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pull me in (by the wrists, by the heart)

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Kei breathes in, exhaling slightly in relief. It had taken the better part of an hour, but he’d finally gotten rid of Akiteru and his mother, having shoved them out to explore Akihabara, promising that he’d meet them for dinner later as long as they let him settle in by himself.

“Just escaped your family?” someone asks sympathetically, a grin in their voice, and it’s familiar. Kei frowns, glances up, and—oh.

Kindaichi Yuutarou stares back at him, a smile still on his face, but expression clearly startled too.

“Huh,” Kindaichi says after a moment. “Small world.”

Kei surveys his frequent opponent, his occasional teammate at training camps, his… roommate, apparently. 

Bizarrely, his first thought is to wonder why Kunimi didn’t mention that Kindaichi would be attending the same university as them. Which is weird, given Kunimi barely even mentioned that he was going to be coming to this university—he just sort of nodded at Kei when Kei had mentioned it was on his list, hummed a few times, and then casually stated that he got accepted there too. Kageyama had shrugged, said that’s just how Kunimi is, so Kei had let it go. Maybe he shouldn’t be surprised that Kunimi had never mentioned Kindaichi was coming too.

Speak of the devil.

“Yo,” Kunimi says, rapping on their door with a single knock. It’s a quiet, contained sound, like Kunimi Akira is a quiet, contained boy. He’s clearly here to see Kindaichi, because Kei hasn’t even told him that he’s here yet, let alone his room number, but he doesn’t look remotely surprised to see him.

“Hey,” Kindaichi says, glancing at him sidelong. “You look fed up. What’s up?”

Kei raises an eyebrow at Kunimi, who looks exactly as unruffled as ever, but he takes Kindaichi’s word for it. There are many degrees of fluency to a language as nuanced as Kunimi Akira, and while Kei has begun to speak it with a startling degree of accuracy, he’s not sure even their similarities can bridge the headstart all of Seijoh has on him. Or Kageyama, his mind reminds him, unbidden. Kitagawa Daiichi and Kageyama have an odd relationship, where half the time Kageyama knows them better than anyone, and half the time he misses every cue. 

“Roommate,” Kunimi says after a moment, and then his nose scrunches. This expression, Kei recognises, mostly from the first time he really got to know Kunimi and Kindaichi, back at rookie training camp.

“You already don’t like them? It’s been, like, an hour,” Kindaichi says, looking half-amused, half-exasperated.

Kunimi glowers. “Not exactly,” he mutters, then sighs. “It’s Koganegawa.”

There’s a beat of silence as they both stare at him. Then Kei winces, and Kindaichi starts laughing.

“Shut up,” Kunimi says, socking his best friend in the arm.

“It’s funny,” Kindaichi protests, grinning, looking utterly unapologetic. “Tsukishima thinks so too. Right?”

They both look at Kei, whose lips are, indeed, twitching in amusement. Kunimi makes a disgusted noise, but Kindaichi looks satisfied.

“You can swap with me if you like him so much,” Kunimi says, and Kindaichi rolls his eyes.

“Yeah, right,” Kindaichi snorts, before his expression shifts, turning more serious. “Be nice, though, all right?” At Kunimi’s incredulous look, he tacks on, “I know, I know, but I’m pretty sure you guys count as friends now. Stop making that face.”

Kunimi’s expression, if possible, becomes even flatter.

“Let’s go get some food,” Kindaichi says, with the air of someone practiced in making this particular bargain. “I didn’t get to have any lunch because I was unpacking. Then I’ll go back with you to your room, say hi to Kogane, yeah?”

“You’re buying me a salted caramel shake,” Kunimi says, but he acquiesces. He glances at Kei, and nods at him. It’s an odd gesture to observe, fluid yet contained at the same time, but very Kunimi. “Later,” he says, then starts heading to the door. Kindaichi rolls his eyes, but gives Kei a nod of his head as well, something more assured than Kunimi’s.

“I’ll catch you after,” he says, then pauses. “Glad it’s you,” he adds, then smiles, quick and genuine, before heading out the door. Kunimi stays behind for a second, casting an unreadable glance over Kei and the room, then slips out behind him. 

Kei decides to unpack most of his stuff later, and that he’ll just deal with the clothes that need hangers for now. After putting his dress shirts in his side of the shared closet, he notices a series of new texts on his phone.

King: Oi

King: You here yet?

Kei rolls his eyes, but there’s something fond tugging at the edge of his lips. He chooses to ignore that. Unlocking his phone, he types quickly.

Kei: Yes, Your Highness. Are you looking for assistance from the peasant class?

Kageyama: Shut up

Kageyama: Asshole

Kageyama: Where’s your room

Kageyama: I’ll come by when I’m done

Kei: I’m finished for now. Send me your room number, I can come by.

“This is the worst unpacking I’ve ever seen,” Kei remarks, watching Kageyama glower at his suitcases as if the force of his displeasure will cause them to empty themselves.

Kageyama throws a sock at him.

“Oi,” Kei says, batting it away from his face. It lands near Kageyama’s roommate, Kuguri, who just ignores it. He’s ignored pretty much everything since Kei’s arrival, just nodding a greeting and then returning to his phone. Kei wonders how Kunimi will feel about having Koganegawa as a roommate while Kageyama gets to live with the human equivalent of lichen. Then he thinks about how his roommate is Kunimi’s best friend, and Kageyama’s old friend made new again, and figures Kageyama might not be top of the envy list.

“You’re so unhelpful,” Kageyama grumbles.

Kei raises an eyebrow. “Did you expect me to help, Your Highness?” he asks archly.

Kageyama scowls. “No,” he says, flopping backwards onto the floor. “Sorta hoped for a personality reset, though.”

Kei leans forward slightly, so he can tilt himself over the bed and look judgmentally at Kageyama on the ground. Kageyama scrunches his nose up at him. It’s kind of cute.

“This sucks,” Kageyama complains from his position on the floor.

“How do you even have this much stuff?” Kei asks, surveying the suitcases. “I’ve seen your room – it’s got barely anything in it.”

Kageyama sits up, glowering at the suitcases. “Miwa bought some things,” he says. “She and her girlfriend bought too many things.” He looks at them all in disgust.

Kei reaches down, and pulls out –

“Is this designer dri-fit?” he demands.

“Probably,” Kageyama says. “Her girlfriend’s a model, she’s always getting discounts places.” He gives Kei a flat look. “They bought me like twelve pairs of shoes. Non-running shoes,” he emphasises.

The expression on his face pulls Kei out of his inconvenient thoughts about what Kageyama would look like in dri-fit, and Kei swallows a laugh at his expression.

“How you suffer, King,” he teases. “Living in the lap of luxury.”

“Ugh,” Kageyama says.

Kei takes pity on him. “C’mon,” he says. “My mother and brother are around and desperate to take me to dinner. You might as well come – you’ll probably unpack better if your stomach isn’t busy eating itself because it’s been an hour since it had meat,” he says, smirking a little.

Kageyama throws another pair of socks at him, but stands.

There are worse starts to college, Kei thinks.

College takes place in snapshots. Little moments, everyone always hanging out in each other’s spaces. Kei and Kunimi get coffee every Tuesday morning before their political science lecture. Sometimes Kageyama comes up in conversation – every time, Kei feels his face doing something complicated, something he sees reflected in Kunimi’s own expression. Many evenings find Kageyama lying on Kei’s bed while Kei studies at his desk. Kei remembers one time when Kunimi had dropped by with Kindaichi to drop something off at his desk. Kunimi’s eyes had been unreadable as he’d taken in the sight.

Sometimes, they’re at the library; occasionally all of them, with their roommates too – Koganegawa tries very hard when they study, and he and Kunimi seem to have figured out a camaraderie when the two of them are both there, because Koganegawa makes space for Kunimi every time, and Kunimi never flinches from Koganegawa’s voice anymore. Kuguri is quiet and easy to work alongside, only speaking up when he’s helping someone with their work. He and Koganegawa work well together. Kindaichi gets bored easily, but he’s got a better work ethic than Kunimi, so he always tries his hardest. Kunimi is cleverer than is good for him, so he never works very hard, but he doesn’t tend to distract others. Kei does his own studying, or pretends to, anyway – usually, he’s waiting for Kageyama to ask him something. It’s a pattern at this point. A routine. Kei may sigh sometimes, but he’d miss it, he thinks.

Sometimes, it’s just the three of them there.

