The first time Miya Atsumu fell in love, he fell with the autumn leaves. High up on the balcony, he leans over the railing to look at the trees down below. In this dead of winter they’re bare, like that time years back when he woke up to find himself on the ground, cold.
The falling didn’t happen all at once — none of it did. As the leaves take their time to bud, to unfurl, to grow green, Atsumu’s feelings for Kita developed slowly. Looking back, he places the blame on all the ways Kita wasn’t. He wasn’t incensed by Atsumu’s ill-mannered comments, wasn’t fearful of his unstable moods, wasn’t irritated by his angry outbursts. When everyone else looked away, Kita looked toward him, into him, planting himself there.
By the time Kita graduated, his roots sunk deep inside Atsumu, past every acceptable layer and into the monstrous dark. He was there listening to Atsumu vent, holding him as he yelled and cried and screamed, and kissing him when he ran out of vile words. Indiscriminate, he absorbed every part of Atsumu, absolved him of his sins and made him green.
The byproduct was a slow and steady poisoning, a death Kita must have felt, and a death Atsumu never saw coming — blind to the way he turned from orange to red to brown. That autumn, their leaves fell to the ground like every other. But when they reached the tail end of winter, there was nothing to grow back.
While the party rages on inside, music shaking the glass and laughter cutting through it, Atsumu stares down at those bare trees, dormant in their silence. Come spring, the sun will shine, the ground will thaw, and they’ll be full once more. Under the right conditions, they might even flower in shades of white and pink and red more brilliant than any fallen leaf.
Kita was flowering now, growing in another healthy and strong. And when Atsumu attended his and Aran’s wedding last summer, saw firsthand how they looked at each other, supported each other, loved each other, he couldn’t bring himself to be bitter.
He has to think: did he ever truly love Kita? Or did he love the poison leaving him, the immunity it provided, the chilling purity of it all?
Whatever it was, it wasn’t the same the second time around. Atsumu glances back to the party through the fogged glass doors, to the faces he knows and doesn’t, all common in their purpose, all sharing in the celebration. Shouyou’s orange head pops up over the back of the couch and he turns to give Atsumu a wave. The black band glints on his finger, an exact match to the top of Tobio’s head beside him. Atsumu smiles and waves back, thankful when Shouyou returns to his seat.
Reminiscing about someone is hard enough when they’re not right in his face, and reminiscing about the second time he fell in love never gets easier. Brushes with death are best forgotten, and even though Atsumu doesn’t need the memories, he can’t seem to rid himself of them. He holds tight to them like he holds on to the railing, allowing the ice-cold metal to bite into his skin.
A year has passed, a year of scars healing and fading, but Atsumu’s come to accept they’ll never stop aching. Looking back, he blames it on passion; that feeling he’s known for as long as he remembers, familiar in the way it burrows under his skin, itching and pleading until he hands it the wheel. Passion loves to drive, but the drive he had for Shouyou was a different flavor. A violent type.
Never in Atsumu’s life had he cared to be popular, to be loved and looked upon with fondness by others, but in loving Shouyou he had a taste, and one taste was all it took. Addiction to someone bright and happy and free somehow made him the opposite. Every time Shouyou looked at him, every word he spoke, every touch they shared took Atsumu higher and higher, drove him closer and closer to the edge.
The danger, unlike the imagined chance for happiness, was there from the start, eating away at him, consuming layer after layer after layer. Only when Shouyou broke free of his desperate grasp to finally become official with Tobio, did Atsumu open his eyes. He veered away from the cliff just in time, but the damage inside was already done. There was nothing in him left to burn, and lacking fuel, the fire died.
He pulls his hands back, fingers turned blue. The cold hurts, sure, but it’s nothing compared to the fire of the sun. Only Tobio, with his black hole of a heart, was meant to hold it. Atsumu finds relief in this, a soothing ointment for his burns, and he can’t bring himself to be bitter.
