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There’s a mug that Atsumu likes to use. It holds just the right amount of coffee for when he’s gagging for caffeine before early morning practice. The handle is smooth, and it fits perfectly in his fingers. It’s matte black with a shiny gold pattern, and white on the inside. He likes the colours—thinks they look fancy.

He also definitely stole it from a hotel room. Specifically, he stole it from the hotel room he shared with Sakusa the first time they’d roomed together for an away game. Sakusa had told him he was despicable for taking it, but Atsumu had, very reasonably in his view, argued that the team were paying enough for the rooms in the building, and all the food they’d eaten, and all of the alcohol they’d drank after they’d beaten the Falcons that really, it was kind of already paid for. It was no different to the way some people—Bokuto and Shouyou—got excited about the free toiletries and took those.

“It’s entirely different than taking leftover toiletries,” Sakusa had insisted.

“It’s not, Omi, and you can’t stop me anyway,” Atsumu countered, “Just let me live, would you?”

Sakusa looked pained, but Atsumu thought that might just be his default setting.

It’s still his default setting, even now. A couple of months had flown by since the mug-stealing incident, and yet Sakusa still looks vaguely uncomfortable in every possible setting—except for the ones where he’s extremely uncomfortable, of course, which happen more often than perhaps anyone would like for them to. He’d frozen up in front of a group of fans, once, and Atsumu and Bokuto had had to distract everyone with endless chatter and breezy smiles until Sakusa had started functioning again.

Atsumu doesn’t really understand that part of Sakusa. Or much of him at all, really, when he stops to think about it, but maybe that’s just because he isn’t particularly adept at understanding people in the first place.

He’s trying to, though. Or at least, he’s trying with Sakusa, if only because he gets paired up to share rooms with the guy for away games on a near-permanent basis. He has a sneaking suspicion that Meian intentionally arranges for it to happen.

Atsumu had roomed with Shouyou, once. Bokuto had roomed with Sakusa on the same trip. Needless to say, it was a disaster. Atsumu wasn’t sure who decided to put Bokuto and Sakusa in a room together and why they’d expected it to go well in the first place—even he could see that would never work in a million years. And he was right—Bokuto had started pounding on Atsumu and Shouyou’s door late in the night begging to swap. Atsumu could barely understand half of what Bokuto was saying, but Shouyou had sent Atsumu a pleading look (he was a manipulative little shit), so Atsumu found himself rooming that night with Sakusa again.

“What in the hell did you do to Bokuto?” He’d asked when he’d stormed in. He dropped his bags against the now-empty bed, threw himself on top of it and buried his face in the pillows. He just wanted to get back to sleep, but he also wanted to know what could possibly have happened to make Bokuto look as though he was literally going to tear his hair out—especially when Bokuto was known for being good with people.

“I didn’t do anything,” Sakusa answered, tiredness evident in his voice as he turned to face the wall instead of the middle of the room.

“You obviously did something.” Bokuto may have been a (loveable) idiot, but he wasn’t stupid enough to go banging on doors in the middle of the night for no reason. Not the night before a big game, and not without a victim who was actually fun to bother. “The first time you don’t have to room with me and you screw it up and end up with me in here anyway. It’s like you missed me.”

“I don’t miss you.” Sakusa spun back around with a scowl etched deep in his face, and so quickly that Atsumu was surprised he didn’t actually fall off the bed. “I didn’t miss you. Who would do that? That’s not what happened.”

“You’re spending a lot of time denying it.” Atsumu held back a laugh, but the lilt in his voice and a rapidly growing smirk betray the fact he’s teasing. “Who’re you trying to convince, huh? Me or you?” It was easy to fall into banter—always was—bickering back and forth like they’d known each other forever. Maybe they had. Maybe eight years and forever were more similar than Atsumu had thought.

“I don’t miss you,” Sakusa repeated. “I never did and I never would.”

Atsumu laughed, because he was a delight to be around, and of course he’d be missed terribly. That much he knew for sure. “Sure you’d miss me if I was gone. Who else is gonna toss to a prickly fuck like you?”

“Dozens of people. I'd find someone.”

“You sure about that?”

“About as sure as I am that you need to shut up and go to sleep.” As if to prove his point, Sakusa picked up a cushion (why did hotels always put dozens of cushions on their beds along with the pillows anyway?) from the floor and flung it in Atsumu’s direction. “Shut up.

“Yeah, yeah, princess, I’m sleeping.”

“Don’t call me that.”

“Alright, Omi-Omi, you got it.”

“Shut up.

Now, at least, they know that they always room together, and that avoids any more late-night swaps. Atsumu gets to know Sakusa’s quirks simply because of the amount of time they spend together, and he finds himself bemused by them all, but more so by how they change.

Sakusa is still just as funny as ever about having a well-defined bubble of personal space, particularly in the changing room, and he’s still annoying and competitive, but Atsumu notices how Sakusa seems to mind it less when it’s Atsumu who accidentally steps into his bubble rather than anyone else, and he doesn’t miss the way the their insults slip into backhanded compliments instead.

They still bicker, and that’s how he likes it. Maybe it says something about his brain that he likes getting a rise out of people (Samu had told him to get some damn therapy for it, once), but he can’t help the way he smiles when he says, “Omi, your serve was terrible,” and gets, “Oops, I was following your example,” in response. It’s fun. Atsumu likes playing here, because his team is competent, and that means he can really, fully indulge in the joy of the sport.

“Tsum-tsum,” Bokuto had asked him one day, in between rounds of lifting weights—Atsumu still maintains that it’s unfair how Bokuto has arms like that, and he definitely hadn’t been watching the way they flexed while he was deadlifting—“Do you and Sakusa even like each other? Sometimes I swear you’re about to deck him.”

Atsumu hadn’t known how to respond. He didn’t dislike Sakusa. They bickered endlessly, sure, but it was the fun kind of bickering, the kind of bickering which made him feel alive afterwards with energy pulsing through his limbs. Nobody outside of his family got away with talking to him the way Sakusa did, and Atsumu was sure that nobody spoke to Sakusa the way he did. He hadn’t known how to answer Bokuto’s question at the time, not really.

“He’s okay,” was what he went with, and ‘okay’ was a far cry from the ‘I can’t stand him’ which he’d dramatically declared on the phone to his brother after the first time he’d tried to actually set to Sakusa.

Now, if he was asked the same question, he’d probably say ‘yeah, I like him well enough’.

It’s only a little progress, from ‘I can’t stand him’ to ‘he’s okay’, and it’s a small thing to go from there to ‘I like him well enough,’ but he knows how little bits of progress and small things add up to big changes over time.

Knowing that progress has been made is what has him glancing at Sakusa in the changing room after practice, and it’s what gives him the confidence to ask, “So why are you less weird about dirt and stuff when we’re in the gym?” It’s a poor way to phrase it, and he realises it the second he asks it, but he’s never been the most eloquent of people and it’s just part of his brand now, so he rolls with it.

“What do you mean,” Sakusa says. Sakusa has the dubious ability to make everything sound neutral, like he’s reading random excerpts from a dictionary in a language he doesn’t understand. Atsumu thinks it’s a question that Sakusa’s asked, but it’s hard to tell, because he’s so impressive in the level of disinterest he achieves. Atsumu could tell him the world was ending and bring proof, and Sakusa would still just say ‘that’s nice’ the way bored fathers do when their kids bring projects home from school.

“I mean—” What did he mean? He meant that it was obvious Sakusa had a thing about dirt, and he’d made that obvious to everyone with the way he had his bubble, and the way he insisted on showering before everyone else, and the way he insisted on wearing that mask literally everywhere. But what Atsumu really meant was the way that when they were in the gym, Sakusa would wipe the sweat off his face with the inside of his shirt, the way he didn’t seem to mind a slap on the back after a good spike, and the way the mask which he was never seen without was nowhere to be found. “I mean you have these habits that you do the second you leave the court or the gym, but you don’t do them when we’re actually practicing or working out. What gives?”

“You said I was weird about dirt. I don’t think I’m weird.”

Atsumu thinks that that’s a strange thing to say, too, because—it is weird, right? Like, it’s pretty well acknowledged that Sakusa’s habits are weird? Hinata had made a joke just the other day about how Sakusa probably wished for bleach and face masks at Christmas, hadn't he? What part of that being a viable Christmas present isn’t weird?

“I mean—you don’t think it’s weird?”

“I said I don’t think I’m weird,” Sakusa repeats, and the words sound bitter as they roll off his tongue. He doesn’t offer Atsumu an option to object, for he continues, “And I think you should be quiet.”

Atsumu listens to someone else for possibly the first time in his life—he doesn’t say anything. He does take a deep breath and huff it back out noisily, but he knows deep down that that’s not what Sakusa meant by the instruction. He feels scolded, like he’s asked about something he shouldn’t have—and he supposes now that he should have known not to ask, given that it’s never been brought up by Sakusa himself. Sharing a room on overnight stays doesn’t mean they’re friends, after all, not really. Not to Sakusa, probably. Perhaps he was foolish to think he could ask the question and get away with it.

It’s hard to tell if Sakusa is really upset with him, and that’s the one downside of such a stoic face. It can lead to lots of deadpan humour which Atsumu appreciates, but it also leads to this, apparently: the uncertainty of knowing how badly wrong he’s gotten something. Normally Atsumu teases, but he doesn’t mean to upset, not really, and certainly not when it’s someone he deems competent.