“I’m getting a drink,” Kunimi says, sounding frustrated. Kei can’t blame him. He’d looked at Kunimi’s assignment earlier, and it’s possibly the most unclear set of guidelines he’s ever seen for an assessment.

“I’ll come,” Kageyama says. He looks tired, and something in Kei’s heart pangs. “I need milk.”

“Need or want?” Kei asks, but his voice sounds softer than usual, much to his dismay. He thinks his smirk is slightly crooked, and resolves to do better on training his facial muscles to be antagonistic at all points, even when he’s tired, even when he’s looking at Kageyama, even when his heart is beating to the rhythm it is right now.

“No semantics,” Kageyama grumbles, pushing his chair back. Kunimi is already standing, watching as Kageyama grabs his wallet.

“Big word,” Kei hears Kunimi say as they walk off, in that quiet, dry voice he only ever uses when he’s teasing Kageyama. It makes something in Kei’s chest feel funny, like it’s too tight and too wide at the exact same time.

He can’t hear Kageyama’s response, but he can imagine it. He knows the exact tone he would use to say shut up, the exact twist to his lips, the scrunch of his nose. He can’t decide if that’s tragic, or just pathetic.

He hears them coming back before he sees them. There’s a low rumble of light bickering, the timbres of their voices familiar. Kei doesn’t look up. He’s not sure what his face will do if he does.

Kageyama, though, doesn’t care about that decision. “Oi,” he calls out, and Kei glances up at that. Kageyama throws a carton of strawberry milk at him. Kei’s hands are moving to catch it before he even realises what it is. His heart clenches slightly.

“You didn’t need to get that,” Kei says, then adds on, in case it was too polite, “Unless it was a moment of charity from the King to his subjects?”

Kageyama just rolls his eyes. “You need sustenance,” he says stoutly, sucking grumpily at his own milk box. “Calcium.”

Kunimi snorts, and Kageyama reddens. “Shut up,” he says, then ducks his head, fixing his gaze on the assignment in front of him.

Kei should look back at his own work. He needs to finish this assignment. But he can’t help but keep looking at Kageyama, soaking him in.

When Kageyama first shows up to volleyball practice, there’s a wave of murmured surprise.

Kei can’t blame them; it’s no secret to anyone that Kageyama Tobio is probably the most talented player of a generation, and everyone expected him to go pro immediately. Kei remembers last year, when there were shockwaves through the volleyball community of Japan because Sakusa Kiyoomi accepted a volleyball scholarship to university instead of opting to enter the professional leagues immediately; he suspects there may be a repeat.

He’d been surprised himself when Kageyama had shared his intentions.

(“Why?” Kei had asked, furrowing his brow.

“They offered me a scholarship,” Kageyama had said. Kei had resisted the urge to scream.

“Every college in the country with a volleyball team would have done that if they’d known there was interest,” Kei had said impatiently. “Why did you accept this one?”

Kageyama had looked down for a moment, two, three. “My grandfather went there,” he had finally said, and Kei had sucked in a breath. “And they’ve got Coach Ikeda there this year – I want to learn from him.” He’d shrugged. “I don’t know if I’ll stay, but – for a year? To learn under him? Sure. Worth it.”)

There’s a lot of familiar faces at that first practice. Kei himself, obviously, because he also got a volleyball scholarship, though his is conditional on academic performance. Kageyama’s is a lot more lenient. Not that Kei is concerned about his academic performance. Honestly, he still thinks they’re going to need to focus on Kageyama’s requirements, lenient as they may be.

Kindaichi’s there too, and so is Kuguri. Kei thinks Kuguri might actually have received a scholarship of some sort too, though he can’t be sure, seeing as Kuguri barely speaks to anyone. Having Kageyama as a roommate doesn’t do a lot to challenge that.

Koganegawa is there too, excited and enthused. He obviously knows he won’t be a starting setter any time soon – even if they weren’t all first years, Kageyama is amongst them. He’s enthused nonetheless, talking about how excited he is to learn from and play with such talented players. Kindaichi even grins at him for it.

There is one notable absence, however, from their dorm full of former high school volleyball players.

Kei isn’t surprised to find Kageyama with him as soon as practice ends that day. He leaves the gym and finds Kageyama and Kunimi talking near the history department.

“Please play,” Kageyama says, and Kei’s breath stills. 

He hasn’t known Kunimi as long as Kageyama, but he knows Kunimi, knows how he’s blunt and unflappable, how he’s always been good at existing within the lines he draws for himself, knows how he’s never had a problem telling Kageyama no. 

Kunimi’s expression is as inscrutable as ever, but his gaze stays locked to Kageyama’s for a second too long, and somewhere in Kei’s chest, he thinks he knows what this is. Kunimi doesn’t give any sign of enthusiasm, doesn’t even agree vocally, but he gives a small nod, and Kageyama’s face breaks into a smile so genuine it hurts to look at it. 

Oh, Kei thinks. 

Kei spends most of his time with his other teammates – always in his room with Kindaichi, or in the library with Kunimi, or being dragged to events by an overly excited Koganegawa. He even finds comfort in Kuguri’s presence when sharing tables at the campus coffee shop, and, most of all, he spends a lot of time with Kageyama, whether in his room, or wandering campus, or somewhere in the city to send snapchats to their friends. 

Kei, Kunimi and Kageyama also start spending time together in each other’s rooms. Kei notices a trend that strikes him as odd, though. Kunimi doesn’t always like to spend time in Kei’s room when Kindaichi’s there. Kei can’t understand it; they’re best friends. They spend a lot of free time together – in fact, pretty much all the time that Kunimi isn’t with Kei or Kageyama, he’s with Kindaichi. 

Eventually, Kei starts to realise there’s a pattern. It’s only when Kageyama’s there too. Which... is also weird, because Kindaichi, Kunimi and Kageyama have their own friendship. It’s not always been smooth sailing, as Kei is well aware, but it’s old, and now it’s tried and true. Kei can’t understand it. He doesn’t know if it’s when it’s all three of them or if it’s only when he’s there too – if it’s all four of them – because he can’t ask Kunimi, and Kageyama’s hardly observant enough to notice. He doesn’t know what to do with that option either. 

(Kunimi tells him, at some point, tired and quiet and a little more honest than usual—not that he ever lies, but more that he never shares, never spills over his carefully maintained walls—that Kindaichi is more perceptive than Kunimi finds comfortable sometimes. Kei thinks he understands that. Yamaguchi is the same way, even through a video screen.)

Wanting to kiss Kageyama is not new for Kei.

He has a system, see—if it’s a three on his urge-to-kiss scale, he remembers what Kageyama looks like staring down vending machines, and usually the wave of exasperating fondness is dizzying enough that it overwhelms the impulse to kiss in that moment; if it’s a six, he thinks about how annoying Kageyama is when he’s in his king mode, barking orders and not listening, letting frustration seep into him like nails into the palm of his hand, staving off the edge; and if it’s a ten, well. He learns to cope.

Wanting to kiss Kageyama is not new for Kei but wanting to kiss Kageyama while actively wondering if Kageyama wants to kiss someone else is, especially when paired with those sudden surges of hope that rush through his chest when Kageyama shoots him those sleepy smiles when they’re studying together in his room at eleven pm, and Kei doesn’t know what to do with this, with any of this. Not with his feelings, or concerns, or theories, or the way Kageyama looks at him, the way Kageyama looks at Kunimi. Not helping is Kindaichi’s eyes, which seem heavy, knowing, which stay resting on him when Kunimi and Kageyama slip out of their room at the end of a visit, when Kei’s eyes follow them unbidden. 

“Is something going on with you guys?” Kei hears Koganegawa ask Kunimi as he and Kageyama leave, and something twists in his gut. If they've gotten so tangled that even Koganegawa can tell, they probably need to do something. Preferably without losing anything, though Kei tries his hardest not to hold onto impossible dreams. He repeats that to himself as he watches Kageyama walk towards his room, and clenches his own fist instead of reaching out after him.

“I think he's in love with Kunimi,” Kei says ten minutes later, peering at Yamaguchi and Yachi through Skype.

“Hmm,” Yamaguchi says mildly.

Kei stares at him incredulously. “Hmm?” he echoes.

“Hmm,” Yamaguchi says again. Yachi smiles gently at Kei over her boyfriend's shoulder. “I'm not sure that's the roadblock you think it is,” Yamaguchi says, too casually, after a moment.

What, Kei thinks.

