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the love you gave me remains, that's why I'm still alive

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Miya Atsumu was glorious.

But no matter how much he tries, Sakusa can't find anything glorious about him now. His eyes are closed, his usually glowing skin pale and overcoated with makeup to make him look natural. But he looked everything but natural. He didn't look like he was fucking sleeping, either. He just looked dead.

Kiyoomi wants to scratch his skin and bleed till the voice in his head stopped chanting dirty, dirty, dirty.

He reaches for his sanitizer, his hands eerily still. He feels Shoyou's eyes on him, his infuriatingly kind, sad eyes. He hates it.

He should be crying. He should be feeling like his heart was being torn to shreds. The love of his life is fucking dead and he can feel nothing except the coldness of the sanitizer on his palms.

"I'm sorry for your loss," Shoyou says, his voice cracking. He looks like he's going to burst into tears any second and Kiyoomi feels filthy.

He shoves his hands in his pockets and all but runs away, not even sparing a glance at his dead lover's body. He needs to get out of there.

Miya Atsumu was glorious. Miya Atsumu was the love of his life. Miya Atsumu is dead.

***

His hands are bleeding.

Sakusa holds his hands and lets the running water burn his skin. He scratches, scratches and scratches, not minding the scratches on his hands. He just needed to not feel so damn dirty.

He brings his shaking hands to his face and stares at himself in the fogged-up mirror in front of him. Trembling shoulders, wide eyes, and bloody hands. But not a single tear running down his cheek.

He pulls his hand back and slaps himself, hard.

And then he does it again. And again and again and again.

His knees felt weak and he wants to retch. Just as he wraps a towel around his waist, it feels like a thousand spiders were crawling over his skin. They were everywhere.

Kiyoomi pulls his wardrobe open and throws all his clothes out, heart in his throat. Where is it, where is it, where is it-

In the background, the TV drones on-

"Miya Atsumu, MSBY Jackal's setter, passed away last night. Such a bright soul, he was. The world mourns for him."

The raven touches his cheek, desperate. He closes his eyes.

Cry, goddamnit . Why aren't you crying?

And as he sinks to his knees, he sees it. He sees a blue, velvet box sitting at the very end of the closet. He inhales sharply as he reaches out to it.

The static in his head gets louder, louder until he feels himself drowning in it. He is holding the box in his hand and staring at the glittering diamond ring inside it, but at the same time, he wasn't. The static had already pulled him in and he can't breathe. He looks at himself and all he can see are the grey lines and empty droning of the static.

Numb, he hooks the ring to his silver chain and ties it back on his neck.

"...Japan lost one of its finest players and citizen. May his soul rest in peace."

Sakusa clutches the ring to his chest and lets the cold of the night seep to his bones.

***

The last time he was with Atsumu, their legs were a tangled mess and the blonde was laying his chest on Kiyoomi's chest, eyes closed and lips parted blissfully.

Sakusa wanted to engrain that picture of his lover in his mind. Messy hair glowing gold in the sunlight, Atsumu looked like something that belonged with the gods. Like something holy. A strong surge of affection coursed through him as he pressed a gentle kiss on his temple, earning a satisfied hum from Atsumu.

And at that moment, everything was okay. It was perfect, even. But every day with Atsumu was like that. It was just another Sunday noon for them and Kiyoomi didn't know it was the last time he would hold his lover in his arms.

"Omi-Omi," Atsumu sighed lazily, snuggling closer to him, "What's the time?"

"12 something, I think."

Atsumu sat up, eyes wide, "Shit! I promised Shoyou and Bokkun that I'll grab lunch with 'em! They'd hate me if I show up late!"

Kiyoomi frowned and sat up, "You're going? Now?"

"Uh-huh. There are leftovers in the fridge or ya can order takeout if ya want," he said, picking up his phone from the nightstand.

Atsumu stilled and raised his eyebrow when the raven came closer to him with a casual smile on his lips, "What're ya up to, Omi?"

Kiyoomi inched in closer, leaning so close that their chests brushed together. Atsumu's breath hitched in his throat, "Nothing at all."

"Omi, no touchin' ah."

Atsumu's words melted into gibberish when Sakusa's teeth barely grazed his neck, "No touching. Gotcha."

He continued to pepper kisses, open-mouthed and hungry, on every inch of his exposed skin. Atsumu was shaking under his touch, his eyes hooded with want and teeth biting down on his lip stubbornly to suppress his moans.

But the younger wasn't about to let him go that easily. Sakusa let his hand creep under Atsumu's shirt and shifted his position so that he was straddling him. The blonde melted under his touch, a breathy sigh leaving him.

And then Kiyoomi reached the place where his neck met his shoulder and bit down on it.

"Ah!", Atsumu moaned, hands shooting out to grip his shoulders tightly, "Kiyoomi, you bastard."

Atsumu pulled him down by his shirt collar and their lips crashed together in a kiss filled with hunger and yearning for more, more, more.

It wasn't a pretty kiss. It was rough, all teeth and tongue and messy. It was screaming I want you, I want you, I want you through every touch a thousand times and more, it was running out of breath and not giving a fuck about it. It was so far from perfect and Kiyoomi still loved it, still loved him. How could he not?

Atsumu bit down on his lower lip and tugged, hard and it was him who was moaning this time.

The older smirked and just like that, he wasn't in front of Kiyoomi anymore. He was shrugging on his coat with a gleeful laugh, "It's gonna take more than a makeout session to make me stay, Omi. But tradin' lunch for yer kisses does sound nice," Atsumu shook his head and smacked himself on the head, "No! Snap out of it, ya stupid brain! If I cancel lunch now, they'll divorce me from our friend group. Don't want that happenin'."

Kiyoomi pondered on arguing with that point and decided otherwise. Sure, they wouldn't stop being friends with Atsumu just because he missed a lunch meeting, but Atsumu did spend a lot more time with him than with them.

But still, he tried again, "I'll make you your favourite pancakes for lunch?" he suggested, "Please? Stay with me today."

Atsumu snorted, "Don't ya act so generous, Omi. Yer only offerin' to make me pancakes 'cause ya like them, too."

But when he added a small," Will you make them the way I like it, slightly burnt around the edges?" Kiyoomi was sure he won.

"Yes!"

His lips, still swollen from their kiss, curved into the bratty smirk that Kiyoomi had grown to love so much, "Too bad I'm leavin' anyway."

Kiyoomi groaned and fell back on the couch, "You're an asshole, Miya."

His response managed to coax a smile out of the raven," And yet ya love me."

As Atsumu ran around the house wreaking havoc and searching for his keys, Kiyoomi thought. He thought about Atsumu, his smiles, his tosses, his voice. He thought about himself, how he felt at home whenever that idiot was around, how he no longer felt even a sliver of fear when he touched him, masks and gloves long forgotten. He thought about how his heart grew ten sizes bigger when he was with Atsumu. He thought and thought and thought and arrived at the same conclusion he had been arriving at for months.

I want to spend the rest of my life with him.

Kiyoomi was always the one to think everything through before he did everything. But he wasn't thinking when he wandered inside a jewelry shop a month ago. He wasn't thinking when he bought home a beautiful diamond ring and hid it under his clothes.

He wasn't thinking when he stumbled into the living room just as Atsumu opened the door to leave,"'Tsumu?"

He immediately stopped, concern etched in his features, "Ya alright, Omi?"

"Yeah," Kiyoomi swallowed, but his throat was dry. One wrong word, one sudden word and he was sure he'd break into pieces, "Hypothetically speaking, if I were to propose to you sometime, what would your answer be?"

For a whole minute, Atsumu doesn't breathe. He just stares and stares, eyes wide and unblinking.

And then he said, "I don't know."

Kiyoomi's heart sinks, "You don't know?"

"I don't know," the older said. He walked towards the raven, slowly, slowly and kissed him. The kiss is so sweet, sweeter than candy and Kiyoomi never wants to break away, But they have to and when they do, Atsumu's eyes are shining and his grin is brilliant, "I dunno, but it'll be somethin' along the lines of yes."