He throws his dirty workout gear into his bag and slings the bag over his shoulder. He knows he’s been well and truly told off for the day, and he doesn’t want to take any more of it.

“See you tomorrow,” he calls over his shoulder in the most obnoxious sing-song voice he can muster. He does it just to spite Sakusa for telling him to be quiet, and he still doesn’t know what it says about him that he likes to wind Sakusa up.

He considers the situation when he gets home to his apartment. Whenever he couldn’t figure something out—which was often—Samu used to make him cups of tea, and he always said it helped with getting brains warmed up. Atsumu had thought he was full of bullshit, but he did relish other people making him tea, because there was just something that felt different when someone else did it for him. He thinks it shows that they care, or something, unless they were poisoning him slowly over a number of years, because that would be a dick move. He’d definitely seen a documentary where someone had done exactly that.

Still, the older he gets the more he relishes a mug of hot tea and the time and space it allows him to focus—just for a little while, and it’s a welcome reprieve when focusing on the right things is normally so difficult. He has a mug he likes to use. It’s black and white and gold, and it fits nicely in his hands.

He doesn’t know what he did wrong with Sakusa. Was it the tone of his voice? Were they just not good enough friends? He’d thought they were close enough to handle a question like that.

He fumbles the mug as he goes to pick it up, and it hits the floor with one loud clink and then a second softer one. He knows before he looks that it's broken.

Tea splashes out around it, spreading slowly across the kitchen tiles. He watches it until it stops, then drops to his knees to investigate the damage. A weary sigh escapes when he sees the condition the mug is in.

The handle has snapped clean off. On the upside, it looks fixable, or Atsumu thinks it is anyway, but it will have to wait. The downside: his tea is everywhere and he's going to have to clean it unless he wants a sticky floor. He’ll have to save having tea for another time; he’s gone off the very idea of it now.

It’s fine. It’s never as good when he makes it himself, anyway.

Practice is tense the day after. Atsumu doesn’t want to say it’s his fault, but he feels out of sync with Sakusa compared to how they normally are. He starts by barking his usual, ‘if you can’t hit my tosses, you’re useless,’ but he knows that Sakusa is the exact opposite of useless, and is in fact very, very good, though he’d never say that part out loud. By the end of practice, he’s stopped with the yelling.

He makes a point of stopping Sakusa before he goes home at the end of the day, and says, “About yesterday. I-”

“You were being shitty,” Sakusa interrupts, and Atsumu stares with his mouth still open, blinking slowly and stupidly.

“Right, yeah,” he manages after a few more solid seconds of standing there like an idiot. It’s not the best answer he could give, but it’s the only one he has.

“I still don’t think I’m weird,” Sakusa adds, unprompted. Atsumu says nothing, for once in his life, and Sakusa takes it as a cue to continue. “It’s just how I am. I don’t owe you an explanation.”

Atsumu opens his mouth to reply, again, but finds the words caught in the folds of his throat. He hadn’t been asking for an explanation in the first place, he doesn’t want or need to know the intricacies of Sakusa’s whole—condition. All he’d wanted to know was why he acted differently inside the gym than he did outside of it.

“I put up with increased exposure here because I have to.” The answer to the unasked question comes before Atsumu can even think about rewording anything. “I don’t get to play if I wear a mask in there, because it makes it too hard to breathe. I don’t get to play if I have to stress about sterilising the ball, because it’s impractical, because I can’t guarantee I don’t touch the ball before anyone else in a given rally, and it slows down the pace of play so I’m not allowed to anyway. My teammates get pissed off if I ignore too many high-fives and pats on the back, so I put up with it even if I’d rather not. Do you get the picture now?”

All Atsumu can manage is, “I thought you said you didn’t owe me an explanation.”

“Then consider yourself lucky to have gotten one anyway.”

Atsumu isn’t sure what to make of it, but he thinks that maybe he understands Sakusa a little better than he did before.

He goes home with a smile on his face, and he fixes up his mug that evening.

~

There’s a mug Atsumu likes to use. It’s cracked around the handle from that time he dropped it on the kitchen tiles, but he glued it back together and he can barely tell the difference. The handle still works, it still sits flush against the side of the cup, and it still holds the coffee he drinks before practice.

The best bit is how, sometimes, Sakusa is here to make the coffee for him, and Atsumu gets to watch the careful movements of his shoulders, the way his muscles stretch and contract as he reaches up into the cupboards, the way his fingers flex as he stirs the granules into the hot water. He could watch forever, he thinks. He could have a lifetime of this and he would die a happy man.

It’s too early to think about things like that; he knows it is, but his heart wants what it wants and right now, this is what his heart wants. Just this. Always this.

He’d only managed to convince Sakusa into a date a few short weeks ago, and he isn’t actually entirely sure how he managed to make it all play out as it had.

He supposes it started when the team had been talking to a reporter—something about a video to put online, and Atsumu hadn’t really cared about who it was for or where it would end up—and the lady had asked a bunch of questions.

She’d asked who everyone’s favourite teammate was. Hinata said Bokuto. Bokuto said everyone was his favourite, but he was ‘especially extra fond’ of Hinata. They proceeded down the line of players, until they’d hit Sakusa, and Sakusa had rolled his eyes and said, “I think this is an unnecessary question.”

“What he means to say,” Atsumu interrupted from the seat next to Sakusa’s, “is that I’m his favourite and there’s just no contest. It’s me.”

The miraculous part was that Sakusa didn’t even argue, instead he just looked at Atsumu with the same perplexed expression that he usually did when he wasn’t gloating about something. The expression where he looked at Atsumu like he was was a puzzle he just couldn’t figure out yet.

“And who’s yours, Miya?” The reporter had asked.

“My favourite?” He made a show of standing up, pacing down the line of his teammates and inspecting the whole row of people who had spoken before him. None of them had named Atsumu as their favourite, but he wasn’t surprised at this—he’d had a lifetime of being ‘the difficult one’. He shrugged his shoulders when he sat again, having effectively stared down just about everyone, then jerked a thumb in Sakusa’s direction. “I guess Omi ain’t so bad. I’ve known him the longest anyway.”

“I’m so flattered,” Sakusa had said, and he’d probably thought it was under his breath, but Atsumu missed none of it, not the words nor the way Sakusa had rolled his eyes.

“You really should be flattered, Omi-Omi. I’m a fussy kinda guy! You always act like you don’t like me but I know the truth.”

Another one of those puzzled, pained looks, and Atsumu sure was confused by it, but he’d just slapped Sakusa on the back and put a grin on his face. That was another thing that confused him—how Sakusa had slowly been letting Atsumu into the bubble, and letting him touch in ways that other people were simply refused. Pats on the back off of the court were practically unheard of, and Atsumu had just been permitted to not only do it, but on a video recording.

He’d spent the entire rest of the session pushing his luck. He’d knocked their knees together and left them touching, leaned across Sakusa to talk to the others, close enough for their upper arms to brush, and at one point he’d heartily thrown his arm around Sakusa’s shoulders.

Sakusa hadn’t said a word about any of it, and in fact, he’d barely even reacted beyond the tiny little flinch the first time Atsumu had pressed his knee in close.

They finished up the session, and Atsumu made a promise to himself that he was going to figure out what on earth was going on.

It was a few weeks after that recording before anything else happened. Their routine was mostly unchanged; they practiced together (where they’d been getting more in sync), they made little verbal jabs (none of which even threatened to hurt anymore), they went to away games (which they usually won) and as always, Atsumu shared a room with Sakusa. It was the game against EJP where Atsumu supposes it all came to a head.

He had made it to the hotel room before Sakusa, and that meant he got the first pick of the beds. That was just how these things worked, and it always had been for as long as Atsumu had been alive, or could remember, or both.

So he’d left his things by the bed closest to the window; furthest from the door and the bathroom, and he’d flopped onto the bed. It was a double, so he stretched his arms out above his head and then spread them and his legs out as far as he could.This was the bed he’d wanted, after all, and so he was going to relax and take up as much space as physically possible.

Sakusa entered the room. Atsumu cracked an eye open and watched the way he frowned, the way his eyebrows pressed closer together. He watched Sakusa pull his mask away from his face and tuck it under his chin. He watched the way Sakusa licked his lips before he spoke.

“I would like that bed,” is how he phrased it. Atsumu thought maybe he could have said ‘please’. “I dunno Omi, I’m pretty damn comfortable here.” He looked up with a spun sugar smile, and sat himself upright just a little bit. “Is that not okay?”

“I really prefer having the bed furthest from the door,” Sakusa insisted. He paced forward, placing his things on the floor neatly beside where Atsumu’s were strewn. He sat —or rather perched—on the end of the bed, carefully avoiding Atsumu’s feet. “Please,” he finally added, and it was strained, like he didn’t really want to have to say it at all. Atsumu couldn’t say he blamed the guy.

He nudged Sakusa’s back with his toes as he pulled his feet in, sitting upright with his legs crossed under him. Sakusa seemed vaguely uncomfortable with the touch, and Atsumu watched him. He said nothing for several moments.

“Omi, if you wanted to share a bed, all you had to do was say so.” Atsumu’s tone was light, but the smile had fallen off of his face. This was one of those things, he’d decided, one of those things that weren’t weird but were particular. That was how he was thinking about it, instead, now. Particular. Sakusa was just particular.