He’s still turning it over in his head when Kindaichi comes back. Yamaguchi had refused to elaborate further—in fairness, Kei hadn’t pushed very hard; he thinks part of him is more scared of what Yamaguchi has to say than it is curious, which is horrifying and pathetic—and so Kei had found himself, after they finished their call, lying on his bed, staring at the ceiling, thinking it over.

He chooses not to think about how long it’s been since he hung up with his friends when Kindaichi returns, casting him a knowing glance.

“You’ve got your Kageyama face on,” Kindaichi says, which is maybe the worst sentence Kei has ever heard, and he was on the same team as Kageyama and Hinata at the same time for all of high school. “Actually, no, it’s your Kageyama and Kunimi face,” Kindaichi amends, squinting at him.

Kei changes his mind. This is even worse.

“I do not have that face on—I don’t even have that face,” he insists indignantly, vaguely horrified.

“Okay,” Kindaichi says, snorting. Kei glares at him. Kindaichi raises his hands in surrender, though he looks entirely too amused about it for Kei’s comfort. This is the worst. Why couldn’t he get Kuguri as his roommate? Kuguri literally couldn’t care less about anything that Kageyama does. Fucking ideal.

He has the unfortunate knowledge, buried deep inside, that he appreciates having Kindaichi as a roommate in the general sense; that Kindaichi is a good friend, and mostly considerate, and knows Kunimi and Kageyama well enough that he hasn’t said anything to them, unlike Koganegawa’s earlier question to Kunimi. It’s just hard to remember all that when Kindaichi is looking at him like that.

“So if it’s not them, what is it?” Kindaichi asks.

Kei glares at their ceiling again. Then: “Yamaguchi said something cryptic on Skype,” he offers. It’s vague, only half-honest, but it’s still more of the truth than he’d give most people. Maybe he’s tired, exhausted by this confusion. Maybe Kindaichi’s growing on him even more than he’d realised. Probably both.

“Mmm,” Kindaichi hums, dropping into his desk chair. He spins it, facing Kei again. “Was it something cryptic about Kageyama and Kunimi?” he asks. “Or either of them individually, I guess.”

Kei sighs with gusto. “Yes,” he grounds out.

Kindaichi grins, but he bites it away quickly. It’s a pointless exercise, given they both know how he feels about this answer, but Kei appreciates it a little regardless.

“All right, what did he say?” he asks.

Kei stares silently at the ceiling for a few moments, considering his options. All of them are embarrassing. He scowls.

“He implied… that Kageyama’s feelings regarding Kunimi are not quite as complicating a factor as I seem to think,” he says reluctantly. Kindaichi’s eyebrows shoot up, and his brow furrows, maybe as he translates Kei’s words to something useful.

Kei never finds out, because Kageyama knocks and opens the door, startling them both.

“King, you’re meant to wait to be let in,” Kei says, falling back on his instincts, his lightly mocking tongue against Kageyama’s earnest frown.

Kageyama doesn’t even blink, which – when did that change? “Sorry,” he says, not sounding apologetic in the slightest. “You left your notebook in my room,” he continues, reaching into the front pocket of his hoodie. He pulls it out, offering it to Kei, who tilts his head slightly towards his desk. Kageyama nods, then walks over, placing it carefully on top of Kei’s stack of history textbooks. Something in Kei’s chest twists at the sight—at the gentle handling of his shitty, worn notebook, from someone who’s always worried his hands are only good for volleyball.

“Okay,” Kageyama says, turning back to Kei. “That was it.”

Kei nods, a little off-kilter. “All right,” he says. “See you later?”

Kageyama smiles at him—that small, natural one, the one that slips on his face unintentionally, not the terrifying grimace that happens whenever he actually tries—and Kei’s heart flips.

“Yeah,” Kageyama says, then grumbles, “At dinner. I’ll make sure you train your stomach to eat more.”

Kei rolls his eyes, but Kageyama takes no notice, just departs with a nod at both of them. Kei blinks, lets his arm collapse so he can flop back down – and when did he even prop himself up? Was it just to look at Kageyama? What the fuck.

There’s a long, exasperated sigh. Kei whips his head to glare at Kindaichi.

“What?” he demands.

“You’re all so fucking dumb,” Kindaichi groans, and Kei scowls. 

“I’m a straight-A student, thank you very much,” he retorts. 

Kindaichi sends him a flat look.

Hinata visits, which is a blessing and a curse. 

A blessing, because no matter what Kei says, Hinata is his friend, and he misses him, he enjoys his presence; a blessing because Kageyama lights up with him around, his competitive spirit rejuvenated in the presence of his best friend and favourite rival; a blessing because Kindaichi’s eyes stay fixed on him instead, his cheeks tinged pink, and Kunimi and Kei can team up to tease him instead of being the recipient of his knowing glances and vaguely exasperated laughter; but it’s a curse too, because Kindaichi’s eyes might be on Hinata, but Hinata’s eyes have always been wide and bright, seeing all too clearly, and he might be bad at academia, but he’s never failed to clock all of Kei’s weaknesses when it counts, never failed to hit him and Kageyama right in all of their softest spots. 

Kei’s starting to suspect he has a lot of softest spots.

Hinata is constantly talking over text, phone and skype to – well, everyone, including Kei, but especially Kageyama. That trend doesn’t seem to change when he’s there in person. He spends a lot of time arguing with Kageyama over text and in person simultaneously, which just completely fucking baffles Kei.

It’s bad enough when Hinata isn’t there in person, but is constantly blowing up his phone with texts like say hi to kindaichi for me!! and are you still hiding from bakageyama and, perhaps most horrifyingly, if i come to visit, can you find another room for like. one night?

(The answer had been a resounding no, which he immediately changed to a yes under the condition that Hinata would never make him aware of his sex life ever again.)

But when Hinata’s there in person, he’s doing all of that and staring at Kei with his freaky focus. It’s so much like high school than Kei almost wants to call Takeda-sensei to tell Hinata to respect people’s boundaries. The only times he isn’t either driving Kei nuts or fixing him with that inconveniently perceptive gaze is when he’s doing it to other people, or, more hilariously, he’s spending his time with Kindaichi.

This isn’t hilarious in and of itself; it’s just funny because for once, Kindaichi is the one getting amused looks instead of doling them out.

“Are you two dating?” Kei demands, and Kunimi snorts. Kageyama makes a grumbling noise in the back of his throat. Kindaichi, predictably, blushes. 

“No,” he defends.

“You’re something, though,” Kunimi murmurs.

Kindaichi frowns at him, and Kunimi meets his eyes levelly. A few moments pass, and then they both nod at each other. It kind of reminds Kei of Kageyama and Hinata’s particular brand of communication, or Kuroo and Kenma’s.

Kei thinks Hinata gets way too much information from Kindaichi, though, if they’re not actually dating. He distinctly remembers one day about three weeks before Hinata came to visit them when Kindaichi had told him stop pining and, upon further investigation, had revealed that he was just passing on the message from Hinata.

Kei had immediately pulled out his phone, texting his most annoying friend.

Kei: don’t you have your hands full with mister milk

Kei: why are you setting my roommate on me

Hinata: suga-san taught me how to multitask out of love 😘😘😘

Kei: ugh

When Kei sees the notification from Kuroo, he almost doesn’t click it.

When a message comes through from Bokuto, he strongly considers deleting it off the bat.

When Oikawa’s name is attached to the event invitation—linked in both Bokuto’s message, which had entirely too many exclamation points, and the original invitation notification from Kuroo—Kei decides, right then and there, that he will not be in attendance. A party is one thing. A party thrown by any of them is another. A party thrown by all three of them? Another thing entirely, and one Kei would characterise as a hellscape.

Unfortunately for him, his entire college friend group disagrees with him. Normally, Kei would still resist—he’s hardly one to just go along with something because his peers do, or else he’d have come to invest significant energy into volleyball much earlier than he did in first year—but it becomes a Thing, largely due to three things: one, Kindaichi wanting to see Oikawa; two, Hinata wanting to go because Bokuto and Kenma will be there, and citing things about ‘guest rights’ and ‘hospitality’, which Kei is pretty certain doesn’t apply to dragging your friends to parties just because you’re crashing in their dorm; and three, the way Kageyama had shrugged and said sure when Hinata asked him if he was coming, and then the way he had immediately looked at Kei, as if to check Kei was coming with him.

(Yamaguchi laughs at him for an entire minute straight when he tells him. Kei tolerates it because, well, he’d laugh too. If it was anyone else, it would be a sharp-edged comedy. With him, it just feels kind of pathetic.)