***

He died in a car accident. The driver was drunk. I'm so sorry.

That's what the police had told him on the phone the day Atsumu died. Those are the words that are blaring in his head as he scrubs his walls free of Atsumu's words with a knife.

When they first moved in, Atsumu was hellbent on using a wall for an art idea he saw on Pinterest. 'It makes the place more lively!' he had argued. But because Atsumu was Atsumu, he had given up on writing dumb quotes on the wall after a week and instead started using the wall for doodling dicks and writing grocery lists.

His gloves were starting to tear, but Kiyoomi couldn't stop. He couldn't. Atsumu is dead, Atsumu is dead.

But the words on the wall seemed just as stubborn as him, if not more. Atsumu's ''M gonna kick yer ass in the three-on-three practice match today' and 'I forgot to buy milk again. Sorry!' are glaring at him, sending blow after blow to his chest. Sakusa tears off his gloves and stares at his red, shaking hands. His head is filled with loud voices and a terrible, terrible cracking sound. Is that how Atsumu's neck cracked when that driver hit his car?

He starts scratching with his bare hands, growling.

His hand didn't seem right, Kiyoomi had noticed during the funeral. It was just not right. When he asked the people in the funeral home, they had stuttered out a feeble," His shoulders and wrists were broken during the accident."

Dirty paint rolls inside his fingernails and the skin around his nails are dry and dotted with blood, but he sees none of that. All he knows is fear so primal, so intense clawing all over his body, yelling at him to wipe it out, wipe it out, wipe it out. Looking at those words felt like looking at Atsumu's lifeless body. Cold, empty, and dead.

His shoulders and wrists were broken. The same wrists that flicked toss after toss to him were snapped and useless. The same shoulders that dug to his side every night as he muttered, "Goodnight, Omi-Omi," were cracked to pieces.

And Kiyoomi is screaming. Both his hands are flying up and down the wall, scratching, pounding, and punching at the words the blonde had left behind. He wanted to pour bleach all over his mind and scrub until the words Miya Atsumu is dead were no longer true.

His hands freeze when he sees the words 'I'm gonna miss yer stupid ass so much, Omi.' on the wall. He moves his bloody hand away, careful not to dirty it, and stares at Miya's almost illegible scrawl.

He had almost scratched the whole thing off, but he can still make out the tiny three words written next to it. Kiyoomi can imagine Atsumu running back inside the house and pulling the marker cap out with his teeth and writing those three words as an afterthought.

I love you <3

He should be crying. He should be tearing his heart out of his scalp and sobbing. But all Kiyoomi could do was hold his knees to his chest, his whole body quivering wilder than an earthquake, and feel the numbness spread. His eyes are dry as drought and there's a memory throbbing in his skull.

"Stop that. You are going to choke and die." Sakusa says, his voice laced with disgust and affection.

Atsumu holds up a finger and slowly chews six dumplings he had somehow managed to stuff inside his mouth. He swallows it and grins lazily, "How cute, Omi-kun. But don't worry," he reaches forward to flick the younger's forehead, "I'm fucking immortal."

And like a fool, Kiyoomi had believed him.

***

Fridays are date nights.

It strikes him as he's walking back to his house with a bag of sanitizers, masks, and gloves in his hand.

He feels his chest constrict and then he's running. How could I forget? Atsumu's going to be so mad.

He falters. Atsumu is dead.

"Sakusa-san!" he hears Shoyou's voice behind him and he feels his legs pumping faster. I can't be late.

But if there's one thing he learned about the orange-haired man after knowing him for years, it's that no one can outrun Hinata Shoyou. And he's proven right when Shoyou skids in front of him, hands outstretched to stop him. Bokuto joins his side in a few seconds, slightly breathless.

Left with no choice, Kiyoomi nods stiffly, "Shoyo-kun. Koutarou."

The duo echoes a quiet hello and shuffles around awkwardly.

A few months ago, if he saw them walking down the road, he would've stopped and talked to them voluntarily. Why, he would've even invited them for lunch, because they were teammates. Friends, even.

But now, he stares and stares at them, and he can't see them as friends. All he can see is a blaring reminder of his lover's death in the dark circles around Bokuto's eyes and a string of tormenting memories of Atsumu's laughs in Shoyou's frown. All he could see was him, him, him, and two strangers.

Hinata's the first one to break the silence, "Have you been sleeping properly? You don't look too good, Kiyoomi-san."

"Yeah," Sakusa flinches at how gruff his voice sounds, "I'm just busy with things."

Hinata and Bokuto share a look and Kiyoomi feels sick down to his bones. He was lying and they knew it. It had been months since he last attended a team practice. They should've known that he is taking the season off. They were going to ask him about it. He knew it he knew it he knew it-

Bokuto's eyes zeroes on his hands, "Kiyoomi-kun," he breathes out, horrified, "What the hell happened to your hands?"

The raven shoves his hands in his pockets, dropping the bags in his hands on the road. But it is too late, "Nothing."

For a terrifying second, he's sure they are going to pull his hands out of his pockets and examine it. Please don't touch me, Sakusa wants to beg, don't touch me.

And it seems as if Bokuto heard his thoughts. He simply runs his hands through his hair, a weary sigh leaving him. The air between them is charged with tension and so many questions and Kiyoomi is sure he had never hated something so much before.

Hinata's eyes brim with unshed tears and his lips start trembling. Sakusa feels like he's back in time, standing at Atsumu's funeral when he asks, "Are you even okay?"

A hysteric laugh escapes him before he could stop it, "Why wouldn't I be?"

And just like that, all the sorrow in Hinata's eyes leaves without a trace and is replaced with a burning, all-consuming, rage.

"Why wouldn't you be?" he repeats, coming closer than Kiyoomi would like, "Why wouldn't you be?"

"Hinata-" Bokuto warns.

"Don't 'Hinata' me, Bokuto-san," Shoyo scowls and digs a finger into Kiyoomi's chest, "It's okay to mourn, you jerk. Your boyfriend just died and you don't have to pretend like-"

In a flash, Sakusa's fist is curled up in Hinata's shirt, lifting him. The anger feels like fire in his veins, "Don't. say. that."

Hinata, who was never the one to pick up fights, leans in closer and snarls"Don't say what, that Atsumu is fucking dead?"

It all happens too fast. Kiyoomi's fist meets Hinata's nose with a sickening crunch. It's just a blur of fists after that.

For someone so small, Hinata could sure pack a mean punch. But Sakusa isn't any less. His fists work on their own accord, throwing punch after punch, "Shut up, shut up, shut up!"

Everything was hazy after that. He vaguely remembers Bokuto's strong arms pulling him off Shoyou, remembers the sharp sting on his lip and the aching in his chest. He hears Hinata's cries all the way back home.

***

When Sakusa opens his eyes, there's water everywhere. It's drenching his clothes, filling up his mouth and he forgets to breathe.

He gasps and stumbles around blindly, a scream caught in his throat. Every inch of his body feels like they were torn apart and stitched back together a million times.

It takes him some time to realize that he's under his bathroom shower. He slides down the floor and holds his head in his hands and lets the memories of the past hour pelt down on him. The fight with Hinata, his words, the walk back home, the way he stumbled into the cold shower without even bothering to take off his clothes because he just wanted the numbness and the static in his head to go away.

Don't say what, that Atsumu is fucking dead?

When he stumbles out of the shower, he's trembling so much that he has to hold on to the walls to even walk. His teeth are chattering as he thinks, Miya doesn't like it when I'm late to movie night, over and over again.

He trips on the coffee table and falls on the floor with a nasty thud and with him, their photo album falls open in front of him.

The pages flutter in front of him and he sees it: Atsumu, Atsumu playing, Atsumu laughing, Atsumu kissing him. Kiyoomi pushes the book and scrambles away from it, a guttural scream leaving his throat.

He is burning and freezing at the same time and he hears an unmistakable voice whispering in the back of his head, "Omi, ya idiot, yer gonna catch a fever if ya don't peel off those wet ass clothes right now."