“You know what I meant,” Sakusa insisted, and there was that look again, pained and puzzled and like there were things he wanted to say and didn’t know where to start. “Don’t be a dick, Miya.”

“I’m not being a dick!” Atsumu was indignant, scowling as he spoke. “I just want this bed. Is that too much to ask?”

Sakusa said nothing, instead carefully taking his shoes off. Atsumu watched him, and watched the way he drew his knees up, shuffling in towards the center of the bed.

“Miya,” he tried again. “I would really like to have this bed.”

“Why, though?” Sakusa groaned, and Atsumu raised an eyebrow. It wasn’t often that Sakusa expressed anything—other than a vague kind of panic when things got too busy for him to handle—so this was new. Frustration was new.

“I just—” Sakusa cut himself off with an irritated noise, and he laid down, reaching behind him for a pillow which he clutched to his chest. He closed his eyes, and Atsumu thought he almost looked peaceful, if it wasn’t for the worry that creased his eyebrows. “I hate talking about it. I’ve told you before I don’t need to give you explanations for things that help me.”

“I know you hate talking about it. It’s written all over your face.” He half hoped for an explanation anyway, like last time, but he didn’t want to ask.

“Shut up,” Sakusa snapped, making that same irritated noise. He took a few deep, steadying breaths and then said, “I know it’s stupid, but I need this bed because it’s furthest from the door, and it’s furthest from the bathroom, and that means you’re not going to be in my space as much.”

“Oh, so I’m the problem?” Atsumu demanded, scowling. How could he? He’d been nothing but understanding ever since Sakusa had told him about his issues in the first place! “If you don’t wanna room with me, Sakusa, you can just say so. Fuck. I thought we were friends!”

“That isn’t what I said,” Sakusa answered, with all the weariness a decade of dealing with these kinds of reactions fostered. He opened his eyes to hold Atsumu’s gaze, and it was clear he was trying his best to stay calm, despite what he obviously thought was a stupid argument. “I just like knowing that there isn’t someone coming and going through my space all the time. If I have the one furthest from the door, it doesn’t matter if you decide to get up and leave in the middle of the night, or if you want to come and go five times, or if you decide you have a tiny bladder again like that time you got drunk. You don’t pass through my space, and that is—that’s so helpful, for me.”

“Oh.” Atsumu was quiet, and he had said it almost stupidly. Phrased like that, it kind of made sense. Sure, he still didn’t get it, not really, but something about it seemed… reasonable?

“It’s not about you,” Sakusa added, still carefully looking over Atsumu’s face. What he was looking for, Atsumu didn’t know, but he kept his expression as neutral and non-judgemental as he possibly could. “It would be the same with anyone.”

“Everything’s about me,” Atsumu quipped, picking up a pillow to fling in Sakusa’s direction. Sakusa batted it away easily. “Including this, obviously, because I am the center of your entire world.”

There’s that puzzled expression. Again.

He couldn’t help it. He had to ask. “Why d’you keep making that face?”

Sakusa quickly schooled himself back to that blank, disinterested expression. “What face?”

“The one you just put away, duh.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Atsumu wasn’t sure that he was going to get a chance like this again, and so he pushed. He had to.

“No, Sakusa,” He said. “You make a face just like this.” He did his best approximation of it. “You did it just now when I said I’m the center of your world, you did it when I said we could share a bed, and you did it back in that interview when I said I was your favourite and—oh.”

It’s just a pained expression this time. Sakusa’s cheeks went the faintest shade of dusty pink, and he looked like he might be ready to throw himself out of the window. He moved like he was going to get to his feet, but Atsumu was too fast for him, and grabbed hold of his wrist.

“Don’t you fucking move.” He said it as he shifted, swinging his legs out and throwing one of them over Omi’s in order to straddle his thighs. Ha. He couldn’t go anywhere now, or not easily anyway. “I’m fucking right, aren’t I? That’s why you’re not even squirming.”

Because Sakusa really wasn’t squirming. Where anyone else doing anything like the stunt Atsumu had just pulled would get some kind of reaction, Sakusa was still, with his fingers gripping into the pillow he still held clutched to his chest. His knuckles were going white, and Atsumu leaned forward to run his thumbs across them.

“I’m not mad,” He continued, because it sure seemed like Sakusa didn’t want to say much of anything at all. “I just want you to say it.”

“What do you want me to say?” Sakusa finally managed after several long, uncomfortable seconds of silence.

“That you’re into me.”

“Why do you want me to say it?”

“‘Cause it’s true and if you say it, I’ll take you out on a date.”

Another long stretch of silence, long enough that Atsumu had actually gotten worried that he’d broken Sakusa entirely. He went to speak, but Sakusa heaved a shaky breath and whispered so quietly that Atsumu had to strain to hear it. “I hate this, I hate you, I hate that you’re sitting on me,” and then, louder, “I don’t know what possessed me to be into you but here we are.”

“Aw, Omi-Omi, you can fight it but you can’t resist forever,” Atsumu grinned, and something warm and pleasant thrummed through his veins, all the way from the tips of his ears, down his limbs.

“Can you get off now and stop embarrassing me?” Sakusa had raised the pillow to hide his face, so his words were muffled underneath it.

“Sorry, I can’t hear you! What was that?” That same fun, delicious, irritated noise and Sakusa threw the pillow at Atsumu’s face. “I said can you get off and stop embarrassing me!”

It was the most passionate that Atsumu had ever heard Sakusa, and so he rolled off of him only to flop down beside him instead. “I mean, you say I’m embarrassing you kind of a lot.”

“No, I tell you you’re an embarrassment. There’s a difference.”

“Ow, my ego.” Atsumu raised a hand dramatically to his chest, clutching at his heart.

“Shut up.”

“How’m I supposed to ask you to go for coffee with me if I’m shutting up?”

Sakusa narrowed his eyes, glancing over at Atsumu. “I prefer tea,” He ventured.

“Then how’m I supposed to ask you to go for tea with me if I’m shutting up?”

Another pause that seemed to stretch years even though it was only seconds. “Atsumu, do you want to go get tea, sometime? As a not-teammates thing?”

Atsumu thought maybe that counted as him having asked Sakusa out, even though it was Sakusa who’d actually asked the question.

In any case, it’s led him to now, where Sakusa is preparing coffee for Atsumu and tea for himself. Atsumu has a whole cupboard full of tea now, blends he can’t name and flavours he doesn’t like, but which Sakusa does. It’s only been six weeks since their first date, six weeks since Atsumu had learned that Sakusa prefers Earl Grey, six weeks since he’d quietly taken Sakusa’s hand under the table at the cafe that Sakusa had picked out and run his fingers across pale knuckles, six weeks since a hurried, chaste little kiss followed by, “I’m sorry,” from Atsumu.

Then, “I’m not. I’ve wanted you to do it this whole time,” from Sakusa.

It’s only been six weeks, but it feels like a lifetime. Atsumu means it in a good way—it’s like Sakusa has been here forever, or like Atsumu was waiting for him to be here forever, because he just fit into Atsumu’s life like it was no problem at all, like he was coming home from being away for so long.

He can’t resist it anymore. Between the errant curls of dark hair at Sakusa’s neck contrasting with pale, pale skin, and the sinewy muscle of his shoulders and arms, Atsumu is gone. He stands and makes his way across the kitchen. His hands find either side of Sakusa’s waist, and he presses short kisses to the back of Sakusa’s neck.

“You’re going to make me spill tea everywhere,” Sakusa warns.

“Put the teapot down and pay attention to me then,” Atsumu counters, pinching impatiently at Sakusa’s sides, and mouthing much more insistently at his nape.

Sakusa sighs, but he turns, leaning back against the countertop and placing two fingers under Atsumu’s chin to pull him up for a peck. “There,” he says, “Are you happy?”

“No,” Atsumu answers, though he needn’t have said it, because he runs his hands up Sakusa’s sides until they reach his cheeks, and he pulls him in for something much deeper, much longer and much more insistent.

Sakusa doesn’t protest, letting his arms fall to loosely circle Atsumu’s middle as they kiss.

It’s funny how quickly things go from relatively innocent to heated and wanting and urgent, or so Atsumu thinks. One second it’s an insistent but innocent closed-mouth smooch against the counter, and the next it’s mouths open—tongues meeting—heart pounding—barely breathing.

Atsumu presses in closer, and—oh. There’s something hot and heavy and hard pressing back against his stomach. He trails one of his hands down Sakusa’s neck, down his chest, runs his fingers along the waistband of his sweatpants and snaps the elastic back against Sakusa’s skin. He pulls away just to breathe, “Let me take care of that for you.” It’s the wrong thing to say, and Atsumu knows it from the way Sakusa tenses under him.

“No,” he says firmly.

“Why not?” Atsumu’s hand still lingers at the waistband, unwilling to stray too far just yet. Had he done something wrong? They’d been having a good morning, or Atsumu thought they’d been having one until just now.

“I said no.” Sakusa is more insistent, this time, and he jerks away from Atsumu’s hold.

“You always say no.” It comes out harsher than he means it to, and he knows he’s fucked up in a major way when Sakusa doesn’t say anything else at all. A tiny fuck-up would get him a clip around the ear, or a telling-off. Atsumu has only ever seen Sakusa quiet like this when there are big problems.

“I’m sorry,” he tries, turning around to face Sakusa where he stands in the middle of the room.

