, your voice, someone to remind me of ya, I'll play with anyone but you're the one person I will never hurt, Kita-san." He immediately hisses when he realised what he'd said- realised what he'd done. "But I still ended up hurting you."

 

He doesn’t know what to say anymore. He wants to ask Kita to come back, but it was him who’d left in the first place; would Kita accept him again?

Both of them had shared many periods of silence between them. Some came in the form of a comfortable silence, both grateful for each other’s presence, some arose because Atsumu sulked from not getting what he wanted; some was because the both of them had things on their minds that they thought was better kept to themselves, sometimes Atsumu had so many things he wanted to say but couldn’t find the words for, and Kita is hesitant. Now was one of those times.

 

“I-” Atsumu finally looks up from his untouched plate of food- both of theirs were untouched since he started blabbering about such a heavy topic as soon as Kita came out of the kitchen, and he feels even guiltier because he’s not giving Kita’s wonderful cooking the justice it deserved.

"You're-" he tries to put thoughts into words. "I'm- I, I'm sorry for coming. But I don't know what to do. It hurts so much and, I don't know how to make it go away. My heart feels like it's gonna burst."

 

Kita picks up his cutlery and cuts a bite-sized piece of meat from the pork steak on his plate. He blew at it once to make sure it was cooled, then held it in front of Atsumu’s face, who gawked at it for five seconds before opening his mouth to take it.

“I might not make bold declarations of love like you do, but,” Kita said, then lifted himself off the chair so he could reach to the other end of the table to plant a kiss on the other’s forehead. “These are not things I do with someone I don’t love.”

 

Atsumu finds himself falling in love with Kita all over again. He knows he looks like a mess blushing with his hands in his face and trying to stop making squealing noises that sounds like a compromise between crying and laughing and Kita was probably regretting what he said at this point in time, but Atsumu doesn’t care. He makes his way to Kita’s side of the table and pulls him into a tight hug, knowing his tears and snot were staining the man’s shirt but he doesn’t care because like ‘Samu said, he’s a selfish bitch.

“Kita-san.” He calls his name, and Kita pats the back of his head lovingly. When was the last time Atsumu came crying into his arms?

“Kita-san.” Atsumu continues to sob, finding solace in the way the name left a sweet aftertaste as it rolled off his tongue. His heart ached so, so much that his mind goes dizzy and he can't control his breathing. He calls the name Kita-san again and again as if he were chanting a prayer, and Kita lets him.

 

"So, about your job inquiry, I suppose I could use a hand around here."

 

 


Throughout his life, Atsumu has been many things.

He was once an ignorant child who had little interest in anything other than volleyball and getting better than his brother.

He was a highschool boy madly in love with his team captain, though he might not have been aware of it himself.

He was a professional volleyball player, a rising star on his way to becoming the best setter in the world.

Then, overnight he became a nobody with nothing left.

He was a regular college student who played around thanks to his good looks.

Eventually, he gets into the modelling and media business, and goes back to Inarizaki as a volleyball coach.

Things happened, things changed, things got messed up, but eventually they fell back into place.

Now, he is everything to Kita Shinsuke.