He regrets going almost as soon as he arrives, and genuinely contemplates turning back, but then Kageyama’s tugging at his left sleeve, and Hinata grabs his right, both of them dragging him inside the house. God, Kei forgot how annoying it was when they worked together.

He loses them, of course. Not intentionally—just Hinata is someone who knows everyone, somehow, even though he’s not from Tokyo and doesn’t even live here when he’s not based on their couch, waiting until it’s time to go to Brazil, and so he’s always easily dragged away by someone. Kageyama is a little more confusing when he disappears, because he hates social situations and even back at high school, he used to follow Kei, Hinata, Yachi or Yamaguchi around when they ended up at parties on occasion, but some time later, Kei hears Oikawa’s airy laugh, and a Tobio-chan! and thinks he knows where he’s gone.

Despite his insistence that he’d do anything to avoid Oikawa—nothing specifically against him, other than the fact that he’s annoying in a saccharine way, compared to Kuroo’s very slightly more tolerable smirkiness—Kei follows the source of the sound, finding Oikawa, Kageyama and – Kei squints. Is that Miya Atsumu? What the fuck? Kageyama doesn’t look bothered, though, despite being in the presence of two of the most irritating setters Kei’s ever met, both of whom Kei knows have caused him distress in the past. He doesn’t look happy, exactly, but, well. He never looks happy at parties. Or doing most things, other than playing volleyball.

He feels his lips twist into a smile, and immediately berates himself. What sort of thing is that to be fond of? Get it together, Kei.

He spares one final glance at Kageyama, notes the way the set of his shoulders is relaxing in their presence, the easy way Oikawa grins at him, free of the threat and insecurity that used to linger there, and he decides that Kageyama will be okay. He squashes down something that feels a little like jealousy when he watches Atsumu throw an arm around Kageyama’s shoulders, and heads down the nearest corridor he can see.

He just needs space to breathe, that’s all. He’ll find Kageyama again later, and anyway, Hinata’s still in there. Kindaichi and Kunimi too—Kei had noticed them slipping into the kitchen just before, probably to find something to drink – Kindaichi, at least, would definitely drink water. Kunimi might attempt to sneak something stronger. Koganegawa and Kuguri are around somewhere too—he thinks he saw Kuguri with Shibayama earlier, his chin tucked on top of the libero’s head—but he decides they can fend for themselves.

Slipping down the corridor, he finds a door slightly ajar. He enters, only to find himself in a room with about six other people, and the largest television he’s ever seen.

“Tsukishima,” someone says in greeting, and Kei tracks his eyes until he finds Akaashi, nodding at him in greeting. He’s sitting on a couch, a drink in his hand, and his posture looks – not lazy, but relaxed. At ease. Beside him, Kenma is slumped on the couch, a head popping out of huge swathes of fabric from an oversized hoodie, his eyes focused on the television screen as he taps quickly at the controller in his hands.

Kei hesitates for a moment, then heads over, nodding at them both. He settles himself on the couch, sitting beside Kenma. He can still see Akaashi perfectly over Kenma’s head, mostly because Kenma is slumped so far down that his head only comes up to Kei’s ribs when they’re sitting down.

“Hi,” Kenma says, not glancing up from his game. Kei doesn’t mind. There’s no annoyance in his tone; while Kei knows that Kenma didn’t like him when they first met, they’re something more like acquaintances now, even sometimes friendly. At least what counts as friendly for them. Hinata would probably protest the definition.

“Hey,” Kei says. “Got bored of the crowd?”

Kenma makes a face, and Akaashi stifles a smile. “Kozume never spends more than a few minutes in the main areas of the house when parties are being thrown,” he explains wryly. “And usually those are just when he emerges to get drinks and snacks if Bokuto-san or Kuroo-san haven’t brought any over recently.”

Kenma makes a non-committal noise, a sort of grumble, and then frowns at the screen, tapping ferociously at one of the buttons.

“Smart plan,” Kei says. “I wouldn’t even be here if I were you. Fuck, I don’t even want to be here—it was mostly Hinata and Kageyama’s idea.”

Kenma seems to perk up a little at that. “Shouyou’s here?” he asks, tone almost curious.

“Yeah, I think he was talking to Lev last I saw,” Kei says, and snorts at the expression Kenma makes at that.

“Kozume can’t really avoid being here,” Akaashi says, smirking a little at Kenma. “Technically, this is his house.”

Kei blinks. Then blinks again.

“You have a house?” he demands.

Kenma huddles a little further into his hoodie—which… looks familiar for a reason that Kei can’t quite figure out, but he knows is going to gnaw at him until he does—and mumbles something.

Kei looks at Akaashi in askance.

“Kozume’s career as world famous Kodzuken has really taken off,” he says wryly. “I’m not sure if you’ve heard of Bouncing Ball LTD, but that’s his company. He’s the CEO.”

“Uh,” Kei says, thinking about all the Bouncing Ball-branded gear Hinata’s been packing for Brazil. “Yeah, I’ve heard of it. I didn’t know what it was, though. You’re sponsoring Hinata to go to Brazil?” he asks, turning his gaze onto Kenma.

Kenma shrugs, then nods. “Yeah. I thought it sounded interesting.” A small smile glimmers at his lips. “Only Shouyou would go to a beach to learn how to play better on a court.”

Kei thinks that’s probably true. Kageyama honestly could already be in the pro leagues if he hadn’t accepted the scholarship to learn from Coach Ikeda, and Kei suspects he will be next year, but Hinata needed to grow still. Most people would just practice, he thinks—not relearn the game from a new perspective. But that’s Hinata Shouyou for you.

It’s a fond thought.

“You came with him and Kageyama?” Akaashi inquires. Kei nods.

“Yeah, Hinata’s staying in our dorm—though I don’t understand why, if he knows people in Tokyo who don’t live in dorms,” Kei mutters.

“Hm,” Akaashi hums.

Kenma is less subtle. “I think you do,” he says, not moving his eyes from the screen. “I’ve heard him talk about your roommate. And he probably wants to get his fill in of all of you again before he goes.”

That makes Kei feel a little warmer than he wants to admit, but he brushes that off, choosing instead to focus on the first part of Kenma’s assessment.

“They’re not dating,” he says, and Akaashi huffs a slight laugh. Kenma just casts him a flat look.

“You of all people should know that people don’t have to be formally together to be involved,” he murmurs, which. Well. Feels a bit like a slap in the face, if he’s honest. “I’ve seen how you look at Kageyama,” Kenma tacks on. Wow. Kei is never accusing Kageyama of being too blunt again, now that he’s seen what Kenma can do with such simple honesty.

“Yeah, well,” Kei says, feeling hot under his collar. “It’s not that simple.”

God, he fucking wants a drink. He barely drinks, mostly because his main access to it was via Saeko and occasionally Akiteru, but he’s itching for something to distract him. To dull his senses—his feelings, maybe—just a little.

“You can have mine,” Kenma says. Kei blinks, and sees Kenma jerking his head towards the table, where an unopened bottle of soju sits, and a stack of plastic cups like the one Akaashi is nursing. Kei didn’t even realise he’d said that out loud.

“Thanks,” he says, opening the bottle and pouring himself some. “Would you like a cup?”

Kenma shakes his head. “After the game, maybe.”

Kei nods, and takes a sip from his cup. Then another, and another.

He’s about a quarter of the way through his cup when Kenma speaks again. “Why isn’t it that simple?” he asks. Kei almost chokes on his soju.

“What?” he asks, then catches up. “Kageyama?” He scowls. “It’s—” he gestures vaguely with his hand, and takes another sip. Kenma does take his eyes off the screen then, just to shoot him an unimpressed look, before turning back to his game.

“Are you worried about Kageyama’s feelings?” Akaashi asks.

That’s a complicated question, Kei thinks.

“I don’t know how to answer that,” he says after a moment, taking another sip. He’s starting to feel the warmth seep through him, running through his veins, the same way Kageyama’s smile runs through them, runs through him.

“Kageyama looks at you too,” Kenma says. Then he scrunches up his face at the screen, smashing one of the buttons three times in quick succession. Someone dies on screen, and Kenma’s lips curve into a satisfied smile.

“That’s – I’m not worried about that,” Kei says after a moment. It’s daunting to say, something that he tries not to give words to, because what does he do if Kageyama looks at him, but wants someone else more? What’s he left with? But he’s tired, and confused, and everything in him feels warmer, looser. There are worse people to be honest with than Akaashi Keiji and Kozume Kenma, he thinks.

Akaashi’s brow furrows slightly. “What are you worried about?” he asks.