“You’re not,” is the answer, and Atsumu hates it, because he’s right. Or at least partially right. He’s sorry that he’s evidently done something to upset Sakusa, but he’s just pissed off that he doesn’t know what it is yet. Or why Sakusa keeps pushing him away the second that he tries to go any further than maybe a little bit of tongue. He’s stayed the night and shared Atsumu’s bed at least a dozen times since that first date, but he’s barely been able to go any further, and for what?

“Okay, so maybe I’m not sorry.” Atsumu grants him it—he’s not wrong, after all. “I’m not sorry I said it. You do always say no.”

“Is that a problem for you?” Atsumu is so taken aback by the question that it stuns him into silence for several long seconds. Of course it’s a fucking problem, that’s why he said it in the first place. What part of that wasn’t obvious?

“Yes,” is what he says, though he wants to shout that he’s had enough of getting blue-balled, and if this was some extended version of foreplay then he could’ve gotten into it if he’d just known that it was going to happen, but this version of it is really shit because there’s no end in sight.

Sakusa stands up straight to his full height and stares Atsumu down. His arms are folded across his chest. He says nothing.

“It’s a problem when you won’t tell me what the fuck is going on,” Atsumu continues. It’s his best attempt at being reasonable when the whole situation feels unreasonable to start with. “Just fucking talk to me!”

“I don’t want to talk about this when you’re ang—”

“I’m not angry!” Atsumu interrupts, scowling, but he knows from his own tone of voice that he hasn’t done himself any favours.

“I don’t want to talk about this when you’re angry,” Sakusa repeats. Atsumu doesn’t know how to read his expression, because he’s doing that thing where there’s obviously something on his mind, where he’s obviously feeling something but he’s doing his best to hide it. “I’m going to go for a run. We can talk after.”

“Fine!” Atsumu shouts, “Fucking walk away instead of talking to me!” He flings his arm out, and he hears the clinking of china being smashed and the slosh of liquid. Delayed, he registers the heat spreading through his knuckles and down the rest of his hand.

Sakusa makes a move like he’s going to come over and Atsumu huffs and waves him away. “Forget it,” he grunts. “Go for your run.”

Sakusa sighs, and gives him a look that Atsumu thinks might be an attempt at an apology as he leaves.

Atsumu pulls his hand back in towards his body and examines his knuckles. He’s not unused to his hands feeling off—he’s sprained his fingers more times than he can count—but it’s rare for it to be his knuckles that feel weird. He shakes them out, curls his hand into a fist a couple of times and waggles his fingers one by one. It doesn’t hurt too bad, so he’ll probably get away with some minor redness and nothing more.

He hears his apartment door click shut. He isn’t sure how long Sakusa will be gone, but he knows he has both a literal and a metaphorical mess to clean up, and so he gets to work.

The handle of his mug has broken again. Not only did it fall back off, but it’s cracked in two horizontally, and there’s a hairline fracture on the inside of the mug, too.

He rinses it in the sink and sets the pieces to the side on the windowsill. He can get to it later. He thinks it’s fixable. It is.

Next up is cleaning the lukewarm coffee which has managed to get everywhere, including but not limited to all over the countertop, dripping off the edge down onto the floor, and onto Atsumu’s clothes. Paper towels do a solid job of soaking up most of the liquid, and he tosses them into the trash when he’s done. Then, he takes a clean cloth to the countertop, running it in methodical circles.

He’d never thought cleaning could be a soothing exercise before he’d met Sakusa—or rather, before he’d let Sakusa into his apartment and then helped him clean the place up to his exacting standards.

Sakusa had told him once that he wasn’t an easy person to be with. Atsumu thinks he finally understands what that means. But he thinks that the best things in life aren’t easy anyway.

He goes for a shower when he’s finished with the cleaning. He doesn’t strictly need one, considering he’d had one straight after his morning run—he knows, now, that he is more of a morning person than Sakusa is, which felt surprising at the time and now just feels like routine—but he feels his words crawling on his skin and he feels dirty for having said it, for having pushed at buttons he should have known better than to press.

Hot water scalds his skin pink, but it takes away the worst of the itch that lingers. He has always maintained that a good shower is enough to help him clear his head, if only because it forces him to focus when his mind is so prone to distraction.

He steps out of the water stream when he’s done feeling sorry for himself.

He wraps himself in a fluffy towel, sits on the edge of the bathtub and stares at the floor. He isn’t quite sure how long he sits, but it’s long enough that the top of his hair is starting to dry off, and long enough that he’s gone around the carousel of did I do something wrong or is Omi overreacting or what if it’s both more than once. He’s lifted from his stupor by a knock from his front door. Sakusa. He’s sat here feeling sorry for himself long enough that his not-boyfriend has returned from the run he only took because he didn’t want to share breathing space with him any longer.

He throws his clothes back on as quickly as he can manage and makes his way over to the door, flinging it open wide. He steps aside to let Sakusa back in, and tries not to be offended at the way Sakusa clicks his tongue and says, “I really thought you weren’t going to let me back in.”

“I took a shower,” Atsumu offers by way of explanation. And even if he had decided not to let Sakusa back in, who was to say that that was a bad thing? “I can see that,” Sakusa says, and Atsumu can’t read his expression or the tone of his voice. He wants to believe it’s a light-hearted comment, almost like a joke, like it’s funny, ‘haha, yes I can see the end of your hair is wet,’ but he’s got that deadpan tone. Sakusa never gives anything away and it’s still the most impressive thing Atsumu’s ever seen, but it’s frustrating, too.

They stand in the hallway and eye each other for several long seconds. Sakusa breaks first, and asks, “Can I use the shower?”

“Course,” Atsumu answers, and then, “You can borrow some clothes, too. Help yourself.”

He doesn’t know whether Sakusa will take up the offer—he probably has some special kind of laundry detergent he uses, or something, or maybe he’d just prefer to slip back into his own clothes, even if they were damp from sweat. Atsumu wouldn’t blame him.

He debates what to do for all of thirty seconds, then decides the least he can offer is to make Sakusa some tea. He never drank his Earl Grey before he left, and Atsumu knows exactly how nice it is to drink tea that someone else has made—so maybe, just maybe, it would be a nice gesture.

He paces back into the kitchen. He doesn’t really know what he’s doing with tea that isn’t in a bag that he’s just supposed to swirl in hot water, but he’s watched Sakusa prep his tea leaves enough times that he thinks he can handle it.

He tries to copy the steps he’s watched Sakusa take. He empties out the kettle and puts fresh water in, and turns it on. When the water is boiled, he swirls some of it in the ceramic teapot to warm it, and then dumps it out. He waits, patiently, for two minutes to let the water cool so that he doesn’t burn the tea, and in the meantime he puts the leaves into the strainer. He isn’t sure how many to put, so he eyeballs it, decides it isn’t enough and puts some more in. Sakusa would tell him he was being stupid, if he were watching, but he isn’t, and so Atsumu persists. He wants to do this, and he wants it to be right. If it isn’t, he’ll just have to learn. There’s bound to be a video somewhere which can teach him.

He puts the strainer into position, and with the water appropriately cooled he pours it into the teapot and places the lid on top.

He thinks he’s done it right. He isn’t sure, but he brings the teapot to the table with a matching cup. Sakusa doesn’t take milk with Earl Grey—he says it ruins the tea.

Atsumu re-boils the kettle to make himself a coffee with instant granules. He drowns the bitterness with too much milk and too many sugars.

He sits at the kitchen table, and he waits, wondering if the tea is steeping for too long.

When Sakusa reappears, he’s clad in clothes that definitely do not belong to him. Atsumu can only tell by the way the fabric pulls around Sakusa’s shoulders—just a little—and the way the sweatpants brush his ankles instead of covering them. It sends a jolt of something hot right through him, and he barely resists the urge to let out a low whistle. This is not the time, he knows it isn’t, not when there’s still much to discuss. He gestures to the teapot on the table and opens his mouth to speak, but nothing comes out.

Sakusa takes a seat opposite him and touches his knuckles to the teapot, then opens the lid to peer inside. Atsumu watches with rapt attention the way Sakusa’s fingers move with precision, as he wraps them around a delicate ceramic handle, the way his other hand cradles the teapot just underneath the spout.

He watches the dark liquid pour out in a tidy stream, and he watches the way Sakusa nods. He looks up, eyes scanning Sakusa’s face for some indication of an opinion, and he thinks he sees a soft smile.

“Thank you for the tea,” Sakusa says, and Atsumu can feel himself melt, just a little bit.

“Is it okay?” Atsumu sits up just a little bit taller so that he can peer into the cup. “I couldn’t tell if I was doing it right, I just tried to copy the way you do it.”

“You’ve done a good job.”

Atsumu tries his best not to smile too widely at the praise.

A quiet sets over them, only saved from real silence by the hum of the refrigerator, the soft clink of ceramic against the table, the quiet smack as Atsumu opens his mouth to speak and then changes his mind.

He’s never been good with quiet, and when he grew up with a double, he’d never needed to learn. Sakusa saves him from it once he’s finished with his first cup of tea, and he speaks as he pours himself a second. “We should talk about what you said.”