He has to wonder: did he ever truly love Shouyou? Or did he love skating that ledge, the high it gave him, the passionate burn of it all?
Atsumu breathes into his hands to revive his frozen fingers. This back and forth has to end. Never in his life has he doubted himself like this, questioned everything he thought was certain, dug so deep into the earth of his soul. There must be some explanation beneath the charred remains of all these dead roots.
Miya Atsumu has to uncover it, unearth it, understand why being in love with Sakusa Kiyoomi is so different.
The door slides open and the outside world explodes with the sounds of joy. Atsumu shrinks back.
“What are you doing?” Kiyoomi peeks his head out, mask up. “You’re going to get sick if you stay out here in the cold without a coat.”
Maybe Kiyoomi is a little like Kita.
“I’m not taking care of you again if you get the flu, you idiot.”
No — Kiyoomi is not like Kita at all.
“I’m thinkin’.” Atsumu waves a hand. “Go away.”
As usual, Kiyoomi does the exact opposite. He joins Atsumu at the railing, hands hiding deep in his pockets.
“What are you thinking about?” he asks after a moment.
Atsumu doesn’t feel like lying —not to Kiyoomi— but he isn’t one to tell the truth either.
“Bein’ in love.” He leaves off the last two words.
“Oh.” Those dark eyes dig into him, begin an excavation of their own.
“Ya ever been in love, Omi-kun?” he asks if only to spite himself.
“Yes,” Kiyoomi answers without hesitation.
Atsumu knew this already. The surprise comes, then, at how he is hurt and happy all at once. There’s a hint of bitter in there, too, a flavor he could bring out if he tried, if he really wanted to.
“You?” Kiyoomi asks before he can decide.
“Three times,” Atsumu admits, “I think.”
“You think?” Kiyoomi resumes his digging. He should stop — he won’t like what he finds.
“Each time is real different and now I’m kinda lost.” Atsumu returns to holding the railing in lieu of holding himself. “How do ya know you actually love the person and not just how they make ya feel?”
Kiyoomi’s face scrunches up. “Isn’t that the same thing?”
“Whaddya mean?” Atsumu asks.
Kiyoomi’s hands leave his pockets to pull down his mask, a habit of his when they’re alone. He hides less and less these days.
“I’ve only been in love once” —his lips twitch into a near smile— “but I know it’s real.”
Once. Atsumu doesn’t know whether to be hurt or happy. Bitter comes back. “One time don’t—”
“Let me finish,” Kiyoomi cuts him off. “I could say I love how this person made me feel, how they made me comfortable and drove me insane all at once, but that wouldn’t be the whole truth; that wouldn’t be taking responsibility.”
“Responsibility?” Atsumu squints.
“Nobody is making you feel anything.” Kiyoomi does smile now, soft and small, like he didn’t just blow Atsumu’s theories out of the water. “They are existing as they are. You’re the one perceiving them, feeling them, loving them how you choose.”
Atsumu examines his fingers, blue again. “You sure talk big fer someone who’s only been in love once.” He leans against the railing with his chest, trying to numb his heart too.
“Well,” Kiyoomi pauses and purses his lips, “I’ve been in love for a long time.”
“So yer still in love?” Atsumu presses his chest harder to that cold metal, leaning, staring at the ground below if only to ignore the burn of Kiyoomi’s gaze.
Maybe Kiyoomi is a little like Shouyou.
“Better get back to him then,” Atsumu snaps sharper than he means to.
“Yer gonna lose him to that redhead if ya don’t hurry up and make a move. They’ve been flirtin’ all night.” Atsumu would know — watching Kiyoomi watch them left him wanting for cold in the first place.
Kiyoomi laughs loud and full, and even though he’s laughing at Atsumu, laughing at some joke he doesn’t understand, it sounds beautiful.