With a herculean effort, Kiyoomi shrugs off his shirt and he's so tired and the voices in his head just won't stop yelling.

Miya Atsumu is dead. He is never coming back.

But he doesn't listen. He can't. The word dead tastes like ashes and sawdust in his mouth and it doesn't make any sense. If he had any energy left, he would've said, "Dead, my ass. Miya Atsumu is not someone who just dies." If he closes his eyes, he can still see his cocky, self-absorbed smirk, can still hear the lilt of his voice, can still feel the warmth of his touch. How can anyone believe he's dead?

"Atsumu is not dead," he tries to say but he can't, so all that comes out of his mouth is a stubborn," Not... dead."

He still doesn't cry.

He leafs through the movies they have and barely manages to pop one in the CD player before he collapses, feeling the weight of the universe on his shoulders. When did it become so hard to breathe?

He didn't even bother reading the name of the movie. He thinks it was something akin to 'Titanic' scrawled on top of the CD, but he can't be so sure. Blurry eyesight and Atsumu's shitty handwriting don't make a good combination.

The screen is black for a few seconds and a cough racks Kiyoomi's chest. Disgusting, he thinks as he holds his soaking sweats-clad legs to his chest and scowls at the stinging in the back of his eyes.

The house is quiet except for the incessant ticking of the clock and the sound of Sakusa's teeth clashing together. He looks heavenward and brings out his nastiest glare, as if to say, fucking smite me already.

"Omi-Omi!"

The air left in his lungs is knocked out. A sound filled with desperation and longing, one that he didn't know he was capable of making, comes from the hollows of his chest.

There he was. Miya Atsumu, in all his glory, with that darned grin of his, standing on the TV screen. There's a pain, deep and agonizing, spreading in his chest, devouring his insides.

"Atsumu," he breathes out and feels needles pricking his throat, "Atsumu."

"Omi, ya big ol' sap! I knew you'd pick Titanic one of these days. Yer a hopeless romantic like that." Atsumu laughs and Kiyoomi remembers what being alive felt like for the first time in 2 months, "Pranked! Ha, and you said I could never prank ya. You owe me 69 dollars!"

Atsumu stops talking and puckers his lips, something he does when he's thinking hard. Combing a hand through his hair, he mumbles, "Why the hell 'm I making this shi' again?"

Then his whole face lights up and Sakusa feels like the world just became ten times brighter, "Right! It's because you're busy doing things and I'm bored. Yer such a useless boyfriend, Omi," then he blows a kiss to the camera and winks, "Just kiddin', babe. I really do love fuckin' ya. And you too, I guess."

Kiyoomi crawls towards the screen and chokes out, "Atsumu," like it's the only thing grounding him.

On the screen, Atsumu places the camera somewhere- their kitchen counter, Kiyoomi recognizes- and starts rummaging the cupboard for something, "I'm feelin' soft today, Omi. So you'll be listenin' to me lament about how much I love you or some crap today."

Atsumu doesn't say anything for some time and Kiyoomi's lungs start burning from holding his breath for so long. He looks at his lover and tries to remember how it all felt- how it felt to kiss that smirk away, how it felt to wrap his arms around his waist and feel the song he's humming vibrate in his chest.

He lets out a shuddering breath and his chest hurts.

"It's a strange thing, huh. Love is so weird," Atsumu muses, hands on his hips, "What's weirder is that I can love. Miya Atsumu, the resident asshole, can love. And I fell in love with you, Omi. What a lucky asshole I am."

"I think you already know this, god, I hope you do. I'm so fucking grateful for you, Omi. You helped me in ways that you can't even imagine. Before you, I was so afraid. And the worst part is, I didn' know what I was afraid of. But every time I looked in the mirror, there was this sense of dread churning in my stomach and I hated everything. I didn' know what I was. All I knew is whatever I was, it wasn' enough."

"But then ya came in, and broke down all my walls like they were nothing with yer frowns and gruff, 'Miya, I like you,'" Kiyoomi couldn't help but wince at that terrible mimicry of himself. Surely, he didn't sound that constipated when he confessed, did he?

"But loving you, it made me feel like I was enough. You made me believe that I was more than enough. With ya, I was no longer Miya Atsumu, the resident asshole. With you, I was Miya Atsumu, the man who was loved by Sakusa Kiyoomi and I loved that for me."

There's water dripping from his hair onto his shoulders and it takes no genius to figure out that he has a fever from the way he's quaking like a goddamn leaf. But Kiyoomi doesn't care. He doesn't move, he doesn't breathe. He stares and he stares till he feels the static in his head settle into the soft hum of Atsumu's laugh.

"But," he pauses and bites his lip, "I won' say tha' you healed me. You helped me heal so much and stood by my side for so long. I don't think I would be where I am right now without you and for that, I'm eternally grateful. I won't say I can't live withou' you, too. Sure, it'll suck without ya. It'll suck so goddamn much and I'll never be as happy as I am now, but I think I can live withou' ya. You taught me to love and to grow, Kiyoomi. You didn' teach me to hold on to things that are gone. And I love you so much for tha'. That's the wonderful thing about us, y'know? I can live without you, but I just really, really don't want to."

But I can't. I can't do this without you, Atsumu.

He swings himself on top of the counter and yells,"'M sorry! I know ya hate it when I stand on the counter, but I really gotta get my cookies."

"Random trivia: do ya know when I fell in love with ya?"

Of course, Kiyoomi wants to say. How could he ever forget? It was four months after they started dating and Atsumu had muttered a quiet, "I love you." after they first kissed without an ounce of hesitation.

Atsumu crouched on the counter and did a drumroll like the dork he was," And your answer is wrong! I fell in love with you when I was sixteen."

Suddenly all the exhaustion forcing his eyelids shut was gone. His heart was in his throat. That's not possible. In sixteen we were-

"When we were in high school, yup. It was during that Youth Japan camp." he recalls, a soft smile dancing on his lips, "It was during a practice match. Both the sides were exhausted but still going strong. And it was kinda scary tossing for ya, y'know. That unpleasant glare and that furrow of your brows which winkled up yer forehead and made you look more of an asshole than ye were?" Atsumu shook his head, "And yet, it was you I tossed to during the last point. It was almost like muscle memory, tossin' to ya. And like I expected, you were there and there was not an ounce of hesitation in your jump. Under those stadium lights, you looked ethereal, Kiyoomi."

"And God, did you spike it well," his voice was brimming with pride and awe, "Tha' sound. Tha' fuckin' sound. Every single one flinched. Even if it was for a second, they all looked scared."

"But I couldn't take my eyes off of ya," Kiyoomi closes his eyes and gulps, "That furrow of yer brow, that frown, it was all gone. You looked downright blissful when ya closed your fist and mumbled a triumphant 'yes'. You are the most beautiful thing I've ever seen and I ever will, Omi."

"Everyone's eyes were on ya, but you know what ya did?" Atsumu's eyes were so full of love, love for him that Sakusa wanted to hold him close and never let go. But he couldn't. He couldn't.

"You turned to me and you smiled. It was feather-soft and so, so pretty. You smiled and you said, 'nice toss'. That's all it took for me to fall in love with you, Omi. One smile. That's all it takes for me to fall harder for ya every day."

The ring hanging on his neck suddenly feels like a bag of stones in his neck. The pinpricks in his throat were getting more and more painful by the second and the night colder. Kiyoomi shivers and rocks back and forth.

Suddenly, the smile on Atsumu's face disappears. He hops off the counter and yells, "Omi, didja eat all my cookies?"

For a second, there was nothing. And then there's a small, muffled laugh that Sakusa recognizes as his own.

Atsumu grabs the camera and snarls, "Oh, you sonnova-"

The screen goes black.

Kiyoomi is sure he is going to laugh. His lips are turned upwards and there's something heavy in his chest demanding to get out. He is so sure he's going to laugh. But he doesn't.

Instead, Sakusa Kiyoomi cries for the first time since Atsumu died.