“It’s – he looks at Kunimi too,” Kei says, and it feels like shrugging a weight from his shoulders after a long walk. Both lighter, a relief, but suddenly all the more aware of how tired he is.

Akaashi nods, processing this. “But he still looks at you, correct?” he asks. “You’re aware of that?”

Kei nods reluctantly. He drains the last quarter of his cup, then leans forward to grab the bottle, pouring more in. Placing the bottle back down, he takes a sip from his cup.

Akaashi hums. “Has Kageyama given you any indication that he may be interested?”

Kei flushes. He doesn’t know how to explain the way Kageyama shows his affection, in stilted motions and overly earnest statements—how when Kageyama throws a strawberry milk box at him, it feels akin to how Kindaichi looks when Hinata presses a kiss to his cheek—how when Kageyama grumbles at him sleepily at midnight, half passed out over his homework, it’s a testament of trust in itself.

“Ah,” Akaashi says, and Kei glances up, meets his eyes. Sees something thoughtful in them, something understanding.

“And you have similar reason to believe he harbours the same interest in Kunimi?” Akaashi asks.

Kei swallows, thinks about Kageyama asking Kunimi to play volleyball, thinks about the two of them bickering lightly on their way to the vending machines, a banter built on a foundation that’s older than anything Kei has to offer. He nods.

“Hm,” Akaashi hums, and then: “Has he given you any indication that these are mutually exclusive?”

At that, Kei stills. Frowns into his cup, takes a sip. He’s not entirely sure what to do with that question – how to recalibrate the situation into that framework, how to make sense of it, any or all. He wonders, briefly, if Yamaguchi was getting at a similar thing the other day with his roadblock comment.

“I – I hadn’t considered otherwise,” he says. He feels a little untethered, a little overwhelmed. Like there’s so much to process, and he’s just one person. Just Tsukishima Kei, spiteful and intelligent, not built for these complexities. It’s not just that he hadn’t considered any other option – he just hadn’t even realised it was something to consider. God, he has no idea what to do with any of it.

Kenma shoots him a level look, but thankfully doesn’t say anything. Akaashi hums once more.

“It might be worth doing so,” he says calmly. Kei nods, though he doesn’t really know what he’ll do with that. He’s always been excellent at making strategies based on the information at hand, at translating input into something which can be used to an advantage, but this – as so much to do with Kageyama does, especially when Kunimi is involved – has him off-kilter. Unbalanced.

He sinks back into the couch, nursing his drink.

“Thank you, Kozume,” he says, belatedly realising – did he thank him already? God. This situation is fucking with his head. “For – ” he gestures vaguely to the room around them, and his cup, “ – your hospitality.”

Akaashi quirks his lip up, but Kenma just glances at Kei.

“Kenma,” he says. “Just call me Kenma.”

Kei frowns at Akaashi, because he’s known Kenma longer than Kei, and inarguably better, and he still says Kozume. Kenma, catching this, rolls his eyes.

“Akaashi is a lost cause,” he says with a sigh. “He still calls Kuro ‘Kuroo-san’ and they’ve been dating for months.”

Kei blinks, processing that. Then he makes an expression of disgust. “That’s your type?” he asks Akaashi incredulously. “Congratulations. I guess.”

Kenma grins, and even Akaashi looks amused as he sighs. “It’s a character flaw,” Akaashi deadpans.

“What’s a character flaw?” a familiar voice asks, and Kei almost spills his drink as Kuroo suddenly pops his head over the couch.

“What the fuck,” he says, resisting the urge to pour his soju onto Kuroo.

“Akaashi’s taste in men,” Kenma offers. Kuroo squawks, and Akaashi rolls his eyes, but smiles slightly. Kuroo ducks his head to press a quick kiss to Akaashi’s lips—surprisingly sweet, actually. Kuroo’s obviously a sap, Kei’s always known that, because you’d have to be a sentimental disaster to write a volleyball speech that ridiculous about your best friend, but Akaashi tends to be a little more reserved. It’s nice to see, though Kei would die before admitting it.

 “HEY HEY HEY, what’s up, party people?” Bokuto crows, announcing his arrival with excessive volume and enthusiasm, as per usual.

Kenma actually pauses his game and tilts his head up. Kei almost drops his drink on his lap. Bokuto bounds over, nudging Kuroo a bit to make space so he can lean over the couch and – drop his chin on Kenma’s head? The wildest part is that Kenma doesn’t seem to mind – hell, he even seems to be leaning into the contact. Kei’s entire world is unhinged, it’s official.

“Why was I being insulted?” Kuroo wants to know.

“Habit,” Kei says, and Akaashi smiles crookedly. Kuroo makes a grumbling sound, but buries his face in Akaashi’s hair. Suddenly – as much help as Akaashi and Kenma have been, and as enjoyable as it was to escape the crowd for a bit – the room is too claustrophobic. He’s happy for his – he’s reluctant to call them friends, if only because that will encourage Bokuto and Kuroo to interact with him more, which is never ideal, but whatever they are to him, he’s pleased that they’re clearly doing well, happy and affectionate.

He just… doesn’t really want to be there.

Kei rises from the couch, his cup of soju in his hand, and nods a little awkwardly at them all. Akaashi lifts his eyebrows in acknowledgement, and Kenma gives him a final glance – something steady, and steadying. He appreciates it.

Kei leaves the room, moving down the corridor—passes by who he thinks is Miya Osamu – it’s harder to tell than it should be, honestly, because the corridor is dimly lit, and his hair isn’t matching his brother’s anymore, but he thinks he’d recognise that face anywhere, even if the last time he saw it, his twin was wearing it and teasing Kageyama – grinning at Sakusa Kiyoomi, of all people, who seems to be turning his face to try hide his own smile—passes by Konoha, who has Suna Rintarou on his shoulders and is chasing one of Fukurodani’s old managers, the one who used to eat faster than Bokuto—passes by Oikawa, chatting with Shiratorizawa’s pinch server, the one with the ridiculously dyed tips, now a shocking pink—

Miya Atsumu bumps into him as he enters the main room, effectively cutting off his train of thought.

“Ooh, Rin’s blocker nemesis,” Atsumu says, sounding delighted. Kei blinks. “Have ya seen my useless brother anywhere? I’m stayin’ with him while I’m here, but I wanna go call Shin, so I dunno if I should wait for him or just split with someone else.”

Kei takes a moment to process all of the (largely unnecessary) information Atsumu has just provided him. “He’s in the corridor,” he says, tilting his head back to indicate where he came from. “With Sakusa.”

Atsumu’s expression becomes even more gleeful. “Ha! That’s who he’s inta? Fuck, I gotta see this,” he says, and then pushes past Kei, his mind clearly already on making fun of his brother.

Kei rolls his eyes, shaking his head, and then turns back to the room at large. He can see Kunimi and Kindaichi against the back wall, and he almost heads over to them, but then—

Kageyama. Stumbling ever so slightly, but smiling at the sight of him, from the middle of the room. It smashes right into Kei’s chest, and he immediately makes his way towards him.

“Hey,” Kageyama says, slightly breathless, when Kei arrives in front of him.

Kei smirks. “King,” he says. He looks down at him in amusement, and raises an eyebrow at the cup in Kageyama’s hand. “Feeling a little adventurous today?” he asks.

Kageyama pouts at him, and it’s one of the cutest things Kei has ever seen. Un-fucking-believable. “Hinata gave it to me, but he said not to have too much.”

“Good call,” Kei says wryly. The soju still feels warm running through his system, but there’s a new heat flooding through him, one that – as much as he’s loathe to think it – has more to do with the boy in front of him than any alcohol this party could offer.

Kageyama leans a little closer, and Kei does too. He can’t help it. Kageyama Tobio commands attention, and always has, even without meaning to; Kei’s never worked out how not to give it to him.

“I’m not drunk,” Kageyama says stubbornly, but in a low tone, like it’s a secret. “I’m just – ” He breaks off, thinking about a word, eventually settling on: “Buzzed.” It’s a Kindaichi sort of word, and Kei likes hearing it in Kageyama’s mouth.

“Yeah,” he says agreeably, for probably the first time ever. “Me too.”

It’s exhilarating, just a little, being out here. It was too much earlier, too intense, but now it’s easier to breathe – maybe because of the soju, maybe because at least he’s not surrounded by such overwhelming togetherness like he was when Kuroo and Bokuto showed up in Kenma’s game room. Maybe both. Right now, Kei’s got alcohol warming his body, and the night is filled with people they know, with laughter, with – with each other. He’s only tipsy from the soju, but he thinks he could get drunk on how close Kageyama is to him right now.