“I want to,” Atsumu is quick to reply, and he downs the rest of his coffee like it might actually make his brain work for this conversation in the way that is needed. He doesn’t actually want to talk. He’s learned in the past that if he brushes away things that annoy him then they don’t usually come back—except Sakusa, while an annoyance, is an annoyance he wants to have around for a long time. Sakusa bites down on his bottom lip, eyebrows creased like he’s considering something.

“I told you before that I’m not easy to be with.” He says it slowly, carefully, like the words he’s biting into are ones he’s unsure about tasting again. “This is part of that.” “I don’t get it,” Atsumu says. He does get it, sort of, but he wants Sakusa to keep talking, and he doesn’t know what kind of questions he wants to ask, or what he’s allowed to ask so that he doesn’t just piss Sakusa off again.

Sakusa considers him, expressionless as always. “What I mean,” he finally elaborates, picking up his tea and wrapping both hands, all his slender fingers around it. Atsumu wonders if it’s just to have something to do with his hands, for he doesn’t take a sip. “Is—” He bites down on his lip. “Most people can’t put up with how long it takes me to feel comfortable with that kind of thing, or how often I’m able to do it.” Atsumu considers it, but Sakusa interrupts him before he can get very far.

“What I mean to say,” Sakusa says, “is that I think other people won’t put up with it.”

“You think I won’t put up with it?” Atsumu asks. He’d put up with anything, he thinks.

“That’s not what I mean. It’s not about you.”

Sakusa had said that before, or something similar, Atsumu recalls. Back when he’d been trying to explain why he preferred having the furthest bed from the door.

“Okay,” Atsumu says. He leaves it open for Sakusa to explain more.

“I can’t help the way I think, sometimes,” Sakusa elaborates after a long few seconds of staring into his teacup. “I have a…” His voice trails off.

Atsumu presses this time, though he knows he probably shouldn’t. He never could resist doing things he wasn’t supposed to. “You have a what?”

“A condition,” Sakusa finally relents. “You know this already.”

Sure, he ‘knows’ about it, but it’s very different to ‘know’ and to know. “Okay. And this is part of the condition?”

“I have issues with—” Sakusa doesn’t finish his sentence, eyes rolling up to look at the ceiling as though it might provide him an answer. “—Intimacy. And I have other issues too. Part of it is that I try to pre-empt what people are going to do, or say, or think.” A short pause, and Atsumu watches the divot appear in his cheek where he bites down on the inside. He watches Sakusa’s eyes return to his teacup and avoid his own. Sakusa doesn’t meet his eyes when he speaks again either. “I’m seeing a therapist and I have medication I take every day.”

The words hang in the air for a couple of moments, until Atsumu asks, “So when you freaked out earlier—” Sakusa raises his eyes and stares at Atsumu instead. That motion is enough to stop Atsumu in his tracks. It cuts through him, red hot, and Atsumu feels something flare up his cheeks.

“I know you didn’t know, but I don’t like when it’s called that,” Sakusa explains, and Atsumu can only blink stupidly until he realises what Sakusa means.

“Oh,” he says. “You mean the ‘freak out’ thing?” Sakusa nods, and Atsumu feels terrible for having said it a second time. All he can do is look at Sakusa, and he expects a suggestion of a better phrasing, but nothing comes.

Atsumu hates the silence so he tries again anyway. “So when you, uh...” He pauses, furrowing his eyebrows as he thinks about a different phrasing, “panicked?” He stops halfway through his question in order to ask another; he so badly wants to get the wording right, does not actually want to prod Sakusa where he’s obviously very fragile.

Sakusa nods, so Atsumu tries the question again. “So when you panicked earlier, it’s because you’re not ready to—what, do anything more than kissing?”

Sakusa nods, but he looks like he wants to say something. He bites down on his lower lip, worries it between his teeth until he finally murmurs, “Yes, and then I thought you would be angry about it.”

Angry isn’t the word Atsumu would use, but he doesn’t know a word that explains everything he’s thinking, doesn’t know a word that can express the relief that it’s not something personal or specific to Atsumu as a person, but also explains that he just wants Sakusa to be comfortable and he’ll do whatever that takes—yet also explains that he’s frustrated because he really, really likes sex and the intimacy that it necessitates and he really, really wants to do it with Sakusa.

He doesn’t know a word like that, and he doesn’t think he can explain himself out loud anyway, so he just nods. “I’m not angry. Don’t worry.”

“Easier said than done,” Sakusa says, but it’s with a hint of a smile, Atsumu thinks, so he’s not all that worried.

“I know,” He answers anyway. He presses his lips together in a thin line, then licks them before he speaks again. “Hey, Omi?”

“Yes?”

“Can I like, hug you?”

Sakusa considers him. Atsumu feels like he’s under a microscope, but soon he’s given the all-clear, and they get to their feet. Atsumu makes his way around the table and he throws his arms around Sakusa’s shoulders, tucking his face in where a long, pale neck meets a collarbone. Sakusa’s arms are tentative, but they loop around his middle and he interlocks his fingers at the small of Atsumu’s back. “I’m sorry,” Atsumu whispers.

He only knows he’s loud enough to be heard because Sakusa murmurs, “It’s okay. You didn’t know,” back at him.

“I can wait.” Atsumu is louder this time, more insistent, pulling his face back just enough that he can just about see Sakusa’s face clearly.

“You don’t have to, though. I know it’s not—” Sakusa cuts himself off, clearly unsure. “—It’s not easy to wait, all the time.”

“I don’t care.”

He may come to regret it, when he’s four months in and still jerking off by himself, when Sakusa is so devastatingly handsome and right there, literally within touching distance and yet still untouchable in so many ways—but Atsumu has spent the majority of his life making stupid decisions and saying stupid things. Besides—even if he has to wait half a year, or a year, or practically their whole lives before he can make Sakusa comfortable enough to indulge in anything more than making out on the couch or the countertops, he thinks it’ll be worth it. It’ll all be worth it to see Sakusa come undone before him, to see a part of him that nobody else is ever allowed to.

“You should care.” Sakusa’s voice is quiet, but Atsumu thinks he’s pleased all the same. “Mm, well, I don’t,” Atsumu reiterates, leaning up to steal a short kiss, catching Sakusa’s lower lip between his own. “I’d wait forever, Omi-Omi.”

He hopes he doesn’t have to.

...

He doesn’t have to.

~

“Are you sure you’re okay with this?” Omi has asked him the question for the fifteenth time today, and it’s everything Atsumu can do not to snap. He’s knee deep in cardboard boxes, sweaty from packing away his things—god, why does he have so many things? Suddenly he understands why Samu had been talking about doing the ‘spark joy’ cleaning technique at his and Suna’s apartment—and he regrets not starting sooner, but he really hadn’t known where to start.

“If I wasn’t fine with it, I would have told the landlord I was extending the contract another six months.” Atsumu says it with all the grace he can muster, but that isn’t a lot. Omi stares up at him with wide eyes like he doesn’t actually believe a word Atsumu is saying.

“Omi,” he says, sinking down to kneel beside Omi, who’s currently doing a very good job of putting Atsumu’s comic books in boxes in numerical order. “Baby, I wouldn’t have said yes if I wasn’t sure.”

Omi considers it. “But nothing that I wanted was the same as what you wanted.”

“The most important thing to me is that you’re comfortable.” Atsumu has said it a million times, he thinks; he has told Omi over and over that he doesn’t care about a lot of this stuff, not enough to kick up a fuss about it, not any more. He had gotten used to Omi wanting to engage in sex maybe twice a month if he was lucky; he had gotten used to the cleaning routine he had to follow before Omi came over to visit; he had gotten used to exactly which brands of products Omi preferred.

He would get used to this as well.

‘This’ being the apartment they’re moving into, together. Atsumu had tried to play it off as a convenience thing, to start with. His contract was coming to an end, and so he’d approached Omi about moving in together, maybe. Omi had been reluctant, but Omi was reluctant to do just about everything ever, so Atsumu had tried not to take it too personally. It had come to a head when they actually started talking about specifics, though.

Atsumu had always wanted something swanky. Their salaries with the Jackals were good—especially for just getting to do something he loved all day every day—but they weren’t that good. The dreams of a lush top floor penthouse might have been out of reach; but a two-bedroom apartment with access to a communal swimming pool and gym, and a nice big lounge with room for a big TV, and a really nice bathroom with a big bath he could sink down into? That seemed feasible. He’d like to be the upbeat part of town, too, with all the cool little restaurants nearby, the fun shops that Atsumu blew every paycheck in. Those things were doable, heck, between the two of them it was easy. And there would totally be enough left over to put into savings, for holidays, or for when they got old and weren’t pretty any more (though Atsumu thought he would always find Omi pretty no matter how old they got). There was no reason not to indulge in what he wanted.

Except there was. Atsumu wasn’t convinced there had ever been two people who were more completely opposed in what they’d been looking for.

Omi’s idea of an ideal home was somewhere small, a one-bed, in a quiet part of town - he’d picked out a couple of potential areas—and they all happened to be near his therapist. It was a cheaper part of town than living more centrally, and so Atsumu had talked about upscaling the size of the apartment. Omi refused. He complained that a bigger place to live meant more time spent cleaning, and if they went with something the size of what Atsumu wanted, then they’d never be done. Atsumu had talked about somewhere pet friendly so they could get a cat. Omi reminded him that cats shed fur, which was difficult to clean at the best of times. Dogs were out for the same reason. Fish seemed reasonable, and easy to keep alive even with their travel schedules, but Atsumu didn’t want to have to stick his hand in a tank to clean, and there was no way Omi was going to add it to his list of chores.