The sob tears through his chest like a knife cutting through linen. The pain seems endless, infinite and Kiyoomi hates it. Sob after sob racks his chest and he just can't seem to stop.

Endless. Infinite.

"Miya," he pleads, he begs and he begs, "Atsumu. Please. Please."

The room spins and he cries so much that he's sure that he can fill the whole damn world with his tears. All there's left in the world are his misery, the river of tears he cried, and a void in a place where there was once a man named Miya Atsumu.

"Come back," he sobs, "Come back, Atsumu. Please. One more time, call me Omi one more time. Just come back to me. Come home."

He smashes his fist on the ground and screams.

"Hey, hey, Omi. Look at me." Atsumu says, cautiously edging towards Kiyoomi, "I'm right here. Is it okay if I come closer?"

Sakusa nods feebly and leans on the bathroom wall, shaking. The brush in his hands falls on the floor and the metallic tang of the blood from his gums makes him want to throw up. Tears run down his cheeks, "I'm so tired," he whispers, his voice cracking, "I don't know if I can do this anymore."

"Hey," Atsumu's warm hands cup his cheeks, and Kiyoomi stills before melting into his touch, "I'm right here, okay? I can fix this. I can fix this."

He stares at his bloodied knuckles and breaks down, "Tell me how to fix this, Atsumu."

He feels himself falling, falling, falling. His vision goes dark.

"How do I fix this?"

***

When he wakes up, the first thing he sees is an angel standing above him, its light blinding him.

Sakusa blinks and looks again.

The angel has a name and it is Komori Motoya. And he certainly did not look pleased.

Before he can say anything, Komori pushes a glass of water in his chest, "Drink up."

Sakusa gratefully accepts it and gulps it down and is immediately hit by a strong wave of nausea. He forgot how much he hated getting sick.

Komori taps his fingers against his thigh rapidly, lips pursed in a thin line, "How are you feeling?"

"Terrible," the latter croaks out in honest and tries to continue," Komo-"

"Don't you fucking dare," his cousin hisses, and Sakusa jerks back. Komori never got mad at him, "Don't even try to make small talk, Kiyoomi. We are well past that shit."

A wave of guilt crashes on him and he opens his mouth to apologize, even though he has no idea what he did wrong. But Komori knows him too well, so he growls, "You don't even know what you did wrong, do you?"

Sakusa can only shake his head.

"Oh, I'll tell you what you did wrong," Komori's fingers are trembling with barely contained rage as they drum against his thigh, gradually increasing in speed, "You disappeared, Sakusa. That's what you did. After Atsumu, you were just gone. Your phone has been switched off for 2 months, nobody knew if you were even alive and we. were. all. fucking. concerned!" he roars.

"And there's more! You've been avoiding all of us deliberately, haven't you? You knew we would come looking for you and you knew exactly how to block us out. Pretending like you were busy, like you were outside when you were just sitting inside your house, refusing to open your door, all that shit."

Kiyoomi had seen his cousin cry a million times. After every terrible movie they watched during their movie night, after every match he won, after every stupid joke he makes, he'll laugh. He'll laugh so hard that he cries and Sakusa would always shake his head with the smallest of smiles perched on his lips and mumble, "You are insane, Komori."

But when he buries his face in his hands and cries in front of him, it contains none of its usual mirths. Sakusa can hear the heartbreak in his voice and feels his own eyes watering.

"Fucking Bokuto called me yesterday to go check on you. Bokuto, the guy who I barely know. Of course, I came running and you know what I see? I saw you, passed out cold on the floor. And for a second I thought... I thought you were-" Komori breaks down all over again and Kiyoomi hates himself.

Komori looks away from him," You were burning up. I don't fucking know how or why but your lip was busted and your eye was swollen. You look like you haven't had a proper meal in years." With a sigh, he wipes his eyes in the sleeve of his shirt. He looks defeated, "I'm not telling you to stop mourning, Kiyoomi. We are all mourning and there's nothing wrong with that. But please, for heaven's sake, don't block us out of your life. Ask for help, you stubborn bastard. Get it in your thick skull that you're not alone."

And with that. he shoulders his bag and starts walking towards the door," You don't have to say anything. There's aspirin on your nightstand, take it if you feel like your temperature's increasing. There's chicken soup and onigiri in the kitchen, heat it and eat it in some time. Please don't skip your meals. And when you're ready to accept the fact that you can't go through this alone, call me."

And just like that, he's gone and Kiyoomi's all alone again.

***

bastard cousin <3

i'm sorry. i really am.

things have been. really terrible and i didn't know what to do, komori. so i did what i do best: pushing people away.

i never meant to scare you. i'm sorry.

aspirin supplier

forgiven. there, that wasn't so hard was it? healthy communication

though i wish you stopped me before my dramatic exit. now i have to drive back to give you a hug

bastard cousin <3

... you expected me to run after you, didn't you?

komori , you of all people should know i would never waste my energy like that.

aspirin supplier

you're a bitch, kiyoomi. be ready to be strangled i'll be there in 5

***

aspirin supplier

so, did you do it?

Sakusa pulls his lip between his teeth and types out a reply.

bastard cousin <3

no. i'm having second thoughts about it.

aspirin supplier

if you try to back out, i'll come there and drop kick you inside the court myself.

bastard cousin <3

fine.

Pocketing his phone, Sakusa walks inside the court, bile rising in his throat. It was 11 pm and everyone should've left already, but Kiyoomi knows better. Atsumu, Bokuto, and Hinata always hung out there till midnight on Fridays, making the floor shake with the sharp sound of the spikes that they smash over the court, followed by howling laughter and a chorus of proud 'yes!'. Kiyoomi can only hope that they still follow that tradition.

He gulps and stuffs his hands in his pockets. The familiarity of the surroundings hits him too fast, too hard and he just can't stop looking at the volleyballs scattered all over the floor. He feels a rush of adrenaline all too well surge through him as he watches Bokuto fly in the air, weightless and frozen in time.

Then he smashes the ball and the monstrous sound which comes after sounds like music to Kiyoomi's ears.

His hands itch and he yearns. He yearns for the sting of his palm which comes after he smashes all the barriers in front of him down, he yearns for the burn of his muscles after he scores point after point, he yearns for the freedom of the court and to be high on victory.

But most of all, he yearns for the proud grin that Atsumu flashes him, staring at him like he's the only one that matters in this wretched world as he yells, 'Nice kill!'

He yearns for what he cannot have.

He closes his eyes and exhales shakily. He can't play volleyball. It's been 3 months since Atsumu, but he can't even look in the direction of the volleyball court without feeling guilt gnawing at him. Playing volleyball, spiking someone else's tosses felt like the dirtiest form of betrayal. He doesn't know if he'll ever stop feeling that way.

This time, there's no howling laughter or shining eyes after the spike. There's just the sound of them panting and there's something in their eyes that Sakusa knows all too well: emptiness.

Kiyoomi adjusts his mask and tells himself to breathe.

Bokuto stares at the spot where Atsumu used to stand with a haunted look on his face. His voice breaks when he says, "Another."

Hinata doesn't respond. Instead, he cocks his head to the side and says, "Kiyoomi-san, you do know that I can see you right?"

Bokuto's eyes snap in his direction. Kiyoomi waits for his signature grin or even a shadow of a smile and when he gets none of that, he ignores the pang in his chest and forces himself to walk closer.

With the duo's wide, sharp eyes trained on him, Sakusa feels strangely intimidated. His voice sounds smaller than he'd like when he says, "I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking straight that day. I was overwhelmed by everything that was going on, but that's no excuse for what I did," he bows his head slightly, "I'm sorry for hurting you, Hinata."

Eyes fixated on his shoes, Sakusa waits. He waits for the piercing jab, a joke made at his pathetic self. He waits for Hinata's cold,' well, your apology's a month overdue.'

But none of that happens. When he looks up at them, their gazes were no longer cautious. They were just gentle.