Kageyama takes another step, or tries to – instead, he stumbles a little, and Kei’s arms come out to steady him on instinct. “Had too much to drink, Your Highness?” Kei teases. His voice is fond, too fond, but maybe that’s okay. Maybe Kageyama will let him away with it tonight.

Kei hopes he’ll let him away with it tonight.

Kageyama grumbles, but he doesn’t push Kei away. Of everything, that surprises him most, and he furrows his brow a little.

“Maybe we should get you home,” Kei says. His tone is still warm, a little giddy, but there’s concern bleeding in there too. He can hear it – feel it in his bones, taste it on his tongue.

“I don’t want to go home,” Kageyama says petulantly, and Kei feels a flash of irritation, before tilting his head.

“Wants aren’t everything,” he says, and Kageyama makes a disgruntled expression.

“I don’t need to go home either,” he mumbles, and Kei believes him. He honestly does. He’s not used to seeing Kageyama lacking coordination or spatial awareness, but he agrees. Kageyama is just buzzed, maybe tipsy.

But. Well. The opening is there, and Kei can’t help but ask; half-teasing, half-too-earnest.

“What do you need?” he asks, cocking his head a little, a bit of a quirk to his lips. “What do you want?”

Kageyama looks at him with those clear, earnest blue eyes. Kei’s heart thuds harder in his chest because of his gaze. He doesn’t look like he’s thinking about the alcohol anymore.

“You,” he says, honest and disarming as always.

Kei swallows. He almost kisses Kageyama right there, all of his resistance and self-control melting away under the weight of those blue eyes, but then he thinks about what Yamaguchi’s been saying, what Kindaichi’s been saying, what Hinata’s been saying. What Akaashi was patiently asking, guiding him towards, what Kenma seemed to be suggesting with his level stares.

He thinks maybe he gets it. Or, at least, he can ask. He doesn’t know if he would, normally, but he has soju burning through his veins, and Kageyama’s gaze burning through him. It almost feels like courage.

God, his heart is beating fast, but he steels himself.

“Me or Kunimi?” Kei asks. Objectively, the room around them is loud, enough that it should be ringing in Kei’s ears, but he can’t hear anything except his heartbeat – Kageyama’s breath – this moment, this feeling.

Kageyama’s brow furrows for a second. Kei thinks maybe he hears someone’s breath hitch, but he can’t look away from Kageyama right now. He literally doesn’t think he could tear his eyes away if he tried.

Kageyama blinks at him, and then – honestly, so honestly, as honest as he always is – Kageyama says, “both.”

Both. It crashes into Kei, just like Akaashi’s question had. I don’t think that’s the roadblock you think it is, Yamaguchi says. Kageyama looks at you too, Kenma points out. Has he given you any indication that these are mutually exclusive? Akaashi asks. You’ve got your Kageyama face on – actually, no, it’s your Kageyama and Kunimi face, Kindaichi observes. I think you should just ask, Hinata says, on one of their endless phone calls.

He thinks he gets it – finally, finally gets what maybe everyone else always has.

Kei searches Kageyama’s eyes. They’re just as open, just as true as ever. It makes his chest ache. He glances behind him, catches sight of familiar sleepy eyes, open wider than he’s ever seen them.

Maybe not everyone, Kei thinks, watching Kunimi’s face show a rare amount of expression, something startled, something raw. He turns back to Kindaichi, murmurs something, and moves towards the kitchen. Kindaichi glances over at Kei and Kageyama, nods quickly, then follows his best friend.

Kei swallows again, then looks at Kageyama. “Do you want to get out of here?” he asks carefully. “Just – anywhere.”

Kageyama blinks at him, a slow thing, sweeping his eyelashes across his cheekbones. Then he nods, his expression soft, and Kei thinks Kageyama Tobio is the most dangerous thing that has ever happened to him.

“So,” Kei says. They’re sitting on swings, which is maybe a stupid idea when they’re both a little tipsy and Kei’s entire world feels like it’s gone off-balance, but the night air is cool on his flushed cheeks, and Kageyama has always looked like he belongs to the night sky.

“So,” Kageyama says, quirking an eyebrow.

“You, uh,” Kei starts, and gives up. This is really fucking hard, even having realised what he has. Even with Kageyama having been the one to say it.

Then it occurs to Kei: he hasn’t said anything to Kageyama, not about what was essentially a confession.

“Are you sure?” Kei asks abruptly. Kageyama blinks at him. “What you said,” Kei clarifies. “At the party. Both. Are you sure?”

Kageyama nods. “Yeah,” he says, like it’s easy. Like it’s simple. Like it’s a normal thing to be able to say you like someone, let alone multiple. God. Kei can’t believe him sometimes.

“Right,” Kei says. “Uh – ”

“Can I kiss you?” Kageyama asks abruptly. Kei almost swallows his own tongue. Kageyama’s eyes are so, so earnest – curious and affectionate, like there’s nothing else on his mind. Like there’s nothing he’d want more. 

“King, you can’t just say that,” Kei says, flushing scarlet.

Kageyama tilts his head. “Why not?” he grumbles. “Do you not want me to?”

That’s the opposite of the problem. Fuck. He’s going to be the death of Kei.

“No,” Kei says frustratedly. “I want you to – that’s the problem. Don’t you think we need to, fuck, I don’t know, figure out how to proceed?”

Kageyama looks at him. “You want me to kiss you,” he says, and Kei feels his cheeks heat up. “I want to kiss you.”

“It’s not that simple,” Kei says, and Kageyama frowns at him.

“Do you like me, Tsukishima?” he asks, blunt as a hammer, smashing through all of Kei’s glass walls.

Kei scowls at the slide across from them, and Kageyama makes a disgruntled noise. “I don’t think it’s that complicated,” he says stubbornly. “Either you like me, or you don’t.”

“God, you’re so fucking annoying,” Kei says, exasperated. “Yes, I like you.”

Kageyama’s lips spread into a wide smile, bigger than Kei’s ever seen on his face before. It catches on the edges of Kei’s chest.

“I like you too,” he says, then stands. Kei watches to make sure he won’t fall over, but all he does is come closer. Stands between Kei’s legs. Like this, with him standing and Kei sitting on the swing, Kageyama is taller than him for once. Kei swallows, looking up at him.

“What about Kunimi?” he asks, and Kageyama’s expression turns quizzical.

“What about him?” he asks. It’s not coy – it’s genuinely curious. Kei can hear it in his voice. He really wants to know what it is that Kei is asking.

“You like him too, right?” Kei asks.

Kageyama nods. “Yeah,” he says frankly, like it’s the sort of simple truth he expects everyone to understand. Maybe he does. Maybe it is. “Is that a problem?” he asks, looking a little confused.

Kei thinks about it. Is it a problem? There’s an unclenching in his chest, something that’s been slowly unfurling ever since Kageyama said you, and he maps it out, searching for kinks in the fabric of his heart. He doesn’t find anything. He’s not a particularly gracious person – he knows he can get jealous, or easily aggravated, and he hates being embarrassed. It’s kind of surprising that this isn’t a problem, but maybe it’s more about who it is than what it is – maybe it would be a problem if it was anyone but Kunimi, anyone but Kageyama.

As it is, though, he’s spent so long with both of them, so long wondering if he’s meant to compete against Kunimi, that it’s almost a relief just to share with him. He thinks about Kunimi almost as much as he does Kageyama, just by virtue of his attempts to understand all their relationships, and it doesn’t feel like losing anything to think about Kageyama with Kunimi, not as long as he’s with Kei too.

“No,” he says honestly, almost relieved. “It’s okay with me.”

Kageyama gives him a brilliant smile, bright against the night sky and the shadows of his hair.

“Good,” he says, and then he ducks his head down, pressing his lips to Kei’s.

It’s a little awkward, too fast and too hard, but it’s something Kei’s wanted for so long that he thinks he’d probably explode if it was somehow better than this. Kageyama, normally so demanding, isn’t trying to take the lead – he’s hungry, yes, greedy, but his lips are soft and pliant. He wants more, but he doesn’t want control, and something about that distinction flutters in Kei’s chest.

Then Kei tilts his head a little, anchors his hands on Kageyama’s hips, and their lips slot together a little differently. It’s suddenly a lot better, and Kageyama tastes like alcohol and new opportunities. Kei thinks it’s his new favourite taste.

“You taste like soju,” Kageyama says once they break apart.