Atsumu normally wouldn’t admit he needed help and he didn’t like doing it, but he had wound up calling Samu to help him work his way through the situation. Like it or not, Samu was a voice of reason, (at least sometimes). It was Samu he called when he got the offer for the Jackals, it was Samu he spoke to after his first truly terrible game, and it was Samu who Atsumu told first when he and Omi had ‘gone official’.

And so, Atsumu explained all of this over the phone to him as well; his concerns, the fact he wasn’t getting what he wanted in a shared apartment, the questions he had about moving in with a significant other. The works.

Samu went quiet as he considered it, then finally asked, “What are you willing to give up to be with him?”

“Everything.”

“Then there’s your answer.” He’d said it like it was simple and like Atsumu was stupid for not having thought about it that way. Maybe it was simple, and maybe he was stupid—but Atsumu didn’t really think it was simple at all.

He’d thought about it long and hard. Weeks, it had taken, and it was only when Omi had sat him down with shaky hands, staring into a familiar teacup, and asked if he’d changed his mind or if Atsumu was breaking up with him that he’d reached any sort of conclusion.

Atsumu had always made homes out of other people rather than places, and by god he was going to make Omi his home.

And so he relented. Not without argument, not without weeks of pulling together potential compromises, not without a nagging at the back of his mind, quietly, a voice that sounded a little like his mother and how she always used to say are you sure this is a good idea when he’d been about to do something stupid. Except she used to say it when he decided to climb trees barefoot and when he went back for third helpings of dinner, not when making big decisions. She had always trusted him to make the right choice.

He wasn’t sure he was, now.

He’d read somewhere that couples often picked up each other’s habits. Omi had started putting his feet up on the sofa when he never used to before. Atsumu had gained the power of thinking things through a little more, even if it sometimes meant overthinking things. He was overthinking this whole thing. He was sure of it.

Omi made him happy. He could see a future here, a dynamic duo that people would tell stories about, the kind of pair that volleyball fans would look back on and say yeah, remember them? They were great. And sure, maybe the personal part of their lives would be remembered less fondly, if at all, but that was okay. He was happy. Omi made him happy.

Because of that fact, Atsumu wound up agreeing to everything. A smaller apartment, on a lower floor. No residents-only swimming pool. No spare bedroom, but he did manage to convince Omi to get a fold-out sofa bed so that people could stay if they really needed to.

This was the sensible thing in the long-run anyway—Omi was right. They saved money this way, and since there was no guarantee of a long or particularly successful career, that had to be for the best. He’d be able to look back on this moment when he retired and be thankful that he hadn’t blown every last yen. He still booked a very extravagant holiday to Hawaii for the two of them, though, and told Omi it was cheaper than it really was.

Omi had been relentless since then with checking in that this apartment was what Atsumu wanted. It felt like every week had brought a new round of questioning and a new way for Atsumu to get out of it if he wanted to.

“I re-read the contract,” was how it was phrased the first time. “It says we can cancel up until six weeks before we move in and we don’t have to surrender much of the deposit.”

“Omi, it’s fine, I promise.”

The second time: “I think I could tell them that we broke up and we’d be able to cancel but we’d have to lose the deposit.”

“Omi, I don’t want you to even think about something like that, even if it’s pretend. I want to move in.”

The third time, Omi had been quiet and pensive over breakfast. He hadn’t been himself at practice—to the point that even Hinata asked him what was wrong. It was with a quiet voice that he’d later admitted, “I just feel bad that you keep giving up so much for me.”

Atsumu had wanted to yell, had wanted to scream that he wasn’t happy about giving any of these things up but that he’d be fine—he’d never wanted any of this in the first place and he was coping just fine. But instead he said nothing of the sort, and he reiterated the same messages as before. “It’s fine. I want this. You’re overthinking things.”

“But you said before-”

“I don’t care what I said before. Do you trust me now?”

Omi had pulled a face before he finally said, “I trust you more than anyone else, yes. Are you just asking me so I say something nice?” “No, I’m asking you so that when I ask you to trust me on this too, you’ll do it.”

He’d really thought it’d worked, too, except here he is, up to his ears in moving boxes and having the same conversation again.

“I just—” Omi goes to speak again, refusing to meet Atsumu’s eyes until Atsumu is right up in his face. There’s nowhere to hide, now.

“You just what, Omi? What is it you’re not telling me?” The frustration seeps in at the edges of his voice, and he tries his best to pull it back. “Are you trying to tell me that you don’t want this anymore? Is that what this is?”

“That’s not it.” Omi’s eyes go wide, and his hands fly to Atsumu’s face, cupping his cheeks. “No, no, that’s not it, you’re wrong.

“Then what?”

Omi is quiet for a very long time. So long that Atsumu isn’t sure that he hadn’t missed Omi speaking entirely, but he waits. Eventually, Omi opens his mouth again.

“I’m just so worried you’re going to get tired of me.” It’s quiet, more tender than Atsumu has perhaps ever seen him before, and he isn’t sure what to make of it. “You’re giving up everything all the time to be with me and I don’t think that’s good for you and I don’t think it’s right.”

Atsumu furrows his eyebrows and considers his options. He bites the inside of his cheek as he thinks, then asks with a frown, “Are you still taking your meds?”

The fact that Omi doesn’t answer immediately is an answer in its own right, and Atsumu’s frown deepens. “Omi, babe, it’s no wonder you’re overthinking this much if you’ve stopped.”

“It’s not like I was stopping for a bad reason,” Omi counters, and Atsumu watches the way his hands ball up into fists.

“Then why?”

Omi falls quiet again, and Atsumu wonders if it’s because his reasoning is terrible and he knows it. So when Omi says, “I’ve been doing it for you.” Atsumu reels back, falling back onto his ass on the floor.

“For me,” he repeats.

“For you.”

“How is it for me?” He scans Omi’s face for some sign that it’s a joke, except he finds nothing of the sort, and he isn’t sure how to cope with it.

“I don’t like how they make me feel.”

“I’m going to need you to be more specific for me, babe. Why?”

Another long pause, and Atsumu is growing impatient but he bites it back.

It all comes rushing out in one go, with no pause for breath. “I read that one of the side effects of the medication is a lower sex drive and I know that you need it more often than I do I’m sorry I was trying to help.”

Atsumu stares. They haven’t talked about this in a long time—it’s been at least three months since the last conversation. He only remembers because he bleaches his hair on a six-weekly schedule and it had been two bleachings ago.

Three whole months. Has it been three whole months since Omi had last taken a pill? It’s only been a week since they last fucked and Atsumu feels dirty about it now, like he’s somehow coerced Omi into doing this. Except—he’s been so careful to say that he doesn’t mind what happens, that he doesn’t mind if they have long dry spells because that’s what hands are for, that he doesn’t mind the whole thing where sometimes Omi can’t actually finish because it doesn’t mean he’s not having a good time with it. He’s been so careful, and for what? Omi’s put his whole goddamn health in danger.

He opens his mouth to talk, but nothing comes out, and Omi interrupts him anyway, with a “Don’t be mad.”

“I’m not mad.” The words are out before Atsumu is conscious of it, and he thinks it’s true? He’s just concerned. “I just—” He struggles to think of the right question, because there are dozens running through his head. “Did you talk to your therapist about this?”

Omi shakes his head and Atsumu heaves a sigh before he asks, “Are you going to?”

“Are you going to keep patronising me?” Atsumu balks at the accusation and Omi continues, “You keep using that tone of voice you use when you’re talking to those kiddie fans you don’t want to deal with.”

“I’m just trying to understand why the fuck you’d stop taking medication that’s been helping you,” Atsumu practically shouts, the residual annoyance of the earlier conversation finally bubbling over. “And without talking to me about it? How do you think I feel knowing you’re hurting yourself and doing it because you think it’s what I want?”

“It’s not about you—”

“You can’t keep saying it isn’t about me!” Not this again. Not this fucking argument, not again. “You keep saying you’d do this with anyone, but you’re not with anyone, you’re with me.”

“Atsumu—”

“Don’t ‘Atsumu’ me,” he says, mimicking the tone that Omi had used. “All I fucking want is for you to be happy and healthy, understand? And that means taking your goddamn meds when the doctors tell you to, the same way it means resting your fucked up shoulder—don’t give me that look, yes, I know about your shoulder.”

Omi says nothing, and Atsumu thinks perhaps he’s won the argument, except Omi is still looking at him like he’s angry. “Why is it about what you want for me? Why can’t I make my own decisions?”

“You can but—”

“You had your turn, shut up.” Atsumu falls quiet, though he doesn’t particularly want to, and Omi continues. “Why do you get to decide what medical advice I listen to? You’re not a doctor. You barely even finished high school.”

Atsumu gets to his feet and kicks a cardboard box. It isn’t satisfying, because it’s fucking full. He hears ceramic dishware tinkle against each other, and snarls, “Not all of us can go to university and get a fancy education in Tokyo.”

Atsumu had never felt like he’d made the wrong decisions before. He’d very rarely felt like he wasn’t capable or smart enough to get by, but that one pointed jab was enough to make him wonder if he really wasn’t.

Omi has the decency to look guilty, and he stares at his hands as he speaks again, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it—”

“You did though. You don’t say anything you don’t mean.”