Everything about Kiyoomi is beautiful. The little smiles he hides behind his mask, given away by the creases at the corners of his eyes. The sharp glint they take on when he’s ready to tell Atsumu off or make some smartass comment. The way he bends at ridiculous angles, contorting himself into unfathomable positions that never quite leave Atsumu’s head.
Not much has changed about Kiyoomi since Atsumu first met him, only the way he makes Atsumu feel — or, the way Atsumu chooses to feel, what he chooses to grow in his chest. The little seed was always there: neglected and hard, hiding in the crux of rotten roots, sheltering away in the soil as fire raged through.
“I’m curious.” Kiyoomi leans over the railing to meet him face to face, to trap him in those dark eyes. “Who’s the third?”
“Yer not gonna ask me ‘bout the first and second?” Atsumu attempts escape.
“I’m not an idiot.” Kiyoomi raises his brows, unamused. “I heard about you and Kita. And I had a front-row seat to your little obsession with Hinata last year.”
The cold burns Atsumu’s red cheeks. “That obvious, huh?”
“You wear your heart on your sleeve.” Kiyoomi presses his lips together.
“Then you should already know the third.”
Kiyoomi’s brows slide together and Atsumu turns his eyes toward the trees.
“This one has me rethinkin’ all the others, has me questionin’.”
“Why?” Kiyoomi never stops digging, he never gives up until he sees it through, until he sees Atsumu through. Persistent as ever.
Atsumu huffs an amorous laugh. “This one feels good. Feels kinda like comin’ home.”
Even if he’s not invited in. Even if he’s left on the front porch in the cold. Even if the only warmth he gets is that sneaking out the cracks of the door.
Kiyoomi laughs again, lighter, as he stands back straight. “Isn’t that how it should feel?”
“I dunno.” Atsumu pulls back, too, and shivers. “Maybe I’m more cut out fer chaos.”
“Hmm.” Kiyoomi unzips his jacket from top to bottom. “Now you’re just being dramatic.”
He drapes it over Atsumu’s shoulders gently, carefully, and Atsumu can no longer remember what cold feels like.
“What’s this fer?” He shifts into it. “Are ya goin’ back inside?”
“No.” Kiyoomi’s hands slip into his jacket pockets from behind, wrapping around Atsumu, bundling him up. “I’m not leaving you.”
No — Kiyoomi isn’t like Shouyou either.
Atsumu tilts his head back onto Kiyoomi’s shoulder. “Yer in love with me, aren’t ya?”
“Are you done looking for chaos?” Kiyoomi’s eyes slide down into his. “Feeding it?”
“Fer the most part.” Atsumu smirks until he sees that familiar glint.
“I’ll show you chaos, you little shit.” Kiyoomi’s fingers dig into him through the pockets of his jacket, tickling.
“Stop!” Atsumu wiggles around, trying to escape those hands and meet them all the same. “Omi-kun, have mercy!”
Kiyoomi stops tickling, but his hands stay pressed to Atsumu’s stomach, rising and falling with each gasping breath. The heat of them permeates through every layer, not just of his clothes, but of his skin, his bones, his soul.
In this dead of winter, the sun is shining bright inside him, the ground is thawing, and that little seed is sprouting. Still, Atsumu worries about it in the midst of all the debris.
“Are ya sure ‘bout this?” he asks. “I’m a mess.”
“You think I don’t know that? I watched you make it.” Kiyoomi pulls him closer, presses into him, digs in deep. “If you’re so in love with me, you should already know I’m an expert at cleaning.”
“I am.” Atsumu smiles. “I know.”
He knows this like he knows he loved both Kita and Shouyou. He still loves the way he chose to feel about them, even if pain was one of the byproducts. One doesn’t erase the other, and after all this digging, the tilled soil is primed for something familiar to grow into something new. Something it can keep.
“I love you.” Atsumu teases his fingertips at the edge of the jacket pockets, asking.
Kiyoomi shifts to make room, inviting. “I love you too.”
And when their fingers intertwine, beautiful and persistent and warm, it feels like coming home.