"And I'm sorry too," Hinata says, bowing so low that his head would've touched the ground, "For saying those things. And for punching you. That was not a very nice thing to do."

Speechless, Kiyoomi just nods. That was easier than he imagined.

Bokuto grins, but it has none of its usual energy. He just looks exhausted, "Shit happens all the time, Kiyoomi. If your friends can't understand you, who will?"

It takes him a moment to understand what Bokuto meant by 'your friends'. He wants to say something, thanks, maybe. But all that comes out of his mouth is a lame, "Okay."

Hinata gestures towards the volleyball, "Do you-"

Sakusa forces himself to speak before Hinata can finish that sentence, "Would you two like to grab a drink sometime? It's on me. Consider it a proper apology."

What? No. Say no. Please say no.

He's ready to take it back when both of them ask, "When should we be there?

***

It is awkward.

That is the only way he can describe it. It's terribly, painfully awkward. By the time they reach their second drink, Kiyoomi's almost shaking with the urge to get the hell out of there.

But he doesn't. He steels himself, thinking, just one more drink. One more, and I'll excuse myself and get out of here.

It's not the place that's making him uncomfortable, surprisingly. The bar is clean and spacious enough that he didn't feel like crawling out of his skin. There aren't a lot of people there, too. So no, it isn't the place that's making him uncomfortable. It's the silence.

You know it's bad when Hinata runs out of things to talk about. There's a dark cloud hanging above their heads and the three of them are hellbent on not acknowledging it. They tiptoe around conversations and stop themselves when they feel like they may end up talking about a particular blonde setter, who also happened to be dead.

Kiyoomi sighs when the next round of drinks arrives. This is the worst idea I've ever had. He doesn't wait to clink glasses with them. He downs his scotch in one go and feels the alcohol burning his throat.

Hinata blinks and finally says, "Wow, Kiyoomi-kun. You can hold your alcohol very well."

Maybe it was the scotch messing with his brain. Maybe it was the need to just say his name out once without feeling like it was something to be spoken in hushed tones about, a memory to be forgotten. Kiyoomi doesn't know which one it is. The words tumble out of his mouth, urgent and borderline hysteric, "Well, who do you take me for? Atsumu?"

Silence. Bokuto and Hinata freeze and Sakusa wants to run far, far away from there.

Stupid, stupid, why would you even say that? Stupid, stupid-

Bokuto snorts and takes a sip of his beer, "Atsumu can't even drink three glasses of wine without losing his shit. Reminds me of the time you two fought and he showed up drunk to practice. He just crawled around the court for a whole hour, making out with the volleyballs and calling them his 'rebound guys'. It scarred me forever."

Hinata nods vigorously, wrinkling his nose, "Yeah, and remember that afterparty we had after winning a match? And he just kept throwing volleyballs at the sky, yelling, 'fuck off, ya ugly yellow ball! Shoyou is the only sun I acknowledge!'" Hinata frowns, looking like he still has existential crises over it till this date, "The worst part was, there was no sun there! It was midnight."

And Kiyoomi laughs.

He laughs and tears are running down his cheeks and God, he almost forgot how it felt to laugh. For the first time, talking about Atsumu didn't feel like reliving a tragedy. For the first time, he feels the weight crushing his lungs lift, albeit temporarily. But that's more than enough for him.

Bokuto and Hinata don't comment on his tears. They double over themselves, cackling, "He was such a moron."

Sakusa lets himself feel the sting when he hears the word 'was'. The tears don't stop falling, but he thinks that's okay. It's okay.

It's okay to mourn, you jerk.

He laughs, it's a sad sound, but a laugh nonetheless.

"Do you remember the time-"

And so they talk. They talk all night, exchanging stories of Atsumu. That night, Atsumu is glorious again. He is a blinding streak of light in the darkness and Kiyoomi lets himself be blinded by him.

By the end of the night, all of them are reduced to tears and the bar kicks them out because Bokuto was being too loud. Kiyoomi knows he'll be a puddle of regrets and embarrassment when he wakes up the next morning, but he doesn't quite mind it. That night, he lets himself mourn.

It's okay, he tells himself, it's okay.

***

Days bleed into months. And one night, he dreams of Atsumu.

In the dream, Atsumu is smiling and he calls out for him, "Omi."

That's all it takes for him to break.

He wants to reach out, hold his face in his hands and say, "I love you. I miss you. Please come back," but he can do none of that. His hands are stuck to his sides and his tongue feels like lead.

"Omi?" Atsumu frowns, "Why aren't ya sayin' anything? Did I do something wrong?"

Silent tears roll down Kiyoomi's cheeks. His heart is in his throat and he tries to thrash, scream, reach out, to do something. But he's paralyzed and it feels like his body is on fire.

"Say something, "Atsumu whimpers, pressing his fingers on his cheeks. The younger wants to flinch. Atsumu's fingers are never cold, "Why aren't you sayin' anything?"

Then there's a horrible screeching sound of tires skidding against the asphalt. Kiyoomi hears that sick, cracking sound that haunts him every day and he just knows what's happening.

There's something warm pooling in his chest and Atsumu's grip on his cheeks is too tight, "Omi," he chokes out, "I was so scared and it hurt so much. Why weren't you there?"

Its blood, he realizes with a start but he can't move. Atsumu weaves his bloody fingers through his hair and Kiyoomi can't breathe.

The stench of burning tires fills his nose as Atsumu presses a kiss on his head. When he pulls back, his skin is deathly pale and there's blood everywhere.

"Why aren't you saying anything?"

Kiyoomi opens his eyes and he's screaming, he's screaming and he just can't seem to stop. After hours or minutes that seem like an eternity, he tumbles out of his bed and grabs his mask and shoes.

He should call Komori, the reasonable side of his brain is telling him, but his body has other ideas. Before he knows it, he's running, out of his house, away from that nightmare, away from the remains of Atsumu.

He hears the sound of the pounding of his feet, feels the burn of his lungs as he tries to hold back the sob that's threatening to tear his insides. He finds himself running to the place he has been for months and he can't find the energy to energy.

When he reaches the volleyball court, sweaty and breathless, he sees that it's already open. He can hear the sound of volleyball hitting the floor repeatedly. He frowns.

Who...?

Just one look at the man inside the court, Kiyoomi feels like he's been sucker-punched to the gut. I'm dreaming. It's not possible. It's not-

"Atsumu?"

He rubs the sleep out of his eyes and looks again. The man is looking at him now and he's definitely not Atsumu.

"I wish," Osamu chuckles darkly.

Kiyoomi tries to observe the scene in front of him, ignoring the blood roaring in his ears.

There are volleyballs everywhere, a telltale sign that he's been there for too long. His shirt is soaked and he's holding a volleyball so tight that it makes Sakusa wonder how it's not deflated yet.

And then there's the obvious; he doesn't look like the Osamu he knew.

No, this Osamu has piercings; one on his eyebrow and the other on his bottom lip. There's a tattoo on the side of his neck: two foxes caught mid-jump, one black, and one white. This Osamu looks like thunderstorms and danger, a stranger to Sakusa.

Kiyoomi edges closer to him carefully, "Osamu? How did you get in here? Only the Jackals have the key to this place."

Osamu tries to shrug nonchalantly, but Kiyoomi can see nothing nonchalant about the tick of his jaw and the intensity of his gaze," He left his key in my place the last time he came there."

"Oh," Sakusa was never the one for small talk, but something about Osamu told him he had to try, "So, how are you?"

With a humourless laugh, he gestures at himself, "What do you think?"

Kiyoomi grimaces. There's a bitter edge to his tone, something sharp and brimming to the edge that he just can't pinpoint.

"And from the looks of it, you aren't doing great either," he notes, cold eyes settling on the ring dangling on his neck. Sakusa quickly hides it under his shirt and squashes the urge to say something snarky. He continues,

"Couldn't sleep?"

Osamu hesitates as if wondering if he was worth the answer. He settles on saying, "Nightmares. I don't sleep a lot these days.

Well, that explains those dark circles, "Same."