Kei snorts. “You taste like shitty beer,” he teases, but he can feel the smile at his lips. Kageyama must see it too, because all he does is smile back and reach out his hand to pull him up.

Kei takes it.

“God, I was two minutes from locking you all in a room with Iwaizumi-san to talk some sense into you,” Kindaichi says, sounding relieved.

Kei’s a little insulted. Also confused. “Iwaizumi was never even my senpai,” he protests. 

Kindaichi just shrugs. “You guys were that bad.”

Kei throws a pillow at him.

Kei’s not there when Kunimi and Kageyama have their conversation, and he doesn’t know exactly what happens during it, only that when they come out of Kageyama’s room, Kunimi’s eyes are a little warmer than usual, and Kageyama looks satisfied.

Kei examines himself, tries to chase out any last insecurities. He doesn’t find any.

That’s not to say it’s automatically simple to navigate.

It’s really weird the first time all three of them hang out together after the party. It shouldn’t be, because it’s normal for how they behaved before everything changed, but it is. There’s an underlying current to it, something unspoken. At least until Kei thumbs a crumb away from Kageyama’s lip. It’s just instinctual, something he’s gotten used to, something he revels in being able to do now, but he is suddenly very aware of the weight of Kunimi’s gaze and he shies away, trying to work out what to say – how to apologise, if he even has to apologise.

But Kunimi shrugs. “No, that’s how this works, right? We can do that with him now.” 

After a moment, Kunimi snakes his hand into Kageyama’s, looking nonchalant as fuck, and Kei’s heart is in his throat, trying to work out how he feels. After a few moments, he realises that Kunimi’s not really... breathing, that for someone who’s actually not very bothered by much, this is new to him too, and something difficult to navigate. 

The realisation helps, slotting into his chest like a new truth to accept, like Kageyama’s affection, like his love for volleyball, like reconciling with Akiteru. Somehow, it feels as important as all of that. So Kei slides his foot against Kageyama’s, his own contribution to what Kunimi is trying to do here. Kageyama smiles at them both, and they catch each other’s eyes, then look away. Kei can feel warmth in his cheeks.

(“Yeah, Tsukki!” Kuroo says, when he hears about it. “Normalise those casual intimacies! Explore them! Embrace them—”

“I apologise for him,” Akaashi says, clearly seizing the phone back from his embarrassing, appalling boyfriend. “I’m looking into neutering agencies as we speak.”

Kuroo’s squawk in the background does make Kei laugh.)

Kunimi and Kageyama go on dates that Kei doesn’t join them on—their time—but Kei and Kageyama go on their own dates too. Sometimes they just study by themselves, their ankles brushing against each other, pooling together their study snacks; sometimes they go to the aquarium, because Kei reasons that the animals there don’t pay attention to anyone so it doesn’t matter if they don’t like Kageyama specifically, and the look on Kageyama’s face when a sea lion swims right up to face him through the glass makes Kei’s entire day; sometimes they just stay in one of their rooms and watch ridiculous international television so that Kageyama can try to get used to listening to other languages for when he inevitably plays internationally. Kei is meant to be helping, but mostly he just mocks the plotlines, feeling a self-satisfied smirk curl across his face whenever he manages to pull a laugh out of his boyfriend.

Kunimi and Kei end up hanging out a lot too. They’ve always been friends—at least since midway through high school, starting from the seeds sown at that first rookie training camp—and they’d always hung out, but now it’s different. For a little it was slightly more awkward, but after that day where they got over what Kuroo calls ‘shared casual intimacies’ (Kei is so embarrassed to talk to him in public), they fell into a rhythm of it. 

Sometimes they even text each other, sending things like he was upset last night, if you see him, can you check in on him? but eventually it evolves into checking on each other, far beyond how they used to. They’ve never exactly been the sort of friends that actively express concern, after all. Fuck, Kei thinks they both still struggle to do it for Kageyama at times, and they’re dating him. Sometimes they go out for coffee, and talk for hours without him coming up once. Sometimes he’s all they talk about. Sometimes they listen to music together in Kei’s room, just lying down quietly on his bed, the music in their ear the only thing in the world other than each other. (Kindaichi raised his eyebrows at them for that one. They raised their eyebrows at him in unison. Kunimi added his middle finger.) 

Sometimes they sit together in the library, studying together, or swapping notes while they get fed up with their ridiculous assignment rubrics. Once, they stayed together for an hour outside Kageyama’s lecture, just languidly chatting as they waited for him to finish. When they noticed him, ten minutes after his lecture ended, looking at them with a soft, complicated expression on his face, they deliberately didn’t look at each other. Instead, they each seized one of his wrists, tugging him forwards. Kunimi said they were all getting lunch together, and Kei chimed in that it wasn’t going to be yakiniku.

(Kei thinks about that day a few times as the weeks pass.)

It’s late at night, and they’re all piled into Kei and Kindaichi’s room. Kei would normally object to having this many people in his space, but he supposes all of them are his friends now – all of them have carved a space in his heart. Unfortunate.

Kuguri popped in with Shibayama earlier, but has since disappeared—Kageyama didn’t look that grossed out, but Kei can’t decide if that means Kuguri is actually not sexiling him tonight, or if Kageyama is a lot more flexible about things than he seems, or if the idea just hasn’t occurred to him—and Koganegawa is chatting on Kindaichi’s phone to Goshiki, for reasons beyond Kei’s understanding. 

Kageyama and Kindaichi are bickering fiercely about something that doesn’t matter at all—something about electrolytes? God, Kei questions his taste sometimes—and their faces are alight with entertainment and amusement. Kei’s eyes stray to Kunimi’s face, which is as unimpressed as ever, like marble carved into slight disdain, but his eyes are dancing with something like fondness, and his lips are tilted slightly at the side, and they look soft, inviting, and—

Kei bolts up. He slips out of the room, refusing to look at anyone as he leaves. He doesn’t notice clever eyes watching him go. His mind is too busy turning itself over because what. What was that, Kei?

Kei: please remind me that my taste sucks and the targets of feelings are traditionally questionable to those with brains

Yamaguchi: ?????

Yachi: did you and kageyama-kun have a fight? :o

Kei: no

Kei: it’s. ugh

Kei: it’s not about kageyama

Yamaguchi: what

Kei: fuck

A fairly frantic phone call from Yachi—she doesn’t do well with people not answering texts when they seem to be in high stress situations, which Kei knows is understandable—and a more reasonable, if infinitely more complicated, FaceTime call with Yamaguchi later, Kei has a plan of attack.

It’s extremely sparse, but it’s something. Currently, it consists of:

  1. Stop saying “fuck” repeatedly, at least out loud
  2. Just wait for Yamaguchi and Yachi, who made the executive decision to come down to Tokyo to help him 
  3. Probably buy them some fucking flowers or something. God. Fuck.

Somehow, that plan of attack leads to him on a fucking conference call with Kenma, Akaashi, Kuroo and Bokuto in his bedroom the next evening, Yamaguchi and Yachi at his side. Kindaichi had raised his eyebrows as the other two had followed Kei in, but upon catching Yamaguchi’s eye, he’d nodded cryptically and left. Kei had obviously narrowed his eyes in suspicion at his best friend, but Yamaguchi ignored him, calling Akaashi. Kei’s not even sure how he knew to call Akaashi.

That was half an hour ago. Somehow, calling Akaashi has evolved into including Kuroo (not particularly welcome, but unsurprising), Kenma (not unwelcome, but somewhat surprising) and Bokuto (both unwelcome and surprising).

“Just kiss him,” Kuroo says, and Kei makes a strangled noise.

“Kuroo-san,” Akaashi scolds. “It’s more delicate than that.”

“It is,” Kenma agrees. “But not that delicate.”

Kei glares down at the phone in the middle of his bed.

“Why don’tcha ask him about it?” Bokuto asks. He’d disappeared for a peaceful-ish ten minutes to make some hot drink for Kenma, who was apparently coming down with some sort of cold, and had somehow managed to pick up an inside voice along the way.

“I can’t do that,” Kei protests, and Yachi makes a soft noise of dissent.

“I think you can, Kei-kun,” she says thoughtfully. “You always do something in the end, and, well, something kind of needs to be done about this, doesn’t it?”

“I mean, I guess you could ignore it,” Kuroo says hesitantly. “But, like – if you want to kiss him, and you like spending time with him…”

“It’s probably worth pursuing,” Akaashi says, finishing his boyfriend’s thought.

Kei frowns at that, and bites his lip. The phone starts vibrating, signalling an incoming call, and Yamaguchi peers at it, before tapping accept and then merge calls.