“Fine, but can’t you at least see why I’m angry at you?”

Atsumu kicks another box, empty this time, and it goes flying, and he’s far more satisfied with it this time than he was with the last one, with the way it crumples by his foot and lands askew in the hallway. He paces to the end of the room, and back, hand clenched into a fist because it’s better than actually destroying something just because.

“Yes,” he finally admits through gritted teeth. “But can’t you see why I’m frustrated with you?”

Omi considers it, scowling at the spines of the comics he’d been so methodically packing away. “I suppose.”

“You suppose,” Atsumu repeats, unsure of what it’s supposed to mean.

“I mean I know you have a point but I don’t want to tell you that you have a point.”

That feels like a step in the right direction, and Atsumu sits himself back down several feet away from Omi. “Look,” he says, forcing his jaw to unclench. He shuffles a little bit closer, taking one long look at Omi and feeling a pang of guilt in his stomach. “I just worry about you, y’know?”

“I know.”

“And I just want you to be happy.”

“I know that too. But I want you to be happy, too.”

“You already make me the happiest guy alive, babe.” It was soft, and Atsumu knew it was soft, but he’d had to learn that soft didn’t equal bad—not when he knew now that Omi so often needed softness and not sharp edges.

“But you could be happier, you should be—“

“I should be nothing. You’re doing that thing, right, that thing you told me your therapist told you about where you say people should do things, or that you should do something. I’m happy. That’s all that matters.”

Omi considers him, huffs out a breath and says, “You’re a dick,” but it’s said with a smile gentle enough that Atsumu knows he doesn’t mean it.

They unpack their kitchenware in their new apartment later that night. Atsumu finds his trusty mug chipped on the lip. He doesn’t think he can fix this one.

~

Atsumu isn’t sure when the end begins or if things like this even have a beginning. What he does know is that this, here and now, is an ending in motion.

Kiyoomi has gone out. A walk. Walks are the newest thing in trying to be mindful, and they’re conveniently located beside a park with a running track that Atsumu hates. But Kiyoomi likes it, and so he walks. Every morning.

Atsumu knows he’s going to be back soon, and so he’s preparing tea. Earl Grey, no milk. Just the way Kiyoomi likes it. It’s the only way Atsumu drinks tea now too, but he’s waiting until Kiyoomi gets back before he makes the shittiest, most burnt instant coffee he could find lingering in their cupboard for himself. An act of defiance when he’s felt so smothered.

Smothered. Smothered was how he’d felt last week, when he stepped into their apartment and got hit in the face with chemicals. He used to hate the smell of bleach unless it was the kind that went in his hair—and then he got used to it, because there was no point in not getting used to it when he’d had to bring his old apartment up to a standard Kiyoomi could deal with. There was no point in not getting used to it when Kiyoomi still went on biweekly cleaning binges. So he got used to it, the same way that he’d gotten used to not being able to have a top floor apartment. The same way he got used to sex being twice a month and then once a week and then back down to once every six weeks if he was lucky—not that it mattered anyway, not when he’d have done it every night if he could.

Last week is when he remembered why he resented the bleach in the first place. He’d said a hundred times that if he was going to live with cleaning products being such a prominent feature of their lives that the least he needed in return was the windows being open while they cleaned, to allow fresh air to circulate. It hadn’t happened.

Again.

He waded into the fumes and prayed that he wouldn’t get a headache.

“Omi,” he called, but to no reply.

He searched the usual places—usual, because they were the places Kiyoomi tended to fixate on when he was on a cleaning binge. The kitchen first, with no sign of Kiyoomi—but there was a sink so clean that Atsumu could see his reflection in it.

He tried the bathroom next. He found Kiyoomi hunched over the rim of the bathtub, scrubbing furiously at white porcelain that was already sparkling. It didn’t need to be cleaned, and Atsumu knew it, because he’d taken great care to wipe it down after his shower that morning. He was careful to not let dirt build up, because he knew how liable Omi was to getting himself in a state, using bleach until his fingers were raw and red and hurting even when he wouldn't admit it. From the smell of the place, Atsumu thought Kiyoomi must have been at this cleaning business for hours—he knew he was right when he saw Kiyoomi’s hand clenched around a cleaning sponge, knuckles pale in stark contrast to blazing fingertips.

He reached over to pull at one of Kiyoomi’s elbows. “Hey,” he said, “Stop it. It’s already clean.”

“It’s not clean until I say it is.” Kiyoomi didn’t even look up, eyes roaming over the spotless material, identifying dirt where Atsumu failed to see any—where he always failed to see any. He’d tried, at one point, to understand the patterns, to figure out a way to pre-empt where and when Kiyoomi would say things were dirty. Every attempt had failed.

“Omi, the place reeks and you’re going to give both of us migraines.”

“Rather have a migraine than it not be clean.”

Atsumu hated when Omi got like this. He couldn’t say with certainty if it was better or worse now than it was two years prior, when Atsumu had thought he could fix all of Kiyoomi’s problems with a well-reasoned argument—or at least, as well-reasoned as he could muster. He knew when he entered that bathroom that there just wasn’t any reasoning with a condition like this. So he didn’t try to.

“Right, okay.” He watched Kiyoomi do his usual pattern. Scrub five circles clockwise, then five counterclockwise. “I’m going back out then, ‘cause I can’t deal with this. Text me when you’re done.”

That got Kiyoomi to look up at him, with wide eyes that maybe Atsumu would have taken pity on, once upon a time. “You’re not helping?”

“Kiyoomi, we scrubbed the place down yesterday. I’m not doing it again.” He was tired. He was just so goddamn tired. His shoulders were aching from a dodgy set at practice a few days ago, and how they had stayed up past midnight scrubbing down the toilet and sink. All he wanted to do was sit in front of Netflix for a while with a beer and a shoulder rub, but that couldn’t happen. It never did, because beer was off-limits during the season, and Kiyoomi didn’t ever take any fucking initiative to ask Atsumu what he wanted. Or what he needed.

“You normally help.” He was weak. Kiyoomi’s voice was so weak as he said it and yet Atsumu couldn’t bring himself to feel anything.

“And normally you don’t act like this two days in a row. I’m not doing this.”

He felt selfish for turning and walking out, but he didn’t know what else to do. Kiyoomi’s mind could not be changed when he was like this, and there was no point arguing with a mind that wasn’t thinking straight in the first place.

He’d learned that a year ago, when Kiyoomi had had a particularly nasty week of not sleeping despite running himself ragged with practice and workouts and cleaning, barely eating except when Atsumu had made him. Atsumu had had to sleep on the pull-out bed that week, for even the thought of having him in the same room sent Kiyoomi spiralling even worse.

That week, after his therapy session, Kiyoomi came home with a handwritten list of potential coping mechanisms, with examples, and an increased dose of medication.

“I want to get better,” he said, and Atsumu found no reason to doubt him. “I want to be good.”

“You’re already good.”

“Then I want to be better than good.” He’d said it with such determination that Atsumu could have—maybe had—believed that he was getting better already.

Kiyoomi talked him through the mechanisms he’d come home with, and Atsumu had done his best to commit them to memory so he could help Kiyoomi put them to use. Redirection was one of his favourites; it gave him an opportunity to say the most outlandish thing possible to get Kiyoomi thinking about something—anything—else. When Kiyoomi said he’d been reading, and that people online said that yoga helped, Atsumu had made a point of making it part of their joint morning routine. “Everyone likes someone who can bend in fun ways,” he’d said, but the reality of the situation was that he felt the same way as he’d done for years now; the jokes betrayed a want to help and a need to feel useful.

Knowing about the strategies and what to look out for had helped the next time Kiyoomi had a bad day. Knowing something and putting it in action were different, but at least when he found Kiyoomi in his pyjamas and staring at entirely uninteresting magnolia kitchen walls, sounding like he couldn’t catch his breath, Atsumu was able to recognise it for what it was.

Recognition meant fuck all when it took a solid minute for him to remember what he was supposed to do, but eventually his legs carried him to squat down beside Kiyoomi’s chair. Kiyoomi flung out a hand to find one of Atsumu’s, and he squeezed down, hard, even as Atsumu did his best to murmur gentle reminders that he needed to breathe out, even as he counted from one to five, to help Kiyoomi find a slower rhythm to his breaths.

When Kiyoomi came back around to himself again, he looked Atsumu in the face and said, “I’m sorry,” the way he said it a hundred times before, like he was apologising for existing.

Atsumu had thought he could do this forever, that he would do this as many times as it took as he said, “Don’t be sorry.”

‘As many times as it took’ got to be a higher and higher number every month though, it felt like. There were good patches, especially when there were games on, but the bad days were increasing in frequency. Too often, Atsumu had had to sit and listen as Kiyoomi explained a completely faulty thought process. Too often Atsumu had gone to bed wondering if it was something he’d done wrong that had led Kiyoomi to be like this, because he’d never had it this bad before. Too often he’d had to physically drag Kiyoomi to his therapist and remind him to take his meds.

Too often, Atsumu was put in a position of caring for someone who didn’t seem to give a fuck about caring for himself.