That doesn't surprise Osamu. He lets the ball in his hands drop to the ground and grits his teeth, "Fucking nightmares," his breathing fastens, "I dreamed that he crept out of his grave, skin rotting and all, saying, Come with me, 'Samu."

There's a sorry in the tip of his tongue, but it feels too inadequate. He isn't crying. There's not an ounce of fear of sorrow in his eyes. That's when it hits him.

He isn't sad. He's angry.

With that realization comes another: he's angry, too.

After the remnants of the nightmare settled down, calling the shaking of his hands and the fire under his skin sorrow seems unfair. He doesn't want to cry anymore, He is sick and tired of the pain and the tears and the loneliness. He is tired and so, so angry.

He wants to crack the sky open with his bare fists and tear the Gods out of their thrones. He wants to make it rain flames and make himself the king of the ruins that remain because how dare they be happy after taking him away from me?

How dare they take him away from me?

He picks up a ball and throws it to Osamu, who catches it without batting an eye, "Toss for me."

Maybe he can't split open the gates of heaven and throw the Gods at his feet, but he can make them hear his anger. He can make them see the mess they've made.

And so with every toss and spike that seems to rattle the ground, Osamu and Sakusa say, look at what you've done. You've taken him away from me and look at me now.

They don't scream. but their silence is deafening. The sound of Sakusa's spikes is enough to put a thousand explosions to shame.

With one last spike, Sakusa collapses on the floor, breathing hard. Osamu drops down next to him and whispers, "It's been 6 months and I still can't look at the mirror without breaking down, Kiyoomi," he coughs out a sob, which he blocks with his fist, "It's not fair."

Sakusa screws his eyes shut and buries his head in his hands, "I'm fucking trying, Osamu. I'm trying to forget him. And every time I think I'm finally okay, he comes back like a fucking Tsunami and drowns me all over again. I can't do it."

"But that's not the goal, is it?" his voice is quiet, "The goal is to remember him without feeling like someone is shredding your heart into a thousand pieces."

Kiyoomi inhales sharply and repeats, "It's not fucking fair."

Osamu finally lets himself cry. His sobs come out chokes, racking his ribs and making him double over in pain, "I miss him," Osamu drops his head on his shoulder and Kiyoomi lets him, "I miss him so fucking much."

Sakusa simply lets his tears fall and that's enough answer.

So do I. So do I.

***

The next day, just as he is debating whether he should eat cereal for lunch again, a boy rings his doorbell with a bag of food from Onigiri Miya.

Sakusa frowns, "I ordered none of that."

The delivery boy shakes his head and steps back," Osamu- san said to deliver it here. And he ordered not to accept any money for the food."

Kiyoomi arches an eyebrow and shrugs.

There's a note attached to the food package-

As a thank you for watching my 3 am meltdown. If you even think of telling anyone about that, I won't hesitate to poison your food the next time.

Osamu

P.s. call me at a decent time next time when you want to play volleyball. Suna worries about my sleep cycle.

The food is heavenly. The tuna melts in his mouth and leaves his tastebuds tingling. He eats until he feels like he's going to pop any second and even downs a can of soda for good measure.

He sends a thank you text to Osamu and starts searching for another contact.

Therapist

His thumb hovers over the contact, hesitating. It's been so long since he had a therapy session.

Then he looks back on the sleepless nights, unheard screams, and pain. He looks back on Komori's tears and Osamu's words.

The goal is to remember him without feeling like someone is shredding your heart into a thousand pieces.

He calls the number and presses his phone to his ear.
***
"Can I ask you a question?" Osamu asks one day after they finish playing volleyball (which is a regular occurrence these days. Sometimes Suna and Komori join them, but mostly, it's just the two of them.)

"Mhmm," Sakusa takes a sip of water.

His friendship with Osamu is strange, to say the least. The time they spend together often consists of comfortable silences and short, effortless conversations that Sakusa had grown used to. Talking to Osamu made him feel at ease, and that's the highest level of compliment he can ever give anyone. Sure, he was a little difficult at times (he was Atsumu's brother, after all) but he understood and that's all that matters.

"You're not going to play professionally anymore, right?"

Sakusa is never the one for dramatics, but he almost spits out his water everywhere at that. He swallows it down forcefully, "What? What are you talking about?"

Osamu bends down to grab his towel, "I mean, I can't keep playin' dumb. It's kinda obvious, man. For starters, yer playing volleyball with an Onigiri restaurant owner instead of practicing with yer teammates. You keep dodgin' volleyball-related questions. The season you were supposed to take a break for is already over and you seem to be in no hurry to get back in form."

Playing professionally again is a subject that Kiyoomi ignores thinking about. Even though he had no problem playing with his friends now, just the thought of playing for the Jackals or any other team again made him feel sick. Maybe it is because of Atsumu, but for some reason, he feels it's more complicated than that.

"I don't know what I'm doing anymore," he answers truthfully.

"Okay," Osamu nods, "Do ya think you don' wanna play volleyball anymore?"

"No," he surprises himself by answering, "Volleyball is my life. I can't stop playing volleyball. But... I don't know if playing professionally again is for me-"

Words spill out of his mouth and half of them don't even make sense. But Osamu listens to them all, patiently and after he's done, he asks,

"Do you think this is because of Atsumu?"

Kiyoomi hesitates, "Yes and no? Yes, of course, he influenced the decision. Nothing will ever be the same without him by my side. Playing professionally without him doesn't feel right. But at the same time, this is my decision. I do want to play volleyball, but not like that. I know I'll regret it if I play professionally again," and strangely, neither of them seem surprised at his answer.

"Cool," Osamu says.

"So what's the plan now? Your money will last for a few years at best, and you know you can't just play volleyball with me and pass time. You need a job."

Sakusa frowns, "Yeah, I have no idea. I just know that I don't want to give up volleyball but at the same time, I don't want to play professionally again."

"What do you think about coaching teams, then?"

"No."

Osamu blinks, "Well, that was fast. What about teaching in schools?"

"That sounds good, but the only flaw in the idea is that it sucks," Sakusa deadpans, "You know I don't do people, Osamu."

"Do you know sign language?"

"I can't see in what way that comes into this conversation."

"Just answer the question,"

Sakusa sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose, "Yes, I do. I learned it in my free time a few years ago."

Osamu snorts, "That's wha' I thought. Nerd."

"What-"

"Listen, Kiyoomi," Osamu interrupts, "My friend runs a middle school for deaf and dumb kids. It's not too big, and the pay isn't tha' great. They are searching for a volleyball coach 'cause the kids there seem interested. I've visited them. I'm no' a big kids person myself, but I can tell ya that they're all good kids. If you want, I can get you a job there after you officially retire. I'll even make sure they'll keep it low-key for a while."

"I- What?"

"Think about it," Osamu says and right on cue, Suna honks his car's horn outside the court. Osamu waves, "Boyfriend's here, gotta go. I don't need an immediate answer, so take your time thinking about it. See ya."

***

A few days later, Sakusa finds himself driving back home with a few cans of paint on the backseat of his car.

The sun is too bright for his taste, making his shirt stick uncomfortably to his body. He drops his head on the steering wheel and remembers why exactly Atsumu used to call the sun the bastard sphere.

He watches his fingers drum against the steering wheel. If he kept them still for a second, he can still feel the sting of spiking in his palm. His chest felt strangely light.

It's been a week since Osamu's offer and Kiyoomi finally lets himself think about it.

Komori often called him an overthinker, but Sakusa thought otherwise. He was never the one to obsess over something. Instead, he weighs his thoughts, predicts the wins and losses, and logically analyzes the situation, He isn't an overthinker, he just likes thinking.

And as he drives home, he thinks. Thoughts float around him, some feather-soft and gentle to touch, some heavy and stinging. But they all run their course and drift away, away, away from him and he doesn't try to hold on to them, either.

He parks his car on the side of the road, picks up his phone, and dials Osamu's number with nimble fingers.

"Osamu? About the job..."