A second later, Hinata’s voice rings through the room. “Tsukishima! You should talk to him!”

Kei stares at the phone in disbelief, then drops his head into his hands. How does everyone know?

“That’s what I said!” Bokuto says enthusiastically. “You’re so wise, my disciple.”

“Bokuto-san!” Hinata greets cheerfully.

“Hey, Shouyou,” Kenma says.

“Hi, Chibi-chan,” Kuroo says. Kei swears he can hear a smirk in his voice. Awful.

“Hello, Hinata,” Akaashi says politely.

“Kenma! Kuroo-san! Akaashi-san! Wow, cool, what a fun phone call,” Hinata says, sounding more pleased by the moment.

Kei puts his head in his hands again. How is this what his life has come to?

“Anyway,” Hinata says, “Kageyama says you’ve basically been going out on dates anyway, so like, why not talk to Kunimi about it?”

There’s a general chorus of confusion, and Yamaguchi raises his eyebrows at Kei.

“We’re not going on dates,” Kei groans. He’s a little discomfited at the idea that even Kageyama could read it that way.

“He said basically dates,” Hinata corrects, as if that’s any better. 

“We’re just. Hanging out,” Kei grounds out. “As friends.”

“Yeah, but you want to kiss him,” Kenma points out. “I hang out with Kuro all the time, but I have no interest in kissing him. Same with Shouyou, or Akaashi.”

Kei notes how he doesn’t mention Bokuto, which basically confirms a suspicion he’s had since the party, but he doesn’t even have time to dwell on that, because Kuroo is talking.

“Yeah, what exactly makes these not dates?” Kuroo asks. “If you’re attracted to him, and you enjoy his company, and you hang out by yourselves, and you want to kiss him?”

“He has a boyfriend,” Kei says, which is maybe not his smartest response, but Kuroo can be extremely annoying at times.

“Who is also your boyfriend,” Kuroo argues incredulously. “That’s, like, even more reason, isn’t it?”

“I agree with Kuroo-san,” Yamaguchi says, tilting his head. “This would be a different situation if it was just some other person, but this is Kunimi. You’re already in a relationship of sorts, right?”

“It’s worth a shot, isn’t it, Kei-kun?” Yachi asks, peering up at him.

Kei honestly doesn’t know if it is, but he can’t work out why. Maybe – maybe because he’s scared. He’s not sure of what, though, or why, because objectively this is less difficult than the first conversations Kageyama had to have, or those months when he didn’t even know where he stood with Kageyama, especially compared to Kunimi.

“What if – ” Kei starts, then breaks off. Catches sight of Yamaguchi and Yachi—his steady gaze, her encouraging smile—and tries again. “What if he doesn’t want that?”

It’s not everything he could say, but it feels vulnerable enough to make him want to explode.

Hinata hums. “Y’mean, like, what if he only wants Kageyama?” he asks.

Zing. Right to the softest spot.

“Yeah,” Yamaguchi says on his behalf.

“I don’t think that’s an issue,” Hinata says thoughtfully. “I didn’t want to say anything, because like, it’s not really anyone else’s business, but I know Kindaichi was calling Iwaizumi-san and Oikawa-san to help Kunimi out with something like… this, and it’s not Kageyama-related. So.”

Something unfurls in Kei’s chest.

“I mean, worth a shot, right?” Yamaguchi says, looking Kei in the eye.

Kei swallows, thinks, nods.

“I guess so,” he says.

Kunimi looks at him, and it cuts through Kei.

Just like Kageyama always manages to cut through all of Kei’s thoughts and worries, his overthinking and intense extrapolating, Kunimi’s gaze cuts right through Kei, straight to the heart of him.

“I don’t really know how to have this conversation,” Kei says, channelling Kageyama for once in his life, and saying the honest thing.

It makes Kunimi’s lips twitch.

“This is more Kageyama’s area,” Kunimi agrees.

“Earnest,” Kei says, snorting.

“Blunt,” Kunimi says, rolling his eyes.

They subside for a moment, thinking about Kageyama. Kei thinks about what he’d do if he was here, and then blanches a little. It’s a fairly horrifying prospect. He’d probably just come out and say it, and then stare at them, expecting an answer as easily as he gave his.

Kei shudders, and Kunimi glances at him. “I just imagined what it’d be like if Kageyama was here right now,” Kei says, lips twisting into a wry smirk, and Kunimi looks amused.

“He’d just say it,” he says. “Never known how to hold back a truth.”

Kei does not know how to be Kageyama. He deals in disillusionment, and Kunimi deals in indifference, but – well. They’re both here. That has to count for something.

“How’d he confess to you?” Kei asks.

Kunimi shrugs. “I kind of heard what he said to you,” he says. “But. He just. Said it. Told me he liked me, told me he liked you, told me he’d kissed you, told me he wanted to kiss me too. Not just once. But as much as we’d let him.” Kunimi looks out towards the garden, then back at Kei. “Said he wanted us both, as if it was easy.”

“He does that, doesn’t he?” Kei says, thinking about how absolutely maddening Kageyama can be, insisting everything is simple when it’s actually very complicated if he just took a moment to think.

This time, though, Kei thinks he might be right.

“Mmm,” Kunimi agrees. “I make fun of him for it, but – I wouldn’t do it.” He looks wryly at Kei. “I guess this conversation shows that.”

Kei’s breath hitches. That’s – it’s nothing as clear as Kageyama’s confession, but Kei knows how to deal with Kunimi, knows how to translate him and speak like him, because he naturally runs along those lines, and he thinks that’s as vulnerable an admission as he’s going to get.

“Same,” he says. “Hard to say.”

Kunimi’s eyes fix themselves on his, full and dark and thoughtful, searching Kei’s for something.

“Worth a try?” he asks, after a long moment. Kei thinks galaxies could have been born in that time. He exhales a breath.

“I think so,” he says. He thinks about what Yamaguchi said before sending him out here – how there’s nothing wrong with letting yourself enjoy something, that there’s no point in denying something if you want it and you can have it. Kei’s always hated being illogical, and when Yamaguchi said it like that, he could see the point he was making. “I thought about kissing you that night,” he says, feeling more confident from the way Kunimi is speaking and the advice Yamaguchi had given.

Kunimi stills, then quirks his lips up. “There’s nothing stopping you now,” he murmurs, and – well. Fuck. Okay.

Kei moves closer, leaning forward. His movements are slow. Deliberate. Kunimi does not shy away.

Inhale. Exhale. One, two, three. Kei leans forward, slotting his lips against Kunimi’s. It’s nothing like the first kiss he had with Kageyama – this is full of intent, full of cautious exploration. It’s not hungry so much as curious, like something Kei wants to delve into at length. Kunimi’s lips are soft below his – a little more chapped than Kageyama’s, but warmer too.

When they break away, Kei glances down at his hands, a little flushed. He looks back up to find Kunimi looking at him.

“Maybe Kageyama had the right idea,” Kunimi says, and Kei blinks. “Maybe it’s easy to want you both.”

Kei’s chest feels like it’s cracking open with something too intense to hold inside.

“Maybe he is,” he says, and reaches out his hand to brush it against Kunimi’s fingers.

A few moments later, Kunimi brushes his back.

Kageyama blinks at them.

“I think it’s a good idea,” he says, furrowing his brow, looking at them like he’s confused about why this is a question.

“So, you’re definitely not jealous?” Kei checks.

Kageyama stares at him incredulously. “Did you hit your head?” he asks, which makes Kunimi snort. Kei kind of feels like Kageyama just stole one of his lines, which. What the fuck. “Why would I be jealous? I like you both. A lot. It makes complete sense to me for you to like each other. You both have good taste.” He frowns, then tacks on, “Even if you’re both really annoying about training your stomachs to eat more.” He juts out his lower lip and scrunches his nose. “You should listen to me about that.”

Kei stares, slightly open-mouthed, then glances at Kunimi. He finds him already looking back at him. They both snort in unison.

“All right, King,” Kei says, rolling his eyes. “Let’s go get some dinner, then.”

Kageyama perks up. “For stomach training?”

“No,” Kunimi says, shaking his head.

Kageyama frowns, undoubtedly about to argue with them again, when Kunimi catches Kei’s eye. He flicks his eyes towards Kageyama’s wrists, and Kei nods.

They each seize him by a wrist and pull him forward, just like that day outside Kageyama’s lecture.

Kei thought about that day a lot. He thinks he’ll probably think about this one even more.