It wasn’t like Kiyoomi had been looking after himself before the bleach incident, either. Atsumu had seen that storm coming for a week prior, helpless as he watched it happen. Kiyoomi hadn’t been using any of his coping tactics; he had ignored all of Atsumu’s attempts at redirection, and he’d only sparingly engaged in the yoga he’d boldly claimed would help him. He’d used Atsumu as a mock therapist, talking in-detail about what was going on in his head and the thoughts he was having, and Atsumu was tired. He was so tired of carrying it, so tired of carrying the fragile pieces of Kiyoomi that he had been given and trying not to drop them. He was tired enough that his brother commented on it when he visited and told him he was overdue for a week at home with just the family. Atsumu hated that he was right, but what he hated more was feeling like he couldn’t go.

He knew it wasn’t supposed to feel that way. If he was truthful, he thought maybe it had been feeling off for a while.

He realised several things as he stepped back over the threshold into a gloomy hallway and out of the haze of bleach.

Kiyoomi had stopped doing their morning yoga, though Atsumu still laid out the mat for him every day.

It had been a while since Kiyoomi mentioned a therapy session—but Atsumu didn’t feel the ache in his bones to go and check, to go and persuade him to go back and see the therapist again, not like he used to.

He didn’t know if Omi still took the tablets that sat neatly in the bathroom counter; it had been weeks since Atsumu had checked if the packet was slowly being depleted.

It wasn’t that he didn’t care. He did, or he thought he did, but the years had worn him down. A softening of sharp edges to start, maybe, but over time those same edges had become divots where he had given and given and given. He used to say he was an attentive partner, but he wasn’t convinced the favour had been returned.

He paced the streets outside their building—passed through the stupid neighbourhood, by stupid apartment buildings and stupid schools and stupid parks. He hated the stupid coffeeshop and all the middle-aged mothers who went there with their kids. He hated the way the air was clean and the streets were quiet and there was hardly anywhere to go when he woke at 3am craving ramen, or onigiri, or something foreign and delicious.

Worst of all, he hated that it was Kiyoomi who brought him here. The thought hit him like a truck, and he came to a stop in the middle of the street, staring at the pavement. He struggled to come up with one time that Kiyoomi had supported him, made compromises for him, instead of the other way around. He struggled to think of a time he’d felt able to ask for it. Usually, instead, he called his brother, or his mom. Sometimes he texted Kita. One time he’d confided in Hinata.

Sakusa had told him once that he wasn’t an easy person to be with. He finally understood what it meant.

He didn’t know who he was outside of Kiyoomi, any more. He used to think that was the aim—have a partner so invested in him, and he in them, that they became inseparable, the inevitable Miya-and-Sakusa, the same way he’d grown up with it always being Osamu-and-Atsumu.

He thought maybe, it had become MiyaandSakusa, and he laughed, because it was the opposite of how it had become [redacted]-and-Atsumu. He wasn’t confident that he could define himself in a way that didn’t involve the word ‘Kiyoomi’, the same way he never used to be able to define himself without Osamu. He knew that Kiyoomi couldn’t define himself without an ‘Atsumu’, at least, and that was some small comfort.

At least, until the thought that maybe Kiyoomi could. Atsumu didn’t know which option was worse.

He took himself to one of those shitty coffee places and waited for the text. He waited for hours, and when it came, he took himself home and played the part of the dutiful boyfriend. Again.

He’s ready to be done playing a part, though.

He measures the tea leaves into the strainer. Boils the kettle. Warms the teapot immediately, then lets the hot water sit for two and a half minutes before pouring slowly over the leaves. It’s a practiced routine, one he’s done hundreds of times now, it feels like. Hundreds of times over a couple of years that had felt like a lifetime.

Kiyoomi is back from his walk and Atsumu greets him at the door, stony-faced. Kiyoomi looks like he’s going to go in for a kiss before he clocks Atsumu’s expression.

“Is something wrong?” Kiyoomi asks the question and Atsumu falters, just for a second. He has the option of saying everything is fine, of pretending that he’s okay, but he doesn’t. He owes it to Kiyoomi to not put this off any longer.

“Let’s talk,” he says, and he’s already taking a step towards the kitchen. Towards one last cup of tea.

“About what?”

“Let’s just talk, Kiyoomi.” He doesn’t want to do it in the hallway.

“You need to tell me what it’s about—”

“Just come to the kitchen. Sit down. I made tea.”

Kiyoomi doesn’t look like he wants to, so Atsumu adds a, “Please.”

Kiyoomi follows. Atsumu can’t help but feel like an executioner, even though he’s done his best to wait until they’re several days clear of anything even vaguely difficult to do with mental health.

Atsumu reboils the kettle as Kiyoomi takes his seat at the table. He pours boiling water over prepared coffee granules in his mug. His usual mug; the one that’s seen him through just about everything in the last few years. He adds too much milk and too much sugar to drown the bitterness and he wonders if he deserves it for what he’s about to do.

He sits at the table. Kiyoomi’s hands are shaking, too much to pour himself anything, so Atsumu pours his tea for him. He’s careful because it’s the last time he’s going to do it. Kiyoomi doesn’t reach for the cup, but he stares at it, then looks up with eyes that are piercing and have a frightening clarity to them.

“You’re leaving me.” It isn’t a question.

Atsumu doesn’t know what to say, but he watches the way Kiyoomi’s chest moves as he takes a deep breath. Maybe his silence is enough.

He licks his lips as he searches for words that don't come easily. He’d thought about what to say earlier, but now he’s in the situation it is far more difficult.

But it has to be done.

“I’ve not been happy for a while now.”

The words sit in the air, and Atsumu simultaneously wants to take them back and let them stay. It’s an odd sensation, being right and wrong at the same time. He can’t bring himself to meet Kiyoomi’s eyes.

Kiyoomi’s voice is quiet when he asks, “Did I do something wrong?”

Atsumu practically falls over himself to reply—of course Kiyoomi has done nothing wrong, not intentionally, not knowingly, and maybe some of that is Atsumu’s fault, but it’s all just so much. “No, god, no, it’s not like that—”

“Then why?”

It’s a good question, and it’s one that Atsumu doesn’t know how to answer. Not really.

“Sometimes I find it really hard to cope,” he says, and it’s lame, he knows it’s lame, and from the corner of his eyes he can see Kiyoomi looking at him. It’s that which makes him continue, “I know you don’t mean it but I just can’t do it anymore. I can’t do bleach without the windows open and—”

“This is about the fucking windows? I apologised for that as soon as you got home.”

“It’s not about the windows.”

“Then it’s about me. About something fundamental.” His tone is clinical, curt. The sharpness slices through Atsumu and stings to the point he’d have thought that he was the one getting dumped, not the other way around. “You used to tell me you’d wait forever for me and you’re going back on it.”

“Omi, it’s not like that—”

“Then what?” Kiyoomi demands, and the mask slips when his voice cracks. “What did I do? Why?”

“It’s not about you.” The words feel foreign on Atsumu’s tongue, but they’re all too familiar to his ears.

“Don’t lie to me.”

“I’m not.” He picks up his coffee and downs it in two gulps. It burns on his tongue but he deserves it. Maybe the caffeine rush will dampen the adrenaline in his veins, and stop the shaking. Maybe it’ll make it worse and kill him. “I just can’t deal with this any more.”

“You mean you can’t deal with me.

Atsumu has never seen Kiyoomi cry, and if he closes his eyes tight enough then maybe he won’t ever have to.

It’s almost worse, though, because he hears the sobs instead of seeing them, so he forces himself to open his eyes and look at what he’s done. He’d done this. This is what he inflicted. “I knew you’d leave eventually.” Kiyoomi talking again catches Atsumu off guard. “I knew it would happen, I knew it, I knew it, you kept telling me to stop catastrophising and predicting the future but I was right.”

“Omi, stop it,” Atsumu says, and he manages to make it firmer than he really feels. He knew this was a terrible idea, knew this was going to go badly, but he isn’t sure there was ever a time that it could go well. “It’s better this way.”

“Better for who?” Kiyoomi demands as he gets to his feet and slams his hands on the table. “Who, Atsumu? You? Because I’ve been caught pretty off guard with this.”

“For us both.”

Kiyoomi’s face hardens, schooled carefully back into an expression Atsumu can’t read, and suddenly he is sixteen again, confronted with someone beautiful and dangerous and who he doesn’t think he knows anything about.

“Don’t presume to know anything about what’s best for me. You just lost that right.” He picks up the mug of tea and the teapot. Atsumu watches him pace to the sink and empty the liquid into it.

One last cup of tea, undrunk. “I’m going home.”

“We have a sofa-bed, I’ll just—”

“I don’t want to be near you.”

Atsumu sits in the relative quiet that follows. It’s not like the movies; there’s no begging to stay, no dramatic weeping, no final ‘I love you’, no ‘I’m glad you were my first’. No chance at coming back. Not from this.

He listens as Kiyoomi slams the bedroom door. He listens as it’s slammed again ten minutes later and he wheels a suitcase out of the apartment. His apartment, because it had always been Kiyoomi’s. Atsumu wonders if he should have left instead. He spies his coffee mug. It’s looking at him, taunting him, reminding him of every time his lips have curved around the rim at breakfast with Kiyoomi, of how he’d stolen it despite Kiyoomi’s protests, how he’d always had the patience to put it back together despite everything.

He stares. This is the mug he always uses. It’s broken at the handle and chipped on the rim and sometimes it seeps coffee through hairline fractures, but he’s put up with it until now.

It’s been his favorite—until now.

He picks it up in a fit of rage and throws it at the wall.