You taught me to love and to grow, Kiyoomi. You didn' teach me to hold on to things that are gone. And I love you so much for tha'.

He takes a deep breath.

"I'll take it."

***
The room's quiet, but Kiyoomi could sense the agitation among the students. Some look at him with unmasked awe, and some with fear. There are 40 wide eyes fixed on him and Kiyoomi wants to retreat in his jacket.

In the corner of his eye, he catches one boy signing, don't you have like a thousand posters of this guy stuck in your room?

The boy next to him flushes a deep red when he sees Sakusa staring and punches his friend in his arm, shut up.

He relaxes his shoulders and tells himself, it's going to be okay, and turns to look at the principal standing next to him. Poor fella still looked like he was this close to having a heart attack and crying happy tears at the same time. Kiyoomi tilts his head as if to say, well?

The principal stammers, "We are so grateful to have you here, Sakusa-san! Thank you!"

Exhaling through his nose, Kiyoomi signs, "Atsushi-san, please. You've been saying the same thing for the last 20 minutes. I want to see how the students play, so can we start today?"

The students chuckle, earning a glare from the principal. He gives Kiyoomi one last bow and says, "I'll leave it to you, then."

And as he walks out the door, all the eyes are back on Kiyoomi again, and breathing suddenly seems like a chore. He tugs his mask and closes his eyes and all he can hear is Atsumu.

Deep breaths, baby. Don't ya forget to breathe.

When he opens his eyes, the children's eyes are shining and their grins are brilliant. Sakusa signs,

"Let's start, shall we?"
***
"Thank you for the game!"

The students bow to him and filter out of the court slowly and Kiyoomi sags in relief. From the looks of it, he is doing better than he thought he would be. The children didn't seem to cower in fear every time they saw him now, so that's a win. One might even say they like him.

His heart was beating too fast and his hands were shaking, not of fear, but excitement. Teaching these kids didn't give him the same rush that playing volleyball on the court gave him. No, this was very different. Smashing down the ball and scoring the last point made him feel dynamite. He was fireworks and booming laughter there. All he knew in the court was adrenaline and the high of victory.

But teaching felt different. It doesn't give him that sudden, explosive joy. It is more subtle, more grounded. It is budding leaves and soft smiles. It was growing and learning things all over again, slowly, slowly. It is watching someone else laughing gleefully when they get a serve right, it's helping them bloom and finally understanding what he needs to heal. It's all so different and strange, but he likes it.

A loud clap tears through the air, bringing him out of his reverie.

When he turns around, there's a boy with a volleyball in his hands and challenge in his eyes standing behind him.

It takes a few seconds for him to remember his name. Hayashi Itsuki.

The boy smirks at him and Kiyoomi is taken aback by how familiar it looks. He stares, a little too long, and Hayashi snaps his fingers before his face. Kiyoomi shakes his head, snap out of it, and raises his eyebrow at the boy.

The boy fixes his amber eyes on him, his gaze piercing. Kiyoomi can't help but feel like he's being assessed. Then, he signs, "Hey coach, did you really play for the Jackals? Because it's been a month since you started teaching us and you seem so... not amazing?" He spins the ball around with his fingers, "Why don't you show me that serve of yours?"

Basic skills need to be improved. Has a remarkable jump serve and his setting skills aren't too bad either. His spikes though have the potential to become something else altogether.

Kiyoomi simply stares at him, "Aren't you the guy who has posters of me stuck all over his room?"

Itsuki's cheeks tinge pink, but he doesn't back down. He holds Kiyoomi's gaze and signs back, defiantly, "You wish."

"Yeah, sure kid."

Just as he's about to leave, the kid signs, "I knew you'd back away."

Kiyoomi is never the one to back away from any challenge, no matter how minor. Besides, dating a cocky, victory-obsessed maniac for 8 years ought to change you. So Kiyoomi grabs the ball from Hayashi's hands, ignoring his eerily familiar smirk and shows him his serve.

As the ball hits the other side of the court, he hears a gasp beside him. Hayashi was staring at him, eyes brimming with awe, a grin stretched on his lips. Kiyoomi's heart stutters and he feels light.

He learns all over again what it meant to be alive. 

Hayashi rushes towards him and starts signing rapidly.

"Kid. Hayashi," that stops him, "Calm down. Now start from the top and tell me what you want, slower."

"Teach me how to play like you do."

Kiyoomi furrows his eyebrows, "That's my job?"

"No," he signs back, determination radiating off of him and Kiyoomi can't stop thinking how similar to Atsumu he is," I don't want to just practice with the club. I want to learn more and become better than you."

The raven almost laughs, "And why would I do that, exactly?"

"Because I am going to win, anyway. I'm going to be better than you, with or without your help," he smiles, but it's nothing sweet, "At least if you teach me, you can brag to everyone that I am your disciple and take some credit for yourself. It's a fair deal."

Kiyoomi does laugh this time. It is short and breathy and Hayashi just looks all the more awed by him, "Yeah, we'll see."

Hayashi lights up, and the smirk on his lips seems more like a smile, "That's not a no."

Kiyoomi plucks the volleyball from the boy's hands," Three laps of diving drills. First, you need to not play terribly. Then we'll see about beating me," and Hayashi groans, but starts to do it anyway.

Learning to grow and healing, slowly, slowly.
***

It is just another Sunday morning.

Kiyoomi sits on his kitchen counter with a plate of pancakes. They are sweet and slightly burnt around the edges and he's certain that that's the best dish that he has ever made in his life.

Before him, his living room wall stands proud and newly painted. It's a soft, pastel green and there's no trace of the scratches he previously made in it. The sun is setting and the rays that stream through his window make the wall glow gold. He chews on a piece of pancake and stares at the only words left on the wall.

I love you <3

He tips his head towards the sun rays, a barely-there smile lingering on his lips. Making himself a meal and painting a wall isn't something great and Kiyoomi knows that. He knows that and yet, with the sun's warmth embracing him and the scent of fresh paint filling his senses, he lets himself feel proud. 

His phone pings, an annoying ting, ting, ting, making him look over with a grimace.

hinata

kiyoomi-san!!!! I just went to this ice cream parlour with Bokuto-san and the flavours here are just UWAAHH!! Bokuto-san is down with stomach ache cuz he ate too much ice cream but it's totally worth it!! will you come with us next time, please??

Therapist

Your next appointment is scheduled for 21st October, 5:30 pm.

His eyes drift down to the last text lighting up his screen-

aspirin supplier

did you drink enough water today?

I'LL BE THERE IN 10 MINS AND IF YOU DIDN'T, I WON'T HESITATE TO POUR 8 GLASSES OF H2O DOWN YOUR THROAT, BITCH.

ily.

Kiyoomi rolls his eyes but downs a glass of water, just in case.

It is just another Sunday morning.
***
The next time he dreams of Atsumu, there are flowers all around them and his lover is glowing.

Sakusa reaches out to him, a sunflower yearning for his sun, "I love you."

Atsumu smiles. It holds none of its usu snark or edge. No, this one is the smile that's hidden away just for him, filled with nothing but love. Then, he leans in and kisses him.

Kiyoomi spent countless nights trying to remember what their last kiss felt like and he knew for sure that it didn't feel like goodbye. It was like every other kiss Atsumu have him before he walked out of the house or when they stepped inside the court. A kiss that seemed endless, but never lingering. A kiss that seemed more like the beginning than the end. And this kiss isn't even remotely close to a goodbye, too.

Atsumu holds his face in his hands and with every breath he steals, he says, "I'll be waiting for you."

Sakusa pulls the blonde closer and hopes his kisses say, "I'm counting on it."

Then, he lets him go.
***

"Osamu?"

"What do you want?" Osamu snaps, his voice cracking. Kiyoomi isn't entirely sure it's just because of the bad signal.

He wedges his phone between his shoulder and ear, rummaging for his keys, "Are you free?"

Sakusa can hear the crackle of plastic bags as he replies, "No. I'm preparing a new menu for the restaurant."

"Oh yeah? I'll video call you, I wanna see how that menu of yours is going."

A pause. Just as Kiyoomi's going to cut the call, Osamu barks, "Fine! I'm on my bed eating a family-sized Dorito pack, happy now?"

Sakusa closes the door behind him and hops down the apartment stairs, "Not really. Get ready, I'll be there to pick you up in 10 minutes."

"What? No. I'm not coming anywhere."

"Osamu," he says, his voice careful, "We both know what day it is today and that we can't keep running away from this. It's time."

Silence.

"I'll see you there, then?"

"Okay," Osamu replies quietly.
***

Sakusa doesn't say anything when he sees Osamu gripping on a cup of coffee and a box which smelled of onigiri. He climbs inside the car, wipes off his tears with the back of his hand and Sakusa pretends not to notice it.

There's not much traffic today, he notices, it's a good day for a long drive.  Maybe we should just abandon this and go for a long drive. Yeah, that seems nice. And-

"Hey," Osamu prods his arm gently, "Your music taste sucks. Let me play a few songs."

Kiyoomi rolls his eyes but lets him. The songs are loud, upbeat and the complete opposite of the raging storm brewing inside him. He can only be grateful for the distraction.

When Osamu starts to half-heartedly hum the songs, Sakusa lets his shoulders droop and tells himself that it's going to be okay.

They arrive at their destination faster than they'd like. Sakusa presses his foot down on the brake, sighing. The ring feels uncomfortably cold on the hollow of his neck, "We're here."

Osamu nods curtly, "Right. I... I'll go first."

With that, he steps out of the car, a box of onigiri in hand. After Osamu's out of sight, Sakusa pulls out the letter in his pocket.

His chest is too heavy and everything feels fucking ridiculous. The ring on his neck, the flimsy letter he's fiddling with, the bouquet of sunflowers on the backseat, all of it. He feels suffocated.

The letter in his hand suddenly seems like the stupidest shit he has ever seen. He sat through the whole night and wrote down everything he wanted to tell Atsumu. His therapist had said that it would help. Sakusa snorts as he tips the paper in shreds, bullshit.

He had expected himself to sob all the way to the graveyard. But surprisingly, he didn't feel all that miserable.

He flexes his fingers and feels something build up in him. An unfolding crescendo, the all-consuming knowledge of, this is it. There's nowhere else to run.

He hears Atsumu's voice in his head, feels the warmth of his smile.

Deep breaths, baby. Don't ya forget to breathe.

So, that's what he does. He breathes in through his nose, slowly, slowly. He watches his fingers and traces the bumps of his knuckles and he breathes till he isn't trembling anymore, he breathes till the world seems just a little bit clearer.

He breathes.

After an hour, he hears the door click open, revealing a disheveled Osamu. His eyes are swollen and he isn't holding the onigiri box anymore. He falls inside the car with a shuddering breath, shoulders heaving and tears already falling, but at the same time, he looks relieved.

Sakusa watches him cry. When he wipes the final tears off his face, Sakusa places his hand on his shoulder and squeezes reassuringly, "You did it."

Sakusa looks up to see him cracking a rare smile, "Yeah. Yeah, I did."
***

Sakusa spreads a blanket in front of Atsumu's grave and sits down, holding his knees to his chest.

                  Miya Atsumu

                     1995-2022

A loving son, brother, and partner.

Sakusa stares at it, long and hard, and decides that it's inadequate. To contain Miya Atsumu's life using numbers and meaningless words is like trying to contain the life of the universe. He is endless, infinite, and ethereal. He is wild, reckless, and beautiful. Miya Atsumu is glorious.

The wind ruffles his curls playfully as he mumbles, "Hey."

The trees are dancing their little dance and it feels like the world is pausing, listening. Sakusa knows better than to believe that Atsumu is sitting on top of some fluffy cloud listening to him speak. He knows better than to believe that he is still here, with him. But at that moment, it almost feels like he would be insane not to believe that Atsumu was still there. He is everywhere, in the grass tickling his ankles, in the wind gently kissing him, in the sun's warm, comforting rays.  He holds on to that comfort and barrels on,

"First, I want to say sorry. For not visiting before. One year is a long time to muster up the courage to come to visit you, and I am sorry. But I am here now. And I promise I'll visit often after this."

He tries to laugh, but all that escapes his lips is a gust of air, "I know you won't be pleased, but I quit volleyball. And no, it's not because of you. I initially had doubts that I was just too chicken to play without you, but that's not it. I think... I think it's the end of a chapter. Now it's time for me to move on."

"I am a volleyball teacher in a school for deaf and dumb kids. And this shocks me to the core too, but I love my job, Atsumu. I love teaching the kids. And oh, there's this one kid," he chuckles, "his name is Hayashi Itsuki. He reminds me of you. Headstrong, determined, and talented. He reminds me of you so much, 'Tsumu. You would've loved him"

He delicately picks up the bouquet by his side and places it on the grave, beside the open box of onigiris and coffee cup. He wrings his hands together, unsure of what to say next,

"OCD is worse than ever and I've had better times. But I am going to therapy, been doing so for the past 4 months, so that's nice I guess. And guess what? I am best friends with your brother now. Surprising, I know. Strange world, strange times."

Sakusa continues, chin propped on his hands. It no longer feels awkward, "What else? Bokuto is engaged to Akaashi. It's great that he's happy. I'm really happy for him "

"And um," Why am I crying? "It's so fucking cold these days. I don't remember it being this cold when you were here. I hate the cold." He buries his face in his hands, inhaling the familiar scent of his sterilized gloves, "I hate it so much."

He purses his lips, "It's hard, Atsumu. It's hard without you here. It all feels so dark and lonely and cold. It's so fucking hard, but I'm trying. I'm trying, and I am proud of myself for that. And I know you are, too."

"I was going to propose to you that day. I think you already knew, though. I was going to make you dinner and get down on one knee and ask you to marry me. I even brought a ring and all," the sound that leaves his mouth rattles him to the core, "You said you'd be back. You said you'd be back."

His breath catches in his throat and he fumbles to open the clasp of his chain. It slithers down his neck and slides into his palm. Kiyoomi lets out another sob, tears raining down his eyes, "I was going to ask you to marry me, Atsumu. But you never came back."

Pulling on another pair of gloves over the ones he is wearing, Kiyoomi starts digging. He digs a hole in front of Atsumu's grave and places the ring inside it gingerly. He plucks a sunflower from the bouquet and buries it with the ring.

"It belongs with you. It always has. You are the love of my life, Atsumu. You always will be."

He removes his gloves from his hands and places his palm flat on the smooth granite surface in front of him. He leans his forehead on it and his chest twinges with pain, "And I miss you. I miss you so damn much."

Sakusa cries like that for a while, lying on Atsumu's grave, pouring out all his agony. He screws his eyes shut and lets himself be embraced by the scent of onigiri and coffee, the scent of home.

"I miss you, baby. But I think," he pauses and swallows. He can imagine Atsumu watching him from Somewhere, misty-eyed and eyebrows drawn together, "I think I'm gonna be okay."

He sucks in a breath. He had never said that out loud. Tentatively, but surely, he says it again, "I'll be okay, Atsumu. I know I will be."

The weight on his chest lifts. He lies on his back and hears the sound of the birds chirping. He presses his fingers to his chest and feels his heartbeat steadily beneath them. The sky is spotless and he distantly hears the sound of dogs barking.

He reaches his hand out to the sky and tries to ignore the grass tickling his cheeks. And he thinks, with awe, how strange is one's misery? It feels like nothing has any meaning for so long and help seems so far away. And some lucky ones get the chance to heal, to stitch themselves back together.

And there is no bigger mystery than healing itself. You don't notice it in the beginning. But one day, you'll be singing along to your favorite song while doing the dishes and suddenly, it hits you. It hits you that things are so much better than before. That you are better than before.

He lets his fingers dance in the air.

"I'm gonna be okay ."

The sun smiles down at him. Kiyoomi smiles back.
***